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Unk’s Homemade Video Store Signage!

March 1st, 2014 · 6 Comments

I was going through an old box of photos and found these sub-genre signs that I made for the horror section of the video store I used to work at. I took them home whenever the joint got all fancy and switched to DVD. What kind of dope gets rid of their “Scary Spinster” section? That’s not progress!

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Tags: Faux-sters · I Have No Idea What This Is · Kinder-Art

Kindertrauma Horror Mix Tape

January 15th, 2014 · 28 Comments

Sometimes I hate writing because it reminds me so much of talking and talking reminds me so much of a very loud headache factory I wish to demolish. And so I’m off to walk a dog named Nelson. Hey, let’s make a horror mix tape! Here are some songs that I must put on my horror mix tape. Please add as many songs as you can in the comment section so that I have something to listen to when I get back from walking the dog name Nelson. Thank You!

SIDE ONE

SIDE TWO

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Tags: I Have No Idea What This Is

Movie Review Headcheese:: Insidious: Chapter 2, You’re Next, Stoker, Passion, Curse of Chucky, etc.

November 15th, 2013 · 16 Comments

Every once in a while the inside of my head turns into styrofoam. It’s some kind of merciful curse that insures I remain ambivalent enough not to jump off a bridge. The down side is a cluttered desktop! How is one supposed to finish a movie review when they can’t even a finish a…what are those long snake-like things that swallow words called again?…sentence! Usually I’d just sweep these dead leaves into a pile and light the delete button but today I’m making movie review headcheese! Yummy! It tastes like lethargy!

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2

I can’t believe I almost didn’t see INSIDIOUS 2. What a dope I almost was. It’s just that I had warm fuzzy feelings about JAMES WAN’s last two flicks that I wanted to protect and scuttlebutt on the street was that it was shrug-worthy. Not that I ever read reviews for a film before I see it but it’s hard with the Internet not to glean the general consensus through the fine art of skimming out of the corner of your eye. Luckily I remembered that folks are harsh on horror in general and sequels in particular. Besides, WAN had only months previously ridden a wave of approval thanks to THE CONJURING and critics would likely be itching to rain on that parade as soon as possible. So I went, thinking if it did stink, what the hell, at least I’d get to hang out in a dark theater for a while.

I should thank all the braying naysayers because with my expectations in check I enjoyed every minute of it. INSIDIOUS 2 turned out to be one of the better sequels I’ve ever seen. I say that because instead of diluting the occurrences in the first film, INSIDIOUS 2 only enhances them. Both films compliment each other and yet stand on their own. I think you could even watch them in reverse if you wanted. Also whoever decided to cast HOUSE OF THE DEVIL’s JOCELIN DONAHUE as the younger version of BARBARA HERSHEY’s character deserves a meatball hoagie of some sort. Really if you liked the first film, I have no idea why you wouldn’t like the second unless you just hate the number 2. Most importantly, one scene really took me off guard and scared the crap out of me. As I look over at ROTTEN TOMATOES now, I see that although the critics kept their arms crossed, audiences responded mostly favorably so maybe it’s not just me…or maybe it is….

YOU’RE NEXT

Again, I didn’t read any reviews for this but I kept seeing high grades in magazines and hearing from folks that it was “real horror” and so original and what a tragedy that it didn’t do better at the box office and horror fans need to support scrappy films like this, etc. Basically I was guilt tripped into seeing this movie but it had to be good if my comrades were so passionate about it…right?

I didn’t get it. Was I tired that day? Was I dreaming of meatball hoagies like I sometimes do? I see there’s no number 2 in the title but how is this movie getting praise for being original? They could have called it THE STRANGERS 2 and I sure wouldn’t have noticed. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but were people receiving fruit baskets for every rube they convinced into seeing this movie? Please be honest if you’ve received a fruit basket and don’t read anymore if you don’t like spoilers…

I’m most confused by why I was repeatedly told by people that they could not explain why this movie was so incredible because that would give away its mindboggling twist… but now that I’ve seen it, I have to ask… what the hell is the twist? That the boyfriend is in on it? That’s the hoariest trick in the book. Was the twist that the female character knew how to fight? Really? Are we all still collectively pretending that is an anomaly in horror films? Ugh. Why does a genre capable of exploring the enormity of existence itself keep getting mesmerized into monotony by a subject as mundane as gender? I’m not saying “move on” I’m just asking can I play Candy Crush while everybody rates a female character’s worth based solely on how well she handles herself when being attacked? People can cry about remakes and sequels all they want but if you ask me, what’s really hobbling the genre is the insistence on stuffing it with action movie tropes and audience pandering power fantasies. A large part of my fear while watching a horror movie is derived from my concern for the character’s safety. When you take that away and make everyone a secret ninja, I’ve got nothing.

