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Kindertrauma Funhouse

November 15th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

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Doctor Sleep (2019)

November 14th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

Mike Flanagan is an incredibly talented filmmaker with singular talents and a sincere love of the genre that consistently flows through his work. He also doesn’t mind driving me insane by wearing his heart on his sleeve, underlining things that don’t require it and hitting sour notes at the worst possible time. Is it just me? I think it’s just me and I have to accept that. I loved THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE but felt kicked in the shins by its neatly tied in a bow closure. I think he achieved the impossible adapting GERALD’S GAME but felt yanked out of the drama by the overstated villain. Now, I absolutely loved about eighty percent of DOCTOR SLEEP only to find portions of its climax practically cringe-worthy. But look, eighty percent is a great grade. It’s basically a “B” right? I just feel like a real stick in the mud about this because I see so many with nothing but hearts in their eyes concerning this film. It is unquestionably quite an achievement, with inevitable classic status performances; it flies admirably high but to me, its landing is kinda janky.

Ewan McGregor is Danny Torrance (now Dan) all grown up and slipping into self-destroying, memory-buffering alcoholism. Luckily fate does him a solid and pushes the nicest guy on Earth, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) into his path and soon he’s collecting AA coins and helping the elderly through the doorway of death with the help of a psychic cat (all cats are psychic and this is the part of the movie where I wish it was a mini-series so that we could spend more time in this cozy zone). He also discovers another person with his “shining” abilities, a staunch young girl named Abra (Kyleigh Curran) who he messages with frequency via his groovy chalkboard wall (he has the coolest apartment since MORK & MINDY). Trouble arises when a vampire-like group of psychic energy-sucking miscreants led by “Rose The Hat” (Rebecca Ferguson) get a whiff of Abra’s whammy fuel and decide it will be really awesome to smoke her like a doobie (these rats are so unscrupulous that they chomped on a little boy after a baseball game in the movie’s most disturbing scene). To be clear: acting and casting-wise, everybody in this movie is uniformly excellent. McGregor is deep as a well, Curtis is rock solid, Curran is steadfast, Ferguson delivers something for the ages and her right-hand henchman Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) and new recruit “Snakebite Andi” (Emily Alyan Lind) are as compelling as they are threatening. Even more incredibly, Carl Lubly as Hallorann and Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrence (!) occupy their legendary roles effortlessly.

I’m all in and things keep getting better and better and its all beautifully winding its way to the inevitable confrontation at the ground zero of Dan’s distress. I’m floating on a cloud. I love these people, good and bad (though we needed more cat), I feel like I’ve rarely seen a movie so respectful of its character’s motivations. What a beautiful examination of trauma, recovery and the value of self-forgiveness and friendship. In fact, I like this “Rose The Hat” much better than the Janis Joplin creep I pictured in my head when I read the book! And now THE SHINING music starts! I can hardly take it! It’s all so exquisite and then we get to the piece de resistance… the Overlook Hotel! This is it; this is what I’ve waited decades for… I’m with Dan, I am Dan at this point…

The wheels of the cart don’t fall off at the Overlook hotel but they sure did screech and wobble for me. I held on as long as I could, I clutched with all my might but something about the climax chaffed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s a weakness in me but it starts to feel like a cross between visual karaoke and a theme park maze. It’s like they’re strolling through a wax museum. At one point Rose The Hat looks down the hall, sees the elevator pouring blood and sort of does a knowing smile/wink that is so on the nose I thought she might start singing, “I think I’m going to like it here” from ANNIE. I dunno, in THE SHINING (both the King book and Kubrick flick) it felt like the spirits involved were infinite and unknowable, here they feel like a limited “Legion of Doom” rogues gallery. It’s me. It’s my fault. I’m a curmudgeon. I can’t think of any way Flanagan could have handled the material better (hmmm, maybe go all in and throw me the bear/dog man bone and lay off the bathroom lady a tad?). Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw out the old hag out with the bathwater. I’m sure I’ll watch this movie again and I’ll soften to seeing haunting horror iconography scrolled through like a family vacation slideshow. My niece texted me after the movie and asked me how it was. I texted back, “I have mixed feelings but it’s definitely worth seeing”. At the risk of sounding like the type of person who would call Picasso’s Guernica “busy”, that’s pretty much my review in a nutshell.

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Name That Trauma:: Greg T. on Mellow Jazz and Black-Eyed Children

November 13th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

OK, I have two super obscure ones and I am hoping someone somewhere can find clips. I have a couple more in the chamber but I don’t want to bury you with these all at once. 


