Shane Bitterling is the writer of twenty feature films, including BENEATH LOCH NESS and REEL EVIL. He’s lost in Development Hell on his studio projects. He explains why celebs die in threes in the Stoker nominated anthology, HELL COMES TO HOLLYWOOD as well as 18 WHEELS OF HORROR. He's on Twitter as @ShaneBitterling.
PUNK VACATION (1990) – The only thing I dig on more than punksploitation is rednecksploitation. So PV is a crossover match made in bad movie heaven. A punk rolls into a quaint town with a thirst only Pepsi can quench. “I hate ORANGE!” When he loses his forty cents in a diner pop machine, the owner runs him off with a shotgun. The nogoodnik comes back with his pals and kills the owner... over forty cents. The daughter witnesses it all and vows vengeance on those dirty punks. The release year was 1990, but I’d swear it was made around 1986 or so. Even then, I’d say they were dating themselves. The punks are hilariously garish CHiPS punk villain of the week fare. It’s sloppy, silly and low-tech, but it hit all the right buttons with me.
TWICE UPON A TIME (1983) – There was a time when the mighty George Lucas used his unlimited power and fortune for cinematic experimentation and giving talent a playground for their unique voice. This animated masterwork came out in the height of that period, and I can’t believe I never saw it until this year. I’m still not sure if I had even heard of it until this year. Shame on me. The story is almost impossible to describe (Workers in a dream factory must stop an evil genius before he destroys the world with nightmare bombs kinda gives the gist), yet it’s so completely universal and relatable. Using live action, traditional animation, stop-motion, photographic stills for backgrounds and a lighting process called Lumage, this comes across visually like Terry Gilliam directing an episode of SOUTH PARK. Raucous, adult, funny social commentary and the “accidental nightmare” sequences is one of the best bits of animation I’ve ever seen. This is exactly why I’ve always loved animation, where the imagination is boundless. And this is exactly why I don’t like the safe, by the numbers modern CGI movies.
BERSERKER (1987) – I was of age during the slasher boom, so between the local movie theater, drive-in and scads of rental stores, I thought I’d seen them all. But new ones from the period keep turning up and that’s the greatest thing. This movie isn’t the greatest thing, but it does at least try to do something different with the subgenre. A group of teens go camping in the woods that was an original settlement for Vikings. They have a deaaath curse. The curse of the Nordic berserker, where they get offed by somebody wearing a bear mask and claws. Also, Buck Flowers action.
RECORD CITY (1978) – Apart from being a movie addict, I’m a vinyl record addict. Featuring a Who’s Who of popular comedians of the time (Tim Thomerson, Gallagher), TV second bananas (Boss Hogg, Frank Gorshin, Ted Lange, Ruth Buzzi, Larry Storch, etc.) and Rick Dees in full-on coked mode, this comedy isn’t very funny at all, but serves as an amazing time capsule of the time. No real plot to speak of, but I’m always enamored with the chaotic frenzy on display from this by-gone era. They capture the bedlam of so many characters and things happening – there’s always something going on in every corner of the frame - like the pages of MAD Magazine exploding onto the screen. Only not as funny.
FRIGHTMARE (1983) – I’ve owned the original poster painting for some years, but only recently saw the movie. In 1983, there were so many classics opening every weekend, this one was most likely a stinker in comparison. But these things age well over time as they all have some form of charm. And this one has it in spades. An aging horror icon dies, and group of students (Jeffrey Combs in his first role) plan to steal the body from his crypt for a final going away party. It’s never that simple. Goofy fun and as I watched, I couldn’t help but feel some connection to the main setting. As it turns out, the crypt was shot in the old The Spaghetti Factory restaurant in Hollywood where I ate at many times before catching a movie at Grauman’s.
A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (1972) – This is the first part of a Christian end-times quadrilogy. The first and most successful faith based film that also spawned Christian rock and its first hit. Don’t let that scare you away. If you look at it in the right way, this is pure horror and feels so much like MESSIAH OF EVIL. Or if you’re one of those horrible people, you can sit back and laugh at the wardrobe and quaintness of it all. In it, a young girl wakes to find that most of the population of earth has disappeared. Those who remain have taken the Number of the Beast. Those who refuse it are taken and killed as example. Will she take it to survive? Or stay in hiding to hold onto her beliefs? It’s all really fun stuff, with some great horror set-pieces. The series gets into some pretty good sci-fi as it goes along.