Month: June 2018
Name That Trauma:: Asat on a Surprise Coffin Ending
The mid-1980s was a gangbusters era for Trauma, what with the rise of mom-n-pop video-rental shops that knew better than to enforce strict policies about horror-movie rentals. But in addition to that, such places often had third-hand cassettes that Blockbuster woulda been ashamed to shelve. I am on a quest to turn up one such bomb. Keywords: foreign, gory, hypodermic needles, coffin, surprise ending.
Okay, hereâ€™s the expanded version: back about 1985, the local hole-in-the-wall video shop got a reputation for renting out â€œHeadless Eyesâ€ to kids under 18, and you were guaranteed some gossip at school if you were known to have watched it and thrown up…or watched it and NOT thrown up. Celebrity in high school is like that, remember? Anyway, some friends and I were determined to get in on that action, but of course the Friday we went looking for it, the tape was already out. Eh whatever, we settled on a box that looked to be of similar caliber. I really should have written down the name.
For starters, it was foreign. Italian or Spanish, and I donâ€™t think the cassette we got was dubbed into English. Big deal, we werenâ€™t watching for plot subtleties after all – this was supposed to be a test of our fortitude! And boy-howdy was it ever – it was like watching paint dry on a rainy day. Until the very end. And I mean the very, VERY endâ€¦the last second and a half of the film. See if you can guess how it ended.
From what we could piece together, the story was set in a villa/castle owned by some Dr. Jekyll-wannabe with a plan for an immortality serum or maybe just a process that would turn people into gorillas or something. That was this filmâ€™s claim to gory fame: it involved close-up shots of venous injections and blood spurting from incisions, supposedly â€œTAKEN FROM REAL-LIFE FOOTAGEâ€. This might have been quite traumatizing if the whole film didnâ€™t look as though it had been filmed with the proverbial 16mm potato.
Anyway, the mad doctorâ€™s plans come to naught and the film ends with him probably dead and his lovely young wife also a casualty of his attempts to meddle with Mad Biology. Her coffin is on a table and some guests/servants are mulling over how itâ€™s gonna be a pain in the butt to bury her as the camera slowly zooms in on the coffin. The conversation drags on as the camera zooms and the focus-puller just barely manages to earn his dayâ€™s wage. Can you see where this is going? Off in the distance a telegraph can be heardâ€¦.
BOOM! Coffin lid flies off and the bride flails about wild-eyed, revealing fangs or some such as the screen freeze-frames and the credits roll. SORRY KIDS, NO REFUNDS! BE KIND AND REWIND! Well obviously Iâ€™m not crazy about the prospect of sitting through that whole mess again, but I sure as heck would love to spring that finale on the guys again after all these years. I have little doubt they remember it â€“ it was our own collective Ralphie-Parker-Ovaltine-Decoder-Ring moment. Not the usual kinda Trauma but more the end of innocence kind.
Again, it wasnâ€™t a super-rare tape or this little shop wouldnâ€™t have had a copy. It was definitely European and had the grainy look of a 1970s cheapie. I keep thinking it must have had a pretty good title coz I believe we just picked it on the basis of whatever was on the front of the case. Of course, it couldnâ€™t have been as good as â€œHeadless Eyesâ€, coz we knew we were settling for second-best at best.
Traumafession:: Andrew H. on The Believers (1987)
For decades, I was haunted by a movie where a mom dies by getting electrocuted in a kitchen. I couldnâ€™t remember the details and when I saw it, I didnâ€™t know what the title was. It was a scene that terrified me and stayed fresh in my mind for nearly 30 years.
Recently, my wife and I went and saw Hereditary in the theater. We loved it. Once we got home, we immediately did a horror deep dive and started watching movies with similar themes. Thatâ€™s what led me to the 1987 voodoo, child-sacrifice thriller The Believers.
The movie starts with the death of Martin Sheenâ€™s wife by electrocution in their home. As his son watches terrified while screaming, Sheenâ€™s wife played by Janet-Laine Green seizes up and dies in front of their eyes. Thatâ€™s how the movie starts before we even get to the credits.
I was probably six or seven when I saw this on HBO around 1990. For years, I thought it was part of the film Pulse starring Cliff De Young, but it wasnâ€™t and I could never track down the scene even when internet searches became an option. The thought of this movie where a mom got fried in her kitchen always stuck with me, lingering in the back of my mind and occasionally popping up.
Now that Iâ€™ve seen it again thanks to Heredity, I can say itâ€™s not nearly as traumatic as I remember, but itâ€™s still a very effective scene. I donâ€™t recall trying to watch the rest of the film when I was younger, probably because I ran away from the television terrified, but as an adult I can say The Believers is a pretty good flick.
I recommend seeing this one not only for the scene that scared the hell out of me, but also for the other traumatizing parts in the film. The Believers features a lot of great familiar character actors and has a pretty great story written by Mark Frost of Twin Peaks fame. I liked it, even though it still kinda freaks me out.
Kindertrauma Funhouse:: L
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