Subspecies, Cujo, Bubba Ho-Tep, and Battledogs
Horror Bulletin Reviews for Week 168
This week, we’ll watch a group of fun older films. We’ll begin with “Battledogs” a sort-of werewolf film from 2013, howl along with “Cujo” from 1983, Meet up with a cool vampire in “Subspecies” from ‘91 and end with a geriatric mummy in “Bubba Ho-Tep” from 2002
For more fun reviews check out our website at http://horrorguys.com
where this week, we cover:
“The Spine of Night” from 2022
“Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge” from 1991
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Here. We. Go!
• Director: Alexander Yellen
• Writer: Shane Van Dyke
• Stars: Craig Sheffer, Dennis Haysbert, Kate Vernon
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 28 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a zombie apocalypse, only with werewolves this time! That makes for an interesting variation. But when the military decides they want to try and control the outbreak to weaponize the werewolves, what could go wrong? Quite a bit it turns out. Lots of action in this one. It’s pretty entertaining overall.
We get aerial shots of NYC as credits roll. A woman walks through the airport, and she doesn’t look well. She goes into the restroom, and we see that she has a bite on her arm. She goes into convulsions and changes into a CGI werewolf that runs through the airport, killing people as it goes. The SWAT team arrives, and we soon see that there’s more than one of the monsters. It seems to spread very quickly, as the wounded almost immediately change into werewolves. It’s like a zombie apocalypse, only with werewolves.
Very quickly, the President of the United States is notified. This is a big deal, so General Monning is put in charge of the operation. Major Hoffman is ordered to leave the lab and get there immediately. Captain Falcon is ordered to use gas only until they know what they’re up against. All the wounded/infected are gathered up and put into quarantine. Donna Voorhees is the original werewolf, and she checks into the quarantine place with everyone else. Dr. Ellen Gordon microchips Donna.
Major Hoffman talks to Donna She’s a wildlife photographer. He says they need to find Patient Zero, but she doesn’t have anything to say about that. The General warns Hoffman not to screw this up like he did his last job. The soldiers are using excessive force, but Hoffman warns that these are people in there somewhere. General Monning wants to start recruiting the infected as werewolf soldiers.
Hoffman goes to the airport to learn that they’ve installed the brand-new hologram security recording footage. Hoffman spots Donna in the footage, and he wants to see what’s on her camera. Meanwhile, Captain Falcon gets one of the infected to track down Hoffman as a test of their hunting ability. Hoffman calls Monning and thinks that Donna may be Patient Zero.
A werewolf does come after Hoffman, who tries to reason with it. He soon finds out that they can be killed with regular bullets. Monning calls his buddy at the DOD, and talks plans about weaponizing the werewolves. Hoffman can’t be trusted, so Monning wants him dead.
They capture Donna, but she doesn’t hold a cure for the disease. She does, however, have a bit of the original wolf’s tooth stuck in her arm, which may be of use. When Dr. Gordon tries to cut the tooth out, Donna wolfs up, and so do ALL the others. Hoffman does the whole “Good doggy” thing, and wolf-Donna reverts to human. The rest of them, on the other hand, head straight for downtown New York City. Pandemonium ensues.
Major Hoffman calls the President, but The President believes Monning’s lies instead. Hoffman, Donna, and Dr. Gordon have to escape the base, but the President has ordered their arrest. The werewolves attack the soldiers in Central Park en masse. Helicopters start shooting werewolves on the busy streets of New York, but then the wolves fight back.
Falcon shoots Hoffman and Gordon and captures Donna. Meanwhile, the President talks about eradicating New York to contain the outbreak. Gordon cuts out Donna’s tooth and starts working on an antidote. Hoffman, who was left for dead, gets up with barely a scratch. Gordon almost immediately whips up a cure for Donna, which Monning immediately confiscates.
There’s a shootout. Captain Falcon blows up, and then a werewolf attacks Monning. The jet fighters approach the city to blow everything up as Hoffman and Monning fight each other in werewolf form. Donna shoots the Monning-wolf and blows it apart before dying herself.
