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...:::Repeat Offenders:::...

The Fury

July 15th, 2009 · 10 Comments

depalma's the fury

Nothing can really put a damper on some quality father-son bonding time on the beach quite like an assassination attempt. One minute Peter and Robin Sandza (KIRK DOUGLAS & ANDREW STEVENS) are rolling on top of one another, topless in the sandy surf and then, before you can say, “Dad get off me, people are starting to stare!”, supposed friend and colleague Ben Childress (JOHN CASSAVETES) orchestrates a failed hit on Peter with a dozen or so men in Iron Sheik regalia wielding Uzis. An army of Arabians with automatic weapons is clearly no match for KIRK DOUGLAS (I mean really, who is?) and he does manage to permanently injure CASSAVETES arm, thus necessitating the use of a dapper, black arm sling for the remainder of the film; however, CASSAVETES makes off with boy wonder Robin, a young man whose flawlessly feathered hair and dashing good looks are only surpassed by his telekinetic powers. CASSAVETES runs one of those unnamed, shadowy government agencies exploring the use of telekinesis as potential super weapon in the quest for world dominance, and STEVENS is the heir apparent to the atomic bomb.
depalma's the fury

Meanwhile, across the globe at an elite private girl’s school in Chicago, it is discovered during one of those psychic power presentations that were so prevalent in high schools in the ‘70s that teen Gillian Bellaver (AMY IRVING) can use telekinetic alpha waves to derail a toy train set. More disturbing than her disregard for Lionel locomotives is Gillian’s inexplicable ability to cause spontaneous hemorrhaging with the touch of her hand. In the name of science, a parlor trick of this magnitude requires investigation, and IRVING willingly submits to observation and intense study at the Paragon Clinic run by Dr. McKeever (the reliably slimy CHARLES DURNING).
depalma's the fury

At first, everything seems hunky dory at the Paragon Clinic; IRVING becomes fast friends with staff nurse Hester (Unkle Lancifer’s undying crush CARRIE SNODGRESS) and two share a smile over ice cream sundaes. Of course, the Paragon Clinic is nothing more than a grooming stable for the aforementioned shadow agency run by CASSAVETES, and before long IRVING starts receiving psychic transmissions from STEVENS who’s being studied at some lavish mansion across town under the care of Dr. Susan Charles (FIONA LEWIS, or as I like to call her, the poor-man’s SAMANTHA EGGAR).
depalma's the fury

In one of those “It’s a small world after all” plot points, DOUGLAS resurfaces as SNODGRESS’ paramour, and he uses her to get to IRVING to get her to help him get to STEVENS. Does that make sense? Regardless, that’s how it plays out in the final act and the reunion of father and son is (SPOILER ALERT!) tragic. IRVING, who spends the bulk of the finale sobbing and being (how do I put this delicately?) an all around spaz, delivers one of the most explosively ecstatic final girl scenes, firmly securing her place on Aunt John’s short list of cine-magical moment makers (full list to follow one of these days):

Directed by the once genius BRIAN DePALMA, THE FURY is well worth a lookie-loo. Watching it for the first time today, your Aunt John was fully expecting the trademark DePALMA split-screen camera tricks that dominated his earlier works SISTERS and CARRIE. And don’t get me wrong; I am a huge fan of the way he does it, no one does it better. Surprisingly, this never happened in THE FURY and I have to commend him for the innovative (at the time) sequence involving IRVING and DURNING on the stairwell of the Paragon Clinic. Nowadays such things would be shot using C.G.I, and I did hit the pause button to see if there was that telltale green-screen line around IRVING’s figure, but I couldn’t see it. Also, DePALMA gets major points in my book for effectively utilizing a musical score to manipulate the tension during pivotal action sequences. Case in point, IRVING’s escape, with the help of SNODGRESS, from the Paragon Clinic (Note to UNK: Do Not Watch THIS!). Mad props to you Mr. DePALMA for creating another cinematic chestnut, but to quote JANET JACKSON, “What have you done for me lately?” And this not to say that he owes me anything, but did anyone really make it through BLACK DAHLIA satisfied? Really?

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Tags: Repeat Offenders

An American Werewolf in London

July 7th, 2009 · 8 Comments

I suppose it was only a matter of time until a remake was announced for 1981s AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. It’s only one of the best horror films ever made so I’m sort of surprised it took them this long. (I guess its lackluster 1997 “sequel” AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS probably slowed things down.) All I know is that no matter how good the remake might end up, it will never have the atomic bomb effect on me that the original did. You see, that crazy movie had the nerve to land smack dab in the middle of a horror movie that was happening in my own life: a horror movie called “puberty”. Although that time period is far, far in the rear view mirror, AMERICAN WEREWOLF will always bring to my mind the fear of losing control of my body and the confusing rush of energy that made me kind of like it.

