Five favorite Things:: Love and Monsters (2020)

THE DOG. Aw. Don’t tell my cats but I’m legit in love with the doggie that is featured in this movie. It’s really one of the greatest depictions of a canine’s heart and personality that has ever been captured on film. Please never inform me that he was portrayed by more than one pooch. I don’t want to know that. I need to believe he was ONE good boy. By the way, that’s his name, “Boy” and he reminds me of every four-legged friend I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Oh damn, I got something in my eye. It’s like Holly Hunter in RAISING ARIZONA, “I love him so much!!!” I need more of this doggie. I want to see his future adventures.

(Update: I just found out on IMDb that Boy was played by two dogs named Hero and Dodge and it turns out I’m totally OK with that).

THE SCREENPLAY.  I’m kind of absolutely astonished that this wonderful movie was written by Brian Duffield, the same talented dude who wrote the awesome UNDERWATER and also scripted and directed (!) the excellent (and strangely inspiring) SPONTANEOUS.  I mean, I can’t think of (m)any scriptwriters who have written three of my favorite movies in their entire career much less a guy who wrote three of my favorite flicks in one single year! I’m so impressed that now I have to anxiously wait for the inevitable moment my hero disappoints me and reveals himself to be a rotten person of some sort.

THE WONDER. What an endlessly fascinating world that is created here! The whole planet is basically destroyed (yay) or at least ninety five percent of the population and all the animal and insect life has been transformed into monstrous and often disgusting (yay) mutants. It’s truly terrifying and exciting and basically all of my insane dreams come true. I know it’s supposed to be more like a nightmare but I can’t help myself. I would gladly take living in peril every day over having to endure modern life’s stinky conveyor belt of annoying nonsense.

THE HUMOR. This movie really hits my funny bone squarely, directly and consistently. From the self-deprecating lead, Joel (an extremely likable Dylan O’Brien) to the gruff snark of partial companions Clyde (the legendary Michael Rooker) and pint-sized side-kick Minnow (adorable Ariana Greenblatt), these are folks I really dig hanging out with. When Minnow reveals that some of the most gnarliest looking monsters are actually amiable and that their eyes give them away, it’s like a potent dose of humanity injected right into my veins.

THE CRAB. As a kid who grew up watching Ray Harryhausen flavored monster flicks on weekend afternoons, I absolutely adore an impossible creature or two, especially the kind that hangs out on the beach. Giant mutated creatures bring me great joy and my itch to behold them is satiated far too infrequently. Without ruining a very charming and important plot point, let me just say this particular decapod crustacean has a personality trait that warms my cold, tired heart.

EXTRA: THE SCORE. Oooooh the counterintuitive musical score by Marco Beltrami (the SCREAM flicks among many others) and frequent collaborator Marcus Trumpp is all kinds of awesome and even includes banjos (!?!) plucking away. I love the sound of a banjo. Anyway, see this movie at all costs; it rules. I forgot to even mention the lovable robot! Mav1s!

Name That Trauma:: Beth From Georgia on a Sickly Escapee

Greetings! I’ve enjoyed the site for many years, but I believe this is my first request for help identifying an old trauma of mine.

It’s my hope that someone can help point me to a movie/show that deeply disturbed me as a young child in the early ’90s. I know it had to have been made prior to 1995 because of the house I was living in when I saw it, but I have no idea if it’s a movie or TV show. Someone in my family was watching something on TV on one of the broadcast stations in northern Virginia (I don’t remember if we had cable in that particular house at the time) circa 1992, and I saw a portion of it while going through the room a few times while doing other things. Pretty sure it was on a channel with commercials. The snippets I saw made a big impression.

In the movie (just gonna call it a movie for simplicity’s sake), there’s a sick young woman on the run. She’s just recently escaped from some kind of hospital where she was in quarantine for some kind of horribly contagious disease. She has been accidentally exposed and doesn’t realize she is spreading a terrible disease, but doesn’t trust the hospital staff or authority figures for reasons I don’t recall. Her state of mind is confused, and she is getting worse. The woman has shoulder length or short hair and is wearing a white hospital gown or house coat (pretty sure it opens in the back), and she keeps pausing in her flight from the authorities to vomit. Every time she gets sick, there’s an ominous music chord and stock footage of bacteria multiplying is shown. She looks sweaty and sick, and keeps desperately trying to stop people on the street to ask them for help (and getting sick on them). The music stings and bacteria clips keep happening, illustrating that she’s spreading the disease. Each time, the bacteria pile increases more and more until the single bacterium splits into hundreds and fills the entire screen with them. I think she collapsed before it cut to something else or a commercial break, and I never saw anything further or learned her fate in the end. The whole thing was absolutely horrifying to me. Even today, I think of these few scenes every time I see a clip of bacteria multiplying.

I think the movie may have also played from the point of view of the people trying to catch her and stop the spreading of the disease (maybe police or detectives?). The tone is more like a ’90s TV police procedural thriller where you’re following the characters as they track down a suspect. Like, they keep being one step behind and are trying to get to her in time before she succumbs and infects everyone. Production value may have been akin to something like an episode of In the Heat of the Night, and it may have said something about being based on a true story so it might have been a TV movie or a TV show of the era. I think an ambulance crash happens at some point, with her escaping from the back of the vehicle (possibly right before the scene of her escaping I described above). I also think the color grade of the movie leans a little more to the red shade of the spectrum when following the sick lady, to help show her deteriorating health.

Who is this lady? Did she make it? What was my family watching?! I must know, fellow trauma enthusiasts. Can anyone help identify this horror from my past? Please and thank you!

-Beth from Georgia

Name That Trauma:: Mike W. On a Magic Ball & Killer Toys

Hello from South Africa!

Long time fan, first time writer. Thanks to your site I was able to relive the memory of a movie that scared the bejesus out of me as a kid, “The Haunted” about the Smurl Haunting. I’m hoping you can -please- point me in the direction of another childhood trauma. Here are the deets, bit of a read, but I hope you will find it interesting.

In South Africa we had an early subscription based TV channel called M-Net. One of it’s regularly scheduled program slots was K-TV. (Kids television.) During the school holidays they would have “the K-TV holidays special” which meant extended broadcast hours and also movies that we would never have a chance to see otherwise. (This was the late 80s to mid 90s)

Thanks to them I saw so many weird movies that I may need to revist Kindetraumas services in the future. The titles I do remember catching were “Robotech the movie” (That weird butchered one which flopped in the cinema) the Robotech Sentinels pilot episode, The Peanut Butter Solution…that kind of stuff.

One of the films we saw was about a spoiled upper middle class kid (live action film) who had a ton of cool toys and basically could regularly pick any toy he wanted from the toy store. He offers his Euro friend the opportunity to get a toy, but his friend turns him down and shows him a ball with lights on it. The friend tells him he needs no other toys except this ball. So of course our “hero” steals this ball for himself.

That night his mom has to go out, leaving him home alone. The ball activates and his toys come to life and try to murder him. I remember a cackling skeleton and an almost Tyco looking train set that tried to shoot him, as well as others. The vacuum cleaner also tries to murder him and then he hears his friends distorted voice coming from the ball taunting him. (the movie starts to veer into wtf territory)

He heads downstairs and encounters his mom, except it’s not his mom it’s actually a freaky killer cyborg version of her. (no reason for it..just insanity.) This thing chases him out the house and his real mom arrives home and runs it over.

I know it sounds a bit like a fever dream, but I have a buddy who also saw it. We connected via our love for the film on the he-man forums. Coincidentally he is in the toy design biz himself now. Helping design action figures for Battletoads.

