The term “mockbuster” is defined by Wikipedia (the only source for accurate information…right?) as follows:
“…a movie created with the intention of piggy-backing on the publicity of a major movie with a similar title or subject or both.”
The term has clawed its way into the popular lexicon thanks in most part to The Asylum and their blatant “confuse the consumer” products such as Snakes on a Train, The Da Vinci Treasure, and When a Killer Calls. The Asylum’s first mockbuster, The War of the Worlds, wasn’t released until ’05; naturally, it coincided with the release of Stephen Spielberg’s mega-budget adaptation.
The Italians created a boon industry in the late 70s/early 80s of rehashed plots, soundalike titles, and “unofficial” sequels. There’s an upcoming doc called Remake, Remix, Rip-off (which I’m dying to see) that covers numerous Turkish “remakes” such as Turkish Star Wars. Cheap knock offs have been around as long as producers realized they could get away with it, and there are no signs of the trend slowing down. It even appears that big ol’ Hollywood could be getting into the act.
Recently, Brad took the new film, Life, to task for appearing to be an Alien clone. I’m not sure I agree with that sentiment just yet, but I also happen to be a huge fan of Alien knockoffs. B-grade riffs on Ridley Scott’s terrifying “old dark house in space” have turned in some of my favorite Corman pictures. Life is far from low budget, however. Instead, the upcoming film announced from Michael Bay sounds like a far stronger contender for this particular list: Little America is a “if they sued that other movie, they’re certainly coming for you” level take off of Escape from New York.
Now that the mini history lesson is out the way, let’s get to it. Here are 5 horrific horror ripoffs (in no particular order) that have no shame in their copycat game. (NOTE: Being labeled a “ripoff of” does not inherently make a movie bad in my opinion. I actually enjoy some of these films on a purely, brainless, B-movie level. Take of that what you will. Cheers!)
1. Offerings (1989)
First, there was Michael Myers. Now, there is John Radley. The plot of this low budget 1989 slasher flick is…well…it’s Halloween with a few absurd additions. John is a mute who suffers verbal and possible physical abuse at home. He tortures his pets out of frustration (perhaps Rob Zombie was confused and actually thought he was remaking this film). In a terrible accident brought on by local bullies, John falls to the bottom of a well, leaving him terribly burned(?). After ten years in a comatose state, he escapes from the mental hospital to begin seeking his revenge.
Right from the jump, Offerings knows what it is and is totally okay with it. The score alternates between interesting original synth to a complete copy of Carpenter’s daunting piano notes. There’s a local professor who was “involved in the case”, but it’s never really explained what his connection is to the killer. He exists solely because, well, they needed their own Dr. Loomis. Johnny doesn’t wear a mask but sports some spiffy blue overalls to silently stalk his victims, occasionally popping out of the shadows to attack.
As cheapy-cheap as this movie is, the pace moves quickly, the kills are inventive if not terribly gory, and the finale is one big chase scene. When it comes to passable, low-grade, 80’s slasher cheese – that’s about all I could ask for.
2. Creature (1985)
Creature tells the tale of space geologists who make the fatal mistake of responding to a distress signal from a rival German ship. It turns out they’ve just landed themselves smack dab in the feeding grounds of a viscous, slimy, black skinned alien being. Insanity ensues! William Malone (House on Haunted Hill, Feardotcom) directs his second feature, utilizing leftover sets and props from Roger Corman’s Forbidden World (also an Alien impostor).
The truth is there are a ton of movies whose inspiration could be traced back to Ridley Scott’s seminal film (itself reportedly inspired by Bava’s Planet of the Vampires). Creature takes the intergalactic cake for one reason alone, the actual “creature” design. One look at this thing and there is no question Giger and the Xenomorph were being, let’s say, re-interpreted here.
3. Bloody Murder (2000)
You need only look at the cover for this early 2000’s video store mainstay, which somehow spawned two sequels, to tell exactly what’s getting the rip-off treatment. Yes, Friday the 13th is hardly the most original film to begin with and countless other flicks have dared to venture into a secluded campground with a masked murderer on the loose (Joe D’Amato’s Bodycount is a fun Italian take on the subgenre), but none have ever been so egregious as this. Bloody Murder‘s legendary killer is a scrawny dweeb by the name of Trevor Moorehouse who wears a hockey mask!
The filmmakers weren’t even trying on this one. I really hate to say that as no one sets out to make a terrible film, but sometimes “terrible” does happen. It’s just that in this instance, it’s hard to imagine director Ralph Potillo was really trying to create anything beyond a paycheck. Considering this came out in the post-Scream era there’s still some knowing winks and poor attempts at humor sprinkled throughout. Once the credits have rolled, the gravest sin of all, however, is Bloody Murder is bloody boring. Ay, see what I did there?
4. Demon Wind (1990)
Do you love The Evil Dead? So do the filmmakers of Demon Wind! Okay, maybe that’s not entirely fair. They also seem to really love Night of the Demons, but…mostly The Evil Dead. This is a super cheese-ball flick about a group of friends who escape for a weekend away to a decrepit cabin in the middle of nowhere. They unknowingly unleash an ancient evil, a barrage of body jumping demons.
Lest you think “demons” and “cabin” are the only ED connection, may I point out a big book o’ magic and an ancient blade that may be the only saving grace for our hapless group? Demon Wind will try the patience of some while for others it may prove an amazing movie night flick to share with a group of pals. The effects are generally abysmal, but they’re gooey and repulsive enough to elicit the desired effect.
What’s better is that once you think the main cast has been whittled down, leaving scant opportunity for further bloodshed, along come another group of friends to join the party. This happens TWO TIMES! It’s as if the the writer/directer was on page 30 of his script (and subsequently page 60) and thought, “Damn. I need more people to kill. I’ve got an idea!” You’ll know if this is your bag from the trailer. If so, I highly recommend you track it down!
5. Shocking Dark/AKA Terminator II (1989)
Wow. With this movie we get a twofer. Not only is Shocking Dark a complete rip-off of James Cameron’s Aliens, it’s also an unofficial sequel to James Cameron’s Terminator. That’s right, this film was released as Terminator II in several countries. While the plot itself is pretty much all “bad ass military types must infiltrate a colony where all communications have been lost, only to discover rabid monsters dead-set on their demise.” The final act does shift gears into Terminator mode, just in time to justify that alternate title. And, boy howdy, when it does! It’s an insane amalgam of explosions, surprise robot reveals, and time travel.
The military grunts are all tough as nails archetypes copied from Cameron’s original film. For our heroine, we’re given a “scientist” as Bo-bo Ripley whose maternal instincts kick in upon discovering Bo-bo Newt. Unfortunately, she doesn’t elicit much in the way of confidence. She appears utterly perplexed and aimless in every close-up. In other words – you’ve got to see this movie!
This freshly grated Romano cheese is another Italian import from knockoff king, Bruno Mattei. This man has brought us such classics as Cruel Jaws, Hell of the Living Dead (which actually uses Dawn of the Dead’s score in places without any permission what-so-ever), and Robowar (AKA Robocop No. 2). Robowar is interesting in that, much like Shocking Dark, it’s a mashup of two different pre-existing films: it’s obvious namesake and Predator.
FYI: That terrifying, half naked, screaming man was a legit bumper. Variations of this were added to trailers released by the Japanese company, Caution Video.
Have you seen any of the knockoffs on this list? Did I not include your favorite copycat? Sound off below!
Also, I quickly wanted to thank those of you who have welcomed me to BD. I appreciate it and hope you’ve been enjoying my stuff. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below or you can always hit me up on Twitter here.