…:::kindertrauma:::… random header image

...:::General Horror:::...

For The Love of:: Eyes of Fire (1983)

March 24th, 2016 · 4 Comments

It’s getting dark around here so I’m going to light a candle by gushing about a flick that fascinates the heck out of me, 1983’s EYES OF FIRE. This one has come up a bunch of times on these pages over the years and every time it does, I declare I’m going to watch it again immediately and then I usually don’t. That is because the thought of it stirs up some freaky unease in me and I mean that as a compliment towards its effectiveness. It’s been feathering the inside of my mind more than usual lately after seeing THE WITCH so the other night I returned to it again only to find that its spell on me has lessened exactly zero percent over the years. There’s something so elemental and mystical about EYES OF FIRE that even on the occasion that it sports garishly dated video effects, it somehow makes them work. And there’s something so primal going on that the entire experience of watching it feels like a forgotten memory from another life being unearthed. One thing that I think EYES OF FIRE excels past THE WITCH in, is convincing the viewer of the endless depth and open, uncharted nature of the forest its story nests in. Whereas THE WITCH has a definite (and comparatively comfortable) sense of a home base, EYES OF FIRE makes you feel dazed and lost and scrambling in the middle of nowhere.

When I was a critter nothing scared me more than anything concerning big bad Satan. That slippery dude was lurking behind every corner back in the spook-aholic seventies. As I’ve grown older those fears have become less potent. Sadly, a lifetime of witnessing holy rollers spewing more venom than any invisible demon has weakened my trepidations concerning ol’ Scratch (if only I could sue the Bible thumpers for diluting my DVD collection with their relentless overplay). Luckily EYES OF FIRE is a movie that knows exactly how to leap frog over my skeptic (read exhausted) view of religion by presenting evil as a force that is a fundamental part of nature itself (for example, a fox isn’t evil but if you are a bunny he might as well be). More importantly (and this moral concept can be found in many a horror flick), evil actions leave a residue that breeds more evil in the future and places that have tasted an excess of misery turn bad. That’s not superstition, that’s science!

IN EYES OF FIRE a group of pioneers are cast out of their village (sound familiar?) and must fend for themselves in an unwelcoming frontier world. It’s a large group (that’s sure to dwindle) and two of the main players include an adulterous priest bent on spreading the good word (that he fails to follow) and a talented witch working overtime to clean up his mess. In other words, the person who puts on false airs of piety causes all the destruction and reaps all the rewards and the truly spiritual one quietly saves the day and gets shafted. My how things haven’t changed. To escape a tribe of marauding Indians they venture into a cursed valley that they know the superstitious (respectful) Indians won’t follow them into and as you might expect, learn that maybe they don’t know everything. The disgraced priest even has the brass-ball hubris to suggest he can “save” a young Native American orphan through baptism but a bark-faced witch and a gaggle of naked tree spirits let him know that the local beliefs are about to become way more pertinent.

EYES OF FIRE is a unique movie though I’m sure much of what makes it special to some will be seen as drawbacks to others. It’s a low budget affair but that helps to keep it both grounded and undomesticated. You don’t sense a Holllywood vibe anywhere and the un-caged atmosphere feels both freeing and dangerous. It has always seemed to me sort of like an educational historical film you’d see in junior high school that goes horribly wrong. Which is not to say that there are not more than a few moments of incredible beauty, some documentary natural, some arthouse surreal. As I said above, there are a few wonky moments of dated effects but they come off as mostly charming and may even help the viewer jump backwards to an earlier, more wide-eyed and accepting mind-set. The acting is good enough that you’re hardly aware of it and, more often than not it leaves you feeling like a present but invisible observer. And may I please give a shout out to character actress FRAN RYAN who used to pop up as a battle-axe in just about everything from PRIVATE SCHOOL to STEWERDESS SCHOOL back in the day? She rules.

Sometimes when a movie is not available on DVD its reputation is exaggerated simply due to its obscurity but let me tell you, EYES OF FIRE really is an outstanding and poetic horror film. It may be too patient and quirky to garner unanimous approval but those who dig subtle supernatural horror (see again: THE WITCH) should be all over this like mold on corn. In fact, I’m thinking if it had enjoyed a proper release back in the DVD gold rush days its reputation would be comparable to LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH by now (and yep, it would be cherished by a similar crowd). I for one am a devout fan. It hits me in a way that few films do and why shouldn’t it when it’s basically a ginger-led backyard rendition of DAYS OF HEAVEN meets CATHY’S CURSE (only half kidding). The truth is, EYES OF FIRE comes from a place where it seems to be authentically mesmerized by the world that it depicts and that way of seeing things has a knack of swaying the viewer to do the same.

EYES OF FIRE is currently available on YouTube and you should watch it while you can. There’s no guaranteeing it will ever be available any other way and the crime of watching a movie for free is far less than the crime of allowing a piece of art to die. Hey, look (below)! EYES OF FIRE features Black Phillip’s ornery great grand pappy and he’s eating all the books! There’s your true Devil! The true Devil separates man from art and ideas!