It’s possible my experience suffered from the corrosive effects of overpraise. Might I have enjoyed YOU’RE NEXT if I had stumbled across it on cable? One thing’s for sure, presented as horror’s great white hope or a bastion of innovation for me, it just doesn’t fly. Furthermore, I don’t think audiences should feel too guilty about not wanting to trudge out and spend 16 bucks to see what basically amounts to a semi more violent, semi less funny version of CLUE: THE MOVIE.

STOKER

Do you know what I find infinitely more interesting than a gal with secret ninja skills? A character with something provocative going on between their ears. Here’s a movie I wouldn’t mind rallying behind, STOKER, CHAN-WOOK PARK’s phantasmagorical spin on HITCHCOCK’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT. It’s so damn beautiful folks are bound to call it pretentious which is a fancy way to say artsy-fartsy. Go ahead and sue me but it’s been a long time since an image on the screen was enough to make my jaw drop and STOKER delivers more than a few. I didn’t make the connection with HITCH’s flick ‘til well towards the end and even then I swear there was never a moment when I felt I knew what was going to happen next. Powerfully ominous and sinisterly swoony, STOKER left me in a weird gothic trance with a sudden urge to read Victorian poetry and befriend spiders. Wrap it up, I’ll take it. It’s glorious to catch a director so obviously at the peak of his powers.

PASSION

Aw! Do you know who’s not at the peak of his powers? My beloved BRIAN DE PALMA! That’s O.K. Even B.D.’s less successful work is fascinating to me! This one is a doozie and do bring along your sense of humor or be prepared to bang your head against a wall. Essentially I believe this is the story of two non-ninja but still powerful women fighting over who gets to take the credit for inventing “the butt-cam” and of course such a dispute can only end in murder! All of you who have griped about DE PALMA emulating HITHCOCK can stop now- he’s moved on to ZALMAN KING. This movie is supposed to be based on some French flick but I swear it’s an episode of THE RED SHOE DIARIES. Although if you want to talk about the look of the movie, I’d guess 1984’s never ending venetian blind commercial THIEF OF HEARTS might have been a big inspiration.

It sounds like I’m making fun but I am fine with all of the above and God strike me dead if I ever am such a turd as to not appreciate anything that comes down the pike holding hands with a PINO DONAGGIO score. All of the film’s tone-deaf dialogue and slick artifice is okay in my book too. That’s just my buddy DE-DE doing DE-DE. The real problem is the story is bonkers and nearly every set up is a let down. Also I feel I have to implore DE PALMA’s friends and family- You people need to get together and have a “dream sequence” intervention for the guy. He’s obviously out of control and needs help. I’m not in the position to lend aid, otherwise I would.

Still, I say to love cinema is to love DE PALMA. Even when dancing backwards with a lampshade on his head, it’s clear his romance with the medium is true blue. The PASSION experience is sort of like when you go see a band you loved in college and they sound awesome and you’re having a great time and you applaud for an encore and then they come out and say those dreaded words “This is from our new album!” and everyone starts sliding ever so discretely toward the bar or the bathroom. But it’s DE PALMA and so I’m going to give it a few years. If somebody puts a montage on YouTube of every time one of the two brilliantly game leads (RACHEL McADAMS & NOOMI RAPACE) laughs like a deranged maniac within the film, PASSIONS could easily gather some camp/cult traction.

CURSE OF CHUCKY

As long as DON MANCINI is writing and directing you can just keep the CHUCKY movies coming as far as I’m concerned. I say that even while the man has made it abundantly clear he will never accept my friendship on Facebook. He’s like a hero of mine because he’s written every installment and has pushed the series into directions that go against the grain. I’m sure he’s lost a few fans by challenging their expectations and that just makes me respect him more. If you weren’t down with SEED O’ CHUCKY’s meta cartoon take on the material (I was) take heart as instead of inflating things further to the breaking point, MANCINI has done a full U-turn and made CURSE a tighter more intimately grounded affair. The guy does a beautiful job with the atmosphere and rather than the usual carnival tone, half the time I felt I was watching some early eighties Italian psychological thriller like LAMBERTA BAVA’S A BLADE IN THE DARK.

Not only is this box office bypassing sequel visually dark and broody, gone for the most part our Chucky’s trademark winky quips and in their place are uncomfortable existential bon mots like “There is no God” and “Life’s a bitch and then you die bleeding like a stuck pig.” FIONA DOURIF (daughter of the series’ spine BRAD DOURIF) is a natural and a welcome breath of fresh air as Nica, a heroine with a (SCREAM OF FEAR inspired?) physical hurdle (she requires a wheelchair) but more than enough mental determination to become one of Chuck’s most formidable adversaries. I must admit I wasn’t fully satisfied with every revelation uncovered, but for the most part, it’s obvious that an effort was made to reward those who have been loyal to the series total (i.e. stay through the closing credits). I think this release is a hopeful sign of the future for straight-to-home releases. If bypassing box office approval and some advertising costs means directors can have more control over the finished product then that can only be a good thing in my book.

