Guilty Pleasure Horror Movies: “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1977)

Tomatoes! Once nutricious friend to mankinds salads and french fries now threatens mankind! They rise from their gardens, their grocery stores, their fridges and window sills and launch an all-out war against mankind for using them as substance for centuries! Will humankind be able to make a stand against the tasty, acidic villains, or will life as we know it be reduced to so much rich, Italian paste?!

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. John De Bello’s silly sendup of 50’s sci-fi horror films remains a true one-of-a-kind. A shoestring low budget, amature cast, cheap special effects (safe for a real helicopter crash caught on camera by accident), corny puns, Jaws spoofs, silly dialogue, Matt Cameron’s squeaky singing voice, a man in a chicken suit, an erratic plot, 70’s San Diego, a ridiculous love story, and one uproarously funny theme song – what’s not to love in this bizarre little comedy? Certainly not for all tastes as anyone looking for seriousness should avoid this one. But, for the movie goer who can embrace a taste for absurd, if not outright stupid, humor – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes truly champions!

–Alex Dillard

Guilty Pleasure Horror Movies: “Night of the Lepus” (1972)

In rural New Mexico a plague of rabbits threatens the local farmers. Enter well-meaning scientists who, through a mistake of freak science that can only occur in B horror films (right?), accidently make giant, killer rabbits. Now with a super-sized problem on their hands said giant killer bunnies roam the countryside eating the locals. Thanks SCIENCE!!

In the world of nature-strikes-back horror we’ve seen almost everything. Killer sharks, birds, snakes, rats, spiders, gators, worms, orcas, piranhas, dogs, bears, and various kinds of fish-monsters and giant lizards. It truly makes one wonder if rabbits were thrown in as a joke but suddenly taken seriously, well, as seriously as it could be taken. But yes, Night of the Lepus is a horror film about killer rabbits and their flesh wounds run deeper than anything Monty Python ever dreamed of. It’s based upon the Australian novel “The Year of the Angry Rabbit” – yes, truth is stranger than fiction. To say this is a memorable entry in the world of cheesy B-movie delights isn’t enough.

When viewed the film, which boasts a surprisingly good cast of familiar old school actors (the late-great Janet Leigh for one), is actually decently made for a B picture of its era. What makes this film such a riot though is the unintentional hilarity of its subject matter. Watching hordes of obviously normal-sized rabbits bounding across minature countryside, as people scream in horror, it’s a cross between being bizarre and downright hilarious. Even Leigh once said she thought the movie was utterly laughable and only agreed to appear in it for a paycheck and the convienant location. In all of the promotions of the film, the marketers made sure to avoid any use of rabbits as monsters, for obvious reasons. Even to this day, Night of the Lepus still makes the lists of so-bad-it’s-good cinema.

Anyway, I enjoy it and proudly count it as one of my favorite tongue-in-cheekers. But then again, my love of the absurd goes pretty far out there.

–Alex Dillard

Guilty Pleasure Horror Movies: “Death Race 2000” (1975)

‎1975’s “Death Race 2000” heralded in my most celebrated guilty pleasure. The total futuristic gore fest dystopia bloodbath films. There are others that should garner more love but for me “Death Race 2000” left the most scarring and fantastical impression. The film gives us a future of cross country racing like no race before. The hit and run becomes a celebrated pass time to appease the masses and bring down the population totals. Points are accumulated and tallied based on pedestrian qualities such as status in society, innocence, health, and all that range between. Things that make our real society focus on proper road edicate are distorted into a festival of cruel brutality. It makes this vision of an unsettled future bizarre and fascinating all while forcing us to question our sensibilities of what is acceptable in society.

David Carradine’s character is cold and calculative while maintaining his humanity. While most driver’s in the movie go for the easy scoring targets he goes for the higher scoring overlooked targets. This makes his character a more likable representation of a Death Racer. This film kept me captivated as a kid with it’s cruelty and psychotic transformation of what I considered society consisted of. A set of rules and moralities that allowed for a safe and orderly existence. This movie threw all that out the window and there was no real reason for it other than society had become filled with blood thirsty madmen held high by corporate/government power and influence. The film took everything about the world as we knew it and threw it into the fire to listen to the sizzling of a fired carcass. To this day this movie runs through my mind as I slow for a red light while some one crosses the street. Even entering a hospital or shopping center parking lot brings images of altered metallic beasts souped up with claws and knives of steel jutting from every available point rushing through the car park wiping out those who where to slow to make it inside or into their cars.

