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The Horror of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

January 30th, 2014 · 6 Comments

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY is a horror fan’s friend. Don’t you remember that scary space vampire? All right, maybe he wasn’t that scary but his influence on the usually unflappable Col. Deering (ERIN GRAY of JASON GOES TO HELL) sure was. Wilma got wacky.

And remember when our pal JAMIE LEE CURTIS needed a break from being chased by an unstoppable killing machine in HALLOWEEN and being chased by an unstoppable killing machine in HALLOWEEN 2 and so she stopped by Buck’s neck of the universe to get chased by an unstoppable killing machine in space? While wearing pajamas? Even in space, orange is the new black!

No folks, you can’t escape from horror, not even in the 25th century! Let’s look at some other instances where horror acted like peanut butter and Buck (THE STEPDAUGHTER’s GIL GERARD) acted like chocolate and they both smooshed together in mutual space flavored deliciousness!

Awakening, Part 1 & 2

Yikes, mutants! Mutants are not the living dead but they sure seem to have graduated from the same charm school. Watch them try to kill Buck in a foggy graveyard of all places!

Planet of the Slave Girls, Part 1 & 2

This one has got both JACK PALANCE of ALONE IN THE DARK and WITHOUT WARNING and RODDY McDOWALL of LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE and FRIGHT NIGHT!

Vegas in Space

Hooray it’s RICHARD LYNCH of BAD DREAMS and THE PREMONITION and PAMELA SUSAN SHOOP of HALLOWEEN II!

The Plot to Kill a City: Parts 1 & 2

Geez Buck, what’s with all of these two parters? Well, this one doesn’t have any horror people in it. Wait! Ack! It’s ANTHONY JAMES the evil chauffer from BURNT OFFERINGS behind that mask! Oh, I must go cry in a corner now.

Return of the fighting 69th

The hits keep coming! This episode features ROBERT QUARRY of COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE and its sequel, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, MADHOUSE and SUGAR HILL!

Unchained Woman

This is that famous JAMIE LEE CURTIS episode that I already mentioned but wait that’s not all! Look! It’s dear TARA BUCKMAN who not only played a chummy sidekick of horror royalty ADRIENNE BARBEAU in THE CANNONBALL RUN but made her own permanent slash on the genre in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT!

Planet of the Amazon Women

It’s pretty ANN DUSENBERRY of that LIES (1985) flick I love so much and look there’s JAY “Dr. Shrinker” ROBINSON who was in BRAM STOKER’s DRACULA and THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER among others! This episode also famously contains one of the few times in television that a grilled cheese sandwich was used in a threat…

Cosmic Wiz Kid

It’s that pesky GARY COLEMAN episode. In an obvious attempt to infuriate me, nobody ever cast GARY COLEMAN in a horror film. Jokes on them, for if they had, that movie would be seen, loved and owned by every single human that is not an imbecile. I’m not bothered, I’m undaunted, we’ll just have to go the proximity route; Willis did TWICE DEAD, Kimberly was in EXCORCIST 2 and good old Dudley is in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5. Oh, and Adelaide was totally in MORTUARY ACADEMY. If unsatisfied please consider the HELLO LARRY crossover episodes which featured KIM “I wanted a Vanilla twist” RICHARDS and the legendary DONNA WILKES (ANGEL, GROTESQUE, BLOOD SONG).

Escape From Wedded Bliss

In this episode nemesis Princess Ardala’s right hand man Kane gets a facelift. He is now portrayed by MICHAEL ANSARA (THE MANITOU, IT’S ALIVE) rather than HENRY SILVA (1979”s THIRST).

Cruise Ship to the Stars

Here’s a good one! FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 4’s KIMBERLY BECK is a “transmute” which means she transforms into an entirely different person whenever she’s having a bad day. LEIGH McCLOWSKY, star of DARO ARGENTO’s INFERNO tries to exploit her talents in order to off GALIXINA’s DOROTHY STRATTEN!

This LOVE BOAT -inspired gem gets additional points because the background extras are either in bathing suits or disco dancing, Twiki meets a robo- girlfriend and Wilma is forced to wear a MARCIA WALLACE wig.

Space Vampire

Still a better love story than TWILIGHT!Har-har, I always wanted to say that. Now I feel cheap- and yet somehow closer to my fellow man. This episode is a stone cold classic. And really, you can view it as a vampire vs. werewolf tale because look who guest stars in it! Why, it’s THE HOWLING’S CHRISTOPHER STONE wearing a moustache that puts the space vampire’s unibrow to shame! Take that, evil Volvron!

Happy Birthday Buck

Every 534th birthday party should have PETER MacLEAN of SQUIRM, MORGAN BRITTANY of SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT and THE INITIATION OF SARAH and TAMARACleopatra JonesDOBSON on the guest list.

A Blast For Buck

I’m glad somebody is having a good time. Geez, Buck what the hell are you doing having a clip show in your first season? Bee deep Bee Deep Bee deep indeed.