1) I have a vague recollection of an animation on an early 70s Sesame Street that was a cut-out animation of the sun and moon coming up and going down on a black background and the music was a mellow jazz thing with a flute solo at the end. Not unlike Brooks Poston and Paul Watkins creepy tunes in the Manson documentary from 1973.


2) I have a recollection of a late 70s/early 80s Fire Prevention PSA with ultra grainy film of a woman placing a tray of wooden matches before two seemingly black-eyed children.


Any one else remember these creepy things?

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Name That Trauma:: Caffeinated Joe on a Doll Mask Short

November 12th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

My brother-in-law needs help:


“I went to see some kinetic sculpture today and it reminded me of a creepy film short I’ve seen before but can’t find it googling every different keyword I can think of. I think the filmmaker’s name began with the letter K. It was in black and white and was creepy and weird and maybe had a beetle in it? Don’t rightly remember but trying to find it. Also, if it helps I think there may have been doll masks stitched together with twine and weird stuff like that. I initially thought Kafka but it wasn’t him but the name sounded the same. Thanks again!”


Any one have any ideas?
Caffeinated Joe

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Traumafession:: Jeff C. on The Spider God

November 11th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

When I was in Elementary School on Vancouver Island, BC Canada, I borrowed this book from the school library. The book was published in 1974 and as I was born in 1969 I would have probably been 7 to 9 years old when I read it. The illustrations inside were scratchy and creepy as hell! And the stories were all written by Charles A. Piddock. All the stories disturbed me, but the one that had the longest impact on me, the one that I remember to this day (more than 40 years later!) was the story called The Spider God. As I remembered it, it went like this:

 It was a Vietnam horror story I read as a child about a soldier who, before burning down a village, butts his cigarette in the eye of a spider god statue. Then 10 years later at home he’s upstairs and his kids are downstairs he hears a weird noise,   he goes down to investigate and finds 2 skeletons– bones picked clean–  then he turns to see a swarm of spiders descend upon him.

Then I found a blog, which documents the blogger’s own experience with the book (HERE). He writes the synopses of all the stories contained in the book and his synopsis of The Monster Fly is remarkably similar to my own recollection…

THE SPIDER GOD

Captain Billy Joe Smith is with some South Vietnamese soldiers checking out a village. A building is still standing and they chase a VC into it. A fight ensures and Billy sees it is some temple. Filled with cages of spiders and an idol of a giant spider. Billy puts out his cigar in the eyes of the idol offending the Spider God. Years later in Denver him and his little daughter are attacked by hordes of spiders. Back in the village the idols eyes then start to glow signaling that the god has been avenged.

He also writes:

So this was a book that I checked out of the school library when I was in second grade. It is written for young kids and has illustrations on every other page to show what the story is trying to convey. The illustrations by Richard Maccabe are crude but effective in visualizing the story. I still vividly remember the drilling to Hell and meeting the Devil and the human zoo. The stories were quite effective on a young mind that I still remembered them after all these years and decided to search out this book. An enjoyable nostalgic trip back to my childhood.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

November 8th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 14 Comments

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So Underrated:: Blood Salvage (1990)

November 7th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

As is my sworn duty, I’m here once again to sing the praises of 1990’s BLOOD SALVAGE. Thanks to annoying ownership issues, writer/director TUCKER JOHNSTON‘s solidly offbeat dumpster dive into madcap depravity has still not been released on DVD and Blu-ray and that’s a shame for lovers of horror. It should at least deserve the positive notoriety most elusive fright flicks receive but instead, I find it’s still not mentioned enough. No soldier as eccentrically gruesome, darkly humorous, genuinely unnerving and strangely melancholy as this should ever be left behind, especially when it features performances by legends like JOHN SAXON, RAY WALTSON and I kid you not, EVANDER HOLYFIELD. If you’re looking for the missing link between TOBE HOOPER‘s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and ROB ZOMBIE‘s HOUSE OF 1,OOO CORPSES (2003) look no further than TUCKER JOHNSTON‘s BLOOD SALVAGE. It has aged like fine moonshine! It boasts a familial bouquet akin to WES CRAVEN‘s THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) the tart crispness of MOTEL HELL (1980) the toasty acidity of AMERICAN GOTHIC (1988) and the gritty aroma of MOTHER’S DAY (1980). Why isn’t every horror fan gulping this fine brew down?

