The Video Nasties #17 – Pigs (1972, Marc Lawrence)


‘I don’t think there’s a law about

turning dead people into pigs!’

Pigs is one of those films that seems to have so much going for it, but still manages to blow any goodwill by being really rather boring. Not that you would guess that from the first 5 minutes, which packs in more ludicrous incident than most other nasties manage over their full running time!

A father and daughter throw a ball. They seem to be having too much fun doing this tedious activity. Suddenly she’s older and he’s squeezing her bum. It’s weird. Soon he’s raping her and she stabs him to death.

This is the first two minutes.


She’s in a hospital now, but escapes when a nurse in massive granny panties sneaks off for some nookie with a doctor. It’s unclear how she escapes and drives off in a car, but it rarely pays to ask questions like that.

Welcome to minute five of Pigs. It’s all downhill from here, although it’s not a steep downward slope. More of a gentle incline. And who wants their horror movie to be a gentle incline?


The daughter, Lynn, ends up staying at the house of pig farmer and diner owner Zambrini, where she gets a job as a waitress. Lynn is crazy and believes her father is still alive, while Zambrini murders young girls and feeds them to his pigs because…well, I’m not really sure. I already told you, don’t ask questions! The pair form a strange bond, each protecting the other from the prying eyes of neighbourhood snoops and the police.


Would this be a good time to mention that Zambrini is played by writer/producer/director Marc Lawrence and Lynn is played by his real-life daughter Toni? Lynn’s daddy obsession with a man played by her father makes for a pretty queasy cocktail, and scenes with her seducing men in a skimpy negligee can be quite uncomfortable with the knowledge that her father is behind the lens. It’s something Dario Argento would take further with his daughter Asia in Trauma, and then take even further in The Stendhal Syndrome. That said, Hollywood veteran Lawrence gives a great nervous performance as Zambrini, and Toni gives off appealing Jamie Lee Curtis vibes.


There are a couple of murders, filmed in that unique 70s style of fish eye lens extreme close-ups and an amusing bit with Zambrini hiding a severed hand from the nosy cops, but it’s mostly uneventful. Oddly, the film features several parallels with 1974’s Axe – a young girl in a farmhouse with an older man, who seems to be losing her mind while murdering men with razors. The difference between the two is that Axe tries for a more artistic, almost arthouse approach and Pigs feels more like a tv movie. Also, Axe runs about 20 minutes shorter than Pigs, which always helps.

I guess if you have to see it, see it for the theme tune, which memorably combines squealing electric guitar with the Jew’s harp (used in so many spaghetti westerns) and is played many, many times throughout.

On second thoughts, maybe don’t bother.

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4. They Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore (1985, Nathan Schiff)

I was a big fan of 8mm gore auteur Nathan Schiff’s previous film, The Long Island Cannibal Massacre, but this one just, err, can’t cut it.


A tiresome gore show, They Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore eschews such niceties as plot and characters in favour of some sort of 80s yuppie satire, in which women lounge around the house in sequined ballgowns, snorting coke until two deranged Texan gardeners hack them to pieces.

Sadly, it’s not as good as that sounds.


Low budget but very, very gory and nasty, the film’s raison d’etre is its outrageous special effects, which range from the disturbingly realistic to the downright laughable. With a soundtrack stolen from Night of the Living Dead and 40s gangster movies, the 70 minute long film still manages to drag. Hell, it’s almost 5 minutes into the movie before we even see a human being.


The photography is glorious 8mm grain-o-vision, but it’s not enough. I’m not usually one to moan about a lack of plot, but you need something to hang your movie on, and this kind of half-hearted satire is not it.


5. Little Evil (2017, Eli Craig)

This made-for-Netflix horror comedy doesn’t just wear its influences on its sleeve, it tattoos them onto its forearm. A riff on The Omen in which Adam Scott from Parks and Recreation finds his new stepson may be the Antichrist, it’s never uproariously funny, but it’s amiable enough.


The trailer gives away all the best gags and scenes, and oddly enough my favourite parts were the scenes between Scott and little Lucas at the swimming pool as they start to bond.


