Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FACES OF SCHLOCK (Boobs and Blood Edition)

On September 21, 2010, with the DVD release of "Faces of Schlock", Gonzoriffic will have completed its circle around the world of no-budget film. Around 2000, this site (originally on Yahoo! Geocities) began publishing features about such movies as "Caress of the Vampire" and "Erotic Witch Project", and quickly became one of the biggest supporters of Alternative Cinema. What readers didn't know was that Gonzoriffic was not on some special list to receive free DVDs from the company in exchange for all the positive reviews, we actually bought them in stores like all the other fans. Difference was, we wanted to share our enthusiasm and thoughts with the rest of the world.
Sometime around 2003, we decided to take a crack at making our own films. Largely influenced by the Seduction Cinema release "Mistress Frankenstein", we produced "Buttonhead", our first adventure with film making in the digital age. Falling head first into the close-knit microcinema universe, we found ourselves sharing a booth at the 2004 Twisted Nightmare Weekend convention, and returned home with a suitcase full of movies made by all the contacts we made at the show. One guy, a teenage whiz kid auteur by the name of Henrique Couto, wouldn't leave us alone after we published a story about his films. He sought to partner up with us on a project that would incorporate short films by a few of his friends, and while it wasn't the first time anyone approached us about distributing our stuff, Henrique was the most genuine and had an impressive DVD release catalog to back it up. We gave him "Buttonhead" on good faith, and "Faces of Schlock" was born. Our experience was a great one, so we signed on for the follow up volume, providing our film festival workhorse, "Psycho Vixens", as well as the script for Henrique's contribution, "Songs in the Key of Satan".
Reviews were good, sales were good, and by the end of 2005, we were already planning another collection. As a gift to Henrique for all his hard work, a script for a holiday-themed slasher film was tailor made for him to direct as his segment of the third "Schlock" release. "Slay Ride" was the first time we'd written a movie for someone else to make ("Songs" was originally intended as a Gonzoriffic production), and was very much a "kitchen sink" effort featuring modern b-movie staples like lesbians, chainsaws, gore and excessive nudity, while still maintaining our sense of responsibility toward unusual roles for women in cinema. On our end, we produced a re-tooling of one of our very first experiments, "Cannibal Sisters", and made efforts to secure higher production value so the new compilation would have a more uniform look (our previous segments were shot with dirt cheap equipment). The project went on hiatus for the better part of two years while the "schlock" gang, including Gonzoriffic, all went to work on our own respective feature-length films, but reconvened at just the right time in early 2008. By then, we had decided to release "Cannibal" on our own and instead provided a brand-new short for the new disc, "Blood Witch". We felt it represented our best work to date, and might help us catch the eye of a professional distributor.
The circle began to close when actor Ruby LaRocca accepted the lead role in "Slay Ride". A staple in many of Alternative Cinema's films, and recipient of much praise from reviews on Gonzoriffic over the years, it was huge thrill for us to know that Ruby would be reciting dialog in a film we wrote. The next thing we knew, the movie was done, and we were sitting at a convention booth next to her, signing posters and DVDs. We all had our fingers crossed that Alternative Cinema would like the movie enough to want to release it, and sure enough, they did. In ten years' time, we went from fans buying their films in stores and writing about them on the internet to actually getting to make one. There's a lot to be proud of. The movie is great and contains everything the packaging and the trailer promise, plus more that just might surprise you. Today's landscape is flooded with people making their own low-budget backyard zombie fests, but the herd thins out in a significant way by the time you get to the final stages of production. To see this kind of project through to completion is no easy task, and as you have read, takes a long time. We stand by the DVD and our contributions to it, and hope that the people who pick it up feel like they got what they came for. In my years as a reviewer, I was always critical of movies that tried to pass themselves off as something they weren't, using deceptive cover art and marketing tactics as an underhanded grab for the exploitation / cult film / b-movie audience's hard-earned dollar. I can honestly stand behind this one and say it is the kind of movie I love to watch.

Available on Amazon here:

Check out the trailer and see for yourself. Not work safe, but you should expect no less!