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror · My own personal Jesus

The Visit (2015)

March 22nd, 2016 · 2 Comments

I hate to write negative reviews because I usually feel guilty for hours afterwards and I’m so worried that I’ll have a “Eureka” moment later that will alter my opinion. It may even seem like I wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to horror because I tend to skip over writing about movies that don’t impress me and wait until the next flick that floats my boat comes along. Plus because I’m not getting paid for my reviews I can simply ignore crap that I know for a fact I will not enjoy like THE GREEN INFERNO. That’s not very open-minded I know, but I figure as an adult it’s my prerogative to decide what I’d like to digest and which filmmaker’s output I’m legitimately interested in. All of this is building up to me informing you that I sincerely disliked and felt nearly insulted by THE VISIT. I know that’s harsh but it’s true. I wanted to like it! I still think the premise is solid but it simply irked the living daylights out of me. In fact, I watched THE VISIT for free thanks to Aunt John winning a ticket in the ACME supermarket Monopoly game and I currently sit here feeling like I’ve been ripped off because I have to walk back to the store’s Redbox to return it!

Dang, I hate it when people say, “I want my time back!’ because I feel like you can always get something of value out of a movie. Maybe I should just use this experience to reaffirm that I don’t like everything? But I already learned that lesson recently with the mediocrity machine that was GOOSEBUMPS (I might as well throw that one on the pyre too)! I have been on a “believable, relatable characters are essential” kick lately, did that mar my experience? I know for sure I didn’t buy the people in this movie. I don’t believe a mother would send her kids to the parents she’s been estranged from for 15 years, I don’t believe the kids would want to go, I don’t believe the kids wouldn’t simply walk out the front door when the horror becomes clear and I sure as hell don’t believe a SEPTA employee would indulge a child by providing beatbox accompaniment for his free style rap. There are some interesting nuggets here and there involving familial loss and abandonment but they sadly come off as phony and manipulative. Plus something about the film’s attitude towards the elderly and the mentally ill rubbed me the wrong way and there was a scene involving a diaper that should have never left the writer’s head. Oh and you can see the twist from miles away and there’s a ridiculous plot point involving a person incapable of wiping pancake batter off their computer. Essentially, a world of ugh.

So now I’m off to return the darn thing and not only did THE VISIT rile me but now it’s also making me feel terrible about hating it. Please, if you liked this movie don’t feel bad. I’m not trying to insult you. I’m glad that somebody liked it. I love, love, love that M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN loyally films in my neck of the woods and I will always adore THE SIXTH SENSE because it’s boss. This VISIT movie however, was not my cup of tea. Hmmm, maybe that’s my big take away from THE VISIT; that I’m allowed to dislike something simply as a matter of taste. It doesn’t mean the movie is garbage, it doesn’t mean I think I could do better and I’m in no way dismissing the hard work by many that obviously went into it. It’s just not for me and if I can’t give a hearty thumbs down to a movie that literally ends with a child free-style rapping about the psychological aftermath of having human excrement smeared on his face, what can I give a thumbs down to? C’mon, Ebert hated DAVID LYNCH’s obvious masterpiece BLUE VELVET, certainly I can loathe this bland excursion.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

March 12th, 2016 · 11 Comments

I promise I’m not going to give anything away. I was almost going to skip reviewing 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE altogether until I realized I was suffering from some kind of Stockholm Syndrome and that the clever marketing of this flick had hypnotized me into thinking that mum’s the word…or else. I have to admit though that there was something so luxurious about seeing a movie cold and knowing next to zero about it. I for one try to make a point of NOT following the horror news sites. I feel like they are constantly ruining things for me and I miss the old days before the Internet when movies held more mystique. Still, I’d be lying if I said my assumptions about this movie were that far off the mark. It followed the psychic map in my head pretty closely but don’t worry there’s still a treasure trove of worthwhile surprises.

JOHN GOODMAN, JOHN GOODMAN, JOHN GOODMAN. The man is a marvel. I just want to thank this flick right off the bat for fully utilizing this incredible actor’s talent. This could very well be his best role. He’s like this giant spinning disco ball reflecting every possible color in the emotional spectrum. Ya love him, you hate him, he’s endearing, he’s terrifying; the only thing constant is his brilliance. And there’s probably not many young actresses who could hold their own and not disappear in GOODMAN’s presence but MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD is up to the task and then some. I like her, she’s got an earthy tomboy next door thing going on that reminds me of some of my favorite seventies actresses (and I hope this role leads folks to give 2011’s THE THING a more open-minded chance). The third major player is JOHN GALLAGHER, JR. and he’s remarkably real and engaging too. Geez, I was just saying in that PIN post the other day that I was hungry for some satisfying genre characters and here they are! These are people I do not mind being trapped with. There’s a kind of clubhouse vibe going on for much of the movie that made me wish it would never end. Why does the song “I Think We’re Alone Now?” have to be so short? If you are a montage fetishist like myself, get ready for ambrosia.

And now for the not so good news. In the near future, you’re probably going to hear a dissenting minority bitching about the film’s ending. Count me among those sad crabapples. The ending in no way nullifies the precision nail-biting suspense and noble character building that came before it but it still feels like gilding a lily to me. It’s slightly off and somehow wrong like MERYL STREEP eating a McRibb. Without ruining anything, lets just say hypothetically that the ending involves a jar of pickles, for some reason this movie goes out of its way to feature a generic, store brand jar of pickles. I don’t get it when they could have lost zero face and just handed over the name brand jar of pickles the audience is clearly craving. Even I, whose motto is usually “screw the audience” feels the poor saps should be thrown a bone (or at least something above a bobo brand of pickles) once in a while. I get that no means no when it comes to a movie delivering on the goods that it alluded to even in its title but something about this withholding feels vaguely stingy to me.

