Bite Size: Rats: Night Of Terror (1984)

Bruno Mattei was the Xerox of exploitation cinema. Whatever style of movie was popular at the time, he could direct a facsimile faster, more cheaply, and usually in worse taste. Women in prison flicks, Nazisploitation, Nunsploitation, nothing was too sacred to shamelessly rip off in his nearly 40 year career. If it was making bank, he was making a copy as close as budget and copyright law allowed.

While the trailer above plays as if Rats: Night Of Terror is a tension fueled creature feature, the actual movie “borrows” more from Mad Max and Escape From New York than it does post atomic age giant animal romps like The Food Of The Gods.

As a cost effective text crawl tells us, 225 years post nuclear apocalypse, the affluent live in comfortable underground cities, and leave the fallout filled surface to ragtag groups of neo primitives. The protagonists roll up on their motorcycles, and all 11 of them appear to be dressed for a different movie.

The leader favors a kicky little red scarf, but anything goes, as the others are dressed in everything from camo to leather vests. Inexplicably, one of the women is apparently riding out the post apocalypse in a Frederick’s Of Hollywood teddy and a costume shop vampire cape.

We don’t learn most of their names until MUCH later in the film, but it sounds like they were all chosen in an odd game of “I, Spy”, with grown adults walking around calling each other things like Video, Chocolate, Lucifer, Deus, Lillith and……Myrna. Between the muddy audio, and the group’s tendency to squabble, the clothes are the easier method to tell everyone apart anyway.

Our gang of ragtag ramblers stumbles upon a building that has an incredibly well stocked bunker underneath it, with a hydroponic garden, plentiful food supplies and a water purifier. Unfortunately, it also contains some corpses so fresh they are still decomposing and an epic rat infestation.

Despite mounting evidence that something is very wrong, the gang is far too preoccupied doing things that are offensive, stupid, or so stupid that they become offensive. From getting stuck during sleeping bag sex and a host of highly questionable jokes to gleefully barricading themselves into a room without water, food or medical supplies, it’s a minor miracle this group managed to survive a street crossing. Never mind the apocalypse.

Literal buckets of rats are tossed on the actors from just outside of the frame, but this doesn’t ever translate to much suspense or gore. Even the rats spend the majority of their screen time indifferently scurrying off into a corner to attempt to clean their fur from whatever gunk production tossed on them for greasy effect. That said, being that we spend 90 minutes watching the humans cry, flail and fail spectacularly, it doesn’t seem that implausible that a bunch of bored mutant rats could successfully pick them off one by one.

By the time the film takes a turn for The Crazies, in a swirl of fumigator fog and ooky spooky organ music straight out a carnival dark ride, the characters (and most viewers) are at their wits’ end with a film that has clearly overstayed its grimy welcome. Hang in for the last 5 minutes, as the final twist is so gleefully nonsensical, it almost makes the hour and a half slog to get there worth it.

Never Too Young To Die (1986)

What do you get when you mix a television journeyman, a frustrated soap opera pretty boy, an aging rock star, and a former Prince protege?

Never Too Young To Die, a Gil Bettman directed action comedy to update spies for the rad kids of the Reagan era, penned by the same twisted mind that would later produce the truly execrable Baby Geniuses.

While the film received a limited theatrical run and a home video release, both flopped. The movie held on briefly in syndication before vanishing for several decades into the recess of VHS only curios. Content to let sleeping dogs lie, no one bothered to exhume Never Too Young To Die for DVD/Blu Ray release until 2017.

Let’s get this totally tubular tale of the teenage spy who loved Vanity over with:

The cold open of this 1986 misfire is a herd of lost extras from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, chanting in support of their glorious leader, gender bending Ragnar (Gene Simmons). For the record, that name is not a keysmash or a typo. Clearly, production was aiming for a glam rock and roll nightmare, but the practical result is a puffy mess who clearly ate the whole pack of Frank N. Futers. As Ragnar struts and shrieks some nonsense about  “little turdballs”, and poisoning the city water supply, even the fan club down below looks confused. 

A critical disk of information needed for this overly elaborate poisoning plan is missing. One of the female crustpunks is a traitor. As she is bound to a prop cross, we get a truly disturbing scene where the crowd chants for Ragnar to give the double agent “the finger”. As Gene Simmons licks glossed lips and raises a dirty acrylic coke nail, we mercifully cut to credits. NO ONE needed to see exactly where that was going.

Enter Lance Stargrove (John Stamos), a teen gymnastics champ at a weird high school that apparently has dorms. He’s got a cheery theme song, big hair, and a stereotype of a best friend named Cliff, who only exists to spit computer jargon and build literal plot devices. Well, plot devices other than those that were already stolen from The Goonies and Gymkata. 

It isn’t all sunshine and sweatbands for Lance. His mom is dead, and his dad is going to miss the big gymnastics meet, AGAIN. Best to photogenically brood about it. Stupid dad having a stupid mysterious job.

While he sulks, we cut to Lance’s father James Bond, Drew Stargrove. Stargrove the elder is played by George Lazenby. Lazenby is best known for being the guy who keeps Timothy Dalton from being the least popular Bond actor.

Mr. Stargrove is doing top level espionage for Roto Rooter, but the job goes badly sideways due to a defector in the ranks and some “C4” that looks and adheres like kneaded eraser. Ragnar makes short work of an injured Mr. Stargrove after some boring squabbling over the missing disc for the water poisoning plot. In a psychic link between father and estranged son, Lance bungles the big tumble tournament and lands with a thud at the same moment his dad dies of his own ineptitude. Kismet.

At the funeral, a bundle of dear old dad’s not at all secret agent “associates” show up, including Danja Deering (Vanity), wearing one of the leftover costumes from the Vanity 6 album tour. Lance being Lance, he has a tantrum about his dad ever having known a good looking woman in even the most mysterious of capacities. He sulks his way through a pile of dry as kindling exposition with the one scene wonder family lawyer.

Lance is now independently wealthy, and the owner of his father’s farm/ personal retreat, which he didn’t realize had ever existed. Again, best to sit in the backseat of the limo and photogenically brood about it.

Speaking of the farm, Lance decides to visit, just as Ragnar’s club wielding henchman interrupt Danja’s horseback riding with demands for the missing disc. The barn doubles as an armory, and is blown up in the scuffle despite Ragnar’s goons not having a single modern weapon. Vanity loses the gun she brought to a blunt instrument fight, and the grenade box thoughtfully stored beneath the saddles lights the whole structure up like kindling when the side of beef above struggles to keep control of a semi automatic.

Danja sustains a small wound on the arm, which inexplicably requires her to take off the frilly blouse she nicked from Prince’s closet. Lance is unharmed, but….you guessed it…..proceeds to photogenically brood about it. Vanity’s expression in the still up there pretty much sums up my feelings toward this entire sequence. Whatever secret agency these characters are from is the bottom of the can of dollar store alphabet soup.

