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PUFF Piece: Dead Bodies, Night of Something Strange, Bad Blood and We Go On

October 26th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Poor me because I have to sit back and watch all my pals in L.A., New York and even Texas get to see all the cool movies! Although my beloved city of Philadelphia is certainly rich in pretzels and cheez whiz, it’s got little to brag about in the movie going options department. So thank God for the glass of Gatorade in a smoldering Sahara that is PUFF (Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival)! And extra props to them for spinning their web so close to Kindertrauma Castle (at both the awesome CINEMUG (a video store/ coffee joint!) and ADOBE CAFÉ (which is kinda like the cantina from STAR WARS) rather than forcing me to travel to some scary part of the city (anyplace more than 5 blocks away). Before I say something that gets me run out of town, here are four fine flicks that I was lucky enough to catch!

DEAD BODY (2015) (TRAILER)

This one was irresistibly billed as a cross between FRIDAY THE 13TH and CLUE and that’s a fair assessment that makes me want to redundantly add it’s got a strong APRIL FOOL’S DAY vibe as well. Anyone who grew up watching VHS rentals of assorted couples fleeing a faceless killer in the woods will feel snug as a bug in a rug. My only problem with this enjoyable throwback is that the identity of the killer is kind of obvious from the get go. I’m not saying that to impress you with how smart I am because I’m not smart. I’m actually really gullible when it comes to being out maneuvered by a movie. Unfortunately, all of my wishes that I wasn’t right and all of my prayers that I’d ultimately do a spit take and fall off my chair were in vain. Still, there are plenty of twists and surprises to keep you on your toes and I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed a nail-gun being used to such grueling effect before.

NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016) (TRAILER)

This movie is a disgusting, boldly repulsive potato sack filled with vile, stinky, politically incorrect garbage- I loved it! Strange, I know. And my positive reaction makes even less sense when you consider that this deadly sexually transmitted disease flick doesn’t operate much unlike your standard contagious zombie stomp. But I have to say, something about the consistency of this oddity’s brazenness won me over. Even though it often skates thin ice with the subject matter, it never comes off mean spirited and its devotion to nausea keeps it from feeling too skeevy. Yes, the filmmakers obviously have it in mind to shock and gall the viewer but not in the condescending way I tend to hate. It’s almost TROMA-esque in that regard. More importantly for my special effects loving heart, the goopy and gory NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE excels at the same fantastic, freakishly fluid paranoid silly-putty body horror that drove such classics as THE THING (1982) and SOCIETY (1989). It’s exactly the type of rib tickling, stomach churning mayhem that fans often beg for but seldom get.

BAD BLOOD: THE MOVIE (2016) (TRAILER)

I’m not sure I understood everything that happened in this movie but I am very sure that at one point somebody turned into a slimy giant were-frog creature and proceeded to chase a panicked kid on his bike down a suburban street. Spoiler Alert: It’s not the slimy were-frog creature that ends up croaking (slapping my knee). There’s a sweet, mad-science comic book vibe hopping on this lily pad and the buzzing retro score is out this world. It’s hard to argue with a film that’s got the good taste to pay tribute to the fluorescent works of STUART GORDON while balancing horror and humor in the style of JOE DANTE (or so I’ve been “toad”… Hahaha… help me).

WE GO ON (2016) (TRAILER)

I had to see this one, it’s from the same folks (JESSE HOLLAND and ANDY MITTON) who did YELLOWBRICKROAD, a movie that gave me plenty to gripe about (as you can see in this review HERE) but ended up haunting me anyway. I’m happy to tell you that WE GO ON is exactly what I‘d hope for as there are far less issues for me to bark about and yet the nagging uncomfortable existential dread that chilled me in YELLOWBRICKROAD is back and then some. This here is just a wonderful ghost story that remarkably pushes the ancient art form into spaces I have never seen it occupy before. It’s all about the pluses and minuses in believing in the great beyond and it pushes the idea that the further you step into the unknown the more you may find your safe seat of sanity dissolving in this plane.

Most importantly, WE GO ON features the immensely talented ANNETTE O’TOOLE (CAT PEOPLE). If anybody reading this is in the business of nominating actors for their work in genre films, let me tell you, O’TOOLE deserves accolades and a half for her flawless work here. She’s so darn good and she’s in some fine company; CLARK FREEMAN and LAURA HEISLER who were both in YELLOWBRICKROAD are welcome returners and as if we could dare ask for more, living legend JOHN (GREMLINS 2) GLOVER is on hand to steal a few scenes too. If you prefer the chilly, cerebral, slow boil side of the horror bed you should tuck yourself into WE GO ON as soon as you can. It has so much more to offer than scares, it’s the type of horror movie that keeps you up at night trying to close the doors it opened in your head. Personally, I can’t wait to see what path these two filmmakers take us down next.

Hey, it looks like I enjoyed all four films with some extra affection for NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE’s flippant midnight movie lewdness and WE GO ON’s stellar acting, profound themes and lingering chills. If you’re keeping score that’s four movies in one weekend festival that were more satisfying than the last four hype-scams I caught in the local multiplex. Oh, and I got to drink beer and eat nachos too! Thank you PUFF for advancing the Philly movie scene or for at least greatly elevating my pre-Halloween horror film intake! What would I have done without you?

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Tags: General Horror

For the Love of:: Poltergeist III

October 14th, 2016 · 2 Comments

UNK SEZ: Hey, hold the toy phone! It turns out my long time pals MEEP and BEN of RETRO MOVIE LOVE PODCAST both love POLTERGEIST III as much as I do! What if the three of us picked our three favorite things from this shamefully undervalued third installment? This pyramid of power must come to pass because Three is a magic number! Good old MEEP goes first…

MEEP: Recently experiencing Poltergeist III on the big screen in 35 MM brought it all back for me. The late 80’s MGM/UA Communications logo. The music. The fashions. The dialogue. That building. I know it’s hard to separate yourself from your love of the Freelings from the first two Films, but I think it’s also fun to be in a part III of a Movie that mixes it up a bit. It’s a busy Movie that actually tries. So few Movies do that anymore. A general laziness seems to be commonplace these days in modern Filmmaking. And so few Films focus on characterization. I want to care about the characters in the movie I’m watching, dammit.

There’s much to savor here but if I had to pick ONLY three reasons that help solidify my love of Poltergeist III they would be:

MEEP: 1. The shifting of suburbia as a playground for evil to a super modern, urban setting. What better way to get away from the true evil that lurks in the suburbs: Chicago’s Sears Tower! I love Movies set in buildings, and for me Poltergeist III and Gremlins 2 are the most important ones in the genre. They are both in their own way bonkers sequels that go out of their way to entertain and add a little something different to a franchise. And both happen to be the last Films made in their franchise! Gary Sherman and Joe Dante didn’t play it too safe and ended up with Movies that will be remembered as franchise killers. I love them for it! No risk, no reward. Both of these Movies are full of them for me. Also, I don’t mind that for a long time characters run around a building, calling out each other’s names, either. I probably would be doing the same thing. My 4 year old son is also obsessed with buildings and elevators. Is he too young to show this Film to him yet? What would Seaton think about that?

MEEP: 2. Kids in peril. I know for some they’d rather not have kids in Horror Movies, but, if done right, kids definitely have their place in the genre. I feel like around this point in the 80’s we were getting some really fun ones like The Gate and The Monster Squad, so in it’s own late 80’s logic, it’s natural for The Freelings to ditch their daughter and send her to chilly Chicago. What are they doing, anyway? Rebuilding another house? Do you think they live in another subdivision? Carol Anne really needed a change of pace. She’s been through so much. And she goes through a hell of a lot in this one. But, I also feel really bad for the outfits they put her in. They are unfortunate and the Film does try to make her seem younger than she was (Heather O’Rourke was around 12 when they shot this — we were born the same year). Perhaps that is the true peril. We all know by the end of a Poltergeist Film that a family’s tight bond will save Carol Anne, but, no one saved her from those iconic red pajamas and that winter gear.

