Saturday, July 27, 2013


Years active: 1986 - 1992; plus unreleased sequel in 2003.

About the franchise:
Surprised I'm not reviewing THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE franchise here instead? Well, I figured I go with this sister-series, produced by the same company (Concorde-New Horizons) and executive (Roger Corman, who kept his name of screen in both series), and which features SPM in both entries as though they were, indeed, sorority film sisters. 

The original 1986 film was a late in coming slasher, produced after the huge success of the VHS release SPM in 1985. Although SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE was picked up by Warner Bros. (!), it did not receive the same amount of fan-fare as it step-sibling, though it did receive some critical praise for director Carol Frank's imaginative visuals, setting this otherwise typical format (crazy escapes from the asylum and stalks the girls in his old home) apart from other films of the era. Corman instead went on to pump out SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II in 1987. (SHM, btw, shows scenes from the original SPM on a television set in several scenes.)

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II was actually shot in 1990 by director Jim Wynorski as NIGHTIE NIGHTMARE back-to-back with his equally questionable HARD TO DIE using the same "plot" and much of the cast. However, NIGHTIE went unreleased until 1992 until it was retitled and repackaged as SHM II, following the minor success of SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III. SHM II, fyi, was filmed on the same set as SPM III. Are you following?  As such, a film franchise was born, but the two SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE films are completely unrelated , and in fact SHM II uses clips from SLUMBER PARTY #1 as "flashback" footage. Are you still following? 

While the original SHM seemed to disappear from public awareness (not that there was much to begin with), SHM II unexpectedly gained a solid cult following as a result of its repeated airings on paid cable and made its lead Robyn Harris (a.k.a. Gail Harris) into a minor b-celeb.

In 2003 Jim Wynorski directed another unrelated film that at one point was titled SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE III. The film has never been released. 

Both SHM films were released to DVD in 2000 through Concorde, but have not been available to the public since. 

Other connecting factors:
1. None really. Different storylines, different characters, different crew, different locations. Roger Corman is the only link between the two films. 

Famous / Successful Actors from this series:
1. Melissa Moore (SHM II)  - Although mostly known for her work in b-movies, Moore scored significant roles in the action film INTO THE SUN, DA VINCI'S WAR and comedy REPOSSESSED.
2. Peter Spellos (SHM II) - Often transitioning between A and B movies, some of Spellos's bigger titles include MEN IN BLACK II, CITY OF ANGELS, FREDDY'S DEAD, and TV shows like NEWS RADIO, TWO GUYS A GIRL & A PIZZA PLACE, and MARRIED WITH CHILDREN.

College freshman Beth (Angela O'Neill) has eerie dreams of blood and dismemberment throughout her new sorority house digs. As her friends party the night away, each begins meeting a gruesome end at the hands of a madman recently escaped from the mental institution. It turns out Beth has a direct connection not only to the psycho, but the house itself.

Does it hold up today?
I say "yes." It closely follows the standard slasher mold with all the same trappings and expectations, but it finds it's stand-out quality in some truly haunting visuals. The pace is a bit slow at times, particularly the middle section, but the cast is quite likeable, there is some minor suspense and a few jump scares. It won't change your world, and there's nothing here that's really all that different from other films of its ilk, but if you're a slasher fan you should find it "harmless" and entertaining.

A group of lusty busty sorority babes move into an old mansion ready to clean it up and make repairs and instead wind up splattered all over it. Is it the creepy guy across the street, or the ghost of the home's former owner who massacred (hey!) his entire family there years ago?

Does it hold up today?
Well, if pure cheese is what you have a taste for, then yes. This is tongue-in-cheek horror humor. None of it is taken seriously (evident the moment the girls appear on screen all slutted up and then decide fairly soon into the proceedings to change into their Victoria's Secret lingerie - because that's what all sorority girls wear to bed). The acting ranges from really rough to passable. There are a few jumps. The bloodshed is more of the 'Karo Syrup thrown at the actresses' variety vs. actual make up fx. Lead girl Robyn (Gail) Harris is actually quite good and very into her role, and red-herring Peter Spellos  (as "Orville Ketchum") is super icky. The cast plays along, aware that they are in the midst of a camp-fest, so if all you're looking for is mind-numbing antics, then there are worse ways to spend 80 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

In My Opinion Only: the PROM NIGHT series

I've decided...out of both boredom this evening and trying to avoid getting any real work begin a new blog. Henceforth, reviews of my all-time favorite film franchises. Most of them will be based in horror, and most will be from the 1970s - 1990s. First up...