It’s no biggie, the flick is still better than anyone has the right to expect in most departments; it’s just that these days when all one has to do is wait a couple months to see something at home at literally a 90 % discount they might want to know what they’re getting into. My theater was even offering this movie in IMAX for a few extra bucks which is kind of nuts considering it’s as fish-tank constrained as LIFEBOAT (1944) , ROPE (1988) or COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (1982) for nine tenths of its runtime. Oh well, its still a nail-biting hoot and a half and the acting is indeed worth the price of admission alone but…is it really so difficult to hand over the pickles? I know my opinion holds zero value in the world but I feel its my duty to share with anyone else who might have moths flying out of their wallet that my favorite scene in the whole flick involves the assembly of a jigsaw puzzle. Do with that information what you will. Anyway this movie is super great until it slips slightly and becomes only super good.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror

Happy Anniversary:: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)!

March 10th, 2016 · 1 Comment

Would you believe that this very March 10th marks the tenth, as in one decade, anniversary of that THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) remake? What in the world? Usually I don’t remember such details but this flick holds a special place in my heart because my very first movie date with your Aunt John was to a matinee of this bad boy. How romantic! Of course, I already knew we were compatible because I spied a VHS copy of THE BABY (1973) on his TV set, he dug the 4AD chumminess of THE PIXIES and THROWING MUSES and was unabashedly in awe of the then somewhat recent airing of RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER (2005) but spending a fine weather day indoors watching an unsuspecting family being randomly terrorized sort of sealed the deal. Wow, the world was a very different place ten years ago, now that I think about it. The PUSSYCAT DOLLS were climbing the charts, LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT was still good because CHRIS MELONI hadn’t left yet and your Aunt John and I were not yet able to get married but we were still able to rent movies from the local video store …so… it’s difficult to say if society has gone in the right direction or not. One step forward, two steps back.

Some people don’t like remakes and they can cry me a river because I’m not in the mood to list the super obvious titles that more than justify their existence. THE HILLS HAVE EYES is actually a perfect movie to get a modern update because the original, perpetually entertaining though it may be, does suffer from some dated hokeyness. The lone person who might have had a legitimate gripe about this remake is our late great pal WES CRAVEN and he happily produced it! Like many, CRAVEN was super impressed with the work of director ALEXANDRE AJA and his writing partner GREGORY LEVASSEUR after taking in HIGH TENSION (2003). Even with its slick new (I’m going to call it uggo-licious) paint job, THE HILLS HAVE EYES remains all kinds of signature guilt-trippy CRAVEN. You don’t have to dig far in the dirt to find him stoking the (distinctly American) fear that building your dreams on someone else’s nightmares may come back to haunt you ten fold. Indeed hardly a minute passes without a wound being salted and pointedly dad’s guns and mom’s prayers are little help in keeping the ugliness swept under the rug.

And yikes this is some fierce, wicked, unpleasant nerve-wracking business. If you don’t think this movie is scary, what is wrong with you? Go to a doctor. No, don’t be proud of yourself, there’s something MISSING in you. You need help. Maybe I’m biased because this movie doesn’t touch on, but stomps on, my biggest bugaboos. Here’s a perfect recipe for Make-Me-Squirm Salad: A far from home road trip, local yokels with questionable dental hygiene, an environmentally unfriendly styrofoam container (containing a severed ear), outhouses, unclear showering facilities, excessive sunlight, excessive time spent with family, people being burned alive, dogs in danger, a gun pointed at a baby, smiling mannequins, daytime television, people with gigantic bulbous heads singing patriotic songs while asthmatically wheezing and the foreboding prospect of inevitable rape hanging in the air like a forgotten piñata on a rainy day…and that’s just for starters. Just about the only thing in this flick that doesn’t bite me like a bedbug is the found object, multi-colored bottle folk art that appears at the gas station. Thumbs up. I want to make one.

Let me shelve the anguish inducers for a moment and tell ya what I think is absolutely awesome in this movie (even though it will so clearly out me as having the brain of a 14-year-old action figure collector). It actually happens directly after my LEAST favorite part of the movie. Our hero is looking for his kidnapped baby and he comes across a rogue’s gallery of mutants who culminate in the figure of a disturbing dude immobilized by his droopy gargantuan head. Then said mutant, who is listed as “Big Brain” but should be called “Mr. Exposition,” starts yapping about why the mutants are peeved as if simply being a mutant isn’t enough to ruin one’s day. I hate this part. If you think “mansplaining” is annoying try “mutantsplainng” on for size. But…just when you start getting twitchy…in charges trademark super-mutant “Pluto” and he’s resplendent. At this point HILLS becomes a full on monster/slasher flick and if there’s any mini-subgenre that makes me gleeful, monster/slasher is it! You know like, HELL NIGHT, THE FUNHOUSE, multiple FRIDAY THE 13th movies (but mostly PART 2 and 3 and certainly not 1 or 5) and your WRONG TURN(s). I love it. It’s a harsh as hell, surprisingly suspenseful showdown that finishes with a clever tip of the hat to STRAW DOGS. It’s so good it makes me wish this flick were less draining so I could watch it more often.

