By Dan Kinem
End my life, Lord. Please do it now. It normally takes me about a day of thinking to pick a movie to watch. In this case, it took me a week of deliberating. I finally went with an obscure movie called Enemy Unseen. All I wanted was some crazy crocodile killing. Is that too much to ask for, God? What in the world would make me think that a movie with a giant blood-thirsty croc on the cover would have that?
When the movie opened with a song I swear was featured during a Dylan and Brenda 90210 montage I was nervous. “Unique choice of music,” I thought. “But maybe they are going with music you wouldn’t expect to hear to throw the audience off ala Cannibal Holocaust," I hoped. Nope.
A man and woman are wandering around the jungle for some reason when they notice a weird ritual being performed by some natives. During the ritual a woman sacrifices herself to a crocodile and dies. The death was highly underwhelming and entirely off-screen, but I still had hope. Instead of running, they stick around and are immediately noticed by the natives and chased down. The guy is then shot with arrows and falls into the water where a crocodile kind of eats him, but not really. And yes, you read that right. He is shot and killed first, then the crocodile gets to him (although leaves no visible marks of any kind when we see the man’s body later on). The woman is captured and taken hostage.
By this point I was very skeptical of the film and began noticing that it was more focused on the natives than on the crocodiles, but I still kept watching. The owner of this foreign land (known as Crocodile Valley — good choice when buying property) is the girl’s father, who hires a hodgepodge team of mercenaries to go into the jungle to find her. How a team this bad was assembled is beyond me, but they immediately start dying off and fighting each other. The only two people in the group that matter are Steiger (played by Vernon Wells) and Josh (played by Stack Pierce). These two actually have fun chemistry and manage to make for some enjoyable moments. It basically plays out like any other 80s low-budget action movie. They end up getting caught by natives, breaking free, saving the girl, and then the girl falls in love with Vernon (just six days after her best friend/boyfriend died). Credits.
What could have set this movie apart would have been some crazy fucking crocodiles, but sadly that never occurs. We get a few scenes of crocodiles biting people a little bit, we get a couple scenes where the crocodiles lay around on the land and watch people, and then we get one or two implied crocodile deaths. Highly disappointing on that front. If you go into this movie expecting the horror elements to be extremely, extremely minimal and the action elements to be extremely, extremely stock then you won’t be disappointed. It’s just an easy to watch, cheesy action movie in the vein of most other AIP movies.
Speaking of AIP Home Video, I think this might actually be the first film I’ve ever reviewed released by them (which is crazy to think about considering they’ve released so much weird/unknown stuff). They were the kings of releasing sleazy movies during the video boom. They released everything from David Prior action films to the Christmas-themed horror masterpiece, Elves. Some of their titles are extremely obscure and are never really talked about, while others are heralded as cult classics. With a catalog as vast and (mostly) fun as AIP’s, they are always worthwhile tapes to grab if you see them. I love picking them up, especially since you never know what you are going to get and a lot of the stuff hasn’t made it to DVD (Enemy Unseen included). I wouldn’t tell anyone to hunt this movie down, but it wasn’t bad per se, it was just disappointing. Kind of like when a mother says, “I’m not mad at you, I’m just disappointed.” Which, come to think of it, is usually much worse.
By Dan Kinem
Canada is a very weird place. For one, they put disgusting cheese curd on their already perfectly delicious fries. For two, their BBQ sauce tastes like taco sauce. For three, they aren’t nearly as proud of Degrassi as they should be. And for four, Science Crazed.
That last one might not be as obvious as the other three but it’s the most bizarre of them all. Science Crazed was the one and only film from Ron Switzer (though he may have done another that never got released called Buzzsaw Nightmares), a Toronto-based madman/experimental genius. It was made in 1989 as a “spoof,” though somehow I am doubtful of this. It’s so lost and absurd in its execution that it is impossible to tell the true intentions behind this film. I’d like to view it as an extended drug-induced noise pop music video rather than a horror/comedy spoof. “Spoof” in this instance is a marketing attempt to play off the film’s flaws, but rather those flaws should be embraced because they are what makes this film so special.