Hoffman calls the President again, and this time, for no particular reason, the President believes him. It’s too late though, they’ve already dropped the bomb, which wipes out New York City. That’s OK, because they evacuated the city in just the few hours since the action began. Gordon and Hoffman jump off a bridge and survive by avoiding the blast underwater.
Happy ending, right?
The super high speed infection process is new and interesting and lends itself to a fairly original storyline. General Monning’s hatred of Hoffman is completely ridiculous; if Hoffman were incompetent, why would he still be an officer? He’s just irrationally evil, because the military=evil. Sometimes anyway.
Donna was clearly infected and afflicted with the disease, so what was the big deal about her being Patient Zero? She may have been the first, but she didn’t have any special antibodies or resistance. That’s not the way cures or immunizations work.
The CGI werewolves are mediocre at best, but since this was made for the Sci-Fi channel, that’s probably to be expected. It’s got a good cast of experienced people, a neat new concept, and the special effects are good enough to get the point across. There is a lot of running around and action here; actually, too much action, which actually makes the film feel longer than it is. So much happens, that you kinda just want it to be over.
• Directed by Lewis Teague
• Written by Stephen King, Don Carlos Dunaway, Barbara Turner
• Stars Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Danny Pintauro
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 MInutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Doggies aren’t scary, right? Well, they can be a little. And sometimes they really can be. This is an extreme case, and they do it effectively. It’s a good story, realistic with events that really could happen. Dee Wallace sells it, as does the rest of the cast.
We see a happy little bunny in a field on a beautiful spring day. Then a giant dog comes out of nowhere and chases it. The rabbit escapes into a cave full of bats. A bat bites the dog.
Elsewhere, little Tad tries to get into bed without the “monsters” getting him. He’s afraid of the dark; he’s afraid of the closet door that won’t stay shut; he’s afraid of what’s under the bed. His father Vic explains that there’s no such thing as monsters; they only exist in stories. His mother Donna just looks tired of the whole thing.
Steve Kemp comes over. He’s a furniture repairman and Vic’s tennis partner. We soon learn that Steve and Donna are screwing around when Vic’s not home. Vic, on the other hand, wants another baby.
The mailman gives Vic a tip on where to find a good mechanic out in the country. The whole family goes out to the Camber house, where Joe Camber agrees to fix Vic’s car. Donna and Tad see Cujo, a huge Saint Bernard. Donna’s a little afraid of dogs, but Tad isn’t. Tad and Cujo make friends, and Donna notices the scab on Cujo’s nose.
Vic works at a PR firm that is having a really bad week with their breakfast cereal account. Donna drives her broken down old Pinto to see Steve and break up. Vic drives by in his fancy convertible and spots them outside— but only briefly, so he’s not completely sure what he saw.
Meanwhile, we see the infection on Cujo’s nose has gotten worse, and he’s not looking good at all. Charity Camber reveals that she just won $5000 in the lottery. She got Joe an engine hoist, and she wants to go to Connecticut to see her sister for a week, taking their son with her. Joe has his friend Gary over to keep him company.
Steve comes over, not willing to take no for an answer. Vic comes in during their argument, and he knows what’s going on. Vic has to go out of town for ten days to deal with his lost account. Vic can’t fix Donna’s car, so he tells her to take it to Joe’s for a repair.
Out in the country, Gary dumps trash in his pile. He sees Cujo, who growls at him. He recognizes the foaming at the mouth and runs away, but Cujo is faster. Gary grabs his gun, but Cujo breaks in the front door and kills him. Later, Joe Camber calls for Cujo, as he hasn’t been around the house lately. Joe stops over at Gary’s house and finds the body. He also finds Cujo, and he also knows what the problem is, but he also can’t get away.
Donna and Tad drive out the Camber farm to get the car fixed, but find that no one’s home. Cujo attacks before they even get out of the car. They roll up the windows, so they’re OK for now. Tad starts crying about the monster, and the crying and screaming never stop. The screams only infuriate the dog more. The car, on the other hand, refuses to start. They eventually honk the horn and drive the dog away.
