Sunday Streaming:: Creature (1985)

Hey! My favorite hokey ALIEN rip-off CREATURE (earlier tribute HERE) is hanging out on TubiTV (apologies to all our faithful readers who don’t get TubiTV in their area) and can be seen for free HERE! It looks super spectacular all widescreen and digitally re-mastered and it’s even wearing its original title THE TITAN FIND. How am I supposed to leave the house today? The soundtrack is enticing me from my little computer speaker as we speak! Wow, Lyman Ward appeared in both CREATURE and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE back in 1985 and still found time to show up on DALLAS and NIGHT COURT! And how I dig that Joe Dante fave Wendy (THE BURBS, SMALL SOLDIERS) Schaal is shown reading a novelization of director William Malone’s previous film SCARED TO DEATH (1980) and it claims to be a “#1 Bestseller”!  Aw, I love this flick forever.

Traumafession:: Dave D. on a Bravestarr Drug Death

I was born in 1977 which means the heyday of my youth was spent watching cartoons like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and He-Man. But there was another cartoon, one oft overlooked by children of my era: Bravestarr.

Bravestarr was produced by Filmation; the same company responsible for He-Man, She-Ra, Shazam, and The Ghostbusters (the one with the gorilla). And the premise, I thought, was pretty awesome: The Planet of ‘New Texas’ has been colonized to mine a type of fuel called ‘red ore’ and very quickly lawlessness spreads to this new space frontier. Enter Marshal Bravestarr who can channel the powers of four animals, hawk, wolf, puma, and bear, to perform superhuman feats. 

So, cool location, space western, super-powered lawman, what’s not to love? I’ll tell you what’s not to love, the episode called ‘The Price’ where a drug called Spin is putting people in the hospital or, in one little boy’s case, the morgue. That’s right. A child gets addicted to this space drug. Steals some red ore, and sneaks off to his ‘club house‘ where his lifeless body is found the next morning.

I was 10 at the time and was not prepared for how I felt watching a cartoon mother sob uncontrollably or watching this dead boy’s brother faint upon finding the body. There was no happy ending for this episode. Sure, the Spin factory was destroyed, but not before the horrors of drugs took a little boys life. But beyond the actual death, watching a child in the grip of drug addiction was pretty disturbing as well: slurred speech, vacant stares, limbs akimbo, it painted a pretty grim picture.

Here’s the episode in all it’s glory if you want to CHECK IT OUT.
Thanks for keeping it real, real traumatic!

Dave D.

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

I was at the library the other day and I saw they had The Strangers: Prey at Night and good lord, I borrowed it again! What is going on with me? Why do I like this movie? It makes little sense because I’m not much of a fan of the first movie, I’m not impressed with the stale masks at all and I find the title itself sorta annoying. And yet, for some reason, I couldn’t wait to pop it back into my DVD player and watch it late at night as the world slept with the company of cats and cheap beer. I don’t even think I like the characters in this movie. They’re very frustrating. The father (Martin Henderson) fails his entire family by suggesting they split up, the mother (Christina Hendricks) lamely allows herself to be stabbed by someone half her size, the brother (Lewis Pullman) never demands that they all leave immediately after discovering their hosts have been murdered and I’m going to need a little more than a RAMONES T-shirt to convince me that the daughter (Bailee Madison) is a rebellious malcontent. This movie is begging me to dislike it but try as I might it looks like I can’t.

This is how we all find out what a shallow human being I am. There are two, count-em’ two elements that make this movie impossible to resist for me. First off, on a visual level, it looks fantastic. It takes place in the excellent location of a trailer park at night and a spookily lit fog cloaks all of the surroundings and it comes off like a half-remembered bad dream. Everything looks muddled and vague but then there are these blasts of super sharp neon as well. All the interiors are dunked in sleazy seventies brown and gold complete with burlap couches and wood paneling like that once hip Fiona Apple video “Criminal.” I’m such a sucker for that faux-sleaze aesthetic, I know it’s basic and mid-nineties of me to fall for such a thing and yet I do. It just works so well as an environment for horror and evil shenanigans. In addition, the fact that the abandoned grounds are empty gives off an alienating, end of the world vibe. It kind of reminds me of playing kick-the-can after dark when I was young and feeling like I could be engulfed by darkness at any minute. It also calls to mind how the dark, twisty labyrinth-like alleys and backyards of Haddonfield were so well utilized in the opening of HALLOWEEN II (1982).  

