UNK SEZ:: Forgive me if this week's funhouse is too easy! I figured I might as well give two stones the bird and smoosh it up with a year end "best of" list! Now, this is is a loose list and not in any order, but here are ten films that stood out for me this past year. I didn't see EVERYTHING so what do I know? My friend Fetsko told me that DEVIL is really good too but since he also told me THE ENDING I won't be seeing that one any time soon, good though it may be. If I forgot one of your favorite flicks of the past year (like REC 2 for example!) let me know in the comments section. Good luck and here's to looking forward to a brand new slew of horror in 2011!
I so admire websites that focus on one single film. I like to think of every movie being a universe in and of itself and when someone has a favorite film that they just can't get enough of, I get a sort of contact high from their enthusiasm. Here's a quick list of some of my favorites…
Online since 2001, this heaven on Earth for fans of JOHN CARPENTER's THE THING is nearly as mind expanding as the film itself. I doubt there's any tidbit of information on CARPENTER's beloved horror sci-fi mash up that you won't find lovingly stored here. Founders TODD CAMERON and CHRIS MORGAN, with an assist from the late and greatly missed STEVE CRAWFORD, have created the only THE THING website anybody will ever require. Kudos are deserved for a mountain of impressive work. Chill at the outpost HERE!
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN's non-stop genius towering achievement THE EXORCIST is a film that will always inspire endless fascination. Established way back in 1999, CAPTAINHOWDY.COM is an incredibly expansive resource for anything involving the classic film and its offshoots. Your life is not complete 'till you've seen a crocheted model of Reagan puking on Father Merrin, which you'll find in its FAN ART section. Allow the Captain to amaze and entertain you HERE!
THE BLACK CHRISTMAS FANSITE
One of the first websites to make me fall in love with the Internet was a BLACK CHRISTMAS fansite called IT'S ME BILLY which has broken my heart and disappeared. Thank the lord webmaster Scott found as much inspiration from that site as I did and created his own tribute to BOB CLARK's excellent seasonal shocker. So glad that Billy has found a second home and that you can still visit him HERE.
THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE
I gotta say, this movie had a profound effect on me in my youth. JODIE FOSTER as Rynn Jacobs lived my dream life: alone in a big house ditching school, reading books and murdering anyone who tried to expose her. This is a relatively young fansite and it's off to a fantastic and wonderfully obsessive start. If you too are a fan of the film, do yourself a favor and visit my hero Rynn HERE, just don't drink the tea!
I can't do a list of fansites and not include my favorite fansite in the universe the one and only POLTERGEIST III fansite. It gives me warm fuzzies knowing that a film can be loved regardless of its reputation. P3 may be the black sheep of its franchise but everything about it, from its all-practical effects and mirror play to its cursed history is just all kinds of interesting. Webmaster Dave is an inspiration; give him a visit HERE!
So there's my five favorite fansites but there must be many more. Do any of you guys out there know of, or operate any movie fansites that you think we should all check out? Feel free to leave any links you can think of in the comments!
There are four things that truly terrify me. Chill me to the bone:
1. The thought that one day MICHAEL JACKSON's children might breed with BRITNEY SPEARS' kids.
Okay, really I'm just kidding there. It's really three things:
1. Fast speeds. I hate them. I get panic attack when attempting to drive on freeways – when someone else is driving I'm okay, however. I refuse to go on roller coasters. I don't even like to watch car races. I can't drive over 55.
2. Those ear bugs from STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN. *shudders* To this day I can barely stand to watch any scene involving them. I can still remember hiding under the blanket at the movie theater when we saw that and my brothers making fun of me for it. I still worry that bugs will crawl into my ear and take over my brain – and I'm 34 years old!
3. This one ending scene of an episode of TOM & JERRY. Jerry makes friends with a baby duck Tom wants to eat. The end of that episode shows Jerry and the duckling at the beach when suddenly Tom POPS out of nowhere and slams a bucket over them. He's laughing evilly as his head lowers down and he starts to raise the bucket just enough to get them. That's the end.
