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

Get Out and The Belko Experiment

March 29th, 2017 · 2 Comments

I visited New York City last weekend (shout out to the FORBIDDEN PLANET store that sold me SEVERIN’s’s excellent DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. DVD with the sublimely timely doc on the history of 42nd Street movie theaters!). You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Bramford Building from ROSEMARY’S BABY looming over a baffled Central Park covered in mid-March daffodil-slaughtering snow. As my friend and I ventured to cross a particularly hazardous unplowed curb, I caught from the corner of my eye a figure moving up somewhat suspiciously close. The one thing that’s difficult for me to adjust to in New York as opposed to Philly is that people are way more comfortable getting up in your personal space. New York is way too crowded to afford you the good three or four feet of buffer room I’m used to. My instinct was to dodge but my friend’s impulse, miraculously, was to grasp the wobbly stranger by the forearm, pull him out of the slush he was faltering in and land him safely on the sidewalk. Oh, the guy wasn’t trying to assail us, he was falling…and my friend helped him! Such strange and unusual alien customs in this city…

Did I mention that the falling guy was black? Would I have so quickly imagined him as a potential threat if he wasn’t? Well, it’s me we’re talking about here so, yes. Honestly, anybody who isn’t a mewing kitten with a pink bow on its head is eligible for suspicion in my book. Still, I felt a tinge of guilt that I had alarm bells going off in my head at the exact moment my friend saw an opportunity to assist someone in need. I blamed my moment of self-reflection on the brilliant GET OUT. Suddenly I really wanted my friend to see it too but it was sold out everywhere and had been every day since its release (according to an usher I eavesdropped on). I don’t know what to add to the conversation about GET OUT besides the admission above and the confession that I thought I understood the movie but then realized later that I missed a few dozen layers. I’m sure when I see it again I’ll find I’ve missed a few more. Like the seventies social horror films it was inspired by, it’s clearly going to be a gift that will keep on giving. Plus, how could I resist the rarity of my love of horror movies and my love of CATHERINE KEENER movies converging? Geez, unless you count 8MM (99′) as horror, you’d have to go all the way back to KEENER’s ill-fated horror convention date with KEVIN CORRIGAN in WALKING AND TALKING (‘96) for such a alignment (it’s sentences like that, that worry me).

Anyway, I loved it and I’m happy that a new generation gets its own lightening rod horror movie that’s genuinely fascinating to view and discuss. If you dig plunging into profound paranoia over being pummeled over the head with the usual pandering power fantasies GET OUT is pure gold. It’s kind of sad that it seems so unusual to watch a horror movie where the art is actually on the screen speaking for itself rather than biding time waiting to become a purchasable T-shirt or identity-signaling button. As much as GET OUT specifically speaks on racism (both conscious and unconscious) there’s something universal about its depiction of the threatening discomfort of being a minority in a larger group. Plus, putting race aside for just a wee-second here, I gotta say rich people in general are working my last nerve these days. Am I alone here? Without ruining the movie, I still have a burning Sterno can of outrage in my chest for the wealthy and blind (!) gallery owner with the gall to appropriate another person’s artistic vision. I’m also pretty sure that at one point ALLISON WILLIAMS did a super creepy smile thing that curdled me to my core and I have to salute that.

Back to New York, with GET OUT sold out three weeks into release, we had no choice but to see THE BELKO EXPERIMENT in a half-filled room on its opening day. Aw, poor BELKO (also a BLUMHOUSE joint) is actually pretty darn good too but in a different way. Like GET OUT, I can easily associate BELKO with the moment that my friend decided to help a stranger and I decide to fend for myself but unlike the slow mounting horror found in the previous film, the latter is surprisingly shocking and brutal. I know it doesn’t look it, but for a mainstream movie BELKO has quite the sadistic streak. I don’t know if it was because I was far from home and feeling kinda vulnerable but I found it remarkably nerve wracking up until its cartoonish final act. In truth, this film hits me where my nightmares live. It’s about being stuck with (and at the mercy of) other people and it’s also about dealing with soulless dog-eat-schmuck corporate ghouls. It’s almost as timely as GET OUT if only it was released about three more months from now. The audience I saw it with loved it and screamed and laughed in the right places and I know at least one jaw hit the sticky floor at one point because that poor jaw was mine.

