Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: Scream Machine: Unrated

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

Scream Machine: Unrated
Directed by Walter Ruether III
Deadly Indie Entertainment / World Wide Multi-Media (WWMM)
71 minutes, 2015
Link to purchase on Amazon HERE

Anthology films are sort of like what people say about the weather: Don’t like one story?  Another one will be on soon. Here, you have a serving of five tales to, in the words of the press machine, “make you faint, puke and quite possibly soil your pants.” Now there, my friends, is a slogan from sloganland. Or is that Tromaville?

Lloyd Kaufman
After a hysterical intro by the Troma-tic Lloyd Kaufman, we are introduced to the wraparound story of the earth after 95 percent of its population has been wiped out by an Ebola plague (nice sarcastic albeit dated note). Dr. Fry (Scarlet Fry) in a flimsily made bird mask and a bad Central European accent gives us the lowdown and introduces us to a verbally nasty and literal talking head named…wait for it…Mr. Headly (Executive Producer Paul Hemmes). Fry fires up the projector and introduces them.

First up is “Sledgehammer.” No, nothing to do with Peter Gabriel, this one is about baseball. Perfect timing as the Mets and Cubs head into the World Series. Why this matters, I don’t know, as I’m not a sports fan. But I digress…

Murderous Mr. Met?
The southpaw trying out for a team is known for his 150 mph fastball, referred as the…well, you get it. Prodded into it with not so nice results, he gets signed anyway. In this story the attacker is no surprise, but it doesn’t matter. The acting is wooden, the story is short, and the gore effects are pretty enjoyable (though the blood is a bit too thick and dark, but what the heck). There is a sharp ring of comedy that runs beneath the surface that adds to the fun.

In Anytown, USA, in 1993 (as the title card announces), we are introduced to “Cannibal Pen Pals: The Dahmer Obsession.” A gay man who is married to a fiery black woman (to please his family…obviously they don’t live in Ferguson) has been having a pen pal romance with imprisoned Jeffrey you-know-who, and wants to go to him and have a conjugal visit. Of course, Dahmer wasn’t allowed  visitors due to the horrific nature of his crimes, including having sex with dead corpses, both whole and, as Dr. Herbert West said in Re-Animator (1985), parts. Of course, our nutzoid pal wants to know what it was like so he can join Dahmer in spirit. But one thing we’ve learned from the first story and it looks to be a trend, there is going to be an O. Henry/Twilight Zone twist. This story is somewhat questionable about a number of social  situations (go ahead, call me PC), but it’s definitely more cohesive a story than the first, and equally as off-the-wall.

If you’re into this kinda stuff, I’m going to guess you’ve seen those horror prank videos where some shmuck in a clown outfit chases some stranger in a parking garage with a sledgehammer or chainsaw. I’m waiting to hear about one of those assholes getting their shit kicked. Anyway, the next story, “April Fool’s Party,”  is a similar idea with a twist. A group of four meth heads decide to scare the tweaking dealer of theirs in an elaborate The Purge­-like – you guessed it – April Fool’s joke (my friends know better than to try any AF shit on me, but I digress…). Of course, things don’t go as planned.

You can tell that this bunch of dickheads have no sense of proportion by the bad teeth and red around the eyes (classic meth signs). But what drove me the craziest about this story is that it could have been so much more, and the ending is a bit anticlimactic.  When it ended I had the double thought of “Is that it?” and “did I miss something?” Perhaps being a story about drugs and me being mainly strait-edge means I missed the point of the story, the same way I don’t get Cheech and Chong.

“Septic Shock” tells the shit for brains story of a double cross ending with a man locked into a not-so-empty septic tank by his wife and her lover. Of all the stories, this one is the most artistically done, and we get to see – and somewhat feel – his fear, and revolt at his circumstance. Not sure about the turtle eating celery, perhaps that’s a bit too symbolic and metaphoric for me. Still I was impressed at the direction it went. That being said, it went on a bit too long, but that’s just something subjective, so what the hell do I know!

That's HEADLY,
as in on a Headly of Lettuce
The final, and most coherent story, is “The Deadly Indie Drive-In,” which is actually quite a simple tale, which makes it work so well. A woman on a date at a drive-in theater forgets her medication, and soon starts hallucinating that the person on the screen and the voice coming out of the speaker are talking to her, and telling her to… I’m sure you can figure it out. This was a lot of fun, even if you see the punchline coming.

For me, what makes this so much extra enjoyable is that the woman, Kim Wagner-Hemmes, is the real-life wife of the man with whom she’s on a date, Paul Hemmes, and the person whispering sweet murder in her ear from the screen is Scarlet Fry, the director. This incestuous working bunch seem like they are really having delight doing this, and when it comes right down to it, ain't that the point of the whole excursion in the long run?  

One of the things that I find really special about this film is that there is absolutely nothing supernatural going on, but rather it’s everyone being all too human, especially in the foibles department. Make that deranged, actually, or as the publicity states, “Each [story] featuring the three M's of Horror: Madness, Murder and Mayhem.”

What also makes this work all the more better (as they say colloquially in my neck of Brooklyn), is that just about all the cast is everyday looking people, not model types. Some are chubby and balding and others unconventional to Hollywood standards and expectations; you know, not people you would necessary see in an ad selling Rolexes. I appreciate that. No nudity, but the gore is plentiful and quite decent looking, in an indie micro-budget kind of way.

There’s no way around it, this comes off as a VHS-style cheapie with visions of grandeur and reality based in Quiki-Mart productions. In other words, if you like your horror old-school ‘80s, you might get a kick out of this in a nostalgic, Throwback Thursday kind of way; or you may just be lucky enough to have a low enough sensibility of denial of reality to see beyond the film itself to what they are trying to reminisce: enjoyment.


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