Nice to see a modern day horror comedy that doesn’t just go the boring OTT splatter route for once though.


6. Crawlspace (1986, David Schmoeller)

Chales Band’s Empire Pictures released some of the goofiest movies of the 1980s, alongside such stone cold classics as Re-Animator and From Beyond. 1986 alone gave us such dubious delights as Troll, TerrorVision, Rawhead Rex and Crawlspace, a film that against all odds manages to squander its sleazy premise.


It’s that old tale of the deranged son of a Nazi doctor who spies on the inhabitants of his apartment block by sneaking through the crawlspace and later murders them all just for laughs.


Surprisingly low on nudity and violence, there’s really only one reason to watch Crawlspace…







The German nutter is completely off the chain here, delivering an unsettling, softly spoken performance. He’s aided by a terrific soundtrack from De Palma veteran Pino Donaggio, who seems to think he’s scoring a different, better movie.


It’s worth a watch for Kinski, but don’t expect the sort any sordid thrills. Even the climax is hamstrung by taking place in the titular space, and the sight of Kinski crawling after Talia Balsam (who’s pretty good) is more hysterical than horrifying.

All in all, it’s been a poor start to the 2017 Shocktober Horrorthon.


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The Video Nasties #16 – The Last House on the Left (1972, Wes Craven)



‘Weasel and Sadie, Junior and Krug,

Out for the day with the Collingwood brood,

Out for the day for some fresh air and sun,

Let’s have some fun with those two lovely children

And off ‘em as soon as we’re done.’

The Last House on the Left. Even if you know nothing about the Video Nasties, you’ve probably heard of The Last House on the Left. One of only a handful of these films to have been given a glossy Hollywood remake, and directed by a future Master of Horror, this is easily one of the most famous films on the list, and also one of the very finest.


It’s de rigueur to mention in any synopsis of this movie that it is inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, so let’s get that out the way first.

There, done.

Bergman’s version was, of course, based on a medieval Swedish ballad, Per Tyrsson’s daughters in Vänge. Sorry, now I’ve said that it’ll probably be stuck in your head for days. Damn those medieval Swedish ballads! They’re such ear-worms.


This version of Per Tyrsson’s daughters in Vänge (whoops, I’ve done it again!) tells the simple yet absurd tale of two girls, Mari and Phyllis, who en route to a rock concert are kidnapped by a gang of escaped convicts. These assholes rape and murder the girls and end up – in a twist that stretches credibility so far you can’t even see credibility anymore – staying at the house of the parent’s of the dead Mari. Mayhem, inevitably, ensues.


The Last House on the Left is a bitter, nasty movie, a nihilistic cry of disgust. Good people die, bad people die, good people turn into bad people and then probably die just after the film ends. It’s a film built on cruelty and ironic juxtaposition, a film that forces your face into the dirt, piling atrocity upon atrocity without ever trying to titillate you. It’s a film that asks ‘How far do you want to go?’ and then drags you, kicking and screaming, further than you ever dared.


Last House benefits from several talented people both on and off screen. As writer/director we have Wes Craven, who defined 80s horror with A Nightmare on Elm Street and then went and defined 90s horror with Scream. Sadly, he failed to define 00s horror with Cursed, a film where a werewolf gives someone the finger, but you can’t have everything. Working beside him was Sean S Cunningham, who would go on to direct the original Friday the 13th. Together they pull off a work that manages to rise above most of the other Nasties. While still often crude and primitive, there’s an attempt at sophistication here that often works, such as the scene of the girls first being kidnapped intercut with Mari’s oblivious parents preparing for her birthday. Occasionally this is pushed too far with some re-donk-ulous slapstick comedy involving bungling cops and a truck full of chickens, which comes right after the most emotionally devastating piece of the movie, but hey, at least they tried.


In front of the camera we have Sandra Cassell (real name Sandra Peabody) and Lucy Grantham as the unfortunate friends. They give really natural, likable performances that immediately endear the characters to us, even when spouting the worst kind of porno-level dialogue like ‘My breasts filled out’ and ‘What do you think it’d be like to make it with Bloodlust [a rock band]?). Watch the way Phyllis tenderly tries to look after her friend when they are forced to ‘make it with each other’, talking her through it, saying ‘it’s just us, there’s no one else here.’ It’s a heartbreaking scene, made all the more real by the presence of the movie’s true trump card – David Hess.


