Friday, July 31, 2015

Midnight Cinephile Episode VI: Captian Cinema To The Rescue!

Look!  Up there on the Drive In Screen!

It's a mosnter!
It's a ghoul!

This episode, Captain Cinema joins for a discussion of epic proportions!  Don't miss it!

In Pixilated Horrors, I revisit a computer game that haunted my youth and in Monster Magazine Time Warp, I take a look at Fangoria #71 from February 1988!

You can of course listen to the podcast right here or you can download it from LibSyn HERE!
It will be available from iTunes shortly!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Underwurlde - Deep In The 8-Bit Underground

I was obsessed with the family Commodore 64 in my childhood and spent many a happy hour playing my favorite video games in front of that tiny (by today's standards, anyway) monitor.  As much as I loved the games I owned (and I owned quite a few!) there was still an entire world of games that seemed just out of reach.  

My father subscribed to Compute!'s Gazette magazine.  Among the varied articles on anything and everything Commodore, there were also a metric shit ton (yes, that is an actual measurement!) of ads for new games and such.  I would pour over these ads and marvel and the wild and often beautiful box art.  Sometimes you were lucky enough to get a screenshot with the box art.  Sometimes not.  I vividly remember the first time I saw an ad for Underwurlde.  There was something about the art that told me that this game was geared more for adults, or at least older kids.  There were no cartoon characters or spaceships, just a demonic looking entity front and center.  There was something otherworldly about it to be sure and in my young adolescent mind, this was a game that would be intense.

As fate would have it, I never got to play a copy of Underwurlde.  Whenever we went to a store that sold computer games, I would scour the shelves looking for it, but to no avail.  This was the case with many a game that I would spy in gaming adverts in Compute!'s Gazette or other computer mags.  Life went on and time went by and eventually I forgot all about Underwurlde.  

It wasn't until I was researching something entirely different that I came across that box art again.  A flood of nostalgia ripped through me and I knew that the time had come to finally realize a childhood dream.  Thanks to the invention of emulators, I was finally going to play Underwurlde.  I was surprised by the fact that I had butterflies in my stomach as I booted up the game.  I was no longer a thirty-six year old man sitting in my office, I was a ten year old boy and I was about to experience something that seemed so intangible for so long.

The title screen booted up and a fresh wave of excitement hit me.  I had no idea what was coming next and my fingers twitched in anticipation.  Was this going to be an RPG of sorts, like the D&D games that SSI used to put out?  Was it an action game?  Adventure?  More than likely action as I noted that it was from Ultimate and Firebird.  I had fought the urge to look it up online before playing.  
The title screen!  

The game began and I was a little surprised to find that I was looking at a little solid colored sprite.  He kinda looked like he was wearing a pith helmet.  What in the hell?  So.....I'm like a jungle explorer?  Huh, didn't see that coming.  It would appear that I'm in a castle or mansion.  There are flying jellyfish and birds coming at me.  They are also monochrome....but each is a different color, which is nice.  

Huh....not what I was expecting.

The grey bird is a statue you can jump on.  Green bird and pink jellyfish are enemies.

I run around for a bit.  Jump on some stuff, but can't seem to get anywhere.  The enemies don't seem to damage me, but they do knock me around and cause me to tumble like a Boston College student on St. Patrick's Day.  After about five minutes it becomes clear that I'm going to need some assistance.  I find the manual online and give it a read.  Now we're getting somewhere!

With the controls now understood I pick up a slingshot (that sort of looks like the outline of a bird) and start to shoot monsters with a never ending supply of rocks.  I start to explore the castle and find that simply jumping into a wall will cause you to tumble.....and that's when I discovered that this game is VERY vertical.  Not only must you explore the castle, but there is a vast underground network of caverns to explore as for it.......UNDERWURLDE!  The aim is to find three special weapons (the slingshot is NOT special) to defeat three different guardian monsters and then escape the castle through one of three exits.

Whoa! Man eating plants!

You can ride bubbles!

I'm not going to lie,  At first, I was a bit disappointed with the was absolutely nothing like I envisioned.  That beautiful and otherworldly artwork was used to advertise this cartoony and rather frustrating game.  The game has some glaring flaws....the controls are a bit off (though to be fair that could be because of the emulator) and the hit detection was a bit glitchy (also...maybe the emulator).  Something kept me playing though.  I wanted to see what was on the next screen.  

I have not completed the game, but I am somewhere around halfway through, I guess.  I have just found the second weapon (a bow and arrow...the first was a dagger) and I have defeated the first guardian (wasn't very had.  He just stood there while I shot him with daggers.  He was a squiggly kinda octopus/bug looking thing....I don't know....he had tentacles and/or legs!)  Thanks to the emulator, I was able to save my position and I will continue on later tonight.

You can also go all Spelunker and use a rope in the caverns.