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eating Cheese on Hollywood

The following short piece was found in my drafts folder. It was commissioned by filmmaker Amy Lynn Best for publication (either in Femme Fatales magazine or on Pretty-Scary.net or perhaps something else I'm forgetting) years ago. I have no idea if it ever made it out into the world, or if this is even the finished version. I just thought it would be a neat look back on my transition from movie reviewer to movie maker.

by Andrew Shearer

There's a Buddhist proverb that states: "Do not speak- unless it improves on silence."

When I started using the internet on a regular basis, the first thing I sought was information on the weird, obscure, bizarre kinds of films I'd grown to cherish as a movie fan over the years. You know, the kind of stuff you'd see on late-night cable television, or the videos that line the "used" bins and go for $2. The kind of thing people of my dad's generation could go see at a drive-in theater, or some low-rent grindhouse downtown. B-movies. The opposite of Hollywood.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find very much at all about my beloved no-budget gems. Searches for GEEK MAGGOT BINGO, FIVE LOOSE WOMEN and FRANKENHOOKER came up disappointingly empty. So I decided to improve on the silence. I started my own movie review website.

Because I really detest critics, and find no particular joy in picking someone's art into tiny pieces, my reviews served more to shed light on movies that I deemed worthy of attention. I thought of myself as a reporter on exciting events, kinda like when you see something unique or wild and you can't wait to run and tell your buddies, "Hey! You're not gonna believe this! Check it out!"

When I began to get e-mails from the people who were making these movies was when I realized just how much weight my words could carry. People actually thanked me for laughing at the jokes in BIKINI HOE DOWN (which, by the way, plays like THE DUKES OF HAZZARD and SCOOBY-DOO put together, only with lots of naked girls). I couldn't believe filmmakers would care that much about something a nobody in cyberspace said about their work. Then, my initial feelings of imortance lead to panic as I realized that anything negative I might have said about a movie could possibly have also been read by someone who put their hard work into making it!

I quickly began reading through all my reviews, and sure enough, here and there I found some not-so-positive things I'd said about a couple films. Granted, my observations were nowhere near the kind of childish bile that's commonly passed off as a "movie review" on the internet these days, but it did cause me to put myself in check: Was I still improving on the silence?

The next question I asked myself was, could I do better? If not, what gave me the right to say anything bad about a movie? And if so, why wasn't I making movies of my own? After all, I had seen many films that made me think, "You know, maybe I could do this too." So I wrote a script, borrowed a camcorder, got my friends together, and off I went.

So here I am, one year after my decision to venture into the wonderful world of independent filmmaking. I continue to write reviews, and continue to make films. What did I learn?

As a reviewer, if I expect anyone to listen to what I have to say and take my words seriously, I have got to conduct myself in a professional manner. While the big shots in Hollywood could care less about what people on the internet say about their work, independent filmmakers have built a strong community online that has helped connect them directly with fans and with others struggling as they are. To tear down their art is not only pointless, but ultimately working against the whole ethic of doing one's own thing outside the system.

That's not to say every indie film I see is fantastic. I've been bored by several, found many to be uninspired rip-offs, and I swear if I see one more flick that has lesbian vampires, I just might vomit. But if there's one thing I've noticed about the negative movie reviews that pop up online, they all seem to have the same point: Don't waste your time/money on this film.

My thinking on that is, if I've already wasted 90 minutes of my life watching a movie that was no more than someone's attempt to cash in on naked strippers covered in blood, why waste MORE time by writing about it online? I don't know about you, but I pay a high monthly fee for my internet service, and I would rather spend that time reading about the history of PEZ. Put simply, I don't bother reviewing a movie I don't like. I only make an exception if I know the parties in question can do better, or if I feel the advertising completely misleads the viewer (ex: covers featuring actors that aren't in the movie, older films re-titled to appear new).

Constructive criticism is one thing, but an outright attack is another. Some people's attitude is, the filmmakers put themselves out there for display. They are fair game, they should be able to take it. I don't believe in that. It's hard to make a movie, and while we like to know what we can do to improve our work just as much as we like to know what we did well, telling a filmmaker he/she has no talent is completely wrong. Saying an actor is ugly is even worse. Imagine how you'd feel if such things were said about you.