Ardala Returns

Wow, that Ardala sure can’t take a hint. Now she’s just looking desperate. She’s gone and made clones of Buck! Did Kane really just ask “ What could she be doing with three Buck Rogers for almost an hour and a half?” Maybe I’ll just ignore that and point out that feline henchman “Tigerman” is now played by wrestling legend HARD BOILED HAGGERTY who’s also in the classic TV movie CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW (1977) and DEATHSPORT (1978).

Twiki is Missing

This is a favorite because it features underrated scream queen ANNE-MARIE MARTIN of THE BOOGENS, PROM NIGHT and a tiny smidge of a scene in HALLOWEEN II fame. She plays a space angel with CARRIE-esque telekinetic powers.

Did you know our ANNE -MARIE was once married to MICHAEL CRICHTON and that JURASSIC PARK is dedicated to her? She’s also really into horses and owns a MAGRITTE. All right, she’s my new hero and I’m not just saying that because she got 31 million dollars in the divorce settlement.

Olympiad

I hate to break it to Vladimir Putin but if this episode is any indication, the future of the Olympics looks super gay. Here we get JUDITH CHAPMAN who was in 1991’s DEAD SPACE, DAY OF THE ANIMALS & THE MANITOU’s PAUL MANTEE, PAUL COUFOS of 976 EVIL 2, FOOD OF THE GODS 2 and CHOPPING MALL and BARNEY Mc FADDEN of SALEM’S LOT.

A Dream of Jennifer

Buck meets a gal who looks exactly like the girl he left behind and she’s played by beautiful ANNE LOCKHART. Did you know LOCKHART was JOHN CARPENTER’s first pick to play Laurie Strode in HALLOWEEN? It’s true. I don’t make stuff up. It’s hard now to imagine anybody else besides CURTIS playing Laurie but I totally get where CARPENTER was coming from and it’s not too hard to imagine lil’ DANIELLE HARRIS staring at this photo mournfully in PART 4

You’ll also find in this episode, PAUL KOSLO of XTRO II, OMEGA MAN and ROBO JOX, JESSIE LAWRENCE FERGUSON of JC’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS and the coolest person who ever walked on the face of the Earth, MARY WORONOV (SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT- ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and many more.) Let me also state that WORONOV is a gifted writer and painter and an all around national treasure.

Space Rockers

I hate when people do this but I’m doing it anyway: Best. Episode. Ever. I’m sorry, but Just look at that title “space Rockers” and let it ferment in your brain. Now try to comprehend that this baby also features two of the sexiest people in entertainment, RICHARDNIGHT TRAIN TO TERRORMOLL and JUDYHELLHOLELANDERS! Youch! This rocket ride is so hot it should come with a cold meteor shower!

Buck’s Duel to the Death

Oh no, things are getting serious now; Buck must fight “the Traybor”! The Traybor is half robot, shoots lightening and is played by WILLIAM SMITH of INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS and MANIAC COP who everybody knows can beat up anyone even without the help of lightening. HEIDI BOHAY of 1982’s SUPERSTITION is not going to be of much help!

Flight of the War Witch

Now it’s time for a very special two hour-long season ender. Buck gets lost in a wormhole, meets a nasty space witch named Zarina (Thanks for almost-everything JULIE NEWMAR) and somehow poor Princess Ardala (PAMELA HEMSLEY) finds a new dimension to humiliate herself in. If you want horror stars you got em! How’s about PSYCHO & PSYCHO II’s VERA MILES and living legend SID HAIG (SPIDER BABY, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES)?

All right, now it’s time to bid farewell! I was going to do season two as well but that’s just crazy. Maybe some other time, how does never work for you? There is a very creepy Satyr episode in season 2, I can tell you that much. But right now I’m beat and I’m bushed. In fact, I feel like I could sleep for a couple hundred years! Maybe a little “disco inferno” will wake me up…

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Tags: General Horror · Kindertrauma in Space

Frankenweenie Future Trauma by Mike Campbell

January 4th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Children’s films in general but Disney movies in particular have a long history of terrifying children. They love to lull a child into a sense of security and then scare the crap out of them. Who was not traumatized by “Dumbo,” “Pinocchio,” and the unspeakable horror of “Bambi“? I know we all have our own Disney traumafession. Mine would be “Darby O’Gill And The Little People.” That scene gave me nightmares for weeks. It’s not just Disney though, what about the Child Catcher in “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang“? “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is consistently unsettling, but God knows what they were thinking with that boat sequence. Not to mention those damn flying monkeys that sent me running out of the room like the Cowardly Lion.

As kids we aren’t prepared for some of the stuff we might run into. I once shared “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” with a little kid I was babysitting, I had forgotten about Large Marge. He loved the movie up until that point, but that really scared him. I recently watched “Frankenweenie.” (I know, I’m late to the party, sorry.) While “Ed Wood” is one of my favorite films, I haven’t had much interest in Tim Burton lately. This is a delightful homage to the old horror movies that many of us enjoyed as a child. (When I saw “Bride of Frankenstein” as a little boy I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to live in an isolated castle and fly kites off the roof during a thunderstorm, and when folks would drop by I would cower behind the door and implore them to go away.)