Years active: 1980 - 1991; plus remake in 2008.
About the franchise:
It began as a simple minded slasher flick. Not just a rip-off of HALLOWEEN, it actually managed to snag that film's heroine Jamie Lee Curtis. A hit at the box office, it seems odd that the sequel didn't appear until 7 years later, had nothing to do with the original film, and in fact was shot as an entirely different film - THE HAUNTING OF HAMILTON HIGH - with supernatural elements. However, this film also proved a minor success at the box office and a huge hit on video, therefore spawning another sequel that at least tried to remain connected to its predecessor. However, by the fourth and final installment the producers returned to the slasher formula but little of the previous storylines. The awful 2008 remake had literally no connection to the original series in storyline, characters, or enjoyability.

As such, Part I is a stand alone film. Parts II and III are connected by the villian Mary Lou Maloney. Part IV is a stand alone film.

Other connecting factors:
1. The central high school in all four films is Hamilton High.
2. Actor Brock Simpson appears in all four films, but always as a different character.
3. Composer Paul Zaza did the music for all four films and and inputs a repetitive riff in each film, (sort of a "ba ba ba barump" - a significant beat recognizable to fans just as the "chi chi chi ma ma ma" is familiar to FRIDAY THE 13TH fans).
4. Parts II, III and IV all begin at/are a result of the same prom night in 1957.

Famous / Successful Actors from this series:
1. Jamie Lee Curtis - Part I: Became the most popular scream queen of the later half of the 20th Century
2. Nicole De Boer - Part IV: Went on to star in a number of popular sci-fi films (CUBE) and TV shows (The Dead Zone, Star Trek: Deep Space 9)

A group of junior high kids unintentionally murder a classmate during a twisted game of hide and seek. Fearing they'll go to jail, they cover up the death and keep the group's secret. 6 years later, however, it becomes apparent someone was a witness and methodically murders each of the kids at their senior prom.

Does it hold up today?
I think so. It is cut from the slasher cloth... in fact, it very much expanded upon the "10 Little Indians" concept of "who's doing it?" that was then stolen by most other slasher films of the early 1980s. There remains a good deal of suspense, the characters are very enjoyable (you don't want to see them die), the gore FX are still believable, and the reveal of the guilty party is still somewhat of a surprise. The film as a whole maintains a creepy atmosphere throughout, and although the finale isn't nearly as long as it should have been (the final chase is less than 5 minutes long), there are some genuinely suspenseful and even frightening moments. A drawn out disco (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER) sequence is the only thing which dates the film. The only glaring plot hole is why the witness to the accidental murder didn't just come forward immediately to tell the cops what had happened.

After she accidentally burned to death on stage just before being crowned prom queen in 1957, super slutty and wicked Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) returns 30 years later and possesses prom queen hopeful Vicki Carpenter. As the nice girl becomes nastier and bumps off anyone who stands in the way of her crown, her boyfriend tries to convince everyone of her possession and save her soul.

Does it hold up today?
Eh. It didn't really hold up when it came out. But it's one of those cheesy 80s camp horror combos that seems to hold some certain power over people willing to watch it more than once. (Think SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II - you know it sucks, but you love regardless.) PROM NIGHT II essentially rips off the two biggest horror films: CARRIE (1976) and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), but somehow it does work in a weird sort of way. Lead Vicki (Wendy Lyon) is an enjoyable and yet unusual heroine with waist-long strawberry blonde hair which in 1987 wasn't very hip AND she completely naked (the carpet indeed matches the drapes) which was unheard of for "the final girl" - something which still doesn't happen today too often. The FX are sometimes awesome, sometimes awful and plastic looking. And anything involving electricity is clearly a computer effect. Still, the characters are all unique and mostly likable and the acting serviceable. The cast and script even manage a few moments of genuine drama and feeling, particularly when one of the teens reveals she's pregnant (a much bigger deal in 1987 than today). The only true downfall to PROM NIGHT II is that it's not really a true sequel to PROM NIGHT- or a sequel in any way other than taking place at a high school of the same name. This,  of course, will only matter to purists who prefer their franchises are continuing stories with continuing characters. Over all, though, PROM NIGHT II does have a genuine energy and 80s weirdness that was presented seriously in 1987 - but has somehow transformed into fun loving camp 25 years later.

