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Traumafessions:: BFD on When Michael Calls, The Deadly Bees and X the Unknown

May 2nd, 2016 · 1 Comment

WHEN MICHAEL CALLS (1971)

As a kid growing up in the late 60s/early 70s, they actually used to show movies at 6:00 pm on weeknights on regular network TV (channel 21, 27 and 8 in Harrisburg PA). I know, hard to imagine these days. Some of these were horror flicks that scared the crap out of my sisters and I. The all-time biggie was a TV movie that they showed every October titled “When Michael Calls“, starring Ben Gazzara and Michael Douglas. This was fitting as it took place around Halloween. The plot involved a woman who starts getting phone calls from a nephew that disappeared some 20 odd years ago. The guy would be in his 40s or whatever now, but sounds like he did when he ran away. He has a really creepy kid voice and calls her “Auntie-my-Helen”(?). He asks why she hasn’t come to pick him up at school, says its dark out, and other creepy things, which get progressively more sinister. Then people start turning up dead: An elderly relative dies as a result of a bee attack! The Sheriff is strangled and falls from the rafters of a stage, during the school Halloween carnival–right in the middle of the pumpkin contest no less! All of this was very freaky to little kids such as us, but it was those creepy-voiced phone calls that really got you! This made us afraid to answer the phone for a few weeks after!

THE DEADLY BEES (1967)

Sure, the mid 70s was rife with killer bee flicks, i.e. The Swarm, originating from alarmist news stories about killer bees from Africa set to invade the US mere months from now (which they never did, BTW). But the original “bee-movie” was the 1967 The Deadly Bees. The plot involves a Brit pop singer trying to get away from it all on a secluded isle, only to face a horde of hostile bees. This was scary enough for us kids–after all you saw bees every day in the summer (at least you used to). BUT, on or around January of 1975, while my parents and I were busy watching the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, my sisters and their friend were down in our basement watching TV, watching this movie specifically. Lo and behold, some real bees who had infiltrated the basement tile ceiling, and must have chewed a hole in one of the panels, dropped down on top of them during the movie! It was like a William Castle movie for real! They freaked out and came running up the steps screaming for their lives! Even though we’d seen this film a few years before on that ubiquitous 6:00 pm movie, this really, really got to them.

X THE UNKNOWN
A pretty much forgotten Hammer film from the early 50s (which predated The Blob by several years), this B&W SciFi movie scared the crap out of me when I caught it on that aforementioned 6:00 movie. The story revolves around this living radioactive mud that crawls out of a crack in some swampy stretch of land. It seeks out other radioactive materials and absorbs them, growing larger and larger. It also burns anything in it’s path and makes giger counters go crazy with that ticking static sound they make. It leaves and comes back several times, finally attacking a nuclear power plant. However, by this time authorities can track it since its now so big, and they issue a warning to everyone in its path to get out. The big scene occurs when the killer blob is moving through a small village and a everyone takes refuge in a church. Of course, a little kid somehow gets left outside in the panic. As the deadly goo spills over a stone wall in the church yard, the toddler ambles right up to it, ready to be incinerated in seconds. The priest, realizing what’s occurred, dashes out and saves the youngster in the nick of time. The thing that really got me about this movie was, how do you fight living mud that burns up everything it touches? Its not a vampire that can be staked or a big bug that can be destroyed with the military!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Eric D. on Three on a Meathook

April 14th, 2016 · 3 Comments

We all know the cliche of the old man giving the “back in my day” rant. I never thought I’d reach the stage where I would be giving one of those rants, but its sad to think that kids don’t really care about film anymore, it doesn’t seem to effect them, so here goes…

I take pride in my love of film-I probably shouldn’t, but I do and in this crumbling, decaying wreck of a world in which we live, film helps to at least partially alleviate the general sense of doom and meaninglessness. Now when I hear people say they love film, I say “yeah? have you suffered for film?”

What I mean is; have you experienced pain and/or humiliation in service of film and used it to strengthen this love?

I have.

I had a ritual which consisted of going to the video store and browsing the shelves, sometimes for hours on end. That was my favorite thing in life. The horror section was naturally my second home and went through the entire selection several times over. I was and am obsessed with film.