The animation is beautiful. There are many references to old horror films and repeated viewings would undoubtedly reveal more. Mr. Whiskers transformation sequence cracked me up. The science teacher is a great caricature of Vincent Price with Martin Landau voice acting. The girl next door is named Elsa, thank you. Watching this movie I could not help but wonder how it might seem to a child. Without the affectionate back-story I live in, what does this look like to a kid? I can see some parents looking at this movie and deciding it is not appropriate for their children. I can see far more parents seeing that Disney logo and tossing it to the hapless kid without a second thought. I think every parent should watch this before showing it to their children, but I doubt that will be the case.

Kids have pets. Pets die. It’s a part of life children have to learn to accept. When my pet turtle died I was very sad. (This movie does give a generous nod to Gamera, but does any little kid know who Gamera is anymore?) When your pets die you can’t bring them back. My favorite scene was when Sparky ran away and found his headstone in the pet cemetery. He circled a few times, and sadly laid down. That was his place. Even the dog knew it was where he belonged. That’s the only thing that bugged me about this movie, the ending. (SPOILER ALERT!) Sparky should have stayed dead at the end. I could have gone with Sparky trying to come back, but being unable to do so. My favorite line in the movie is when Victor tells Sparky it’s OK, he doesn’t have to come back. That should have been the end. In 10 or 15 years, this movie will be a recurring Traumafession.

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Tags: General Horror · Special Guest Stars · Trauma Au Courant · Tykes in Trouble

Five Underrated Flicks By Kevin of House of Mysterious Secrets

December 20th, 2013 · 4 Comments

1. Messiah of Evil

2. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

3. Night Warning

4. Knightriders

5. Phase IV

UNK SEZ: Thanks Kevin! Those are all excellent picks! Kinderfolk, the holiday is looming closer! Make sure you stop by HOUSE OF MYSTERIOUS SECRETS to take care of all of your horror shopping needs (especially if I’m on your list)! And why not “like” HOMS on Facebook HERE!?

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Tags: General Horror · Where is the Love? Five Underrated Flicks

The Horror of The Love Boat!

December 16th, 2013 · 15 Comments

Did you realize that before they appeared together in THE FOG, legendary mother daughter horror icons JAMIE LEE CURTIS (HALLOWEEN) and JANET LEIGH (PSYCHO) took a cruise on THE LOVE BOAT? It’s true! In fact it was CURTIS’ first post Haddonfield venture and notably the only time the two played mother and daughter on screen.

Do you remember when FRIDAY THE 13TH’s mega momma BETSY PALMER appeared in the same episode as head-turner LINDA BLAIR albeit in separate storylines? Who could forget that once in a lifetime horror star configuration?

For one fantastic decade, whether one was climbing up or down the ladder of fame, there were two places they could always rely on finding themselves welcome, in a horror film or on “The Pacific Princess” better known as THE LOVE BOAT! Hey, why not let’s check out a few more horror pals who tested their romantic sea legs? Who cares if it was before, during or after this amorous ship sailed? I have a feeling this is going to be exciting and new! Come aboard! We’re expecting you!

JULIET MILLS of BEYOND THE DOOR

LAURIE WALTERS of WARLOCK MOON

ROSS MARTIN of DYING ROOM ONLY

PAMALA GRIER of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

DENISE NICHOLAS of BLACKULA

SLIM PICKENS of THE HOWLING

DIANE LADD of THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER & WILD AT HEART

