Relic (2020)

Well, I cannot question whether RELIC is an effective horror film on account of the fact that the damn thing went and gave me nightmares. I’m not talking about the fun kind of nightmare where you get chased around an old house by a fuzzy monster; I’m talking about the shitty kind of nightmare where your body starts falling apart and you can physically tell that you are dying and are experiencing your very last moment of consciousness. Why you gotta do me like that RELIC– especially in the same year that I was psychologically bullied by THE LODGE?

Now, I know there are a lot more than two types of horror films but currently I can readily divide them into two distinct camps. There are fun horror movies filled with giddy, squirmy amusing entertainment and then there are non-fun horror movies that torture you by making you question your sanity while screaming in your ear that you are currently dying and will inescapably be dead one day. In normal times, I dig both but these days I can respect the latter but I can’t escape feeling trampled and abused.

Director Natalie Erika James feature debut RELIC is an accomplished, beautifully crafted film but stand warned, zero fun is to be had here! You need to have a taste for the flavor of hopeless existential dread. Emily Mortimer is Kay who along with her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) return to a hoard-y family homestead to check on her increasingly forgetful ma Edna (Robyn Nevin) who disappears for days and leaves tell-tale post-it notes everywhere. What could be a profound family get-together between three generations of women turns into a nosedive into psychological hell complete with haunting apparitions, relentlessly expanding black mold, impossible labyrinths and loads of old-age body horror.

RELIC is all about that deliberate, slow-burn pace that’s all kinds of fashionable these days but considering the subject matter, I don’t think any other approach would be appropriate. All three women are stellar in their roles and each gets to reveal layers not originally apparent. For me, RELIC’s strongest source of power is in its visuals some of which I’ll be trying to shake for the next couple of days at least (unclear figures in dilapidated windows always seem to get under my skin for reasons I don’t know). This flick is ultimately an endlessly fascinating psychological thriller that turns the everyday horrors of aging and mental decline into sheer concentrated apprehension. Suffice to say, I chanted many a “nope, nope, nope” when the more ambiguous horrors solidified into the undeniable. RELIC is a stunner but make sure you save it for a day when you can mentally afford peeking into the abyss.

WAIT it’s worse. Immediately after writing this review (a couple months ago) everything I own seemed to break and fall apart one by one. I also noticed my eyesight dwindling, my hair falling out and my hands turning into scaly claws that itch all day. My computer was down for the count, my Playsatation2 gasped its last breath and a vinyl record melted in my grasp as I tried to clean it. Somehow worse than losing everything was the growing knowledge that everything I have accumulated over the years, everything I spent (too many) hours creating was undeniably worthless (also: the floor is caving in, all my favorite restaurants are closed, my beloved neighborhood movie theater is being demolished and I can feel the woeful silent suffering of every stray cat in chilly Philly).

My cat died. We adopted a feral kitten who hates me. Have you ever had this thing where something bad happens to you and then a bucket is sent down to the deepest, darkest pit of your soul to retrieve every single other horrible thing that ever happened in your lifetime and it dredges the slime up out of the well and pours it all over the top of your head? That happened. I couldn’t even cook anything without it turning to rot and setting off the smoke alarm. This dumb movie spurred (another) curse upon me and only now looking back do I realize how awful and all-consuming it was. Time itself sped up and I was on a conveyor belt toward death with only my poor mother ahead of me (sounds insane and yet exactly what RELIC kept hammering into my marshmallow skull ).

But it’s OK now (nervous chuckle)! The computer is fixed, I bought a new (used) Playstation 2 and the new cat has at least begun to take naps with me. Come to think of it, every year at the end of winter I sort of turn into Jack Torrance in THE SHINING for a spell. This year was just so much worse thanks to the nightmare that is COVID. I’m just not great at pretending everything is normal when it’s clearly not. I don’t know about you, but the tidal wave of death that surrounds us now freaks me the hell out & I’m just going to admit it. In closing, maybe stay clear of downer RELIC. Instead, I recommend to our dear readers, THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW, LOVE AND MONSTERS and SPONTANEOUS; those fine films at least didn’t conspire with a pandemic to steal years off of my life. I appreciate that.