“Death Race 2000” is a total exploitation of violence and lawlessness that brings the gore. The dialogue is minimal and the kills are gruesome. It is a fun ride into an apocalyptic hell where hero’s are madmen in hot rods of horror. A great film that is easy to watch, filled with death and brutality. There is even a message about being to content with societal standards. For me this was the movie that made me fall in love with futuristic flicks about a near apocalyptic world where anything goes. Truly one of my most indulged guilty pleasures.

–Rickey Russell

Guilty Pleasure Horror Movies: “Teenagers from Outer Space” (1959)

In the bland, dull deserts of Cold War era California, a flying saucer lands and some space teens, complete with plastic ray guns, hop out. Their plan, to harvest mankind as food for their huge protective space monster (the shadow of a lobster) and to reduce any agressors to skeletons with their “ray” guns. Alien teen Derek (don’t ask) instead wants to make friends and take his Earth girlfriend Betty out. It proves to be difficult.

Teenagers from Outer Space is one of the best examples of a movie that’s so-bad-it’s-good. It must surely be on par with Ed Wood’s infamous B movie “Plan 9 from Outer Space” in terms of its campy badness. You have it all here: a classic 50’s era tale of alien invasion, a cast of very gulible white people, a flying saucer that looks like a silo top, banal dialog about evil and goodness, very fake props, an etheral music score, and one of the most laughable monsters ever to appear on the Z-grade big screen. It’ absurd, it’s cheap, it’s very 50’s, but it’s terrifically entertaining for B-movie fans. Despite it’s long list of cheesy flaws and laughable quality, I find myself enjoying it for its ineptness. In fact, recently my death-doom-black-Viking-experimental-funk-folk-grindcore-metal band, Sinnabon, adapoted the giant, flying lobster monster as its mascot. Surely, this will be the biggest claim to fame that Teenagers from Outer Space has ever had!

–Alex Dillard

Guilty Pleasure Horror Movies: “Black Christmas” (2006)

My choice for guilty pleasure week is brainless gore-fest remake Black Christmas.

The film tells the story of a group of sorority sisters; Kelli (Katie Cassidy), Melissa (Michelle Trachtenberg), Lauren (Crystal Lowe), Heather (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dana (Lacey Chabert), and their house mother Ms. Mac (Andrea Martin), who find themselves being stalked by an escaped psycho killer named Billy. It all begins with them receiving creepy phone calls, but as the sisters begin to notice that their other sisters are going missing, they realize that something is really wrong. When one of the missing girls’ sister (Kristen Cloke) appears to pick her up, she joins the girls in hopes of surviving the night. Merry Christmas Delta Kappa.

Let me start by saying that this remake is extremely bad and in no way comes close to being as good and amazing as the original. However, that doesn’t leave this viewer with a few positive things to say. The remake does try to follow the original, but what really ruins it is giving the killer a backstory, but also throwing an inbred daughter/sister in the mix. To me that’s what really prevented it from being good. The film is bad, but there is a lot of fun to be had here. It has blood/gore, hot girls, laughs, and a high body count. What more could you ask for with a mindless slasher? I will admit that it has some nice acting from its hot cast. Especially from Michelle Trachtenberg, Crystal Lowe, and Lacey Chabert. The film also has a surprisingly great atmosphere. It really sells the fact that it’s taking place on a stormy Christmas night, and it has that creepy empty house feeling with all the creepy noises an old house would make. The set design also throws it all together well. One other thing I felt this was really lacking a chase scene. Melissa does get one, but it is way too short, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

Despite what you may hear about this movie, I still highly recommend it. As long as you turn your brain off and just enjoy the great cast, kills, fun characters, and the atmosphere, you may just hate it much less. The original will always be amazing and a classic, but there is nothing wrong with a bad horror movie that will still provide some fun. Another note, forget everything you’ve seen in the theatrical trailer, because at least half of the footage does not exist in the film. Which is a huge disappointment.

