Sunday, October 13, 2019

Mil gritos tiene la noche (Pieces)

I remember seeing the VHS jacket for Pieces in our local Video Visions movie rental store back in the 80's. I knew my parents would never let me watch a movie like this when I was young, but I've always been curious about this movie for some reason. Thanks to TubiTV, I was finally able to watch this movie in all it's 80's, grainy (and bloody) glory.

What I didn't know before watching this movie that it was a Spanish film, pretending to be American. The movie is set in Boston, MA and was partially filmed there, but the producer (Juan Simon) was Spanish himself and most of the movies he's known for were filmed in his native country.

The movie opens in 1942 and you see a little boy sitting on the floor of his room, singing a line from Humpty Dumpty while working on a jigsaw puzzle. When the camera pans up over his shoulder you can see the puzzle is a painting of a nude women. The boy's young mother stands at the door of his room, watching. When she enters and sees the puzzle, she instantly goes beserk, hitting her son. She starts tearing apart his room looking for more "filth", while threatening to kill him if she ever finds this sort of items again. She commands the boy to go get a trash bag so she can clean up this mess, only he returns with an axe and brutally kills his mother. A concerned neighbor goes and gets the police after no one answers the door bell and while that is happening, the young boy begins to cut up his mother with a hand saw. Yup, this movie is "exactly what you think it is".

The movie fast forwards to 40 years later (1982), to the campus of a New England college. A young female, studying out on a lawn somewhere on campus is attached by a masked man wielding a chainsaw, decapitating the girl. When the police show up to investigate, the find the body...but the head is missing. Hmm...

The police detective, Lt. Bracken is played by Christopher George. His assistant was Sgt. Holden, played by Spanish actor Frank Brana. I immediately recognized Christopher George, but I couldn't place him in any other movies I had seen. Then later it hit me as he played Peter Bell in Lucio Fulci's cult classic, City of the Living Dead. George's wife, Linda Day, also plays a roll in the movie as the undercover cop, former tennis pro. 

While I like Christopher George as an actor, the rest of the cast wasn't that great. Now knowing that it's a Spanish film makes a little more sense with some of the casting. There are several plot holes and goofs in this movie that it's hard to take it seriously. That and some 80's movies just haven't aged that well. However the special effects and gore, while tame to today's standards, were really good. I can imagine this movie causing quite the stir with audiences and the media when it was original released in 1982. 

Obviously the idea behind the killer wielding a chainsaw as their weapon of choice had to come from Tobe Hooper's classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre, however don't mistake Pieces for just being a knock off as the two films are quite different from one another. Texas Chainsaw wasn't that gory of a movie, cameras cutting to a different view at the last scene so the viewer could imagine in their mind what was happening. Not in Pieces. If you're squeamish in the least bit, then there are a few scenes you'll want to close your eyes to or turn your head.

I'm glad I finally watched this movie because while it was silly and comedic at times (which I believe were unintentional) it was a fun ride. I can see why this movie has a world wide cult following and has become a horror classic. It's gritty, dark, gory and centers around a perverse and corrupted killer (who has style...they wear a fedora!). If you like 80's slasher movies and you've never seen this movie, then do yourself a favor and head over to TubiTV using this link and watch the movie for free.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Screechers Wild!: Whammoth

If you aren't that familiar with Alpha Toys' Screechers Wild!, I wouldn't be surprised. Even though there was a CGI series that aired on YouTube, I believe this line mostly flew under everyone's radar. Or at least mine. I didn't find my first toy until last Christmas while shopping a K-Mart that was going out of business. I later found a few others on clearance at Walmart and the eventually they landed at Ollie's stores.

The concept of Screechers Wild! can best be summed up by saying it's an amalgamation of: Hotwheels, Transformers, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. The animated show does a good job at blending these concepts as it features young kids that use these "toys" in a battle arena type setting. However these Screechers also are found in the wild of sorts as fully autonomous robots. 

The line consists of small plastic cars that feature a spring loaded transformation gimmick. They come with small plastic discs that when "caught", triggers the transformation and flips the vehicle into the air 360 degrees only to land in it's transformed animal mode. 

Pretty much all the toys released across the 3 series were cast in translucent plastic with minor paint apps added here and there. I would have preferred an opaque plastic with more paint apps, but I gathered Alpha Toys was a rather small company so I imagine their budget was limited.

