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Five Favorite Things:: Lovely Molly (2011) By Robstercraws

July 11th, 2020 · 6 Comments

Eduardo Sanchez is best known as the writer/director of the late 90’s phenomenon The Blair Witch Project but, for my money, it’s his film Lovely Molly that is his masterpiece…and one of the best horror movies of the last decade. For whatever reason however, this film was unheralded upon its release, remains criminally underseen by horror enthusiasts, and receives mixed reviews by those who have seen it. It’s not an easy film to watch by any means, both because of the harrowing subject matter and the ambiguity of it, which forces the viewer to REALLY pay attention and do a little dot-connecting to fully appreciate the story. Personally, I like some ambiguity in my horror films. Too much exposition, too much backstory, ruins any sense of mystery in a horror film. The ambiguous nature of this story might have been its downfall among those who are used to being spoonfed their storylines and having everything neatly tied up at the end. Hell, I love this movie and even I had to watch it 2 or 3 times before I fully comprehended everything (or rather came to my own conclusions). Anyway, here are my 5 favorite things about this great movie:

1: The Lead Actress

This was Gretchen Lodge‘s first film role and I still haven’t seen her in anything else….and that’s a damn shame because she is outstanding in this movie!! The film is about her character Molly first and foremost and she carries the movie. Everything is told mostly from her perspective. She starts the film as a happy newlywed, then slowly runs the emotional gamut from being cautiously afraid to frantic, terrified, traumatized, inconsolable, sultry, suicidal, catatonic, then outright insane. It’s a highly emotional part and complex in a lot of ways.

2: The House

Most of the movie takes place inside of one of the creepiest houses I’ve ever seen. It’s the house Molly grew up in and the one she moves back into after her marriage. It’s one of those old, vine-entangled country houses made of brick with narrow, badly lit hallways and an unfinished basement that looks like it’s just begging to be filled with corpses! The outside of it looks exactly like the house on the cover of Black Sabbath’s first album. Not a house I would personally choose to live in! It’s a perfect house for this movie though. Creaking (and slamming!) doors, moving shadows, and rattling windows all play a big part in the atmosphere of this movie, and the atmosphere is thick! Later in the movie when the violence starts, the basement is where most of the carnage happens. It’s a basement made for carnage if ever I saw one.

3: The Horse Imagery

Throughout the movie, we see images of horses all over the place. Molly’s dead father (who was a shitty human being, sexually assaulting Molly and her sister when they were children) bred horses and may have raced them at one time, so photos of horses are everywhere. Molly comes upon a strange shrine in the cellar with an engraved picture of a 2-headed horse on it. At one point, Molly flips through a family album and there are pictures of horses there too. Molly hears the clopping of horse hooves and the breathing of a horse before she’s assaulted by an “unseen force”. In the last shot we see of Molly, she’s slowly walking outside to her backyard to embrace a kind of “horse” (trying not to get too spoiler-y). Molly, a recovering addict, backslides into addiction when things get too terrifying for her (or, it could be she’s being forced back into addiction). Her drug of choice? Heroin (or “horse”). By the movie’s midpoint, the horse imagery becomes very sinister and takes on implications of what Molly’s traumatizing childhood was like.

4: The POV shots

In The Blair Witch Project, the whole film was “found footage” from the point of view of whoever was holding the camera at the time, but in Lovely Molly, Sanchez opts to make only certain aspects of the film POV shots. Aside from the wedding footage at the start of the movie, these are from Molly’s point of view as she records her meanderings around the house and the grounds. These shots always take place when something eerie is happening to Molly or when Molly is discovering something integral to the plot. Often, she is singing to herself while recording these shots (what else but the song “Lovely Molly”?), which adds a touch of eerie detachment to the scene. Is she fully aware of what she’s seeing and discovering or is there an entity guiding her, showing her what it wants her to see?

5: The Ambiguity

Like I mentioned before, there is a strong element of ambiguity to Lovely Molly that makes the whole movie interpretable in different ways.  Is it a movie about possession, mental illness…..or perhaps both?  Molly and her husband move into the house she grew up in, which is also where the childhood traumas involving her father took place.  Did this set off a chain reaction of events and memories that led to her using drugs again and thus causing her mental breakdown?  Or, as Molly insists, is her father alive again….taking form as a kind of horse demon that no one else can see…traumatizing her all over again…waiting to capture her body and soul once and for all?  Is Molly responsible for the deaths that occur in the film, or does she have a guiding hand in the form of her father…..showing her the way…urging her to kill?  I have my preferred interpretation, but it honestly could probably go either way.

