Monday, December 7, 2015


Yesterday, I wrote about five of the nine movies I saw in November. Today, before I get to the remaining four films, I want to discuss the movie I watched last night.

The Internet Movie Database categorizes Stung [2015] as comedy and horror, but I think folks have been getting a bit loose with that designation. Just because a horror movie might have a few laughs, that doesn’t make it a comedy. Here’s the IMDb summary:

A fancy garden party turns into upper class prey when a colony of killer wasps mutates into seven foot tall predators.

While some of the mutant bugs might be seven feet tall and one is considerably larger, most are not that big. The largest one changes its size depending on what the script requires. Such is the way of the CGI monster.

Stung is the first full-length movie for director Benni Diez whose previous directing gigs have been shorts. It’s also a first credit for writer Adam Aresty. They did well.

Though there are lots of cast members/victims at the garden party, there are only four main characters. For Julia [Jessica Cook], who has just started a party business, this event is her potential big break. Bartender Paul [Matt O'Leary] works for her and has a thing for her. She has a thing for him as well, but does her best to hide it. Sydney [Clifton Collins Jr.] is a creepy little man under the thumb of his rich mother and whose mommy issues play a role in the film. Lance Henriksen delivers his typical brilliant performance as the mayor of this small town. If I were making a monster movie, I would cast him in a millisecond.

The mutant bugs make their presence known early on in the movie and bloody mayhem ensues. In a remarkably short time, we’re down to the four main characters. That’s when the movie really gets scary and suspenseful as, trapped in a wine cellar, the four try to escape. The chills don’t stop until the movie ends.

Diez and Aresty (who came up with the idea for this movie working as a caterer at a wasp-infested party) did a lot with a reportedly meager budget. Most of the reviews I’ve seen read like damning with faint praise, comparing it to other low-budget creature features. A pox on those reviewers. This is a solid thriller that deserves my respect and yours. Watch it as soon as you can.


Wikipedia describes Avenged [2013] as a “Redsploitation film” and, though that never really struck me as a thing before this, I do see where it might fit. Such movies (Billy Jack, for one) are generally about Native Americans seeking revenge on their white tormentors. The tormentors in this movie are well deserving of getting a giant load of vengeance dumped on their racist heads. Here’s the summary from IMDb:

A deaf girl is brutalized by a murderous gang who are then hunted by her when the bloodthirsty spirit of an Apache warrior inhabits her lifeless body.

Directed and written by Michael S. Ojeda with additional dialogue by Deon van Rooyen, Avenged is a brutal film that starts horrifying  viewers early on. Zoe [played by Amanda Adrienne Smith] is a real sweetheart, determined not to let her deafness take away her love of life or independence. The love between her and boyfriend Trey [Rodney Rowland] is genuine. When cruel fate puts Zoe in the path of a family of stone killers, I was horrified by their assaults on her. If it’s possible to hate movie characters, I hated these men and wanted them to come to the worst possible ends. I’ll stop there to avoid having to post any spoiler warnings.

Avenged is a hard movie to watch, but impossible to forget. This is no comment on its quality - I think it’s a very good movie - but I don’t think I could watch it again. However, if you have the stomach for films like this, I would recommend you watch it. Once.


Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings [1994] is a direct-to-video sequel to the first Pumpkinhead movie, but its relationship to that movie is not a strong one. It does have the same title monster seeking vengeance on humans who did wrong. It has a blind old witch who doesn’t seem to be the same blind old witch from the original. It has what looks to me like a newer Pumpkinhead costume but one without the gritty charm of the original. Here’s the IMDb summary:

Thrill-seeking teenagers resurrect a demon from his grave and a bloody rampage for revenge begins.

This Pumpkinhead is powered by the spirit of a deformed orphan boy who was murdered by teenage bullies now grown into adults. The old witch had cared for the boy while he was alive. When she is caught in a fire accidentally set by the thrill-seeking teens, Pumpkinhead goes after both those teens and the men who killed the orphan whose spirit controls the creature.

