Friday, January 29, 2016

033. Hunk and 034. The Witches Mountain

Jump to The Witches Mountain (1972)

033. Hunk (1987)
Director: Lawrence Bassoff
Writer: Lawrence Bassoff
From: Cult Cinema

Bradley, a down-on-his-luck computer programmer, is offered the chance to be exactly the kind of man he's always wanted to be, only the price will be helping the Devil in his evil works throughout history.

One of the first lines of dialogue in this movie is, “'Hunk.' Call me 'Hunk' for now.” I texted Faraday Rage, “I'm not going to make it. I'm already dead. Already dead and this is Hell.”

The movie very quickly surprised me, though. The initial framing device is Hunk Golden (typing that makes me want to die) going to psychologist Dr. Susan “Sunny” Graves to tell her that he used to be Bradley Brinkman. He has until midnight on Labor Day to reverse the change or Bradley and Hunk will both be doomed. The doctor doesn't believe him, so he tells her his story.

Flashback to Bradley's story, a computer programmer who needs the next big idea or he's going to be fired. After typing, “I'd sell my soul for a moneymaking program,” a demon possesses it a la Evilspeak and produces “The Yuppie Program,” an instructional guide on how to be a yuppie. It sells 50,000 copies in its first week and is a huge success.

Based on that success, Bradley's boss gives him the summer off to rent a beach house and observe the yuppies in their natural habitat while working on the next great program. He meets Chachka, the local “eccentric personality,” and she introduces him around to the cartoonishly mean-spirited yuppie stereotypes.

And this is what the movie gets right. These characters are all cartoons—not big, over-the-top, screaming annoyances, just campy send-ups of these stereotypes. I knew, as soon as Chachka took Bradley to the beach to meet them that they'd be exactly these characters and the film almost feels like it's poking fun at me for assuming that, like the joke is imagining characters like this at all.

There is a nice goofy tone that the movie generally maintains. Everything is done with a winking sense of camp so it stays silly but never devolves into stupid. It even manages to land a few good jokes, like when Bradley is offered the deal to sell his soul.

Bradley is trying to fit in, can't, and the demon O'Brien shows up—a beautiful woman that Bradley is nuts over. She offers him the chance to become Hunk on a “sell your soul for the summer trial offer.” Hell, it turns out, is a giant 80's corporation, The Devil Himself, Inc. run by Dr. D. It's a cheap gag, but works because the movie gets the tone right as it does for almost everything.

Bradley wakes up as Hunk, enjoys the fruits of being a beefcake, and then meets Dr. D, played by James Coco who decided this needed to be a campy devil, and he was right. Dr. D explains to Hunk that, rather than spending eternity in torment, he'll be the devil's right-hand man working with him to spread evil throughout time. Now aware of his fate, Hunk panics and seeks out Dr. Sunny, catching us up to the start of the movie and getting us to the worst element.

What I've described is just the first fifty minutes of the film and there's no reason for Hunk to visit the psychologist. The deal is if, at midnight on Labor Day, he wants to go back to his old life, he can. Otherwise, he's Hunk forever, including in Hell working for Satan. There's nothing to explain why he goes to the shrink to sort this out or why she needs to be in the picture at all. There's a twist that makes it essential to the plot, but it feels like that twist was thought up before its place in the movie was.

The second half falls apart plot-wise. Chachka isn't there anymore even though she's a nice presence up to that point. She's a character, but not “quirky” in the way insufferable comic relief characters are. On the other hand, we get a lot of campy Satan in her place which is a definite plus. It feels like the first half of the movie is all the clever gags the writer/director was able to come up with and the second half was an attempt to make it all tie together. The majority of the pleasure, then, lies in the first half.

Also, despite being about Hunk banging lots of ladies, there's no nudity—lots of beefcake, though. If this movie's in the closet, the door is wide open. The camera focuses on men's bodies and, despite Hunk hooking up with countless women, it's the men that are being objectified. And it doesn't even invoke a “gay panic” response of metaphorically shouting “no homo!” There's a scene where a waitress brings Hunk three bottles of champagne, two sent by women, the third sent by a man, and Hunk's reaction is just embarrassment at all the attention. The movie acknowledges that it's kind of gay and doesn't have any of the homophobia you'd expect from 1987.