–Cody Landman

Guilty Pleasure Horror Movies: “The Incredible Melting Man” (1977)

Heaven help me, but I’ve loved this goofy, gory B-horror film ever since I first saw it on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1996. It firmly remains a favorite guilty-pleasure for me.

Astronaut Steve West returns to Earth from a disasterous (and unconvincing) space voyage to Saturn. However the radiation from the mishap has had some alarming side effects. Steve is now melting, literally, and becomes a gooey, murderous monster that wreaks havoc on the suburbs. The amazingly wooden Dr. Ted Nelson is mankinds only hope and gives chase!

The Incredible Melting Man is a cheesy delight of B-horror goodness. Recalling the old fashioned sci-fi horror yarns of the 1950’s yet with a rich dash of 70’s grindhouse tackiness, this bloody trip is terrifically entertaining. The cast is suitably bland and over-the-top in their performances, as their vague, sometimes downright weird, characters deal with the issue of being mutilated by a dribbling monster. The movie has several silly offbeat moments – a fat nurse runs through a window, a photographer hits on Cheryl Smith, and a wacky old couple decide to steal lemons (don’t ask). The direction is fairly static, the music score typically 70’s synth noodling, and the retro styles loud. What is perhaps most impressive here are the gruesome makeup effects of a young Rick Baker. Baker’s work is great here, as the film truly hangs it hat upon the slimy monster effects.

Whether you laugh, scream, puke, or just groan at this campy venture, fans of B-horror are sure to chew up this old school ditty.

–Alex Dillard

Guilty Pleasure Giallo: “Cat in the Brain” Review

Released in 1990 Cat in the Brain, which also goes under the title Nightmare Concert came out when Lucio Fulci had clearly seen better days. After the release of The New York Ripper in 1982 Fulci seemed to really lose it and started a major decline in his career. His later movies really lacked and even if they delivered on the gore most of these movies were rather dire and really the only late day Fulci flick I enjoyed was Zombi 3 due to how bad the movie was it ends up being really enjoyable some of the scenes for Zombi 3 were shot by Bruno Mattei, but even the Fulci scenes had a silliness to them, but even though I enjoyed the movie it was sad to see how far down Fulci’s career had gone. If your first introduction to Lucio Fulci came in his post-New York Ripper era I doubt many would have bothered to seek out his previous work and I really can’t say I’d blame them. Also when Cat in the Brain came out not only was Lucio Fulci making some of his weakest movies, but Italian horror in general really seemed to be in a rut and based on what was coming out at the time it really isn’t much of a surprise their film industry was dying.

It’s hard to really explain why I liked Cat in the Brain so much, but this is the only late day Fulci I really liked a lot and while this may not reach the heights of some of his earlier work I’d go as far to say I liked this more than City of the Living Dead & The Beyond. I really can’t defend the movie in terms of why I liked it better than some of his more popular movies or why this is even a good movie. I don’t have any response to debunk any of the negative reviews, but Cat in the Brain really won me over and while Fulci made a couple of more movies after this, Cat in the Brain makes for the perfect swan song and I personally see this as his last movie.

Despite popular belief Lucio Fulci was much more than a gore director with his movies such as Don’t Torture a Duckling and Seven Notes in Black, Fulci was a filmmaker who could tell a story and create scenes with suspense and tension. Even though Zombi 2 started his splatter era it’s also a movie driven by suspense and tension and some really great atmosphere. And while some of these qualities were in his splatter flicks of the 80s they were more of a showcase for over the top, but excellent gore F/X. Cat in the Brain is sort of a combination of both styles. The gore level is very high and most of the footage is taken from other Fulci directed or produced movies. Rather than use gore footage from his more popular titles, Fulci uses gore scenes from such movies as Touch of Death and Andrea Bianchi’s Massacre and Mario Bianchi’s Murder Sect, which Fulci supervised. Some have hailed this as one of the goriest movies ever made and even if most of the gore scenes are taken from other movies I suppose that doesn’t matter, but I don’t think this is one of the goriest flicks ever made, but gore-hounds surly won’t be disappointed.

