Incredibly Bad Film Show: Witchcraft X, Mistress of the Craft

Dir: Elisar Cabrera
Star: Wendy Cooper, Kerry Knowlton, Stephanie Beaton, Eileen Daly


It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these – more than 18 months – but when I re-watched this, as part of our exhaustive survey of the entire Witchcraft series, I knew there was no way I could truly do this justice in a couple of hundred words. The other entries in the series are a mix of light occult shenanigans and heavy petting, set in Los Angeles. But for the tenth entry, they shifted things to London, and apparently threw everything you knew out of the window on the flight there. The results are all an Incredibly Bad film should be: it contains laughable concepts, pathetic production values and some performances that would disgrace a school Nativity play. Yet, it’s certainly more memorable and, dammit, I’d say entertaining than any of the nine preceding installments.

The core here is a British government department, Bureau 17, who have been charged with investigating any paranormal shenanigans. Their tiny staff (I blame budget cut-backs: perhaps governmental, more likely by the film’s producers) have captured Hyde (Knowlton), a mass murderer with Satanic tendencies, and are holding them pending the arrival of Detective Lutz (Beaton) from Los Angeles, who’s going to extradite him back to the States. However, the vampire Raven (Daly) and her minions, break Hyde out, because she needs his help to translate a tome that will allow her to summon the demon Morshenka, who will give her unlimited power. It’s up to white Wiccan detective Celeste Sheridan (Cooper), Lutz and the other members of Bureau 19 to stop them.

If that sounds kinda cool to you, it does to me as well, actually, and with a respectable budget and some cast changes, it probably could have been. However, here? Well, I don’t use the words “woefully inadequate” often, but this film will probably provide my entire 2013 quota. It’s apparent almost from the start, where London is reduced to some quickly shot footage from Soho, and stock footage from a packed night-club, before cutting to the sparsely-populated (it’s those cutbacks, I tell you!) location where Raven’s conveniently-bisexual minions chow down on some poor guy. We then move to Bureau 17’s headquarters, which is even more the product of poverty-row film-making, with no effort spared made to make it look like a functioning building, except for lobbing a few unrelated photos on the wall.

That’s where Hyde is being interrogated, and let’s pause to discuss the acting here, because there is truly something for everyone. At the top of the pile is Cooper, who is genuinely good, despite having to handle dialog and her powder-blue PVC costume, which are constantly battling over the title of “Most Ridiculous Thing in This Movie.” I’m calling it a tie. In contrast so sharp you could slice your wrists with it (and will probably want to, at various points) is Knowlton, Apparently a pro-wrestler, I get a more emotive reading from the text-to-speech program on my Kindle; stunningly, his acting is not the least of his contributions to the movie, as we’ll see later.

In contrast, there’s Daly, who appears to have been the recipient of all the emotion which is completely missing from Knowlton’s performance, overacting ferociously for every line, enunciating each Syll-A-Ble like it was a newly discovered Shakespeare soliloquy. Is it appropriate? Hmm. The jury is still out on that. Is it entertaining as hell? F’sure. The best scenes are when she and Knowlton play opposite each other, it’s a contrast in styles of epic proportions:
Raven (chewing scenery like a crack-crazed Tasmanian Devil): “Have you ever heard of a ceremony of… Walpurgis?”
Hyde (reciting share prices): “Walpurgis? The stuff of myths. Walpurgis belongs in a story book about demons. I serve Satan, the only true master.”


The rest of the cast fall somewhere between those extremes. Beaton is solid enough, but doesn’t have enough to do, except wander round with her shirt tied loosely under her voluminous cleavage, as shown on the left. Seems a bit informal for any supposed police detective on an international mission. There’s a bit where she gets scratched by one of the vampires, and initially, it seems this is going to go somewhere. My notes actually say, “somewhere interesting,” but even by this point, about 25 minutes in, I was doubtful that was going to happen. Although it does lead to her sitting in the bath, soaping her breasts with the enthusiasm and care usually found only in a vintage car-club owner, waxing the bodywork of his Jaguar.