One of my favorites so far of all the ones I've acquired is Whammoth. He hails from series 2 and sports a back hoe construction vehicle. This was a departure for the more common sports car theme prominently used in the first series. As you may be able to see, this mold has some decent design in the treads as well as the body itself. For the most part the animal bits are integrated quite well into the overall design. Of course the name gives away it's alternate form, but just looking at this you might think it's a regular Hot Wheels type toy.

I don't know what scale these would be considered, but they are a tad bit bigger than your traditional die-cast vehicle like Hot Wheels or Matchbox. Whammoth does have free rolling wheels on the underside and the gray bucket piece does move forward and backward just a bit. The paint apps are limited overall, but in vehicle mode the only paint I see is the blue used on the side of the treads and the black for the windows. The rest of the toy contains molded plastic in either dark gray (treads), light gray (animal bits) or the translucent turquoise blue.

At the front of the vehicle you'll see an open space in the treads with a light blue plastic piece. This is essentially the capture point for the included plastic discs. I failed to take a picture of the discs, however when the front of the vehicle comes in contact with the disc it will auto transform.

As you can see in my video, you can simply push the vehicle along a flat, smooth surface towards the disc to trigger the transformation. You can also purchase one of the Screechers Wild! launchers that are sold separately to launch the vehicle I believe there is also a disc launcher that you can use to aim and launch the discs towards the actual vehicles. The one time I saw that for sale at Ollie's I passed on it and I haven't seen another one since. 

I would not recommend holding the vehicle and inserting a disc manually as the spring underneath is under quite a bit of tension and if that plastic piece on the bottom of the vehicle were to snap and hit your finger it will hurt. Think of it as a loaded mouse trap. For this reason along these toys are not meant for children under 6...and even then I would think adult supervision would be necessary.

Once transformed Whammoth looks pretty awesome. I love how he's standing on the tank treads with his head ever so closely arched up. The red paint used for his eyes really pops on the translucent body. Because of the transformation you can move the tusks up, but why would you need to do that? In the animated show the animals like Whammoth here that transform and are standing on the base of the vehicle are not depicted that way, but as free running animals. I guess they could have made some of these detachable from their base, but honestly I like the way it looks in this mode as-is.

I have acquired the majority of my Screechers Wild! collection at Ollie's thus far. Most of the toys there can be had for $3.99 with the larger 3rd series ringing up for $5.99. Every toy line seems to have a gimmick and this one is somewhat original. I know it's not the first toy line to feature a spring loaded transformation, but Alpha Toys did a good job with this line in my opinion.

size comparison from series 1 (left) to series 2 (right)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Hell House LLC 3: Lake of Fire

After watching the first Hell House LLC movie and discovering it was actually part of a trilogy, how could I not watch the two sequels? I found part 2 on YouTube, however part 3 recently debuted in September 2019 as an exclusive to Thankfully I found a promo code on Shudder's Twitter account that gave me a two week trail to the horror movie streaming service. I signed up for the free trial just to watch the third and final (?) installment to the Hell House LLC franchise.

Lake of Fire continues the narrative that was hinted at in the original movie. However like part 2, this movie relies on re-using footage from the first two movies to help advance the story. I've read some reviews where decision was criticized, but it kind of makes sense in a way. This is yet another documentary style movie and it tells you that the footage has been assembled from various sources. If you've watched the first two movies you know there is a lot of filmed footage regarding people entering the Abaddon Hotel, whether it was the Hell House staff, people that broke into the Abbadon Hotel after the events of Hell House, or the Morning Mysteries staff that filmed their own journalistic investigation. So to set the record...the first movie was a journalistic investigation to what happened the night 15 people died at Hell House. The second movie was a journalistic investigation to what happened to the team that investigated the events in the first movie. Finally we have yet another journalistic investigation into what happened to the previous two events. Original, huh?

The premise of this movie really is to wrap up the story and put a bow on it. In the second movie it was eluded but not elaborated that the hotel was purchased by multi-millionaire and owner of Wynn Media Group, Russell Wynn, right before it was scheduled to be demolished. For reasons unknown, Russell decides to move his interactive drama show, Insomnia, out of New York and into the Abaddon Hotel. He invites the new host of Morning Mysteries, Vanessa Sheppard, behind the scenes all-access to Insomnia in the days leading up to opening night. From what I could gather this Insomnia show is a play that moves from room to room in the hotel. It has a Faustian basis...which I admit I had to Google. Basically the theme is good versus evil...which spills over into the movie's story.