I have tried EVERY source, from repeated word combos on google and youtube, to keyword trawling on IMDB and am now searching archive.org. I find it worrying that there is no sign of it as I think it would be insansely popular online with the ongoing trend of adult toy collectors and retro revivals. I mean, not a single hint of it??? It was definitely not a South African production, I think possibly it was dubbed into english which means the original title might be very obscure.

It is not a holiday themed movie, it is not part of Silent Night, Deadly night…I have no idea what it was.

Sorry for the wordy mail, thanks for reading. Any help at all would be so very appreciated.

All the Best!
Mike W

Kindertrauma Rewind:: The Fog (1980) vs The Birds (1963)!

UNK SEZ: Hey, it’s April 21st and that makes it officially international THE FOG (1980) day! One way we can celebrate is to travel backwards and re-visit an ancient post in which I explore the similarities between John Carpenter’s fantastic flick and Hitchcock’s classic THE BIRDS (1963)! Sounds like great fun doesn’t it? And all you have to do is click right HERE!

Several Serial Killer Films:: By Ghastly1

The Tenderness of Wolves (1973)
Neuer Deutscher Film fanatics rejoice, Ulli Lommel is here and he brought Rainer Werner Fassbinder along with him. Fritz Haarmann lives the dream life, not only is he a rapist serial killer of boys and young men, who lives in an apartment decorated with kitsch paintings of angels and filled with the rancid meat and moldering bones of his victims, in a highly chic bombed out part of the city, but he has a thriving business selling human meat to local establishments. Jealous much?

Angst (1983)
Loosely based on the life and crimes of Werner Kniesek, this Austrian film descends into the psycho psyche of a recently paroled killer as he embarks on a seriously sick and sadistic spate of slaughter in a manner quite unlike any other. Immediately after having been “rehabilitated” in one of the country’s fine institutions, our “hero” who never stopped seeing red, descends on an isolated estate, where he proceeds to “work out his repressed emotions and meaningfully express himself” by exterminating its inhabitants for his own sadistic sexual self-gratification; all the while, treating us to reminiscences of his childhood torment and systematically laying out all of the fantasies he’d like to make reality; it’s all heartwarming stuff really. Of course, I’m being facetious; this is a rough film to get through, the first two murders are actually unintentionally funny in my opinion but things take an abrupt and stark turn for the decidedly disagreeable with the killing of the daughter which is hard to watch, even for this jaded misanthrope. The film is masterfully composed and seamlessly shot with nary a nick in the narrative. Complimenting the camera work, Klaus Schulze’s synthesizer soundtrack sends symphonic shivers scurrying up my spine, giving the impression these psychopathic sounds are driving the annihilative actions of the antagonist. Clearly auguring later “extreme” movies from western neighbors France, this film also really deserves to be mentioned alongside superlative cinematic treatments of stateside slaughterers such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, though for my money, Angst is infinitely more artful and hermetically unparalleled.

Schramm (1993)
Coming two decades after Tenderness of the Wolves, a decade after the aforementioned Angst and six years after his notoriously nasty necrotic debut, Nekromantik, Teutonic auteur Jorg Buttgereit’s sublimely surreal sadomasochistic sickie swansong character study collage of a sexually deviant serial killer’s final seconds of survival is exactly what it’s subtitle: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer suggests. Through a loose utilization of the reverse chronology technique, later popularized by the likes of Christopher Nolan, we witness the recondite recollections of one Lothar Schramm, the Lipstick Killer, as he lies sprawled out on the floor of his apartment in a pool of his own blood after cracking his skull open following a header off a ladder while painting over plasma stains in the parlor. What is great about Schramm is that it doesn’t allow for any pop psychology answer to the perennially posited query, why? We are left with the patently pathetic personage of masturbating, penile mutilating Schramm himself; he was what he was because he was a loser, nothing more. That is the truly subversive substrate of this film, it’s comment on it’s own ilk.

