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Sunday, May 30, 2010

A review of Richard Dutcher's Falling

This review of cult filmmaker Richard Dutcher's Falling was originally published in the Standard-Examiner. I'm a fan of Dutcher but not particularly of this film. I am eager to see Evil Angel, his first foray into horror. I'm posting this review as my contribution to a debate that publisher/writer Christopher Bigelow has initiated on Dutcher on his blog here

Hed: Talented director Dutcher’s ‘Falling’ is an indulgent, violent misfire

By Doug Gibson

“It’s just a crappy independent movie. No one will ever see it.”
— Ambitious actress Davey Boyle, in Richard Dutcher’s new film, “Falling.”

The above quote may be slightly paraphrased, but it sums up the nothingness of talented Richard Dutcher’s new film. “Fallen” is an indulgent mess. It is an incomprehensible ego trip for the creator of “God’s Army,” “Brigham City” and “States of Grace,” all marvelous films. Each film displayed Dutcher’s maturity, as he improved his craft.
“Fallen” is unrelentingly bleak, picture writer Annie Proulx at her grimmest but without the artistry. Videographer Eric Boyle (Dutcher) — a lapsed Mormon — defines angst. He wants to be a filmmaker, but settles for quick cash filming auto wrecks and crime scenes for a TV news station. His wife, Davey (Virginia Reece) is a beautiful, ambitious aspiring actress. She sleeps around with predatory producers. We know both are tortured souls because they stare deeply through windows and frown a lot.
On the same day, Eric and Davey get lucky. He covertly films a murder and sells it for $20,000. She wins the lead in an independent feature film. Unfortunately, the murder suspects Eric filmed are on the lam, and they begin a bloody trek of assault and murder that eventually leads to Davey and Eric. Before that happens, a misunderstood pregnancy test will destroy Eric and Davey’s fragile relationship and lead Eric to violence that rivals today’s cinema torture porn..
“Fallen” is not all bad. Dutcher’s direction moves the film swiftly and the cinematography — grainy and bright — accurately captures how grimy and sweaty Los Angeles can be if you are running from place to place. Dutcher and Reece are talented actors. I liked Dutcher’s Eric trying to reconnect to his childhood spirituality on the Los Angeles LDS temple grounds. And Reece, who resembles a younger Jennifer Aniston, has attractive screen presence.
For an hour or so, “Fallen” is a semi-interesting, overly emotional tale of one man’s spiritual crisis and slowly decaying marriage. But the last half hour destroys “Fallen” and lowers it to derision. It’s like the late Sam Peckinpah snatched direction from Dutcher and screamed, “Give me blood, and bloody tooths, smashed skulls and shotgun blasts!”
And bloody defines the final reel of “Fallen.” The “climatic” battle between Eric and a stereotypical gang member lasts so long and is so violent and gory that it descends into camp. Viewers will either avert their eyes, giggle, or do both. The grunts and screams recall the intentionally hilarious overlong street fight wrestler Roddy Piper engaged in with a co-star in the ‘80s cult film “They Live.”
There’s no decipherable theme to all this gore, except maybe Eric’s middle finger, thrust angrily upward toward God near the film’s end. I have no objections to that theme, just a wish that it was delivered at a maturity level beyond that of a college freshman.
More than just the finale hampers “Fallen,” though. It is a dishonest film. It strains credulity so far as to wonder if the film is intentional stream of consciousness. Take Eric’s filming of a murder that is played to great fanfare on local TV news. The reality is no mainstream TV news organization would air what amounts to a snuff film. Wouldn’t happen.
Also, the avenging gang members in “Fallen” can seemingly flit through L.A. leaving an easily identifiable trail of murder ... without serious notice from the cops. In “Fallen,” cops and witnesses barely exist. And Eric’s transformation from angst-ridden soul to wife batterer to killing machine is hampered by a script so weak it leads him and Davey to an unconvincing, violent marital dispute.
Candor has been so prevalent in Dutcher’s films. The scene in “God’s Army,” where a missionary who lost his faith silences an outraged missionary by asking why he believes is the most brutally honest scene Dutcher has filmed. It reveals what returned missionaries never tell us in sacrament meeting: That missions are brutal endurance tests, with perseverance a more valued trait than faith, especially in the beginning.
But “Fallen” takes too many liberties with reality to be honest. Man suffers angst. Man goes crazy. That’s about it. I hope Dutcher got whatever he needed out of his system with “Fallen.” His next project is “Evil Angel,” a mainstream horror film starring Ving Rhames. I look forward to a Dutcher film that goes well with popcorn.
Gibson is the Standard-Examiner’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at dgibson@standard.net.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review of Milligan's Surgikill

By Steve D. Stones

In 1988, underground filmmaker Andy Milligan embarked on directing his final full-length feature film. Media Arts Productions LLC produced it. The film was to be a black comedy set in a small community hospital called Goode Community Hospital, named after Dr. Grace Goode, a character in the film played by Darlene Van Harlingen, also known as Bouvier. Her husband, John Van Harlingen, was the executive producer. This film is quite departure from the canon of other Milligan films, which were over the top sex and gore epics. The film was shot in an abandoned neighborhood clinic near downtown Los Angeles.

