TRAUMAFESSION: Crankenstein of Theater of Guts on The Frozen Dead

I’ve been haunted by the memory of a telepathic, wide-eyed, blue decapitated head with wires protruding out of its skull and frighteningly strong arms dangling from a wall that are controlled by brainwaves. I always wondered if this was a dream, or a traumatic memory that I invented. Now I know that it was this film I’m about to discuss and not THE BRAIN THAT WOULD’NT DIE. That film is a trashy classic in its own right, but I must admit, I was mildly disappointed when I first saw it because as demented as it was, I needed some closure in the form of a whispering blue head that controlled people’s will and minds.

Dana Andrews plays Dr. Norberg, a Ronald Reagan or Walt Disney-esque Nazi with an experimental basement lab (similar to the one Grandpa Munster had). It’s filled with Maytag-like appliances and giant red and green buttons. He lives in a mansion with a butler that looks like a German Michael Berryman. Dr. Norberg is hiding frozen Nazis in his basement and has a failed reputation in cryogenics. His mannerisms and personality have all the charm of a honey-baked ham. The ghoulish prison like lab is filled with cripples and brain surgery failures. Two hippie girls show up outside, one of them is Norberg’s niece Jean and the other will soon be decapitated. His lunkhead, Igor-type assistant must find a brain and the search is on, this will somehow help the Dr. reanimate the Third Reich (not exactly sure how). When Jean’s friend Elsa (Kathleen Beck) is strangled by a loose dimwit in the house, the doctor, a supposed Nazi, actually objects to murder! Did he forget he’s a former Nazi? Later on he tells his murdering assistant that things in this age are different and Nazis only killed for political reasons!

The eerie blue makeup of the woman’s head in the box is a cross between Jambi from PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE and Margaret Hamilton. Later on, a burn victim named Mrs. Smith shows up in one of the oddest moments, in an already unhinged ‘60s film, she puts on a leatherface like false face and answers the door. This strange moment is confusing to me and I’m not sure where it ties into the story. As a kid, the blue face gave me the heebie jeebies, especially when she whispers incoherently (I’ll leave the final cryptic words up to the ears of the viewer). THE FROZEN DEAD is one of those bizarre British horror films in league with CIRCUS OF HORRORS, but not as heavy and sadistic as PEEPING TOM. It’s a fun B-movie that was worth revisiting in order to get some confirmation that it all wasn’t some fever childhood nightmare.

UNK SEZ: Make sure you Visit Crankenstein regularly at THEATER OF GUTS!

Name That Trauma:: Reece & DLD on a Possessed Cook serving Up Body Parts

Early nineties, a chef in a small town, he owns a bakery/deli. He gets a package that has a giant statue or totem inside. It possesses the cook and he kills people and serves them. At the end of the movie there is a huge party that he caters and serves the body parts.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, please let us know what the movie is called?

Sunday Streaming:: Citadel (2012)

CIARON FOY’s CITADEL (2012) is a movie about fear, particularly debilitating fear. ANEURIN BARNARD plays Tommy, a man who witnesses a violent and ultimately fatal attack upon his pregnant wife by hooded youths. The unborn baby survives but Tommy’s perception of the world does not. Everywhere he looks he sees his wife’s attackers and they appear to be multiplying and taking on hideous unnatural forms. He becomes convinced that the suddenly BROOD-esque troll squad want to snatch his baby and he’s terrified that he’ll fail again at protecting his own. Sympathetic nurse Marie (WUNMI MOSAKU) tries her best to pull the movie back into the realm of reality (where Tommy’s suspicions can be attributed to post traumatic stress) but writer/director FOY shoos her away with a lead pipe and we’re left trapped in the world built by Tommy’s psychosis where the only way out (sorry, shotguns, chainsaws and quippy one-liners) is facing his fear head on.

Now this a horror movie. As frustrating as it may be to some viewers, here is a film that is not afraid to delve into feelings of powerlessness and doesn’t let you off the hook with fantasy heroics. It plays out like a nightmare, the kind where you want to move your legs but can’t, the kind where you need to protect something other than yourself and fail, the kind where things don’t always go your way and your best option could be to simply hide and hope you’re not seen. We’re not traveling the pandering pay-off strewn path of mainstream cinema, we’re being lead by the nose through the trenches of mental distress and raging paranoia where frankly, you’re anxiety’s bitch. One of the reasons FOY isn’t tied to selling the old “we can all lift trucks off of babies when we really need to” theory, may be because he himself was the victim of a brutal attack at the age of 18 and suffered the psychological effects first hand. CITADEL isn’t the story of what happened, it’s a purging of what it felt like happened and that’s what makes it so solid and substantial. Through Tommy and HOY’s eyes, buildings come across as giant tombstones, tunnels become crypts, doors resemble glass coffins and dread is omnipresent. I’d put this one up on the shelf next to JACOB’S LADDER and POLANSKI‘s REPULSION and I thank HOY for sharing something that horror fans too often cower from, the true fallout of fear.

