Rogue readers may remember Walter Ruether from a film reviewed earlier here at Rogue Cinema entitled Nightmare Alley (2010). It was a horror anthology and took its cues from classic (and not so classic) B-movies. Well, Junkfood Horrorfest is a collection of earlier anthologies by Mr. Ruether and is being distributed by the good folks at Chemical Burn Entertainment.
Junkfood Horrorfest is an apt description of this collection of films. Scarlet Fry is our monster-ous host (played by Ruether himself), and makes appearances in all three films on this DVD. The first film is actually entitled Junkfood Horrorfest and is an anthology containing six rather short stories. Ruether is clearly a fan of trash cinema and cheesy gorefests and if I were a gambling man I would guess his major influence is the indomitable Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Godfather of Gore himself.
Junkfood Horrorfest was lensed way back in 2007. It’s biggest claim to fame is its "star", Calico Cooper, sometime actress and daughter of rocker Alice Cooper. I use the term star lightly because Ms. Cooper appears only in the prologue in which she plays a junkie who is ripped off. Instead of purchasing heroin, she finds she’s been stiffed and discovers only an old videotape in the paper bag she was given. After offing the dealer with a crowbar, she picks up another guy and they go to watch the tape. Thus begins Junkfood Horrorfest.
The movie was certainly filmed on the cheap. The acting is pretty nonexistent, but that is one of the charms of the film. It’s actually fairly fun to watch Ruether’s friends and acquaintances wander across the screen and do their thing. The stories range from a suicide to devil worship, cannibalism, and even a nurse who plots to kill the invalid she works for. But the trashiest story is about three dopers who use their skateboards to spank a bare-bottomed transvestite for cash so they can score some more dope. As with Nightmare Alley, while all the stories are entertaining to a certain extent, each is so short as to be underdeveloped. For instance, in "The Solution", a man wanders about his apartment before cleaning up a bit and writing a suicide note. He then strips, gets in the bath, and proceeds to slash his wrist. The End. Now I know the point of the story is the opening of the arm with a razor blade so we can see some gore, but that was the extent of the storyline. I would offer that Ruether should cut a couple of stories and work on developing fewer plotlines which might strengthen the overall film.
The effects are bloody enough, but are also H.G. Lewis-cheesy. This was an obvious homage to the master of trash cinema and Ruether does it better than anyone else. Sure, this is no-budget filmmaking, but it’s done with such zest and with tongue planted firmly in cheek that it’s hard not to appreciate what the filmmakers are trying to do here. Scarlet Fry appears between each story to crack a corny joke or two and harass a couple of females chained to a tree.
The second film on this disc is an even earlier attempt at filmmaking by Ruether entitled Scarlet Fry’s Horrorama and is basically more of the same. Ruether does love his anthologies. This one is a short film that runs only about 30 minutes and again is made up of a half-dozen vignettes. Each vignette is really just a three-to-five minute scene with ol’ Fry occasionally showing up to entertain us. Again, Ruether proves to have very bad taste (which I personally love) as the film opens with "In the Sack", about a blind date that goes awry. The guy forces the girl to perform oral sex at knifepoint, but the girl says, "If that’s what you want, all you have to do is ask." As she is pleasuring the guy, she grabs the knife and…well, you can probably guess what happens next. Cut to the next scene and she is putting his bloody member into a baggie with several others she has collected over the ensuing months. Apparently, she has trouble meeting the right kind of man. In perhaps the shortest story a woman is mourning her husband in a cemetery when a zombie (in broad daylight, no less), stumbles upon her and eats her guts. And that is all there is to that story. It seems Ruether was less interested in developing plot and character with this early attempt at filmmaking and more interested in filming scenes that ended with gory death…and there’s nothing wrong with that! Probably my favorite sequence in this second film is during a scene when one hungry dude chainsaws another man’s leg off. As the chainsaw is cutting through the leg, blood splashes from across the screen, clearly being thrown by someone off camera. It’s absolutely hilarious and totally entertaining.
Even in this early effort one can tell that Ruether has some knowledge of the camera. His angles are interesting and his techniques are solid. Even the sound isn’t terrible in this first film (although it does suffer, probably due more to age and technology than technique), which can be a huge problem for inexperienced filmmakers. It is obvious he is a student of film. He also has a penchant for horrible costumes and even worse wigs which add a touch of seedy humor to the proceedings and reminds one of some of the bottom-of-the-barrel films from the late 60’s and early 70’s like Scum of the Earth (both ’63 and ’74 versions) and An American Hippie in Israel. This film is in pretty bad shape and looks to be a multi-generational video dupe which only adds charm to it. It isn’t so bad it’s unwatchable, but for those of you who cut your teeth on bootleg videos in the eighties and early nineties, that’s the look this second film has. It brought back many lovely memories of collecting bootleg videos before DVD came along. Now everything gets a release.
If this isn’t enough, Scarlet Fry also does a wraparound segment for the cult classic Carnival of Souls. I’ve never been able to appreciate Carnival of Souls as others have, so I skipped the film but did watch the wraparound segment, which is similar to innumerable Elvira collections. In short, each film isn’t without some entertainment value depending upon how forgiving the viewer is as well as the individual viewer’s taste in cinema. Personally, I had a great deal of fun with these films, which are perfect with some popcorn and a six-pack of cold brews.
Scarlet Fry’s Junkfood Horrorfest is available from Chemical Burn Entertainment at www.chemicalburn.org.