Dr. Goode is desperately trying to keep her small hospital in functioning order as some of her staff and patients are being murdered one by one. Not to mention that she is constantly being hounded to sell the hospital for other greedy business prospects.

The film is full of over-the-top gags and gimmicks that are occasionally funny and sometimes overstated and juvenile. For example, one particularly funny scene, at least to me, shows an old woman arriving at the hospital reception desk with a bedpan stuck to her butt. Two hospital orderlies attempt to pry it off her as she stands in complete embarrassment. Other scenes show characters being hit over the head with a bedpan, or splashed with urine from bedpans. These scenes quickly become overstated. Some of the characters constantly repeating: "We care about the people we care for," quickly gets exhausted too.

Another particularly funny scene shows an old woman lying on her back in the operating room with an arrow sticking out of her butt. Apparently her husband had mistaken her for an archery target and accidentally shot her in the butt. Perhaps her husband was on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney at the time, long before he became Vice President?

A latter scene in the same operating room has Dr. Harvey and Dr. Schweitzer performing a gallbladder surgery. They can’t seem to find the patient’s gallbladder, so they end up tearing out several of the organs from the patient. This particular scene has some connection to earlier Milligan films because it is intentionally and graphically violent, even if the organs used in the scene are obviously unconvincing and fake. Herschel Gordon Lewis would be proud of this scene.

A connection this film has to earlier Milligan films is the nurse-receptionist character and drag queen Ronna, who is very similar to the drag queen in Milligan’s excellent Fleshpot On 42nd Street, played by Neil Flanagan. Ronna is later revealed to be Robert Goode, who is Grace Goode’s cousin and the murderer in the film. Robert is murdering hospital staff and patients in hopes to inherit the family hospital for himself.

Nurse Ronna and Dr. Grace Goode are the two characters I enjoyed the most, and felt the audience would have the greatest connection to. The young, fresh out of medical school Dr. Schweitzer, seems a bit unconvincing to me as he constantly sucks on a baby’s pacifier, implying that he is young, inexperienced and "wet behind the ears." This character gets a bit annoying too. Many of the actors in the film are way over the top in their acting, and frequently shout their lines, much like in an early John Waters film.

Is Surgikill a great film? No, but who cares? I like movies to occasionally be campy, over-the-top and unbelievable, otherwise I would not be writing articles for this web site. Is Surgikill Andy Milligan’s best film? Probably not. I place my vote with Torture Dungeon, which I regard as his greatest masterpiece. Still, any die-hard fan of Andy Milligan cannot afford to miss this entry in his filmography. It may not have the same low-budget, gritty charm as his films of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it is worthy of a viewing, if only to see what his last film looks like before his death in 1991. Like Milligan’s earlier films, I am confident that Surgikill will continue to gain a strong cult following as the years go by. Fans are eagerly awaiting a DVD release soon.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

A review of 'Best Worst Movie'

'Best Worst Movie," the documentary homage to the infamous classic "Troll 2," is at SLC's Tower Theater this weekend. We'll be there and we hope you are too. Here's a re-post of our review.

Film tells the story of the cult of 'Troll 2'

By Doug Gibson

This review originally appeared in the Aug. 11, 2009 Standard-Examiner.

http://www.standard.net/live/opinion/topofutahvoices/180254/

There is a scene in "Best Worst Movie," Utah native Michael Stephenson's film homage to "Troll 2," the movie that haunted his youth, where a young Los Angeles woman explains that you can't understand how remarkable "Troll 2" is with only a recap of the plot.



If you tell someone that it's about a family that goes on vacation and battles human-eating vegetarian goblins, they won't get it, she says. They must experience it, she insists.

She nails it. For those who love a cult film, telling others why it's so great can make us feel like a Mormon missionary in West Hollywood -- they give us a hostile, guarded, "no" look. But when we finally find that rare investigator who watches the film, feels what we do, and becomes a convert, it's just like the angels are singing!

"Troll 2," filmed mostly in Morgan County about 20 years ago with an Italian crew and novice actors, created no buzz. Unreleased in the U.S. and quickly shelved to video, its biggest impact was the long-term embarrassment it brought stars Stephenson, who played a young boy, Connie Young, who played his teenage sister, and George Hardy, who played their dad.