I got in trouble for watching Friday the 13th Part 3 when I was a kid, aged no more than 4 or 5. My father had rented it for me and when my mom found out, she got so pissed that she actually smashed the tape right in front of me. That was an embarrassing moment; being marched into the video store, shattered VHS in hand, having to stand there while my mom screamed and cursed at the clerks for having rented it to me and apologizing for having destroyed the tape. They never did replace the tape and every time I conducted my ritual after that and seeing all the other Friday the 13th‘s present and accounted for; I felt like a friend had died.

Another time I got in trouble was when I was caught with the Regal Video VHS clam shell box of Three on a Meathook; which is a little known early entry into the backwoods slasher genre. The cover is pretty hardcore; two (why not three?) scantily clad and bloodied women being menaced by a gloved hand gripping a chain connected to a bloody hook (the blood of woman number 3 perhaps?).

Three on a Meathook is a pretty bad film, but I still enjoy it. It’s also odd as hell; in some ways it’s very much Texas Chainsaw Massacre but pre-dates Texas Chainsaw Massacre by about two years and ratchets up the gore quite a bit from its better known backwoods brother but there are long stretches of frolicking courtship scenes and inane dialogue which are inexcusable and slow it down. These scenes make it perhaps one of the most padded movies ever made. I stuck with it and toughed it out though, because I’m not a quitter.

The plot is very simple, man-child can’t get girl(s) because of bad things which happen to said girl(s) when boy meets them, only boy mysteriously can’t remember what. Or so he is told…turns out, ‘ol dad is the naughty boy who can’t keep his hands off the ladies. Did I also mention that pa is in the “meat business”? seems someone takes eating pussy a little too literally…

The special effects are pretty well done considering the budget and are fairly effective. Given the right setting and mood, the movie can weave its own dream like spell and be quite enjoyable. It’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

As is clear, since I was a wee lad I have suffered through quasi-bad as well as outright bad movies, sometimes suffering real life trauma in the process, all in the name of film. But you know what, I wouldn’t change a thing. So, you say you love film- prove it, what’s your story?

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Neoteric Traumafession:: Melody M. on The Bay (2012)

October 6th, 2015 · No Comments

I have a very, very recent Traumafession to make; in fact, I literally just watched the movie that scared me the night before last!

I’ve recently been on a found-footage horror movie kick–actually, I watched The Taking of Deborah Logan solely on your recommendation, Unk!–and I came across a movie that came out in 2012 called The Bay. From what I gathered about the description, it sounded promising: The Gov’ment had covered up a horrifying incident involving a small Maryland town in the Chesapeake Bay area back in 2009, and the footage taken during that incident was now being released to the public. Since it seemed like a detour from the usual demonic possession/monster theme these kinds of movies always seem to have, and with a very prominent director attached to it (Barry Levinson) I figured, why not? I’ll give it a go!

WELP. I can handle demonic possession/monster movies, because while they are scary, I can chortle about them later, content in the knowledge that they’re not real and the beasties in those movies won’t be showing up in the real world any time soon. What I CAN’T handle are movies about contagions/ecological horrors that are plausible enough to actually happen in the real world. And this movie had just that: nasty water-borne parasites, mutated by agricultural run-off, gruesomely eating people from the inside out. GUH! Talk about getting under your skin! After watching this, I’m pretty sure I’ll never go swimming again, and only drink bottled water from now on.

UNK SEZ: I hear you loud and clear, Melody! That kind of stuff gets to me too. I could not eat tuna for months after that ZANTI MISFIT face showed up in a tuna can! Listen folks, it’s October and we all need as many scares as possible! If you’ve had a modern, new wave, recent-style trauma like Melody, feel free to send us a trauma-FRESH-ion telling us all about it!

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Tags: Post Childhood Traumafession · Trauma Au Courant · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Troy Z (Stickmann) on Magic Sneakers (1969)

September 23rd, 2015 · 2 Comments

Oh, man. Can’t believe I found this: I must have been about 4 or 5 when I stumbled upon this being shown in a darkened corner of a public library in San Jose. If I can recall that little detail from so long ago, you just KNOW it has to have nationwide Kindertrauma appeal to your readership. I recall that I arrived about a third of the way through its screening, just before the “Blue Man” (who I recalled as a vampire) started chasing the kid across the hillside. It was quickly established that the kid was effectively immune from attack, but that didn’t make his enveloping into the villain’s cape or being menaced with a hand arching over a large box any less terrifying to my little preschool brain.