Pumpkinhead II was directed by Jeff Burr, who hails from my state of Ohio. He has many horror movies to his name. It was written by Constantine Chachornia and Ivan Chachornia with additional dialogue and material by Andrew Osborne and an uncredited Will Huston. Too many writers...

Acclaim did not fall on this movie. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 14%  on its tomatometer. I think the film is better than that low score suggests. There are decent performances from several cast members. There’s a decent back story involving the orphan boy and the town’s new sheriff, whose troubled but basically innocent daughter is one of those thrill-seeking teenagers whose actions launch the horror and murder. Okay, it also has Roger Clinton (brother of Bill) in a silly role that shows how much the younger Clinton was not a good actor, but he’s not on screen long.

This is the kind of movie you watch when you have 88 minutes or so to kill. I liked Andrew Robinson and Ami Dolenz as the sheriff and his daughter. Steve Kanaly was appropriately heinous as a crooked judge. Gloria Hendry as the town doctor and Linnea Quigley as the town women-of-ill-repute were fun. It’s far from a classic, but it is entertainingly watchable. Give it a shot.


I finally got to see Sleepaway Camp [1983] in its entirety. I had seen heavily-edited bits and pieces of it on TV, but wanted to see it in its original version. Having now done that, I have very mixed feelings about the film. Here’s the IMDb summary:

Angela Baker, a traumatized and very shy young girl, is sent to summer camp with her cousin. Shortly after her arrival, anyone with sinister or less than honorable intentions gets their comeuppance.

Sleepaway Camp was directed and written by Robert Hiltzik. He has a very brief resume consisting almost solely of directing, writing and producing Sleepaway Camp and its sequels.

Sleepaway Camp is sort of a touchstone summer camp horror film with the usual horny and cruel camp counselors, a sketchy camp owner, a pedophile, coworkers who sort of chuckle about the pedophile, lots of gruesome murders, and, of course, the shy Angela [played by Felissa Rose]. It also has an off-the-wall performance by Desiree Gould as Angela’s aunt and adoptive mother. My eyes went wide and the movie seemed to freeze whenever Gould was on screen. It’s as if she were a human pause button.

The various deaths, not all of them the work of “the” killer, are not particularly gory. There are some shocking incidents of mental and physical child abuse. The shocking final scene, which I won’t reveal on the off-chance you might not know it, is abrupt, clumsy and poorly lit. The movie runs but 84 minutes, but it seems padded to me. I think it’s one of those films horror movie fans almost have to see, but it’s really only so-so.

Amazingly, I saw some bits and pieces of the sequels while channel-surfing past Chiller TV. As a result, I have requested those films from my local library. They look more fun than the original. Maybe not better, but more fun.


My final November movie was 10.0 Earthquake [2014]. Here’s the IMDb summary:

Los Angeles is about to be hit by a devastating earthquake and time is running out to save the city from imminent danger.

You’ve never heard that one before, right?

Directed by David Gidali, the movie has pretty much all the usual disaster movie tropes. There’s the scientist and estranged husband who comes together with his wife and daughter to get them all out alive. There’s the greedy energy-baron who ignores safe concerns in his quest for wealth and power. There’s the spunky young scientist whose first day on the job is one hell of a lot more of a disaster than most first days on the job. There’s the crazed scientist who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t embrace. Convincing special effects? Not so much.

Written by Alex Greenfield and Nancy Leopardi with J. Greg Abbott providing additional dialogue, 10.0 Earthquake does have a pretty good cast - led by Henry Ian Cusick and Jeffrey Jones - that makes it a not entirely unpleasant way to spend an hour-and-a-half. It’s not a movie you should go out of your way to watch - leave that to trained professional psychos like me - but, if it falls into your lap or shows up on TV, and if you don’t have anything better to do at the moment, give it a whirl.

That’s all for today, my friends. Hug your loved ones and keep them close. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

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