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Kinder-Gallery:: The Fine Art of Vestron CEDs

February 23rd, 2017 · 4 Comments

Now I might be kind of obsessed with VESTRON flavored SelectaVision CED cartridges. I’ve always appreciated a good CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) as a decorative wall hanging (I’ve got a few like the often paired together EVILSPEAK, POPEYE and CRUISING) but the VESTRON type takes the coolness to a whole new level on account of it features that groovy futuristic rainbow stripe framing device (kinda like the side of a KEY VIDEO VHS tape)! Here, allow me to share some fine examples I scrounged up (mostly) on ebay…

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Tags: For The Love of:: · Kinder-Gallery · Kinder-Pix

For the Love of:: Poltergeist III

October 14th, 2016 · 2 Comments

UNK SEZ: Hey, hold the toy phone! It turns out my long time pals MEEP and BEN of RETRO MOVIE LOVE PODCAST both love POLTERGEIST III as much as I do! What if the three of us picked our three favorite things from this shamefully undervalued third installment? This pyramid of power must come to pass because Three is a magic number! Good old MEEP goes first…

MEEP: Recently experiencing Poltergeist III on the big screen in 35 MM brought it all back for me. The late 80’s MGM/UA Communications logo. The music. The fashions. The dialogue. That building. I know it’s hard to separate yourself from your love of the Freelings from the first two Films, but I think it’s also fun to be in a part III of a Movie that mixes it up a bit. It’s a busy Movie that actually tries. So few Movies do that anymore. A general laziness seems to be commonplace these days in modern Filmmaking. And so few Films focus on characterization. I want to care about the characters in the movie I’m watching, dammit.

There’s much to savor here but if I had to pick ONLY three reasons that help solidify my love of Poltergeist III they would be:

MEEP: 1. The shifting of suburbia as a playground for evil to a super modern, urban setting. What better way to get away from the true evil that lurks in the suburbs: Chicago’s Sears Tower! I love Movies set in buildings, and for me Poltergeist III and Gremlins 2 are the most important ones in the genre. They are both in their own way bonkers sequels that go out of their way to entertain and add a little something different to a franchise. And both happen to be the last Films made in their franchise! Gary Sherman and Joe Dante didn’t play it too safe and ended up with Movies that will be remembered as franchise killers. I love them for it! No risk, no reward. Both of these Movies are full of them for me. Also, I don’t mind that for a long time characters run around a building, calling out each other’s names, either. I probably would be doing the same thing. My 4 year old son is also obsessed with buildings and elevators. Is he too young to show this Film to him yet? What would Seaton think about that?

MEEP: 2. Kids in peril. I know for some they’d rather not have kids in Horror Movies, but, if done right, kids definitely have their place in the genre. I feel like around this point in the 80’s we were getting some really fun ones like The Gate and The Monster Squad, so in it’s own late 80’s logic, it’s natural for The Freelings to ditch their daughter and send her to chilly Chicago. What are they doing, anyway? Rebuilding another house? Do you think they live in another subdivision? Carol Anne really needed a change of pace. She’s been through so much. And she goes through a hell of a lot in this one. But, I also feel really bad for the outfits they put her in. They are unfortunate and the Film does try to make her seem younger than she was (Heather O’Rourke was around 12 when they shot this — we were born the same year). Perhaps that is the true peril. We all know by the end of a Poltergeist Film that a family’s tight bond will save Carol Anne, but, no one saved her from those iconic red pajamas and that winter gear.

MEEP: 3. Growing up with it in the 80’s. It’s strange to me how much I took for granted Films of this era while living through it. I saw so many of these Movies first run, in a Movie theatre. Even if Movies were changing, there was plenty for me at the local theatres and multiplexes to devour. Poltergeist III played at the Cineplex Odeon Fortway Theatre in Brooklyn, which had sparkly stars on the ceiling above you, and it seemed to go over well enough opening day. I was there for the first show, naturally. By this point it was June and I was off of school and I was at the Movies almost every day. I remember also seeing Big Business and my third screening of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood that very same weekend. Poltergeist III elicited the appropriate reactions in theaters, though at the recent retro screening I went to it seemed that they were more interested in the comedic aspects of the Film. I think watching Movies that are nearly 30 years old will always attract laughs, and there are some genuine laughs in Poltergeist III, but, I tend to take the Movie slightly more seriously, or at least at face value. It’s just where I’m coming from as a dedicated Movie watcher who’s now getting as old as Kane.