Troy Z (stickmann)

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Traumafession:: GCG on Where The Red Fern Grows

April 21st, 2015 · 6 Comments

I realize someone before me has tackled this terrible subject, but it’s been a while, and I need to focus more particularly on the film released in 1974, because as a child, I “experienced” the story on the page and the small screen simultaneously. Allow me to scare-quote that euphemistic verb, by the way, because this memory could be the worst of all from my childhood, the one that still makes me twitch with hopelessness even into early middle age.

Reading “young adult” fiction in the ‘70s and ‘80s (I don’t think they marketed it as “young adult” back then; “children’s literature,” if I recall correctly) was a perilous business. Adult authors seemed to think that precocious ten-year-olds getting into non-pictorial reading for the first time needed to be apprised of all the horrible things that could happen to an innocent person throughout life. Bridge to Terabithia (rope swing breaks, Leslie falls and drowns in a creek), Tuck Everlasting (living forever sucks, just look at the miserable toad on the road who doesn’t care if he lives or dies), The Outsiders (Johnny stabs and kills Bob, then later gets his back broken in a fire), Forever… (Michael nicknames his penis Ralph)—reading these books ensured that impending adulthood would look like atrocity footage. The Newbery Awards list was an honor roll of devastation and catastrophe.

Rawls’ novel did not win the coveted Newbery, but it taught me never to read “children’s novels” that were about dogs. Never. If you see a young boy embracing a dog on the cover of a children’s novel: run. Or light the book on fire, and then run. Because adults use the radical innocence of animals and the deep attachment children form with them as an opportunity to teach them ways in which they can “accept death.” They somehow think that the death of a pet is the shallow end of a death pool at the end of which dead parents and dead siblings and dead best friends float in ten feet of chlorinated death water. But I’m sorry to disappoint your pedantic urges, Rawls, “Old Yeller” Gipson, and the rest of you misery merchants: pets are just as intensely mourned.

Not content with spilling the intestines of one dog, Rawls pairs it with the second dog’s death. Mind you, this second pet dies of despondency after its mate’s demise! Sadness kills her! What happened to “accepting death,” Rawls? And in the world of the novel, this is considered noble devotion at work: a red fern sanctifies the sacrifice, growing between the graves, validating the second death like a bride burning in India. Yes, it is good to stop living when your mate dies, Rawls would seem to be telling us.

Now, I know this is a family website but—fuck that book. And fuck the movie made from it in 1974. Previously, a contributor discussed the death of Rubin, the boy rival who falls on the axe. In the film, I remember the close-up of Rubin’s face after the accident, a gout of blood running from his mouth, his eyes glazed in the wooded darkness. This was the moment that I learned a person could belch hot blood if they get axed in the stomach. The blood backs up and spills from the mouth. And children can die this way just as easily as adults; children, too, can rupture their organs with a sharp axe and regurgitate blood tainted with bile that originated somewhere near their kidneys. Thank you for letting my five-year-old self know! I don’t think I would have matured correctly without that nugget of wisdom.

Let’s talk about “treeing coons” for a minute, too. Aside from the dubious associations any American should make with that expression, the act of trapping a helpless raccoon in a tree, and then chopping down the entire tree in order to set your dogs on the defenseless animal, seems like extra-steps evidence of perverse sadism, all in order to get a Davy Crockett hat. Watching the film, I felt bad for the raccoon struggling to escape, running to the end of one limb after another in an animal panic, looking pathetically for a means to return to its innocent, bandit-faced life, free of Redbone Coondogs and Appalachian demon children. I have had a raccoon hiss at me on its hind legs while literally holding the lid of a metal garbage can like a post-apocalyptic shield, and I still feel this way.

