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Traumafessions:: BFD on When Michael Calls, The Deadly Bees and X the Unknown

May 2nd, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

WHEN MICHAEL CALLS (1971)

As a kid growing up in the late 60s/early 70s, they actually used to show movies at 6:00 pm on weeknights on regular network TV (channel 21, 27 and 8 in Harrisburg PA). I know, hard to imagine these days. Some of these were horror flicks that scared the crap out of my sisters and I. The all-time biggie was a TV movie that they showed every October titled “When Michael Calls“, starring Ben Gazzara and Michael Douglas. This was fitting as it took place around Halloween. The plot involved a woman who starts getting phone calls from a nephew that disappeared some 20 odd years ago. The guy would be in his 40s or whatever now, but sounds like he did when he ran away. He has a really creepy kid voice and calls her “Auntie-my-Helen”(?). He asks why she hasn’t come to pick him up at school, says its dark out, and other creepy things, which get progressively more sinister. Then people start turning up dead: An elderly relative dies as a result of a bee attack! The Sheriff is strangled and falls from the rafters of a stage, during the school Halloween carnival–right in the middle of the pumpkin contest no less! All of this was very freaky to little kids such as us, but it was those creepy-voiced phone calls that really got you! This made us afraid to answer the phone for a few weeks after!

THE DEADLY BEES (1967)

Sure, the mid 70s was rife with killer bee flicks, i.e. The Swarm, originating from alarmist news stories about killer bees from Africa set to invade the US mere months from now (which they never did, BTW). But the original “bee-movie” was the 1967 The Deadly Bees. The plot involves a Brit pop singer trying to get away from it all on a secluded isle, only to face a horde of hostile bees. This was scary enough for us kids–after all you saw bees every day in the summer (at least you used to). BUT, on or around January of 1975, while my parents and I were busy watching the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, my sisters and their friend were down in our basement watching TV, watching this movie specifically. Lo and behold, some real bees who had infiltrated the basement tile ceiling, and must have chewed a hole in one of the panels, dropped down on top of them during the movie! It was like a William Castle movie for real! They freaked out and came running up the steps screaming for their lives! Even though we’d seen this film a few years before on that ubiquitous 6:00 pm movie, this really, really got to them.

X THE UNKNOWN
A pretty much forgotten Hammer film from the early 50s (which predated The Blob by several years), this B&W SciFi movie scared the crap out of me when I caught it on that aforementioned 6:00 movie. The story revolves around this living radioactive mud that crawls out of a crack in some swampy stretch of land. It seeks out other radioactive materials and absorbs them, growing larger and larger. It also burns anything in it’s path and makes giger counters go crazy with that ticking static sound they make. It leaves and comes back several times, finally attacking a nuclear power plant. However, by this time authorities can track it since its now so big, and they issue a warning to everyone in its path to get out. The big scene occurs when the killer blob is moving through a small village and a everyone takes refuge in a church. Of course, a little kid somehow gets left outside in the panic. As the deadly goo spills over a stone wall in the church yard, the toddler ambles right up to it, ready to be incinerated in seconds. The priest, realizing what’s occurred, dashes out and saves the youngster in the nick of time. The thing that really got me about this movie was, how do you fight living mud that burns up everything it touches? Its not a vampire that can be staked or a big bug that can be destroyed with the military!

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Name That Trauma:: Anon Y. on A Neglected Boy in a Futuristic House

May 1st, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

I see that your website helps identify old shows, particularly the creepy kind. Could you guys identify this one for me? It’s an episode of a show of the Twilight Zone/Outer Limits type. I think it’s from the 80s. It’s about a little boy who lives in a large minimalist style house with his mom and dad who ignore him. He takes care of himself, finding his own food somehow in the kitchen that doesn’t have anything that’s good for kids. A man (an angel?) starts showing up and eventually takes the little boy away from the house, rescuing him I suppose. I don’t think the parents ever noticed that the little boy had disappeared. If I remember right, I think that items were disappearing from the house before the little boy was taken away, like his toys and other things he needed or that the parents wouldn’t need when he was gone. I’m not sure about that part, though. I remember it being a very quiet episode, not much dialogue, and the house was very airy, kind of what people in the past would think of as houses of the future — but I don’t know if it was set in the future. I’ve looked for it on Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episode lists and on lists of similar series. I can’t find it. Does anyone know what show and episode this is?

Note: Today’s unrelated bumper images come courtesy of 2008’s fantastic yet highly underrated SPLINTER! Check it out if you have not already because I do believe it’s pretty darn awesome.

