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Viewing Party:: The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979)

October 25th, 2013 · 5 Comments

Let’s watch a Halloween special right now! It’s called THE HALLOWEEN THAT ALMOST WASN’T and you can read my ancient review HERE. Please ignore the title “THE NIGHT THAT DRACULA SAVED THE WORLD” when it appears on screen! Some dope changed it to that in order to boost VHS sales and it’s a travesty that tramples upon (and illustrates the necessity of) this groundbreaking masterpiece’s feminist message.

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Tags: Streaming Alert! · Telenasties

Sunday Streaming:: Something Evil (1972)

July 21st, 2013 · 3 Comments

It’s time again for Sunday Streaming! This past weekend has put me in the mood for SOMETHING EVIL! This made for television movie from 1972 stars our dear departed friends SANDY DENNIS and DARREN McGAVIN and features JOHNNY WHITAKER of A TALKING CAT? fame! It was directed by that guy who did DUEL! You can read more about it in THIS post from 2007 but maybe you shouldn’t because look how I used to write in big giant mounds of indecipherable goobledegook that today, even I can’t decipher! What the hell?! Best to just to enjoy the fine movie below!

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Tags: Sunday Streaming · Telenasties · Traumatizers · Tykes in Trouble

Summer Girl (1983)

April 17th, 2013 · 4 Comments

For the last five or six years, on a roughly monthly basis, I’ve been checking YouTube for the appearance of the elusive 1983 TV movie SUMMER GIRL. My sad, faithful diligence has finally paid off! To the best of my memory, I haven’t laid eyes on this chestnut since the original night it aired. Not that my powers of recall can be trusted. My strongest recollection of SUMMER GIRL has always been of its startling final image, a dark silhouette standing on a cliff in some kind of ominous victorious pose. It stayed sharp in my mind even while the rest of the flick blurred…

…only I totally got that wrong. That scene happens in the middle of the movie with plenty of stuff still waiting to happen. It’s still awesome though! It’s not necessary to go into much detail about SUMMER GIRL’s plot. You are familiar with this tale in one form or another. It’s the same as THE BABYSITTER (1980) which came before it, and the same as any number of HAND THAT ROCKED THE CRADLE-molded films that came after it too. Take a happy family with an insecure wife (in this case our old pal KIM DARBY) and a husband with a roving eye (MEGAFORCE-of nature BARRY BOSTWICK) and then add a seemingly helpful innocent who is in actuality a cunning sociopath and stir. What makes this routine outing momentous is that the one and only DIANE FRANKLIN plays the requisite interloping usurper.

If MOLLY RINGWALD is the peachy pastel face of the eighties we choose to remember, DIANE FRANKLIN is like the darker, deeper, more complicated truth hiding behind that candy coated mask. Not to take anything away from the RINGWALD but while she was constructing happy endings reliant on the acceptance of others (see the classic JOHN HUGHES triptych), FRANKLIN was forging a fickle opportunist heartbreaker (THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN), a tragic incestuous victim of demonic sororicide (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2: THE POSSESSION), a fish out of water French exchange student in a suicide comedy (BETTER OFF DEAD) and a vapid video vixen who unsuccessfully battles a mutant from space (TERRORVISION). In her made for television efforts she has the rare distinction of playing both the honorable final girl (DEADLY LESSONS) and the evil menace that must be destroyed (SUMMER GIRL).

I can’t say SUMMER GIRL’s “Cinni” is my favorite FRANKLIN creation (that honor belongs to AMITYVILLE’s Patricia Montelli) but the mesmeric psycho with delusions of grandeur surely adds gravitas to FRANKLIN’s oeuvre and mystique. As it turns out, I’m not all that happy with my newfound knowledge that Cinni is ultimately foiled by party-pooping nonbelievers so I have decided to revert back to my false recollection and continue to see her as that dark goddess on a cliff looking down at us mere mortals triumphantly.

