What physical threat is most scary to you? An urbane, loquacious vampire who seduces you into blood subservience? A mysterious stalker who decimates your friends, and comes for you as well, because of a mysterious vendetta you only had vague memories of? Or is it some sort of weird hybrid/mutant thing, incapable of speech or reason, who, to paraphrase Werner Herzog, regards you with no kinship, no understanding, no mercy, and a half-bored interest in food. On October 29th, you can take in a Grindhouse Tuesday triple feature of such fierce beasts, growling, shrieking, and slithering their way towards their petrified victims!
The animalistic aggression begins with The Boogens from 1981. Nearly a century after a cataclysmic collapse, an energy conglomerate sets about reactivating a dormant Colorado silver mine, and sends two younger techs, Roger (Jeff Harlan) and Mark (Fred McCarren), to perform the primary demolition work. The excavation reveals an otherwise unknown underground lake, and that lake is populated with even more unknown carnivorous abominations. Ambitious journalist Trish (Rebecca Balding) gets tipped off by Mark about human remains found within, and her investigation leads to revelations about what brought about that previous disaster, and what drives a local eccentric (Jon Lormer) to attempt preventing a repeat. But the subterranean threat is making its way to the surface…and the cabin where Roger, Mark, and the women they care about, are staying.
Producer Charles Sellier first put himself on the map by writing a book about a 19th century frontier explorer James “Grizzly” Adams, which he then adapted into a surprise hit film and television series starring Dan Haggerty. As one of the founders and house talents at Utah based production company Sunn Classic Pictures, Sellier was responsible for a prolific amount of family movies and TV shows. In a wild turn, Sellier also directed the immortal Christmas horror classic Silent Night Deadly Night. The Boogens was effectively one of the last Sunn Classics projects, made just as media conglomerate Taft Broadcasting, which at the time owned Hanna-Barbera animation and Worldvision Enterprises, had purchased the company and put their own name on it. Director James L. Conway was also another Sunn Classic veteran, previously helming The Lincoln Conspiracy, Beyond and Back, and Hangar 18 for the company; he continues to work in TV today, making episodes of “Supernatural,” “The Orville,” and “The Magicians.” Among the writers responsible for the story are David O’Malley, who would later write the erotic thriller parody Fatal Instinct directed by Carl Reiner, and, under the pseudonym Bob Hunt, Jim Kouf, who later wrote the screenplays for Stakeout and The Hidden and created the recent fantasy series “Grimm.”
Cavebound creatures give way to sea monsters in our second feature, 1978’s Slithis. A spate of animal maulings and human murders is striking mellow Venice Beach. The local cops think they’re the work of a satanic cult. But local high school journalism teacher Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard) and his scientist friend Dr. John (J.C. Clare) have figured out the truth: there’s years of waste from a nearby nuclear plant known as “Slithis” that can assume the form of what it ingests, and it’s apparently ingested an awful lot of angry amphibious lifeforce. Can these outsiders find and stop this reptilian nightmare before it turns the entire neighborhood into bloody chum?
Writer/director Stephen Traxler shot Slithis in under 14 days in Venice and Marina Del Rey, for less than $100,000. Much of the financing came from producer Dick Davis, a Midwest theatre operator who previously backed Douglas Jackson’s 1977 proto-Mametian college thriller The Hazing, which received a Bev Grindhouse screening back in April 2008. While mostly leaving directing behind, Traxler has had second unit and/or producing credits on Invasion U.S.A., Gleaming the Cube, Waterworld, and Legally Blonde 2. The wild and diverse score is by Steve Zuckerman, who alternated between composing music for other exploitation favorites like Cinderella 2000 and doing songs for “Sesame Street,” including “[Lonely] Lower case ‘n’.” Deep Impact and “The Leftovers” director Mimi Leder, whose father Paul Leder directed exploitation classics as I Dismember Mama, served as the script supervisor.
Finally, single-minded marauders leave the depths of the sea and venture from the expanse of space in The Deadly Spawn from 1983. A meteor crashes to Earth, deploying eyeless slug-like invaders who waste no time in devouring any living creature in their path. The aliens ultimately convene in the basement of aspiring science major Pete (Tom DeFranco) and his younger “monster kid” brother Charles (Charles George Hildebrandt), and feast upon their parents and neighbors. The two boys and their friends will have to tap into their limited knowledge of biology and beast logic if they are to save their neighborhood from becoming one massive alien buffet.
Producer Ted A. Bohus had already been working with low-budget horror pioneer Don Dohler on his projects Fiend and Night Beast when he banded with makeup artist John Dods, who also worked on the Dohler films, and former high school teacher turned stage multi-hyphenate Douglas McKeown, to come up with a homage to the sci-fi invasion movies and scare comics of their youth. On a budget of less than $32,000, McKeown directed Deadly Spawn on select New Jersey locations, including a fellow producer’s home, with Dods physically creating the iconic monsters. Dods also recruited a 15-year-old production assistant, Tim Sullivan, who would himself become a horror fixture as an adult, writing and directing 2001 Maniacs with Robert Englund and Driftwood with former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. The finished film was briefly considered for acquisition by Paramount, but ultimately was released by genre label 21st Century Releasing, who also handled horror faves Cathy’s Curse, Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City, and Romano Scavolini’s Nightmares in a Damaged Brain.
On this Grindhouse Tuesday preceding Halloween, come to the New Beverly to indulge in the natural joy of watching unnatural things gone wild. Be it from land, sea, or air, these monstrosities are going to give you a scare!