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For the Love of:: The Slayer (1982)

September 19th, 2017 · 1 Comment

ARROW VIDEO is really hitting them out of the park lately. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a release than their new 2-disc (one Blu, one DVD) offering of THE SLAYER, which until now has only been available on hard to find VHS. I have an extended history with this movie. It was one of my very first horror rentals (from a kiosk in the mall) and it both stuck in my head and seemed to disappear entirely. For decades, no other video store I visited (and there have been many) ever seemed to carry it. I finally did find it on a double feature, big box with SCALPS but I still yearned to unearth the original version with the cover that enthralled me featuring a demon silhouette in a doorway framed by fire. Over the years I’ve spotlighted on these pages the multiple times this movie has appeared on YouTube only to watch it disappear in a puff of smoke shortly thereafter. Well, all those days of THE SLAYER being a slippery fish are now over. I’m happy for myself and I’m happy for all the fortunate folks who can now add this unique film to their collections.

I attempted to share why I’ve been intrigued for so many years by THE SLAYER in this full review back HERE (short version: I admit it has its flaws but the atmosphere of constant dread is memorably powerful). Today I’m going to focus on this new slobber-worthy Blu-ray. Let me tell you, it’s quite the revelation seeing THE SLAYER suddenly not look like it was filmed through a screen door. This is the visual equivalent to slurping down an oyster; your peepers can practically taste the salty ocean air while you take it in. In my previous review, I mentioned that in my head I like to think of THE SLAYER as a seaside sibling to favorites TOWER OF EVIL, THE FOG and DEAD AND BURIED and never has that coastal connection been stronger; I may have even been left with sand in my shorts. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not militant when it comes to upgrading physical media but in this case, it’s an absolute no-brainer. The difference between THE SLAYER on VHS and on Blu-ray is substantial. I’ll spare you the technical specs and just say I can now finally determine that hapless victim Brooke spends her last hours on Earth reading a paperback of TOM ROBBIN’s EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES; a crucial detail sadly indecipherable on VHS. She’ll never know how it ends!

I’ve heard tale that some folks find THE SLAYER’s pace a bit too leisurely but I disagree, especially now that I’ve seen it in its full glory. The devil is in the details and the more you re-watch this well-crafted flick, the more you realize that it’s consistently dropping clues, foreshadowing future events and messing with your head with subtle shadows and meaningful cutaways. It’s like a puzzle that falls apart every time you’re just about to snap in the last piece. Furthermore, I think the film’s slinking patience only adds to its throttling final moments. It’s gear shifting personality makes it stand like a bridge linking grounded n’ gritty late seventies horror to surreal n’ unreal eighties fare.

Nearly as essential as the film itself is a brand new documentary entitled NIGHTMARE ISLAND: THE MAKING OF THE SLAYER. This documentary provides a treasure trove of trivia (as does the new commentary by director J. S. CARDONE, actress CAROL KOTTENBROOK and executive in charge of production ERIC WESTON). There’s been scant information available on THE SLAYER for decades and ARROW’s determination to fix that is downright heroic. Poor SLAYER was really handed a random and undeserved raw deal that so many less interesting horror films were able to avoid. It never got a proper distribution on screen or on home video and it does my heart good to witness that corrected. If you are familiar with the film you know that some of its most memorable scenes take place in a dilapidated theater. Happily that same theater has since been renovated and better still, was able to proudly host a screening of the film. How cool is that? Imagine watching a movie in the theater it was filmed in! ARROW not only gave this fine flick a leg up, it also saved a piece of this town’s history. What a noble deed especially considering the film’s modest (for now) fan base. Other supplements include a fun commentary with THE HYSTERIA CONTINUES, additional documentary shorts, trailers, stills, liner notes by the always insightful LEE GAMBIN and a reversible sleeve with classic and newly commissioned (and very cool) artwork. Geez, BLOOD RAGE, THE MUTILATOR and now THE SLAYER; I genuinely want to give the folks at ARROW a round of applause for going far beyond the standard catalog title puppy mill and kindly rescuing and nurturing such lovable and deserving strays. Bravo!