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Tags: General Horror · Telenasties · Tykes in Trouble

Traumafession:: Reader Machete on The Rifleman Episode “And The Devil Makes Five”

July 17th, 2012 · 2 Comments

When I was a very young child I saw an episode of “The Rifleman” that frightened me more than anything I have ever seen on television or at the movies. I am a life-long fan of horror and science fiction and yet an episode of a western TV series made it a struggle for me to sleep for a long time after I viewed it. The episode involves Chuck Conners as part of a posse that captures an outlaw. As they are far from town they have to set up camp outdoors and sleep in their bedrolls. When morning arrives Conners’ son approaches him. Conners is sitting bolt upright in his bedroll. His face is covered in sweat. His eyes are wide open and staring fixedly straight ahead. His son says, “Pa, What’s wrong? At that moment the sound of a rattle is heard. A rattlesnake has crawled into his bedroll during the night. Conners is afraid to move or make a sound for fear of being bitten. The episode ends happily with the snake dead and Conners (as series star) very much alive and well. As for me, well, I didn’t sleep so well that night and a few more. When I went to bed the folds and furls of the blankets and sheets felt like snakes in the bed with me. I got over it though and now I watch mostly horror and science fiction, but I’ve never forgotten how the most unlikely of TV series frightened me so much. The name of the episode was And the Devil Makes Five. It was the last episode filmed. It was shot in all outdoor settings as a way to save money as the series’ budget was depleted at this point.

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Tags: Telenasties · Traumafessions

Kinterview :: Candle Cove Creator Kris Straub

November 30th, 2011 · 9 Comments

The other day while trying to hunt down a “Name That Trauma!” I came across several mentions of a local television show from the early seventies entitled CANDLE COVE. The show seemed to have left a hefty impression on the unfortunate young souls who made a habit of watching it. CANDLE COVE was about a little girl named Janice and her interactions with a group of pirates that were portrayed by cheap looking puppets. For a kid’s show, CANDLE COVE was dark and twisted in a way that only a seventies show could get away with. There was even a villain named “The Skin Taker” and his cape appeared to be sewn together pieces of-you guessed it… skin. How had I never heard of CANDLE COVE before and why did it sound slightly familiar anyway? Finally I found a conversational thread that seemed to verify the existence of this highly kindertraumatic creation. Please take a moment and read it HERE.

…Did you read it? Don’t lie to me. Okay, so it turns out that CANDLE COVE was never really a show at all but spawned from a work of short fiction written by one KRIS STRAUB. Something about KRIS’ creation stuck a cord with the Internet and now CANDLE COVE is beginning to crystallize into a modern urban legend of sorts right before our eyes. Some refuse to believe that it never existed and some believe that they have witnessed it themselves. You have to admit after reading that thread that it doesn’t sound too far off from the conversations we have here at Kindtrauma, with different people remembering different bits until finally something solid takes form. I think the last comment that closes KRIS’ piece is brilliant. It captures just how diabolical and intrusive these vague memories from childhood can sometimes feel. I’m happy to say that I was able to track down KRIS for a short interview for you guys so here it is!

UNK: I almost didn’t want to reveal CANDLE COVE as a work of fiction but then I realized that no matter how many times that fact is put out there, some people refuse to believe that it’s not real. What’s it like to know that something you created has taken on a life of its own and in such a relatively short amount of time?

KRIS STRAUB: At first I wasn’t aware that it had happened at all. I had a horror fiction site, ICHOR FALLS, where I posted CANDLE COVE initially, and it ended up shared without my knowledge at much more popular horror fiction sites, where it reached a much bigger audience. I know 4chan helped to spread it around. The first time I saw people re-enacting the story, post for post, to scare an unsuspecting forum, I was so gratified. I kind of wrote it just to get the idea out of my head.

One of the things that I think let it take on a life of its own is how vague it is, and how earnest the show seems to be before all the scary stuff is revealed. So many things that scare us as kids start from this innocuous desire to entertain children, but it’s produced carelessly, or some special effect comes out way more ponderous or ugly than the creators intended, and it lingers as we, as children, try to make it fit with our limited understanding of the world. I think we have all been disturbed by shows and movies that have failed us in that way.

UNK: CANDLE COVE has inspired fan videos, fan fiction, music and a Facebook page promising a future movie. What addition to the CANDLE COVE legend have you been most taken aback by?

KRIS STRAUB: I like that people are excited about the story, but I get nervous when I see someone trying to make a film or their own CANDLE COVE books and stories. One of the good and bad things about how quick the story became an urban legend is that people really do think it’s an urban legend with no origin and no author. Fan work is great, but I’m very torn about balancing the fact that it is copyrighted and I do own the story, with the idea that it is in the nature of the story to be spread, namelessly, in dark corners of the internet. I know that serves the mythos way more than me being a litigious dick about it.