Divine Providence: A Very Brief Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and the Films Inspired by His Oeuvre:: By Ghastly1

I feel like being topical so I want to talk about H.P. Lovecraft, seeing as how his name every now and again is resurrected in the public consciousness and now is one such time, thanks to a stupid tv show- I’m looking at you Lovecraft Country. I am a confirmed Lovecraftophile. Not so much in the sense that I like his stories all that much; I’ve read his collected works and my estimation of them is that they are okay, with Cool Air being my favorite. But that is neither here nor there. No, instead what I mean to say is that I am more a fan of the man himself more so than his stories and for all the reasons he is reviled today. I have read a few biographies of ‘ol Howard Phillips, including the aptly named H.P. Lovecraft: A Biography by L. Sprague DeCamp, H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life by Michel Houellebecq and the fantastic and authoritative I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi and found myself practically reading about myself. But being that this is a film website, I won’t bore you with book reports and irrelevant autobiographical information. There have been quite a few Lovecraft films made over the years, most of which are dreadful. However, Lovecraftian themes have been a huge influence on horror with Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing being two of the better and more famous examples. Then there are Re-Animator and From Beyond which are enjoyable films in their own right but have little to nothing to do with the original source material. What I’d like to do is briefly highlight a few of the better but lesser-known films either more or less directly adapted from his works or which draw inspiration from them.

The Resurrected (1991) Probably the most faithful adaptation of a Lovecraft story made thus far. Dan O’Bannon followed up Return of the Living Dead with this adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Chris Sarandon plays Charles Dexter Ward a chemical engineer, whom after digging up some long buried familial secrets involving an ancestor engaged in necromancy and alchemy, begins to exhibit strange behavior indicating said ancestor may be making a surprise comeback. 

Messiah of Evil (1973) Lovecraftian overtones abound in this one. From death cults in seaside towns worshipping anti-human gods to racial and cultural degeneration to forbidden knowledge about the underlying madness at the core of reality shattering the thin veneer of normality and stability we laughingly refer to as sanity, leading to mental collapse and subsequent institutionalization. This is an ominous and oneiric surreal gem of a film heavy on atmosphere that features some genuinely unsettling sequences which will stay with you.

Night Tide (1961)​In a somewhat similar vein as Messiah of Evil, Lovecraftian influence of the Shadow over Innsmouth variety can be detected in Night Tide, though not quite so overtly. In this fantastic little film, Dennis Hopper plays a sailor lately arrived in a degenerate seaside​ town who falls in love with a woman who may or may not be a fish creature. If that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what will.  

Becky (2020)

Death. Death really sucks and I’m not the best when it comes to dealing with it. Sure, I’m an old pro when it comes to the sadness, depression and general hopelessness involved; it’s the unfathomable anger that arises that I find unwieldy. A little over a month ago, we lost our beloved cat daughter Rory and let me tell ya, if there was a button that could destroy the whole world, I would have pounded on it. And boy did I hate whatever the hell it is that we call God. What kind of idiot assigns cats a lifespan less than twenty years and then tells turtles they can kick around for over a hundred? That’s just incompetent design work in my book.

Anyway, because I feel a great affinity with anyone who might feel like stabbing the entire universe in the eye after the death of a loved one, I really dug the film BECKY and found it to be a wonderfully cathartic experience. In fact, it made me laugh with sadistic glee on multiple occasions. I guess I’ve always been a sucker for killer kid flicks. I think (I know) it’s because I felt so powerless in my youth. BECKY is a home invasion turned revenge tale and it’s basically crafted to have you hooting and hollering when the bad guys get what’s coming to them and for me, it was just what the doctor ordered.

