Happy Halloween! Love, Kindertrauma & VACACIONES dE TERROR 2!
Burlingame, California has a great legacy of terror. Why, did you know that it’s where Shirley Jackson spent her formative years? Well let me tell you about my own spook house experience.
I didn’t know I was in for.
Ahh, Halloween, I’m pretty sure it was 1972. I was in the first grade and got a cheap-ass Ben Cooper Devil costume … sans pitchfork, but it’s all good! Before the high-tech boom, the (SF Bay Area) peninsula was just another region with its share of derelict homes. And what happens to a derelict home during Halloween? Back then a charity group turns it into a Haunted House!! YEEAAH!! I didn’t know all if this of course; my six year-old brain thought that this was a REAL haunted house and it was on display for the public. I’m sure my older brothers helped me reinforce this belief. Maybe I’ll see Casper, Booberry y’know.
There it was, perched on the corner of El Camino and Broadway across from the ol’ Phillips 66; some old two-story is all I remember. I could smell the candy apples and other treats wafting from the back concession area. I was hypnotized by the white rope used by the usher before entry, it was glowing under a black light! In we go. We immediately go up a narrow stairway turn, turn, 2nd floor. First thing was the face inside a crystal ball, interesting but not scary. Down the hall was some witch scene or something medieval. By this time I realized this isn’t a real haunted house, this is more like “Frontier Village.” OK turn the corner… oh it’s a barber, with his back to the crowd, cutting some unknown guys hair behind a chair. Then it happened. In unison the chair turned around and the barber showed his face and growled! He was a WEREWOLF! And his customer was a mutilated corpse! It was a jolt of pure terror! I let out this high pitch shriek!
It must have been pretty terrifying because my memory erased the rest of the attraction. My next recollection was my brother, being the obnoxious punk that he was (and still is, ahem) throwing candy at someone in the concession area. I didn’t care, I felt like a survivor. And candy always cheered me up.
The terror’s not over yet! The following Sunday after Halloween, my sister and I had to walk to late mass at Our Lady of Angels. And guess what’s along the way? The Haunted House! every step I took brought me closer to that sepulchral lodging! And it was already dark! Upon arriving I saw a bunch of older kids were tearing up the place since it was going to be demolished anyway. So I felt pretty safe, just as long as I didn’t go in! My sister, pulling my arm, seeing all the fun being had with the destruction, said, “Let’s go in!” There was no way, and I pulled back with all my might. At that moment some kid in the ticket booth right next to us made a big roar and shook a piece of torn-up grass. That was it, my sister got the message, she knew I wasn’t up for it!
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE has always seemed much older than it actually is to me. I think that’s because my first viewing of it was on a particularly blanched-out VHS tape and because although it was made in the mid-forties it takes place about thirty years earlier. The irony is that this seasoned flick resembles and predicts, in various ways, many a beloved blood-soaked horror movie that hadn’t been born yet. Please grab a candle and follow me. Let’s investigate some of this groovy granny’s many instances of cinematic precognition!
Our movie opens with a bunch of folks watching another movie. This is clever because it creates a subconscious pecking order that insinuates that what we’re watching is more real than what they are watching. It’s almost meta, I’d say, and reminds me of other films that springboard from movies like HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE, ANGUISH and SCREAM 2.
Hey, the killer is hiding in the closet and it’s all BLACK CHRISTMAS-like! And here comes an intimate POV shot of the victim preparing for bed a’ la HALLOWEEN! We’re also privy to a patch of voyeuristic eyeball images that predate PEEPING TOM and PSYCHO. Shortly we’ll find out that our murderer only kills a specific type (those who have an “affliction” of some sort) and that’s kinda SILENCE OF THE LAMBS-ish and ahead of its time too.
Our sweet heroine is Helen (DOROTHY McGUIRE) and like so many future horror protagonists, she has not quite discovered her own power and (literally in this case) voice yet. She’s a humble outsider and she’s got a traumatic past that made her that way. We the audience know that there is more to Helen than she realizes and only the most wretched would not route for her. Helen is a nice name especially when you imagine it whispered by TONY TODD.
Here’s a rainy wooded stalking scene! Yay for rainy woods and let me cite FRIDAY THE 13th for frequently understanding the primordial power of them. The lurker is a giallo shadow puppet. He disappears into a tree like Freddy Krueger and all his slicker is missing is a hook to complete the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER look that’s all the rage this fall.