Its director was Claudio Fragasso, a gore-helmer more comfortable directing blood 'n guts zombie films in Europe. Its screenwriter, Rossella Drudi, candidly admits her script is a polemic against vegetarianism. Its bizarre, fractured plot, blended with poor acting, silly costumes and jaw-dropping dialogue, make it an '80s big-hair mix of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

How could this film not find a cult? And sure enough, "line upon line, precept upon precept," "Troll 2" started gaining converts. The film has played to sold-out crowds across the nation. "Nilbog Invasion," last year's pilgrimage to Morgan, was nirvana for fans.

Back to "Best Worst Movie," which plays this weekend at the Salt Lake City Film Festival. It's that rare treatise of a cult film that can appeal both to cultists and the uninitiated. Stephenson's direction is superb. He mixes scenes well. Transitions are smooth and no scene lingers too long. "Best Worst Movie" is not static, a fault that mars documentaries about another great cult film, "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

"Best Worst Movie" belongs to star Hardy. Stephenson centers his film around the Alabama dentist, who for almost two decades regularly fields the question, "Didn't I see you in a movie?" You can't help but like the charismatic Hardy, with his upbeat persona, smile and big laugh. He seems bewildered, yet delighted, with his film's postponed success. The scenes of Hardy's quiet life in Alexander City, Ala., are very interesting. The viewer will enjoy watching Hardy and Stephenson mingle with fans and encourage other "Troll 2" participants to join the screenings and talk about the film and their lives.

And therein lies a reason Stephenson's film appeals to all viewers. Save for director Fragasso, most agree the film is a turkey. They're just grateful that there was some element in its awfulness that turned it into a cult film. Fragasso also fascinates. He's a complex subject. He's a gracious, upbeat showman most of the time, but Stephenson manages to capture his anger and bitterness when he hears the cast mocking the film or audiences laughing at scenes he directed as serious drama.

Cast and crew provide more human interest. Robert Ormsby, "Grandpa Seth" in "Troll 2," freely admits that he's "frittered his life away." There's the semi-disturbing scenes of "Troll 2" star Margo Prey (mom in the film) being visited by Hardy and Stephenson. Prey lives a reclusive life tending to her aged mom. Calling Prey very eccentric is likely an understatement.

"Troll 2" stars Young and Darren Ewing are still working actors. Their reactions to the cult of "Troll 2" provide interesting contrasts. Young, although a good sport, admits she's not a convert and is bewildered by the cult enthusiasm. Ewing, however, embraces the Warholesque "fame" and accompanies Hardy to fan festivals in Europe and Texas.

The festivals are a bust, though, and Hardy admits he's getting tired of the "Troll 2" notoriety. Just before the film ends, he tallies his personal and professional life as far bigger accomplishments than his 15 minutes of "Troll 2" fame.

He's then asked if he would star in a "Troll 2" sequel Fragasso and Drudi are preparing.

If you want to know the answer, go see the movie.

Here is a link to the "Best Worst Movie" Web site: http://bestworstmovie.com/

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Screaming Skull



The Screaming Skull - Free Burial For Frightened Viewers!


By Steve D. Stones

Director Fred Olen Ray once said that The Screaming Skull is perhaps the greatest low budget film made with only five actors and one location. If it wasn’t for Roger Corman’s 1961 classic The Pit & The Pendulum, I would agree with Ray. The Screaming Skull has my vote as second best for a film limited to less than six actors and one location.

The film opens with an interesting gimmick of a coffin opening with a sign inside that says: Reserved For You. The narrator insures viewers that the producers promise a free burial for anyone who dies of fright while watching The Screaming Skull. I wonder if they ever had to follow through with their promise?

Next, a boiling stream of water is shown with fog as a skull floats to the surface and a loud screaming of a wild bird is heard. The bold letters of THE SCREAMING SKULL dash out in front of the floating skull.

Eric Whitlock brings his new bride named Jenny to his mansion in the countryside after having been gone for two years. Eric lived there with his former wife Marion, who died in the garden when she slipped and fell on a concrete wall, banging her head.

The reverend Snow and his wife arrive to meet Jenny and to bring the couple some groceries for the night. Eric informs reverend Snow in private that Jenny’s parents had died many years ago in a drowning accident, making her emotionally unstable, but also inheriting their wealth.

That night while in bed, Jenny hears a constant banging sound, which she discovers to be the wind banging some window shudders against the house. The next morning she tries to make friends with the shy, introverted gardener named Mickey by suggesting they take some flowers to Marion’s gave.

The following night Jenny has nightmares as the sound of screaming peacocks haunts her dreams. She wakes to the sound of a loud knocking on the front door. She opens the door to discover a skull on the doorsteps. What follows for the rest of the film is a series of Jenny finding the skull all over the mansion, driving her insane.