Vanessa, being a reporter, has done her homework and is a little anxious about this assignment. You later find out she accepts the job (and stays) because 1) she's only been on the job a few months and 2) she doesn't want to be labeled or viewed in a weak way that sometimes women in the workforce can be. While she knows the history of what has happened at the infamous hotel, Russell claims he wasn't aware of what happened just a short time before he purchased the hotel...or was he?

In typical fashion, the camera catches all sorts of mysterious images and figures. The camera will drop or turn, only to go back to it's original point of view and you see something. Lights go out and come back on and you see something. It's the same tricks used in the previous two movies, just with a different cast. Speaking of the cast, most of the cast are "actors" in the Insomnia show so they lay it on thick. While I wouldn't call the acting outright bad, it wasn't good either. Elizabeth Vermilyea plays Vanessa Sheppard and her character comes across as pretty authentic. Gabriel Chytry's Russell Wynn character is supposed to be shrouded in mystery, but it just doesn't work. Much like the super fake looking scar he sports on his face. There are some scenes in the movie where I couldn't take my eye off the scar because it was so obviously fake.

Acting aside, this movie uses a little more special effects (i.e. CGI) than the previous two movies and it's not great. I assume the budget for each consecutive movie was increased, but I don't know about this one. The interior of the hotel has been changed, altered for this movie. This makes sense since the hotel was abandoned yet again after the events of Hell House. I like some of the changes made to the "set", but again this is more of the same. I've seen this before. Give me something different. Thankfully as the movie and the story progresses, more and more info is given to the viewer. I went into this movie spoiler free, but it didn't take long for me to start piecing everything together to figure out just what was going on. By the time the movie is over, the overall story is wrapped up. There is a conclusion...but for some it wasn't satisfying. I found it to be interesting and can say I honestly didn't see the movie ending this way.

In my opinion producer Stephen Cognelli could have let Hell House LLC be a stand alone film and it would have been fine. However I assume this was always meant to be a trilogy based on the third movie. While the first movie was great and I highly recommend it, the second movie was average. However if you've seen the first or second movie you might as well finish off the trifecta and watch this one. I believe the movie will lose it's Shudder exclusivity in early 2020 so if you don't want to use the free trial like I did to view the movie, give it time and I'm sure you'll be able to view it somewhere else online.

If you do decide to watch this movie, make sure you stick around through the credits as the real ending of the movie is told between said credits.


I don't normally divulge too much about the movie to spoil things, however I have a few issues with this movie.

1) We know the Abaddon Hotel was sold to Russell Wynn in the 2nd movie, but who owned it before this sale? It almost sounds like it was owned by the city and if that was the case, why wasn't it demolished after the first movie?

2) Why are the clowns still in the house in the 3rd movie? If they were essentially gutting the haunted attraction for the Insomnia play, then why are there still so many Hell House props in the house?

3) Why do so many people keep going into the house...and the freakin' basement?!

4) What does the priest send Russell towards the beginning of the movie? Towards the end of the movie he can be seen doing something with the safe in the attic.

5) Similar to Sara Havel in the second movie, are we to believe that Russell isn't really Russell throughout the whole movie?

What I gathered from this movie is that Russell Wynn was "in the picture" before the group of friends transitioned the Abaddon Hotel into Hell House. We know from the previous movies that the original hotel owner, Andrew Tully, was searching for the literal gateway to Hell...which he found in the basement of the Abaddon Hotel. We know that the hotel was essentially using all of the various filmed footage to "invite" more and more people into the hotel so their souls could be claimed. The priest confirms that once the gate is opened, no man can close it...only an angel. We know that at some point Russell "died" in a car wreck is now said angel. This is who we see confront (the devil?) in the basement at the end of the movie.

Russell is successful in closing the gate to Hell and everyone that perished in the house has been restored...but they are trapped in the house. Does this mean they aren't dead? Are they spirits? The movie doesn't really say and this drives me crazy.

Basically the overarching story of this trilogy is good versus evil, or more or less Heaven versus Hell. I know Christianity and horror don't really go hand in hand, but I've seen several movies with a similar premise now and this is one of the better ones...despite some of my criticism.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Hell House LLC 2: The Abaddon Hotel

I enjoyed the first movie so much that when I discovered it was actually a trilogy, I sought out the sequel. Luckily someone recently (at the time of this post) uploaded the entire movie to YouTube. I looks like this movie was exclusive to the movie service, Shudder, so I'm not sure if it'll stay on YouTube or not.

