kindertrauma random header image

...:::My own personal Jesus:::...

The Attic (1980)

November 17th, 2011 · 4 Comments

If you want to meet two of my favorite characters in the world of horror then you must watch producer/writer GEORGE (GAMES, RUBY) EDWARDS‘ lone directorial effort THE ATTIC. I can’t get enough of meek, noodle-legged ticking-time bomb Louise Elmore (Oscar-nominated CARRIE SNODGRESS in one of her best roles) and her snidely, cantankerous wheelchair-bound pop Wendell (Oscar winning dynamo RAY MILLAND throwing superfluous logs on my fan-fire.) I love observing their mutually draining and detrimental shackle bond twice as much as they appear to hate experiencing it. Interestingly this dysfunctional duo made an earlier appearance portrayed by different actors in 1973’s THE KILLING KIND. I’m forever grateful that TONY CRECHEALES and GEORGE EDWARDS who wrote both films found the two worthy of closer examination as in my world, these characters are welcome to sit at the same rotting picnic table as Baby Jane and Norman Bates.

Like Baby J. and Norman my ATTIC pals are trapped in the molasses of their own minds. The passing of time alone is horror enough for these under inflated floats that failed to keep up with the parade. Librarian lush Louise, once set to propel away from her father’s critical eye instead finds herself eking out scraps of purpose as his unappreciated caretaker, a punishment she bestowed upon herself for the crime of being abandoned at the altar. Although she dreams of escape, she is as tethered to her past as her father is to his chair. Her only release is found in hidden hooch, vivid murderous fantasies, one night flings with sailors, the occasional failed arson attempt and her ever-expanding monkey collection. Mercifully, she does meet a new friend (RUTH COX) who inspires her to break her routine but the introduction of light into Louise’s dark corner of the world illuminates a few truths she might have been better not to know. THE ATTIC is as tragic as anything can be that involves monkeys.

Some folks accuse THE ATTIC of not being a horror film at all but I say it only illustrates that the genre is less rigid than it is given credit for. Maybe there is little to no blood spill and maybe the few dry kills take place off screen, but that doesn’t dilute the general awfulness that befalls our tipsy protagonist. Released in 1980, during the height of the slasher boom, THE ATTIC is particularly and perhaps purposefully out of touch with the times; a fact made all the more clear when Louise attends a slasher film within the course of the film.

Late to the party though it may be, THE ATTIC and Louise are more in step with the spooky spinster flicks that came in the wake of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? Which makes sense considering our characters first appeared in a movie by CURTIS HARINGTON the director of both WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? and WHOEVER SLEW AUNTY ROO? It’s not the best pedigree if you’re looking to court a teen audience, but I like being reminded that once upon a time folks thought it was just as frightening to loose your mind as your head.

If I’m making THE ATTIC sound overly dowdy and maudlin then I’m not explaining it right. It’s actually one of the funniest movies in the world to me partially due to its intentional black humor and partially due to its high-pitched melodrama. I can’t help thinking that cult classics HAROLD AND MAUDE and WHERE’S POPPA? were of equal influence as the previously mentioned horror films as THE ATTIC shares those films affection for morbid levity, suspicion of parental authority and utilizing mellow seventies music as a Greek chorus to back up the action on screen.

Even though the film is humorous (and how could any movie that pairs an ape in a sailor suit against a grouchy MILLAND not be?) when it decides to nosedive into the well of horror, it does so with knowing assurance. Our final moments spent with Louise before the curtain falls are both uber-gothic and catastrophic. Perhaps, it’s all more creepy than actually scary, but that will depend on how frightening you find the idea of a life misspent crushing oneself to suit the whims of another. To me, horror doesn’t get much scarier than that.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror · My own personal Jesus

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!

