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Burial Ground (1981)

October 19th, 2011 · 13 Comments

If you watch horror movies all year ‘round to begin with, how in the world do you amp up your Halloween viewing pleasure for the month of October? One way I kick things up a notch is by shamelessly watching movies that are extra goofy. BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR is just such a movie. It really is relentlessly daffy and how evil am I for subjecting an unsuspecting Aunt John to it sans warning or explanation? Aunt John asked what year it was from and I guessed ‘73 (I was way off ‘81) not really my fault.

The plot is about as complex as a HENRY comic strip: a professor with a wise beard discovers how to raise the dead. He invites some friends to his cool mansion to talk about his find except he’s already been eaten by zombies and soon they will be too. The entire movie consists of his unfortunate guests failing miserably at escaping peril. Folks cannot even cut across the lawn without stepping in an inconceivably placed bear trap and the only thing missing really is the BENNY HILL theme song. It’s a bad day for the living and a good day for the stunningly resourceful dead. Normally a good zombie movie will make me morbidly depressed, but this one is like a semi-creepy day at the beach.

No post concerning BURIAL GROUND would be complete without singling out scene-stealer extraordinaire PETER BARK. At roughly the age of 26, the diminutive BARK portrays a young child named Michael whose affection for his mother is disturbingly enthusiastic to say the least. The portrayal is lifted to the sublime with the aid of an absolutely unconvincing adult actor supplying his dubbed, puppet show voice. Even if you think you have no interest in seeing BURIAL GROUND, I assure you that once BARK enters the picture that there is no turning around. Even Aunt John rode the film out to its “Did that really just happen?” conclusion.

BURIAL GROUND is above (or below) understanding, speculation or critism. It only wants to bring you joy. It also showcases some of my favorite zombies of all time. The make-up person sort of went with the idea that if something is painted black, then it is invisible to the human eye (even in broad daylight) and I honor this delusion. (At least that’s why I think that some of our zombie pals have black make-up on their noses beneath their masks?)

In any case, I think this calls for a zombie beauty pageant! Check out these teeth that resemble no teeth that ever existed! Look at that crazy hair! How about those cutting edge burlap fashions? Vote for your favorite zombie below and check out this movie if you want to have fun. Trust me, its the only zombie movie in existence whose BARK is better than its bite!

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · Halloween · I Have No Idea What This Is · Kids Who Kill · My own personal Jesus · Tykes in Trouble

Friday The 13th Part Clue

September 23rd, 2011 · 10 Comments

UNK SEZ: Somebody has killed Alice in the kitchen with the ice pick!
Using the process of eliminating suspects who don’t look absolutely horrifying, can you solve the case?

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Tags: I Have No Idea What This Is · Kindertrauma Funhouse · Mystery Six!

Blood Shack (1971)

August 11th, 2011 · 21 Comments

I have not watched BLOOD SHACK since I was about 15 and the reason for that is because I have always regarded it as the worst film I had ever seen in my life. Remarkably, not even 2009’s THE UNBORN could alter that opinion. The other night though while perusing free viewing opportunities on CRACKLE I noticed it there, staring at me like an orphaned injured kitten and I had to see it again. Could it really be as wretched as my brain recalled? After all, my brain usually doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Well, it turns out it is as bad as my brain said but not nearly as painful. I’ve either lowered my standards considerably or developed a sense of humor. It’s a terrible movie no doubt, but watching it fully prepared for the awfulness makes a big difference. What once filled me with rage now elicits only sympathy. It may be the worst movie ever made but that doesn’t mean it’s the least entertaining.

BLOOD SHACK is hardly a movie. It’s more like a swept together pile of footage. When it first snuck its way into my life, it was wearing a nifty VHS box that made it look like a current eighties slasher flick even though the old coot had been lingering about for more than a decade. Strangely, it seems less dated now than it did back then. For instance, the weird seventies wardrobes which were so alien to my then neon MTV eyes look like standard hipster-wear now. The overall dusty drab feel of the film has benefited with age too. Back then it just read as ratty but now that gritty dustbowl esthetic is pretty much au currant. I hate to admit it but I kind of now dig the near constant horizon line and the off-putting minimalism. Really, the sun flare happy playing field here is not so far off from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Of course that movie had an actual story to tell and didn’t pad its running time with rodeo footage. Yes, rodeo footage.

