The Amusement Park (1973) By Mickster

George Romero’s long lost educational film commissioned by the Lutheran Society in 1973 has been found and restored. Upon viewing the finished product in 1973, the Lutheran Society found it too disturbing to be seen. I guess the truth of how the elderly are treated was too much to bear. Luckily for us, the George A. Romeo Foundation restored this lost film, so it can be viewed by the public, if you dare to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horror film per se, but it is a highly upsetting and depressing depiction of the mistreatment of the elderly. This depiction comes in the form of a surreal, dreamlike (nightmare) experience Lincoln Maazel’s unnamed character has at “The Amusement Park.” Many will remember Maazel’s performance in another Romero film, Martin (1977). He is the only “real” actor in the movie. All the other “actors” were volunteers, which makes this all the more impressive.

Maazel introduces the film and speaks again at the end. He implores viewers to have empathy and also be cognizant of the fact that they too will be old one day. What happens in between is something everyone should watch and consider. It is quite powerful, and I wish the Lutheran Society had been brave enough to use it back in the day.

Maazel starts his day in the park by encountering himself in a room of white. The beaten down version of himself warns that there is nothing out there, but the freshly dressed and hopeful version wants to see for himself. And boy, does he ever see! Each portion of The Amusement Park has vignettes illustrating how the elderly are systematically degraded. The only exception to this rule comes in the form of a wealthy older man who is treated with great respect because of his wealth. Sound like real life? Yeah, I thought so too. There is even a sequence where a young couple goes to the fortune teller’s tent to see if they will be together forever…the vision is NOT what they were expecting! Elders losing the right to drive, check! See the bummer car sequence! There is even a part with two carnival barkers that made me think of “reverse” mortgages! Romero was ahead of his time! Throughout, a masked “grim reaper” can be seen lurking in the background. For the most part, all the the elderly people in this film are ignored and at worst, pushed around by the younger people at the park, but there is one exception. This exception is the breaking point for Maazel’s character. A young girl is kind to him and wants him to read to her (she even shares a piece of fried chicken with him), but as this sweet exchange is taking place, viewers can see the cruel action that is about to befall Maazel. After this, he is utterly defeated, and as a viewer, I was too.

At 54 minutes, this educational film is a heartbreaking critique on aging in America. The Lutheran Society picked the right person to critique society, but they just didn’t have to guts to let this scathing examination see the light of day. It is sad to me that this film remained lost until Romero, who has a cameo in the bumper car sequence, was deceased. I wonder what he would think of his “lost” educational film finally seeing the light of day?

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.

Dark Shadows (The Revival 1991) shouldn’t have been cancelled! By Mickster

UNK SEZ: Hey, it’s our old pal Mickster! She’s got some viewing advice and an axe to grind concerning a show she loved getting the hook! Take it away, Mickster

MICKSTER: Twenty-six years ago, a show was canceled before being given a fair shake. Had the Internet, as we know it, existed at the time, no doubt people would have expressed their outrage at NBC for letting this gem go far too soon. I remember seeing the promos for the show and being thrilled because I felt cheated that I missed the original show. Darn being born too late! My older siblings spoke of it fondly. I was lucky enough to catch House of Dark Shadows on cable when I was about ten.

The revival of Dark Shadows did not disappoint me, and a big reason for that was Dan Curtis, who created the original show, produced it. The atmosphere and acting were spot-on. I will share a few of my favorite things about the show, and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you head over to Hulu and watch all 12 episodes.

#1-Ben Cross as Barnabus Collins-Ben Cross had some big shoes to fill when taking on the role of Barnabus since Jonathan Frid made the role iconic. However, I found Cross’s version to have the sex appeal that Frid lacked. I could completely understand all the women of Collinsport, including straight-laced Dr. Julia Hoffman, going wild over him. Dear Barnabus, I suggest picking victims at least a couple of towns over so not to throw suspicion in your direction.

#2 Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman-Barbara Steele is very familiar to fans of the horror genre. She portrayed Dr. Hoffman as strong-willed and intelligent. She didn’t allow herself to be intimidated by Barnabus, but at the same time, she showed vulnerability when she developed feelings for him. Dear Dr. Hoffman, Betraying a vampire is NOT good for your health!

#3 Joseph Gordon-Levitt as David Collins-A very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt displayed his acting chops early with his disturbed portrayal of David Collins. He was the ultimate “creepy kid” who scared away all his governesses before Victoria Winters came to Collinwood. Dear Governesses of Young Master Collins, Don’t climb into your bed without checking it thoroughly first…you’re welcome!

