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Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1982)

February 5th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

All I wanted for Christmas this year was the DVD of BUTCHER, BAKER NIGHTMARE MAKER (1982) and I’m happy to report that tiny lil’ dream became a reality. Now that the pined for item is captured and shelved, one of the many nagging voices in my head can finally shut up. Once upon a time, wrongly thinking the flick’s DVD debut was imminent, I allowed my VHS tape (under the title NIGHT WARNING) to fall into the wrong hands and wouldn’t you know it, the cursed thing stood me up like a bucked-tooth prom date. Worse still, when it finally was released, the universe began a cruel campaign of placing obstacle after excruciating obstacle between me and my coveted prize! It’s over now. I shouldn’t salt the gaping wounds. I just mean to point out that there are movies you casually collect for a rainy day and there are those that feel like appendages that somebody ripped off your body that you have track down and sew back on or risk dying from infection.

I think the problem is that I remember my life through movies. I have no idea how I’d recall anything if movies didn’t exist because they provide pretty much the only structure in my foggy head. Things were easier when I worked in a video store and I could look on the wall and see by numbers on stickers on plastic boxes where I had been… now everything is all jumbled up and out of order.

For many reasons BUTCHER, BAKER towers as a monumental marker through the mist behind me. It casts a deeper shadow than most because it had such an impact on me during my teen years. I came across the movie tie-in paperback years before I would encounter the movie itself and its content provided me with one of my earliest encounters with the subject of homosexuality (at least within a story that I could relate to rather than a horrifying news item or a pitying sitcom platitude). Its significance was boosted further by the fact that the novel was confiscated from me in junior high as if it were some kind of illegal contraband and my fear of its verboten themes being discovered were great. See, things were very different for a gay teen in 1982 and in so many subtle stabbing ways that it’s impossible to fully convey. You know that part in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS when the characters had to hide any and all emotions or traces of humanity to avoid being pounced upon by the screeching, pointing, empty hearted hive mob? I feel like that reflects my personal high school experience better than say, SIXTEEN CANDLES.

BUTCHER, BAKER doesn’t exactly present the idea of being gay in a Pollyanna positive light but therein held its particular power for me because its crassness allowed me to better digest it. At that point in my existence the idea of being validated or approved of wasn’t even on the table but the knowledge of not being alone in the universe left enough air out of my about-to-explode alienation balloon that it was the difference between life and death. There’s a shitload of acrimony offered many discriminated against groups in the world but I think LGBT teens take on a singular burden of having to face those thrown stones alone…at least for a while. Sorry, that’s kinda heavy but that’s how important seeing myself at least partially reflected was. And really, that’s how important movies and books are.

Anyway, BUTCHER stars JIMMY McNICHOL as Billy Lynch who is getting ready to go off to college and sparking abandonment drama from his twitchy guardian Aunt Cheryl (SUSAN TYRELL). Billy comes home from school one day to find his Aunt has killed a man (who she claims tried to rape her) but when the victim is discovered to be gay, a homophobic detective (BO SVENSON) becomes obsessed with pinning the murder on Billy. Now, a little while’s back I was gabbing it up about another fine flick that features TYRELL called ANGEL (1984). ANGEL presents two all accepting counter culture fantasy parents in the characters of Solly (TYRELL) and Mae (DICK SHAWN.) In contrast, BUTCHER, BAKER offers a dark flip side and features two soul dousing monster parent figures. First we have Aunt Cheryl who is a controlling, jealous, trapped in the past, sexually inappropriate loon and symbolically subbing for Billy’s dead father is SVENSON’ s Det. Carlson who is a berating browbeater who elbows out Billy’s one positive adult figure, his happens-to-be gay basketball coach Tom Landers (STEVE EASTIN who would fittingly go on to appear as a policeman in another gay-centric horror flick A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE).

