The Merits of Sin: Red Eyes (1994) (USA)

Somewhere buried in the backyards of Wisconsin is a bundle of bones. How many bundles? I can’t say for sure, but I know these remnants of what I assume was some kind of shaman or demonic entity are scattered like dimwitted seeds from Lake Michigan to Lake Superior. These bones are cursed, they have to be. If they weren’t, there is no explanation for the nefarious specters knocking around the skulls of so many midwestern filmmakers. You won’t find me digging up any earth though, I’m quite thankful…some curses can be a good thing.

Video age

Red Eyes doesn’t belong here. Not in the way that your homophobic great aunt doesn’t belong at your gay cousin’s wedding but in the way that a snake doesn’t belong slithering out of your mouth when you yawn. It’s like something went wrong between dimensions and the parallels merged. It’s a fever dream you had where the ghost of Bill Rebane whispered a film plot into your ear but you downed 24 beers before you wrote it down. I apologize. I’m rambling. That’s what Wisconsin does to me. Maybe it’s how the curse hit me.

Proper Badger State driving

Budgets are of very little importance when someone has fallen under the spell of regional horror. Acting ability means even less. In this instance, Red Eyes walks the familiar path. Judging it on those merits, it’s every backyard epic spewed out by some hometown hoodlums with a video camera and an idea.

Proper candy cane etiquette

The VIDDY-OH Corporation has released the next evolution in home entertainment and a guaranteed victory in the home video market. The VID-VISOR is a headset (but think less virtual reality and more View Master) the customer places on over his peepers and it beams some story telling goodness right into the eyeballs of the viewer. The catch is ya have to keep feeding it coins to get more stories…the secret catch is that the VIDDY-OH Corporation has planted a microchip within that basically gets you addicted to pumping coins and keeps you viewing the bargain basement crapola horror flicks. This microchip has a tendency to malfunction and pushes that addiction into the realm of homicidal lunacy. When this happens (which happens so much there is no way in hell its financially viable) the corporation sends out cyborg killing machines called COM-AKZ units (here played by Brian Ritchie of Violent Femmes) to wipe out the troublesome customers. That’s the fucking wraparound story.

Come on dad….give me the car tonight

Contained within the adventures of the wandering cyborg hitman and his homicidal target are four tales of terror delivered by everyone’s favorite ferryman, Charon (portrayed here by a cheap electronic skull with red eyes and a penchant for rhyming). The skeletal narrator lays out multiple accounts of shrug inducing horror in between reminding our duster sporting viewer to pop in coins. In Marine Corpse a grandmother relates the sad tale of Johnny Banks, who returned to the small town after serving in WW2 but couldn’t seem to let go of his service in the big one. When a secret military plane crashed in the town lake carrying some Japanese POWs, Johnny gets it in his head that those no good bastards are living at the bottom of the lake…planning evil. He marches right on in and, of course, drowns. Ever since then, the lake has had an eerie vibe and when the zombie of a Japanese soldier pops up, grandma and her grandson are gonna be mighty thankful that the living corpse of Johnny is still hanging around.

Oh….I know what he wants
2 Pump Chump

Sunday Drive follows a small family, still grieving the loss of their son, after the father gets the itch to keep driving…along with everybody else in the world. There’s some supernatural force behind it but trust me you’re not gonna give a flying fuck. Some sappy stupidity on a road trip to napville. The Palace Conspires starts off strong as a faux documentary about a deteriorating movie house that seems to be alive and decides to hold onto its patrons. It drops the mockumentary aspect with the introduction of a movie fanzine writer who comes into contact with the entity of The Palace (embodied as a creepy ass clown). The Palace is set for demolition and it needs our brave writer to spread the word and save it. A love letter to the cinema and forlorn look at the ravages the video age laid upon it.

The Palace watches

The final story, Spirits, puts one hell of burnout in the path of a vengeance seeking doll after he runs over the doll’s roller skating in the middle of the street owner. The doll comes to life through heartwarming stop motion effects and Jake gets his comeuppance. It’s like the worst episodes of Tales From the Darkside were stripped of all their cash and given a weekend to film. It’s lovely if you have a soft spot for the underdog (who, lets be honest, should and will never win). Special effects that aren’t so special and an over reliance on narration sweeten the pot and get your brain swimming in a comfortable stew of inanity. Is it good? Oh god no but does that word have anything at all to do with the discussion? What merit does that word carry in these deep and dark oceans of trash cinema. Good. It doesn’t matter. Is the ghost of Bill Rebane laughing like a maniac between short bursts of applause? It’s a definite maybe….and that’ll have to do. 6/10

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