[Read more →]

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

Streaming Alert:: Deadly Blessing (1981)

July 11th, 2011 · 7 Comments

I gotta thank good ol’ Mickster for sending me over to Hulu the other day because I wasn’t there more than a couple minutes before I bumped into DEADLY BLESSING (1981). Why does DEADLY BLESSING think that it can hide from me when it can’t? It looks pretty good as far as the picture goes, less grainy than my rusty VHS but it needs some work done for sure. The fact that it’s horribly cropped is made apparent during the opening credits as every other name that appears has portions lopped off. Poor DEADLY BLESSING has never found its way onto DVD somehow (at least not in my neck of the woods.) You’d think a movie directed by WES CRAVEN would garner a little more interest and respect. It’s not his best work of course but it’s far from his worst. If you look really closely, I think you can see little idea seedlings that will come into fruition on Elm Street.

Luscious MAREN JENSEN (of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fame) is Martha Schmidt. She and her hubby Jim (DOUG BARR of the often seen by me THE UNSEEN) are enjoying the country life and expecting their first child. The fly in their buttermilk is Jim’s estranged family members who do not approve of the marriage, wear creepy hats and chatter about demons and damnation all day. They look like the Amish but are called “Hittites” and I refuse to judge them because they revere ERNEST BORGNINE and are apposed to the wearing of short pants just like me. One day Jim dies in a mysterious tractor accident and Martha can only be cheered out of her mourning by the likes of SHARON STONE (of the legendary classic thriller SCISSORS) and SUSAN BUCKNER (who played Patty Simcox in GREASE.) Things get scary when MICHAEL BERRYMAN starts snooping about and people start swallowing spiders in their dreams, taking baths with snakes and receiving unsolicited egg deliveries from LISA HARTMAN (of the smash hit BEWITCHED spin-off TABITHA).

DEADLY BLESSING is loopy, semi-spooky fun albeit a little overstuffed. For a horror film released in 1981, it certainly marches to it own drummer (that reminds me, the nifty score comes care of JAMES HORNER the dude who did HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, ALIENS & SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES.) The story may not hold up to much close scrutiny but somehow the near constant shifts in direction and focus work in its favor. The setting allows for some rich atmosphere and you can tell CRAVEN had some fun playing around with the expansive openness of the location. In fact, I’d say there’s almost always eye candy on this table, whether it be the easy to look at cast, the rife with personality homestead or the weird off kilter paintings provided by HARTMAN’s engagingly oddball character.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for a movie that mixes slasher elements with a heavy occult vibe and you can just take out the “maybe” I started this sentence with. Not that it matters much, but I’m also madly in love with the poster art for DEADLY BLESSING. It’s just really cool and that’s coming from somebody with a generally indifferent attitude toward boobage.

Many feel, WES CRAVEN included, that DEADLY BLESSING’s tacked-on, producer-insisted ending betrays the film but I strangely don’t mind it at all. It’s just one more crazy wrinkle in a film full of many, so it hardly breaks the tone. Blaming the ending scene for making this movie bonkers is like having a heard of bulls trash your china shop and only getting mad at the last one out the door as they leave. I say that as a fan. I am soooo biased when it comes to this picture because I saw it at a certain age and it was one of the early R-rated horrors I caught in the theater. I still remember my wonderment and how mysterious and forbidden it all felt. It seemed that anybody in this movie could be murdered or take a bath wearing their underwear at any moment. This is a message movie really and the message is, “Look out for the incubus!” It is a message that is heartbreakingly still relevant today. I still don’t understand my attraction fully. I still don’t understand a lot of things, but I do understand that you can watch it for free HERE.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror · My own personal Jesus

John Carpenter’s The Ward

July 7th, 2011 · 17 Comments

It’s safe to say that JOHN CARPENTER is my favorite director of all time. I may have been more fascinated by CRONENBERG for a wee while, but that was only during my artsy phase. CARPENTER has made the majority of my favorite films and I have returned to and watched his movies over again a zillion times. So really, I came to this conclusion using simple math. I admit I was a bit cautious approaching his latest, THE WARD but considering I count myself among the few who appreciated GHOSTS OF MARS, I figured my chances of being outraged enough to throw a trash can through a pizza shop window were slim. I wasn’t expecting a tour de force, just a competent work with a few adornments that high-fived his previous films. So what if he lost some zing and vitality? I wasn’t feeling too hot myself. In other words, my expectations were not too high or too low. I’ve already gotten so much from this filmmaker that demanding much more felt like being an ungracious turd.