That comes as part of a triple-dose of nudity, which suddenly pops up, as if the makers realized they were falling short of the statutory quota of breasts. So we simultaneously get Raven bonking Hyde (as in their dramatic scenes, she does all the work, while he just lies there), Celeste making love to her boyfriend, and Lutz in the bath. Of course, it was during this Nipplepalooza that our son wandered upstairs, though it’s a tribute to him being so inured to my viewing of crap, he was more concerned as to whether or not I was going to eat that other Hot Pocket. This question answered, I explained that she’s a witch, that one’s a vampire and the lady in the bath is an LA detective, to which he replied “It sounds like the best version of Being Human ever.”

“Best,” is entirely relative, I think we’ll find. Instead, there is so much “wrong” here. Even when Lutz and B17 Agent Dixon (Sean Harry, looking like a concussed Hugh Grant) are driving through London, they are shown in short order going East along Piccadilly, then North towards Piccadilly Circus, West through Trafalgar Square and finally North at the Houses of Parliament.  I speak for everyone familiar with central London when I say: “What?” The audio mix is even more incomprehensible, with dialogue which is often inaudible, and sound effects which should charitably be described as occupying the same postal-code as the actions they accompany. Still, it’s nice to see the disabled getting work, and I trust the deaf guy was appropriately grateful. [Actually, see here for some background on this aspect]

Remember I said above that Knowlton’s performance wasn’t the worst thing about his work on the film? He’s also credited as a “fight director”, alongside Frank Scantori. Scantori enjoys multiple credits on this, as an actor (playing the head of B17), co-producer, first assistant director, casting director and for transportation, so at least has the excuse of spreading himself a bit thin. On the other hand, Knowlton, being a pro-wrestler, would seem well suited to stage fake violence and make it look real, or at least credible. So you’d think, anyway. Counterpoint:

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The above is just one of many moments which will have you cackling maniacally. My favourite was probably Raven bringing Hyde back to her lair, where the decor consists of a table-lamp and a badly-hung sheet.  He compliments her on having “exquisite taste,” which would be pure, undiluted sarcasm, except Knowlton does nothing to suggest he can reach such dramatic heights. Other moments include: the vampire minion trying to run away in stilettos, resulting in more of a stagger away; poor editing giving the impression of someone being decapitated with a stake; Hyde wandering round a field for no reason at all; Celeste having the ability to project her image astrally, then later using a pay-phone to call in; and vampires who, for some reason, walk like zombies. Maybe that’s also due to the stilettos.

This is truly a film which keeps on giving: even though there are many aspects that are tedious, there’s easily enough which are amusing, lunatic or simply baffling to keep you watching. Just when my enthusiasm for the series was running low, this completely reinvigorated it, and I’m ready for the final stretch.


Incredibly Bad Film Show: Los Canallas

Dir: Federico Curiel
Star: Mil Mascaras, Regina Torné, Fernando Osés, Claudia Martell
a.k.a. Ángeles Infernales

Mexican wrestling movies are a different breed entirely. Sure, WWE wrestlers make movies, and to a large extent, the characters they play are simply an extension of their in-ring personae. John ‘Hustle, Loyalty, Respect’ Cena? Get him to play an ex-marine in…er, The Marine. Demonic hell-spawn Kane? Psychotic serial killer: See No Evil [though Glenn Jacobs, the man responsible, has a degree in English literature, is a former third-grade teacher, and supports Ron Paul] But the key difference is that none of these movies include any actual professional wrestling.

Contrast the Mexican versions, where Mil Mascaras (or Santo, Blue Demon, etc.) is a crime-fighter – but one whose day-job is as a wrestler, and that comes first. Everyone is comfortably at ease with this, both good and bad. For instance, the villains break their leader out of jail on Friday night because “everyone will be at the match.” And when they do, said leader takes on Mascaras in not one, but two wrestling matches. It’s as if, at the end of The Marine, Robert Patrick challenged Cena to a Falls Count Anywhere bout. The forces of good are just as wrestling obsessed. When they realize one of their number has apparently been kidnapped by the Infernal Angels, they don’t exactly rush to her aid, saying “Let’s wait until the first fall is over.  Mil Mascaras will tell us what to do.” One fall later, he airily tells them, “I’ll be done soon, wait for me in the dressing room.” Like I said: wrestling first; rescuing your friend from torture and being slowly dipped into an acid-bath…later.

