Friday, October 11, 2013

Worth Mentioning - OH, I'm So Scared

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody takes a look at some of his home state's horror happenings.

OZONE (1995)

Over the course of the seven month period of August 1991 through March 1992, Akron, Ohio-based filmmaker J.R. Bookwalter and his cohorts at his production company Tempe churned out six work-for-hire features for a total of $15,000. Following the personal disappointment that came out of being involved with some of those movies (which Bookwalter jokingly refers to as "the six pack, because you need a six pack of beer to get through them" and which I wrote about in the early days of this blog), Bookwalter was out to prove himself with his next feature, Ozone.

Ozone began as a screenplay written by David A. Wagner, and when Bookwalter read it he was reinvigorated and inspired. Agreeing to co-produce the movie with Wagner, each of them putting in $1500, Bookwalter set out to bring the script to life as a make or break challenge for himself. How Ozone turned out would decide whether or not he would continue pursuing a filmmaking career.

Ozone was shot on Super VHS-C, in fact on the same tapes used for despised-by-their-makers six pack entries Chickboxer and Humanoids from Atlantis, recording over top of them and wiping their masters from existence in a move that wasn't the best idea for picture quality but did give Bookwalter some mental relief.

Former Cleveland Browns football player James Black, who had roles in four of the six pack movies, stars as Detective Eddie Boone, whose life turns into a nightmare when an arrest goes awry and a seemingly unkillable drug dealer injects him with a new drug called Ozone, which has just recently hit the streets and is becoming very popular in Boone's jurisdiction.

As it turns out, Ozone is a hell of drug, one that causes some users to melt down into goo, their skin bubbling and popping, some to become horribly disfigured zombies, and others to congregate together on a mission to replace the human race with Ozone mutants.

Suspended from his job, blamed for the death of his partner, his body going through some very weird changes, plagued by strange dreams and hallucinations - or are they real occurrences? - Boone has to take it upon himself to descend into the city's underworld and track Ozone back to its source, the drug lord behind it all. Along the way, he encounters all sorts of odd people, mutants, and zombies, has to fend off syringe-armed attackers and fellows with saw blade mohawks and nails pounded into their heads, competes for a cage fighting championship, and meets a woman who loves the taste of the slime seeping from his arm.

I've used the words weird, strange, and odd to describe things that go on in the story, and those words are very fitting to describe Ozone overall. Intriguing, twisty and twisted in a way reminiscent of Jacob's Ladder, Ozone is the type of mindfuck movie where you're never quite sure what's real and what isn't... and most of the dark and grotesque stuff you witness, you're hoping isn't real. Quite impressive for the budget and the format it was shot on, it's a great example of indie horror.

Bookwalter put himself to the test with this one. The result? His personal favorite of the movies he has made.

The Bookwalter filmography is well worth checking out and I'm very inspired by and proud of the fact that Tempe was out there making such cool ultra low budget indie movies in my state back in the day.


When they were in middle school, a bunch of young girls in Ray Falls, Ohio got together to form a babysitters club. The club did well for a while, taking care of the town's children earned the girls plenty of extra cash for chips and candy, but it all came crashing down one Halloween night. Two of the girls, Bianca and April, went trick-or-treating together, and while they were out April was abducted by a man wearing coveralls and a blank, white mask. She was never seen again.

The babysitters club was shattered. Friendships ended, some of the other girls blamed Bianca for April's disappearance, since she was the reason April was out that night.

Seven years later, April has officially been declaired deceased. Her friends have mostly stayed in contact with each other, although only Angela remains friends with Bianca, who is still plagued by nightmares of April's kidnapper.

Halloween has come around again, and to ease the grief she still feels over the loss of her friend, Angela has decided to get her group of school friends back together for an old times sake slumber party... Unfortunately for them, April's masked attacker is also back to stalk the former babysitters club and pick the girls off one-by-one.