With no other options, Donna and Tad wait in their little car until help arrives. The car is still dead and isn’t going anywhere. Vic tries to call home that night, but when no one answers, he thinks Donna is out with Steve.
The waiting game begins. The next day, they’re still in the car, and it’s really hot. They are near the mailbox, so they wait for the mailman to come. At the post office, we see that Mrs. Camber put a hold on their mail while she was going out of town; the mail isn’t coming.
Eventually, Donna gets out of the car, and gets attacked, but she fights him off with a metal Thermos. There’s lots more screaming.
Vic decides to leave the meetings early since he can’t get through to Donna. His partner is angry, but Vic goes anyway.
On the third day, Tad starts having convulsions from dehydration which raises Donna’s motivation levels just a bit.
Steve goes over to the family’s home looking for Donna. Vic goes home to find that Steve has cut open all the pillows in the house and trashed the place. The police think maybe Donna did this before leaving him, but Vic is convinced that Steve did it. The police start looking for Donna’s car, which might be up at the Camber place.
The sheriff arrives at the farm, and he gets out to investigate. He finds out what’s been going on— just a little too late to save himself.
When the sheriff doesn’t report in, Vic decides to go to the farm himself.
Donna resolves she has to do something and makes a run for the baseball bat in the yard. She whacks Cujo good a few times and finally stabs the dog to death.
With the danger past, she tries to get inside the car to rescue Tad, but can’t get in. She finally has to break a window to get to him. She takes Tad into the Camber house and gets him water. He’s nearly dead, but she revives him.
Cujo then breaks through the window and Donna shoots him with the sheriff’s gun.
Vic arrives minutes after all the action ends.
Man, can that kid scream!
This was made back when Stephen King movies still tried to be good. It’s got a small-ish cast, a simple story, and not too many distracting special effects. Just a scary old dog who mostly behaves like a real rabid dog would. There’s absolutely nothing supernatural, magical, or evil here.
There was talk of doing a sequel, but all it would have taken to resolve the problem is a simple modern cell phone. Of course, that wasn’t an option in 1983, so the isolation of being in a car, even right next to a house, is very real.
The kid here is really annoying with all the screaming, but I think he’s supposed to be doing that to heighten the tension. In the book, Tad died, but he does survive here so the film doesn’t have such a downbeat ending.
Short Film: Pursuit of a Jigsaw (2022)
• Directed by Sam Mizrahi-Powell
• Written by Sam Mizrahi-Powell
• Stars Jamie Roy, Caitlin Thorburn, Garrett M. Brown
• Run Time: 12:33
• Watch it at:
Benjamin awaits his marriage, and he seems surprisingly unhappy about it. He's afraid of losing his individuality and becoming a "Jigsaw" person. This sounds ridiculous until we see his co-worker, who has already undergone this "Transformation." His fiancé, Mary, doesn't seem completely overjoyed at the prospect either.
Maybe, just maybe, this couple isn't ready for marriage.
There's a lot of commentary here about being part of a team, part of a marriage, part of the world, and how terrifying and terrible that all can be. The makeup/masks are effective and make it clear what's going on.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
• Directed by Don Coscarelli
• Written by Joe R. Lansdale, Don Coscarelli
• Stars Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Bob Ivy
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a crazy premise and a whole lot of fun. It’s certainly still a horror movie, and there’s some grim aspects to it, but there’s laughs too. The makeup, effects, acting, and script are great. Check this one out for sure.
We begin with an old-time newsreel of a group of archaeologists discovering the tomb of King Amon Ho-Tep in Egypt. The mummified remains then went on tour to museums around the world.
In present-day Mud Creek, Texas, there is a nursing home named Shady Creek. An old man who looks a little like Elvis wakes up in a nasty bedroom with a nastier roommate. No, he really is Elvis, and he’s not happy to be there. The roommate then dies.
That evening, an old woman steals the eyeglasses off another old woman in an iron lung. Then she steals a box of chocolates from a tray. She goes back to her room and pigs out. She ends up fighting with a giant cockroach- no, it’s a scarab. Suddenly, a mummy appears! Two deaths in two days, the mortuary guys are getting tired.
