Turkey Day in May

IMG_9413As most of you know, since 2003, I have been holding an annual event on Black Friday in November that I call Turkey Day, where a group of die hard film fans partake in some of the finest in cinematic shipwrecks, all the while being entertained as a bunch of giddie school girls. Well, most of the time. My list of titles that I gather throughout the year keeps getting longer, which is not a bad thing. But a few weeks ago, I was talking to my friend and regular Turkey Day co-pilot, about getting some people together for a movie day. During that conversation that I mentioned about having so many potential titles already on my Turkey Day list. Aaron then threw out, “Why don’t we have another Turkey Day?” The minute that audio hit my brain, the wheels started turning. This was the early part of May when this conversation happened and it hit me that this was six months since our last Turkey Day. So then…Turkey Day in May was born! I quickly sent out a few calls to some friends and set the day for May 16th. My wife wasn’t going to be home most of the day, so the usual feasting on homemade pizzas was going to have to be replaced with some handy delivery pizza. Nowhere near as good as what we usually get, but it was suffice.

Our victims this year was of course, Aaron Christensen, along with the usual T-Day attendees Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, Brian Fukala, and making their T-Day debut was Adam Rockoff, and the Film Deviant himself, Bryan Martinez. Not sure Bryan “got it” at first, especially when he asked “So we’re just going to watch bad movies all day?” But by the end of it, he had made the transformation and understood what it was all about. So let us get to the movies that we covered this year. As usual, we were able to wade our way through 7 titles.

from_hell_it_cameFrom Hell It Came (1957) – We start off the marathon with one of the best killer tree movies ever made! Well…one of my favorites at least. This is about the leader of a south seas island tribe who is falsely put to death and rises from the grave as the dreaded tree monster Tabonga. The Tabonga is like nothing we’ve seen before and in the still shots is a pretty scary looking creature. Sure, once we see this thing walking down the path…not so much. But I still have to applaud the makers of this film for trying to come up with something different and original. So kudos to them.

The cast consist of the American scientists that are on the island investigating any ill effects of atomic bomb tests years ago, that have all sorts of that fancy science talk, which is always a hoot to hear. The dated dialogue is one of the entertaining parts of movies from this era, with such romantic lines like “Terry, will you stop being a doctor first and a woman second?” Come on, ladies, doesn’t that just get the heart racing? Some of the actresses chosen to be natives must not have been picked for their acting prowess, but maybe how they look in the native wear.

In other words, a perfect opening for a Turkey Day.

ENDLESS-DESCENTEndless Descent (1990) – I had just written about this film for my column in HorrorHound and new it had to be added to the next Turkey Day. Directed by J.P. Simon, the guy responsible for the amazing Pieces and Slugs, gives us so much fun here with great cast including R. Lee Ermy and Ray Wise, who are part of a small crew of all your stereotypical nationalities, they are going in search of a missing submarine. Amazing that this nuclear sub can be run with about 8 people! Of course, we have Simon regulars like Frank Braña, Emilio Linder, and even Edmund Purdom making a little cameo. The star of the film, Jack Scalia, plays the hero of the piece, named Wick Hayes. Now THAT is a hero’s name!

But the real highlight of this movie are the creatures they come across once they get down deep in the depths. No CGI here, my friends, but good old fashion rubber made monsters and that are a real hoot. Sure, it may take a while to get there, but once you make it, it is well worth the trip. Plenty of other gooey monster make-ups as well and the crew are faced with many different types of aquatic beasties. Just a damn shame that this hasn’t gotten a DVD or blu-ray release.

A-Virgin-Among-the-Living-Dead-1973A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) – Now I’m a fan of Jess Franco, even at some of the lower points of his career, and his films are no strangers to our T-day marathons. But I was honestly hoping this would be more entertaining then I remembered….uh…no. Funny thing is that I know two people that consider this their favorite Franco film. That really that is the beauty of film fans and what they like and that we’re not all the same. Conversations would be pretty boring otherwise. I will admit that the film does have some beautiful shots in there and really does have that nice European feel to it. My problem with it is that not much happens….for the whole movie!

You’d think that since Franco regular Howard Vernon was in it that it would bring it up a bit in the entertainment value…No. Same with Franco appearing as well as some sort of mute character which is pretty entertaining, though probably unintentional. For a film that has some amazing poster art, I guess I just expected either more usual over-the-top Franco elements, or at least some more exploitation-type elements. But we all know this isn’t the first time the film doesn’t live up to the poster!

Superstition_1982_posterSuperstition (1982) – This little treat is one that more people should know more about. It is about a spooky old house that is owned by the church, where people keep dying in and around, sometimes in very gloriously gruesome ways, even showing that nobody is safe in this house. Something happened there centuries ago with an old witch and this ancient evil is still about causing trouble. There are a few quality kills that will have the audience roaring with laughter, maybe even causing you to rewind it to watch it again. But while the films isn’t the most serious of flicks out there, this one will surely keep you entertained.

