by Jules Brudek
A column about VHS cult and horror gems not yet available on DVD or Blu-ray
I named the column “Sticky Boxes” because that’s what I touched everyday working at a video store in the nineties. Sweaty handed customers returned their rental tapes encased in gooey grime. Everyday, I would check them back in, wipe them off and re-stock. Humorous note: The bigger the babe’s boobs were on the cover art, the stickier the VHS box was upon return.
Each week, I will review a forgotten cult or horror video never released on DVD or Blu-ray.
Judgment Day (1988)
AKA The Third Hand
Starring Monte Markham
Available on VHS from Magnum Entertainment
Never officially released on DVD or Blu-ray
"By midnight tonight, every door, every window will be locked. Not a person will remain. This town will be empty. “
American backpackers on vacation in Mexico, Charlie and Pete, exit a broken down tour bus bound for a big city. Too far to walk to the next town and too long to wait for the next tour bus, they begin walking. A mysterious lady behind a veil points the way to Santana, a quaint village up the hill. Moments later, Charlie and Pete arrive in Santana and enthuse about their luck. They’ve found paradise.
Moments later, a American bar keep, Sam, played by Monte Markham, warns Charlie and Pete to get out of town, post haste. He persists. They must leave before midnight because the whole town will be locked down and empty. Then, a little girl in Sam’s care goes missing. It sends him into a tailspin as he uses the remaining hours of daylight to find her.
While helping Sam search for the girl, Charlie and Pete learn that in 1689, the Devil made a pact with the villagers of Santana. He agreed to remove a plague from the village in exchange for the use of their town. One night a year, on ‘Judgment Day,’ the Devil uses Santana for his earthly pleasures.
Turns out, Judgment Day never reaches its potential and sags after the tension of the first Act. Now, I use the word “potential” only because the director, Ferde Grofe Jr., set up quite a promising horror film, one that boasted the most grotesquely enjoyable VHS cover art. On the box, Satan realistically captured and sinfully colorful looks as horrifying as the Devil, portrayed by Tim Curry, in Legend (1985). As a child, I nearly peed myself admiring Satan wickedly smirking at me from the VHS box.
With a premise one half American Werewolf in London (1981) and one half Brotherhood of Satan (1971), how could it fail? It doesn’t. However, it never reaches the epic proportions the box art and the premise promised. After the half waypoint, I was left to wonder, where the heck is Satan? He doesn’t show his beastly face until the third Act. By then, I was bored by the weaknesses in the script. The twist at the end, although interesting, confounds me. With a great beginning and a great ending, how could you let the middle flounder? Truly Sinful!
More like a Made for TV movie or a PSA than a horror flick about the perils of messing with Satan, Judgment Day never caught on in the Home Video markets and soon slipped into obscurity. This film does have some redeeming aspects. I truly enjoyed the performances, most notably by Monte Markham (Airport 77 and William Castle’s Project X), Caesar Romeo (Played the original Joker in Batman) and Peter Mark Richman (Played Charles McCulloch in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan). Worth watching for the performances by these legendary character actors alone, the film also showcases some pretty unique set design owed mostly to shooting on location in the Philippines. Also, I enjoyed the twist at the end, involving the village church further illustrating the theme of religious hypocrisy. Never truly scary or bloody, I shake my head wondering what could have been. I can only hope for a terrifying remake.
I give this movie and its VHS presentation: Three sticky gloops out of five.
More about the writer: Born in Detroit, Michigan, Jules Brudek has been collecting issues of Mad Magazine and Fangoria since she was nine years old, even long after her worried mother drove her to city dump and made her throw them away. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2006 with a BA in Film. She has won awards for her screenplays, most recently, placing in the Quarter Semi Finals in the 2015 Script Pipeline. Life highlight: Attending a discussion about the obscure horror film, Raw Meat AKA Death Line (1973), and meeting the director, Gary Sherman. She lives in Los Angeles.