Horror 365 Movie 357: Theatre Of Blood

Before John Doe lethalized The 7 Deadly sins in Se7en (1995), before Eric Binford killed people as his favorite movie characters in Fade To Black (1980), Edward Lionheart was already offing people according to the guidelines set forth by Shakespeare himself.

I’m talking, of course, about Douglas Hickox’s 1973 Theatre Of Blood. Lionheart, schmaltzed to the gills by Vincent Price, was an actor, y’see, whose Shakespeare roles were, shall we say, not up to the critics’ standards. This culminates in two things (revealed via flashback some time into the story).

First, the Theatre Critics Guild spurns Lionheat for their annual award. Second, he shows up at their party and commits suicide by jumping off a high-rise balcony into the Thames after reciting The Big Obvious Bit from Hamlet. As one does. Except Lionheart survives. As one does.

The result is that Lionheart exacts his revenge by eliminating his critics using deaths from each of the plays from his under appreciated season of Shakespeare. As one does. Here’s a list:

  • Julius Caesar– George Maxwell hacked to death by a crowd of Lionheart’s followers
  • Troilus And Cressida– Hector Snipe gets dragged by horse (like, appropriately, Hector) during Maxwell’s funeral
  • Cymbeline– Horace Sprout is decapitated, his body left in bed next to his wife
  • The Merchant Of Venice– Trevor Dickman (nice word choice as he’s a pervy womanizer) has his heart cut out
  • Richard III- Oliver Larding is drowned in a barrel of wine
  • Henry VI Part I– Chloe Moon gets burned up with electrified curlers (for those of you scoring at home, the burned up part is Shakespeare, not the curlers)
  • Titus Andronicus– Meredeth Merridew is force fed a pie made from his two poodles

There’s also a couple of non-lethal encounters. Lionheart replicates the fencing match from Romeo And Juliet but does not kill Peregrine Devlin, promising to make him suffer for who knows how long. The other is Solomon Psaltery who strangles his wife out of jealousy as in Othello, then goes to prison.

The final victim is intended to be Devlin whom Lionheart plans to blind like King Lear’s Gloucester. For reasons I won’t go into (cuz spoilers), it’s fitting that Lear is the last role Lionheart’s Shakespeare season as it plays nicely into the movie’s final act.

Now, if any of this seems familiar, I refer you to The Abominable Dr. Phibes two years prior. That’s the one where Vincent Price visits the 10 biblical plagues of Egypt upon the doctors and nurses who could not save his wife. I don’t know how much influence Phibes had on Theatre Of Blood, but I’m willing to speculate that someone did not keep his eyes off his neighbor’s paper.

Also of note is my favorite of Steed’s Avengers partners, Diana Rigg, who plays Lionheart’s daughter Edwina. For reasons that are never really made clear, other than obvious initial misdirection, she’s often in disguise as a sunglass wearing, flamboyant, bearded, ginger who acts as Lionheart’s assistant. Your guess is as good as mine.

In general, it’s a fun ride, especially the more you know about Shakespeare. Lionheart provides numerous speeches from the plays along with lotsa dad-joke level one-liners. Price brings the over-the-top theatricality, the methods of execution are kitschy, and when you put them together, you get that perfect combination: ham and cheese. It’s the movie for you if you like both Vincent Price and your slashers with a high camp factor. And really, who doesn’t?

 BODIES- 10 onscreen, 1 off, & French cuisine/2 poodles in a pie
 Streaming- Flix Fling, Hoopla, Inde Flix, Tubi, YouTube
 Rent- Apple TV, Prime, Vudu

Horror 365 Movie 356: Full Moon Friday, Killjoy

Originally, I was gonna watch and review Bride Of Head Of The Family. Instead, I thought maybe I should focus on another movie from another Full Moon franchise. I mean, I’ve talked about Puppet Master as well as a few movies connected to the Demonic Toys series. I’ve even mentioned Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man.

It was in this spirit that I thought “Okay, let’s give Killjoy a shot.” Where do I even start? I mean, credit where it’s due. It’s tough to create a movie so awful even I can’t appreciate it. In that sense, Killjoy is kind of a towering achievement.

But damn.

The basic setup is this: Michael is a kinda nerdy lad who has a crush on Jada. They’re kinda friends, but Jada is involved with local gangbanger Lorenzo. In the first scene, Lorenzo and two of his thugs roll up on Michael talking to Jada and her friend Monique. Lorenzo’s enforcer, T-bone, curb stomps Michael, and everyone drives away. Later, Michael performs a black magic ritual to bring his clown doll Killjoy to life.

Shortly after that, Lorenzo and his merry lads rough Michael up some more. Lorenzo then points a gun at him and pulls the trigger. Click. Just tryin’ to scare Michael it turns out. Ha ha. What a card. When he pulls the trigger again, oopsie, turns out the gun weren’t unloaded after all. Oh well. These things happen.

The seasons change. Time passes. A year goes by. Jada has broken up with Lorenzo and is involved with Jamal. There’s a gratuitous sex scene intercut with Lorenzo hangin’ out with his buds gettin’ high. Lorenzo leaves for a hookup, and his buddies go to hit up a nearby ice cream truck. The ice cream guy offers them drugs, and when they enter the truck, they’re transported to Killjoy’s world.