No need for plot details, it’s basically GIRL INTERRUPTED…BY A GHOST! Most of the film runs smooth as silk and desperation free. It looks crispy clean in general and J.C.’s lovely signature is present and clearly legible. The atmosphere is not especially strong for ghostly subject matter but select moments hit the right uncanny nerve. The man has an eye and that eye still impresses; there’s a bounty of wonderful shots all filled with his exquisite affection for lines and angles. I will assume that the film would have benefited some from a score by CARPENTER himself but a CARPENTER-approved score will have to suffice. (Did I hear a nod toward SUSPIRIA?)

I also really dig the cast, AMBER HEARD is all types of engaging, both beautiful and convincingly staunch. MAMIE GUMMER, as a quirky inmate, reminds me of a young MERYL STREEP and that I’m blaming on her mom, MERYL STREEP. JARED HARRIS is outstanding as a Loomis-y shrink leaning on nuts himself. I’d love to see him become a recurring CARPENTER player as PLEASENCE and ATKINS have done before him. I think this is a fantastic movie up to a point…

The problem is the script and more precisely, the end of the script. The film follows familiar paths and that is fine and dandy but then all the sudden it tramps things up big time with a highly irritating, borderline excruciating twist. I had such a good time with the HALLOWEEN II-ish setting, the FOG-zombie ghost, THE THING-esque group dynamics and CARPENTER’s overall swoopy snug as a straightjacket style that I thought I could forgive the insulting “reveal” but then something worse happened, something that I’m still trying to reconcile.

The film ends with (and you can’t spoil the already rotten) a goddamn medicine cabinet scare! Have you ever gone on a perfect date and then at the end of the evening the so and so bends to kiss you and their breath smells like roadkill? It’s not a good way to leave things. I can’t be too hard on a movie that is mostly good. I suppose if it was released twenty years ago, it would have curled my toes and buttered my English muffin. The good news is that CARPENTER still has the serious chops and honestly I’ll take this movie before many a recent offering from some of his peers. Now, somebody please get this poor guy a script with an ending that doesn’t make me sneeze. I’m allergic to mold!

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · Enough with the medicine cabinets! · General Horror · My own personal Jesus

Streaming Alert! :: Black Death (2010)

July 3rd, 2011 · 5 Comments

BLACK DEATH is one seriously hearty, satisfying movie. Damn everybody who has already seen it and neglected to demand I do the same. It is set during a nasty time period when nobody could get cable television but they could get the Bubonic plague. A young monk trapped in a love triangle with a beautiful girl and God joins up with a group of soldiers lead by the excellent SEAN BEAN in search of a rumored village where folks are fancy with necromancy and can resurrect the dead.

BLACK DEATH could be described as a horror adventure. I hesitate to reveal anything more because a marvelous part of the experience involves imagining what might lie on the path ahead. My only advice is to keep an open mind and to try to see things from as many sides as possible because it really thickens the broth of this stew. I don’t know (or care) how accurate it may be, but I do know it’s rub-your-eyes gorgeous often, exciting as hell in places, and ultimately surprisingly profound. I plan to write Valentines to all involved.

BLACK DEATH was directed by CHRISTOPHER SMITH, (CREEP, SEVERANCE, TRIANGLE) an accelerating talent who has yet to disappoint me. Because it concerns religion an added bonus is that once the film is done, you can go on to its IMDb message board and marvel at the wide variety of interpretations from brilliant to batshit crazy. Trust me, it may look like homework but it tastes like a feast and I guarantee this Netflix Streaming pick is better than anything playing in your local theater. Trust me, I’m not kidding. Watch it!

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · My own personal Jesus · Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert!

