Name That Trauma:: Caffeinated Joe on a Doll Mask Short

My brother-in-law needs help:

“I went to see some kinetic sculpture today and it reminded me of a creepy film short I’ve seen before but can’t find it googling every different keyword I can think of. I think the filmmaker’s name began with the letter K. It was in black and white and was creepy and weird and maybe had a beetle in it? Don’t rightly remember but trying to find it. Also, if it helps I think there may have been doll masks stitched together with twine and weird stuff like that. I initially thought Kafka but it wasn’t him but the name sounded the same. Thanks again!”

Any one have any ideas?
Caffeinated Joe

Traumafession:: Jeff C. on The Spider God

When I was in Elementary School on Vancouver Island, BC Canada, I borrowed this book from the school library. The book was published in 1974 and as I was born in 1969 I would have probably been 7 to 9 years old when I read it. The illustrations inside were scratchy and creepy as hell! And the stories were all written by Charles A. Piddock. All the stories disturbed me, but the one that had the longest impact on me, the one that I remember to this day (more than 40 years later!) was the story called The Spider God. As I remembered it, it went like this:

 It was a Vietnam horror story I read as a child about a soldier who, before burning down a village, butts his cigarette in the eye of a spider god statue. Then 10 years later at home he’s upstairs and his kids are downstairs he hears a weird noise,   he goes down to investigate and finds 2 skeletons– bones picked clean–  then he turns to see a swarm of spiders descend upon him.

Then I found a blog, which documents the blogger’s own experience with the book (HERE). He writes the synopses of all the stories contained in the book and his synopsis of The Monster Fly is remarkably similar to my own recollection…


Captain Billy Joe Smith is with some South Vietnamese soldiers checking out a village. A building is still standing and they chase a VC into it. A fight ensures and Billy sees it is some temple. Filled with cages of spiders and an idol of a giant spider. Billy puts out his cigar in the eyes of the idol offending the Spider God. Years later in Denver him and his little daughter are attacked by hordes of spiders. Back in the village the idols eyes then start to glow signaling that the god has been avenged.

He also writes:

So this was a book that I checked out of the school library when I was in second grade. It is written for young kids and has illustrations on every other page to show what the story is trying to convey. The illustrations by Richard Maccabe are crude but effective in visualizing the story. I still vividly remember the drilling to Hell and meeting the Devil and the human zoo. The stories were quite effective on a young mind that I still remembered them after all these years and decided to search out this book. An enjoyable nostalgic trip back to my childhood.

So Underrated:: Blood Salvage (1990)

As is my sworn duty, I’m here once again to sing the praises of 1990’s BLOOD SALVAGE. Thanks to annoying ownership issues, writer/director TUCKER JOHNSTON‘s solidly offbeat dumpster dive into madcap depravity has still not been released on DVD and Blu-ray and that’s a shame for lovers of horror. It should at least deserve the positive notoriety most elusive fright flicks receive but instead, I find it’s still not mentioned enough. No soldier as eccentrically gruesome, darkly humorous, genuinely unnerving and strangely melancholy as this should ever be left behind, especially when it features performances by legends like JOHN SAXON, RAY WALTSON and I kid you not, EVANDER HOLYFIELD. If you’re looking for the missing link between TOBE HOOPER‘s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and ROB ZOMBIE‘s HOUSE OF 1,OOO CORPSES (2003) look no further than TUCKER JOHNSTON‘s BLOOD SALVAGE. It has aged like fine moonshine! It boasts a familial bouquet akin to WES CRAVEN‘s THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) the tart crispness of MOTEL HELL (1980) the toasty acidity of AMERICAN GOTHIC (1988) and the gritty aroma of MOTHER’S DAY (1980). Why isn’t every horror fan gulping this fine brew down?