So anyway, Happy Anniversary THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake! You can be difficult to digest at times (I didn’t need to see THAT) but what is horror if you are not getting your boundaries threatened every once in a while? Safe horror is for the birds (and now I just remembered the part where you showed a bird’s head being bitten off). On the positive side, what wonderful performances you feature from the fantastic TED (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, JOY RIDE) LEVINE as in way over his stubborn head pop and lovable genre legend KATHLEEN (TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, EVENT HORIZON, BREAKDOWN and WARNING SIGN) QUINLAN as committed-to-denial ma. Plus, kudos on landing duo TOMANDANDY (THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES) to craft your riveting score! Who knows, if Aunt John and I had gone to another movie that was playing that same week ten years ago like say, FAILURE TO LAUNCH, MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION or BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, maybe we would not have had such a squeamishly agreeable time. Maybe we might have gotten into a huge fight over one of those controversial titles and never spoken again! If that happened there would be no KINDERTRAUMA! Can you imagine anything worse? No need to answer that, THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake, I know for a fact you can.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror · Holidays

For the Love of: Pin (1988)

March 2nd, 2016 · 6 Comments

My parents are preparing to move and so they’ve been cleaning out the attic. This resulted in my mother sending me several boxes filled with some of my old stuff. We’re talking tons of war torn FANGORIA, TWILIGHT ZONE and HEAVY METAL magazines from the early eighties (!!!), STAR WARS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and WARLORD comic books (!!), PRISONER OF CELL BLOCK H, CAT PEOPLE and THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY movie tie-in paperbacks (!) and a slew of tiny self- painted D&D metal figurines… your standard treasure trove of nerdy memorabilia. I mean, what self-respecting teen in the eighties didn’t proudly hang a STILL OF THE NIGHT (1982) poster on his or her bedroom wall?

Included in a package was my dear long-lost stuffed animal, Felix the Cat who (don’t laugh) was once my go-to best friend. Poor Felix was trapped in a hot Texas attic for decades, which left him brittle and falling apart in places. I did my best to mend him but as I sewed him back together it only seemed to create fresh holes and tears. Geez, I wish I never saw TOY STORY because suddenly I found myself being hit with waves of guilt. How could I so coldly leave Felix in a dark box all these years? I did the best I could; I even swiped a jersey off of an unsuspecting Phillies Phantatic doll to hide Felix’s more devastating injuries (it’s sure to cause a loosing streak). Finally I placed Felix up on a high honored shelf where he should be relatively safe at least until I’m dead and gone.

In other words, I know first hand how a person can develop an attachment to an inanimate object and how that totem can seem to establish a personality all its own. It’s all very irrational but the upside of Gepetto-esque magical thinking is that it helps me to better appreciate the greatness that is PIN (or PIN: A PLASTIC NIGHTMARE if you feel the need to fill your marquee). PIN was filmed in good old reliable Canada and released there in 1988 but it didn’t hit my neck of the woods until the following year, bypassing a theatrical run and landing directly on VHS. Horror movies were still cleaning up at the box office at the time so PIN’s no frills release lead me to believe that it must not be any great shakes but oh how very wrong that knee-jerk assumption was. As far as I’m concerned PIN, which is based on a novel by ANDREW NEIDERMAN (the Guy who authored THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and now fittingly ghostwrites as V.C. ANDREWS) is one of the best, most satisfying, horror films of its decade… or any other.

In fact, if anyone ever asks me what might improve modern horror I think from now on I’ll cut the conversation short and simply say “Watch PIN.” In my mind it’s not about ratings, levels of violence, jump-scares or hype, what makes or breaks a movie often (for me) are the characters. And I’m NOT talking about the old cliché of “liking” a character so that you care if they die, I don’t have to “like” anyone, I just want them to be interesting enough to hold my interest, I just want to partially understand their motivations and I just want to believe they are there for a reason rather than standing as glorified chess piece props. Ironically, not only is PIN’s lead character Leon more intriguing than those you are likely to bump into in most horror flicks but so is plastic “Pin” who only sorta partially exists in a make believe character’s mind. Yep, PIN’s not even real in the fake story he occupies but he’s still more substantial and complex than your standard horror pawn. I also give PIN props for representing schizophrenia as less a gathering of various personalities than the tragic shattering of one.

PIN is like the JOHN IRVING novel of horror films and yes, that’s a compliment. By the time the end credits roll the viewer feels as if they’ve grown up with the characters and have seen them at their best, worst and most vulnerable. We first meet siblings Leon and Ursula as tykes dealing with their parent’s idiosyncrasies (that’s polite for mental illnesses); Ma’s got an OCD cleaning fetish and talented ventriloquist Pa’s repressed enough to let a life size, see-through medical dummy do the talking when conversations turn to sex. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that Dad is portrayed by the phenomenal TERRY O’QUIN between STEPFATHER gigs). Leon’s budding illness allows him to mentally converse with Pin even when his dad isn’t around and when both parents die in a horrible car accident (one in which Pin is creepily present), Leon’s already tentative identity collapses and Pin begins to take the wheel. What’s truly astounding is how sympathetically Leon’s terrifying slip into insanity is handled. DAVID HEWLETT is so remarkable that I’d even feel comfortable comparing him to ANTHONY PERKINS in the PSYCHO films (and I do not do that lightly, folks!).

