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

March 24th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

→ 4 CommentsTags: General Horror · My own personal Jesus

The Visit (2015)

March 22nd, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

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

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

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

→ 2 CommentsTags: General Horror

Name That Trauma :: Reader Robert E. on a Killer Piano

March 21st, 2016 by unkle lancifer · No Comments

Hi

I have a movie in need of identification. I remember seeing one of those horror anthology films from the ’70s with one story being very memorable.

The story I remember is that there is this famous pianist who always plays the same piano for his concerts. The piano even has a name something like “utopi.” The pianist gets married to a young ambitious woman against his mother’s wishes. The mother fears that the new wife will be a distraction to her son’s music career. Also when the pianist speaks about his music he seems to exhibit the belief that “utopi” is alive.

Spoiler alert The piano comes alive and kills the wife!

I would appreciate of your readers could help me again.

Robert E.

UNK SEZ: Hey, Robert! I’m thinking the killer piano you’re looking for is lurking in the 1967 AMICUS horror anthology TORTURE GARDEN!
Check out this description from the wikipedia page

“In Mr. Steinway, a possessed grand piano by the name of Euterpe becomes jealous of its owner (John Standing)’s new lover (Barbara Ewing) and takes revenge”.

And I got some good news for you! TORTURE GARDEN is available on YouTube so you can check it out right now!

→ No CommentsTags: Name That Trauma!

Name That Trauma:: Buddo on an EC Comics Living Dead Girl

March 19th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

I post on an EC Fan-Addicts forum on Facebook, and a friend wrote the following today. I was wondering if anyone might remember this:

Was recently watching a French tv series on Netflix about people who return from the dead in the same state as they were right before they died. Its called Les Revenants. Thought of a story I read in one of the EC comics (I think) about a guy who had a significant girlfriend when he was very young, probably early teens. She disappears while swimming. When the guy is in his 20s he or someone else finds this girl’s body, perfectly preserved, and he sees her as a little child and he has become a man. Anyone remember this? It’s not pure horror but the whole premise struck me hard even though I was a teenager at the time.

BUDDO

→ 5 CommentsTags: Name That Trauma!

Name That Brad Dourif Movie!

March 18th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 16 Comments

Today is the birthday of living legend and all around good guy BRAD DOURIF! Below are 20 images from 20 of his movies. How many do YOU know?

→ 16 CommentsTags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Streaming Alert:: Pumpkinhead and Monkey Shines Via Comet TV!

March 13th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

Get this, COMET TV is a brand new channel that features science fiction and horror films every day of the week. Even better, you can now LIVE stream COMET TV right on your computer! This means I can watch TV in any room of my house even the many sad rooms that don’t have cable! I don’t know about you but I am on this like white on rice! Check out the full schedule (HERE)!

There is a delicious marathon going down shortly! PUMPKINHEAD is stomping into your living room at 2:00 and then that adorable Ella the monkey makes a house call at 4:OO with a showing of the ever so awesome MONKEYSHINES! Plus even though I didn’t have room for them in the title of this post, our old buddy MAD MAX crashes the party at 8:00 and then it’s off to the scariest house that ever existed with the Kindertrauma-klassic BURNT OFFERINGS at 10:00 starring master thespian KAREN BLACK and the voluptuous OLIVER REED. Wait, did I get that backwards? Nope. Anyways, you should get on this generous smorgasbord today and every day! I know I will. Thanks COMET TV! I think I love you (LIVE STREAM HERE)!

→ 3 CommentsTags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert! · Sunday Streaming

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

March 12th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

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

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

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

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

→ 11 CommentsTags: General Horror

Find the Differences:: 10 Cloverfield Lane

March 11th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

Hey, the super mysterious 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is landing in theaters today! How can you resist seeing it? I can’t. Based on this poster I’m thinking the plot involves a giant killer mailbox and if that’s the case, I’m going to sue them for stealing my idea! In the meantime, can you find the ten differences between images A and image B? Good luck!

→ 4 CommentsTags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

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

March 10th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

→ 1 CommentTags: General Horror · Holidays

Name That Arthouse Horror!

March 4th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 27 Comments

Ever since that WITCH movie strolled into town I keep hearing folks talking about “arthouse horror.” Now, I’m not one to jump on a limiting label but if a buzz term helps a lesser seen gem get a leg up in the notoriety department, I’m all for it! I mean arthouse horror has been around forever, right? I’m sure not everyone would agree on what is and isn’t arthouse horror but around here our motto is “Horror is where you find it” and I think we all know art is in the eye of the beholder as well. The way I see it, as long as someone is either rolling their eyes or checking their watches, you’re doing something right! Anyway, below are 20 images from 20 movies that I figured could wear official arthouse horror t-shirts if they wanted to. How many do you recognize? And if I missed a favorite of yours, please feel free to share it!

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→ 27 CommentsTags: Kindertrauma Funhouse