The First Guardian!

After playing I went online to do a bit of research and discovered that Underwurlde is part of the Sabreman series of games that Ultimate released in the 80's.  Very popular on the ZX Spectrum and it looks like it was fairly popular on the Commodore as well.  That would explain why my little fella didn't look like he belonged fighting demons in the Underwurlde, I guess!  At any's a glitchy game and it's a bit frustrating, but it's worth a look I think.  This has truly been quite an experience.  I wonder how I would have reacted to the game when I was a kid?  Would have been upset that it wasn't the grown up game that I thought it was, or would I have embraced it's cartoon-like atmosphere?  Interesting question.......

An Underwurlde Map that I found online.  I don't know if it came with the game or if it's a fan creation.

Terror Eyes - Campfire Satanthology

Terror Eyes
D: Eric Parkinson, Michael Rissi, Steve Sommers
W: Eric Parkinson, Vivian Schilling

S:  Vivian Schilling, Daniel Roebuck, Lance August
Not rated - Approx 90 Min
Park-Schilling Productions Inc.

 - No more films... no more horror... what's the Devil to do?

Alternate Titles:

"It was wonderful, just wonderful....superb....just lovely....double thumbs up.  Just like the Wonderful World of Disney.  Let me ask you all a question:  Where's the guts?  Where's the gore?"
                                                          - Richard (while possessed)

Terror Eyes was a blind buy off of Amazon.  I was hunting around for random VHS tapes, just for kicks and giggles.  Terror Eyes popped up for 99 cents.  I figured, "What the hell!  Why not!" and plunked it down (virtually of course) with the rest of the tapes in my cart.  That was a few years ago.  I finally got a chance to sit down and enjoy this little ditty in my new media room/office (Yeah, I'm moving up in the world!) and I've gotta say, I was quite surprised!

This is an anthology film, comprised of three separate stories and of course the obligatory wrap around story. The wrap around revolves around a young advertising executive who is assigned to write a horror screenplay for a horror film during a writers strike.  Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves though.

Troy is playing poker with a stuffed monkey.  Seriously.  He is.


Late nite snack attack?
The opening story is about a young couple, Starla and Troy, who receive a mysterious book (called The Book of Life) by a shady car-salesman-looking-guy (played by Daniel Roebuck) that contains their entire life history and future.  Unfortunately for Troy, that future is not going to last very long.  According to the book, he's going to kill himself soon.  Troy (being your typical,  testosterone fueled dude) forbids Starla to read the book anymore.  Starla (being your typical, defiant type) just can't leave it alone.  Troy decides to put an end to things once and for all, first attempting to throw the book out in the dumpster.  When he gets back into their apartment the book is back sitting on the table.  He tries to rip the pages out, but to no avail.  He tries to burn the book, but it won't burn.  Finally he decides if nothing else will work he will dissolve it with acid.  Naturally, I won't spoil the end of the story...but "Starla" wakes up and we discover it was all a dream.

Starla's real name is Eva and she is the advertising executive.  The shady guy that gave her the book is (in waking life) her husband Richard.  Eva is frustrated because she isn't a writer and doesn't have the first idea how to write a horror screenplay.  She was hoping maybe she could use her dream but after waking she couldn't remember it.


Hmmm....something is off about Richard.

Eva and Richard go on a camping trip with some friends and while sitting around the campfire, having a a grand old time, Richard goes off to take a leak in the woods.  It's there, in the dark of the woods, taking a leak that he is possessed by a demon (or Agent of Hell as he's called in the film).  When Richard returns he starts acting like a total Dick (see what I did there?) and is trying to force Eva to come up with a horror story.

Their friends (none of whom seem to notice that Richard has changed from a sweet, caring type to a major douche nozzle) attempt to help Eva out by telling stories about scary stuff that's happened to them.

Mannie doesn't know what he's getting into....

Neither does his bookie!

The next story involves their friend Mannie (played by Dan Bell.  You might know him better as Neil in the Wayne's World movies or as Smiley in Darkman!)  Back in the day, Mannie had a bit of a gambling problem (especially when it came to betting on horses) and ended up owing his bookie a lot of money.  Instead of breaking his legs in twelve places, his bookies offers him and alternative:  Steal money and jewels from his wife's safe and they will split the loot.  Not really having much of an alternative, Mannie agrees.  What follows is a twisted sort of time travel/Groundhog Day tale in which Mannie keeps reliving the same day over and over again as his bookie continues to murder his wife and attempting to murder him.

Hey, she found Bobby Fischer!

Hey now, my kinda video game!

Never bring your fists to an axe fight....

The final story is about a woman named Alex who wins a chess championship and publicly announces that she will be using winnings to fund a campaign against a video game company that sells games that glorify rape, murder and other unsavory acts.  She is kidnapped by the head of the video game company and is placed in a real life game of life & death where she must solve a series of puzzles before ultimately ending up in a ghost town where she must play a final cat and mouse game against the crazed gamer designer, old west style.