The Rapture (1991)

May 21st, 2011 · 9 Comments

Is the world over yet? Is it okay if I am disappointed either way? I don’t mind being left behind and unchosen as long as I get some answers. I’m used to being picked last and if God turns out to be some giant bully in the sky collecting belief and love like lunch money, I’m fine with that. Honestly if I were God, I wouldn’t care if anyone believed in me at all, I’d stomp out the human race as a failed experiment regardless and leave the Earth to the plants and animals. I wouldn’t stand for modern culture mucking up my terrarium. I’d ferment all the fruit in the trees and let the monkeys and elephants get wasted! It’s not like they have to drive home or anything. If God created drunk caterpillars, willow trees and fish tacos then I certainly do love him but am I really expected to worship an entity who is more passive-aggressive than me? It’s difficult.

1991’s MICHAEL TOLKIN film THE RAPTURE is simply unforgettable which makes it all the more strange that it is mostly forgotten; I guess asking questions and not saying exactly what people want to hear isn’t the best way to be popular-who knew? MIMI ROGERS brings new meaning to the word revelation as Sharon, a woman bored out of her skull by her stupid job who has a bunch of random sex because it’s almost like not feeling bored anymore. One day she notices that folks who have found God are even happier than folks who have foursomes that include DAVID DUCHOVNY and so she decides to get born again. God’s love has a price though and soon the invisible taskmaster is forcing her to jump through many a hoop. I’ve watched enough Oprah to identify a toxic relationship when I see one. Face it Sharon, he’s just not that into you.

When I first saw THE RAPTURE it shook me like a shake weight. No matter what your personal beliefs are it is sure to challenge them. Rather than painting Sharon as a loon waiting for a ship that never comes in, it pushes her smack dab into the middle of the apocalypse, trumpets blaring and all. Yes, the end of the world does arrive as predicted but not before Sharon has lost everything that made the world’s destruction worth giving a crap about. I think Sharon’s spiritual journey is rather an admirable one. What’s infinitely less admirable is the fact that once she has a child, she drags her offspring along for the ride too. She’s not a bad person, it’s just that her belief system has painted her into a corner where critical thinking is no longer an option. To even question God is an act of treachery. Her faith is strong just not strong enough to withstand a moments scrutiny.

Because it concerns religion, THE RAPTURE is sure to offend some folks but writer/director TOLKIN is hardly being provocative for the sake of being provocative. The film takes its subject matter seriously and has a sincere curiosity about exactly what the unequivocal existence of God would mean. THE RAPTURE bypasses the usual stalemate of belief vs. non-belief and jumps ahead to the next ladder rung. God exists alright but he has some serious explaining to do. Judgment Day arrives but, in a crazy switch-a-roo, it is God who is judged. It may seem blasphemous to some but if the act of wondering and questioning is a sin then damn me now. I don’t know what God you believe in, but mine can handle some constructive criticism without a hissy fit.

You really do not have to believe in anything to enjoy THE RAPTURE besides good storytelling and the power of film. Somehow its low-budget makeshift end of the world is emotionally devastating on an epic scale. TOLKIN’s insistence that the demolition of one spirit be accountable for, coupled with ROGER’s undaunted performance is ultimately as moving as any hymn. If THE MIST got you hot under the collar than you might want to take a rain check but if you welcome an investigation into the spiritual without the usual cowardly boundaries I say step forward, there’s no reason to linger in limbo.

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Insanity · My own personal Jesus · Tykes in Trouble

Night Gallery Tale :: Brenda

April 13th, 2011 · 10 Comments

I just caught another NIGHT GALLERY segment that I found just as intriguing as the brilliant “Silent Snow, Secret Snow.” It’s not particularly scary but it ended up building a little nest of perplexed disquiet in my head anyway. It’s called “Brenda” and it is the second half of the seventh episode of season two. It’s based on a short story by female sci-fi author MARGARET ST. CLAIR. I point out her gender because during a time when most female genre writers hid behind gender neutral pen names, Margaret was all like, “Aw hells no!”



