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Kindertrauma Funhouse

February 21st, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 13 Comments

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Traumafession:: Dan C. on a Junkie Ballarina PSA

February 20th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated and often terrified by the PSA as a format. An early memory of mine involves me laying in bed, holding aloft my Cookie Monster stuffed animal and miming what it would look like if Cookie was the talking head in a PSA; not saying any words, just trying to approximate the subtle movements. I ended this with a mock freeze frame. I scared myself with this enough to throw the covers over my head and try and will myself not to think about Cookie Monster freeze-frame, lest I would never get to sleep from the terror of a freeze-frame in an imaginary PSA.

Yeah, it’s pretty weird. So time marches on and various PSAs come and go, and I’m scared of them in degrees from 0 to 99. The mid to late 80s anti-drug obsession starts to take hold and it instills a general sense of paranoia in us suburban preteen kids, but it all still seems like the “other.” In our little sheltered burg, we thought some stranger in a van (perhaps a clown) was going to come and offer us “druggggggggs” and maybe kidnap us. It was all a vague (but real, it sure as hell seemed!) threat. Welp, the vagueness showed it’s power when I was maybe a couple years too old for a genuine kinder trauma, but I can’t under estimate the terrifying grip that one fucking Partnership for a Drug Free America spot had/has on me. I was like fucking 11 or 12 and I don’t remember the first time I saw this thing.

The sound of an orchestra tuning. A low angle shot with cold, cold, diffuse light. A ballet studio. Slow-motion dancer is spinning, spinning out of control. Onlookers with crossed arms of disapproval in the background. Voiceover of little girl: “I wanna be a ballerina when I grow up.” Cue fake Psycho violin stabs, then adult male voiceover: “Nobody says they wanna be a junkie when they grow up. Don’t let drugs get in the way of your dreams.” This fades into the standard Partnership for a Drug Free America text and black screen. This spot started showing up in weird places immediately…Siskel and Ebert (yeah, i was a kid watching S&E on Sunday mornings), Wonder Years and Doogie Houser MD were prime spots. It showed up in an airing of the Rankin Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in 90 or 91. I think I closed my eyes for that one. See, cuz I took different tactics to get over this fear; I’d close my eyes and just listen, I’d pay strict attention to every detail, I’d count the times the dancer spun (it’s not even one full spin). Nothing worked. I even had a wake up paralyzed screaming nightmare about it once.

Me and my few loser friends in middle school would talk about this spot, and the few others in the series (none of which bothered me a quarter as much) and talk about how “freaky” they were. It was a good word to avoid seeming weak in that junior high shark pool. But I was obsessed with it as it left rotation and went into PSA retirement. So, as I got into collection weird VHS years later, of course that would be a thing I was on the hunt for. As I picked up home recordings of broadcast tv I’d be always hoping it would lead me to this terror. I found tons of fascinating, and at times terrifying PSAs but I never found the ballerina. I even found collections of Partnership for a Drug-Free America tapes and it seemed they were erasing that spot from there history for some reason. Even as youtube emerged as, I found almost everything I wanted to see from days past…couldn’t find the particular spot.

Eventually, it did show up on youtube, and get taken down immediately. Was this secretly a controversial ad? I did give in and watch it on youtube sadly right before I found it was on a tape I had of an ABC primetime broadcast I never bothered to look at cuz it was Young Indiana Jones or some garbage like that. Anyhow, I’m still fascinated by this, because I think I’ve been truly terrified by this thing entirely because of the power of film language. Whatever who these anonymous creatives were going for, they found it purely through scary creepiness. Frankly, I think the anonymity in these spots are partially what make them so elusively unnerving. Who made this? Who is the ballerina? Did they believe in what they were doing? Cuz the implementation of creepy style certainly indicates a certain dedication. Did they know they’d be haunting the minds of kids as they became functional adults? I still can’t quite put my finger on what this particular thing gives me such intense unease. But it’s still there.

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Name That Trauma:: Drew P. on a Evil Grandma Robot

February 18th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

Aloha!
I’m a longtime fan of Kindertrauma and I’m wondering if you can help me identify a particularly paranoid kids cartoon from a long time ago…

It would have been screened during a Saturday morning cartoon block on ABC or CBS sometime in the mid-nineties (probably no later than ’96), but the animation looked noticeably different from other 90s cartoons, so my guess is that it was actually an older, eighties cartoon brought back for a rerun. I’m not sure if it was an animated TV movie or a standalone episode of a show. For many years, I assumed it was an episode of CBS Storybreak, but recent digging around online proves that this isn’t the case.

The story was about two siblings (older sister and younger brother, I think) on summer vacation whose parents are hypnotized by a malevolent alien robot disguised as an old lady. The brainwashed parents tell the kids that the robot is their grandma or their great aunt. They tell the kids that the robot is going to be their babysitter for the rest of the summer and then they take the car and split, leaving them all alone with the alien invader. The robot forces the kids to do chores, locks their pet dog in the basement, and generally makes them miserable. I think the robot starts building a UFO (just like The Thing!) or some kind of device to summon an invasion fleet. The kids try to warn other adults, but (in true Bodysnatchers fashion) no one believes them. The robot may also hypnotize a few other adults. Kids are immune to the robot’s hypnosis.

