Sunday Viewing:: Maniac Cop Trilogy

Is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than honoring the work of recently departed horror icon ROBERT Z’DAR by watching the exquisitely deranged MANIAC COP trilogy? The answer is nope. MANIAC COP and MANIAC COP 2 are generously offered by HULU below and luckily some unknown nice person has made part 3 available on good old YouTube as well! Rest in peace ROBERT! We miss you already.

Traumafession:: GCG on Where The Red Fern Grows

I realize someone before me has tackled this terrible subject, but it’s been a while, and I need to focus more particularly on the film released in 1974, because as a child, I “experienced” the story on the page and the small screen simultaneously. Allow me to scare-quote that euphemistic verb, by the way, because this memory could be the worst of all from my childhood, the one that still makes me twitch with hopelessness even into early middle age.

Reading “young adult” fiction in the ‘70s and ‘80s (I don’t think they marketed it as “young adult” back then; “children’s literature,” if I recall correctly) was a perilous business. Adult authors seemed to think that precocious ten-year-olds getting into non-pictorial reading for the first time needed to be apprised of all the horrible things that could happen to an innocent person throughout life. Bridge to Terabithia (rope swing breaks, Leslie falls and drowns in a creek), Tuck Everlasting (living forever sucks, just look at the miserable toad on the road who doesn’t care if he lives or dies), The Outsiders (Johnny stabs and kills Bob, then later gets his back broken in a fire), Forever… (Michael nicknames his penis Ralph)—reading these books ensured that impending adulthood would look like atrocity footage. The Newbery Awards list was an honor roll of devastation and catastrophe.

Rawls’ novel did not win the coveted Newbery, but it taught me never to read “children’s novels” that were about dogs. Never. If you see a young boy embracing a dog on the cover of a children’s novel: run. Or light the book on fire, and then run. Because adults use the radical innocence of animals and the deep attachment children form with them as an opportunity to teach them ways in which they can “accept death.” They somehow think that the death of a pet is the shallow end of a death pool at the end of which dead parents and dead siblings and dead best friends float in ten feet of chlorinated death water. But I’m sorry to disappoint your pedantic urges, Rawls, “Old Yeller” Gipson, and the rest of you misery merchants: pets are just as intensely mourned.

Not content with spilling the intestines of one dog, Rawls pairs it with the second dog’s death. Mind you, this second pet dies of despondency after its mate’s demise! Sadness kills her! What happened to “accepting death,” Rawls? And in the world of the novel, this is considered noble devotion at work: a red fern sanctifies the sacrifice, growing between the graves, validating the second death like a bride burning in India. Yes, it is good to stop living when your mate dies, Rawls would seem to be telling us.

Now, I know this is a family website but—fuck that book. And fuck the movie made from it in 1974. Previously, a contributor discussed the death of Rubin, the boy rival who falls on the axe. In the film, I remember the close-up of Rubin’s face after the accident, a gout of blood running from his mouth, his eyes glazed in the wooded darkness. This was the moment that I learned a person could belch hot blood if they get axed in the stomach. The blood backs up and spills from the mouth. And children can die this way just as easily as adults; children, too, can rupture their organs with a sharp axe and regurgitate blood tainted with bile that originated somewhere near their kidneys. Thank you for letting my five-year-old self know! I don’t think I would have matured correctly without that nugget of wisdom.

Let’s talk about “treeing coons” for a minute, too. Aside from the dubious associations any American should make with that expression, the act of trapping a helpless raccoon in a tree, and then chopping down the entire tree in order to set your dogs on the defenseless animal, seems like extra-steps evidence of perverse sadism, all in order to get a Davy Crockett hat. Watching the film, I felt bad for the raccoon struggling to escape, running to the end of one limb after another in an animal panic, looking pathetically for a means to return to its innocent, bandit-faced life, free of Redbone Coondogs and Appalachian demon children. I have had a raccoon hiss at me on its hind legs while literally holding the lid of a metal garbage can like a post-apocalyptic shield, and I still feel this way.

I even felt bad for that tree. Again, who chops down a giant sycamore tree to catch a raccoon? Is that really the method required here? Weaken the ancient trunk enough with an axe so that some demented Old-Testament God can answer your sick prayers by sending a wind that topples it? What happened to sling shots, rifles, or let’s-just-consider-this-a-win-and-let-everything-live? Whatever happened to catch and release? I realize Billy wants to save the venerable Ghost Coon—and bully for him—but look what happens when the natural hillbilly order of Kill Everything was disrupted: a boy falls on a hatchet and dies. What does that teach us?

