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.

The Child (1977)

Although it comes off as almost ramshackle at times, 1977's backyard terror-tyke/zombie fest THE CHILD has a strange, eerie magic that's hard to dismiss. A spooky campfire story atmosphere radiates from out of the gate as howling winds, gnarly silhouettes of twisted trees and stock footage of lightening (that's the same bolt that downed the S.S. Minnow!) converge to frame a lone traveler who has lost her way. LAUREL BARNETT stars as Alicianne Del Mar who has been recently hired to nanny young Rosalie Nordon (ROSALIE COLE), a girl who lost her parents, lives with her gramps and older brother Len and congregates in the local graveyard commiserating with ghouls. Rosalie is a charmless twelve-year-old who giggles at a story concerning poisoned Boy Scouts, feeds helpless kittens to the undead and tends to yell every line for a non-existent back row theater audience ("I don't have to tell YOU anything!!!"). Although it's never explained in the slightest, she also has telekinetic powers and uses said powers to orchestrate zombie mob raids against those that perturb her.

Director ROBERT VOSKANIAN does so much with an obviously minuscule budget. There's a persuasive otherworldly tone throughout the film and almost every shot is creatively presented in a subtle off-kilter fashion. The entire movie is awkwardly dubbed and most of the dialogue is disjointed and askew but somehow what should be the film's downfall ends up only adding to the overall hypnotic strangeness. There's some kind of weird poetry going on in this grim grindhouse fairy tale that reminded me of LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF TERROR but with less likable characters and a somewhat irritating soundtrack. As much as there's plenty to find fault with, I can't possibly pretend I'm not down with a rough around the edges killer kid flick. THE CHILD gleefully rides the same short bus as CATHY'S CURSE ('77), DEVIL TIMES FIVE ('74) and even KISS DADDY GOODBYE ('81) and so resistance for me is as they say, futile. My biggest complaint would be the handling of the protagonist nanny who becomes instantly useless when the shit hits the fan. I'm not sure I'd be much help in a zombie fight either but I'd like to think I'd do more than cover my ears (?) and scream.

THE CHILD is currently looking bright and crisp on Blu-ray as part of Arrow Video's AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOL 2 alongside fellow independent obscurities DARK AUGUST and DREAM NO EVIL (reviews pending). It comes boasting a plethora of great bonus features curated by Stephen Thrower, author of the fantastic tome NIGHTMARE USA: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE EXPLOITATION INDEPENDENTS. Thrower really knows what he's talking about and is an enthusiastic, long-time champion of THE CHILD. I'm not sure everybody is going to feel the same way about this strange little movie but if you have a taste for homemade oddities, this is quite the semi-gory charmer. It truly does emit a bizarre frequency all its own and watching it is like being transported to a seventies-era drive-in. Sure, it requires that you forgive more than a few blemishes (most of them budget-related) but in exchange, you get an eerie killer kid movie wrapped in a zesty zombie flick and in my book, that's two great tastes that taste great together. Come for the brat, stay for the undead!

Valerie Harper Blogathon:: Don't Go To Sleep!!!

When pal Amanda by Night (of Made For TV Mayhem) invited Kindertrauma to join in on the VALERIE HARPER BLOGATHON she was orchestrating, we could not possibly refuse. Fact is, although she is better known for many other gigs, HARPER starred in what is simply the best (and most kindertraumatic!) made-for-television horror flick of the slash-happy eighties. Yes, once again I am talking about DON'T GO TO SLEEP! If you're not familiar with that title then I beg you to yank your horror-head out of the zombie sand and give it a look-see. You will not be sorry. Having covered this one before you may think I have nothing more to say, but you'd be wrong because I have yet to give this gem the "five favorite things" treatment. Here are my five favorite things about DON'T GO TO SLEEP...

THE OPENING CREDITS! Right out the starting gate DON'T GO TO SLEEP is humming it's own quirky tune. Black and white title cards flash and they're so low-tech shaky you might think you've stumbled upon a home movie of a camping trip. Lullaby music box chirpings blast and then are cut off indiscriminately by the sound of whooshing traffic. This happens again and again throughout the prelude. I'm sure that somebody missed the effect that they were going for by a couple of miles but the resulting awkwardness of the overreach must be superior to what they were aiming for anyway. It's slapdash, makeshift and yet still sets an appropriate mood. This movie is all about the treacly chimes of childhood being upset by jagged blasts of harsh, startling reality.

