It’s such a beautiful day outside, so I think I’ll stay in and watch HELTER SKELTER. Lunatic Charles Manson seems to be popping up everywhere lately thanks at least partly to Damon Herriman’s recent duo performances of the cult leader in the Netflix series MINDHUNTER (great show) and Quentin Tarantino’s latest flick ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library someday?) Herriman has some big old giant shoes to fill because the incredible STEVE RAILSBACK truly brought an intense A-game to his unnerving take in the 1976 two-night event television miniseries. You’d think that what scared the hell out of me when I watched it as a kid would’ve involved one of the two savage home break-in multiple murders (the first so depraved it involves an eight-month pregnant Sharon Tate) but
I have no idea why my parents would think that HELTER SKELTER was an appropriate thing for me to watch. Truth is though; I was already well aware of the appalling crime thanks to a visit to my cousin’s house where I had stumbled across the book and the gruesome photos inside. Still, I suppose nothing could prepare me for STEVE RAILSBACK’s hyper-convincing delirium and the way he almost seemed to look through the TV screen at me. In typical beat you over the head seventies-style subtly, the monstrous visage freeze frames for even more of an unsettling impact that nearly branded itself inside my head. Watching the movie again as an adult it becomes clear how much the musical score guided by mounting hysteria. It’s something I’m sure I wouldn’t even notice at the time but looking back I recognize so many of the era’s prerequisite musical jabs, nudges
Note: When I finally did venture outside I stopped by my favorite thrift shop and randomly procured an album by The Brady Bunch entitled “Meet The Brady Bunch”. The record is mostly an assortment of covers of then (1972) popular mellow seventies songs; one of them being Don McLean’s “American Pie”. For some reason known only to them, the Brady kids jump ahead with the lyrics and start their version with “Helter Skelter in the summer swelter…” Yes, the Brady kids actually sing about the Manson murders (Somehow this is even more inappropriate than their cover of Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You”)! It’s crazy, right? It just goes to show you how ubiquitous and inescapable the Manson murders were (and apparently still are). Also, I would be remiss if I did not also point out that HELTER SKELTER sports an impressive performance by the late great horror icon MARILYN BURNS ( THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ) as key witness Linda Kasabian. How she and RAILSBACK eluded Emmy awards is a mystery for the ages.
Back again, having given up trying to identify a short film (maybe 2 minutes long?) I saw on television in the early 90s (possibly on Night Flight, USA Up All Night or similar type clip show). It was in color and looked like it could have been made in the 1980s(?) It was about a family living in a desert cave years after a nuclear apocalypse. The parents are preparing a meal in a pot around a campfire and begin telling a story to the children about life before the bomb. In the story, which we see rendered as a flashback, a housewife is preparing dinner in a typical suburban kitchen, only to be frightened by the presence of a cockroach. She comically screams directly in the camera before the roach is killed off in some manner (can’t remember if it gets stomped or sprayed). Returning to the cave, the children are in disbelief that someone could be so afraid of a cockroach. Then we find out why. The food the parents are preparing in the pot is a cockroach soup, cockroaches being the only animal to survive the nuclear war.
It’s definitely NOT Damnation Alley or Twilight of the Cockroaches (which is what you are going to find when you Google for “post-apocalypse roaches”)
Hey! It has come to my attention (Thanks to our old pal Amanda By Night of Made For TV Mayhem fame) that the excellent short-lived horror anthology series DARKROOM is available to watch for FREE (you don’t even have to sign up!)! DARKROOM is hosted by the great JAMES COBURN and it came out right at the height of the early eighties horror boom. A few episodes that were too intense for broadcasting were strung together to make the cult favorite theatrical flick NIGHTMARES (1983). Fuzzy home-recorded episodes of DARKROOM have been bouncing around the internet for years but this is your big chance to see the show all crisp and clear as it was meant to be seen. I have a
Dear Uncle Lancifer, I need some help with finding
If you’re feeling spiritually under the weather or generally hopeless about human existence don’t make the mistake of watching 1978’s THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (currently FREE on TubiTV). You may think that its sloppy ineptness, super lame dubbing
Your head is sure to ache aboard the boat BLACK WHALE III as you try to decipher the relationships between all aboard. JOHN HUSTON is apparently the father and not the grandfather of the Marvin clan who
Everybody goes scuba diving and there’s some beautiful underwater photography and just as I was beginning to enjoy things, they obviously really kill two sharks that were only minding their own business. That’s not cool (what did I expect from the director of NIGHT OF 1,000 CATS?) I don’t see how this movie is worth the life of one shark, let alone two. Some giant pillars representing Atlantis (I think) begin to (endlessly) topple thanks to an undersea earthquake and crushes one of the daughters underneath. They’re able to get her back on the boat but her legs are royally mangled and they don’t get better and she mostly just wilts on a bed for the remainder of the movie while a drunken doctor wrestles with the benefits of amputation. From here things just get worse and worse as terrible storms pound away, people fall overboard, get chopped up in the propeller, randomly disappear or just fall down on shards of glass and die. All attempts to escape are absolute failures and it’s all ultimately profoundly frustrating. There’s one last moment of hope when some guys on the mainland finally receive their distress signal (spoiler alert) but that is crushed too when the person who receives the message explains that the BLACK WHALE III and the entire Marvin family were lost at sea ten years ago!!! Do you know who survives this nightmare? The doll. It’s sad, really. I almost like this movie for its relentlessly gloomy vibe. Almost.
A bunch of years ago HarperCollins got the not so bright idea to release an updated version of Alvin Schwartz’s classic SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, replacing Stephen Gammell’s haunting illustrations with less disturbing imagery. To say it didn’t go over too well with fans of the book is putting it lightly. In some ways, the new movie based on the books can almost be taken as a vehement apology that anyone anywhere might underestimate the value of Gammell’s spooky work. Director Andre Ovredal and producer Guillermo del Toro wisely decide to employ Gammell’s unforgettable images as the main inspiration and they are lovingly recreated down to the last detail. In fact, it could be said that the powerful images outweigh the stories themselves at times but what SCARY STORIES may be missing in the characterization department it makes up for in sheer autumnal atmosphere. It seems any space left between Schwartz’s tales and Gammell’s art are plastered in by honoring the works of Ray Bradbury (THE HALLOWEEN TREE, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES). You can almost smell the burning leaves on a cooler breeze and that’s just what the doctor ordered in the dog days of summer.
SSTTITD invites us to the small town of Mill Valley circa 1968 and introduces us to Stella, Auggie
Warm and fuzzy nostalgia abounds but admirably this is not a movie that is afraid to show the darker underbelly of
If I have any complaints it’s that things move along at too fast a clip and we’re never really allowed to learn too much about the character’s home life or everyday interactions. We tend to lose some sense of mystery as the trio catches on to what’s happening without a moment of logical skepticism. On the other hand, I have a feeling the pacing issue will only pose a problem for oldsters like me raised on seventies films and that the frenzied speed may be just fine for the central audience this PG-rated flick is courting. I should say too that the fate of one of the characters left a bad taste in my mouth but it’s kind of hard not to give this good-natured flick the benefit of the doubt. All in all, it’s a pretty neat trick to find a way to fuse a bunch of slight stories into a cohesive ode to everybody’s favorite season. If nothing else, SCARY STORIES stands as a harbinger that summer is nearly done and Halloween is right around the corner– that’s a message I’m not going to complain about.