Even as a small child who still thought that babies came from the stork, I never thought Tom would actually eat them. No, I thought of my parents' warnings of strangers and their BAD TOUCHES. To beware of the man in the trench coat offering little girls and boys candy. In that moment Tom, the ever hungry and thwarted cat, became the Evil Stranger looking to kidnap children to sate his unnatural lust.
Wow – my parents really screwed me up there, didn't they?
I found DARREN ARONOFSKY's latest looking for self-love in all the wrong places opus BLACK SWAN nearly overwhelming and a great deal to take in. It's a cinematic turducken stuffed with wild visuals, grandiose music, winking paintings and elaborate dance; just about every known tool of expression is represented in one form or another. If they distributed POLYESTER-inspired scratch-and-sniff cards to accompany the movie, the sensory overload would have been complete and my head would have exploded.
As I watched I didn't quite know what to think. My eyes and ears were far too busy running around like mad squirrels snatching every bit of information they could retrieve. The film's final articulation though is powerful enough to dance backwards furiously sewing it all together into one substantial whole. Oh, it's pretentious all right, but considering the brittle, caustic environment it's representing, it's required to be. Artistry itself is unmasked as a cold snarling bouncer who's happy to cruelly scan its would be suitors and capriciously refuse admittance. BACK SWAN is so open veined, needy and obvious in places that I couldn't help but feel a tinge of embarrassment, a feeling I use as a dowsing stick to identify greatness. Seriously, if you create things impervious to the ravens of ridicule do the world a favor and don't bother.
Holly Go-stiffly NATALIE PORTMAN is perfectly cast as an exquisite glass doll with a splintery recognition of not living up to her full potential. She blooms in this and synchronizes with the role in an exceptional way. As dancing as fast as she can't ballerina Nina Sayers gradually merges together discarded and neglected aspects of herself, PORTMAN as an actress appears to do the same. The role requires her to swing from frustrating vulnerability to the depths of dark narcissism, she's a Pinocchio replicant too paranoid and frenzied to understand she alone clutches the strings. Truly, she's sick in the head, gnawing on her own tail and accusing shadows for the scars. BLACK SWAN may be sold to audiences as a psychosexual usurper thriller but that aspect of the film is patently delusional. Nina is her own monster mapping out her own tragedy. She's paid for self-acceptance by slaving as a show pony and the check is doomed to bounce.
Let's blame Mom! BARBARA HERSHEY with soldering iron stares portrays Nina's cuticle critiquing smother mother and she's one broom shy of a complete wardrobe. The character can be accused of being wildly unsympathetic and one-note but don't forget she sprouted from Nina's arrested fairy tale pop-up book view of the world. It's not a literal depiction but a presentation of Nina's perception. If you ask me, I think the world in this movie is intentionally exaggerated to illustrate Nina's limited understanding of grey hues.
We also get WINONA RYDER slyly cast as a bitter once-was. Uncharacteristically, she doesn't tear the whole playhouse down which makes me want to forgive her for her work in either BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA or ALIEN 4, but not both. Rounding out the cast, VINCENT CASSEL plays a douche charismatic enough to make you not care that he's a douche and MILA KUNIS portrays Nina's real fascination, a wily free spirit who she is both threatened and intrigued by. I have a lot of sympathy for PORTMAN's character, if I had to hang out on a day-to-day basis with the eye-lasagna likes of CASSEL and KUNIS, I'd buckle under Bambi legs too. Meow. Anyway, even if you don't fall under this film's kinetic spell ARONOFSKY has to be acknowledged as an actor's director, someone with the patience to harvest the best from his players.
As you probably already know BLACK SWAN is one of those kooky reality smudging mind-fuck movies like THE TENANT or JACOB'S LADDER. I admit to meeting few in this mini sub genre that I didn't like. Seems to me "reality" really could use a bit of a boost in the being interesting department and movies are a great place to explore psychology on a visual level without being boxed in by the reigns of likelihood or the collective fantasy that we all experience life the same way.