THE DIRECTION! Made for TV movies have their own set of advantages and disadvantages compared to their theatrical counterparts. Sometimes the unavoidable restraints can result in a static affair or the director not having as much leeway to express himself visually. This is not the case here. RICHARD LANK (who also steered 1978's effectively eerie NIGHT CRIES) has a field day playing with bizarre angles, distorted perspectives and unusual POV shots. I think he may even have invented the flying lizard cam and the rolling pizza cutter cam. Prime time doesn't allow for much gore but LANK moves ahead undaunted. Rather than show a head smashing into the driveway, he quickly cuts to a watermelon being dropped and bursting apart upon the kitchen floor. Message received loud and clear!

THE CLOSING! What better gift to leave your audience than a final image branded into their horrified brains for all eternity? DON'T GO TO SLEEP does just that in a seemingly effortless way without resorting to bells and whistles and elaborate effects. Much like SATAN'S TRIANGLE (in my mind, the greatest made for TV movie of the supernatural seventies), DON'T places its final winning card on the preternatural power of one enigmatic Cheshire smile. The maniacal faux-sweet image actually appears several times throughout the film but its final presentation is so gruesomely uncanny that it's difficult to shake or even interpret why it's so effective. I seriously believed for years that a skull was superimposed upon the image a'la Norman Bates in PSYCHO, but I guess that was my imagination! True cinematic alchemy!

THE STRAIGHTJACKET! I'm sorry but it's satisfying to see anybody who was in the movie ANNIE wind up in a straight jacket!

THE CAST! Are you kidding me? DUEL's DENNIS WEAVER, ROSEMARY'S BABY's RUTH GORDON and POLTERGEIST'S OLIVER ROBINS! It's a horror fan's dream team! Both ROBIN IGNICO as Mary and KRISTIN CUMMING as Jennifer excel where most child actors would have failed. And then there's VALARIE HARPER who we are specifically honoring today. I'm thinking DON'T GO TO SLEEP may not exactly be the highlight of her long career but yes, of course, she brings everything she's got regardless. I love her and WEAVER together tackling screaming matches like they're in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and ad-libbing under their breath whenever they damn well feel like it. I'm sure some folks have a hard time seeing past the campy surface but to me, that's just one layer out of zillions. They don't make ‘em like this anymore and what a shame.

DON'T GO TO SLEEP is a lively watch but it never shirks from the subject of death and grieving, topics that the horror genre is especially fit to explore. It's easy to forget that as modern horror continues to be corralled toward action/comic book power fantasies instead. I say don't feel bad for VALERIE HARPER; she's not going anyplace you're not going too. As she faces whatever is next (total recovery says me), I stand more impressed with her wisdom than her bravery. She knows its not how you die but how you live that matters. "We're all terminal" she says and there's nothing truer than that. I think I'll save my sorrow for someone less vividly alive, less admirably "awake".

Dash O' Trivia: Guess what VAL's last name is in DON"T GO TO SLEEP! Answer: Hogan! Wha-wha-what? This calls for some back up from Turnidoff!

The Haunting of Julia (1977)

I'm going to forgive myself for not fully getting THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (a.k.a FULL CIRCLE) when I first watched it many years ago. I knew nothing about grief back then and chances are great that I was under the influence of cheap beer and surrounded by wisecracking knuckleheads. I'm also sure the pan and scan VHS presentation did it few favors. Watching it late last night in HD (on Fearnet On Demand) it struck me as easily worthy of being included among the best ghost stories ever put to film, so much so that I watched it again this morning to confirm. See, it's important to forgive yourself whenever you can, otherwise you risk being left behind in an ever darkening "once was" while the rest of the world blooms ahead. It's like being one of those tiny marshmallows that stink up the Jell-o. You should especially take it easy on yourself if you are a failure at giving your child an emergency tracheotomy or if you are not familiar with the Heimlich maneuver because it's the mid-seventies and not all that popular yet. These things happen. If you don't let go of the past you just attract more of the same but worse.