I should clarify that there’s nothing within the framework of BUTCHER to indicate that Billy is gay. Whether he is or he isn’t doesn’t change what he endures or how we understand him but I point it out because it deepens the detective’s level of… instead of “homophobia” let’s go with misguided witch burning hysteria and projected sexual insecurities. Like life though, BUTCHER is about much more than folks grappling with sexual orientation, it earns serious points from me for focusing on that critical moment that many of us must plow through when we shed the limiting, spirit-confining ideas we were raised with and begin to walk on shaky legs toward our own self-realization. Billy has to destroy his monstrous parental figures to move forward because they stand as the bars of his cage.

Due to its teen heroes (Billy’s loyal and bunny-nose cute girlfriend Julia is played by a young JULIA DUFFY) and the year of its release, BUTCHER is often lumped in with the slasher clique but it has more in common with psycho-biddy grande dame Guignol flicks like WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? than its more popular body count contemporaries. Tonally I think it pairs up swell with the following year’s excellent PSYCHO II or maybe even 1980’s underrated THE ATTIC. In fact, BUTCHER could have saved itself a bunch of heartache by calling itself simply THE CELLAR as some of its more important revelations are made in just that locale. In any case, the streamlined alternate title NIGHT WARNING is of no help at all.

We’re not offered any huge mystery to solve, the audience knows very well which chocolates in the box contain the nuts, the tension comes from wondering just how hard the shit is going to hit the fan and when. It’s too bad director WILLIAM ASHER did not continue down the horror/ thriller path because he definitely brings something cyclonic and sweeping to the film’s storm set climax. It’s impressively uncanny compared to the rest of the movie and I can’t help worrying that both Julia the character and JULIA the DUFFY are truly getting the tar beaten out of both of them right there on screen.

Let’s be realistic, this movie is OWNED by TYRELL and I only wish I could type OWNED in neon and make it flash forever and with an accompanying siren sound. It’s really one of the greatest performances in all of horror and frankly it’s a disgrace that it’s not more widely seen and appreciated. If NICHOLSON or WALKEN delivered this performance they’d be forever ducking from all the laurels chucked at them. From the DVD’s (much appreciated) extras it doesn’t appear TYRELL herself thought too much of the role but the truth is on the screen and, no matter how scampy she sometimes riffs it, there are clear-cut moments where she’s delicately skating on the sharp thin line of true madness and it’s a freaking glorious thing to behold.

In closing, this is a take it to the grave movie for me as you can probably tell. I’ll be watching it when my hair is gray and my eyes have been removed to make way for tiny TV sets. Revisiting it once again I’m glad that times have changed and at the same time I don’t know why they haven’t changed more or even why they were so screwy in the first place. I’ll never be grateful for the crap I personally had to endure but if it curbed me from becoming your standard douche-y bro dude it was very much worth it. Most of all it’s fun to revisit through cinema a time in my life when I related more to buoyant Billy than I did to shattered Aunt Cheryl because great googly moogly, lord knows that’s no longer the case. Ha ha. Just kidding (no, I’m not).

→ 2 CommentsTags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · DVD Review · General Horror

Streaming Alert:: Split Second (1992) is Free on HULU!

February 2nd, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

What the what? Last night I bumped into SPLIT SECOND (1992) on HULU and for free no less (HERE)! I was going to sit on this info until I could use it for a Sunday Streaming post but then I decided life is too short, there’s no time like the present and who the heck cares? The thing is folks, SPLIT SECOND is not available on DVD and the VHS tape probably currently looks all dried up and stinky so this is your best bet for now. Sure there are a few commercials sprinkled throughout but HULU is thankfully pretty nice about keeping them short. SPLIT SECOND is kinda like if one of those ALIEN creatures was set loose in BLADE RUNNER land except that nothing could be as awesome as what that sounds like so prepare yourself to be fairly disappointed. I have no problem telling you SPLIT SECOND should be far more engaging than it is and it looks better both on paper and in your head than it actually does on the screen but there’s still plenty enough going on to make it worth your while, I promise.