Okay, so we’re going to pause a moment here. Another mystery man comes to retrieve Vanity from the farm, and they have a debrief about the obvious misunderstanding regarding the meaning of the phrase “barn raising”. When she mentions the culprit being Ragnar’s henchmen, our ersatz G man replies “The hermaphrodite?” in an incredulous tone.

1. It is a third of the way through the movie, and this bizarre plot point was felt to be of enough merit to be shoehorned in, apropos of absolutely fuck all.
2. That terminology was not a good look even in 1986.
3. The mid 80’s were an unfortunate boom time for casual homophobia in films.
4. Why is Ragnar’s gender identity or physiology more important that the fact that her crew is planning to poison an entire city’s water supply, and has already committed murder? It’s not. But the entire rest of the movie will repeatedly harp on it because of point #3.
5. Velvet Von Ragnar refers to herself as she in the scene that follows this one, and so will I.

Danja heads off to catch Velvet Von Ragnar’s nightclub act. Lance follows along like a puppy, because he wants to prove he can do big kid stuff aside from brood and sulk.

As far as the actual performance? Gene Simmons had a career as a professional musician for over a decade at this stage, and manages not to sing, dance, speak or walk in anything resembling the same time signature as the beat.

The costume is borrowed from the 1980 Linda Carter ENCORE! TV special, and Gene mainly just wobbles around the stage shrieking like Dr. Rockso’s grandparent. Should you be a masochist, but not so much of one as to watch this entire movie, some of the vocals from this sequence were recycled for the 1992 KISS song “Spit”.

Another homophobic conversation is had. Danja leaves, slapping Lance for implying she’s a star(grove) fucker. Lance attempts to go undercover as a fan of Velvet’s to place one of his BFF’s handy bubble gum trackers in her dressing room.

Surprising no one, Lance fails miserably. Velvet flushes the tracker down the toilet. Lance gets his ass kicked outside of the bar, and manages to nearly get blown up when his motorcycle explodes.

This doesn’t stop him from borrowing poor Cliff’s motorbike to go chase Danja, as he adhered the other bubble gum tracker to her car. As usual, he gets in the way of Danja’s escape from more of Velvet’s post apocalyptic errand bitches, nearly gets himself shot, and does absolutely nothing to prevent the goons from capturing her in their fishing net of doom.

Meanwhile, the henchmen drag Lance back to his father’s farmhouse, and whip him until he cries. At roughly an hour into this film, our supposed hero has done little more than pout, sulk and get beaten up by shitty roller derby characters looking for dated computer technology.

But by the power of the cheap badge that the set dresser dredged up from a local plaque and trophy shop, Lance finally finds his footing. The gnashing of teeth for “intensity” and a theme song reprise…..THAT’S his ninja way. Defenestration fu saves the day, and Lance’s reputation as a completely ineffectual idiot. Now he’s just a mostly ineffectual idiot.

Turns out that stupid tchochke is a quest item, as when Lance fumbles putting it back onto his necklace, it rolls into a glowing groove in the floor. Once activated, there’s a little super spy Narnia underneath the bed. Like an onion, this farm. So many layers.

Seeing his dad’s trophy room of awards and accomplishments gives Lance the confidence to pick up a handgun as he sees a figure in motocross gear entering the house. Lance still being a moron, he almost shoots poor Cliff. Cliff came by with both a brand new motorbike and a custom designed flamethrower, because plot device. He also mentions that the disc Lance’s dad had sent before all this started just happened to be inside a specially built compartment inside of Cliff’s new bike. Funny that Lance almost killed the person that has the one thing everyone in the film wants, and that Cliff didn’t mention having it until just now.

Fuck it, whatever, lets see how the homemade flamethrower plays into Danja’s rescue.

Blah, blah, blah overly elaborate villain plot.

How in the hell did Robert Englund end up in this only semi polished turd? He’s wonderful as always, in a bit role as a tech dork named Riley.

Velvet kills the previous two henchman as punishment for their failure to retrieve the disc. At least they call the dirty coke nail “the spike” rather than “the finger” this time. 50% less nightmare inducing.

Move along, nothing else to see in this scene.

Lance and Cliff make like a bad album cover as they fight fire…..with fire. Danja is rescued from yet another overly elaborate crematorium of doom type villain mechanism, and everyone debriefs in what looks like a church basement or a shipping container. The entire water poisoning plot everyone has been talking about the entire film has to be rehashed again for the secret agent bigwigs, who decide Lance and Danja……should sit at the farmhouse and wait.

Hear that sound? It’s the plot grinding to a near standstill in the final stretch.

At the house, Lance and Danja have a weird combination of flirtation and argument, with semi love confessions and suspicions of double crossers in their own ranks mixed with the insufferably pouty Lance brooding over the fact that a beautiful woman has decided she wants to sleep with him. I was going to complain about how long this scene drags on, but for time killing filler, you could do far worse than circa 1986 Vanity stepping in and out of a bikini.

The editing of the actual sex scene is bizarre with moody sax sprinkled throughout the oddly jumpy visual cuts. Apparently, I’m the only one who remembers that this is a mission, with a full crew of spies chilling at the top of the hill with high powered binoculars. Whatever, I won’t yuck someone else’s yum.

Lance and Ganja get airlifted out of the house while lookalikes take their place. Maybe because the lookalikes will get actual spy stuff done rather than having kinky sex. However, the helicopter pilot isn’t Agent Carruthers, but instead is a disguised Ragnar. This transition is one step above Scooby and those meddling kids pulling the rubber mask off the villain at the end of the episode, proving once again that Danja and company are the worst spies ever.

Ragnar drags them back to his dust bowl hide out, which is pretty much run like a nuclear winter Medieval Times. Ragnar demands a toast from her throne, Danja and Lance are pelted with rotted food as they are dragged out in a cage, and John Stamos gets into some awkward territory challenging the big side of bacon main henchman to a duel to see who is a “real man”.

The real spies show up in rescue helicopters, and Ragnar runs with Riley the tech nerd, the disc she had her henchman steal from Cliff’s bike, and a nuclear football like suitcase. Lots of filler shots of the good guys mowing down extras ensue as Ragnar makes her break for it.

With the poisoning device armed and a 3 minute countdown, Lance manages to catch up to Ragnar for what is (thankfully) their last standoff on a municipal aqueduct. Some is this precious time is wasted with yet another inane homophobic conversation about who is a “real man” or “real woman” and other such tripe. Because John Stamos and his 45 minute blow dried and moussed coif is the height of butch masculinity. It’s the femme person in the corset that’s bad. Some dumb shit like that. I stopped listening for the sake of the 14 brains cells I had not yet killed with booze while watching this film.

