Fright Pack: Man's Worst Friend

Man's Worst Friend seems an inappropriate title for this six-pack of horror flicks. The "friends" involved range from cats and dogs (which make sense) to slugs, rats and, umm, parasites, which last time I checked weren't exactly that friendly. Regardless, this collection of "nature gone wrong" movies continually shifts between the camp and the dismal, often at once. Slugs is the most familiar flick of the bunch and works the best under the set's theme. Toxic waste mutates slugs into flesh-eating insects terrorising a small town unprepared for such an outbreak. Yes, it's an outrageous concept; though not as pleasant as a fuzzy little caterpillar, the slug is hardly a creature you'd expect to devour your flesh, but these slimy things pull it off — literally. The acting is atrocious and half the time the dubbing is out of synch, but there's something intriguing about this epidemic movie. The gore looks great, especially the ridiculous restaurant and post-coital scenes, where the makeup and effects artists obviously had a field day. Rats Night of Terror is the least effective film here, sending nary a chill down the spine, instead foolishly portraying rats as killers without much effort in making the critters scary-looking. What we have are group shots of rats thrown at their victims and not even one close up of some fanged vermin drenched in its victims' blood. There is a sleeping bag moment that should make women a little uncomfortable, and the ludicrous ending provides a great laugh, but Willard and Ben are far better scares. Billed as the "first futuristic monster movie in 3D," Parasite is another stinker that deserves attention only as Demi Moore's first starring role. Though, obviously, it's impossible to view this in its original form (which would likely do very little to improve it), the weak plot of two killer parasites (one located in its creator's belly) on the prowl and hungry for a host is slow even at an 84-minute running time. Based on Edgar Allan Poe's story, The Black Cat is a Lucio Fulci-directed film that trades in the schlock value for something a bit more stylish and eerie. Unfortunately, it's not one of Fulci's best, sacrificing his signature gore for a tale that almost inadvertently uses the cat as a killer, even though it's hardly given much screen time as the pesky murderer it's supposed to be. The Cat O' Nine Tails is technically the best film in this collection and yet it really has nothing to do with cats. Written and directed by horror icon Dario Argento and scored by Ennio Morricone, the film looks great and features some solid performances by leads James Franciscus and Karl Malden. A fantastic-looking subway death (that alone proves this is Argento) starts off a series of killings to set up a rather good murder mystery that is a little off track, hardly falling in line with the rest of these films (a hypothetical cat shouldn't count), as well as the horror genre. Finally, man's best friend is the killer beast in Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, which is rather enjoyable if you can get past the piss-poor attack scenes (yes, the dog bites other dogs in vampire style) and the rather lame Dracula flashbacks. Reggie Nalder is sincerely creepy as Zoltan's devoted master and they managed to pick the ugliest dog alive as the star. The finest moment, however, comes with final shot of a hilarious vampire puppy, which is as absurd as it sounds. Again, Anchor Bay has assembled a real hit and miss collection that may not always seem true to its title but could do well amongst thematic horror fans. (Anchor Bay)