I even felt bad for that tree. Again, who chops down a giant sycamore tree to catch a raccoon? Is that really the method required here? Weaken the ancient trunk enough with an axe so that some demented Old-Testament God can answer your sick prayers by sending a wind that topples it? What happened to sling shots, rifles, or let’s-just-consider-this-a-win-and-let-everything-live? Whatever happened to catch and release? I realize Billy wants to save the venerable Ghost Coon—and bully for him—but look what happens when the natural hillbilly order of Kill Everything was disrupted: a boy falls on a hatchet and dies. What does that teach us?

Making a movie from a children’s novel means letting a child five years younger experience the horrors of that book. I was a freakishly early reader (not that that helped me much in life, except to expose me to trauma much earlier than most children), but even the most illiterate kids can sit in front of a television and watch Rubin vomit blood and Little Ann collapse on the burial mound of her lifelong mate in total abject sadness.

Before I leave this subject to the carrion birds, let’s review a couple book covers that deceived us as kids, the book cover illustrations that matter so much to visually inclined children. Here’s the original dustjacket:

Ah, the halcyon days of frolicking with your best animal friends in the woods. But watch out! This is an autumnal setting! Do you know what that means, children? Of course you don’t! You are still immune to the heavy-handed symbolism of the adult world. You think this is a lovely wooded scene, but in fact it Reeks of Death.

Here’s a much later paperback edition:

Gosh, this looks thrilling, like a Hardy Boys mystery! What spooky, innocent fun this will be! I mean, sure, sometimes you notice the Hardy boys making fun of Chet for being fat now and then. A slight drop in your respect for the brothers, a nagging suspicion that they might be assholes to their friends, but otherwise safe, right? (I mean, at least until the spin-offs, when—allow my potty mouth one final f-bomb—a fucking car bomb kills Chet’s sister, of course.)

Cheers,

GCG

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Sunday Viewing:: The Exterminator (1980)

April 19th, 2015 · No Comments

Holy cannoli, you can watch 1980’s THE EXTERMINATOR on your computer any time you want to thanks to HULU. I swear I do not own stock in HULU, it’s just that I come from a wretched time period where you had to wait a year to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ on TV. Anyway, THE EXTERMINATOR is broncho nuts. I think if I was forced to make a top ten list of the most traumatizing movies of my youth, it would certainly be on it. Once upon a time I tried to write a traumafession about it HERE but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly put my feelings into words. The weird thing is, THE EXTERMINATOR does not get less insane with age, it just seems to get more and more crazy and explosively sinister. Check it out below and say so long to your mental well being….

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Tags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert! · Sunday Streaming · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Dr. Kaiju on The Rockford Files

April 18th, 2015 · 5 Comments

I’ve never really been frightened by horror movies, but when I was a little kid the show The Rockford Files scared the holy living shit out of me. It would make me sick to my stomach with worry. You never knew when he would get attacked out of nowhere and beat up, it was all very seedy and traumatic. Everyone was always sweaty.

Regards,

UNK SEZ: Thanks Dr. Kaiju! Kids, Dr. Kaiju is currently collecting information on any and every giant movie monster. You don’t need an appointment to visit his office HERE!

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Raul F. on The Sentinel (1977)

April 9th, 2015 · 5 Comments

One night, in the early ’80s, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was 12 or 13 years old and I couldn’t go back to sleep.

I didn’t lie in the dark for very long before turning on the TV. I had an old 13 inch color TV in my bedroom, and it took a couple of seconds to warm up before the picture came into view. The picture faded in from black, and suddenly, I saw these people, deformed and missing limbs, crawling closer to my TV screen. I immediately turned the TV back off and left it off. I lied back down, freaked out by what I just saw.

As time passed, I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I looked at a TV schedule for the title of what I saw, but we were on to the next week, and in the pre-internet days, that meant I was out of luck.

Cut to 12 years later, I was working at a video store, straightening up the horror section, when the thought of that night popped into my head. The memory came to me like an old friend, and as I stared at the colorful VHS boxes that surrounded me, I knew the answer to my mystery was within reach.

I started taking home 5 or 6 horror movies a night, every night. I would say I watched and fast forwarded through 50 or so movies spread over a couple of weeks before finally finding it. That sounds like a lot, but the victorious feeling of solving my 12 year old mystery made it worth every second.

The movie was “The Sentinel” from 1977, as I’m sure many of you already guessed, and towards the end of the movie, those freaky, limbless people came crawling out of the darkness and toward the leading lady, as well as myself.

