14th Nov2015

‘Murderous Intent / Fright House’ Review (Vinegar Syndrome)

by Phil Wheat

One of the perks of backing Vinegar Syndrome’s move into video on demand (the now-launched Exploitation.TV) was a double bill limited edition DVD of Len Anthony’s Murderous Intent and Fright House, offered only to those who, like me, backed the Indiegogo campaign. Now I’d never heard of either movie. But given the fact that – at least of as far the Nerdly team are concerned – Vinegar Syndrome can do no wrong. No matter how obscure or how bizarre the films, there’s always something interesting or intriguing about the titles they choose to release… whether that be sex, violence or (as in the case of these two Len Anthony movies) sheer insanity!

Murderous Intent

Stars: Ron Mychal, William Walters, Darrow Turner, Agnetta Eckmyr, Duey Graham, Jamet De Leon, Lauren Ruane | Written and Directed by Len Anthony

mur-intent

Cops posing as hookers. Weird voodoo/mime/dance practioners crawling around the streets (it’s not made totally clear who or what these people are to be fair). A husband dreaming of murdering his wife in full samurai grab. People being killed by unseen assailants. A mid-movie pause for some VERY 80s band footage. A ridiculous amount of footage of people dancing, voodoo ceremony-style in a night club at the most inopportune moments. A scout troop in jail?! Those are just some of the delights on show in Murderous Intent; a film so obscure that a) it doesn’t appear on IMDB, and b) even the DP apparently doesn’t remember making the film!

An odd quasi-anthology, Murderous Intent sees a middle-aged English professor turned writer at the park with his daughter – borne out of a relationship with one of his students no less. A realtionship that has since become stale and almost workmanlike. Dozing off, he awakens to find the park empty except for a strange dreadlocked man who confronts him and asks him if he’s got time to talk. Of course being an out-of-work writer he has nothing but time, especially considering he’s waiting for his daughter to return to the park.

The pair pass the time by exchanging creepy stories about murder and death before the professor realises that the bloody tales might just be coming true. Oh, and he kills the dreadlocked creep who confronted him… Who in turn seems ecstatic to be murdered! And did I mention it was all a fevered dream of a writer planning his next novel? At least I *think* that’s what happened. The editing is all over the place, with odd inserts and unwarranted jump cuts ad nauseum. All of which leaves the story campletely broken. What story there is of course!

Image-wise, there’s some print damge down the right hand side of the screen late on in the film and there’s excessive grain at times too, but otherwise the print used is fantastic. You’d be hard-pressed to see a “lost” film such as this in a better state.

Fright House

Stars: Al Lewis, Paul Borghese, Jennifer Delora | Written and Directed by Len Anthony

fright-house

A desecrated grave marked with the name Vorhees; and an eerie voice whispering on the soundtrack. What is this, a Friday the 13th sequel? Nope! This is yet another oddity from writer/director Len Anthony. Here we go again…

Much like Murderous Intent, Fright House opens with another couple, only this time they’re very much in love. He asks her to marry him and then they proceed to have a long-drawn out love scene set to an eeriely familiar soundtrack (it’s not quiet the same music used in Anthony’s other film but it’s so similar no one other than Anthony would be able to know for sure). Although the happy couple aren’t happy for long. The guys brother dies and – being a police detective – he sacrifices his forthcoming marriage to solve his murder, crossing paths with the titular Fright House and its evil devil-worshipping inhabitants, saving a group of college kids in the process!

This time round director Len Anthony crafts a more coherent story. Just. Hey, at least he pulls back on the jump-cut editing in this flick. Though that doesn’t stop him throwing in the same odd characters and scenes as he did in the previous film. Who other than Len Anthony would have a scene in which a fraternity member fake-slits his wrists in front of other students because he didn’t get a manicure and then breaks into a rendition of Michael Jackson’s Bad with his frat brothers? Then there’s the vampires; demonic monks; a gaggle of topless, make-up heavy, devil worshipers; and other bizarro characters. Oh, and did I mention Al Lewis, aka Grandpa Munster, probably the only reason this Len Anthony film DIDN’T fall into such obscurity…

Again the print looks good. No real damge to speak of (and it’s not a soft looking as the image picutred above – taken from the VHS) but plenty of grain, getting exponetially heavier during the films darker scenes. But again, like Murderous Intent, how can something this obscure look so damn good!? It is worth noting that Exploitation.TV’s version of Fright House is just that, just Fright House. The first half of the two-story portmanteu film released on VHS. I guess we’ll have to wait for Vinegar Syndrome to release Abadon aka Vampires on it’s own…
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So what can you say about this particular double-bill from Vinegar Syndrome / Exploitation.TV? Honestly it’s hard to know what to say. A pair of bizarre, almost stream of conciousness, films that tap into multiple horror genre tropes whilst making absolutely no sense. Definitely a case of car-crash filmmaking at its best. Or worst. Those that backed the Indiegogo campaign, going in blind on the movies (like me), will not know what they’re watching. But at the same time you can’t look away!

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