This game is can get a bit dicey.....

She's heading for the 90's living in the wild, wild west!

The wraparound concludes with the Agent of Hell revealing himself, some carnage and then of course the obligatory feel good ending....which is fine cause we're not really here for the wraparound anyway.


I've heard of FLASH mobs, but this is ridiculous!

Gunned down by a demon with invisible guns.....

There's some red stuff, but not a lot.  There is a pretty nice melting flesh effect in the Book of Life story.  In the Groundhog Day segment, there are some gun shot wounds, and the same goes for the Video Game segment.

No skin in this one, amigos.

The Agent of Hell is an interesting make-up (also rendered on the box art) with horns coming out from behind his eyes.

I had an awful lot of fun with this one.  It's a hell of a lot of fun and the performances are all extremely campy, especially Daniel Roebuck who wrenches up his performance to an eleven once he's possessed.  Terror Eyes (to the best of my knowledge) has never been released on DVD.  This VHS only gem is well worth hunting down a copy and firing up your VCR.  You could also watch the film in it's entirety on YouTube, but I think that would be far less fun.  VHS OR BUST BABY!

Back of the VHS box.  Just don't make 'em like they used to!

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Pyramid - I Want My Mummy

The Pyramid
D: Grégory Levasseur
W: Daniel Meersand, Nick Simon

S: Ashley Hinshaw, James Buckley, Denis O'Hare
Rated R - Approx 89 Min
Twentieth Century Fox/Silvatar Media

 - You only enter once.

 - The curse is real

Alternate Titles:
Curse of the Pyramid - Turkey
The Pyramid - Grave of Horror - West Germany
Site 146 - Working Title

" If anyone finds this... bring guns!"

I was pretty damn excited when Universal announced that they would be creating a shared cinematic universe for their beloved classic monsters.  Reboots for all, handled by the original studio that brought them to life...what's not to love?  Okay, it got a little less exciting when they announced that instead of making a shared horror universe it was going to be a universe in which the monsters would be put into action/adventure movies.....but I digress.  I will wait until the films come out to pass judgement.  After all, I thought Dracula Untold was pretty cool!  But I'm not here to talk about Dracula.  Why am I bringing up Universal Monsters at all?  Because I love a good mummy movie. And when I first saw the previews for The Pyramid, it was just after the announcement that the first official reboot in the cinematic universe would be The Mummy,

The trailer for The Pyramid gave me hope that there was going to be a resurgence of mummy flicks coming out and this one looked like it might actually be pretty good!  It certainly looked promising.  Well, it is with a heavy heart that I must report that The Pyramid is certainly NOT the film that I was hoping for.  What's more, it's not even a mummy movie.  I will explain.

The film starts out with a film crew following around father and daughter (Holden & Nora) archaeologists who have uncovered an unprecedented three sided pyramid.  Right off the bat we can see that there is a lot of tension between Holden and Nora. seems that Holden is a dick and doesn't appreciate Nora trying to use new technology to explore their find.  Or something like that.

Anyway, due to mounting tensions in Cairo, the team is told that they must evacuate the site because it has become too dangerous with the riots and whatnot.  Of course being movie archaeologists, they decide to go against what the government has told them and instead send in a multi-million dollar robot (on loan from NASA) to explore a bit of the pyramid.

Things go awry when something attacks the robot.  Instead of just cutting their losses and sucking it up (and telling NASA that they just trashed a robot who's cost could have solved a small third world countries debt) they decide to go in and grab the 'bot.  Bad idea.

Sure enough once they enter, they become disoriented and lost and then end up falling through the floor into the lower levels of the pyramid.  From here it's pretty tedious "How are we going to get out" and "This is all your fault" banter as people get injured or killed either by booby traps or nasty little feral hairless cats.  Also, if you get scratched by one, you become infected  by....uh....something,,,,,an ancient virus or something that is never really fully discussed.

So for most of the rest of the running time, it's bickering, boobytraps and cats.  It's not until about the halfway point in the film that we find out that there MAY be something bigger in there with them.  OH YEAH, MUMMY TIME!  RIGHT?!  RIGHT?!  No.  We get no mummies.  What we do get is kinda ridiculous.  I'm not usually the type of person who's a stickler for stuff making sense.  Usually my mantra is "Check your brain at the door and have a good time!"  And I still stand by that mantra.  However when the movie doesn't let you have a good time, you start to count on the big payoff at the end of the film to balance out the rest.  There have been many times that I've sat through a movie thinking "Oh jeez, just let it be over!"  and then it gets to the climax and something unexpected and awesome happens and it completely changes the movie for me.  That doesn't happen this time.

