There’s kind of a thing with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Doesn’t it always seem like when Tim Burton sits down to make a movie, Johnny Depp plays a main character? There was a similar bond between director Nick Millard and Priscilla Alden. In this instance, Priscilla Alden—who opened up Millard’s alteration from softcore porn to horror cinema with the 1975 Criminally Insane—appears in many, many Millard films. She’s not alone. There are a bunch of other actors—only about four or five others, really—who appear constantly in every single horror movie Millard made up until Death Nurse 2 in 1988. To some, the fact that so few different actors just shows that Millard was a lazy filmmaker who didn’t have any friends. And to me, it shows that there’s something else: continuity. A shared universe. Something that goes beyond just one or two movies—it goes well into over thirteen years worth of movies. And beyond that, even.
I have to explain it in a way that I know best—in review. Here we are. The Nick Millardverse, in pocket atlas form.
Criminally Insane (1975) – In this first escapade, we first meet not-so-lovely Ethel Janowski, released from the mental hospital, where she was being treated for anger outbursts. The doctor tells her granny that she probably isn’t cured, but what the hell, right? Ethel is told from Granny that she needs to cut her sizeable weight. Not a good idea. Ethel stabs her way to her meal and kills a delivery boy when he brings questions along with more food. A few more people ask questions, but meet the knife, or meatcleaver, or whatever else is handy. She starts to hide the bodies in Granny’s old room. Her prostitute sister then moves in, along with her abusive boyfriend, who says gems like “You need a good beating once in a while. All women do. You especially.” Got something to say there, Millard? Perhaps a brief Gunsmoke reference? Well, in all cases, Ethel kills both of them, but a sneaky (though largely inefficient) detective catches her trying to eat the remains before people notice! The sequel hook is there—vague, but there. The only question is whether or not there’s a payoff.
With all that on the table (and much more) Criminally Insane proves itself swiftly as a no-competition winner—a truly glorious little slasher that, as far as I can tell, wins all viewers every time. There’s a strangeness to everything that graces the floor elegantly. There are sequences that are gritty (the underlying current of misogyny), hilarious (the fact that the boyfriend survives being stabbed roughly five hundred times), and surreal (Ethel parades around a park in a red dress and laughs at nothing). The plot is simple because that’s all we need. The background is thicketed and powerful, but ultimately meshes with the plot and thus all intent for complexity is lost. Realism, too, is hardly a factor—as mentioned, the detective really is inefficient, investigating when it’s convenient for others. If he struck faster, Ethel wouldn’t have gotten so many people. And Ethel really is a lost cause—hopelessly insane, in a way that is brutally unrealistic—criminally so. The title is fulfilled, and so are our hopes.
There are flaws. You get the impression in both this and Criminally Insane II that Millard has a problem with length. A lot of scenes are obviously padding and the film is just a minute past the hour. All the same, this padding adds to the bizarre surrealism that floats in and out like a rather welcome ghost. It’s not just limited to what’s been described. There’s a whole element that seems to hint and imply things about characters and settings which are abandoned and thrown in the trash. It’s like seeing a painting that’s only a drop of paint on a silent canvas; boring, but intangible and mystifying, begging for more drops to be added to patch together the entire puzzle. A good horror film is the one that makes no goddamn sense. And though Criminally Insane is as wacko as its title, it still manages to hold a place in our minds, good or bad.
Criminally Insane II (1987) – Whatever happened to Crazy Fat Ethel? The question is begged—unlike other movie killers she does not fall victim to Sister Death. Turns out they shipped her back to the hospital from the first film, where she’s been for thirteen years. However, with Reaganomics what they are, the asylum has to make budget cuts and does so by discharging all the patients to halfway homes. Ethel is taken in by Hope Bartholomew, a nice old lady who unfortunately is confused by Ethel into being her late grandmother. Another patient is believed to be the detective from the first film, even though he honestly looks nothing like him. When Miss Bartholomew goes out of town a torturous creep takes over the home, feeding the patients dog food and taunting Ethel with candy. She snaps again and hangs him with a piece of string. Then the other patient (who feeds a third patient flies) threatens to tell the cops unless he gets her dessert. Whoops. Four knives to the back, and then its Miss Bartholomew’s turn. She gets her head bashed in with a weight. Finally, the head doctor gets it before Ethel plays airplane outside, and tells the cops that she’s Miss Bartholomew—leaving her fate a bit of a mystery. Oh, one other thing, real quick…more than half the film is composed of stock footage and flashbacks from the first Criminally Insane.
