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Ma (2019)

June 20th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · No Comments

The latest Blumhouse offering MA is a bit of an emotional pinball machine. It delivers some smart suspense, some genuine creeps and still finds time to be regularly hilarious (if you have a dark sense of humor) and strangely sad. I’m a big fan of horror character studies, revenge flicks and “person from hell” movies (FATAL ATTRACTION, THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE) and MA fits the bill on all accounts. It’s kind of like a multi-generational version of LUCKY McKEE’s MAY albeit more grounded and less stylized. By the end of the movie not every puzzle piece fits into place as tightly as I wanted them to but it’s a thoroughly entertaining ride nonetheless. I found it hard not to empathize with the title character even as she was wreaking havoc upon innocent people. There’s just something so cathartic about watching a person go full blown psycho about past grievances and both dreading and sadistically looking forward to the results (De PALMA’s CARRIE still stands as the greatest example of this). As much of this cinematic mousetrap is traceable and familiar, I’m happy to say MA brings a fair share of fresh themes and a uniquely uncomfortable tone to the table as well.

OCTAVIA SPENCER excels as Sue Ann/Ma, a role that seems tailor made for her. She’s subtle, straightforward and never over the top as a mature woman who is coaxed by an amiable group of underage teens to buy them alcohol. When Sue Ann recognizes one of the young folk as the child of her unrequited/abusive high school crush she offers up her basement as a safe place to party and casually integrates into an integral part of the gang’s clandestine activities. On the surface, her character’s increasingly demented behavior appears spurred by a cruel prank from her youth but on another level I think it’s much bigger than that. I almost get the sense that Sue Ann is raging against youth itself or at least the youth that she had lost to being an awkward outsider that never fit in. Witnessing a group of people getting along and having fun reminds her of the carefree life she was denied whether it was because of her gawkiness or because she was the lone black student in her school.

Basically no one is spared her wrath, not the man from her past that betrayed her, not the kids that symbolize all she missed out on and certainly not the boss that constantly berates her. We even come to find that she’s spitefully determined to make sure that her offspring is hammered into an equally unsatisfying existence. Ma is FOMO personified and brandishing very sharp teeth.

What saves Ma from being yet another obsessed stalker Lifetime movie is SCOTTY LANDES witty, aware script, TATE TAYLOR’s confident direction (he’s also great as the local cop) and most importantly, the cast. SPENCER, as mentioned, is gold in the title role but I can’t think of anyone in the cast who doesn’t deliver the goods and then some. JULIETTE LEWIS gets a surprisingly meaty part as a concerned mother and rather than being merely a scolding obstacle like in most teen movies, she’s the many shaded, grounding anchor of normalcy for the entire picture. ALLISON JANNEY and MISSI PYLE both play aggressively nightmarish people who practically beg to have horrible things happen to them and they both excel at their atrociousness. LUKE EVANS is impressive as well as the untrustworthy object of affection for Ma. Surprisingly I liked all the youngins too and each of them is given a chance to shine and have identifiable personalities of their own. I know folks usually don’t go to see horror movies for the acting but in this case it’s actually not a bad idea.

Although MA plays it mostly straight and its dark humor leans toward the situational, there’s an inescapable camp quality to it but I think you could say that about all of the loner revenge films mentioned previously as well. The film operates on several levels at once and can be taken in as seriously as the viewer desires. That said, the best way to view something like this is with a vocal audience in a movie theater or with intoxicated like-minded folks at home (don’t be surprised if you hear references to Ma’s line “Don’t make me drink alone” for the rest of your life).  Sure, I was left with a few questions and I desired one last twist that never came to fruition (and I could have used way more flashbacks to the eighties) but overall, I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in all the social disasters on display. As someone who’s roughly the same age as Ma it wasn’t hard to sympathize with her plight but I found it just as easy to feel akin to the group of teens looking for a safe place to congregate. Ultimately my favorite aspect of MA is that although it’s short lived, when things are going well, before the other shoe drops, it delivers the simple vicarious fun of partying and letting loose- at any age. MA has got her problems but who cares when she also knows the perfect time to break out “the robot” dance.