WHITE NOISE 2

Speaking of straight-to-video sequels, has anyone seen this one? I barely remember the first film it’s barely based on, but I found it for $1.50 in a used bin and took a chance because it had (sci-fi dream couple) NATHAN FILLION and KATEE SACKHOFF in it and was directed by MY BLOODY VALENTINE (2009)’s PATRICK LUSSIER. It could have just as easily have been released as a (far less bloody) FINAL DESTINATION installment and even though I’m convinced my mom would have liked it even more than me, I must say I enjoyed it. In fact, I’m know I’m going to watch it again. I definitely liked it better than the first flick and those charismatic leads should be cast together more often.

KISS OF THE DAMNED

Hey, check it out! Apparently there is no end to JOHN CASSAVETES & GENA ROWLAND’s contribution to film. Who knew they also kindly gifted us with talented daughter XAN CASSAVETES and she’s just getting started! KISS is XAN’s first feature film and yay, it is chuck full of vampires! XAN doesn’t seem too interested in taking the undead down the bigger, louder, faster road to nowhere. This lyrical flick pays homage to a time when people had attention spans and vampire movies didn’t…(you know it’s going to happen)…suck. Are you a fan of DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971)? Where you noticeably the only person not bored by VAMPYRES (1974) when you watched it at a group sleepover? Would you push your grandmother into traffic for saying an unkind word about THE HUNGER (1983)? This movie is for you (and me)! It’s got lovely cinematography and a gets-under-your-skin score and if there’s absolutely nothing warm beneath its polished surface, welcome to the world of vampires. Sure I’m sad that if it cunningly builds up to what might be a magnificent showdown only to peter out with a whimper! Then again, what better way to salute the artsy fartsy European fang flicks of yesterday?

GHOULIES 3 and 4

I watched and was entertained by GHOULIES 3 and 4 recently so take that into consideration when reading anything I might say. These movies are of course terrible and I have no excuse except that I can’t resist the enjoyable VHS flavored bubble they are able to trap me in (even though I watched them on cheap DVD compilations). I have nothing much to say about either except, the cast for part 3 is astounding (JASON SCOTT LEE, MATHEW LILLARD, DOLLSSTEPHEN LEE, SUMMER SCHOOL’s PATRICK LABYORTEAUX, APRIL FOOL’S DAY’s GRIFFIN O’NEAL, KEVIN McCARTHY, MARCIA (R.I.P.) WALLACE!!!) and that notably in part 4 the Ghoulies cease being puppets and start being costumed dwarves (TONY COX!!). Also part 4 was directed by the guy who did CHOPPING MALL and both films have the power to change lives. Hey, Judgey Mcjudgeystein, I can’t always find something agreeable on Netflix Streaming…

MANIAC

Thank God I didn’t break down and rent MANIAC on demand because lo and behold it finally did appear on Netflix! I almost passed it by because the image they are using to represent it looks surprisingly bland compared to all of the cool poster art I’ve seen floating around. As I expressed HERE I’ve had a long and varied history with WILLIAM LUSTIG’s original. My first viewing left me shell-shocked and that feeling over the years somehow transformed into the type of adoring affection usually reserved for kittens. I’m also on record HERE for supporting remakes and their potential to be worthwhile every now and then. While this particular effort is never going to push the original off the throne in my heart, it did at least capture’s the original’s sense of impending dread. For all its questionable moves, I did find myself properly agitated and worried about how far into the abyss it might go.

My first takeaway is the idea that it’s too bad that ELIJAH WOOD was not old enough to play Norman Bates in the PSYCHO remake as it would have certainly have been less of a disaster. He’s very good in this, even while some of his performance is buried beneath the movie’s too gimmicky POV stance. The POV thing works fine enough and I understand the detached coldness that results was probably what the director was going for but I would have rather it had been used more sparingly as it got in the way of me connecting with the characters. Ultimately this is a no foul, no harm tribute that has a few worthwhile ideas of its own. Plus I have to give points for the retro synth score, hipster baiting though it may be at times. On the other hand, the use of SILENCE OF THE LAMB’s “Goodbye Horses” was just a little too obvious and heavy handed for my taste. Which brings me to…

THE CALL

I laughed at the trailer for this one when I first saw it but when I learned it was directed by SESSION 9’s BRAD ANDERSON I had to give a shot. Guess who had the last laugh? HALLE BERRY of course! THE CALL is a mostly straightforward, surprisingly suspenseful throw back to seventies-era woman in peril thrillers. Its tone and barebones structure make it feel like a TV movie and yeah, that’s a compliment. I think what may have ruined the film for some is that it goes ridiculously off the rails in the third act, BUT I embraced the lunacy and let it flow.

