Sunday Streaming: Starship Troopers (1997)

Hey, STARSHIP TROOPERS is free to view on CRACKLE (HERE)! What’s that? You don’t think of STARSHIP TROOPERS as having anything to do with horror? I’ll be sure to tell that luckless soldier whose decapitated head is flying in the opposite direction of his severed torso that you feel that way. I’m sure he’ll find your assessment comforting when his intestines fall like ribbon confetti all over his frozen in mid-scream face.

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I find STARSHIP TROOPERS to be a non-stop hurricane of creepy-crawly monstrous entertainment. Why, I came across it the other night flipping channels and regardless of how late it was, I could not turn the darn thing off! When it first came out (way back in ‘97), I naturally dug the goopy effects but felt the storyline was over the top hokey and way too rah-rah action figure oriented. Well guess what, I was a real dope because that off-putting, nationalistic, hurray for blondes, xenophobic, militaristic vibe was part of it its not- so- subtle in hindsight, elbowing point. It’s so ahead of its time. I can’t even call it satire because it’s basically just reality sprinkled with giant bugs.

Blah, I should probably stay away from the political because, first of all, I’m too sheltered/ignorant and second of all, that’s the most boring way to approach a piece of art that features the fantasy acting trio of CLANCY BROWN, MICHAEL IRONSIDE and RUE McCLANAHAN. If those three aren’t enough to crack your toes, there are spaceships exploding everywhere and stampede after stampede of marauding alien insects. How can you go wrong? This is the type of movie that if it senses you are loosing interest, it will mercilessly whip CASPER VAN DIEN! Word on the street is that STARSHIP TROOPERS is PAUL VERHOEVEN’s favorite film that he ever directed and I’m suddenly inclined to agree with him. It’s just so fantastic and epic and gleefully indulgent and brilliantly subversive and slyly progressive and gorgeously ugly and somehow equally sharp and squishy and like all great underappreciated movies, it further solidifies and simply gets better by the day. Plus, it’s basically SAVED BY THE BELL meets ROBOCOP and ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Name That Trauma:: Craig B. on Teens Picked Off by a Mummy in an Old Dark House

I’ve never been able to meet up with one of my first memories, delivered by television between 1962 and ’66?

Memories being the nebulous things they are, as I recall it involved a group of teens that enter an old dark house, where they are picked off one-by-one by a bulky mummy-type thing that lurks behind secret panels in the walls. In the end, the hero makes it out alive…only to be paused at the sight of some gollum perched on the top of the gate archway, gnawing on…something.

The Boy (2016)

The best part of being woefully unhip and equally unsophisticated is that I get to enjoy the heck out of a movie like THE BOY. Yeah, I know it’s borderline preposterous, derivative as hell and ultimately inconsequential but to quote Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, “Look at all the fucks I give.” In the grand tradition of such, only in my mind, classics as THE HEARSE and THE NESTING, THE BOY is all about a lady losing her marbles while wandering around an incredibly beautiful, big old house. In this type of film there are always dull stretches where the main character reveals a troubled past (usually involving the death of a child, an abusive partner or worst of all, writer’s block!) but that’s fine by me because that is the perfect time to marvel at the lovely décor. Generously THE BOY is not satisfied being only a lady vs. her house/head flick, it’s also a creepy doll movie and that just happens to be my other favorite type o’ jam! Why, the only thing that could make this ditty more up my alley would be if it turned into HELL NIGHT in the final stretch (slight spoiler alert: it does). Is it kosher to recommend a movie exclusively to myself? I dub this flick, my rainy day ambrosia; all other folks tread with caution.