This movie is basically a re-tread of the first Hell House LLC. Some may think that is a good thing, but for me it wasn't. The movie isn't bad, but it's not as good as the first movie. In the original, the producer/writer, Stephen Cognetti, did a good job at leaving bread crumbs for the viewer to figure out what was going on in the movie. He didn't give too much away (well the ending did) which left me and I'm sure others scratching their head at the end of the movie. 

This sequel gives away a little too much for my tastes. While I like that it expands upon the story in regards to the original hotel owner, Andrew Tully, and what happened in the hotel before it became the Halloween haunt, there are other parts that just show too much. Like in the first movie however, you really have to pay attention to catch some of the more subtle details.

When I said this movie is more of the same it's because the premise of this movie is another documentary investigation. This time it's a group of people lead by Jessica Fox after she is mysteriously given information there is proof stored in the hotel of what really happened with Andrew Tully. Jessica recruits Mitchell, the guy who organized the documentary footage from the first movie. His co-worker and friend, Diane was the one seen entering the house after interviewing the sole survivor from the Hell House cast. It turns out Mitchell is just as curious as to what really happened to Diane as Jessica is to find this supposed proof in the house. They decide that they'll work together and enter the house to find the answers they seek. Oh yeah, the proof is stored in refrigerators and of course not in the kitchen but in guessed it, the basement.

With just about every horror movie the viewer puts themselves in the shoes of one of the victims and starts yelling at the screen not to go upstairs, open the door or in this case go down into the basement. Through out the movie you see various clips from social media of young people entering the house to fulfil a bet or a dare, only for them to go missing afterwards. Combine that with all of the footage from the first movie and why on earth would anyone want to go inside that damned house?!

I know the first movie had a relatively low budget and I imagine the sequel had a bigger budget, but there were times where the movie felt cheaper. For the most part, I found the acting to be worse. Vasile Flutur who plays Mitchell did a good job, but Joy Shatz' character, Molly was so annoying. I was rooting for her to die just so I didn't have to hear her annoying voice!

After viewing the movie I found it to be entertaining, but not without it's flaws. If you've seen the first movie you might as well watch this one too. If nothing else it may confirm what you thought happened in the first movie...or it may leave you with more questions than answers. Your mileage may vary. As long as you can view the movie for free, I still give it my recommendation.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Transformers Cyberverse: Sky-Byte & Driller Drive

The Transformers Cyberverse line of toys seemed to start off a little flat in my opinion. The designs of core characters such as Bumblebee took design elements from other iterations of the character, but put a new "kid friendly" spin on things. Initially I dismissed most of the gimmick filled releases and focused more on the Transformers War for Cybertron: Siege series instead.

As later waves of figures begin to hit store shelves, I started to pay the series a little more attention, starting with Shockwave. Suddenly Cyberverse began to at least gain my attention. More and more classic characters were starting to be introduced into the series. While they all had a twist on their look, many of these classic characters were modeled after their Generation 1 (G1) selves that I grew up with.

The most recent wave of Cyberverse toys includes characters from other "universes" such as Cheetor from Beast Wars / Beast Machines appeared, followed by Sky-Byte from the Robots in Disguise universe. When I first saw these images solicated online I didn't know what to think of them. Silly maybe? Out there? Creative? Maybe a little of all of the above? When I finally found the Spark Armor releases at retail I just stared at them. I looked them over and over and before you knew it I was headed to the checkout with several in my hands.

While I never liked the Transmetal 2 Cybershark mold that Sky-Byte's RID toy was based on, I loved the goofy character he was portrayed as in the animation. The more I stared at Sky-Byte in the store the more I became intrigued with this toy. Sky-Byte comes packaged on a blister card and retails for $14.99. Starscream, Prowl and Jetfire are his wave mates.

Hasbro has used so many terms to describe their various size points of Transformer toys that I don't even know what this size toy is called. It's smaller than a standard deluxe scale figure, but a little bigger than the old basic size. For me it's the perfect size of figure to fiddle around with. In fact, he became my desk-bot for several weeks after opening him for this post.

Sky-Byte resembles his Robots in Disguise self pretty good. While not as big or detailed as his original toy, there is no mistake who this character is. This size Spark Armor toys are a little more simplified than some of the other larger releases, but that doesn't mean the toy doesn't pack a punch. The design is simple, but gets the job done. Paint applications are limited, but well applied. Articulation is much better than I anticipated as well. There are hollow parts on the toy, but that is the new norm when it comes to Hasbro.