As far as being taken aback, I never know how serious Rule 34 is. The rule of the internet that states that if it’s a thing, then there’s porn of it on the internet. So there’s some sexy CANDLE COVE stuff out there that I hope was made as a personal self-challenge, and not a real, living desire to see Horace Horrible get it on with the Skin-Taker.

UNK: Can you tell us a little bit about your website ICHOR FALLS and the inspirations behind CANDLE COVE?

KRIS STRAUB: ICHOR FALLS is a collection of stories revolving around a fictional West Virginia town of the same name. I started writing them out of a love of Lovecraftian horror — not horror where someone gets chopped up, but where someone is made to realize that they don’t really understand the forces that drive the world, but they’ve seen too much of the truth. I also came to love the short stories of STEVEN MILLHAUSER, who doesn’t write horror per se, but creates these little universes where one good idea is taken too far, and then he takes it even further. Most of them are really unsettling.

Believe it or not, CANDLE COVE was specifically inspired by an old article on THE ONION: “Area 36-Year-Old Still Has Occasional Lidsville Nightmare.” It’s so accurate. I don’t know what dark entities SID & MARTY KROFFT spent time in the thrall of, but everything they made to entertain kids is tinged with this unearthly, utterly alien sensibility. I looked up the call letters for a TV station in that area of West Virginia and the names of nearby towns, and it lent the story a little verisimilitude.

UNK: I feel like you could take this idea as far as you like. Do you have anything in store for the future as far as CANDLE COVE and its burgeoning mythos?

KRIS STRAUB: It’s tough! I started to get really excited in continuing the mythos, but I think CANDLE COVE works because it is brief and vague and interrupted. I think to put a name or face to whatever is behind the making of the show is to spoil the magic. I always appreciated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for never showing us the witch. A CGI monster can never be as scary as what we invent in our own minds as a placeholder.

I have an idea keeping with the forum-post format, that involves someone asking around an auction site like eBay for the original tapes. There have also been some fan attempts to debunk CANDLE COVE (which always happens quickly, especially if people see this interview), but I’d like to write a whole meta-novella where someone decides to publish their attempts to expose CANDLE COVE and finds more than they were expecting.

UNK: Last but not least, I’ve got to try and get a traumafession out of you. What was the first movie, TV show, etc. that you remember being truly terrified of as kid?

KRIS STRAUB: I think I have a good one. There was an ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL from the ’80s, “Cousin Kevin,” about this little bespectacled kid whose imagination was too real for the babysitter. There’s one sequence where Cousin Kevin is imagining that they’re in the Arctic, and they’re attacked by “30-foot-tall carnivorous killer penguins.” They were stop-motion-animated by the Chiodo Bros., I remember that. All the effects were.

So Kevin and his babysitter escape and hide in a tiny igloo, and the penguin breaks it open easily, and Kevin says “watch out for their acid saliva!” and this huge fake penguin beak oozes steaming slime on the babysitter as he struggles and screams and begs for Kevin to end the fantasy. The whole scene is so nightmarish and claustrophobic! It wrecked me for months. There are more moments like that I’m sure, but it’s the only one I can remember. I would give anything to find that episode again.

UNK: Thanks KRIS for the interview and for CANDLE COVE. I have to admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I’m still not convinced that it wasn’t real either. Kids, Make sure you step insde KRIS‘ permanent residence KRISSTRAUB.COM to see all the other cool stuff pouring out of his head!

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Tags: After-School Trauma · Kinder-Link · Kinder-Topix · Kinterview · Special Guest Stars · Telenasties · Traumatizers · Tykes in Trouble

Deadly Messages (1985)

June 23rd, 2011 · 11 Comments

The Kindertrauma Castle just got HBO in anticipation of TRUE BLOOD, I have a stack of unwatched DVDs acquired from a horror convention and Netflix Streaming continues to taunt me with its well of obscurities so why do I, when the world’s asleep, continue to slide down the YouTube flume? It’s just that there is so much hiding out in that joint that you can’t find anywhere else! Physical copies of many of these gems are hard to come by and I’ve learned the hard way that anything found on YouTube must be quickly viewed as it could disappear back into the nowhere zone forever without warning. Now that so many once elusive titles are just a click away from your door, YouTube is like the last uncharted forest for those of us who remember and mourn the thrill of the hunt. Television movies especially sing to me like sirens and stumbling across a good one that I’ve missed is like stepping into a comfy time portal.