This is a cute, campy flick, great for a rainy afternoon or a girls' night. It's not so good that I'd encourage you to hunt it down however you can, but it's a fun little slice of 80's. This is what I wanted the other comedies I've watched so far to be—something simple that settles on its tone and sticks to it. This does that and adds a campy, catty Satan to the mix. Delicious.

034. The Witches Mountain aka El Monte De Las Brujas (1972)
Director: Raúl Artigot
Writers: Raúl Artigot, Juan Cortés, Félix Fernández, José Truchado
From: Chilling

A photojournalist on assignment in an isolated mountain region meets a young writer. Together, the explore a mountain that turns out to be haunted by witches.

There's very little to say about this movie because very little happens. There's an opening sequence where a woman, Carla, finds a dead cat in her bed, is castigated by a small girl, and then sets the girl on fire. None of this comes up again.

After the titles, we meet Mario, the photojournalist, who's in the midst of breaking up with his Carla. He calls his boss to cancel his vacation just so he can get away from her. He gets an assignment in the Pyrenees where he meets Delia, a writer. They travel together into the mountains where the plot follows its inevitable course.

The movie has a nice atmosphere and tone, but I say that thinking of it in terms of raw material. This isn't really a movie to watch so much as a sequence of film to be cut up and reused in other projects, a music video or something along the lines of Ninja the Mission Force. Unfortunately, this movie is copyright, maybe back under copyright, due to GATT. If you're a fan of witch movies, maybe this will float your boat—there are a few elements that feel like they were lifted by Lars Von Trier for Antichrist—otherwise, give it a pass.

Friday, January 22, 2016

031. Horror High and 032. Future Hunters

Jump to Future Hunters (1988)

031. Horror High (1974)
Director: Larry N. Stouffer
Writer: J. D. Feigelson
From: Cult Cinema and Sci-Fi Invasion

Vernon is a nerdy high schooler bullied by everyone—teacher and student alike. When his tormentors force him to drink his own experimental serum, they find they may have pushed him too far and now have to face the fatal consequences.

Fun mid-70's monster/slasher flick. The movie establishes its connection to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde right from the start with an English class watching an adaptation of the story. Vernon is working on a serum to make people stronger, but is testing it on his guinea pig first.

The villains, and thus the roster of victims, is lined up pretty quickly. Vernon's English teacher tells him he turned in his bio paper to her instead of his English one and then proceeds to give him an F on the English paper and shred the bio one. In the lab, the janitor's cat is trying to eat Vernon's guinea pig and the janitor threatens Vernon for chasing the cat away. Then the gym teacher gives Vernon grief for asking to spend the period working on his experiment instead of going to gym. Finally, in the locker room, Roger, the star of the football team, steals Vernon's bio notes and tears them apart in front of him.

If you read horror movies as morality plays, the set-up can't be much clearer: these people have sinned and thus will be punished by Vernon, but having become a monster himself, Vernon will ultimately have to die.

Which is how it plays out and is not unsatisfying for doing so. In fact, the one disappointment I had is how low the body count is. The movie goes to laughable lengths to make the people tormenting Vernon monstrous that they border on being cartoons. The promise, though, is that they'll each receive their deserved comeuppance. That's the odd promise of monster/slasher movies like this: yes, the monster nerd will be defeated at the end so that the moral order is restored, but there's the promise of catharsis throughout for the nerds since all their enemies are the ones getting the chop. When you've set up that kind of narrative, especially with these kinds of villains, you expect full catharsis.

A fun flick, though. Not too grisly, no nudity. It's officially PG, but I'd say it's more PG-13 (the rating didn't exist in 1974). A definite recommend for a bad movie night or for teenagers having a slumber party. This is solid midnight movie/USA Up All Night fare. There is another movie called Return to Horror High that has nothing to do with this one. It's an interesting enough piece, though not as fun as this.

