Friday 1 September 2017


Amid the rise of the boutique DVD label such as Arrow, Indicator, Criterion, etc, there are those who say "no more!". Well, to them I say, "no, more!" And so I'm happy to see a new series of titles released under the Vestron Video label that celebrate some ultra obscure movies that you aren't going to find anywhere else. First to be released is 1987's Blood Diner.

An opening crawl positions Jackie Kong's Blood Diner firmly in B-movie territory, renouncing practitioners of blood cults while at the same time hoping to trick the audience into thinking they're about to see something trull satanic; for example, stating that "all of the mutilations, body dismemberments and cannibal rituals were performed by seasoned professionals". It has a severed tongue firmly in cheek.

Our two main characters are the Tutman brothers, Michael and George (Rick Burks and Carl Crew). Together they run a local eatery that bring delicious vegetarian food to the masses, with their "Tuesday Surprise" a particular favourite. As you might have deduced from the title and the fact this is a cheesy 80s horror film, their food is not what you would traditionally class as vegetarian, but rather the deep fried remains of victims of a murderous rampage that has been targeting some of the local vegetarian hotspots, including a nude aerobics class and a club where the brothers are able to meet unsuspecting women to lure back to their restaurant/murder scene. It's here that they meet a sticky end, either by getting their head plunged into a deep fat fryer, or by going back for their purse when they should be fleeing for their life.

Of course there's a reason behind all this dismemberment that goes further than re-stocking the pantry, and that would obviously be to re-animate the goddess Sheetar that their long departed Uncle Anwar (offed in a police shoot out that saw him "armed with a meat cleaver in one hand and his genitals in the other") worshipped. Taking orders from Uncle Anwar's brain in a jar, he gives the boys a gross grocery list of body parts that would make Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill wince.

Wilfully offensive and misogynistic, Blood Diner is the kind of film where you can tell that the supporting cast have also done porn at some point in their career. Written by Dukey Flyswatter (frontman for post-punk rock band Haunted Garage and voice of the Imp in Sorority Babes, but I'm sure I didn't need to tell you that), it's a madcap mess of a movie, but never tries to be anything but that. It's definitely kinda hokey, but there's so much to appreciate (and on blu-ray I'm sure this is the best the film has ever looked) including zombies and cannibal feasts and the fact that one of the key supporting characters is made out of crude paper mache.

With a post-punk aesthetic that shows a no holds barred approach to offending as much of its audience as possible, this film features a wrestler named Jimmy Hitler, the two worst homicide detectives in the world, and the greatest reveal this side of Troll 2's true meaning of Nilbog. The tagline, first they greet you then they eat you is simply delicious, and it has a barnstorming and barmy ending that means you leave the film on a high. If you're looking for a generous helping of cult film with a side of silliness, here's one to takeaway. This bodes well for the next films to be released on the Vestron label.



The second release under the new Vestron Video label sees a shadowy government agency try to cover up for the fact that they've accidentally released a CHUD (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller) into a small town community, and he's started to get hungry.

There are a number of reasons why you may want to watch Bud the Chud. Maybe you saw the first film and wanted to see where the story, set in the New York City sewers, went next (This film has literally nothing to do with its predecessor)? Or maybe you're a fan of the work of Gerritt Graham (A recognisable supporting player given the title role here, even if he's a zombie corpse)? Or maybe you're a fan of trash cinema, a sub-sub-genre of pulpy films which this is a part of. That sounds a little unfair, but if it's not trash it's at the very least almost there; like the tea bag trail left behind on the lid of a bin.

Robert Vaughn appears in one of his hammiest roles (no small feat) as the Colonel in charge of the CHUD program, hoping to secure funding for future research into the reanimation of dead soldiers and desperate to keep the little snafu of Bud's release under wraps. Unfortunately for him some stupid teenagers have accidentally defrosted Bud's infected corpse and he's now making his way around town turning other people and the occasional dog into CHUDs along the way. If comparing him to other zombies, Bud is more like Day of the Dead's Bub than anyone else. Not merely a mindless killer, he's able to have a degree of thought, organising others to follow him in the pursuit of people to eat. At one point he goes and gets a haircut, which I'm pretty sure has never happened in a Romero film.

It also definitely didn't happen in the first film, as the CHUDs here have been given a dramatic makeover both in look and in demeanour. They don't even dwell underground anymore, and that's literally the second half of their name. Bud would be more accurately described as a CHAZ (Cannibalistic Humanoid Army Zombie), but then his name wouldn't rhyme, would it?

With their sharpened teeth and goofy grins they're almost cute. It's no surprise that the finale bears a resemblance to Joe Dante's Gremlins 2, a film series that mirrors the CHUD series' pattern of serious original, jokey sequel. It's also worth noting that the writer of Bud the Chud, Ed Naha, also wrote the original Troll film, another film whose sequel bore no relation to the first installment.

Despite his bitchin' mullet, lead annoying teenager Brian Robbins achieved nothing really of note as an actor, but has gone on to achieve some degree of infamy as director of such cinematic gems as Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words, Meet Dave and Norbit. Also featured is Tricia Leigh Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and younger sister of Carrie Fisher. As Katie, the object of Bud's affection, she's not called upon to do much more than deliver spiky comebacks to the boys, and during the finale don a terrible swimsuit that Bud and the CHUDs find so appealing that they're willing to jump into a potentially deadly swimming pool to be near her.