In BLOOD SALVAGE we are introduced to the Evans family who travel in a handsome Winnebago into questionable territories so that their teenage daughter April can compete in carnival-set beauty pageants. When we first meet April, she appears to be the haloed darling of the competition, admired for her bravery and pluck due to her requiring a wheelchair. Interestingly though, rather than ride the typical course of presenting her as a one-note virtuous saint, we soon learn she’s actually bitter about being treated like a “charity case.” Moreover, she’s revealed to be testy, bratty, snobby and downright ornery. She’s such a hellion that she ends up being one of the most unique horror heroines out there. She doesn’t transform when in danger; she simply takes off her mask of sweetness and reveals her true colors. She’s kind of a cross between the petulant, trouble-inviting Amy Harper (ELIZABETH BERRIDGE) in THE FUNHOUSE (1981) and the obstinate, trash-talking Vanessa Lutz (REESE WITHERSPOON) in FREEWAY (1996), what’s not to love? Even more fascinating is the way April has no qualms slipping back into her “butter wouldn’t melt” persona when it better serves her than snarling. I could go on and on about April all day. She’d probably hate the term “final girl” as much as I do.

On a collision course with the Evans family is the Pruitt clan. Patriarch Jake (DANNY NELSON) has been creepily following April’s career and since he and his two dim-witted yokel sons are already taking part in devious shenanigans, abducting April isn’t much of a stretch. You see, the Pruitt’s have a salvage yard but it’s actually a front for their more lucrative business of kidnapping people, putting them through horrendous medical experiments and then selling their body parts on the black market. It’s somehow even more disturbing then it sounds, almost difficult to watch at times and yet also cartoon-y and unrealistic enough to not leave too bad of a taste in your psyche. Although sons Hiram and Roy (CHRISTAIN HESLER, RALPH PRUIT VAUGHN) are kind of cookie-cutter horror numbskulls (see MOTHER’S DAY or OF MICE AND MEN) daddy Jake is handled as deftly as April and stands as a worthy and equally complex adversary. He too is bitter about the cards fate has handed him and covets April as a placeholder for his deceased daughter. Religious zealots are nothing new in the annals of horror but there’s something pitiable about how Jake uses his self-righteousness as a salve against his deep pain for not being wealthy enough to save his cherished child. Forever broken, he becomes what destroyed him, placing the value of money over that of human life. Sure, he’s a raving psychotic but in a way, he’s only mirroring his own experience with a greedy and apathetic medical industry. He eradicates self-doubt with fire and brimstone verse and his projection is so fierce he’s even trained his torture victims to chime, “Amen”.

BLOOD SALVAGE has its flaws but most of them lean toward budgetary issues and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Its limited location and unpolished, lived-in environment add so much flavor that would be impossible to duplicate on a similar scale today. As much as I enjoy how it salutes a litany of other rural psycho family flicks, there’s no denying that it carves its own path moving adamantly against knee jerk expectations. People who you’d assume would survive don’t and the most dramatic demise is handled with chilling indifference. The climax is a wonderfully executed funhouse crawl with trapdoor after trapdoor all the while balancing the grueling and the amusing in equal measure. I know I’m at risk of over-selling at this point but hey, somebody has to. There’s really no reason that this consistently entertaining trek through the bowels of insanity isn’t a horror staple by now. Nope, it’s not on DVD but it is currently on Amazon Prime in an adequate though not ideal (too dark) presentation that will leave your peepers begging for a better edition. Someday somebody will be a hero and release this bad boy in the respectful way that it deserves. ‘Till then, I’ll be over here carrying this torch. Oh geez, I forgot to mention the Pruitt’s lovable pet alligator! How could I do that? Be good and spread the holy word. Amen.

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Traumafession:: Derek B. on Kid Commercial Music

November 2nd, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

Thank you for all your hard work.  I have a kindertraumatic question.  It’s not about movies or tv shows; it’s about many, many commercials. In the seventies, commercials for local kid-oriented businesses would come on Southern Californian television.  Arcades, circuses, restaurants. Three songs would be used, over and over.  These songs were instrumental only and seemed to be part of a pack of musical accompaniment tracks every TV and Radio station owned.

One was a sort of wacky clownish theme, lots honking horns. “Come down to Pizza Piccolo Pete,” or whatever party clown occasion you were hoping to throw. Another was a simple tune played on what might have been a slide whistle, or a keyboard that sounded like it.  Slow tempo, something for wacky art-style toy commercials. The last one was a lot of synthesizers and horns.  You use it for your water park or skateboard joint.  