But I’m getting ahead of myself with the plot. Mil Mascaras flies in to land in his little private plane, on his way to take part in a wrestling show that afternoon. However, as he drives off, Cadena (Torné, who 24 years later, would be one of the leads in Like Water For Chocolate!) and her minion lob a smoke-bomb into his convertible. Rather than, oh, pull over, Mil makes an ill-advised attempt to continue driving which ends with him smashing into a wall a cut to the expensive automobile, completely undamaged, parked neatly on top of a pile of rubble beside a wall.

Turns out Mil was responsible for sending her boyfriend Rocco (Osés) to jail, and Cadena is implacably set on both breaking out her boy, and bringing Mascaras down. She has taken over the Infernal Angels, the gang Rocco ran, and she makes various attempts on the wrestling legend, such as trying to unmask him – only to be foiled, because Mascaras appears to have foreseen this eventuality and wears a second mask underneath the first. Brilliant! She has minions armed with a range of interesting devices for administering slow-acting poisons to her enemy, so he will lose or be easier to beat up. The idea of using something lethal instead, never seems to cross her mind.

Despite the drug-induced haze, Mascaras remembers Cadena’s ‘deep, cold voice full of hate,’ and that clues his friends in to the Infernal Angels being involved. Estrella (Martell) knows one of the gang members, and she agrees to go undercover, joining the Angels to find out what Cadena is up to. This involves a strange occult initiation rite (above), which resembles H.G. Lewis’s Egyptian feast, as re-imagined by Paul Verhoeven for Showgirls, albeit without the nudity (this being 1968). Estrella’s pal describes it as “cruel and difficult,” but that description applies mostly to the poor viewer who has to sit through this entirely inappropriate musical number. Mind you, Cadena also shakes her thang in the opening scene, for no apparent reason there either, and one wonders if this was some strange, Bollywood lucha co-production.

Cadena is successful in breaking Rocco and his cell-mate Hook – named because he has a hook in place of one hand – out of prison. She does so by giving them a transistor radio which a) functions as a walkie-talkie and contains something like thermite wire, which she activates remotely in order to burn through the prison bars. Really, this woman’s talents are sadly wasted, she should have been working for Q Branch. Like all good Mexican boys, he heads home to his mother, only to find her rather less than maternal. This might be because she’s just been visited by the police. Or the result of her realizing she’ll have to hand back the money Rocco gave her husband “for safekeeping.” Moral ambivalence at its finest.

I’ve reviewed some other lucha movies before, but this was the first one to reach the deliciously-loopy standards necessary for Incredibly Bad status. Perhaps the finest moment is when Mil has the chance to discover the Angels’ hideout. He declines the offer of help, saying “No, I’ll go alone to avoid suspicion.” This doesn’t work quite as well as hoped, since less than one minute later, minions are reporting to Cadena that Mil Mascaras is outside. There’s a very good reason for this, because the image below shows what his idea of “avoiding suspicion” involves walking up the front-door dressed as shown:

So, in addition to the ever-present mask, that’s a shiny gold shirt, powder blue pants with matching boots and a package which appears to suggest that Mil is very pleased to be fighting crime. It seems there is no word in Mexican for “undercover”. After another failed attempt by Cadena to seduce and poison him (using a ring apparently capable of containing the entire annual output of Hoffman La Roche), Mil escapes, though leaves a messy souvenir behind. If ever I become an evil overlord, I will instruct my underlings to check the contents of oil-barrels before machine-gunning them repeatedly, to ensure they contain my enemy and not one of their colleagues.

After 65 minutes with no mention of this whatsoever, it is revealed that Rocco is actually the Black Hood – another masked wrestler – who was apparently scheduled to fight Mascaras in the next show. Good job he broke out of prison then. Estrella tells Mil this, but rather than going to the police with this information about a notorious fugitive, he decides to play along, on the dubious assertion that “I’ll try to unmask him in the ring so he can be taken away by the authorities in front of an audience.” Yes, never mind the moral responsibility or safety issue – think of the ratings!