Transformation into shark mode only takes a handful of steps (10) before you are done. I was able to go between the two forms rather easily without the use of the instructions. In shark mode Sky-Byte resembles a submarine more than a cyber-shark. Actually I love this new look.

One of my pet peeves is when you can see the robot parts or kibble in the alternate mode, especially the robot head. The designers did a good job at concealing most of the robot parts in shark mode. Here on the bottom you can make out the robot's waist and legs, but they are glaringly noticeable. 

Sky-Byte's Spark Armor is Driller Drive. While I've not yet watched any of the Cyberverse animation, I'm going to assume these armor pieces like Driller Drive are not sentient robots and just weapons. My first impression of this piece upon pulling it out of the packaging was it immediately reminded me of Bandai's Machine Robo Mugenbine toys. If you're not familiar with Mugenbine, those were transformable toys that had a core robot that could form a cube and all of the included pieces could be assembled with the core robot to form various animals, vehicles and more.

Sadly the wheels and drill piece on Driller Drive do not move. In fact you can't do much with Driller Drive on it's own other than to use your imagination. However his real purpose is to form a set of battle armor (or Spark armor) for Sky-Byte.

Driller Drive easily separates into a few pieces, mainly the drill piece, each side of the drill vehicle and the center portion. The two side pieces simply attach to the sides of the upper arm, while the center portion folds in half to reveal the battle helmet. This piece fits over top of Sky-Byte to form armor for the chest and back. The drill piece can be wielded using the attached 5mm peg.

While I've only opened one other Spark Armor release, it seems as if the battle helmets all have some sort of theme that matches the main character. In this case the battle helmet has a fish motif...fitting for Sky-Byte. I like the look of the helmet, even though the Sky-Byte's actual face sets back in the helmet and makes it a little hard to see his face.

Here you can see Sky-Byte compared to a Legends class Sharkticon from Titans Return. While the figure is small, it's a fun release. I know the Cyberverse series isn't aimed at me, but this toy has reminded me that it's OK if my Transformer isn't super detailed or super articulated. Toys are meant to be fun and if I was a kid I would be all over this toy as well as others I've seen in the series.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Transformers Beast Wars II - C-13 Big Horn

Looking back I loved Beast Wars. When I was just coming back to Transformers I was able to catch the tail end of Generation 2 toys on clearance at various stores. Shortly there after I was first introduced to Beast Wars on a visit to Toys R Us. I didn't have access to information like I do now so I knew nothing of the series or the toys. Fast forward a bit and Takara released their own series of Beast Wars in Japan simply called Beast Wars II. I was already enamored by the animal choices Hasbro had chosen for release here in the States and one of those was a bison called Bonecrusher. For whatever reason I never bought him and as time went on I started to regret that decision. Thankfully Takara decided to use this mold for their line - with a better color scheme.

BioBig Horn always dashes forward recklessly and hates to turn his back on the enemy, and it sometimes causes him to play into their hands. He also has a gentle side which appreciate the nature. He especially favours red flowers and has painted his body red. He has Buffalo Missile with his tail as the trigger. By having his comrades adjust the trigger timing and pull his tail, he can increase the accuracy because he himself can concentrate on setting his sights on the target. He has a habit of stomping his feet.

Strength:  9  Speed:  9  Rank:  8  Firepower:  8
Intelligence:  6  Endurance:  9  Courage:  7  Skill:  8

Takara opted to go with overall darker colors. The back and silver look fantastic on the bison. The robot bits were changed from cream to red and unfortunately those red parts tend to stand out a bit more.

This picture made the tag line of "robots in disguise" pop into my head. Can you see Big Horn's eyes "peeking"?

Transformation into robot mode is fairly simple and there is a good bit of articulation for a mid 90's figure. The red is a stark contrast to the rest of the figure, but I like it. It gives me the sense of rage which just seems appropriate for him.

Take a look at the robot head. I've got a lot of Transformers and never have I seen another face like this. I love how the bison's hair gives him a brow...kinda like the rocky brow the Fantastic Four's Thing has. The horns protruding from each side of the head and the open mouth makes this a memorable face. 

The mouth is exposed as such as it doubles as his weapon. A lot of the early Beast Wars figures had self concealed weapons. His mouth doubles as a spring loaded rocket launcher.

