About Really Awful Movies

Horror movie authors and journalists who also review exploitation, action, grindhouse, kung fu, sci fi and other genre films. We are hosts of the Really Awful Movies Podcast, a celebration of low budget cinema - smart genre film chat, predominantly horror movies.


[Check out our Cujo podcast too!]

At the time, Stephen King was obsessed with the Patty Heart kidnapping and wanted to write a book about it. The man who orchestrated it went by the name, Cujo

Suddnely, another villain was born in the mind of Mr. King, this time, one on four legs.

Killer animals were all the rage in the 50s, and usually involved a radioactive deus ex machina (think, Them! with its out-sized killer ants) but also, the products of secret lab experiments like Tarantula.

But then, Cold War fears subsided and environmental activism came to the fore (for example, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970). As such, evil corporations began to feature more prominently, giving us films like Piranha, Night of the Lepus, Kingdom of the Spiders and lab experiments gone terribly wrong. Call it a critique of scientism if you so choose.

Cujo is a bit different, as it’s simply plain ol’ rabies that sets the ball in motion.

And instead of some greatly oversized radioactive creature, or a fecund species reproducing and taking over, forcing humans to cede territory to them, Cujo is all about a simple St Bernard menacing a family (and an ironic choice of pet too, as the breed is renowned for mountain rescues and gentle disposition).

So, how does this furry flick stand up to others of its species like say, Dogs?

Director Lewis Teague, who also gave us the hilarious John Sayles-penned Alligator, invests a lot in the family at the centre of the drama. As a result, we dive deep into infidelity and marital issues plaguing the Trenton family. Mom, Donna (scream queen Dee Wallace, of The Howling and The Hills Have Eyes) is cheating on her hubby with of all people, his best friend. The housewife becomes the family’s de facto protector when the dog busts loose.

There’s some wonderful foreshadowing in the form of…shadows…as the couple’s youngster, Tad (Danny Pintauro of Who’s the Boss?) is afraid of the dark and his closet. It’s a wonderful touch that’s pure King.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Zombie Nightmare

Voodoo doo-doo. Zombie Nightmare is a train derailment from start to finish.

A tale of un-dead retribution, this one could’ve been far more impactful if its protagonist  were black, as originally intended. Instead, the production changed, moved up north, and a piece of Canuxploitation birthed.

And what a change.

In the lead, Jon Mikl Thor, a bodybuilder who could bend steel bars with his teeth (sadly, a talent not on display here) best known for fronting metal sword-and-sandal cheesemongers, Thor (check out their Spinal Tap-like sound on Lightning Strikes Again).

He’s a happy-go-lucky jock slugger (Tony), who in true horror form, gets a prologue that shows a pivotal moment growing up. In this case, he witnesses the knifing death of his father coming to the rescue of a rape victim in a city park.

All grown up (mostly) the muscle-bound home run hitter comes to the aid of a burgled shop-keep with a truly terrible Chef Boyardee Eye-talian accent. Young Tony, like pops, meets his maker as a Good Samaritan: a bunch of what passed for toughs in the 80s, drive over him and flee.

Instead of taking the body to the hospital or calling the cops, the shop-keep drives the deceased straight to Tony’s mom’s…lawn….And at this point, mom contacts a Haitian Voodoo priestess to bring Tony back from the dead, so he can exact revenge.

The rest of Zombie Nightmare is Thor’s unimpressive physical specimen replacement (at least when dressed in workout sweats), hunting down the suburban trash who made him roadkill. Where’d Thor go? Who knows? But like Plan 9, he was “Bela Legosi’d” with a stand-in.

The police, which includes Adam West as a Squinty McGee captain constantly chewing on a stoagie, are completely baffled as the bodies pile up. The MO of the killer is vertebrae snapping, so they surmise that the suspect needs to be a big, strong guy (several references are made to Tony’s massive stature, though he looks like he’s likely just north of 6′ in height. Thor’s doppelganger, smaller still).

Also of note, one of the teen thugs is Tia Carrere that “total babe Cassandra” from Wayne’s World.

Extremely odd, too brightly lit, and with ensemble acting about as bad you can get (even for such a maligned genre), Zombie Nightmare is a curiosity that justifiably made its way onto IMDb’s Bottom 100 List.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of Zombie Nightmare!]