The movie is basically a fucked-up Canadian retelling of Frankenstein. Dr. Frank is decades ahead of his time but only he knows it. He gets the boot from his job half-way through his most important experiment — which I’ll dub “The 21-Hour Birth” (or is it the 18 hour birth? The math gets a little jumbled, but that’s not the point). Frank — in the way only a genius could — kidnaps a girl and makes her carry a fetus to birth in a extremely accelerated time-frame that kills the mother and her freak of a son… or does it?
The rest of the movie is 77 minutes of extreme close-ups, experimental lighting, and noise. Yes, noise. Not only does the soundtrack sound like a lion with a bone stuck in its throat, but the rest of the time is filled with sounds from the son, or The Fiend, as he is referred to. The sounds he makes while he slowly kills his victims can only be described as a helicopter trying to start that literally only has a drop of gas left yet won’t stop trying. The whole effect is a cacophony of noise coupled with this bizarre art student cinematography that must be seen to be believed. The Fiend being the slowest motherfucker in film history and the whole cast being the dumbest motherfuckers in film history only adds to the effect. Close-up of The Fiend’s boots dragging on the ground. Close-up of two girls faces while they work out. Repeat. I’m not lying when I say “repeat,” either. It’s on an endless loop. Yet, each shot is more entrancing than the last.
Where the film succeeds with flying colors is the dialogue. It is entirely dubbed and boy does it sound like it. Sometimes the actors mouths will move and Switzer makes the brilliant decision to just say nothing. Other times he does the opposite, having straight-faced characters continually repeat lines like, “Mommy, Momma, Mommie” over and over. Each character is more hilarious and ridiculous than the last, but the legend of the movie is the detective. With each line he spits out I was crying. He was masterful in his over-the-top seriousness. My favorite being… “And I’ll tell you something else! It looks like our baby… is a grown killer.”
I will not call this movie entertaining, though it is. Instead, I will call it a Canadian Stan Brakhage Frankenstein adaptation on the marijuana with a Yo La Tengo soundtrack. While The Fiend lived at the end of the film and lives in our hearts to this day, it’s just a shame he didn’t make the end-credits promised follow-up appearance in “Return of the Fiend.” That would have been next level.
Not surprisingly, the movie was only released in Canada (the only country that could handle its brilliance). The company that put it out was TriWorld Films, an extremely rare VHS company that released the cult classic Things and Donald Farmer’s Scream Dream. As far as I know, these are the only movies released by TriWorld, though the catalog numbers leave me with some doubt these are it. All three tapes are incredibly hard to find, but Science Crazed is lightyears harder than the rest. I don’t know many people who actually own a copy of this film and if you are lucky enough to come across one then hold onto it for dear life and share it with the rest of the world.
That’s right, we aren’t dead. In fact, VHShitfest just turned four years old today. What started out as a review website strictly for movies viewed on VHS has turned into a distribution company and a film company. I never thought it’d go from shitty reviews of shitty movies to traveling the country doing what we love to do. I can’t thank everyone who has supported us along the way enough. It really means a lot to still get messages and comments about old reviews or videos we did that we basically have forgotten about and to hear all the positive responses to Adjust Your Tracking.
We don’t update this website nearly enough, but that doesn’t mean VHShitfest isn’t still kickin’. This year has seen our first feature-length film, Adjust Your Tracking, come to living rooms around the world. We also released a movie that I have been trying to get released for years: Donald Farmer’s Invasion of the Scream Queens (available on Amazon). And we even secured the rights to our next VHS release (but it’s still a secret). Expect many more things to come, too. Hell, I’m even doing a review to celebrate the occasion!
Dan Kinem (with Tim May and Dabeedo)
This Saturday is the 3rd Annual VHS Collectors Unite Convention in Stroudsburg, PA! Do not miss out on this if you are anywhere near the area. We will have convention exclusive items for sale, as well as hundreds of VHS! See you all there! Please tell your friends about it and help this convention continue to grow!