If there is a downside to this is the fact that it gives him a backpack of sorts. The way the launcher works is you pull on the tail. See how it looks almost like a trigger? Pulling on the tail will elevate the head and launch the missile from this mouth...quite far actually. The figure has good balance so this firing mechanism doesn't hinder the robot's stability too much.

This is a fun figure and I personally like the color changes over the American version. He isn't that hard to find either as he was also packaged in one of those versus sets paired off against Starscream & BB.

I will also mention this figure was released in Japan as a Lucky Draw item. He is supposed to be blue in color, but because of it's rarity finding the toy let alone the actual toy is very hard...assuming it really exists.

Hell House LLC

With October upon us I felt the desire to revisit the horror movie genre and seek out some new films. While my normal go to is either Netflix or Redbox, I recently stumbled upon Tubi TV and their massive library of free movies. I immediately started to browse their horror movies and added several to my que. The first one I fired up was Hell House LLC.

Directed by Stephen Cognetti and released in 2015, this horror "documentary" found footage movie caught my eye as I was browsing the listings. The movie's description reminded me of another well known documentary style movie called The Houses October Built. While I need to revisit that movie, what I remember from it I didn't particularly care for. While there may be similarities between these two movies, Hell House LLC I believe separates itself from the competition with it's story telling.

The movie revolves around a ground of friends that set out to create a haunted attraction inside an old abandoned hotel in upstate New York in 2009. As the team starts to create their venue inside the old Abaddon Hotel, things aren't what they seem as the group of friends become on edge as opening night gets closer and closer. On opening night, 15 people, including most of the crew are killed. But why are the police and the town essentially covering up what really happened?

I know the found footage type movies aren't for everyone, but the directer did a great job at using multiple camera view points to help set the stage and tell the story. In addition to the main story, you have a story happening in current time as well. The story is told via flashbacks of the footage from the group of friends, a leaked YouTube video, interviews with the media and even a 911 call. Most of the movie is done in a way where if you are sensitive to movement you shouldn't get motion sick. Towards the end of the movie however I can't say the same thing.

While I knew this was a movie, there were times while I was viewing it that I could have sworn this was real. The acting was good and the aforementioned uses of various media used to tell the story was great. While I personally don't care to attend haunted attractions, I love the idea of them and I've always wondered what kind of work goes into these type of things. Perhaps this is another reason why I enjoyed this movie because you get to see this group first visit the old hotel and then slowly have their vision come to life.

The setting of the hotel is creepy enough, but you really don't get a lot of history on the hotel itself and why it was closed. Not at first at least. Slowly but surely pieces of the story are revealed, leaving the viewer the opportunity to piece things together. The group stays in the hotel while they work on transitioning it into the haunted attraction and this is where things begin to pick up. While there are some jump scares, most of what makes this movie so spooky what you don't necessarily see. You see the effects of things, but not always what (or who?) is behind them. I know that may sound a little cliche, but the noises and weird things that occur are done in a way that aren't cheesy. Just like you get bits and pieces of the back story and are left putting what is happen together, the same thing can be said with what is happening.

Alfred Hitchcock did a great job at cutting the camera away as tragedy would strike, knowing what the viewer could and would imagine what was happening was more frightening than what he could actually show. While special effects have come a long way since then, I can't help but to agree with that mindset. The director must have had that on his mind at times as you never really see who is behind the murders.

Apparently there is an extended cut of this movie as well that delves into a little bit more of the story. I've seen a few still images and I've read reviews, but I've not actually viewed this extended cut. It appears the few extra minutes that were cut from the version I viewed contained some crucial info as it pertains to the story. I'm really puzzled as to why they cut it. Perhaps it gave away too much information and took away from the intentional gaps in the story?

The movie obviously had a low budget, but they did a great job at stretching their dollar. The hotel used in the movie was great, very creepy. The acting was pretty good and the special effects were equally as good. The one main gripe viewers tend to have with this movie is the ending. While I'm not going to spoil it because I highly recommend watching this movie, most people either love the ending or down right hate it. I'll just say I could take it either way.

Apparently there have been two additional sequels made, which caught me by surprise. I've yet to watch them, but I do intend on trying to track them down as I enjoyed Hell House LLC. Thankfully this one is easy to view (if you don't mind a few commercial interruptions) as you can stream it for free at TubiTV. Just use this link to jump straight to the fun. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


When I first started this blog I used Photobucket to host just about all of my pictures. Over the years this service seemed to work just fine, however recent changes have led to some of the pictures on my older reviews disappearing and being lost.