SPLIT SECOND comes from the same director as THE BURNING (TONY MAYLAM) and it stars the coolest guy who ever lived, RUTGER HAUER who is supported by such fine folks as plucky KIM CATTRALL, not-so-plucky PETE POSTLETHWAITE and the one and only slightly plucky MICHAEL J. POLLARD of TICKS and AMERICAN GOTHIC fame as “The Rat Catcher.” RUTGER plays a gruff cop who smokes a lot and laments the death of his partner while hunting down a deadly creature that is frustratingly NOT SHOWN ENOUGH in a waterlogged (due to global warming) London in the flabbergasting future world of 2008!!!!

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m prone to appreciate a mid-budgeted sci-fi flick cuz they have enough money not to embarrass themselves but not so much that they over do everything and come off synthetic and fake. Anyway, this is just a public service announcement for those out there who were waiting to see a decent presentation of this fine enough flick. I seem to recall that when I saw it in the theater it was way too dark but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore so maybe that was due to the theater I saw it in or something in my head. Who knows? You should have been sold at RUTGER HAUER anyway. Oh, and the soundtrack, she is tops too!

→ 1 CommentTags: Streaming Alert!

Sunday Streaming: Starship Troopers (1997)

January 31st, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

Hey, STARSHIP TROOPERS is free to view on CRACKLE (HERE)! What’s that? You don’t think of STARSHIP TROOPERS as having anything to do with horror? I’ll be sure to tell that luckless soldier whose decapitated head is flying in the opposite direction of his severed torso that you feel that way. I’m sure he’ll find your assessment comforting when his intestines fall like ribbon confetti all over his frozen in mid-scream face.

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I find STARSHIP TROOPERS to be a non-stop hurricane of creepy-crawly monstrous entertainment. Why, I came across it the other night flipping channels and regardless of how late it was, I could not turn the darn thing off! When it first came out (way back in ‘97), I naturally dug the goopy effects but felt the storyline was over the top hokey and way too rah-rah action figure oriented. Well guess what, I was a real dope because that off-putting, nationalistic, hurray for blondes, xenophobic, militaristic vibe was part of it its not- so- subtle in hindsight, elbowing point. It’s so ahead of its time. I can’t even call it satire because it’s basically just reality sprinkled with giant bugs.

Blah, I should probably stay away from the political because, first of all, I’m too sheltered/ignorant and second of all, that’s the most boring way to approach a piece of art that features the fantasy acting trio of CLANCY BROWN, MICHAEL IRONSIDE and RUE McCLANAHAN. If those three aren’t enough to crack your toes, there are spaceships exploding everywhere and stampede after stampede of marauding alien insects. How can you go wrong? This is the type of movie that if it senses you are loosing interest, it will mercilessly whip CASPER VAN DIEN! Word on the street is that STARSHIP TROOPERS is PAUL VERHOEVEN’s favorite film that he ever directed and I’m suddenly inclined to agree with him. It’s just so fantastic and epic and gleefully indulgent and brilliantly subversive and slyly progressive and gorgeously ugly and somehow equally sharp and squishy and like all great underappreciated movies, it further solidifies and simply gets better by the day. Plus, it’s basically SAVED BY THE BELL meets ROBOCOP and ain’t nothing wrong with that.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Sunday Streaming

Horror Match Up Game Part 2

January 29th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

Here we have 24 characters from 12 horror films. Can you match the proper numbered pairs together and name their films? (Example: 3 + 22 = CAT’S EYE)

→ 10 CommentsTags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Name That Trauma:: Craig B. on Teens Picked Off by a Mummy in an Old Dark House

January 26th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

I’ve never been able to meet up with one of my first memories, delivered by television between 1962 and ’66?

Memories being the nebulous things they are, as I recall it involved a group of teens that enter an old dark house, where they are picked off one-by-one by a bulky mummy-type thing that lurks behind secret panels in the walls. In the end, the hero makes it out alive…only to be paused at the sight of some gollum perched on the top of the gate archway, gnawing on…something.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Name That Trauma!