So my problem with this film is no longer that it is scrap heap cheap and alarmingly barebones, my issue is with the fact that it is an unstructured blob of random pointlessness. It’s pretty clear that there was no script involved and that the director allowed the actors to wing it and wing it poorly. One character wants to buy the shack and that’s all he talks about, one character doesn’t want to sell the shack and that’s all she talks about and one character warns folks to stay away from the shack ad nauseam. The only break from that pattern is provided by a our wispy narrator who sounds like she is breaking out of an eleven-year coma and offers little worthwhile information, unless you felt the need to know that the pony’s name at the rodeo was “Peanuts.” Truth told Peanuts the pony is the lone convincing presence in the movie and I was happy to see that her or his name found its way into the end credits.(Peanuts’ IMDb page HERE.)

The theoretical scares of BLOOD SHACK are provided by “The Chooper” an Indian spirit who protects the title shack with a sword and black pajamas. Chooper tends to yell as if he’s stubbed his toe and is partial to flamboyant arm flailing daytime attacks. My horror starved teenage self found “The Chooper” to be unbearably lame but now I see he’s pretty hilarious. In the same vein, the movie itself is not the whirlpool of depressive ineptness I once thought; it’s actually somewhat lovably maladroit. It made me laugh out loud which is more than I can say for DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS.

BLOOD SHACK was directed by RAY DENNIS STECKLER who has acquired a cult following thanks to B-grade goofs like THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES (who stopped living and became mixed up zombies) but even his most devoted followers can be forgiven for drawing a line in the sand against Chooper’s lackadaisical exploits. As lousy as this movie is though, I think STECKLER should be given some credit for stumbling early upon a few elements that would later prove to be highly effective in future better films by other people.

The good news is that I finally after all these years found out what was going on with all that pesky rodeo footage. STECKLER’s original cut of the film was only a merciful 60 minutes long and he was required to add ten minutes more to play the film in drive-ins and theaters. I guess I can forgive that. This is a hyper low budget movie that just barely scrambled itself into existence so no harm, no foul. It’s terribly done in every possible way but somewhat endearingly so and at least it did not cost millions of dollars to make this mess. (What’s your excuse THE UNBORN?).

There’s no way I could recommend BLOOD SHACK and realistically expect anyone to ever take my advise again, so I won’t but I will say that there are tiny sparkles of pure quaintness to behold amongst the sub par, brain numbing wreckage. It’s an annoying fiasco mostly but it doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body and now I find I’ve grown slightly and embarrassingly fond of this crappy movie that I once hated with a passion. I was warned that “The Chooper” would get me and I guess the bastard eventually did. Really, I blame Peanuts.

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Tags: General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is · The Seventies mushed my head

The Dark (1979)

June 27th, 2011 · 20 Comments

1979’s THE DARK is notoriously terrible and I guess it has a right to be. At some point midway through production the producers (one of whom was DICK CLARK) decided that the film’s central Earthly menace might attract science fiction fans if it came instead from outer space. I wish I could jump in a time machine and stop them. It’s not a good idea. You can’t shift gears like that. These things need to be decided before the filming starts! I know WOODY ALLEN completely overhauled ANNIE HALL from his original concept but he did not have DIANE KEATON shooting lasers beams out of her eyeballs and bookend the movie with a rambling narration that basically shrugs its shoulders and says, “I don’t know what’s going on either.” THE DARK really didn’t have a fair shot because of said tampering; most everything you learn in the first half is negated or contradicted by the second. It’s not completely without interest though, a few scenes do work nicely and even though it’s chock full of nonsense, its biggest sin is not that it is crazy, its biggest sin is that it is often blindly milling about and
verging on boring.