Lance is such a cocky little shit, its oddly satisfying to see Ragnar take a hearty swing at his head with a tire iron as she calls him a pathetic little boy. In fact, she’s well on her way to kicking his ass until he goes for the cheap shot of biting her boob. Some super tough super spy he is. As one cheap turn deserves another, Ragnar gets in a slash with her infamous coke nail.

They continue their chicken fight on the ground, and the detonator says that only about 30 seconds have elapsed, despite this eating up several minutes of screentime. Vanity catches up in the chopper, Cliff’s homemade flamethrower at the ready rather than the plethora of real weapons her employers supplied.

Just when Ragnar is finally about to be rid of Lance once and for all(delivering the films title line)……
….she gets distracted by him paying her a compliment, and he kills her with her own spiked stiletto nail…..
……and for Danja to toss down the fireblaster, which Lance uses to destroy the suitcase, as it can not be disarmed.
Having saved the world, Lance is initially resistant to the idea of becoming a superspy. However, he realizes as he tries to walk away, that in his brief flirtation with danger (and Danja), what was important was the friends he made along the way. As our trio happily rides off into the sunset together, they make one last joke at Ragnar’s expense as the credits roll. Unsurprisingly, the planned sequels failed to launch just like Cliff’s fireblaster and Vanity’s post Prince career. John Stamos moved on to the comparatively greener pastures of being type cast as a gigolo on cable dramas and eventually as the inexplicably beloved Uncle Jesse on the equally inexplicably beloved family sitcom Full House.

Eaten Alive! (1980)

The cannibal vomitorium (a name coined by Bill Landis in his now sadly out of print book Sleazoid Express) is definitely the deeper end of the sleaze cinema pool. Taking all of the cynical and condescending faux documentary/ethnography ideas of the mondo trend, and pushing them past Italian Grand Guignol gore into reprehensible animal cruelty and often unsafe working conditions for the crew, this is rough stuff by any reasonable metric.

Mainly a decade long tit for tat between directors Umberto Lenzi and Ruggero Deodato (with some lesser entries from other genre stalwarts), cannibal vomitoriums tend to follow the same basic outline:

1. Some woefully underprepared white person heads to a remote region for a reason that is stupid, rather colonialist, or some combo of both.
2. Due to all of the reasons noted in point 1, white person royally pisses off natives, which inevitably involves at least one cannibal tribe.
3. Murder and mayhem ensues, and long pig is on the menu. Finger foods for everyone.
4. Bonus points for making some heavy handed “Who is REALLY civilized?” allegory as a grace note/excuse for every extreme thing the audience just saw.

A relatively minor entry into the gut muncher canon, Eaten Alive is notable for both deviating from formula by adding in a Jonestown massacre facsimile to shake up the plot and the fact that director Umberto Lenzi went fully meta, cannibalizing other cannibal movies to finish this one. Interspersed with the main plot are scenes hijacked from older films (both his own and those of other people), and various stock footage bits, easily identifiable by the stark changes in lighting and film stock. Let’s get to it and guess who is coming to dinner:

Pre credits, we get a trip from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to New York City, watching this guy rather comically blow gun some random strangers to death at extremely close range. He stops, puffs his cheeks, gives his victims time to make a face of exaggerated horror, and out pops the death Q tip and a bit of prop blood as it hits. Our lo fi assassin then gets hit by a bus while running away from the scene of the crime, roll titles and a funky disco theme.

Meet sweet little Sheila Morris from Alabama, who is talking to FBI agents in what looks like a barely set dressed church basement. As we know, there’s been some funky blowgun murders, and the killer just happened to have a color film reel with the name and address of her estranged sister on it when he got hit by that bus.

The whole scene is basically an info dump, to establish that Sheila and her sister Diana haven’t spoken in six months or so, that there’s a hippie street preacher named Jonas (subtle) mixed up in this somehow, and that the whole cult disappeared off into the wild somewhere. While less awful than she was in Fulci’s House By The Cemetery, Janet Agren’s principle attributes as Sheila are a comically corn pone country accent and some flawless eyeliner.

The agents let Sheila take the film with her, and she enlists the help of a professor to try to figure out where the footage was shot. Together they marvel at fakirs and the strangeness of people who keep time with the beat while dancing. He takes a wild guess at New Guinea (which a junkie former student of his confirms), Sheila books a flight instead of informing authorities, and the filmmakers can brag that celebrity skin Mel Ferrer was in this movie for all of 5 minutes. He does get to deliver the home truth that “Americans will believe in anything as long as it’s tax deductible.”

Enter soldier of fortune, Vietnam deserter and knife fight/arm wrestling mixologist Mark. As portrayed by porn star Robert Kerman, he looks more like the accountant for the forefathers of the Cobra Kai, but sex stardom was very different in porn’s golden age.

He agrees to help guide Sheila to the village shown in the film, but considering he only works for cash, you’d think the fact that she doesn’t have any on her to cover his $80,000 fee would be concerning. Also, you’d think a woman who could find the one adventurer for hire in all of either Pakistan or Sri Lanka judging by the Pakistan International Airlines flight New Guinea would know how to hire her own helicopter to a remote village. No one in this situation is firing on all cylinders.

Proving my point, our “heroes” manage to get strong armed by a senior citizen about 30 seconds after exiting the helicopter. They get locked in a room with some cobras, Mark finally makes himself useful and obtains a guide and supplies by force, and there’s 3 repugnant animal scenes. One of said scenes is stolen from 1972’s Sacrifice. It’s no less awful the second time, and this entire sequence is just a long winded way to say that your cultists are in another (cannibal filled) castle. Soon our gang is rolling down the river to the most softcore porn music cue you can think of.

The canoe wrecks, one of the guides is eaten by a crocodile, and the one surviving guide steals all of the supplies. He gets all of 30 feet away before being eaten by cannibals, but it’s the thought that counts. Speaking of, it’s a third of the way through the film, and we finally see a cannibal…..in some more spliced in footage from another movie. I like the still above, which clearly captures a man recalculating his life choices as he holds his rubber limb.

If it feels like I’m zooming through large sections of this movie, that’s because I am. Given that this film is roughly 1/3 post consumer recycled material, there’s a lot of padded reaction shots to spliced in footage of snakes and mongoose or whatever. For the sake of brevity, I’m condensing down to things that have some relevance to the actual plot.

Shaken up by the carnage they have seen, Mark and Shiela run all of six hundred feet away to camp for the night. After receiving the classic cartoon “Snap out of it!” slap, Sheila decides to have sex with Mark, and makes him promise to kill her if they are caught by cannibals.

Morning comes, and a chase ensues, with assailants stalking the pair through the jungle lobbing oddly pool noodle-esque spears. Separated and cornered, Sheila faints……

……only to come to with Jonas’ followers giving her some medicine and reuniting her with Mark. More convenient than a whole county’s worth of 7-11s, if you ask me. They take our gang to “Purification Village” and provide us the vision that is Ivan Rassimov as Jonas swanning about in a Delta Burke Collection caftan.