MEEP: 3. Growing up with it in the 80’s. It’s strange to me how much I took for granted Films of this era while living through it. I saw so many of these Movies first run, in a Movie theatre. Even if Movies were changing, there was plenty for me at the local theatres and multiplexes to devour. Poltergeist III played at the Cineplex Odeon Fortway Theatre in Brooklyn, which had sparkly stars on the ceiling above you, and it seemed to go over well enough opening day. I was there for the first show, naturally. By this point it was June and I was off of school and I was at the Movies almost every day. I remember also seeing Big Business and my third screening of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood that very same weekend. Poltergeist III elicited the appropriate reactions in theaters, though at the recent retro screening I went to it seemed that they were more interested in the comedic aspects of the Film. I think watching Movies that are nearly 30 years old will always attract laughs, and there are some genuine laughs in Poltergeist III, but, I tend to take the Movie slightly more seriously, or at least at face value. It’s just where I’m coming from as a dedicated Movie watcher who’s now getting as old as Kane.

Do I think Poltergeist III is a great Film? That’s for you to decide. I’m just saying it’s a very important one in my life. I’m so thankful to be around such cool kids who love it as well. I have read some of Ben and Unk’s thoughts about the Movie and I couldn’t agree more. Heather O’Rourke, Nancy Allen, Tom Skerritt and Lara Flynn Boyle’s jean jacket and hat 4 eva. Pass the popcorn and the whoppers, please.

BEN: 1. Carol Anne’s Trauma History. Horror sequels rarely really deal with their protagonists’ struggles with post-traumatic stress from their experiences in the previous film (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and Slumber Party Massacre II are other rare exceptions!). Poltergeist III actually delves into Carol Anne’s struggle dealing with some severe emotional shit from being stalked and kidnapped by ghosts and abandoned by her parents. When Carol Anne tells stupid Dr. Seaton that she’s “lonely I guess,” I want to cry, for I sense that she’s not only lonely because she misses her friends and family, but also because she is alone in what she’s experienced.

Poltergeist III offers up some surprising commentary about how people were discussing trauma in the late 1980s. This was the moment when children reported Satanic ritual abuse at daycare centers, and adults confessed to remembering childhood alien abductions. Garbage people—real life Dr. Seatons—said that such people were “lying” and “hysterical,” ignoring the fact that people sometimes find their traumatic memories clouded by fantasy because reality is too difficult to tolerate. In other words, sometimes it’s easier to imagine that you were abused in Satanic rituals than admit to yourself that you were molested by a relative. Anyway, Dr. Seaton learns his lesson and so do we all: the other dimensions of trauma are real, no matter what forms they take for those who find themselves trapped there, and the only way to avoid losing your loved ones to them is to love and believe them fiercely. Turquoise jewelry also helps.

BEN: 2. Aunt Pat’s Crisis. Maybe I am confronting the worst parts of myself by saying this, but I identify with Aunt Pat so much. Here is a woman who wisely decided not to have children because she wanted to have her own life, open a gallery, wait to marry until she became a fully authentic person, and be a stepmother to a hip teenager. You get the sense that, growing up, she was the person in her family that had to keep it together and over-achieve while Diane and her mother went with the flow and had psychic flights of fancy. Diane had other priorities: she wanted to marry young to steal Stephen Freeling from that slut Cookie Gurnich, she wanted to devote her life to raising a family, she wanted to move to the California suburbs and watch cable TV. Fine. Not Aunt Pat’s thing. What does she get for knowing herself and making conscious choices? She has to adopt her niece and all of her supernatural stalkers because Diane can’t deal with the drama anymore (btw, we, Diane’s friends, know that she would NEVER pull that shit, but let’s talk about the world of the film rather than real life). It is possible that Aunt Pat is just a trifle cold and guarded because that’s the only way to even try to set boundaries with her family.

Now Pat has to drive a carpool for two weeks in a row, when she took the pill so that she would never have to drive a carpool. Furthermore, she has a houseguest indefinitely, when she obviously knows that having a houseguest for three hours is too long. Her husband treats her like a selfish bitch when she complains about these untenable circumstances, and then she has to run around a high rise for hours WHILE WET and dramatically apologize to the universe for her reasonable feelings. People who know themselves well enough to create lives that violate “acceptable social conventions” always get stuck with crap like this. People say that this movie isn’t scary, but Aunt Pat lives my ultimate nightmare.

BEN: 3. Late ’80s Affluence For some reason late ’80s Chicago always seemed glamorous in a unique way (see also: the office party in Adventures in Babysitting), but Poltergeist III is the national pinnacle of late ’80s glamour. I could live in this stark, mirrored world forever. Where to start? I love the generic apartments with their white leather furniture (how rude that Aunt Pat and Uncle Bruce leave the TV in Carol Ann’s room! Typically a trooper, I’m sure that she noticed but didn’t say anything). I love Aunt Pat’s dress that cost her a year’s salary, which is probably so expensive because it incorporates so many unique yet complementary shades of gray. I love Donna’s name and her friends’ hats and earrings. I love that the characters live my dream of inhabiting an apartment building that is also a mall (I bet that it had a video store). I love that Aunt Pat has sushi at her opening because all rich people in Chicago only eat sushi (see also: The Breakfast Club) and cilantro (don’t forget it!). I love Aunt Pat’s chic as hell, tough loving Assistant Director who can afford to drive a Mercedes because the ’80s were so abundant for the 1%. More than anything, I love the humorless artist Takamitsu, his haunted sculptures, and all of the illuminati with poofy hair and padded shoulders who come to admire his work. Aunt Pat is surely the most glamorous gallery owner in all of Chicago, although isn’t it a bit déclassé to have your gallery in a mall?

UNK: 1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: All hail, Tangina! Can there ever be enough Tangina (ZELDA RUBINSTEIN) in the world? The answer is no. To me, this sequel is precious beyond measure simply for existing as a space for this iconic horror hero to roam about in. I’m only sorry that a spin-off series that centered on the diminutive ghostbusting goddess never materialized. Think of the potential! I so dig the way POLTERGEIST III keeps our Tangie under wraps and out of the film’s opening and waits until the perfect moment to play its knee-high ace card. Suddenly we find ourselves at a table with Tangina and a few mysterious friends of hers in an outdoor café. As she pours tea, she is hit with a psychic alarm lightening bolt of knowledge that “He has found her!” and like Clark Kent, she’s up and running. Soon she’s on a plane (not unlike SCATMAN CROTHERS’ Hallorann in THE SHINING) speeding her way to save the day.

Our gal has got her work cut out for her as she’s not only facing the dark spirit of Reverend Kane but also a new nemesis in the form of snarky shrink extraordinaire Dr. Seaton (RICHARD FIRE– screenwriter of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER!) who clearly studied at the same college as FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7’s devious Dr. Crews (TERRY KISER). Indeed, in the universe of POLTERGEIST III, psychiatry itself is presented as volatile and dangerous. In fact, Tangina reprimands Dr. Seaton for pressuring Carol Anne to address her past and even claims that Carol Anne’s traumas have returned because she dared to speak of them out loud! I don’t know how healthy that idea is but it’s hard to doubt her as the voice of reason when Seaton’s rationalizations are more outlandish than any ghostly explanation. Consider that rather than accept the supernatural, Seaton believes Carol Anne has the ability to force lavish hallucinations upon entire communities and brainwash others to do her bidding without their knowledge. I mean really, if Seaton’s theories are correct Carol Anne would be the most powerful person to ever walk the Earth and that can’t be true because we all know that lil’ Tangie is!

Face it folks, it’s a rare and beautiful thing to see an actress and her role fit so snuggly together. As much as I strongly advise that all humans also check out the hypnotic ANGUISH, the delightful TEEN WITCH and even her role on PICKET FENCES (alongside her POLTERGEIST III co-star TOM SKERRITT), you don’t have to be psychic to know RUBINSTEIN shines the brightest in the POLTERGEIST trilogy.

