The Tall Man (2012)

I can tell you right now that not everybody is going to like THE TALL MAN. I can say that confidently because I watched it with two other people who were as unimpressed with it as I was intrigued. According to my not very scientific experiment, exactly one third of all people will enjoy this movie and approximately two thirds would prefer to play with their cell phones. On the other hand, perhaps I should disregard my findings as I may have inadvertently raised expectations to an impossible level when I incorrectly informed the participants in my survey that the movie starred JENNIFER BEALS rather than JESSICA BIEL. Once the sad reality that the film we were watching featured not the star of FLASHDANCE but the star of SEVENTH HEAVEN sunk in, a profound malaise infiltrated the room like a radioactive fog that apparently only I was immune to. I admit that BIEL is no BEALS, but that doesn’t make it O.K. to treat her like she’s JENNA ELFMAN. She was a trooper in the TCM remake and she’s surprisingly good in THE TALL MAN playing a complicated role. In fact, the more I think about it the more I realize what a divertingly clever addition BIEL’s presence is to this movie that gets off on using the audience’s presumptions against them whenever possible.

I think director/writer PASCAL LAUGIER (HOUSE OF VOICES, MARTYRS) is brilliant and I’m not just saying that because he’s French. I found myself in the middle of this movie with exactly zero idea where it was going to head next and that’s my favorite place to be in the world. Anyone can throw a twist onto the end of a movie and exit stage left without facing the consequences, but LAUGIER flips things on their head consistently throughout and bravely holds himself and his film accountable for every rug-pull. The startup premise involves a languishing mining town that’s dealing with a rash of missing children. The locals have pinned their fears upon an enigmatic figure known only as “The Tall Man.” BIEL plays Julia Denning, an outsider who has no reason to take the whispered about legend seriously until her own child is snatched away. Honestly, I didn’t know whether to be excited or heartbroken that LAUGIER was taking on such seemingly straightforward material but as it turns out, that is just the first layer of many that he digs through. When the end credits roll, it’s difficult to believe we’re watching the same movie we started out with. The audience is dumped on shaky moral ground far closer to the art house than the slaughterhouse without even a courtesy jump scare security blanket to cling to.

So hurray for this movie for being challenging and making me feel like a gullible fool multiple times, but is it scary? My viewing partners certainly didn’t think so, but I found the dread factor sharp on multiple occasions. Don’t expect the soul curdling power of MARTYRS though; even with all the mind games at play, this is more of an earthy white trash fairy tale than a KUBRICK-ian dive into the abyss. For me, it’s unique and inventive enough to warrant acclamation and how can anyone be anything but extremely grateful after being so expertly kept on their toes? You’ll find a few really good performances too; it’s always good to see pocket scream queen JODELLE FERLAND (SILENT HILL, TIDELAND) and PONTYPOOL’s STEPHEN McHATTIE is a welcome face too. My favorite turn belongs to the effortlessly tenacious SAMANTHA FERRIS who should be instantly recognized by any SUPERNATURAL fans out there. I guess the sad truth is that if you want to do something original and different, you should expect that not everybody is going to follow. As far as I’m concerned, LAUGIER has yet to let me down and I’ll be excited to see what he does next. I’d stay clear of a FLASDANCE remake if I were him though; JENNIFER BEALS’ fans are a hard crowd to please.

Name That Trauma:: Bloodylocks Bathory on a Flashback Murder

Hey Kinder-Crew. Bloodylocks Bathory here again, but this time with a Name That Trauma. In fact it may be one of your most obscure yet. I’ve been searching and searching and googling and yahooing, and yet I still can’t figure this one out.

I’m not sure if this was a movie airing on tv, a movie made for tv, or even an episode of a tv series, but all I can remember of it was the climax, and even what I remember may be completely inaccurate. But here it goes anyway…

Our teenaged heroine of the story is confronted by an older woman who reveals the grisly fate of another woman (the girl’s mother?) in a flashback. As it turns out, the teller of the story was the killer, having bludgeoned the unfortunate lady, even with the girl as a young child as a witness, if my memory serves me correctly. In the flashback there was possibly rain, or a river, but either way, I can’t get the image out of my head of the victim’s motionless body laying there with water running over her, possibly interspersed with shots of the child’s doll laying in the running current as well. Cutting back to the present, the killer has grabbed a branch or bit of wood and plans to do the same thing to the teenaged girl… when someone shouts the typical “so-and-so, look out!” Was this the supposed murder victim? How the heck does that make sense. I seem to recall the killer being quite shocked about this interruption, so perhaps it was… Hell, I dunno… I think the killer was then shoved a.) into the river or b.) off a high distance. What I always remembered most was the actual flashback involving the murder.

Did this really happen in a show or film? Am I crazy and just turned some memory of a real killing into fiction? I have no idea. But I hope someone can help me figure out that it was the former, and what specifically it had been from.