BECKY features frequent horror star Lulu Wilson (OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016), ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (2018)) as the titular Becky who has recently lost her mother and now has to deal with her father (Joel McHale) setting up house with a new gal (Amanda Brugel of JASON X) and her young son. Even though she is lucky enough to have a super cool fort in the woods and two lovely canines, the girl is salty as hell due to her grief. Making matters oh so worse, a group of escaped convicts led by a bearded, swastika bearing Kevin James (!) stop by to terrorize the household in search of a key (I never fully understood the key aspect but the ambiguity works). The mean home invaders get a little too cocky, kill a dog (ugh) and soon Becky is channeling her suppressed volcanic rage into inventing ghastly ways to dispose of them (and when I say ghastly, I mean I had to cover my eyes at one point). One of the intruders (Robert Maillet aka WWE’s Kurrgan) is the gentle giant type but he’s only gentle because he already killed two kids on the way to Becky’s house so don’t feel too sorry for him.

As noted above, this film is my jam. It kind of reminded me of DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1975) except in this case most of the people who get offed deserve it for being Nazis and in that way, it also reminded me of FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (1977). Lulu Wilson delivers a multilayered performance and I have to give props to Kevin James for so efficiently shedding the jovial persona he’s known for. More importantly, though BECKY allowed me to vicariously express my fury at death. I was totally with her the moment she snapped and completely understood the wave of nihilism she gets swept up in. I actually felt better after watching this movie as if some air had been left out of my tires right before they burst. Thanks, BECKY!

Note: I realize I just equated an adult man (that would be me) losing a cat who had a full life to a teen prematurely losing her mother and that may be a bit off. I’m sticking with it though because we need content, I’m still a little angry and cats are better than people.

Day of the Triffids (1962) is a zombie movie…hear me out. By Mickster

On a whim, I decided to watch Day of the Triffids on Tubi TV (it is also on Amazon Prime). I watched parts of it about 17 years ago, so I wanted to see all of it. As I watched, I noticed that film makers must have been inspired by this movie. Specifically, directors of the zombie genre were clearly inspired by this film. Take a look at how Day of the Triffids compares to some zombie movies and a zombie show.

1: When Bill Masen (Howard Keel) wakes up to take the bandages off his eyes (he had eye surgery that kept him from viewing the meteor shower the previous night), he stumbles upon a seemly empty hospital that looks as though it has been turned upside down. This immediately reminded me of 28 Days Later (2002) and The Walking Dead (2010). Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) both wake up confused in seemingly empty hospitals unaware of the devastation that has occurred, while they were unconscious.

2: After people who viewed the comet go blind, society begins to quickly crumble. This mirrors practically every zombie movie/television show. People have as much to fear from each other as they do from the triffids or zombies. The train station scene where Bill Masen saves the little girl Susan (Janina Faye) from a man after the train crashes illustrates this idea. This is shown again when Bill finds a group of drunken convicts having their way with some blind women. He has to rescue Susan and Miss Durrant (Nicole Maurey) from this disturbing scene. In 28 Days Later (2002), Jim rescues Selena (Naomie Harris) and Hannah (Megan Burns) from the soldiers who lured them to their base under false pretenses. During season 4, episode 16 of The Walking Dead, Rick rips out a dude’s (Jeff Kober) throat with his teeth to save Carl (Chandler Riggs), not from zombies, but from a group called the Claimers. One Claimer was about to go all Deliverance (1972) on Carl, so Rick had no choice, but to go rippy rippy with his teethy teethy.

3: Sound attracts triffids the way sound attracts zombies. When Bill discovers the connection between sound and triffids, he uses the music in an ice cream truck to draw the triffids away from his group. Sound has been utilized as a tool for distracting zombies. Dawn of the Dead’s (1978) Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reinger) use the department store music to distract zombies, while they explore the Monroeville Mall for supplies. Shaun (Simon Pegg) makes noise and runs from zombies in front of The Winchester to save his friends in Shaun of the Dead (2004). Unfortunately, jukebox music attracts zombies to The Winchester later on in the film.

4: Smart people try to solve the problem. In Day of the Triffids, married biologists Tom (Kieron Moore) and Karen Goodwin (Janette Scott, from the Rocky Horror Picture Show lyrics) spend most of the movie trying to discover how to destroy the triffids. At the end of the movie, they discover that sea water kills them. With this knowledge, the world is saved from those pesky triffids. In Night of the Living Dead (1968), the reporter on TV shares how to destroy the zombies (a blow to the head), so the general public knows how to protect themselves. In Day of the Dead (1985), Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) attempts to train zombies to be non aggressive by using positive reinforcement. Remember Bub (Sherman Howard)? The company, Zomcon, utilizes domestication collars to turn zombies into house servants in the black comedy Fido (2006).