David Hess will appear again on this list, playing another variant on his Krug Stillo character from Last House, but here he gives one of the most intense and ferocious performances ever seen in a horror film, so much so that reportedly Sandra Peabody quit acting after her experience of working with him on this film. He goes from quietly menacing to gleefully sadistic at the drop of a hat. But more than that, he conveys a genuine, through fleeting remorse over the rape and torture of Mari. It’s an extraordinary scene that I have rarely seen in a movie.


Krug carves his name into Mari’s chest and rapes her. She then gets to her feet and walks into the lake, while Krug and his gang seem ashamed by their actions, looking down at their hands, absently picking blood off their clothes while Hess’s own doom-laden folk-rock soundtrack plays. They follow her to the lake and Krug finally breaks the spell by shooting her, putting an end to one of the most profoundly sad sequences in any horror movie, one that not only dares to give its heroine a quiet dignity in the aftermath of assault, but that has the balls to actually humanise the despicable perpetrators.


The second half of the movie isn’t quite as successful, asking us to buy into a preposterous coincidence, but the climax, featuring castration, a switchblade catfight and a grieving elderly father with a chainsaw is suitably satisfying.

Look, it’s dark, gritty and intense and is certainly not for everyone, but for me, The Last House on the Left is one of the most powerful horror films ever made and stands head and shoulders over most other films on this list. And you know what? Even the remake was good, and I think that about says it all.

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1. Touch of Death (1988, Lucio Fulci)

It’s October, which of course can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Paperbacks and Pugs Annual Shocktober Horrorthon! 31 horror films in 31 days, but this year there’s a twist – I will only be watching films that I have never seen before.

It’s a dangerous gamble, but what safer way to begin than with a Lucio Fulci 80s gore movie? This sucker can’t miss, right?



Despite being written and directed by the grand old man of Italian splatter, Touch of Death is a pathetic splatstick comedy that is easily the worst film I’ve seen in years.


A hopeless fiasco in which Brett Halsey plays a gambler who picks up women, all of whom are portrayed as grotesque caricatures, who he murders and hacks up with a chainsaw.


This film seems to exist in an alternate dimension where Fulci traded surreal beauty for an insufferable smug campiness.

‘You mean she found her future in hog bellies?’ asks Halsey, after feeding a woman to his pigs, which is a joke that works on precisely no levels.

I can only assume Fulci set out to make a film even more misogynistic than his own New York Ripper, and somehow he succeeded.


2. The Sinister Doctor Orloff (1984, Jess Franco)

And so we turn from one horror legend to another, Uncle Jess himself. Every Franco film I watch simply solidifies him in my mind as the most bizarre, interesting and idiosyncratic filmmaker to ever turn his hand to horror.


The Sinister Doctor Orloff is no exception. It finds Franco going back to the plot of Eyes Without a Face for the fourth/fifth/sixth/whatever time in his career. Let’s face it, he’s obsessed with that story.


The twist this time is that it’s Orloff’s son Alfred who is trying to revive his mother, who he is also in love with. There are several amazing scenes of an aged Orloff (still played by Howard Vernon) trying to talk his son out of his experiments.

‘The killing of these women has become a pleasure for you.’

‘You say so, because that happened to you.’


Franco himself contributes an appropriately doom-laden synth score, and there’s a terrific scene in a nightclub where the music seems to be a Gregorian chant put to a disco beat.


Sure, it’s slow and repetitive, and if that’s a problem for you then forget about this film and go watch something else. But if you enjoy mood pieces like Bill Lustig’s Maniac or even Taxi Driver, you’ll surely find something to latch onto here.


Hypnotic, haunting, mesmerizing – Uncle Jess, you’ve done it again.


3. Critters (1986, Stephen Herek)

I don’t know how I managed to grow up a horror fan without ever seeing Critters, but I did, and now that I’ve seen it I can safely never give the franchise another thought.