A few years after the events of PROM NIGHT II (1987), Mary Lou Maloney (now played by smokin' hot Courtney Taylor) returns to the halls of Hamilton High to claim the love of a loser boy. To gain his affections,  helps raise his grade and improve his sportsmanship - bumping off anybody who questions his true abilities or  stands in his way. However, her biggest challenge is getting rid of his current girlfriend with whom he's truly in love.

Does it hold up today?
Actually, it seems to play better today than it did in 1990. Director Ron Oliver told me on Facebook that the film was panned by critics and fans viciously upon its release, but now all he receives are love letters from fans. The initial dishonor may have been from fans of the original angry about the comedic supernatural angle the series had taken - this is by far more a dark comedy than any kind of scary. In fact, the film contains only one good scare, and one really juicy murder with a punched out heart. The remaining 98% tries its best to make butt and boob jokes aplenty - which in turn makes it more appealing to today's more sarcastic audiences. Courtney Taylor is certainly goregeous to look at, but her only downfall is that the original Mary Lou was portrayed as a heartless, bitch of a woman who was only interested in satisfying herself. Taylor's version is more Betty Paige sex kitten. It's also mildly annoying that the filmmakers put the character in a dark purple dress when her outfit in PROM NIGHT II was a light pink - that's like changing the colors in Freddy Krueger's sweater to blue and pink. The ghost of a teen wouldn't change her look - especially if you're trying to brand a new horror titan.

Four teens skip their senior prom in lieu of a weekend away at one of their parent's swanky "summer getaway" mansion (in the middle of winter). The are completely unaware, however, that a possessed priest has escaped from a nearby church and is intent on returning to the home (guess where it is) where he was molested as a boy and decides to "punish" any horned up teen he can find.

Does it hold up today?
Yes it does - and it's scary to boot. Don't let the synopsis deter you. While the plot is rather redundant, PROM NIGHT IV actually attempts - successfully - to return to its scary slasher film roots while still honoring those who loved the supernatural aspects of PROM NIGHT II and PROM NIGHT III. The only connection to those films is an opening sequence in which 1957 teens are slaughtered just outside the prom just as - presumably - Mary Lou would be burning inside, and then in 1991 at the brief glimpse of Hamilton High (we only see classmates about to enter the high school, but never go into the actual prom). There is also a wink to Jamie Lee Curtis. The four lead kids are plucky, standing out from the average slasher body pile. And the film boasts not just a series of really good scares and some well-drawn suspense, but an element of intelligence among the characters to #1 - call the police when they should, and #2 when they find a gun, they use it. The most glaring plot hole is how the killer priest - responsible for the 1957 murders manages to not age a single day in his nearly 35 years of captivity (he's actually hotter 3 decades later and his body is in perfect condition even though he's been in a coma). Somehow, however, you seem to let it go simply because the scares and the truly creative cinematography keep the action interesting.

Sadly, this would have been perfect as the final chapter, but a lame "final moment" promises a PROM NIGHT V which was never to be... though 1994's THE CLUB was clearly designed as a PROM NIGHT sequel that had a title change, likely after the poor 1992 box office and home video performance of PROM NIGHT IV. Instead we got a dreadful remake.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I still love this franchise. Probably because I'm a horror kid of the 1980s. But it is among the more inconsistent franchises of the era, serious and scary, then supernatural and odd, then not scary all all and funny instead, then back to serious and scary. Parts II and III are their own franchise kind of book ended by an unrelated franchise. Still, the movies are never dull and definitely earned their place in the hearts of horror fans.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The List - Part II: Kid Flicks