UNK: 2. THE KRUEGER-ING OF KANE: It’s not everyday that a third installment in a horror franchise makes more than its predecessors, so when dream demon Freddy Krueger accomplished just that feat, several sleeping horror giants (Myers, Voorhees and PHANTASM’s “Tall Man” to name a few) were immediately nudged awake. Although the result was unlikely to receive a thumbs up from critics, the idea of resurrecting POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE’s ghoulish reverend Kane as a centerpiece villain was a rather inspired one and perhaps too good (and potentially financially rewarding) to resist. Sadly, the brilliant JULIAN BECK had died months before his remarkable performance as Kane had seared theater screens. Surely no replacement could ever fully fill his shoes but it could be said that there was something so creepy about the Kane character that even a lesser facsimile would successfully unnerve. All he would need was a group of teens to threaten in order to stay competitive with his fellow nightmare makers!

And that’s how we all got invited to a clandestine late night pool party with Carol Anne Freeling’s teen queen step-cousin Donna (the lovely LARA FLYNN BOYLE who would go on to play another Donna in TWIN PEAKS!) and her LEO SAYER-headed giggly boyfriend Scott (KIPLEY WENTZ). I don’t care what anyone says, I LOVE THIS. Even though it’s mostly all set up resulting in nothing and absolutely no teen is killed on screen, I LOVE THIS. I love the anticipation and even the unfulfilled promise of it like a jean jacket loves a BEDAZZLER. Say what you will but for sheer ‘80s-ness, P3 leaves its precursors in the dust. I have a feeling that the slasher teen-baiting aspects of this movie are exactly what makes many dismiss it as a pandering also-ran that fails the sense of awe and wonder about life and death found in this first two flicks and that may be true, BUT it also makes for a more casual, light-hearted watch and that’s worth something too!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you miss Ma and Pa Freeling (JOBETH WILLIAMS and CRAIG T. NELSON). Let me put it this way, if you HAD to replace them (and due to $ they probably did), could you think of anyone better to replace them with than ALIEN’s TOM SKERRITT and effervescent charm boat NANCY ALLEN? I can’t! In fact, if we’re talking emotional range, I think this is NANCY ALLEN‘s finest hour. She sails from placid to tempest like a master and is so incredibly sincere the whole trip. Furthermore if ya miss the original folks- you’ve come to the right place! That’s what this movie is all about! Take a number! Get behind poor Carol Anne!

UNK: 3. THE (VERY) SPECIAL EFFECTS: Director GARY SHERMAN (love me some DEAD AND BURIED too, btw) made a brave and endlessly intriguing choice to orchestrate all of the film’s supernatural shenanigans live on camera rather than later in some lab (a last minute lightening strike was tacked on in post but he had no part or approval of it). SHERMAN designed all the fantastic set pieces himself and apart from the usual squishy props there’s a wealth of visual entertainment involving forced perspective, sneaky slight of hand and trippy bogus reflections. Some of the illusions work better than others and sometimes the timing/reactions can be wonky but I think every single (sometimes awkward) swatch of it adds to the overall surreal, off-balance, disorienting tone. The end result is rather like running dizzy through a harshly lit funhouse mirror maze.

The first two POLTERGEIST flicks made it clear you didn’t need an old dark house to have a spooky time and this third haunt places the game board in perhaps the most unlikely space of all, a brightly gleaming, slickly modern, well-populated building. There’s really nothing like it. Sure, some of it is bizarrely off but I think this flick’s fans are attracted to just that perplexing off-ness. It’ll never be as beloved as the first or as brazenly disturbing as the second but its quirky originality deserves mucho respect too. Even if it may be a wee bit better at mystifying than satisfying, I don’t mind going on record saying POLTERGIEST III stands skyscraper tall as the most creatively audacious and mischievously innovative of the series.

NOTE: For the ultimate POLTERGEIST III fansite, fly on over HERE!

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Tags: For The Love of:: · General Horror

For the Love of: The Mutilator (1984)

September 30th, 2016 · 4 Comments

UNKLE LANCIFER: Let’s all take a premature fall break and lovingly fawn over a horror jaunt like no other, Buddy Cooper’s 1984 slash-terpiece, THE MUTILATOR! To salute this bad boy properly I have secured the help of stalwart MUTILATOR super-fan Amanda Reyes of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM fame. Ya’ll know our pal Amanda is an expert when it comes to TV movies but it just so happens she’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to slasher flicks too! You can’t talk to her about THE MUTILATOR without her eyeballs transforming into cartoon red hearts! I’ve seen it happen! Anyway, time’s a wastin’! Let’s get MUTILATING! Here are some of the reasons we love this special one of a kind flick so darn much…

AMANDA: Big Ed’s Motives: Although a good slasher film doesn’t need a backstory to be effective (the enigmatic Michael Myers in the original HALLOWEEN is probably the best example), sometimes understanding someone’s murderous motives adds an unexpected layer to the film. PROM NIGHT probably did it best in terms of crafting a sincerely sympathetic killer; and while I doubt anyone feels sorry for Big Ed in THE MUTILATOR, there is definitely an element of “Oh yeah, I understand.” Big Ed loves his wife, Little Ed blows her away. Big Ed gets mad. Little Ed’s friends are collateral damage. No big whoop.

AMANDA (cont.): Honestly, the opening of THE MUTILATOR lays out a really complex story about a boy who did something really horrible (accidentally, sure, but still), and the trauma that follows the surviving family members. What makes the whole slice and dice somewhat gratifying is that we know why Big Ed is on the prowl. Look, I don’t condone it, but Big Ed, I get you.

LANCIFER: Super Hero Pam: We need to talk about Pam as portrayed by Ruth Martinez. I’m going to go out of my way not to use the term “final girl” because it’s inadequate and semi-condescending. Pam is not some meek goody-goody who cautiously squirms her way toward survival; Pam is the boss of everything and everyone and the obvious lone master of her own fate. If anything, Ed Jr. is the “final-boy.” He’s the one with all the psychological baggage to unpack due to his unresolved guilt over accidently killing his mother while cleaning his father’s gun in the mega-Freudian pre-credits sequence. Not to be too spoiler-y but the way I remember it, Pam not only saves Ed Jr.’s life but she also quite literally carries him through the film’s climax. She’s his knight in pony-tailed armor and basically has to push him aside to kill his dragon for him because he’s taking too long. She even drags his sorry ass to the hospital afterwards! I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a deleted scene in which she jumped into scrubs, threw on some rubber gloves, mended his wounds and sewed him back together too. That’s not even mentioning her jaunty cap, signature vest and candy apple shades, Pam’s got style to spare.

AMANDA: The Shed of Death: There are just some places that are meant for doom. Look at the barn in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, and the Shed of Death in THE MUTILATOR. What is so compelling about Big Ed’s toolshed that everyone feels so damn duty-bound to visit it? This locale works out well since it just happens to be Big Ed’s headquarters. Want to catch Ed sleeping with his battle-ax? Visit the shed. Arguably, this spot is equally as creepy as his war-torn vacation home, which is full of all sorts of dark treasures (remember when he ran over someone with a speedboat and then photographed and framed it?!?). But the tools of death and destruction run rampant in that shed. Everything from an outboard motor to metal spikes to that really horrifying and controversial fishing gaff can be found, so it works out well that everyone who is anyone finds their way into Ed’s mutilation workshop. Works out well for the audience, I mean, not so much for the victims!

LANCIFER: The Location: I really adore THE MUTILATOR’s oceanfront location. It feels so familiar to me. I know it was entirely filmed in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina but I can’t help but think of a friend of mine’s house in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I would not set foot in such a place during the summer but it’s one of my favorite places on Earth off-season. There’s this dreamy end of the world atmosphere everywhere and it’s so spooky walking the streets with nary a car around. Director Buddy Cooper does such a great job capturing the quiet eeriness of an abandoned beach at night where you can barely see five feet ahead of you and you almost feel like you’re walking on the moon. Plus the guy deserves serious praise for making a rather small house feel like an expansive maze-like mansion you could get lost in. Kudos, Buddy!

AMANDA: That line: “I’m going to set a new high score on video machine.” That line has to be one of my all time favorite things ever. There’s something so beautiful about the all-purpose and somewhat odd dialog which is followed by dramatic pauses throughout THE MUTILATOR. While the premise is dark and possibly allegorical, there’s no flowery metaphors in the line readings as this film heads from point A to B in much the same way a Ferrari goes from zero to sixty. And it’s wonderful in all of its un-ironic, unpretentious glory.