A mildly entertaining horror comedy with a good cast (Dee Wallace Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Zane), I think it’s just that my tolerance for these excruciatingly mainstream 80s movies has diminished over the years.


There’s a surprising lack of excitement, imagination and jokes here, despite being from the director of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. By all means check it out though, if you’re desperate to see actors being chased around the screen by furry balls.



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The Video Nasties #15 – Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972, Ed Adlum)


‘This will either be a major milestone in pathology,

or a major disaster for mankind.’

Druids, eh? They’re a bloody nuisance.

In Invasion of the Blood Farmers, the Druids are up to their ancient tricks again, harvesting a rural American town to find a victim who’s blood will enable them to resurrect their queen, just like in the good old days, thousands of years ago. 

It’s a flimsy excuse for a plot, but then Invasion of the Blood Farmers is a flimsy excuse for a movie.


That’s not to say it’s bad though. After all, how bad can any film be with songs written by a man called A.J. Smut? 

It’s okay, it’s a rhetorical question.

Invasion is one of those independent regional horror films that were so prevalent throughout the 70s, and appear rather frequently throughout the Nasties. Shot on weekends for no money with a cast of non-actors, there’s very little talent on display, but three bagfuls of enthusiasm. Now, three bagfuls of enthusiasm is roughly equivalent to seven bagfuls of talent, so I’ll leave you to do the math. Suffice to say, this is a glorified home movie, but a fun one.


The action (can we really call it that?) begins at a bar called Hubble II, presumably the sequel to the old bar Hubble. Maybe Hubble burnt down and they built a new bar on the same site and couldn’t think of a good name for it?


Like you, I’m a sucker for watching old timers sittin’ around shooting the breeze, especially if they’re drunk and especially if they are just local bar patrons roped into shooting a movie. Their amateur reverie is rudely interrupted when local man Jim Carrey (no, not that one silly!) stumbles in covered in blood. You see, there are druids in the woods, druids who wear black hoods and dungarees. The lead druid’s talcum powder hair and stilted line readings gave me a terrifying flashback to Blood Feast’s Fuad Ramses – thank goodness he didn’t have the limp.


Over the next hour or so, there’s plenty of cod-science, some townsfolk being murdered, a lot of phone calls, and a druid ‘fighting’ a dog called Buster, who gives the least convincing performance of the movie as a fearsome guard dog.


Everyone seems to be having a good time, and even though most of the actors are reading their lines from an offscreen prompt, I think you will too, at least for a while. By the time the ambitiously crap hilltop finale rolls around, it’s all gotten a bit tiresome, but Invasion of the Blood Farmers does not deserve its reputation as one of the worst films ever made. Crikey, it’s not even one of the worst films we’re going to cover!

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The Video Nasties #14 – The Demons (1972, Jess Franco)


‘Stop this foolishness…anyone would think

you were possessed by a demon!’

The first of seven Jess Franco films to be featured on the Nasties, The Demons is unusual in that it finds Uncle Jess working with a bigger budget than usual, allowing him to turn in a professionally made, handsome production that runs for nearly two hours, with only a small part of that runtime devoted to lesbian sex scenes.

Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of distinctly Franco-esque touches throughout, not least the classic crash zoom into his leading ladies’ pubic hair.


What we have here is another witchfinder movie, though in typical Franco fashion he crosses it with the nunsploitation genre to double down on the sleaze. We follow the misadventures of two young nuns who’s mother was a witch. Much like Mark of the Devil and Witchfinder General before it, the film condemns the moral hypocrisy of the aristocracy while simultaneously revelling in graphic torture scenes, though it rather shoots itself in the foot by making the threat of demonic witches real, which actually legitimises the work of the very witchfinders its struggling to condemn!


The torture scenes have nothing on the graphic violence of Mark of the Devil, mostly consisting of supposedly scalding metal being held to flesh while victims barely react, and when boiling water is poured on people, the lack of steam renders the effect more silly than shocking.