In a refreshing change, we waste some runtime with some footage actually shot for this movie, yay! A native woman named Mowara (Me Me Lai) was widowed, and the community is having her husband’s funeral ceremony that evening. The funeral sequence is mainly an excuse to get a bunch of Jonas’ followers topless (including Paola Senatore as Sheila’s sister Diana), and to get Me Me Lai naked in some ashes for some sex based uncoupling ritual. Never has a woman looked more like she’d rather be washing her hair.

Me Me Lai was a constant in the cannibal sub genre, and her presence here as Mowara pretty much guarantees that she’ll be the sympathetic native who helps our protagonists escape, spends most of the runtime topless, and dies gruesomely for her trouble.

Diana regrets following a junkie J. Jill frequent shopper into jungle hell, Professor Celebrity Cameo FINALLY informs the authorities where Sheila is, and Jonas makes everyone do a test run on the whole drinking the Kool Aid thing. Mark refuses when he smells it is drugged, and is beaten and tied to a pole for his astute observation. Having spent maybe 6 minutes setting up the third act, we get another random kill of a native by Jonas’ enforcer that has fuck all to do with anything we have just seen.

Jungle roofies work FAST, as the very next shot is Sheila being ritualistically prepared for Jonas to assault her with a cobra blood covered hand carved sex toy. Not only is this poor man’s prophet a scam artist and rapist, he’s a scam artist and rapist who chooses to leave fucking splinters, which is next level monstrous.

In color me not surprised news, Mowara and another sympathetic native (told you so) cut Mark loose, and he bolts into the jungle. He gets to react to a bloody castration scene between tribesmen from 1978’s Slave Of The Cannibal God. Got to pad that runtime until the hips match the shoulders.

Mark manages to last the night amongst the cannibals, but comes back to the village and supplicates himself at Jonas’ feet. With 30 minutes left in the runtime, do you think it just might be a trap? Jonas managed to convince several hundred people to join him in the outer reaches of fucking nowhere, but is egotistical/gullible enough to accept this conversion at face value.

Diana is far less dumb than she appears, and meets with Mark in secret regarding his plans, and enlists Mowara to help them all escape.

Having passed out the day’s drug rations to the flock (Mark included), Jonas skips off to perform the solid gold edition of sexual assault on a doped up Sheila. Diana manages to interrupt by attacking Jonas with a knife, but gets whipped for her trouble. What actually saves Sheila is that a follower was caught imbibing the demon drink, and must be cast out into the jungle with a Bible and not a snowball’s chance in hell of survival. Again, more convenient than a TV dinner.

The plan is in place to leave by nightfall, and Mark warns Sheila not to drink anything Jonas may give her before then, as its definitely drugged…..which you think she would have noticed by now, all things considered.

Jonas has a babbling Bible study about the story of Jehu (say that 5 times fast), and once night falls, our crew of the most recognizable actors left in the film is off to the races. Too bad Sheila starts screaming for Jonas the second the team comes to fetch her….what the hell is in those drugs? The effects morph from roofie to hard Ecstasy from dose to dose. She must have forgotten to skip the last dose of Mighty Morphing MDMA.

Mark gives her another come to your senses slap, but it finally takes a gag to stop her from getting them all killed, and she’s fighting all the way as they run for the river, Jonas’ errand bitches not too far behind.

Diana and Mark make the mistake of thinking Sheila is sober, and untie her. She immediately bolts back towards the village, screaming for Jonas. Mark races after her, leaving Mowara and Diana to their own devices.

Jonas men quickly catch up to the two women, and main heavy Karan decides to rape Diana. In a lightning fast case of instant karma, this gives the cannibals time to catch up to them, and eat everyone alive. Sadly, this includes Diana and Mowara.

Even sadder, only Diana gets a proper death scene, and Me Me Lai is sent off with a retread of her death scene from 1977’s Jungle Holocaust.

Mark saves a suddenly sober Sheila, and they both run toward the sound of screams, but it is too late. Mark uses his third (for those keeping score at home) get it together slap to knock Sheila out before she notices this way too cheerful cannibal nibbling on her sister’s severed leg.

It kind of works, but not quite, as Sheila saw some of the bloodshed before passing out. They both agree that they won’t be able to get out of this alive, and invoke their earlier pact to kill themselves before the cannibals did.

Mark gives Sheila one last kiss as he raises his knife to finish the job…….
…..but his grim task is thankfully interrupted by the sound of police helicopters overhead….
….which causes Jonas to break out the non dress rehearsal Kool Aid and use the mass suicides to evade the authorities…..
…..and Mark and Sheila just barely escape the cannibals to get into the police helicopter to safety.

Safely back in the USA, the authorities give Mark and Sheila the usual speech about not telling of what they have seen for political and economic reasons, and Sheila makes the obligatory comparisons between the Stone Age and the Space Age, checking off all of the standard boxes we discussed earlier.

Meanwhile….Mark is in the other room, discovering Sheila’s big fat check was also a big fat rubber ball, and bounced for insufficient funds. Diana had given all the sisters’ money to Jonas before she left New York.

We have a mercenary for hire character played by a real life porn star and he didn’t master the basic idea of get the money up front. When I said “woefully unprepared” I absolutely meant it. That’s about the textbook definition of the term. Cut to bits of ripped up check fluttering through the air as the credits rolls and the funk bass kicks in.

Bite Size: Murder By Phone (1982)

The late 70s and early 80’s were a boom time for exploitation films for both the US and our genteel neighbors to the north, for very similar reasons. Grindhouses and other theaters with extended showtimes needed more content that the mainstream was producing. Hefty credits for film productions made them ideal tax shelters for the well off, or for those wanting a bit of reflected lemonlight from being a “movie producer”.

With all of that extra cash flowing around, a whole host of first time and indie film makers stepped up to fill their noses with cocaine the programming gap.

Over 300 films were made in Canada between 1975 and 1982, most of them low budget genre fare. One of the last films of that tax evasion fueled boom was this forgotten bit of Canuxploitation, originally titled Bells. When it was released in the US, the film was sliced down from 95 minutes to a scant 80 minute runtime. It was also christened with the tabloid title Murder By Phone. Proving that even 38 years ago, the average American viewer had still not mastered the obvious.


College professor and environmentalist Nat Bridger (Richard Chamberlin) takes it upon himself to investigate the mysterious death of his favorite student. With the help of his teaching mentor Stanley Markowitz(John Houseman) and mural artist Lisa (Sara Botsford), he discovers the deadly weapon was a high pitched frequency sent over the phone line.

As Nat tries to find the culprit before they can kill again, it looks more and more likely that the calls are coming from inside the house…..or at least the phone company.

It’s the sort of one turn too complicated plotting that is half as clever as it thinks it is. This basic template glutted TV movies of the week and the better episodes of police procedurals of the period. There’s a double cross, and a love affair and the usual slight shimmies masquerading as twists you find in scripts of this ilk.