But hey, I was looking for a mummy movie and discovering that I was getting no mummies was the final nail in the sarcophagus, so to speak.  So I'm not going to spoil it for you.  Maybe you will have a better time with the film than I did if you go into it KNOWING that there are no mummies.  There's a monster.  I'll tell you that much......but it's a damn ridiculous monster

We get to see Nora in her underwear, get a little side-boob from her and get a closeup of her breasts through a thin white shirt.  That'll have to do, I suppose.

There's some nasty bits here and there, but nothing over the top.

Those nasty little hairless cats are roaming around everywhere in the pyramid.  I can't for the life of me imagine what they eat.  Maybe each other?  Who knows.  We also have the "Big Baddie" that roams the chambers.  Would have been more awesome if there was a mummy.

There seems to be a new trend emerging in some films.....they want to be found footage movies but they use cameras that are far too high quality to be believable.  Also they will cut in and out of the footage without any explanation.  So one minute you're in the action looking at everything POV through the camera....the next minute there's a wide angle shot showing all the characters together.  The film quality never changes so it seems as if there's someone else shooting footage from a different vantage point.  Unless the monster has his own camera and decided to shoot some stuff and then later give it to the just doesn't work.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rock 'N Roll Nightmare - Farmhouse Rock!

Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare
D: John Fasano
W: Jon Mikl Thor

S: Jon Mikl Thor, Jillian Peri, Frank Dietz
Rated R - Approx 83 Min.
Thunder (II)

 - When you raise Hell ... the Devil must be paid - in full!
 - When The Band Starts To Rock...Heads Start To Roll!

Alternate Titles:
Entrance To Hell (Brazil)
At The Edge of Hell (Spain)
In The Flames of Hell (Greece)
In The Face of Hell (West Germany)
Arch Angel (US Working Title)

"Let's tune our weapons!"
                                   -John Triton

The film displays it's alternate title on the Synapse Disc.

Horror & Rock 'n' Roll have gone together since the 1950's.  It was commonplace to have a rock band perform a song or two in the prerequisite sock hop scene or beach party while radioactive mutant fish men and other horrors from the beyond invaded our cities and towns.

It's no wonder that eventually Rock 'n' Roll would take front and center stage in horror films.  When the 80's hit a new music/horror hybrid movie was born...the Heavy Metal Horror Movie.  Films like Rocktober Blood (one of my all time favorites!) Blood Tracks and Shock 'Em Dead all mixed horror with a brain melting heavy metal score that featured prominently in the films.

What a quaint little farmhouse....

The band arrives!

The band eats dinner!

Today I want to take a look at one of the goofiest (and most endearing) of the heavy metal monster flicks:  Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare!  Jon Mikl Thor stars as Jon Triton.  Triton takes his band up to a farmhouse in rural Canada to rehearse and record.  Unknown to the band, a family was slaughtered by demons in the house before they arrived.  Oh well, at least they've got a swanky new 24-track recording studio in the barn!

Naturally the band's girlfriends are all in tow as well (one just got married and decided that this would be a fantastic honeymoon for his bride!  NOT!) and the group starts to settle into their new digs.  After dinner the band sets up in the barn and unleashes a torrent of 80's metal cheddar at us.  It's gawddamn amazing.

Time to rock out!

Polka dots, eh?  That's not very metal.....

That's one ugly groupie!
Things start to go wrong as one by one people start to vanish around the house and barn.  Demons and weird little cyclops creatures are running around everywhere.  Band members (and girlfriends) start to act strangely.  It takes your standard "slasher" kinda by one, people are offed by the demons and while it's noted by others in the house, it doesn't seem to bug them too awful much.  Ridiculous excuses such as "I'm sure it's fine, he probably just took the van into town to get a drink" are thrown around with wild abandon.

As the film draws to it's unbelievably awesomely ridiculous climax, it's down to just Triton and his girlfriend.  I wish I could tell you how this bad monkey ends, but I wouldn't dream of spoiling the amazingly whacked out ending.

True beauty is on the inside....right?

Is that the grandfather from Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

C'mon....they HAD to know what this looks like!

There is something about this film that I just can't help but love.  It almost feels like a band decided to make a Halloween special.....with a a little bit of editing (there's a some nudity) this could have easily aired on network TV some October!

This isn't overflowing with gore, but we get a few good gags including a topless demon biting into a man's shoulder and tearing away flesh.

Well, naturally there are going to be some boobs when you're watching a metal horror flick!

There are all sorts of critters, beasts and demons running around the farmhouse!

I've got three letters:  WTF!

If you love 80's horror and you love cheesy 80's metal, than you owe it to yourself to check out Rock & Roll Nightmare!  There is a sequel that came out in 2005, but I have not watched it yet.  Just because I'm so awesome, I've included a performance from The Tritons below.  Enjoy!