Now, it's fair to say that CHUD 2: Bud the Chud (to give it its full title), is not a great movie. It's also questionable as to whether it's even a good one. But yet it's a film that I have a soft spot for, and have seen many times over the years since I discovered the joys of cult horror movies. This is never going to achieve the same sort of recognition as Troll or Troll 2 and I can't imagine there are many cinemas lining up to add it to their midnight movies rosters, but beneath the simple make-up and awkward comedy scenes lies a film that can't fail to raise a smile from anyone who's seen it.

That's partly down to the infectious and never ending theme tune that almost hypnotises you into going along with the movie, but perhaps most likely down to the performance of Gerritt Graham as Bud, who brings a lot of childlike charm to the role and will undoubtedly have you rooting for him to kill the annoying teenagers as soon as possible. He's an actor you may recognise from his role in one of the Police Academy sequels or possibly as Beef in Brian De Palma's recently re-appraised Phantom of the Paradise, but to me he's always going to be Bud the Chud.

So far I'm fully on board with the titles that Vestron have chosen to re-release, but I do think they've missed a trick in not taking the opportunity to rebrand this film somewhat to move it away from C.H.U.D., a film that has no cultural cache in the U.K. and to the best of my knowledge has never been commercially available on these shores. Sure, you could own an imported DVD of the region 1 release, but what kind of loser (me) would do that? The box art, although an accurate reprint of the original marketing, does nothing to represent the film, or its comic tone.

It's a shame that this film is burdened with the baggage of its predecessor, as although it might not be as well respected as the far more serious in tone original, it's the better of the two films. Not necessarily in terms of filmmaking craft, but if you asked me which of the two I'd like to sit down and watch, it's this one every time. Sure, the CHUD make-up doesn't go much further than a pair of comedy teeth and a slap in the face with some talcum powder, but the finale manages to deliver some decent visual effects, and in Bud, a different take on what it means to be a zombie.


MOON DOGS review

When Michael (Jack Parry Jones) suspects his girlfriend is cheating on him whilst away at university, he decides to make the trek from his home in the Shetland Islands to Glasgow, taking his step brother Thor (Christy O'Donnell) along with him. Having to lie, cheat and blag their way there, they enlist the help of Caitlin (Tara Lee), a feisty singer who wants to get to Glasgow so she can perform at the Celtic Connections festival, even if she doesn't have a band to back her up. Or does she?

It's a basic setup not a million miles (or even the distance from the Shetland Islands to Glasgow) away from the 2002 road trip comedy, Road Trip with added John Cusack 80's classic The Sure Thing, and the film is scattered with moments that would not look amiss in an American high school comedy, with occasional dips into much darker territory that seem to be present to stop the tone from getting too light.

After the initial drawn out set-up that sees Michael fail his final exams because of his stepbrother Thor, it's the introduction of Tara Lee's Caitlin that really kicks the film's plot into gear. Showing more attitude than she was called upon to show in A Date For Mad Mary, it's her characters actions that really drive the film, often veering into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory as Michael tries to win back his girlfriend. I've always been a hesitant defender of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype that Caitlin surely is, as although she's edgy, charismatic and sexually confident, she's not just all black nail varnish and raging insecurities. It's hard not to be completely enamoured with her character after hearing her sing, and she is in completely in control of her end goal and is using the two stepbrothers to help her achieve that. Although she may do so unwittingly (or wittingly), she is not just present to fulfil the many fantasies of the lead male.

She does have a damaged, Silver Linings Playbook quality and a dark past thats surface is only scratched at during a scene where they steal from some sort of small town drug lord; and even if certain aspects of her story are a tad predictable, Lee's performance is still enjoyable throughout. Likewise, Jack Parry Jones' Michael has sparky chemistry with Lee and the two share a number of memorable scenes. Sadly, the same can't be said for Christy O'Donnell's Thor, who as a multi-instrumentalist descendant of Vikings/teenage runaway should not be the least interesting character in the film. He's only noticeably present when the love triangle scenes come into play, but even then it's pretty clear that one of the sides of this triangle is not as developed as the others. To be fair to O'Donnell he does exactly what is asked of him, but his characterisation is weak in comparison to the others.

In its final act Moon Dogs goes to great lengths to resolve one of its storylines, but it's the least interesting and least developed of the story arcs, leaving another hastily resolved and the other hanging in the balance. I can only assume that this is because the film didn't know how to satisfyingly resolve the other, more interesting arcs, but it's a real dramatic flaw that damages the resolution of the entire film. It's as if the writer chose this moment to desperately avoid cliches at all cost, but it's here that a bit of narrative predictability would have been appreciated.

Despite its obvious mis-steps there is still a spark of something special within Moon Dogs. The scenery on their road trip is attractive, there's some decent, inventive music that truly makes the best of their celtic connections and there's a lot of promise of greater things shown by the lead actors.

Moon Dogs is out now in cinemas.