This is a film review. I promise. But when hack-writer prima donnas edit ourselves, we get to scribble a few unnecessary intro paragraphs for literary effect. If you want to skip the setup and get to the fake beef, click this to go to the meat of the review, slacker. But don’t blame me when your frame of reference is all out of whack.
Friends know I’m an armchair film buff. Readers of this blog, however, know movie reviews aren’t in my blogging wheelhouse. This uncomfortably aging force-gasm might be my only prior, self-published movie review. (Unless you count a few even more blurb-ish reviews submitted to IMDB, Amazon, and the like. Did you know that I’m the 2,451st best Amazon reviewer? True story. Me? I think I’m better than that, but Amazon’s the gatekeeper of this clearly specious metric.)
The Seeds of My Deep, Penetrating Relationship with Film
Like a fart in the wind, I’ve had fun behind the scenes and in front of the camera. (Accurate analogy.) In college I was cast in a few student films. I managed to single-handedly (and unintentionally, I might add), turn Adam Dench’s old-timey drama short into a comedic farce. News of that poor acting didn’t make its way to Aaron Smith’s ears; a short time later he cast me in a few projects. I can’t remember the name of the Russian film student who typecast me as a mark opposite his prostitute scam artist character. Um… Justin Zimmerman’s been kind enough to license some of my iCurd music in his projects. And that’s probably enough name dropping.
Well, let’s drop one more name. Discounting and mercifully forgetting about the shaky, grainy 8mm home movies shot by my parents, my first foray into film was with Evan Davidson. Circa 1987 Evan pops up on my radar. So does his dad’s VHS camera. We’d make stop motion shorts inspired by Mr. Bill, or use Evan’s younger siblings’ abundant toys as doomed cast members in fiendish narratives. And while I can’t remember an iota of a dingleberry of a single plot thereof, my most dear middle school film-making adventures are the hazy memories of the times we and the Keating twins took turns acting and directing each other.
Fast Forward: SOV
Though as a precocious tweener I briefly played in the genre in its homebrew heyday, I was 40 when I first heard the SOV initialism, (not to be confused with an acronym, or any other abbreviation, mind you).
SOV (Shot On Video) is part limitation, part tech specification, and mostly blood, sweat, tears, and other bodily fluids. It’s low budget. Mostly horror and porn. Independent. And fading.
WARNING: Tony Massielo and Tim Ritter are nurturing SOV into a fresh monster.
Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. What is it? It’s a ludicrous love-song to long lost SOV, a retrospective of raunch and repugnance, a humorous hoard of homages to the homemade, an anthology of antipathetic cinematic abominations, a miscellany-mishmash of marvelous monstrosities, a deep dive into depravity, a bonanza of bouncing boobs, a collection of creepy curiosities, an exhibition of exploitative extremism, a harrowing heap of horror, a staggering stockpile of astonishing starts, and for sure, it’s a phantasmagoria of fear, film and fun.
It’s all that. …Unless SOV isn’t film. If you’re a stickler, we can scratch that one.
Speaking of alliteration, (and skipping immediately to the end, for some reason), parts of the alluring Zombarella end credits read like an alliterative allegory: Pandora Pestilence, Moana Midnight, Phil Phallus, and plenty of non-alliterative noms de gloom abound. (Dr. Johnny BeefRocket, anyone?)
There are so many layers of tease in Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. For the first fifteen minutes your inner dialog might go something like this:
“Is this the film?”
“Oh, I think this might be another trailer.”
“#@*%. That was a strange commercial.”
“Nice! Our hostess Zombarella’s back!”
“Wait, I think this is one of the features?! …”
“Hmmmm. Maybe not?”
Yep, there are three features hidden herein, cleverly and copiously broken up by countless commercials, trailers, and hosting interstitials tenuously tying the treasure trove of trashy terror together. It’s tough trying to render the parts from this whole into something of a cohesive review. But I’ll keep at it.
Up All Night
Reminiscent (I’m told) of, and surely inspired in some measure by Up All Night, Zombarella’s House of Whorrors runs the gamut from ultra lo-fi (e.g. recycled public domain footage), to the near-polish of Lucky Chucky Beer and some of the other commercials.
Zombarella’s House of Whorrors comprises almost 30 separate productions – and some productions are umbrellas for several segments e.g. the copious and glorious 1-900 ads + weird drug PSAs sprinkled throughout.
Hostess with the mostest, Zombarella’s reinvention of the spooky, campy horror emcee (Think: Vampira + Elvira + Rhonda Shear), is the glue holding these pieces together. Just when you think the Zomba-train is going off the rails, sexy innkeeper Zombarella’s back to comfort you. It’s going to be alright, worms. Producer/Director/Writer Tony Masiello’s use of Zombarella as such a foundation is an obvious nod to the fact that TV horror hosts of the past often became bigger features than the films they were hosting.