Elvis meets the dead roommate's daughter, Callie, and he guilts her over not visiting. The nurse says to Callie that he’s obviously not really Elvis. She calls him Sebastian Haff, an old Elvis impersonator who fell off the stage and broke his hip twenty years ago. He’s never been right since. At least according to the nurse.
In truth, Elvis and Sebastian switched places for a break, with the agreement Elvis could step back in any time he wanted to. Except Elvis burned up his contract in a barbeque accident. Sebastian died with the world thinking he was Elvis, and Elvis continued life as an Elvis impersonator. Until he fell off the stage and broke his hip. We get a flashback that confirms his story. But, now no one believes that he is who he says he is. The only guy who does believe him is JFK, the former president and now a black man. “They dyed me this color, all over!” He didn’t actually die in that assassination attempt.
Late one night, Elvis gets up to pee and turns on the space heater in his room. He finds one of the scarabs, and he thinks it’s a cockroach too. He fights it off with his walker and karate moves. He finally traps it with a bedpan. He goes to see Jack, JFK, to tell him what happened. Jack says he saw “it” scuttling down the hall, and he doesn’t mean the bug.
The next morning, Elvis finds that the excitement the previous night has... excited him. The next night, Jack comes to him, warning about “It” being back again. Jack thinks it’s an assassin after him, so they go and check it out. They find Egyptian hieroglyphs scratched into the restroom stall like graffiti.
Jack claims that the creature had him last night, and was just about to suck his soul out through his ass when Elvis interrupted it. They read in a book about “soul suckers” who can draw it out of any orifice. Since the mummy is dressed like a cowboy for some reason, Elvis calls him “Bubba Ho-Tep.” What they’ve got here is an Egyptian Soul Sucker that comes for little meals each night. Old people don’t offer much energy, but they don’t put up much of a fight, either, so it’s like an easy buffet for the creature.
Elvis doesn’t really believe any of this until he sees the creature walking down the hallway. We get a quick vision/flashback that shows us how the mummy got there. The next morning, Elvis goes down to the creek to find the bus from his vision, which is really hard to do for an old guy with a walker.
Jack goes downtown and does some research on the mummy. The mummy was stolen for ransom but then the bus the crooks drove went off a bridge and was washed away into the creek near the nursing home. They never found the mummy. Elvis remembers his movies and decides this time, he wants to be a hero in real life.
Jack and Elvis make a plan, gather their weapons and set a trap. Finally, they spot the mummy outside. The mummy attacks, but they fight it off. Jack goes looking for it, but it gets him first. Elvis hops into Jack’s wheelchair and sprays the monster with alcohol and gasoline, then sets it on fire. Jack dies, but tells Elvis that he’s got to “take care of business.”
The mummy gets back up. The two fight and race toward the cliff on the wheelchair. They go over the side and Elvis loses his gasoline can but he’s still got the alcohol. Elvis sets the thing on fire again, and this time, the mummy loses the souls he had eaten and finally dies. Elvis is dying, but at least he saved all the others at Shady Pines.
Bruce Campbell’s old age makeup is pretty good here. He’s wrinkly, but not so over-the-top as to look awful. Really, the whole concept for the film is just insane; old Elvis and JFK battle a mummy in a nursing home. Still, the acting sells it, and it’s a lot of fun.
It’s an ongoing joke that film mummies are slow and ought to be really easy to avoid. They’re just wrapped-up zombies after all. Who couldn’t outrun a mummy? Old people with walkers of course. Still, this pair manages to put up a good fight.
• Directed by Ted Nicolaou
• Written by Charles Band, Jackson Barr, David Pabian
• Stars Angus Scrimm, Anders Hove, Irina Movila
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 23 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a pretty good vampire tale. The digital special effects haven’t held up over time, but the makeup and practical effects are solid. It’s got a great location, Romania. It’s one worth a watch.
Radu walks in on his father, King Vladislav, who is drinking blood from the Bloodstone. The old man doesn’t seem happy to see his freaky-looking son. Radu knows his brother has been summoned from abroad but doesn’t want to see him ascend to the throne. “The bloodstone is my right as firstborn,” he hisses. The king springs a trap, imprisoning Radu. Radu, not to be outdone, pinches off his own fingers, which then morph into little demon things. The little demons open the cage and let Radu out. Radu then stabs the old man, who just sort of stands there watching the whole thing. Credits roll.