I couldn’t believe that I found it, and there was a bit of post mystery-solved depression, I must admit. But now, video stores are gone and Kindertrauma is here, and none of my horror movie mysteries will take 12 years to solve again.

Raul F

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Traumafession:: Senski on Gold Key Comics and Gloomy Sunday Suicides

March 18th, 2015 · 4 Comments

I’ve written before about how comic books were my gateway drug into the harder horror of movies, television and literature. While my parents would buy funny cartoon animal titles for me when I was all of two, it wasn’t until I turned six and made my initial forays into fright with comics from Gold Key (formerly Dell, often referred to as Western Publishing). They had a trio of terror titles: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (presumably true tales of ghosts, demons, uncanny occurrences), The Twilight Zone (stories that would not have been out of place on Rod Serling’s classic series) and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. That book started life in 1962 as Thriller, undergoing a name change for its third issue after the cancellation of the TV namesake. “Tales of Mystery” was somewhat of an undersell and a misnomer, as most stories dealt with giant monsters and hideous aliens that would not have been out of place in a 1950’s Creature Feature. The three books were great gobs of fun, all managing nearly two decades of publishing life (no small feat for a comic book.) With their sophisticated painted covers, they looked classy on the newsstand next to their Marvel and DC counterparts.

The Gold Key titles did not bear the voluntary Comics Code Authority seal due to an implicit agreement publishers had that their content would be both benign and educational. Other Disney characters and licensed TV franchises could be found between the pages of Gold Key comics, and certainly Donald Duck and Gunsmoke would never offend, right? (This self-policing was spotty on occasion. The 1970 cover of BKToM #32 featured a gorgeous canvas of the living dead emerging from the sea; the Code strictly forbade the depiction of zombies, and Code-stamped Marvel/DC would never have been able to get away with such artwork.)

As to that “educational” element…all three horror titles featured a text page that was devoted to the exploration of strange real life phenomena; ESP, weird weather, ghosts in the White House, etc. Kids were expected to read, dammit, and the Gold Key titles delivered a lot of bang for only 15 cents.

Which brings me to the point of this Traumafession…

Published in the Fall of 1968, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery #24 was only my second issue of the title, and I was already quite hooked (with that stunning George Wilson cover painting, who wouldn’t be?). But the text page for that issue was not only educational, it was deeply unnerving. Entitled “Melody of Death,” it told the history of the tune “Gloomy Sunday,” which soon after its creation had become known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song” due to its legendary propensity to inspire self-destruction in those who heard it. The song was composed by Rezső Seress in 1933 but didn’t achieve notoriety until recorded by Billie Holiday in 1941. It has been rumored to be a factor in dozens of suicides worldwide; indeed, its vocal version was banned by the BBC for its fear of contributing to public depression, a ban that was in place until 2002!

Well, that was terrifying to me. Imagine a song that held such malevolent power! And the fact that it was not readily hearable on the public airwaves only gave credence to the legend. I became that little boy in the article who was happily bicycling along, enjoying life, only to encounter the strains of “Gloomy Sunday”…and fling myself into the river! How could such evil be allowed to exist in the world? And the ultra-creepy accompanying illustration (by Joe Certa, who would fittingly go on to draw Barnabas Collins and cohorts for Gold Key’s Dark Shadows) didn’t help matters. That poor woman!

As fate would have it, I never heard a version of “Gloomy Sunday” until 1984, when ex-J. Geils Band vocalist Peter Wolf released his first solo LP “Lights Out,” but by then I was quite sanguine over the affair and wondered what the fuss was all about. And now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can hear numerous cover versions by everyone from Ray Charles to Björk. But they all pale in comparison to what my childhood imagination concocted…all from the pages of a comic book.

Oh, and composer Rezső Seress? He died in 1968 – the year I read this article.

Suicide.

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Tags: The Amazing Senski · Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Carl M. on Judgment at Nuremberg

March 2nd, 2015 · 6 Comments

Forget the horror movies. What scar(r)ed me the most when I was but 8 years old was seeing “Judgment At Nuremberg” and learning about something called “The Holocaust” for the very first time! It was all I could think about for weeks!!

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