Julia Lofting (MIA FARROW) watched helplessly as her kid Kate choked to death while she and her husband Magnus (KEIR DULLEA) had what appeared to be a contest to see who could be the most spazzy and useless. After a brief stay in a mental hospital, Julia decides that without her daughter she has no one to pretend she likes her husband for, and so she moves into a place of her own to clear her head. As fate would have it, Julia picks the exact worst place in the world to move into for someone who is trying to get over the death of a child. It has 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 closely linked mysterious child deaths and a great view of her impending madness! Is the place really haunted or is Julia losing her marbles? Remember folks, those two things are NOT mutually exclusive. Understandably Julia begins to believe that if she can help the troubled spirit in her house, she can make up for that crappy day she played OPERATIONwith her daughter's neck and lost big time. It's a plan that backfires when everyone in her vicinity begins to die tragically and she slowly becomes the unwitting semi-possessed tool of an evil presence so heinous it has no issue putting into service, a wind-up clown doll with sharp clashing cymbals.

THE HAUNTING OF JULIA demands to be seen more than once to read its vaporous code. It trudges lethargically at times but that's all the better to conjure a melancholic tsunami. Look closely and a figure darts past a mirror or an intangible shadow spills across the screen, for long moments you are kept in pitch black with only a glimmer of an eye as your guide. Allow yourself, and there are intense moments of anticipation for what might break through- yet never quite does. It's subtle, probably too ambiguous for most but it seizes territory larger than itself, where anything in the imagination might materialize and the usual mental guardrails disappear. At one point Julia decides to visit the ghost girl's crazy ma in the nuthouse and the crone is wheeled out with purple hair and a smile that's impossible to pin down. Is she pretty, hideous, happy, evil, or insane? It's like an ever-changing Rorschach smile you wouldn't think possible outside an animated cartoon. Finally she lets the cat out of the bag, "I'm dead! And safe! Safe and dead!" That's not what I wanted to hear. I'm sorry but old ladies are the scariest. If you are an old lady you should just know that and try to refrain from cackles and grimaces.

THE HAUNTING OF JULIA scarcely solidifies its spectral presence but who needs ghostly effects when gauzy MIA FARROW is wraith-ing up the joint? Apparitions in the know realize that it's not what or why you haunt but whom. FARROW is always an interesting screen presence, even if I'm not sure what's going on with her only sometimes British accent. Her translucent skin and abandoned eyes beg the question "Who haunts who?" and lo and behold, that's much of the point. As is often her way, she goes through the emotional ringer here and it's difficult not to feel something while witnessing her crippling heartbreak become eclipsed by cold solace found in an impossible goal that leads nowhere but down. I also need to praise the consistently dank and maudlin cinematography with its no fear attitude toward tenebrosity and the supremely mesmeric score by COLIN TOWNS that I could easily spin in an endless loop when playing solitaire or whist working on filing off my ankle bracelet. Maybe it just comes down to seeing a movie at the right time and in the right frame of mind in the end but I'm grateful this one didn't hold a grudge due to my first impression and selected to creep back in my life. Maybe once long ago it flew over my head but this time it crashed right into it.

Nightmare (1981)

I enjoyed looking back at how my perception of MANIAC changed over the years so here I am doing the same thing with the like-minded NIGHTMARE...

ONCE (1981-ish)

One of my favorite things as a young teen was trying to keep my eyes open long enough to watch SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE which, way back then, was followed by a show I enjoyed even more, SECOND CITY TV. SNL's East Coast start time of 11:30 might as well have been 5 in the morning to me and I typically failed to remain awake. Luckily a mad scientist invented the VCR, which allowed me to tape both shows overnight and catch them the next morning over Apple Jacks. This is how I first came across the movie NIGHTMARE, one of my late night videotape fishing trips had hauled in a short TV spot for it. I remember the commercial being brief and simply showing a masked madman bashing down a door but it impacted me greatly. I rewound the ad a multitude of times, finding it more and more unsettling upon each view. The movie that I began to imagine in my head was brilliant and epic and what an injustice it was that I was too young to see it. I'd have to wait for video and so I did.

I almost didn't recognize NIGHTMARE when I bumped into it at the video kiosk at the mall. The poster image of a screaming face I had become familiar with thanks to a newspaper clipping was abandoned in exchange for a mundane film still. Not that there was any debate about whether I should proceed with my rental, the videobox was of the over-sized variety and presented by a company called Continental, a seal of approval of sorts that I did not take lightly. When had Continental let me down before? Well, lots of times but whatever. My first viewing of NIGHTMARE ended up being, for the most part, disappointing. The movie was successful in both grossing and weirding me out but it was sloppy and crass and completely devoid of the magical element that existing only in my head. The door-smash scene from the TV spot was still scary but by the time it showed up in the film, I had already been alienated by scenes of rampant sexual dysfunction. Well, it wasn't HALLOWEEN that was for sure; around this time in the early ‘80s I was finding out that sad fact about a lot of movies.