032. Future Hunters (1986)
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Writers: J. Lee Thompson from a story by Anthony Maharaj
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A couple given part of the Spear of Longinus by a traveler from the future have to find the shaft before Neo-Nazis can steal the artifact and unleash a global holocaust.

Future Hunters feels like a compendium of every bad 80's direct-to-video action trope. It rips off Mad Max, Indiana Jones, and Rambo. It has a kung-fu fight, secret Nazis, armed militias in jungle villages, and Amazonian tribes. It has bad canned music, terrible dubbing, and comically bad ADR. In short, this film is a cultural treasure and should be required viewing for anyone who has eyes to see.

In the post-apocalyptic future of 2025, Matthew, humanity's last hope, is searching for the Spear of Longinus, the spear the pierced Christ's flesh and will allow whoever wields it to travel back in time.

You all remember that story, right? About time-traveling Jesus? Yeah. This is just another one of those.

Matthew, driving in his car armored with found material a la Mad Max, is being chased by evil forces who don't want him going back and undoing the apocalypse because reasons? He does find the spearhead, though, is sent back to 1986, which brings an end to Mad Matt: Quest for the Jesus Stick.

And then I stop caring about the plot. I mean, stuff happens—Matthew wakes up in 1986, saves our heroes Michelle and Slade from some bikers, gets shot and dies. Michelle decides to fulfill Matthew's dying wish and protect the spear. Somehow Neo-Nazis find out she has it and come looking for her. And then set piece action scene, set piece action scene, set piece action scene. Blah blah blah.

And it doesn't matter. This is fun, if a little poorly paced. It plays out as a series of tropes and rip-offs of other movies. I mean, there's even a part where they rip off the theme to Indiana Jones. Ripping off other movies isn't necessarily bad—I had great fun watching the Italian rip-off of Predator, Robowar, which is almost a shot-for-shot remake—it's that the movie rips off several movies that don't fit together.

Because the elements are so different, it makes the movie feel longer than it is. It's an unequivocal recommend, though. This is hilariously bad and, if you're a fan of bad movies, has a lot of connections to other genre pictures. Robert Patrick, the T-1000 himself, is the star and the primary henchman of the head Nazi is Bob Schott from Gymkata and Flop House favorite Head of the Family.

More interesting, and probably more important to discussions of the role of independent/grindhouse/genre culture is the director Cirio H. Santiago. His Wikipedia page has more details, but he was an early figure in creating the blaxploitation genre, worked with Roger Corman to give several major directors their start, and became the president of the Philippines Film Development Fund. He was in charge of helping Filipino filmmakers realize their vision while also trying to get foreign filmmakers to come to the Philippines. Genre is at the center of culture and this guy's an example of that.

This isn't PD and it doesn't look like it's currently available for legal streaming, but a little light Googling should set you right. In fact, the Google directed me to the transcript of Job Bob Brigg's Monstervision episode featuring this movie. His style is way better than mine. I don't have a style yet. I'm working on that.

Friday, January 15, 2016

029. Deadly Duo and 030. Weapons of Death

Jump to Weapons of Death (1981)

029. Deadly Duo aka Shuang xia (1971)
Director: Cheh Chang
Writer: Kuang Ni
From: Cult Cinema

Rebels supporting the deposed Sung Dynasty are attacked and poisoned while transporting a list of their allies. The only person who can cure the poisoned messenger is reluctant to return to the rebels' village because he's decided to turn his back on violence. Only the violent forces arrayed against him may not be willing to let him leave.

I actually have no idea what this movie is about, that opening summary is mostly a lie. I think that's what the story is, but the IMDB description refers to situations I don't recognize from the movie. Maybe they're there, but they eluded me. The bad dub may be responsible for the confusion, I couldn't say, but all that's irrelevant.

This is big goofy fun.