Do I think Poltergeist III is a great Film? That’s for you to decide. I’m just saying it’s a very important one in my life. I’m so thankful to be around such cool kids who love it as well. I have read some of Ben and Unk’s thoughts about the Movie and I couldn’t agree more. Heather O’Rourke, Nancy Allen, Tom Skerritt and Lara Flynn Boyle’s jean jacket and hat 4 eva. Pass the popcorn and the whoppers, please.

BEN: 1. Carol Anne’s Trauma History. Horror sequels rarely really deal with their protagonists’ struggles with post-traumatic stress from their experiences in the previous film (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and Slumber Party Massacre II are other rare exceptions!). Poltergeist III actually delves into Carol Anne’s struggle dealing with some severe emotional shit from being stalked and kidnapped by ghosts and abandoned by her parents. When Carol Anne tells stupid Dr. Seaton that she’s “lonely I guess,” I want to cry, for I sense that she’s not only lonely because she misses her friends and family, but also because she is alone in what she’s experienced.

Poltergeist III offers up some surprising commentary about how people were discussing trauma in the late 1980s. This was the moment when children reported Satanic ritual abuse at daycare centers, and adults confessed to remembering childhood alien abductions. Garbage people—real life Dr. Seatons—said that such people were “lying” and “hysterical,” ignoring the fact that people sometimes find their traumatic memories clouded by fantasy because reality is too difficult to tolerate. In other words, sometimes it’s easier to imagine that you were abused in Satanic rituals than admit to yourself that you were molested by a relative. Anyway, Dr. Seaton learns his lesson and so do we all: the other dimensions of trauma are real, no matter what forms they take for those who find themselves trapped there, and the only way to avoid losing your loved ones to them is to love and believe them fiercely. Turquoise jewelry also helps.

BEN: 2. Aunt Pat’s Crisis. Maybe I am confronting the worst parts of myself by saying this, but I identify with Aunt Pat so much. Here is a woman who wisely decided not to have children because she wanted to have her own life, open a gallery, wait to marry until she became a fully authentic person, and be a stepmother to a hip teenager. You get the sense that, growing up, she was the person in her family that had to keep it together and over-achieve while Diane and her mother went with the flow and had psychic flights of fancy. Diane had other priorities: she wanted to marry young to steal Stephen Freeling from that slut Cookie Gurnich, she wanted to devote her life to raising a family, she wanted to move to the California suburbs and watch cable TV. Fine. Not Aunt Pat’s thing. What does she get for knowing herself and making conscious choices? She has to adopt her niece and all of her supernatural stalkers because Diane can’t deal with the drama anymore (btw, we, Diane’s friends, know that she would NEVER pull that shit, but let’s talk about the world of the film rather than real life). It is possible that Aunt Pat is just a trifle cold and guarded because that’s the only way to even try to set boundaries with her family.

Now Pat has to drive a carpool for two weeks in a row, when she took the pill so that she would never have to drive a carpool. Furthermore, she has a houseguest indefinitely, when she obviously knows that having a houseguest for three hours is too long. Her husband treats her like a selfish bitch when she complains about these untenable circumstances, and then she has to run around a high rise for hours WHILE WET and dramatically apologize to the universe for her reasonable feelings. People who know themselves well enough to create lives that violate “acceptable social conventions” always get stuck with crap like this. People say that this movie isn’t scary, but Aunt Pat lives my ultimate nightmare.

BEN: 3. Late ’80s Affluence For some reason late ’80s Chicago always seemed glamorous in a unique way (see also: the office party in Adventures in Babysitting), but Poltergeist III is the national pinnacle of late ’80s glamour. I could live in this stark, mirrored world forever. Where to start? I love the generic apartments with their white leather furniture (how rude that Aunt Pat and Uncle Bruce leave the TV in Carol Ann’s room! Typically a trooper, I’m sure that she noticed but didn’t say anything). I love Aunt Pat’s dress that cost her a year’s salary, which is probably so expensive because it incorporates so many unique yet complementary shades of gray. I love Donna’s name and her friends’ hats and earrings. I love that the characters live my dream of inhabiting an apartment building that is also a mall (I bet that it had a video store). I love that Aunt Pat has sushi at her opening because all rich people in Chicago only eat sushi (see also: The Breakfast Club) and cilantro (don’t forget it!). I love Aunt Pat’s chic as hell, tough loving Assistant Director who can afford to drive a Mercedes because the ’80s were so abundant for the 1%. More than anything, I love the humorless artist Takamitsu, his haunted sculptures, and all of the illuminati with poofy hair and padded shoulders who come to admire his work. Aunt Pat is surely the most glamorous gallery owner in all of Chicago, although isn’t it a bit déclassé to have your gallery in a mall?