KENT McCORD of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3

MAUREEN McCORMICK of RETURN TO HORROR HIGH

MORGAN BRITTANY of THE INITIATION OF SARAH

RICHARD GILLILAND of BUG

JAYNE KENNEDY of MS.45

ELKE SOMMER of LISA AND THE DEVIL & FLASHBACK

ROBERT VAUGHN of C.H.U.D. 2- BUD THE CHUD

HOWARD KEEL of THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS

BELINDA J. MONTGOMERY of SILENT MADNESS

JOSE FERRER of BLOODY BIRTHDAY & THE BEING

JENILEE HARRISON of CURSE III: BLOOD SACRIFICE

KATHERINE HELMOND of LADY IN WHITE

MICHELLE PHILIPS of SCISSORS

BRITT EKLAND of THE WICKER MAN

JOAN VAN ARK of FROGS

RICHARD BASEHART of MANSION OF THE DOOMED

LESLIE EASTERBROOK of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS

JOAN FONTAINE of REBECCA & SUSPICION

PATRICK LABORTEAUX of GHOULIES III & SUMMER SCHOOL

MORGAN FAIRCHILD of THE INITIATION OF SARAH

JESSICA WALTER of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

DARROW IGUS of THE FOG

AUDRA LINDLEY of SPELLBINDER

ANNE MEARA of HIGHWAY TO HELL

DARYL ANDERSON of MOSTER SQUAD

ELINOR DONAHUE of FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE

ELAINE JOYCE of MOTEL HELL

ROBERT ALDA of THE BEAST WITH 500 FINGERS

LUCILLE BENSON of HALLOWEEN II

ROSE MARIE of WITCHBOARD

HENRY JONES of ARACHNOPHOBIA

MARY McDONOUGH of MORTUARY

JOANNA CASSIDY of NIGHT CHILD

BERT CONVY of JENNIFER

LYNDA DAY GEORGE of PIECES

JOHN PHILIP LAW of NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR

TANYA ROBERTS of TOURIST TRAP

LYDIA CORNELL of BLOODTIDE

JUDY LANDERS of HELLHOLE

VERA MILES of PSYCHO & PSYCHO II

DICK VAN PATTON of THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

FABIAN of KISS DADDY GOODBYE

PRISCILLA BARNES of STEPFATHER 3 & THE DEVIL’S REJECTS

DOUG BARR of THE UNSEEN and DEADLY BLESSING

SONNY BONO of TROLL

WOODY BROWN of KILLER PARTY

JARED MARTIN of AENIGMA

JOANNA PETTET of THE EVIL

PAUL WILLIAMS of THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE

KEVIN BROPHY of HELL NIGHT

SUSAN STRASBERG 0f SCREAM OF FEAR & THE MANITOU

DAVID HEDISON of THE FLY

KIM DARBY of DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK & HALLOWEEN VI

CHRISTOPHER GEORGE of PIECES & GATES OF HELL

SHELLEY HACK of THE STEPFATHER

JOSEPH COTTEN of THE HEARSE

OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND of LADY IN A CAGE

JOAN PRATHER of THE DEVIL’S RAIN

SYLVIA SIDNEY of DAMIEN OMEN II & BEETLEJUICE

CINDY MORGAN of THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

BARBI BENTON of HOSPITAL MASSACRE/X-RAY

PETER HASKELL of CHILD’S PLAY 2 & 3

SAMANTHA EGGAR of THE BROOD

VINCENT VAN PATTON of HELL NIGHT

JENNIFER LOPINTO of HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE

STEVE MARACHUK of PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING

RON PALILLO of FRIDAY THE 13th: PART 6 & HELLGATE

MARIE LAURIN of CREATURE

TRISH STEWART of MANSION OF THE DOOMED

DANA WYNTER of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

LISA HARTMAN of DEADLY BLESSING

BARRY VAN DYKE of ANTS!

ZSA ZSA GABOR of PICTURE MOMMY DEAD

ERIN GRAY of JASON GOES TO HELL

MELISSA SUE ANDERSON of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

TROY DONAHUE of HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE

FARLEY GRANGER of THE PROWLER

BETTY WHITE of LAKE PLACID

BART BRAVERMAN of ALLIGATOR

GAYLE HUNNICUTT of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE

MAREN JENSEN of DEADLY BLESSING

LANI O’GRADY of MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH

ROBERT CULP of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 3 & SANTA’s SLAY

DARREN McGAVIN of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER

ERIN MORAN of GALAXY OF TERROR

DAWN WELLS of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN

DENNIS COLE of ZOMBIE DEATH HOUSE

TOM HANKS of HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE

VIC TAYBACK of BLOOD AND LACE

LARRY WILCOX of DEADLY LESSONS

PHYLLIS DILLER of THE BONEYARD

ERNEST BORGNINE of THE DEVIL’S RAIN & WILLARD

SHELLEY WINTERS of TENTACLES & THE TENANT

KIM RICHARDS of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13

ADRIENNE BARBEAU of THE FOG & CREEPSHOW

And don’t forget your perky cruise director Julie (LAUREN TEWES) battled for her life against a deranged psychopath in EYES OF A STRANGER!

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Tags: General Horror · General Insanity

Lake of the Dead (1958)

December 3rd, 2013 · 3 Comments

I’m terribly sick and I have an awful cold. No, I don’t. I’m totally lying so that I can hide in a bed with a blanket on my head. I don’t want to do anything but read today because I’m in the middle of STEPHEN KING’s DOCTOR SLEEP! The world really should just grind to a halt until I’m done. Is that too much to ask? The problem is, I’ll feel like a rat if I don’t post something so here I am, can you tell that my mind is elsewhere?

I have an idea! Let us talk for a moment about a movie I watched late the other night on the greatest invention known to man, YouTube! It’s called LAKE OF THE DEAD, it’s in black and white and it’s from Norway circa 1958. In it, a group of chums travel to a lake that has a dark reputation where they freak each other out trying to figure out why the guy who was supposed to meet them there is missing and his dog is suspiciously dead.

LAKE is rather talky and houses stories within stories, some more intriguing than others. I probably would have been happier with a few more things left unexplained but I sure can’t fault LAKE OF THE DEAD on its atmosphere. It’s got such a haunting, lyrical, dreamy quality and one scene, depicting a transparent ghost guy crawling out of the lake, chilled me right to the bone. If you are a fan of 1945’s DEAD OF NIGHT or even 1979’s SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT, you should get a kick out of this. I don’t know, I’m just an absolute sucker for that cabin by a lake setting and LAKE OF THE DEAD really knows how to take advantage of it. You can watch LAKE below or better yet, wait until later tonight to do so. Sorry this is so short but LAKE OF THE DEAD, at 70 minutes, isn’t exactly long either. Plus I gotta get back to my book! And I’m sick! I have the flu! Just take a look at this thermometer I was holding next to a light bulb for twenty minutes! It says my temperature is 150!

