For those who are regulars here at B-is For Best The name Richard Griffin is likely a name that will ring bells.From the silly psycho sexual antics of The Disco Exorcist to the wild 80’s gorefest that is Murder University Richard has quickly solidified a spot deep in the heart of genre fans like myself as one hell of a contender, pumping out great flick after great flick at a rate that boggles the mind to say the very least. Richard is a fan first and a director second and it shines through in everything that he does.
Before the devastating crash of the old site I had the pleasure of sitting down to two of his latest features, FRANKENSTEIN’S HUNGRY DEAD and THE SINS OF DRACULA and I’ve anxiously awaited the opportunity to talk your ear off about both of these wild little masterpieces. I had planned on showcasing them as the first batch of reviews when we came back but when word got to me that a third film of his (this one a salute to sci-fi action cheese) was making it’s way to my doorstep I knew I had to wait until I could talk about all three..and boy am I glad I did..But enough of this jibber jabber let’s start off by taking a look at FRANKENSTEIN’S THE HUNGRY DEAD.
FRANKENSTEIN’S HUNGRY DEAD Begins when a group of misfit high school students take a class trip to an odd house of wax. There they meet the sinister owner. After what they see as an exceedingly boring tour the group decides to sneak back in for some exploring. They soon realize they got more then they bargained for when the odd ball owner turns out to be a descendant of the evil Dr.Frankenstein himself, escaped from Nazi Germany and hell bent on continuing his ancestor’s work with them as cannon fodder for his latest experiments!
Holy fuck, first, what can I even begin to say about a film that starts off with wax dummies from everything from Hellraiser to Pirates of the Caribbean? This thing is worth picking up for that alone. But it doesn’t stop there, throw in gags torn right out of everything from The Brain That Wouldn’t Die to Hammer House’s House Of Frankenstein, toss in the most hysterically over the top homo-erotic love scene that will have homo-phobes running for the hills and humorists pissing their pants and you’ve got me fuck’in sold!
Everything from the off kilter dialog to the playful use of colored lighting, to the slightly askew cinematography was perfect to recreate what made the hilariously bad euro-trash adaptions of classic monster movies so addictive. Richard once again manages to poke fun at his source material while maintaining a deep amount of respect and reverence. This is why I keep coming back to this guy. He knows homage/parody, it’s his nature and it shows with leaps and bounds!
The acting here was…special ed for sure..but rightfully so, with each actor managing just the right amount of cheese without going full stupid. Shining brightest here though is Dr.Frankenstein himself who comes across as a mixture of a male Ilsa, Dr.Hackenstein and Dr.Frankenfurter. His mannerisms and facial expressions alone could carry this thing even without the ultra talented group of young people he’s surrounded by.
The gore here was perfectly cheap and hokey, adding a bit of 50’s cheese to the otherwise 70’s sleaze feel of the affair, a wise choice on the part of Richard as anything realer looking would have taken away from the fun.
Overall I give FRANKENSTEIN’S HUNGRY DEAD two middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone. It is a must have for anyone nostalgic for a more innocent age of monster movies. I anxiously await the inevitable special edition VHS release.
Richard managed to take the legend of everyone’s favorite crazed doctor and make it his own..but what about everyone’s favorite undead dirty old man?
THE SINS OF DRACULA introduces Billy, a young Christian teen with a taste for the theater. After joining a local troupe he finds himself surrounded by peers who are engulfed in all types of sinful behavior. Thinking perhaps he can help this group he decides to stay and embrace his new friends with the support of his open minded girlfriend Shannon. But more then mere sinful behavior lies in the darkness of the old community theater. A cult of satanists with an obsession with resurrecting Dracula lie in hiding and they’ve set their sites on corrupting Billy for that very purpose!
Leave it to Richard to set his sites on one of the most obscure sub genres as source material, this time Christian shame flicks. You know the type, they masquerade as Horror or exploitation only to pounce out with a well meaning, often unintentionally hilarious “Moral”; Reefer Madness, sex madness, faster pussy cat kill kill,Satan Hates You, Blood Freak the list goes on and on, and Richard knows his stuff with little touches like grouping a roll playing gamer in with the rest of the “sinners” as if simply rolling a die could land one in the fiery pits of hell. As a former gamer and semi-christian with a sense of humor this little gag really tickled my funny bone as I’ve encounter bible thumpers who do indeed feel this way.