UNK: 1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: All hail, Tangina! Can there ever be enough Tangina (ZELDA RUBINSTEIN) in the world? The answer is no. To me, this sequel is precious beyond measure simply for existing as a space for this iconic horror hero to roam about in. I’m only sorry that a spin-off series that centered on the diminutive ghostbusting goddess never materialized. Think of the potential! I so dig the way POLTERGEIST III keeps our Tangie under wraps and out of the film’s opening and waits until the perfect moment to play its knee-high ace card. Suddenly we find ourselves at a table with Tangina and a few mysterious friends of hers in an outdoor café. As she pours tea, she is hit with a psychic alarm lightening bolt of knowledge that “He has found her!” and like Clark Kent, she’s up and running. Soon she’s on a plane (not unlike SCATMAN CROTHERS’ Hallorann in THE SHINING) speeding her way to save the day.

Our gal has got her work cut out for her as she’s not only facing the dark spirit of Reverend Kane but also a new nemesis in the form of snarky shrink extraordinaire Dr. Seaton (RICHARD FIRE– screenwriter of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER!) who clearly studied at the same college as FRIDAY THE 13th PART 7’s devious Dr. Crews (TERRY KISER). Indeed, in the universe of POLTERGEIST III, psychiatry itself is presented as volatile and dangerous. In fact, Tangina reprimands Dr. Seaton for pressuring Carol Anne to address her past and even claims that Carol Anne’s traumas have returned because she dared to speak of them out loud! I don’t know how healthy that idea is but it’s hard to doubt her as the voice of reason when Seaton’s rationalizations are more outlandish than any ghostly explanation. Consider that rather than accept the supernatural, Seaton believes Carol Anne has the ability to force lavish hallucinations upon entire communities and brainwash others to do her bidding without their knowledge. I mean really, if Seaton’s theories are correct Carol Anne would be the most powerful person to ever walk the Earth and that can’t be true because we all know that lil’ Tangie is!

Face it folks, it’s a rare and beautiful thing to see an actress and her role fit so snuggly together. As much as I strongly advise that all humans also check out the hypnotic ANGUISH, the delightful TEEN WITCH and even her role on PICKET FENCES (alongside her POLTERGEIST III co-star TOM SKERRITT), you don’t have to be psychic to know RUBINSTEIN shines the brightest in the POLTERGEIST trilogy.

UNK: 2. THE KRUEGER-ING OF KANE: It’s not everyday that a third installment in a horror franchise makes more than its predecessors, so when dream demon Freddy Krueger accomplished just that feat, several sleeping horror giants (Myers, Voorhees and PHANTASM’s “Tall Man” to name a few) were immediately nudged awake. Although the result was unlikely to receive a thumbs up from critics, the idea of resurrecting POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE’s ghoulish reverend Kane as a centerpiece villain was a rather inspired one and perhaps too good (and potentially financially rewarding) to resist. Sadly, the brilliant JULIAN BECK had died months before his remarkable performance as Kane had seared theater screens. Surely no replacement could ever fully fill his shoes but it could be said that there was something so creepy about the Kane character that even a lesser facsimile would successfully unnerve. All he would need was a group of teens to threaten in order to stay competitive with his fellow nightmare makers!