BERRY plays a 911 operator with a history of screwing things up who gets a chance to redeem herself when she gets a call from a girl trapped in the trunk of a car. Eventually, due to the police being incompetent, she must go to the crazy killer’s underground lair(!) to rescue the poor girl herself. Yeah, it’s a little over the top. But I’ll give it this; when the scalping killer begins to go about his torturous business in this movie, he doesn’t play the obvious “Goodbye Horses” instead his tuneage of choice is CULTURE CLUB’s KARMA CHAMELEON. I decree this is a stroke of genius.

I can’t stop thinking about it. On one level, it’s simply funny in an ironic way as the song is about as happy, toe-tappy and benign as they come. Underneath that candy coating though the frightening truth is that KARMA CHAMELEON is also maddeningly nonsensical and ruthlessly repetitive. It is a trickster anthem sung by a Pan-possessed rag doll! Look behind its false mirth camouflage and you will find a chilling condemnation and a call for moral anarchy! Its catchy earworm powers are so evil that they register at levels usually reserved for commercial jingles. Folks of a certain age have had this chant that mocks all that is sane engrained into the deepest level of their psyches where only sleeper agent instructions are meant to be stored. As soon as you hear the first familiar beat from that song it becomes all too hideously clear that all matter of hell is about to break loose!

So now I have a final question for you guys. I babbled on so much today that there’s no way I’m preparing a funhouse so instead, I’ll introduce a new interactive feature entitle The KINDERTRAUMA QUESTIONNAIRE!!!! (Trumpets)

KINDERTRAUMA QUESTIONNAIRE QUESTION #1: What 3 songs would you least like to hear a murderer play while he or she is killing you?

My Answers are…

3. Ce’st La Vie” by Robbie Nevil- because that’s just rude to play that. I wouldn’t want somebody so insensitive to my feelings taking my life.

2. “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride” by Mathew Wilder. I wouldn’t like to hear this song while I was being murdered because I think I’d read the killer’s selection of it as a reflection of his or her alarming determination to accomplish their goals.

1. “Somebody’s Knockin’” by Terri Gibbs. Holy shit, if somebody played this insanely scary song right before they murdered me I would never forgive them. I would damn them to hell forever for making my last moments on Earth such a miserable and harrowing experience! Who would do that? What kind of sick in the head monster plays Terri fucking Gibbs before they kill somebody? It’s like some twisted record executive said, “Can someone please make a song that’s scarier than WING’s “Let ‘em In?” and Terri was all like “Sure, I’ll do it!” and the record guy was like, “Wait, what are you a man or a woman? I can’t even tell.” And Terri was like “What?! What are you blind? I’m a woman you moron! Just for that I’m going to make the song ten times scarier!”

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Tags: General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is · Movie Review Headcheese

The Lords of Salem (2013)

May 2nd, 2013 · 19 Comments

In THE LORDS OF SALEM, Heidi Hawthorne (SHERI MOON ZOMBIE), a radio disc jockey, receives a mysterious package with a record inside. A friend attempts to play the record for her but it merely skips until Heidi places the needle upon it herself. The disc produces a haunting wall of sound that puts Heidi in a sort of a Stendhal syndrome trance while her friend remains unmoved. For whatever reason, Heidi then chooses to share her unusual discovery by playing it on her radio show. As the recording howls and booms over the airwaves, we again observe that the music affects different people in vastly different ways, some scowl and shrug and some stop in their tracks mesmerized. The best way to describe ROB ZOMBIE’s THE LORDS OF SALEM is to say that it’s a movie that operates exactly like that record does. It’s a treasure trove for those that respond to visual and audio stimulation and a barren coffer for slaves of clarity and traditional storytelling. If you fall into the latter category, don’t ever see this movie! I beg you! That whole crossed arms, I just ate a lemon, indignant consumer routine you do; it’s not as cute as you think it is.

ROB ZOMBIE is one of the more significant horror directors working today not because he is the most commercially successful but because he has miraculously held on to and honed his own voice (against a tsunami of chattering teeth opponents, I might add). Love it or lump it, he’s now at the artistic level where accessibility is no longer a concern. Think of THE LORDS OF SALEM as his STARDUST MEMORIES, he’s point blank telling anyone still listening that he’s not truncating his journey just because you dig his “earlier, funnier movies.” That could very well irk folks who can’t seem to connect with his work but stand down horror fans; the genre deserves at least one modern director not slavishly beholden to the sensibilities of mall teens. If you don’t like it, good. Welcome to the world of art! Don’t frown; in this joint you can get just as much stimulation from the stuff you don’t like as the stuff you do! Remember, you must be this tall to enter, keep your hands inside the car and stand ready to see things done in ways that you might not have done them yourself! Here is a bullet to bite. I know it’s not what you want but trust me, it’s what you need…