We open on two groups of fighters meeting on a hilltop to fight over a list of rebels. Who are the good guys? No clue, but they fight, the group that initially had the list regains the list, but then run into the boss of the other gang who poisons their leader. The leader hides the list in a tree before escaping to an ally who squirrels him away.

Word gets to a band of rebels that their leader is poisoned and the only person who can cure him is their old friend who is due to meet them in an inn. He arrives with his new fiancée and says he's not going back to the village and that whatever happened to their leader, he'll get over. He's already fought off a group of thugs on his way to the inn and now he must fight his friends. They kidnap his fiancée, as any friends would, and say he has to come to the village if he wants her back. Of course he leaves.

Then the warrior in the bedzzled robe shows up.

See what I'm dealing with here? This is all gibberish and it's only the first ten minutes.

The movie continues in this fashion largely being extended fight scenes punctuated by moments of plot. The plot points don't add up or make any sense, the main character basically dies and the last third is about two of the other characters, and then there's a conclusion that is a domino-series of “I was betraying you!”
“Ah, but I foresaw your betrayal and thus you are betrayed!”
“As I knew you would and so I have betrayed your betrayal of my betrayal!”

It's just nuts. Terrible dub, hilarious sound effects, and constant fight scenes that don't add up to anything but look pretty all right. Absolute recommend for a bad movie night.

030. Weapons of Death (1981)
Director: Paul Kyriazi
Writer: Paul Kyriazi
From: Cult Cinema

The Chinese mafia hires Bishop to kidnap Angela, the daughter of a dojo that refuses to pay protection money, only Bishop has a personal reason for taking this job. As Angela's family races to pay the ransom in time, Bishop and his thugs plan on turning the situation to their own advantage.

Bit of an odd duck. I've see the director's “lost” unreleased film Ninja Busters which is a screwball comedy mixed with a karate training flick, and it works. It's very 80's and not perfect, but is a work of competently constructed silliness. This movie has a much more earnest tone.

There is hope at the beginning of a film being made with its tongue firmly in cheek. The opening scene is Carter, a down-on-his-luck alcoholic trying to drink unattended beers in a divey bar. A naked woman is dancing on a makeshift stage so within the first minute of the movie we've got titties. The film could go two ways: be a goofy 80's R-rated action comedy or a borderline exploitation film that can get a bit uncomfortable.

Unfortunately we end up with the latter. In fact, “unfortunately we end up with the latter” is the leitmotif of the movie.

People start beating up Carter, Bishop comes in and we get a bar fight that's several muscly guys throwing each other around, which is pretty good. Kyriazi's movies walk just the right line between slick and inept. Like I said with Ninja Busters, he's competent. So all the action sequences in the movie are pretty well imagined, shot so you can see things happen, but done by people who aren't seasoned professionals so there's still an edge of physicality and reality to everything. There's a sequence later in the movie where a motorcycle blows up shortly after the rider is knocked off it and it feels like he only just got out of the way in time. It's not that I'm sitting here salivating hoping someone gets hurt, it's that this energy gives the scenes a weight they wouldn't otherwise have. Since there's literally no blood in this movie, that added weight is essential to making the action scenes feel like they have stakes.

Anyway, Bishop recruits Carter for the job, Carter figures out that Bishop wants to kidnap the girl to get a chance to kill her father, but it's too late for Carter to bow out. They kidnap the girl but get a flat tire while transporting her to the Chinese mafia. She escapes and the thugs split up to find her.

Meanwhile, the dojo head has called her ex-husband, Angela's father, and recruited him to help bring her back. He's an annoying prick with a pencil mustache that looks like an anchovy got stuck to his upper lip. His step-sons hate him and don't want him coming on the mission and he calls Joshua, the only black member of the rescue team, “boy.”

You see how I was initially framing the story in terms of what Carter does and then switch to Angela's father? That's not accidental because the film faces this same choice—is it going to be about Carter or the father? “Unfortunately we end up with the latter.”