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Tags: General Horror

Mama (2013)

November 26th, 2013 · 12 Comments

Is it too late to write a review of MAMA? That movie is ancient. I missed it in the theater because who knows why, waited for it to appear on Netflix streaming, which it never did and then watched its price as a used DVD go from 15 dollars to 10 to 6 to 4. I finally had to buy the decrepit thing before it turned into a fossil! When I opened the DVD case the disc inside had a long grey beard growing on it! This movie is positively geriatric! Oh wait, IMDb says it was released less than a year ago. Hey don’t blame me, blame our disposable culture! This is BLOCKBUSTER’s fault even though they are dead! If it was up to me, you’d all be waiting three years for movies to come out on VHS and when they did, they’d cost a hundred clams to purchase and you’d rent them for 5 bucks a pop and if you were late returning them, you’d be fined up the wazoo! That is the natural order of things!

MAMA! Back to MAMA! Love that title! Why didn’t I like this movie so much? The premise is fantastic not to mention kindertrauma-riffic. Two poor, pitiful little girls are left in an abandoned cabin in the woods by their insane, gone postal father. Instead of starving and freezing to death, they are cared for by a motherly spook who, like Charo, goes by one name only “Mama” (okay, “cared for” might be a bit of a stretch.) We come to learn that Mama is a ghost that can physically engage in the world and move objects about with ease, so I’m wondering why the hell she didn’t pick up the cabin a bit, do some laundry and maybe comb the poor kid’s hair! Get it together Mama! You so lazy!

Five years later (really? It took five years for someone to look in the cabin next to the crashed car?), the now feral kids are discovered and taken in by their not insane uncle and his borderline sociopathic “rocker” girl friend Annabel (JESSICA CHASTAIN in a Cousin April wig). I say she’s borderline sociopathic because the card that informs us that Annabel is struggling with her maternal instincts is so overplayed that it appears as if she has never encountered a child before and has the patience of a spider monkey. To be fair, there are several later scenes of her connecting with the kids that are less ham-fisted and do really work. In fact, there are many elements in this movie that hint at a much better film just begging to happen. The kids are fantastic and the Mama entity, when not shoved down our throats, can be pretty spooky. Unfortunately every thing from a meddling Aunt to Mama’s backstory is painted in such broad strokes that it feels like a fairy tale performed on a Colorforms set. I have two major gripes…

Now, you know I love a “research” scene, they crack me up for being so cliché but I also love them as mid-film markers that declare that the mystery portion of our story is over and things are about to come to a head. MAMA’s “research” scene happens super early and it goes on and on and on. It’s like a big gelatinous mound of nothing in the center of the picture, a cinder block tied to a kite. We get the library, the wise oldster, a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK storage unit, maps upon maps, news clippings, psychic dreams with characters pointing towards things, street signs, BIG close ups of news clippings, more maps, more sign posts and it all just amounts to redundant filler. Really all the information could just be stuffed inside one of the psychic dreams but instead we have to laboriously follow a boring psychiatrist around when we should be at home with the kids. The kid’s story is interesting! It’s heartbreaking when the older sister is ready to move away from Mama and the younger one is not. The story is in the house between these characters but we keep getting pushed past the good stuff! Nothing to see here folks! Let’s catch up with our throwaway character’s attempts to learn what we all already know! (On the other hand, Dr. Boring’s cabin encounter with Mama might be the strongest scare in the film. )

Then there’s the whole look of Mama. Sometimes Mama looks cool and I dig her underwater hair-do and sometimes Mama looks terrible as in, “Did they model her facial expression from Beaker from the Muppet Show?” At this point, I don’t care if the effect is CGI or practical or stop-motion marionette, what matters is what’s on the screen and what’s on the screen is a problem for me. I think it was a fine idea to put Mama front and center at the climax. I’m not saying less is more and they showed too much and the audience needs to use its imagination because what’s in your head is scarier than anything they could show you and all that junk. It’s just that, as WHAM once said, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” If you want to display Mama in all her glory make sure I’m in awe instead of catching myself wondering if DARKNESS FALLS is underrated. I don’t think MAMA is terrible, it’s just one of those movies that frustrates because you know it could have been way better. It’s not a good sign when your “Sorry I adopted you only to make you feel unwelcome in my home.” redemptive resolution was better handled in POLTERGEIST 3.

Like I said, I think it’s a great premise and I’ll even add that when MAMA is good, it feels like something from Disney’s early eighties dark fantasy period like WATCHER IN THE WOODS or SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (I wouldn’t be surprised to receive traumafessions on it in the future either). It’s also clear that the filmmakers at least tried to do something of substance even though they got sidetracked along the way. Ultimately for me though, it comes off kind of shrill and cloying and I think the material deserved a more subtle approach and more of a focus on the characters, particularly the relationship of the little sisters. MAMA is based on a short film and that makes perfect sense. If you edited out all of the subterfuge, stalling and brownnosing jump scares, you probably would have one very good short film. There are some priceless heirlooms in this dumpster (a tug of war with a blanket and an unseen Mama comes to mind) but boy do you have to dig! Now I’m sad. I wanted to like this more because it reminded me of my adopted cats. On the bright side, it was totally worth the four dollars for the snow scenes.