To me, in one way or another, each ROB ZOMBIE movie has been more interesting than the one that came before it. I’m not saying “better,” I’m just saying more thought provoking. (Actually, I could almost say I like each one better than the last except THE LORDS OF SALEM is not dethroning H2 in my heart anytime soon.) Maybe I’m just a very visually oriented person but there are moments in THE LORDS OF SALEM that I think are more potent and valuable then many of ZOMBIE’s directing contemporaries entire output. I’m not kidding. If an alien came to earth and was like “I’m either going to obliterate from existence that frame from LORDS with the orange fur beast or everything that ADAM GREEN and ELI ROTH ever laid a hand on, I would take zero seconds to shamefully respond “Give me the orange fur beast.”

Not that I have anything against those other guys, it’s just that for my needs they’re comparatively disposable and more likely to indulge audiences rather than shepherd them anywhere new. If I ever missed HATCHET, I suppose I’d just watch MADMAN whereas I don’t think there’s anything I could trade ZOMBIE’s imagery for regardless of how much it might be inspired by existing material. He’s just a brilliant visualist, end of story and sorry, that means something to me.

“But Unkle Lancifer!” you might be saying while taking off your spectacles and cleaning them with an embroidered handkerchief, “I don’t care for his writing! His dialogue is trite and like many horror aficionados, I’m an absolute stickler for dialogue!” Here’s the thing, I think his writing is fine and moreover, hold onto your tea cup Oscar Wilde, when it comes to the expression of horror, I don’t think the written word is paramount. “Clay face man walks goat in graveyard” is not much on paper but trust me, visualized it’s a whole different crap-your-pants kettle of fish.

I promise you, I didn’t salute every flag ZOMBIE hoisted. Remember when I was talking about the EVIL DEAD remake and I was saying that it was well built but failed to conjure up a believable presence of malevolent mojo? LORDS is the flip side, its malevolent mojo is indisputable but its structure could stand a few more laps around the gym. I’m not buying the SHINING-style days of the week title cards as framework. As in my actual life, I don’t care what day of the week it is and it’s really no less corny than showing a clock spinning. If you are dubious about SHERI MOON ZOMBIE playing the lead, I’m not going to totally disagree. I think she’s wonderful, a one of a kind character actress, she made an indelible mark in DEVIL’S and she broke my heart in HALLOWEEN. Still, I feel like this movie needed somebody that you didn’t intuitively predict was scrappy enough to wiggle out of whatever. It’s noble to put forth a different type of protagonist but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think some of the film’s erosion themes aren’t blunted by that choice. Do you know who would have been perfect? FAIRUZA BALK! Think about it. Before you agree just know that my answer for every casting quandary is FAIRUZA BALK and I may be subconsciously judging SHERI MOON on her hair.

Here’s the thing though, the most important thing, after the movie was done I went to the restroom in the theater and something about the place felt wrong. The overhead fan was acting up, singing a crazy womp-womp LYNCH-ian dirge and the lights were blinking an indecipherable code. Half my head was still in the movie and that’s my idea of success. True, I missed the emotional punch of H2 (if you didn’t feel anything during Annie’s death scene, congratulations you’re a sociopath) and I admit that I prefer my ZOMBIE a little more stompy. And yet LORDS certainly constructed a hazy, mad malaise that wasn’t so easily wiped off my windshield. Those who get frothy at the mouth minimalizing ZOMBIE’s vision can sleep well, LORDS‘ adamant ambiguity gives you plenty of space to dig in your talons. All I know is that my trusty specter detector was reading some true, undiluted horror on the screen. And when I say “horror,” I don’t mean the pandering power fantasy kind, the giggly, popcorn sleepover kind or the logo strewn, fan bought collectible kind used to spackle over identity chasms and make one feel all safe and special. I mean the unpleasant, corruptive, soul-siphoning kind that has no interest in patting you on the back. No, LORDS doesn’t deliver the rousing cathartic thrills horror fans are looking for instead it offers something most horror fans have little taste for at all, actual horror.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is · My own personal Jesus

Jury Duty:: Psychophobia!

July 11th, 2012 · 3 Comments

UNK SEZ: Can you believe I have to go to jury duty today? If you were an innocent person would you want me deciding your fate? If what I’ve learned from a zillion sitcoms is true, this could last all day. Worse yet, I have not finished any of the posts I was working on and now you dear reader are screwed and left empty handed. But wait! I wouldn’t do that to you! I’m going to leave you with the horrifying chiller PSYCHOPHOBIA! This movie has the worst (meaning best) dubbing you will ever hear and it is sure to make you as happy as a not very terrified clam! Take care, be good and jump over HERE!!