Bloodylocks Bathory

The Beast Within (1982)

I’ve tried hard over the years to better understand THE BEAST WITHIN (1982). Heck, I even coerced myself recently to read the same-titled novel it’s loosely based on thinking that might help me fathom it further. (It’s by Edward Levy and I secretly loved it.) Both the book and the movie involve a man who is chained in a cellar and subjected to a tortuous existence, feeding on rats and human flesh. His ordeal is such that he physically converts into a subhuman beast who eventually escapes, rapes a woman and passes his acquired depravity onto the resulting offspring. The child is seemingly fine for a while but eventually the inherited malevolence breaks through. In the book, the transformation involves traditional werewolf or demonic possession motifs and in the movie, the poor guy turns into a cicada. Don’t laugh! I think that’s well, original and the cicada’s 17-year stagnation period fits in nicely with parents and teenagers’ anxiety about the changes that come with adulthood, you know, the natural morphing of sweet obedient children into those terrible creatures with their own ideas! Plus, cicadas are gross, shed skeletal husks and chirp that terrible tune! They certainly do deserve an invite to the horror table.

Only it doesn’t really work. It’s a big jump going from a man turning into a feral brute and a man transforming into an ugly loudmouth grasshopper and THE BEAST WITHIN doesn’t quite have the springboard legs to achieve the leap. I’d blame the script but how can I when it’s from the pen of TOM HOLLAND of PYSCHO II, FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD’S PLAY fame? I have to assume something larger went haywire during production although I guess talent has been known to hibernate on occasion too. One rumor I came across stated that about a half hour of filming was lost and that they had to move ahead regardless which would explain much but not everything. Besides the movie mumbling and muttering its way past the dubious cicada issue (if you listen closely black magic band-aids are placed over the hole), there’s still the frustrating problem of having barrels of exposition and little of it useful. And then there’s the beast itself who, when caught at the wrong angle, looks less like an insect and more like drunk E.T.

Don’t get me wrong I fucking adore the special effects in this movie. They are over-the-top outlandish, freakiskly fantastic and deliciously squishing, especially in the traffic-stopping transformation scene. It’s just that the monster in its fully evolved form is a bug-eyed goon in a wobbly rubber suit…not that he doesn’t give good decapitations. So why do I keep returning to this flick when I’m fully aware of its limitations and why would a rational person expect it to be anything other than its crazy self knowing that it’s directed by the same dude (PHILIPPE MORA) who dosed the world with THE HOWLING 2 & 3 and my personal favorite brain-exploder COMMUNION?

No matter its disjointed nature, THE BEAST WITHIN has a weird, off-putting apprehensive vibe. Maybe that’s just residue from my own trepidation after succumbing to its effective “WE DARE YOU TO WATCH THIS!” advertising campaign thirty years ago or maybe it’s due to the swampy, sleazy, southern-fried insanity setting- I don’t know. It’s also got a great cast. RONNY COX and BIBI BESCH make nice, sympathetic parents and the rouges gallery of creepy local residents is gonzo strong with DON GORDON, LOGAN RAMSEY and JOHN DENNIS JOHNSTON. (If you don’t recognize their names, you’ll recognize their faces) An I WAS A TEENAGE CICADA movie would be bound to the ground without a decent actor playing the teenage cicada and PAUL CLEMENS does an admirable job and is remarkably adapt at melding himself with some seriously heavy make-up. Really, the way he contorts his face into unnerving expressions makes some of the lesser effect reliant scenes the strongest and I’d bet LON CHANEY would give him a thumbs up (after he threw-up).

I’ll always be a tad disappointed in this movie’s inability to state its case in a less jumbled manor but if you invite the right people to the right place, can’t you still have fun even if cohesiveness is a no show? I think we all know I can. THE BEAST WITHIN is a monster movie and monster movies can get away with dancing around with a lampshade on their head especially if that head is committed to expanding to ten times its size in the finale. That’s a party in my book and if I have to crawl around in the dark to get there so be it.

Name That Trauma:: R. Wray on a Murdered Desert Well Ghost


As with many of you I have a memory of watching a TV show in the 70’s but cannot put a name to it. I have always believed that it was from Tales of the Unexpected but I cannot find a matching description in any of the episodes. It concerns a man who has been murdered by his wife and she, along with her lover hide the man’s body in a well. His ghost then terrorizes them. It’s set in a desert-like location (possibly the southwest). I remember that his body was possibly wrapped in cloth prior to being lowered into the well.

Thanks for any help & love the site!

Traumafession:: Reader Ozne on Kolchak, Elmer’s Glue, Bigfoot & a Creepy Neighbor

Hey Guys,

Here’s my two cents on what scared me or gave me nightmares: Kolchak: The NIght Stalker Episode 6 “Firefall“. The conductor, or should I say his doppelganger, tried to annoy Kolchak by repeatedly knocking against an open window of a church. It was that smirk and the insane look on his face with the knocking that bothered me as a little boy. I had nightmares about that doppelganger for a few days. Also from the 70s was that smiling cow on every bottle of Elmer’s Glue. For some reason, I kept superimposing Mr. Clean’s face with the cow and the two together had this I’m-going-to-get-you look. Weird and scary.