Eric suggests that Jenny is hallucinating, and that perhaps her nightmares are a result of a portrait in the house of Marion. Eric decides to burn the portrait as Jenny witnesses the destruction of the painting. As the couple rake over the hot coals from the fire, another skull emerges, causing Jenny to faint.

It turns out that Eric placed the skull in the ashes of the fire to frighten Jenny. His goal was to drive Jenny insane so that he could inherit her wealth.

By some supernatural force, the skull returns to haunt Eric, causing him to be struck by lightning and drown in his garden pond, the same pond where Marion was killed.

It’s unfortunate that many film encyclopedias give The Screaming Skull such a poor rating. I find it to be a fun little film worthy of any serious B-movie fan’s list of guilty pleasures. It’s a film that goes well with a large bucket of buttered popcorn and a soda drink at 1 in the morning. Who knows, perhaps the producers of The Screaming Skull may still promise you a free burial if you die of fright while watching the film? Happy viewing!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A look back at Nilbog Invasion in Morgan, Utah

In honor of the theatrical release of "Best Worst Movie," the tale of "Troll 2" becoming a cult film, we are providing a second look at Nilbog Invasion, the 2008 gathering of Troll 2 fans in Morgan, Utah, where the film was helmed. Enjoy, and make sure to catch "Best Worst Movie" next week in Salt Lake City's Tower Theater.




SCENES FROM NILBOG INVASION, MORGAN, UTAH, June 28, 2008

On June 28, 2008, Plan 9 Crunch was at Nilbog Invasion, a gathering -- courtesy of Original Alamo Productions -- of Troll 2 fans. It was a great, long weekend of films, Nilbog games, chats with actors, the director, Claudio Fragasso, extras, the screenwriter Rossella Drudi, and fans. (For tons of Nilbog Invasion photos, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/originalalamo/sets/72157605912466217/) Plan 9 Crunch was also there. Below are our reports. The column, "Cult Film Troll 2 returns triumphant to Morgan County," was originally published in the July 1 Standard-Examiner. http://www.standard.net/live/opinion/topofutahvoices/136919/ The rest is original to Plan 9 Crunch, including some observations from Mickie Pace. In Troll 2, she played Betty the Goblin.
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Cult film 'Troll 2' returns triumphant to 'Nilbog,' Morgan County
By Doug Gibson
Tuesday, July 1, 2008, Standard-Examiner


"Don't do it!!!!"
"Aaahhh! ... Think about the cholesterol! Think about ... THE TOXINS
!"
-- A vegetarian goblin queen, irate that a little boy is eating a bologna sandwich, in director Claudio Fragasso's 1990 film "Troll 2," filmed in Morgan County.


NILBOG -- Driving in Morgan County through Porterville in the Top of Utah you see beautiful country. One notable site is the ruins of an old church. Not much remains other than parts of walls and the front. The grounds are forbidden to the curious. But if it looks familiar, you've probably seen "Troll 2." I've seen "Troll 2" five times now -- with three viewings in the past week. Enough ink has been spilled on its plot so I'll forego that task quickly: A vacationing family encounters a town, Nilbog, full of shape-shifting, vegetarian goblins adept at turning unlucky humans into green, leafy food. The Goblin Queen of Nilbog lives in that church, but if viewers look closely they see a plaque in the front that says "Porterville Ward ..."

No one likes to see an old, historic church reduced to near rubble, but I'm kinda glad it's a ruin: You see for me, it'll always be the lair of Creedence Leonore Gielgud, the stone-worshiping queen of Nilbog. As she says in the film, "This is myyy houuuuse!"

Actually, a lot of people worship Nilbog. Last weekend, on Morgan's Commercial Street, "Troll 2" fans gathered for a Nilbog celebration with the director Fragasso, screenwriter Rossella Drudi, much of the cast and many Morgan and Top of Utah locals who participated as Nilbog extras and goblins. Hundreds of fans were there, mostly in awe of the actors they've seen dozens of times on screen. A walk down Commercial Street is a kick for a "Troll 2" fan, since much of the movie was filmed there.

What occurred in Morgan is not a rarity. There are "Troll 2" screenings and fan conventions all over the world. It is the new "it" of cult films. Think "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in the '80s and '90s. "Troll 2" fits the definition of a cult film: It's inimitable. Is it a bad film? Yes. But it's unique and watchable. Its blend of inexperienced acting, laughable costumes, freaky dances, synthetic music, very strange dialogue and poor special effects don't hamper the film. It's clearly the only film in the world where vegetarian goblins gather to hear a fundamentalist goblin preacher rant hysterically about the "smelly bladders" meat causes. (OK, I may have once heard the same at a PETA motivational seminar.)

What other film exists that casts vegetarianism as evil? The reason is simple, screenwriter Drudi told the fans. "I was against vegetarianism." So she made the leaf-eating goblins appear like vampires, she explained.