It's interesting to note that in mind-fuck films involving female characters (REPULSION, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, CARNIVAL OF SOULS) the protagonists tend to circle a different drain. Demonic insecurity is omnipresent and there's an added accusatory vibe that the female characters are not "enough" or don't feel "enough" that's absent from the male anchored mind-fuck equivalent. It's rather strange and I'm not sure which gender should be more insulted but I've decided that since the ladies sometimes get to have exploratory sexual experiences without the sky falling down that they ultimately get the better deal. (The exception to this double standard would be NAKED LUNCH where of course "everything is permissible".)
In conclusion, did I mention I really fucking loved BLACK SWAN? I guess there's no way around that simple truth. It's a fascinating character study and although it might pluck feathers here and there from other works, the entire cast excels and I am confident that future viewings will only gift me more to chew. Although it guilds the lily up the wazoo there is something very human bleeding here too. I mentioned fairy tales before and it really works as an adult fable about the folly of obsessively trying to filter out anything that doesn't fit into an idealized false concept of what is worthy or good. I personally cannot identify with the cursed search for "perfection" on account of I laughed that goblin away decades ago but Nina's self debasement, body dysmorphia and coveting of the lives and identities of others I did sadly relate to. (If you didn't, then why can't I be you?). I can imagine some horror fans feeling that the gloves never fully come off in BLACK SWAN but if you ask me, the worst, most terrifying place to catch an image of the beast who is trying to demolish you is in your own reflection.
Longtime reader, second time submitter – last time I shared about the hit and run child murder scene from THE TOXIC AVENGER. I've kind of learned to make peace with that scene by soliciting and actually receiving a reply from one of the actors, ROBERT PRICHARD, on my blog at CINEMACHINE.
I want to share an earlier trauma which will always haunt me from beyond the safety of connection with those responsible: the episode of FRIDAY THE 13: THE SERIES entitled "The Playhouse."
They used to run this on the Sci-Fi Channel back in its glory days and I didn't even know what I was watching when I caught the episode's first act:
Two kids, a brother and sister, find another kid playing in their neighborhood. After sizing him up they invite him back to their house where they have a little playhouse in the backyard. They climb inside and the siblings tell the other to hold on tight – suddenly there's a lot of wind and whooshing and all three are taken someplace else.
Inside the playhouse-fantasy world there's a checkered floor and the usual Caligari skewness abound, plus the siblings are now handsomely dressed. The kid they brought in asks what's going on.
The brother says something like, "Here you can do anything you want!"
The sister holds out some nice chocolates or candy in her hands and says, "You can HAVE anything you want!"
Then the brother adds, "But you gotta be REAL NICE to us."
The stuff in the girl's hands become worms, the siblings have evil smiles, and I think the kid screams.
This was bad, but the worst part – THE WORST PART – was that they cut to the kid's poor mom, wandering down the street where her son was playing and calling his name.
In the same way THE TOXIC AVENGER showed that poor kid's big sister before he got turned into road mush, there's something about the idea of the grieving parent left behind that just makes a kid's death even more disturbing.
Although I should add that when I saw the full episode years later in reruns, all the kids the playhouse ate up were returned unharmed after the FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES crew defeated it. Can't have that on prime time T.V.!
Keep up the great site!!
Happy holidays to you and yours!
aunt john & unkle lancifer
UNK SEZ: A while back while I was assembling the "Avalanche of Christmas Horror" post, I found myself needing one screen-shot from CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980). As I started scouring through the film I realized that it was going to be difficult to pick just one. I genuinely just love the way this low budget film was shot and the time period and the mood it captures. If you've not seen the SYNAPSE edition released a couple years ago and are only familiar with the film from its many shoddy public domain releases, the difference is a real eye opener. Anyway, I'm going to share with you about half of the images I gathered because if I don't use them soon, I'll have to wait another year! Hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!