Blood on a Budget

Blood on a Budget: Horrific Homages

on November 28, 2012 | Leave a comment

Since they’re not banking on getting big bucks from movie-going masses  (or at least not to the same extent), independent horror that openly pays tribute to its influences, just feels more pure. The filmmakers don’t have to answer to any fat-cat affiliates aiming to please the tastes of the many, and can focus their energies on dedicating their obscure opuses to the nichest of the niche sub-genres they love and want to see more of (like this entry’s two flicks that  gush over Frank Henenlotter movies and late-night horror TV).

Like the cinematic equivalent of a great conversation about the intricacies of demonic possession over the span of the three Evil Dead films, these films are essentially fan-sterbation in its sincerest form and that’s why they are great.

DRIVE-IN HORRORSHOW
Starring Jenna Morasca, Luis Negrón and Bill Gage
Written by Greg Ansin and Michael Neel
Directed by Michael Neel
Midnight Releasing

BLOOD: a boisterous, bright red barrage

BUDGET: Undisclosed

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to see your favourite horror films remade as episodes of Tales from the Darkside, with a touch of the no-budget lawlessness of early Troma fare, this derivative digest is your answer.

Taking place in a world after an “apocalypse” that killed all drive-ins, the Projectionist, a TV horror host-like owner and operator of an undead ozoner, treats the viewer to a horror movie night, with the help of his ghoul-Friday, Billy Troll, and screw-up staff, Zombie Frank and Teenage Axe Victim. On the program are five films that touch on several spooky sub-genres, and our gracious host is only too delighted to deliver pun-filled introductions to every shocking short.

The first story, “Pig,” harkens back to the cynical revenge stories of Tales from the Crypt and shows what happens when a scumbag frat-boy date rapes the wrong girl. The second, “The Closet,” tells the tale of a malicious child (with a borderline-abusive home-life reminiscent of a Roald Dahl story) who discovers a man-eating monster in his closest. Moving right along, the body-horror segment “Falling Apart” documents the gruesome flesh-eating sickness of a dedicated doctor. The “Meat Man” enters Are you Afraid of the Dark? territory when two brothers suspect their father of being the titular cannibalistic killer of urban legend. Finally, “The Watcher” takes a trip into the woods with a group of young people who get chopped up (and chomped down) by a crazed maniac.

Although this treasury of terror is framed in a drive-in setting, it seems to be more influenced by late-night horror television. Shot on obsolete 16mm equipment in an outdated 3:4 presentation, this film looks authentically antique and if it weren’t for the appearance of modern technology (i.e., widescreen televisions and small cellphones) I would have been convinced this film was shot more than fifteen years ago. Except for its gratuitous and, dare I say, lighthearted gore, this is similar to something you’d find while channel surfing in the wee hours of the morning, hosted by the likes of Sir Graves Ghastly, Bob Wilkins or even SCTV‘s Count Floyd.

Accompanied by an indie horror-punk soundtrack, Drive-in Horrorshow, like the best horror love-letters of recent years, is like a glimpse into a purgatory where the souls of all forgotten horror flicks have been festering for the past twenty-plus years.

NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES
Starring Brandon Salkil, Nicole Gerity and Jackie McKown
Written and Directed by Dustin W. Mills
MVD Visual

BLOOD: Geysers of gore, both CG and practical

BUDGET: $1,500

It’s been mere weeks since I’ve tackled writer/director Dustin Mills’ glory that is Zombie A-hole, but he just keeps ‘em coming. With an early oeuvre boasting Puppet Monster Massacre, the equally monstrous music video for the Fat Dukes of Fuck’s “Cigarettes,” and the aforementioned undead A-hole adventure, I’m game for anything he’s willing to throw down.

In what you could call a “Tarantino-esque” fashion, Mills pays blatant tribute to his influences by creating a celluloid smorgasbord of his favourite films. Puppet Monster Massacre was monsters-meet-the-Feebles, Zombie A-Hole was as close as you’ll ever get to an Argento-Carpenter-Harryhausen collaboration, and this time we see what would happen if Frank Henenlotter had to rework a Roman Polanski picture.

After his heart fails due to an incredibly inactive lifestyle, digital smut artist Dave (Brandon Salkil, Zombie A-Hole), sells his soul to a very extra-terrestrial-looking Satan (four glowing eyes and a reptilian face) for a heart that still works. The catch: this tentacled “heart” monster, who lives in a box, must be fed human meat in order to keep itself and Dave alive. Taking place entirely in a claustrophobic triplex apartment, there is no shortage of putrid personalities to feed on, but as more tenants are terminated, the vampiric vascular organ starts putting its feelers out for Dave’s crush, who lives downstairs.

The expressionistic blue and pink lighting, paired with Salkil’s sallow, junky-like appearance and performance evokes Henenlotter’s Brain Damage. The love story, an element also in most Henenlotter horrors, is actually pretty sweet, with an unconventionally beautiful and refreshingly realistic love interest who comes with her own bit of baggage (namely, her pregnancy).

With very few flaws, this well-shot, well-paced, perfectly cheesy chuckle-fest, will get your blood-pumping as it splatters its own plasma all over the screen.
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Night of the Tentacles is available through DVD from MVD entertainment group and Drive-in Horrorshow is available on VOD and DVD from many major retailers and through driveinhorrorshow.com.

PATRICK DOLAN

Tags: anthology horror, Brandon Salkil, Drive-in Horrorshow, Dustin Mills, Frank Hennenlotter, homages, horror hosts, killer heart, late night TV, Michael Neel, Night of the Tentacles

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