The title "Troll 2" is a farce. The film was supposed to be called "Goblin," an apt choice since there are no trolls. But the filmmakers tried to tag onto an earlier film, "Troll," that was a moneymaker. That is also a weird film, in which a pre-"Seinfeld" Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a half-naked forest nymph. It didn't work. "Troll 2" went straight to video and pay cable, and languished in obscurity before word of mouth revived it. The fans loved Director Fragasso. A personable, natural showman, he promised to film part or all of a planned "Troll 3" in Morgan. When a representative of the Utah Arts Council mentioned a sizeable rebate if lots of money is spent filming in Utah, Fragasso elaborately hugged the man to cheers and chuckles. The "Troll 2" actors have varying careers. Some only made "Troll 2." Others are veterans of occasional TV and film productions.

The Q&A session with all the creators of "Troll 2" was pure Americana. It occurred in a pink, cavernous ballroom, usually a dance and cheer studio. The fans, many wearing green T-shirts with "NILBOG" printed on the back, circulated through the crowd, chatting with cast members, including George Hardy, the Alabama dentist who played dad Michael Waits in the film. His famous line of dialogue was: "Do you see this writing ... ? Do you know what it means ... ? Hospitality. And you can't (urinate) on hospitality! I WON'T ALLOW IT!"

Top of Utahn Michael Stephenson, who starred as youngster Joshua Waits, is making a documentary film about "Troll 2" called "Best Worst Movie." You can see a trailer at http://www.bestworstmovie.com/.

The ballroom was decorated -- Nilbog style -- with green streamers and balloons. Large posters of "Nilbog Invasion" were hawked on tables. The event was videotaped. Fans captured images with cell phones and digital cameras. Robert Ormsby, who played helpful ghost "Grandpa Seth," greeted his director with a big hug. Ormsby, who only made one film, is 80 percent Burl Ives and 20 percent Wilford Brimley. Connie Young, who played high-strung teen Holly Waits, was warmly greeted. Young is best known -- at least in Utah -- as the female lead in the Mormon-genre comedy "The Singles Ward." In "Troll 2," a teenage Young dances bizarrely in front of a mirror. In a fun moment, Fragasso convinced a hesitant Young to recreate her dance. It received a big ovation.

My favorite goblin, actress Deborah Reed, was there. She portrayed Creedence Leonore Gielgud. She is Nilbog. You have to watch Reed to digest her performance in "Troll 2"; think Isadora Duncan on acid. Eyes rolling in sockets, bohemian dress, enunciated screeches. She's a chameleon. One minute she appears to be a deranged aunt, in another a sexy vamp. But I'll say this for Ms. Reed -- she gets better with each viewing. And she nails what makes "Troll 2" so unique. You will never, ever again see a corncob used in such an intimate manner in a PG-13-rated movie.

Wanna learn more? See the movie. Here's a trailer:


Gibson is the Standard-Examiner's assistant editorial page editor. He can be reached at dgibson@standard.net.



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Steve Stones reviews Troll 2


Ever see a movie so bad that it actually improves with each viewing? If you haven’t, I would highly recommend that you visit your local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and rent Troll II. If your viewing experience doesn’t get better with each viewing, you may need to increase your dosage of Prozac, or just simply lighten up a little and relax.


After all, Troll II is just a little movie filmed in rural Morgan, Utah where the cows outnumber the local citizens 10 to one. In the case of Troll II, the Goblins outnumbered the local citizens for several weeks of filming during the summer of 1989.


At the time of filming, a street sign was put up, changing the city to: NILBOG. What I wouldn’t give or pay to have this sign in my movie memorabilia collection! I would even trade a double-decker pastrami sandwich with all the works, hold the mayo and mustard please.


The Goblins in the film might not take too kindly to this trade, since they are vegetarians who sweat green and eat anything green. Young Michael Stephenson even saves the day in the film with a cold cut bologna sandwich, which repels the Goblins from eating him. My favorite scene in the film is when Michael Stephenson approaches a mirror to talk to the spirit of his Grandpa Seth, and ask for his protection and guidance against the Goblins that have him and his family trapped in a house.


A Goblin immediately jumps out of the mirror attacking Stephenson. Grandpa Seth appears with an ax, cutting off the left hand of the Goblin. The Goblin then jumps backwards through the broken mirror, and the scene cuts to Creedence Leonore Gielgud, the Goblin Queen, screaming in pain in her Goblin lair of a run down old church. She tries to heal her severed arm by shoving it into the crevice of a glowing magic rock.


The expression on the Goblin Queen’s face, played by Deborah Reed, is priceless, and worth the $3.50 it would cost you to rent the film. A later scene has Reed trying to seduce a teenage boy in a motor home with a cob of corn. She is dressed in a sexy black gown with black nylons and high heels, similar to Elvira, Mistress of The Dark. I don’t know about you, but I have a soft spot for those sexy raven-haired women dressed in black. Come to me Creedence Leonore Gielgud, sexy Goblin Queen!!