In BLOOD SALVAGE we are introduced to the Evans family who travel in a handsome Winnebago into questionable territories so that their teenage daughter April can compete in carnival-set beauty pageants. When we first meet April, she appears to be the haloed darling of the competition, admired for her bravery and pluck due to her requiring a wheelchair. Interestingly though, rather than ride the typical course of presenting her as a one-note virtuous saint, we soon learn she’s actually bitter about being treated like a “charity case.” Moreover, she’s revealed to be testy, bratty, snobby and downright ornery. She’s such a hellion that she ends up being one of the most unique horror heroines out there. She doesn’t transform when in danger; she simply takes off her mask of sweetness and reveals her true colors. She’s kind of a cross between the petulant, trouble-inviting Amy Harper (ELIZABETH BERRIDGE) in THE FUNHOUSE (1981) and the obstinate, trash-talking Vanessa Lutz (REESE WITHERSPOON) in FREEWAY (1996), what’s not to love? Even more fascinating is the way April has no qualms slipping back into her “butter wouldn’t melt” persona when it better serves her than snarling. I could go on and on about April all day. She’d probably hate the term “final girl” as much as I do.

On a collision course with the Evans family is the Pruitt clan. Patriarch Jake (DANNY NELSON) has been creepily following April’s career and since he and his two dim-witted yokel sons are already taking part in devious shenanigans, abducting April isn’t much of a stretch. You see, the Pruitt’s have a salvage yard but it’s actually a front for their more lucrative business of kidnapping people, putting them through horrendous medical experiments and then selling their body parts on the black market. It’s somehow even more disturbing then it sounds, almost difficult to watch at times and yet also cartoon-y and unrealistic enough to not leave too bad of a taste in your psyche. Although sons Hiram and Roy (CHRISTAIN HESLER, RALPH PRUIT VAUGHN) are kind of cookie-cutter horror numbskulls (see MOTHER’S DAY or OF MICE AND MEN) daddy Jake is handled as deftly as April and stands as a worthy and equally complex adversary. He too is bitter about the cards fate has handed him and covets April as a placeholder for his deceased daughter. Religious zealots are nothing new in the annals of horror but there’s something pitiable about how Jake uses his self-righteousness as a salve against his deep pain for not being wealthy enough to save his cherished child. Forever broken, he becomes what destroyed him, placing the value of money over that of human life. Sure, he’s a raving psychotic but in a way, he’s only mirroring his own experience with a greedy and apathetic medical industry. He eradicates self-doubt with fire and brimstone verse and his projection is so fierce he’s even trained his torture victims to chime, “Amen”.

BLOOD SALVAGE has its flaws but most of them lean toward budgetary issues and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Its limited location and unpolished, lived-in environment add so much flavor that would be impossible to duplicate on a similar scale today. As much as I enjoy how it salutes a litany of other rural psycho family flicks, there’s no denying that it carves its own path moving adamantly against knee jerk expectations. People who you’d assume would survive don’t and the most dramatic demise is handled with chilling indifference. The climax is a wonderfully executed funhouse crawl with trapdoor after trapdoor all the while balancing the grueling and the amusing in equal measure. I know I’m at risk of over-selling at this point but hey, somebody has to. There’s really no reason that this consistently entertaining trek through the bowels of insanity isn’t a horror staple by now. Nope, it’s not on DVD but it is currently on Amazon Prime in an adequate though not ideal (too dark) presentation that will leave your peepers begging for a better edition. Someday somebody will be a hero and release this bad boy in the respectful way that it deserves. ‘Till then, I’ll be over here carrying this torch. Oh geez, I forgot to mention the Pruitt’s lovable pet alligator! How could I do that? Be good and spread the holy word. Amen.

Traumafession:: Derek B. on Kid Commercial Music

Thank you for all your hard work.  I have a kindertraumatic question.  It’s not about movies or tv shows; it’s about many, many commercials. In the seventies, commercials for local kid-oriented businesses would come on Southern Californian television.  Arcades, circuses, restaurants. Three songs would be used, over and over.  These songs were instrumental only and seemed to be part of a pack of musical accompaniment tracks every TV and Radio station owned.

One was a sort of wacky clownish theme, lots honking horns. “Come down to Pizza Piccolo Pete,” or whatever party clown occasion you were hoping to throw. Another was a simple tune played on what might have been a slide whistle, or a keyboard that sounded like it.  Slow tempo, something for wacky art-style toy commercials. The last one was a lot of synthesizers and horns.  You use it for your water park or skateboard joint.  

Your site and tireless research have saved so many before me.  Do you have any idea what I’m talking about here?  I suspect I am not crazy and hope it is true.