Eric Stanze & Sub Rosa Extreme  

An auteur underground film-maker with a style all his own. He works with zero-budgets but manages to get a lot out of nothing by using creative camera techniques, a slew of interesting editing tricks, extensive use of atmospheric sounds and jarring music. He is at his best when he creates unusual realities and horror fantasies, bringing dark and extreme subject matter to life with his editing and visual techniques, and he usually implements his visions without compromise. That said, many of his earlier movies are frustrating, screaming potential but always lacking something, whether it is the right environment, writing, budget or team, or whether it is the problem of over-directing his actors that often feel like they're trying too hard to act and emote instead of bringing a character to life in three dimensions. Later movies improve however, bringing more maturity in both the directing and acting departments, exploring his unique ideas and turning them into interesting and gripping experiences with his instantly recognizable style. His Sub Rosa project allows his team-mates to make movies of a similar ilk and he is usually included in their films as an editor or producer.

Of Some Interest

Ice From The Sun  
In an alternate reality lives a wizard and his apprentice who lure humans into their world to entertain themselves and gain power by killing them in sadistic ways. A girl who commits suicide is sent into this world to seduce the evil Presence so that its hold on the world will be weakened enough to destroy it. Stanze pulls out all the camera and editing tricks for this nightmarishly bizarre sophomore effort that is extremely frustrating due to its unrealized potential. Scenes range from surrealistic genius to ploddingly dull, with gritty gore and sadism, and a style which is a blend of rawer Hellraiser and Nine Inch Nails. With much better actors, and at least a 30-minute cut of all the excruciating exposition and dialog, this could have been a surrealistic dark masterpiece of underground cinema.

In Memory Of  
Stanze returns for a psychological mind-trip of a movie, which is something he does best. A young lady finds that her reality has become very confusing, whether it is missing time and childhood memories, events happening in the wrong order, waking up in violent situations, or dreaming surreal gruesome nightmares. The same characters keep popping up wherever she goes, and a strange malignant guide keeps giving her instructions as she follows her quest to find her sanity. She and we try to figure out what is real, whether it is her boyfriend pimping her out, a job with a verbally abusive boss, memories of her loving aunt, or a conspiracy to do with mental illnesses and an experimental drug. Characters change or are symbolically buried as she wades through her surreal nightmarish world and rules out the figments of her broken mind. It's a long movie and not for the impatient, but Stanze's usual visual and editing tricks work well here for the experience rather than the plot. His usual stable of actors have improved a lot, and at the center is a very good Jackie Kelly.

Stanze finally comes back to directing original muscular indie horror after the weak Deadwood Park and the various poor Sub Rosa production efforts. The result is definitely one of his strongest efforts, with very watchable original horror material that puts to shame the modern plotless trash and copycats. Two women are on the run after a drug-deal gone bad, staying at a remote town where everything seems peaceful until they come across a strange menacing man with mysterious ties to WWII Nazis. Along the way, there is also an entertaining sub-plot involving Satanists that are looking to upgrade from sacrificing dogs to their master. This leads to a scene that is the centerpiece of the movie, both in terms of a surprising, entertaining and vicious twist, and also because it contains most of the splatter of the movie with a slow, brutal decapitation. This movie combines drama and tense relationships, the supernatural, action, horror, and an intriguing story. The gore is only borderline extreme and is used only when needed. The actors in Stanze's stable have improved, and Stanze once again excels with sound and editing to extract the most atmosphere from his indie production. Another good (but not awesome) movie from Stanze.

Savage Harvest  
A zero-budget debut which is basically a variation on the Evil Dead film with native American dark magic as the cause of contagious demonic possession with a disposition for blood and guts. A group of teenagers get trapped in a camp (sound familiar?) and battle it out with evil. Gory chunks include skull crushing, torso ripping and neck shredding. Gritty underground horror with flashes of talent, but fatally flawed due to extremely dull acting.

Another under-developed but ambitious work from Stanze. The goal was to create a claustrophobic and brutal film about a weak, disturbed loser who has been kidnapping, raping, humiliating, torturing and killing women for years and who now has a new victim locked up in his house. He collects his exploits in a scrapbook which he thinks will make him famous and popular. At first she is pummeled slowly into submission, then slowly the tables turn. The writing, acting and direction, although good at times, are obviously rushed and under-produced, and given this intense subject matter, nothing short of the best would achieve the proper effect. Not convincing enough.