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Let’s Go Crazy:: A Shining Prince Tribute

April 29th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor

If you don’t like the world you’re living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends

You see I called my old lady
For a friendly word
She picked up the phone
Dropped it on the floor
(Ah, ah) is all I heard

Are we gonna let the elevator
Bring us down
Oh, no let’s go!

Let’s go crazy
Let’s get nuts
Let’s look for the purple banana
‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ’cause
We’re all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)
What’s it all for (What’s it all for)
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let’s go!

Let’s go crazy
Let’s get nuts
Look for the purple banana
‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

C’mon baby
Let’s get nuts
Yeah
Crazy

Let’s go crazy

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let’s go!
Go crazy

I said let’s go crazy (Go crazy)
Let’s go, let’s go
Go
Let’s go

Dr. Everything’ll be alright
Will make everything go wrong
Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill
Hang tough children

He’s coming

He’s coming

Coming

Take me away!

FIN

→ 5 CommentsTags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · I Have No Idea What This Is · My own personal Jesus

Name That Trauma:: Buddo on a Giant Claw Weapon Trailer

April 28th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s, only one movie theater in town was allowed to show DISNEY movies, and it was called the Manor Theater. In the 1980’s, it was featured briefly in the Stephen King feature CAT’S EYE, in the sequence where gamblers were laying odds on whether or not a frightened kitty cat could scurry across the street before being squashed by the oncoming downtown traffic.

The Manor was in the shady part of town, which always made it extra exciting when we’d go see DISNEY movies there, especially at night. I recall heading there to see 101 DALMATIANS with my family, and my dad’s sister’s family when it was re-released, and my Aunt Judy decided to sit in the back of the Station Wagon with us kids for some reason. Anyway, she dropped a hankie or something, and assumed it was beneath me, and was digging under my little butt for it until I got irritated and snapped, “Get your fanny out of my finger,” and everyone burst out laughing at my slip of the tongue.

Other than Disney movies, the Manor also showed B-movies on a regular basis, and eventually became the town’s first discount “Dollar Movie,” where my cousin and I last saw CLASH OF THE TITANS during its final run back in the 80’s, when I was a teenager. I recall seeing COMIN’ AT YA! in 3-D with my best friend there, but my strongest memory of the Manor was when I went to see THE ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD there…(well, that, and an Easter Sunday Double Feature of the WITCH MOUNTAIN movies, which we talked the manager into letting us stay to see one more time; oh, what fun it was). Anyway…

Before the DISNEY features began, even before the cartoons they’d sometimes show, the Manor would occasionally regale us kids with trailers for more grown-up fare, which made a trip to that theater all the more provocative for us. Before ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD began, I recall we’d decided to slip up to the balcony of the theater (another big treat for us, because we rarely got to do this), and with our Dip’n Stick candy in hand, we got ready for the show, and some possibly creepy movie trailers.

I do not know the name of the movie the trailer I’m writing about was, but I do know that it was an early 1970’s movie, and it was set in Africa – possibly during the historical time period when the British Army was having regular skirmishes with the Zulu tribes or other natives who rejected their presence. I recall seeing golden plains, a caravan of some sort, and African warriors in full regalia, including exquisite head-dressings, spears, shields, etc. Note that it was not ZULU DAWN, or ZULU! as I am familiar with them, but it had a very similar look. What stood out to me, though, was a close-up of a large weapon with a massive paw with giant claws that was suddenly hoisted into the air — zoomed in on, if I remember correctly – and then it strikes someone below. A woman, I think, who’s skirt has been torn from her in such a way as to expose her leg. As it slashes her leg, it leaves bloody tracks where the claws raised her flesh — and that’s all I remember, other than images of fire, and a battle sequence. Long story short: the trailer both fascinated and horrified me, and I’ve wanted to see that movie ever since… I have no idea if it was a major release, or a B-movie, or what — but I’ve not seen the trailer since I saw ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD from that balcony in the Manor Theater. If anyone can tell me what the name of the movie was, I’s be forever grateful.

BUDDO – A regular here at our favorite childhood haunt.

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Name That Trauma:: Warren F. on a Burnt Faced Boy

April 16th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

Hello,

I’ve written to you before and you added my little archetypal childhood fear on your website. It was titled “confessions by Warren F.“, in it I related the story about a large muppet on “The Ed Sullivan Show” where Jim Henson had a “Gluttonous” huge puppet that ate “it’s own” smaller version of itself… you put this on your website and I thought that was really cool.

I have another memory of a movie where there is a boy who half of his face is “burned” or “mutilated” somehow. His eye on the messed up side is totally white. He is being followed or is leading a man into an area, and it starts to rain. When the rains begin the nearby “Black Boulders” start to absorb the water and to grow into huge columns that start to collapse and the man and the boy have to find safety…. I just wonder if anyone out there can help me with this obviously twisted but true memory?