Lastly, any of the Bigfoot documentaries of the 70s. Chills down my spine all the time. It was hard to get any sleep. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: the neighborhood pedophile who always looked at me and my brother whenever we were out playing or going to the store. He was thin and tall like Norman Bates with sunken eyes and super creepy. I later discovered he had a record for molesting a neighborhood boy.

That’s all folks! Keep up the Traumatic work.

It’s a Horror to Know You:: Eric of FilmFather!

It’s a Horror to Know You: Eric of FilmFather!

1. What is the first film that ever scared you?

It’s been said by several people already, and it goes for me, too: JAWS. I saw it on HBO more times than I should have as a kid. Ben Gardner’s head and Quint’s demise gave me nightmares. On the opposite end of quality horror, the scene in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS of Woody Strode’s lifeless head slumping out of his overturned truck scared me so much that I had visions of him creeping past my bedroom door at night. Honorable mention for scar(r)ing me deeply goes to the trailers for IT’S ALIVE, MAGIC, CARRIE, and PROPHECY.

2. What is the last film that scared you?

I don’t know if you’d call it scared, but the last film to traumatize me is WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. As a parent, I felt terrified and helpless watching Tilda Swinton try in vain to bond with, control, or even love her son. The scariest part isn’t even teenage Kevin; it’s when he’s merely 8 and already a full-blown sociopath.

3. Name three Horror movies that you believe are underrated.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) — Many horror remakes are rubbish, but this redux by Alexandre Aja is more brutal and agonizing than Wes Craven’s original. As a parent, I can appreciate the depths Doug goes to in order to retrieve his infant child. And his killing of the mutant Pluto had me cheering; I love how he broke the big man down.

THE BLOB (1988) — Another horror remake I prefer over the original. Co-written by Frank Darabont and highly underrated. Great action, impressive effects, and certain people you think will survive…don’t.

DEAD AND BURIED — A semi-forgotten flick about a town of murderous mobs and reanimated corpses, featuring dear old Jack “Grandpa from WILLY WONKA” Albertson as the town’s creepy undertaker. The “you think he’s dead, but he’s not” and needle/eyeball scenes (both involving the same character) are forever burned in my memory.

4. Name three Horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgement.

BRIDE OF CHUCKY — When people would ask me if BRIDE OF CHUCKY is a good movie, I honestly tell them it was one of the most thoroughly entertaining movies I have ever seen. Great horror? No. But the pairing of Chucky and Tiffany, be it human or doll form, had me in stitches. Everything about this movie is outrageous: the kills, the punchlines, and yes, the hot doll-on-doll action (“Have I got a rubber? Tiff, look at me. I’m ALL rubber.”).

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V — I saw this on opening weekend 1985, bailing on my family who all went to see WITNESS. My theater was fully packed. Maybe it was the crowd mentality that made seeing FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in a theater. The audience ate up every creative kill, and broke out in cheers when little Reggie (Shavar Ross) busted out the bulldozer!

BASKET CASE — One of the first horror films I ever saw (back when we had to rent the VCR with the tapes!). Trashy, splatty fun featuring a man and his blob of a conjoined twin seeking bloody, gory revenge on the doctors that separated them. Ah, the stop-motion animation of little Belial… [kisses fingertips] magnifique! I’m a sucker for horror films that capture the seediness of New York / Times Square in the late ’70s/early ’80s, as BASKET CASE does.

5. Send us to five places on the Internet!

Cinema du Meep — A great retro movie site, with focus on genres of the ’70s and ’80s (horror, teen comedies, etc.).

Dinner with Max Jenke — The tagline is “New Horror Opinions at ’80s Prices.” Here, Jeff Allard waxes poetic and nostalgic about all things horror, comic, and sci-fi – often providing insight I hadn’t thought of before.

The Droid You’re Looking For — A great blog featuring a mix of classic film, horror, lists, and even some TV on occasion.

Every ’70s Movie — Daily movie reviews by filmmaker Peter Hanson (TALES FROM THE SCRIPT) of films from the 1970s.

Space: 1970 — A recently discovered gem. A blog dedicated to the science fiction films and television series of the 1970s — polyester, feathered hair, and all.

Name That Trauma:: Shane M. on a Cop Show Cross Dressing Killer

Hi, I have been a fan of your wonderful site for a long time, and I have something that I hope someone can help me with. When I was younger there aired on TV an episode from some cop program, it might have been Starsky and Hutch, I’m not sure. There was a crazed woman killing people, who would dress up as a man, wearing a derby and a suit, and would walk in the darkness saying to victims “You, you, I’m going to kill you”. Thats all I can remember, and if anyone remembers what TV show this was from I appreciate it.