Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Basement: 5 Films On DVD+VHS Tape

The Flicks:

The Basement (1989):

The Basement has a strange story behind it. The film was made back in 1989 and has sat on the shelf collecting dust ever since. It is a shot on Super 8 anthology film directed by Tim O'Rawe (Ghoul School). After the film was made it was planned to be released by Camp Pictures but unfortunately the footage turned out too dark to use. With the technology they had available back then there wasn't much they could do with it but shelf it. The film was recently dug back up by the folks at Camp Motion Pictures and is finally getting a release. They went all out and got Chris LaMartina to create a soundtrack for the release and packed the disc with special features.

The story starts off with a group of four strangers that are all in a basement together. We don't know quite how they got there but they are met soon after by The Sentinel. The Sentinel then proceeds to show them some of the horrible things that will occur in their future. So with that being said we get four stories, one for each of the individuals in the basement. The first tale is titled "Swinging Pool". This segment centers on Victoria, she is a real bitch living the life and soaking up the sun out by the pool. Her significant other dives on in and is soon battling for his life with a strange creature that dwells beneath. After witnessing this, our main lady does what anyone would do and invites all her enemies over so she can sacrifice them to this water demon. Out of all the sections in The Basement this one went by the quickest.

The second part is "Trick Or Treat", it follows a bitter school teacher who absolutely despises Halloween. He might have a sudden change of heart though when a few monsters show up to pay him a little visit. "Zombie Movie" follows the director of an independent zombie film. He doesn't take criticism well and he treats his cast and crew like shit. Luckily for him he has a member of the crew who still cares about him enough to warn him that zombies are roaming the area. The director is too stubborn to listen and continues to go hold "auditions" for two fine young women in his trailer. Sadly the directors cocaine sexfest is interrupted when the zombies finally reach his door.

The fourth and final story follows an ambitious young man who has just purchased his dream house after spending plenty of time searching. He is warned about the haunting past of the house and the torture and killings that occurred there but he still makes the decision to take the place. Immediately when he gets there his mind begins to play tricks on him. Soon after him and his friend start drinking some Jim Bean the blood starts to paint the walls

Given that the film was pretty much worthless due to how dark it was I'd say the picture quality is actually decent. Some moments are still dark and it is most noticeable in the final story "Home Sweet Home". The dialogue is pretty hilarious at times and the dubbing can be a bit humorous. While the stories may not be the most original in the world they still are entertaining enough to get away with it. The attempts at humor are actually funny, like when JR Bookwalter holds up a picture of George Romero and it works as a defense mechanism against zombies, and the gore and creature effects are excellent.

Overall this is a pretty good low budget anthology. Sure it doesn't compete with the huge ones like Creepshow, Tales From the Darkside, and Body Bags but it certainly has that independent charm. If you need a perfect picture to enjoy a film stay as far away as possible but if you are searching for an ambitious early attempt at movie making this is right up your alley. It is clear tons of hard work was put into the making of this movie and it is a shame that it took it this long to be seen by the masses. If you are into any of the other classics that Camp Motion Pictures has released you will dig this just as much.

Captives (1987)
(Mama's Home is the only cover I could find)

Captives is another release featured on the set that is making it's DVD debut. Many of you may know it by the name Mama's Home. This is yet another film that doesn't get as much praise as it should. The movie was directed by Gary Cohen (who is fairly well known in the horror community for the classic SOV films Video Violence 1 & 2) and it is very different than what he is known for. This is a very serious movie when compared to his other films and it is very well done.

When Nicki is released from prison after serving a twelve year sentence for a crime she did not commit she breaks into the house of her ex-husband's new family when he leaves for work. She is looking to get even for all her pain and suffering and she has brought her two brothers with her (one of which is mentally challenged and the other is just a scumbag). Once inside they force the family to watch some home  videos and explain what happened that got Nicki locked up. It turns out her ex-husband started a fire at their house and left their baby behind when he ran from the inferno, but Nicki was blamed for what had happened and was charged with murder.

All is good until the babysitter shows up and sees the family dog dead in the aquarium. After seeing this she attempts to get away but the psychopath, drug dealer brother stabs her in the gut before she even makes it out the door. In order to save her child the mother plots an escape plan with the mentally challenged man who feels bad for the murder that had occurred. Little does she know the other two are hearing the plan over the baby monitor and soon a bloody battle ensues. Meanwhile we see how Nicki's  "clean" ex-husband lives day to day when he is at work, coked out of his mind and beating on hookers.

One pleasant surprise about Captives is the great acting for a low budget flick. This aspect was completely unexpected but each and every actor was very convincing. The story works and keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The character development works and you actually care about the characters when all is said and done. There is a little bit of gore here and there but that isn't what this film is all about. When it does pop up it looks pretty good though.

Overall Captives is an extremely engrossing movie. Don't go into it expecting something like the Video Violence films or an all out gorefest (even though the Majestic Home Video release "Mama's Home" would suggest otherwise). If you are in search of a solid, thrilling film and don't mind a low budget film than this is definitely for you. Check it out.

Cannibal Campout (1988)

Next up in the set is an absolute classic SOV flick. Cannibal Campout was directed by Jon McBride who also did Feeders and Woodchipper Massacre. I've seen this movie countless times and it is without a doubt one of my all time favorite cheese films. It is the film that got me into shoestring budget movies and fueled my love for all things gory. The film has slowly gotten a cult following and is now one of the most well known out of all the SOV films. Sit back, prepare to laugh, and enjoy the ride!

The story follows four teens that decide to go on a camping trip to escape the stress of everyday life. Even though a few people mention the recent disappearance of a family in the area they are traveling to the group still continues with their plans. On the way into the woods they are blocked by a nearly stopped car, they honk multiple times until the two gentlemen inside get angry and confront them. One of them pulls a knife and the campers speed away to safety. Little did they know the two individuals they bumped into are hungry cannibals in search of their next meal!