It's been two years, but today I'll continue my list of favorites by genre. For all you kids at heart... To reintroduce my reasoning behind the selections - #1 I have to have wanted to watch the film within the past 12 months (even if I didn't have the opportunity), and #2 - it has to have resonated with me on some emotional level that still affects me as an adult. I'm going to try to keep it strictly kid-based, which is why some titles won't appear such as ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, which I will eventually place under "comedy" because adults love it just as much. An American Tail (1987) - A young mouse en route from Russia to America becomes separated from his family. On his journey to reunite with them he finds the courage to become himself and all the wonderful things America has to offer. Babe (1995) - More or less a rip-off of Charlotte's Web, this finds a pigs singing talents saving him from the slaughterhouse. The Black Stallion (1979) - After surviving a shipwreck, a young boy befriends a horse and the two become unlikely companions on their "deserted" island. The Brave Little Toaster (1987) - A little toaster and his home appliance friends try to find their owner in the big city after fearing they've been abandoned in the family's cabin. Beauty and the Beast (1991) - A man turned into a beast by a witch must earn the love of a beautiful woman in order to return to his human self. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1984) - An every day mom becomes determined to take a grungy group of poverty stricken and neglected kids and change the community's views on them by readying them for the annual Christmas pageant. Charlotte's Web (1973) - The original cartoon version finds a spider trying to keep Wilbur, her pig of a best friend, from being taken to the slaughter house. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) - Bullied boy tries to learn, then convey to his peers the true meaning of Christmas. Child of Glass (1978) - Boy befriends the ghost of a little girl who was murdered for her doll which contained a load of diamonds. (*May be frightening at times for little kids.) The Electric Grandmother (1982) - After their mother passes away, three children are given the opportunity to physically design a robotic grandmother to care for them. Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) - Two children with supernatural powers try to find their origins and family before they are kidnapped and exploited by the government. Finding Nemo (2004) - A father and his fishy son try to find each other and learn courage and that you should explore the world on their journey. Freaky Friday (1976) - Teenage girl and her mother don't see eye-to-eye until their souls are switched into each other's bodies and forced to see what each other endures on a daily basis. Freaky Friday (2003) - Ditto...and one of the few remakes I genuinely enjoy as much as the original. Garfield's Halloween (1985) - Sunday comics fat cat and his best friend dog embark on a mission to collect as much candy as possible, only to become lost and mixed up with a group of treasure-seeking ghost pirates. (*Has moments that may be too intense for little ones.) The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (1979) - When Dracula realizes that his scary counterparts like the Wicked Witch, Frankenstain, the Wolf Man and others have lost their oomph and are no longer scaring children, he give them an ultimatum - regain your wickedness or Halloween will be canceled forever. It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) - Linus goes in search of the mythic Great Pumpkin - a stand in clone of Santa. The Land Before Time (1988) - Group of young dinosaurs escape their destroyed land after they're orphaned and must try to find a new home. The Little Mermaid (1989) - Teenage mermaid gets her wish to explore the world when she makes a pact with an evil sea witch to grow legs and live among humans. Mary Poppins (1964) - A magical nanny teaches her charges to love and enjoy life. The Muppet Movie (1979) - Kermit and his co-horts travel across the nation to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune... teaching everyone they meet to always chase their dreams and believe in their own talents. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) - The Muppets comically take on all the characters of the famous Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol." Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1975) - After a donkey is booted into the wilderness because he is considered deformed and useless because of his extremely long ears, he is unexpectedly chosen to carry the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem and proves his worth to the world. (At the age of 3, this was the first time I was made aware that your mother could die.) Pete's Dragon (1977) - A young boy tries to convince a town that his imaginary friend - a dragon - is causing all the havoc in the peaceful community. Rikki Tiki Tavi (1975) - A mongoose is saved from drowning by a family in the south African jungle. As thanks, he becomes their protector when two deadly cobras try to murder the family. Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999, 2010) - A group of toys learn a series of life lessons about love, friendship, respect and loyalty. T'was the Night Before Christmas (1976) - A family of mice try to figure out why Santa refuses to deliver the goods on Christmas Eve, only to discover it's due to one of their own. Watership Down (1978) - A warren of rabbits embark on a journey to find a new home for their family when humans destroy their existing home. *May be too intense for younger children as it depicts scenes of gory death and suffering. The Wizard of Oz (1939) - Simple girl from Kansas lands in colorful land of Oz where she finds her own courage, brain and heart. Ziggy's Gift (1982) - Sunday comics character comes to life as a quiet soul who wants nothing more than to give to those in need as he unknowingly comes in control of a magical pot as a street corner santa.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Been a while....

Huh. This is going to sound bad, but I completely forgot I had a blog. Terrible, right? I guess it shows my change in attitude towards self promotion. I have, however, been busy promoting three films lately: my documentary SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS (due August 28th on unrated DVD and currently airing on NBCUninversal's Chiller TV - See TRAILER); my new thriller SAFE INSIDE which should see release in 2013 (see TRAILER); and some PR work on COUGAR CULT, a flick which I only have connection to in reuniting its three leads (Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer) with director David DeCoteau after a 25 years in SCREAMING.
I've also just recently discovered how much damage can be done thru piracy. Yes, SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS was stolen by use of a "reviewer" who obtained a pre-release screener for the film then through their own selfish acts uploaded the entire film to the internet for others to watch for free. Within hours it had spread to over 100 other torrent sites, forever damaging any opportunity for my investors and myself to see a return on profit. Two years of hard work and stress flushed in the click of a button. So now the damage is done. We move forward trying to promote the title harder - pick up as many pieces as we can. It will forever change how I release advance viewings of any projects. It will forever change my trust in others.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Top 10....or 20....