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Name That Trauma:: Art on a Terrifying Old Woman

June 18th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

Love the site, have been following for 12 years.  I am trying to find an early to mid 70s, like a made for TV production. I only remember one scene, and it was terrifying as a 5 year old to watch, and my school classmates agreed.  I think I saw it later in the early 80s.  What I remember as follows: Interior of In an old Victorian style house, a large social room. We see the back of an elderly woman sitting in chair, maybe knitting. A man and a woman (one might be her son or daughter) enters through the front door and sees the old woman in the chair. The couple tries to greet the old woman verbally with no response. They approach her,  put a hand on the old woman’s shoulder, she slowly turns to them, standing up and screams like a demon. The old woman has no pupils, only milky white eyes. The couple panics  and screams while the old woman runs past them and crashes out the large front  window in slow motion. She hits the ground outside and runs into the woods. I can remember hearing the crummy stock audio of glass crashing that does not match the visual.  Thanks for any idea of what film this might be in advance!

Best,
Art

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

June 14th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

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Name That Trauma:: Giacomo on a Force Feeding Cartoon

June 12th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

I was wondering if you are familiar with an educational cartoon that I saw during my gradeschool years (70s to 80s) that was about nutrition and hygiene that had an inflation scene in it. The film followed a number of characters with diet and hygiene issues and showed the pitfalls of each to the extreme.

The only one I remember vividly was a boy who was overweight and was always eating candy. He was sluggish and couldn’t keep up with his peers while running in PE and he had candy bars sticking out of his pockets. He gets invited by some sort of mad scientist to go to his candy factory for “just a taste”. Though he says he really shouldn’t, he agrees that “just a taste” would be ok.

Instantly, he is strapped to a chair and whisked away into the candy factory. A feeding tube is attached to his face which squirts pellet candies into his mouth and two robot hands grasp his jaws forcing him to chew. Humiliating music is played as the chair moves rapidly along a conveyer belt from station to station, where he is force-fed various sweets. His belly grows and grows, sticking out from under his shirt, to enormous proportions. I seem to recall seeing little robot hands squeezing his belly, sort of plumping up his fat almost as if they were tickling him.

Seeing this as a young child of probably 7 or 8 years old, this scene kinda traumatized me. It was more traumatic for me than the Violet scene in Willy Wonka because it actively showed force feeding whereas with Violet, the inflation seemed accidental rather than intentional.

My questions are: Have you seen this film? Do you know the title? Do you know where I can find it, ie: youtube, etc…?

I would be greatly appreciative of any responses.

Sincerely,

Giacomo

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

June 7th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

There are 10 differences between the image above (A) and the image below (B). Can you find them all?

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

June 6th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

Count me in as someone who loved GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. I’m so glad I went to see it on the big screen so I could fully get lost inside its whirlpool of mayhem.  There are images in this movie that are so beautiful as if they were religious paintings come to life, and there are moments of true awe that hit like (literal) lightning strikes. My peepers really got a workout and I left the theater feeling like I just experienced a heartwarming reunion with childhood friends. Man, I love them monsters! Godzilla is like a big misunderstood doggy, Ghidora is a devilish badass, Rodan is a mischievous opportunist and Mothra is the sweetest angel who ever lived. It’s as if the quirky denizens of Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood became quarrelsome giants who spit fire and topple buildings. The movie is over two hours long but I kind of wanted to stay forever (even if just to bask in BEAR McCREARY’s incredible score that weaves in past themes (especially good old Mothra’s signature tune) in a gorgeous way).

Of course you do have to suffer through a dozen or so human characters making plans and pointing at computer screens but I’m happy to say I found the normies reasonably compelling and sometimes moving too. I’d probably jump in front of a flying bullet for VERA FARMIGA at this point (she’s nearly up there in the JAMIE LEE CURTIS/SIGOURNEY WEAVER zone now). FARMIGA plays Dr. Emma Russell whose family is dealing with the loss of a child and while ex-hubby Mark (KYLE CHANDLER) and daughter, Madison (STRANGER THING’s MILLIE BOBBY BROWN in her big screen Kristy McNichol-esque debut) are grieving in constructive ways, Dr. Russell has taken the route of toxic self-destruction to a new, global level. There’s a scene of her speeding a vehicle forward with a snarling three-headed Ghidorah snipping at her heals that blew me away as an illustration of a wounded person desperately trying to outrace their inner demons. Her motives are completely insane and I so totally understood them.

It’s crazy that a summer blockbuster stuffed to the gills with disaster and mass destruction could also shine with unabashed adoring love but thanks to director MICHAEL DOUGHERTY (he of the instant classics TRICK ‘R TREAT and KRAMPUS) here we are. There’s so much in this film about how humans interact with nature and creatures that we aren’t capable of fully understanding that really resonated with me. There are several moments when we get to finally feel for Godzilla in a way that I think has always eluded filmmakers before. In one instance returning character, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (KEN WATANABE) gets to look Godzilla straight in the eye and thank him for what he has meant to him and geez, it’s so lovely.

I’m a little stunned that GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS is getting mixed reviews as it offers more than a few sights, sounds and experiences that can not be experienced anywhere else. I’ve enjoyed the previous films in this current franchise (GODZILLA 2014, KONG: SKULL ISLAND) a great deal too but this is the first one that really hit me down deep in the heart. My only complaint is that after seeing the film the title smacks a little of moth erasure. Behind every good lizard is a great moth! Man, I’m so in love with Mothra that the next time I find a hole in my sweater I’m just going to shrug my shoulders and let it go.

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Traumafession:: Amanda M. on Perfect Murder, Perfect Town

June 5th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

Hi! It’s me again.  I’m currently watching “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town”.  It’s a movie about the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey.  I wanted to watch it again…well to be truthful, I wanted to watch the whole movie for the first time.  The first time I attempted to watch it was in 2008.  The scene where John Ramsey, her father, finds Jonbenet dead in the basement, he picks her up.  Her arms, which are tied over her head, do not move.  This was the first movie I’d ever seen where they actually depicted rigor mortis the right way, because the dead body was stiff as a board.  I mean, I knew intellectually at the time I saw the scene for the first time, that they used a dummy.  Still, though, it really disturbed me.  I’m pretty good at suspending my disbelief, so of course, I was pretending that it was really Jonbenet and I was watching the discovery of her body. 

I didn’t turn the movie off right away.  It wasn’t until they had a morgue scene where the body was displayed from toe up to the head.  Again, I knew it was a dummy, but it still disturbed me to see a little girl’s “body” on the slab.  I turned it off then and didn’t watch it again until just now. I used to live in Colorado, but it wasn’t Boulder.  It was Colorado Springs. 

Ironically 1996 was the year my family moved from Colorado back to Ohio, where I’d spent most of my life.  We moved back to Ohio just weeks before Jonbenet was murdered.  I was 14 and the news blew me away. 

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Traumafession:: Bigwig on Gumby and The Small Planets

June 4th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

  I recently introduced this site to my parents.  Ma Bigwig found it particularly fascinating, and both enjoyed and remembered a great many of the subjects in my posts over the past decade. She brought up one that I hadn’t thought about for dozens of years, that I only vaguely remembered since I was no older than four or so, but Ma insisted it should be included on my trauma highlight reel. I researched based on what she remembered, and we watched it on the youtube, and yeah, I get it.

Gumby – The Small Planets.  Art Clokey must have read Le Petit Prince and decided there was plenty of room for a quick moralistic Gumby adventure in the same vein.  With little to no buildup, Gumby announces he’s fed up living like a slave, controlled by his parents, and sets out to find his own planet to live in peace. He’s made his choice and is already happy about it.  A reluctant Pokey is along for the ride, as they hop in a book, and a spaceship therein.

They visit three small worlds in their whirlwind odyssey, each inhabited by a child who (presumably) also got fed up and ran away from home. These kids demonstrate poor behavior, and Gumby decides his situation wasn’t so bad after all.

The first planet is the lair of Train Boy, a Davey and Goliath leftover puppet, who kicks them off rather than share his world and glorious train sets and fires a missile at them.

Second, we have a girl who delights in frightening our duo with a giant dinosaur mask, but then wonders upon their hasty egress why she has no playmates. (also a Davey and Goliath looking castaway)

And third, the clincher…they find a very intense Claymation boy unlike the previous two playing a piano. Pokey sneezes, which sets the kid off, pulling his hair and screaming that his “Beautiful Arpeggio” was ruined. If that wasn’t bad enough, he morphs into a lycanthropic demon hybrid to further hammer the point home that they are not welcome.

Mom says I hid under the kitchen table after watching this one. ( AKA – young Bigwig’s Fortress of Solitude)

So there you have it, kids, if you ever think you have it bad at home, take a look at what else is out there waiting for you….the selfish;  those who find delight in your fear, and bonafide psychotic monster children just waiting to tear your arms off for sneezing.

All the best,

Bigwig

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

May 31st, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

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Scared Stiff (1987)

May 30th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

If you’re looking for a haunting, quiet, and subtle ghost story, 1987’s SCARED STIFF sure ain’t it because damn, this movie is bonkers. It’s tacky, garish, politically incorrect on multiple levels and somehow, against all odds, entertaining as hell. It’s hard to take seriously, with it’s over the top acting and scrambled script but there’s such a go for broke, throw anything at the wall and see what sticks enthusiasm that it’s hard (at least for me) not to enjoy its sloppy lunacy. As much as it borrows heavily from literally countless films that came before it, I can’t claim that it’s not unique as it’s the only movie I know of that involves a child who adores a pet appliance (an electric lamp with a racist American Indian face upon it) that inexplicably grows to a grotesque size and chases someone down a hallway. This movie is truly crazy.

Psychiatrist and electric shock enthusiast David Young (the always intense ANDREW STEVENS) moves his lover and ex-patient (!) Kate Christopher (MARY PAGE KELLER of the early FOX sitcom DUET) and her son Jason (JOSH SEGAL) into a mansion with a long history of slavery, murder and voodoo. Kate just happens to be a famous pop star (SHEENA EASTON wisely declined the role) which wonderfully allows for several scenes of her filming windy MTV-style videos while lip-syncing to original eighties-era soft pop tunes(!). It’s not long before the house is besieged with ominous pigeons, Kate is having sex with ghosts and David gets caught up in the kind of possession that makes his eyes glow and gives him the urge to kill those closest to him. Before anyone gets the idea to head for the hills, a handyman hangs himself, corpses are found in the attic, toys come to life and a home computer spits out a worrisome digital 3-D death mask. The film’s finale is remarkably even more nuts utilizing hallucinatory surrealism no doubt inspired by the then super popular ELM STREET series.

Believe it or not, SCARED STIFF is a based on an original script by MARK FROST of TWIN PEAKS fame. It’s safe to assume additional writers DANIEL F. BACANER and director RICHARD FRIEDMAN (who is responsible for the equally bizarre DOOM ASYLUM) crammed in all the added derangement. This isn’t a good film by any stretch my friends but it is wacky and nonsensical enough to always be interesting. STEVENS and KELLER make highly watchable leads even when trapped with daffy dialogue and you really get your money’s worth in the practical effects department (plus, I’m all kinds of partial to movies with multiple mental hospital scenes stocked with zealous background performers pretending to be crazy). I’m surprised SCARED STIFF (also known as THE MASTERSON CURSE) isn’t a bit more notorious as a cult flick but it sadly skipped a DVD release before finally winding up on Blu-ray and that probably explains its low profile. If you’re the type that would be interested in a low grade haunted house flick that apes better flicks like BURNT OFFERINGS and the HOUSE series, this could be right up your alley. If you’re not a bad movie lover then make like SHEENA EASTON and take the morning train far, far away!

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