There’s the usual extended sex scenes too, with one lengthy masturbation scene following another in the first half hour, with the best being saved for later when one of our nuns has sex with Satan himself, who’s wearing a red hat and purple tights. This leads to the best scene in the film, an oddly powerful moment of suicide. 


At this point the film threatens to become classic Franco in the style of his earlier works like Venus in Furs or She Killed in Ecstasy, with our newly possessed nun tracking down the assholes that put her witchy mother to death. Sadly, the revenge is saved for the last few minutes, and is underwhelming unless you are horrified by plastic skeleton Halloween decorations.


At nearly two hours, The Demons is tremendously overlong. There’s a lot of good stuff and a compelling story well performed by some Franco regulars, but there’s a lot of faffing about too. There’s simply one escape attempt and double cross too many, and my interest started to flag around the 90 minute mark. It should be noted that the version that was added to the list was brutally cut down to 80 minutes, which would certainly make for a faster paced movie at the expense of comprehensibility, but since when has comprehensibility been a deciding factor in the success of a Jess Franco movie?

The answer? NEVER.

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The Video Nasties #13 – Deep River Savages (1972, Umberto Lenzi)


‘I can’t stand it any longer…and this is only the first day!’

Well…I certainly did not expect this. There are a couple of films on this list that are among the most controversial horror films of all time; Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox. So when I put in the disc for Deep River Savages, regarded as the first film in the small cannibal genre, I expected the usual ghastly violence and sleazy atmosphere. What I got instead was a travelogue jungle adventure that switches halfway through to ludicrous love story! Apparently this film is practically a remake of hit US film A Man Called Horse, though after sitting through this, I’m not gonna be watching that one anytime soon.

Which isn’t to say that this is a bad film, just one that is rather at odds with the rest of the nasties.


We open with veteran Italian actor Ivan Rassimov, wearing a shirt that makes him look like an extra from Tron, arriving in Thailand on a photography expedition. Immediately something feels off. Rassimov has a rather…evil look about him. Prior to this film he had played a villainous character in three stunning Sergio Martino gialli, presumably cast due to his scary visage. Here, they try to lighten his look by giving him nightmarish bleached blonde hair. It doesn’t help.


Anyway, he ends up being captured by a tribe who believe he is a fishman due to his unflattering wetsuit. Luckily for Ivan, the chief’s daughter, played by cannibal movie regular Me-Me Lai, takes a shine to him.


This manifests itself in her demanding he become her slave, then having him stripped naked, tied up and made to work in the river. Ah, the mysteries of love! This delightful meet-cute soon gives way to the kind of romantic love that only Stockholm Syndrome can create, as our hero begins to fall for her too. He defeats his rival, a hulking brute named – wait for it – Karen, and the two begin a tentative relationship.


You see, it turns out that this is not a typical cannibal movie, but a love story. Even the VHS box makes the bold claim that this is ‘a compelling film in which character relationships are brilliantly developed and a richness of human emotions are played out.’ Jeez, if you say so guys. They also say it’s from the makers of the ‘the chart-topping film “Cannibal”’, though it’s unclear exactly what chart the writer is referring to…


At this, the halfway point of the movie, I happily scribbled down in my notes ’no animal cruelty’. Italian cannibal flicks are notorious for this, and it was a pleasure to watch one with no repugnant violence to real animals. Then came the muskrat vs cobra fight. This was quickly followed by a monkey having it’s head sliced open, and then a brutal cockfight. Damn. I scored through my note, the smile wiped from my face. It’s so sad and pointless and quickly undoes any goodwill the picture had built up, of which there was very little anyway.


In defence of Deep River Savages, I could say that Rassimov and Lai turn in appealing performances, and there’s one wonderfully absurd moment where Ivan is crucified in a giant wooden mask and spun round while natives fire darts at him. The opening credits promise that these rituals are real, and not being a professor of anthropology (I know, surprising right?) I will just have to believe them.

Right near the end the cannibals actually show up and deliver the films only attempt at horror, but after the revolting animal cruelty we witnessed earlier, the cheap effects do not impress or excite. Deep River Savages is not a bad film, but it’s a reprehensible one, suggested only for the hardcore Nasty fan who simply must see them all.

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