The robot has a vulnerability to water. When water is nearby, its eyes start to glow and it warbles “water…water!” in a creepy-sounding electronic voice. The kids ultimately defeat the robot by shoving it into a conveniently-located swimming pool. There’s a big cloud of smoke and sparks, and then a satanic-looking face made of crackling red energy rises up from the bubbling swimming pool and flies off into night sky – presumably, returning to outer space, never to return. The parents return to normal with no memory of recent events. The dog is released from the basement. Everyone learns a valuable lesson that grandmas are pure evil.

Much obliged! Thanks for everything you guys do!
Mahalo!

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

February 14th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 16 Comments

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

February 7th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 9 Comments

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Gretel and Hansel (2020)

February 5th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 9 Comments

Any time ALICE KRIGE appears in a horror movie it is an occasion for rejoicing. She’s one of the greatest character actresses who ever lived plus she’s got a near LON CHANEY-esque talent for meshing with monstrous roles. The KRIGE was all kinds of mesmerizing in GHOST STORY (‘81), seriously sinister in SLEEPWALKERS (‘92), ten tons of threatening in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (‘96) and magnificently mortifying in SILENT HILL (‘06). In GRETEL AND HANSEL, she takes on the role of Holda, a haggy archetypal fairy tale witch with cannibalistic tendencies and it’s her most gleefully despicable creation yet (if you don’t count Tully, the literary agent she portrayed in BARFLY (‘86)). Director OSGOOD PERKINS appears to fully appreciate winning the lottery in the casting department and wisely allows KRIGE to fully KRIGE and the uncanny end result is like an inevitable monument foretold in the stars. The fact that KRIDGE spends most of her time here psychologically sparring with the formidable aptness of SOPHIA LILLIS (IT: CHAPTERS 1 &2) as the titular Gretel is even more to be thankful for. GRETEL AND HANSEL is a smidge tottery at times and I can’t help craving it had a more robust right hook but I sense it accomplishes everything it sets out to do refreshingly unconcerned with audience expectations.

GRETEL AND HANSEL is much more like a trip to the art gallery than the amusement park (I might even say it’s more of a spell/hex than a film/movie) so if you prefer the latter you may want to skip it altogether. I found myself in a kind of hog heaven of sorts but must admit that the candle-lit cabin coziness of everything made me momentarily drowsy at times (that’s less of a complaint than it sounds). This movie is undeniably stunning on a visual level, absolutely gorgeous; a shoebox diorama filled with perfectly lit construction paper silhouettes. It’s like GUY MADDIN (CAREFUL (‘92)) playing WIN LOSE OR DRAW with ALEXANDRO JODOROWSKY (HOLY MOUNTAIN (‘73)) and the answer he’s trying to illustrate is ROB ZOMBIE’s LORDS OF SALEM. It’s as if THE WITCH (2015) and EYES OF FIRE (‘83) played hooky from school and did mushrooms while swinging in hammocks listening to THE COCTEAU TWINS. I can’t say no to this sort of thing! The soundtrack is by ROB, the same dude who did MANIAC (2012) for crying out loud! I’m starting to believe watching a movie is a lot like being hypnotized and we’re all susceptible to wildly different triggers and cues. This jaunt tugged all the correct occult harp strings in my spine and I tip my triangular Aleister Crowley cap to it. Maybe for its own sake, it should have thrown the audience a bone in the form of a more explosive climax but I guess that would have been against its very nature. As it stands, it’s a singular dark visual poem that sure to become a totem among the esoteric. Sure the story is sort of like a trail of breadcrumbs left for the birds but this crazy catalog of cursed eye-candy left me convinced that one truly arresting image may be worth more than some entire franchises.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

January 31st, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Let’s celebrate SPOOKIES (1986) finally being available on Blu-ray (Thanks Vinegar Syndrome!) with this perplexing puzzle! There are ten differences between the image above (A) and the image below (B). Can you spot them all? 

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Edge of the Axe (1988)

January 28th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

If my faithful TV was a fancy nightclub and I was its bouncer, I swear I’d never card an eighties slasher movie. I’d let them ALL in with a wink and a nod even if they were visibly drunk and not wearing shoes. EDGE OF THE AXE (1988) is just such a hard to reject eighties slasher movie (although I hesitate to call it a slasher movie due to the fact that nobody gets slashed- they’re too busy getting chopped and hacked — and rather viciously I might add– to pieces). This flick is indeed partially goofy but that doesn’t curb its potent violent streak one iota. Directed by our old pal JOSE RAMON LARRAZ (he who gifted us with THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED, VAMPYRES and DEADLY MANOR among others), EDGE OF THE AXE relays the standard tale of two computer obsessed nerds who fall in love investigating a barrage of axe murders mostly aimed at the psychiatric community. There are oddball characters falling out of the woodwork and every single one of them seems like a viable suspect. I don’t suggest trying to decipher any possible clues in this random mystery, just sit back and enjoy the woodsy scenery, the instantly outdated technology, and the eerie omnipresence of orange SUNKIST soda cans.