A far classier than average cast uses their talent to make sure the formulaic medicine goes down. How often are an Oscar winner (Houseman) and a Golden Globe winner (Chamberlin) heading up a formerly timely, now carbon dated older than dinosaurs fear of technology cheapie? If you guessed “Neveruary 32nd”, you win the Kewpie doll. Gary Reineke is also amusingly gruff as Lieutenant Meara, the stereotypical cop sick of all of these God damn meddling hippie kids.

The true joy of Murder By Phone is its gleeful commitment to its titular concept, rather than any real concerns of acting or plot. Truer to advertising than many exercises in exploitation, the films’ kills are indeed all accomplished with the goofy telephone conceit.

The victim picks up the phone, and we get a brief shot of blinking lights, levers and sliders straight out of 50’s sci fi spaceship. A high pitched whirr and some beep boop beeping grow loud on the soundtrack. The victims’ heads shake, their eyes bleed, and then they shoot off into the distance like a champagne cork, accompanied by fireworks from a municipal parade or a third tier metal show. To add indignity to illogic, victims fly across train stations, out of windows and into bookcases, all accented with doubly goofy thunder and lightning sound effects and unceremonious thuds. It’s absolutely delightful in its essential silliness.

Most of the high propulsion victims, and all of the the eye candy in this movie has been condensed into a tight 1:35 trailer. Here’s a gif of one of the few death scenes not present. Tag yourselves, I’m the French doors:

Let the sunshine that is the cheerful ridiculousness of that GIF play for a little while, and try not to giggle. Feel free to then skip over what is essentially a very special guest star filled episode of Mannix. For an R rated horror thriller about murderous plastic, it’s all very tame and tasteful. The only real fun to be had is when Murder By Phone lets go a little bit in the campy death scenes. Even in their cheapie exploitation movies, Canadians live up to their reputation for politeness.

The Tenement (1985)

Roberta Findlay was one of the few female creators of the exploitation golden age, and is only rivaled by Doris Wishman in terms of both longevity and prolific output across the sleaze subgenres. In her multi decade career, Roberta wrote, produced, directed, distributed, and occasionally acted in her own work.

Thankfully, Ms. Findlay is a far more competent multi hyphenate than her predecessor. Less thankfully, keep in mind the curve on which we are grading.

Alongside her husband Michael, she created the landmark Flesh trilogy of roughies, which mixed sex and violence into a brand new bag, helping eradicate the tamer trend of the nudie cuties that had dominated the early 60s. Their early 70s failed slasher experiment called Slaughter was later reedited into the notorious Snuff, which set an urban legend into motion that still persists today.

After parting ways with Michael in 1973, Roberta made a successful string of porn features, before controversy came calling again regarding 1985’s Shauna: Every Man’s Fantasy. The movie was a cash in Frankenstein’s monster, made from archive footage after the titular star had committed suicide at 20.

Roberta scuttled back to splatter, and the remainder of her career was spent making low budget action and horror films, before she retired in 1989. Unlike Ms. Wishman, who seemed to revel in the reappraisal of her work, Roberta has resisted all efforts to be praised as a pioneer. In her own words, she was “merely a barnacle on the ship of life” whose main filmmaking inspiration was “not getting caught out on her tax”.

So what happens when an admittedly indifferent schlockmeister mixes rape revenge tropes with a knockoff of Assault On Precinct 13? 1985’s The Tenement, which I watched under its lamer alternate title:

The font and the theme song got lost on their way to Beat Street, full of stutter synth, and a rap lyric that can’t decide if the tenement is a “place of shelter” or “helter skelter”. We get some generic exteriors and cut to a dingy basement, where a gang of weekend Warriors is busy doing drugs, waving dead rats at each other, and…….whatever the fuck this is:

Too bad the party gets broken up pretty quickly by the cops. The dude who called the police is our first introduction to the building residents, and he stops to greasily gloat at the gang members in a Speedy Gonzales accent as they get packed off into a squad car. This way they know exactly which person turned the gang in. How could that possibly go wrong?

The residents throw a party to celebrate the gang being gone. This introduces us to the rest of the ethnic stereotypes tenants, some of which I’m not even sure were given names outside of the credits. Rojas is the drunk tub of greasiness and bluster who called law enforcement. Mr. Washington is a strong silent type doing his best Duane Jones impression. Leona is a sassy single mom. Anita is a sweet pregnant girl. Ruth a tough Jewish grandmother, and Angel a hooker with a heart of gold who turns tricks to support her husband’s habit.

There’s another older couple named Wesley, blind Mr. Gonzalez with a seeing eye dog, some random little kids who belong to someone or another….none of this is going to get developed in any significant fashion, so trust that the accents are horrible and the characterization is worse. This celebratory party scene lasts longer than some of these actors’ careers.

Aside from Leona, they all prattle on at length about being SO VERY GLAD THE GANG IS GONE. THEY ARE SAFE NOW. FOREVER. WE SURE WON’T SEE THOSE GANGBANGERS AGAIN.

Looking like the least popular kids at the leather bar

Except for the fact that bail exists, and within a few hours our gang is right back out on the streets, making sure that snitch Rojas gets the mandated stitches. Due to budgetary constraints “stitches” becomes 1 tiny piece of prop glass and a large bandage on the forehead.

The baddies get their own long and equally boring party scene, where they smoke a bunch of angel dust in a parking lot and sing off key songs about “passing that fucker, man”, to the tune of stock music cues that would later pop up in Zombie Nightmare. Then the mighty Chaco, our aviator shade and frontless shirt wearing gang leader gets a listless spin shot and this struggle of a 4 line speech. It absolutely sounds like he learned it phonetically:

Chaco (gazing at nothing): Blood. My head….is full of blood. My dream…. is full of blood. I’m going to take my building BACK!

Because this looks more badass than using the unlocked door right next to it

Typical of most “urban warfare” style films, 20 minutes in and that’s pretty much it for plot. There’s a ton of expository padding, but none of it teaches you anything important about the characters you didn’t learn through the early party scenes. Angel and her husband fight over his drug use. Anita’s mom is not thrilled she’s pregnant. Leona wishes she could move. Mr. Gonzalez is beloved by the children, because cute seeing eye dog. Rojas is drunk and Ruth is reciting a Shabbat blessing. Just in case the caricatures weren’t broad enough the first time around, hit me baby one more time.

We know there’s going to be a bloody conflict. The film just needs to give Crow T Robot his Christmas gift , and decide who lives and who dies. Place your bets or grab your bingo cards, whichever you prefer.

While the post apocalypse aerobics instructor of the group cuts the phone lines, the seeing eye dog ends up as fodder for a banger’s Countess Bathory moment.

By the way, timestamped title cards have been present but irrelevant the entire movie, as its not like PCP fueled murder sprees are on a tight schedule. Feel free to join me in continuing to ignore them.