Shadows of the Mind (1980)

Hey, I just figured out that I can watch YouTube videos on my big TV thanks to my friendly best buddy PS3! This opens up so many wonderful opportunities for yours truly! Lately, due to events completely out of my control, I have caught some pretty decent movies. Enough is enough. I need something terrible! Luckily, every request my mind ever makes is always promptly fulfilled by the universe! That is how SHADOWS OF THE MIND (1980) waltzed into my life! This movie nearly knocked CATHY’S CURSE off its perch as my number one most-beloved, maddening atrocity! Of course SHADOWS has no evil doll in it so there was never any real threat of that happening but still, that previously unthinkable thought did cross my mind! Will a normal human be able to watch this movie for five minutes without shutting it off? Who knows and who cares! I wish I knew how to properly describe this awkward oddity. It’s sort of like being stuck on a bus for hours sitting next to a rambling nutcase and it’s sort of like if ANDREA MARTIN starred in a movie based on the comic strip ZIGGY except somebody gets stabbed in the eye with a corkscrew. This is one of those movies that is often hilarious in its ineptness and yet is so persistently peculiar that it ends up being creepier than you’d expect.

SHADOWS is the story of slack-jawed, sad sack Elise (MARION JOYCE) who is set free from the funny farm after spending the last 12 years learning to say goodbye to the trauma of witnessing her father’s tragic boating death and hello to a seriously unhealthy attachment to her psychiatrist. With the best of intentions she moves back to her stately family home, only to be tormented by her snarky stepbrother and stalked by a shifty groundskeeper. Soon folks are being murdered and we’re lead to wonder if Elise is being framed or if she’s lost her marbles again. It’s kind of like PSYCHO 2 without the burden of quality. The most fascinating thing here is the fact that the screenplay was written by lead actress JOYCE. This adds a weirdly personal, almost confessional vibe and it compounds the discomfort when other characters must duly remark how vibrant and beautiful the (sorry) borderline hunchback Elise is. Director ROGER WATKINS (who is also responsible for the more notorious THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD STREET) has a way of making 80 minutes seem like 180 but the film’s campy, parlor room hysterics and through the roof nutso payoff are easily worth the sluggish haul, at least, to me. Make no mistake this movie is not good in the traditional sense but I loved it in ways I could never love a good movie. It certainly didn’t successfully convince me of everything it set out to but in the case of its depiction of mental illness I stand absolutely sold.

Name That Trauma :: Reader Jordan on a Pumpkin Covered Book

I absolutely love KINDERTRAUMA! Not only is it intelligent, a feast for the eyes and a nostalgic’s dream – it is also oodles of fun! Your Sunday Streaming and review archives always turn me on to new flicks that I love! I’ve never followed one of your recommendations and been disappointed – thank you for that!

I’m hoping there is something else I can be thanking you for – helping me track down a trauma! I’ve noticed that you’ve helped some people locate books that left impressions on them in the past and perhaps you could do the same for me? I don’t really remember what the tale I’m looking for was about, except for it involving a creepy older neighbor man who lives alone and who carves a lot of pumpkins and the story’s heroine becomes convinced is the serial killer terrorizing her town (although in the end, I believe, he turned out to be quite the opposite and saved her life from the actual murderer).

It has been years and the details of the book are a little hazy so some of that may be off. But it was the book’s cover that really freaked me out. This would have been in the early ’90s and the artist did a bang up job for sure. It featured a dark haired girl glimpsed through a window (I think a bedroom window, she may have been peering into it) with a look of shock on her face – maybe because of what she is seeing in the bedroom or maybe because on the porch surrounding her are tons of spooky, glowing pumpkins. This one was probably meant for pre-teens and middleschoolers.

I’m still not sure why it freaked me out so much, as I love all things Halloween – perhaps some of the pumpkins had sinister faces – but I know that it gave me nightmares and I was terrified after waking from them that I’d look at my bedroom window and see an evil glowing Jack o’ Lantern or a diabolical hairy handed killer looking right back at me!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for any help you can provide! I certainly do appreciate it!

Jordan

Name That Trauma :: Reader Hugh on an Disembodied, Motivational Mouth

Hi,

I have faith that, if anyone can answer this question for me, it would be someone from your website:

There is a TV movie I recall from my childhood that I always found to be a bit eerie. It would have to be from either the ’70s or ’80s and was something along the lines of an “After School Special,” but I’m pretty sure it was not a part of that actual series. All I remember is that it featured a school aged kid and there was a giant, pretty crudely animated, disembodied mouth that spoke to him and was basically encouraging him to believe in himself and all that stuff. The movie ends with the young protagonist catching the winning fly ball in a baseball game. Does this ring a bell for anyone?