The acting here was surprisingly great, with the young man who played Billy stealing every scene he’s in with his fresh faced innocence. He conveys a very genuine naivety and curiosity that had me completely convinced that what I was witnessing was not acting but a real corruption attempt. That’s not to say that the rest of the cast was small potatoes, quite the contrary each and every actor and actress brought their own pizzazz to the table making what could have been just another parody an honest to God great movie. Dracula was also wonderful here, rather then going for channeling Bella Lugosi or any other incarnation from the past we get an all new, very unique take on the ancient demon, this one a strong silent type, oozing power and sexuality. I feel blasphemous saying this but he just may be my favorite Dracula in a film thus far.
The gore here was few and far in between, mostly reserved for the final act, but this worked out excellently, making it all the more effective for the dramatic (and hilarious) reveal. Here we see some effects that are a bit more graphic and believable. Richard knows when to go full cheese and when to let the sight gag do the work and let the blood flow true. Once again he made the right choice with this one.
The cinematography here was mid-level digital film but with a real film feel not born from cheap overlay effects like most directors today go for, instead we get old school camera angles, framing and transitions..Filmmakers take note, if you want the feel of your film to gesture to yesteryear this is the way to go about things!
Overall I give THE SINS OF DRACULA Two Middle Fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone, as someone who has seen less then a handful of satisfying vampire films in the last 5 years I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s a rare gem that works both as a comedy and a genuinely great Horror film.
The last film we’ll be discussing today falls into a genre that has sadly been neglected for the last two decades; The sc-fi/action/thriller! Who better then Richard to take on this dying staple then the king of niche market revival, Richard Griffin!?
FUTURE JUSTICE opens with a group of military police escorting notoriously violent freedom fighter Python Diamond from Saturn’s moon Titan to Earth to be tried and executed. Upon arrival the group soon realizes the Earth has been raped almost to complete destruction by nuclear war and the few survivors are a group of raving psychopaths. The group is attacked and forced under ground, forced to rely on their sworn enemy to stay alive. This is the least of their worries as both sides of the battle find themselves in a fight for survival against a seemingly unstoppable mutant evil!
I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised by this little gem. I went into this thinking I’ find the typical so bad it’s good cheese fest Richard has become famous for..and don’t get me wrong that’s far from an insult. I dig the fuck out of all of Richard’s work for that very reason. But here I was genuinely shocked to find not a so bad it’s good film, but a legitimately great film pure and simple!
The acting here was out of this world with each actor taking their roles completely serious and straight faced all the while showcasing the over the top shlocky dialog and attitudes that made this genre so great in the first place. My favorite character though was that of Python himself who comes across as a mixture of Snake Plissken, Meets Hell from Hell Comes To Frog Town,meets Kung Fury. He manages to come across as larger then life and almost comically tough all while looking like an average Joe instead of the grown in a lab freakishly muscular hero we’re used to today. This was a breath of fresh air as was the little touches like the patchy facial hair added to the believability of him being an ex con who spent an extended period in prison. Little touches like this made this thing really work fro me.
Everything from the thrifty make do approach to the props and background to the film overlay effect lasers, to the 80’s synth style music and makeup effects managed to be dead on for these types of films from the 80’s an 90’s!
The cinematography here was low res digital but great care was obviously taken to give the whole affair a wonderfully dated analog effect that had me believing I was watching an old warped VHS fro a Mom and Pop video store. Some may mistake this and complain about it but I found myself feeling like a kid again. Griffin once again succeeded and creating a film that acts like a time machine and bring me back to my youth. Something I’ve grown to expect from this wonderful fella!
Speaking of family, another awesome aspect of this one is it featured very little that was questionable and I was able to share it with my family, something I almost never get to do with the films I receive.
Overall I give this film two middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone. It’s the best film from Richard thusfar and I’m praying the inevitable VHS release will happen immediately! I only hope more from this guy will show up on my doorstep soon.