Recently I found out fellow SLAYER fan AMANDA REYES was able to get to see our beloved pet flick on the big screen! In order to do something constructive with my abject jealousy –I asked her if she’d be so kind as to report back on the experience and she sweetly obliged! Take it away, AMANDA

The Slayer on the Big Screen (Amanda Reyes)

I first discovered The Slayer sometime back in the early 1990s when I rented the infamous Continental Video double feature VHS, which featured this oddball flick alongside that other quirky slasher, Scalps. While I enjoyed both, there was something so nightmarish about The Slayer, and it quickly became one of my favorite horror films.

It may be important to serve up those original memories with a bit of context. Continental’s version of The Slayer didn’t have proper credits, nor did the film itself actually feature any recognizable actors. Because there was nothing particularly identifiable about anyone involved, it morphed into something akin to a supernatural snuff film in my fairly impressionable brain. I’ll admit it is almost a disappointment when I watch the film now and see that it was indeed made by real filmmakers! Almost. But that’s merely a quibble, as The Slayer has yet to lose its luster with me, and has aged quite well.

Since that first viewing, I’ve seen The Slayer in all kinds of incarnations, with credits, and without as I mentioned, but I never thought I’d have a chance to see it on the big screen. This past year, Arrow got together with Texas Frightmare for a once in a lifetime screening of the film. It was the first thing I marked off on my program for the weekend. I was excited to see what kind of remaster trickery Arrow did with this mythical terror tale, and I was thrilled that horror fans were given a chance to check it out in a far larger scope than we’d probably ever had the chance to experience before.

But that experience proved to be bittersweet. The Pros: The work Arrow did was amazing. No complaints. The film looks more gorgeous than ever, and while I love the graininess of my old VHS (which certainly added to the fear factor for me), I was finally able to see the real artistry that went into putting The Slayer together. Directed with a sure hand by J.S. Cardone (who would go on to make both good and not so good horror films throughout his career), the film has a real lushness to it that was lost in its original home video release. It’s colorful and drab, if you can imagine that, with exquisite sets, and a few absolutely unsettling set-pieces.

It is also competently acted by a small but interesting cast of unknowns. It’s one of the few slashers from the heyday of the genre that features mature characters with grown up careers and adult problems. There’s an actress, a commercial director, a doctor, and an artist. They look to be somewhere in their early thirties, and I appreciate being able to see a slasher film now where I can see myself (which only ups the terror in some ways). The protagonist, Kay (Sarah Kendall) suffers from an instability that comes from life long woes, and not just teen angst, playing heavily into what I find so timeless about her horrifying ordeal.

But let’s get to the bittersweet part. The Cons: Living in a post-MS3K universe has its disadvantages. All movies are up for so-bad-it’s-good-grabs, but that doesn’t mean that every film, even those released in such a maligned genre, are ripe for picking on. The Slayer is certainly humorless, and looks like it was made sometime in the late 70s – early 80s, complete with the requisite fashion and moustaches, but does that make something funny? If you have to think about that answer, then you may need to check your misplaced sarcasm at the door if you are going to truly get something out of this wonderfully creepy film.

The audience at the screening was, frankly, abhorrent. They laughed at unfunny moments, and acted like they were smarter than the film (the guy in front of me kept cartoonishly shrugging his shoulders and pointing to the screen in case we didn’t get that point). Other people were eating loudly and talking through its entirety, laughing whenever the audience keyed them in on some joke that wasn’t actually there. Afterwards, I got on the elevator and a woman said to her friend, “That’s a movie I don’t mind talking through because no one liked it.”

Ex-squeeze me?

This is all to say, yes, not every film is going to work the same way for everybody. Personally, that’s something I love about horror… it’s so subjective. My Slayer is your Frankenstein, and that’s cool. But, there should be some modicum of respect for those around you because you know, that person next to you might actually be enjoying the film. In the end though, the screening only served to make me love the film more. Both Arrow and Vinegar Syndrome, who aided in the remastering had tables at the convention, and were truly ecstatic that I enjoyed the hard work they put into making this the best release The Slayer has ever seen.

We live in a time where the word on the street proclaims that physical media is dying, yet, we’ve got great little companies putting heart and soul into their DVD and Blu-Ray releases. And I’m tickled that we can see these movies outside of the pan and scan treachery that had previously kept them from joining the classic status they so richly deserve. The Slayer is certainly a so-good-its-great movie, and should be embraced by any self-respecting slasher fanatic! Yeah, says me!

Thanks Amanda, you’re the best! Speaking of lovingly celebrating worthy titles deserving of a bigger audience, SCREAM FACTORY just released a Blu-ray of the fantastic TV movie THE SPELL (1977) starring LEE GRANT! Even cooler, they got Amanda to lend her unrivaled TV movie expertise for an exclusive commentary! You can get yourself a copy of THE SPELL HERE and don’t forget to make an appointment with THE SLAYER HERE!

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Tags: General Horror

Name That Trauma:: Bee on a Creepy Scribble in a Mirror

September 18th, 2017 · No Comments

Hello!

This is what I can remember about a movie that freaked me out when I was 7 years old. I saw in on TV, in Spanish… so, that may not help.

A brother and his sister are in the attic (?), laying on their stomachs, maybe in front of a mirror, drawing a squiggly version of this (which in my memory is way creepier and looks less like a confused, thin, Minion) with red crayons, chanting something along the lines of “Momma gay, give us your power”. (Momma gay, dans tu poder.)

The girl is sleeping and the brother places a hand held mirror in front of her face, which reveals the picture they drew. In what I assume was the final scene, the family is going somewhere, you have an eagle view of a yellow (?) car driving up the highway, among trees, and you hear the piercing scream of the girl, inferring she caught her reflection in the rearview mirror.

I’m 32 now. I remember I spent a week avoiding mirrors, and then only allowing certain parts of my body to be reflected, only a leg, or a hand at a time; running past mirrors, washing my hands with my eyes closed, opening my eyes real slow when I felt brave… And I’ve been looking for this movie, while not always wanting to find it, ever since.

Does it ring a bell?

Bee

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Tags: Name That Trauma!

Name That (Free on Tubi TV) Horror Movie!

September 15th, 2017 · 15 Comments

Here are ten images from ten movies that you could be watching for free on TUBI TV right now! How many can you identify? Check out TUBI TV HERE!

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Tags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

IT (2017)

September 9th, 2017 · 8 Comments

IT (2017) is a blast from its first moments to its last. It’s as moving as it is freakishly frightening and thanks to a multitude of outstanding performances and consistently keen direction, I’m comfortable calling it an instant classic. I don’t want to spoil the experience by dissecting it too much, so I’m just going to use this space to celebrate a few of my favorite things about the film. I don’t think I need to hard sell this movie to you guys; anyone who enjoys these trauma-filled pages is likely to be already raring to see it. And really, has there ever been a better time for a movie about fighting an obnoxious clown who uses fear to divide and conquer the downtrodden?

THE PERFORMANCES. Nobody could ever eclipse TIM CURRY in my heart as Pennywise but BILL SKARSGARD certainly brings something of equal value to the table and there’s no law that says I can’t love both interpretations (torn between two killer clowns, feeling like a fool, loving both of you is breaking all the rules). SKARSGARD’s Pennywise has got a slippery, slobbering serpentine streak and he’s interestingly more child-like which makes him connect to and interact with the kids (and the bullies he mirrors) in new ways. All of the kids, parents and bullies are perfectly cast. In fact, I’d like to thank the casting director for somehow finding out what my bullies looked like and scouring the country for their exact doppelgangers-well done! I have to especially spotlight SOPHIA LILLIS as Beverly Marsh because she is phenomenal and apparently incapable of even one false note. Her Beverly is truly the heart and glue of the Losers Club just as she should be.

THE SCARES. I’ll never forget walking home from our local theater (at the Valley Forge Sheraton) after seeing THE THING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and feeling like I had to push my eyeballs back into my head. IT brought back that great feeling. I thought I knew exactly where each scare was going to end and kept consistently finding out I was dead wrong. It’s like putting a quarter in a gumball machine, expecting a lone gumball and watching the entire machine pour into your hand (and then, just when you think it’s over, your hand falls off). It’s really an eye-popping spectacle at times and many of the surreal goings-on have an off-kilter and uncanny edge to them almost like a hypnotic optical illusion. It brought me back to the early days of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series when you couldn’t trust anything that was happening and your sense of reality would actually be slightly weakened by the time you left the theater. No matter how familiar you are with STEPHEN KING’s novel or the previous miniseries, this IT knows how to pull the rug out from under you even if you are standing on wall-to-wall carpet.

THE SOUND. I don’t know much about the technical aspects of sound design but whoever is responsible for the evil children singing and laughing directly above my head and the music box chimes rising from the floorboards deserves either an award or a kick in the shins. Thank God I don’t partake in recreational drugs anymore. I feel like my movie theater was in cahoots! Before the movie even started they were flickering the lights and forced us to look at the flat image of an IT Snapchat ad for an ungodly amount of time and I’m pretty sure they were utilizing (highly illegal) subliminal messages to make me antsy and desire a Coke (maybe not). Anyway, the sound effects and score of this movie were ace and I’m thinking my theater is going to need an exorcism when this mad circus of a movie skips town.

THE SETTING. What a great job recreating the late eighties! Who do I kiss for not lazily placing a Rubik’s Cube on a coffee table and calling it a day? Who do I buy a beer for involving THE CULT, THE CURE and XTC in these twisted shenanigans? Who wants a hug for not overdoing it with wardrobe and dressing every bystander like CYNDI LAUPER? I really dig how the town of Derry is represented and how it feels lived in and real and like a place I’ve been to before. It really helps this movie feel like a full satisfying meal rather than the usual throwaway, fast food, horror stopgap.

THE VIBE. Early on, IT excellently establishes Derry’s dark and dirty undercurrent. As charming as the town may be on the surface, the anguish, alienation and dejection felt by its young residents feels thick as knee-high mud. Loved ones are lost without reason, parents are sleazy or overbearing monoliths, librarians are mean-spirited, pharmacists are shifty, cops are abusive, and I don’t even want to talk about the incomprehensibly grim things Mike (CHOSEN JACOBS) is expected to do to helpless sheep. Mike’s grandfather clarifies the horror of adulthood standing before these kids as they leave their childhood behind, it’s time to make a choice, are you going to be the butcher or the meat? Maybe you have to be a loser yourself to appreciate how on point IT’s depiction is of the pain and fear that comes with being an outsider and how accurately it displays the priceless joy of being an outsider who is lucky enough to meet kindred spirits. I am that loser! This movie reminds me so much of my (on-going) awkward years and yep, my eyes got misty on more than a few occasions. I could go on and on (and I’m sure I will in the years to come) about just how smitten I am with this film that juggles terrifying and touching with the greatest of ease but not today. It’s beautiful outside. I want to walk in the sun and I’ve got long-loved fellow weirdo friends I think I need to spend some time with.

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Tags: General Horror

Kindertrauma Funhouse!

September 8th, 2017 · 2 Comments

I’m not going to lie- all I can think about is going to see IT. That’s why you now find yourself looking at a ridiculous “Help Unk get to IT” maze. Sorry, my stubborn brain refused to offer up anything else. If it doesn’t float your paper boat then may I suggest this super cool retro IT video game you can play on your computer right over HERE? As for me, I’m on my way to Derry, Maine!

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Tags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Name That Trauma:: Art L. on a Woman Slowly Losing Her Mind

September 7th, 2017 · 1 Comment

Hey gang!

Asking for a friend, so could get touch and go if you need additional info. They told a story this weekend about a movie their parents exposed them to when they were but a wee lass that has ruined their brain for most of their life. They said it was new-ish at the time of viewing, so we’re looking early – mid 80’s. Set in early 1900’s. Quite possibly subtitled and quite possibly French (though this could be incorrect, so hopefully it doesn’t misdirect too much). Story is something along the lines of a woman ends up marrying some horrible husk of a man who gaslights her like crazy as she slowly loses her mind. Standout scenes included going to see a doctor (or maybe/more likely a dentist), asking where he keeps the arsenic, plunging her hand into the paste and smearing it all over her mouth and grinning at him in an attempted suicide. Another scene involved her in a prison where prisoners are kept below the floor under a metal grate. The woman apparently walks over top of the grate and squats down saying something like, “you are all my lovers now!” and slurping sounds can apparently be heard.

I can maybe try and extract more, but that’s all that she was able to recall about it this weekend. My searches have yielded nothing. Hopefully there’s not too much misdirecting info in there to bog down the investigation.

Cheers and more cheers! Thanks for all the trauma always!

-Art L.

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Tags: Name That Trauma!

Traumafession:: L.L. on Suspiria’s TV Commercial

September 5th, 2017 · 1 Comment

It’s 1977. My older brother and I are staying up late watching The Twilight Zone alone in the darkened living room. He’s 12 years old and I’m 11. Everyone else is asleep and I feel pretty cool for being awake after midnight, watching and enjoying this “scary” grownup show. I don’t recall for sure which episode it is, but I feel like it was The Hunt, the one where (SPOILER!) an old hillbilly and his dog die while hunting raccoons and the loyal dog prevents the old fella from wandering into Hell. It’s not one I’ve ever found all that frightening, so my guard is down.

There’s an act break and a commercial begins. My brother and I both assume this is a Clairol ad, or some other hair care product. We see the back view of a woman brushing her long dark hair, reciting the “roses are red, violets are blue” rhyme. And after putting a flower in her hair, the figure turns, revealing A FREAKING SKULL YELLING AT US!

Of course this wasn’t a hair care ad at all, but a commercial for Suspiria, a movie I wouldn’t actually see for decades—and when I did see it, didn’t realize that it was related to this image stuck in my head since childhood. I was pretty happy to run across this on YouTube a few years ago.

Of course, I had to send the link along to my brother.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Name That Tagline!

September 1st, 2017 · 9 Comments

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Tags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Traumafession:: Julia D. on Pingu’s Nightmare

August 31st, 2017 · 2 Comments

Hey guys!

I just happily discovered your blog and I think I’ve got just the right kindertrauma gem for you:

Many people on the internet will agree that there are a lot of traumatizing moments in the Swiss claymation show “Pingu“. And young me has been scarred by this show as well. The worst: The Pingu’s Nightmare episode. Just look up a picture of that disturbing walrus, it’s…. unsettling to say the least. I remember seeing this as a kid and feeling like I had some weird fever-induced hallucination.

Here’s a personal fun-fact: I forgot about this Pingu episode for a long time until someone handed me a christian flyer as a teenager. On that flyer was a crude picture of an alien with a moustache and without knowing why, I was overwhelmed with a very unsettling feeling. Then all the memories came back… f*cking Pingu. F*cking moustache walrus. Ugh.

And here’s another one, thou this one might be for the Name That Trauma!- section:

I remember seeing this weird episode of a Cartoon Network show as a kid. It might have been “Cow and Chicken” or “I am Weasel” because I can faintly remember the Red Guy being the antagonist. In that episode the two main characters visited a factory that, well, turns people into furniture.

Yep. You can see the people on a conveyor belt going INTO the factory and sofas, cabinets etc.comming out. I always loved the very absurd humor of many cartoons back then, but this episode was just a little too weird even for me. I tried to find this abomination of a kids show for a few times, but with no result. Even thou many people watched these shows, nobody knows what I am talking about when I’m trying to describe the plot to them. Maybe you guys can help!

Thank you and keep up the good work!

Julia

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Katie B. on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

August 29th, 2017 · No Comments

I was recently thinking back on favorite movies from my childhood and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came to mind. While The Child Catcher always gave me the heeby-jeebies, there was another character and scene in the film which particularly traumatized me to the point that I would always fast forward or leave the room. It was… Dick Van Dyke aka Caractacus Pott disguised as a life-sized clown doll. The box opened to his lifeless body coming to life and dancing around the room, performing silly antics. Then he would sing with the music box doll (Julie Scrumptious). The sudden change in his appearance and behavior scared me so badly. I was always terrified of clowns and seeing a character who otherwise was friendly and fatherly become temporarily unrecognizable was quite conflicting. At least the children made their grand escape in the next scene and Mr. Pott took off his wig.

-Katie

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Tags: Traumafessions