#4 Jim Fyfe as Willie Loomis-Now I adored John Karlen as Willie Loomis, but Jim Fyfe just melted my heart. I am a southern girl so I will say, “Bless his heart!” It is true that it is his fault that Barnabus was freed from his vault to wreak havoc on the people of Collinsport, but dang it, his simple-mindedness made me feel bad for him. Dearest Willie, When Barnabus yells, “WILLIE!” Run like hell because he is about to pound the crap out of you.

#5 Joanna Going as Victoria Winters-Now, I feel Joanna Going’s Victoria Winters was far superior to the original. I enjoyed her as a wide-eyed innocent thrust into the chaos of Collinwood in the present and then the past. She made it all believable. Dear Victoria Winters, You look EXACTLY like the portrait of Josette du Pres. Coincidence? I think not!

#6 Lysette Anthony as Angelique-Okay, Lysette Anthony’s Angelique was the epitome of the woman scorned. Unfortunately for Barnabus, she was a woman scorned with supernatural abilities. Dear Barnabus, You should have kept your pants on all those years ago! It became Fatal Attraction circa 1790!

#7 Time Travel-I love time travel, and on Dark Shadows, the time travel was most effective. Victoria Winters was thrown back in time when a séance to contact Sarah Collins (sister of Barnabus) went terribly wrong. Victoria found herself in 1790. Accusations of witchcraft soon plagued Victoria, and her life was in danger. The viewer also was able to witness the events leading up to Barnabus’s transformation into a vampire. Dear Victoria Winters, Hide your clothing labels as the symbols for laundering may be misconstrue as signs of the Devil by a nosy bitch, um, I mean Collins family member.


UNK SEZ: Thanks for the tip Mickster! It looks like I’ve got some watching to do. Kids, as Mickster said above, the DARK SHADOWS revival is available on HULU for free! Watch it HERE before it disappears in a puff of smoke!

Unk’s Favorite Stranger Things

Howdy, I’m taking a cue from my old pal Mickster and sharing some of my own STRANGER THINGS favorite things. If you’re sick of hearing about STRANGER THINGS, write a letter to your local Congressman and demand better TV shows so that this one doesn’t stand out like a beautiful neon sore thumb anymore!

Winona Ryder
I admit that I fell out of love with WINONA somewhere along the line (the day I saw ALIEN RESURRECTION) but we made up eventually (the day I saw BLACK SWAN). Most tend to think of her excellent turns in HEATHERS and BEETLEJUICE when they fawn over her but seeing her hanging around a makeshift fort in STRANGER THINGS reminded me how much territory WELCOME HOME ROXY CARMICHAEAL owns in my heart. Well let it be known that WINONA tops all of her previous gigs and then some in STRANGER THINGS, she brings it full throttle in every scene. She’s so exemplary at expressing rage and profound pain at the same time and I think this series makes it obvious that she’s just getting started. If I were JOHNNY DEPP, I’d change my tattoo back to “Winona Forever” as soon as possible.

The Score
Thanks to flicks like DRIVE and IT FOLLOWS, synth scores are all the rage but rarely has a latter day synth score fit so perfectly within the context of a story as the chilling beats that pulsate in STRANGER THINGS. You can thank Austin band “Survive” for STRANGER‘s hypnotic CARPENTER crashing into MORODER awesomeness. Hey, the hairs on my arms are standing up just thinking about it!

The Songs
I know THE BANGLES’ cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” didn’t come out until 1985 but it plays over the closing credits and credits don’t take place in any specific time so that’s OK right? I think so. Anyway life is more enjoyable when you don’t sweat anachronisms too much. For the most part ST’s selection of songs is pretty spot on and my ears just can’t say no to THE CLASH, MODERN ENGLISH and ECHO AND THE BUNNYMAN. Oh and TOTO’s “Africa“, only a slobbering goon would not dig that tune. There’s an official STRANGER THINGS playlist on SPOTIFTY, so check it out!

The Font
Oh geez, for years I’ve been searching for the STRANGER THINGS title font which I used to find on just about every horror paperback I read back in my youth. I was even thinking of going on Facebook and asking if anyone knew it but I chickened out because I was too scared of being left hanging. Thanks to STRANGER THINGS all I had to do was Google to find out I was one of many wondering the same thing! Turns out it’s called ITC BENGUIAT and yes, I’ve downloaded it for future use.

Ben and Nicole
I, like many, fell head over heals in fascination with Barb and how could you not? But there are two other characters that also lodged themselves in my brain that I found myself wanting more of. Let’s hear it for Ben the bearded bear who worked at the diner and gave Eleven french fries and is therefore a true unsung hero! I feel like if he was cast on FARGO he would have hung around much longer. And what about Nicole, the tattling ginger photographer? She didn’t have many lines but she made sure to make every facial expression count while glaring and smirking from the background. We need so much more of her in Season Two!