What’s left of the plot concerns a “mangler” who beheads anyone foolish enough to walk alone at night in the streets of LA. In fact he kills one person each and every night, which is somehow established night two. CASEY KASEM shows up to imply that the killer is some sort of zombie but as that was part of the original discarded plot I don’t think we should listen to Shaggy. WILLIAM DEVANE’s daughter (played by KIM & KYLE RICHARDS’ sis KATHY) was the killer’s first victim so he’s teamed up with plucky, but not plucky enough, newscaster CATHY LEE CROSBY to get to the bottom of things. The excessively random cast brings a great deal to the wobbly table. KEENAN WYNN is hilarious as CROSBY’s boss, RICHARD JAEKEL is equally so as a grisled cop and same goes double or triple for VIVIAN BLAINE as a kooky psychic. Cameos include the likes of a young PHILIP MICHAEL THOMAS as a guy named “Corn Rows.” When it’s in motion THE DARK is lovably bonkers in a similar vein to THE MANITOU or THE VISITOR but when it’s stagnant, it’s dishwater dull. It actually looks pretty amazing in all of its Panavision glory on DVD but there’s no escaping the frustrating, unfocused, half-hearted pace.

Most semi-rational adults will point the blame solely on THE DARK’s preposterous monster (Who is proceeded by whispered chants of “The dark, the dark!”) but frankly I kinda like the guy. He gets at least one exceptional decapitation under his belt and even the dumb laser eyes can’t hide the fact that he enlivens the proceedings whenever he appears. I can’t explain his gargantuan hobo wardrobe but I love how he smashes through walls and throws people around. If he was just allowed to be a mutant, I think he could have gone places. If you stick around for the film’s end you will rewarded with the wondrous sight of the creature taking out a bunch of cops in a ludicrous fashion but will undoubtedly be disappointed in the puff of smoke lame way he is conquered.

Bad movie fans will find a smorgasbord of seventies flavored insanity to chew on but those who don’t suffer fools easily should wait for the next train. In any case, I believe there are lessons to be learned here. Don’t second guess yourself and don’t bend your vision for the fads of the day. Every monster deserves a chance to live up to his full potential and what’s so bad about being from Earth anyway? I should add for those concerned that THE DARK’s director JOHN ‘BUD’ CARDOS (who replaced TOBE HOOPER who was ironically dropped for being too slow) has at least one worthwhile contribution to the world of horror on his resume as he previously helmed the equally nutso but at least never draggy kinderfave KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS.

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Tags: General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is · I'll watch anything · Laser eyes!

Special Report :: Amanda By Night Uncovers The Rape of Monroe!

June 8th, 2011 · 19 Comments

UNK SEZ: When situation comedies transform into situation trauma-dies it’s time to call for backup! Let us now join intrepid roving reporter/T.V. aficionado AMANDA BY NIGHT of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM as she investigates the elusive but not elusive enough for my comfort TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT episode “For Every Man, There’s Two Women”

The Night Monroe was Rah-Rah-Rah-Raped!!!

Like many urban legends, the infamous TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT featuring Monroe’s rape is a bit like the alligator in the sewer or having a kidney stolen. It’s one of those whispered things where you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who saw it. The fifth season episode of TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT titled “For Every Man, There’s Two Women” should really be called “For Every Man, There’s One Woman and a Huge Guy in Drag”, but we’ll get to that. From what little I was able to garner about this episode, Ted Knight refused to do it during the fourth season, because he probably felt there was no place for it in such a lightweight sitcom (he was right), but he must have been coerced into it because it was finally shot and aired in November of 1985, during the fifth year of the show.

When TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT finished its original run and went into syndication, this controversial episode was dropped from its package and the world continued on as though Monroe (Jim J. Bullock) had never experienced any true acts of violence. As the years passed, and the internet became a great tool for connecting the hazy dots of childhood, the “Monroe rape” episode began to catch some attention. I came to know about it through the excellent site THE RETROIST, and I became almost as obsessed with seeing it as the person running that site did. My timing was a bit better though because I had much less of a wait. The greatest T.V. station in the world, Antenna TV had been airing TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT and I began to monitor the episodes more closely. Lo and behold, they actually re-ran it last week!