The first match ends in a no-contest, Mascaras being taken to the hospital after being snogged by one of Cadena’s minions wearing poisoned lipstick, and a “mask vs. hood” match is declared for the following week – the loser has to reveal his true identity. It’s during this contest that they realize Estrella’s is about to go for a really deep skin cleanse – but, as noted above, that can wait until Mascaras has won his match. Fortunately, there’s discord in the Angels, with Hook making a play for Cadena, and getting into a brawl with Rocco – a fight which, unfortunately, knocks a burning brand against the rope which is keeping Estrella out of the acid.

Naturally, Mascaras shows up just in time to save her, though I was disappointed no-one falls into the acid, which seems like a breach of B-movie etiquette rule #47: “He who sets the acid-bath, gets the acid-bath.” We’re left with Rocco’s mother bemoaning the fate of her son, and the final lines provide the moral to this masked fable: “Having a child represents a serious responsibility. Those that don’t meet it will suffer the consequences sooner or later.” Have to say, that’s probably not quite the final thought which will stick with me from this one.


Incredibly Bad Film Show: Final Detention

Dir: Pongpinij
Star: Lek Aiyasoon, Yoko Takano, Chalomjit Junkaj, Thunyaluk Worrapimrut

Women in prison films are a cornerstone of trash cinema, but are one whose appeal is difficult to explain. Chris typically sidles her way out of the room when they’re on, looking at me strangely; I think she’s slightly concerned about the sadomasochistic overtones. But, to me, that’s like being concerned about the homosexual overtones of pro wrestling – which is, after all, well-muscled men in skimpy costumes getting all sweaty and grappling each other. Indeed, pro wrestling and WiP films have other aspects in common: both are disparaged critically, packed with larger than life characters, and contain certain standard plot-devices that are almost de riguer for the genre, showing up time after time.

It’s a universal construct too. Not just Hollywood, but anywhere with a low-budget movie industry, the odds are the genre has been mined. Italy? Hong Kong? Japan? Done. The problem comes when censorship or other restrictions limit your ability to deliver on expectations. A decade ago, back when I shared a house with Steve and Abigail, I tried one of their vegan sausages. It wasn’t bad actually – but something less like a real sausage, is hard to imagine. Which brings us to Final Detention, the vegan sausage of women-in-prison films. While not without its entertainment value, something less like a real women-in-prison film than this Thai entry in the genre, is hard to imagine.

It opens with the heroine escaping, for reasons never explained, from two men with guns on a dock. She does so by diving in to the water and clambering onto a nearby boat. Unfortunately, this turns out to be transporting death-row inmates to a remote prison. Its lightly-clad passengers are apparently Al Qaeda terrorists, judging by the fact that they are guarded by an entire posse of men in ski-masks, wielding automatic weapons. Okay, if I was in this film, I’d likely demand anonymity too. Remarkably, the guards are entirely unconcerned by the sudden appearance of an unscheduled, dripping addition to the manifest, and sail on regardless.

On arrival, the women are dumped off-shore, and forced to wade to the beach, which would be a good excuse for their clothes to turn transparent. Not here though. Instead, when they hit the beach, two try to run away, only to find themselves losing a quick game of Minesweeper. Impressively, they appear to evaporate entirely after detonation. Taken to the camp by the traditional queen bitch guard, they pass the equally traditional guard tower – now, this is just a guess, but I’m predicting, here and now, that it will explode by the end of the movie, hurling the guard to the ground. They also pass a row of women tied to crosses (below). “What the hell is this?” asks one inmate – about two seconds after the viewer wonders the same thing. “Hell is what this is,” replies Queen Bitch, which may be the finest moment in the history of translation.

Turns out, this is one of the forms of punishment if you break the rules. The alternative apparently involves being forced to…er, stir the warden’s herbal bath. “You know you are on death row forever?” he says, which would seem to negate the point of death row somewhat. Similarly, Queen Bitch tells the new meat, “We’re here so we can correct your behavior. You’ll all be perfect women.” It’s nice to see Thailand adopt a kinder, gentler approach to capital punishment, aimed at rehabilitating the condemned before presumably killing them. The new inmates are taken to the showers. While a fire-hose is involved, the kinder, gentler guard lets them keep their clothes on.