Leona goes downstairs to check the phone line, and is brutally punished for being right about the gang’s return. This sequence made me glad for how weirdly prim this movie is, despite its X rating for violence. Conceptually horrible things happen, but we don’t explicitly see much of them. In the case of a deceased pup and a Last House On The Left style remix of the uses of household implements, less really is more.

In a thin upside, Leona’s little girl is smart enough to head upstairs to safety with a neighbor, and Leona managed to pull a Fulci on one of her attackers before dying.

Mr. Washington begrudgingly helps herd everyone he can find onto the upper floor landing, because apparently Chaco & friends are a bit confused on how stairs work, and won’t follow them. Bickering amongst the residents ensues, but they do comply. That runtime needs a lot of padding to make a safe landing.

Proving Mr. Washington’s point, Chaco yells some threats from the lobby, but doesn’t move an inch. The rest of the gang rampages through the emptied apartments like unattended Sims. Without someone to tell them what to do, they are stabbing random furniture, tossing food around, and getting bags stuck on their heads.

Variations of these same 3 shots fluff out a lot of the remaining runtime. Assume they happen in between any relevant action, and even some that aren’t. For example, Angel’s futile plea to one of her tricks on the street to go get help rather than come inside, which wastes another few minutes without disturbing the main plot’s vacation.

Angel’s husband dies defending his stash. Angel only makes it to safety because Mr. Washington comes out onto the landing to protect her as she runs upstairs. The fourth floor stairs are still lava.

One of the gang overdoses by virtue of doing the entire stolen pile of drugs at once. Chaco and Olivia Newton Chula mourn by having a bloody trip to second base beside the body of their fallen comrade.

Not to be outdone by gangbangers for moronic and unnecessary deaths, Mrs. Wesley dies searching downstairs for disinfectant. Anita’s mom dies trying to escape from the third story window via a single strand of clothesline. That doesn’t even work in cartoons, for fuck’s sake.

Over an hour into the movie, the baddies finally figure out the whole fourth floor stairs thing, and start tearing apart the makeshift furniture barricade the residents made.

Only by the grace of grandma Ruth and her ancient New York wisdom of nut shots and baseball bats, do the residents escape up to the fifth and final floor.


The good ship plot device comes in, and the gang wastes more time with random vandalism, to give the good guys time to MacGuyver an elaborate defense of an electrified bed frame and wet steps.

Downstairs, Chaco kills one of his own people via genital stab because the film’s runtime is almost out and too many people are still alive.

The residents loot a gun clip off of the crispy fried victim of their death bed, assuming the gang’s gun is no longer a threat without ammo. Our fifth grade teachers taught us what happens when you assume. In this case, it gets Mr. Washington shot as he heads downstairs.

Assumption also gets Rojas killed by Chaco’s handy dog collar. While a brilliant parry of boiling water and a fridge made of foam killed Chaco’s ladyfriend, and mortally wounded another gangster, Chaco himself was unharmed.

By going downstairs to gloat and finish the job with a knife, Rojas proves that only manual strangulation can get him to shut the fuck up.


Ruth stuns Chaco with her trusty bat, but doesn’t kill him. That leaves poor pregnant Anita to battle the big bad on a rainy roof, and finish the job with a TV antenna and a convenient attack of sudden rotoscope lightning. Too bad she locked herself out, as the door slammed shut in the struggle…….

Surprise! Mr. Washington is still alive and here to open the door after missing the entire fight. For the survivors it’s a brand new day………

……….or maybe just a less rainy pitch black night. Allegory is hard.

Touch Of Death (1988)

Lucio Fulci’s career was a long strange trip. Internationally known for a 70s and 80s run of giallo and horror flicks, his best work was bleak, bloody and often darkly funny. The golden age of sensational splatter reached its apex in the 1981 dime store surrealist classic The Beyond. However, Fulci still faced unfavorable comparisons to the incredibly stylish but super self serious fellow director, Dario Argento. This Jan vs Marcia situation would dog him for the rest of his career.

By 1988, Lucio Fulci’s fortunes had done an abrupt about face. He had lost his wife to suicide, and his daughter was paralyzed in a car accident. Hepatitis and concurrent illness had forced him to leave the completion of Zombi 3 to human Xerox Bruno Mattei. A reputation for violent content and no fucks given criticism of the Catholic Church made financiers harder to come by.

Originally filmed for Italian television as Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio (Translation: When Alice Broke The Mirror, for those prone to putting on airs), the US release of today’s film was direct to video. What happens when Italy’s godfather of gore goes TV movie of the week? Let’s find out with (retitled for the US) Touch Of Death:


The credits are brief, and play over dead silence, which should tell you the approximate budget of this whole proceeding. Instead, we watch Lester the lost woodshop teacher cook up some lunch, while listening to horse racing results on the radio.

I’m not sure why he’s cooking with a sterno stove at the dining table, but perhaps the gas had not been turned on in what is CLEARLY the showhome for some Florida senior living condominium complex circa the summer of 1987.

He takes his steak, curls up on the couch and watches either some sort of weird home made porn, or a fairytale witch. The video is all gaunt cackling face, big hair and the occasional flash of shoulder, so choose your own adventure on which is correct.

Proving my point about the house, we get a POV tour, and it’s full of mauve based color combos and delicate faux houseplants that would make Blanche Devereaux and the girls jealous. It even has a finished basement.

Corpse non returnable once modesty panel has been removed.

Too bad there’s a corpse with a steak sized chunk of her thigh missing lying down there. I hope they lock that door at the open house. Humming along with the classical music on the soundtrack, Lester grabs a chainsaw and does a lovely little box step and sway as he dismembers the body. While I would think a bloody power tool would make a poor dance partner, he doesn’t miss a beat or get a speck on his polo shirt. Soft aqua is such a lovely color, but it really does show every little stain.

In fact, Lester is quite the homemaker. After the dismemberment is done, he piles the pieces into a meat grinder, whistling and waltzing as he works. In the spirit of “waste not, want not”, the bits that can’t fit through the grinder are fed to some conveniently located pigs.

This condo complex really thinks of EVERYTHING.

Television remotes in foreground are larger than they appear.



Lester wants to celebrate a butchering job well done. He pulls several stacks of cash out of a wall safe, pours himself a drink and has a chat with the local bookie. All is right with the world, until the evening news reports the investigation into the death of a rich widow who looks like she just might be Lester’s blue plate special from the day before. Despite 3 different processes, he still managed to leave something behind for the trash collectors to find. Guess he was too concerned with keeping grue off that sweet polo shirt.

In any case, Lester is a bit stressed, and pops his favorite classical cassette into the finest tape deck Montgomery Ward could provide. He has a nice chat with his audio system about his worries, and the equipment is kind enough to allay his fears. What a pal.