THE WALKING DEAD’s LAUREN COHAN stars as Greta who has been hired by a couple of nutty oldsters to look after their “son” who turns out to be a creepy porcelain doll. It seems their real kid Brahms tragically died in a fire 20 years ago and to cope with their loss, the two mutually decided complete and utter denial was the best bet. Greta is freaked out at first but sympathetic and she slowly forms a bond of her own with the pint-sized (PIN-like) effigy. Sadly THE BOY will likely get zero credit for what an excellent job it does of getting the audience to connect with the doll as well… so much so that when it is eventually threatened to be damaged it feels like something very real and invaluable may be lost. Much of the thanks should go to COHAN’s likable and relatable Greta. I’d have preferred it if she spent more time reading in bed like TRISH VAN DEVERE and less time cleaning out rat traps but I gotta respect a gal who can wrap a towel about herself so snuggly that it appears to be molded in plaster. Greta rules. She looks like MARY TYLER MOORE. Another thing that THAT BOY does extremely well is deftly manage the impossible to avoid humor of the situation, you could pretty much watch the first half of the film as a comedy if you wanted. In fact on more than one occasion little Brahms’ cold poker face reminded me of MARTIN SHORT in CLIFFORD.

I guess my biggest complaint would be the flick’s regrettable lack of bloodshed. Now I have no problem with a PG-13 rating especially in a psychological spooker but there’s a point in THE BOY where there is a drastic shifting of gears and at that point, at the very least, a TV broadcast level of gore would have been extremely satisfying. Truth is, you’ll either love or hate the film’s big reveal, I personally loved it to the point where it left me writing fan fiction in my head. As overtly mild as it sometimes sadly is, there’s some real throwback charm to be found in THE BOY. I expect it will be spit on by those who wear their horror fandom as a badge to prove how “edgy” they are and it will probably be loathed by those allergic to hokum and cheese but for me, it entertained and made me feel as snug as a bug in a rug. I may have to thank the terrible TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D for opening my eyes to the worth of simple entertainment value over artistic merit and even common sense on some occasions. If a film tunes your fork and delivers your favorite flavors at regular intervals, who cares about anything else? I don’t. No, it’s in no way a sterling classic but to echo THE BOY’s opening premise, sometimes a place-holding facsimile will do when the real deal is currently out of reach.

Sunday Streaming:: Castle Freak (1995)

I got some good news for ya. Did you know that you could be watching STUART GORDON’s CASTLE FREAK for free on Hulu if you so desired HERE? How do you dig them apples? Now, I’ll be honest with you, this flick didn’t exactly rock my world when I first caught it back in the day. I think it’s because GORDON’S RE-ANIMATOR blew the top of my head off and then his FROM BEYOND blew the sides of my head off and then DOLLS blew the bottom of my head off and there was really no part of my head left to blow up by the time CASTLE FREAK came along. I used to think my expectations were too high but I’ve come to the realization that –duh- GORDON was going for a much more somber feel on purpose.

Anyway, these days I can appreciate CASTLE FREAK for a lot of the reasons I once gave it a shrug. CASTLE FREAK may not deliver the pulse-pounding, over-the-top excitement of GORDON’S aforementioned masterpiece trilogy but it’s absolutely dripping with gloomy gothic atmosphere and leads JEFFREY COMBS and BARBARA CRAMPTON deliver top-notch, albeit mournful, performances. It utilizes its Italian location to the fullest and it’s a great Old Dark House flick even if the old house is actually an old castle. Plus monster! Me love monster! If you haven’t seen it in a while, give it another go. NOTE: I must subtract five points for tormenting a ginger cat.

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Wow, so that BONE TOMAHAWK movie is a keeper. I rented it from my local Red Box as I believed that to be my most practical (cheapest) option and I gotta say, it pained me to return the thing. Yes, it was with great sorrow and unfocused free-floating resentment that I slid that disc back into the slot of its soulless, mechanical crimson overlord but a deal’s a deal. Now, I totally understand if you are not exactly chomping at the bit to check out an olden-timey Western that appeared on one too many best of the year lists on one too many unreliable marketing tar pits masquerading as a horror websites. I get that. But BONE TOMAHAWK really does deserve a laurel avalanche because it features rarities like a, well-written script, stellar cinematography, assured direction and absolutely outstanding acting.