“Brenda”
is about a fruit loop named Brenda who could write a book called “How to Lose Friends and Aggravate People.” The girl is a brat, such a brat that she purposely destroys a sandcastle and not just any sandcastle, mind you, but a sand castle constructed by America’s sweetheart PAMELYN FERDIN. Who the hell is obnoxious enough to do that? Brenda is, that’s who! Although I somewhat hate Brenda, her zero concern about popularity and the perceptions of others I find absolutely thrilling to behold. Actress LAURIE PRANGE is way too old to be playing the part but that just makes her behavior appear more outrageously asinine and underlines the aggravated arrested development that fuels the tale.

One day while strolling in the woods and basking in her own awfulness, Brenda bumps into a creature more horrific than herself, is frightened and then profoundly captivated. In fact, she meets my all time favorite type of monster, a shambling pile of mossy tethers who skulks around like Bigfoot. I love swamp monsters! I’m not sure if it stems from the KOLCHAK “Spanish Moss Murders” episode, D&D, or SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT but my admiration is such that I have painted many a portrait of these amorphous archetypal beasts. In other words, Brenda and I are remarkably on the same page at this point of the story. At first Brenda traps the creature in a giant hole and sparks a realization that everything going on here kind of resembles the Kinder-fave movie entitled THE PIT (1981). Eventually she aids in its escape and devilishly leaves her front door open so that the weird thing can follow her home and terrorize her parents in the middle of the night. Hey, I’m starting to like this girl!

After a night of wreaking somewhat passive havoc across the island community Brenda and her parents are vacationing in, the monster goes back to the pit, covers itself in a stony cocoon and hits the hay. Brenda is heartbroken by the creature’s retreat and the knowledge that her family will be splitting soon and may never return. Seasons come and go, a year passes and Brenda returns more mature and less impish and scampy. You’ll find no shocker twist here, just Brenda hugging the stones that represent her once animated friend and declaring her eternal love and affection. I don’t know what to think except that the monster is a physical representation of the self-alienated Brenda’s charged relationship with her own crazy imagination. It goes into hibernation as she becomes more adult but she is thankful and secure in the knowledge that it lies waiting if needed.

In a way I feel this entry is a perfect companion piece to the previously mentioned “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”; I can’t be 100% sure about the address of its final destination but I know it’s on the corner of Lonely Lane and Insanity Street. I love this type of horror/fantasy storytelling; it backs up my theory that if you want to learn what it means to be human, your best source of information is a monster.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror · Kinder-Spotlight · My own personal Jesus · Telenasties · The Seventies mushed my head · Tykes in Trouble

Unk’s Most Favorite Horror Scores

March 30th, 2011 · 29 Comments

UNK SEZ: I don’t know if these are the best scores (Hey, where’s Tubular Bells?!) but they are my personal favorites. Hope I didn’t neglect too many! BTW, both TENTACLES and THE VISITOR just barely missed the cut!

SUSPIRIA (GOBLIN)

Let’s just get this one taken care of immediately. How can any list of horror scores not include this madness? So big, so brazen it nearly kicks the movie itself right off the screen! No small feat!

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (WOJIECH KILAR)

A good score lets you know what’s going down right off the bat. Sure this film is plenty romantic but KILAR’s work makes sure you remember there’s plenty of anger and vengeance seeping through its veins as well.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (LANCE RUBIN)

LANCE RUBIN is not only the name of me after I marry JENNIFER RUBIN, but it is also the name of the guy who did the score for one of my favorite slashers. The music box combo of sweet and creepy weaves throughout the film and culminates in a memorable theme song sung by SYREETA! If RUBIN’s work sounds a tad familiar it may be due to his talent lodging in another classic, MOTEL HELL!

PHANTASM (FRED MYROW & MALCOLM SEAGRAVE)

THE SHINING used to have this spot until I found out that most of its music is not original to the film. That’s alright, I was feeling bad about leaving out PHANTASM anyway and now I don’t have to. Listen to how sad it is! It sounds like the seventies and it sounds like rain and it makes me want to go on a tandem bicycle excursion with KAREN CARPENTER. Shit, that makes me think of THE ATTIC and how I should have put THE ATTIC in here as well. Damn self-imposed deadlines!

CAT PEOPLE (GIORGIO MORODER)

MORODER is the man and his soundtrack for PAUL SCHRADER’s Meow Mix is something y’all need to get your paws on. Its influence is still felt to this day in fact, the band GOLDFRAPP recently admitted that their last album was strongly influenced by MORODER’s efforts here! That’s some staying power!

THE THING (ENNIO MORRICONE)

Wow. I guess you know you kind of rule when JOHN CARPENTER decides to hand over musical duties to you rather than tackling them himself. Well, MORRICONE is a legend and his minimalistic, heartbeat mimicking, icy cold contribution to CARPENTER’s film fits like a snug glove.

PSYCHO II (JERRY GOLDSMITH)

Talk about big shoes to fill. (Not that anyone involved in the making of this sequel didn’t have more than their work cut out for them.) JERRY GOLDSMITH pays homage to and follows trails paved by the great BERNARD HERRMANN but he adds something uniquely his own too. Almost as if in cahoots with ANTHONY PERKINS‘ performance, GOLDSMITH sways you toward the tragic and sympathetic side of Norman Bates’ soul. Look out! Once in your head, very hard to evict!

CARRIE (PINO DONAGGIO)

Speaking of BERNARD HERRMANN, composer PINO DONAGGIO does a fine job of tipping his hat toward the guy too. Sure, screechy stabby violins will always owe a debt to PSYCHO but PINO brings an extraordinary sincere velvet dark melancholy to the table too. I know this score like the back of my hand and I love it even though some of the creepy church vibes bring back strange unwanted memories of the DAVEY AND GOLIATH show. Aw, that reminds me I should not have forgotten CARNIVAL OF SOULS on this list either! I’ll just shove it in here. Cassie won’t mind, er, I mean Carrie…

CANDYMAN (PHILIP GLASS)

Not everybody digs PHILIP GLASS but you have to admit that he’s an inspired choice for the soundtrack to CANDYMAN. His signature repetitive synth blips reek of urban insect existence. I’m gonna rate this baby extra high on originality alone and for the simple fact that “Helen’s Theme” may be one of the most beautiful things that ever happened to my ridiculous ears. Here be the proverbial bee’s knees…

THE FOG (JOHN CARPENTER)

Number one score for me forever for sure. I know CARPENTER’s HALLOWEEN theme will always shadow over his other fine work but the truth is, on an emotional level it can’t really hold a candle to what he accomplishes with THE FOG score. Sometimes gentle, slight and ethereal, sometimes pounding like a primal alarm to flee. It does more than set the mood, it blankets you in the otherworldly and it does not let go as it pushes you further and further away from safety. To put it simply, THE FOG score sounds like a ghost story being told without words…

UNK SEZ: that’s my top ten folks but wait I’m not done yet! Here are TWO EXTRA BONUS TRACKS!

My choice for outstanding opening theme song goes to ROSEMARY’S BABY by KRZYSTOF KOMEDA featuring MIA FARROW!

…And my choice for most annoying theme song goes to TOURIST TRAP! I love you TOURIST TRAP (and PINO DONAGGIO) but once I fell asleep with your DVD in the player and woke up to a menu screen playing this track over and over and I just about lost what little of my mind I had left.

[Read more →]

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · General Horror · Horror Scores · Kinder-Topix · My own personal Jesus

Silent Snow, Secret Snow

March 24th, 2011 · 14 Comments

First of all, allow me to suggest that if you are up late at night looking for something to watch, yet you feel you can’t commit yourself to an entire film, then the answer to your dilemma is NIGHT GALLERY on Hulu. So there, THAT possible future problem is solved. I know because that is exactly the position I found myself in the other evening and I wish I had just jumped into GALLERY earlier rather than wasting so much time being indecisive. The episode I viewed contained a segment that was perfect for throwing my brain a bone to gnaw on as it closed up shop for the night. I’m talking about season two, episode five “The Phantom Farmhouse/Silent Snow, Secret Snow.” “Phantom Farmhouse” is fine enough but it’s “Silent Snow” I want to trudge through here.

Actually for more on that NIGHT GALLERY segment, just jump on over to the always necessary HAUNTED CLOSET over HERE ( & watch it HERE!), that way I can focus on an earlier version (‘66) that I found which is of equal interest. It can’t boast an ORSON WELLES narration and the acting may be a bit off but what it lacks in polish it makes up for with sheer creepiness. As it turns out both tellings were directed and adapted by the same guy GENE R. KERNEY so don’t feel you’re stepping on toes if you prefer one to the other. The NIGHT GALLERY version is certainly slicker but who can deny the unquestionable emotional power of black and white? Check it out in two parts below…

NOTE: The end kinda cuts off the final line: “We’ll tell you the last most beautiful and secret story. A story that gets smaller and smaller, that comes inward, instead of opening like a flower. It is a flower that becomes a seed, a little cold seed. Do you hear? We are leaning closer to you…”

How about that? It’s like an after school special directed by DAVID LYNCH with a casting assist from JOHN WATERS. It’s wild how closely it resembles the later version yet has a distinguishable vibe all it’s own. After viewing both renditions I thought I’d read the original 1934 CONRAD AIKEN story too (find that HERE). The story ends with this even more provocative line: “The hiss was now becoming a roar-the whole world was a vast moving screen of snow-but even now it said peace, it said remoteness, it said cold, it said sleep.” Like the snow it speaks about, I couldn’t get the story itself out of my head. What is going on here? Is the kid going crazy and if so, why does crazy sound so fucking great to me? I sense that I should be feeling a dread that the protagonist is slipping away from reality and yet the words used are so exuberant that I can’t help mentally congratulating the child on successfully adopting the fine art of escape.

I’ll blame the world for my reaction, disasters both natural and man-made, a twisted soulless culture that worships the blatantly superficial, pure hate masquerading as morality …VICTORIA JACKSON. Ah, the snow, is the snow really so bad in comparison? The snow truly is beautiful and clean and it washes it all away. Some folks rashly believe that the kid in the story is buckling under advancing schizophrenia (or autism), but I just see a good ol’ fashioned dissociative disorder galloping up to save the day. School sucks and that child wasn’t born to entertain his parents, why not take a little snowy holiday in his brain? Am I just playing Devil’s advocate when I say that there’s not much wrong here and what a lucky dude for finding a trap door? If you ask me, it’s as beautiful as a Tommy Ross poem. O.K. so there’s a scary PINK FLOYD “Comfortably Numb” element as well, but did someone say sleep? Sleep sounds nice. Maybe it’s me but I detect a valiant rejection of the mundane, a refusal to accept the norm and the understandable desire to commission beauty to counteract an ugly world. Reality shmeality I always say. No, serious I do always say that.

Truth told I had my own “secret snow” as a kid. On a trip to Universal Studios I discovered a machine that when activated with a quarter poured hot red wax into a mold and after a couple minutes of cooling, dispensed a too fragile, wax Frankenstein figurine. Now this was in grade school when horrible children brattier than even myself would call me Frankenstein because I had a scar on my forehead so this figurine doubled as an identity totem. Whenever a situation got scary or worse, lethally boring, I simply imagined a hole on the top of my head and red wax being poured into my body. It would start in my toes and rise until it started spilling out of the crown of my head. Another problem solved! While filled with my imaginary wax I could bare just about anything and the problems of the day would Calgon blur away. Oh, Frankenstein figure why’d you have to go and break into pieces? I guess I could have survived without my secret but is there anything more important than finding something in life that allows you to forge a private alliance with yourself? It’s entirely possible that I am missing the whole point of the story, on the other hand the snow falling on my keyboard is encouraging me to think whatever I like.

[Read more →]

Tags: Book Reports · Caution: I break for geniuses! · My own personal Jesus · The Seventies mushed my head · Tykes in Trouble

Screams of a Winter Night

February 3rd, 2011 · 17 Comments

Crudely directed, under written, poorly acted… say what you will, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT casts a long shadow in my psyche regardless. Slinking out of Louisiana circa 1979, this micro-budgeted, PG-rated horror anthology may be amateurish in its execution but I think it exudes a strange dark aura as well. My slant may be stained by sentimentality but even as I chuckle during a re-watch at its dated hokeyness and ragged edges, behind my condescension lays a bubbling feeling of unease. This oldster caught SCREAMS in the theater at a young age and it did something more exotic than yank-scare me with the grotesque, it quietly contaminated me with the serious creeps. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the rules of horror echo the rules of real estate… location, location, location.