Speaking of CARPENTER-esque tonal touches, the score and soundtrack are my other soft spot. The repetitive theme by Adrian Johnston is either homage or a blatant rip-off of THE FOG’s and apparently my spine is going to tingle to it either way. I also adore director Johannes Roberts (47 METERS DOWN) ace idea to exploit some cold-ass synth-y new wave songs to embellish the kills. It’s almost as if the songs report on the atrocities like indifferent bystanders and it somehow accentuates the idea that the universe doesn’t care who lives or dies. Taking advantage of Kim Wilde’s “Cambodia” is a truly inspired, off the main road choice that I can’t help aplauding. What’s really surprising though, is how well low-hanging pop tuneage like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Air Supply’s  “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” work (when paired with a brutal murder). Both songs were written by Jim Steinman and are known for their over the top theatrics but I’d assume they’d be too familiar and obvious to register much of an impact and apparently, I’d be super wrong. I have to say, this flick’s fluorescent pool confrontation is a symphony of exquisite horror-beauty that you don’t find many places outside’s Michele Soavi’s STAGE FRIGHT (1987) or maybe the signature stalk n’ skate set-piece from CURTAINS (1982).

I guess STRANGERS: PAN simply fulfills a nostalgic need for me; it reminds me of when I used to be able to watch a movie for payoff alone and with my critical mind fully gagged. The story is thinner than cellophane, the characters are not exceptionally interesting (I’ll root for them anyway just because they’re humans not looking for trouble) but there’s something about the freedom and danger of the night itself that it conveys that I find thrilling. As elementary as it all is, I’m kind of impressed that no kill is a throw-away and that each feels potently, almost romantically, fatalistic and tragic. And maybe the movie is a little deeper than I give it credit for; there’s something to be said about how the main character’s escalating fortitude coincides with the realization of how much she really does value her parents and sibling. And I think because the victims are a family unit rather than a gaggle of random teens, there’s something extra poignant about watching them die (see also THE HILLS HAVE EYES and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT). I dunno. I guess I just wanted to admit I’m a fan. This won’t be the first time I had a soft spot for a maligned sequel and it certainly won’t ne the last. I guess when it comes to slash-happy horror movies, I’m an old pro at making love out of nothing at all.

Sunday Streaming:: Celebrity Ghost Stories

Everybody knows by now that I love TubiTV but the news of the day is that TubiTV apparently loves me back because they are now offering three full seasons of the ever-elusive Celebrity Ghost Stories! It is also possible that I’ve been binge-watching said program all weekend and it has permanently altered my perception of reality and I’m good with that. I know the title is amusing and that some folks knee-jerk scoff at ghost stories but this show is legit awesome in my book.

I mean, ya’ll know I appreciate personal stories and recollections (that’s what kindertrauma is all about) and first-hand supernatural experiences can’t help but be enthralling to me. Maybe I’m too gullible but I believe about ninety-eight percent of the talking heads on this show. I’ve only given a skeptical side-eye to a story maybe twice so far. My M.O. is to dive-in facetiously as if I’m going to mock-view it and then I inevitably find myself genuinely engrossed and mystified and sometimes even moved and left with a more positive, hopeful stance regarding that whole “we’re all going to die” rumor that keeps gnawing at my troubled psyche.  Sometimes this show leaves me with the feeling that there could possibly be meaning and order in the universe after all and as unlikely as that may be, I’m all for it. Wait, can you believe Billy Baldwin played little league baseball with one of the Amityville DeFeo Kids?

Geez, I can’t believe the show is ten years old (!) and truth is, some of the stories (particularly those of Daryl Hannah and Fairuza Balk) have stuck with me all these years after I first viewed them. One of the great things about CGS is that it doesn’t require you to watch the interview and sketchy reenactments; you can do other stuff (wash dishes, paint your basement, play Plants vs Zombies) and just listen (like one of those podcasts the kids are talking about?). The absolutely CRAZY-making (lone) drawback of CGS is that it is formatted for some reason to “recap’ stories after commercial breaks (which no longer exist) and so it takes some patience and a sense of humor to endure its unnecessary repetitiveness. Oh boy, I have to get back to watching/listening. I’m only half-finished and Marilyn Manson and Shelly Long are awaiting me up ahead! Check out CGS HERE!

Traumafession:: Bigwig on an Egg Cellar Bottle Opener

Hey Guys,

A long time ago as a kid we used to go weekly to my grandparent’s farm on the outskirts of Amish country. There wasn’t much to do inside; the majority of the afternoon adventures came from outside work or wandering outdoors or in the barns, chicken coops, sheds or fields along with the other cousins. In fact, over the years, we wound up knowing every inch of the place. 