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Tags: General Horror · Holidays · I Have No Idea What This Is · I'll watch anything

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

January 7th, 2012 · 10 Comments

I was just saying that although I truly enjoyed THE INKEEPERS, it didn’t really scare me as much as I wanted it to. On the flip side, here is a movie that I didn’t really care for that somehow freaked me out. YELLOW BRICK ROAD sports an an inviting premise; way back in 1940, the entire town of Friar, New Hampshire got it in their heads to abandon their homes and take to a winding trail in the woods. (The assholes even left their pets behind!) They were all later discovered slaughtered or frozen to death with zero explanation. Now, a group of smarty-pants psychologists and the like decide to follow the trail themselves and see what they can find while documenting their journey. Terrible and frustratingly ambiguous things ensue. YELLOW BRICK ROAD is an oddly fascinating movie especially considering that I hated the way it looked, how it was executed and nearly everybody in it. I’d tell it to go climb a tree outright but the damn movie got under my skin even in the face of all my resistance.

I don’t get it. Tacky effects, inconsistent acting, dishwater visuals, moronic behavior, poor and random use of black and white stills, inexplicable wardrobe choices, you name it and it’s present and accounted for and busily agitating me. Still, if you tried to turn YBR off while I was watching it, I would have chopped your arm off. When it finally slunk away after one last dubious image, I realized that remarkably it had left me with a feeling of dread the size of a Rose Bowl float. I was reminded of one of those terribly done reenactment educational films you’d see in Jr. High School about the winter at Valley Forge but laced with grisly f-ed up imagery achieved on a Goth teenager’s laptop. No matter what, the truth remains, it achieved a level of wrongness that made me cringe.

Here are my excuses for being scared by a movie that I found aesthetically appalling; first of all, getting lost in the woods, as I’ve stated before is a real fear of mine. It’s not so much the disorientation that gets to me but the idea that nature itself is an ominous force that is trying to stomp me out that turns my hair white. (This is where most would cite THE BLAIR WITCH but where I, trying to convince you that I read occasionally, cite “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood.) Secondly, in the course of this movie some dum-dums eat poison berries that make them trip their brains out and that idea is a nightmare to me too thanks to GO ASK ALICE and that urban legend about trick or treaters who were given LSD laced candy and are still hallucinating in a mental asylum to this day. Thirdly, this sneaky movie has that SESSION 9-ish vein running through it where you realize that the space between sanity and madness is the length of one thought. I hate that. Lastly, there’s this whole stagnation thing going on where you feel the exhaustion of being in the same place for so long that you forget there was ever any other place. Basically we’re talking about a cinematic K-hole.

I guess I like this movie more than I’m ready to fully admit. I don’t feel like owning it, or seeing it again or hanging a poster of it on my wall and buying the lunch box but it did sufficiently poke my head. On a base level, I still think horror films are like campfire stories and I’m not sure you have to like every sentence the storyteller utters to be taken to the place that you need to go. I’m going to coin my own phrase and call this a “green light bulb movie” in reference to SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT. There’s no rationale why the middle story in that flawed, shabby anthology wigs me out- it just does. I may never use that term again but a “green light bulb” movie is bigger than the sum of its parts. Dissected it looks like nothing but it makes reference to a bigger horror, a horror of indescribable nonsense, of losing your bearings and slipping into a pit where you disinherit yourself completely. I know some people will probably check this one out (it’s on Netflix Streaming) and think, “What are you talking about?” but that’s a big part of what makes a green light bulb movie so unnerving. Frustratingly, not everybody can see it glow. Then again, maybe I’m just creeped out by old-timey forties music.

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Tags: General Horror · General Insanity · I Have No Idea What This Is · Trauma Au Courant

Burial Ground (1981)

October 19th, 2011 · 13 Comments

If you watch horror movies all year ‘round to begin with, how in the world do you amp up your Halloween viewing pleasure for the month of October? One way I kick things up a notch is by shamelessly watching movies that are extra goofy. BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR is just such a movie. It really is relentlessly daffy and how evil am I for subjecting an unsuspecting Aunt John to it sans warning or explanation? Aunt John asked what year it was from and I guessed ‘73 (I was way off ‘81) not really my fault.

The plot is about as complex as a HENRY comic strip: a professor with a wise beard discovers how to raise the dead. He invites some friends to his cool mansion to talk about his find except he’s already been eaten by zombies and soon they will be too. The entire movie consists of his unfortunate guests failing miserably at escaping peril. Folks cannot even cut across the lawn without stepping in an inconceivably placed bear trap and the only thing missing really is the BENNY HILL theme song. It’s a bad day for the living and a good day for the stunningly resourceful dead. Normally a good zombie movie will make me morbidly depressed, but this one is like a semi-creepy day at the beach.