Note: Today’s bumper images come courtesy of PAUL VERHOEVEN’s 1985 epic FLESH + BLOOD which stars BLADE RUNNER’s RUTGER HAUER and BRION JAMES, the always incredible JENNIFER JAON LEIGH and legendary Kindertrauma role model SUSAN TYRRELL! Check it out if you have not already because obviously it is awesome.

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Name That 1987 Horror Flick!

April 15th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 25 Comments

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Traumafession:: Eric D. on Three on a Meathook

April 14th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

We all know the cliche of the old man giving the “back in my day” rant. I never thought I’d reach the stage where I would be giving one of those rants, but its sad to think that kids don’t really care about film anymore, it doesn’t seem to effect them, so here goes…

I take pride in my love of film-I probably shouldn’t, but I do and in this crumbling, decaying wreck of a world in which we live, film helps to at least partially alleviate the general sense of doom and meaninglessness. Now when I hear people say they love film, I say “yeah? have you suffered for film?”

What I mean is; have you experienced pain and/or humiliation in service of film and used it to strengthen this love?

I have.

I had a ritual which consisted of going to the video store and browsing the shelves, sometimes for hours on end. That was my favorite thing in life. The horror section was naturally my second home and went through the entire selection several times over. I was and am obsessed with film.

I got in trouble for watching Friday the 13th Part 3 when I was a kid, aged no more than 4 or 5. My father had rented it for me and when my mom found out, she got so pissed that she actually smashed the tape right in front of me. That was an embarrassing moment; being marched into the video store, shattered VHS in hand, having to stand there while my mom screamed and cursed at the clerks for having rented it to me and apologizing for having destroyed the tape. They never did replace the tape and every time I conducted my ritual after that and seeing all the other Friday the 13th‘s present and accounted for; I felt like a friend had died.

Another time I got in trouble was when I was caught with the Regal Video VHS clam shell box of Three on a Meathook; which is a little known early entry into the backwoods slasher genre. The cover is pretty hardcore; two (why not three?) scantily clad and bloodied women being menaced by a gloved hand gripping a chain connected to a bloody hook (the blood of woman number 3 perhaps?).

Three on a Meathook is a pretty bad film, but I still enjoy it. It’s also odd as hell; in some ways it’s very much Texas Chainsaw Massacre but pre-dates Texas Chainsaw Massacre by about two years and ratchets up the gore quite a bit from its better known backwoods brother but there are long stretches of frolicking courtship scenes and inane dialogue which are inexcusable and slow it down. These scenes make it perhaps one of the most padded movies ever made. I stuck with it and toughed it out though, because I’m not a quitter.

The plot is very simple, man-child can’t get girl(s) because of bad things which happen to said girl(s) when boy meets them, only boy mysteriously can’t remember what. Or so he is told…turns out, ‘ol dad is the naughty boy who can’t keep his hands off the ladies. Did I also mention that pa is in the “meat business”? seems someone takes eating pussy a little too literally…

The special effects are pretty well done considering the budget and are fairly effective. Given the right setting and mood, the movie can weave its own dream like spell and be quite enjoyable. It’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

As is clear, since I was a wee lad I have suffered through quasi-bad as well as outright bad movies, sometimes suffering real life trauma in the process, all in the name of film. But you know what, I wouldn’t change a thing. So, you say you love film- prove it, what’s your story?

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Name That Trauma:: Bill S. on an Animated Nuclear Terrorist

March 26th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Okay, I’ve got a hell of a poser for you: way way back in ’74 or ’75, there was an animated TV movie that seemed to center around nuclear terrorism; specifically a group of terrorists using a computer (named – I swear I didn’t imagine this – “Tarzan”), and threatening to detonate a nuclear weapon. I remember being right freaked out by the leader of the group as he sat in their bunker, reading a list of demands, his face – heck, his whole self – covered in what I now know was a nuclear/biological/chemical warfare suit (you know, full face gas mask, hood, gloves etc.) The group and their aims were unclear to my 5-year-old self, but it seemed less political and more cult-like. The culmination was that the bomb did go off, and one of the bad guys (possibly the leader) was thrown or fell out of a helicopter as it flew over the ruined city. I’ve tracked down every weird sci-fi or horror movie I was exposed to back when I was a tyke except for three, and this is one of ’em. The others are a beautiful, almost sketch-art like cartoon about fairies, the other about two kids who travel time after drinking from a fountain in the courtyard of an old mansion.

Anyway, thanks for listening, I hope maybe someone there can be of help.

-Bill S.

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Name That 1986 Horror Flick!

March 25th, 2016 by unkle lancifer · 23 Comments

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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!

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