AMANDA (cont.): This line is also delivered by the lovely Frances Raines, who made several low budget films throughout the eighties before she basically disappeared from the face of the earth (according to IMDb she is happily married with a son… yay!). This isn’t her best role, that would probably be the even more surreal DISCONNECTED, but she’s totally adorable and I’d love to join her for a game of video machine if she’ll have me.

LANCIFER: Nothing to do with the film itself but I have to tip my hat to THE MUTILATOR’s striking poster! It’s one of my all time favorites and I think the depiction of such a dark concept (four victims hung on a wall, one alarmed at the prospect of getting gutted by a giant hook) being presented in such bright bubbly primary colors perfectly captures the film’s contrasting nature. Seriously, I can’t think of many films that swing so swiftly from light-heartedly goofy to unsettlingly sadistic, can you? I’m also going to admit serious affection for the earlier and more folksy and raw FALL BREAK art because it sports similar counter intuitive hues and there’s something so off about it that it looks like it may have been drawn by the film’s psychotic killer himself.

AMANDA: Morey, Morey, MOREY: Truth: It was incredibly hard for me to pick just one character to talk about (hence, Frances above, Morey here and some more characters below). Morey Lampley, who plays the ill-fated Mike in THE MUTILATOR, never made another film. Whether or not he was buddies with the filmmakers, or simply auditioned for the role is unknown to me. In fact, pretty much anything aside from his character’s brutal death by outboard motor remains a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma. And maybe that intrigue is part of why I sometimes find myself skimming the net, looking for any piece of info I can unravel on the lanky blonde victim.

AMANDA (cont.): There’s something hypnotic about Morey stalking the grounds of what looks like a closed down amusement park, quoting lines from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But it’s really mostly during his death scene, which is probably the second most violent one in the film (the first being the infamous fishhook scene, which is almost too nasty for its own good). Although he only registers a sense of mild discomfort during the actual act of the killing, his body is completely mutilated (hence the title, I suppose) in the full body shot. The combination of moderate distress and the utter brutality of the attack actually haunted me upon my first viewing of it. Since then, I’ve grown to love Morey’s big smile and goofy dialog delivery. He should have been a contender in the slasher movie world!

LANCIFER: Those Savage Kills: Speaking of THE MUTILATOR’s semi-surprising sadistic streak; it’s fitting this fine film was recently released by my heroes over at ARROW because it makes such a great companion for another recent offering of theirs, the fabulous BLOOD RAGE. Both of these eighties babies share a similar Ying/Yang, giddy/gory, goofy/grim dichotomy. THE MUTILATOR has got to be the zaniest, most jovial film to ever feature decapitation and strongly implied genital mutilation by way of an oversized fishhook. I love to be taken off guard like that! I love to find myself mirthfully giggling one minute and then all the sudden…record scratch sound…I’m being pushed towards feeling queasy and genuinely disturbed. Like BLOOD RAGE in its unadulterated form, THE MUTILATOR delivers the frothy splatter slasher fans crave and it does so in a way most modern horror films fail to. I know you don’t need bloodshed to make a horror movie good but it certainly helps to make a party picture that you can enjoy with your more rambunctious friends. Not that you can’t enjoy it by yourself with the invisible friends in your head. I do.

AMANDA: Couple at the convenience store: Remember when I said it was really difficult for me to narrow down one cast member to give some love to? That extends to the very limited supporting crew of locals who add just the right touch of extra flavor to an already piquant tale of madness and mutilation! The couple featured at the convenience store featured in the opening credits appear to be non-actors who are having a ball with their short but humorous scene where they let Ralph talk himself into buy an extra case of beer.

AMANDA (cont.): There are two notable things about this scene. One is that it would seem Ralph believes that two six packs will be enough liquor to get him and his five friends through a week at the beach! The second amazing thing I noticed is that couple does not appear to know exactly where they are. When we first see the woman, she is obviously waiting for a cue before she moves. The actor playing the cashier has a half smile through the entire scene. The overall effect is charming because, inevitably, this regionally produced shocker is all about heart… even if the heart in question is the one being ripped out of your chest. It’s love.

AMANDA (cont.): Addendum: I may be the biggest MUTILATOR fan I know. I first saw this movie on a date back in the early nineties and was way more impressed with it than I was with my date. I found it on VHS a few years later and it became a regular spin for me, especially in the later nineties when I worked graveyard and needed to unwind at 8 a.m. This, along with PIECES, were movies I loved to watch while falling asleep (lord knows why), and have become like a comfy afghan that keeps me company on the cold nights of life.

AMANDA (cont.): Recently, the director, Buddy Cooper emerged when there was an announcement that a Blu-Ray release was on the horizon. His facebook page (HERE) is an amazing space to get a real behind the scenes look at the film, and it’s also where he sells some memorabilia, and interacts with fans. So charmed by Buddy and Big Ed, I currently own six posters (3 for THE MUTILATOR proper and 3 for the alternate title FALL BREAK), two copies of the FALL BREAK song on 45 (in all my life I never thought I’d have that), and several continuity Polaroids and storyboard sketches. They are all treasured items that look so good next to my gorgeous Blu-Ray copy of THE MUTILATOR. The feature length making of documentary extra confirms that this film was indeed a labor of love, made by people simply looking to produce a good movie and have a good time along the way. I love this movie so much, I feel like I could go on forever, but I think between Lancifer and myself, we’ve got the bases covered!

LANCIFER: That Song: No post about THE MUTILATOR would be complete without mentioning its theme song. I’m just going to come right out and say it’s genius. It’s somehow perfectly fitting and totally inappropriate at the same time. It is inescapably eighties sounding through and through and its point blank storytelling nature has a familiar super-catchy sitcom opening theme allure. It describes in loving detail that time of year when summer has died and the weather has cooled and you’re mentally preparing for the long haul hibernation of winter but you’re just not ready for it yet and so you go skinny-dipping possibly after an ill-advised amount of alcohol consumption. How it never became a number one hit across the country, I’ll never know. I’m sure for many, the moment that this song starts near the beginning of the film, is the exact moment they knew they were about to watch something special. Most importantly singer Peter Yellen’s repeated refrain that, “We’re going to have a good time” is a sung promise that THE MUTILATOR never fails to keep. Truly, if you let this movie fall into your arms, it’s going to break into your heart.

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Tags: Amanda By Night · For The Love of:: · General Horror

Blessed Are the Children (2016)

September 13th, 2016 · No Comments

When I was in art school a million years ago all I wanted to do was paint drippy abstract monstrosities while my teachers seemed bent on forcing me to draw stiff bowls of stale fruit. I had a class in which the entire semester consisted of sketching exactly ONE drawing of a boring statue. I swear if I didn’t have my trusty Walkman (and my well worn JAMCDARKLANDS” cassette) I probably would have murdered someone. Anyway, one of my teachers justified this torture by saying, “You have to learn the rules before you can break them” and that has always stuck with me. Strangely enough that sentiment popped into my head recently while watching BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN, a movie that lovingly salutes many a horror trope and then when you least expect it, slyly stomps on a few too. One thing is for sure, writer/director CHRIS MOORE has been doing much more than blindly collecting and stacking his shelves with horror titles throughout his life, he’s obviously been closely studying what makes his favorite flicks tick as well.

Hey, we know Chris around here! He’s shared more than a couple posts with us over the years. To tell you the truth, I never feel comfortable writing a review for a film from somebody I know. It’s not because I’m worried that I can’t be objective, it’s because I’m worried I’d be the first person to cynically roll their eyes if I saw similar logrolling taking place on another website. But you know what? I should just lighten up. From what I’ve seen, journalistic integrity isn’t exactly a gigantic concern within the horror community these days (and that’s putting it lightly). Besides, at the end of the day, when it comes to a movie that’s built to scare, it either works or it doesn’t and for me, BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN works. It could probably use some trimming down and some of the set pieces are sharper than others BUT (without ruining anything) let me just say that one scene in particular genuinely SHOCKED me and that’s not the easiest thing to do. Trust me, it’s safe to say the threat(s) rampaging in this film are undeniably off-putting and alarming as hell.