Criminally Insane II is mildly accomplished. It gets the stuff from the first Criminally Insane right (just because it essentially is the first Criminally Insane) but brings in some brand new bacon. Four kills isn’t very handsome, but the surrealism is there in full force—conversations aren’t held, conversations are implied. Characters talk to walls by themselves before we cut away to see other characters either react or say something back. If the person on the other side of any phone call had an echo voice and we never saw them, this would be a David “The Rock” Nelson film—same film quality, same weirdo acting, and a lot of the same things that make his films very different from Criminally Insane. Still, although it is pure tedium, some of it is fascinating—if you do something else while watching.
Criminally Insane II is almost more like a sound clip, in the end. We hear characters barely exposit acts which are barely happening. So, if you don’t have the benefit of the visual medium, you actually don’t lose any benefit at all. It’s very astonishing. Still, one expects more, especially after watching this in the wake of the first movie. And unfortunately, the plot doesn’t stand alone; you have to watch the first one or you really don’t know who anyone is. And you won’t catch that Crazy Fat Ethel still watches Gunsmoke, thirteen years later.
Death Nurse (1987) – A brother and sister run “Shady Palms Clinic”, a little away home where they murder the guests, feed them to the rats, and bill the estates to get rich. One of them is Gordon, a man who may be one of the guests in Criminally Insane II or maybe also, as we’ll see, Doctor Bloodbath himself. The other is Nurse Edith Mortley, aka Crazy Fat Edith. They’re pretty successful until Faith Chandler from Social Services comes along—she brings them patients, but gets too investigative. Most of the movie is composed of the duo trying to fake that the patients are still alive, through some (bad) fake coughing and some really hilarious floppy-arm ventriloquism. Then Faith becomes a patient herself and they kill her, after asking her if she ever wanted to see a corpse naked. All this time the could-be Doctor Bloodbath screws a drunken woman before Edith kills her. A snoopy detective gets a little nosey and may sniff out the corpses. Time for Death Nurse 2.
I can see now that it’s more than likely that there is no true sequel to Criminally Insane stylistically. Drawing more from the ill-fated Criminally Insane II, Death Nurse is a shot-on-video aberration, watchable and entertaining, but still far cry from the filmic wonders of the first film. Millard seems to almost deliberately stammer over his own production to create a tapestry that is bizarre and nightmarish. Here’s where the canon gets a little blurry. After Criminally Insane II I distantly understand his desire (though not his apparent need) to reuse footage from Criminally Insane, which is applied—but in this case there isn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason. The footage appears when Edith dreams about some of Crazy Fat Ethel’s murders. Although I try to wed the two series in my mind, I don’t think Edith and Ethel are one-and-same. Edith doesn’t eat as much, doesn’t watch Gunsmoke, and appears slimmer, though the latter is probably due more to the dozen years being kinder to actress Priscilla Alden more than anything else. You’ll see my theory below.
In the end, Death Nurse seems to signify a slippery slope to me—but then again, I haven’t quite seen some of the earlier films yet. I notice that Gunblast is the first SOV film of the bunch, and that probably means that .357 Magnum and Satan’s Black Wedding, made between that adventure and Criminally Insane, hold higher hopes for me. Still, the madness signified by both Death Nurse and Criminally Insane II is something of a pick-me-up—amateur performances by a director who really seems like, after more than twenty years in the biz, should be a bit more of a pro. This isn’t Nick’s first horror film, either. But it’s not a flaw, it’s inspiring. It’s like a backwards progression. It’s like growing up into a kid after being a dirty old man for such a long time. There’s a little magic to it, a little method to the madness. I’m swiftly becoming a storm of clichés, however, so I’ll hand the floor to Death Nurse 2 (d’oh).
