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Masters of Horror Funhouse

May 22nd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

UNK SEZ: Below are ten images from the anthology series MASTERS OF HORROR. Can you name the episodes and the directors behind them? Apologies in advance if anyone is not familiar with the series because that would render today’s puzzle kinda impossible for you. Don’t fret though, The good news is that both seasons of this great show are available free to watch on Tubitv and it’s never too late to check it out!

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Traumafession:: Chris Moore on The Red Shoes

May 20th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · No Comments

It was summer and I must have been about 4 or 5 at the time. My sister and I were being watched by a babysitter named Elise whose mother was one of the teachers at our school. Like most kids, I felt like anyone older than 12 years old was impossibly mature and Elise seemed like one of the coolest, most mature people there was. She had her own car and would take us all sorts of places including her video store of choice entitled Video Library.

My family were Blockbuster folks for most of my early childhood, so that was the only video store I was used to. Imagine my surprise when she agreed to take us to rent a movie or two at Video Library and I took in the cavernous building that seemed to house copies of every movie ever released on video up to that point. You could spend hours in there and still feel like you overlooked something. They seemed to have so many movies that Blockbuster didn’t – even in the children’s section I was relegated to for that afternoon. I settled on a large, white clamshell tape entitled Fairy Tale Classics. I saw that it had a version of Cinderella on it, so that was what really drew me in due to my obsession with transformation scenes. I always wanted to see how they’d handle those dramatic scenes where Cinderella turns her rags into a ballgown or how they’d handle the evil queen transforming into one of her disguises to kill Snow White. The rest of the stories weren’t as familiar to me – The Ugly Ducking, Ali Baba, The Bremen Town Musicians, and The Red Shoes.

I went home and put the tape in and was entertained, but unmoved by their Cinderella re-telling. All in all, it was by the numbers, but I kept watching and was enjoying the other stories until I got to The Red Shoes. For those who don’t know, The Red Shoes is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen who gave us such uplifting tales as The Little Match Girl and the original telling of The Little Mermaid where the title character kills herself when she discovers the prince isn’t interested in her.

The Red Shoes turned out to be another super happy yarn about a poor girl named Karen who’s taken in by a devoutly religious woman after her mother dies. Karen sees a pair of red shoes in the store window and obsesses about them because they remind her of some shoes she had when she was a child. Because her new mother is colorblind, she buys them for Karen, not knowing that they’re totally inappropriate for church and a creepy old soldier has told her that, if she wears these, they’ll take over her life and make her dance until she dies.

Karen starts feeling pretty snazzy in her new shoes and does a little dance in them one day, which turns out to be a really bad idea, because this triggers the shoes to have a mind of their own and she starts flying all around the town, unable to stop dancing. She even kicks her mother in the head, injuring her badly enough to make her bedridden. She’s subdued and some townspeople rip the shoes off of her and that’s that. She never wants to dance again . After all, guilty feet have got no rhythm.

This goes alright for a while, but eventually, she can’t control herself and she brings the shoes back out of the closet for a town festival and she’s back at it again. She’s flung all over town and into the woods where she encounters the scary soldier guy again who just keeps laughing at this poor girl. She gets back home and finds out that her adoptive mother has died in the time that she was out dancing around town and she prays to God to take her instead and bring her back. The angels grant her wish, but everything turns out to be a dream and she and her new mom are cool. She takes the shoes off and locks them away for real this time. The end.

Believe it or not, but this was actually toned down from the original story where Karen is so overcome with grief over her adoptive mother’s death that she asks someone to cut off her feet and she’s forced to live as an invalid until an angel finally grants her wish of death. There was something so nightmarish about this story and the way it was presented that rubbed me the wrong way as a kid and it haunted me for so long that, in my teens, I had to order a copy of the VHS from eBay just to prove to myself that I didn’t imagine the whole thing. I’m sure the strange synth score didn’t help relieve any of the creeps I felt and that scary soldier lurking in the woods was of no comfort either.

Looking at it now, I have to laugh that something like this could freak me out as much as it did, but I do have this movie to thank for introducing me to Video Library. After that fateful trip, I convinced my family to get a membership and, every Friday for the rest of my childhood, we’d stop by there on the way back from school and rent a handful of movies – movies that were to shape me in so many wonderful ways. That place became my film school and I wouldn’t trade those memories for all the money in the world.

UNK SEZ: Folks, you can watch this version of The Red Shoes right over HERE.