The cast consists of Larry Pennell, a character who has appeared in a tons of movies and television work, who plays the troubled pastor that has moved into the house with this family. Lynn Carlin plays his wife, but some might recognize her as the distraught mother from Deathdream (1974). Billy Jayne plays one of their sons, who also has made a few appearances in other horror flicks, such as Bloody Birthday. Veteran actor Albert Salmi is the local police inspector who just wants answers for all the corpses that keep turning up.

paganiniPaganini Horror (1989) – This Italian film was directed by Luigi Cozzi and stars Donald Pleasence and Daria Nicolodi, who also co-wrote the screenplay. It is about a female fronted rock band that hires a horror movie director to film their new video in a mansion where the famed (and cursed) musician Paganini used to live. Jasmine Maimone stars as the leader of the band, who might look a bit familiar. She was in the “movie within the movie” in Demons. Needless to say the music video sequences are more almost torturous, giving you a flashback to the ’80s hard enough to give you whiplash, where you are just hoping for someone to get killed. Amazing to see Pleasence in here, though curious as hell as to what he was doing in this, other than maybe collecting a paycheck. Damn waste of talent. Then again, Pleasence was no stranger to cheesy films.

There is a reason that not too many people know about this movie. While Cozzi has made some…okay films in the past, this is not one of them. The music is very dated, as well as the look of the film, as well as just lacking anything substantial. Then why did we watch it? Well…it is Turkey Day after all.

jawsofsatanJaws of Satan (1981) – I had seen this years ago after coming across it and knew nothing about it. But I’ve been a fan of Fritz Weaver since his performance in Creepshow, plus the fact that it is about a snake possessed by Satan..so how could you go wrong? Gretchen Corbett (from Let’s Scare Jessica to Death) co-stars as the local doctor trying to investigate the sudden increase of snake attacks, that is helped by snake expert Jon Korkes, who seems to possess less emotion than the snakes they are chasing. Not sure if some of these scenes with them together are hilarious because of his dramatic under-acting or the fact that the director and/or editor left the shots go as long as they did. Some clearly look like a few seconds or even minutes needed to be trimmed. But that is just one of the charms of this movie. Of course, there’s seeing a 9-year old Christina Applegate as well.

To say that there might be some influences from the movie Jaws would be an overstatement, as the mayor of this small town is more obsessed with opening up of the town’s new dog track then the public safety. Really? A dog track? But none the less, the movie plays out, people are bitten by snakes, and Weaver goes after Big Lou in the form of a big cobra. While not the greatest movie out there, I would still recommend it for a fun time.

satansbladevhsSatan’s Blade (1984) – Ending our marathon was this little gem from the mid ’80s. The funny this was that everyone seems to remember the bad-ass looking box art from the good old VHS days, but remembering the actual movie is something else. And there’s a reason for it. Two couples take a much needed vacation in a cabin resort near the woods, even after they heard that someone had been murdered there a few days earlier, as well as hearing a crazy legend about a mysterious killer who lives in the mountains. Sounds like a great vacation, doesn’t it?

Director/actor/writer/producer L. Scott Castillo Jr. gives us a decent slasher film for that time. Good movie? Not even close. But very on par with a lot of films coming out in that era. So for those reasons, it does have its charms, with a very low budget, filled with actors that didn’t seem to have a lot of experience, and the dreaded killer on the loose. We do have some blood and boobs, which are always nice for a film of this ilk, so with the right group of friends, you will be entertained. You could even make a drinking game with how many times you see the boom mic.

But the real bonus to this movie is the “interview” on the new blu-ray that recently had come out. I put the quotes around interview because this has to be the worst shot interview I have ever seen in my life. Right after the interview starts, the camera zooms in to see some promotional material on the table where this is taking place, and pretty much stays there the whole time! So during this…rambling from director Castillo about the making of the film, the footage is of VHS covers being zoomed in and out of, panning up and down, and even better when he spends about 5 minutes trying to get a “lobby card” (sorry Castillo…that is called a ‘poster’) out of the package that it came in. I think anybody who has the slightest bit of film production ability or skill will either have a look of horror or just sheer amazement that this was not only made, but then included on this disc. Unreal.

So we conclude our Turkey Day in May event and it was a big success and will now have to make it an annual event. Not only did we get through another 7 titles, I think we’re all better people because of them! Well, maybe. Honestly, it really doesn’t get much better than sitting around with a bunch of great friends and enjoying some movies…no matter the quality. I couldn’t recommend doing this on your own enough.

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