The idea to make Babysitter Massacre came out of Dayton, Ohio-based writer/director Henrique Couto's fandom for The Slumber Party Massacre and Sorority House Massacre 2, the latter of which even gets referenced in a line of dialogue. He wanted to add his own entry to the line of Massacre movies, and he did a fantastic job paying homage to SHM2 - there's a whole lot of nudity, the girls at the slumber party end up hanging out in lingerie - perfectly capturing the spirit of that Jim Wynorski classic, but at the same time surrounding those exploitation elements with much better characters, who deliver some really good dialogue.

The movie and set-up are very reminiscent of '80s/early '90s slashers, but the killer has a painful modern twist to his M.O. He does kill several of his victims in a straightforward manner, but some of the girls he likes to take to a dark room somewhere, tie them to a chair and and torture them a little... Fingernails are torn off, gums are sliced into, boiling water is dumping over one girl's head... This guy likes to draw things out more than your average slasher.

Shot on a short schedule with a low budget, Babysitter Massacre is a great looking, very well made movie that should definitely be seen by fans of the movies and era that Couto was inspired by.


The tradition of Cleveland area horror hosts having Ghoulish names goes back to Shock Theater host Ghoulardi (a.k.a. Ernie Anderson, father of Paul Thomas Anderson), who made an indelible impression on his viewers. Ghoulardi hosted the show for just under four years, from January 1963 to December 1966, and yet it was still not rare to hear older generations make references to him during my childhood in the '80s-'90s. Hosts who followed in Ghoulardi's footsteps included The Ghoul and The Cool Ghoul, and in 1986, drawing inspiration from his Ghoul forebears, a man named Keven Scarpino became The Son of Ghoul. Twenty-seven years later, the Son of Ghoul is still going strong. He appears in person at every Cinema Wasteland convention, hosting screenings of Three Stooges shorts every Saturday morning and selling DVD copies of episodes of his show, among other things.

I picked up a copy of SOG's version of the 1958 sci-fi/horror film It! The Terror from Beyond Space, a movie which tells the same basic story as Alien twenty-one years before Alien - the crew of a space ship getting picked off one-by-one by a monstrous stowaway that gets around through the ship's air ducts.

As is usually the case with horror host shows, movies are intercut with the host performing comedic sketches on The Son of Ghoul Show, and in this particular episode sketches dealt with SOG having trouble getting to the studio for the show and then having further troubles on the set. SOG also had a visit from his friend Jungle Bob, who showed off a California King Snake, and there was a musical interlude with SOG's dimwitted pal Zippy lip syncing to The Hombres' "Let It All Hang Out".

To keep the comedy going, the movies themselves are also manipulated on The Son of Ghoul Show, with goofy sound effects added in during certain moments, as well as incongruous music and silly sound clips. For example, every exterior shot of the space ship in It! The Terror from Beyond Space was dubbed over with the sound of a horn-honking old jalopy.

Whether the movies shown be bad, good (as It! is), or great (there is, of course, a Night of the Living Dead episode of SOG), The Son of Ghoul presents them all in entertaining fashion.


The Cleveland tradition continues on with a new generation of Ghoul with this show, which just recently clawed its way out of the ground.

Actress Janet Jay (who plays an ill-fated character in the movie mentioned below, Easter Casket) takes on the hosting duties as the titular Daughter of the Ghoul, mummified silent film star Janet Decay. She's aided by an announcer called Melonhead, who's right out of This Island Earth; the knowledgable Sheerluck Holmes, who gets his own segment to give further information on the movie being shown and its makers/stars; moving man Nick Pricconi; and author Gary Moon and the show's creator/director Danny K also show up onscreen occasionally to conduct interviews.

The movies shown on The Daughter of the Ghoul Show are intercut with comedy skits performed by the Cuyahoga Comedy Group, interviews and talent showcases with local entertainers, and shorts by local filmmakers.

When the show featured a sci-fi horror movie called Venus, which was made by another group of Ohio filmmakers, the movie was left untouched, but when showing the older B-movies they, much like Son of Ghoul, continue on with the comedy throughout the flicks by adding in goofy sound effects, incongruous music, and silly sound clips.