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Notes on Nilbog Invasion and Troll 2


by Doug Gibson


On Saturday, I had a chance to chat with the very nice and personable Mickie Pace, who played the goblin Betty in Troll 2. Mickie was at Nilbog Invasion with her family and had chatted affably with fans in the hall. To play a goblin in Troll 2 one had to not exceed 4 feet in height. One townsperson extra in Troll 2, Dallin Carter, candidly admitted that his pay had been "hamburgers and beer."


Pace admitted that was about it in recompense for the extras. But she added that she and the other extras were treated well by the Italian film crew while Troll 2 was filming. She said that it could be hot and uncomfortable in the latex masks and potato sacks that were the goblins' garbs, but that everyone did OK.


As in most films for extras, there were long waits during filming. Pace had another assignment while Troll 2 was filming. She picked up some of the extras in her vehicle and took them to the shoot. She was paid for her gas and mileage, she recalled. During our conversation, her sons, proud of their mom's contribution to the much-loved cult film, pointed out sites on Commercial Street that were settings in the film.


At the panel, an elderly woman (whose name I missed) surprised fans by admitting she had never seen the film she had a small part in. Let's hope she saw it that night on the big screen!) Patrick and Paul Gibbs both played goblins in the film. The twins candidly admitted that they fit the needed criteria at the time -- both being under 4 feet tall. Both Gibbs make micro-budget films today.


Darren Ewing, who lives in nearby North Ogden, Utah, was there. He was witty and informative. He plays drums in a band, Skinny Bob and the Blues Dawgs, that reportedly played at Nilbog Invasion. He has several acting credits, including recent stints in the films, "Unaccompanied Minors" and Halloween Town." I also recently have seen Ewing in a commercial urging sensible water use while watering lawns. I spoke briefy to Ewing on Saturday. He gave me directions to see the ruins of the old LDS church that was used as the exterior for the goblin queen's house. Even as a ruin, the old LDS church is still an imposing site in the countryside.


Dentist George Hardy, who plays dad Michael Waits, told the crowd that at least once a month a dental patient will recognize him from Troll 2. Troll 2's star Michael Stephenson, has appeared in several productions, including the TV series Touched by an Angel. Both Connie Young (Holly Waits) and Deborah Reed (Creedence Leonore Gielguid) looked great at the event. Young, besides work in several films, works in infomercials and as a corporate spokesperson, and has worked with Robert Redford at Sundance, according to imdb.com. Lance C. Williams, who played the Goblin house swapper Mr. Presents, has acted in the LDS-themed films Rockwell, Charly and Return with Honor.


At the panel, Young admitted that she still has her original script, with her acting notes. With the state of fandom today, she could likely auction copies at ebay for a nice sum. Several actors recalled the first time they saw the film. A couple of "the boys" were on missions at the time. Young says she saw it on HBO. Her reaction: "I thought I was a better actress than that!" Reed said, "I wept with laughter. I screamed with laughter." Christina Reynolds, who played one of the Presents' goblin kids, first saw Troll 2 just last year. "Naturally, ... I was horrified," she said with tongue in cheek. The actors recalled the film was originally called "Goblin" during shooting.


When Hardy recalled auditioning in Park City in a room full of cigarette smoke, Young nodded, apparently recalling that day. Both said they beat out a lot of other hopefuls to get their roles. Young revealed the secret of her Holly Waits dance: It was a routine from the drill team she was on at high school. It looks odd, she added, because she only had a few feet to dance on the set. Young also added that director Fragasso liked her screaming skills. Stephenson recalled seeing the film with his family and just being appalled at how "bad" it was. Nevertheless, his acting resume lists another film directed by Fragasso, Beyond Darkness. That 1990 film was shown at Nilbog Invasion.


It was fun seeing elderly Robert Ormsby at Nilbog Invasion. "Grandpa Seth" loved the film. It accomplished its task, he said. It "entertained." Director Fragasso called Troll 2 "a family movie without blood." His resume lists a slate of Italian horror films, including "Zombi 3," "Rats," "Evil Dead 5" and "Terminator 2" -- these films have multiple titles to each). Fragasso pledged at Nilbog Invasion to make a Troll 3, at least partially filmed in Morgan. Let's hope he's successful.
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Here's a humble plot idea: Grown Holly Waits, now a hardened cynical private eye, hears rumors of strange goings-on near a ghost town called Nilbog. She recruits her brother Joshua and they head to that cursed town armed with bologna sandwiches to finally get rid of the killer vegetarians. But in the ruins of her old home, they meet --- again --- Creedence Leonore Gielguld!!
-- Doug Gibson

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hell’s Highway-The True Story of Highway Safety Films

By Steve D. Stones

I was perhaps the only teenager on the face of the planet who never had a desire to obtain a driver’s license or purchase a car. I spent my teen years riding my skateboard with my friends, so my skateboard was my main mode of transportation, as far as I was concerned.