I really like the idea of archiving items in my collection with this blog and I really don't want to lose some of the things I've posted in the past. That said the blog won't be receiving much new content while I work to go back through my catalog of posts and back up the photos, clean some of them up (if necessary) and remove all ties to Photobucket.

I know this will take some time as it's a little tedious (and boring) so I do plan on posting some new content here and there...but I really want to get this work done before I charge forward.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Leave on the Light

Just in time for Friday the 13th! Since I've moved to ordering my comics online my horizons have been broadened. What I mean was that I've always been a Marvel superhero comic fan and I've often ignored other genres such as horror. A few months back I saw an title solicited by Antarctic Press, a small comic publisher that I somewhat follow. Simple titled Leave on the Light, the cover image and description of the book immediately had my attention.

I've always been a fan of horror movies, especially the 80's slasher sub genre, and this book looked really appealing. The description straight from the Previews website:

Brace yourself for a shocker of a horror story! In a small town near New York, an undead serial killer has begun claiming the lives of children by using the city's electrical system.

I received the book in last month's shipment of comics and I sat the book aside, originally wanting to wait until all 3 issues had been released before I sat down and read them. However with Halloween just around the corner I've been on a little kick of late, watching horror flicks and even re-visiting Dead Rising 2 on my Xbox One.

I thought with today being Friday the 13th it would be a great day to go ahead and check out issue #1. While the book was short, it was great! You're immediately introduced to the story's villain, a old prison inmate that is back from the dead? If you like gore and violence then the opening few pages will be right up your ally. While not overly graphic with gore, the violence is right up there with your typical 80's slasher movie.

After the initial opening scene, the reader is then introduced to the other two main characters (police officers) which have been assigned to the case. The lead detective soon learns that things are starting to look a lot like a case he had years ago and that something wasn't right. 

The book is 21 pages long, filled with some gorgeous art and coloring. Leave on the Light is the creation of Bradley Golden. What I didn't know going in was this project originated as a Kickstarter campaign. Similar to another Antarctic published horror book, Rags, somehow the creators got a publishing deal w/ Antarctic Press for a wider distribution.

I've already got issue #2 on order and after reading the first issue I anxiously await to read the next part of the story. The book has a cover price of $3.99 and there is a gold foil variant you can chase down if you wish. The book also features a flip cover and I believe the other two issues will feature flip covers as well.

If you are a fan of horror in general, especially in comics then you may want to give this book a try. Even though comics aren't necessarily rated like movies, this is definitely not a book for the kids. At the time of this post I've seen several reasonably priced listings on eBay, however larger online shops my has both the regular issue and the variant currently in stock without a mark up.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

KO Korner: Poison Dragon - Transformers G1 Skullcruncher KO

To kick off the 11th year of Random Toy Reviews, let's take a trip back to the KO Korner. Ever since I created an Instagram account I've seen a lot of great vintage G1 KO toys posted. Most of these come from countries in the east. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone as copyright laws are more lax outside of the U.S., especially 30 years ago.

Everytime I'd see one of these awesome G1 KO toys I'd always wonder just where that person found them. Was it a recent acquisition from a store in some other country? Was it old stock that was recently found? Or has this been sitting on someone's shelf for the last 20-30 years? Whatever the case, most of the oddly colored KOs I've never seen for sale. If I would happen to come across one on eBay, usually the asking price was far outside my comfort zone.

Luck would finally be on my side as I ran across a listing on eBay for Poison Dragon, an obvious KO of the G1 Transformers Headmaster Skullcruncher. The price was much more reasonable than I thought so I bit the bullet and made the purchase. Then the waiting game had to be played as the toy was coming from Malaysia I believe. Man, I think the last time I bought a Transformer from Malaysia was when I bought a complete, MIB Transformers Blue Bacchus for $50. True story, I swear...but that'll be for another time.

When Poison Dragon finally arrived at my doorstep, he was crammed in a small box with a little bit of newspaper padding inside. The backing card is cheap cardboard and had already shown some wear. However what I didn't fully realize before I made the purchase was that the bubble (which was very close to cracking apart) had started to lift from the backing board. At some point someone stapled a portion of the bubble back down, but not before the gun must have slipped out. Bummer.