And that’s how we all got invited to a clandestine late night pool party with Carol Anne Freeling’s teen queen step-cousin Donna (the lovely LARA FLYNN BOYLE who would go on to play another Donna in TWIN PEAKS!) and her LEO SAYER-headed giggly boyfriend Scott (KIPLEY WENTZ). I don’t care what anyone says, I LOVE THIS. Even though it’s mostly all set up resulting in nothing and absolutely no teen is killed on screen, I LOVE THIS. I love the anticipation and even the unfulfilled promise of it like a jean jacket loves a BEDAZZLER. Say what you will but for sheer ‘80s-ness, P3 leaves its precursors in the dust. I have a feeling that the slasher teen-baiting aspects of this movie are exactly what makes many dismiss it as a pandering also-ran that fails the sense of awe and wonder about life and death found in this first two flicks and that may be true, BUT it also makes for a more casual, light-hearted watch and that’s worth something too!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you miss Ma and Pa Freeling (JOBETH WILLIAMS and CRAIG T. NELSON). Let me put it this way, if you HAD to replace them (and due to $ they probably did), could you think of anyone better to replace them with than ALIEN’s TOM SKERRITT and effervescent charm boat NANCY ALLEN? I can’t! In fact, if we’re talking emotional range, I think this is NANCY ALLEN‘s finest hour. She sails from placid to tempest like a master and is so incredibly sincere the whole trip. Furthermore if ya miss the original folks- you’ve come to the right place! That’s what this movie is all about! Take a number! Get behind poor Carol Anne!

UNK: 3. THE (VERY) SPECIAL EFFECTS: Director GARY SHERMAN (love me some DEAD AND BURIED too, btw) made a brave and endlessly intriguing choice to orchestrate all of the film’s supernatural shenanigans live on camera rather than later in some lab (a last minute lightening strike was tacked on in post but he had no part or approval of it). SHERMAN designed all the fantastic set pieces himself and apart from the usual squishy props there’s a wealth of visual entertainment involving forced perspective, sneaky slight of hand and trippy bogus reflections. Some of the illusions work better than others and sometimes the timing/reactions can be wonky but I think every single (sometimes awkward) swatch of it adds to the overall surreal, off-balance, disorienting tone. The end result is rather like running dizzy through a harshly lit funhouse mirror maze.

The first two POLTERGEIST flicks made it clear you didn’t need an old dark house to have a spooky time and this third haunt places the game board in perhaps the most unlikely space of all, a brightly gleaming, slickly modern, well-populated building. There’s really nothing like it. Sure, some of it is bizarrely off but I think this flick’s fans are attracted to just that perplexing off-ness. It’ll never be as beloved as the first or as brazenly disturbing as the second but its quirky originality deserves mucho respect too. Even if it may be a wee bit better at mystifying than satisfying, I don’t mind going on record saying POLTERGIEST III stands skyscraper tall as the most creatively audacious and mischievously innovative of the series.

NOTE: For the ultimate POLTERGEIST III fansite, fly on over HERE!

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Tags: For The Love of:: · General Horror

For the Love of: The Mutilator (1984)

September 30th, 2016 · 4 Comments

UNKLE LANCIFER: Let’s all take a premature fall break and lovingly fawn over a horror jaunt like no other, Buddy Cooper’s 1984 slash-terpiece, THE MUTILATOR! To salute this bad boy properly I have secured the help of stalwart MUTILATOR super-fan Amanda Reyes of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM fame. Ya’ll know our pal Amanda is an expert when it comes to TV movies but it just so happens she’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to slasher flicks too! You can’t talk to her about THE MUTILATOR without her eyeballs transforming into cartoon red hearts! I’ve seen it happen! Anyway, time’s a wastin’! Let’s get MUTILATING! Here are some of the reasons we love this special one of a kind flick so darn much…

AMANDA: Big Ed’s Motives: Although a good slasher film doesn’t need a backstory to be effective (the enigmatic Michael Myers in the original HALLOWEEN is probably the best example), sometimes understanding someone’s murderous motives adds an unexpected layer to the film. PROM NIGHT probably did it best in terms of crafting a sincerely sympathetic killer; and while I doubt anyone feels sorry for Big Ed in THE MUTILATOR, there is definitely an element of “Oh yeah, I understand.” Big Ed loves his wife, Little Ed blows her away. Big Ed gets mad. Little Ed’s friends are collateral damage. No big whoop.

AMANDA (cont.): Honestly, the opening of THE MUTILATOR lays out a really complex story about a boy who did something really horrible (accidentally, sure, but still), and the trauma that follows the surviving family members. What makes the whole slice and dice somewhat gratifying is that we know why Big Ed is on the prowl. Look, I don’t condone it, but Big Ed, I get you.

LANCIFER: Super Hero Pam: We need to talk about Pam as portrayed by Ruth Martinez. I’m going to go out of my way not to use the term “final girl” because it’s inadequate and semi-condescending. Pam is not some meek goody-goody who cautiously squirms her way toward survival; Pam is the boss of everything and everyone and the obvious lone master of her own fate. If anything, Ed Jr. is the “final-boy.” He’s the one with all the psychological baggage to unpack due to his unresolved guilt over accidently killing his mother while cleaning his father’s gun in the mega-Freudian pre-credits sequence. Not to be too spoiler-y but the way I remember it, Pam not only saves Ed Jr.’s life but she also quite literally carries him through the film’s climax. She’s his knight in pony-tailed armor and basically has to push him aside to kill his dragon for him because he’s taking too long. She even drags his sorry ass to the hospital afterwards! I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a deleted scene in which she jumped into scrubs, threw on some rubber gloves, mended his wounds and sewed him back together too. That’s not even mentioning her jaunty cap, signature vest and candy apple shades, Pam’s got style to spare.

AMANDA: The Shed of Death: There are just some places that are meant for doom. Look at the barn in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, and the Shed of Death in THE MUTILATOR. What is so compelling about Big Ed’s toolshed that everyone feels so damn duty-bound to visit it? This locale works out well since it just happens to be Big Ed’s headquarters. Want to catch Ed sleeping with his battle-ax? Visit the shed. Arguably, this spot is equally as creepy as his war-torn vacation home, which is full of all sorts of dark treasures (remember when he ran over someone with a speedboat and then photographed and framed it?!?). But the tools of death and destruction run rampant in that shed. Everything from an outboard motor to metal spikes to that really horrifying and controversial fishing gaff can be found, so it works out well that everyone who is anyone finds their way into Ed’s mutilation workshop. Works out well for the audience, I mean, not so much for the victims!

LANCIFER: The Location: I really adore THE MUTILATOR’s oceanfront location. It feels so familiar to me. I know it was entirely filmed in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina but I can’t help but think of a friend of mine’s house in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. I would not set foot in such a place during the summer but it’s one of my favorite places on Earth off-season. There’s this dreamy end of the world atmosphere everywhere and it’s so spooky walking the streets with nary a car around. Director Buddy Cooper does such a great job capturing the quiet eeriness of an abandoned beach at night where you can barely see five feet ahead of you and you almost feel like you’re walking on the moon. Plus the guy deserves serious praise for making a rather small house feel like an expansive maze-like mansion you could get lost in. Kudos, Buddy!

AMANDA: That line: “I’m going to set a new high score on video machine.” That line has to be one of my all time favorite things ever. There’s something so beautiful about the all-purpose and somewhat odd dialog which is followed by dramatic pauses throughout THE MUTILATOR. While the premise is dark and possibly allegorical, there’s no flowery metaphors in the line readings as this film heads from point A to B in much the same way a Ferrari goes from zero to sixty. And it’s wonderful in all of its un-ironic, unpretentious glory.

AMANDA (cont.): This line is also delivered by the lovely Frances Raines, who made several low budget films throughout the eighties before she basically disappeared from the face of the earth (according to IMDb she is happily married with a son… yay!). This isn’t her best role, that would probably be the even more surreal DISCONNECTED, but she’s totally adorable and I’d love to join her for a game of video machine if she’ll have me.

LANCIFER: Nothing to do with the film itself but I have to tip my hat to THE MUTILATOR’s striking poster! It’s one of my all time favorites and I think the depiction of such a dark concept (four victims hung on a wall, one alarmed at the prospect of getting gutted by a giant hook) being presented in such bright bubbly primary colors perfectly captures the film’s contrasting nature. Seriously, I can’t think of many films that swing so swiftly from light-heartedly goofy to unsettlingly sadistic, can you? I’m also going to admit serious affection for the earlier and more folksy and raw FALL BREAK art because it sports similar counter intuitive hues and there’s something so off about it that it looks like it may have been drawn by the film’s psychotic killer himself.

AMANDA: Morey, Morey, MOREY: Truth: It was incredibly hard for me to pick just one character to talk about (hence, Frances above, Morey here and some more characters below). Morey Lampley, who plays the ill-fated Mike in THE MUTILATOR, never made another film. Whether or not he was buddies with the filmmakers, or simply auditioned for the role is unknown to me. In fact, pretty much anything aside from his character’s brutal death by outboard motor remains a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma. And maybe that intrigue is part of why I sometimes find myself skimming the net, looking for any piece of info I can unravel on the lanky blonde victim.

AMANDA (cont.): There’s something hypnotic about Morey stalking the grounds of what looks like a closed down amusement park, quoting lines from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But it’s really mostly during his death scene, which is probably the second most violent one in the film (the first being the infamous fishhook scene, which is almost too nasty for its own good). Although he only registers a sense of mild discomfort during the actual act of the killing, his body is completely mutilated (hence the title, I suppose) in the full body shot. The combination of moderate distress and the utter brutality of the attack actually haunted me upon my first viewing of it. Since then, I’ve grown to love Morey’s big smile and goofy dialog delivery. He should have been a contender in the slasher movie world!

LANCIFER: Those Savage Kills: Speaking of THE MUTILATOR’s semi-surprising sadistic streak; it’s fitting this fine film was recently released by my heroes over at ARROW because it makes such a great companion for another recent offering of theirs, the fabulous BLOOD RAGE. Both of these eighties babies share a similar Ying/Yang, giddy/gory, goofy/grim dichotomy. THE MUTILATOR has got to be the zaniest, most jovial film to ever feature decapitation and strongly implied genital mutilation by way of an oversized fishhook. I love to be taken off guard like that! I love to find myself mirthfully giggling one minute and then all the sudden…record scratch sound…I’m being pushed towards feeling queasy and genuinely disturbed. Like BLOOD RAGE in its unadulterated form, THE MUTILATOR delivers the frothy splatter slasher fans crave and it does so in a way most modern horror films fail to. I know you don’t need bloodshed to make a horror movie good but it certainly helps to make a party picture that you can enjoy with your more rambunctious friends. Not that you can’t enjoy it by yourself with the invisible friends in your head. I do.

AMANDA: Couple at the convenience store: Remember when I said it was really difficult for me to narrow down one cast member to give some love to? That extends to the very limited supporting crew of locals who add just the right touch of extra flavor to an already piquant tale of madness and mutilation! The couple featured at the convenience store featured in the opening credits appear to be non-actors who are having a ball with their short but humorous scene where they let Ralph talk himself into buy an extra case of beer.

AMANDA (cont.): There are two notable things about this scene. One is that it would seem Ralph believes that two six packs will be enough liquor to get him and his five friends through a week at the beach! The second amazing thing I noticed is that couple does not appear to know exactly where they are. When we first see the woman, she is obviously waiting for a cue before she moves. The actor playing the cashier has a half smile through the entire scene. The overall effect is charming because, inevitably, this regionally produced shocker is all about heart… even if the heart in question is the one being ripped out of your chest. It’s love.

AMANDA (cont.): Addendum: I may be the biggest MUTILATOR fan I know. I first saw this movie on a date back in the early nineties and was way more impressed with it than I was with my date. I found it on VHS a few years later and it became a regular spin for me, especially in the later nineties when I worked graveyard and needed to unwind at 8 a.m. This, along with PIECES, were movies I loved to watch while falling asleep (lord knows why), and have become like a comfy afghan that keeps me company on the cold nights of life.

AMANDA (cont.): Recently, the director, Buddy Cooper emerged when there was an announcement that a Blu-Ray release was on the horizon. His facebook page (HERE) is an amazing space to get a real behind the scenes look at the film, and it’s also where he sells some memorabilia, and interacts with fans. So charmed by Buddy and Big Ed, I currently own six posters (3 for THE MUTILATOR proper and 3 for the alternate title FALL BREAK), two copies of the FALL BREAK song on 45 (in all my life I never thought I’d have that), and several continuity Polaroids and storyboard sketches. They are all treasured items that look so good next to my gorgeous Blu-Ray copy of THE MUTILATOR. The feature length making of documentary extra confirms that this film was indeed a labor of love, made by people simply looking to produce a good movie and have a good time along the way. I love this movie so much, I feel like I could go on forever, but I think between Lancifer and myself, we’ve got the bases covered!

LANCIFER: That Song: No post about THE MUTILATOR would be complete without mentioning its theme song. I’m just going to come right out and say it’s genius. It’s somehow perfectly fitting and totally inappropriate at the same time. It is inescapably eighties sounding through and through and its point blank storytelling nature has a familiar super-catchy sitcom opening theme allure. It describes in loving detail that time of year when summer has died and the weather has cooled and you’re mentally preparing for the long haul hibernation of winter but you’re just not ready for it yet and so you go skinny-dipping possibly after an ill-advised amount of alcohol consumption. How it never became a number one hit across the country, I’ll never know. I’m sure for many, the moment that this song starts near the beginning of the film, is the exact moment they knew they were about to watch something special. Most importantly singer Peter Yellen’s repeated refrain that, “We’re going to have a good time” is a sung promise that THE MUTILATOR never fails to keep. Truly, if you let this movie fall into your arms, it’s going to break into your heart.

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Tags: Amanda By Night · For The Love of:: · General Horror

For the Love of: Pin (1988)

March 2nd, 2016 · 6 Comments

My parents are preparing to move and so they’ve been cleaning out the attic. This resulted in my mother sending me several boxes filled with some of my old stuff. We’re talking tons of war torn FANGORIA, TWILIGHT ZONE and HEAVY METAL magazines from the early eighties (!!!), STAR WARS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and WARLORD comic books (!!), PRISONER OF CELL BLOCK H, CAT PEOPLE and THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY movie tie-in paperbacks (!) and a slew of tiny self- painted D&D metal figurines… your standard treasure trove of nerdy memorabilia. I mean, what self-respecting teen in the eighties didn’t proudly hang a STILL OF THE NIGHT (1982) poster on his or her bedroom wall?

Included in a package was my dear long-lost stuffed animal, Felix the Cat who (don’t laugh) was once my go-to best friend. Poor Felix was trapped in a hot Texas attic for decades, which left him brittle and falling apart in places. I did my best to mend him but as I sewed him back together it only seemed to create fresh holes and tears. Geez, I wish I never saw TOY STORY because suddenly I found myself being hit with waves of guilt. How could I so coldly leave Felix in a dark box all these years? I did the best I could; I even swiped a jersey off of an unsuspecting Phillies Phantatic doll to hide Felix’s more devastating injuries (it’s sure to cause a loosing streak). Finally I placed Felix up on a high honored shelf where he should be relatively safe at least until I’m dead and gone.

In other words, I know first hand how a person can develop an attachment to an inanimate object and how that totem can seem to establish a personality all its own. It’s all very irrational but the upside of Gepetto-esque magical thinking is that it helps me to better appreciate the greatness that is PIN (or PIN: A PLASTIC NIGHTMARE if you feel the need to fill your marquee). PIN was filmed in good old reliable Canada and released there in 1988 but it didn’t hit my neck of the woods until the following year, bypassing a theatrical run and landing directly on VHS. Horror movies were still cleaning up at the box office at the time so PIN’s no frills release lead me to believe that it must not be any great shakes but oh how very wrong that knee-jerk assumption was. As far as I’m concerned PIN, which is based on a novel by ANDREW NEIDERMAN (the Guy who authored THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and now fittingly ghostwrites as V.C. ANDREWS) is one of the best, most satisfying, horror films of its decade… or any other.

In fact, if anyone ever asks me what might improve modern horror I think from now on I’ll cut the conversation short and simply say “Watch PIN.” In my mind it’s not about ratings, levels of violence, jump-scares or hype, what makes or breaks a movie often (for me) are the characters. And I’m NOT talking about the old cliché of “liking” a character so that you care if they die, I don’t have to “like” anyone, I just want them to be interesting enough to hold my interest, I just want to partially understand their motivations and I just want to believe they are there for a reason rather than standing as glorified chess piece props. Ironically, not only is PIN’s lead character Leon more intriguing than those you are likely to bump into in most horror flicks but so is plastic “Pin” who only sorta partially exists in a make believe character’s mind. Yep, PIN’s not even real in the fake story he occupies but he’s still more substantial and complex than your standard horror pawn. I also give PIN props for representing schizophrenia as less a gathering of various personalities than the tragic shattering of one.

PIN is like the JOHN IRVING novel of horror films and yes, that’s a compliment. By the time the end credits roll the viewer feels as if they’ve grown up with the characters and have seen them at their best, worst and most vulnerable. We first meet siblings Leon and Ursula as tykes dealing with their parent’s idiosyncrasies (that’s polite for mental illnesses); Ma’s got an OCD cleaning fetish and talented ventriloquist Pa’s repressed enough to let a life size, see-through medical dummy do the talking when conversations turn to sex. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that Dad is portrayed by the phenomenal TERRY O’QUIN between STEPFATHER gigs). Leon’s budding illness allows him to mentally converse with Pin even when his dad isn’t around and when both parents die in a horrible car accident (one in which Pin is creepily present), Leon’s already tentative identity collapses and Pin begins to take the wheel. What’s truly astounding is how sympathetically Leon’s terrifying slip into insanity is handled. DAVID HEWLETT is so remarkable that I’d even feel comfortable comparing him to ANTHONY PERKINS in the PSYCHO films (and I do not do that lightly, folks!).

Speaking of PSYCHO, Leon and Pin easily earn an honored spot within the AVENGERS/EXPENDABLES coalition of favorite horror introverts that assemble regularly in my head. This fine alliance of fright flicks include the aforementioned PSYCHO, A REFLECTION OF FEAR (1972), BAD RONALD (1974), THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976), THE ATTIC 1980) and just to prove I’m not entirely living in the past, 2012’s fantastic EXCISION (which should have landed TRACI LORDS an Oscar nomination if you ask me) and 2014’s underrated STARRY EYES. May I also submit for your approval MANIAC (1980) and its re-do (2012)? After all, gore doesn’t magically erase the psychological plight of that duo. You can say all these folks are touched in the head but I prefer to think of them as courageous visionaries who refuse to let a little thing like reality stand in their way. I suppose one could write reams about PIN but since I’d never expect you to read a longer post than I would, this isn’t the place for that. Instead, I’d just like to nudge anyone who hasn’t seen PIN to seek it out as soon as possible. You never know, it could become your new best friend.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · For The Love of:: · General Horror

For the Love of:: Betsy Palmer

June 1st, 2015 · 4 Comments

Dearest critters, you better believe we are not taking one step further down the trauma path without first acknowledging the passing of the beloved mother of modern horror, the sweetly stupendous and stupendously sweet BETSY PALMER. I think we can all agree that whichever gremlin is responsible for sabotaging her car to the degree that she simply had to accept the part of Mrs. Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13th in order to purchase a new one, is the greatest gremlin who ever lived. PALMER may not have been crazy about the role at first but she never revealed her reservations on screen; instead she delivered a wickedly wily performance that was impossible to forget and echoed in the minds of many long after the credits rolled.

Long ago in Kindertrauma’s first year of operation, we did an extensive list of trauma-mommas that ended with our top ten favorites. Not only did Pamela Voorhees land in the top ten, she easily claimed the number one position because duh, a-der and furthermore a-doy. Here’s what we said back then:

“No other mother brings it like PAMELA VORHEES. No other mother has that voice, that smile, that commitment. The entire franchise and many other horror films that followed it in its wake owe their eye teeth to BETSY PALMER. Even as a decapitated head in a refrigerator, she owns it. Even as a crazy sweater shrine, she brings it. BETSY PALMER IS THE ULTIMATE TRAUMA-MOMMA! GET IT? GOT IT? GOOD!!!

I was going for facetious with my praise of the acting talents of a decapitated head but if you think about it, I had a point. PALMER’s performance in the original FRIDAY movie was so indelible that a mere prop easily reiterated its frightening power in PART 2. I’ve never been able to figure out how folks could fail to see that PALMER and the Mrs. Voorhees character were the vital beating heart of the FRIDAY THE 13tTH series but you can certainly see the results of that seemingly obvious fact failing to register in the soulless cardboard reboot.

Let’s not get negative though- I’m here to praise the PALMER. Let it be known across the land that Kindertrauma loves her times infinity. And let us all take a lesson from BETSY. Keep doing what you love and give it your best even when it seems like there will be little payoff. It’s not always about instant gratification; a stupid looking seed planted today could produce unknown bounties in the future. Also never listen to critics when it comes to horror because they are complete idiots and above all else, if you are hired to watch kids at a summer camp, watch them! Pay attention! Don’t be making love when you should be paying attention! Some of those kids should be watched every minute!!! Some of those kids are….not very good swimmers.

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · For The Love of:: · Trauma-Mommas