THEN (1994-ish)

Instead of disappearing into oblivion, NIGHTMARE kept coming back. Its reputation was kept afloat by the fact that it was banned in the UK and the surrounding controversy about whether or not TOM SAVINI had any hand in the special effects. All I knew was that it was one of the more f-ed up movies I could recall from my youth and all of the sudden, I couldn't find it anywhere. Even though it had let me down before NIGHTMARE began to expand once more in my brain. I had to see it again! I had to show it to my friends! A bootleg was the only answer! Well hey, this was before the Internet and to me, a VHS copy of a copy of a copy of a copy was about as criminally malicious as a mix tape. I can't say my fuzz-blur pirate edition of NIGHTMARE (labeled "NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN") revealed any new insight or level of quality to me. It was all just as shabby and crude as I recalled but now it had an heir of the forbidden and the tactless, trashy counter-bourgeois beat it bounced to had a value all its own. This is when the unintentional humor began to bleed in and I began to agree with just how disagreeable it was.

NOW (2012)

I knew I had to get the DVD of NIGHTMARE as soon as it was (finally) available. Honestly I would have purchased it for the cover alone since it features the original poster art that so intrigued me long ago. The picture looks fine but happily not too fine, its worn weathered texture adding salty flavor to the tone. These days there is no question that I am fond of NIGHTMARE. It somehow ended up teaching me how to view a certain type of movie in a different way. It also turns out that I sometimes require more than mere technical finesse in a film. Just as certain bands proved being a virtuoso musician was not essential to make vibrant music, NIGHTMARE makes me realize that in the case of some movies, it's the untamed energy that trumps all. The plot may be threadbare and the characters may be methodically intolerable but NIGHTMARE's unstable and unruly attitude has bite and there's a steadfast grim and hopeless element present that's daunting. Somewhere along the line NIGHTMARE and I fused together. Watching it now, I feel like I'm seeing foggy old scratched up home movies of my own childhood. Like MANIAC, NIGHTMARE opened a door that allowed me to see past the easy to deride surface of a low budget film. It expanded the range of my taste and allowed me access to other films that I might have passed by. I guess it could have been done in a better, more sophisticated way but its raggedness is a large part of its messed up appeal. Yep, it disappointed me at first but looking back, that's because I was trying to will it to be what I wanted it to be rather than being receptive to what it actually was. I'll let more discriminating minds than my own decree whether it's "good" or not. I'm happy simply knowing this scrappy nihilistic exploitation flick ended up mattering much more to me than I initially thought it would.

Burial Ground (1981)

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!

Kinder-link:: Kevin Maher's Interview with Max Kalmanowicz Director of The Children (1980)

UNK SEZ:: One last heads up that tomorrow is the big date for the EVIL KIDS double feature that includes THE CHILDREN (1980) and DON'T GO TO SLEEP (1982)! To get you in the mood our buddy KEVIN MAHER has snagged an interview with THE CHILDREN's director MAX KALMANOWICZ which you can read HERE! It's a superlative piece and you'll notice that KEVIN was able to get both a traumafession and a "Name That Trauma!" out of MAX! How cool is that? Tickets to the show can be found YONDER! Hope those of you who are in that neck of the woods can make it!

ALSO:: Special thanks to our other pal JOHN KENNETH MUIR for supplying the cool publicity stills you see before you. You can read JKM's insightful review of THE CHILDREN over HERE!

A Reflection of Fear (1973)

Have I ever started a review with "Where has such and such a movie been all my life?' because I shoulda and coulda done it here. I'm not entirely sure how I would have responded to A REFLECTION OF FEAR if I had seen it at a younger age but I do know that it currently has all the markings and behavior of a pet movie I'd like to wrap in a blanket and deliver a saucer of milk. A cluttered mansion, a barely tolerable protagonist, psycho-sexual family skeletons falling out of the woodwork, a shadow faced killer on a rampage and a malevolent talking doll. It's like THE ATTIC and PIN had a baby out of wedlock and I get to adopt it! REFLECTION is based on a novel by (DELORIS) STANTON FORBES and yes, I already ordered a copy and made sure it was plenty used and lived in a library. Hopefully it will be so moldy that I nearly suffocate while enjoying it.