The weather is about to change. Soon the Bramford Building is going to be looking down on daffodils again. It’s not too late to see either of these fine flicks in the theater if you haven’t already done so. Instant classic GET OUT is perfect for those who enjoy their frights fine tuned and those who prefer to be grabbed by the lapels and slapped around a bit should sign up for BELKO. Both of these thoughtful movies do a fine job of reminding us that horror films can say so much more than “boo!”…

On my last night in New York we watched a documentary on the making of ROSEMARY’S BABY and I laughed when FARROW told the tale of how POLANSKI instructed her to walk into oncoming traffic because “nobody will hit a pregnant woman.” The next day, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (78′) just happened to be on TV and I noted how the ending still gave me goose bumps. It was followed by CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND but only CHUCK BERRY was dead at that point, unlike two days later when CHUCK BARRIS would be dead too. At the bus station the Philadelphia bound were separated from the New Yorkers and the late 4 o’clock Philly bus people were separated from the early 5 o’clock Philly bus people. I instantly related to those who were riding on the same bus as me but we were all herded like cattle and we all dragged luggage like pods from outer space. My coat is so old that it has holes in its pockets. Getting on board the bus my paperback fell through my pocket and onto the wet street. The man in back of me picked it up and kindly handed it to me. People are so nice in New York.

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Tags: General Horror

Life (2017)

March 28th, 2017 · No Comments

Hey, I’m absolutely allowed to enjoy a not-so-good movie if I feel like it, right? LIFE is all kinds of mundane, its monster is inconsistently threatening and the script overall is painfully mechanical to the point where somebody actually pulls out a corny copy of “Goodnight Moon”. I’m guessing LIFE’s largest selling point is its two high profile male leads (RYAN REYNOLDS, JAKE GYLLENHAAL) but only one of them successfully registers and he’s the one with way less screen time. It’s like the title/name LIFE wasn’t satisfied being attached to the blandest cereal in the world and the least exciting board game (Sorry, I’m a die hard CLUE fan) so it had to go attach itself to the most routine sci-fi horror picture too! And yet I don’t care because I love monsters in space so much that I’ll take it (even if this one sometimes resembles THE NEW SCHMOO). You are talking to a guy who owns and enjoys the catastrophic SUPERNOVA and feels the need to watch both LEVIATHAN and DEEP STAR SIX on a seasonal basis. Yes, there is something horribly wrong with me. Why, I even watched THE RIFT the other day on COMET TV! I can’t and won’t be stopped (I realize I named a lot of underwater monsters rather than space monsters there but same-diff. BTW- QUEEN LATIFAH being throttled by a swarm of disgruntled jellyfish in SPHERE (1998) counts too!)!

Here’s the thing, I absolutely loved LIFE’s super bonkers ending. I only wish I had a copy of the movie here now so that I could keep rewinding it over and over again. It’s so pessimistic and cruel and downright LOVECRAFTian and the way the music soars and repeats and twists the knife in such a mocking and unapologetic way is glorious (fantastic work JON EKSTRAND!). I mean, it’s not exactly on par with the hand-grab from CARRIE but it’s got a similar churning nightmare vibe and then there’s this soulless God’s eye aerial view that works as the final nasty nail in mankind’s coffin. Does it make up for the rest of the movie? For me…yes, I think so. I dug it so much that all was forgiven. In closing, I can’t recommend this movie unless you too happen to have a soft spot for somewhat clunky, embarrassingly earnest fledgling science fiction films (particularly those that swing from semi-boring to semi-incredible with exactly one nuclear blast of pitch perfect exquisite horror). Maybe just go look at your DVD collection and if you see FORBIDDEN WORLD, GALAXY OF TERROR and CREATURE starring back at you- then this flick should sufficiently stir your TANG too. Don’t be fooled by its big budget and big names-LIFE works best when you don’t take it too seriously.