The screenplay by Lucio Fulci, Giovanni Simonelli & Antonio Tentori was fairly interesting; the plot follows Lucio Fulci (sort of playing himself in a sense) and after years of making horror movies he’s starting to lose his grip on reality and is haunted by violent images and is beginning to have a breakdown on what’s real and what’s fantasy. The script in many ways can often repeat itself as the same scene basically plays out over and over again. Many of Fulci’s 80s work featured plots that were incoherent and while as director Fulci was able to create a nice use of atmosphere, but when there were lulls in the action the messy script and incoherent plots would in my opinion hinder the films whereas his 70s work was very much driven by characters and the story and the films would remain interesting regardless of action. Cat in the Brain is a bit incoherent and while I felt that hurt movies like City of the Living Dead and The Beyond here it really helps the movie since we’re seeing the breakdown of Lucio Fulci and when suffering a breakdown things often lack any logic so that works to the films advantage as Fulci is quite confused on what’s happening and it does add to some character development.

At times the script never really moves forward and like I said we often get the same basic scene played out a few times, but yet it still works and Cat in the Brain is very much driven by Fulci as he’s in almost every scene. The motivation for the killer is never really made clear and while the script at times does lack depth it was nice to see Lucio Fulci attempt a more character/plot driven movie like he did back in the 70s. Cat in the Brain is also sort of a satire of Lucio Fulci’s work and horror in general; it’s an interesting idea to see how years of horror films impacted Fulci and sort of drove him near the brink of madness. Cat in the Brain isn’t a straight up satire, but the satirical elements work very well and while Fulci, Simonelli & Tentori may not write the greatest script they do deliver an excellent movie despite the flaws.

Let’s be honest here Cat in the Brain is a movie by a director who is past his prime and clearly seen better days. As much as I enjoy the films of Lucio Fulci again I really had a dislike for the majority of his post-Ripper movies and I think even the most loyal of Fulci fans would most likely agree. But with Cat in the Brain, Lucio Fulci showed he had one more excellent film left in him. While Cat in the Brain may not have the eerie feel of some of his past movies, Fulci creates a movie that is weird, twisted and sometimes funny. The pacing of Cat in the Brain can be a bit sluggish in some spots as like I said the same scene often repeats itself, but Fulci still manages to keep things interesting with the exception of a few scenes that can drag.

Besides a few lulls in the action, Lucio Fulci is mostly able to deliver a really entertaining movie that while not his last film it does serve as a nice ending to a legendary career even if he did make a couple of more films after this. Cat in the Brain may not have anything really special going for it, but yet Fulci still is mostly able to deliver an excellent flick flaws and all. Based on the past few films he made I’m surprised Cat in the Brain turned out as well as it did and again this may not be the best Fulci flick, but its highly entertaining.

Cat in the Brain is sort of a highlight reel of gore F/X as I stated most of the gore is recycled from prior Fulci directed or produced movies. Cat in the Brain is really gory with body parts chopped off, slit throats, decapitations and even if most of the footage are from other movies it still works well and is enjoyable even if you’ve seen the movies the gore scenes are taken from.

Overall I greatly enjoyed Cat in the Brain, but I really can’t defend the movie as much as I’d like to since I very much understand the negative reviews, but regardless I really liked the movie and as long as you aren’t expecting Lucio Fulci to deliver what he did in his prime I think you’ll be pleased, but this movie is really only meant for fans of Lucio Fulci and this film is best watched after you’ve seen a majority of his flicks. Lucio Fulci actually claimed Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was a rip-off of this movie and while they have a few things in common I don’t think New Nightmare ripped this movie off at all. Also Brett Halsey plays a pretty big part in the movie, but yet all his footage was taken from previous Fulci flicks and he actually doesn’t appear in the actual production.

-Dave Kaye (Last Road Reviews)

To order from Amazon: Cat in the Brain