The Boy (2016)

January 24th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

The best part of being woefully unhip and equally unsophisticated is that I get to enjoy the heck out of a movie like THE BOY. Yeah, I know it’s borderline preposterous, derivative as hell and ultimately inconsequential but to quote Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, “Look at all the fucks I give.” In the grand tradition of such, only in my mind, classics as THE HEARSE and THE NESTING, THE BOY is all about a lady losing her marbles while wandering around an incredibly beautiful, big old house. In this type of film there are always dull stretches where the main character reveals a troubled past (usually involving the death of a child, an abusive partner or worst of all, writer’s block!) but that’s fine by me because that is the perfect time to marvel at the lovely décor. Generously THE BOY is not satisfied being only a lady vs. her house/head flick, it’s also a creepy doll movie and that just happens to be my other favorite type o’ jam! Why, the only thing that could make this ditty more up my alley would be if it turned into HELL NIGHT in the final stretch (slight spoiler alert: it does). Is it kosher to recommend a movie exclusively to myself? I dub this flick, my rainy day ambrosia; all other folks tread with caution.

THE WALKING DEAD’s LAUREN COHAN stars as Greta who has been hired by a couple of nutty oldsters to look after their “son” who turns out to be a creepy porcelain doll. It seems their real kid Brahms tragically died in a fire 20 years ago and to cope with their loss, the two mutually decided complete and utter denial was the best bet. Greta is freaked out at first but sympathetic and she slowly forms a bond of her own with the pint-sized (PIN-like) effigy. Sadly THE BOY will likely get zero credit for what an excellent job it does of getting the audience to connect with the doll as well… so much so that when it is eventually threatened to be damaged it feels like something very real and invaluable may be lost. Much of the thanks should go to COHAN’s likable and relatable Greta. I’d have preferred it if she spent more time reading in bed like TRISH VAN DEVERE and less time cleaning out rat traps but I gotta respect a gal who can wrap a towel about herself so snuggly that it appears to be molded in plaster. Greta rules. She looks like MARY TYLER MOORE. Another thing that THAT BOY does extremely well is deftly manage the impossible to avoid humor of the situation, you could pretty much watch the first half of the film as a comedy if you wanted. In fact on more than one occasion little Brahms’ cold poker face reminded me of MARTIN SHORT in CLIFFORD.

I guess my biggest complaint would be the flick’s regrettable lack of bloodshed. Now I have no problem with a PG-13 rating especially in a psychological spooker but there’s a point in THE BOY where there is a drastic shifting of gears and at that point, at the very least, a TV broadcast level of gore would have been extremely satisfying. Truth is, you’ll either love or hate the film’s big reveal, I personally loved it to the point where it left me writing fan fiction in my head. As overtly mild as it sometimes sadly is, there’s some real throwback charm to be found in THE BOY. I expect it will be spit on by those who wear their horror fandom as a badge to prove how “edgy” they are and it will probably be loathed by those allergic to hokum and cheese but for me, it entertained and made me feel as snug as a bug in a rug. I may have to thank the terrible TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D for opening my eyes to the worth of simple entertainment value over artistic merit and even common sense on some occasions. If a film tunes your fork and delivers your favorite flavors at regular intervals, who cares about anything else? I don’t. No, it’s in no way a sterling classic but to echo THE BOY’s opening premise, sometimes a place-holding facsimile will do when the real deal is currently out of reach.

→ 4 CommentsTags: General Horror

Kindertrauma Funhouse

January 22nd, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 12 Comments

→ 12 CommentsTags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Sunday Streaming:: Castle Freak (1995)

January 17th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · No Comments

I got some good news for ya. Did you know that you could be watching STUART GORDON’s CASTLE FREAK for free on Hulu if you so desired HERE? How do you dig them apples? Now, I’ll be honest with you, this flick didn’t exactly rock my world when I first caught it back in the day. I think it’s because GORDON’S RE-ANIMATOR blew the top of my head off and then his FROM BEYOND blew the sides of my head off and then DOLLS blew the bottom of my head off and there was really no part of my head left to blow up by the time CASTLE FREAK came along. I used to think my expectations were too high but I’ve come to the realization that –duh- GORDON was going for a much more somber feel on purpose.