BLESSED focuses on three equally charming gal pals (KALEY BALL, KENI BOUNDS and ARIAN THIGPEN) and it’s sorta like SEX IN THE CITY if you replaced THE CITY with the suburbs and the SEX with being mercilessly stabbed to death by a horrific figure wearing a wailing and somewhat accusatory baby mask. Much of it may read low budget and homegrown but that’s part of its charm and it shouldn’t throw off true slasher fans raised on backyard delights (and KT favorites!) like THE MUTILATOR and OFFERINGS. You’ll note right from the opening credits though, which are a lovely homage to HALLOWEEN, that director MOORE has loftier goals in mind and he does a fine job manipulating the viewer’s focal points particularly in the well-edited Di PALMA-esque kill scenes. Garnish all that with blood red clad ambiguous marauders slicing through the flick like personified trigger warnings for anyone traumatized by THE BROOD and/or DON’T LOOK NOW and you’ve got a rather impressive roll call of worthy horror inspirations.

I’ll pull back the reins before I oversell. That’s never a fair thing to do. I can think of a few films I’d have a much healthier relationship with if only they weren’t rammed down my throat. I just know if I had blindly rented BLESSED from the Redbox I would have started off smugly thinking I knew where it was going and I’d have been proven completely wrong. These days independent filmmaking is a lot cheaper and easier than it used to be and that can lead to a bunch of movies by people who are let’s say, talent-challenged. That’s not a problem here at all. You can tell the guy behind the camera is genuinely interested in the characters and his empathy for them is contagious. Better still for gore hounds, MOORE is not afraid to take the gloves off and get nasty at the precise moment it’s required and he knows enough about horror movies (and slashers in particular) to understand which batons are worthy of passing on and which ones are ready to drop. Plus, I gotta add a busload of extra kudos for the smooth, neutral handling of the potentially incendiary subject matter. This soufflé could have easily flattened into a preachy pancake with a more heavy-handed chef and that fate is admirably avoided. So without any bias, I say, check out this movie; it’s wonderfully unnerving, notably shocking and an irrefutable reminder that the spirit of independent horror is alive and slashing. And with some bias I’ll add, YAY CHRIS! Good job, buddy! Don’t forget us little guys!

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Tags: General Horror

15 More Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans

August 19th, 2016 · 5 Comments

A while ago, yours truly and MEEP of CINEMA DUMEEP did a post called 40 Non-Horror Flicks for Horror Fans (HERE). I always swore we’d do a sequel because it was such a fun subject but we never did. Truth is, I suffer from a debilitating disorder called sheer laziness so I avoided the idea of tackling 40 more movies like the plague. But now I figured out a cure! Why don’t I just do 15 at a time!? How hard is that? So here ya go! Here’s 15 MORE Non-Horror Movies for Horror Fans!

MULHOLAND DRIVE (2001)
I got some mild grief for not including DAVID LYNCHin our last list but I swear I thought he went without saying! Everybody knows DAVID LYNCH is a horror-happy mo-fo. His output of material that can bitch slap your very soul is legendary. Allow me to put MULHOLLAND DRIVE up here to represent ALL of LYNCH’s work. There are moments in this movie that are ten times scarier than entire horror franchises put together and I’m not even remotely kidding. After taking to task the heartless Hollywood dream-machine, this psycho-tsunami also rips into rubble nearly every brick in the wall that separates fluffy wishful delusion and screaming, rotting reality. If I should ever neglect to mention LYNCH again, please note that it may be due to my sanity’s desire to protect itself and allow me to remain blissfully in denial.

BARTON FINK (1991)
The big question here is how did I miss this Kafka-esque COEN BROTHERS nightmare in our first list? Luckily JON GOODMAN’s excellent recent turn in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE reminded me of this here magnificent portrait of steadily decreasing mental health. I’ve always felt that BARTON pairs up incredibly well with our pal CRONENBERG’s NAKED LUNCH! Both movies feature the incomparable JUDY DAVIS, interchangeable wardrobes and luscious decrepit wallpaper! Oh boy, I’ve sufficiently sold just such a double feature to my own self!

STREETS OF FIRE (1984)
Every horror fan worth their salt is a fan of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and rightly so. But do you know what makes a fine companion to EFNY, even perhaps more so than the flick’s legit sequel ESCAPE FROM L.A.? I say, STREETS OF FIRE! Think about it, both jams contain gruff rebel tough guys of few words who must navigate a dangerous and dilapidated urban environment to rescue someone while accumulated a rag tag group of eccentric allies along the way. Furthermore both movies showcase musical numbers! Watch ‘em back to back; you’ll see what I mean.

JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989)
Back in the day MICKEY ROURKE was my favorite actor and in this film he stars with a bunch of my other favorite actors like LANCE HENRIKSEN, ELIZABETH McGOVERN, MORGAN FREEMAN, FOREST WHITAKER and the worship-worthy ELLEN BARKIN. ROURKE plays a facially deformed gangster who gets a brand new mug and sets out for revenge on those who double-crossed him. Like many a horror flick, JOHNNY HANDSOME concerns itself with the anguish felt by those who don’t fit in and the cathartic thrill experienced when they find retribution against the forces that alienate them. This fine film comes courtesy of the great WALTER HILL, the same guy responsible for the aforementioned STREETS OF FIRE. If he’s not a household name in your house, you live in a dump!

SECRET CEREMONY (1968)
I’ll never forget the day back when I was in college when I turned on my TV and randomly found this hauntingly bizarre movie I’d somehow never heard of. Obviously I had to skip all of my morning classes to see how things worked out. In this psychological nesting flick a child-like waif (MIA FARROW) pretends an opportunistic prostitute (ELIZABETH TAYLOR) is her long lost mother while her sleazy stepfather (ROBERT MITCHUM) threatens to tear their fantasy playhouse down. It’s not exactly action packed but it’s gloomy and goth-y enough to weave a spell. Many people find this flick to be a campy howler but as usual I genuinely love it and have no idea what they are talking about.

UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
I see you A24! I’m on to you and your sneaky mission to make me feel as square as an Amish grandmother at a Damien Hirst exhibit. It just so happens I’m artsier than you think! Luckily I was still spinning from A24’s more recent abstruse opus THE WITCH when I checked out UNDER THE SKIN so that I was ever so slightly prepared for its too clever ways. Both flicks play with being frustratingly pretentious, lull you to near boredom and then slam with you with something you’ll never forget. There’s at least one scene in UNDER THE SKIN that sent a lightning bolt of ice down my poor spine. I know I shouldn’t like SCARLETT JOHANSSON because she’s so popular but I just do and I always will. She takes chances and then there’s that voice. Anyway, I double dare you to watch this in a double feature with XTRO (1983).

IN HER SKIN (2009)
As long as we’re on the subject of films with SKIN in the title, remember this one from Australia? I sure do. The damned thing is based on a true story and it worked the miracle of somehow plunging my faith in humanity to a new impossible low. The sad thing is that when I think of this movie I can never remember the title because it’s frustratingly vague and vaporous to the point of nonexistence. They should have just called it “Caroline” after the crazy lunatic main character! Please read my fuller review HERE and only watch this if you want to be truly disturbed.

INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA (1996)
I’m at a loss for words when it comes to this movie. I used to play it over and over again at the video store I worked at and so I must have seen it a zillion times but I’m still not sure what happens in it. I guess the plot is not the point anyway. It’s like opening a dark closet stuffed with morose emotions that come crashing down on top of you in slow motion. The soundtrack is the saddest thing in the world and paired up with the ethereal beauty of ALICE KRIGE, it’s almost too much. If you can’t find this, find anything created by THE BROTHERS QUAY. They are geniuses.