Three girls arrive in Transylvania on school break. They stop as a funeral procession marches slowly past. They continue on to the evil looking castle, where they meet Karl, the caretaker. In 1443, Vlad Dracula defended against the Turks in this very castle. The Turks were wiped out, and the locals believed it was vampires who saved the defenders. They go up into a storage area that contains several coffins.
The girls travel around looking at ruins and the village. Night falls, and Radu rises from his coffin and notices the girls. The girls meet Stefan, a zoologist who is staying at the castle as well to study nocturnal animal life in the region. An old woman explains the way the gypsies made a truce with the vampires way back in the day. The Bloodstone is said to ooze with the blood of the saints, and since the stone was given to the king of the vampires, no one has been attacked or bitten. The vampires survive from the stone peacefully.
The girls take a nap in the countryside and oversleep. They spot Radu in the woods; they run away and meet up with Stefan, who leads them back to the fortress. We then see Stefan finding the dying old vampire king as Radu attacks him. Stefan is Radu’s brother, and he goes to Karl for help. We next see Radu dining on Lillian, one of the girls. Radu taunts Stefan by withholding the Bloodstone from him. The sun is rising, and they are too far from their crypts. Karl shows up and rescues Stefan just in time. Stefan tells Karl to find Radu’s resting place, and the next scene has Karl sharpening pointy stakes and loading shotgun shells full of rosary beads. “You and your father should have killed him a long time ago,” Karl says to Stefan. Stefan wants Karl to get rid of the girls quickly before there is more trouble.
The doctor examines Lillian’s wound; she appears to be anemic. That night is the big parade and festival the girls came to see. Stefan is there, and we know that he really likes Michelle. From all the kissing, we soon figure out that she likes him as well, although Karl has warned him not to take a mortal as a lover. Radu kidnaps Mara, a local girl, and kills the old woman we saw earlier.
Michelle teams up with Stefan and Karl, and they tell her the whole story. He insists that the girls need to leave town in the morning. Unfortunately, Lillian dies of “blood poisoning” before morning comes. The villagers cut off the head of the old woman to keep her from becoming a vampire, but Karl, who ought to know better, helps Michelle bury Lillian without this safety measure. Surprising no one, Lillian rises from the grave as Radu watches and waits.
Stefan finds Mara in Radu’s dungeon, but it’s a trap. A net falls on Stefan. Lillian makes off with Michelle and puts her in the dungeon next to Mara, so now everyone is in trouble. They get loose and try to find a way out. Of course, Mara is a vampire now too, and all the vampires take Michelle to see Stefan. They plan to turn her right in front of Stefan, just for spite. He bites her just as Karl breaks in with his anti-vampire weapons. Karl kills Lillian and frees Stefan.
Stefan and Radu have a sword fight, and Mara and Michelle do the cat fight thing. Radu and Mara both lose dramatically. Both the baddies get beheaded, but Radu swears that nothing can kill him, so who knows? There could be a sequel.
Stefan takes the Bloodstone and kisses Michelle, who now has bloody holes in her neck. She doesn’t want to be evil like Radu, so Stefan bites her to make her like he is. As the sun rises, they both lay in a really big coffin built for two.
We then see the little demon things wake up Radu’s severed head…
The CGI demons are simply atrocious, even by 1991 standards. Radu’s look and makeup make him an especially creepy-looking vampire, and he speaks really clearly, even with those huge fangs in his mouth. Angus Scrimm, as the King, looks creepy-looking a bit ridiculous with a frilly wig on. This was also the first American film to be shot in Romania.
For a long while, I thought the bits with Radu and the Vampire King happened long in the past as flashbacks, but it turns out, all this stuff was happening at the same time.
This was good enough to spawn several sequels. It’s a good, if not particularly original, vampire film. The CGI makes the whole thing look dated, but otherwise, it holds up pretty well today.
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