You know when it’s cold outside and you need to take a shower but you keep putting it off because history tells you that the first moment when the water hits your body is going to be awful? Then you step in the shower and after that first moment of shock it’s actually great and rejuvenating and you can’t believe that you didn’t jump in sooner because now you are all crispy clean and feeling awesome? That’s how I feel about westerns…

My eyes are always scared of how beige everything is going to be and my ears are worried that the dialogue is going to be gruff and dullsville and my soul is apprehensive because chances are a horse is going to be treated poorly. The first couple minutes are always difficult and I feel like a squirrel in a box looking for any possible escape but if I can just get past that initial hump, I usually enjoy myself. I’m not talking about dusty Grandpa flicks, I mean the likes of EL TOPO, TOMBSTONE, THE PROPOSITION and especially the Dalmatian-spotted McCABE and MRS. MILLER (if that counts). I’ll even happily gallop behind EASTWOOD but if I’m being honest I’m going to lean closer to THE BEGUILED than the DOLLARS TRILOGY. I guess I’m saying it’s not my go-to bag but it’s a pill I can swallow especially if said pill is coated with sweet delicious horror like BURROWERS (2008) or the title in question, BONE TOMAHAWK which feels like JACK KETCHUM meets TRUE GRIT.

What bridges the gap more than anything else, more than sleek visuals, more than clever lines of dialogue, more than snappy action scenes, more than sharp suspense (and BT’s level of suspense is downright painful at times) is characterization. And I’m not even being preachy here; it’s just the truth. I’m happy to report horror hall of famer KURT RUSSELL is everything you’d hope and expect him to be and he’s just the tip of the totem pole. Who can make you feel their anguish and inner (and outer) turmoil quite the way that PATRICK (INSIDIOUS,THE CONJURING) WILSON can? Seriously! That face! I want to make him pancakes! But do you want to know who the real stand out in this flick is besides the always-reliable RICHARD JENKINS? By Golly, it’s MATTHEW FOX. He’s so good and not in a flashy, look at me way either. He just disappears into his character and he’s impressive as hell.

SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s got characters you’ll remember, it will surprise you in ways I refuse to say and it will chill you right down to the bone-and then some. You’re going to enjoy it kids, Why, I’d bet the farm on it! NOTE: Extra sarsaparilla awarded for featuring the ever mesmerising SEAN YOUNG.

Sunday Streaming :: Gargoyles (1972)

Hey kids, I gotta plan that’s sure to cheer you up today. Let’s say we sneak on over to that SHOUT FACTORY TV joint and watch us some GARGOYLES (HERE)! It’s only one of the best TV movies ever to grace the small screen and, where I come from, it has a long history of hitting the spot on a Sunday afternoon. Heck, I could even write a traumafession on this slick flick as it always gave me an acute case of the heebie jeebies! It’s not the titular monsters so much (although they are impressively unnerving) as it is the general uncanny atmosphere. I don’t know why but the opening narration relaying the history of Satan, the multiple aerial gargoyle-eye views of pesky humans crawling about on Earth and the sinister simplicity of the perfectly captured pre-CGI, ominous slate gray skies all add up to me wanting my blanky. Plus JENNIFER SALT is in it! Unless you’ve just finished watching BRAIAN DE PALMA‘s SISTERS (1973) or a SOAP marathon (like me) there’s surely not enough SALT in your diet!

Kinder-Kraft:: Movie Tie-In Storage Containers!

Folks, my disloyal computer is still acting a fool so I’m going to keep this short so as to not incite my chucking it out the window. Lend me your ears! I’ve got an idea that’s going to change the way you live! Surely you have a couple of those clear plastic VHS (Amaray?) boxes lying about your pad? If not, you can still order them from AMAZON. Do as I did and take some of your beloved movie Tie-In paperback books and shove them inside! Look how handsome that is! What a wonderful conversation starter! Your friends will marvel and then go home and secretly cry jealous tears in quiet seclusion! Stand warned though stalwart chums, this method will not work with CHELSEA QUINN YARBO’s marvelous adaption of GARY SHERMAN’S tragically underrated masterpiece DEAD AND BURIED (1981)…it’s too darn fat!