Oh no, dropped keys! Laurie Strode can tell you how important keys are. I like that this key is a big old classic cartoon key like in HELL NIGHT.
Helen has a paranoid fantasy about her well-grounded love interest Dr. Parry (CAT PEOPLE’s KENT SMITH). In it, the two rejoice on their dreamy wedding day but when the time comes to exchange vows, Helen blows it while a critical crowd looks down their collective noses. Very CARRIE and very “They’re all going to laugh at you!” as the words “Say I do.” repeat over and over.
BLACK CHRISTMAS’s secret boozer Mrs. Mac has got nothing on SPIRAL’s Mrs. Oates who swipes hooch and drinks herself into a coma state. ELSA LANCHESTER who just ten years earlier played both Mary Shelly and the monster’s mate in “THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN” portrays Mrs. Oates.
Secretary Blanch (RHONDA FLEMING) knows when to ditch a bad scene. When she goes into the basement (!) to grab a suitcase she bumps into her final fate instead. As in the original FRIDAY THE 13th (when the series was still in the whodunit? mode) Blanch sees her attacker and we don’t. She’s scarred at first, recognizes her assailer and remarks, “Oh, it’s you! You scared the life out of me!” before she is horrifically slain. Aw, this bit also brings back fond memories of the weight-lifting kill from HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. It’s such a relief to be on friendly terms with your murderer.
Speaking of HBTM (not to mention many a giallo), check out these fashionable tight black murder gloves! So hip it hurts.
Sneaky shoes = DRESSED TO KILL.
As in many a slasher, in the end, it all comes down to a cat and mouse showdown between our honorable heroine and the emotionally vacant killer (whose identity I’m not revealing). In this suspense-filled scene Helen is oh so very close to getting much needed aid from a visiting constable. He’s so close and yet so far and the chance for rescue is frustratingly missed! This reminds me so much of my favorite moment in THE FUNHOUSE when Amy can see her parents just outside the window but her calls for help and recognition cannot be heard. Helen of course cannot scream at all. It’s so sad and tragic, like not being able to connect to a hand-wringing Aunty Em in a crystal ball.
If you haven’t seen this movie, I can’t bare to ruin any more than I already have. If you want to find out if our pal Helen survives, you’ll just have to WATCH IT. My lips are sealed.
#Bradygate. The boys trick the girls into thinking a threatening force haunts the yard. The girls convince the boys that a rebellious spirit is breaking free from a trunk. Harmony can only be restored once toiler Alice has obliterated an effigy of her oppressor’s head. Don’t lament the destruction of Carol’s lone artistic achievement, having won third prize rather than first it is valued as less than garbage. This is the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
1. In my grandparents’ basement in the late-’80s, I watched the end of a movie where two men, one wearing a horrifying clown costume, are holed up in an old farmhouse that is under siege by, I think, the police. The clown guy is hanging out a window shooting a rifle. Before the shootout scene I think these guys had murdered the house’s occupants. And, though I can’t be at all sure of this, I believe the movie ended with a title card saying that the dramatized events were based on real events that happened in Texas. The clown guy haunted my thoughts for years after.
2. This one was truly traumatic: At a sleepover around the same time I watched a late-night movie set in a juvenile prison for girls. There is a horrible scene where one of the imprisoned is raped with the handle of a toilet plunger by a group of other girl prisoners. Just thinking about it still makes my skin crawl.
UNK SEZ: Thanks for the NTT, Tim B! I know the identity of your second one for sure. That has to be the LINDA BLAIR 1974 TV movie BORN INNOCENT. I know because that plunger scene clogged my brain too. The second one I’m less sure of but I’m leaning towards 1976’s THE CLOWN MURDERS which featured JOHN CANDY in an early role. It’s got clowns, rifles, a farmhouse and cops but does not close with a title card stating it’s based on actual events so I may be wrong. If anybody has any other ideas, please let us know! In the meantime both flicks are on YouTube, so I’ll place them below…
We’re scraping the bottom of the apple barrel! Can YOU find the ten differences?