CORRECTIONS: The above review incorrectly claims that CHARO has only one name. That is not the case as is revealed in the clip below…

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma-Mommas · Traumatots · Tykes in Trouble

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

November 15th, 2013 · 16 Comments

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

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2

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

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

YOU’RE NEXT

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

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

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

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

STOKER

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

PASSION

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

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

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

CURSE OF CHUCKY

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

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

WHITE NOISE 2

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

KISS OF THE DAMNED

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

GHOULIES 3 and 4

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

MANIAC

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

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

THE CALL

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

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

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

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

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

My Answers are…

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

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

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

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

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th

October 10th, 2013 · 9 Comments

If you called me on the horn recently and I didn’t pick up I’d like to apologize for that. Also, if you rang my doorbell and instead of answering the door, I poured a pot of boiling water on your head while bellowing in a demonic voice, “GO AWAY!” I’m sorry for that too. You’ll understand my behavior when I tell you that I was busy watching CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13th, the seven-hour strong docu-everything on the FRIDAY THE 13th series. It’s by the same should-be-sainted folks behind the dreamy NEVER SLEEP AGAIN docu-bonanza and it’s just as good…or maybe better… on account of I think I love FRIDAY ever so slightly more than ELM STREET. There, I said it. I can’t help it, the ELM STREET series may be more imaginative but FRIDAY is all kinds of rustic and I’m a rustic type of guy. I need to be in the woods not suburbia! If I’m going to drown, it’s going to be in a lake not a bathtub! You know, I’ve been trying to curb my nerd-thusiasm lately and now thanks to this, I’m so off the wagon.

Do you need to know anything more than the fact that CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES (which is based on the equally necessary book of the same name) features an interview with the banana-chomping hitchhiker from PART 4? Nor do I! But wait it gets better! Part 4’s Tommy Jarvis COREY FELDMAN narrates and appears in campfire set bookends! It’s true you’ll have to endure that dusty old chestnut about how HARRY MANFREDINI came up with the series’ trademark “ki-ki-ki- ma-ma-ma” musical cue but don’t worry; there are plenty of fresh anecdotes to keep things paddling forward. As someone who grew up in the stale era when you had only publicity shots to rely on, I really appreciate whoever they got to create Photoshop mock ups of Jason’s lost years. It’s clear that the filmmakers were well aware that fanatics have scoured this territory before (particularly if they’ve already read the book and have seen HIS NAME WAS JASON) so they really go out of their way to present novelty wherever they can and they do an admirable job of it.

If you grew up loving the FRIDAY THE 13th franchise this is a must see gift for you. It’s not all fun and games though as you may find yourself crying into your hands with every story about what might have been and the rampant disrespect and disregard delivered by the very suits that profited from the series. (I place a curse upon anyone responsible for destroying even a frame of FRIDAY THE 13th Part VII: THE NEW BLOOD!) For some of us, this series is more than just a cash cow. Personally, I see it as an unofficial map of my youth. Each film is like a time capsule signifying significant stages of my existence. My adolescence and teen years are submerged in Crystal Lake! The wide-eyed kid who saw PART 2 for the first time is not the same dude who smirked at PART 8. It’s amazing to think that once upon a time the distance between the original film and PART 4’s “final chapter” seemed vast. Even FREDDY VS JASON now reflects a crystal clear image of the time that it was made. I have watched as the parade of victims transitioned from much older than me to much younger than me. I must be dead because my life is flashing before my eyes. That’s what those who count the tickets will never appreciate and what makes fan-centric films like this so valuable. Wow, in some kind of strange slice of synchronicity, as I finish writing this, I find the Syfy Channel is showing a FRIDAY marathon. Looks like I’ll be dead to the world for a little longer. Don’t ring the doorbell!

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Tags: General Horror

Subway Horrors!

August 1st, 2013 · 10 Comments

Did I mention we moved? Poor me, I’m no longer a hop, skip and a unicycle ride from the places I need to be. That is why I have been forced by fate to acquaint myself with a place that smells an awful lot like pee…the subway. I know most of my (dwindling) friends who live in the city think nothing about jumping down some stairs and zooming underground to their destination but I’ve always made a point of walking everywhere I could. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve needed to use the subway over the last 20 or so years. The thing is; I’m really cheap! And I could use that money for Necco Wafers! Plus c’mon people! Public transportation is ripe for disaster and you know it! I don’t want anybody taking my Pelham 1, 2 or 3, thank you very much.