Mickster loves Stranger Things (2016)

Unk Sez: Big thanks to our old pal Mickster (Kindertrauma’s very own Eleven!) for taking time out of her busy schedule to share with us her favorite things about STRANGER THINGS. Take it away, Mickster….

It has been a long time since I have been so overwhelmed with joy by a show. When I first started hearing the buzz about Stranger Things, I thought, “Sounds cool, but I don’t want to get my hopes up too high.” Well, the best way I can describe my experience is the show is like a love letter to people, like me, who adore the 80s. As soon as I started watching it, I felt warm and comfortable as if I were visiting an old friend who I haven’t seen in ages. To the show’s credit, if a person told me this was a show from the 80s (and I didn’t recognize Ryder or Modine), I would believe them because it captures the feel of the early eighties. Here is a short list of the things I loved about the show.

The Boys
Because the show is set in 1983, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) are the age I was at the time. I totally would have been a friend of those guys. There are things about them that remind me of the boys who lived next door to me growing up. I had an absolute blast hanging out with the boys next door. The regular-looking quality of the kids makes them completely relatable, which adds to their charm. I had a similar reaction to Sam (John Francis Daley), Bill (Martin Starr), and Neal (Samm Levine) on Freaks and Geeks (1999). I want to go back in time, be twelve again, and hangout with Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin!

Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) is fantastic in this show! She doesn’t speak much, but her eyes speak volumes. Her portrayal reminds me of some other characters such as Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) in Firestarter (1984), Furface (Sandy the Dog) in Watchers (1988), and Starman (Jeff Bridges) in Starman (1984). In regards to Drew Barrymore’s character in Firestarter, the interaction between Eleven and Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) made me recall the interaction between John Rainbird (George C. Scott) and Charlie McGee, an elder male gaining the trust of an exceptional child in order to gain what he wants. Now when it comes to Furface in Watchers, it is more of a stretch, but Eleven made me think of this highly intelligent golden retriever just the same. Perhaps it was the way Eleven repeated protected the boys from danger the way Furface protected Travis (Cory Haim) from Lem (Michael Ironside) and the Oxcom (Phillip Wong). Eleven’s love of Kellogg’s Eggos sparked a memory of a scene in Starman. When Starman (Jeff Bridges) eats Dutch Apple Pie in the roadside café, his reaction is priceless. Later in the film, Starman asks for Dutch Apple Pie again the way Eleven seeks out more tasty Eggos. Bottom-line, Eleven rules and like the boys, I would want her on my side.

The Science Teacher
Mr. Clarke (Randall P. Havens) is the epitome of the dedicated teacher. Some may overlook his contribution in Stranger Things, but it stood out to me because I am a teacher. Mr. Clarke is a science teacher and I am an English teacher, but we (Yes, I know he is fictional!) both pour our lives into our students. Since the show is set in 1983, he is not contacted on his cell phone via Google Classroom like I am, but he takes time away from his date (go Mr. Clarke!) to answer Dustin’s questions via landline.

Last but certainly NOT least; I will briefly touch on Barb (Shannon Purser). I cannot say too much as I want to keep this post spoiler-free; however, I will say Barb deserves more. From what I have seen on the internet after binge-watching the show, she IS getting lots of love. Barb, from yet another person who identifies with you, you are important and valued.

Mickster’s Holiday Funhouse:: The Cads, Creeps, Cretins, and Cruds of Christmas Movies Edition

Christmas is right around the corner and that means it’s about time for a holiday themed FUNHOUSE created and hosted by our old pal Mickster! In fact, this year marks the eighth anniversary of her very first KT contribution! Gee, It seems like only YESTERDAY. Anyhoozle, you best put on your thinking caps cuz Mickster’s got some tough cookies today. Good Luck!

Killer Scene:: Mickster on Fright Night’s Dance Seduction

It is hard to believe Fright Night is thirty this year! I was not lucky enough to see this fantastic film in the theater. I had to wait until it was released on VHS (sometime in 1987). The movie is a classic for many reasons. It has a great blend of comedy and horror. William Ragsdale is great as noisy neighbor, Charlie Brewster. Stephen Geoffreys is fantastic as Charlie’s sarcastic friend, Evil Ed. Amanda Bearse is exemplary as Charlie’s skeptical girlfriend, Amy Peterson. Roddy McDowell is perfect as the non-believing vampire hunter, Peter Vincent. Jonathan Stark is quite humorous as Jerry’s daytime guardian, Billy Cole. Dorothy Fielding is believably flaky as divorced mom, Judy Brewster.