Making a movie from a children’s novel means letting a child five years younger experience the horrors of that book. I was a freakishly early reader (not that that helped me much in life, except to expose me to trauma much earlier than most children), but even the most illiterate kids can sit in front of a television and watch Rubin vomit blood and Little Ann collapse on the burial mound of her lifelong mate in total abject sadness.

Before I leave this subject to the carrion birds, let’s review a couple book covers that deceived us as kids, the book cover illustrations that matter so much to visually inclined children. Here’s the original dustjacket:

Ah, the halcyon days of frolicking with your best animal friends in the woods. But watch out! This is an autumnal setting! Do you know what that means, children? Of course you don’t! You are still immune to the heavy-handed symbolism of the adult world. You think this is a lovely wooded scene, but in fact it Reeks of Death.

Here’s a much later paperback edition:

Gosh, this looks thrilling, like a Hardy Boys mystery! What spooky, innocent fun this will be! I mean, sure, sometimes you notice the Hardy boys making fun of Chet for being fat now and then. A slight drop in your respect for the brothers, a nagging suspicion that they might be assholes to their friends, but otherwise safe, right? (I mean, at least until the spin-offs, when—allow my potty mouth one final f-bomb—a fucking car bomb kills Chet’s sister, of course.)



Name That Trauma:: John G. on Wrist-Cutting European Zombies

I remember watching this film as a kid about 20 years ago. I was really into zombie films at the time so I went to Blockbuster with my mother and rented this movie.

I don’t remember the title at all and what I remember of the movie may be slightly inaccurate. The movie was about a group of European girls (British or Irish) who were either zombies, vampires, or cannibals. They lived in an apartment where they kept dead bodies. I remember that they didn’t start out as zombies or whatever but they slowly transformed over what seemed to be weeks/months. I clearly remember a scene where one of the females went into a bathroom and looked into a mirror and then started cutting her arms and wrists. The scene was very graphic and lasted awhile. I also remember a male detective trying to find where these girls are and he eventually stumbles across where they live.

Unfortunately that is all I remember. I have spent many hours trying to find the name of this movie. If you could help me that would be awesome.

Sunday Viewing:: The Exterminator (1980)

Holy cannoli, you can watch 1980’s THE EXTERMINATOR on your computer any time you want to thanks to HULU. I swear I do not own stock in HULU, it’s just that I come from a wretched time period where you had to wait a year to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ on TV. Anyway, THE EXTERMINATOR is broncho nuts. I think if I was forced to make a top ten list of the most traumatizing movies of my youth, it would certainly be on it. Once upon a time I tried to write a traumafession about it HERE but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly put my feelings into words. The weird thing is, THE EXTERMINATOR does not get less insane with age, it just seems to get more and more crazy and explosively sinister. Check it out below and say so long to your mental well being….

Traumafession:: Dr. Kaiju on The Rockford Files

I’ve never really been frightened by horror movies, but when I was a little kid the show The Rockford Files scared the holy living shit out of me. It would make me sick to my stomach with worry. You never knew when he would get attacked out of nowhere and beat up, it was all very seedy and traumatic. Everyone was always sweaty.


UNK SEZ: Thanks Dr. Kaiju! Kids, Dr. Kaiju is currently collecting information on any and every giant movie monster. You don’t need an appointment to visit his office HERE!

It Follows

First of all, I’d like to thank any and all who recommended IT FOLLOWS to me and/or urged me to see it in the theater. You were not wrong to do so. It was really cool to see a small independent horror film featuring a singular personal vision in an actual theater again. It brought back a lot of good memories. Plus, I have to say one of my favorite parts of the film ended up being its pushy retro soundtrack and the theater I saw it in sported an impressive sound system and was able to highlight that aspect it in a way that would be impossible (for me) to duplicate at home.