Plowing ahead of many a future horror film to an isolated cabin locale, SCREAMS also paves the roadway in anticipation for the type of open canvas, paint-your -own nightmare horror of THE BLAIR WITCH. Perhaps budgetary restrictions are to thank but this is a movie that shows you very little and lets your imagination do the maniacal math. The opening credits establish the schema; we are shown a black screen and hear terrors unfold with howling winds badgering in the background. Much of what we witness throughout the rest of the film is almost equally vague, elusive or inconclusive. Fittingly the tales in this anthology are not preoccupied with physical violence but spiral around the dread of insanity. Death takes a back seat to losing your mind.

Five couples hit the woods for a weekend. Gas station loitering locals (including a young WILLIAMFRIGHT NIGHTRAGSDALE ) do their best to shoo them off with scorn and warnings. Once snug in their crusty cabin abode the couples entertain themselves swapping stories of the uncanny. The stories get the best of them and some elemental Indian wind demon comes to pay a visit. I know it’s very slight and to be honest the stories exchanged are pretty weak but they’re just weird enough to bite. The first is a hoary urban legend crossed with a Bigfoot tale, the second a standard haunted house bit with an unnerving payoff involving a green light bulb (?!) and the third is an antiquated, sexual repression makes ladies bonkers riff. Still, as presented, with the cabin dwellers playing double duty performing in the vignettes, an accelerated tone of dread is subtly established. The wrap around story’s conclusion, complete with whipping leaves and screams weaving into howling winds, makes for a chaotic lingering close.

Horror tends to be a lot like humor. You can claim your tastes and try to sophisticate your palate but there’s a knee jerk response that bypasses the intellectual. What I really think it comes down to is identification. Why do I find BLAIR WITCH hypnotic and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY a snore? If I take a step back my best guess is that I recognize the people occupying BLAIR and the characters in P.A. may as well be holograms from another planet to me. When I went to go see SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT back in the day, I did so with a group of my older cousins and with their large glasses, plaid shirts and wonky seventies hairdos; they resembled the characters that I saw on screen to a tee. No, I did not want an iron chandelier to fall on my cousin Audrey’s head like what happened to the Audrey avatar in the movie.

Another element of SCREAMS that I appreciate is the anecdotal aspect and the way it understands how a well-spun tale can alter the air in the room. My father was (and is) a great storyteller who could leave you hanging on his every word and he took some joy in freaking me and my brothers and cousins out with his nutzo ghost yarns. Even as an adult I am hyper aware of the way a group of people can whip themselves into a paranoid froth exchanging ghost, U.F.O. or local mugging and crime stories. You get to the point where you are afraid to walk home or if you are home, you might find yourself having to watch a sitcom to settle down to Earth before you hit the sack. Oh, I love that feeling. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more likely to change the subject and whistle past the graveyard thinking, “If we keep talking this way, it’ll happen to us! We’re attracting disaster! We’re next!” That’s what I think this movie captures that I love, frumpily tacked together though it may be, it ensnarls that weird feeling you get when you’ve freaked yourself out over nothing…

SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT has sadly never materialized on DVD and I’m thinking most VHS copies have probably found permanent homes. Luckily it is available on the YouTubes as we speak but for who knows how long. Stand warned though, this bargain basement production is a gritty watch and its PG-scares are more implied than all up in your grill. On the other hand if you have an inclination towards seventies era drive-in fare and can look past the cracks in the plaster, it warrants a dipping. I can’t guarantee you’ll feel the same unease that I did way back when (not to mention two days ago) but maybe it will bring back to your mind a scary story of your own.

[Read more →]

Tags: General Horror · My own personal Jesus · The Seventies mushed my head