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Tags: General Horror

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

March 14th, 2017 · No Comments

When I was a little kid living in California during the seventies, I’ll never forgot one of our neighbors (who worked in the biz!) handed out small movie posters of KING KONG (1976) for Halloween! I was just the type of weird kid who would much rather have a miniature advertisement featuring a giant ape crushing a plane while straddling the World Trade Center than any known form of candy (keep in mind that SOUR PATCH KIDS had not been invented yet). This past Friday when I went to the very first showing (Thursday is for cheaters) of KONG: SKULL ISLAND, the disgruntled dude that took my ticket handed me just such a miniature poster featuring the brand spanking new KONG movie’s promotional artwork! Yes, I got sorta giddy and yes I rolled it carefully, tied it with a napkin from the concession stand (I’m a genius) and put it in a protective plastic grocery bag that I just happened to have in my back pocket from walking my niece’s dog, Nelson. So basically, I was sold on this movie before I sat down in a chair- just so you know.

I feel guilty that I haven’t been writing many reviews for current movies lately. It’s not that I don’t go see them it’s just that I’ve needed the escapism of film so much that I am loath to taint the therapeutic experience with critical thought. Scanning entertainment with a laser eye is not a luxury my mental health can afford right now. These days when I’m watching a movie and my brain tries to be smart and point out illogical discrepancies, I politely tell my brain to shut the hell up and remind it how little its annoying opinion has gotten us thus far. There are so few enjoyable places in the world and I refuse to hand over the haven of the multiplex. If I want a nonstop mudslide of inconsequential jabbering I’ve got the Internet for that. I’m not talking about leaving your brain at the door when you see a movie, I’m talking about taking your brain, wrapping a bonnet on its head, shoving it in a baby carriage and pushing it down a long hill in the opposite direction of the theater, preferably one of those steep San Francisco hills as seen in WHAT’S UP DOC?. Hopefully it will run into two guys transporting a large plate of glass.

Naturally, I had a fantastic time with KONG: SKULL ISLAND. I left the theater feeling ten years younger and with my posture improved. For a would-be blockbuster it’s rather muted and easy on the eyes; obviously borrowing visual tips from the more grounded cinema of decades ago. It clearly has an aspiration to ape (haha) APOCALYPSE NOW and hey, there’s nothing wrong with setting your sights high. The visual effects are seamless and I’m looking forward to never having to discuss CGI again. It’s as convincing as any dream and that’s good enough for me. The nostalgic tone is solidified by the extensive eclectic cast who I can easily envision being featured in tiny profiles squares at the bottom of a disaster movie poster. JOHN GOODMAN rules as usual, SAMUEL L. JACKSON menaces like a pro and JOHN C. REILLY steals every scene not nailed down. In addition, I found BRIE LARSON fetching and I think SHEA WHIGHAM is the coolest. Plus I love KONG. He’s more than a giant monster to me. He so perfectly represents all the beautiful wildlife that we’re all going to burn in hell for destroying…. Oops, I guess I didn’t leave the real world behind as much as I thought. It all boils down to this; If you’re in the mood to see a giant monkey punch a giant octopus in the face- this is your best bet!

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Tags: General Horror

The Evil Within (2016)

March 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

Wow, I just woke up from the craziest, most impossibly elaborate dream(s) and I’m definitely blaming super bonkers THE EVIL WITHIN rather than the LAVERNE & SHIRLEY marathon I chased it down with. THE EVIL WITHIN was written and directed by the late ANDREW GETTY (grandson of billionaire Jean Paul Getty) and it’s one of the strangest, trippiest and relentlessly peculiar movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like PHANTASM meets DOMINICK AND EUGENE splashed with the uncomfortable intimacy of THE ROOM and dipped in the headache-baiting insanity of 1971’s maddening MICKEY ROONEY monstrosity, THE MANIPULATOR. It took me too close to places I didn’t want to go and it hurt my poor little head! Is there enough time on the doomsday clock for this flick to become a cult movie? Apparently this oddity was filmed about ten years ago (there is a startling scene in which the late MATTHEW MCGRORY (Tiny Firefly!) shows up and he passed away back in 2005!) but went unfinished due to GETTY’s untimely death. To all those involved with making sure this flick finally saw the light of day I say thank you! You are great people!

I know the world wasn’t asking for a movie about a mentally challenged man (a fearless FREDERICK KOEHLER! Yay, Chip from KATE & ALLIE!) who befriends an evil entity he meets in a mirror (horror legend MICHAEL BERRYMAN of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and DEADLY BLESSING fame) that convinces him that murder makes you smarter but here it is! No, I did not appreciate the first victim being an orange tabby but I was able to move past that thanks to the presence of the delightful KIM DARBY as a snippy caseworker named Mildy. Heck, this movie has got all types of folks running around in it! You’ve got your SEAN PATRICK FLANERY (SAW 3) as rather self-centered brother John, DINA MEYER (Dizz from STARSHIP TROOPERS) as his long-suffering girlfriend Lydia and then comedic actor TIM BAGLEY randomly shows up to make things even more off kilter. The real star of this movie though is its anything goes mind-bending visuals and its impressively persuasive surrealism. Sure, the script wanders towards the verbose a few too many times but that didn’t stop me from rewinding a few scenes in awe or my jaw from hitting the floor during the flicks baroque and beyond bizarre grand finale (which kinda reminded me of the ever creepy auditorium scene from THE REDEEMER: SON OF SATAN aka CLASS REUNION MASSACRE (1978).

THE EVIL WITHIN is available on your favorite VOD services and on ye old timey DVD format today. If you dig strange, artsy, hallucinogenic, one of a kind flicks, this is for you! Heck, just check out the trailer below! Nuff ‘said!

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Tags: General Horror

Diane Franklin Double Feature:: Deadly Lessons and Summer Girl

February 11th, 2017 · 3 Comments

Hey, today is DIANE FRANKLIN’s birthday! I don’t have to tell you that DIANE FRANKLIN is wonderful in BETTER OFF DEAD (which we recently discussed) or that she excels in the new wave classic THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN or that she’s downright heartbreaking in AMITYVILLE II: The Possession (which everybody with a working brain agrees is the best in the series). All of that (along with the understanding that FRANKLIN is as talented as she is beautiful) is common knowledge. But did you know that DIANE starred in two of the very best made for TV movies ever made? It’s true! I’m talking about the highly entertaining small screen slasher extravaganza DEADLY LESSONS (1983) and the riveting usurper thriller SUMMER GIRL (again, 1983). If you think I’ve talked about these gems before you are right and you should also prepare yourself for the fact that I’ll be talking about them till the day I croak. Due to the general dumbness of society neither of these sensational flicks are on DVD but cry not because that’s what YouTube is for! Let’s have a double feature! Happy Birthday DIANE! You rule forever!

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Tags: General Horror · YouTube Alert!

80s Beat:: Featuring Flatliners (1990) and The New Kids (1985)

February 1st, 2017 · No Comments

I love budget DVD sets exactly as much as the last time I told you I love budget DVD sets. They’re cheap, the picture quality is usually decent and there’s something exciting about ending up with a bunch of titles that you normally wouldn’t seek out. It can be a gamble but while securing a beloved staple you just might meet a new favorite film or two. Plus as an oldster who was around during the early days of 100$ VHS tapes, I stand stunned that such a thing is even possible. Oh and they take up very little space!

An important thing to remember when shopping for budget sets is to never be swayed by the cover! The cover art is usually too busy to give much useful information so you have to check out the small print on the back. I hope you brought your glasses! My most recent acquisition comes from my old pals at MILL CREEK who frankly, rule. The cover design is pretty darn clever in how it apes old 80’s teen magazines. They even went and put a pin up poster on the reverse side for an added knee-slapper. I would buy this anyway because I pretty much dig any and every teen oriented flick from the eighties but some horror junkies would walk right by it because their eyes are trained to only be attracted to the colors red and black. But slow your jets horror fans! There are films in this pack that might be of interest to you!

FLATLINERS (1990)
Even though FLATLINERS looks all slick and flashy and JOEL SCHUMACHER-y and even though it’s about as mainstream as movies get thanks to JULIA ROBERTS running about in it, there’s no denying the fact that its plot points toward the valley of Kindertrauma. Besides concerns with death and the afterlife being frequently stoked, much time is spent reminding us how past traumas influence our present selves. I’d probably rather that the flick dared to dive into the deeper and darker end of the pool but there are still some genuine creeps to be had and a bit of a hallucinatory NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET vibe running through its veins. I’ve got particular affection for KEVIN BACON’s character’s storyline which finds him having to endure the same bullying he inflicted upon others as a child.

THE NEW KIDS (1985)
How can any reasonable human say no to a teen revenge thriller from the director of FRIDAY THE 13th, SEAN CUNNINGHAM? Especially when said thriller sports the likes of LORI LOUGHLIN (AMITYVILLE 3-D) as the recipient of unwanted attention by a wild-eyed, snowy-haired, psychopath portrayed by JAMES SPADER (JACK’S BACK)? Did I mention that the proceedings culminate in a showdown in a run down offseason amusement park? This movie is Exhibit A of why I’m hooked on these sets. I like the movie enough to own it and return to it occasionally but not enough to spend big bucks for it or concern myself with extras. Also, TOM ATKINS has a small part! Of course I need this on my shelf!

AND THE REST….
1985’s THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN may not be horror but it’s hard to imagine any 80’s horror fan not enjoying the ride. How can you deny a road movie with STEPHEN KING killer-car horror alumni like YEARDLEY SMITH (MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE) and KEITH GORDON (CHRISTINE)? It’s impossible! Don’t try.

If you happen to be in the mood for a teen sex comedy but you also want to upset JOHNNY DEPP then PRIVATE RESORT is the movie for you because he hates it and wishes it would disappear! The rest of the grab bag is pretty square but there are some early roles for big talents like ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (TRUE BELIEVER) and RIVER PHEONIX (LITTLE NIKITA). I can’t say I’m too interested in LIKE FATHER LIKE SON or SIDE OUT but you never know when you may want to hate watch something. Honestly I’m just going consider this a 3-pack of FLATLINERS, THE NEW KIDS and LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN and consider all of the other movies ‘extras”. Three great movies out of eight may not seem like a winning ratio but if you consider how many times I’m likely to re-watch BILLIE JEAN it’s a steal.

Anyway, buy enough of these types of sets (and I do) and you can rest easy knowing you are prepared for a rainy day or a long stay in a nuclear fallout shelter, whichever comes first. Also, if you think I’m not going to take this opportunity to post PAT BENATAR’s “Invincible” video from the BILLIE JEAN soundtrack you are sorely mistaken….

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Tags: General Horror

PSA: Home For The Holidays (1972) on DVD!

December 24th, 2016 · 4 Comments

This is a public service announcement created to inform you that the classic 1972 TV-movie HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is secretly available on DVD! The indispensable gem is discreetly hanging out in one of those cheap-o twenty movie combo packs you might easily overlook at your local Walmart! Check out the cover below and scan it into your brain for future reference…

This is important news for folks like me who watch this movie every December and have been concerned that their VHS tape is become increasingly exhausted. I watched this very DVD last night and the flick looks the best I’ve ever seen it. It might not be up to the meticulous standards of the more persnickety collectors but I wouldn’t count on a better release before the Apocalypse. Personally, I like a couple scratches and dust particles floating around when I’m watching a TV movie. It adds flavor! It’s rustic, and weathered and all kinds of shabby chic! Here are a few screen shots to give you an idea …

In case you didn’t know, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is wonderfully atmospheric, takes place during Christmas time and operates much like your favorite paranoid mystery killer slasher flick (which it probably predates). Sure it’s a little dry in the blood department but who cares when you’re hanging out with the likes of THE HAUNTING’s JULIE HARRIS, PLAY MISTY FOR ME’s JESSICA WALTER and SYBIL’s one and only SALLY FIELD! Not only that, It was written by JOSEPH STEPHANO of PSYCHO fame and directed by JOHN LLEWELLYN MOXEY who crafted the stellar classic HORROR HOTEL! Why, I could go on and on and in fact I do go on and on about this favorite flick in the upcoming book ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? A TV MOVIE COMPENDIUM edited by MADE FOR TV MAYHEM’s globetrotting AMANDA REYES which you can preorder right HERE!!!

I realize I’m delivering this information kinda late. How are you supposed to secure this DVD in time for Xmas? Don’t fret! HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is available (albeit in a fuzzier state) on YouTube and you can sample it out below. Don’t worry; we can be friends if you don’t like it. We just can’t be GOOD friends. More importantly, Happy Christmas Eve to you fine folks! Drink stuff!

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Tags: General Horror · Holidays · Kinder-News

The Shallows (2016)

December 20th, 2016 · 2 Comments

About a month ago I was trekking home from a dead-media hunting excursion when I happened upon a granny-esque abode with a LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY-style sidewalk-level basement window. Behind the glass stood a bird but not the type of bird you’d expect to see indoors. It wasn’t a colorful pet shop parakeet that escaped from its cage but more like a common sparrow that lost its way. As I paused in my tracks to stare, it turned around and disappeared behind ancient sun-bleached pom-pom trimmed curtains. It couldn’t belong there; something was off. It must have gotten trapped inside? I was compelled to knock on the front door to let the homeowner know but nobody answered…the place was as dead as a tomb. My bags were heavy so I vowed to come back later when hopefully lights would be on.

That bird was going to starve and the whole house would smell of death and worse of all this was a TERRIBLE OMEN of future catastrophe! I went back to the house a couple times but nobody was ever there. What could I do? Who do you call? Maybe I should just smash the window, run and hope for the best? How did this even happen when a closer inspection of the window revealed that it clearly had a screen? Did I imagine the bird (I don’t always hallucinate but when I do, I hallucinate animals in peril)? I began to rationalize and think, “Hey, isn’t it better to starve in a basement than to get eaten by a cat or hit by a car or freeze?” Maybe this bird was lucky. Also, I’m being a hypocrite; how dare I feign concern for this one bird when I’m likely to be chomping on a chicken in the very near future? What does one bird matter on this conveyor belt of ruin we call existence anyway?

The answer to that question is in THE SHALLOWS. Yes, this is still a film review! THE SHALLOWS is supposed to be about a surfer gal (BLAKE LIVELY) trying not to be eaten by a CGI shark but it’s actually about how facing your own demise can clarify your understanding that all life has value.

Let me tell you, there are some humans in this movie and there are a bunch of assorted sea creatures as well, but rising superstar SULLY SEAGULL (who portrays injured bird “Steven Seagull”) effortlessly waddles away with the whole darn show. When LIVELY’S character Nancy finds herself stranded on a rock in shark infested waters slowly frying to death all seems lost. Luckily, a felicitous twist of fate lands a sidekick-ready bird with a broken wing and a buoyant disposition upon the same precarious perch. The two develop a bond based on their mutual desire to eat lunch rather than be lunch and medical student Nancy even mends her new pal’s wing without any hope for financial gain (!!!). It’s as if Nancy is lost in a pitch-black cave and her basic humanity towards a creature more vulnerable than herself provides enough light for her to find her way out. Or maybe I just adore this seagull. He even gets a featured star picture on the back of the DVD! Right on!

I’m no oceanographer or seagull specialist but I feel safe in assuming that THE SHALLOWS plays fast and loose with anything regarding science and/or reality to the point of being borderline preposterous (especially in regards to how the menace is ultimately eradicated). I’m way OK with that though on account of it is gloriously pretty and borderline poetic in places and can therefore be digested as an expressionistic anxiety dream. The important thing is, no matter how over the top and unlikely it sometimes gets, THE SHALLOWS is consistently suspenseful and if you allow it, maybe even semi-deep (see what I did?). Plus it’s from director JUAME COLLET-SERRA who gave us HOUSE OF WAX (2005) and ORPHAN(2009) so it’s got that going on too. Right?

It’s possible I’m just an easy mark for this type of flick. It pretty much swims the same laps as survival favorites like BLACK WATER, THE REEF and both of the OPEN WATER jaunts and that’s fine by me. I certainly would have liked to have been able to connect with LIVELY’s opaque character a bit more but maybe that’s her fault for ignoring the age old advice on never working with animals or children. Anyway, there’s no resolution to my bird trapped in a basement window story that I started this post with. I’m going with the convenient (for me) theory that I imagined the whole thing (or more likely, caught a reflection in the glass?) while also vowing to spread breadcrumbs in the park for any possible bird relatives- just in case. The bitter truth though, whether it’s imagined or not- it’s still a BAD OMEN. Anyway, Sully, wherever you are, nice work! Hope to see you in a seagull-centered sequel!

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Tags: General Horror

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

October 26th, 2016 · 2 Comments

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

DEAD BODY (2015) (TRAILER)

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

NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016) (TRAILER)

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

BAD BLOOD: THE MOVIE (2016) (TRAILER)

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

WE GO ON (2016) (TRAILER)

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

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

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

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Tags: General Horror

For the Love of:: Poltergeist III

October 14th, 2016 · 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tags: For The Love of:: · General Horror