The prison uniforms are pretty neat: little midriff-baring combos, appropriate for a safari excursion – or death row- causing Top Dog Inmate to drool quietly over the new arrivals. This concerns her current pals, who have their worries dismissed with “You’re too talkative. Keep on massaging.” I swear, I will work this line in to my next corporate meeting somehow. 16 minutes in, we finally learn the names of two characters, both called after desperation late moves from a Words With Friends game. “Am” is a new arrival – I sense this could cause grammatical issues later on – while Wan is an Old Hand in the prison.

Security is kinda lax here. And by “lax”, I mean “entirely on the honour system”. An inmate asks the guard to go to the bathroom, and that’s all she needs to do, in order to sneak out and snog her boyfriend. The guard appears incredibly surprised when she doesn’t come back. Top Dog makes a play for Am, but Wan stops her, causing Top Dog to storm off in a huff. We also learn that those who try to escape are buried in the ground up to their neck, while the new inmates do aerobics and clamber through what appears to be a Women of Ninja Warrior course.

It’s all too much for one, who is taken to the infirmary. Turns out she’s a drug addict who’s going through cold turkey. The treatment for this deserves quoting in full:

“Tie her up in the water and give her some herbs.”
“Isn’t that a bit dangerous, sir?”
“What choice do we have?”

Er, not tying her up in the water and giving her some herbs? Just a suggestion. Top Dog still has her eye on Am, but Wan has her back, and a slap-fight ensues, until Queen Bitch breaks it up, and orders the new inmates to sleep outside for the night. There, they bond over touching stories, such as:

“Is your sister addicted to drugs too?”
“No. She went insane after she got raped.”
“Terrible. Men that rape women should be killed, and rot in hell.”
“I cut their dicks off.”
“Yeah! Great! They deserved it.”

Um, about that “rehabilitation”… We discover the island is run by Commander Chart. He is apparently, “an ex-soldier, a dictator and some say insane.” Any of those would certainly explain his hobby of shooting buried women in the head, accompanied by overwrought, sepia flashbacks to his time in the army. But he has to answer to Madam Pornpimol, even if her oversight consists of a 30-second video phone-call inquiring politely about progress, and telling him, “Keep healing them. Don’t use violence. It may affect my votes.” Politicians, eh? They’re all the same.

Top Dog is unhappy with the food, and asks for more. Impressively, the response is, “You won’t finish it. If you want more, come back for it.” Say what you like about Thai prisons, the all-you-can-eat buffet approach is certainly novel. When she tries to sit next to Am and Wan, another fight occurs, and this one has to be broken up by the Commander and Queen Bitch. He rounds up the troublemakers, takes them outside and yells at them through an entirely unnecessary megaphone – they’re maybe 25 feet away – “If you can’t get along then fight! Fight to the death! Fight until one of you dies!”

So much for “Don’t use violence,” I guess. Admittedly, given the combat skills on display, old age is probably a bigger threat to life and limb for the combatants, even after every other prisoner joins in, apparently realizing this could take a while. For variety, the Commander turns a fire-hose on them, perhaps hoping one will accidentally drown. It doesn’t help, and he has to commute the death-match sentence to “Let them sleep here.”

The inmates hard labour consists largely of prodding rocks unenthusiastically with tools. Madam calls up requesting “well-behaved” inmates for a press conference. This rules out the one who embeds a pick-axe in the back of a guard, triggering an escape attempt. “Hunt them down!” snarls the Commander during his chat with Madam, forgetting that this thing is indeed on, and provides the Worst Explanation Ever of what he meant: “Hunt is just the word we use. It encourages prisoners to work happily. It’s not a real hunt.” Maybe all that’s needed to prevent escapes is to point out to the inmates that this is a remote island? It would certainly save the need to build the elaborate pits and other traps into which the escapees manage to stumble (as shown below, right).

These executions are the final straw for the inmates, who begin to plot a revolt while tied to the crosses: “The only thing here is death – we have to get out.”  The next day, the women wander the island and see one of their co-inmates being held upside down by two guards, while another two beat the soles of her feet. In what may be the understatement of the year, their sole reaction is, “It’s very strange here, isn’t it?” No shit, sister. A slightly-better planned escape is planned, scheduled to coincide with the monthly return of the boat.

