I’ve been sent quite a few movies from the UK distributor 88 Films recently, so many in fact that I’ve decided to provide capsule reviews for some of them instead of full length ones. There's a lot of fun to be had from this collection of low budget movies, most of which will probably be fondly remembered by VHS aficionados of a certain age. If you’re an 88 Films fan, or thinking of perusing their increasingly vast catalogue of Full Moon Productions and other releases, you can find full reviews I’ve already written for the following movies by clicking on the links:
BEACH BABES 2: CAVE GIRL ISLAND
PUPPET MASTER II
PUPPET MASTER III
Apparently this one's on the imdb worst 100 list, although I'm sure I've seen at least a hundred films worse than this one. An early Charles Band production, it's certainly an odd idea for a film. Blonde Billy Duncan (Kim Milford, who, it seems, can only put his trousers on when he's lying on the floor) finds a laser out in the desert that belongs to some cute little animated aliens. The more he plays with the laser, the more he starts to look like the green-faced chap who got shot by the aliens at the start of the film. As he causes more mayhem, the aliens return in their flying saucer and sort him out. With an appearance by tragic exploitation starlet Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith, a downbeat ending, and little plasticine monsters who talk in a squawking alien language, LASERBLAST is definitely a peculiar low budget oddity that's probably worth watching once - there's certainly nothing else like it.
Things didn't change much in ten years for Charles Band. By 1989 he was still bringing out micro-budgeted stuff like this. In an underground bunker that just happens to limit the action to a couple of sets, experiments in sleep deprivation have led to a naked girl in a box and Louise Fletcher's looking after her. A rickety monster that looks as if it's about to fall to pieces at any moment turns up very briefly at the end, but it's very much a blink and you'll miss it affair. 80s low-budget SF enthusiasts may get a kick out of this low-rent affair if they're very forgiving.
BLOODSTONE: SUBSPECIES II (1993)
More bloodsucking fun from the team who gave you SUBSPECIES. Evil vampire Anders Hove gets his head put back on by tiny creatures, only to discover that the heroine from part 1 is now being played by a different actress (Denice Duff). Denice's sister turns up (played by Melanie Shatner) and Anders then proceeds to chase her around the same picturesque locales from Part 1. If you enjoyed the first one you'll probably like this too. And the opening head reattachment scene is something you don't get to see everyday.
BLOODLUST: SUBSPECIES III (1994)
If you're a fan of the little red stop motion men from the SUBSPECIES series you'll have a bit of a wait to see them in BLOODLUST because they don't actually turn up until the final scene. Otherwise it's business as usual. Vampire Anders Hove is brought back to life when his hideously scarred mother feeds him some of Denice Duff's blood. Then it's time for more vampire shenanigans in the same lovely locations as the first two films. To give director Ted Nicolaou credit, some of the shots of the castle here are quite beautiful, and 88 Films' Blu-ray presentation is excellent. This really is the best this film has ever looked & it's the version to get if you're a fan of this series.
ZOMBIES Vs, STRIPPERS (2012)
If you think the budgets of Charles Band productions couldn't get any lower than those for LASERBLAST & SHADOWZONE think again. Here's a zero budget, zero quality, zero everything film that somehow manages to have quite a good natured feel about it thanks to some oddly likeable performances from its ensemble cast. Don't get me wrong - this is a terrible, terrible film but fans of fun modern rubbish might find it distracting for its 75 minute running time.
Not a Charles Band production, MARA hails from Sweden and starts off quite well, with some nicely atmospheric scenes in a graveyard covered with snow. Unfortunately from there things meander rather a lot until we reach the final twist. The film-making techniques are sadly all a bit minimal, and had me yearning for the crash zooms and eccentric camera wobbling of the Euro films of yesteryear. MARA feels like a first effort and is definitely a film for Euro-completists only. It made me nostalgic for the work of Jess Franco, which unfortunately isn't a recommendation.
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991)
Let's finish on a good one. Stuart Gordon's remake can't compare to Roger Corman's classic 1961 version with Vincent Price, but it's not really intended to. A fun pseudo-historical piece filmed in Charles Band's own castle, the 1991 PIT features fun performances from Lance Henriksen, Jeffery Combs and Frances Bay, and a very special one from Oliver Reed as the cardinal who gets walled up for poking his (very red) nose into Lance's affairs. Great music from Richard Band as well. Don't expect too much, and this one's actually not bad at all.
…and there's a lot more from 88 Films on the way. Watch this space. Or watch the films. But probably watch this space first...