  If you haven’t seen Lovely Molly, I urge you to.  But be aware that there are intense implications of addiction, mental illness,  and sexual assault and how they may affect the mind of a person.  Like I said….it’s not an easy or “fun” movie to watch, but to me, it’s Eduardo Sanchez‘s best movie.

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Five Favorite Things:: One Dark Night (1982) By Unk

July 8th, 2020 · 6 Comments

1: The Setting & Premise

A trio of eighties era mean girls who call themselves “the sisters” convince Julie (Meg Tilly) to spend the night in a mausoleum as part of a group initiation, and plans to scare her become superfluous when an entombed psychic vampire utilizes telekinetic mojo to animate the corpses within. Who can resist such a setup? Ever since I was a wee lad I have loved graveyards, crypts, and mausoleums. My grandmother had a cemetery behind her house and I swear it was a playground as far as I was concerned. Did it creep me out? Yes, but it also contented me in a weird way. I can actually imagine taking up the offer to sleep in a mausoleum overnight. It seems more appealing than camping outdoors because I think I can deal with ghosts and dead bodies better than I can deal with insects (spiders are cute but centipedes and mosquitos have gotta go). The lovely graveyard in ODN (The Angelus- Rosedale Cemetery) may look familiar to horror fans as it was also featured in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988), MORTUARY (1983) and a multitude of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE episodes.

2: The Cast & Director

ODN is Meg Tilly’s film debut and she shows off a lot of charm and talent as good girl Julie (even though she foolishly allows every bad thing to happen to her in this movie out of fear of being called a “pansy”). It’s wild to think that just one year later she’d be holding her own with the legendary Anthony Perkins in PSYCHO II (1983). Elizabeth (E.G) Daily of PEE WEE’s BIG ADVENTURE fame is sympathetic and adorable as Leslie, the lone “sister” who grows a conscience before the nightmare begins. Robin Evans is deliciously vicious as the group’s jealous and conniving leader Carol and Leslie Speights is memorable as her toothbrush gnawing henchwoman. David Mason Daniels has a Christopher Reeve-like quality as Julie’s stalwart boyfriend Steve and it’s a treat to see a post-BATMAN Adam West show up to unravel the supernatural happenings along with likable Melissa Newman. You even get a sprinkling of Donald Hotton (NIGHTWING, THE HEARSE). Director Tom McLoughlin would go on to gift the world with FRIDAY THE 13th Part 6: JASON LIVES, arguably the cleverest, surely the funniest, sequel in the franchise.

3: The Tom Burman Effects

Tom Burman doesn’t seem to get as much attention as his artistic contemporaries Tom Savini and Rob Bottin but he’s designed some of the most impressive and eye-popping work in his field. This guy had his hands in many of my all-time favorites like HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981), MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981), CAT PEOPLE (1982), THE BEAST WITHIN (1982), HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) and he was even responsible for Sloth in THE GOONIES (1985). ONE DARK NIGHT allowed him to create a plethora of assorted rotting corpses in different stages of decomposition and it’s remarkable how much personality he brings to them. There’s a soldier with his face falling off, a child buried with a creepy doll, assorted slimy granny and grampy- types, the requisite bride buried in her wedding gown and finally the film’s emaciated psychic vampire villain who has a penchant for blasting purple electric disco sparks from his eyes.

4: The PG Rating

I saw a lot of R-rated films when I was underage because my older brother worked in a theater for a while and could sneak me in. Plus, it was always pretty easy to buy a ticket for something benign and then sneak into another picture altogether. Sometimes you’d get caught and end up having to go back to the PG movie you paid for and sit through AUTHOR! AUTHOR! (1982), but most of the time it worked. That said, I was kind of relieved that I didn’t have to resort to any shenanigans when I bought my ticket for ODN and could stroll into the movie without any fear of an usher giving me the stink-eye. I did not find ODN to be neutered or diluted in any way due to its rating and I always think of what a fun time I had watching it whenever horror fans complain that a movie isn’t rated R. What can I say? The idea of being pummeled by dead bodies is one that still discomforts me and I guess I cared enough about the characters that I could relate and empathize with their fear even if the situation never evolved into a gore-soaked bloodbath.

5. The Tunnel Scene

About midway through the movie, there is a scene that always gets to me in which the three girls who have just dropped Julie off at the mausoleum drive home through a tunnel (2nd Street Tunnel in Los Angeles which also appears in the same year’s BLADE RUNNER). At this point, Leslie (E.G.) has a change of heart and bravely takes a stand and condemns the actions of her bullying pals. She is then rejected and cast aside by her so-called pals for speaking up and she is unceremoniously expelled from the car and dangerously left all alone at night in the tunnel to walk home alone. It’s beautifully shot with the lights of the tunnel playing off the hot pink satin of her jacket as she realizes her fate and begins to slowly stroll on alone. It almost looks like an eighties album cover to me and yet it’s filled with such pathos and the sad ramifications of not going along with the group. It breaks my heart a bit but it’s actually a good thing; because Leslie draws the line and decides to make her own path (rather than be a blind follower to her friend’s malicious whims) she gets to avoid hanging out with a bunch of smelly dead people. Good call!