EDGE OF THE AXE acts a lot like fellow Spanish-American co-production PIECES (1982). Maybe something was lost in the translation while these films were being made but they both end up being lovably quirky, oddly histrionic, and ultimately effectively brutal. EDGE’s white-faced killer is pretty darn scary at times and I’ll also say alarmingly enthusiastic. Not only does this flick not shy away from gory kills it also doesn’t flinch when revealing the aftermath (there’s at least one applause-worthy severed head found floating in the lake). As creepy as the white-masked murderer may be, he’s got nothing on the free-floating computer voice that allows the two main characters to communicate with each other. It’s the strangest thing; every time something is typed onto a computer screen, it is read aloud by a voiceover that I’m guessing is supposed to sound robotic but sounds bored instead. It’s off-putting and clumsily done but of course, endearing as well. I’m unsure but it’s possible that this movie invented texting.

EDGE OF THE AXE is available thanks to the fine folks at ARROW who consistently knock it out of the park in regards to releasing idiosyncratic obscurities ripe for wider notoriety. The Blu-Ray’s got some lovely new cover art by Justin Osbourne, liner notes by our beloved chum Amanda Reyes and a commentary by the always brilliant, Hysteria Continues. As someone who has only seen the movie on VHS, I gotta say the 2k restoration looks amazing. It’s such a handsome, generous package overall that I’m going to overlook the fact that this movie shamelessly kills a doggie and an innocent pig for no reason. For all its sloppy faults it can’t help being a delicious horror hoagie stuffed with a to-die-for synth score, old school gore, a masked killer, buckets of red herrings, romantic meet-cutes that involve changing light bulbs, dead bodies crammed in attics, ancient computer espionage, weird dubbing, and random Dudley Do-Right sightings. It takes a long route to get nowhere but its vivid murders scenes are worth the ride alone and really, you should have vowed to buy this movie at any cost as soon as I compared it to PIECES.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

January 24th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 14 Comments

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The Prodigy (2019)

January 23rd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

Dear THE PRODIGY, this hurts me more than it hurts you. I hate writing negative reviews. I feel guilty afterward. Creating anything is admirable and dismissing someone’s hard work is not cool. On the other hand, I’d hate for people to think I’m a chump who falls for anything. Plus, maybe disliking some movies helps to accentuate the love you have for other movies? Hmm, maybe. I didn’t dig THE PRODIGY. It wasn’t my cup of tea. O.K., I hated it. Which is kinda crazy because I basically love all killer kid movies, even lesser ones like DADDY’S GIRL (‘96), THE PAPERBOY (‘94) and MILO (‘98). I should have been such easy pickins’! PRODIGAL SON couldn’t even sell me on the idea of reincarnation when I already pretty much believe in it. They actually changed my mind in the reverse direction. Now the idea just seems silly. I do now believe in emotional vampires though because THE PRODIGY left me feeling zapped out, tired and vaguely depressed. It’s a borderline distasteful joyless dirge. There’s no fun to be had here. It’s funless. My favorite thing about THE PRODIGY is that it makes me appreciate THE ORPHAN (2009) even more. THE ORPHAN is brilliant. Love that movie.

There’s gotta be something more positive I can say. I guess the cinematography is pretty slick and…consistent. JACKSON ROBERT SCOTT (who played Georgie in IT) is a decent actor, can’t blame him. The guy who played the hand-stealing killer (PAUL FAUTEUX) that the kid is possessed by was suitably creepy. TAYLOR SHILLING of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK plays the mom. I usually like her and know she can act but I don’t think the director (NICHOLAS McCARTHY who did THE PACT (2012)- which is great) did her many favors here; she mostly just makes distorted faces and strained grimaces. I’ll just point an accusatory finger at the writer (JEFF BUHLER, the same chap who wrote the PET SEMATARY remake that was only so-so) because there seems to be something wrong with this house on a structural level. For example, this movie gives away a juicy plot point that could have been saved for a later shocking revelation in its opening scene. It’s annoying. THE PRODIGY only has so much Halloween candy to give out and it’s like it gives half of the bowl to the first trick-or-treater that knocks on its door. Then it’s like out of candy before the night is over and soon all it can do is hand out pennies and coupons and gross Mary Janes. Maybe I watched this movie too soon after I viewed the wonderful UNDERWATER and it just paled by comparison? Would I like it better with a re-watch? Nah, I’m going to give THE PRODIGY my worst possible verdict by saying I’m never going to watch it again and I have no desire to buy a used copy of it from Redbox for $3.99.

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