Death Nurse 2 (1988) – When you open with someone being stabbed within the first thirty seconds of your movie while reusing the exact same credits sequence from your previous three films, you’re either a nutter, or a genius. Nick Millard is both, to the point of being dangerous to himself and others. All this means is that with Death Nurse 2, the saga begins to ascend and transcend into something…completely different.
So, we kick off where we ended in the first Death Nurse, with the detective coming back to investigate Shady Palms after he finds some of Gordon and Edith’s patients in the garage. But, they kill him, and in broad daylight, too. Then John Sawyer, the replacement of Faith Chandler from the previous movie, sends in two new guests—a crazy homeless lady with a knife as big as Edith’s, and a big mustached Russian guy who preaches in favor of Capitalism (!). They of course get killed, though the homeless lady does live long enough to stab Gordon. Edith dreams of—surprise!—the same murders from Criminally Insane as before. Faith Chandler’s sister Charity shows up and launches an investigation in search of her sister. They kill her, but the investigation proves successful, and…well, the film ends with the implication that Edith and Gordon will be caught. Which is actually kind of a bummer.
One has to keep in mind—throughout the four films of the Nick Millard canon I’ve seen so far, there has been one consistent theme: the killer is not stopped. This ties in with the fact that in all four films, the killer has been Crazy Fat Ethel/Edith. She’s caught in the first movie, but just locked away and then casually released. At the end she claims to be a person who another character has never seen before. She could get away with that. Or, she could just kill them, because she’s killed everyone else and gotten away with it—that’s what she always does. Such a theme is carried on in the Death Nurse films. The two just kill and when people look for the victims, they kill them to cover it up. And no one can resist whoever is the killer. They sit there and moan and cry and then Ethel or Edith stabs them. Or, if she’s smothering or strangling them, they can’t push her off. She’s an unstoppable force. Then people start to evolve.
Death Nurse 2 is the last film in the sequence. In 1999, Millard made Howard Hughes: The Man and the Madness, a TV documentary, and Dracula in Vegas, an ultra rare horror action film that I might take time to seek out. Then in 2003 he did an adaptation of Turn of the Screw, featuring Priscilla Alden as Missus Grose. From what I’ve heard I don’t think Dracula in Vegas reuses the Criminally Insane/Death Nurse/Magnum .357/etc. mythos, so Death Nurse 2 is almost definitely the last. By this point, Millard and his camera have gone irreparably mad, and I think the camera was dropped in water at some point. Fewer characters interact than ever. Gordon spends most of his time literally staring at nothing and saying nothing to Edith. He seems fed up with the whole killing business. Edith seems tired too—all she does is tell people to shut up, calls them bitches, and kills them. She runs the whole show now, and not just the clinic. She is the movie. Other characters only exist for her to slaughter or to stare at her or for her to stare at. There is no alternative. She is becoming something different, transcending human bonds to the point where she needs no one and nothing, not even her surroundings.
But there is a catch. At the end the cop does get her in the act. It doesn’t look like she’ll be able to get away with killing him. They’ll just send more and more guys. They’ll raid the house. A kitchen knife doesn’t stand up against a hail of bullets, and Gordon’s still stuck in bed, as if he would help. Worse yet, there is no Death Nurse 3 or Criminally Insane V. She’s stuck in Purgatory, so close to becoming something other than human but damned from the start. I think she represents a lot about the human condition. That and the speeches that the Communist preacher gives lead me to suspect that Death Nurse 2 is the most complicated of the bunch. I’ll watch it again someday and get back to you. Until then, onto the next.
Doctor Bloodbath (1987) – This is the most awkward movie I’ve seen yet in my life. That’s not to say there’s more awkward—and whether or not I’d be able to make myself watch something more awkward is a big question. Clumsy sound effects. Unfathomably uncomfortable zooms. Surprising relaxation with the subject matter. Painful amounts of depression and exhaustion. Faces which may be plastic masks. A demonic lacking of smiles, with perhaps none to be found in the actors’ entire lives.