If I had not been prepared for what I was about to see, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. The canned laughter at the male rape jokes was disturbingly reminiscent of that crazy Rodney Dangerfield segment of NATURAL BORN KILLERS and I felt like I was watching a sick parody of the show (it should be noted the R word is never used). Monroe reveals to everyone that he was abducted by two women and blindfolded in the back of a van while the “big one” sat on him. They took him back to their place and had their way with him all night. The joke about breaking his beeper elicits a round of applause from the laugh track machine. The female leads act completely out of character, tossing about insulting remarks about rape and in general, stereotyping men and sex while giving Monroe not one iota of sympathy.

Jackie (Debra Van Valkenburgh) finally admits that she just simply doesn’t know how to react, which may be the most honest moment of the show (and probably was the exact feeling the actress had when she read the script). The women on the show seem frustrated and disgustingly nonchalant about the whole ordeal. They mostly disappear after the first half and after a much needed commercial break, this becomes Monroe and Henry’s show as they head off to confront Monroe’s attackers. Henry (Ted Knight) comes off a lot better, but he bounces around from being thoughtful and concerned to acting bothered because Monroe interrupted Henry and Muriel (Nancy Dussault) during a tryst. Apparently dealing with a rape victim all day must make you all hot and stuff.

Once they get to the women’s apartment, the audience is treated to an overweight woman aggressively forcing herself on Henry and a giant man in drag. The first woman is credited simply as Charlene and the drag queen has no credit at all, making the whole affair even more disturbed. Does this gargantuan man still walk the streets and could I possibly be hanging out in a bar one night and overhear, “Yeah, I played one of Monroe’s rapists.” It’s enough to make me never leave the house again!

This infamous episode aired just months after the made for TV movie THE RAPE OF RICHARD BACK which is a Golden Globe nominated film starring Richard Crenna as a gruff cop who is assaulted by an even gruffer assailant. If I wasn’t going to laugh at Mr. Beck’s horrifying encounter, why did the crew behind this TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT think anyone would be chuckling at Monroe’s unfortunate evening of violence? Seriously, guys. 1985 was all kinds of awesome, but this is really reaching into neon-dripping madness! When I think about male rape in pop culture (I know, why should I be thinking about that?!?), I recall stuff like OZ and DELIVERANCE… you know… stuff that isn’t funny. Now that this demented episode has recently re-aired – for the first time in years – some beautiful soul took the time to upload it onto YouTube! Those of you who caught Monroe’s rape during the original run can now relive the nightmare while us newbies can create new, lurid memories of our own. Sweet dreams!

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Tags: Amanda By Night · Great Moments In Kindertrauma History · I Have No Idea What This Is · Kinder-Topix · Kindertrauma Investigates! · Telenasties

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

May 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

The weather is getting nice and you are now thinking of betraying the computer that kept you company all winter and taking a walk outside. Don’t bother. The air may be fresh but there are also bugs flying around out there that want to bite you and steal your blood or maybe lay eggs in your hair. Best to just stay indoors and watch VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS, a 1970 Czech film that looks more beautiful than anything going on in your neighborhood. I can say that with confidence even though I don’t know where you live because this movie is perpetually gorgeous from first frame to last. I’m not entirely sure what the hell is going on in it but it sure is something to behold. To call it dreamlike is an understatement, VALERIE is like having ten dreams at the same time that overlap and blend into each other with the ease of a breeze. It’s simultaneously simple and complex and feels like falling into a painting that morphs from one style to another without pause. One moment it’s lush and expressionistic, the other moment it’s gruesome and darkly gothic and then back again.

VALERIE is based on a novel from 1935 and depicts the surreal perceptions of a young girl shedding her childhood and moving forward into a confusing adult world. It reminds me very much of 1973’s LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL with its preoccupation with innocence, corruption and aging. Both films also share a curious protagonist seemingly surrounded by exploitive forces ready to pounce. For Valerie, growing up is essentially the act of learning that monsters are not only real, but they also just happen to be everybody she knows. We’re witnessing a rite of passage of sorts; she is being welcomed to sit at the adult table but it comes with the knowledge that she will be dining with parasitic vampires. We’ve all been there. It’s not all darkness and depravity though, as terrifying as some of the people and situations that Valerie encounters are, she retains a clear adventurous spirit. It’s hard not to like a gal who, when tied to a stake to be burned as a witch, has the moxie to make faces and jeer at the threatening mob. Plus this movie has weasels.

Folks who get frustrated with ambiguity may want to take a pass here. Characters change identities like hats and for every concrete step forward, there is a dizzying step back. Personally I can’t resist a film this visually stunning and I like the idea that with every return trip I may spot something new and understand it a shade more (or not). I’m also rather in love with the soundtrack which is just as haunting and provocative as the film itself. To be honest with you, this is a difficult film to write about. The more you think about it the more it evaporates. All I know is that for a film that runs a mere 73 minutes, it casts a formidable spell that may leave you in a trance like state. I advise watching this movie, but I don’t advise operating any heavy machinery afterward.

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Tags: I Have No Idea What This Is · The Seventies mushed my head

Jaws of Satan (1981)

March 15th, 2011 · 10 Comments

I have to stop listening to other people because I almost lived a life with no JAWS OF SATAN in it. A cursory scan of other folk’s reactions to the film had me wrongly assuming it was just another bad movie. You know the drill, “Some movies are so bad they’re good, not this one! This one is so bad, it’s just bad.” First of all, I’ll be the judge of that and second of all, wrong. JAWS OF SATAN is not just another bad movie; it is a perfect amalgamation of everything that makes movies not good. I also find it highly entertaining and worth my time because there is never a second of it where it is not doing exactly what it shouldn’t. I stand a bit amazed, here is a film that wasn’t satisfied with being simply a failure of a Satan film, it had to take a crap in the animals run amuck cage too. Just think about the title for a moment, it tells you everything that you need to know.

A snake attacks a couple of men in the cargo area of a train, which naturally causes the entire train to quietly come to a halt. (Don’t worry, a “train wreck” of another kind is imminent.) It’s no ordinary snake because it is…Satan! The Satan snake is on a mission to kill a priest because well, priests burn brighter in hell apparently and this priest is extra special because he comes from a family of druids who kill snakes, so there’s that. Maybe the less we get into that swamp the better, the point is the snake who is Satan hates the priest and wants to bite him and chase him around a graveyard. (Silly Satan, you don’t have to chase priests these days, you can just sit back and they’ll come to you!) I’m not sure what will happen once the snake catches the priest but in the meantime other snakes are getting rowdy and biting non-priests all over a small town in Alabama.

Thankfully Dr. Sheridan is on the case and don’t assume like other people in this movie do that because I said “Dr.” that I’m taking about a boy either because Dr. Sheridan is A GIRL! (Did you just spit your coffee out in shock? Sorry.) Yes, Dr. Sheridan (GRETCHEN CORBETT of LET SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH) is a new type of woman who is a professional doctor and don’t you forget it! She’s a real poster girl for women’s lib too especially when after two people are bitten by snakes she exclaims, “It’s an epidemic and I can’t cope with it!” and then a snake shows up after she takes a shower and she calls a guy on the phone she just met to run over to her house to shoot it and then she breaks down crying hysterically and has to be slapped in the face before he sleeps with her and she makes him breakfast and then midway through the film for no reason whatsoever another guy on a motorcycle forces her car to the side of the road so he can make her fellate his hand gun until she is rescued by….a priest? No, a snake!