Have I listed this before?? I started a big discussion about it on Facebook, but pertaining to the impossibility of making a Top 10 list of my favorite music...but how easily I can knock out my Top 10 in all-time favorite movies (and you might be surprised at how few horror titles are on the list!!!).

Top 10 MOVIES...
1. Carrie (1976)
2. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
3. Moulin Rouge! (2000)
4. Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)
...5. The Color Purple (1985)
6. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
7. Finding Nemo (2004)
8. The Electric Grandmother (1983)
9. Little Darlings (1980)
10...... I always leave open because it's still out there....
(though CRASH would easily take that spot, so maybe I'll carry on with 10 more...)

11. Crash (2005)
12. Watership Down (1979)
13. Ice Castles (1978)
14. Steele Magnolias (1989)
15. Ziggy's Gift (1982)
16. Rikki Tikki Tavi (1975)
17. The Muppet Movie (1979)
18. The Ten Commandments (1956)
19. Nestor, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey (1975)
20. Jack Be Nimble (1992)/Precious (2009)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So lazy....

I really am just awful keeping up with this blog. So to the few of you who keep checking in to see if anything new has come about... apologies.

A quick run down of career stuff since I last posted:

Shy of Normal: Tales of New Life Experiences (2011) made its big screen debut on February 19, 2011, followed by a very nice after-party for the cast and crew. I'll be submitting the title to film festivals throughout the summer with a Fall DVD release planned, likely through TempeDVD.

In early February I spent a week in Los Angeles, CA filming SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS: THE RISE & FALL OF THE SCREAM QUEEN ERA. It's a documentary I've been trying to get off the ground since 2007 and finally found a small group of investors to get it in front of the camera. The doc tells the story of three b movie actresses - Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer - whose unexpected rise to cult fame was the result of the video-era boom of the 1980s. Also featured are directors Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, Ted Newsom, plus actors Richard Gabai and Jay Richardson and screenwriter Ken Hall, all discussing their roles in the era and work with the femme fatales. Editing by Derrick Carey - who also edited my 2010 documentary SLEEPLESS NIGHTS: REVISITING THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRES - is currently underway with a premiere date set for Chicago's Flashback Weekend of Horror in August. Television airings are anticipated sometime thereafter.

TODAY I am officially beginning to write my children's book I've long spouted off about. It's a self-discovery tale set around Christmas time. Many years and tiny pieces of paper with ideas scribbled all over them have been combined over the last 5 days in my dining room using a classical paradigm chart to get my brain juices flowing. Wish me luck.

Finally, the semester is winding down for me at the University of Wisconsin - Parkside. I've been lecturing "Film Genres: Horror" this semester and had a great time sharing over a century's worth of horror trivia and images with a new generation. I only hope they've taken something away from it. Next Monday is my final lecture of the semester, with an exam and final paper to follow on May 9th. Hard to believe it's already the end of the school year! Happily, I have officially been asked to return in the Fall 2011 to teach "Intro to Film" for the third time.

Planning to spend my summer break pulling all these current projects together and wrapping them up by the time I go back in the Fall.

Thanks for catching up. I'll try to be better at keeping this blog more current... as usual.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Come See My New Crap!!

Hello All,

Just a heads up for those who didn't catch it on Facebook, the trailer for my new comedy, SHY OF NORMAL: TALES OF NEW LIFE EXPERIENCES is now live on You Tube at..

Also, the new re-issue of OCTOBER MOON 2: NOVEMBER SON hits stores on February 15th at the new low price of $14.99 with new box art and an all-new 4 page full-color insert about the making of the film. Just click the title to go to the Tempe DVD page. And just in case you haven't already had the trailer shoved down your throat before, take a peek here...

An all new documentary I've been trying to get made since 2007 is finally in production!!! Filming takes place in Los Angeles next week, so stay tuned to my Facebook and blog pages for the official release info in the next two weeks!!!

Big Love,