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Five Favorite Things:: Fright Night (1985) By Mickster

July 6th, 2020 · 7 Comments

1:The high school drama (first love and best pals) At the beginning of the film, we learn that Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is tired of his girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) putting off his advances. He wants to go “all the way” until he spies a couple of men carrying a coffin into the basement next door. When Amy decides she is ready to go “all the way,” Charley is distracted. This causes a rift between the couple. A few days later at school, Amy serves Charley a Sloppy Joe in the kisser after being ignored by him once again. Charley’s best pal “Evil Ed” (Stephen Geoffreys) teases him with the classic line, “You’re so cool, Brewster!” Speaking of “Evil Ed,” he gives Charley tips on how to prepare against a vampire even though he thinks Charley is nuts (Why Charley doesn’t know this information already I will never understand since he watches so many horror movies). Amy and Ed are loyal to Charley and team up to help him. They assume he is delusional because he claims that his next door neighbor is a vampire.

2: The night club scene (It rules!) Even though Charley appears to live in a small town, Charley and Amy find themselves chased into a happening night club by Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon). While Charley is focused on a call with Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), Jerry seduces Amy on the dance floor. No woman could resist Jerry on the dance floor! Dude’s got a vibe that can be felt across a room! I’ve spent quite a bit of time, over the years, wishing I was dancing with the seductive Mr. Dandrige. Dang Charley for spoiling the entire moment!

3: The throwback to old horror films (Peter Vincent aka Peter Cushing plus Vincent Price) At the beginning of the movie, the audience meets horror movie host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) aka the Great Vampire Killer. He made tons of vampire flicks back in the day, and now he is reduced to hosting a late night horror movie show. Charley, of course, is a huge fan and attempts to get Mr. Vincent to help him dispatch his super suave neighbor who just happens to be a vampire. Unfortunately, Peter Vincent is a complete coward and doesn’t actually believe in vampires…until he is paid to pretend he does. His lack of faith, however, comes back to haunt him…”You have to have faith for this to work on me, Mr. Vincent!”

4: The small town feel (It looks like fall too!) Charley lives on a quiet street not too different from the one I grew up on except I never had a sexy vampire living next door. The last thing Charley expected on his quiet, idyllic street was a vampire and his daytime protector (Jonathan Stark) moving into the fixer upper next door (sounds like a new HGTV show to me…Dandrige and Cole’s House Flipping 101).

5: Jerry Dandrige…Of course! First of all, he is smoking hot! The sexiest vampire on film in my humble opinion. Charley’s mom and Amy are immediately charmed in his presence, and who could blame them? He is also a snappy dresser! Dandrige’s wardrobe is fantastic! No stuffy tuxedos or black capes for this 80s vampire! He has cool sweaters and a gray leather trench coat. He is charming too! Sure, he tries to kill Charley, but to be fair, he warned Charley what would happen to him, and those he loved, if he did not stop bothering him. He actually gave Charley a choice: stop harassing him, and he would leave Charley alone. Charley brandished a crucifix as a response…the moron! Jerry also has a great sense of humor. When Charley comes downstairs to find Jerry drinking a bloody Mary with his mom (Dorothy Fielding), the look on Charley’s face is priceless.

Bonus: Speaking of humor…
One of the things that sets this vampire movie apart is the use of humor (This was done again, with great success, in 1987’s The Lost Boys).

Evil Ed, “Yeah, then he’ll be able to suck his way through the entire town… not that it would be much of a loss…”

Evil Ed, “He got me, Charley! He bit me! You know what you’re gonna have to do now, don’t you? Kill me. Kill me, Charley… before I turn into a vampire, and… GIVE YOU A HICKEY!”

Detective Lennox, “Sure, and I’m Dirty Harry. Now let me tell you something kid. If I ever catch your ass down at the station house again, I’m throwing it in jail FOREVER!”

Peter Vincent, “Where is Charley’s mother?”
Evil Ed, “Oh, well, apparently she’s working nights. BUT!… she left a note.
Mmmmmm mmm! His dinner’s in the oven!”

Jerry Dandrige, “Welcome to… Fright… Night! For real.”

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Five Favorite Things:: Full Metal Jacket (1987) By Bdwilcox

June 28th, 2020 · 11 Comments

First, let me preface this by assuring the reader that Full Metal Jacket (which I’ll call FMJ from here on out) is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Many people would claim that FMJ is not a horror film but a war film and they would be wrong. FMJ is one of the most realistic horror films ever created that documents, in stark visuals, the transformation of innocents to monstrous killing machines and the consequences of unleashing them upon the world. It relays with an unblinking eye man’s inhumanity to man and the historical bloodlust of mankind for unceasing war and conflict. It is the quintessential horror film that relays its message not with symbolism or subtle references but with a rifle butt to the face.

1: R. Lee Ermey

If there was ever a more perfect character in a film than Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, I haven’t seen it. R. Lee Ermey was the most potent, over the top encapsulation of the entire film’s zeitgeist in one unforgettable character. He was the symbol of war itself: in a polite, genteel society, the populace would be ashamed of something so crude, base and uncivilized but when the inevitability of conflict came and the threat became too personal, society would cry out for such animalistic, brutal men to protect them. He was the devil himself but the necessary devil that society never admits it needs but always turns to in case of danger. The closest character I can compare it to is John Wayne‘s character Ethan Edwards in John Ford‘s The Searchers.

2: Quotability

With 99% percent of the greatest lines coming from R. Lee Ermey‘s character, most improvised by him, you could say this movie was the R. Lee Ermey show and you wouldn’t be wrong. But there are plenty of other great lines from the film that my friends and coworkers reference non-stop to this day. It gets to the point that when a new person comes onboard and is driven insane by our constant references to certain movies, they break down and watch them only to start quoting them themselves. Between Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Caddyshack, Full Metal Jacket and The Simpsons, you pretty much have a movie quote for every situation in life.

3: Two act play

Full Metal Jacket is essentially two movies squished somewhat uncomfortably together, but it’s that juxtaposition that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The first act is the creation of the monster, a striking success in the case of Joker and a disastrous failure in the case of Private Pyle, but an unblinking portrayal of dehumanization and stripping away of innocence and its replacement with unadulterated savagery. The second act is the monster escaped: a spinning, dizzying dance of the macabre as the monster’s creator cackles with delight as his creation is unleashed upon the world. They are like quarreling siblings whose personalities are so polar opposite it leads to constant fighting but, in the end, they are inseparable and imagining one without the other would be intolerable.

4: The Soap Party

While most people would say the most brutal scene in the movie is the bathroom scene where Private Pyle’s and Hartman’s story lines end, I would say a far more brutal scene is the soap party where Private Pyle’s company mates hold him down and beat him mercilessly with bars of soap wrapped in socks. Unlike the bathroom scene, the brutality here was more than just graphic and gory; it was merciless, compassionless, inhumane and was a breaking point where Joker’s humanity left him and he became the monster of Hartman’s design. The closest analogy I can think of is a puppy with an innate defect that makes him unable to stop peeing on the floor and the owner, who has been concerned and caring up to this point, embraces the darkness and beats the puppy mercilessly out of frustration. This is the image that came to mind as Pyle is lashed to the bed with the sheet, unable to escape and lets out soft whines and whimpers as the blows rain down upon him. He is now totally alone, completely abandoned, his only supporter now his torturer, and he has become eternally trapped “in a world of shit”.

5: The sniper scene

This is the scene that sticks with most people and for good reason. It is the climax of the film, the encapsulation of the film’s message, and one of those rare scenes that brings the viewer to an uncomfortable place where they start to feel that pull of savagery, that transformation to the base impulses of humanity they just witnessed on screen with horror. A sniper has just tortured and butchered characters we have come to love and sympathize with; when they finally corner the sniper it’s a 12 year old girl who was sacrificially left behind to slow their advance. And instead of a little girl, terrified and praying, we see a butcher, a destroyer and our impulse is “Kill her, make her pay for what she just did to our friends”. We have become the monster, we have been transformed, we have become what we would never allow ourselves to be. A fake war in a fake story in a fake scene has made us feel things we never thought we could feel and never admit we could contemplate. And the stark contrast between the cold, remote, detached killing wracked by the sniper and the personal, intimate killing of the sniper herself is a masterful juxtaposition that makes the psychic shock even greater.

Bonus trivia: R. Lee Ermey was never supposed to be in the film. He was originally just a hired technical consultant but wanted the role so bad he would dress up in his drill sergeant uniform and literally transform himself into the character on set. Stanley Kubrick swiftly noticed and gave him the part he was born to play. The role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman was originally given to Tim Colceri who was eventually cast as the insane helicopter door-gunner. Colceri never forgave the betrayal and in a later interview wept bitter tears over losing the role.

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Five Favorite Things:: Hell Night (1981) By Unk

June 25th, 2020 · 10 Comments

1: Theme Song/ Score

HELL NIGHT crashes open with a shrill scream followed by the rallying anthem ‘Theme from HELL NIGHT’ sung by Leza Miller. Leza has a chirpy, raspy voice which is perfect because you can easily imagine star LINDA BLAIR belting out the lyrics warning about a creature with “real sharp teeth and eyes that shine.” DAN WYMAN, who is responsible for the film’s underrated score, wrote the song and if you’re curious about his credentials, he helped out with the music for both HALLOWEEN and THE FOG. The more you watch the movie the more the persuasive score will get under your skin. One of my favorite moments involves a character dropping a gun that spins around followed by BLAIR turning her head toward it and the way the musical cues embellish that moment is pure joy. 

2: Garth Manor

That House! HELL NIGHT’s exteriors were filmed at the Kimberly Crest Mansion (which also shows up in FLEETWOOD MAC’s “Big Love” music video) in Redlands, California. It’s a majestic building with tons of personality that it seems to take on a life of its own thanks to the masterful way it’s lit and shot in the movie. Through a bunch of cinematic trickery, the mansion becomes even more daunting and expansive with the suggestion that there are hedge mazes in the front courtyard and a labyrinth of tunnels beneath (in actuality, only two tunnel sets were utilized and then repurposed again and again). Although we don’t see an exorbitant amount of the interiors (which were filmed elsewhere), director TOM DeSIMONE is able to convince the audience that the location is sprawling with hidden passageways, trapdoors and a treacherous roof. Every time I watch HELL NIGHT, I get the sense that I’m viewing new details and uncharted territory.

3: The Cast

I know it’s wrong to say but HELL NIGHT is my favorite LINDA BLAIR movie. I realize THE EXORCIST is far superior but I think we see a lot more of BLAIR’s charm and warmhearted personality in this movie (plus I get to avoid seeing her get a brain scan). Her character Marti is one of the great slasher heroines in my book as she doesn’t magically become competent or survive by luck alone, she actually earned her resourcefulness by working hard at her father’s auto shop for years. Mr. Incredible Jawline PETER BARTON (FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER) is a fitting romantic and chivalrous match for Marti; even though they’re from different worlds, they click as twin outsiders who are not seen fully by their peers. SUKI GOODWIN is adorable as the frothy, good-natured party girl Denise and VINCENT VAN PATTON as surfer dude Seth is the secret fearless hero of the film. I love Seth! He escapes the horror-filled mansion only to be scoffed at by the police when he tries to get their help (typical) and so he steals a shotgun and returns to save his new friends! I want to build a statue for Seth. I dig also that all four of this dream team don variant classic party costumes that not only fit their personalities but go far to give the whole film a timeless quality that continues to this day.

4: Andrew Garth

HELL NIGHT’s main (but not lone) mayhem-causing killer has a rather pitiable past. Where Marti’s positive relationship with her father and working-class background allowed her to thrive, Andrew’s rich yet dysfunctional dad focused on his imperfections and forced him to watch the execution of his mentally and physically challenged siblings. It’s almost as if money can’t buy you happiness! I don’t want to excuse Andrew’s rude behavior (trying to murder everybody) but to be fair, they were invading his home and he’s had a tough life. I love that Andrew is kept well within the shadows as the film’s roller-coaster ride ascends and how his visage becomes horrifically ubiquitous as it descends. There’s very much a Frankenstein monster-like quality to poor Andrew (albeit a Frankenstein monster on speed) and I’ll always get a kick out of the way he enters a room via a trap door under a rug to stand ominously silent like a ghost (just like Michael Myers did before him). Andrew’s final demise is incredibly clever and well-orchestrated. I hate to see him go but at least he does so in style.

5: The General Vibe

HELL NIGHT is a fun movie. It’s my go-to comfort spook show that leaves zero bitter after taste. It respects all of its characters as more than just cannon fodder and presents a thrilling scenario without ever leaning even slightly toward sadism. It’s almost amusing that critics at the time were quick to dismiss it as a cynical dead teenager movie because it doesn’t have a bad bone in its body and is generally quaint compared to some of its slasher siblings. Its benign attempts at bawdiness, references to drug use, and low-key killings would hardly render it a PG-rated movie today. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete cuddle cartoon, although HELL NIGHT never dwells on its violence, I find a few of the characters so likable that their deaths truly do sting. Funny, when I was younger I certainly did wish it had some gory showcase kills like some of its cinematic brethren but I now I really enjoy that it’s got a voice and amiable disposition all its own. I’ll always appreciate a pitiless horror film that can drag me over hot coals kicking and screaming but sometimes it’s just nice to hang in a big old spooky house with LINDA BLAIR knowing the night will end with her walking away stunned but victorious.

BONUS: The Poster

HELL NIGHT’s poster/advertising art is way up there as one of my favorites in all of the early eighties slasher boom. Just looking at it puts me right in the mood and brings back many memories of being thrilled and stirred as a young horror fan. It’s a gorgeous work of art. I dig the blues and greens swimming around that offset BLAIR’s crimson gown and the gnarly hands rising from the bottom of the frame as if they’re twisting out of hell and meaning to drag her in. Check out that luminous moon! Look at that glowing window atop the mansion! The whole thing resembles the cover of a romantic gothic novel. “Pray for Day” is a killer, relatable tagline as well.

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Five Favorite Things:: Prince of Darkness (1987) By Chuckles

June 23rd, 2020 · 6 Comments

1: The Brotherhood of Sleep

Prince of Darkness gets far less respect than it deserves, in my humble opinion, but even its detractors own up to the spectacular creepiness of The Brotherhood of Sleep dream sequences. Years before the found footage craze, PoD showed just how scary shaky-cam video tape footage could be. Everything about the sequences is great – the garbled electronic plea for intervention, the daylight horror and of course the nightmare slowly, weirdly emerging from the church.

2: The Canister

PoD loses a lot of people when ultimate evil is shown to be in the form of an ancient canister of swirling green fluid. But I love it. First, the design of this prop is top-notch and it looks incredible on film, giving off this strange green light. Actually, the whole church basement set looks great. Second, the concept is too cool for school. PoD gives the Christian mythos a full-on cosmic horror treatment and as such, while Satan is powerful and evil, it is also an utterly alien being – so alien as to not have any real form.

3: The Carpenter Crew

While lead Jameson Parker does not do enough with his role, the cast is otherwise heavy with Carpenter alumni who do it right. Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) and Donald Pleasence (Halloween(s), Escape from New York) memorably square off as Scientist vs. Priest. Dennis Dun (BTiLC) and Peter Jason (They Live, In the Mouth of Madness) provide some memorable comic relief. Dun has some of the best moments in the film as his character Walter understandably and utterly flips out when faced with supernatural horrors. Also, Lisa Blount (not a JC alum but notably in Dead and Buried) is just really easy on the eyes.


I love the fact that the heroes are a bunch of grad students. They are from all of these different disciplines (ancient languages, chemistry, physics, math), each discovering different alarming things about the canister and the history of the people that brought it into the church (The canister is possibly millions of years old, the texts are filled with advanced mathematical equations, etc.) You know they are all wondering if they can get a publication or two out of the ordeal.

They have no resources, being broke-ass grad students. They can’t fight, being nerds. But they are smart and get a far better handle on the situation than an equivalent bunch of typical film undergrads (“college kids”) ever could.

5: The Ultimate Horror

There is an apparently unstoppable, horrifying evil force that is attempting to bring something somehow infinitely worse into our world and humanity’s only defense is a bunch of unprepared grad students and some teetering old guys. But it gets worse!

The Church once drew maps of the world that placed Jerusalem at the center of a round disc – the world. Then Science came along and showed that the world was a sphere with no geographical center. Then the Church placed the spherical Earth at the center of the solar system. Science then showed that Earth was just one of many planets revolving around the Sun. Then, before the Church could even get another iteration out putting the solar system at the center of something, Science revealed that our solar system is a tiny speck in a nondescript part of a massive galaxy in a universe of massive galaxies.

PoD takes it one step further – a step intended to horrify the religious person and scientist alike. Not only is our world a tiny speck in the middle of nowhere in particular – our entire universe is merely the bright positive mirror image of the “intended” universe of darkness and evil. Per the PoD mythos, the good Christian God does not even exist – the Creator of all things is actually the evil Anti-God of the Dark universe and we live in what is merely the unintended or perhaps unavoidable consequence of that dark creation!

That is some heavy stuff. Actually, our heroes could get like at least three publications out of it if they chopped it up right.

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Five Favorite Things: Dead and Buried (1981) By Unk

June 18th, 2020 · 10 Comments

1: The Opening Scene

DEAD AND BURIED has the most horrific opening scene I’ve ever experienced and it still haunts me to this day. It seems no matter how familiar I become with this scenario it never fails to unnerve me. It’s pretty simple; a photographer on a beach bumps into a pretty girl and she offers to pose for him in increasingly seductive ways. Just as he’s thinking he’s gotten lucky, a mob of random townsfolk beat the living daylights out of him, wrap him in a net, and set him on fire. So many things disturb me here; the betrayal, the trickery, the cruelty, the horror of being outnumbered, the way his face is monstrously distorted beneath the netting, the chilly calmness of the attackers, my Frankenstein-like general fear of fire and just the simple nightmare of going from contentment to pure horror so swiftly. Yikes.

2: The Cast

Vastly underrated JAMES FARENTINO (THE POSSESSED,1977) portrays everyman Sheriff Dan Gillis and he sturdily grounds the entire film. I’d put his journey of existential self-discovery on par with the protagonists of BLADE RUNNER (1982) and ANGEL HEART (1987). MELODY ANDERSON is equally well cast as his sometimes doting, sometimes darkly mysterious wife Janet who can change shades from kewpie doll cute to Noir dame sultry at the drop of a hat. JACK ALBERTSON (WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) is as quirky as he is sinister and DEAD AND BURIED boasts his final cinematic performance. Horror fans will surely be happy to see ROBERT ENGLUND in one of his early pre-Freddy roles and LISA BLOUNT (PRINCE OF DARKNESS) is the ultimate ice queen.

3: The Cinematography

Thanks to cinematographer Steven Poster (who was also DONNIE DARKO’s director of Photography), DEAD AND BURIED has a distinct look all its own. It’s gauzy, foggy, murky and I’d bet, completely immune to being sharpened by a high definition upgrade. It’s almost like an amorphous dream, soft around the edges, where you can’t quite clearly get a visual handle upon everything. If the overall gritty rawness weren’t enough the story allows a further visual deconstruction via out of focus, BLAIR WITCH-style homemade snuff films that eventually weave their way into the gruesome proceedings as well.

4: The Town

You can almost smell the saltwater when you visit DEAD AND BURIED’s little town of Potter’s Bluff. There are many visual references to coastal life and franchise stores are nowhere to be found, every joint is a mom-and-pop shop. The entire place feels lost in time and you’re more likely to see a 1950’s hairdo than anything resembling then current eighties fashion. Director GARY SHERMAN (RAW MEAT, 1972) wanted the kill scenes to pop and therefore regulated that the color red (even car lights were changed to purple) would not be visible unless it was due to the sight of blood. This consistency of the muted hues makes the film’s setting (in my eyes) resemble decades away video games like RESIDENT EVIL or SILENT HILL more than its fellow eighties horror films.

5: Stan Winston’s Special Effects

STAN WINSTON is a veritable genius and DEAD AND BURIED lets him show off his talents frequently (he’s not responsible for a lesser effect shoehorned into the film’s climax by producers). The one effect I do want to specifically point out involves a victim bandaged head to toe who comes to a bad end thanks to a hypodermic needle being shoved into his lone exposed eye (!). Here’s the thing; rather than an actor being wrapped in bandages, WINSTON created an entire mechanical body beneath to squirm and react to the horrific fate! I would never have known that based on the film itself. It’s an incredible, seamless effect.

BONUS: Favorite Line:

My favorite line is the last one delivered just before the credits roll but I won’t share that here in fear of ruining the ending for a first-time watcher. Suffice to say it is spoken ALBERTSON’s character, Dobbs the elderly local coroner/mortician and it hits like a casket slamming shut.

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Tags: Five Favorite Things

The Visitor :: Five Favorite Things

February 8th, 2011 · 7 Comments

The OVIDIO G. ASSONITIS (TENTACLES, MADHOUSE, BEYOND THE DOOR)-produced THE VISITOR from 1979 is just too much for your Unk to handle all his own, so I have elicited the help of both AUNT JOHN and our good pal AMANDA BY NIGHT of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM. As far as I’m concerned, the movie is spectacularly daffy enough to be absolutely critic proof so the question I posed before them and myself was simply, “What are your five favorite things about THE VISITOR?” All three of our answers are below…


1. JOANNE NAIL – this enticing actress’ portrayal of the put-upon mother with the crazy ass womb is one of sympathy and grace. And her wardrobe is simply to die for. When you think about it (I mean, really think about it), has anyone else made being thrust through glass look so elegant? I could say the same about her chain swinging badassary in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, but alas I shall save that for another day!

2. Ice Skating as the Deadliest Sport in the World – In a movie almost all about whacky set-pieces, one of the most fantastic scenes features our creepy little traumatot Katy luring some slightly older boys into a game of survival of the fittest. They fail on every possible level but it’s so much fun to watch!

3. Crazy Cameos – From GLEN FORD to SAM PECKINPAH, someone had the goods on a few of the more prominent people of Hollywood society. Also, there hasn’t been a pairing as cool as JOHN HUSTON and SHELLEY WINTERS since, well, since they were first featured together in TENTACLES just two years before! Wow, were those guys an item?

4. The Power of Pong – Not only is the game shown often, it’s used as a device to create suspense… and it works! All of this terror is brought to us via the crazy 1979 version of awesome home theater. Remember those curved large screen TVs which flooded images with the help of those giant red, green and blue lights coming from something called “front projection.” Yeah, 1979 ruled! You had to sit in just the right spot to actually see anything, but it reminds me of the first high-tech store my childhood town had. It was called Video Concepts (which was eventually bought by Radio Shack and closed down… lame) and this odd, curvy TV was all the rage. They make good use of it in THE VISITOR and it brought back every single little kid mall memory I ever had… now that’s scary!