ALSO: You guys remember our old pal Chris Moore, director of BLESSED ARE  THE CHILDREN (available on Tubi), TRIGGERED, and now… A STRANGER AMONG THE LIVING (trailer HERE & rent it HERE). I’ve seen this fine flick and can tell you that as per usual, Chris Moore has delivered something multilayered, thought-provoking and consistently unpredictable. It’s a genuinely eerie mind-bender that strikes similar psychological nightmare cords as THE TENANT, MESSIAH of EVIL, and CARNIVAL OF SOULS; so do yourself a favor and check it out if you have the time (you do).

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

May 15th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 9 Comments

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Traumafession:: Unk on Laserblast (1978)

May 12th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 9 Comments

Back in the earliest days of VHS (yep, I’m that old), my family used to rent from a joint called STAGE DOOR VIDEO in King of Prussia Mall. It was actually more like an expanded kiosk that would pull down a metal gate when it was closed. Anyway, the horror/sci-fi section seemed immense to me at the time though in reality, it was probably less than a hundred films. My favorite, most trusted VHS label was easily MEDIA because they offered the likes of HALLOWEEN and HELL NIGHT and so it was only a matter of time before I rented another title on their roster, LASERBLAST. I had seen much more disturbing horror films by that time, so it’s not exactly accurate to say that LASERBLAST scared or traumatized me but it did in fact, freak me out a bit. Which may be a little odd as it’s widely considered to be an inept film (it was even featured on MST3) and its poor reputation miraculously has not improved one iota over the decades. Still, a recent re-watch reminded me that once it gave me a strong feeling of nauseous unease.

For a weird kid like me, LASERBLAST had a rather irresistible power fantasy plot, It’s about a bullied, socially awkward young man named Billy (KIM MILFORD) who finds a laser gun/arm cannon left behind by a stop-motion alien; Billy then decides to exact his revenge by blowing all who wronged him into smithereens. The creepy element for me, at the time, was that the more Billy used his newfound power/weapon the sicker and more monstrous he became. The actor who played Billy just happened to bear a strong resemblance to MARK HAMILL as Luke Skywalker (surely not by accident) and so, in my post STAR WARS head, it was almost like watching Luke become a sick, deranged ghoul. Now, I was not the healthiest of kids and had spent much time dealing with doctors and hospitals due to allergies and asthma (that has mostly gone away) so the idea of getting sick, catching a disease, really got to me (and is probably why this memory is resurfacing now during a pandemic). My viewing also took place during the early eighties when many a nightly newscast and weekly news magazine were reporting on AIDS at regular intervals with horrific images and a rightfully panicked tone. Billy’s dark, sunken eyes mirrored the headlines.

So yep, this kinda dopey (yet not uncreative) movie got under my skin more than a little bit and at least deeply enough for me to remember it all these years later (and I can almost smell some pungent doctor office scent as I do). As faulty as it may be, it’s hard to hate on such a simple and pure fable about the corrosive nature of revenge and exploited power. LASERBLAST may not be remembered fondly by many (although an ethereal performance from CHERYL “RAINBEAUX” SMITH of LEMURA fame is reason enough to watch it), but it’ll always represent a particular part of my awkward youth and certain fears that lay far back in my brain, ready to resurface.

I’d still like to find a laser gun though- I promise I wouldn’t abuse it…much.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

May 8th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 13 Comments

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

May 1st, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 16 Comments

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Traumafesssion: Dustin in Minnesota on Jack and Jill and Gas Masks

April 30th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · No Comments

Greetings trauma fans!

In these days of COVID-19 and mask-wearing, I was reminded of a childhood trauma I read in Jack and Jill magazine when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old.

For those unfamiliar, Jack and Jill was a children’s literary magazine aimed at elementary school-aged children. The 1970s being what they were, some of their stories focused on ecology and the environment, including one (whose title escapes me) that was somewhat terrifying.

It took place during a time when air pollution had reached an unprecedented high and children were required to carry World War II-style gas masks with them. When the alert sounded, they had to put on their masks. One little boy forgot (and I don’t recall whether it was by accident or on purpose) his mask one day and went to play baseball after school with his friends. The alert sounded and all the kids scrambled to put on their masks and get home to safety.

The little boy rode his bike home, only to find the doors all locked. Nobody was home, and he could only look through the window in fear and despair at the gas mask he left on the kitchen table.

After that point, the story shifted gears and mentioned the importance of combatting air pollution, but the reader was left wondering in horror what happened to the little boy.

Dustin in Minnesota

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The Uncanny (1977) By Mickster

April 28th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Like everyone else, I am spending more time at home watching movies (in between e-learning with my students). So over the weekend, my husband and I were looking at all the choices on Amazon Prime, and we found The Uncanny. I love a good anthology horror film, but when that anthology features Peter Cushing AND cats, it is even better.

Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) wants Frank Richards (Ray Milland) to believe that he has evidence that cats have control over humans, but I argue the evidence shows humans committing some of the seven deadly sins and paying the ultimate price via feline angels of death. After examining the evidence, I think you will agree the cats are completely justified in their actions.

Story one “London 1912” is about the backlash of unbridled greed.

Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) has cut her greedy nephew out of her will and replaced him with her clowder of cats. Unbeknownst to Miss Malkin, her maid, Janet (Susan Penhaligon), is in cahoots with her nefarious nephew, Michael (Simon Williams). Janet destroys the lawyer’s copy of the new will and plots with Michael to nab Miss Malkin’s copy in her bedroom safe. What Janet fails to realize is Miss Malkin’s kitties are constantly watching her every move. When Janet suffocates Miss Malkin after she catches her red-handed raiding her safe, the cats take vengeful action. 

Story two “Quebec Province 1975” is about the perilous path of envy.

Poor Lucy (Katrina Holden) has lost both parents and is forced to go live with her uncaring aunt and nasty, jealous cousin, Angela (Chloe Franks). Her one saving grace is her loyal cat, Wellington and some interesting books on witchcraft. Well, Angela is jealous that Wellington wants nothing to do with her and Angela’s father (Donald Pilon) shows kindness to the orphaned child, so she starts blaming things on Wellington as well as Lucy in order to make her mother, who already hates the cat, take Wellington away. Her underhanded scheme works and Wellington is carted off. To make things even worse, Lucy’s aunt (Alexandra Stewart) burns her books, except for one that Lucy saved. Too bad for Angela, the book Lucy saved is just the thing she needs, along with Wellington making his way back, to take revenge on her bratty cousin.

Story three “Hollywood 1936” is about the negative repercussions of lust.

The aptly named Valentine De’ath (Donald Pleasence) is tired of his actress wife and co-star, Madeleine (Catherine Begin), so he sets up an on the set “accident” which kills her quite gruesomely, think “The Pit and the Pendulum” style. He then has his mistress, Edina (Samantha Eggar), take his deceased wife’s place in the film. When Valentine so rudely brings Edina home to fool around, Madeleine’s cat is not happy. Even more horrifying, Valentine murders the cat’s kittens by flushing them down the toilet (Um, that really pissed me off). Well, it turns out that hell hath no fury like a kitty scorned. Kitties can orchestrate “accidents” too!

As the film wraps up, Wilbur Gray leaves his evidence with Frank Richards before making his way home with numerous cats following closely behind. Now, I still assert the people in those stories got what was coming to them. The cats were completely justified in their actions. Let’s just call it kitty karma.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

April 24th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 19 Comments

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Name That Trauma:: Glenn B. on a Bad Trip TV Special

April 18th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

I was born in 1961, so was a fresh, damp and impressionable target for some of the upsetting TV material of the 1960s and early 1970s. One of my more vivid memories is of a television special clearly intended to scare the audience away from ever experimenting with illegal drugs — and from LSD in particular.

In my jumbled recall, this program is linked with radio/television personality Art Linkletter, whose daughter Diane committed suicide by jumping out a window in 1969. The story bruited about (and encouraged by the Linkletter family) was that Diane had been tripping at the time, and jumped believing she could fly. According to Snopes.com, this was not the case, but Art Linkletter became a prominent anti-drug figure.

Anyway, I have a couple of distinct (well, distinct-ish) memories of this show — which had the intended effect on me at the time because it frightened the shit out of me. I have thought about these again and again in the intervening years, though the memories got blurrier and no doubt less reliable.

Memory 1: there was at least one simulated ‘bad trip’ sequence. The specific bit I recall was a vision of what looked like skinny Giacometti-like sculptures, but made out of glass — and they were vomiting copious streams of glassy puke (not animated, though the sculptures might have been on rotating bases or something like that).

Memory 2: the worst memory I have of this delightful program was of it showing photos of the horribly deformed faces of the children you would have if you ever dropped acid. The layout of the shot I recall was multiple-row, like a page of a school yearbook from hell: I recall one-eyed faces, faces with trunk-like appendages proceeding from foreheads, real monsters. The photos had a somewhat blurred, distressed and artifacted look, which made them even worse.

I’ve searched for the film on Youtube, and while there are a number of examples of this *kind* of thing there, most of them are films that would have been shown in the classroom and I definitely remember this one being on TV.

Note: a number of people have asked me if I was remembering the movie Go Ask Alice, from 1973. I have watched it, and although there are frightening things in it (e.g. Shatner with a moustache, waka-jawaka music, the oily colors of the 70s) they are of a different nature.

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