It’s hard to believe that it was four decades ago on this very date (October 23rd) that the made-for-television classic BAD RONALD premiered. I have no idea exactly when I first encountered RONALD, it seems like it was always part of my family’s boob tube mythology. “The one with the guy in the wall” it was called until it materialized in the TV GUIDE and then we’d call it BAD RONALD for a while as we planned our viewing and then afterwards, at some point, it would always regress back to “The one with the guy in the wall” again. That literal alias actually came in handy years later when I worked in a video store because every once in a while a customer would inquire about “The one with the guy in the wall” and I’d have a pretty good guess as to what they were talking about. Eventually the Internet came around and spray-painted BAD RONALD’s tag all over cyberspace but for many years, like so many TV movies, this gem was as elusive as an oily eel. Not that there was ever any risk that BAD RONALD would disappear entirely, if you didn’t bump into it on late night TV or at the rare video store that stocked it, you could always count on someone (provided they were of a certain age) bringing it up whenever the conversation turned to freaky movies that camp out in the corners of your head.
In case any of you have been living in a bathroom that has been repurposed into well-camouflaged secret living quarters for the past forty years, I’ll draw a quick sketch of the plot. BAD RONALD concerns a young social pariah named Ronald Wilby who is played by the ever-sincere SCOTT JACOBY. Besides enduring the cruel rejection of his classmates, Ronald lives with the knowledge that when his parents divorced, his father made a deal with his mother to break off all ties in exchange for never having to pay child support (ouch). One day while fleeing a hater pool party, Ronald bumps into a shrewy twerp on a bike who makes the mistake of blasting his mom which causes him to go berserk. He grabs her by the freckled face and pushes her down to the ground and …oops, how come cinder blocks are never around when you need them and only show up at the wrong time to kill folks you only meant to stun? So annoying.
Rather than simply tip toeing away from the scene of the accident and forgetting about the whole mess with a toasted cheese sandwich like a normal person, Ronald does the dumbest thing ever and buries the body in a shallow grave condemning himself as the responsible party. After hearing of this gaff, Ronald’s sweet mother (KIM HUNTER) tsks-tsks his rookie mistake and comes up with an awesome plan to get him off the hook. With some help from the tool kit he just received for his birthday (finally a fortuitous break!), the two devise the ultimate secret fort by transforming a bathroom door into a wall and creating an undetectable living space in the heart of the house. When the police come looking for Ronald, Ma just says he split the scene! All’s well that ends well until mother goes to the hospital for a routine operation, kicks the bucket and eventually a new family lead by the one and only DABNEY COLEMAN moves in. Things get sticky when the increasingly unstable Ronald becomes obsessed with one of the new family’s daughters (CINDY EILBACHER, who you may recognize from CROWHAVEN FARM) though who can blame him, he has a lot of free time on his hands and this all takes place before the invention of the Playstation.
I’m going to be honest with y’all, BAD RONALD is creepy, tense and builds up to a fantastic climax but as a budding recluse, I never solely took it in for thrills, a part of me has always been attracted to it as a hermitic fantasy. I mean who needs Walden’s Pond when you’ve got art supplies, a working sink and apparently an endless stash of chocolate bars? I feel the same way about its unofficial sister flick THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (which also boasts an indelible outsider performance from JACOBY) in which, secret orphan Rynn Jacobs (JODIE FOSTER) hides away from the world drinking tea and reading books all day in hippie garb with a hamster named Gordon.
Rynn and Ronald may be ostensibly presented (at least as a selling point) as threats to normalcy but the engine in each flick is run by the fuel of the viewer routing for their success in protecting a small space to call their own and the right to decline participation in the nonsense of the world (see also: SHIRLEY JACKSON’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and any album by THE SMITHS). In our current “If you don’t see me, I don’t exist” culture, it’s nearly a verboten idea but I think there’s something admirable about creating your own universe and carving out a sense of self autonomous from the observations and opinions of others.
It’s very likely I’m missing the whole tragic point of BAD RONALD and happily so. In any case the guy got loads of time to concentrate on his art (and his make-believe kingdom Atranta) rather than his rent and we can all agree there are worse fates than that. (According to the sequel that exists only in my head, Ronald, once discovered, is given a year or so of prison time, some therapy of sorts, a book deal and the level of notoriety to sell his artwork at exorbitant prices. He takes all of his millions, buys a mansion and then ends up living in just one small bathroom of the manor with the door nailed shut anyway- because that’s just who he is.)