Speaking of PSYCHO, Leon and Pin easily earn an honored spot within the AVENGERS/EXPENDABLES coalition of favorite horror introverts that assemble regularly in my head. This fine alliance of fright flicks include the aforementioned PSYCHO, A REFLECTION OF FEAR (1972), BAD RONALD (1974), THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976), THE ATTIC 1980) and just to prove I’m not entirely living in the past, 2012’s fantastic EXCISION (which should have landed TRACI LORDS an Oscar nomination if you ask me) and 2014’s underrated STARRY EYES. May I also submit for your approval MANIAC (1980) and its re-do (2012)? After all, gore doesn’t magically erase the psychological plight of that duo. You can say all these folks are touched in the head but I prefer to think of them as courageous visionaries who refuse to let a little thing like reality stand in their way. I suppose one could write reams about PIN but since I’d never expect you to read a longer post than I would, this isn’t the place for that. Instead, I’d just like to nudge anyone who hasn’t seen PIN to seek it out as soon as possible. You never know, it could become your new best friend.

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · For The Love of:: · General Horror

The Witch

February 20th, 2016 · 12 Comments

I liked THE WITCH. The cinematography is gorgeous (particularly a slobber-worthy, late night lantern-lit outdoors scene), the acting is across the board impressive (particularly RALPH INESON as the put upon patriarch. What a voice on that guy!) and there are more than a couple moments in this melancholy mood piece that can chill ya to the core (particularly a bit involving a raven that has branded itself into my noggin). That said, you have my full approval to skip it in theaters. That’s right; don’t go see it. I personally, wish I waited and watched it in the privacy of my own home in the wee hours, preferably during a relentless rainstorm. It’s such an intimate, quiet outing that it deserves to be devoured alone and without a person chomping popcorn like a mule behind you. Furthermore, if you are wondering if this is one of those movies where all the critics lead you to believe that you are about to experience the next THE EXORCIST and then you go and see it and it’s NOT the next THE EXORCIST — the answer is yes, it is one of those movies. Truth is kids, you’re not getting your own THE EXORCIST so you might as well stop waiting. Folks were innocent back then and if you are reading this, then you are on the Internet and are therefore already jaded, corrupt and ruined.

That’s the end of my review but I’ll add some extra text just to justify the posting of more of these cool animal poster images! Um, THE WITCH is about this family during the olden timey days that try to forge a life for themselves and fail miserably at it. Eventually they all blame their crappy fortune on teenage daughter Thomasin (ANYA TAYLOR-JOY), which is understandable because she’s the only one in the family who doesn’t look like she fell out of VAN GOUGH’s “The Potato Eaters” painting. Writer/ director ROBERT EGGERS does an exemplary job as far as atmosphere and historical accuracy goes and he’s admirably able to make it seem as if nature itself is a malicious supernatural force. I also dig how he goes against the norm in the way information is disclosed, as it keeps the viewer perpetually on their toes and plowing through the dark. I’m afraid I’m going to have to watch THE WITCH a couple dozen more times before I can even start to think I know what’s truly going on in it. Maybe I’m dumb. Probably. Oh well, I enjoyed THE WITCH but I can’t say it knocked my socks off because my socks are still on. I know I’m supposed to either passionately love it or vehemently hate it but sorry, I’m more in the middle. It’s basically everything I’ve ever asked for in that it’s EYES OF FIRE (1983) if EYES OF FIRE was super pretty to look at but still I sit here feeling like I somehow missed a course of the meal.

You know what it is? I think this movie is relying too heavily on the assumption that I’m going to be scared of a talking goat! No way, I’d love to meet a talking goat! If I met a talking goat I would only want to hug it and be its best friend. Plus I’m pretty sure THE WITCH has it in mind to vilify a bunny? Again, no way. In closing, if conversing with animals is wrong, I don’t want to be right. We shall meet again THE WITCH, on my own home turf! If nothing else, you truly are vexing. I like that.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror

Don’t Look Now (1973)

February 12th, 2016 · 2 Comments

I’m so glad I don’t have kids. People who have kids (with all due respect) are insane. It’s like multiplying your potential for an emotional Armageddon by a quadrillion percent. Maybe I’m just a worrywart; I don’t understand how you’d ever let a kid out of your sight in the super deadly, arbitrary, calamity-baiting obstacle course that is our world. I have enough on my plate fretting about the fates of my felines. And I’m not talking about legitimate concerns like kitty cancer and urinary tract infections; I’m talking about if they sit in the window facing the street I fear somebody is going to throw a Molotov cocktail at them or maybe some teen rapscallions will shoot them with a BB gun or hit’em with a machete or… a flamethrower. Everybody who has seen THE EXTERMINATOR can back me up, flamethrowers are dangerous.

Even more troubling is the vague idea that somewhere under the sweet icing concern for the well being of my beloved fur babies hides the darker worry that if something should happened to them, I wouldn’t be able to handle it and I would completely LOSE MY MIND… forever and ever and ever. That may sound overly dramatic but I’ve dealt with death before and I can tell you, that bitch is a bionic grizzly bear from the basement of hell. I don’t remember fully and I don’t want to. All I know is the whole universe cankers and everything wilts and then some callous, miasmic Demon masquerading as God snickers while cramming the entire planet into a cosmic trash bag for a couple dozen months. It’s a bummer.