Thanks for any info!

Sunday Streaming:: The Awakening (2011)

THE AWAKENING (2011) opens with a séance and we all know that’s a good thing. Shortly we’re on some 1920’s era, cross country train trip and it’s clear we’re being taken to one of my favorite places on Earth…uptight lady who may be bonkers in an ominous mansion with super creepy kids-land! (See THE INNOCENTS, THE OTHERS, THE ORPHANAGE, HOUSE OF VOICES, FRAGILE, et al.) Let me be upfront and say this type of movie gets a ton of leeway with me. I just want to spend as much time inside it as possible and I’m fully prepared to tolerate it going through whatever well-worn motions it needs to in order to do so. Maybe these digs are nothing new but what’s a subgenre for anyway, unless to sign a secret agreement to deliver essentially what you expect? Yes, there are few surprises (I may not have known exactly the precise inevitable twist but I sure knew the ballpark) yet honestly, if it went on forever I wouldn’t have minded much as it satisfyingly establishes a complete and believable arena for the supernatural to roam.

Written by STEPHEN VOLK, the brains behind the legendary GHOSTWATCH, THE AWAKENING most fully earns it’s place at the ghost table by delivering some intriguingly robust characters in hard-nosed proto-Ghostbuster Florence Cathcart (REBECCA HALL) and her injured and enigmatic confidant/love interest Robert Malloy (DOMINIC WEST). If these two kooky kids had the mind to jump out of the movie and start an X-FILES type show, I would gladly pull up a chair each week. It’s certainly a shame that director NICK MURPHY didn’t better resist the urge to gild the lily with uninvited splashes of unnecessary CGI, but those few incidents weren’t so obtrusive as to tear the whole playhouse down. I’ll probably revisit and investigate this movie’s familiar yet absorbing halls more thoroughly in the future. For now, this is a great Netflix find for anyone who enjoys a more classic and refined approach to scares; it takes full advantage of its setting and what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for with the company you get to keep.

The Evil Dead (2013)

THE EVIL DEAD (2013) is exceptionally good, particularly for a remake, but I can’t say it completely blew my socks off. That’s O.K., maybe in the future it will. For now I’m satisfied, even if my socks aren’t. I certainly recommend checking it out while it’s in theaters; it’s a big, gorgeous, blood-red hell painting that deserves to be seen on the largest canvas possible but I’d take those “most terrifying movie ever” blurbs with a grain of salt. I say that as someone who is a light touch when it comes to being unnerved by possession flicks. Obviously a great effort was made to strike a more serious and grounded tone and it absolutely works but the stripping away of anything campy or freaky for me, lessens my sense of a more unrestrained truly evil, mocking presence. Both figuratively and literally, this movie sings a haunting lullaby that is precise and sharply assembled, yet I can’t say this tune is as rabidly fierce as the simple, absurd maddening chant of “We’re going to get you.” In many ways — finer acting (with the exception of lightening in corduroys CAMPBELL), resplendent cinematography, and fuller script — this reworking is superior to the film it’s based on and yet it suffers for being too straight-faced and cautious about fully dipping its paw in the rampant insanity jar. Yep, it’s bloody as hell but I can’t say physical gore can really hold a candle to the threat of crazed, unbridled delirium.

Sorry, I’m looking at this gift horse straight in the mouth and maybe I should be careful about comparing this spring chicken with a movie that has lived in my bones for decades. If nothing else, director FEDE ALVERAZ branded more than a few fresh, potent images into my brain. There’s a bit involving a conversation through a plastic bag that is touching, gloriously bizarre and exhilaratingly unique and there’s a final clash battle image between two figures that I wouldn’t mind having as a mural on my wall. I love the look of this movie. It’s like some kind of muddy, rusty religious relic someone dug up out of a grave. If I could kidnap ALVERAZ at gunpoint and lead him into a time machine in order to remake all the other remakes that sucked, I would.

And yet I wanted more. I wanted to be taken over the top. I was right there on the edge waiting for him to push me. There’s a well done, late in the game build up to the resurrection of what we can only imagine is a sort of ultimate demon and then when it arises we get….a pretty girl with muddy hair. She’s expertly utilized for the most part, we catch her climbing out of a shed and it’s [REC]-level yikes but God, I wanted to slap a death skull mask of some sort on her! Sure, that might have gone against the film’s level-headed, non-cartoony approach but I was primed at that point to jump to the next plane and take on some wilder beasts. Oh well, maybe next time. As is, this an accomplished sturdy nightmare, I just wish I could push it off the cold turkey wagon, dose it with hallucinogens and free it to cackle like a truly impious fiend.