Doctor Thorn is an abortion doctor who goes over to patients’ homes with the lame excuse that their “test results” came back positive. Despite the fact that he never mentions the tests until then, they all fall for it and invite him in. Then he kills them with some sort of weapon; a knife, a screwdriver, or a ballpeen hammer. He does give a few abortions, as represented by an endless loop of him leering at the camera as it zooms in, intercut with him stabbing a blatantly plastic doll that’s supposed to be a fetus. His ugly wife has sex with a poet and gets pregnant, but he’s strangely nonplussed and gives her an abortion. In between we get scenes from, well, Criminally Insane! Not the ones that have Ethel, though—no, that wouldn’t make any sense. Before each killing we see the doctor in what may be a church. Oh, and he stabs his wife and little-mentioned (little-visible is more like it) Hispanic servant, Juanita, who doesn’t actually exist as anything outside of stock footage from what I’m guessing is Satan’s Black Wedding. Then, he gives himself up and is put in the insane asylum, where…hey, I guess Crazy Fat Ethel is in this one!
Doctor Bloodbath raises more questions about itself than it ever could possibly answer. As with other Millard productions, characters don’t really seem to interact, much less exist—they just blunder in and out of time-space and into each other. It’s a mess, and in this case, it’s tedium. Doctor Thorn may just be killing out of boredom, just because he acts like what he does is more along the lines of watching paint dry than taking a human life. There is one scene where he screams “Murderer!” while killing someone—if it’s not just a glitch, does that mean he thinks people who get abortions are murderers? Shouldn’t he be seen as one since he’s the one who kills the baby? Trust me, I’m pro-choice but largely neutral on the matter—I look at this through non-biased eyes. I’m still really confused. Why does no one smile in this movie? Are all their parents dead? Don’t answer that, actually. The film doesn’t seem to try to be depressed. But it is anyway, because everyone seems to be so old.
I think that’s it. Everyone in this film seems old. Some are even dead already—we don’t need Doctor Thorn and his ballpeen hammer because they’ve aged so fast that life is already gone. It’s bleak. And it’s only implied. That’s all this movie does. There is no plot. There is implication. The Nick Millard conversation mode has become the Nick Millard emotions mode. People’s emotions aren’t worn on their faces. Or perhaps they are, and that’s the true horror. We are forced to draw our own answers on insufficient evidence, in an environment which isn’t our Earth. The Criminally Insane universe is an uncomfortable, fidgeting, awkward place where angular space and any sort of logic simply do not apply; where there are only three clips of music and one type of credit sequence.
What have we uncovered? And…can we stop it?
.357 Magnum (1977) – And now for something completely different. Millard has more locations, more actors, and possibly more budget. A British agent named Enfield calls up Jonathan Hightower when he hears of a bunch of killings in Hong Kong. He puts out a kill order on the murderer. Jonathan then picks up his friend, Steve Barrett, who is not only an expert whiskey drinker but an expert shooter. The two train for the huge battle and talk about how they used to reenact the gunfight at Tombstone. Turns out the killer is a man named Clay, a man with an Abe Lincoln beard who’s killing other contract killers and is apparently working for the CIA. However, he turns on his CIA bosses and kills them, too. Jon and Steve set a trap after meeting up with Claire, an old friend of Jon’s—imagine my surprise when the person to let them into the trap-house is…Crazy Fat Ethel! Same house, too! Well, it’s not really Ethel, but it’s Priscilla Alden, and that counts for something. Well, Ethel sells the boys out and Clay kills Steve before revealing it was a trap by Enfield to get Steve. Then he shoots up Jon but doesn’t succeed in killing him. Claire takes him to the hospital…
Then, Jonathan starts dreaming about the…footage from Criminally Insane?! What the hell?! This footage is in every movie I’ve seen so far. The whole thing is a clip of a lady with her hair up walking through a cemetery. That’s all. We don’t know who this woman is, or what or where the cemetery is. The footage is made blurry on purpose so we can’t see the woman’s face. Who is it?! Rosalie, Ethel’s sister? How does she tie in? Why does every character who is knocked unconscious or who falls asleep or daydreams dream this footage? So many questions…there must be answers. I must keep watching…
Well, Jon and Claire get ready for someone to come after them, and apparently fall in love. Jon had a girlfriend at the beginning back in Europe, but maybe Millard forgot her. Two guys—including Doctor Bloodbath!—come into the house and kill Claire before Jon guns down both of them. Suddenly, things take a weird spin! Neon signs tell us to drink Pepsi! Enfield watches a stripped in a feather boa with puffy grey nipples felate a vibrator as a girl with Super 8 films! This goes on for about ten minutes—no joke. I get the impression it’s all wrong but it’s so hypnotizing…Well, anyway, Jon runs after Enfield, and finds out that Steve killed the leader of a group of dock workers back during the English dock strikes (“Who cares? They’re all dirty Communists anyway.”), and there was going to be an investigation that would expose Enfield. Jon is fine letting him “rot in prison”, but Enfield tries to kill him and thus gets a bullet in the brain. There’s a final shootout with Clay and Jon, and, well…I guess Millard heroes do die. For once—a legitimate surprise.