Actually the subway is not so bad. It’s convenient, it’s speedy and you can meet some really interesting people there (especially when you live close to a methadone clinic.) Take for example, the nice old man who chose to sit next to me the other day even though there were thousands of empty seats everywhere. Doing his best impersonation of Crazy Ralph from FRIDAY THE 13TH, he informed me that the previous day a woman came up to him, ripped off her face and revealed that she was a monster. “What is happening to us?” he asked me, switching his impersonation to a spot on KEVIN MCCARTHY in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, “We are ALL turning into monsters!” I didn’t exactly disagree with him and I admired his ability to cut to the chase but…Oh look, it’s my stop! As I exited, the kindly stranger said that he “hoped nobody ripped my face off” which is a nice sentiment if you think about it, although you’re unlikely to ever find it in a Hallmark card. Again, we were in agreement, I hoped nobody ripped my face off too! If I had to choose though, I’d prefer my mindset earlier in the day when it wasn’t on my list of things to concern myself with. My theory is that old guy was just me from the future screwing with me from the past so I tried not to let future-me see me sweat.

So anyway all this subway travel has gotten me thinking about all the movies I know that have subways in them. Here are some scary movie subways! Please enjoy and as always, I hope nobody rips your face off!

QUARTERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) AKA FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH

This movie freaks me out because I know in my heart of hearts that Martians really do look like grasshoppers! If you watch it back to back with LIFEFORCE (1985) you can witness the destruction of London twice!

RAW MEAT (1973) AKA DEATH LINE

Subway cannibals are the worst. I can’t decide what recommends this seventies gem better, the fact that Legends DONALD PLEASENCE and CHRISTOPHER LEE are in it or the fact that the movie shares the same father (GARY SHERMAN) as two of my favorite babies, DEAD & BURIED and the goofy/spectacular POLTERGEIST III!

MIMIC (1997)

Any bug that doesn’t fit under your shoe is a bad bug in my book! Alternate title: Romy and Roachy’s Subway Reunion! Note: Director GUILLERMO DEL TORO would later go on to use a subway platform as a place of peril for a box of kittens in HELLBOY (2004).

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

The tube chase scene in AAWIN might have been the scariest bit in the movie if the movie did not also feature Nazi werewolves machine gunning children while they watch THE MUPPET SHOW.

JACOB’S LADDER/GHOST (1990)

Writer BRUCE JOEL RUBIN clearly understands the scare-potential of subways. Both of these 1990 flicks he penned feature a pivotal and/or creepy scene in one!

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989)

Aw, remember when Jason decided to take Manhattan? And by “take” I mean stroll through it for ten minutes, drink some toxic sewage and turn into child. Worst itinerary ever, at least stop for a knish!

MANIAC (1980)

JOE SPINELL is here to tell you that there is something scarier than a subway station at night and that is a public restroom in a subway station at night.

POSSESSION (1981)

I put this on here because I clearly remember ISABELLE ADJANI gorgeously loosing her mind (among other things) in a subway station. I didn’t realize somebody also stole her banana.

NEON MANIACS (1986)

Last thing I’d want to bump into on a subway is a neon maniac! Unless of course I had some water with me in which case I’d just throw water on them and they’d die. What more can I say about this incredible movie that I did not say HERE?

THE WIZ (1978)

So clearly there is no way to visit Oz without something totally traumatic happening. Oh God those horrible marionettes! More on this trauma-scene HERE.

THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)

This one didn’t work for me as well as it should have and I think it’s because I somehow find BRADLEY COOPER more unnerving than VINNIE JONES.

FINAL DESTINATION 3 (2006)

Congratulations FINAL DESTINATION series! You systematically ruined every possible means of transportation besides jetpack for me.

CREEP (2004)

This feature debut from CHRISTOPHER SMITH (SEVERANCE, TRIANGLE, BLACK DEATH) is as underrated as he is versatile. My only complaint is that the same titled RADIOHEAD song doesn’t play over the closing credits. Run FRANKA run!

THE WARRIORS (1979)

Growing up a sheltered suburbanite, I was quit convinced that THE WARRIORS was an absolutely accurate depiction of life in the big city. What a disappointment! (Not that I would have joined “the warriors” anyway, I would have to go with the “punks” on account of the overalls.)

DRESSED TO KILL (1980)

I swear this list is not in any order but that doesn’t mean I didn’t save the best for last. It doesn’t matter how many times I see this movie, it seems to get more suspenseful with every view. In addition, this allows me to close on a positive note because if the subway is a place where you might bump into NANCY ALLEN than it must not be so bad after all.

UPDATE: Oh great! Where I used to find a soothing poster of IDRIS ELBA drinking gin (above), I know find this…

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Tags: General Horror · If Loving Nancy Allen is Wrong... I Don't Want to Be Right!

The Conjuring (2013)

July 22nd, 2013 · 18 Comments

ALAN MOORE once said “ Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images to achieve changes in consciousness.” I couldn’t agree more and have I got a spell for you. THE CONJURING is a scary, endearingly romanticized, elaboration of a some-say ‘true” haunting. I’ m not going to get wrapped up in the authenticity of the story because any tale, true or not, that inspires a movie as swell as this is all right by me. If things are grandly exaggerated, that’s fine. That’s what urban legends are fueled by, that’s what tall tales stand up on and that’s what fills every history book in every elementary school in America. Hyperbole is what storytelling is all about and we’re all guilty of tweaking the truth to make it shine a little brighter. If we can force ourselves to believe that Thanksgiving isn’t a shameful travesty then surely we can humor a harmless ghost story every once in a while too. Wow. Even in the heart of summer I hate on Thanksgiving!