Anyway, of the myriad of locations, there was an inherent creepiness to the “egg cellar” which was a moist dungeon of a place underneath the farmhouse accessed only from the outside and down a steep set of stone steps. It was perpetually cool like a Spring house, always had a few inches of water in it from flooding, and had to be traversed by walking on boards that sat on cinder blocks. This was where my grandfather would check and crate eggs and temporarily store them for a day or two before being sold. It was lit by a single low watt bulb dangling unceremoniously from the cord. Real “Silence of the Lambs” stuff…. But what made it a true fright fest to us little kids was this gem of a cast iron bottle opener mounted on the side wall all by itself for no apparent reason:

Lord knows where this thing came from, or what the company who made it was trying to accomplish…. but it certainly made a scary place all the scarier.  No weeked trip to The Farm was complete without at least a brief excursion to see him….and the four-eyed image would stay in my mind at nights. 

When my grandparents passed away, and the farm was eventually sold and the farmhouse razed, I managed to extract this ugly little thing beforehand, and it lives in my house today.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018)

Uh-oh, looks like somebody finally made a film adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books, Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE. I’m going to give all those involved a kudos for bravery right out of the gate because it couldn’t have been easy translating such an intimate character-driven piece to the screen. Plus I don’t envy anyone attempting to compete with the substantially personal world Jackson’s words created for her readers. No novel easily transfers to film but this is one of those magical books you simply live inside of as you read it and its fans are rarely casual about their appreciation. Anyway, I’m happy to report that for the most part I really enjoyed this take on the material, it’s a true visual stunner, the acting is uniformly intriguing and it represents a hoarding shut-in’s preoccupation surrounding heirlooms, found objects and memorabilia eloquently. On the minus side, I think some of the most dynamic plot points are too lightly touched upon and the climax, which should feel like a hammer falling, barely stings. Saddest of all, a rug-pull twist in the book limply plays out like a beyond obvious “ya think?” revelation here.

Wide-eyed and lumbering, Taissa Farmiga delivers a compelling performance as Merricat Blackwood, an 18-year-old outsider living with her serene older sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario of TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D) and their semi-delusional Uncle Julian (the ALWAYS excellent Crispen Glover). The three live ostracized from their community and holed up in their splendiferous mansion ever since Constance was accused of being responsible for their parent’s poisoning death years prior. Much like THE FOX (‘67), THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (‘76) PREY (‘77) and even JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (‘82), this is the tale of a blissfully cozy, harmonious existence that is turned upside down as soon as an untrustworthy dog shows up. In this case, the dog is a long lost (but not lost long enough) cousin named Charles (Sebastian Stan) who vaguely seduces Constance, threatens to hospitalize Julian and harangues Merricat for burying valuable treasures he clearly has his eyes on.

Thumbs up to all humans involved for their generally compelling work (although it could be said that Farmiga is a tad too oafish, Daddario is a smidge too simple, Stan is a bit too conspicuous and Glover could possibly let his freak flag fly higher) but one of CASTLE’s greatest characters, Merricat’s ebony feline Jonas, is sinfully underrepresented and it’s probably my biggest qualm. People are able to make houses and cities into characters in movies but somehow a cat character is a reach? Really all they’d have to do is show him more and speak his name more often for him to stick but for some reason, he’s treated as one of the home’s tchotchkes instead. That cool dude should be present and accounted for in every single scene where Merricat is casting and conjuring in her garden alcove.

Appalling cat representation failures aside, much like Sheena Easton in a Prince video, this movie has got “the look.” Poor me went to grab a few screenshots to illustrate this post and ended up with about fifty (truly, you could make a coffee table book out of nearly every frame). Director Stacie Passon, cinematographer Piers McGrail, production designer Anna Rackard and art director Louise Mathews all deserve kudos for this handsome devil of a flick. Even if it doesn’t quite hit all the emotional notes of the book (and really, how could it?), I think I can appreciate it as a visual companion piece of sorts. The near-constant blue/green color palette alone puts me where I want to be but I also can’t help but dig the fetishistic attention to detail regarding the hoarded bobbles and scattered random ephemera the dollhouse-like manor is nested with.

Overall, I’d say this a respectable salute that should appeal to patient viewers who are attracted to light Goth and the darker side of Martha Stewart. I know I wouldn’t mind watching it again in the future but I’m guessing I’ll always lament that Merricat’s relationship with her beloved bestie Jonas was so foolishly neglected. Cat erasure is a crime and the punishment is your movie is not as good as it so easily could have been.