No post concerning BURIAL GROUND would be complete without singling out scene-stealer extraordinaire PETER BARK. At roughly the age of 26, the diminutive BARK portrays a young child named Michael whose affection for his mother is disturbingly enthusiastic to say the least. The portrayal is lifted to the sublime with the aid of an absolutely unconvincing adult actor supplying his dubbed, puppet show voice. Even if you think you have no interest in seeing BURIAL GROUND, I assure you that once BARK enters the picture that there is no turning around. Even Aunt John rode the film out to its “Did that really just happen?” conclusion.

BURIAL GROUND is above (or below) understanding, speculation or critism. It only wants to bring you joy. It also showcases some of my favorite zombies of all time. The make-up person sort of went with the idea that if something is painted black, then it is invisible to the human eye (even in broad daylight) and I honor this delusion. (At least that’s why I think that some of our zombie pals have black make-up on their noses beneath their masks?)

In any case, I think this calls for a zombie beauty pageant! Check out these teeth that resemble no teeth that ever existed! Look at that crazy hair! How about those cutting edge burlap fashions? Vote for your favorite zombie below and check out this movie if you want to have fun. Trust me, its the only zombie movie in existence whose BARK is better than its bite!

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · Halloween · I Have No Idea What This Is · Kids Who Kill · My own personal Jesus · Tykes in Trouble

Friday The 13th Part Clue

September 23rd, 2011 · 10 Comments

UNK SEZ: Somebody has killed Alice in the kitchen with the ice pick!
Using the process of eliminating suspects who don’t look absolutely horrifying, can you solve the case?

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Tags: I Have No Idea What This Is · Kindertrauma Funhouse · Mystery Six!

Blood Shack (1971)

August 11th, 2011 · 21 Comments

I have not watched BLOOD SHACK since I was about 15 and the reason for that is because I have always regarded it as the worst film I had ever seen in my life. Remarkably, not even 2009’s THE UNBORN could alter that opinion. The other night though while perusing free viewing opportunities on CRACKLE I noticed it there, staring at me like an orphaned injured kitten and I had to see it again. Could it really be as wretched as my brain recalled? After all, my brain usually doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Well, it turns out it is as bad as my brain said but not nearly as painful. I’ve either lowered my standards considerably or developed a sense of humor. It’s a terrible movie no doubt, but watching it fully prepared for the awfulness makes a big difference. What once filled me with rage now elicits only sympathy. It may be the worst movie ever made but that doesn’t mean it’s the least entertaining.

BLOOD SHACK is hardly a movie. It’s more like a swept together pile of footage. When it first snuck its way into my life, it was wearing a nifty VHS box that made it look like a current eighties slasher flick even though the old coot had been lingering about for more than a decade. Strangely, it seems less dated now than it did back then. For instance, the weird seventies wardrobes which were so alien to my then neon MTV eyes look like standard hipster-wear now. The overall dusty drab feel of the film has benefited with age too. Back then it just read as ratty but now that gritty dustbowl esthetic is pretty much au currant. I hate to admit it but I kind of now dig the near constant horizon line and the off-putting minimalism. Really, the sun flare happy playing field here is not so far off from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Of course that movie had an actual story to tell and didn’t pad its running time with rodeo footage. Yes, rodeo footage.

So my problem with this film is no longer that it is scrap heap cheap and alarmingly barebones, my issue is with the fact that it is an unstructured blob of random pointlessness. It’s pretty clear that there was no script involved and that the director allowed the actors to wing it and wing it poorly. One character wants to buy the shack and that’s all he talks about, one character doesn’t want to sell the shack and that’s all she talks about and one character warns folks to stay away from the shack ad nauseam. The only break from that pattern is provided by a our wispy narrator who sounds like she is breaking out of an eleven-year coma and offers little worthwhile information, unless you felt the need to know that the pony’s name at the rodeo was “Peanuts.” Truth told Peanuts the pony is the lone convincing presence in the movie and I was happy to see that her or his name found its way into the end credits.(Peanuts’ IMDb page HERE.)

The theoretical scares of BLOOD SHACK are provided by “The Chooper” an Indian spirit who protects the title shack with a sword and black pajamas. Chooper tends to yell as if he’s stubbed his toe and is partial to flamboyant arm flailing daytime attacks. My horror starved teenage self found “The Chooper” to be unbearably lame but now I see he’s pretty hilarious. In the same vein, the movie itself is not the whirlpool of depressive ineptness I once thought; it’s actually somewhat lovably maladroit. It made me laugh out loud which is more than I can say for DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS.