Your site and tireless research have saved so many before me.  Do you have any idea what I’m talking about here?  I suspect I am not crazy and hope it is true.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

November 1st, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

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Traumafession:: Unk on Halloween (1978)

October 31st, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Today is Halloween! Happy Halloween! To mark the occasion I thought that I’d travel back in time and share with you all my first glimmer of Michael Myers, which seriously scared the bejesus out of little me. These days the image of Michael Myers and his ghostly pale mask is so ubiquitous it’s hard to imagine there was a time when the mere sight of him was a jolting experience that cut like a knife. I suppose one could argue that the expressionless visage from EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960) may have been a subconscious influence but for me, personally, I had never seen a figure remotely as stark and uncannily unnerving before. The truth is, when my poor peepers got a load of the guy for the first time, my feet ignored my brain being mesmerized and insisted on their own that my entire body leave the room. Yes, I was too scared to take it in. I ran like a rabbit.

When I was a kid we had a large rec room in the upstairs of our house that we called “the back room.” It had bicentennial wallpaper, a ping-pong table (more often used as a fort) and our third parent, the big box TV. We lived in that particular house for four years but they were the important years that bridged childhood and adolescence. For the first two years, the blessed TV was on the left side of the room and that’s where I watched everything from THE AMAZING CHAN AND THE CHAN GANG to ZOOM. Later, the TV moved to the right side of the room by the stairs and by that time, my interests focused more around daily half-hour music video shows (we had no MTV!) and those crazy “Aerobicise” exercise programs like the one featured in FRIDAY THE 13: Part 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER. When I first got a gander of Michael, the TV was still on the left side so that tells ya I was still a critter. In fact, I was eleven and I wasn’t a newbie to horror either, I’d seen all the classic Universal stuff, withstood countless made-for-TV traumas and may have even endured the climax to CARRIE at this point.

Probably no one did more to attempt to squash the early eighties slasher boom than those lovable jerks SISKEL and EBERT (may they rest in peace). Ironically, no two people inadvertently stoked the flames of my fascination for horror more. My little brother and I absolutely loved SISKEL and EBERT’s SNEAK PREVIEWS on Channel 12. This was before VHS exploded and by golly, it seemed like such a privilege to get to watch even short clips of movies for free. For all of the duo’s scolding of “dead teenager” flicks, the two were at least level-headed enough to thoroughly champion JOHN CARPENTER’s HALLOWEEN. It was during their review that fate made sure that “The Shape” crossed my path. I was somehow able to handle the scene where Laurie Strode hides in the closet with thrilled trepidation but it was a later scene that finally broke me. I think we’ve all seen it a million times by now but it’s when Laurie is resting after a tussle with Michael who is on the ground presumably dead. Horrifically, he then slowly raises up out of her eyesight almost like a vampire rising from a coffin. That’s when my fight or flight response said, “Feet don’t fail me now” (there’s a SISKEL and EBERT review of HALLOWEEN on YouTube that only shows the closet scene but I’m adamantly sticking with my memory of events, perhaps what I saw was an earlier review and the clip is a later confirmation since it concerns the onslaught of horror movies inspired by HALLOWEEN?)

Eventually, I would see HALLOWEEN in its (almost) entirety on TV a couple years later (1981) when I was babysitting (!) of all things. Yes, I was one of those rare boy babysitters you never hear about! What can I say? The neighbors loved me, trusted me with their kids and I loved collecting money while eating granola bars and watching THE LOVE BOAT and FANTASY ISLAND back to back. As a paranoid nerd, I had no problem identifying with Laurie and I have to say I really looked up to her too because she radiated nobility to me. As a kid who was bullied at school (and at home, the park, the mall, etc.), I found her fortitude inspiring. If she could go head to head with Michael certainly I could handle a few zit-faced knuckleheads. When we finally got a VCR (one of the first families on the block!), I was able to rent every flick that followed in HALLOWEEN’s wake, always searching for that same elusive high (no luck there but THE FUNHOUSE, HELL NIGHT and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME came close). Recently I was asked to do a list of my favorite horror films (more on that later) and I was very surprised to see that half of the films I cited came out in 1981. Now I realize the reason for that is that I first met Laurie Strode that very year and the movie that I once found too scary to view for a few seconds had become ground zero for my horror obsession. Thank you, HALLOWEEN!

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