The plan appears to be to distract the Commander with a fully-clothed table-dance to Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You. One wonders whether the band gave permission for this; I’m thinking not.  Somehow, this succeeds, and the others overpower the guards at the arms storehouse so easily, you have to ask why they didn’t try earlier. They blow up the guard-dogs(!), which loses them the element of surprise, and a largely bloodless battle commences. As predicted, the guard towers explode, though in a startling deviation from convention, there is no guard seen falling through the air and out of shot.

The Commander vows to hunt down all the survivors, who easily take the boat, thanks to the ski-mask clad guards falling for the old “underwear-sporting woman running towards you” ploy.  However, the Commander blows it up with a contender for the worst digital explosion ever, though he himself is shot by an inmate, who is then shot too. Basically, just about everyone dies. I trust I haven’t spoiled it for you. But here’s the last ten minutes, in all its unsubbed, insane glory, which will demonstrate its Incredibly Bad credentials, much better than my 1,700 words ever could.


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Incredibly Bad Film Show: Blood Red Moon

Dir: Scott Patrick
Star: Sarah Lavrisa, Matthew Rogers, Mark Courneyea, Shelley-Jean Harrison.

“If you love Twilight, you’ll love Blood Red Moon.” There’s the pull-quote on the DVD sleeve from the apparently untraceable “Gates of Gore,” which is exactly the kind of line you couldn’t buy. Now, I can’t speak conclusively for those whose love Twilight,  but I suspect they would probably react to BRM by forming a mob with torches and storming Canada, for this carefully-calculated insult to everything they hold dear – like fundamentalist Muslims shown a sock-puppet re-enactment of the life of Mohammed. Those of us who didn’t really like Twilight much, on the other hand, will find this a no-budget, micro-talent rip-off, which is less homage or satire than shameless rip-off. It’s so painfully close Stephenie Meyer should sue – except even if awarded the entire production cost and revenue, it would likely not even cover the cost of the phone-call to her lawyer.

It starts off with a farmer drinking on his porch, when something attacks his cattle – though the way it’s edited, and with the lack of any actual cattle save a cheesy sound-effect, for one glorious moment, I hoped we were going to be getting vampire cows. No such luck. Instead, it’s on to new girl in school Megan (Lavrisa) – or Meagan, the film can’t seem to make up its mind on the tiny detail of the lead character’s frickin’ name – who has gone from Toronto to Inbredhicksville, population 23, where everyone hates her for her daring fashion sense, e.g. wearing black.

But there is brooding recluse Victor (Rogers), whom no-one can get a handle on, but has a habit of being able to appear and disappear at will. Which might be more impressive, if said disappearances clearly consist of nothing more than him simply walking out of the frame. He goes through the whole “It’s not you, it’s me,” thing, before revealing his true nature to Megan, and offering to climb a tree with her. She demurs, citing her fear of heights, although the poverty-row production values are far more important in that decision. And, really, what is it with the trees? I know it’s shot in Canada, but there is more pointless footage of forest than I’ve ever seen. Felt like I was watching Monty Python: “How to recognize different trees from quite a long way away. Number 1. The larch. The larch.”

As for Edward Victor, imagine the young Adam Sandler circa The Waterboy, trying to pass himself off as coolly eternal. To say it doesn’t work, would be a grave dis-service to non-working things, not least because he possesses the dress sense of Stevie Wonder in a fire-bombed thrift store. Mind you, he’s not alone there: the film takes place over quite some time, but just about everyone – most notably Megan’s mother – wears exactly the same clothes for the entire movie. I guess this film could only have been made in Canada, where roll-on deodorant is cheap.

And, ye gods, the continuity. Witness, in particular, Megan’s bag as she meanders through the forest with Jacob. Or not. For one second it’s across her shoulder; the next, it’s nowhere to be seen. It’s astonishing that no-one appears to have noticed this, at any point in proceedings. Cheapness doesn’t necessarily have to mean slapdash film-making; indeed, you should be taking greater care over the little things, when those are all you have. As someone else noted [I’ve lost the link], this feels less like a movie, than a piece of course-work, with the aim merely being to get a passing grade.

It all builds to a devastating fist-fight between Victor and the local sheriff, who turns out to be the one responsible for the local killings. Meanwhile, the teacher who gave Megan detention turns out to be the one responsible for making Victor a vampire. Because, of course, if I had eternal life and superpowers, I too would choose to be a high-school teacher in a small Canadian town. It is ended by the deus ex machina of the farmer showing up, blasting Victor with a shotgun, and then vanishing without further role or explanation. Oops. I’ve spoiled it for you. No, the film did that by itself: here are some of the other cringeworthy aspects of this shot-on-video stinker.