5. THE VISITOR as a symbol for the chaotic incoherence of life – No, I am not joking. Is THE VISITOR in any way reminiscent of real life? Even ’70s high-tech real life? Nope. But I think sometimes confusion in films works because confusion has to work in our everyday lives. I mean, we’ve got a little girl who is driving her mom nuts and hates her babysitters. Sound familiar? I guess that’s the core of this movie and through the warped bewilderment of film as a mirror of our lives, we also get straight up escapism. I guess if you needed to write an academic paper on THE VISITOR, you could pull all kinds of crap out of it (especially with that ending!), but you can also completely shut down and watch the pretty lights. It’s nice.

Now let’s talk to AUNT JOHN:

What was it about the ‘70s and the falconry fad? It seemed like everyone and the their mother had one of those padded leather hand mitts and a scary bird to match, but in THE VISITOR, Squeaky the hawk (or was it a falcon?) had free range to fly all over the place. Who in their right mind let’s their child keep one of these things in the house?

From its railing-less, open back stairs to the strangely ornate cement work surrounding its pool, the Collins’ house is truly something to behold. Bonus points for the incongruous 7-Up Tiffany style light fixture hanging in the kitchen.

SHELLEY, SHELLEY, SHELLEY! She is in maybe three scenes, and she steals everyone last one of them because who can really compete with the force of nature that is WINTERS? Was it W.C. FIELDS who said he would never work with kids or animals? Well, kids and animals should probably never work with SHELLEY WINTERS based on the masterful bitch slapping she delivered to PAIGE CONNER.

Throughout the film, it looked to me like JOHN HUSTON knew less about what was going on than I did, but there is one scene towards the end where he makes the strangest face after conducting an impromptu light show on the top of a skyscraper. The eye roll says it all.

Bald is beautiful and the brigade of follicly challenged bruisers were like a big bag of confusing eye-candy. Apparently they are angels but you would have never known it from the menacing looks on some of their faces.

Last up UNK:


I’m not one to be too observant when it comes to fashion but these are some spectacular spectacles and if I understand the movie correctly, they have the power to manipulate basketball players like KAREEM ABDUL-JABAR by remote control. O.K. I admit it, I did not understand the movie correctly.


HENRIKSEN followed up roles in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and DAMIEN: OMEN 2 with his part in THE VISITOR which is kind of like starring in peanut butter and then starring in jelly and then starring in GOOBER GRAPE. It’s always nice to see early HENRIKSEN and note how even at a young age, he stood out of the pack as an offbeat presence. If I were speaking of any other movie besides THE VISITOR I would be able to say that he was the most otherworldly effect in the entire film, but this is a movie that throws a blonde wig on aquamarine-eyed FRANCO (DJANGO) NERO and sells him as Jesus Christ.


I realize now that logic and sense can go peddle its papers elsewhere for all I care if a movie can stun me enough with its visuals. THE VISITOR’s arresting surrealism not only looks cool but also foretells the direction that movies will steer towards once music videos become popular in the early eighties. The bit on the rooftop with the nonsensical shadow hands flapping behind sheets seems ripped right out of a MTV mainstay years away from THE VISTOR’s 1979 release. Let’s hear it for proper presentation too, this title may have seemed like a throwaway on VHS but given the space to reveal all of its charms on DVD it transforms into a keeper. Strangely enough THE VISITOR’s director GIULIO PARADISI was the assistant director on FELLINI’s 8 1/2 !


Holy crap FRANCO MICALIZZI’s score is utterly fantastic and better than Earth deserves. It’s epic and galaxy dwarfing and in complete denial about the nonsense unfolding on screen.


Little PAIGE may have been in over her head starring in this insanity but she fares no lesser than the seasoned professionals that surround her. Foul-mouthed tots are a post EXORCIST horror staple, yet CONNER’s Georgian accent adds an extra kick to her profanities. CODE RED’s recent DVD provides an interview with PAIGE today. She’s looking damn good and shares that STRASBERG-trained SHELLEY WINTERS didn’t hold back when slapping her across the face within the movie. Why does that not surprise me? PAIGE may not have gotten laurels thrown at her at the time of this film’s release but all I know is that when she reacts to accidently shooting her own mother in the movie with a shrug and a “shit happens” grimace, I totally believed her.

Thanks to AUNT JOHN and AMANDA REYES of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM for helping a rendered nearly speechless bro-ogger out! THE VISITOR, you really are something else.

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