Angela escapes but is captured by a biker gang who plan to gang rape her. So, yeah. Carter shows up and just lays waste to the gang. Rather than return Angela to Bishop, though, he makes a deal to protect her and get her back home. After defeating a group from the mafia, he sends her on alone to try to convince Bishop that he hadn't found her.

From there Angela is captured again, the step-father reveals that he left because Bishop broke into the dojo years before and raped Angela's mother so Angela is actually Bishop's daughter. The step-father couldn't handle that, so he left. And he calls the black guy “boy” again. Winner.

Then the showdown with the bad guys that runs pretty long and, as I said before, is competently planned and shot and has all the plot points resolved.

It's not that this is a bad movie, it's just that it hits those uncomfortable moments that haven't aged well. Invoking the threat of rape by a biker gang as an aside, as flavor text for your movie, sets off alarm bells. Then to have it come up again as the reason the father left the family suggests a cavalierness about the subject I can't get behind. It feels too much like something they threw in to show how edgy and serious their villains were as opposed to something that's part of the plot and essential to the story. Likewise the racism. When the hero—the goddamn hero—calls Joshua “boy,” Joshua calls the father out on it only to be told, “Yeah, we'll see.” Then he does it again. The hero, not the villains. Hell, Carter is black and none of the thugs say a thing about it. No, the hero drops the slur and, to just make the optics worse, Joshua's weapon of choice is a spear.

Just, no okay? Let's just not do that.

There's also the disappointment of not seeing Carter's movie. Not only is he the most interesting character—an alcoholic criminal whose addiction is forcing him to return to a crime he wasn't okay with in the first place deciding to turn against his psychopathic boss to do what's right—he's far and away the best actor in the movie. He even has a fantastic voice. But instead of his story, we get racist uncle anchovy lips.

I'm not inclined to dissuade anyone from seeing it or even recommending against it. The movie wasn't bad to watch and both the action sequences and stuff with Carter are pretty good. Likewise, there's a goofy low-budget charm that becomes its own form of entertainment. I don't think it's derailed by the uncomfortable 80's elements, but I can't talk about the movie without mentioning them.

Friday, January 08, 2016

027. Breakout From Oppression and 028. Night Fright

Jump to Night Fright (1968)

027. Breakout From Oppression aka Sha chu chong wei (1978)
Director: Karen Wang
Writer: Godfrey Ho
From: Cult Cinema and Drive-In

After serving time for murder, Fonda takes a job offer as an assistant newspaper editor at a seaside town. While she wants to put her past behind her, it's clear someone doesn't think she's suffered enough.

If you want hilariously bad dubbing, this is the film for you. What initially feels like it'll be some kind of chopsocky spy/thriller film turns into much more of a slow-boil suspense film, and to its credit. There are nods here and there to movies like Psycho and some real unexpected turns. It's really the dub that undermines a lot of the drama.

We open with Fonda on a boat remembering her first night of a twelve-year prison sentence for murder. She's holding a letter inviting her to do a job which is what raises the specter of this being an assassin movie or some similar piece of action. Likewise, the prison scene made me think this was going to be a women-in-prison film since I was expecting this to be some kind of exploitation flick. To be fair, the title is Breakout From Oppression I was surprised that it wasn't a blaxploitation flick.

All these expectations are wrong, though, and we get a bit of a psychological thriller. There are some initially cheesy moments: Fonda is haunted by memories of soap, for good reason, but they manifest as a bar of soap floating in a black void and approaching the screen at speed. It's hard not to find that funny. Also, the newspaper president has been absent on a business trip since before Fonda showed up so there are constant references to him being gone that just get funny.

Things escalate—someone is stalking her, cuts the brakes on her bike, puts glass in the dish she brings to the company picnic—and the key tying everything together and explaining why this is happening becomes obvious just at the moment where the movie itself reveals the final clue and tells you explicitly what's going on. So that was timed well.