Considering the non-stop pilfering you’d think we’d end up with something that resembles a movie more than this mush but nah. We have a mayor who wants to keep the snake issue under wraps so as not to wreck the grand opening of a fancy dog racing track, a coroner who eats chicken right next to a corpse and ye old “It was only a cat!” routine. It’s like a who’s who of movie clichés. I don’t want to complain too much about the clichés though because it’s when then the movie decides to get creative that it really humps the daggit. As dumb as everything is throughout the course of the movie (the list of offences goes on and on) it’s toward the end when we really fall into an almost abstract experience with weird shoehorned dubbing, people appearing in two places at once or out of nowhere and a climax that plays out like a battle between man and mop handle. Did I mention that Satan snake likes to stand straight up on his tail? Adorable much?

There’s one great shot of Father Farrow (CREEPSHOW’s FRITZ WEAVER) strolling past a gnarled tree but most of the film looks ho-hum which is astonishing considering the cinematographer is DEAN CUNDY who you might remember from such films as every movie I ever loved. (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, THE THING, PSYCHO 2 etc.) Personally I’m comfortable throwing all the blame on director BOB CLAVER’s lap on account of he went on to poke eyes out and scramble brains via television by directing two of the most lunatic series in the history of forever, SMALL WONDER and OUT OF THIS WORLD. Besides being hilarious as hell, one of the other things going for JAWS OF SATAN is that it marks the debut of CHRISTINA APPLEGATE as a tyke who gets locked in a closet with a snake at a dog race opening. Aw, how can you not like APPLEGATE after growing up with her as Kelly Bundy? Her real life mother NANCY PRIDDY even portrays her mom in the film. PRIDDY is apparently responsible for a well regarded psychedelic folk album and sang back up for LEONARD COHEN!

All in all, this movie does deliver on the bad movie front in spades. There’s always something perplexing going on and the snake-eye view cemetery chase is an absolute ridiculous must see. This movie ssssssssucks but if you have a taste for terrible, you really couldn’t beat it with a stick.

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Tags: General Horror · General Insanity · I Have No Idea What This Is

Stream Warriors: Rockula & Vicious Lips!

March 13th, 2011 · 4 Comments

UNK SEZ:: Only two stream warrior selections this week because trust me you will not want to see more after you are done with these two anyway. Also as you read this, myself and Aunt John are on a much needed vacation whooping it up like rock stars at a monster mania convention and by “whooping it up like rock stars” I mean embarrassing ourselves publicly and destroying our good names with behavior not befitting people half our age.

ROCKULA (1990)

I know you’ve seen this one on streaming and told yourself that you are not willing to stoop to such a degree just yet, but I am officially giving you permission to take the plunge and blame the after effects on questionable advice from me. C’mon you know you want to see it, ROCKULA stars DEAN CAMERON of such hits as SUMMER SCHOOL, BAD DREAMS and the exceptional SKI SCHOOL. If I had my way DEAN CAMERON would star in everything but since that is unlikely to happen we are left with only the stuff of reality and that means ROCKULA! How this movie never became a cult staple the world shall never know. It was directed by LUCA BERCOVICI the man behind the original GHOULIES and the so-so-so severely underrated hilarity machine THE GRANNY (1995) and it’s roster of bow-worthy greatness includes DEAN, TONI BASIL, THOMAS DOLBY, BO DIDDLEY, BAD SANTA’s TONY COX and the person I’ll never shut up about SUSAN TYRELL. It’s fun, it’s weird and it boasts both wretched tunes and vampires. It’s stupid true but without stupidity there can be no joy. Stupidity is the main ingredient of joy.

VICIOUS LIPS (1988)

I’m not entirely sure it’s possible that anybody could sit through this entire movie beside myself but I shall direct your attention to it anyway. Directed by ALBERT PYUN who has helmed both above (THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) and hilariously below (ALIEN IN LA) par trash, VICIOUS LIPS is a sense shredding onslaught of concentrated eighties junk culture crapitude that kinda sorta rules. The more you try to understand it, the more you’ll hate yourself so just sit back and get clobbered by this nearly incoherent and certainly pointless tale of an all girl rock band stranded on the set of UNION OF THE SNAKE while being chased by ELM STREET-inspired mind demons. I assure you that you will hate yourself vehemently at least once while watching this cotton candy haired patience-pusher and that’s part of the decadent fun. One fragment of this theoretical movie that does not fill my heart with vague shame is the fact that its songs are sung by should-have-been SUE SAAD, the woman responsible for singing the best theme song ever recorded “Looker” from LOOKER and also the second best song ever recorded “Highwire” which is also from LOOKER. I wish I could tell you LOOKER was streaming, but it’s not.