When I did enter into driver’s ed classes, I was a nervous wreck. It didn’t help matters that I had heard rumors in school of violent traffic accident films that were to be shown in class. I don’t remember seeing any violent car crash films in driver’s ed class, but the anticipation of seeing them overwhelmed me.

Fast forward some twenty-two years later and I discover that Kino Video has released a two disc DVD entitled Hell’s Highway-The True Story of Highway Safety Films. Now I could finally find out what all the hype was about when I was in High School.

The first DVD in the set is an hour and a half documentary of how highway safety films began. The documentary interviews many of the people involved in making the films, such as John P. Butler, former chief of police in Mansfield, Ohio, Earle J. Deems, producer of the films and John R. Domer, photographer for the Highway Safety Foundation. The entire documentary shows graphically violent excerpts from many of the Highway Safety Foundation’s films, such as Signal 30, Highways of Agony, Mechanized Death and Wheels of Tragedy.

Clips shown from these films are like watching an illegal snuff film. They are not for the weak of heart. A dead elderly couple is pulled from a wrecked car, their bodies burned beyond recognition. Another clip shows a teenage girl leaning out a car door, her broken jaw and face covered in blood. A crushed baby is shown in another clip.

Unlike a snuff film, these clips of actual highway accidents are packed with voice over narration that is deadly serious, yet very dry and monotone. I’m not sure how effective these films would have been to teenagers viewing them in the 1950s and 60s, but I think it’s safe to say that teens of today feel they are much more invincible to death and are desensitized to violence. These films today serve as a source of kitsch and campy entertainment from a bygone era.

The second disc in the set is packed with short excerpts from other shocking classroom scare films, such as Carrier Or Killer, The Third Killer and Death On The Highway. Three complete driver’s ed shorts are also included on the DVD. Mike Vraney from Something Weird Video in
Seattle offers his views on these films in the main documentary. Vraney and his company sell many of these driver’s ed films. Remember to buckle up the next time you go for a drive. Believe me, you’ll want to after watching this documentary.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All about The Raven


By Doug Gibson

Simply put, "The Raven" (1935) is a masterpiece. And credit for its perfection belongs to star Bela Lugosi, who is magnificent as the brilliant, deranged, courtly and insane Dr. Richard Vollin, who is so obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe that he has built real Poe-inspired torture devices in his dungeon.

Lugosi's Vollin is implored upon to save the life of a beautiful dancer, Jean Thatcher. Once he restores her to health, he fall in lust with her and wants her for himself. Rebuffed by Thatcher's father, he hatches a plan to invite the dancer, her father, her fiance, and others to be tortured and murdered. In his feverish mind, Vollin believes that by killing, he can be released from his Poe obsessions.

Vollin's unwilling helper is Edmond Bateman, a murderer on the lam who bewails his ugly face. He begs Vollin to bring beauty to his countenance. Instead, Vollin makes him uglier and then promises to fix his ugliness after he kills his guests.

Lugosi is juat brilliant. He's gentlemanly and manic, polite and cruel, courteous and a raving lunatic. The short, 61-minute film is tightly directed by Lew Landers. It is an example of Universal's cruelty to Lugosi that he received only half as much as Karloff earned, although Lugosi's Vollin is the real star, the real villain.

This is a film that should not be missed by any horror film fan.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother’s Day: Keep Mom Away From This Movie

By Steve D. Stones

"The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world
."
-William Ross Wallace

Movies don’t get much more graphic in violent content than Mother’s Day, unless you’re watching Henry-Portrait of A Serial Killer or the original Last House On The Left. The title of the film might suggest that this is some fluffy, sentimental chick flick dedicated to all mothers on Mother’s Day. It isn’t. The film is a full-blown exploitation, horror story. I would not recommend that any self-respecting mother watch this film because of the extreme violence, particularly against women.

Mother’s Day was directed, produced and written by Charles Kaufman, brother of Lloyd Kaufman of Troma films. Only the sick minds at Troma could come up with a film like Mother’s Day, which would be a compliment to the folks at Troma. Troma is responsible for such cult classic(k)s as: The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Surf Nazis Must Die and Redneck Zombies. The Kaufman brothers cast their mother in the roll of mama. Their sister, Susan Kaufman, served as production designer. It appears that Mother’s Day is indeed a family affair, no pun intended.

Three women named Abbey, Jackie and Trina get together for a reunion. The three were college roommates at Wolfbreath College in the 1970s. They travel to the Deep Barrens camp area in New Jersey and camp next to a beautiful lake.