There is something supreme and sweet-flavored in the air. Nick Millard has crafted a film which is neither pure softcore trash nor a horror movie featuring reused footage. Certainly the riddle of the Criminally Insane footage will still vex me, but there is something far stronger here: a legitimate action movie, made with good actors, good intrigue, and good setting. And good company, too. Will Jonathan Hightower or Steve Barrett or any of those other guys come back again? There’s a whiff of familiarity; as mentioned, Crazy Fat Ethel, though not so crazy, and Doctor Bloodbath, with a bit less blood in the bath, both make cameos. Their presence is troubling. Recognizing those two—the most constant of the Millard players—means that even the most realistic of realisms is false underneath. I get the impressions that these two lunatics are running the asylum, as they always have been in all the Millard pieces. Still, the fact that we don’t just see them hack up people or eat tons of food or whatever means that maybe they are supposed to be different people. Twin brothers and sisters. I can’t see the real Ethel (or Edith) and the real Doctor Bloodbath (or Gordon) getting involved in hired killer games.
The main point here is that Magnum is an accomplishment—a landmark. It shows an actual talent, and by that I don’t mean that Millard doesn’t have talent. By that I mean that Millard shows sniper precision in the production of a masterwork spy film. I feel like this is a spy film. In most spy films spies just kill other spies. Millard is good at making horror films that I like but only a small additional majority will as well. And even then, he tends to plod with those, at least when they involve Crazy Fat Ethel. There’s only so much you can do with an angry lady who kills people for food. Or for a nurse who kills people for money. Although, I do miss the psychoses of Ethel/Edith in this one. This movie isn’t the best of both worlds; but it is the best of at least one. It’s a new one; and that’s what matters.
Satan’s Black Wedding (1980) – An Elvis-lookalike named Mark goes back to his hometown to go to his sister Nina’s funeral after she commits suicide. He is baffled why she should do such a thing, and finds out she was writing a book called High Satanic Rites before she died. Of course, she may well have been murdered given that her finger was lopped off—something that apparently was done in the satanic vampire cults of yore. All evidence seems to point to a priest named Dakin who may be one-hundred and fifty years old, and a story about an old mausoleum where Mark and Nina played as kids, where the devil appeared centuries ago to seduce a pack of nuns to his side. Mark teams up with Lisa, an old flame, to solve the mystery, but the glowing yellow eye of Satan finds this disagreeable. It turns out that Mark and Nina are supposed to be married (ew) and produce a vampire child who may be the Antichrist! Hoo boy.
In what seems to be, though not through intention, a slightly more potent remake of the previous and much less interesting The Corpse Eaters, Satan’s Black Wedding is definitively eerie. The shivering and bizarre scenery, along with the fairly simplistic but fascinating plot, and sheer isolation set apart from the rest of the Millard filmography renders the movie something of an outcast, exiled but far from empty. Only a small track from the music set of Criminally Insane and an actor from .357 Magnum indicates this may have been made by the same guy as the other films on this list. There are a few hints—the sloppy red paint blood and the vibes given by the goofy “I need braces fast” vampire fangs—but this is a strictly different current. It’s a more clear-cut horror film. I think that maybe Death Nurse was laughing at itself, while Criminally Insane had no supernatural moods about its person. It flows with life even in the midst of the deathly mud-color sets and scenes.
I liked it. In comparison to some of the other movies we’ve seen thus far, it doesn’t seem to be as colorful or outstanding as the others—or maybe I’ve just been pampered. Curiously enough however, it never drags. Even the first Criminally Insane had some moments that lacked in the fascination department. This always seems to glue my eyes to the screen. I don’t know what it is. I like a good vampire movie, I like a good Satanist movie, and this wed (sorry) the two genres particularly well. It was creepy. It was gory. It was relatively lacking in the grit, which suited my mood at the time of viewing very well. It was…good.
That’s really all I can say. Not a lot of symbolism or flourishes in this one—just blood, creeps, and plastic fangs. It’s what I’ve really always wanted in a vampire film, or in a devil-worship film. I find it worth a second watch. That’s all I have to say.
P.S. – The jump scares were completely welcome for once and I actually did jump at them. Well done, Nick.
A loony with a Mac-10 is running around Vegas! “That’s a hell of a gun,” one man remarks. And so it is—no reloads, no muzzle flares, infinite ammo, and running completely on Grand Theft Auto physics, anyone who stands next to this killer is already dead. When he steals five million bucks for his boss (Doctor Bloodbath) from a mob boss (Enfield from .357 Magnum), it’s up to a drunk, homeless former cop to track him down and kill him. In the meantime, a washed-up gambler teaches a kid the tricks of the trade with the world’s loudest craps dice, and we’re “treated” to some stock footage from Nick’s softcore days, plus some all-original teases when the cop takes up with his lovely assistant. Of course, this isn’t all. It wouldn’t be Millard without the fascinating bits. Throw in the blandest reading of the phrase “It’s party time”, some cows, a perplexing scene where three hillbillies kill each other over some infidelities (featuring a teleporting knife!), a frickin’ shrine built by the guy to his gun, and an ending that is simultaneously uplifting and depressing, and you’ve got a real Millard movie. It never ends.
This movie, at least to me, seems to represent an undercurrent of desire in Millard that you only get to see briefly in his filmography. It begins with Magnum and goes in Gunblast and kind of dies once he gets back on track with the actual horror movies. He was definitely the action movie sort of person, and it seems like he really had a calling in something that wasn’t either porn or horror. I say desire because even though he was a little goofy now and then, especially as seen here in Gunblast, it really feels like something he wanted to have pulled off—making a legit action movie. There are subplots seen here that are true to the creator. There’s a degree of falseness exposed in what we’ve already seen in the Death Nurse movies and Doctor Bloodbath. It’s liberating, both to him and to us. All the same, this is not Magnum. The reek of Criminally Insane spoils it for him. He caught himself in his own ambush. Clumsy shots, flimsy dubs, and just an overall childish cheapness brings us farther from the invisible dream. This is part of the canon, whether it wants to be or not. The actors keep coming back, and the memories keep coming back. He erased the delirium visions of the first film that we’ve seen in all his other stuff and ignored Priscilla Alden, but she’s still there, somehow. Like a ghost.
Overall, Gunblast plays like an opera filtered through the asthma heaving of Death Nurse. High thoughts, low, scummy actions. Infinitude trapped in a jar, brought close but only taunted by the lantern. It’s a lose-lose situation; for the characters, for Millard, for us. It’s a little sad, bars made of lightning, ball-and-chains made of garbage and loose flotsam. The gap does nothing. Nick Millard is invulnerable. He can never be stopped, certainly not by anything as flimsy as the human conception known as “time”.
The Terrorists (1987) – An American soldier is killed by a terrorist ring based in Munich, and it’s up to an American officer and a German cop with a tendency to kill rather than capture to stop him. Along the way, the officer falls in love with a German reporter (Doctor Bloodbath’s wife) and discovers the terrorist leader, a man named “The Professor” (Doctor Bloodbath) via a Russian agent named “Sergei” (Enfield/The Vampire Leader). It turns out the terrorists are after killing Jimmy Carter to show the world that America sucks. Of course, along the way we have to get into some good old revolver fights with about sixty bullets rather than six, and the line, “Your girlfriend left you. Let’s go get drunk.” And it doesn’t help to have a random ten-minute softcore scene in a “German” strip club. Hey. It’s Millard.