I rest my case. Day of the Triffids is a zombie movie even though it doesn’t have zombies.

The Uncanny (1977) By Mickster

Like everyone else, I am spending more time at home watching movies (in between e-learning with my students). So over the weekend, my husband and I were looking at all the choices on Amazon Prime, and we found The Uncanny. I love a good anthology horror film, but when that anthology features Peter Cushing AND cats, it is even better.

Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) wants Frank Richards (Ray Milland) to believe that he has evidence that cats have control over humans, but I argue the evidence shows humans committing some of the seven deadly sins and paying the ultimate price via feline angels of death. After examining the evidence, I think you will agree the cats are completely justified in their actions.

Story one “London 1912” is about the backlash of unbridled greed.

Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) has cut her greedy nephew out of her will and replaced him with her clowder of cats. Unbeknownst to Miss Malkin, her maid, Janet (Susan Penhaligon), is in cahoots with her nefarious nephew, Michael (Simon Williams). Janet destroys the lawyer’s copy of the new will and plots with Michael to nab Miss Malkin’s copy in her bedroom safe. What Janet fails to realize is Miss Malkin’s kitties are constantly watching her every move. When Janet suffocates Miss Malkin after she catches her red-handed raiding her safe, the cats take vengeful action. 

Story two “Quebec Province 1975” is about the perilous path of envy.

Poor Lucy (Katrina Holden) has lost both parents and is forced to go live with her uncaring aunt and nasty, jealous cousin, Angela (Chloe Franks). Her one saving grace is her loyal cat, Wellington and some interesting books on witchcraft. Well, Angela is jealous that Wellington wants nothing to do with her and Angela’s father (Donald Pilon) shows kindness to the orphaned child, so she starts blaming things on Wellington as well as Lucy in order to make her mother, who already hates the cat, take Wellington away. Her underhanded scheme works and Wellington is carted off. To make things even worse, Lucy’s aunt (Alexandra Stewart) burns her books, except for one that Lucy saved. Too bad for Angela, the book Lucy saved is just the thing she needs, along with Wellington making his way back, to take revenge on her bratty cousin.

Story three “Hollywood 1936” is about the negative repercussions of lust.

The aptly named Valentine De’ath (Donald Pleasence) is tired of his actress wife and co-star, Madeleine (Catherine Begin), so he sets up an on the set “accident” which kills her quite gruesomely, think “The Pit and the Pendulum” style. He then has his mistress, Edina (Samantha Eggar), take his deceased wife’s place in the film. When Valentine so rudely brings Edina home to fool around, Madeleine’s cat is not happy. Even more horrifying, Valentine murders the cat’s kittens by flushing them down the toilet (Um, that really pissed me off). Well, it turns out that hell hath no fury like a kitty scorned. Kitties can orchestrate “accidents” too!

As the film wraps up, Wilbur Gray leaves his evidence with Frank Richards before making his way home with numerous cats following closely behind. Now, I still assert the people in those stories got what was coming to them. The cats were completely justified in their actions. Let’s just call it kitty karma.

The Invisible Man (2020)

Remember when I was telling you a while back that I brought my friend who was going through a salty divorce to see BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) hoping she’d find it cathartic but instead she found it silly and was left questioning my taste in cinema? Well, I’ve redeemed myself by taking the same troubled gal-pal to go see THE INVISIBLE MAN which left her all riled up, scrappy and pleasantly pissed off. Don’t worry, even though THE INVISIBLE MAN could be accused of overtly allegorizing timely #metoo grievances, I think anyone who has struggled with a bully, psychological abuse or a general lack of having their perceptions taken seriously is bound to relate. Writer/director LEIGH (UPGRADE) WHANNELL does a herculean job of breathing new relevant life into one of UNIVERSAL’s least potent (imo) classic monsters and the end result is an undeniable success. Of course, I could have used a tad more clarity when it came to addressing who was feeding and caretaking a certain family pet who is left alone for long periods of time but that’s my issue. I’m just going to assume rich people always have a bevy of employees we never see and let it go (Note: I’m still wondering what happened to Deckard’s faithful pooch in BLADE RUNNER 2049 and I may forever).