The next morning, two hillbilly brothers named Ike and Addley witness the girls skinny-dipping in the lake. Apparently their mother named them after two 1950s politicians – Eisenhower and Stevenson. That night the boys attack the girls, tie them inside their sleeping bags and drag them back to their backwoods home. The girls are tied to some exercise equipment in an upstairs room.

Jackie is later dragged out of the room and forced to act out scenes from movies with the two brothers as their mother watches. Jackie refuses to participate, so she is raped and beaten by one of the boys, then stuffed in a dresser drawer.

Abby and Trina are able to escape and find Jackie in the dresser. Jackie is unable to walk, so the two girls quietly carry her out of the house and back into the woods. Abbey decides to stay and watch over Jackie while Trina goes for help. While Trina is gone, Jackie dies. Trina returns after finding their car inoperative. The two girls decide to avenge Jackie’s death by returning to the house to kill the mother and her two boys.

One of the boys is stabbed in the neck with a TV antenna and clawed in his groin with a hammer. The other boy has drain cleaner poured down his throat and a TV set bashed over his head. Mama is smothered to death with a plastic pillow in the shape of large breasts.

Despite the extreme graphic violence and low budget, there is not much to fault with in Mother’s Day. The acting is well above average and the plot is direct and easy to follow. Even to this day, Mother’s Day remains in the top 100 highest grossing independent films of all time. That says something about the film, good or bad.

This Mother’s Day, keep your mother away from a film like Mother’s Day. She deserves a nice bouquet of flowers, a bottle of perfume and a nice greeting card. After all, she’s earned it. She’s your mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

3 Stooges in 'Have Rocket Will Travel'

By Doug Gibson

If you want to watch the Three Stooges in a movie, watch the unknown oater gem Gold Raiders but don't watch Have Rocket Will Travel, a pathetic 1959 mess that even the most dedicated Teletubbies watcher will not stomach.

It's a dreadful hodgepodge of unfunniness. The boys, Moe, Larry and Curly Joe, are dimwitted janitors who befriend a sexy scientist. They blunder into a space ship and head off to a planet. There they encounter a talking unicorn and match wits with an even stupider master computer that HAL would have drowned in a river.

Once the doofuses return home, an additional party scene is tacked on and then this tired mess, directed by David Lowell Rich, finally ends. It's a very long 76 B&W minutes.

I have nothing against the Stooges. I like their shorts. If you want to see the trio at their best, catch any number of the Columbia one-reeler. But avoid this horrendous mess.

Here's a clip from this mess:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SHOCK WAVES-The Deep End of Horror

By Steve D. Stones

Besides being a genuinely frightening film, Shock Waves manages to have two great horror icons – John Carradine and Peter Cushing. The film follows in a long line of the Nazi zombie sub-genre of films that were shown in the 1970s at drive-ins. I would certainly rank Shock Waves as the best of the Nazi zombie films.

The real star of Shock Waves, in my opinion, is the eerie music score by Richard Einhorn. I can’t imagine viewing this film without the electronic synthesizer music by Einhorn. It holds the entire film together, and seems in sync with the march of the zombies.

Shock Waves manages to be scary without showing one drop of blood or extreme zombie gore. Most zombie films specialize in lots of gore. This film, however, does not, yet it still manages to entertain and horrify the viewer.

The plot follows a group of tourists on a dive boat off the coast of Florida. They collide one night with an old abandoned Nazi ship from World War II. The grumpy old captain, played by John Carradine, dives below the boat the next morning to inspect it for damages. He is later found dead, having drowned.

The tourist group, cook and captain’s first mate abandon the boat and row ashore. After arriving on a deserted island, the group encounters several zombies dressed in Nazi uniforms. They also find an old abandoned hotel inhabited by a Nazi commander, played by Peter Cushing. Cushing has been on the island since the ending of World War II, and informs the group that the German high command had developed a race of invincible soldier who could kill with their bare hands. He calls them the Death Corps, which is the alternative title of the film.

One by one, members of the boating group start to be attacked and murdered by the zombies. Most of them are pulled down into the water and drowned by the zombies. These are some of the most effective and creepy sequences in the film. Close up shots of the zombies submerging from the water makes goose bumps grow on your skin.

The original negative of Shock Waves is thought to be lost, so director Ken Wiederhorn released a print from his personal archive in 2002 to be released on DVD by Blue Underground. A VHS video of the film was also available in the 1980s by Prism Entertainment. The Blue Underground DVD has an interesting audio commentary by director Wiederhorn, make-up designer Alan Ormsby and still photographer-filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. An interview with actor Luke Halpin, who plays Carradine’s second mate in the film, is also on the DVD extras. Watch this film with another Nazi zombie film like Oasis of The Zombies or Zombie Lake. Enjoy!