Cold Light of Day (1989)
We now jump across the pond to Merry Olde for a little looksee at a lunatic Lustmord flick “For those too sensitive for this world” as the concluding tribute to the director’s self-slaying friend states. The film is based on the escapades of “the British Jeffrey Dahmer”, Dennis Nilsen and is shot in a queasy quasi cinema verité style, which adds inestimably to the grubby, grimy, grungy feeling of inhabiting Nilsen’s flat, not to mention his life. Heads are boiled, bodies are stowed under floorboards and none are the wiser until Dennis formulates the fancy idea of flushing flesh down the loo. If I may be allowed a pun, that is when everything goes to shit; Nilsen is promptly arrested and confesses his misdeeds to his Albion accuser Inspector Simmons. As an aside and if I may be allowed one more pun, this film pairs well with the 1993 film, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer starring Carl Crew as the eponymous Dahmer, which, while “fictionalized” sheds far more light on the character and motivations of it’s subject and feels truer than 2002’s Jeremy Renner vehicle, Dahmer.

Traumafessions:: Xminus1 on The Baby From Outer Space

I thought for years I was making this up but there was a really weird short film on nickelodeon years ago called The Baby From Outer Space. This one freaked me out and has stayed with me throughout the years. I have no idea how this got past the censors at the time. This short is really weird.
The short was uploaded to youtube and it is the only copy of it I have seen anywhere. That smiley face is just pure evil. Check this one out
(HERE).

Five Favorite Things:: The Psychopath (1966) By Unk

Director Freddie Francis’ 1966 Robert Bloch (PSYCHO) penned murder mystery THE PSYCHOPATH is so up my alley, I feel almost sad that I did not encounter it earlier in life. Sure, now as an adult I can appreciate it on a multitude of levels I may have missed before but this is the type of flick I wish I could have stumbled across late at night on TV in my impressionable (and easily freaked-out) youth. Alas, this movie successfully avoided me for decades and we bumped heads only a handful of years ago. Still, it’s found a permanent place in my heart so here are five reasons I dig it so…

THEM DAMN DOLLS. Yikes. Every time some poor soul gets murdered in this movie, the killer leaves a doll that looks like the victim next to their corpse. If that doesn’t unnerve you enough, meet Mrs. Von Sturm (Margaret Johnston) the fishy-acting suspect whose entire house is overrun by dollies of all varieties, some that inexplicably rock and move and a few who seem to look directly through the camera at the viewer.

MRS. VON STURM. BURN, WITCH, BURN (aka NIGHT OF THE EAGLE)’s Margaret Johnston portrays Mrs. Von Sturm, a German, wheelchair utilizing doll fanatic with scores to settle and a harpy-esque disposition. It doesn’t matter if she’s a red haring or fully responsible for the death and mayhem; in either case she steals the entire movie with her campy hysterics, questionable decorating skills, and bizarre inanimate brood.

THE CINEMATOGRAPHY. What a gorgeous, colorful, eye–pleasing flick this is thanks to frequent Freddie Francis (say that 3 times fast) collaborator John Wilcox (NIGHTMARE, THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE SKULL). Apparently, THE PSYCHOPATH was a huge hit in Italy in particular which makes a hell of a lot of sense, as it appears cut from the same vibrant cloth as the painterly works of Mario Bava.

MADDENING MUSIC BOX TUNES. Speaking of Italian cinema, nobody can tell me Dario Argento wasn’t somewhat inspired by THE PSYCHOPATH (especially in the case of DEEP RED). There’s this crazy-making music chime refrain that returns over and over again and its blood-curdling creepiness would fit so snuggly and at home within the master’s bag of tricks.

CREEPMASTER ROBERT BLOCH. Y’all know I’m loath to spoil a film’s ending, so I’ll keep my lips as tight as possible. Let’s just say the author of PSYCHO delivers a revelation by the film’s closing that’s slow burn shocking and spine-chilling (in more ways than one). In fact, the more you think about exactly what is implied and what one character nearly endures, it’s sicker than any occurrences at the Bates Hotel. That’s it. I’ll say no more. Just count me in as significantly and happily disturbed.