ELIZABETH MOSS delivers a raw, fearless performance as Cecilia Kass, a woman who finds death itself is not enough to keep her controlling psychotic stalker boyfriend at bay. You see, it looks like Cecilia’s tormentor may have faked his own demise and (thanks to his deep pockets and optical expertise) has figured out a way to make his presence imperceptible to the naked eye. The gas-lighting goon doesn’t mind sabotaging her career, trashing her relationships and painting her as a short-fused, child-abusing lunatic. MOSS gets to burn bright as a cornered victim with nothing left to lose swinging from pathetic to ferocious without breaking a sweat; her multileveled, virtuoso execution pretty much puts most recent Oscar nominees to shame and it’s too bad it’ll likely go unheralded. It doesn’t hurt that MOSS’s Cecilia is surrounded by equally compelling characters, from the kindly father/daughter team that take her in that you hate to see endangered (ALDIS HODGE and STORM REID) to her tough as nails sister Emily (HARRIET DRYER) who you can’t blame for being immensely skeptic. Even her ex’s slimy weasel brother (MICHAEL DORMAN) is perfectly despicable and a great joy to see taken down a few pegs.

Besides sharing DNA with your standard “blank from hell” nineties thriller and your favorite made-for-TV woman in peril flick, a large chunk of THE INVISIBLE MAN reminded me of good old CANDYMAN (sans the romance). The two films do somewhat mirror (!) each other in the way that the female leads are put through the wringer, wrongfully committed and left holding the bag, accused of their phantom’s murders. No spoilers, but in both cases escape and redemption are only possible by adapting their menace’s skills and becoming a righteous variation of the monster (I’d even say that both are sorta subversive superhero origin stories at heart). It’s really been a long time since I’ve experienced a film with such a rousing and satisfying conclusion. Clever, compact and refreshingly to the point- this sleek sci-fi/horror/thriller hybrid like THE THING, THE FLY & INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS before it; joins an all too tiny club of relevant remakes that are equal to or even surpass their source material. What can I say? There’s no better way to put it, THE INVISIBLE MAN is a must-see, simple as that.

The Lodge (2019)

Hey, THE LODGE is a horror film with a chilly snowbound setting so how can it not be fun? I’ll tell you how; it also happens to be one of those new-fangled emotionally torturous artsy flicks that make you feel like you’re losing your mind. You know the drill, fifty percent of the audience is going to find it brilliant, the other half will claim it’s boring and I’m going to end up hiding under a blanket tormented by suicidal thoughts and a feeling of incompleteness because I do not maintain an exact replica of my home in dollhouse form. Honestly, I don’t need this bad mojo right now, mid-to-late February is not the time to be playing around with crazy-making, mind-fuck flicks concerning isolation, damnation, purgatory and pet death, especially when said movie’s runtime is approximately forever-ish.

Don’t get me wrong, THE LODGE is basically a masterpiece when it comes to delivering waves and waves of impenetrable unease but so is every social media site I’m actively trying to avoid. I get it, you win, THE LODGE! You successfully made me feel like garbage for three days and counting- are ya happy now? Maybe you should just change your name to “HEREDITARY, HOLD MY BEER…” Folks, I can’t tell you how many nineties-era sitcoms with jaunty theme songs I had to watch just to regain a thimble full of equilibrium.

THE LODGE concerns a family who (for reasons I’ll never understand) celebrate Thanksgiving by hanging plastic roasted turkey ornaments outside and donning plastic roasted turkey hats. In other words, they are insane and are born to be insanity magnets and attract insanity wherever they go. Perhaps the only rational person presented is the mother played by the never lovelier, ALICIA SILVERSTONE who taps out of the nightmare universe this movie conjures as quickly as possible (via blowing her brains out). The empathy-free father decides a good way to celebrate Christmas with his two grief-stricken children is to force them into spending the holiday with his fiancé/mistress who just happens to be the emotionally fragile, lone surviving member of a death cult- and her dog Grady who is clearly named after the psycho caretaker in THE SHINING. After a near-death experience on a frozen lake, pop gets a call from work and supposes it’s totally cool to leave his children with someone they barely know and hold directly responsible for their mother’s early departure from this mortal coil. One evening, the trio makes the questionable decision to watch THE THING (1982) and JACK FROST (1998) back to back and for their folly wake up trapped in a purgatory chuck full of eerie occurrences that may or may not be hallucinations and a nonstop parade of ominous omens.

There are a couple of images in THE LODGE that I will likely drag with me to the grave and I don’t appreciate that. When it comes to choosing sides on the verdict of “boring” or “brilliant”, I’m going to have to begrudgingly lean toward “brilliant” simply because there were times during this movie in which I feared I myself might be dead and I had to resist the urge to stand up and scream until I was assisted out of the building. That said, I can’t imagine a scenario where I would ever subject myself to watching this movie again. It may have to be filed in the cursed movie file in my head along with DER TODESKING (‘90) and V.I. WARSHAWSKI (‘91). Then again, maybe I could watch this movie in the summer during a completely different mental state and find joy in its fragrant symbolism and wrecking ball pessimism. It should be said that that the performances in this movie are all top-notch. RILEY KEOUGH, as tortured Grace, compellingly rides a razor blade between sympathetic and off-putting and LIA McCUGH, as Mia, is heartbreaking and should be a shoo-in to play a young FLORENCE PUGH if there’s ever a MIDSOMMAR prequel.

I ultimately give this movie props for mercilessly ruffling my psychological feathers just as it intended to but can’t argue with anyone who finds it manipulative and heavy-handed as well. Love it or lump it, I think everyone can agree it’s a painful watch and a kick in the shins reminder that perhaps the only order to this world is the order you construct yourself. Now I’m off to punish myself further by watching the hell that is JACK FROST. It’s what I deserve. I must repent!

Gretel and Hansel (2020)

Any time ALICE KRIGE appears in a horror movie it is an occasion for rejoicing. She’s one of the greatest character actresses who ever lived plus she’s got a near LON CHANEY-esque talent for meshing with monstrous roles. The KRIGE was all kinds of mesmerizing in GHOST STORY (‘81), seriously sinister in SLEEPWALKERS (‘92), ten tons of threatening in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (‘96) and magnificently mortifying in SILENT HILL (‘06). In GRETEL AND HANSEL, she takes on the role of Holda, a haggy archetypal fairy tale witch with cannibalistic tendencies and it’s her most gleefully despicable creation yet (if you don’t count Tully, the literary agent she portrayed in BARFLY (‘86)). Director OSGOOD PERKINS appears to fully appreciate winning the lottery in the casting department and wisely allows KRIGE to fully KRIGE and the uncanny end result is like an inevitable monument foretold in the stars. The fact that KRIDGE spends most of her time here psychologically sparring with the formidable aptness of SOPHIA LILLIS (IT: CHAPTERS 1 &2) as the titular Gretel is even more to be thankful for. GRETEL AND HANSEL is a smidge tottery at times and I can’t help craving it had a more robust right hook but I sense it accomplishes everything it sets out to do refreshingly unconcerned with audience expectations.

GRETEL AND HANSEL is much more like a trip to the art gallery than the amusement park (I might even say it’s more of a spell/hex than a film/movie) so if you prefer the latter you may want to skip it altogether. I found myself in a kind of hog heaven of sorts but must admit that the candle-lit cabin coziness of everything made me momentarily drowsy at times (that’s less of a complaint than it sounds). This movie is undeniably stunning on a visual level, absolutely gorgeous; a shoebox diorama filled with perfectly lit construction paper silhouettes. It’s like GUY MADDIN (CAREFUL (‘92)) playing WIN LOSE OR DRAW with ALEXANDRO JODOROWSKY (HOLY MOUNTAIN (‘73)) and the answer he’s trying to illustrate is ROB ZOMBIE’s LORDS OF SALEM. It’s as if THE WITCH (2015) and EYES OF FIRE (‘83) played hooky from school and did mushrooms while swinging in hammocks listening to THE COCTEAU TWINS. I can’t say no to this sort of thing! The soundtrack is by ROB, the same dude who did MANIAC (2012) for crying out loud! I’m starting to believe watching a movie is a lot like being hypnotized and we’re all susceptible to wildly different triggers and cues. This jaunt tugged all the correct occult harp strings in my spine and I tip my triangular Aleister Crowley cap to it. Maybe for its own sake, it should have thrown the audience a bone in the form of a more explosive climax but I guess that would have been against its very nature. As it stands, it’s a singular dark visual poem that sure to become a totem among the esoteric. Sure the story is sort of like a trail of breadcrumbs left for the birds but this crazy catalog of cursed eye-candy left me convinced that one truly arresting image may be worth more than some entire franchises.

Edge of the Axe (1988)

If my faithful TV was a fancy nightclub and I was its bouncer, I swear I’d never card an eighties slasher movie. I’d let them ALL in with a wink and a nod even if they were visibly drunk and not wearing shoes. EDGE OF THE AXE (1988) is just such a hard to reject eighties slasher movie (although I hesitate to call it a slasher movie due to the fact that nobody gets slashed- they’re too busy getting chopped and hacked — and rather viciously I might add– to pieces). This flick is indeed partially goofy but that doesn’t curb its potent violent streak one iota. Directed by our old pal JOSE RAMON LARRAZ (he who gifted us with THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED, VAMPYRES and DEADLY MANOR among others), EDGE OF THE AXE relays the standard tale of two computer obsessed nerds who fall in love investigating a barrage of axe murders mostly aimed at the psychiatric community. There are oddball characters falling out of the woodwork and every single one of them seems like a viable suspect. I don’t suggest trying to decipher any possible clues in this random mystery, just sit back and enjoy the woodsy scenery, the instantly outdated technology, and the eerie omnipresence of orange SUNKIST soda cans.

EDGE OF THE AXE acts a lot like fellow Spanish-American co-production PIECES (1982). Maybe something was lost in the translation while these films were being made but they both end up being lovably quirky, oddly histrionic, and ultimately effectively brutal. EDGE’s white-faced killer is pretty darn scary at times and I’ll also say alarmingly enthusiastic. Not only does this flick not shy away from gory kills it also doesn’t flinch when revealing the aftermath (there’s at least one applause-worthy severed head found floating in the lake). As creepy as the white-masked murderer may be, he’s got nothing on the free-floating computer voice that allows the two main characters to communicate with each other. It’s the strangest thing; every time something is typed onto a computer screen, it is read aloud by a voiceover that I’m guessing is supposed to sound robotic but sounds bored instead. It’s off-putting and clumsily done but of course, endearing as well. I’m unsure but it’s possible that this movie invented texting.

EDGE OF THE AXE is available thanks to the fine folks at ARROW who consistently knock it out of the park in regards to releasing idiosyncratic obscurities ripe for wider notoriety. The Blu-Ray’s got some lovely new cover art by Justin Osbourne, liner notes by our beloved chum Amanda Reyes and a commentary by the always brilliant, Hysteria Continues. As someone who has only seen the movie on VHS, I gotta say the 2k restoration looks amazing. It’s such a handsome, generous package overall that I’m going to overlook the fact that this movie shamelessly kills a doggie and an innocent pig for no reason. For all its sloppy faults it can’t help being a delicious horror hoagie stuffed with a to-die-for synth score, old school gore, a masked killer, buckets of red herrings, romantic meet-cutes that involve changing light bulbs, dead bodies crammed in attics, ancient computer espionage, weird dubbing, and random Dudley Do-Right sightings. It takes a long route to get nowhere but its vivid murders scenes are worth the ride alone and really, you should have vowed to buy this movie at any cost as soon as I compared it to PIECES.