The downside is the first half-hour drags and is too camp to marry well with the tone of the rest of the movie. Part of that is the dubbing and the script by Godfrey Ho. He made a career out of buying up Hong Kong films and editing them into the most absurd mish-mash and that may be in play here. That aside, it's pretty fun. The opening allows some laugh-at-the-movie riffs and the plot is compelling enough to make the movie worth watching on its own. Also, it has an awesome decapitation scene.

The ending makes no sense (there shouldn't be any questions left, but it seems the situation, for the characters, isn't settled?), but, again, that may be the dubbing. It's fun, though, and definitely worth a watch for a bad movie club.

028. Night Fright (1968)
Director: James A. Sullivan
Writer: Russ Marker
From: Cult Cinema, Sci-Fi Invasion, and Pure Terror

A government test rocket crashes in a small town unleashing a monster that starts killing local teens.

Behold Day-for-Night Fright, the film that bravely refuses to show its viewers any of the shocking material its characters stumble across. Through the use of cutting-edge smash-cuts, we guarantee to keep all the interesting parts of the movie from your sight longer than any other film of its kind!

Gloriously bad. How have I not seen this on a horror host show before? The, at least, first half-hour of the movie is people wandering through the woods looking for the movie. While this makes for nice autumnal photography, it is not cinema.

And it has everything we've come to love from early z-grade sci-fi: doughy white heroes, elderly teens, and those crazy punks cutting loose in the chastest of chaste dances. Shake those polyester pants at least three feet away from any other person. We even open on a couple making out in their car listening to exposition radio. This movie could be its own drinking game.

There's no point running down the plot because there is none. Rather, let's delight in what's here. People, upon encountering the monster in their car, get out and run instead of driving away. There's a fight sequence between two of the teens with receding hairlines where one uses the double ax-handle—that's right, they go full Kirk. To top it all off, one of the things preventing the sheriff from getting support from the state police is that he beat the previous sheriff in a landslide and that sheriff had a lot of friends with the staties.

Oh, you know there this is going.

The unrelenting drama of small-town politics! It's all I've ever wanted from a monster movie.

The monster itself is a guy in a gorilla suit and is kept off-screen for most of the picture. You're warned beforehand that this will be the case, though, by an appearance by the one true false god, J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, here billed as “Roger Ready” (no, really), playing Dr. Forester (not Clayton). Once he brings out the pipe, we all know where we stand—in the full shadow of the pinks trying to shoot down one of our yeti brothers!

Standard pink propaganda, but nothing can stand against our irony engines!

This movie is laugh-out-loud funny and public domain. I've added an MPEG to the Internet Archive here. Watch it with friends.

Friday, January 01, 2016

025. Lurkers and 026. Prime Evil

Jump to Prime Evil (1988)

025. Lurkers (1988)
Director: Roberta Findlay
Writers: Ed Kelleher, Harriette Vidal
From: Cult Cinema

Cathy is on the verge of marrying Bob, but finds herself starting to have vivid nightmares about her mother while also being haunted by two competing spirits—one trying to kill her, the other seemingly trying to keep her safe.

The movie is a solid idea that never gets properly fleshed out. It opens “15 years ago” with Cathy getting abused by her mother then sent outside to play. Cathy doesn't want to go because “they” are on the stairs. “They” are the lurkers—ghosts that haunt Cathy at night and, one in particular, a little girl, tries to have her killed. There's another figure, though, an adult woman, who seems to have to power to dismiss the lurker trying to kill Cathy.

We jump to the present where an adult Cathy is about to cross the street to see her boyfriend Bob. She's almost hit by a cab with the little girl in it but the woman appears and pulls Cathy to safety only to immediately vanish.

So competing ghosts are fighting over this young woman for some reason. Nice premise, but that's the last we see of the older ghost until the last act of the film and the younger one only pops up here and there. In the interim we get Cathy having nightmares, inviting her brother to the wedding, and Bob getting up to shady business behind Cathy's back. We find out that Cathy's mother killed her father and tried to kill her, but either accidentally killed herself or was killed by Cathy. That's not clear.