WALKING AND TALKING (1996) and MY MOTHER IS A WEREWOLF (1989)

I’m including these two not because there is anything remotely scary about them but because they both feature characters that horror fans can relate to! W&T is from director Nicole Holofcener and it stars CATHERINE KEENER as Amelia, a tightly wound woman who is adjusting to the upcoming marriage of her best friend. The cool thing is that Amelia spends a lot of time at the local video a store and dates a clerk named Bill (KEVIN CORRIGAN) who ends up being a Fangoria –loving horror fanatic. On their first date he even takes her to a horror convention where they view awesome effects created for BASKETCASE 2 (or 3?). The comedy MY MOTHER IS A WEREWOLF is probably less of a stretch for our horror loving readers because not only does it concern lycanthropy but it also features ELM STREET alum, JOHN SAXON. Better still the film’s young heroine’s best friend Stacie is played by FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7’s Maddy aka DIANA BARROWS. Like W&T’s Bill, Stacie is a huge horror hound who drags her pal to a convention and those with an eye for details are sure to find lots of cool horror related stuff lurking in the background.

BLADE RUNNER (1982)
I know I hardly need to bend over backwards to convince film fans about the plentiful merits of BLADE RUNNER but I’d like to point out how horror-lovers especially will feel right at home with its themes. I mean, the plight of the film’s man-made replicants to come to terms with their mortality and to confront their maker’s vanity spurred cruelty is right on par with the perils of Frankenstein’s creation. Truly, as much as folks try to complicate the matter, the processing of one’s inevitable death is the meat and potatoes of horror; everything else is garnish. It doesn’t hurt that BLADE RUNNER is often caught skipping rope with both ALIEN (they hang in a seemingly shared universe) and THE SHINING (JOE TURKEL plays an uncannily similar enigmatic character in both films and the theatrical cut of BLADE closes with extra footage from THE SHINING’s angel’s-eye view opening credits).

SPACE TRUCKERS (1996)
Let’s say we stick with sci-fi for a moment! If I happen to be the only person in the universe with a soft spot for SPACE TRUCKERS, I am absolutely OK with that. Although why any horror fan would ever choose to miss a STUART (RE-ANIMATOR) GORDON flick is beyond me. Sci-fi comedies are almost always a fun time and I’m thinking this one is good enough to double feature with THE ICE PIRATES! You get DENNIS HOPPER, STEPHEN DORFF, DEBI MAZAR, ALIEN 3‘s CHARLES DANCE and even some square space pigs! The CGI is dated but the physical effects stand up and I like how it all feels like a lost HEAVY METAL comic.

FIVE CORNERS (1987)
This is such a great film and I’m guessing the only reason it has fallen into the cracks is because it’s so difficult to categorize. It doesn’t help that audiences sometimes have a problem following multiple storylines and digesting dark themes and quirky humor at the same time. JOHN TURTORRO plays a recently released stalking psychopath named Heinz and ever-reliable JODIE FOSTER is the rightfully worried object of his obsession. Heinz’s interactions with his loopy head in the clouds mother are sad and chilling at the same time and keep an eye out for scene-stealing horror royalty ELIZABETH BERRIDGE of THE FUNHOUSE as a wacky glue-sniffing party girl.



BADLANDS
(1973)
In the comment section of our previous 40 NON-HORROR FLICKS post I promised to include two titles if ever we did a sequel and this is the first of the two! Look kids, life is not complete until you see TERRENCE MALICK’s take on the legendary murder spree of Charles Starkweather starring the impeccably cast MARTIN SHEEN and SISSY SPACEK. This movie is so beautiful and poetic you may have to put a post-it-note on your TV to remind you that something horrible is taking place.

THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982)
This is the second film I promised to cover if ever we should do a Part 2! I am sure you all know that my arm does not exactly have to be pulled to cover any film that stars the incredible DIANE FRANKLIN of AMITYVILLE 2, DEADLY LESSONS and SUMMER GIRL fame. Heck, she doesn’t even play a particularly nice person in LAST AMERICAN but I’m in awe of her anyway. Basically this film is like somebody stomping on your heart for 90 minutes to the beat of early eighties new wave. Why, the only thing as heartless and unfair as this teen comedy’s universe is life itself! Horror fans should dig the whole thing as all the action seems to be taking place about a block away from their favorite slasher flick and they’re sure to recognize FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4’S LAWRENCE MONOSON in the lead role!

A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957)
Here’s the last one for now and it’s a doozy! An unrecognizable ANDY GRIFFITH portrays a drunken lout named Lonesome Larry Rhodes, who has a penchant for speaking his mind and is discovered by radio producer Marcia Jeffries (PATRICIA NEAL) sobering up in jail. Soon his homespun wisdom is taking the country by storm and he becomes a power hungry political figure with a talent for manipulating the public to do his biding. Eventually it becomes all to clear to Jeffries that if she has not created a monster, she has at least empowered one and set it loose upon the world. GRIFFITH’s goofy grinning sociopath is legitimately mortifying and most horrific of all is how terrifyingly timely this brilliant slice of cinema from the great ELIA KAZAN (ON THE WATERFRONT, EAST OF EDEN) is today.

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Tags: General Horror

Re-Watch Review:: Blood Rage (1987)

August 12th, 2016 · 4 Comments

I love all types of horror films but it’s no secret that slasher flicks, particularly those born in the eighties, stand as my golden child favorites. It’s all because they carried me from fan to fanatical and I can always count on them to bring the fun. No matter how many times haters try to belittle them, there’s no changing that a good slasher movie is like a party grenade and it’s a party grenade you can enjoy equally with a group of friends as you can alone. Why, just the other day I was feeling down and out and so I threw THE BURNING (1981) into my faithful TV and voila- 90 minutes later I was stinking of joie de vivre. Fellow slasher fans know what I’m talking about.

Long story short, I view the recent blu-ray release of BLOOD RAGE (1987, aka NIGHTMARE IN SHADOW WOODS) as a holy gift from the slasher Gods. BLOOD RAGE is a very special film my friends and I mean “special” in every connotation you can think of. It not only fulfills all slasher film requirements, it also handily adds a few atypical flavors you didn’t know you were missing. There’s a bizarre subterranean river of disproportionate gonzo melodrama surging through the film (which is as off-putting as it is hilarious) and the flick’s limited location (an apartment complex and its adjacent patch of woods) creates a trippily surreal repetitive rat maze quality. You get all the eighties fashions you can ask for, a riveting and righteous synth score, more gore than you’re likely to expect (especially if you are used to the heavily edited version like I was) and it’s all wrapped up in the very oddest and idiosyncratic of bows. You can list superior slasher flicks all day long if you wish, this baby has got true character and that’s worth way more than garden-variety competence to me.

Credibly twitchy LOUISE LASSER stars as Maddie, a mad housewife whose exciting Thanksgiving announcement regarding her recent wedding engagement is dampened by news that her crazy child Todd has escaped from a mental hospital. Little does she know that Todd’s twin brother Terry is the true psychopath and he’s been living with her all along! Easy to look at new wave mannequin MARK SOPER plays both twins and although he’s not always given the best material to work with, he does a fine job of making his duel characters truly distinguishable from each other. Soon Terry is carving up friends, acquaintances, neighbors, bungling mental health professionals and his soon to be step dad with the carte blanche understanding that his put upon bro will take the heat. Will quickly unraveling Maddie discover the truth or will she spend a remarkably inordinate amount of time barking on the phone to unseen and clearly underpaid telephone operators? Both, it turns out! God bless LASSER for having no clue what kind of movie she’s starring in and God bless the director for not having the foggiest idea of when to call “Cut!”

I don’t salivate over any old release that comes down the pike (especially when I already own an earlier version of it) but I have to say I’m so glad I finally got to view BLOOD RAGE in its best possible form (thanks to Arrow Films). Heck, I even dug the Special Features because instead of dragging out ancient chestnuts, they gave me much needed info on this little known gem! Who knew the flick’s Producer MARIANNE KANTER also acts in the film as Dr. Berman, the not nearly nosey enough psychiatrist whose duel talents include participating in the most awkward voice over ever committed to film AND the ability to scream her head off after being chopped in half (spoiler alert). Gee, now that I’ve seen all of the outlandish gore effects returned to their rightful place within the film, I feel like I’ve been living a lie all these years! I’ve been eating chocolate chip cookies with all of the chocolate chips removed! Now, I’m not saying extra vicious kills make BLOOD RAGE a better movie but… who am I kidding? Yes, they DO make it better, way better! C’mon.