My overall experience was enjoyable, it was money well spent and I shall forever be happy that I went. That said, I’ve gotta say… and don’t hate me…I’m not exactly over the moon for IT FOLLOWS. I was left in more of a C+ to B- zone. I thought it was interesting and fun to talk about later but it in no way bowled me over in the way that I would have liked it to. This isn’t like when I went to see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and left with the feeling that its supporters were rubes or like when I saw YOU’RE NEXT and couldn’t wait for it to be over; I can totally understand folks liking IT FOLLOWS. I get it. Just as I once got the general consensus that FARRAH was the most beautiful of CHARLIE’S ANGELS even though clearly that honor has always belonged to KATE JACKSON. What I’m trying to say is, here comes a mixed review…

Let’s get what I appreciated out of the way. IT FOLLOWS often plays like a soothing throwback and I dig its shameless, fetishistic reverence toward nostalgia. I can’t, in good conscience, join the chorus that commends it for its originality due to it brazenly lifting scenes from ubiquitous classics like HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but I can give it props for being wise enough to pilfer beyond the surface and into the soul. What IT FOLLOWS has in spades (or at least foreboding Old Maid cards) is the understanding that the diabolizing of sex in horror films involving teens is more about expressing natural fears associated with leaving childhood behind then anything else. It’s a “mortal” issue rather than a moral issue and this film seriously seeps a sad melancholy “last days of our youth” vibe throughout. Yes, there’s a curse, a disease that one can catch by way of intercourse in IT FOLLOWS and that disease is adulthood. It does my Robert Smith loving original goth-ster heart good to witness teenagers waxing nostalgic for salad days as a once sanguine suburbia crumbles around them.

So yeah, tonally IT FOLLOWS works for me- my big issue, I’m thinking, is structural. I say this acknowledging that we’re all scared of different things and that scares are not necessarily the be all, end all when it comes to a successful horror film. I just found this movie inexcusably front heavy in the fright department to the point that it irked me. As you may know, the ambiguous threat in IT FOLLOWS can take the form of anyone living or dead and we’re told it has a tendency to mask itself as a loved one just to be extra sadistic. So in the first half of the film it appears as a decrepit, death-eyed crone (yikes), a hideous, toothless lady who urinates on the kitchen floor (zoinks) and a shadowy, too-tall dude who has to bend down to get through a doorway (check please!) and then for reasons I cannot fathom, the second half the film features the entity as a friend/invisible hair puller (meh), the bored looking original victim (snore), a naked man (day at the office) and the blasé absentee father of the protagonist (which may have the potential to be unnerving if it were only presented any other way than it is). Wouldn’t all of that work better in reverse? Maybe not, point is, for me, the movie becomes less and less scary as it goes on and that’s not my preferred scenario by a long shot.

And so I stand in the middle. As much as I’m grateful to see, after what seems like decades, non-model, normal looking humans on the big screen again, I find myself frustrated that so many confrontations and opportunities to add depth to the characters are shirked. As much as I was on board with the multitude of literary and cinematic referential nods, I couldn’t help feeling pulled out of the drama by all the winking, hipster aesthetic photo-bombing. I was more than happy to allow a parade of inconsistencies and un-knowables into the party in the name of surrealism and all forgiving “dream logic” but at some point, the smudgy lines started feeling more lazy than clever. In the end, my basic rule of thumb is that any movie that gets stuck in your craw to this degree is more than worthwhile and I plan to return to IT FOLLOWS somewhere in the future after the fawning has died. I’m very glad that it got a wide release and was able to play in the lone theater that is within walking distance of my home but if you asked me whether it deserved that privilege more than THE BABADOOK, HOUSEBOUND, STARRY EYES or THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, at this point, my answer would be (maybe) the first half did.

Sunday Viewing:: Nosferatu The Vampire (1979)

Thanks to the fine folks over at HULU and a couple of dudes named HERZOG and KINKSI you can spend your Sunday watching the lusciously morbid NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE (1979) online for free. It goes great with a bloody Mary! Let me tell you, when I worked at a video store this was one of my go-to movies to play in the shop because the glorious soundtrack by POPUL VUH can hypnotize a person in exactly one second. Check the flick out below or give your peepers a rest and just listen the incredible soundtrack HERE.

Geoffrey Lewis Tribute Funhouse

We lost one of the greats this week and so today’s funhouse puzzle is all about character actor extraordinaire GEOFFREY LEWIS. All ten images below are from films that GEOFFREY LEWIS appears in. How many can you identify? I’ll give you a head start by telling you the above image is from SALEM’S LOT. That particular scene featuring LEWIS scarred the bejeezus out of me as a kid and it still freaks me out today. Now get guessin’… and make sure you watch at least one of these GEOFFREY LEWIS flicks this weekend!