The back of the blister card seems to have been lifted straight from the actual instruction booklet that was included with the legit Skullcruncher toy. The back of the packaging even refers to Poison Dragon as "Skullcruncher" and the Headmaster "Grax". Best that I can tell there was never a label sheet or tech spec decoder included.

Once I was able to carefully fish Poison Dragon out of his flimsy packaging, I could immediately tell that the quality of this KO was rather good. That's the thing with KOs, especially toys as old as this. You never know what the build quality is. Will it be shampoo bottle quality plastic or the good stuff? 

Poison Dragon features a similar color scheme to his G1 counterpart, however where Skullcruncher had green this one features blue. The pink sections are similar and even the shade of pink used is very close to the G1 toy. As far as I can tell, there are no differences in the mold. Even the factory applied stickers (minus the rub symbol on the gator's head) are the same as it's G1 counterpart. One of the main differences that you can easily spot is the addition of some gold (or is it copper?) paint applied to the ridges and notches alongside Poison Dragon's gator back. Being as old as this toy is, I was surprised to see that some of this paint has already started to wear off.

Where as Skullcruncher came with his Headmaster trainer, Grax, Poison Dragon comes with this "Headmaster" figure. He's not named and he's not a 1:1 KO of Grax or any other Headmaster figure that I recognize. 

This nameless Headmaster figure still retains the ability to ride inside the mouth of Poison Dragon if you so choose to. The figure seems to be just a smidge taller than Grax so I had to slide him down a little bit to get the gator mouth to close all the way.

Once I really started to inspect the Headmaster figure I could tell the same quality that went into the main figure was not used here. This plastic felt cheaper, almost slick to the touch. I had to shave off a few plastic spurs on the feet just to get him to stand up in robot mode. If you look at the right knee joint, you can see that it's bulging out a bit. I was worried when I transformed into head mode that the lower leg may pop off. Since I don't plan on transforming him much (if at all) I guess I shouldn't be too worried.

I gotta say this has to be the happiest looking Deception Headmaster I've ever seen! The facial expression really doesn't match the toy, let alone the red and yellow used. Ah, gotta love KOs is all I can say!

The transformation is spot on to the vintage G1 toy. Transforming Poison Dragon from gator to robot was one of the scariest things I've done in awhile. He was far tighter than my original Skullcruncher. The hinges of the tail section that splits apart were so tight I didn't think I was going to get them to split and fold down. Once I got them moving, I just knew something was going to break. I noticed what appeared to be small, flat excess pieces of plastic just above and below the hinge. I thought these were adding to the resistance so I took my pocket knife and carefully jimmied them out. I don't think it really helped loosen up the hinges, but it couldn't have hurt to remove them. The upper half of the toy seemed to transform just fine. I did find that the arms were a little loose, but nothing too bad.

If you remember both the Autobot and Decepticon (large) Headmaster toys had a gimmick where you could see partial stats of the robot once the head was plugged into the body. Not surprisingly this play feature was removed on the KO. The flip down chest plate is still there, but as you can see where the meter once was is now a solid piece of plastic.

As I mentioned earlier, the gun was missing from the packaging however he can wield the tip of his tail as a sword just like his authentic counterpart. I did notice the holes in the fist were a little tight. This made it a minor challenge to fit the peg on the underside of the tail piece into the fist hole.

On it's own this is a great KO. I love the colors (minus the Headmaster) and it reminded me of just how awesome this mold is. Now it's time to get the KO alongside the authentic toy for some comparison shots.

As great as Poison Dragon is, I love seeing these two side by side. They compliment each other so well. I may eventually try and pick up another Skullcruncher gun just to complete the look.

Last, but not least I was curious if Poison Dragon was compatible with his G1 self. Without any issues I was able to swap the heads just fine.

With the notches on the bottom of the KO Headmaster being different lengths than on Grax, when you plug him into Skullcruncher's body you get different ratings in the Speed/Strength/Intelligence categories. 

If you are a big G1 Transformers fan such as I and you enjoy a good quality KO TF then I highly recommend this bootleg toy. While I've seen several packaged and loose pictures of this toy before, I've never seen one for sale until I ran across this one a few weeks ago. I know Chromedome was KO'd in a similar fashion, as well as Highbrow (in an awesome Sprite "lemon & lime" color scheme!), but I don't know if any of the other larger Headmasters received KOs. I know for one I'll be on the search. Pictures will probably surface on Instagram at some point!