In closing, if you’re a slasher fan or even if you just adore cult-y micro-budgeted B-films that star peculiar ladies of a certain age chewing through scenery like they’re playing to a back row in a galaxy far, far away, BLOOD RAGE is for you! Finally seeing it in its full form is like watching a side dish transform into a main course and I can guarantee yours truly will be begging for seconds of this holiday set slasher once that turkey of holidays Thanksgiving comes back around.

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Tags: General Horror · General Insanity

Re-Watch Review:: Magic (1978)

August 8th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Take heart kiddies, for every movie that is not quite as good as you recall there is another film that is way better than you remember. Take RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH’S 1978 deadly dummy opus MAGIC for example; once you adjust to the idea that there’s nothing supernatural going on, it’s really a fantastic, character-driven, psychological horror movie. My history with the flick goes like this: the notoriously kindertraumatic TV commercial creeped the crap out of me as a critter and then when I mustered the bravery to watch the movie as a teen (in the height of the gore boom), I found it to be as threatening as a splinter. Maybe my bloodthirsty expectations were too high but sorry, the bludgeoning of BURGESS MEREDITH wasn’t going to cut it. Flash forward to today-ville and I’ve changed my plea to semi-obsessed. I’d say the changing of my tune is due to my need for on screen violence lessening and my getting older and relating to the characters more. Plus, I recently very much enjoyed the book that it’s based on by William Goldman.

Call me crazy but I think one of life’s great pleasures is reading a book that a movie was based on (or one of those tie-in novels based on a script). It’s so fun to contrast and compare and every added or altered tidbit is a prize. Goldman’s novel MAGIC solidified the film for me and although he certainly did a marvelous job on his adapted screenplay, I now have a better grasp of what was missing in the movie (for me) all these years. Unsurprisingly, my qualms are kindertrauma inclined. The book does a far better job filling us in on the main character’s troubled childhood and abandonment by his mother, which goes a long way in explaining his mindset. Additionally, the central love story makes more sense when we are privy to the characters’ full history together. Finally MAGIC’s sly shell game finale works fine in the book but not at all on screen. Too little effort was made to adjust to the changed medium and I think it would have been better to drop the misdirection and go full on cat & mouse mode. Anything would be better than the film’s bizarre last scene that stomps all over what should have been a bittersweet final note.

So there’s a couple things I’d rather were done differently but that doesn’t mean I can’t still love it. At its core, MAGIC is pretty straightforward morality tale about the horror of loosing one’s sense of self in an effort to achieve acceptance. ANTHONY HOPKINS portrays Corky Withers, a down on his luck magician who ads an obnoxious ventriloquist dummy to his act in a last ditch effort to save his career. The dummy “Fatts” is basically Corky’s dark side, a wooden manifestation of his id. He’s sort of like a precursor to an internet troll who “speaks his mind” and becomes popular with those who are cathartically thrilled by hostility but unwilling to pay the consequences themselves.

At first Fatt’s cutting aggressiveness is a watershed for socially stumbling Corky and he becomes a magnet for success but his alter ego becomes harder to keep in line and soon there’s a question of which persona will dominate. Like many an addict, Corky is left choosing between a mutant-self that promises plenty but threatens to eclipse him and an authentic self whose track record is marred by seclusion and little joy.

Seeing MAGIC all cleaned up on DVD in its proper ratio reveals it’s certainly a lot more atmospheric than I remembered. The run-down lake house property that much of the film’s later action takes place in, is deliciously dank, gloomy and downright ill-boding. The real stars of the show however are its two (or should I say three?) lead performances. I think we all know what ANTHONY HOPKINS is capable of. Truth told, our guy’s weird accent in this movie is so all over the place that it’s nearly kaleidoscopic but it matters zero because he’s impossible to be bored by. Creepily, his very last line in the film “Kiss the girl goodbye” I swear, is full on, 100% Hannibal Lecter, to the point of giving me chills. It’s almost like you can hear Hannibal being born in this movie…I kid you not. The way HOPKINS is able to bring both Fatts and Corky to life is impressive indeed and God bless ATTENBOROUGH for leaving in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment with Fatts clearly moving on his own accord, just to keep us on our toes. And then there’s ANN-MARGRET who’ve I’ve been in love with ever since she sang a lullaby to Pebbles on THE FLINTSTONES as Ann- Margrock. She’s every shade of charming and effortlessly pushes the point that MAGIC is as much a tragic love story as it is a horror/thriller.

Geez, I feel like I haven’t said enough about Fatts! I totally get my younger self’s desire to see him leaping around like a mad monkey slashing folks (as Chucky would soon do) but there’s no denying how creepy Fatts is just chilling out, sitting still. The fact that he is designed to vaguely resemble HOPKINS certainly adds much to his unsettling quality and rarely has a non-human been such a scene-stealer. And that voice! That voice, I’m sure has launched countless nightmares. Um, where is the remake of MAGIC? That’s what I’d like to know. Talk about your sleeping giants! All you’d need to do is cram some action into the final act, add a dream sequence in which Fatts massacres a busload of children and then cast SAM ROCKWELL and NAOMI WATTS as leads. Throw out a trailer that perfectly mimics the original trailer and then sit back and watch the money roll in! Who could resist it? Not me. Anyway, if you haven’t seen MAGIC in a while, watch it again and just prepare to forgive it for not ramping up the thrills in the climax. And do read the book, I highly recommend it! And don’t forget to listen to the theme song “Magic” by Olivia Newton John (Don’t correct me, my fantasy world is an improvement on reality)!

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Tags: General Horror · Then & Now

Unk’s Favorite Stranger Things

August 3rd, 2016 · 3 Comments

Howdy, I’m taking a cue from my old pal Mickster and sharing some of my own STRANGER THINGS favorite things. If you’re sick of hearing about STRANGER THINGS, write a letter to your local Congressman and demand better TV shows so that this one doesn’t stand out like a beautiful neon sore thumb anymore!

Winona Ryder
I admit that I fell out of love with WINONA somewhere along the line (the day I saw ALIEN RESURRECTION) but we made up eventually (the day I saw BLACK SWAN). Most tend to think of her excellent turns in HEATHERS and BEETLEJUICE when they fawn over her but seeing her hanging around a makeshift fort in STRANGER THINGS reminded me how much territory WELCOME HOME ROXY CARMICHAEAL owns in my heart. Well let it be known that WINONA tops all of her previous gigs and then some in STRANGER THINGS, she brings it full throttle in every scene. She’s so exemplary at expressing rage and profound pain at the same time and I think this series makes it obvious that she’s just getting started. If I were JOHNNY DEPP, I’d change my tattoo back to “Winona Forever” as soon as possible.

The Score
Thanks to flicks like DRIVE and IT FOLLOWS, synth scores are all the rage but rarely has a latter day synth score fit so perfectly within the context of a story as the chilling beats that pulsate in STRANGER THINGS. You can thank Austin band “Survive” for STRANGER‘s hypnotic CARPENTER crashing into MORODER awesomeness. Hey, the hairs on my arms are standing up just thinking about it!

The Songs
I know THE BANGLES’ cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” didn’t come out until 1985 but it plays over the closing credits and credits don’t take place in any specific time so that’s OK right? I think so. Anyway life is more enjoyable when you don’t sweat anachronisms too much. For the most part ST’s selection of songs is pretty spot on and my ears just can’t say no to THE CLASH, MODERN ENGLISH and ECHO AND THE BUNNYMAN. Oh and TOTO’s “Africa“, only a slobbering goon would not dig that tune. There’s an official STRANGER THINGS playlist on SPOTIFTY, so check it out!

The Font
Oh geez, for years I’ve been searching for the STRANGER THINGS title font which I used to find on just about every horror paperback I read back in my youth. I was even thinking of going on Facebook and asking if anyone knew it but I chickened out because I was too scared of being left hanging. Thanks to STRANGER THINGS all I had to do was Google to find out I was one of many wondering the same thing! Turns out it’s called ITC BENGUIAT and yes, I’ve downloaded it for future use.