Not as perplexing and twice as boring as a result, The Terrorists is an adventure into film (not SOV) with Millard, one last time. It’s also time to descend into the spy-action-thriller, one last time. .357 Magnum is dead, long live .357 Magnum—and might as well give a few thousand centuries to Gunblast, too. But not to The Terrorists. It’s not that it’s a bad movie—it’s not that it smells too much like the team spirit of Death Nurse, which is lovely (though only for Death Nurse)—it’s that it just seems tired. So too was the case with the magnificent Doctor Bloodbath, but that was part of it. It was surreal. In spy films, one does not get surreal without getting a little dull. That’s the case with any misplaced element in a spy film—it gets dull. Doctor No is dull. Goldfinger is dull. The Terrorists is dull.
Still, there is a lot of hilarity present that seizes the slack and carries it as far as hilarity goes (which can be anywhere from down the block to across the stars themselves). The guns that fire way, way, way too many bullets—the phone calls that end abruptly and on freaky notes—the insane-albeit-mild gore shots. There are parts where you will smile, because Nick is there, and he’s smiling back. But there’s parts, too, where he’s gone, or at least taking a nap. It’s a little sad, and I feel a small amount of emptiness and longing watching this. There’s a scene right at the front where someone doesn’t have a mouth, and it’s funny because the camera seems to be drifting off to focus on something else, then drunkenly wavers back to get the shot—it’s a classic. The audience roars. And then it trickles down. It’s not a slow trickle, either, and in this case that’s bad. The gunfights and the drama demand attention, so it’s not a Psychic Laboratory movie (see: Enter the Devil). It’s not even really a film you can riff, if you’re inclined to do that. Heck, as you might see here, there’s not even a lot to analyze. Do I expect too much of Millard? I don’t know anymore.
In the end, The Terrorists has enough raw spy drama to fill a casual night, if you want to go to bed right after. It’s not relaxing, but it seems calm. I just hope there isn’t a storm. I will probably never watch this again.
Cemetery Sisters (1987) – Can you say rare? Folks, not even the brilliant entity mortal men call Cinemageddon possesses a copy of this film. I was in the process of trying to get a copy of this elusive bad-boy from none other than Mister T.L. Bugg of The Lightning Bug’s Lair, but Mister Bugg is a busy man, and thus this number will have to wait for another day. I understand completely!
The Millard Mythos is a curious creature. It seems large enough and deep enough to span the entire cosmos, but it really only takes place in two or three houses. There are eerie commonalities and inexplicable coincidences; three women named Faith, Hope, and Charity. Killer nurses and insane asylum patients who are all played by the same two actors. An army of identical victims, conspiracy leaders, drunks, and government agents. Is everyone the same person in the Millardverse? Is Edith actually Ethel? Or vice versa? Why does everyone dream of Criminally Insane or Satan’s Black Wedding? There must be an answer. Maybe in this world everyone happens to be a distant cousin of someone else. They all share a telepathic bond through genetics. At the center of it all, there are Ethel and Mark, sending dream-visions of what happened to them years ago in brief, fragmentary Super 8 shots. When Edith dreams of Ethel killing Rosalie for looking in Grandma’s room, she never looks pleased. Sure, she kills people, but dreaming about something like that, exempt from context, must be pretty disturbing. When the guys from .357 Magnum have dreams about vampires and cemeteries and the spawn of Satan, it means there’s a bigger picture. But Millard never tells us everything. We have to figure it out ourselves.
They are films so simple that they are like Rod Serling’s opening for The Twilight Zone: as minute as a drop of water, but “as vast as space, and as timeless as infinity”. They are lazy filmmaking perfected and turned into Buddhist art. They are incorrigible like children, and just as mature; a little kid’s nightmare of a snuff film, made with solitary glee. But I’ve also been wrong before. If you know me personally—and few of you do—you will know that this old Mudman tends to deal in hyperbole. If someone who is not of the Liberal Dead brood (and we have a bountiful brood, bless you all) sat down and tried to make it through Criminally Insane II, they would be quite angry at it. But you’ve just gotta be cool, man.
The Nick Millard experience has warped my life and changed my perception of reality. I see Edith and Ethel and Mark and all their friends everywhere, all the time, in distant corners and haunted shadows. And my life is so much better as a result of all of that.