I realize that the interwebs are the ultimate mixed company, so I’ll spare you the gruesome details and keep my paws on the table at all times. The sad, dreary, basic truth is that JOHN LANDIS’ lycanthropic opus pushed sweet innocent me off a cliff and I have not seen that poor creature since. Up until then adulthood was a destination that I thought was cater made for unimaginative rubes. The prospect of jumping on the coffin conveyer belt did not appeal to me in the slightest. You could pitch fame and fortune to me until the cows came home; I did not care; I wanted to be alone with my STAR WARS figurines. The shower scene in AMERICAN WEREWOLF between DAVID NAUGHTON and JENNY AGUTTER changed all that; this mortal coil now had my full attention. Sure, I was still torn between which of those fine thespians to ogle, but I rightfully figured that eventually that would all come out in the wash.

Truth be told, the avalanche of early eighties body transformation movies ALL seemed to be directly speaking to my guilt ridden, yet wide-eyed and bushy-tailed libido in training wheels; CAT PEOPLE (If you touch me I’ll turn into a monster!) THE HOWLING (Everybody is in on this secret except me!) THE BEAST WITHIN (My parents must never know of the creature I’ve become!),VIDEODROME ( Holy crap. I’m like a RICK JAMES level Super Freak!) and even JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (A young me stands up in class, raises his hand and says, ”Here!”) The general that lead this dysmorphic brigade though, had to have been none other than AMERICAN WEREWOLF. Gosh, they even ventured inside a porno movie theater in that one, plus it was the first time I ever heard the term “quickie.”

Putting lasciviousness aside, AMERICAN WEREWOLF successfully popped the top off of every other bottle in my six-pack as well. It scared the living daylights out of me (I still remember the spooky, at dusk, trek home after the movie.) It made me laugh my head off with sick glee (The dead woman in the movie theater smiling through bloody teeth helpfully offering, “You just put the gun to your forehead and pull the trigger!” as a way for our hero to escape his dilemma, still cracks me up), and, call me a softy, but the authentic affection shared between NAUGHTON and AGUTTER actually did seem like a worthwhile experience to shelve my action figures for. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to incorporate all of these divergent elements together so smoothly but while JOHN LANDIS was kicking my ass out of childhood, he made a kick ass movie as well, one whose potency might be very hard to emulate in this day and age. Good luck remake people! You’ll need it!

NOTE: It is important to note that Mr. DAVID NAUGHTON was successfully able to elbow JENNY AGUTTER out of the ogle race eventually (not that the WALKABOUT star didn’t put up a good fight). What can I say? I guess was born to be a “Pepper!”

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Tags: Repeat Offenders

Final Destination Marathon

June 29th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Do you know what traumatizes me as an adult? Thinking you know somebody and then suddenly finding out that they are an utter stranger. Case in point, I recently discovered that one Aunt John had never seen ANY of the FINAL DESTINATION films. What is that all about? Doesn’t that seem like a fact that one should disclose early on in a relationship? How did this slip by me? What other cultural blind spot is he hiding? Next I’ll be finding out that he has never seen CHOPPING MALL!

Luckily such a blistering personality flaw is easily repaired with a white-hot, non-stop FINAL DESTINATION MARATHON and that is exactly what took place within the cat fur carpeted halls of Kindertrauma Manor this weekend (a weekend that due to back to back tragedies in the real world, will be forever henceforth known as “THE WEEKEND OF DEATH“).

You see, Aunt John simply had to be schooled in the last decade’s greatest horror franchise as soon as possible, especially if I was going to drag him to FD‘s 3-D fourth installment this summer. The good thing was that I did not have to worry about whether or not A.J. would take a shining to the series because I knew that the disaster film elements inherent within them would be simply irresistible to him. Sure the series is sans cameos of B-grade stars like HELEN REDDY and GARY COLLINS but things blow up and they blow up real good.

I’ll save you dear readers individual synopsis of each of the three films on account of they are all for the most part wonderfully the same (if it ain’t broke…) At the beginning of each film a character has a vivid premonition of a disaster that kills a bunch of folks that are in the wrong place at the wrong time. That character then warns and saves a small group of these individuals from their fates. Next, “death” represented as a mostly invisible force, gets all pissed and kills them all anyway in exceedingly elaborate and devilishly gruesome ways (please give me one brownie point for not mentioning Rube “no relation to Whoopsie” Goldberg). In other words, some absolute genius out there figured out a way for you to see the same characters killed twice(!) in one horror move. What’s not to love?