Our super camped up homicidal demon clown Killjoy is wwwaaayyy overplayed by Angel Vargas. Imagine combining Pennywise, Freddy Krueger, and Beetlejuice, but somehow making that combination come across as a cheap, irritating knockoff. The one-liners fall flat, the gags are stupid, and the outfit looks like something you’d find on November 1 at Spirit Halloween. And he’s the most interesting part of the movie.

Now, Killjoy does have its supporters. Eric Cotenas over at DVDbeaver suggests that it “could even be interpreted as a response to the Candyman series with black characters confronting an urban legend without the need of a white audience identification figure.” He also mentions that “It’s watchable and interesting enough,” but I’m just not seein’ it.

I can understand the point, but it’s not enough to elevate Killjoy from the cinematic muck it ends up getting stuck in. Despite the efforts of a black writer (Carl Washington) and director (Craig Ross), Killjoy never manages to hit those exploitational notes of, say, Rudy Ray Moore and D’Urville Martin with the Dolemite movies.

Some of the mire weighing Killjoy down includes some of The. Worst. CGI. Ever (even allowing for it being made in 2000 on a $150,000 budget). The plot has serious inconsistencies and is, at best, formulaic. Add to that a distinct lack of blood for an R rating, and some flat, emotionless acting so stiff it would make a wood nymph feel right at home. And how in the hell is Lorenzo able to point a revolver at Killjoy and fire 21 shots nonstop? Yes, 21. I counted.

Just shoot me.

I was texting My Favorite Colleague throughout all this. At one point she asked “Why do you keep watching if it’s so bad?” Well, it’s a professional obligation. Sometimes I watch these things so you don’t have to. Plus, I rarely bail on a movie. I can only think of a couple times I’ve done that, and they weren’t horror movies. Still, she raises a fair point.

The things I do for yinz folks.

 BODIES- 4 onscreen
 Streaming- Full Moon, Tubi
 Rent- Prime

Horror 365 Movie(s) 355: Thrift Store Thursday XVII, Thanksgiving Turkeys

Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal here at Castle Blogferatu. Oh sure, there’s someone something or other turning slowly on a spit in the cavernous fireplace over in the main ballroom along with some sort of minced substance baked into a pie or two. But by and large, just another Thursday around here.

But that does mean the thrift stores are closed. That makes Thrift Store Thursday slightly different today in that none of these are recent purchases. Instead they’re all titles I’ve picked up here and there over a number of years. But as it’s thanksgiving, I thought it was only right to compile a holiday appropriate feast. Here then, is a list of bird-related Thanksgiving Turkeys.

#5 Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead

First of all, Lloyd Kaufman. Second of all, who in their right mind can pass up a black comedy horror musical? Well, I generally can. Cuz musicals. Ick. Bleh. But still. These other factors far outweigh the musicality. Basically a fried chicken joint, the American Chicken Bunker, sits atop a Native American burial ground. Mayhem, inappropriate relations with raw poultry, zombie chickens, and further hilarity ensue.

#4 Birdemic: Shock And Terror

What does one even say about something like this? I mean, when you look at something like Sharknado, you know that people are having fun with it. Everything about it is just ridiculously over the top. But Birdemic...you can’t help but feel like somebody was actually taking this seriously. Where Sharknado becomes strangely entertaining, Birdemic becomes painful and embarrassing to watch. And there’s a sequel!

#3 The Birds II: Land’s End

If you didn’t know there was a sequel, number yourself among the fortunate. And if you don’t know who Alan Smithee is, it’s well past time you learned. Y’see, any number of things can destroy a film for a director—lack of creative control, on-set tension, lack of cooperation among various studio and/or production and/or talent elements, or something just ending up being flat out god awful. When the results are disastrous enough that the director wants to disown the project completely, this is the director it gets attributed to. Tippi Hedron does make a cameo (but not as her original character), but supposedly hated the entire experience.

#2 The Giant Claw

Arguably the biggest turkey on this list. Literally. The story involves a bird “as big as a battleship” that looks every bit as effective as an Ed Wood flying saucer. No description does this thing justice other than to rename it Attack Of The Giant Low-budget Muppet Bird.

#1 Thankskilling

I mean, what more need be said about a movie that proudly announces “Warning!!! Boobs In The First Second!” Compound that with the first line of dialogue: “Nice tits, bitch.” This movie is dumber than a flat-earther, sillier than the term “creation science,” and delivers enough cheese to cover an order of nachos the size of a billboard. So begins the saga of the demon turkey named, cleverly, Turkie. This could so easily have been a Troma flick, and unlike Birdemic, what makes it so ridiculously watchable is the fact that nobody took even a second of this seriously. And why, on a $3500 budget, would they? There’s a sequel I haven’t gotten to yet—Thankskilling 3—which has something to do with Turkie trying to kill anyone who’s seen or was involved with Thankskilling 2, a movie so bad Turkie doesn’t want anyone to know it ever existed.

So, grab a seat at the grown-ups table, gang. The turkey’s are served. And in the words of the aforementioned demon fowl himself, “Gobble gobble motherfucker.”