  • The establishing shot of Megan’s house, which appears to be used for every scene in it.
  • The detention sequence, where absolutely nothing happens. Seriously. Nothing.
  • Dreadful day-for-night shooting.
  • The incredibly-slow credit crawl, including two credits for each cast member, obviously done to boost the running time of the actual movie from a mercifully-brief 61 minutes.

It’s the kind of movie I was tempted to do as a drinking game, e.g. take a chug every time you notice something stolen from Twilight, or when you spot a continuity error. That way, however, lies alcohol poisoning, and a [now missing from the Internet] interview with writer Kevin J. Lindenmuth shows where the problem at the core of the film lies:

Why don’t you think Twilight works?
Twilight works very, very well if you’ve never seen a vampire movie before, which is probably true of its core audience–teenagers. What, they’ve probably seen a handful of vampire movies? So, for me, the movie was kind of boring and stereotypical. They had the good vampire/bad vampire, the good vampire who only drinks animal blood, the turning into a vampire via a type of venom… yawn.
What is Blood Red Moon about?
It’s exactly what Twilight is about.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner folks. The problems of Twilight, freely acknowledged by the writer,  are faithfully reproduced in Blood Red Moon – only, exacerbated a hundred times by the lack of production values. If he had had the guts to go in the different directions occasionally hinted at e.g. how vampirism is an STD, there might have been some hope. Instead, Lindenmuth claims the difference is “sarcasm,” but it’s almost impossible to find any trace of this. There may have been irony in the intent, but there is more to irony than the shameless repeating of someone else’s bad work.


Incredibly Bad Film Show: The Creeping Terror

Dir: “A.J. Nelson” (Vic Savage)
Star: Vic Savage, Shannon O’Neil, William Thourlby, John Caresio

“Anyone who experienced that catastrophe and survived, would never go there again…”

The above line is one of the many lines of narration spoken during The Creeping Terror, but is just as appropriate a summary for the entire movie itself. While there can never be a unanimous choice for the worst film ever made, going forward I will refuse to take seriously the views of anyone who does not at least acknowledge the credentials of this as a worthy contender. I’ve seen films with bad sound, poor special effects, amateur performance or any other number of flaws. But this tale of alien invasion is so inadequate in so many areas, it’s difficult to conceive how it could ever have seem adequate.

Almost from the get-go, you get a sense of how bad things are going to be. The shot of the alien spacecraft descending to Earth is, very obviously, stock footage of one a V-1 rocket taking off, played backwards. Yes: really. That the makers thought no-0ne would notice, or that the craft seen on the ground bears no resemblance at all to the the stock footage, sets the bar of expectations appropriately. The next thing to kick in is the narration, and its use may mark a new low-water mark. Even at best, it’s a dodgy technique, usually a replacement when the director’s skills aren’t up to the task of showing the necessary emotion or conveying the plot points in a less-clunky manner. Here, it seems a technical necessity caused by insurmountable audio issues: two characters will be having an animated conversation, but rather than hear them, the narrator describes what’s being said. It feels like the narrator is reading an early script treatment.

Let me provide a couple of samples to show you what I mean:

  • “Martin was outraged by the government’s intellectual approach to a monster that had already killed and caused the disappearance of his two close friends. Caldwell tended to agree with him, but stated that he had to follow his orders.”
  • “The Sergeant, a shaken man, returned babbling about what had happened. Realizing the full danger of the situation, Caldwell decided he had only one means left to stop the monster: grenades. Now Bradford made a drastic move. Acting on his superior authority, he forbade Caldwell to destroy the creature. The Colonel, more concerned with saving human lives than advancing science, told Bradford to “Go to Hell.””
YouTube video

However, what elevates this, more than any other aspect, lifting it from the realms of “Somewhat Sucky” into the pantheon of all-time greats, is the monster. I’d heard tales of this cinematic abomination, but nothing could prepare me for the amazing sight. At first, it was largely hidden behind some trees, but it seemed as if the makers finally realized the pointlessness of trying to conceal the thing, and opted instead to give the audience plenty of opportunity to play “Let’s laugh at the monster.” The general consensus is that it resembles a pile of carpet remnants, and who am I to argue with that? It appears to consist of a man under a blanket, pulling a large quilt behind him.