DON’T LOOK NOW is a masterpiece and don’t even bother with it if you’re the type that thinks that horror movies are all about finding your inner strength and foiling murderers with booby traps and karate chops. This flick is seeping in grief and its got real, legitimate death floating around in it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best movies are not movies at all, they are spells and this particular spell is a doozy. If you’re ever of the mind to publicly accuse a person of witchcraft, let that person be NICOLAS ROEG (not that DAPHNE DU MAURIER’s hands are zestfully clean). I swear a billow of smoke appears in this film and it’s all that billow of smoke can do to not morph into a screaming skull. I know it wants to, it knows that I know it wants to… and thank all that is holy that the scene ends before it does.

DON’T LOOK NOW features two acting greats, both of whom deliver career high performances. DONALD SUTHERLAND and JULIE CHRISTIE are John and Laura Baxter, distraught parents processing the recent death of their young daughter Christine. The couple’s differing methods of dealing with the tragic loss slowly creates a chasm between them. The two travel to Venice for John’s work and as Laura finds solace in two strange, questionable sisters (one of whom claims to be receiving assuring psychic messages from Christine), John’s repairing of a church mirrors his frustrating attempts to piece back together his faith. It’s as if Laura’s embracing of the unknown allows her to move on and John’s inability to accept the unexplainable tethers him to the ground. Laura is not exactly religious (She offers, “I’m kind to children and animals” as an apology to a priest) but she finds a way to allow hope back into her life. John’s stagnation (not to mention his outright rejection of his own warning intuition) seems to only invite more of the darkness we all try to avoid.

Because yep, DEATH does indeed return as if responding to an engraved invitation, as if John’s spiritual wavering is the ultimate red carpet. DEATH (I won’t be too spoiler-y ) pretty much shakes its head at how very, very off base John’s been for at least as long as the run of the film. And yeah, the end of DON’T LOOK NOW still to this day, gives me an ice wedgie, gives me a doom noogie, gives me an existential purple nurple. ROEG’s devious shuffling of time and his abandonment of the linear evokes an infinite bad dream concoction that leaves you thinking that the adage “In the midst of life we are in death” may be a gross understatement. Do our lives flash before our eyes when we die or are our lives ONLY a flash before our eyes as we die? I don’t even know what I just said but I do know that I don’t like the sound of it. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a flashback montage.

Clearly this flick is crazy making. I better snap out of this solemn swamp mood before I attract a hooded ghoulie. Maybe it’ll help if I focus on ROEG’s brilliantly subtle gaslighting skills or how lovely it is just to take in CHRISTIE’s elated face exclaiming, “Christine is still with us!” after Laura’s fainting spell or the exquisite cinematography that makes the entire city of Venice look like a haunted house or the fact that this monumental movie marks the great PINO DONAGGIO’s very first feature length film score! Ha, take that death troll!! Can you believe that the first time I tried to watch this baby as a dumb teen I fell asleep? I blame it on the rain. Anyway, if you’ve given this one a chance before and it didn’t float your gondola don’t sweat it. I promise you it will come back to finish the job later. In the words of Wednesday Addams when asked why she dressed like somebody died, “Wait.”

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1982)

February 5th, 2016 · 3 Comments

All I wanted for Christmas this year was the DVD of BUTCHER, BAKER NIGHTMARE MAKER (1982) and I’m happy to report that tiny lil’ dream became a reality. Now that the pined for item is captured and shelved, one of the many nagging voices in my head can finally shut up. Once upon a time, wrongly thinking the flick’s DVD debut was imminent, I allowed my VHS tape (under the title NIGHT WARNING) to fall into the wrong hands and wouldn’t you know it, the cursed thing stood me up like a bucked-tooth prom date. Worse still, when it finally was released, the universe began a cruel campaign of placing obstacle after excruciating obstacle between me and my coveted prize! It’s over now. I shouldn’t salt the gaping wounds. I just mean to point out that there are movies you casually collect for a rainy day and there are those that feel like appendages that somebody ripped off your body that you have track down and sew back on or risk dying from infection.

I think the problem is that I remember my life through movies. I have no idea how I’d recall anything if movies didn’t exist because they provide pretty much the only structure in my foggy head. Things were easier when I worked in a video store and I could look on the wall and see by numbers on stickers on plastic boxes where I had been… now everything is all jumbled up and out of order.

For many reasons BUTCHER, BAKER towers as a monumental marker through the mist behind me. It casts a deeper shadow than most because it had such an impact on me during my teen years. I came across the movie tie-in paperback years before I would encounter the movie itself and its content provided me with one of my earliest encounters with the subject of homosexuality (at least within a story that I could relate to rather than a horrifying news item or a pitying sitcom platitude). Its significance was boosted further by the fact that the novel was confiscated from me in junior high as if it were some kind of illegal contraband and my fear of its verboten themes being discovered were great. See, things were very different for a gay teen in 1982 and in so many subtle stabbing ways that it’s impossible to fully convey. You know that part in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS when the characters had to hide any and all emotions or traces of humanity to avoid being pounced upon by the screeching, pointing, empty hearted hive mob? I feel like that reflects my personal high school experience better than say, SIXTEEN CANDLES.

BUTCHER, BAKER doesn’t exactly present the idea of being gay in a Pollyanna positive light but therein held its particular power for me because its crassness allowed me to better digest it. At that point in my existence the idea of being validated or approved of wasn’t even on the table but the knowledge of not being alone in the universe left enough air out of my about-to-explode alienation balloon that it was the difference between life and death. There’s a shitload of acrimony offered many discriminated against groups in the world but I think LGBT teens take on a singular burden of having to face those thrown stones alone…at least for a while. Sorry, that’s kinda heavy but that’s how important seeing myself at least partially reflected was. And really, that’s how important movies and books are.