But enough about the glue. The features are the stars in this content cauldron, right? Yes and no. (I love me them interstitials!) The three features definitely anchor Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. Without them, the disparate divisions of the brew wouldn’t coalesce as well. My two fave features are Masiello’s Computer Date (with a best actor nod to Travis Hoecker as ‘Chuck’) and crowd favorite “The Doll”. Have you ever wanted to see a possessed ventriloquist dummy tongue-rape a hotty? Good news! Your messed-up search is over. This partnership written by Tim Ritter and Directed by Masiello will scratch your perverse itch.
I wasn’t as enamored with Ritter’s feature “Cosmic Desires” likely in part because I’ve only seen it projected on a screen in a group-viewing environment once, vs two and three such screenings for ‘Date’ and ‘Doll’ respectively. …That repetitive group experience breeds familiarity and other biases. #FilmCriticInTraining
Speaking of Mr. Ritter, he’s responsible for more than 20% of the Zombarella’s House of Whorrors content, by some measures. No small part of that is Ritter’s pot pori of repugnant fake ads. They’re an uncomfortable masterpiece. Furthermore, Cosmic Desires, Creep 2, Crocogator, House of Hoes, and Vampire Movie Starlet are also his creations.
More about that last one… Movie reviews might be new ground for me, but I’ve been reviewing other things for years. Like when I wrote a music column for four thankless years. I learned long ago that if you’re reviewing something or some things, and EVERYTHING is the best EVAR! Nobody’s going to believe you. If everything you review is the best, then everything is also the worst. Right? Vampire Movie Starlet gets a little special attention from me here, just so you know Ritter, Masiello, and Dreifort aren’t engaging in Payola.
Vampire Movie Starlet presents almost two minutes of unvarying minimalist synthesizer arpeggiation over a decidedly avant-garde smutgasm fake(?) film trailer with no dialog. I like synths, avant-garde, smut, and the occasional silent film from time to time, I’m not however a big fan of all of them combined simultaneously here. Perhaps mostly because of where it appears in the Zombarella’s House of Whorrors lineup – a scant two minutes in, as we’re still getting comfy in our seats.
The first two minutes of the film are chock-full of variety. Unless it particularly tickles your fancy, Vampire Movie Starlet could almost grind things to a slowdown just as you’re approaching the runway. I showed Zombarella’s House of Whorrors to a group of uninitiated oldsters, and they indicated that they’d “had enough” during Vampire Movie Starlet. It’s perhaps the most overtly erotic, intentionally unfunny, experimental bit in the compendium, and in this reviewer’s opinion would be better suited toward the middle or end. E.g. the similarly raunchy and somewhat similarly stylized intro to Ritter’s Cosmic Desires succeeds more, in part because it’s a segment of a more cohesive narrative, and by the time we see it, Zombarella’s House of Whorrors has had time to better establish that it is indeed many things. Even if you don’t love it, you know you can likely wait a minute and you’ll find something else to stare at, wide-eyed, with occasional sideways glances to your viewing companions to see if they “get it” – or if you’ve lost a friend.
Do you believe me now when I say: I like this film. ? You should.
The other three-quarters or so of Zombarella’s House of Whorrors come by way of Tony Masiello. Masiello’s trademarks run throughout:
Not-so-secret secret conversations “Um, aren’t they like 3 feet away from the person they’re talking about??”
Careful use of music for both background and as a narrative device
My favorite segments: Cannibal Vampire Call-Girl Hookers from Outer Space (1, 2, AND 3), and the aforementioned ‘DanD Award’ Best-Actor winning Computer Date. I laughed out loud at these and several other parts of Zombarella’s House of Whorrors, and that’s important.
Ripe with ridiculous stories, great overacting, and goofy gore, Zombarella’s House of Whorrors is a parodical treat for its intended SOV-fan audiences and it has enough charm and universality hidden in the crevices to make it a potential crossover cult hit.
But whatever. Richard Mogg said it better and far more succinctly:
“Zombarella’s House of Whorrors invades your airwaves with more boobs and blood than a busty burlesque massacre!!! SEE! Jiggling bodies resurrect a vengeful spirit! FEEL! Decapitated heads squirting off the screen! HEAR! Ripping flesh as vampire call-girls devour their manly prey! It’s all here gloriously UNCUT, broadcast and shot on video for your viewing pleasure. Hosted by the irresistibly sexy Zombarella, HOUSE OF WHORRORS will keep you “Up All Night” as tales by Tim Ritter, Tony Masiello and the recently-discovered Fred Olen Wood entertain (and stain) your innermost desires. SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Grab a beer and start dialing those 1-900 numbers. The action starts here… and Zombarella’s waiting!”
Yep. That’s tight. We’ll go with that.
Disclaimer – I made very small contributions far behind and briefly in front of the camera for Zombarella’s House of Whorrors. The former billed as part of Satanic Fruit Snacks, the latter billed as something else.
Dan Dreifort will be busy this award season. Please hold his calls until next year. When he’s not writing about or helping with SOV horror, which is almost always, Dan’s working in the world of UX and SEO, making music, and playing with cats. …But seldom simultaneously.