March 24, 2004

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seduction Cinema's Lesbian Vampire Lovers Collection

This collection is a nostalgia trip that symbolizes the end of an era. Not so long ago, stores like Borders actually stocked all kinds of DVDs, and chains like Best Buy included "adult" fare in their "Special Interest" section (I can remember seeing "Topless Tapioca Wrestling" right next to documentaries about WWII). There was this little window between late-night cable TV and Netflix that lasted from 1998 to 2008 where people were buying DVDs like crazy, and stuff like this was readily available. It was during this time that Seduction Cinema kicked a lot of ass and released tons of movies, a cross between Skinemax and exploitation classics that yielded some true cult film gems, some of which can be found on this latest collection.

"Vampire's Seduction" (1998) stars Tina Krause as Dracoola, and is actually quite funny. This was one of the first Seduction releases I ever saw (Back then they were called Brain Escape Pictures, and also released Frank Terranova's "Caress of the Vampire"), and it's still one of their best. "My Vampire Lover" (2002) features several of the Seduction Cinema stable of actors including Paige Richards, Katie Jordan, Misty Mundae, Ruby LaRocca and Darian Caine but lacks a solid comic lead like the other films on this disc. "Vampire Vixens" (2003), the remake of/sequel to "Vampire's Seduction", has a high skin factor (some of the scenes really push the "softcore" envelope) but seems like a thrown-together afterthought. What you do get is a mega-cast of not only returning principals from the original, but also most of Seduction Cinema's repertory players from that time. "Sexy Adventures of Van Helsing" (2004) rounds out the set, and is easily the best film in terms of production value, acting and comedy. It remains one of my favorite SC flicks, and features great performances by Erika Smith and AJ Khan. And I'm happy to say I'm the proud owner of the "Lesbian Party" prop sign from the film (also shown on the DVD menu screens)!

DVD extras from the original releases were preserved for the most part. Each film (except "Van Helsing") is accompanied by a blooper reel or a behind-the-scenes featurette, but it doesn't render the originals obsolete by any means. While the included booklet contains a great, trivia-filled interview with studio boss (and all-around awesome guy) Mike Raso, it cannot take the place of the commentary track for "Vampire's Seduction" that was part of the "Van Helsing" standalone DVD package. Fans of Seduction Cinema should NOT be without track, as it is a treasure trove of information that chronicles the entire history of the company. But the fact that so many extras were included with this new collection shows SC knows the movies are special, and people who see them are going to want more.

Release date is set for July 27, 2010 from www.alternativecinema.com

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sorry, the GeoCities web site you were trying to reach is no longer available.

The internet sure is a different place than it was when I started the first Gonzoriffic review site back in 1998. Come to mention it, so was the landscape of low-budget film making. Back then, there was no YouTube. Computers were slower, and not everyone could make a website, let alone a movie. For a time, I was one of the only places on the web writing about these films, and in just a few short years, I had an archive of hundreds of movie reviews. It may not have been the nicest-looking site around, but it was mine, and there were many films and film makers within those pages that you couldn't read about anywhere else.

When I began making my own movies, it was around the time when things were in flux. Blogs were popping up all over the place. We started hearing about "viral videos". Next thing I knew, I looked back and there really was no need for a site like mine anymore. Still, whenever I saw a great little film I thought deserved some cyber ink, I hit the keys. Though I maxed out the allowable space at the archive, I carried on with this blog and wrote whenever I felt the urge. Was it pointless? I don't think so. My recent review of Steve Balderson's "Stuck!" not only was picked up by a major genre site by request, but it got me personally invited to the film's premiere.

Back in October, when Yahoo announced that its long-standing GeoCities sites would all go away, I dedicated myself to transferring all the reviews I could over to Netflix. It was a sad couple of evenings for many reasons, not just the fact that I was going to lose the pages I'd worked so tirelessly on for so many years. What bothered me most was that Netflix only allowed a certain number of words for each review, and there were MANY reviews on my site for films that never received any sort of professional distribution. The hand-made VHS tapes and DVDs that came from the directors and producers themselves directly to me. Seeing those go was hard to take.

It is my hope that the Gonzoriffic archive will one day be accessible via the "Way Back Machine" at http://www.archive.org/ in some form or another (the 1999 website for one of my old bands is there), even without the artwork that accompanied all the reviews. It would be a shame for films like Zeb Haradon's "Elevator Movie" not to show up in a Google search.

Until that time, this blog and Gonzoriffic's Netflix reviews are the best of what's left. I wish I could've published a book or something. Perhaps one day, someone will write the definitive volume about this stuff, and maybe they'll interview me for it :-)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

SPLATTER CINEMA: The Toxic Avenger

Don't you hate it when you show up to a party and someone's wearing the same outfit as you?

