Sometimes when you’re watching a bad horror movie you could swear the movie is even more “off” than a regular bad horror movie. Maybe the movie uses two different types of film and it’s obvious even to the viewer who knows very little about filmmaking. You might notice wild continuity errors like a character’s hair getting longer and shorter, or someone knocking on the door in the daytime only to have the people inside the house loudly complain about someone coming to the door this late at night. The movie finishes without separate storylines ever having anything to do with one another. Friends, what you’ve got on your hands is a creature called the Frankenmovie: one bad movie grafted together from the parts of even lesser movies.
There are many ways the Frankenmovie can be brought to life. Sometimes the director finishes a movie and it’s not feature length, for whatever reason. Such is the case with Hell of the Living Dead aka Virus aka Night of the Zombies aka Zombie Creeping Flesh aka Zombie 2 (no relation), a film by one of the most notorious offenders in a genre filled with bad movies, Mr. Bruno Mattei. When his movie, whatever title you want to call it by (it will answer, cause it’s kinda stupid) fell short in the area of running time, he just spliced in some footage from a faux Mondo documentary. This is why the female lead suddenly remembers that she is an anthropologist, strips down and paints herself up, then runs off to a village of natives where nobody seems to even notice she is there. They don’t notice her because they’re in a different movie. But hey, at least we got to see her boobs, which is the only thing most people remember about the movie anyway.
Other times a movie gets shelved and then picked up for a different person to finish. Now they have to film new scenes to pad the running time. In a great example, Spookies, the original movie was called Twisted Souls. Twisted Souls was the story about the teenagers and the one older dude who travel out to a house in the middle of nowhere to party, only to get possessed after messing with a witchboard. (Note: if you want to party, wait until you’re old enough to have your own house to party in, because breaking into an abandoned house will probably get you killed by demons. And if you are old enough, party with people your own age so you don’t get killed with the underage kids who have broken into a haunted house.) Anyway, when Twisted Souls got interrupted and then started up again with a new director, she decided to tack on a second plot about an evil wizard, a cat person, an enchanted princess and a dumb 13 year old who ran away from home. And voila, the finished product was Spookies. Some of the parts about the cat guy and the dumb kid were pretty darn creepy, and the scenes with the partiers were better than average 80s fare as well, but the part with the evil wizard and the enchanted girl I could do without. I have heard about and found broken links to a fan-made version of Twisted Souls that just includes the original movie about the party people, and I’d virtually kiss some virtual ass to get a copy. Hint, hint.
Or maybe the director quit during the shoot, the movie went right on filming and they let another director finish, grafting two different people’s ideas together. This is what happened to Zombi 3 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters 2. I’m not sure that Fulci, who was the original director, had what you would call a vision for the movie; the only part of it he was proud of and took credit for was the flying zombie head that attacks when the refrigerator door is opened in the hotel kitchen. And I didn’t write this article to pick on Mr. Mattei, but since he’s the one who finished the film, his work speaks for itself. I will say Zombi 3 is a better movie than Hell of the Living Virus Zombie Creeping Dead Flesh Night. But they’re both Frankenmovies.
Perhaps the saddest Frankenmovies are the ones we’re left with when the studio forces re-shoots in postproduction. A great and terrible example of this is Poltergeist 3. You can find everything you ever wanted to know about Poltergeist 3 here on this awesome fan-made site. I’ll just summarize by saying that in the original ending Tangina tricks Kane into grabbing the necklace, which destroys his creepy ass and the family is safe. The ending we all got to actually “enjoy” shows Kane walking off with Tangina for no good reason, we think the family is safe, but the final shot throws the cliched 80s “he’s not really dead” thing at us as we hear Kane’s evil laugh. So even though Poltergeist 3 was marred by the death of poor little Heather O’Rourke, the movie didn’t have to be as bad as it turned out to be. Thanks MGM!