For those keeping score at home, Lester is not only a murdering cannibal, he is nuttier than squirrel shit. Even Son Of Sam had the dignity to take his orders from a dog rather than an off brand boombox.

We help people fleece people.


Apparently Lester’s betting is about as good as his body disposal. He travels to some weird abandoned building at the edge of town to hand over all of his ill gotten cash to a bookie who has yet to learn how to color match his browns. Our sadsack protagonist also begs for credit on his massive debts.

Because the bookie who keeps his own assistant literally over a barrel in a dilapidated building is going to be super generous and forgiving. Right.

Rather than sell his car or his house, Lester beelines straight for the personal ads in the local paper, to find more lonely ladies with an excess of money and a deficit of sense. For someone whose whole source of income is dependent on being Casanova in chinos, you’d think his seduction technique would have advanced past butterfly kisses and grin (or grimace) and bear it.

Unnecessarily drawn out hijinks ensue, with Lester trying and failing to poison his unfortunate paramour. He only succeeds in making her throw up, and magically removing the SFX facial hair that was tacked on to the actress’ face in the previous scene.

For crispier results, flip after 15 minutes.


A vicious beating with a bat also fails, but does give us the bylaw mandated eyeball in distress scene required of any movie with Lucio Fulci at the helm.

Bloody, eyeless and as energized as the battery bunny, she pops back up, finally meeting her end in an oversized toaster oven. As her face melts away, the death is doubly sad. Not only has Lester killed an innocent, he has killed a freakishly tough medical miracle that apparently had no skull under her oozing flesh. If this seems an excessive amount of space to devote to a single death, bear in mind that this sequence is nearly 20 minutes of the film’s 90 minute runtime, and likely 95% of the SFX budget.

All that physical exertion makes Lester a sloppy boy. Rather than pass the body to those handy pet pigs, he stuffs it into his car trunk to dump it at a local construction site. Not only does he leave the woman’s severed feet lying in his own driveway, he covers the corpse in concrete in full view of an off brand Charles Manson sleeping in a nearby box.

To avoid getting informed upon, he backs over Canal Street Charlie, but leaves the body in the middle of the street. There goes the remaining 5% of the SFX budget. I would also like to point out to all of you, that the car does indeed have Florida plates. Called it.

To top it off, jewelry he stole from his last victim is all worthless costume, and he owes even more interest to his bookie. A description of the likely killer has hit the evening news, and Lester has to change his appearance from shop teacher to portly sitcom dad to avoid detection by the police.

Our next victim is a slap happy S&M loving soprano, who doesn’t stop singing even in her sleep. Lester strangles her with a whip, and in his latest brilliant plan, transports her body in the front seat of his car. I suppose a jauntily tied scarf hides a lot of sins, as the cop who pulls him over for speeding assumes the cadaver is asleep.

Despite the ever so supportive talking stereo’s assertions that all of this trouble is due to a copycat killer, Lester is not soothed. The evening news once again has the breaking info, announcing the killer’s blood type and DNA genetic code(?!), and our doughboy matches both. While possible, it isn’t terribly PROBABLE that there are two moronic mass murderers with identical DNA on file with the police, and a secret twin seems unlikely on a TV movie budget.

Time for Lester to do some more gambling to destress, as this movie is going to have to try to flesh out the plot now that the SFX money is spent. For variety, he loses his shirt at poker. Why poker? Because even his bookie won’t take any more of his bad bets on horse races. He’d rather fleece him at cards and eliminate the wait.

Only 1 of these things belongs at the glue factory. Guess which.


In deeper hock than ever and plagued by mystery phone calls, Lester heads to the racetrack……to look for the copycat killer. Yep. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Spooked by a few loud noises and his own shadow, he heads home……..

….to deal with a highly convenient plot device. A woman named Virginia Fields (whom genre fans will recognize as Cannibal Ferox’s Zora Kerova) keeps accidentally dialing Lester’s number. Thrilled by his sexy voice, she strokes a decorative taxidermy swan suggestively (not a typo), and they make plans to meet. She happens to be yet another wealthy woman with a disfigurement.

Meanwhile, the nightly news has clocked Lester again, so he disguises himself as woodshop teacher version 2.0. This time it’s big square glasses and hair that is an odd piss yellow attempt at blonde. Hope poor Virginia likes big brass house keys.

Between his suit and her hair, let’s party like it’s 1979


We’ve seen this same basic scene 4 times now. He minces and winces and acts generally disgusted to be anywhere near a woman. At this stage, I sincerely wonder if he would have been happier with a nice cuddly bear of a truckdriver.

They don’t even bother using the scar prosthetic in the long shots, so Lester’s cartoonish distaste is even more pronounced when the camera pans to the lovely (non altered) face of the actress.

Just like all the rest, utterly enchanted by the powder blue pouched possibility of penis, she is smitten beyond all reason. When Lester sobs about business debts, she agrees to loan him $200,000, with his house as collateral. She promises to have the cash when they meet the next night for dinner.


Unsurprisingly, Lester prepares to kill Virginia as soon as he confirms she withdrew the cash…….

Unlike the rest of these dizzy birds, Virginia watches the news. She recognizes Lester from the police composite drawing……..

……and promptly shoots him. Wanting to die like a wild animal, a bleeding Lester runs out to the parking garage……

…….where we learn that Lester’s mysterious copycat……..

……is his own shadow. Because even the literal darkness wanted to bring Lester’s crimes to light. Or something. I feel like some metaphors got mixed here. Since Lester the murderer and (just that one time) cannibal is dead, I hope somebody thought to notify the questionably sentient boombox.

Nail Gun Massacre (1985)

In the last of what I’d consider the extended intro pieces for this blog, lets take a second to examine the era of shoulder pads, Aqua Net and cocaine, 1985 to be precise. The grindhouses and the drive ins are on life support, the home video revolution providing one of the last nails in their collective coffin. Rather than travel to the worst part of town and risk your dignity and/or your wallet to catch a screening, you could enjoy self programmed double and triple features in the privacy and comfort of your own home. No sticky seats, prying eyes or having to carefully watch the schedule for a replay of your favorite reels of sex, splatter and sensationalism.

The one big carryover from the grindhouse when home video became the dominant venue for schlock, was the legion of idiosyncratic films, fueled mostly by sheer hubris. This is perhaps the class of cross era trash my black heart has the biggest soft spot for. Be it once faded mainstream stars or a dime store auteur, they never let lack of budget, talent, good taste or logical sense stand in their way. A dream is a wish your heart makes, and this class of cinematic defilers made their putrid zombie babies with love. None of it is competent, but you can tell the makers of this type of shit film (most of whom made only 1 or 2 movies) thought they were genuinely making something, cool, new or remotely important. They were wrong. Horribly wrong. That smooth sugar of effort still makes this stuff go down way easier than purposefully bad cynical cash ins like “Sharknado”

Which brings us to today’s film, a micro budget, Texas made slasher from one and done director Terry Lofton:

AKA The Texas Not A Chainsaw Construction Toolbox Murders


The hellishly loud bong of distorted Casio synth presets plays over the cold open. The fade in is a gang of construction workers sexually assaulting a young woman. The scene is pretty brief and isn’t played for titillation as much as some other films of this era….but if you are looking for anything genteel or tasteful in a movie called “Nail Gun Massacre”, you are reading the wrong blog entirely. There is a hasty jump cut to yet another greasy redneck screaming about clean shirts while his wife hangs the laundry. A leaf crunching killer in woodland camo is shown stalking toward the family’s home. Actually, “stalking” is being far too charitable, given the motorcycle helmet, huge yellow air tank, and the fact that the killer is stomping through the woods carrying an industrial nail gun.