Anyway, BUTCHER stars JIMMY McNICHOL as Billy Lynch who is getting ready to go off to college and sparking abandonment drama from his twitchy guardian Aunt Cheryl (SUSAN TYRELL). Billy comes home from school one day to find his Aunt has killed a man (who she claims tried to rape her) but when the victim is discovered to be gay, a homophobic detective (BO SVENSON) becomes obsessed with pinning the murder on Billy. Now, a little while’s back I was gabbing it up about another fine flick that features TYRELL called ANGEL (1984). ANGEL presents two all accepting counter culture fantasy parents in the characters of Solly (TYRELL) and Mae (DICK SHAWN.) In contrast, BUTCHER, BAKER offers a dark flip side and features two soul dousing monster parent figures. First we have Aunt Cheryl who is a controlling, jealous, trapped in the past, sexually inappropriate loon and symbolically subbing for Billy’s dead father is SVENSON’ s Det. Carlson who is a berating browbeater who elbows out Billy’s one positive adult figure, his happens-to-be gay basketball coach Tom Landers (STEVE EASTIN who would fittingly go on to appear as a policeman in another gay-centric horror flick A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE).

I should clarify that there’s nothing within the framework of BUTCHER to indicate that Billy is gay. Whether he is or he isn’t doesn’t change what he endures or how we understand him but I point it out because it deepens the detective’s level of… instead of “homophobia” let’s go with misguided witch burning hysteria and projected sexual insecurities. Like life though, BUTCHER is about much more than folks grappling with sexual orientation, it earns serious points from me for focusing on that critical moment that many of us must plow through when we shed the limiting, spirit-confining ideas we were raised with and begin to walk on shaky legs toward our own self-realization. Billy has to destroy his monstrous parental figures to move forward because they stand as the bars of his cage.

Due to its teen heroes (Billy’s loyal and bunny-nose cute girlfriend Julia is played by a young JULIA DUFFY) and the year of its release, BUTCHER is often lumped in with the slasher clique but it has more in common with psycho-biddy grande dame Guignol flicks like WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? than its more popular body count contemporaries. Tonally I think it pairs up swell with the following year’s excellent PSYCHO II or maybe even 1980’s underrated THE ATTIC. In fact, BUTCHER could have saved itself a bunch of heartache by calling itself simply THE CELLAR as some of its more important revelations are made in just that locale. In any case, the streamlined alternate title NIGHT WARNING is of no help at all.

We’re not offered any huge mystery to solve, the audience knows very well which chocolates in the box contain the nuts, the tension comes from wondering just how hard the shit is going to hit the fan and when. It’s too bad director WILLIAM ASHER did not continue down the horror/ thriller path because he definitely brings something cyclonic and sweeping to the film’s storm set climax. It’s impressively uncanny compared to the rest of the movie and I can’t help worrying that both Julia the character and JULIA the DUFFY are truly getting the tar beaten out of both of them right there on screen.

Let’s be realistic, this movie is OWNED by TYRELL and I only wish I could type OWNED in neon and make it flash forever and with an accompanying siren sound. It’s really one of the greatest performances in all of horror and frankly it’s a disgrace that it’s not more widely seen and appreciated. If NICHOLSON or WALKEN delivered this performance they’d be forever ducking from all the laurels chucked at them. From the DVD’s (much appreciated) extras it doesn’t appear TYRELL herself thought too much of the role but the truth is on the screen and, no matter how scampy she sometimes riffs it, there are clear-cut moments where she’s delicately skating on the sharp thin line of true madness and it’s a freaking glorious thing to behold.

In closing, this is a take it to the grave movie for me as you can probably tell. I’ll be watching it when my hair is gray and my eyes have been removed to make way for tiny TV sets. Revisiting it once again I’m glad that times have changed and at the same time I don’t know why they haven’t changed more or even why they were so screwy in the first place. I’ll never be grateful for the crap I personally had to endure but if it curbed me from becoming your standard douche-y bro dude it was very much worth it. Most of all it’s fun to revisit through cinema a time in my life when I related more to buoyant Billy than I did to shattered Aunt Cheryl because great googly moogly, lord knows that’s no longer the case. Ha ha. Just kidding (no, I’m not).

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · DVD Review · General Horror

The Boy (2016)

January 24th, 2016 · 4 Comments

The best part of being woefully unhip and equally unsophisticated is that I get to enjoy the heck out of a movie like THE BOY. Yeah, I know it’s borderline preposterous, derivative as hell and ultimately inconsequential but to quote Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, “Look at all the fucks I give.” In the grand tradition of such, only in my mind, classics as THE HEARSE and THE NESTING, THE BOY is all about a lady losing her marbles while wandering around an incredibly beautiful, big old house. In this type of film there are always dull stretches where the main character reveals a troubled past (usually involving the death of a child, an abusive partner or worst of all, writer’s block!) but that’s fine by me because that is the perfect time to marvel at the lovely décor. Generously THE BOY is not satisfied being only a lady vs. her house/head flick, it’s also a creepy doll movie and that just happens to be my other favorite type o’ jam! Why, the only thing that could make this ditty more up my alley would be if it turned into HELL NIGHT in the final stretch (slight spoiler alert: it does). Is it kosher to recommend a movie exclusively to myself? I dub this flick, my rainy day ambrosia; all other folks tread with caution.