But let me cut to the chase by saying the real reason I have watched this movie repeatedly over the years is Chris Sarandon‘s portrayal of the ultra sexy vampire, Jerry Dandrige. I have a problem. I cannot get enough of a particular scene from Fright Night…the nightclub seduction scene. I guess it is sad, but I have been waiting for that to happen to me since I first saw the movie. The thought of having Jerry Dandrige possess me on the dance floor is very appealing. Don’t judge me because this is my biggest fantasy (I know, I’m sad). Let’s examine the scene…

*Jerry expertly entices Amy to the dance floor.

*Jerry begins dancing with Amy, while she appears to be in a trance of the vampire persuasion.

*Jerry drops Amy; giving her the chance to escape, and seconds later, she turns around transformed.

*Hot dancing between Jerry and the newly transformed Amy ensues.

*Then that dolt, Charlie, tries to foul up this sexy moment by attempting to punch Jerry. Hope you enjoy that crushed hand, Charlie!

UNK SEZ: Hey, is it getting warm in Kindertrauma Kastle today? Aunt John and I would like to thank Alabama’s favorite daughter Mickster for taking time off of her busy teaching schedule (Yay teachers!) to stop by our humble abode and share this killer scene. If you have a favorite scene from a horror film, traumatic or not, feel free to send it in!

Mickster on:: Harper’s Island (2009)

It is hard to believe that Harper’s Island premiered six years ago on CBS. A thirteen-week slasher movie? For me, it was a horror fan’s dream come true. If you missed this treat when it originally aired, take my advice-run, do not walk, over to Netflix and binge-watch all thirteen episodes. Granted, I do not always make the best choices; for instance, my choice in husbands sucks, but for important things such as this, you can trust me. Even if you watched it six years ago, I encourage you to revisit this gem. I went into it the second time knowing the punch line, but my goal was to see if there were clues I missed the first time. Perhaps I should just list thirteen things about Harper’s Island that made it so fantastic and ahead of its time. (I was extremely careful not to include spoiler.)

1. Being an English teacher, I will begin with the first thing I noticed about the show. It was clearly inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (1939). An isolated island where people, many with secrets, start being murdered one by one definitely pays homage to Ms. Christie’s masterpiece as do most slasher films as I think the novel is the perfect template for such films.

2. In addition to the slasher features, it is an excellent who-done-it mystery. Even after a second viewing, I found no clues that the perpetrator was involved until near the end of episode 11. In fact, it did a great job using “red herrings” to distract the viewer.

3. Speaking of those red herrings, more than once during the series, I was convinced of the guilt of several characters only to have those characters murdered…then it was back to the drawing board!

4. Something else that Harper’s Island did well that slasher films usually do not have time to do is develop the characters. For instance, one stereotypical-looking blonde character went on to be more than I anticipated in the first episode meaning she was not the “dumb” blonde (this is coming from a blonde, BTW).

5. The concept that one season could tell one complete story is yet another reason Harper’s Island was way ahead of its time. Think about shows such as American Horror Story that have become so popular in the years since Harper’s Island. Sadly, this concept did not “jive” with the public in 2009.

6. Discovering in the first episode that no character was safe, even a well-known actor in a cast of lesser-known actors, let me know that all bets were off when it came time for killing. I remember thinking about this when I watched the first episode of Sleepy Hollow when a known actor was killed off in the first minutes of the show.

7. Having emotional reactions to the deaths of characters I had come to care about was something I had not anticipated the first time I watched the show. For instance, the deaths of one couple in particular left me sobbing. This couple in the first episode did not made an impact with me, but as the series progressed, I came to care very much about them, so when their time came, I was crushed.

8. The isolation and atmosphere of the setting added greatly to the suspense of the show. Knowing that these characters were essentially cut off from the outside world made my tension increase with each episode. A small island that can only be accessed by boat or aircraft, a big, creepy hotel with hidden passages, and a deep, dark forest with danger possibly hiding behind each tree was a prescription for terror!

9. Having a creepy, socially awkward child in the cast is always a plus. You just know that at some point a) they are going to say creepy things, “One by one” and b) are going to go missing at the worst possible time, “Has anyone seen _______?”

10. Keeping the identity of the killer hidden until almost the end was quite impressive to me. Typically, I can figure it out sooner, but like I said at the beginning (#2), it was near the end of episode 11 before I even suspected this individual.

11. Something else I found effective in the show was the characters did not discover anything was off until several characters were dead. Granted their technology was not as advanced as now, clever use of text messages led people to believe that certain characters had left, so they did not suspect foul play…at first.

12. A sense of betrayal made some of the last deaths more devastating. The fact that said characters trusted this individual without question (as I had as a viewer) made the reveal that much more heart wrenching.

13. Lastly, even though some found the eventual motive didn’t make sense, I was fine with it. Why, you may ask. Well, for thirteen weeks I was glued to my TV experiencing something I thought I never would-a “slasher movie” on network TV. So bravo to CBS for having the balls, nads, nards, or whatever you want to call them to do it!