I didn’t even notice the baby.



Country fried wifebeater meets his demise via nail in the forehead, causing the killer to quip in a distorted voice about the worst headaches being right between the eyes, MUAHAHAHAHA. This movie has a high body count for the budget, and every single kill gets a wisecrack that would make Henny Youngman roll in his grave. The woman and child run away through the woods in what is Foley designed to sound like cornflakes over Jello, roll opening credits. The music accompanying this is just some manic laugher recorded near a desk fan, and we are on our way to the titular massacre. Kind of.

Rule 34, pre internet style



First we get a pointless distributor mandated T&A break, where a guy named Mike and his girlfriend are rolling around with a stuffed toy Snoopy, talking pillow talk that sounds like a 14 year old’s fantasy of what sexytimes sexy sex talk is like. The girlfriend shakes her breasts and pouts about needing an “organ donation” because her expensive cleavage is lonely.

Mike has to cut this ever so sensual interlude short, as he has a pressing appointment to go “cut wood” with his buddy on the edge of town. This is NOT a paraphrase. That’s the dialog in the final cut. He hops in his pickup and leaves to go have an annoying expository chat with his BFF Brad about bodies being found out there, and that they don’t fear the killer because they are in TEXAS and they have this here CHAINSAW. Right on cue, the killer arrives to off Brad as he’s taking a leak, because now he’s “really pissed off”. Mike falls into his chainsaw after being nailed to death, and cuts his own hand off. Not that it matters. Because he was already dead. Our ever so stealthy killer then drives off in a stylish gold hearse.
Because who’s going to notice a neon yellow air tank carrying, helmet wearing killer driving a car straight out of a Dolemite Halloween special?

Rat soup eating motherfucker….sorry, wrong movie



Not the local yokels, who discover the truck days later without bothering to look for bodies, call for back up, or remove the truck from the road. Instead we cut to the director’s actual grandmother, playing the challenging role of “clerk of the store she owns”. Her game, but utterly stilted, delivery of the single most ridiculous line in the film is a wonder to behold:

Clerk (to customers): Do you remember when you could sit outside and not worry about the mosquitos….and the killers?

She ends her brief cameo by looking straight into the camera, handing over the groceries, and revealing a copy of the script in plain view. God bless Meemaw Lofton.

Her face says what we’re all thinking



I would like to think that this scene was also the moment when the crew realized they were in way over their heads. When you can’t make someone doing their real life job look or sound remotely natural on camera, the shooting script is the length of a memo and your own grandmother looks nervous at what the hell it is you are up to, you might have miscalculated a tad. The rest of the film abandons what little logic it had managed to establish. It’s non stop blood, boobs, bad puns (and even worse sense) from here on out. It’s also an absolute blast.

Though we never see the nails fly through the air, a host of interchangeable victims meet their fates through inexplicably lethal wounds to the extremities, because the killer (and I quote) “doesn’t want money” (s)he wants “REVENGE, asshole!”

Could this possibly have something to do with the gang rape at the start of the film? It’s difficult to tell for sure, as the Goofus & Gallant team of county sheriff and Canadian tux wearing town doctor leave pretty much every stone unturned. No matter if it’s a gold hearse on the side of the road or a corpse in the street, they can find some way to ignore it. Granted, some of the actors playing corpses are still visibly breathing, but the point stands.

The new residents of the property where everyone keeps turning up dead are missing a nail gun? Interesting. Construction worker hobbies on a local job site include nail gun fights and cheerfully talking about the joys of townie rape? What’s a sheriff to do? Head straight to Burger King.

To kill some time, and allow Sheriff Stress Eater to complete the longest journey from point A to logical conclusion B in human history, we get a borderline slapstick scene involving a dumbass managing to piss off both his current and ex girlfriends at a Dairy Queen. Inexplicably the new girlfriend then has sex with this loser in his car. The radio repeatedly blasts a disco record about foosball, which succeeded in distracting me from trying to figure out what the fuck “Hornier than a rooster in a Chinese henhouse” is supposed to mean.

Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about our Lord and Savior?




As Sheriff is still busy (clearly with a line at the Dairy Queen), we kill some more time by cutting to a portly man who has mastered the obvious, as he mentions the killings are likely connected to the construction site. As his daughter changes into a swimsuit, he goes to check on some steaks he has grilling by the pool on this sunny afternoon. As this character is also not given a name, we all know what happens next. Our murderous mystery date pops out from underwater, pumping the unnamed bearded man full of nails until he falls face first into his own barbecue grill. I was thrilled that old helmet head had finally unlocked the “stealth” achievement. However, what would have been the coolest death in the movie is promptly ruined by being able to see the “dead” actor grabbing the fence to avoid hitting his head:

Just as Doctor Dumbass calls in a request for criminal profiler, Sheriff Sugar Doughnuts finally realizes what the rest of us figured out ages ago….the rape victim might have reason to want to see some creatively dead construction workers. Good job, Davey Diabeetus! It will still take him a solid week to do a god damn thing about this marvelous revelation, so cut to the killer dispatching 2 more unnamed women with this immortal line:

Killer (to victims): Time to get your NAILS done!

This poor girl is still wearing the same clothes from the opener



The doctor FINALLY goes to talk to our victim, who vehemently insists she knows nothing. Our slow as molasses sawbones also wants to talk to her brother, Bubba. He’s apparently out for a drive in his old hearse. The chase (and the light bulb) is on, and both the doctor and the girl rush off to the building site on Old Town road. It’s a mid speed chase, at best.

The hearse does a “Dukes Of Hazzard” death splat over a hill, and our killer runs straight up onto a construction catwalk some 30 feet up:

Catwalks. They end. So our mystery murderer conveniently falls to their death:

This gives Deputy Double Cheeseburger time to arrive for the final unmasking, which reveals…….



……. a character who is clearly a completely different height and build than the person who wore the camo suit for the rest of the movie. A character who would have absolutely no reason at all to mention the rapes in the first person. A character who was in the movie for all of maybe 90 seconds before this moment.

I guess everything (including nonsensical twist endings and masterpieces of unintentional comedy) really IS bigger in Texas.