THE WALKING DEAD’s LAUREN COHAN stars as Greta who has been hired by a couple of nutty oldsters to look after their “son” who turns out to be a creepy porcelain doll. It seems their real kid Brahms tragically died in a fire 20 years ago and to cope with their loss, the two mutually decided complete and utter denial was the best bet. Greta is freaked out at first but sympathetic and she slowly forms a bond of her own with the pint-sized (PIN-like) effigy. Sadly THE BOY will likely get zero credit for what an excellent job it does of getting the audience to connect with the doll as well… so much so that when it is eventually threatened to be damaged it feels like something very real and invaluable may be lost. Much of the thanks should go to COHAN’s likable and relatable Greta. I’d have preferred it if she spent more time reading in bed like TRISH VAN DEVERE and less time cleaning out rat traps but I gotta respect a gal who can wrap a towel about herself so snuggly that it appears to be molded in plaster. Greta rules. She looks like MARY TYLER MOORE. Another thing that THAT BOY does extremely well is deftly manage the impossible to avoid humor of the situation, you could pretty much watch the first half of the film as a comedy if you wanted. In fact on more than one occasion little Brahms’ cold poker face reminded me of MARTIN SHORT in CLIFFORD.

I guess my biggest complaint would be the flick’s regrettable lack of bloodshed. Now I have no problem with a PG-13 rating especially in a psychological spooker but there’s a point in THE BOY where there is a drastic shifting of gears and at that point, at the very least, a TV broadcast level of gore would have been extremely satisfying. Truth is, you’ll either love or hate the film’s big reveal, I personally loved it to the point where it left me writing fan fiction in my head. As overtly mild as it sometimes sadly is, there’s some real throwback charm to be found in THE BOY. I expect it will be spit on by those who wear their horror fandom as a badge to prove how “edgy” they are and it will probably be loathed by those allergic to hokum and cheese but for me, it entertained and made me feel as snug as a bug in a rug. I may have to thank the terrible TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D for opening my eyes to the worth of simple entertainment value over artistic merit and even common sense on some occasions. If a film tunes your fork and delivers your favorite flavors at regular intervals, who cares about anything else? I don’t. No, it’s in no way a sterling classic but to echo THE BOY’s opening premise, sometimes a place-holding facsimile will do when the real deal is currently out of reach.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

January 12th, 2016 · 3 Comments

Wow, so that BONE TOMAHAWK movie is a keeper. I rented it from my local Red Box as I believed that to be my most practical (cheapest) option and I gotta say, it pained me to return the thing. Yes, it was with great sorrow and unfocused free-floating resentment that I slid that disc back into the slot of its soulless, mechanical crimson overlord but a deal’s a deal. Now, I totally understand if you are not exactly chomping at the bit to check out an olden-timey Western that appeared on one too many best of the year lists on one too many unreliable marketing tar pits masquerading as a horror websites. I get that. But BONE TOMAHAWK really does deserve a laurel avalanche because it features rarities like a, well-written script, stellar cinematography, assured direction and absolutely outstanding acting.

You know when it’s cold outside and you need to take a shower but you keep putting it off because history tells you that the first moment when the water hits your body is going to be awful? Then you step in the shower and after that first moment of shock it’s actually great and rejuvenating and you can’t believe that you didn’t jump in sooner because now you are all crispy clean and feeling awesome? That’s how I feel about westerns…

My eyes are always scared of how beige everything is going to be and my ears are worried that the dialogue is going to be gruff and dullsville and my soul is apprehensive because chances are a horse is going to be treated poorly. The first couple minutes are always difficult and I feel like a squirrel in a box looking for any possible escape but if I can just get past that initial hump, I usually enjoy myself. I’m not talking about dusty Grandpa flicks, I mean the likes of EL TOPO, TOMBSTONE, THE PROPOSITION and especially the Dalmatian-spotted McCABE and MRS. MILLER (if that counts). I’ll even happily gallop behind EASTWOOD but if I’m being honest I’m going to lean closer to THE BEGUILED than the DOLLARS TRILOGY. I guess I’m saying it’s not my go-to bag but it’s a pill I can swallow especially if said pill is coated with sweet delicious horror like BURROWERS (2008) or the title in question, BONE TOMAHAWK which feels like JACK KETCHUM meets TRUE GRIT.

What bridges the gap more than anything else, more than sleek visuals, more than clever lines of dialogue, more than snappy action scenes, more than sharp suspense (and BT’s level of suspense is downright painful at times) is characterization. And I’m not even being preachy here; it’s just the truth. I’m happy to report horror hall of famer KURT RUSSELL is everything you’d hope and expect him to be and he’s just the tip of the totem pole. Who can make you feel their anguish and inner (and outer) turmoil quite the way that PATRICK (INSIDIOUS,THE CONJURING) WILSON can? Seriously! That face! I want to make him pancakes! But do you want to know who the real stand out in this flick is besides the always-reliable RICHARD JENKINS? By Golly, it’s MATTHEW FOX. He’s so good and not in a flashy, look at me way either. He just disappears into his character and he’s impressive as hell.

SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s got characters you’ll remember, it will surprise you in ways I refuse to say and it will chill you right down to the bone-and then some. You’re going to enjoy it kids, Why, I’d bet the farm on it! NOTE: Extra sarsaparilla awarded for featuring the ever mesmerising SEAN YOUNG.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror