Ages ago, kinderpal Grokenstein mentioned a public information film from the U.K. entitled APACHES in our comments section. I wrote the title down on a post-it and stuck it on my computer where it has stared me in the face for months. I finally got around to catching the 26-minute-long 1977 film today and let me tell you, Grokenstein was not exaggerating about how disturbing it is. In fact, I found myself flinching more than once. The story concerns six children who play cowboys and Indians on a rural farm in England. One by one their reckless behavior causes them to die painful deaths until only one remains. It’s sort of like a precursor to FINAL DESTINATION, starring kids. Directed by JOHN MACKENZIE (THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY), APACHES shows just enough to horrify (and work as a stern warning) and lets your imagination do the rest. All I know is that I just scrapped all my plans to retire to the countryside in my old age. After APACHES, I’ll take my chances in the far less dangerous city!
The multi-part episode featuring the “mole men” scared the whatever out of me. For weeks, months, years, I was scared to look out a window for fear those creepy things were infiltrating.
UNK SEZ: Thanks Rich! That two-part episode titled “The Unknown People” was in fact once a 58-minute-long theatrical feature entitled SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN. No matter the title, in any form, those pesky little mole men are indeed creepy! You can reacquaint yourself with the little buggers HERE.
AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION is not only the crowning jewel of its franchise, but it is also, in my opinion, one of the best possession films out there. Due to its numerical title one might be tempted to read this prequel as an empty cash-in on its predecessor and scan right over its singular vitality. Closer inspection shows a film that is, for the most part, unabashedly willing to glare at the dark corners of family dysfunction and the role organized religion plays in how we perceive ourselves and our actions.
Which is not to say that its wild, melodramatic strokes are not laughable at times. (Writer TOMMY LEE WALLACE also penned the borderline campy HALLOWEEN 3 and FAR FROM HOME). Still, all of the actors assembled do an above average job even as the film’s humorlessness reaches unintentionally hilarious boiling points. Although based on very real incidents, AMITYVILLE 2 draws outside the lines frequently and proudly and its presentation of believable police procedure is virtually nonexistent. That said, as a tale of horror, unlike most American productions, it has a single mindedness that is potent and persuasive.
Whereas the ultimate possession film THE EXORCIST mined adolescent female sexuality for its mettle, AMITYVILLE 2 takes on that of the poised-toward-adulthood male. Sonny Montelli (JACK MAGNER), who is destined to destroy his entire family with a shotgun, ostensibly succumbs to the demons that reside within this legendary address. The truth is, as supernatural and Satanic as the Amityville presence may be, with the Montelli family half of the work is already done upon their arrival; the ingredients are all there, just add holy water.
The preexisting demons in Sonny’s life are the anguish of being in the limbo between child and adult, and the guilt and fear associated with his sexual feelings, particularly those toward his adoring sister Patricia (DIANE FRANKLIN). Framed within the family’s constant tug of war between passive faith and aggressive control, as represented by bickering parents RUTANYA ALDA and BURT YOUNG, Sonny’s slide into madness is a short trip. Notably much of Sonny’s early “demonic” behavior coincides with his standing up to his bullish and physically abusive father. Even the comparatively innocent youngest siblings seem marked for darkness, little sister Jan’s (ERIKA KATZ) idea of a lark is pretending to suffocate little brother Mark (BRENT KATZ) with a plastic bag!
The fact that Sonny and his sister actually do eventually commit incest adds yet another layer of creepiness. Patricia’s shame attracts the attention of a priest when she admits to the incident during confession. She leaves out the fact that the act involved her brother, but reveals that the inspiration for it was Sonny’s attempt to, “hurt God.” Father Adamsky’s (JAMES OLSEN) subsequent impotency in aiding the Montellis, particularly Patricia, adds to the persistent cloud of hopelessness that lingers throughout. Adamsky’s guilt is tangible. A phone call from Patricia begging for aid just before her death is put on hold in favor of a ski outing with a close male friend.
Released in 1982, AMITYVILLE 2 fits in snugly with other body horror films popular at the time. When Sonny is ultimately taken over by the evil, it is staged as a P.O.V. rape with the camera lens standing in as predator. His later inability to control what is within is shown by bubbling and retracting skin and veins. At one point he seems about to sprout a secondary head. The voice that taunts and tempts him to demolish his family, to “Kill the pigs!,” once consigned to his Walkman earphones is now residing inside his skull.
Even non-fans of this movie have to admit that the staging of the brutal slayings is effectively upsetting. Imagine a home invasion scenario where the perpetrator is hidden within someone who sleeps under your roof. Italian director DAMIANO DAMIANI uses just about every camera trick conceivable to kick the legs out from under the audience, and the use of color and especially shadow is exquisite.
Even as the frustratingly feeble Patricia, DIANE FRANKLIN is virtually impossible not to have sympathy for, and her final moments, when face to face with the now monstrous Sonny, are painful and even a bit heartbreaking. As much as I appreciate the film as a whole, I have to admit that a lot of what makes it so compelling departs with FRANKLIN.
AMITYVILLE 2‘s finale does closely follow the lead of THE EXORCIST, but due to its earlier originality, I think it is nit-picky to fault it for eventually playing this card. The final confrontation between Sonny and Father Adamsky is, if not entirely original, at least garnished with some pretty impressive transformation effects. Thankfully, we are also granted one last moment with FRANKLIN, as the demon in temptress form, as she accuses Adamsky of his own repressed lust. (Apparently the producers pushed this more standard ending and another one was intended involving the lost souls within the house making an extended appearance. Stills do exist of this alternate take and are available on the U.K. special edition DVD).
A film like AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION has its work cut out for it as far as being viewed impartially. It’s a sequel, a prequel, and a bastardization of actual events. Its subject matter is unpleasant and its tone is repellent and grim. If AMITYVILLE 2 came up to your home unannounced and rang your doorbell, I wouldn’t blame you for turning off your lights and hiding behind the couch.
As for me, I have to give props to a movie that avoids heroics and false sentiment and dives head first into the pit. Where other possession films are more likely to showcase pure, innocent victims that require heavy pushing into the dark-side, AMITYVILLE 2 suggests the more frightening concept that some people just need a little nudge.
NOTE: You can watch AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION for free HERE
The very first film I can recall seeing in an actual movie theater was GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER. I can’t claim to have ever become a huge die hard Godzilla buff, but my love of this particular adventure of this continues to this day. Growing up, Godzilla was a Saturday afternoon staple in my home, yet although I readily admit to having a certain fondness for the tiny fairies that summoned sometime collaborator, sometime foe MOTHRA, most of his movies seem to blur together in my mind. Not so with SMOG MONSTER, a.k.a. GODZILLA VS HEDORA, a movie that stands out like a pulsating purple sore thumb. In fact, Godzilla producer TOMOYUKI TANAKA was so flabbergasted by the film that he disowned it and even claimed that it ruined the franchise.
One might assume that my affection for SMOG is based simply on blind nostalgia or a need to be contrary since it’s widely perceived to be the King of Monster’s red-headed step child. The truth is, it’s just a great movie. Filled with gloriously grim imagery, crazy psychedelic tuneage and bizarre animated inserts, SMOG holds up better than should be expected, and its environmental message is, of course, even more timely today.
As a monster, HEDORA/SMOG is quite a specimen. The creature, speculated to have come from space via meteor, begins life as a crazy tadpole that consumes water pollution and grows to an enormous size. Soon it’s large enough to knock over oil tankers and eventually take to land. Once land mobile, it jumps at the chance to take long bong hits from toxic smoke stacks that empower it even further. Eventually the slimy glutton is capable of flight and shooting mud pies from his grey, goopy torso.
The aerial attack scenes are what struck me the most as a child. Shaped like a giant horseshoe crab HEDORA is shown flying over schools while children below in the playground drop like flies. Many of the monsters victims are memorably left as mere skeletons after exposure. The most disturbing image perhaps is shown during a television news broadcast of an infant crying, neck deep in sewage and mud. (O.K, I’m lying here, The most disturbing image SHOULD be the one of the infant drowning in filth but for me it’s actually the image of a poor confused Alley cat covered in mud howling at the camera!…What’s wrong with me?)
I guess there may be something undeniably silly about a film that climaxes with two men in rubber suits wrestling on a miniature train set, but the eco-disaster that frames the action is notably ahead of its time. Long time GODZILLA fans may call foul when it’s revealed that the big guy has been keeping them in the dark about his ability to fly over the years (he propels himself with his atomic breath), but I get a kick out of this reveal every time. Regardless of its initial reception, nobody could argue that the film’s heart is in the right place. For me, the one two punch of dismal disaster and goofy broad slapstick is pretty irresistible.
As much as I love HEDORA/THE SMOG MONSTER in all of his guises, and as much as I am still riveted by a scene in which a character inexplicably hallucinates that everyone in a disco has turned into fish-faced ghouls, my favorite thing about this movie is its marvelous opening song. Taking a cue from JAMES BOND, a beautiful woman is shown singing before a screen of pulsating hues as clips of pollution and decay flash by. The song, “Save the Earth” (in the American version) is just about the greatest thing ever, and it’s sure to be running around in your brain for days after you hear it.
If I could go back in time and pick what movie should be the first that I ever saw in a movie theater, I don’t think I could do much better than this one. Balk if you like, but GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER is a trippy, gonzo free-for-all that had me instantly falling head over heels in love with the film going experience.
To this day memories of this movie still cause me to turn on all the lights in the house and shut all the doors that aren’t being used. It was MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN, made in 1988, and I didn’t have the horrible luck of seeing it until 1991, when I was 5. The movie is charming enough… an alien is sent to space on a mission and she takes the form of a babelicious woman (the actress KIM BASINGER) who marries some nerdy guy (played by DAN AYKROYD) whom already has a daughter. I honestly don’t remember too much of the plot, the only thing I can remember about the movie is the object of terror… Bag.
The character’s name was Bag, or The Bag… and it was an alien cohort of KIM BASINGER‘s that lived in her handbag. I remember it was funny when she started talking to her bag, I actually remember some parts of the movie being hilarious (when I was a child) until I saw what Bag really looked like.
Bag is, essentially, a skin tube with an eyeball stuck at the end… like a stalk, almost. I remember its tube being wrinkly and a brown color and that horrible giant eye. That’s all it was… and it spoke. Bag didn’t actually bother me too much when I first saw it. I was scared but I wasn’t terrified to the point of tears until I realized how much of a bad alien Bag was. At one point in the movie Bag got angry and slammed the doors of the house the stepdaughter was in, closed the blinds, and stuck her to the ceiling by levitation or something. She was crying and sobbing and obviously terrified.
The worst part of the movie was when Bag went insane in the end. I think there was a storm… something involving electricity. I think Bag got struck by it in the end, but the crazy shit that was going on before hand was so frightening to me that I was sobbing in terror. I suffered nightmares about Bag for quite some time after seeing that movie.
Back in the olden days, circa 1983, your Unkle Lancifer, just a wee ginger critter, was like a hog in slop experiencing the slasher boom. When I heard wind of an upcoming television movie entitled DEADLY LESSONS, which was clearly and proudly exploiting the current craze, I put down my Rubik’s cube, turned up my Izod collar and waited with baited breath for the night to arrive. I was not disappointed. Since this was a made-for-television offering there was a noticeable lack of gore, but otherwise DEADLY LESSONS with its boarding school setting and double twist ending satisfied my itch.
Over the years I have been able to track down, in one form or another, most of my fondly remembered slash-treasures but this particular one has always eluded. DEADLY seemed lost to the ages and I had given up hope of ever seeing it again. Recently my dreams were answered as I got my paws on this lost gem. Instantly my cranky new millennium bitterness reverted back to my old new wave joi de vivre. It has literally been a quarter of a century since I last viewed DEADLY LESSONS, would it hold up to the test of time?
Not really, but whatareyougonnado? It’s really more of a teen mystery than a slasher (posters for SLUETH and THE ORIENT EXPRESS decorate the dorm walls and the kids play a CLUE rip-off called EVIDENCE!) but you can feel the slasher influence and the neon bite of ’83 in nearly every frame. Imagine a FACTS OF LIFE and HART TO HART crossover and then imagine something half as good as what you just imagined, and there you have it.
The real reason to watch DEADLY LESSONS is for the cast. I think it may just be the greatest cast ever assembled. First of all you have DIANE FRANKLIN (AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSESSION, TERRORVISION) who is cuter than a bug in a rug and should have been tapped to scream on the big screen way more often. She is joined by a pre-WAR GAMES ALLY SHEEDY, a post CHiPs LARRY WILCOX, a young BILL PAXTON (NEAR DARK), NANCY CARTWRIGHT (voice of Bart Simpson, THE TWIGHT ZONE MOVIE), RENEE JONES (FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART VI JASON LIVES!), SALLY KLEIN (EYES OF FIRE), KRISTA ERICKSON (DONNA WILKES replacement on HELLO LARRY!) DEENA FREEMAN (Cousin April from TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT!) RICK ROSSOVICH (STREETS OF FIRE) and DONNA flipping REED! Who can resist that congregation?
Directed by WILLIAM WIARD (THIS HOUSE POSSESSED) and WRITTEN by JENNIFER MILLER (THE BABYSITTER), DEADLY LESSONS deserves a bit more notoriety than it has achieved. The scares are as tame as hell (unless you are frightened by bales of hay) , but the time capsule cast and intriguing who done it? plot are enough to keep it reasonably afloat. (Truth is, witnessing DONNA REED as Starkwater Hall’s over-the-hill headmistress Miss Wade conducting an illicit affair with the school’s horseback riding instructor DAVID ACKORYD (DARK SECRET OF HARVEST HOME) is worth a viewing alone). DEADLY LESSONS may not be as cool as I thought it was way back in 1983, but then again neither is that flip-collared Izod!
First off just wanted to compliment you on a fantastic site. For someone like myself who grew up during the 80’s slasher heyday this site has been invaluable in sourcing out those titles from memories that are 20+ years old.
However, I have a few here that I am still having trouble with.
1) This is from the mid to late ’70s I believe, possibly a TV movie. Maybe not so much a horror film, but something that has stuck in my psyche for years. A boy and a girl are on a beach with a small turtle and carve something onto it’s back. Years later, the boy lives under the water or something and we see the turtle (now huge, I think) swimming by with the carved initials??? On it’s shell!
2) This one was possibly part of a trilogy type story from the ’80s or maybe from a TV show like RAY BRADBURY THEATRE, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, etc. but not sure. It involves groups of people who come out to the scenes of auto accidents. Don’t remember much other than these groups of people all showing up when there is an accident…turns out they are all accident victims and are already dead????
3) And finally this one WAS part of a trilogy or quartet of horror stories popular back in the ’80s VHS days. All I remember of this one was a guy who was performing a “Punch and Judy” type show on a beach or waterfront somewhere. I don’t remember if the Punch and Judy theme was the connecting story or one of the stories itself.
Sorry to be so vague but it’s all I have. Hopefully it will spark someone’s memory and I can finally re-watch these and “put them to bed.”
UNK SEZ: O.K. Sonny I know at least two of these three. The first one is certainly THE BERMUDA DEPTHS, a made-for-television movie from 1978. There may be more than one giant turtle movie, but only one has the initial carving scene you mentioned. The third one I’m pretty sure, is a British anthology film from 1983 called SCREAMTIME, which indeed sports a segment involving Punch and Judy puppets. The second one sounds a lot like CARNIVAL OF SOULS from 1962, but since you didn’t mention it being in black and white I have my doubts. Anybody out there think they’ve got a clearer handle on the second one? If so leave a comment or contact us at Kindertrauma@gmail.com!! In any case Sonny, in the words of MEAT LOAF two out of three ain’t bad!
NOTE: Currently you can watch THE BERMUDA DEPTHS on Youtube! The first part is below, double click the screen to get to the rest. Best to do so now, it could disappear at any time!
I have wanted to add something to your pages for some time now, but every time I think I have something not yet covered, someone else has already unearthed it as their Traumafession. So in place of my own kindertrauma I offer one for my 4-year-old daughter…
A few weeks back my daughter was watching TV in the upstairs room and we could hear her talking to the TV and interacting with the preschool type shows as she does, yelling out letters and numbers and colors and the like. About 5 minutes later I noticed it was quite quiet and went upstairs to find her backed against the wall in terror. I turned to see what she was watching, thinking she had wandered off the pre-programmed favorites somehow and saw this….
“TIPI TALES – are adventures in story and song, where Elizabeth, Junior, Russel and Sam play, laugh and grow together in the forest.” – from the tipitales.com website.
Not sure if they have it in your neck of the woods, but here in Canada it runs on one of the kids channels. It looks harmless enough but when I went to look up TIPI TALES on YouTube the preview picture for the above clip perhaps sheds some light. Maybe it’s just me but that face gives me the creeps…….
AUNT JOHN SEZ: Sonny, first of all, thanks for bringing this future TRAUMAFESSION catalyst to our attention. While I don’t think it has crossed the border onto American airwaves, I could be wrong. Have any of you readers seen this program? If so, feel free to sound off in the comments or, better yet, report it to your local office of Homeland Security. Clearly, the last thing America needs is more childhood nightmares caused by children’s television puppets. I’m looking at you LADY ELAINE FAIRCHILDE and SESAME STREET EGGMAN!
Since we’re on the topic of frightening puppets, I’d be remiss not to mention the original, old school terror LITTLE MARCY who has agreed to demonstrate her unmatched powers of creepiness in a song. Hit it LITTLE MARCY:
Growing up in Australia in the eighties I was subjected to an AIDS awareness commercial at a young age that featured a robed Grim Reaper bowling for victims. I was not really old enough to understand much of what was going on but it used to strike real fear in my heart. It’s not quite as humorous as the stuff you guys usually show, but I think you’ll agree it’s pretty terrifying.
UNK SEZ: Geez, you Aussies actually went there with the spinning baby!!! Between this, the BUNYIP SONG from DOT AND THE KANGAROO and PRISONER CELL BLOCK H, I’m beginning to think Australia is the new Transylvania!