(Left to right) Blake, Toxie and I @ the Plaza for a screening of "The Toxic Avenger".


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. A new women in prison film (WIP for short) starring Karen Black, Mink Stole and one of the Go-Go's was shot less than two hours away from me and I didn't even know about it! I consider it a lost opportunity. I'm currently developing a nice, dark bruise on my left leg from kicking myself repeatedly with my right.

STUCK!, written and directed by Steve Balderson (PEP SQUAD, FIRECRACKER), is a gorgeous, black-and-white noir character piece that feels less like an homage and more like a newly discovered classic in the babes-behind-bars genre. Whereas Barak Epstein's PRISON A GO-GO opted to go the route of parody (owing more to Troma than to, say, the late Cirio H. Santiago), Balderson's film adheres closely to the things that make a great WIP flick, taking a serious and reverent approach resulting in a solid movie that truly delivers a punch. If you're looking for frequent shower scenes and cat fights, you won't find them here. Think pre-Laura Gemser and-pre Linda Blair and you're on the right track.

Starina Johnson plays Daisy, a lily-white, virginal young woman accused of murdering her invalid mother. Thanks to the eye witness testimony of a nosy neighbor lady (Karen Black), Daisy is wrongly convicted and sentenced to die by hanging. Once she gets locked down, we're introduced to the small group of prisoners who constitute the rest of the principal cast, and the requisite sadistic guard nicknamed Amazon (Stacy Cunningham). It's at this point the film really becomes a stage play, the intimate setting and proximity of the players serving to inhibit the growth of Daisy's character. Through her interactions with the other women and a polarizing experience at the gallows, it becomes evident that Daisy's life truly begins when she's facing death as a short-timer.

The main focus here is on the performances, and each leading lady has more than enough to chew on thanks to some well-developed writing. Balderson, together with writers Frank Krainz and Jon Niccum, add modern edge to the retro proceedings by throwing in occasional bits of dialog that include terms like "crack snacker", "tampon socket" and "finger blaster", but things never become self aware or tongue in cheek. It's played so straight, at times I forgot I was watching a new movie. Karen Black is left to do her trademark weird, internalized melodrama while Mink Stole rattles off faux speeches on morality, uttering lines like, "It isn't right for a Christian to pay taxes" that would fit nicely into a classic John Waters picture. Susan Traylor's monologue about murdering all of her husbands is a show-stopper, and the sex-through-bars sequence between Johnson and Pleasant Gehman (in my favorite performance of the entire film) is hot enough to make Doris Wishman proud.

Given the category of film it fits into, STUCK! contains several moments that hit hard, making it actually better than most of the movies that inspired it. Balderson's choice of a small cast and keeping the action contained to a minimal setting not only works to maintain the atmosphere of being locked in a jail cell, but it necessitates a great deal of creativity from a film making point of view. The fact that the movie works so well falls squarely on the shoulders of the actors, but competent camera work and editing (and some truly impressive lighting) aid in solidifying the feel of a true cult gem. Watching it is not unlike seeing SPIDER BABY, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! or THE SADIST for the first time. You go in expecting a cheesy fun time, but it doesn't take long before you're completely gripped by what you're seeing.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Combining elements of "Dead Alive", "The Thing", "Story Of Ricky", "Evil Dead" and centering on good ol' vagina dentata, "Killer Pussy" delivers on a level that cheap horror films rarely get close to. Busty, scantily-clad (or no-clad) ladies pass the pussy parasite from one to the other, elaving not only the mutilated genitalia of hapless males in their wake, but also chewing off one of the guys' faces! Featuring several gooey fight scenes where clothing gets ripped off and gratuitous no-budget gore to match the exposed flesh pound for pound, this was one kept me entertained from start to finish. The version I saw had no subtitles, but they weren't necessary, because awesome is universal. This was made a good two or three years before "Teeth", and is in my opinion far superior.

NOTE: I have since purchased the film, and there are two DVD versions available for sale right now. The "Killer Pussy" version has no English subtitles, that's why it's cheaper. The "Sexual Parasite" version is a couple bucks more, but has the subs and features reversible cover art so you can still display that awesome title.



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