Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
July 1st, 2007

The Manitou

The Manitou
Directed by William Girdler
Written by William Girdler, Jon Cedar, Thomas Pope
Starring Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens
Produced by William Girdler
104 mins
1978 / 2007

Once again, Anchor Bay goes off to salvage with the 1978 quasi-classic, "The Manitou". Not surprisingly, Anchor Bay manages to pull off yet another coup.

And this time around, Anchor Bay pulls from the depths a story about a woman with a strange growth on the back of her neck. It expands exponentially, is comprised of flesh and bone--did I mention it has mind control powers?

Yeah, it has mind control powers.

The biggest problem with this is I can't tell you much more without spoilering like no tomorrow. When you find out what that lump actually turns out to be, and how the woman's friends and loved ones have to recruit a medicine man from the wilds of South Dakota to fight it, you'll start questioning your sanity really, really hard. I sure did.

All I can really say with any kind of certainty is man, did they ever make 'em weird back in the seventies. Opening credit crawls that take three and a half minutes of blank space to complete, old ladies levitating and throwing themselves down stairs, seances that include explosions, an optical laser gone cuckoo bananas, and lots and lots of green lighting effects combine together to form a whole that requires recreational pharmaceuticals to match.

I will say this for them, though...the pacing was surprisingly quick. I was never really tempted to jam on that fast forward button just to find out what was going on. They kept the plot moving at a sufficient pace to really eliminate that restlessness that sometimes occurs in movies. The effects, despite their clear age, weren't all that terrible either. I think they really had to exercise at least a little subtlety and depend on the story to do most of the work back when effects technology wasn't so prevalent. These factors combine together to make a pretty decent viewing experience, if you're willing to overlook some weirdness and some clearly aging material.

And then the ending hits. Ten solid minutes of pure, full-blown "what the hell?" moments. Trust me on this one--if you were questioning your sanity through the preceding time, you'll be questioning what's in the air you're breathing when you get to the last ten minutes.

Even better is a surprise twist that lets us know--this is actually, kinda sorta, in a really limited way, based on a true story. A fifteen year old boy in Tokyo had something similar happen to him in 1969, or so the movie says.

The special features are limited to English closed captioning and trailers for "The Manitou", "It Waits", "Superstition", and "Demon Hunter". There will also be a television spot for "The Manitou", and a set of trailers that runs prior to the film includes one for "The Entity".

All in all, "The Manitou" is another treasure ship brought up from the depths on one of Anchor Bay's many salvage missions. Aging and weird, much like the crazy old lady down the street with fifty cats and a house full of empty mayonnaise jars, but still entertaining (again like our hypothetical raving geriatric), "The Manitou" will prove to be a solid experience.

HAVE to have a horror fix.

Blood Trails

Blood Trails
Directed by Robert Krause
Written by Robert Krause, Florian Puchert
Starring Rebecca Palmer, Ben Price, Tom Frederic
Produced by Oliver Simon
87 mins

"Blood Trails" is an excellent lesson in judging a book by its cover, or rather, why you shouldn't engage in just such practices. Sure, they've got these bloody gear / sawblade things on the cover art and the first minute of footage just screams "torture porn!" at the top of its merry little lungs, but when you wear past this less than auspicious beginning, what you're left with is a halfway decent package. And what's in that package is a woman getting hit on by a cop, ultimately having a one-night-stand with him, and then breaking the news to her boyfriend. It doesn't end well. And not in the way you think. Anyway, without giving too much away, the cop is, as it turns out, a total freaking psychopath (sound familiar?) who engages on a nice long killing spree whilst trying to reunite with our heroine.

On the plus side, when the killing does get started, it gets started in a pretty wild fashion. If you've ever wanted to see what a bicycle jump kick to a man's throat would look like, then man, is "Blood Trails" the movie you've been waiting for.

That and there's the strangest pick-up attempt I've seen in recent memory; our psychopathic cop picks up the heroine by--get this--writing his phone number on her ARM. Does that actually work? Ladies out there, if you're reading this and shaking your head in bafflement, you're not alone! In fact, I'm inviting all my readers to tell me if this actually makes sense. Ladies, if you'd actually call a guy who WROTE HIS FREAKING PHONE NUMBER ON YOUR ARM, then email me at and let me know that this isn't as stupid as it sounds.

But, one of the major problems with "Blood Trails" is that it's trying its damndest to be a slasher flick, but it has a teensy little body count (tops out at like seven, two of which will be off camera), and requires the patience of Job to get through as there won't be any actual killing for almost a third of the movie.

Don't get me wrong--there's some pretty nice tension buildup here, and some pretty fair cat-and-mouse action, but there's just so much nothing going on between the high points that it's hard to really get into "Blood Trails". Worse, there's a LOT of mountain biking going on here, and footage of people mountain biking is almost but not quite as boring as actually mountain biking yourself. It's like watching golf.

And that, sadly, puts "Blood Trails" down into the land of solid mediocrity.

The ending is kind of a sludge, what with a whole lot of torture-porn-esque stuff going on and some rather nonsensical sequences. Though at least the victim gets a chance to strike back for a change.

The special features include various audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave", "Ed Gein", "Silent Scream", "Open Water 2: Adrift", and for some reason, "The Descent" and even bigger blast from the past, "High Tension".

All in all, "Blood Trails" was a pretty fair effort that just couldn't get itself off the easy trail into something a little more challenging. Not bad by any means, but there's a whole lot better out there.