JAMES WAN is a wonderful director. There I said it! I said the director of SAW is wonderful! He beat me down folks! I tried to resist but it’s over. INSIDIOUS was a left hook and THE CONJURING is a right hook and then some. I give up already! It’s not a fair fight when he has PATRICK WILSON on his side and I just have bitter, misplaced feelings of exclusion on mine. Anyway, our tale is about a nice family (The Perrons) who moves into a haunted-looking house and discover that it is indeed infested with invisible forces that yank them out of bed and according to at least one source, smell like farts. Who ya gonna call? Why notorious married supernatural specialists ED & LORRAINE WARREN (WILSON & VERA FARMIGA) of course! Now, I know there are some people who are not fans of the real life Warrens (Ed has passed away) and think of them as cons. I never met them so I can’t say. I just know they were really nice to the Smurl family in that excellent TV movie that scared the crap out me called THE HAUNTED (1991) so I’m going by that. Plus if WAN was of the mind to aggrandize the couple ,he sure casted well. On a side note, JAMES WAN, can you cover the Smurl haunting in the sequel pretty please? And can you release the movie on the same day as SMURFS 3 so that Box office Mojo is forced to write the headline SMURLS SMASH SMURFS!? Do it!

THE CONJURING is getting enthusiastic reviews, which is nice as most horror movies are pummeled for simply existing. I notice though that many critics feel the need to temper their kudos by saying it’s well done but a “typical” haunted house tale. Personally, I think it has a lot of merit outside of just being a well-oiled scare dispenser. The frights aren’t random jolts, they’re tethered to something solid and concrete. They’re not simply about being in dangerous situations with the unknowable they uniformly concern the worst fear of all, that harm might come to someone you care about and worse still, it may be your fault. Ed fears that Lorraine looses part of herself each time they involve themselves in such things, Lorraine frets that their daughter Judy is swinging between being neglected and endangered. The Father of the haunted family (RON LIVINGSTON) is anguished over putting his family in peril and the mother (LILI TAYLOR at her best) ends up personifying everybody’s worst fears by melding with a spirit who has killed her own offspring and has supernaturally strong-armed others to unthinkingly do the same.

I can totally relate. Let me tell you, for full horror pleasure it’s all about the empathy. People who don’t have it are missing a world of flavor! Sorry, I’m going to talk about myself again. But isn’t that the nice thing about blogs? You get that personal touch. Do you know what you get from magazines? Paper cuts! So as I was saying, we too recently moved into a haunted-looking house. When we got here I realized that the previous owners took all the screens from the windows. This freaked me out because we have five cats and I didn’t want them running away. They were all scared out of their minds and oh, God, what have I done to them? I started imaging the worst. The cats slipping between doors, getting hit by cars, freezing in the streets, lost. It got worse, I’d be hammering a nail and think, what if I dropped the hammer and it landed on a cat’s head? It got ridiculous. What if one crawled into the dryer? It got nuts. What if the cat choked on a discarded pistachio shell? My dreams were filled with drowning cats; cats on fire, cats crushed under poorly installed air conditioners. It was exhausting and I could not make it stop. The resolution of THE CONJURING that involves something as simple as recalling a moment of pure connection with those you care about resonated with me. Maybe focusing on that thought alone IS enough to expel the witch in my head.

Oh, I get it! I’m mentally ill! You know how folks with screws loose think the T.V. is talking to them? They see signs and coincidences everywhere and they get messages, lots and lots of messages? Well, that’s how I interact with movies. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid, the movies, especially the good ones, they tell me things! This one really went out of its way to whisper in my ear. The new house, the five kids, my favorite episode of THE BRADY BUNCH playing on the T.V., a ghost with the same name as my cat, a clown music box (mine plays “Send in the Clowns”), a porcelain lamb, a rooster painting, an embroidered owl, landscape T.V. trays folded against the wall- how is this not my home?

I found this movie frightening enough (WAN is gifted at sneaky distraction and leaving enough blank canvas for the viewer to paint themselves) but that really wasn’t the most important thing for me. For as much as THE CONJURING embellishes the dark it is depicting, it puts forth equal effort accentuating the light. Maybe that won’t please those who follow horror as an endurance sport but who cares about tourists? As corny as it may be, I love that this movie has a strong conscience. Remarkably it doesn’t stop at giving you distinct characters; it makes a point of concerning itself with the relationships between those characters. (Seriously, the sparkage between WILSON and FARMIGA is so dynamic somebody oughta shove them in a THE THIN MAN remake.) In real life, things did not end on such happy, tied in a bow terms. The Warrens were asked to leave the case and the house remained (and is said to still be) haunted. That’s the “true” story and who the hell needs it? I like this much better! Reality, take a lesson from fiction, ya lazy bore! I’ve never been one for happy endings in horror flicks but this one suited me just fine. I say sequel time! Send in the Smurls! Don’t bother…they’re here!

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma-Mommas · Tykes in Trouble