When the cannibals come out to play the campers must fight for their lives in order to prevent themselves from being the next dish. More victims are added to the menu as well when a two friends go out to play a prank on the campers. Finally all the campers get rounded up by the cannibals and the gore begins to cover the screen. If you are easily offended the dialogue is packed with offensive things

First things first, this movie is PACKED with gore. The effects are actually pretty well done and there are some very gruesome moments. Also, Chris (one of the campers), is one of the least emotional actors I've ever had the pleasure to witness on screen. The camerawork is impressive too, it isn't often you come across a cheesy gore flick with little to no budget and get something nicely shot. Rich (the cannibal with the gruff voice) has some of the funniest lines in movie history. Whenever he opens his mouth everyone in the room is sure to explode with laughter. Did I mention The Toxic Avenger makes an appearance towards the end of the film (or what appears to be his evil twin at least).

Overall Cannibal Campout is such a fun ride. The movie delivers in every way, the humor works, the gore is served up in massive amounts, and even though the plot is simple and not very original it holds the viewers attention. I can't imagine anyone who isn't a fan of b-movies enjoying this film, but if you're a fan of the cheese this is where it's at. For a film that essentially was almost completely crafted by one person (hell he even did the music) this is a great effort and while it may not be "good" so to speak, it is a ton of fun and really when you go into a movie like this that is what you are seeking.

Video Violence... When Renting Is Not Enough! (1987)
"Cut it clean, and then take it to the slicer and give me a half a pound of arm!"

Video Violence is another of the most infamous SOV horror flicks. Gary Cohen directed this low budget gem. The concept was pretty unique and original for it's time and it goes beyond just being your average slasher flick. The gore is unflinching for the time and the cheese isn't completely overwhelming.

Mr. Emery has just moved into a new town to open a video store. Business is booming and the people in can't get enough of the horror. He normally works alone at the store with Rick who is also fairly new to the town, unfortunately neither of them have gotten a warm welcome from anybody in the neighborhood. Aside from people giving them the cold shoulder everything seems to be fine. That is until a blank tape ends up mixed in the pile of the return drop box.

Rick practically begs Mr. Emery to play the tape and finally curiosity gets to him and they pop it into the VCR. They are horrified when they discover that this tape contains a snuff film of the murder of the local postman who supposedly left for Florida not too long ago. Emery heads off to the police station and Rick stays behind. When he arrives him and the chief head over to the video store and by the time they get there Rick is gone and the tape has been replaced. The chief writes it off as Emery having an overactive imagination and leaves angrily. Soon after another tape of Rick being strangled ends up on the counter and Emery personally takes it to the chief to show him, when loading the tape the officer records over the murder on "accident".

Now that it is clear that he isn't going to get any help from the police Emery takes matters into his own hands and starts an investigation. After digging a little deeper it seems that Mr. and Mrs. Emery might be in over their heads. Some of the scenes of torture in this movie are surprisingly realistic, but you do get the occasional bad gore effect (see an arm turn into what is clearly some kind of lunchmeat). There are a few familiar faces from Captives starring in this movie as well.

Overall Video Violence is actually extremely well done for a no budget flick of its kind. Once you finish this boxset you'll be wishing Cohen would have directed more films. He certainly came out with some solid ones in the late 80's and seeing him have a comeback would be great. Anyone looking to check out some of the SOV horror flicks should be directed towards this or Cannibal Campout. Movies like 555 and Spine are good as well but these two seem to be the easiest to digest for your "average" movie viewer.

Video Violence 2 (1988)

Video Violence 2 basically continues where the first left off. Rather than just having tapes dropped off at the video store this installment focuses more on the actual Howard and Eli show. It is broadcasted on the television now and has blown up in a way. The whole town is involved and things are crazier than ever. Prepare for gore, torture, and heaps of that signature Howard and Eli humor!

The plot here is paper thin. Aside from the torture going down there isn't really much going on. That being said it delivers on the gore (though the eye pop is very funny). The movie essentially is just an entire episode of the Howard and Eli Show with a twist thrown in at the end. There is also a great deal of humor in this one. Much more so than the original. The twist is actually hilarious but I won't give it away here.

Overall this is an entertaining watch if you take it for what it is. Should there have been a Video Violence 2? Probably not. The original stands well enough on it's own but this is by no means bad. The idea of making a Video Violence 3 is mentioned in the special features, which is something I honestly wouldn't mind seeing. There are tons of things one could do with this concept. Video Violence 2 takes the cheese of the first to a new level and is the least serious of Cohen's films. If you dig this kind of stuff, or enjoyed the first this one is definitely good for at least one watch. Not much else to say about it, simple film, simple plot, simple review.

DVD Features:
Each film featured in the set comes with it's own commentary. All the commentaries are very good and informative the only gripe I have (and it is very minor) is that the Captives commentary is just an episode of the Alternative Cinema podcast (which is great but mainly focuses on theatre rather than the film). I'd love to hear more of the story behind Captives from Cohen. The Basement disc is the one that really packs in the features. Included are awesome short films and a few episodes of a tv show produced by Michael Raso, the episodes on the disc all feature ,members of some of the movies in the set, these shows are also very entertaining and contain some very cool music videos (and have me searching like a madman for more of Purple Bishop's material!). The Video Violence 1 & 2 disc contains the same features as the original Camp Motion Pictures release of the movies. If you are interested in SOV films or just independent cheese at all this set is the perfect thing to pick up. Did I forget to mention the bigbox packaging and the VHS copy of The Basement included? Get it.... Now! One of the best sets I've seen in a long time.

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