Severed Head Network, The    
A compilation of shorts and music videos, most of them involving Stanze or his friends. The shorts vary in quality and style, from a gritty anti-Christian rant involving slaughterhouse gore and the myth of Unicorns, to soft-porn sex where an abused girl expresses her psychosis with her lover, to an amusing hallucinogenic romp involving a senile old man who imagines lots of violent deeds while going shopping, to a musical involving people in animal costumes and splatter, etc. Mostly misses, and there are no masterpieces, but some are moderately interesting, and the fun is in tasting one underground jab after another.


Buzz Saw  
What a mess. This feels like it's written by the mind of a drug-addict in advanced stages of deterioration. Two maintenance men have to deal with their alcohol and drug addictions, diabetes, demands by their strange tenants, and their mysterious murders by flying power tools. There's some blood splatter and horror dismemberment by power tools, there's some boring endless fighting between a group of drug addicts, random light comedy, and a weird alien sub-plot involving children up in a tree-house that study the post-murder scenery and take notes. The mood changes often, the writing jumps from one scene to another with no sense of consequences, relevance or continuity, strange characters are built but not developed, and nothing makes sense in the end.

China White Serpentine  
Some kind of evil woman somehow seduces men and women, making them into dope dealers and amateur porn actors until they spiral to a violent doom. A brother of one of the victims receives a mysterious DVD which brings evil sounds and power into his house while his x-girlfriend sees gory visions of death. Unfortunately, while Stanze pulled out his editing bag of tricks to spice up this obviously low-budget movie, the story and character development is thoroughly unconvincing. Contains relatively little gore but a lot of nudity and sex.

Christmas Season Massacre  
A spoof on slasher movies filmed for fun with a shoe-string budget. All typical slasher characters become caricatures, the events are all exaggerated and the not-so-teenagers are up to some really goofy antics like having sex with a watermelon on their head and being crept on quietly by the killer with a running chainsaw. The handful of splatter scenes are over-the-top. Mostly silly in a bad way but worth a couple of chuckles if you're bored.

A girl with amnesia is hypnotized into exploring her past trauma. Her story of violent drug dealings gone bad is revealed using a mosaic of flashbacks mixed with surrealistic visions as we wander inside her head. There is almost no gore but the scenes are a crude attempt at bizarre Lynch storytelling. Weak writing and cinematography, artificial dialog and acting.

I Spit On Your Corpse, I Piss On Your Grave  
A psycho, who is angry at several people for silly reasons, escapes from jail, kidnaps all four of them (one of them his ex-girlfriend), and sets out to take revenge. When his girlfriend crowbars him to death however, it turns out she is a psychotic disturbed bitch with a gun who has scores to settle with the other three as well. So she proceeds to force them to eat their own feces, burn them with cigarettes, and sodomize them with a broom before killing them. Dull acting, lots of dull padding consisting of images of Jesus and graveyards, and gratuitously sick.

Savage Harvest 2: October Blood  
Featuring a different director and a completely different approach, this sequel takes its horror seriously by attempting to build its many characters, atmosphere, and supernatural background before diving into the gore. For over an hour, the movie explores the intersecting lives of a director who lost an actor on set and his various friends and acquaintances, including relatives of survivors from the previous massacre. The movie piles it on, with raised tensions, supernatural research and skepticism, hidden agendas, old-friends with complicated pasts, a mysterious tape from the survivor who committed suicide, and more, all slow-moving and boringly mediocre. Then the dead come back to rip them all apart with uncreative splatter, including decapitation, dismemberment and a chainsaw to the groin. Uninspired and flat, with no sense of pacing and buildup.

Undertow, The  
You've heard it before...six dumb teenagers camp in the backwoods where inbreeding and fundamentalism are par for the course and a twisted relative or two have a taste for sadistic games and ruthless butchering. In homage to 70s backwoods killer flicks, this low-budget splatter version of Deliverance delivers with a gritty, gory take on the genre, but fails miserably with its detached acting and amateurish directing.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents