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

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

DVD Review:: Animal Apocalypse (Featuring Nightwing!)

April 7th, 2015 · 3 Comments

My dreaded birthday rolled around again a little while back and all I could think to want was some Amazon flavored credit to put to use filling the unsightly holes in my DVD collection. Imagine if you dare, an adult human in this day and age living without a physical copy of the 1992 LAMBERTA BAVA-directed JOANA PACULA thriller BODY PUZZLE; it’s enough to make your heart sob. OK, maybe that one is more gravy than essential but really all I’m asking for is a functioning video store within arms reach at all times- is that so wrong? Regardless, I am happy to say I was able to spackle a crack that has been bugging me for years with the acquisition of a 4-movie set horrendously titled ANIMAL APOCALPYSE! It’s one of those unimpressive looking bargain bin MILL CREEK numbers with zero frills, no bell in sight, an absence of whistles and an instantly dated cover but guess what? It’s secretly hiding a snappy and highly coveted by me, widescreen version of ARTHUR (LOVE STORY) HILLER’s 1979 killer bat opus NIGHTWING!!

Yay, I soooo need that! First of all, in my head, it’s the unofficial companion piece to my beloved PROPHECY and secondly I cherish and value it as an important stepping stone in my love of the genre- no matter how hard folks try to convince me it stinks (see also THE HEARSE). I wrote a review for it way back HERE and by reading it, you can see that I’m totally aware that NIGHTWING can be truly long winded and boring at times but is beautifully photographed, has an awesome score, features the irresistible duo of KATHRYN (THE SENDER) HARROLD and NICK (DEATH SHIP) MANCUSO and boasts at least one super exciting scene in which a man cowardly drives over his wife’s head in an effort to save himself. Plus it just takes me back; NIGHTWING will always be bigger in my head than it actually is in the real world and that’s fine by me because I live in my head and not the real world anyway.

Truth told, NIGHTWING has been available on Amazon as one of those made on demand DVD-R doohickeys but I gotta say I’m intuitively suspicious of those things. To be recordable, aren’t they missing some layer that makes them more permanent? I have no idea what I’m talking about and here I am spreading rumors. Oh well, suffice to say the DVD-R version is more expensive and has less content. ANIMAL APOCALPYSE comes with three other free movies and free is a good price for them because they’re not so hot. There’s BATS: HUMAN HARVEST the sequel nobody wanted to 1999’s BATS, FATAL CONTACT: BIRD FLU IN AMERICA an ABC TV movie that’s mostly just depressing and finally SyFy Channel’s KAW (2007). Hey, I actually kinda liked KAW, it has a decent cast with SEAN PATRICK FLANERY, STEPHEN McHATTIE and recently deceased, legendary THE BIRDS star ROD TAYLOR and I thought the effects were pretty cool.

I admit I’ve got a soft spot for cheap-o compilation sets in general but really this bundle is all about NIGHTWING. If you’re a fan too, this is an affordable and decent enough looking option. It’s not anywhere near the HD realm but it’s certainly way beyond crusty old VHS. Why, just check out these picture post card screen shots:

NOTE: And please remember that NIGHTWING, like all killer bat movies, is a goof. In real life bats are super nice and helpful and adorable. They do a zillion times infinity less damage to the world than humans do and are basically flying kittens. There’s a big stupid speech in NIGHTWING that tries to persuade you to think that bats are evil or something so don’t listen to it. Bats are the best and I’ll have you know that in any scenario that concerns bats vs. humans, I’ll be on team bat.

[

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

Sleepstalker (1995)

March 5th, 2015 · No Comments

I’m still trapped inside some kind of mid-nineties nostalgia spiral. When will it end? I’ve lost all respect for myself and that was probably the draw. My latest disgraceful conquest is 1995’s SLEEPSTALKER, a movie that I turned off after about 20 minutes when I first tried to watch it 20 years ago. SLEEPSTALKER is exactly the type of movie I rallied against back in the day, it’s yet another feeble attempt at a Freddy Krueger-type horror icon complete with magic comic book fantasy powers and a penchant for ham-handed, fey bon mots. You know the type. To add another layer of degradation to the affair, the flick is directed by TURI MEYER the unrepentant monster behind the cinematic slap-in-the-face known as CANDYMAN 3: THE DAY OF THE DEAD (another movie I could not sit through and yet own). Have I developed a taste for dishonoring my previous self? I can’t help it! It’s fun. Plus there’s always that chance that I’ll like something I used to hate. In any case, I’ve surely discovered that all decades are better once I’m no longer living in them.

Turns out, SLEEPSTALKER is still pretty lame but I won’t complain because I knew what I was signing up for. Instead, I’m going to talk about a few enjoyable things that made it worth a second view for me. First of all, it’s a full-bodied, stuffed to the gills nineties time capsule. For example, slackers are awkwardly crammed into conversation, the cast lives above a FRIENDS-inspired coffeehouse and our protagonist Griffin (THE BOY WHO COULD FLY’s JAY UNDERWOOD) sports a goatee, wears a vest and aspires to write an in-depth article regarding the leader of a street gang named “Dog.” We learn that Griffin’s parents were killed by a serial killer named “The Sandman” who is about to be executed and “executed” in a film like this means granted incredible posthumous powers thanks to stumbling, baby stage CGI. Of course with special powers come special loosely followed “rules”, the main one concerning Sandman’s logical yet hoary aversion to water. Eventually Sandman is offing Griffin’s pals and we come to find their connection is deeper than previously thought.

It’s all pretty humdrum but occasionally the soundtrack hits you with worth your while lightening bolts like the track below…

There’s certain sloppiness to the storytelling and the plot feels caged into following a well-known pattern but I can’t say SLEEPSTALKER doesn’t hit some strange original tones at points. There’s an ethereal glow throughout much of the film and a few effectively off-putting moments. At various times we jump back to learn the killer’s origin story and it’s all kinds of Kindertraumatic. The poor guy was raised in what looks like the surreal set for an early music video, his lips were sewn shut and he was beaten nightly while a horribly creepy song played on a child’s record player. Worse still, much like your poor Unkle Lancifer, the young Sandman slept in a room with a hideous clown painting on the wall! Look at this painting! I don’t fully approve of this movie but I can’t deny the yikes of this…

And that song that the record plays! It’s repeated again over the closing credits and it is genuinely and inarguably freakishly haunting. So, in closing I can’t say I changed my mind about this one because “The Sandman” truly gets on my nerves whenever he slowly spews out word salad before a kill…BUT I am glad I checked this one out again for the weirdly twisted flashback sequences and the super awesome soundtrack, most particularly the insane song that’s apparently never going to stop slithering around my poor head…

[

Tags: General Horror

Ghost Stories for Christmas!

December 24th, 2014 · 6 Comments

I’ll be watching both Black Christmases this holiday season along with assorted Silent Nights but I decided to take a break as far as posting about them. I feel that anyone who has done a “Help Mrs. Mac Find Her Hidden Hooch” puzzle has done their due. After seven years the idea of writing about the usual horror Christmas flicks made me want to hang myself like a stocking and that’s not very Christmas-y at all (unless you consider the statistics.) Unfortunately my new standpoint left me with nothing to talk about, until I fatefully heard, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year “ on the radio and the lyric “There will be scary ghost stories…” jumped out and reminded me that once upon a time, ghost stories were a big part of Christmas Eve.

This Ghost Story Christmas tradition still maintains a somewhat substantial hold in England but here in the States, we foolishly dropped it save for Dicken’s ubiquitous “A Christmas Carol.” That means that we collectively did the dumbest thing ever and jettisoned the one thing that could potentially make Christmas as cool as Halloween. Whose idea was this? I wasn’t consulted! I blame misguided, overly puritanical religious people because…because I blame them for everything (on account of the history of everything.) In any case, the idea that I could watch any ghost story I liked and still sorta be operating in the Christmas spirit really opened things up for me and added a slew of fresh flicks to my creepy Christmas cache!

As it turns out, if you look far back enough into history, Halloween and Christmas Eve are not that different at all; on both nights it was once believed that the wall between the living and the dead worlds become thin and easier to trespass through. Ghosts are scary, sure, but they also make us feel better because they imply a second act and what better gift to give the dead than the chance to moan and complain a little longer? So here are some ghost movies I suggest checking out this Christmas Eve. Some are more holiday-friendly than others but all suggest that perhaps death is not the final curtain call, an idea that surely lil’ baby Jesus can get behind!


Let’s get this 40-minute television production out of the way first. It’s the most traditional on my list as its based on a short story by M.R. JAMES and went on to inspire yearly BBC Christmas-timed adaptations of his work. It concerns a fussy professor who comes across a whistle in a graveyard, makes the grave mistake of playing it and then finds himself accosted by the supernatural forces he unwittingly beckoned. This is horror of the quiet and infesting variety and captures beautifully the type of dread that visits in the wee hours of the night.


Is Amy’s new pal a ghost or a figment of her overactive imagination? Parents traditionally look down on imaginary friends but Amy’s pop Oliver (KENT SMITH) has an extra reason to be perturbed on account of his daughter’s invisible BFF sounds an awful lot like his deceased ex-wife who caused mucho drama with her habit of turning into a ferocious animal whenever she was feeling frisky. I’m not sure any film has ever captured both the wonder and terror of childhood in such a glorious way and it’s no slouch in depicting the magical quality of Christmas either.


I should be embarrassed to say that the first time I watched THE UNINVITED I didn’t care for it that much. I think it was because someone suggested it to me based on my affection for THE HAUNTING (1963) and I originally watched it through a filter of expectation that it would strike me in the same way and of course it didn’t (and why should it?) Thankfully I bumped into it again on a classic movie channel a couple decades later and was able to take in its striking form outside of the pointless dysfunctional shadow of comparison and no bones about it, I loved it. I think what first threw me about the movie was its permeating sense of humor. How could I get scared when everybody kept speaking in quips all the time? The thing that my little head didn’t get was that joviality in the face of life’s darker elements was what this flick was all about. In fact, when the negative force that threatens to drag everybody down is vanquished in the end, our hero (charm machine RAY MILLAND) basically blasts it off by laughing in its face (before chucking a candelabra at its wispy, wet-blanket head.) If you can get the CRITERION COLLECTION version then do so. It features an informative and surprisingly moving video essay by filmmaker MICHAEL ALMERWYDA (NADJA, THE ETERNAL).


This classic anthology is all about the sharing of ghost stories and I know I’m not the only one who it still has the power to disturb. Incredibly the film’s hide and seek Christmas party segment was left out of its initial American release and I have to wonder what kind of dummy would allow that. Personally I believe the tale’s closing line “I’m not scared, I’m not scared…oh hold me tight!” is the unheralded inspiration for SAVED BY THE BELL”s classic Jessie Spano caffeine meltdown exclamation “I’m so excited, I’m so excited…I’m so scared!” I could be wrong.


THE HEARSE and I have a long, acrimonious history full of mistrust and unfulfilled longing yet I can’t deny there’s a secret fondness that keeps me returning to this ghost flick even though I know I’ll only feel disappointed again. I shall forever admonish THE HEARSE for dropping the ball at the worst time possible and for pushing the limits of lameness repeatedly and yet I’ll watch it again in a heartbeat because it’s for the most part, creepy–cozy. I’m sure nostalgia plays a big part in the relationship but I guess the larger truth is that the type of glee some folks feel when they see a car chase or a fiery explosion I can only feel when I see TRISH VAN DEVERE alone in bed in an old house reading.


An elderly couple moves into a mansion with a dark history and soon find that their skepticism of the supernatural is challenged on a daily basis. They invite a young woman to stay with them who confirms their concerns by becoming possessed. I’ll understand if some horror fans find this one a little too restrained and polite for their tastes but the acting (particularly by JAMES MASON who was only in his thirties at the time) and the story consistently intrigues and it sports a cool twist. This one I stumbled across on Netflix and I’m still stunned I hadn’t heard of it earlier.

HAUNTED (1995) & THE SKEPTIC (2009) & THE ECLIPSE (2009)

Skeptics really need to learn not to be so skeptical because clearly skepticism is like a magnet for ghosts and only gets them riled up! AIDAN QUINN in HAUNTED which is based on a book by JAMES HERBERT and TIM DALY in THE SKEPTIC, which I reviewed back HERE, both learn this obvious fact the hard way. Speaking of AIDAN QUINN, remember how he was in that other ghost flick we once talked about called THE ECLIPSE? Yikes, that movie had one of the scariest moments EVER.


Just as I had recently panicked that I might someday run out of Christmas holiday horror movies, this past Halloween I was worried that I might run out of beautiful black and white horror goodies. Then I remembered a post over at our pal Christine’s pad FASCINATION WITH FEAR that suggested many a horror flick could loose their color and be all the better for it. So I adjusted my TV to black and white and I watched GHOST STORY and it was all kinds of awesome. With its classic Hollywood cast, snow-filled settings and gorgeous ALBERT WHITLOCK matte paintings, GHOST STORY wore its new colorless suit like it was born in it. The spirit we’re looking for is all here, there’s scotch, fireplaces and ghostly tales to be told and if a rotted corpse shows up instead of Santa, well that’s fine too. Director JOHN IRVIN’s earlier effort 1974’s HAUNTED: THE FERRYMAN is another chiller worth seeking out.

So why not celebrate the Christmas ghost story tradition by watching one of these fine titles today or if you really want to go old school, you could make up your own ghost story and tell it to your perplexed pals as they look at their phones! You can even just jump on over to YouTube and make some unknown stranger read to you and you don’t even have to pay them for their time! Here’s some tireless lady reading HENRY JAMESTHE TURN OF THE SCREW in one sitting! Note how this famous story of a nameless governess begins as a tale told around a fire on Christmas Eve!

Even if you don’t follow my ghostly advice, I hope you all have the greatest holiday season! I should warn you that I may be making myself scarce for a little while as I need to spend some quality time with my family and friends…hahahhaha…just kidding. Actually I just got an early present in the form of the ALIEN ISOLATION game so I gotta hang out in space for a while. Wish me luck against those rascally Xenomorphes, and I’ll see ya sometime next year!

[

Tags: General Horror · Holidays

The Babadook (2014)

December 19th, 2014 · 11 Comments

I apologize if you’re already tired of hearing about THE BABADOOK. Until recently I was tired of hearing about it myself. I was assuming people were only talking about it because the title is so enjoyable to say. I just found out though there’s a completely different reason this little flick has gotten tongues a’ wagging and that reason is the rarest of all- THE BABADOOK is actually really good! I know, I’m shocked too! I thought horror fans only rallied when they were instructed to by manipulative marketing campaigns but in this case, the enthusiasm is on the up and up. THE BABADOOK totally deserves the attention it has and will continue to receive, and that’s coming from someone to whom hype is a serious buzzkill. If you crave gore (who doesn’t?) or are frightened by jolty noises, cats being thrown in windows or killers suddenly appearing in medicine cabinet mirrors after they are closed, this may not suit your needs but if you dig the type of paranoid horror that burrows deep into your psyche and makes you squirm like a worm on a hook… then it’s a goldmine. THE BABADOOK left me with a fear I have not felt since I finished watching SESSION 9, which is a fear not of an evil outside myself but a fear of an evil covertly camped out in some dark corner of my own head. That’s good stuff!

Viewers may recognize the terrain but be warned that while you’re noting the nods to REPULSION and THE SHINING, writer/director JENNIFER KENT, aided by a knock out performance by actress ESSIE DAVIS, is cleverly crafting characters that you can’t help identify with and feel empathetic towards which brilliantly pays off in maximizing the stakes. It’s easier (and probably wiser) to sell this movie as a “kid’s imaginary friend turns out to be real” flick but it’s anything but. It’s much more concerned with how grief and depression can eventually eclipse everything when left unattended and how frightening it is to live in fear of your own rage. I never truly agreed with STEPHEN KING when he complained that JACK NICHOLSON was too crazy at the beginning of THE SHINING to make his psychological downfall dramatic enough but now thanks to DAVIS’ performance, I finally see his point. She’s really incredible in this and she reminded me how truly crap-your-pants terrifying it is when you are a kid and you witness a trusted adult’s face transform in fury.

KENT’s direction and storytelling is equally impressive as she insists the audience keep on their toes and never lets them rest with a black and white perception of the goings on. We look at things through the child’s eyes and the parent’s eyes and each take turns being either terrified or terrifying. At one point KENT utilizes a horrific image from the “Drop of Water” segment in MARIO BAVA’s BLACK SABBATH (1963) but I think it is his underrated last film, 1977’s SHOCK (aka BEYOND THE DOOR 2), with its precarious reality, ambiguous antagonist and distressing mother/son bond that BABADOOK is most indebted to. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t bring a casserole of its own to the picnic. If more horror films took half the time BABADOOK does in establishing its characters the world would be a sweeter and scarier place. It’s not a perfect film, I suppose the ending could have been stronger, but what it sets out to express it does wonderfully and it’s nice to see horror breaking bread with emotional depth rather than detached voyeurism and puerile power fantasies for a change. The fact that the titular boogey man is possibly the least interesting component is a marvel.

I tells ya, I’ve got this goofy clown doll on my desk which is sort of creepy but would never actually scare me and while I was watching BABADOOK, I looked up at it and the light hit it just right and it was like another doll altogether and I thought, “Why the hell do I own such a thing?!”And that’s what good horror does or good art in general does. It makes you look at your world through a different filter, if even for a brief moment. When you see something well done, you get to almost jump inside it for a while and if it’s really well done, it jumps inside of you.

[

Tags: General Horror

The Horror of…The Spiral Staircase (1946)

October 28th, 2014 · 1 Comment

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE has always seemed much older than it actually is to me. I think that’s because my first viewing of it was on a particularly blanched-out VHS tape and because although it was made in the mid-forties it takes place about thirty years earlier. The irony is that this seasoned flick resembles and predicts, in various ways, many a beloved blood-soaked horror movie that hadn’t been born yet. Please grab a candle and follow me. Let’s investigate some of this groovy granny’s many instances of cinematic precognition!

Our movie opens with a bunch of folks watching another movie. This is clever because it creates a subconscious pecking order that insinuates that what we’re watching is more real than what they are watching. It’s almost meta, I’d say, and reminds me of other films that springboard from movies like HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE, ANGUISH and SCREAM 2.

Hey, the killer is hiding in the closet and it’s all BLACK CHRISTMAS-like! And here comes an intimate POV shot of the victim preparing for bed a’ la HALLOWEEN! We’re also privy to a patch of voyeuristic eyeball images that predate PEEPING TOM and PSYCHO. Shortly we’ll find out that our murderer only kills a specific type (those who have an “affliction” of some sort) and that’s kinda SILENCE OF THE LAMBS-ish and ahead of its time too.

Our sweet heroine is Helen (DOROTHY McGUIRE) and like so many future horror protagonists, she has not quite discovered her own power and (literally in this case) voice yet. She’s a humble outsider and she’s got a traumatic past that made her that way. We the audience know that there is more to Helen than she realizes and only the most wretched would not route for her. Helen is a nice name especially when you imagine it whispered by TONY TODD.

Here’s a rainy wooded stalking scene! Yay for rainy woods and let me cite FRIDAY THE 13th for frequently understanding the primordial power of them. The lurker is a giallo shadow puppet. He disappears into a tree like Freddy Krueger and all his slicker is missing is a hook to complete the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER look that’s all the rage this fall.

Oh no, dropped keys! Laurie Strode can tell you how important keys are. I like that this key is a big old classic cartoon key like in HELL NIGHT.

Helen has a paranoid fantasy about her well-grounded love interest Dr. Parry (CAT PEOPLE’s KENT SMITH). In it, the two rejoice on their dreamy wedding day but when the time comes to exchange vows, Helen blows it while a critical crowd looks down their collective noses. Very CARRIE and very “They’re all going to laugh at you!” as the words “Say I do.” repeat over and over.

BLACK CHRISTMAS’s secret boozer Mrs. Mac has got nothing on SPIRAL’s Mrs. Oates who swipes hooch and drinks herself into a coma state. ELSA LANCHESTER who just ten years earlier played both Mary Shelly and the monster’s mate in “THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN” portrays Mrs. Oates.

Secretary Blanch (RHONDA FLEMING) knows when to ditch a bad scene. When she goes into the basement (!) to grab a suitcase she bumps into her final fate instead. As in the original FRIDAY THE 13th (when the series was still in the whodunit? mode) Blanch sees her attacker and we don’t. She’s scarred at first, recognizes her assailer and remarks, “Oh, it’s you! You scared the life out of me!” before she is horrifically slain. Aw, this bit also brings back fond memories of the weight-lifting kill from HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. It’s such a relief to be on friendly terms with your murderer.

Speaking of HBTM (not to mention many a giallo), check out these fashionable tight black murder gloves! So hip it hurts.

Sneaky shoes = DRESSED TO KILL.

As in many a slasher, in the end, it all comes down to a cat and mouse showdown between our honorable heroine and the emotionally vacant killer (whose identity I’m not revealing). In this suspense-filled scene Helen is oh so very close to getting much needed aid from a visiting constable. He’s so close and yet so far and the chance for rescue is frustratingly missed! This reminds me so much of my favorite moment in THE FUNHOUSE when Amy can see her parents just outside the window but her calls for help and recognition cannot be heard. Helen of course cannot scream at all. It’s so sad and tragic, like not being able to connect to a hand-wringing Aunty Em in a crystal ball.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I can’t bare to ruin any more than I already have. If you want to find out if our pal Helen survives, you’ll just have to WATCH IT. My lips are sealed.

[

Tags: General Horror · The Horror of...

Happy Birthday Bad Ronald!

October 23rd, 2014 · 2 Comments

First off, allow me to thank our good pal Amanda of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM for being so kind as to alert me to BAD RONALD’s birthday. Please take a moment to jump on over to her pad’s tribute HERE.

It’s hard to believe that it was four decades ago on this very date (October 23rd) that the made-for-television classic BAD RONALD premiered. I have no idea exactly when I first encountered RONALD, it seems like it was always part of my family’s boob tube mythology. “The one with the guy in the wall” it was called until it materialized in the TV GUIDE and then we’d call it BAD RONALD for a while as we planned our viewing and then afterwards, at some point, it would always regress back to “The one with the guy in the wall” again. That literal alias actually came in handy years later when I worked in a video store because every once in a while a customer would inquire about “The one with the guy in the wall” and I’d have a pretty good guess as to what they were talking about. Eventually the Internet came around and spray-painted BAD RONALD’s tag all over cyberspace but for many years, like so many TV movies, this gem was as elusive as an oily eel. Not that there was ever any risk that BAD RONALD would disappear entirely, if you didn’t bump into it on late night TV or at the rare video store that stocked it, you could always count on someone (provided they were of a certain age) bringing it up whenever the conversation turned to freaky movies that camp out in the corners of your head.

In case any of you have been living in a bathroom that has been repurposed into well-camouflaged secret living quarters for the past forty years, I’ll draw a quick sketch of the plot. BAD RONALD concerns a young social pariah named Ronald Wilby who is played by the ever-sincere SCOTT JACOBY. Besides enduring the cruel rejection of his classmates, Ronald lives with the knowledge that when his parents divorced, his father made a deal with his mother to break off all ties in exchange for never having to pay child support (ouch). One day while fleeing a hater pool party, Ronald bumps into a shrewy twerp on a bike who makes the mistake of blasting his mom which causes him to go berserk. He grabs her by the freckled face and pushes her down to the ground and …oops, how come cinder blocks are never around when you need them and only show up at the wrong time to kill folks you only meant to stun? So annoying.

Rather than simply tip toeing away from the scene of the accident and forgetting about the whole mess with a toasted cheese sandwich like a normal person, Ronald does the dumbest thing ever and buries the body in a shallow grave condemning himself as the responsible party. After hearing of this gaff, Ronald’s sweet mother (KIM HUNTER) tsks-tsks his rookie mistake and comes up with an awesome plan to get him off the hook. With some help from the tool kit he just received for his birthday (finally a fortuitous break!), the two devise the ultimate secret fort by transforming a bathroom door into a wall and creating an undetectable living space in the heart of the house. When the police come looking for Ronald, Ma just says he split the scene! All’s well that ends well until mother goes to the hospital for a routine operation, kicks the bucket and eventually a new family lead by the one and only DABNEY COLEMAN moves in. Things get sticky when the increasingly unstable Ronald becomes obsessed with one of the new family’s daughters (CINDY EILBACHER, who you may recognize from CROWHAVEN FARM) though who can blame him, he has a lot of free time on his hands and this all takes place before the invention of the Playstation.

I’m going to be honest with y’all, BAD RONALD is creepy, tense and builds up to a fantastic climax but as a budding recluse, I never solely took it in for thrills, a part of me has always been attracted to it as a hermitic fantasy. I mean who needs Walden’s Pond when you’ve got art supplies, a working sink and apparently an endless stash of chocolate bars? I feel the same way about its unofficial sister flick THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (which also boasts an indelible outsider performance from JACOBY) in which, secret orphan Rynn Jacobs (JODIE FOSTER) hides away from the world drinking tea and reading books all day in hippie garb with a hamster named Gordon.

Rynn and Ronald may be ostensibly presented (at least as a selling point) as threats to normalcy but the engine in each flick is run by the fuel of the viewer routing for their success in protecting a small space to call their own and the right to decline participation in the nonsense of the world (see also: SHIRLEY JACKSON’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and any album by THE SMITHS). In our current “If you don’t see me, I don’t exist” culture, it’s nearly a verboten idea but I think there’s something admirable about creating your own universe and carving out a sense of self autonomous from the observations and opinions of others.

It’s very likely I’m missing the whole tragic point of BAD RONALD and happily so. In any case the guy got loads of time to concentrate on his art (and his make-believe kingdom Atranta) rather than his rent and we can all agree there are worse fates than that. (According to the sequel that exists only in my head, Ronald, once discovered, is given a year or so of prison time, some therapy of sorts, a book deal and the level of notoriety to sell his artwork at exorbitant prices. He takes all of his millions, buys a mansion and then ends up living in just one small bathroom of the manor with the door nailed shut anyway- because that’s just who he is.)

There are TV movies and then there are TV movies and BAD RONALD is certainly up there with the very best of the best. Oh, and here’s another wonderful thing: If you buy a BAD RONALD DVD you will get a free bonus Kindertrauma blurb at no extra cost! It’s true! They actually quoted yours truly and slapped it right there on the back of the DVD for the world to see. That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal but to me it’s an honor to be shrink wrapped with a lifelong favorite. It’s also proof that even the twitchiest shut-ins don’t mind a little acknowledgment of their existence every once in a while. Now I’m hungry for a chocolate bar. Happy Birthday Prince Norbert! I’ll see you in Atranta.

[

Tags: General Horror · Holidays

Ten Hulu Horrors for Halloween

October 10th, 2014 · 2 Comments

If you have a computer you can watch horror movies any damn time you please and for free! Well, actually you will pay in patience as you endure some dumb commercials periodically but you should know by now how to tune such things out and hide inside your happy place until they are over. Some of these are obvious and some of these have nothing to do with the holiday and some of these might not look their best but they’re all mostly good and they all have the power to get you in the Halloween spirit if you let them.


This one would be easy to pass by on Hulu as it is presented by the eternally lovely ELVIRA, who might admit to you herself, doesn’t always present the finest of films. Anyway, ELVIRA’s not here, I am (I can hear those disappointed groans telepathically) and I’m here to say this movie is tippity tops. In this rare Spanish film shot in English, LILLI PALMER stars as a head mistress at a boarding school that is not a fan of her cherished son messing with the female students. Naturally folks start getting killed but you’ll never guess the twists including one that still shocks me to this very day. Director Narciso Ibanez Serrador truly delivers on the atmosphere and even though it’s going to take me a while to memorize his name, I simply have to because he also directed the kindertrauma classic WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (Not to mention the opening segment of 6 FILMS TO KEEP YOU AWAKE– which I’m itching to watch again soon). Many a year ago, I had the hardest time finding this movie and had to send out for a very crappy bootleg so please honor my previous struggle by watching it for free!


I’m not sure if this is LUCIO FULCI’s greatest movie but I’m leaning toward it being my favorite of his. It’s got all the surreal bizarreness and grubby goriness of his best flicks but in addition to that, it’s soooo much fun and leaves you feeling fresh as a daisy rather than vaguely off kilter and therefore offers itself to more casual viewing. Let’s just say that if THE SHINING made the horrible mistake of having a baby with CATHY’S CURSE, the resulting offspring wailing for instant institutionalization would be something like this. That’s not a dig. THBTC is wildly silly, awkwardly dubbed and mad as a million hatters for sure and yet, it’s so damn beautiful in its cool gothic greyness. There’s nothing quite like it, except maybe GHOSTHOUSE (1988) which was filmed in the same creepy abode. Too bad that’s not on Hulu, what a great double feature that would make.


Do me a favor and jump back in time to this review HERE. It will tell you all you need to know about my undying appreciation of this superior slasher.


Did you just get back from reading my ancient HOUSE ON SORRORITY ROW review? Don’t take off your hat just yet. I don’t mean to be a taskmaster but do you think you could click HERE and save me the trouble of reiterating why SPELLBINDER had to take out a restraining order against me? You’re a peach.


I know this Halloween set classic is a no-brainer and I don’t mean to insult you by including it here but just in case there may be anyone out there who has yet to accept Angela’s invite, I just have to say do so now and plan to do so forever. It seems impossible that a movie can be as hilarious as this is and still provide plenty of creeps but no matter how many times I return, I can count on being a little freaked out. I’m not even talking about the famous lipstick in boob bit- I’m referring to the overall claustrophobic, rats-in-a maze mood it conjures up so well. People tend to dismiss movies that are this much fun as frivolous guilty pleasures but I don’t think a few chuckles erase the fact that there’s something legitimately scary going on here too. The build up to the supernatural shenanigans is so expertly done that the pay off is pure gold and I say if your Halloween doesn’t include a little BAUHAUS, well you’re doing it wrong.


This seems like another too obvious choice except please note I’m specifically talking about the remake (GEORGE ROMERO’s classic is available on Hulu too though, if you are so inclined). I caught this one in the cinema back in the day and I was thoroughly impressed and was then taken aback to learn it had received mostly negative reviews. Looking back I should not have been surprised as it was bound to catch flack for being a remake alone. That’s so sad because a color redo was inevitable and TOM SAVINI‘s modernized telling does a great job of respecting its predecessor while still bringing something fresh to the table. Our old pal Barbara, who was rightfully suffering severe shock in the original and largely dazed, is suddenly wide-awake and ready to throw down. Actress PATRICIA TALLMAN portrays Barbara in a way that she’s not magically infallible to serve the story but authentically grounded and convincingly capable. Personally, I’ll never forget the opening confrontation that includes the premiere dead dude getting stabbed by one of those wire flower corsages meant for a grave and then continuing to stalk with it dangling off of him. I thought that was one clever way to announce that the film would be adding some new flourishes all its own. If you are a purist who has been avoiding watching this baby due to your loyalty to the original…stop.

COLD PREY (2006)

Dear COLD PREY, if anyone ever tries to tell you that you are not perfect please cram a pick axe in their face for me. Every year my love for you grows stronger and stronger and I just want thank you for being you (while still hitting every beloved slasher trope I crave). You are everything I ever wanted. You have a fiercely charismatic lead with believable bonds to those around her, a horrifically menacing maniac who somehow inspires slivers of sympathy, true nail-gnawing suspense and perhaps most importantly, folks getting drunk in an abandoned ski lodge (which is my idea of heaven on Earth). You seem to really care about me too because you spawned an equal sequel and a third prequel that I did not think was anywhere near as bad as some pretended it was. There is no reason why I should have to wait until winter to visit you, no reason at all. Never change. Eskimo kisses.


Once upon a time I thought THE CHILDREN was a terrible movie simply because it was not as good as the one I imagined in my head after being bombarded by its TV spots as a wee lad. Now I realize that it’s still pretty terrible but wonderfully so. One would think that having a bus load of kids drive through a nuclear cloud to become zombie-like killers would be enough but somebody involved also had the brilliant idea of having the kids’ nails turn black and the tykes kill by way of radioactive hugs (while being immune to shotgun blasts and stoppable only after their hands are lopped off). That’s just so crazy that it just might work! Or maybe not- but the fun is in the fact that they carried on anyway. Another bonus is learning that Harry Manfredini is nearly as lazy as myself and recycled much of his score from the same year’s FRIDAY THE 13TH. Bonkers though it may be, there are some surprisingly striking images that appear now and then and sense be damned, an eerie vibe impervious to reason.

INFERNO (1980)

ARGENTO does a lot of crappy stuff (mostly lately) and he does a lot of interesting stuff (mostly everything) and he even does some stone cold, indisputable genius stuff (mostly between 1975 and 1985). INFERNO falls into that last category. In fact INFERNO was the first movie of his I ever saw followed by CREEPERS (aka Phenomena) and then SUSPIRIA if you can imagine such a thing. Anyway INFERNO haunted me for so long after I saw it. I could not stop thinking of the underwater scene in which Rose (Irene Miracle) plunges into a hole in the floor to collect some fallen keys. It’s so mesmerizing and I seriously think ARGENTO might be a witch himself and this is a perfect spell. The whole movie is exquisite with perhaps the momentary exception of a late in the flick skeleton of death costume that doesn’t quit work. Just talking about INFERNO makes me feel like I’m walking backward into a semi-dream state. My suggestion is to never question what this movie is telling you, just nod and follow it wherever it leads you.

THE HOLE (2009)

Aw, good ol’ JOE DANTE sure knows how to make a movie. This PG-13 flick is about three young folks who face their fears and it’s got just the right balance of fun and frights to make it perfect for Halloween viewing. Read my full review over HERE so that I can be finished this list and get to carving a pumpkin or something.

Extra 10 Bonus: On Hulu you’ll also find such fine nuggets as: THE EVIL DEAD (1981), THE PROWLER (1981), INTRUDER (1989), C.H.U.D. (1984) FROM BEYOND (1986), FRANKENHOOKER (1990), BASKETCASE 2 (1990), LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974), HORROR EXPRESS (1972) GINGER SNAPS (2001) and so much more- go explore!

[

Tags: General Horror

Curtains (1983)

August 15th, 2014 · 3 Comments

Do you remember that Chris Rock joke where he took folks to task for bragging, “I take care of my kids” by countering, “You’re supposed to take care of your kids”? That’s been playing in my head every time I see a review talking about how swell CURTAINS (1983) looks now that it’s been rescued from the VHS (or sloppy ECHO BRIDGE 4 pack) gutter and hosed down for DVD and Blu-Ray. I mean, it’s supposed to look better, right? How could it not? Of course, that was simply the shruggy shawl I had to wear to keep myself warm while I waited for MY COPY to get its slothy molasses ass to my goddamn door and no CURTAINS, don’t bother with excuses and no you can’t have a drink, put your feet up or decompress from your apparently epic journey from the warehouse, shut up and get in my TV!!! Geez, nice of you to drop by. Remember me? The guy you curled up next to when you were feeling all dejected all those years ago on late night cable long before half the viewers you’ve been bonking lately were even born? Wow, for a cult film that barely hobbled its way to the screen due to behind the scenes production problems, you’re really feeling good about yourself lately, aren’t you? I see now you’re considered a classic. How nice for you.

All right, I admit it, now that I have watched my lackadaisical, blowing on its nails, unapologetically tardy copy of CURTAINS, the universe is back in order and I can see exactly what all of the hubbub is about. It’s like this, you can own a worthwhile piece of art but if it’s on the floor covered in dust in a dark room you’re never going to be able to appreciate it fully. Sometimes all a painting needs is for somebody to dust it off, put it in a complimentary frame and hang it in a well-lit space and then voila- it’s a revelation. That’s basically what SYNAPSE FILMS has done with this release. In my book, the laurels still belong to the artist(s) rather than the presenter but SYNAPSE deserves praise for making sure that the incredibly patient fans of this film were not disappointed (and by disappointed I mean storming SYNAPSE headquarters with pitchforks.) CURTAINS’ unique voice is yesterday’s news to its fans but you gotta give respect to this company for handing it a bullhorn and turning up the mic.

Yes, it turns out that CURTAINS, more than your average film, opens up like a flower when it’s getting the sunlight it deserves. That’s because it derives much of its power from its visuals, in a way you’d never know if you’ve only seen what I think we can now refer to as ‘the mud version.’ Who knew CURTAINS was not supposed to be drenched in mud? It’s actually supposed to be drenched in snow, startling white oppressive snow and rain, somber, grey disquieting rain but nope, not mud.

When a movie relies so heavily on its mise-en-scene to cast its moody spell, it deserves if not requires the simple leg up of a decent picture. I’m not going to throw out my VHS copy anytime soon but only because it makes a fine paperweight and I believe it might come in handy squashing the fly I’m currently at war with, otherwise… we’re through. Oh and how about seeing something in its proper ratio rather than all squashed up? CURTAINS does this clever signature scene transition business that involves an actual curtain on screen being pushed aside to provide a sort of wipe. On VHS, it barely registers and only sort of works and now it’s all kinds of lovely awesome and high-five worthy glorious.

Then there’s the infamous ice skating scene which could quite easily be yanked right out the movie and stand successfully on its own as one of the best horror shorts ever made. It’s really incredible. If there was indeed a sensibility clash between the film’s director and producer, I’m on team whoever is responsible for the skating scene.

Our story is about a bunch of young pretty actresses competing with each other for a part once promised to a slightly more mature (you’re welcome SAMANTHA EGGAR) woman who is not happy with being shoved aside. You’d be resentful too if you placed yourself in a mental institution to research a role only to find out that you’ve been unwittingly complicit in your own putting out to pasture. The skating scene, besides being one of the sharpest and most lyrical stalk and slash set pieces ever put to film, works as a perfect little snow globe encapsulating the movies’ themes concerning the specter of aging and the fleeting solace of youth and beauty. You know, that old conveyer belt towards impending death that we call existence.

Christie (LESLEH DONALDSON) goes out on the ice to listen to some tunes, rejoice in her physical talents and hopefully get her mind off of the fact that she attempted to up her chances of winning a coveted role by sleeping with an egomaniacal ice-eyed director (JOHN VERNON) the previous evening. When her music suddenly dies she checks the batteries in her tape player and they fall into the snow and that’s when Christie spies the most curious thing- a doll hand! She pulls the pouty toy out of the ice and it’s as if she’s staring back at her youth. Who might abandon this glaring international symbol of childhood innocence out here in the cold unforgiving world? Maybe she’s lost more than her batteries.

As Christie becomes mesmerized with the quickly growing creepy plaything, she is blinded to what is sinisterly sliding on blades up beside her. Dressed head to toe in black wearing an ugly old hag mask with scraggily withered hair and wielding a harvesting sickle, here comes death! Oh sure, this is a slasher/mystery and we’re supposed to desire to identify who is behind the mask and what their motivations are but frankly, it doesn’t matter, this bit works as a simple, undiluted representation of horror. It’s so pure it could be a mural on a cave.

CURTAINS gets a lot of grief for being disjointed and smudgy in places and in some ways the new DVD can enhance its dueling identities. You end up with this melodramatic yet melancholy base layer with blindsiding splotches of vibrant color almost hovering over it, never fully blending in. But to me, that’s awesome in a contrasting collage type way and the best of both worlds, really. There are plenty of hanging threads and jagged edges and pieces that don’t quit fit, simple scars of the rough terrain this movie that was nearly abandoned was fated to endure. What’s left standing though is this one of a kind strangely enthralling peculiarity whose major crime is wanting to be smart and artsy and taken seriously until the time came that it changed its mind and wanted to be flashy and frightening too. So sue it. Personally, I can only take off my hat and bow before the spirited audacity of attempting an air of sophistication while featuring a decapitated head in a toilet.

Speaking of flashy and frightening, thanks to this new presentation, the famous murder on skates scene may have found some fresh competition itself in the most memorable moment department. Suddenly now with lines sharpened, its neon lights injected with color and its shadow pools deepened the climactic prop room chase now appears like an understudy poised to grab the spotlight. Nah, maybe not. The ice skating scene always wins.

One last thing though, I have to point out that no matter if it’s on VHS, Beta, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray or whatever they come up with next, the cast of CURTAINS has always been phenomenal in any format and a gargantuan reason this film has its loyal fan base. JOHN VERNON and SAMANTHA EGGAR are amazing together and it’s a crime against theater that they never, to my knowledge did “WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF?” And then there’s LESLEH DONALDSON who lights up whatever film she’s in even if it’s a killer rat movie. But I have to say after my most recent viewing of CURTAINS I realize now, without a shadow of a doubt, that LYNNE GRIFFIN really OWNS this movie. She’s fantastic. She starts out all quirky and self effacing and then there’s this scene where she looses her patience and shows this whole other side to herself and she kills it. I’m telling you, LYNNE stole a scene right out from under VERNON’s nose and then, by gosh, she went and swiped one away from EGGAR too and folks that can’t be easy!

If you never liked this movie this is your chance to like it, if you liked this movie this is your chance to love it and it you loved this movie, chances are you already own this revamped game-changer version and very likely got a chance to check it out long before me. How nice for you.

[

Tags: General Horror

Rain of Fire aka The Chosen aka Holocaust 2000 (1977)

April 30th, 2014 · 10 Comments

There’s nothing like scrounging through a used DVD bin. Thank God there are still a few places in my vicinity where I can do that. Buying off of the Internet may be convenient and all, but it kills the thrill of the hunt and robs fate of its chance to shove something in your face that you didn’t know you wanted. Synchronicity and serendipity teamed up to insure that RAIN OF FIRE and I should collide. Recently while flipping through some movies at a favorite haunt, I knocked a bunch of DVDs on the ground and there it was just staring up at me. It was ugly and I wondered if it was in the wrong section. It was dressed like a public domain reject. It had the worst cover art ever sporting a shame faced KIRK DOUGLAS standing in front of a wall of fire. So much for love at first sight.

Luckily curiosity got the better of me and I investigated the back of the case. I was shocked to see LION’S GATE had put out this dreadful looking package and then I thought about it for a second and remembered that they have no idea what they are doing. Hold up now! Turns out RAIN OF FIRE was directed by ALBERTO DeMARTINO, the loon that brought us THE TEMPTER and the music was done by our pal ENNIO MORRICONE! The synopsis even mentions something about the devil. This is an apocalyptic Italian Satan flick! At $2.99, pathetic packaging or not, I was sold.

Some folks may complain that RAIN (aka HOLOCAUST 2000 aka THE CHOSEN aka LUCIFER’S CURSE) is a brazen OMEN rip-off, but to me that’s nothing to complain about. Truth told it doesn’t resemble THE OMEN so much as it does OMEN 3: THE FINAL CONFLICT, which is kinda impressive considering that in 1977 that sequel hadn’t been made yet. I guess RAIN saw where THE OMEN series was heading and decided to cut it off at the pass. Between you and me, I found it to be more entertaining than OMEN 3 (though it’s still nowhere near as good as OMENS 1&2) though maybe I should watch that one again just to be sure. Eh, on second thought, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just say any and all end of the world movies involving the devil are welcome here.

DOUGLAS plays a rich business dude who wants to build a nuclear power plant and his son SIMON WARD couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the plan because he is secretly the antichrist and doesn’t mind destroying the entire world if the opportunity should arise. This movie is not quite as wacky as our beloved THE VISITOR (what is?) but it is certainly cut from the same nutso Italian cloth and features quite a few of its own inexplicable, psychedelic sanity lapses. What really gives it a lead over OMEN 3 though is the fact that at one point some guy gets the top of his head sliced off by a helicopter propeller a’la DAWN OF THE DEAD which by the way, was still a year away. Guess which movie I think handles the effect better? Hint: my answer is absolute horror fan sacrilege.

Another big plus to this movie is DOUGLAS and his impossible chin. This is far down on the list of roles he’ll be remembered for but the guy has unquestionable presence and brings a certain ‘70s disaster-vibe to the table. I appreciate the novelty of having an older male lead even as I question the choice to have him run about buck-naked in so many scenes. Hey, it was the seventies. The ending probably could have used some retooling, as anything besides the total annihilation of mankind is a let down for such a flick but I was never bored which is more than I can say for my experience with OMEN 3 (there I go again).

What can I say? This movie has a lovely glass insane asylum where everybody is fond of taupe and beige where one guy gets his head smashed into hamburger, a bit where medical professionals are fine with fulfilling DOUGLAS’ instructions to pretend to give his pregnant gal pal (AGOSTINA BELLI) a routine check-up while actually performing an unwanted abortion and it has a nifty, giant seven-headed dragon monster that symbolizes a nuclear power plant. And it’s all wrapped in this swell “Save the Earth” wrapper that GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER would totally approve of.

One thing is for sure, RAIN deserves something more than being completely forgotten. If punch-drunk, THE VISITOR can be reappraised and applauded for its idiosyncrasies, I don’t see why RAIN OF FIRE can’t be to. If you like cleft chins, Italian rip-offs, the satanic seventies or all of the above, pray to the antichrist that this flick falls into your life. And take a lesson from me; never judge a movie by its DVD cover.

[

Tags: General Horror

The Medusa Touch (1978)

March 10th, 2014 · 9 Comments

Wowsy. I was at the local thrift shop and I found this VHS tape called THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978) and when I picked it up, its weight felt like a brick in my hand. It cost 45 cents because the thrift shop is crazy. It looked kind of boring because it had RICHARD BURTON’s face on the cover but it just felt so at home in my mitt that I had to make it mine. Hey, it turns out I really liked this movie. It wasn’t boring in the least and I’m even going to apply an “unsung classic” scratch-and-stiff sticker upon it! Why, this movie is a thriller that thrills and it’s also witty and thought provoking and all that classy stuff! If you dig the more somber, headier side of horror like say, THE WICKER MAN, THE CHANGELING or THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, this is going to float your boat. You should watch it in your library with a brown-colored alcoholic beverage of your choice. If you have a fireplace, light it with your mind.

Our story begins on a wonderful note with RICHARD BURTON getting his head bashed in by an unseen assailant. A French detective (LINO VENTURA) stops by to inspect the aftermath and is astonished to find BURTON is still alive! He is rushed to the hospital and the investigators are left to wonder whom on Earth would ever want to bash RICHARD BURTON’s skull in and how on Earth is he still alive after having his head smashed in so brutally? While BURTON chills out in a PATRICK (1978) style coma, the detective snoops around and pieces together his life story, which means we get a full RICHARD BURTON movie even though he is in a coma all thanks to the glorious power of flashback-flavored storytelling. The biggest blabbermouth at the clothesline is THE OMEN’s LEE REMICK who portrays BURTON’s long-suffering psychiatrist. She tells the detective how BURTON would go on and on about how he could make terrible accidents occur just by thinking about them and how she assumed he was a fruit cake until the evidence that he wasn’t a fruit cake was too in her face to ignore.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I wouldn’t watch that movie even if it meant saving the lives of thousands of strangers.” If so, then this movie is even more perfect for you. It starts out being about this narcissistic dude with a God complex but then as we travel forward we go through the same conversion as the characters as they come to believe and fear his claims. Ultimately, we realize that this guy isn’t simply representing unhinged folks with freaky telekinetic powers but mankind itself and its douche-y attraction to destruction and evil. I mean I’m a fairly nice person but if I could blow up stuff with my mind, let’s face it, the entire world would be charred to a crisp by now.

There’s a satisfying twist that you may see coming but not so early on that it will piss you off, a hearty dose of pitch black humor and finally you’re left with a disturbing chill. In fact, this movie is probably more disturbing in our post 9/11 world than it was back in 1978. Or maybe that’s just me. Watching a plane crash into a building is not what it used to be. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait around for a used copy to knock on your door like I did; it looks like THE MEDUSA TOUCH was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray! It’s so good I may have to shove out a little more than 45 cents for an upgrade!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

[

Tags: General Horror