Two count em’ two streaming musical wonders with vague connections to horror. One will make you happy, one will make you saad. Both will make you feel as if you are loosing your mind!

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Tags: I Have No Idea What This Is · Stream Warriors

Dreamchild (1985)

February 23rd, 2011 · 19 Comments

Children’s’ heads are usually force fed saccharine gruel by funnel. The process resembles teaching ducks to grow up to be foie gras. That’s why I’ve always loved ALICE IN WONDERLAND. For a book aimed at malleable brains it is deliciously dark and strange. Imagine WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS writing for Highlights Magazine in a psychedelic beanie. Alice’s encounters mirror a universal part of adolescence when one is trying to decipher their new surroundings and every question is met with nonsensical answers. What child can’t relate to the feeling of being indoctrinated into a world of seemingly random (forks on the left, spoons on the right) protocol? ALICE does more than grab the reader by the hand and tour them through a colorful landscape, it slyly teaches them how to spot the absurdity in their own world as well.

For fans of WONDERLAND, DREAMCHILD is really a must see. It focuses on the twilight of the woman who once inspired the tale as she travels to New York for a celebration of the work and life of its author. Some of the movie is as dainty as a doily, which makes its multiple plunges into near ELM STREET territory all the more disturbing. It’s like having tea with DAME JUDI DENCH and then she suddenly leans into reveal, “I’m tripping my balls off.”

Who is to say how accurate any of the flashbacks are but as the eighty-year old Alice Hargreaves is jolted with lightening blast recollections of her youth, we get a glimpse into her vaguely creepy relationship with the man she theoretically inspired. As played by IAN HOLM (ALIEN, THE SWEET HEREAFTER) Reverend Charles L. Dobson (also known as Lewis Carroll) is at turns off-putting and sympathetic. Plagued by a speech impediment and awkward social skills, one wonders if his fascination with the young quizzical child was merely a coveting of the normalcy she had to look forward to in life. Much speculation is made about the true catalyst behind CARROLL’s work, but here he is presented as a sort of shadowy Jaberwocky himself until elderly Alice comes to terms with her memories and is able to separate herself from her more famous fictional identity.

Whatever. As much as I love my homie HOLM there is literally nothing in this movie that is not utterly and completely upstaged by the fucking incredible creations by JIM HENSON’s creature shop. Don’t get me wrong, there is a very sweet, finely done drama going on here (written by DENNIS POTTER no less) but if you’re a brat like me you’ll only pretend to care whether the old lady gets her act together before kicking the bucket just so you can get a glimpse of the incredibly monstrous and borderline hideous denizens of wonderland that KRUEGER-stalk her psyche. If you want to learn about the real Alice Hargreave, go to the library or better yet Google the lady. Instead, I’m going to stare at these incredible images from DREAMCHILD

NOTE: If you want to check out this barrel of awesome get thee to Netflix Streaming. It has never been released on DVD and the VHS looks like crap. I like this movie a great deal but I have no option but to remove seventy hundred groovy points for not inviting the Chesire Cat to the party.

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Tags: Giant Turtles · I Have No Idea What This Is · Tykes in Trouble

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…

First up, AMANDA BY NIGHT‘s FIVE VISITOR FAVES:

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:

1. THE HAWK
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?

2. 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.

3. THE HOUSEKEEPER
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.

4. THE HUSTON
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.

5. THE HOTTIES
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:

1. THOSE GLASSES!

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.

2. LANCE HENRIKSEN

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.

3. AHEAD OF THEIR TIME VISUALS

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 !

4. THE SCORE

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.

5. PAIGE CONNER

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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