TDOTGS is just getting started and appears to still be figuring out just what it is, but from the four episodes I've watched, it is a fun show and is definitely reminiscent of its Cleveland peers and predecessors, bringing to mind The Son of Ghoul Show as well as the Cleveland-based comedic movie host show I grew up watching, Big Chuck and Lil' John.


"Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the LORD, and I saw women sitting there, mourning the god Tammuz." - Ezekiel 8:14

Disappointed by the lack of Easter-themed horror movies that had the Easter Bunny himself as the killer, Toledo, Ohio-based writer/director Dustin Mills (The Puppet Monster Massacre, Zombie A-Hole, Night of the Tentacles, Bath Salt Zombies) took it upon himself to make a movie that would give the bunny his due. To find his reasoning for the Easter Bunny's evil, Mills went back to Biblical references and the twisted origins of the pagan traditions that are still part of Easter celebrations today, having been co-opted by Christianity. In these tales, he found a way to present the Easter Bunny as the Antichrist that actually makes sense.

Mills's story deals with a movement within the Catholic church to abolish all trace of pagan traditions still tied to the Easter holiday. There will be no more Easter Bunny, no more chocolate eggs, none of that sort of stuff. The day will be entirely about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

To stop this from happening, a follower of the god Tammuz, the deity behind the pagan celebration of spring, summons him to Earth, where he takes the form of his avatar, the Easter Bunny, Peter Cottontail. Immediately, the evil bunny sets out to kill everyone involved with the threat to his traditions, taking them out with weapons including Easter egg bombs, projectile carrots, and jelly beans that, when ingested, cause a person to lay eggs that hatch out nasty little flesh-eating chicks.

As Tammuz wipes out comedically corrupt clergy members and moves forward with a plan that could see him eventually gain enough power to battle God for the fate of the world, only one man stands in his way... But the man challenging Tammuz is no ordinary person. He is Father Asher, an armor-wearing, sword-wielding, Holy Hand Grenade-toting member of the Myth Pigs, a special force of soldiers that work for the Vatican. Asher answers not to the Pope, but to the Mega Pope, a supernatural, talking floating head that gives him his missions. When Asher first reports to the Mega Pope in the movie, he has to travel twelve hours to the Mega Pope's hidden mountaintop church hideaway, but later in the movie the Mega Pope appears to Asher directly in the field, seemingly able to manifest anywhere. He made Asher travel twelve hours for no reason! Mega Pope is apparently a dick.

The badass demon slayer Father Asher is played by Josh Eal, who previously played a badass zombie killer in Zombie A-Hole and a badass DEA agent in Bath Salt Zombies. In both of those earlier movies, Eal's character was introduced massacring bad guys, and he keeps the streak going here - within moments of Father Asher's first appearance onscreen, he's shooting and slashing his way through a high-rise building filled with demons.

Aided only by a Catholic schoolgirl (Erin R. Ryan of Babysitter Massacre and Bath Salt Zombies) who shakes his commitment to his priestly vows, Asher has to fight his way through legions of homicidal chicks and bunnies, trying to reach Cottontail and stop him before things get too out of hand... And they do get very out of hand... Kaiju sort of out of hand.

Easter Casket is one of Mills's best, another astounding achievement for him considering the budget level and a highly entertaining movie that is a really fun and funny ride. I know from first hand experience that it's a huge crowd-pleaser - last weekend I attended a screening of the movie at the Cinema Wasteland convention and it went over extremely well with the audience, who laughed a lot and loudly at all the right places. It was a great success, Mills has called it the best screening of his life. Even though I had nothing to do with the movie, I was happy to see the audience receive it so positively and enthusiastically. Like the past works of J.R. Bookwalter are inspiring to me and make me proud that they were made in Ohio, I'm equally proud of and inspired by the current works of Dustin Mills. He is a very impressive indie filmmaker who deserves to be getting a hell of a lot more press.

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