There are TV movies and then there are TV movies and BAD RONALD is certainly up there with the very best of the best. Oh, and here’s another wonderful thing: If you buy a BAD RONALD DVD you will get a free bonus Kindertrauma blurb at no extra cost! It’s true! They actually quoted yours truly and slapped it right there on the back of the DVD for the world to see. That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal but to me it’s an honor to be shrink wrapped with a lifelong favorite. It’s also proof that even the twitchiest shut-ins don’t mind a little acknowledgment of their existence every once in a while. Now I’m hungry for a chocolate bar. Happy Birthday Prince Norbert! I’ll see you in Atranta.
Hello Kindertrauma! It’s Popcornmonster.
I recently had a very Kindertrauma-esque moment I would like to share. A little background and then I’ll explain the solution to the mystery.
When I was five years old, so this would have been around Summer of 1979, I vaguely remember playing with a friend who lived a few houses away. We were in the basement of his house and a puddle had formed on the floor from the washing machine. We starting pretending it was a lake. Then my friend started telling me about some new movie where the people can’t go in the water because the water comes alive and eats the people. Some time later, we were walking past the TV and the trailer was playing for the film. My friend pointed it out to me and said that was the movie he was talking about.
Fast-forward thirty-five years. Long time horror fan and filmmaker myself now. But I’ve never known what that scary movie was. I knew it wasn’t Jaws or Piranha. The time period doesn’t match up and I knew what Jaws was. So a few nights back I was watching Machete Maidens on Netflix. It’s a documentary about how cheap it was to make exploitation films in the Philippines during the late 60s through the early 80s. When suddenly they played a trailer for a film. I immediately recognized that trailer from that dusty old memory and now I had a title to go with it. A title that IMDb verified with the June 1979 release date. The film was “Up From the Depths“, which now I realize was a title that sat under my nose all these years. The poster artwork was a familiar site in the old video stores but I never bothered to see the film. Until last night.
It’s one of the dopier Jaws clones of the late 70s. They even managed to copy the mayor from Jaws with an arrogant idiot resort owner that refuses to heed the danger. The goofy kill scenes all look like the actors flopping around in a pool while someone bubbled red dye around them.
Ultimately it’s a dumb movie but now it holds a place in my memory for being “that movie”.
I think we can all agree that if Cylons landed on Earth on Halloween night it would be particularly devastating, as folks would naturally assume that they were costumed revelers rather than robots committed to the final annihilation of the life form known as man. If this concept chills you to the bone fear not, the entertaining yet borderline atrocious two part episode of GALACTICA 1980 entitled “The Night the Cylons Landed” is here to assure you that there’s nothing a clown, a microwave oven, a few verses of “The Goodship Lollipop” and Wolfman Jack can’t fix. As the Cylons take Manhattan, keep your eyes peeled for PETER MARK RICHMAN as crabby Colonel Briggs who’d go on to portray crabby chaperone Charles McCulloch in FRIDAY THE 13th PART 8.
Hello Kindertrauma, I really hope you guys can help me with this little nightmare inducer.
When I attended primary school the library also functioned as the media centre (which in those days meant a big TV and a VCR player). Depending on her workload the librarian would sometimes plunk us down in front of the TV with a tape. One time we watched an animated flick that still haunts me, although I don’t remember a great deal of it. It was the first time I can remember literally being frozen from fear. The scene that has stayed with me is a slow pan down a dark hallway in what I think was a wooden church with a thoroughly awful portrait on the wall and red eyed rats lurking around.
Here are all the other details I can remember or deduce:
The animation style was hardly animation at all, but rather slow pans over dark and heavy hand drawn images of a style you might almost find in a children’s book. I’m not certain, but I think I remember narration, not unlike the audiobook recordings with still images that you get now on YouTube.
1995 is the latest year this could possibly have come out, but it was probably made earlier than that, likely in the 80’s.
I live in Australia so whatever this was had been released here and was possibly made here.
Finally, this would have been a short film, probably less than an hour long, likely not more than half an hour or so.
For the longest time I thought it was animated adaption of H.P Lovecraft‘s ‘The Rats In The Walls‘ but I’ve never been able to find anything that matches up with what I remember. If you know of anything that sounds like this (or of an obscure adaptation of TRITW) please let me know. This has been haunting me for the best part of two decades.