Instruments of Evil

instruments_of_evilA shape-shifting Norse god deploys musical demons to plague prairie earthlings. Oh no, no that again.

In Instruments of Evil, the curse of the Dark Viking haunts the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, where this micro-budget was lovingly filmed (sans government support, but with corporate boosting via the likes of Benjamin Moore Paints and a brewery whose name escapes us).

This is anthology territory, and it’s pretty ingenious how things are braided together in this very, er, economical production.

In Hip Hop Zombies, an 80s recording session involving D.J. Daddy Long Leg’s monotonously catchy “Rise Up,” is interrupted by some strange sounds. Now, studio recording session mishaps are nothing new. There’s the very real “Roxanne” session where singer Sting accidentally sat on a keyboard, and the likely apocryphal tale of an unintended alarm clock going off just before Paul sings “woke up, got out bed” in The Beatles’ A Day in the Life.

Here, some voodoo chanting next door is getting under the skin of the guys behind the boards, not to mention the studio owner (should really have a sound-proof booth, but these are dark spells are impervious to physical barriers).  The curse eventually makes its way onto a vinyl press and is purchased by a skinny hipster and his girlfriend in present day (as an ironic joke).

Also kicking it in Saskatoon, MC Sikk, G Whizz, and Ice Trey (one of whom does a pretty excellent Snoop Dogg patter with his raps). They like to party with nose candy, about which Rodney Dangerfield said, “I don’t do coke, I just like the way it smells.” However, turns out it ain’t Peruvian Marching Powder they’re snorting but rat poison. And the musical trio doesn’t live to see an encore…

instruments_evilMeanwhile, back at the ranch…hipster + girlfriend are enjoying an afternoon picnic accompanied by an ironic playing of…you guessed it…”Rise Up.” And this revivifies the three dead rappers Fulci-style, emerging from their newly-dug graves.

In Gratuitous Violins, a Scream/Jigsaw killer kidnaps a boyfriend and girlfriend, chaining them together in a boiler room basement.

However, he buggers up his mode of execution, and his advanced killing apparatus fails to withstand basic gravity (it’s some kind of jerry-rigged table saw that collapses in a crash).

The killer soon becomes the butt of jokes as his would-be victims mock his inability to off them while engaging in banter about, of all things, how many burpees a human being is physically capable of performing (1000 is deemed beyond the pale, some 100 or so beyond what the authors of this site can handle, with one arm).

In the final (and perhaps weakest) segment Heavy Metal Devil, a Spinal Tappish opening act, Flame Demons (whose name is rendered on posters omitting the critical “F”), makes a, well, Faustian bargain to usurp cheesy headliners Hard & Faust.

Ultimately, where Instruments of Evil comes to life is through its connective threading. There’s never a dull moment (as promised), but there could’ve been some tightening / better execution of the jokes, especially when it comes to a certain murder weapon we’d mention if not for search engines…

It definitely captures the Troma-style DIY spirit. And low budget aficionados will enjoy the Manos: The Hands of Fate reference too.

*** (out of 5)


ChilleramaA doddering projectionist declares “nobody cares for magic anymore” in Chillerama, this paean to the movie drive-in, a phenomenon which debuted in 1933 for 25 cents a car in Camden New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia.

It’s a film meant to conjure up the magic of the experience, which to horror fans meant the 70s, chronicled with reverence and brio by our pal Scott Drebit in his column over at Daily Dead, “Drive-In Dust Offs.”

For those of us who revere horror cinema, it’s more about the era than the experience, as truth be told, that’s always been lousy — the headlights on the screen, the horns, the interminable wait to get out, the long walks to pee…

Chillerama is a horror anthology that’s both based on and a celebration of the happenings at a drive-in movie theater. The drive-in audience and staff provide the connective tissue/wraparound, divided into four disparate featurettes -some more magical than others – with occasionally inspired bits of grotesquerie.

In ‘Wadzilla,’ “spermapramine” is given to a nebbish with an extremely low sperm count. But that’s misleading. Turns out he’s got a large one indeed, and that’s giving him groin pain.

It’s expelled on a hot date and grows to very large proportions and obscene results ensue. There’s an inspired bit of lunacy involving the Statue of Liberty in this 50s monster movie throwback with a twist (a “twisted nut-sack,” says the nebbish’s buddy to explain his friend being doubled over in pain). It’s audacious and pretty unforgettable.

ChilleramaBut Chillerama may have climaxed there.

‘I Was a Teenage Wearbear’ mixes homoerotic wrestling with leather bears and butt bites, all in musical form. There’s a greaser (accompanied by his two, finger-snapping henchmen) attempting to woo a wrestler who has ambiguous sexuality. The music’s very Eddie Fuller and Eddie Cochrane.

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein features the Fuhrer killing the Frank family and cobbling together a creature out of spare parts, which then exacts its revenge. As an attempt to lighten the subject matter, Hitler speaks gibberish while the rest of the cast speaks German, but The Great Dictator this isn’t. The monster (famed Jason actor Kane Hodder) wears a tallit prayer shawl, and the less said about this segment overall, the better. Horrendous.

Chillerama_2Finally, the drive-in audience that’s subjected to all this transforms into mindless zombies (a la the Lamberto Bava cult-classic, Demons) because of goo that’s mistakenly added to popcorn.

This transitions into Deathication, which comes with a caveat, inspired by William Castle, that those with a weak constitution might not be able to handle all the flying shit.

And it delivers on its promise.

The highs aren’t high enough to commend Chillerama.

**1/2 (out of 5)