After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
This week’s Horror Movie Night selection is not that great, I’m going to warn you right off the bat. There’s a low death count and very little in the story that is truly enjoyable. We get two main characters who are the annoying stereotypical American tourists too good to listen to the locals and a confusing tale involving a devil-run town. This all probably contributes to why most people have not seen, or even heard of, the 1988 film by Ferde Grofé, Jr – Judgement Day (aka The Third Hand). Just silly.
The film opens with two American backpackers, Charlie (Ken McLeod) and Pete (David Anthony Smith), stopping in a small Latin town when their bus breaks down. It’s quite a hike to the big city they were headed, and will be at least two to three hours before a new bus can come pick them up. From a mysterious veiled woman they find out that there is a town called Santana not too far away. So against the better wishes of the bus driver, they follow her to this unknown place. Once there, they meet up with another American who runs a local restaurant/bar and warns them that everyone leaves town before sundown because of a curse put on the town by the devil. Now one day per year he gets to take over and steal any of those still in the city for eternal torture. Satan’s one day on Earth. Of course, the two stay behind and insanity ensues as they try to remain alive…and one of them gets it on with a ghost.
Why are Americans so dumb? Guess I should say, why are WE Americans so dumb, because I’m one of them too. Take Charlie and Pete for instance. These two leave their country to see strange and exotic places only to act like big shots and refuse to listen to anyone they encounter along the way. I understand that in certain parts of the world superstition can get a little out of hand, but when multiple people, some of whom are seemingly normal, urge you to rethink your plans and get the hell out of dodge, maybe you should listen. Every movie out there with similar warnings always ends in a bad way. The local at the beginning offers to buy them beer and practically begs the pair on his hands and knees to stay where they were, but they just laugh it off to follow a strange woman clad in all black for an eight mile trek to this mysterious place. Instead of waiting where they were for a new bus for a couple hours, they would rather walk to a smaller place that seems to terrify their guide. Only American’s would want instant gratification so badly.
Once in Santana and they meet up with Sam (Monte Markham), an American who lives in the town, and he urges them to get the hell out lest they become playthings of the devil. They still don’t listen! I mean come the fuck on, the town’s name is Santana and Satan is going to take it over for a night! That similar sounding/spelled connection alone would be enough for me to flee, no pleading needed. At one point one of the guys even says “like I said, he’s a goddamn local,” as to dismiss anything he might say. If I’ve learned anything from watching horror movies – hell, any movie – it’s that you always pay attention to the goddamn locals!
But Pete and Charlie aren’t the sharpest pencils in the classroom. From the beginning we see them singing and hiking in places they shouldn’t go in a strange land whilst cracking jokes. The whole thing felt very reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London, but that soon changes once they arrive in Santana. The pair just get more and more stupid and have arguments that border on lovers’ quarrels. Shit, it does take place in the 80s and they’re both wearing bandanas tied around their necks. Their full names are also pretty comical – Charlie Manners and Peter Johnson. Chuck’s name sounds like a character in a kid’s educational TV show, and whenever someone would say Pete’s full name I would laugh to myself like a teenage boy. Peter Johnson, hee-hee, it’s like both his names mean wiener, hee-hee.
Most things in this movie are only made slightly enjoyable by the the laughably bad nature in which they occur. A troop of demons armed with whips march through the streets looking for humans to capture for their dark master. As they traverse the town, drummers bang a marching rhythm that sounds like the echo of a basketball on a gym floor. When you see the demons, they appear to be molded after Nosferatu…just with heavy dark robes. They don’t look all that frightening, actually kind of funny.
Once we finally see the Devil, in the last third of the film, it’s pretty damn impressive. He is horned and sinister as they bring him newly captured souls tied to crosses and he reaches out with his “third hand” to brand them as one of his slaves. This is where we get to see the little nudity in the flick as ol’ Scratch lays on some third-hand boob grabs that leave behind a burned imprint of the three digit appendage. Hot… literally.
Just when you think you’ve figured out the whole thing, the last ten or so minutes of the movie come up with some ridiculous story about how the devil uses a human to round people up and… you know what? It’s not worth repeating because it just made me scratch my head. One thing of note that I should regale is the fact that in the role of the town’s founder, Octavio, is none other than original Joker Cesar Romero! His part is not too involved, but it’s nice to see him onscreen, even if he is a slave owning ghost.
This is one of those few HMN films that I’m not really going to recommend you seek out. While there is a bit of fun to be had joking around during the film, it’s not really worth the trouble it might take to track down a copy of this VHS only title.
Until next week – ALWAYS listen to the locals!
Body Count: 4
Best Death: Sam’s exhausted passing
Satan’s First Appearance: 1:00:04
Number of Third Hand Boob Grabs: 2 (not counting Sam’s)
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-5/16/12: Of Unknown Origin (1983)
-5/23/12: Deadline (1984)
-5/30/12: Memorial Valley Massacre (1988)