BLOOD SHACK was directed by RAY DENNIS STECKLER who has acquired a cult following thanks to B-grade goofs like THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES (who stopped living and became mixed up zombies) but even his most devoted followers can be forgiven for drawing a line in the sand against Chooper’s lackadaisical exploits. As lousy as this movie is though, I think STECKLER should be given some credit for stumbling early upon a few elements that would later prove to be highly effective in future better films by other people.

The good news is that I finally after all these years found out what was going on with all that pesky rodeo footage. STECKLER’s original cut of the film was only a merciful 60 minutes long and he was required to add ten minutes more to play the film in drive-ins and theaters. I guess I can forgive that. This is a hyper low budget movie that just barely scrambled itself into existence so no harm, no foul. It’s terribly done in every possible way but somewhat endearingly so and at least it did not cost millions of dollars to make this mess. (What’s your excuse THE UNBORN?).

There’s no way I could recommend BLOOD SHACK and realistically expect anyone to ever take my advise again, so I won’t but I will say that there are tiny sparkles of pure quaintness to behold amongst the sub par, brain numbing wreckage. It’s an annoying fiasco mostly but it doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body and now I find I’ve grown slightly and embarrassingly fond of this crappy movie that I once hated with a passion. I was warned that “The Chooper” would get me and I guess the bastard eventually did. Really, I blame Peanuts.

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Tags: General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is · The Seventies mushed my head

The Dark (1979)

June 27th, 2011 · 20 Comments

1979’s THE DARK is notoriously terrible and I guess it has a right to be. At some point midway through production the producers (one of whom was DICK CLARK) decided that the film’s central Earthly menace might attract science fiction fans if it came instead from outer space. I wish I could jump in a time machine and stop them. It’s not a good idea. You can’t shift gears like that. These things need to be decided before the filming starts! I know WOODY ALLEN completely overhauled ANNIE HALL from his original concept but he did not have DIANE KEATON shooting lasers beams out of her eyeballs and bookend the movie with a rambling narration that basically shrugs its shoulders and says, “I don’t know what’s going on either.” THE DARK really didn’t have a fair shot because of said tampering; most everything you learn in the first half is negated or contradicted by the second. It’s not completely without interest though, a few scenes do work nicely and even though it’s chock full of nonsense, its biggest sin is not that it is crazy, its biggest sin is that it is often blindly milling about and
verging on boring.

What’s left of the plot concerns a “mangler” who beheads anyone foolish enough to walk alone at night in the streets of LA. In fact he kills one person each and every night, which is somehow established night two. CASEY KASEM shows up to imply that the killer is some sort of zombie but as that was part of the original discarded plot I don’t think we should listen to Shaggy. WILLIAM DEVANE’s daughter (played by KIM & KYLE RICHARDS’ sis KATHY) was the killer’s first victim so he’s teamed up with plucky, but not plucky enough, newscaster CATHY LEE CROSBY to get to the bottom of things. The excessively random cast brings a great deal to the wobbly table. KEENAN WYNN is hilarious as CROSBY’s boss, RICHARD JAEKEL is equally so as a grisled cop and same goes double or triple for VIVIAN BLAINE as a kooky psychic. Cameos include the likes of a young PHILIP MICHAEL THOMAS as a guy named “Corn Rows.” When it’s in motion THE DARK is lovably bonkers in a similar vein to THE MANITOU or THE VISITOR but when it’s stagnant, it’s dishwater dull. It actually looks pretty amazing in all of its Panavision glory on DVD but there’s no escaping the frustrating, unfocused, half-hearted pace.

Most semi-rational adults will point the blame solely on THE DARK’s preposterous monster (Who is proceeded by whispered chants of “The dark, the dark!”) but frankly I kinda like the guy. He gets at least one exceptional decapitation under his belt and even the dumb laser eyes can’t hide the fact that he enlivens the proceedings whenever he appears. I can’t explain his gargantuan hobo wardrobe but I love how he smashes through walls and throws people around. If he was just allowed to be a mutant, I think he could have gone places. If you stick around for the film’s end you will rewarded with the wondrous sight of the creature taking out a bunch of cops in a ludicrous fashion but will undoubtedly be disappointed in the puff of smoke lame way he is conquered.

Bad movie fans will find a smorgasbord of seventies flavored insanity to chew on but those who don’t suffer fools easily should wait for the next train. In any case, I believe there are lessons to be learned here. Don’t second guess yourself and don’t bend your vision for the fads of the day. Every monster deserves a chance to live up to his full potential and what’s so bad about being from Earth anyway? I should add for those concerned that THE DARK’s director JOHN ‘BUD’ CARDOS (who replaced TOBE HOOPER who was ironically dropped for being too slow) has at least one worthwhile contribution to the world of horror on his resume as he previously helmed the equally nutso but at least never draggy kinderfave KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS.

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Tags: General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is · I'll watch anything · Laser eyes!