Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972)

Mill Creek has put out a new movie collection entitled NO TELL MOTEL, which offers eight horror films focusing on ill-advised overnights in dangerous locations. The first disc sports spiffy letterboxed titles like VACANCY (a decent enough thriller) IDENTITY (love that one) and ELI ROTH’s HOSTEL and its first sequel (both semi-annoying and yet very interesting and disturbing). The second disc consists of several public domain flicks with lackluster quality of various degrees. There’s the ubiquitous THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE (a favorite) IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN (haven’t had the pleasure), LEGACY OF BLOOD (skip it) and a charming, low budget oddity that has always stuck in my brain, TERROR AT RED WOLF INN (I had to get this whole set just for this one film).

TERROR AT RED WOLF INN isn’t represented as well as it should be but until a superior version is available it’ll just have to do. Sadly this is a PG-rated version of the 1972 movie that is also known as TERROR HOUSE and THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN. This particular cut is ten minutes shorter than the one I watched on VHS back in the day but from what I’ve gathered (Googled), the missing scenes don’t amount to too much. Ironically, this truncated, supposedly tamer arrangement contains a violent scene where a character beats a small shark against a rock and I’d much rather have that unsightly bit excised above anything else. They took out a visual of human fingers in a soup bowl and left behind a scene of actual animal abuse? I guess there’s no way to understand the randomness of the rating system.

The movie introduces us to a charming, quirky and too-trusting character named Regina (Linda Gillen) who suspiciously wins a weekend vacation over the phone (much like the set-up for I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER). Soon she’s jumping on a plane and taking advice from strangers that she needn’t inform anyone about her dubious getaway prize. There’s no doubt that Regina has made a major judgment error when the house she’s meant to relax in turns out to be the same joint (Newhall Mansion) featured in DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW and countless horror-themed TV episodes. Her hosts are oldsters Henry and Evelyn Smith (Arthur Space and Mary Jackson) and their touched in the head grandson Baby John (John Neilson), all of whom would seem equally comfortable inhabiting MOTEL HELL or AMERICAN GOTHIC. Two other contest winners have already arrived (Janet Wood and Margaret Averly) and it’s not long before they’re all being fattened up with gluttonous course after gluttonous course of meats of highly questionable origin. Warning: Do not watch this movie if you suffer from misophonia and object to the sounds and sights of folks with terrible table manners munching out and licking their greasy fingers.

RED WOLF INN feels a lot like a seventies made for television affair and maybe that’s why I dig it so. It’s got an offbeat sense of humor too that never goes far enough over the top to bring you out of the paranoid predicament. It’s also genuinely unnerving in spots, utilizing distorted camera angles to disquieting effect. There’s something about simply sticking an idiosyncratic tomboy-type in a giant old mansion that’s always going to hit me in my horror comfort zone. I could have used a little more background information regarding just about every character overall, but there’s something to be said of the simplistic approach that plays out almost like a gingerbread house fable. Plus, it’s got a message that’s still valuable today: Young people, please never assume that the generations ahead of you have your best interest at heart. Spoiler alert: They don’t. Amusing, delightfully odd and routinely creepy, TERROR AT RED WOLF INN is an appetizing seventies offering worth making room on your plate for. It’s also a great reminder that the best way to avoid cannibalism is to become a vegetarian.


It is with a pulverized heart that I share the sad news that we have lost an integral member of the Kindertrauma Family. Our beloved cat Figgy has passed away. She was a proud feline who was also a cherished daughter, a loyal sister, a best friend, an empathetic caretaker, a muse, a role model, a magical familiar and my most trusted ally against the darkness of this world. I have never met a cat like Figgy before and I never will again. I won’t linger on her illness as it was such a tiny fraction of her spirited life but I need to say that she was an incredibly brave, noble and trusting spirit throughout her most challenging hours. I hope when it is my time to go that I can do my best to face things as valiantly as she.

One of the best the finest days of my life was when Figgy and her two sisters Rory and Kevin decided to strut into our South Philly backyard. Who would have guessed it would be such a privilege to have three kittens using our garden as a litter box? We built the girls a safe abode where they could sleep dry and warm and made sure they were (very) well fed. Eventually, we realized we would have to find them homes. Originally we only meant to keep gregarious Kevin but once we got to know Rory and Figgy, they had to become part of our family too. Figgy (not unlike myself) was inherently suspicious of humans when we first brought her inside. She was a Goth loner dressed in black who hid behind anything she could and hissed at the mere sight of us. Her initial rejection inspired me to try all the harder and I made it my mission that I would turn this feral malcontent around. And turn her around I did. She became the most affectionate cat you could possibly imagine and we became inseparable. I’ll never forget watching HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON with her and thinking it was our story on the TV screen. I’m not proud of much that I’ve accomplished in life but I am proud that I was able to steer Figgy’s disposition away from apprehension and fear. The cat she became after she was properly adored held one of the greatest souls I have ever known, human or otherwise.

Let me tell you about this beautiful cat. She cared for her sisters and with the diligent concern of a well-trained nurse. If one of them had a hairball or any such ailment, she’d come running to their aid in an instant and hover until she knew they were OK. She was incredibly generous. She never fought over food and she’d constantly bring toy mice up to my room. I’d often find them in my bed or shoes. She was so clever. She would come running whenever I asked her if she wanted to take a nap and she’d speed by me on the stairs and make it to bed before me. For many years our cats hid in the basement whenever we had company but over the last few, Figgy became more and more friendly and outgoing. Just this past Christmas when we had a party she came out and lounged around on our bar like she was Michelle Pfeiffer in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. Boy, did she know how to enter a room. When she slinked in she always reminded me of Sean Young’s first appearance in BLADE RUNNER– she had the same walk! She had but one vice: Dum-Dums lollipops. We made sure she had a fresh bag every Halloween. She would throw them around the house like a miniature baton for hours and be seen carrying them around in her mouth like a happy dog with a bone. She wore a tuxedo every day; her black fur was impossibly shiny and sleek while the white sections were as soft and fluffy as a bunny. Her paw pads were the most remarkable mauve that resembled the gray-purple color of a half-finished grape popsicle. She had the coolest beauty mark- a kissable half-mustache of white right beneath her regal nose.

I’m going to miss her so much. I feel irrationally guilty because right before she fell ill I experienced this miraculous moment with her. She was sleeping at my side and I felt such peace and love and it was like the whole room was glowing and time stopped. I foolishly wished in my head we could be together forever. Did this perfect instance attract the tragedy? I worry that experiencing such profound contentment was the equivalent of banging on a drum in A QUIET PLACE and some ugly force was alerted and came gunning for us. Maybe that’s the grief talking and my brain is just desperately looking for a reason when there isn’t any. In any case, I can’t allow myself to turn a happy memory into a sad one. The larger truth is that she was cherished every single day full-time and non-stop. I’ll never have to wonder if she ever felt unloved or abandoned and that means a lot to me. On our last day I wrapped her in a red blanket and told her she was my Queen and no truer words were ever said.  She’ll always be royalty to me.

Thoughts of heaven and reincarnation have not been helpful to me lately. Instead, I’m deriving comfort from a horror movie, which should shock few. I find myself comforted by the way death is presented in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER. In the film, the character of Alice gains a positive attribute from each of her friends that die and essentially they become a part of her. On the surface such an idea is outlandish but if you think about it for a minute it’s also an undeniable truth. Furthermore, I have witnessed proof of this phenomenon. The other day as I was going upstairs, I called to Rory and she actually came running and sped past me just like Figgy used to and she’s absolutely never done that before. Later that night Kevin somehow found a Dum-Dums lollipop (I’m guesstimating there are hundreds under the couch) and she was playing hockey with it like a seasoned pro (she wasn’t a fan of them before). Stranger still, Rory and Kevin who have never been close (both of them preferred the company of Figgs) have started hanging out, playing and even sleeping together (trust me, that’s unheard of). Things will never be the same without Figgy, we’re all devastated (Rory cries nightly) but there’s no doubt in my mind that she will always be with us. I spent the last few weeks thinking how very unlucky I am to have lost a friend I cared for so dearly but today I’m thinking of how lucky I was to meet Figgy in the first place. She could have chosen any backyard to set up camp in, any garden for her litter box, I’m forever thankful it was ours.

Name That Trauma:: Kyle S. on a Window Witch

Hello! Was looking for some help on this one.  I remember watching either a movie or TV show probably late 70s/early 80s and it had this scene where a witch is hovering outside bedroom windows looking in to see which kids are still awake after a certain hour.  The kids that were sleeping were left alone and the kids that were still awake got turned into mice or some other small creature.  It may have been claymation or animation. Any help would be appreciated. Kyle S

Name That Trauma:: Alex S. on a Creepy Turntable

Hey there, Kindertraumautizers…

A friend of mind suggested reaching out to you guys.

I can’t remember where I was, who I was with or how I old I was when I saw it, but I remember watching a film on television -– a black-&-white mystery, possibly “noir” -– involving a protagonist haunted by a recurring nightmare or vision. In that mysterious scenario, he’s in some clandestine chamber that holds some horrible secret –- a murder, perhaps? The thing that makes it distinctive, however, is that there is music playing -– a strange, lulling, creepy dirge. Again, the protagonist is driven to distraction by this eerie vision, but cannot connect the dots as to where it happened or its significance.

Later in the film, he’s at some social function, and there is music playing via an old-time record player. At one pivotal point, a woman near that turntable bumps into it with her elbow, inadvertently changing the speed of the turntable to a slower revolution-per-minute, like dropping from 45 to 33 1/3. When she does this, the music playing suddenly replicates the creepy music in the protagonist’s recurring vision, and he becomes convinced that the clandestine chamber with the horrible secret is immediately nearby.

Like I said, I wish I could cite more specifics, but I cannot. For the life of me, I’ve never been able to figure out the film. Much like the tortured protagonist, I cannot figure out the mystery.

Does this film sound familiar to you?

-Alex S.