Ethereally yet confidently directed by WILLIAM A. FRAKER the cinematographer of ROSEMARY'S BABY (!), REFLECTION introduces us to an unsung psycho sister of Norman Bates named Marguerite. Koo-koo, microscope-obsessed doll collecting Marguerite is played by SONDRA LOCKE and wholly crap is it a performance. Pale and fluttering like a sun-bleached sheet on a clothesline, she still manages to dominate anyone in her vicinity. No small feat when ROBERT SHAW is on the guest list. Young Marguerite has led a sheltered existence that has given birth to an intricate universe within her head. She barely exists at all but struts like a deity before her menagerie of dolls and the amoeba caught beneath her owl gaze. When Marguerite's long lost father (SHAW) bounces into town with fiancée SALLY KELLERMAN on his arm, folks start getting beaten to death by a killer who wields a wooden plank like a possessed Punch puppet. The actual reveal of the mystery killer will hardly leave you doing a spit take but the way the material is handled is seriously haunting regardless.

I've always thought the scariest part of 1973's DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was the eerie conspiratorial bookend whispers. REFLECTION carries a similar unearthly vocal element when dealing with Marguerite's once treasured now vanquished doll Aaron (voiced by GORDON ANDERSON whose lone other voicing credit is that of the titular RATBOY in LOCKE's directorial debut). REFLECTION's PG rating, which it apparently endured many cuts to achieve, may leave it relatively dry in the flowing blood department but it continues to gush with the steady flow of genuine creeps. Really, this film, which sat on the shelf for two years, is a perfect example of the type of fear derived not from violence or bloodshed but from the unease that something generally wrong and unnatural is about to take place. I wasn't shocked by its ending (man, do I want to ruin it) but I was genuinely disturbed and left with a feeling of unbalance. There are few choppy holes and the action jumps around in a way that left me unclear a few times but the one-two punch of LOCKE's performance and FRAKER's sometimes placid and dreamy, sometimes rabid and unruly direction overpowers all. Everybody who knew about this movie and didn't tell me about it, I am now officially mad at you.

Let Me In

I, for one, did not need another film version of JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST's novel LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. The 2008 Swedish film of the same title directed by TOMAS ALFREDSON is, in my opinion, as good as it gets. Still, I couldn't help but be curious. Plus, how in the name of hell was I NOT going to support the first HAMMER production in nearly thirty-five years? Seriously, I felt like I got my moolah's worth as soon as I saw that legendary name projected upon the theater screen...

The good news is that LET ME IN, directed by CLOVERFIELD's MATT REEVES, is NOT a steaming pile of useless garbage. Maybe it's my vivid imagination but I detected an earnest affection for the material. I can't say it casts the same lyrical spell that the earlier interpretation did but it does score gold stars for the respect it pays the core relationship within the story. I have no idea why it chooses to indulge in subpar CGI when it is clearly unnecessary but overall LET ME IN is nothing if not dignified. Most miraculously, it has a purposeful patience and a rare kind of faith that its audience doesn't require non-stop jump jolts and bombastic musical cues masquerading as scares to remain attentive.

(Some might argue that its poor box office showing proves that faith was squandered but c'mon, why would anyone think remaking a two-year-old film, vampiric or otherwise, would be a sure thing?)

Chances are you are already familiar with LET ME IN's plot. A lonely bullied boy (this time named Owen rather than Oskar) befriends a vampire (this time named Abby instead of Eli) and both parties gain comfort from their quixotic bond. The boy learns to defend himself, the vampire learns to trust and every one rejoices when a douchbag's decapitated head sinks to the bottom of a swimming pool.

As you might have guessed I LOVE this story! Both cinematic adaptations shy away from the gender smudging found in the book but slyly slide the same gist forward anyway. Spiritual connection is the point here and whatever junk one may be packing is incidental. It's the type of symbiotic platonic relationship that is rarely acknowledged or celebrated in our culture. (Possibly because Madison Avenue has yet to discover anything as potent as gender inadequacy fears to sell antiperspirant.) Well, the world may not have much use for bonds like Owen's and Abby's but they themselves sure do. Is it romantic? Yes, anytime someone gifts you a Rubik's cube it's fucking romantic.

NOTE: Strangely enough the other night I was watching 1995's LEAVING LAS VEGAS and was struck by how much it resembled LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Just switch out the blood for booze and you have a sister tale of lost souls building their own hideaway from the world and creating a relationship based on their own and not traditional terms.