Ben and Nicole
I, like many, fell head over heals in fascination with Barb and how could you not? But there are two other characters that also lodged themselves in my brain that I found myself wanting more of. Let’s hear it for Ben the bearded bear who worked at the diner and gave Eleven french fries and is therefore a true unsung hero! I feel like if he was cast on FARGO he would have hung around much longer. And what about Nicole, the tattling ginger photographer? She didn’t have many lines but she made sure to make every facial expression count while glaring and smirking from the background. We need so much more of her in Season Two!

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Tags: General Horror · Kinder Loves Mickster!

Review:: Lake Nowhere (2016)

July 25th, 2016 · 1 Comment

It’s my duty as a citizen to inform you all about a lil’ horror movie that impressed the heck out of me called LAKE NOWHERE. Honestly, I’m not always the best audience for ultra low budget cinema because I can only hold back the bitter critical voice in my head for so long and I’ve been burned by vapid horror scenester vanity projects way too many times before. Turns out that any trepidation I might have had checking out a recent local screening (shout out to PUFF and Philly’s greatest video rental/coffee spot CINEMUG) were completely unwarranted because LAKE NOWHERE is not only the best slasher salute I’ve seen in a long time but it’s also surprisingly effective at delivering genuine chills. There’s something incredibly appealing about the entire aesthetic of the flick. It’s beautifully shot and almost painterly in its composition and I kept finding myself fantasizing about blowing up certain frames of the film and maybe hanging them over my couch.

Here’s a complaint though; it’s too short! That’s a bit of a compliment too because I just wanted it to go on and on. Thankfully it’s padded in the begging in a rather clever way with old school faux trailers for other flicks, each of which I would be very excited to see in the future. As cool as those retro trailers are, they’re sneakily misleading. They are presented caked in scratchy VHS damage and noise and they’re almost built to sway the viewer to let down their guard thinking they are in for the standard eighties homage. NOWHERE delivers on that level for sure but it also delivers on a bizarrely uncanny and unnerving tone you might not be ready for. Instead of focusing on the usual flippant references and heavy handed nudging towards outdated attire, directors CHRISTOPHER PHELPS and MAXIM VAN SCOY (yes, I’m jealous of that name), set their sights on a morose LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH kind of atmosphere. As long as I’m title dropping, NOWHERE also triggered freaky/fond memories of two of my favorite cabin in the woods movies, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT and the original, less funny EVIL DEAD.

I’m not sure if it’s an appropriate comparison but for my tastes I enjoyed LAKE NOWHERE a lot more than either segment of the similarly drive-in inclined GRINDHOUSE(2007). I stand so impressed that these young filmmakers were able to capture the authentic tone that so many others have swung and missed at. Furthermore, this baby reeks of having serious re-watch value. Actually, now that I think of it, its short length might be an asset if you view it between two other flicks during a late night marathon. Oh man, I didn’t even mention that it’s wonderfully blood-soaked and gory in the old school FRIDAY THE 13TH tradition! Is it spoiler-y to say there is a scene involving a head and a neck parting ways thanks to a sharp weapon that made the whole room erupt in cheers and gasps? Oh and the killer! You know I love that THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) flick but I truly did not dig the look of that killer, particularly his dopey mask. The unnervingly amorphous yet consistently striking threat in LAKE NOWHERE has got something so dark, dank and primordial going on, that it really gets under your skin.

Slasher movie homages are a dime a dozen but truly good ones are practically unicorns. LAKE NOWHERE happens to be right up my alley and besides touching all the bases I require in a slasher flick it goes one better by summoning that difficult to describe eeriness something like THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972) is so drenched in. I sure hope that it’ll show up in everybody’s neck of the woods but in the meantime why not follow LAKE NOWHERE on Facebook HERE to keep up to date. Word has it that it will be available on VOD and DVD August 16th and that’s fine by me because I’m surely going to want to watch this gem again come Halloween.

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Tags: General Horror

Review:: Ghostbusters (2016)

July 22nd, 2016 · 5 Comments

I’ve got a bone to pick with this new GHOSTBUSTERS! Now that I’ve seen it I can’t seem to get the theme song by living legend RAY PARKER JR. out of my head! This has been going on for days. Help! Besides that valid gripe, I’d say this newfangled GHOSTBUSTERS is my favorite GHOSTBUSTERS movie of the three. In fact, I think new GHOSTBUSTERS makes the original GHOSTBUSTERS look like GHOSTBUSTERS 2. It’s like some guardian angel knew my secret assessment of the first movie was, “Needs more ANNIE POTTS!’ and totally ran with that concept. I’ve heard it through the whine-vine that some folks were upset about this movie being made before they even saw it but as it turns out, those people are exactly the same people whose opinions I care nothing about! That really worked out for me. While all the mouth-breathing (STRANGER THINGS shout-out!!) fan boys were busy throwing fits, I was reserving my energy so that I could fight with Aunt John over who got to be BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD in PS3’s LEGO JURRASIC WORLD.

I’m not even trying to be contrary here or raddle anyone’s cage. I think all four of the women in GHOSTBUSTERS are hilarious. I can’t believe anyone would ever even present a spurious debate about whether women are funny. That is an insult to all the times I had to set my VCR to record SCTV as a kid. Sure, I loved every SCTV cast member but CATHERINE O’HARA and ANDREA MARTIN absolutely killed me and they still do. I can say the same thing for RADNER, CURTAINand NEWMAN on SNL and don’t even get me started on the cast of MADTV because we’ll be here all day (but special shout out to MO COLLINS). I know haters have other complaints involving the purity of the franchise and their oh so noble remake fatigue but I feel like I already heard all that noise when that THE THING prequel came out in 2011. I’m so glad I didn’t let that nonsense curdle my experience with that flick because warts and all, I love it oh so much. If anyone should be mad it’s me cuz these bellyachers are always jeopardizing my chances for sequels. Damn, I could be watching THE THING 2 or THE THING: GLOBAL CONTAGION right now!

Just so you don’t think I’m overcompensating with praise, I’ll throw a couple nitpicks onto the fire. I did find fault in the fact that there are not one but two scenes involving the heroes trying out new gadgets. The second one is superfluous and feels like an out of place toy commercial. Also my Jessica Fletcher detection skills are telling me that a spellbinding dance number featuring CHRIS HEMSWORTH was deemed not worthy to be included in its entirety and that hurts me, that hurts me deeply. But outside those quibbles this flick is borderline intoxicating. There’s a scene in the climax in which the ladies throw down some impressively elaborate and electrifying ghost-busting as the music swells and it feels about ten times more rousing than anything in the original two. Whenever the flick stresses the value of loyalty in friendship it feels genuine and earned but its most powerful (and supremely fitting) message involves the importance of standing by what you believe in and not allowing the snide opinions of others to sway you from accomplishing your goals.

Feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. It’s not like I ‘m a huge GHOSTBUSTERS mega fan in the first place. I certainly liked the first films well enough and I have zero problem spending as much time with BILL MURRAY as humanly possible (SCROOGED & WHAT ABOUT BOB? forever!) but there were a lot more interesting movies vying for my attention back in 1984 (like STREETS OF FIRE and HEAVENLY BODIES for example). Maybe I was a little too old to get the full fan frenzy? I have never in my life tasted a Hi-C Ecto cooler and I have zero plans to change that. Plus truth told, I enjoy the Filmation GHOSTBUSTERS cartoon way better than the “real” GHOSTBUSTERS version (OMG Tina’s mom, SUSAN BLU from FRIDAY THE 13TH part VII is the voice of Belfry the bat! I love that guy and all his cousins!). In any case, if being a “real” fan means being a “real” stick in the mud you can count me out. This new GHOSTBUSTERS is a good time. It’s fun. It made me laugh. It yanked me right out of the now nightmarish world we live in and set me down in a place where I could not wait to see what happened next. It’s a cinematic snow cone and it does exactly what you want a summer movie to do. I can’t help it! Busting makes me feel good! Oh no, that song is back…

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Tags: General Horror · Kinder-Spotlight · Laser eyes!