Anyway, these days I can appreciate CASTLE FREAK for a lot of the reasons I once gave it a shrug. CASTLE FREAK may not deliver the pulse-pounding, over-the-top excitement of GORDON’S aforementioned masterpiece trilogy but it’s absolutely dripping with gloomy gothic atmosphere and leads JEFFREY COMBS and BARBARA CRAMPTON deliver top-notch, albeit mournful, performances. It utilizes its Italian location to the fullest and it’s a great Old Dark House flick even if the old house is actually an old castle. Plus monster! Me love monster! If you haven’t seen it in a while, give it another go. NOTE: I must subtract five points for tormenting a ginger cat.

→ No CommentsTags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert! · Sunday Streaming

Horror Math Match Up Game!

January 15th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Here we have 24 characters from 12 horror films. Can you match the proper numbered pairs together and name their films? (Example: 1 + 17 = MOTEL HELL) Good Luck!

Note: Extra points awarded if you can accomplish this feat while listening to EBN-OZN’s International smash hit “Bag Lady” (I wonder)!

→ 7 CommentsTags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

January 12th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

Wow, so that BONE TOMAHAWK movie is a keeper. I rented it from my local Red Box as I believed that to be my most practical (cheapest) option and I gotta say, it pained me to return the thing. Yes, it was with great sorrow and unfocused free-floating resentment that I slid that disc back into the slot of its soulless, mechanical crimson overlord but a deal’s a deal. Now, I totally understand if you are not exactly chomping at the bit to check out an olden-timey Western that appeared on one too many best of the year lists on one too many unreliable marketing tar pits masquerading as a horror websites. I get that. But BONE TOMAHAWK really does deserve a laurel avalanche because it features rarities like a, well-written script, stellar cinematography, assured direction and absolutely outstanding acting.

You know when it’s cold outside and you need to take a shower but you keep putting it off because history tells you that the first moment when the water hits your body is going to be awful? Then you step in the shower and after that first moment of shock it’s actually great and rejuvenating and you can’t believe that you didn’t jump in sooner because now you are all crispy clean and feeling awesome? That’s how I feel about westerns…

My eyes are always scared of how beige everything is going to be and my ears are worried that the dialogue is going to be gruff and dullsville and my soul is apprehensive because chances are a horse is going to be treated poorly. The first couple minutes are always difficult and I feel like a squirrel in a box looking for any possible escape but if I can just get past that initial hump, I usually enjoy myself. I’m not talking about dusty Grandpa flicks, I mean the likes of EL TOPO, TOMBSTONE, THE PROPOSITION and especially the Dalmatian-spotted McCABE and MRS. MILLER (if that counts). I’ll even happily gallop behind EASTWOOD but if I’m being honest I’m going to lean closer to THE BEGUILED than the DOLLARS TRILOGY. I guess I’m saying it’s not my go-to bag but it’s a pill I can swallow especially if said pill is coated with sweet delicious horror like BURROWERS (2008) or the title in question, BONE TOMAHAWK which feels like JACK KETCHUM meets TRUE GRIT.

What bridges the gap more than anything else, more than sleek visuals, more than clever lines of dialogue, more than snappy action scenes, more than sharp suspense (and BT’s level of suspense is downright painful at times) is characterization. And I’m not even being preachy here; it’s just the truth. I’m happy to report horror hall of famer KURT RUSSELL is everything you’d hope and expect him to be and he’s just the tip of the totem pole. Who can make you feel their anguish and inner (and outer) turmoil quite the way that PATRICK (INSIDIOUS,THE CONJURING) WILSON can? Seriously! That face! I want to make him pancakes! But do you want to know who the real stand out in this flick is besides the always-reliable RICHARD JENKINS? By Golly, it’s MATTHEW FOX. He’s so good and not in a flashy, look at me way either. He just disappears into his character and he’s impressive as hell.

SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s got characters you’ll remember, it will surprise you in ways I refuse to say and it will chill you right down to the bone-and then some. You’re going to enjoy it kids, Why, I’d bet the farm on it! NOTE: Extra sarsaparilla awarded for featuring the ever mesmerising SEAN YOUNG.

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→ 3 CommentsTags: General Horror