My favorite aspect of the series is the fact that it does not shy away from the actual horror and fear of dying. In all three films there is a palpable sense of mortality that is sadly missing from most modern horror (and especially the film’s contemporaries.) Characters are required to be aware of their impending downfall and to squirm like flies in a spider web waiting for the scythe to fall. These are also films that incite a lingering paranoia within the viewer (I am always particularly careful not to walk in front of buses after having viewed the first installment.) In addition, they all inspire you to be hyper aware of “signs” and to look for double meanings within the everyday. In my opinion any movie that makes you see the world around you differently is called “art” even if it does incorporate someone almost choking on a rubber fish and sometimes involves a JOHN DENVER tune being used as a harbinger of doom.

Anywho, Aunt John did love the series all in all. We both agreed that the third and most financially successful of the group is the weakest (but still worthy) and that the best death belonged to JONATHAN CHERRY in the second film where he got spliced apart by a flying wire fence. We both cooed over KRISTEN CLOKE, gave props to ALI LARTER and laughed when that kid got flattened by a falling plate of glass. We both recognized the dude from LIVING SINGLE and balked at the duel tanning booth deaths, yet were impressed by how the tanning beds dissolved into coffins at a funeral. Gee, now that I think about it, maybe I really do know do know that Aunt John after all.

NOTE: Speaking of the KRISTEN CLOKE, the reason I carry such a torch for her is because of her stint on the second season of CHRIS CARTER‘s MILLENNIUM in which she co-stared opposite my hero in life LANCE HENRIKSEN. The below scene is one of the coolest things that I have ever seen on television (plus it kind of fits in with the whole “death” theme.)…

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Tags: Repeat Offenders

The Brood

May 10th, 2009 · 8 Comments

Oh THE BROOD, how I love thee. Is there any better horror film for Mother’s Day than THE BROOD? Is there any better horror film for any day than THE BROOD? From Kindertrauma’s inception, we’ve always felt a keen bond with this CRONENBERG masterpiece. Here is a film that deals with two of our favorite pet themes, “Tykes in Trouble” and “Kids Who Kill” (albeit mutant kids) and although we’ve mentioned it in numerous posts, we’ve yet to really stop and give it the proper attention it deserves. Why? Because I have been way too scared to. THE BROOD, like much of CRONENBERG’s work, is just so damn interesting on so many levels that it has always attracted absolutely fascinating discussions from minds much sharper than my own. How could little old me objectively examine something so grand when my gut instinct is to just bow down and kiss its feet? I guess I’m just going to have to man up because we need a proper THE BROOD post up in here and it’s not going to write itself. So here goes kids, I’m throwing my propeller beanie into the ring…

ART HINDLE plays Frank Carveth a guy with many an issue, the least of which is the fact that he seems to own only one pair of corduroys. Frank discovers wounds on his young daughter Candace’s back and suspects that they came courtesy of his strange, estranged and partially deranged ginger-ex Nola (perfectly cast hand grenade in a housecoat SAMANTHA EGGAR.) At the time Nola is undergoing unconventional therapy in a safe trap house called the Somafree Clinic, and any question as to whether this treatment will be beneficial is answered by the fact that Nola’s Doctor, Hal Raglan, is portrayed by a tightly coiled ham sandwich named OLIVER REED. We follow Frank as he learns that there is a hideous side effect to Raglan’s cutting edge work. Raglan’s patients’ pain, once drudged to the surface, manifest into physical form. In Nola’s case, troll like beast children are spawned and are set out into the world to express her rage mostly by smashing people on her shit-list in the face with blunt objects.

It might all sound a tad silly, but in CRONENBERG’s hands (or should I say through his mind?) it ends up saying more about the human condition (and family dysfunction in particular) than all the hand wringing dramas you can think of combined. Inspired by CRONENBERG’s own strenuous divorce, there is real venomous acrimony here. Some (including the director himself) claim THE BROOD is his answer to KRAMER VS. KRAMER, and if it is, than his “answer” is a smack of a wooden meat mallet to each Kramer’s skull with perhaps an extra little whack for the Mrs. As worthy as THE BROOD’s concepts about how the mind affects the body are, the larger truth unearthed involves how abuse lingers from generation to generation in a family like an unshakable hereditary disease. Now that I think about it, maybe both ideas are as compatible as broken vases and black eyes.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. While doing a little background reading on THE BROOD (yes, I was wearing bifocals) I came across, I’m sure a very well meaning person, who was outraged by a particular scene in the film. In the scene (which was built to disturb and therefore must be considered successful) a woman is savagely (and some say hilariously) bludgeoned to death in front of a group of young school children. The disgruntled viewer was upset that such a scene would ever be filmed with children present. I personally assume that precautions were taken like, I don’t know, telling the kids that they were filming a movie or perhaps editing things in such a way, but something about this person’s indignant tone stuck in my craw. It seems to me that a lot of adults spend a lot of time worrying about what children witness on television or in movies (as well they should), but not so much time worrying about what behavior they witness in their own homes. This might sound off topic, but I think that it is partially what THE BROOD is about, the lingering effects of witnessing domestic abuse (physical, verbal and psychological) and the curse of absorbing your elders’ insecurities and prejudices (not to mention, rage). Violence on the T.V. is scary (check out this site called kindertrauma…) but sometimes mom and dad and grandma and grandpa leave real lasting wounds that you can’t simply turn off with the flick of a switch.

Was that a soapbox I just stepped off of? I apologize, but as I said I cannot even pretend to critique THE BROOD; the movie is just too damn awesome and over my head. In order to leave on a positive note though, I will add this, the score, (the first of many done for CRONENBERG by HOWARD SHORE) is so incredibly perfect that it makes you want to slap someone.

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Tags: Kids Who Kill · Repeat Offenders · Tykes in Trouble

After Midnight

April 29th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Once upon a time, yours ghoulie had his very own “Name That Trauma!” Picture a young, vital (O.K., more like idle) Unk Lancifer living it up back in the early nineties, on his own in the big city for the first time. Technotronic’s “Pump up the Jam” had children and oldsters alike dancing in the streets, SKI PATROL was blasting box office records worldwide and dear cousin Pam had just moved into the Cosby house. The world was my oyster (stinky and impossible to pry open.)

One night after drinking far too many Meister Braus and passing out on my trash picked couch I awoke to find I had left the television on (as ever I didn’t care how Top Ramen poor I was, I had to have cable!) A movie was playing that involved a group of teenage girls lost in a warehouse district of some city being terrorized by wild dogs. Maybe I was half asleep or maybe it was the Meister Brau fairies tap dancing on my head, but I thought the whole thing to be pretty unnerving and it tapped instantly into my steadily growing urban paranoia. It was an anthology movie, but I didn’t stick around for the following chapter. Instead I went back to sleep surely to dream of snarling pooches.

I forgot about the whole thing and soon it was too late to track down the flick’s title. (This was before the Internet and before Google became my third eye.) Still, every once in a while the movie would spring back into my consciousness. As always with such things, whenever I asked others if they ever saw, “The movie with the girls being chased by dogs in the warehouse district” the answer was a big fat “No!”

Well, a couple years back while reading somewhere about the release of AFTER MIDNIGHT on DVD I realized that it was indeed my missing nameless jam. I bought it immediately and jumped happily head first into the wayback machine. Now I can’t tell ya that AFTER MIDNIGHT is the best movie in the world but if you dig anthologies or even just late eighties horror as much as I do, you could certainly find worse ways to spend your time.

Directed and written by the brother team of KEN & JIM WHEAT who also had their hands in such pots as SILENT SCREAM, ELM STREET 4 and even PITCH BLACK, AFTER MIDNIGHT is a strange little package. It opens with a couple of young ladies (one of them is pint-sized PAMELA SEGAL of not only GREASE 2 but THE GATE 2!) on their way to a college class entitled “The Psychology of Fear”. Once there they are witness to something, to put it lightly, a teacher wouldn’t get away with these days. To illustrate some point or other about fear the professor whips out a gun and points it at his students. He then feigns blowing his own brains out.

Rather than call the police or switch schools, a group of the kids meet up with the Prof at his home to exchange scary stories while a humiliated jock who wet himself during the presentation wanders around with an axe outside planning retribution. The stories told by the students become the meat of the film.

The first story told is a classic old dark house tale with a twist finale, the second, my doggie dilemma tale and the third involves CSI’s MARGE HELGENBERGER battling a ski injury, an empty building and a raging psycho. The middle segment remains my favorite. It is not nearly as frightening as I recalled but for compensation it stars PENELOPE SUDROW the, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and the wonderous TRACY WELLS of MR. BELVEDERE fame illustrating that life may actually NOT be “more than mere survival” by being chomped on hounds and left for dead in the street by her awesomely outfitted gal pals.

I’ll admit it, I’ve had a giant soft spot for horror anthology movies ever since I was traumatized by the weak in retrospect SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT. AFTER MIDNIGHT may not curl your toes, but it has a more successful wrap around story than most and you just can’t underestimate the power of MR. BELVEDERE alumni. Plus it has the scene below in its favor. How can you turn your back on a stop-motion skeleton and the classic decapitated talking head routine? Faults and random lameness aside I say this baby is one LEON REDBONE theme song short of being a keeper. It’s not nearly as good as I remember, but then again I’m sure the same could be said about Meister Brau.

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Tags: Repeat Offenders

Phantasm II

April 21st, 2009 · 5 Comments

If you watch the extras on the DVD for the original PHANTASM, one thing director DON COSCARELLI was particularly proud of was his casting choices. He felt that the audience automatically sympathized with characters that they could recognize from their own lives rather than perfecto Hollywood types. I agree with that thought but guess what? UNIVERSAL PICTURES didn’t, and so PHANTASM star A. MICHAEL BALDWIN was replaced by JAMES LEGROS for PHANTASM’s nearly decade later sequel. Apparently BRAD PITT was also up for the role so I guess the word we can use is “compromise.” Hey, JAMES LEGROS is a likable enough guy and I don’t have my glasses on right now, but nobody could accuse him of being a pretty boy, right? Let’s give him a break! Still for some PHANTASM fans this was a bit of a disappointment although they must have been at least partially appeased by the presence of Mr. Irreplaceable himself REGGIE BANNISTER.

PHANTASM II was released in 1988. Do you remember what song the world of horror was singing in 1988? I do. It went a little something like this: “Freddy Krueger, Freddy Krueger, yea, yea yea!” So ironically, even though our Mr.Krueger pretty much climbed up out of the dream world on ANGUS SCRIMM’s back, now “The Tall Man” has got to start dancing to Freddy’s tune! At least that’s how I read an early scene where his tallness appears as a worm creature protruding from a hunchback in order to bark out nasty threats. Once the ELM STREET pandering is out of the way, COSCARELLI begins a rather brave attempt at expanding his PHANTASM universe triple fold. By which I mean, instead of one killer ball you now get three and instead of one cemetery you’re now conceivably dealing with every cemetery in the world. MICHAEL (now JAMES LEGROS) and REGGIE, their families wiped out by “The Tall Man” and his minions, hit the road HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN style and decide to destroy the scourge once and for all.

PHANTASM II has somewhat of different tone than its predecessor. It’s post apocalyptic, it always seems to be night and, whereas the original sported vibrant crayola box hues, we now get muddy watercolors. You also suddenly get two, count ‘em two, pretty lady characters. One is Liz (PAULA IRVINE) who shares a lovey-dovey psychic link with Michael and one is Alchemy or “Chemmy” (SAMANTHA PHILIPS) who has a very convenient for Reggie case of Acomophilia (sexual attraction to baldness). Although the first half of the film putters around a bit as it tries to get newbies up to speed, the second half, where it is decided that THE EVIL DEAD is the film to cuddle up to and emulate, gets to be more rousing. Cameras bust through doors, chainsaw fights ensue, one liners fly about and we even get a bag of ashes marked SAM RAIMI. I prefer this half to the earlier one, but it is still a bit difficult for me to adjust to this new approach. Look at me, I just called something from 1988 “new,” how sad is that?

PHANTASM II is a likable enough sequel but it often breaks a noticeable sweat in its effort to please. As fun as it is to visit with the characters and to witness the special effect upgrades, I kind of miss the laid back, lazy summer charm of the original film. I also can’t help wondering what could have been had COSCARELLI been left to his own devices and allowed to let his imagination run wild (preferably with A. MICHAEL BALDWIN in tow). That said, even with the forced action set pieces and panting attempts to keep up with the times, PHANTASM II still keeps at least one bony finger on the morbid wonder that made the first movie so great and I thank it for that. I also thank it for my favorite Tall Man line of the series, “You think that when you die you go to heaven…YOU COME TO US!

NOTE: Even though the movie PHANTASM II doesn’t exactly knock my tube socks off, this promo spot sure does. I can remember the anticipation it injected in me like it was yesterday. Is it a dream? No, it’s not!

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Tags: Repeat Offenders


April 16th, 2009 · 7 Comments

How is it that as long as Kindertrauma has been in operation nobody has written a traumafession about DON COSCARELLI’s 1979 horror opus PHANTASM? That flick made my hair stand on end as a kid! When I first saw it on VHS I was probably about the same age as its lead character Michael (A. MICHAEL BALDWIN). My identification with him was further cemented by the fact that I had a similar bizarre hair cut and a comparable inclination toward striped tube socks. Watching the film recently I am still in awe of it. So many other films have borrowed freely from PHANTASM that I have to remind myself just how groundbreaking it was at the time. Infusing sci-fi elements, dark fantasy and surrealistic dream logic into horror was not exactly the order of the day back in 1979, but COSCARELLI did so with gusto and he created a universe all his own that never existed before.

How about that “Tall Man” (ANGUS SCRIMM)?, How scary was that guy? Evilly looming above folks while they are trying to snooze, masquerading as the lady in lavender, yelling his signature “Boy!” (I know I just described Aunt John, but the tall man is even scarier), the tall man is really a stand in for death itself as PHANTASM, which truly lives up to its name, comes off as a feverish hallucination of a kid who is battling to accept the recent deaths in his family. Where do our dead loved ones go anyway? As it turns out in PHANTASM, they are shrunken down, forced to wear Jawa costumes and kept as slaves…comforting, huh? And how about that silver Cuisinart flying ball? Will somebody please get on making a parody youtube clip of BILLY MAYS trying to sell such a thing to the masses? (I’d do it myself, but I’m super swamped at the moment). This is a one of the kind movie that is just about as creatively inventive as it could be and please don’t get me started on the soundtrack. The DVD is a must own for that reason alone.

I’m not sure how PHANTASM would hold up for first time viewers today. I’m sure the Muppet bug attack must look pretty lame by modern standards but I continue to be smitten. This is a movie that connects me to my youth almost instantly and I’ll always love it for that. It’s also a film that is noticeably guy-centric. Michael’s character is preoccupied with the thought of being abandoned by his older brother and the film’s idea of a peaceful existence is just hanging out drinking beer and playing guitar. Funeral home rifle attacks are planned before a roaring fire place and it’s all sort of IRON JOHN by way of LOVECRAFT. There is almost a tree fort atmosphere here and the guys, rather than posturing and being competitive, have each other’s backs. The female characters may be slight and on the sidelines (the mysteriousness of some rings true with an adolescent boy’s perception), but it is also kind of refreshing that PHANTASM, for the most part, does not rely on their peril for scares.

Michael with his constant spying on his older sibling Jody (BILL THORNBURRY) and his need to be included in the investigation of the Morningside Mortuary perfectly captures that bubble in time when you could not wait to grow up and be included among the big kids. I think older brother Jody still reeks of coolness today and just think, his best bud and musical collaborator Reggie (REGGIE BANNISTER ) even drove an ice cream truck! Where were these guys when I was growing up? It’s funny though; this movie that used to make me long for adulthood along with Michael now has the exact opposite effect on me. How cool would it be to ride a motorcycle through a graveyard right about now? Where are my binoculars? Point me toward a basement window to smash! Even if you don’t find PHANTASM particularly scary anymore there is no denying that it is a fun comic book ride all the way. As for myself, I still get a bit of a chill when the Tall Man appears. No matter how old I get, that guy will always dwarf the tube sock wearing likes of me.

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Tags: Repeat Offenders · Tykes in Trouble

The Fly (1986)

March 23rd, 2009 · 9 Comments

OPRAH says, “Love doesn’t hurt;” pretty big words for someone who has never had a romance with a person whose genes have been fused with those of a common housefly. Investigative journalist Veronica Quaife (GEENA DAVIS) knows better, for even with the best intentions going in, her love affair with scientist Seth Brundle (JEFF GOLDBLUM) ends up mutated beyond recognition, completely unsalvageable and very, very painful.

Things begin in the typical manner between Veronica and Seth; playful jabs give way to longing looks and before you know it, sheets are flying and Chinese take out is being ordered. At this point their radical personality differences are mutually celebrated. Veronica is an aggressive yet amiable career gal who’d like to forget a recent bad relationship with her sleazy editor Stathis (JOHN GETZ), and Seth is an introverted loner married to his work who, “hates vehicles” and confesses to being not very knowledgeable about “the flesh.”

Together they are a perfect symbiotic team. When not canoodling he creates machines that can transport baboons from one side of the room to the other, and she diligently records it when they get all turned inside out into mush. Their future hopes include a bestseller for her and a world without vehicles for him (plus maybe a Nobel Prize or two). Much like in real life everything was going great until everything started going great. See, Seth finally did get his baboon transporter to work BUT just when he did, Veronica stepped out to meet with her ex to tell him to shove it and Seth got all wicked jealous. Jealousy my friends can sometimes lead to drunkenness and poor decision making. Sometimes it can lead to you jumping into a baboon transporter without checking to see if there is a fly in there too.

For a while Seth does not realize how much he has screwed up, in fact quite the opposite. He begins to see himself as the greatest guy on Earth and just can’t shut up about it. He even starts thinking he’s too good for Veronica because she can’t keep up with him in the sack! Soon he is biting her head off for no reason, making wild claims and dragging home the biggest sluts in town.

Veronica did not sign up for this shit. In fact, didn’t she just get out of a relationship with a douche-bag? All signs point to drop the zero and eat a hero sandwich but Veronica is in love and she realizes that this pimply faced whack job is not her Seth! Rather than going on a shopping spree, starting a career as a hat designer or singing into a hairbrush she wisely takes a few of his gross back hairs to a lab and finds out he’s THE FLY!

Sadly, knowing the problem is not always the answer because Seth is on a downward spiral and acts more like THE FLY with each passing day. Hey ladies, grab a bunch of your gal pals and invite them to play “I’m out!” while watching THE FLY. As soon as Seth does something that you know you’d have to give him his walking papers for scream “I’m out!” Is it when those first back hairs appear? Is it when his ear falls off? Is it when he squirts puss out of his face onto the bathroom mirror? I say the “I’m out!” moment is when he vomits on a donut and then eats it. Many people see THE FLY as an allegory for AIDS or cancer, but I see it as an allegory for sharing a living space with your significant other. (I kid, Aunt John, but really, using your hands instead of a fork to get pickles out of a jar? That’s grody).

Veronica, as it turns out, is more understanding than the lot of us put together. Director DAVID CRONENBERG gets one of his biggest gross out moments just by showing her embracing Seth right after he does some sliming on himself. This really is a movie that requires love itself to put up or shut up. It dares love to quit. It requires love to be exactly what it boasts it is.

“I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over…and the insect is awake.”

When Seth dreamt he was a man, was he in fact dreaming that he could be capable of a relationship? Was he dreaming he could put himself in the vulnerable position of caring about somebody else? Is his awakening back to insect form the return to a life as a meticulous self sufficient emotion free drone? If you really think about it, it was the fear of losing Veronica that turned this poor guy into THE FLY. That’s what you get for being jealous.

DAVID CRONENBERG’s retelling of THE FLY is in a class all by itself. Besides single handedly justifying the existence of remakes in general, it somehow fuses classic fifties era monster movie tropes with squishy eighties era body horror all the while creating what has to be one of the most heart wrenching relationship films ever made. It is simply a true blue classic that works on several levels at once and seems not only to stand up to the test of time but become more potent with age.

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Tags: Repeat Offenders

Exorcist II: The Heretic

March 20th, 2009 · 12 Comments

I’ve been seeing so many good movies lately that I’ve been scraping dangerously close to having a positive outlook on life. Knowing in my heart of hearts that my contentment is the first sign of the apocalypse, I decided to do us all a favor and sabotage myself before it starts raining frogs. What better film to throw my winning streak off the rails than the most hated sequel ever to come down the pike? I’m talking of course about JOHN BOORMAN’s loopy audience displeaser EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC. If this renowned stinker couldn’t shoot down my happy balloon what could?

The first and only time I had ever seen this movie I was a preteen KIM WILDE enthusiast at my cousin’s house and it was on their fancy pay cable channel. I was very into seeing it and very into it scaring the crap out of me. What I was not into was what actually ended up happing because I’m pretty sure I ended up with my face in a shag carpet fast asleep with a melted grape popsicle in my hand. How could a possession movie not scare a kid who was terrified of the red devil figure on the Underwood Deviled Ham can? (The answer to that question turns out to be very simple, just add tap dancing sequences, a hypnotic strobe light and a plethora of locusts).

Whatever the problem is with EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC it’s certainly not the cinematography, more often than not, this is a gorgeous looking film. Maybe not in a way that is particularly appropriate for an EXORCIST sequel, but arresting nonetheless. Visual effects artist ALBERT WHITLOCK shows his deft abilities on several occasions (a simple shot of an airplane in flight is stunning) so no complaints there. The soundtrack too, care of master ENNIO MORRICONE is well above par. So as the kids say, “Where’s the beef?” Well, it just so happens that everything else going on in this movie is absolutely flip your LIDSVILLE crazy. Some of its ideas are interesting (the concept of the more “good” you are, the more “evil” you attract at least explains why my lunch money was stolen throughout grade school), yet unless the goal was to drive the audience insane or into fits of laughter, it’s still a mystery how this apple fell so damn far from the tree.

Putting aside that the entire approach to the story is a bit of a snub to the original film’s fans and the fact that much of the dialogue, though thoughtful towards the metaphysical, doesn’t quite resemble human speech, let us now talk about the acting. What a cast huh? RICHARD BURTON, LOUISE FLETCHER, MAX VON SYDOW, JAMES EARL JONES and returning champ LINDA BLAIR, could you ask for anything more (I mean, besides ELLEN BURSTYN)?

Here is where the movie becomes either the worst atrocity you have ever seen or the most riveting display ever committed to film and it all depends on how drunk you are. I for one am convinced that bombastic BURTON at one point looked directly at the camera to tell the audience that what they were experiencing was “fascinating,” did I imagine that? Was that some kind of desperate plea to keep people in their seats? On the other end of the acting spectrum is LOUISE FLETCHER who can usually turn me to stone with a single cobra gaze but is inexplicably wishy-washy throughout this movie even while getting totally felt up by a demon. Then there is JAMES EARL JONES, well… give him a break he had to wear a locust hat. As far as our Miss BLAIR, well she fluctuates between a grinning Moonie any reasonable person would avoid at an airport and a frat house roofie victim. Only SYDOW escapes with dignity in tact and he’s playing the dead guy.

So needless to say as wretched as this movie is known to be, it in fact did not ruin my night! It was still a little boring in places, but as an adult I couldn’t wait to see what kind of craziness was around the corner. For better or for worse, BOORMAN certainly did his own thing. It was probably more of his ZARDOZ thing than his DELIVERANCE thing but at least you get the idea that somebody was behind the wheel (even as they are crashing into your flower bed). Is it a worthy successor to the EXORCIST? Oh, not by the longest stretch you could possibly imagine, but it is an oddity unto itself and as bizarre as they come. I don’t think it’s fair to call it the worst movie ever made, but I think it’s probably still O.K. to refer to it as the most disappointing sequel of all time (sorry GEORGE LUCAS). Maybe BURTON’s assessment was accurate after all, “fascinating” just about covers it. I would have preferred “scary” or “comprehensible” but I can’t be too harsh on any movie that sports a young, slightly buck toothed DANA PLATO.

NOTE: Can anything prepare a person for one of the most insane movies ever made? How about the most completely off the wall trailer ever made? Careful, it’s addictive!

And perhaps even more addictive is this little number…

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Tags: Repeat Offenders · Tykes in Trouble


March 16th, 2009 · 7 Comments

I’ll be honest with you, the first time I saw CLIVE BARKER’S NIGHTBREED I didn’t really get it. I loved the beginning and most of the middle, but by the end the movie had lost me. I was simply unconvinced; sections seemed implausible or downright ridiculous. The whole thing was just too fantastic and weird for me. Some of the monsters were “cool” but a couple I thought were pretty damn lame.

The truth is, it was I who was lame. I just wasn’t ready to let go of my slasher expectations and go with the flow. CLIVE had created something so unusual and original that I automatically withdrew because it wasn’t what I expected. The sad thing is that the movie is pretty much about idiots like the one I used to be, who, rather than take a second to try to understand something, reject it outright just because is different.

The good news is that I eventually grew the hell up and my mind expanded. Eventually I became worthy of appreciating NIGHTBREED for the flawed but brilliant film it is. It was all there all the time (well, at least the parts that were not jettisoned by an apathetic FOX studios). All I had to do was settle the hell down and listen, rather than try to direct the film psychically from my theater chair.

Based on his novella CABAL, and adapted by BARKER himself, NIGHTBREED tells the tale of Aaron Boone (CRAIG SHEFFER), a tortured soul who has been having dreams of a subterranean hive of variant monsters and phantasmic ghoulies . Having been convinced by his cold as an ice pick psychiatrist that he is responsible for the death of innocents, Boone, rather than fearing the monster world, yearns to find solace amongst societal rejects.

Boone’s psychiatrist is played by, none other than, director DAVID CRONENBERG, and perhaps it is he who I should place the blame on for dampening the rest of the picture for me. Speaking in monotones that make the computer from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY seem emotionally hysterical and often slipping into an awesome button-eyed, zipper-mouthed bag mask, my fascination with this character was so fervent that anytime he was off screen I was basically twiddling my mental thumbs awaiting his return. Furthermore, his character’s name, Dr. Philip K. Decker, was a nod to the brain behind BLADE RUNNER so I was pretty much on cloud nine or should I say cloud nerd. Honestly, none of the other characters stood a chance with me.

Well there is a lot more going on in NIGHTBREED that I might have noticed if I did not have hearts in my eyes for the psychopathic main villain (who, by the way, is a total dickhead and whose mask of normalcy and blatant hypocrisy is the true evil presence in the movie). Many see NIGHTBREED as openly gay BARKER’s coming out story and he backs that idea as well (We’re here, we have extendable centipede arms, get used to it!). BARKER allows us access to a world of bizarre characters that, as it turns out, are not quite as monstrous as the accepted “normal” people who are bent on destroying them. In the end our pal Boone is required to embrace his differences in order to gain power from them (in other words, let his freak flag fly). Really this tale works for anybody gay or straight who at one time or another has felt different, like an outsider or somehow not complete (I’m looking at you entire world -don’t try to front!) Certainly all that is enough for a little monster movie but wait there’s more…

NIGHTBREED is a great love story (Clive’s CABAL even more so). Lori (ANNE BOBBY), Boone’s faithful girlfriend, in my opinion, is the real catalyst for all the action that takes place here. Her image might not be painted on the prophecy walls in the underground Oz, but it’s her and Boone’s mutual acceptance and regard for each other that is really steering this ship. Lori’s love is unconditional and she can give a crap about the weirdoes her man has been hanging out with lately, and Boone risks rejection by his new crew when he can’t stand by and watch her die at the hands of his hyper clinical, sick-o shrink. Aww shucks, I’m getting ferklemp again! Anyways, I was hoping these two knuckle head love birds would make it work. To quote my pal Nini, “Love conquers Biology!”

NIGHTBREED, thanks to studio interference (over 20 minutes of BARKER’s director’s cut was chopped out), a half-assed ad campaign (which reused an image from the poster from BAD DREAMS), and dumb-dumb audience members like myself, was a bit of a flop. It’s too bad because even though it is in no way perfect, it’s still a great tale. So I guess this review is really more of a public apology…

NIGHTBREED I’m sorry I threw you out, I’m sorry I sided with that dickhead Decker and if it’s not too late, I’m ready to embrace your wonderful, absolutely unique monstrousness!

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Tags: Repeat Offenders