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Empire International Pictures: A Tribute

When I was re-watching a few of my favorite low-budget horror films, I realized that most of them were distributed by Empire International Pictures. Empire was started by legendary low-budget horror/sci-fi/fantasy film producer and director Charles Band. Most people know Band as the man behind Full Moon Entertainment, a company he started after Empire went out of buness. Empire was started in 1983 and made their first picture that same year, called Walking the Line. After that, the company decided to work on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies, and they made some pretty good ones. In this tribute, I'll tell you which films they made to go to, and which ones to avoid. I haven't seen every film they made, but I've seen the essentials. So here we go...

Rating System:

The best of the best.

A really good film.

It's OK; has its flaws.

The power of Christ compels you to stay away from this film!

Death is preferable to this garbage.

Ghoulies (1985)

A group of friends head up to a house for some heavy partying, and find out one of their friends' dad worshiped black magic, and his traits are starting to arise in his son, who uses the magic to summon ghoulies from the beyond to wreak havoc on the party. It's been a while nce I've seen this, but I definitely remember it being one of the most boring movies I've ever seen in my life. The ghoulies themselves aren't even the main attraction! It's mainly dull scenes of black magic and agonizing sequences of teens partying. This is definitely not one of Empire's finest. Re-Animator (1985)

A student at a medical school has discovered how to re-animate dead organisms and experiments with it along with his roommate. However, once revived, the dead bodies have strong homicidal impulses. This is definitely Empire's most popular film, even if I don't think it's their best. The cast was great, including Jeffrey Combs as Dr. West. The gore effects were exceptionally wonderful, and the humor was top-notch. While I don't think it's their best work, it still deserves a Dreamaniac (1986)

Adam is a failing college mucian who makes a deal with a succubus named Lily to be successful and get women as long as the succubus gets to feed on the women. Lily decides to crash Adam's party and begins killing everyone one by one with Adam at her de. Dreamaniac

is one of Empire's lesser known horrors, and it's a shame because it is pretty entertaining. For once the box art didn't lie; Dreamaniac really is pretty gory. In fact, that's about the only reason to watch. It has fun moments, but some parts are too slow, which earns it a From Beyond (1986)

After building a machine that stimulates the pineal gland, the mind's third eye, horrific creatures appear and bite off the head of the inventor (Jeffrey Combs)'s colleague. The inventor is sent to a mental institution, for no one believes his story. Another scientist (Barbara Crampton) decides to see if he was for real and takes him out. They go back to the house where the machine was activated along with a cop (Ken Foree). They turn on the machine, the inventor's colleague appears as a monstrous creature, and the horror begins. From Beyond is a great sort-of follow-up to Re-Animator. It brings back Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in the lead roles, and it's based on an H.P. Lovecraft story. Plus, for absolute zero reason at all (I'm not joking), Barbara Crampton gets into full S&M gear! As you can tell, this is worth a TerrorVion (1986)

A monster from outer space gets zapped into a family's TV satellite and can enter and exit the TV at will while eating the family and anyone unfortunate enough to enter their house. TerrorVion is a really entertaining cheesy-to-the-max alien movie that should entertain the whole family. It features the worst case of aver-acting I have ever seen (I'm pretty sure it was intentional) and some of the best monster effects ever. Actually, all of Empire's creature features have great FX, being done by the legendary John Carl Buechler. This one definitely comes to you as

Dolls (1987) x people are stranded in a huge house with a creepy old couple who collect dolls. Soon, the dolls begin killing anyone who wrongs them. Dolls is a tight little horror film. The atmosphere is great, the characters are realistic due to the actors' great performances, and it even includes one of the most likable characters in horror history: Ralph. The gore is good and the effects are really good, so this is a Ghost Town (1988)

A deputy hunting for a misng girl comes across an abandoned town and discovers it is literally a ghost town, haunted by ghosts stuck in a limbo by a demonic outlaw. Now the deputy must save the girl who is imprisoned by the outlaw, kill the outlaw, and save the town. Ghost Town is a horror-western that succeeds greatly in both areas. The effects and scares are good, and the shoot-outs are extraordinary. This one is greatly

Ghoulies II (1988)

The ghoulies from the first film make their way to a carnival funhouse and terrorize the patrons! THIS is what the first should have been like! It's fun, cheesy, gory, the effects are better, and it's rarely boring! Plus, someone actually "gets it in the end" in this one! Prison (1988)

A man is wrongly accused of murder and sent to the electric chair. Several years later, the prison where he died is opened again and soon, both the prisoners and the staff start getting killed in grisly fashion. Prison is a rare film that manages to be scary and really gory at the same time. The atmosphere is the best, and the acting is really good as well, including Viggo Motensen in one of his first starring roles.

Intruder (1989)

The night crew of a supermarket are stalked and brutally murdered by an unseen killer in this slasher send-up. It's your standard hammy acting and stalk 'n' slash plot, but the real reason Intruder shines is for its outrageous amount of brutal killings and lots of gore. Plus, it has cameos by Sam & Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell! Puppet Master (1989)

After the death of a colleague, a group of psychics go up to a hotel to mourn the loss. However, several deadly puppets have other plans for them... While it was technically distributed by Full Moon Entertainment, Puppet Master was produced by Empire. It's a tight little killer doll film with some of the most creative puppets ever. There's plenty of gore, the acting is good, and the plot flows nicely. So that was the great Empire International Pictures. If you've heard of them, I hope you've enjoyed this little retrospective, and if you haven't heard of them, I hope I've added a few films to your "To Watch" list. Till next time, creep on Bidites.
ObscureCinema101 Saturday 8/13/2011 at 12:47 AM | 80540
Wasn't TROLL an Empire Pictures film or am I imagining that?
chrismac87 Saturday 8/13/2011 at 01:00 AM | 80544
Wasn't TROLL an Empire Pictures film or am I imagining that? That was indeed an Empire flick, and as I explained in the opening, I haven't seen all their horror films. There's also Crawlspace, Cellar Dweller, Troll, and more for me to see. Very astute observation.
ObscureCinema101 Saturday 8/13/2011 at 01:18 AM | 80546
Wasn't TROLL an Empire Pictures film or am I imagining that? That was indeed an Empire flick, and as I explained in the opening, I haven't seen all their horror films. There's also Crawlspace, Cellar Dweller, Troll, and more for me to see. Very astute observation.

Thank you r. I did notice you saying you hadn't seen all of Empire's films, but for some reason figured you had seen this one and maybe had forgotten it as it is kind over all...pretty forgettable...but a lot of fun none the less. So I would have totally understood.
chrismac87 Saturday 8/13/2011 at 02:42 AM | 80550
Great article as always!!
Anonymous Saturday 8/13/2011 at 02:51 AM | 80552