So spoilers, Bob is a Satanist prepping Cathy for her death at her old childhood home. The house itself is a portal to hell and anyone who lives there eventually has to die there to be conscripted into Satan's service. Cathy dies, we find out the group is prepping her brother for the same fate, and Bob is grooming another former resident of the building for death.

The movie doesn't have any energy or tension and the sense of creeping evil never manifests. The two ghosts, who seem to be important at the beginning, don't really play any role in the rest of what happens and, while the idea of the bad place is a staple of horror fiction, this movie never takes advantage of it. Basically this is a haunted house story, only there's very little haunting and we don't spend much time in the house.

Curiously the same writers and director behind this also did a film the same year called Prime Evil about a group of devil-worshipers in New York looking for victims. It even features some of the same actors.

026. Prime Evil (1988)
Director: Roberta Findlay
Writers: Ed Kelleher, Harriette Vidal
From: Cult Cinema

A Satantic cult hiding within the Catholic church is planning a sacrifice for the winter solstice. A nun seeks to infiltrate the order before the cult claims the life and soul of the daughter of one of its members.

No reason not to watch the other film by the same creative team and boy am I glad I did. From the moment the title card appears and is consumed in flames to reveal a dog/devil hand puppet covered in jam I could not stop giggling. The movie is deliciously, hilariously, unrelentingly bad and I delighted in every moment of it.

Rather than describe the plot, I feel I need to enumerate the plots, any one of which could have been the description of the movie. We begin in 14th century Europe, overrun by the Black Death. A cult within the Catholic church has pledged themselves to Satan in exchange for eternal life and protection from the disease. It's led by Thomas Seaton.

Jump to the near present and Father Thomas is presiding over a Black Mass where George Parkman is sacrificing his daughter to bind himself to the cult and be granted 13 years of power, privilege, and immortality. Jump again to the present where a priest dies delivering a message to the bishop that “they” have returned.

Oh man, and I'm not even ten minutes into the picture! To make it quick:
Sister Angela is going undercover to infiltrate the cult run by
Father Thomas who founded the cult in the 14th century. He's preparing for the winter solstice ceremony where
George Parkman will renew his oath and life for another 13 years by sacrificing his granddaughter
Alexandra who's a social worker who meets
Detective Carr who's investigating the murder of a man who was dating
Cathy, one of Alexandra's clients who's been kidnapped and put into the thrall of Father Thomas by
Ben, the hitman for the cult sprung from a mental institution years ago, but not a member of the cult itself.
And that doesn't even get into Alexandra's fiancé, her mother, her sex-obsessed friend, or the young sex worker Detective Carr brings to her office close to the end of the movie.

Once again, I feel like I'm giving the run-down of a soap opera. To the movie's credit, all these plot threads do tie together, even though some of them tend to get lost in the shuffle for extended periods. In comparison to Lurkers, this movie isn't nearly so devoid of incident, but it overcompensates by throwing everything in and not organizing it in any way.

The editing in this movie is atrocious. Everything's a hard cut and the cuts never inform each other. So we'll cut from Alexandra talking to the detective and then cut to her grandfather discussing his ambition to overthrow Thomas with a random woman who's also part of the cult. I was constantly going, “Where are we? Who is this? What's going on?” and laughing, laughing, laughing.

The only caveat I'd offer for this movie is its invocation of child sexual assault. Alexandra reveals that she was a victim and it's referenced several other times in the movie. It makes sense in the context of the Satanic panic of the 80's—allegations of molestation were central to it—and the movie does feel like it's trying to compile all the cult-based fantasies from the period, but the movie is pretty incompetent at every level. I found it mentioning assault hilarious just because it did it so badly, but I wasn't a victim of assault. Because the movie doesn't do anything well, it can't be taken seriously enough on this point to cause offense. However, if you have a history with this and find references to those events triggering or problematic, you may not want to watch this movie.

This looks much better than Lurkers, has competently bad acting throughout, and is almost 100% a popcorn-and-party movie. Get the friends together, fill several tall glasses of water, and let loose. This is really great.