It’s reported that there were actually two different monsters used – if you look closely, you can tell the difference. The reason for this has also been explained: “According to actor/makeup artist Byrd Holland (who played the sheriff), Lackey was banned from the set by Nelson after a dispute over the ownership of the monster “suit”, whereupon the monster suddenly went missing. Lackey supposedly informed the crew that the monster was “in hiding” and would not reappear until he got paid. Apparently Lackey never got paid and Nelson decided instead to rebuild the monster on his own.” Hard to tell whether this was a boon or a bane: neither is exactly going to give Rick Baker sleepless nights.

There are two factors which render it particularly non-terrifying. While that half of the title is singularly inappropriate, there can be no doubt that it certainly lives up to the ‘creeping’ part. It moves at the pace of a reluctant sloth on downers, and the only way it can consume anyone, is because they stand still and let it. It is not necessary to run away. It not even necessary to walk away. You could amble, and still comfortably out-pace  the alien. The other issue is that the creature’s mouth – at roughly the level of the man in the front’s knees – is basically a hole. Due to this, the only way for a victim to be swallowed is if they obligingly climb into the mouth, then more or less pull themselves down its throat.


I am also somewhat confused by the sounds it makes, which appear to resemble stock audio from a big-game hunt, though I am impressed that it can make them even while swallowing its prey. However, the creature’s finest moment probably comes later in the film, when it attacks a group of cars parked in the local Lover’s Lane. While absorbing its victims, at one point it climbs into a convertible (shown, right), and for a glorious moment, we imagined the alien driving off in the automobile, the wind blowing in its…er, shag-pile.

This is, however, only slightly more entertaining than the preceding sequence where it attacks a local dance-hall, apparently managing to avoid the cover charge (probably claiming it was “on the list”).  The same people who were frantically fruggin’ their hearts out on the dance-floor, now find themselves incapable of any motion at all, and the creature eats its fill. A particular highlight is the guy who gallantly pushes his date towards the monster, though I also enjoyed the town drunk – one of the few people with an excuse for not being able to move out of the way. There is reportedly also a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ in this scene, with an escapee throwing a woman out of the way and accidentally tearing off her top. I can’t say I am curious enough in 60’s b&w boobies to investigate further.

There are any number of other aspects worthy of derision, but I’ll just mention these in passing. The way the alien craft contains very clearly terrestrial dials with Earthly numbers (below). The shot of the hyper-secure crash site, where you can see a kid playing in the background, oblivious to the camera.  The tactics of the army [or, at least, the single-digit number of soldiers we get here] against the monster: even though attacking across open ground, they bunch up into an area no larger than an elevator, so that it can gobble them up as well.  Gratuitous, and apparently serious, use of the word “hootenanny,” followed by offensive use of a guitar, the likes of which would not be seen again until Animal House. The way the hero and heroine invite the hero’s best friend over, simply it seems in order to make out in front of him. The fat guy who bears an odd resemblance to Harry Knowles, and is tripped up by some pesky river-bed gravel.


The weird thing is, there is actually the potential for a half-decent movie here. The creature is very different from most aliens of the time, and its purpose here – absorb humans to find out their weaknesses, so it can transmit them back to its home planet as data for a future invasion – is inventive too. It’s the kind of movie begging for a remake, perhaps with a nod to how the original was actually government disinformation, designed to cover up a real incident by creating a target of ridicule. However, I am fairly sure I came up with better ways to use a concept like this when I was writing stories aged seven or so. You can see why the MST3K crowd pounced on it, but it’s one of those cases where there’s not really much more they need add: the film’s insane stupidity doesn’t need much in the way of commentary. Not that, of course, this stopped us adding our own.

But as a bad movie, it’s an awful lot of fun, fully deserving its reputation in the field. After a spell where I’d been grinding my way through dull films, it was a refreshing delight to come across something like this, possessing in spades the loopy charm which attracted me to the field of incredibly bad cinema to begin with.

[February 2010]