As much as LET ME IN doesn't suck, there's not much that the 2008 version doesn't do better than the 2010 one. Some shoes require more than noble intentions to fill them. That said, I did find enjoyment in some of the newer version's riffs and alterations. REEVES' choice to amp up Owen's latch key solitude by CHARLES SHULTZ-ing his parents into non-entities is cynical, savvy and spot on. He also ends up giving vampire Abby's caretaker/father (the always marvy RICHARD JENKINS) a much more robust and ultimately more frightening spin. There's a car crash scene he's involved in that will undoubtedly have many folks double checking their seatbelts far into the future.

Being permanently trapped in the eighties my rad self (by choice mind you!) I also slobbered at the welcome edition of poppy new wave hits by gender blenders BOWIE and BOY GEORGE. The piece de resistance for me though occurs when Abby pushes the play button on a tape player in a makeshift clubhouse and none other than my juju jam FRUER's DOOT DOOT begins its cricket chirping intro. I know I've mentioned it once before but that song gives my goosebumps goosebumps and it's a perfect choice here for another blast of menthol.

Hate to say it but the biggest problem for me lies in this film's two leads. Both CHLOE MORTEZ as Abby and KODI-SMIT MCHEE as Owen do incredible, outstanding jobs with their parts but I found it near impossible to let go of LINA LEANDERSON and KARE HEDEBRANT's interpretations. (Obviously that's a bias that will not hit you if you are seeing this version first.) Both kids had my support and sympathy but a neon sign in my noggin kept flashing "Imposter!" Like cloned sheep, BLADE RUNNER replicants and that dang robot kid from A.I., I wished them the best but couldn't quit shake the feeling of some kind of glossy innate falsity. Maybe that's just my hang-up; MORTEZ can act up a storm all she wants but at the end of the day I'll always prefer my vampire critters looking more like ALICE COOPER than SCARLETT JOHANSSON. In a similar way the whole of the newer version is just a tad bit too pristine and lacks the natural more earthy rawness of the previous film.

Alright, I admit it, I miss the killer kitties, is that so wrong?

Separating legitimate criticism from knee jerk loyalty gets a bit like untangling Christmas lights here. I guess the important thing is that LET ME IN does a better job than one could reasonably expect, all things considered. Arriving unfashionably late and offering not much more than another excuse not to read something, its fate as an also-ran is pretty much sealed. On the other hand, I think the material deserves to be discovered in any way it can be; if this version is able to reach somebody that the first film or the novel failed to then more power to it. I say experience LET THE RIGHT ONE IN in any way, shape, format or under any title you can. It not only avoids the superficial mire most vampire tales get stuck in but it stands as a gleaming example of the vast depths that the horror genre, in general, is capable of and is rarely given credit for. If you've seen the first film, there's a "been there done that" quality to LET ME IN for sure, but personally I'd much rather retrace these worthwhile footsteps in the snow than follow another newer path that leads absolutely nowhere.

Don't Go To Sleep...Now!

I recently posted in our comments section about how the 1982 television movie DON'T GO TO SLEEP is currently up and running on YouTube... but that's just not enough! I have to urge you guys on our front page to try to check it out this weekend. You just never know when something like this will get pulled and you may not get another chance to see it again outside of expensive, unreliable bootlegs. This movie comes highly recommended not only by the two person staff of Kindertrauma, but also by the queen of T.V. movies herself, Amanda By Night of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM!

DON'T GO TO SLEEP stars VALERIE HARPER (NIGHT TERROR), DENNIS WEAVER (DUEL), RUTH GORDON (ROSEMARY'S BABY) and OLIVER ROBINS (of POLTERGEIST fame.) It's the story of a little girl who comes back from the dead to convince her living sister to avenge her and it kind of rules on a zillion levels. It's a classic television movie that lifts from the popular slasher films of its day and it's pretty creepy, slightly campy and a must see for those who dig that sort of thing.

After you've seen it, use this post's comments section as a forum to talk about it. If you are a fellow blogger, write a review and send us a link to it!

C'mon, it's too hot to go out and see PREDATORS! The first part is posted below. Click on the YouTube logo on the bottom of the right corner and it will take you to the rest! If you'd like to recreate that long lost feeling of staying up late and watching good horror on T.V., I can't think of a better way to start than with DON'T GO TO SLEEP. So come on kids, start not going to sleep now!

NOTE: Thanks to the awesome French blog VIDEOTOPSY for the archival TV GUIDE ad above and cool DR. GOREMAN for the press kit photo below.