Going into DEADLY MESSAGES (1985) all I knew was that it stared that lady from ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? (KATHLEEN BELLER) and it involved a Ouija board. No gamble there, by merely existing this movie poured milk on my flakes. How could I resist such an innocuous title? DEADLY MESSAGES is just too perfect. BELLER is Laura Daniels, a deliciously spazzy sprite who witnesses a murder and is routinely dismissed by the police. No matter how many times a guy with a hunting knife attacks her, there’s just never enough evidence from the encounter for anyone to not think she’s a hysterical nut. Confiding in her Ouija board provides little solace, as the planchette seems to side with her stalker by saying, “I am going to kill you!” All of this is pretty routine and vaguely hilarious and thankfully takes place during the Christmas season.

Then things take a turn for the amazing. Laura is fired from her job when none of her references pan out and then her long-suffering boyfriend Michael (MICHAEL BRANDON) is told by her doctor that during a brain scan it was discovered that she has been the recipient of shock therapy! Michael confronts her with this info in a restaurant decorated with ROBERT LONGO paintings but she, with her shirtsleeve dangling in spaghetti, insists she has no idea what he is talking about. Next, at a bookstore Michael discovers a series of Nancy Drew like mystery books with a heroine named Laura Daniels. All of the fictional character’s exploits resemble the stories he’s been told by Laura and it appears her entire identity is a big fat lie! Laura insists that she is on the up and up but when her investigation leads her to a mental hospital and the head nurse greets her with “Welcome home!” it’s obvious that the person who knows the least about Laura is she herself (the revelation in considered alarming enough to warrant the coveted HITCHCOCK zoom. ) There’s an explanation of sorts but you’re not getting it from me.

What can I tell you, DEADLY MESSAGES is as silly and implausible as the day is long. I don’t care because it’s damn entertaining too. It makes perfect sense to me that the director (JACK BENDER) and writer (WILLIAM BLEICH) went on to do the superior T.V. movie THE MIDNIGHT HOUR too. Both films have a very cinematic feel for something made for the small screen and are host to loads of splendid atmosphere. As DEADLY MESSSAGES plows towards its climax it’s all howling winds, blowing leaves and over the top musical cues and who can ask for more? It neatly transforms into a different type of movie altogether and I was kind of stunned that something so typical at the starting gate ended up so wonderfully off the wall and quirky. Considering its somewhat hokey woman in peril premise it impresses with several aggressive set pieces, a sneaky sense of humor and a penchant for keeping the viewer guessing. Cliches abound (including DENNIS FRANZ showing up as a cop!) but DEADLY MESSAGES is most fun when it refuses to go by the book.

NOTE: For even more on DEADLY MESSAGES jump on over to TV movie central, our pal AMANDA BY NIGHT‘s MADE FOR TV MAYHEM!

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Tags: Amanda By Night · Seasons Beatings · Telenasties

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

June 8th, 2011 · 19 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are Friends For? (1980)

June 4th, 2011 · 4 Comments

There are After School Specials and then there are After School Specials. In my questionable opinion, the ABC After School Special WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? is primo, cream of the crop stuff! It’s strangely morose yet consistently compelling and it signs off on a surprisingly wise, bittersweet note. MELORA HARDIN (who would grow up to star as Jan on THE OFFICE) plays twelve-year-old Amy who has just moved into an apartment building with her divorcee mother. She quickly meets neighbor Michelle Mudd, an overall-wearin’, bull-in-a-china-shop Peppermint Patty type, portrayed by the late and very loud DANA HILL (SHOOT THE MOON). Although they have little in common, the two quickly bond as Michelle is reeling from her parents’ disintegrated marriage too. Aw, was there really a time when being a child of divorce made you different? How quaint!

Amy soon learns that Michelle Mudd is high maintenance and then some. She’s wildly unpopular amongst her peers, she lies like a rug, she steals like a magpie, she requires near constant affirmation and vows of loyalty and she dabbles in the black arts. It’s too bad that Amy finds Michelle such a handful because honestly I would have gotten along with her just fine. When Amy walks in on Michelle drowning a doll in the bathtub wearing goth make up in a bizarre, blood red voodoo ritual she is outraged and horrified by the display, whereas I truly believe my reaction would be, “How can I help?”

WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? feels like it may nosedive into FATAL ATTRACTION/ SINGLE WHITE FEMALE territory at any moment. Since it’s aimed at the pint-sized crowd though, it touches down in a place of understanding and acceptance rather than boiling bunnies and puppies pushed out of windows. Fine by me really, I hate to see anything happen to fluffy animals and dolls are always asking to get drowned anyway! They love it!

Amy basically learns that while she feels some compassion for Michelle that it’s not her responsibility to repair her. More importantly she realizes that some relationships have an expiration date and that sometimes one must cut their losses and move on. This revelation allows her to finally accept her parents’ divorce and forgive them both for parting ways. I think I learned something too. I learned it’s a bad idea to shoplift gifts for people other than myself and that you have to be really specific about who you want to have disappear from your life when performing a voodoo spell.

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Tags: After-School Trauma · Telenasties

Streaming Alert! :: Harper’s Island

May 15th, 2011 · 4 Comments

Just one recommendation today but since it runs 13 episodes, it should keep you busy for a while. HARPER’S ISLAND you might recall was a season long slasher mystery that ran on CBS not too long ago. It didn’t make much of a wave at the time but that may be partially blamed on audience impatience and inconsistent scheduling. Watching it on Netflix streaming sans commercials and with the ability to jump to the next episode at leisure can only smoothen the viewing experience.

HARPER’S has a lot characters to take in at first and there may be some rough patches and needless padding here and there, but once the cast gets whittled down and things start rolling it’s a dark humored addictive pleasure. Some of it may be borderline hokey but its lamer qualities tend to add to the enjoyment level if you’re watching with mouthy friends. You may even find yourself, as I did, jeering a character one minute and then lamenting his or her untimely death the next. The longer running time allows you get to know some of these victims a bit better than you would in a traditional slasher/mystery and with at least one person guaranteed to die each episode, the horror dry spells are few. The murders themselves are surprisingly gruesome for broadcast T.V. and the titles of the episodes are even morbidly named after the sound that is made when a death on the show occurs.

This show may have not have been the smash success it needed to be to continue on CBS but I hope somebody (are ya listening channels FEARNET, CHILLER, SYFI?) is wise enough to give the innovative format/structure another go sometime soon.

For now, I suggest giving this underrated and misunderstood series a chance.
It’s got some good surprises up its sleeve and I can think of many worse locations to spend your summer vacation. Don’t feel bad if you’re not entirely convinced at first, I think I spent most of the run of the show dubious and cynical but now that it’s over all I want to do is return! We’re basically talking about a soap opera in which nearly everybody dies horribly at regular intervals, how can that not taste like a milkshake?

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Tags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert! · Telenasties

“TV Movie Inspired: Insidious” by Amanda Reyes

April 16th, 2011 · 1 Comment

UNK SEZ: We seldom have two reviews for the same movie going on around these parts but after hearing pal AMANDA REYES‘ personal take on INSIDIOUS that had to change. I pleaded and eventually bribed her to jot her thoughts down so that all you fine folks could check them out and the results are below. Enjoy and remember to visit AMANDA MADE FOR TV MAYHEMREYES at her home joint frequently HERE!

Being the retro film/television nut I am, I tend to be a little late to the game. Luckily, I was only off by days, as compared to years, when it came to catching Insidious. It was a fittingly rainy night and with plans for drinks afterwards, my evening was set. I wasn’t particularly surprised by how much I enjoyed Insidious, but I was definitely taken by what I felt were some nifty TV movie references.

I should say that there may be some spoilers here. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet… go now!

I won’t speak for either Leigh Whannel or James Wan, the superb crafters of a ghost story that employs the whole less-is-more strategy so well it can’t help but give you the willies, but I am pretty sure I felt a little small screen love in the theater. Perhaps the more obvious nod to the wonderful world of T.V. movies came attached to that creepy old woman. Appropriately named Old Woman (and played by Philip Friedman), she was eerily reminiscent of that spine-chilling gal from the 1989 British chiller The Woman in Black. Sure they added a veil and made her, like, more dead, but that detached feeling of inexplicable dread permeates both characters in much the same way. It’s pretty interesting then that both movies deal with children. Well, Insidious deals with the calamity of everyday parenting while the Woman in Black deals with the lack thereof (and eventually Insidious heads in that direction). Theories abound that the black-clad, T.V.-movie mistress and high child mortality rate are not coincidental (and it’s probably no mistake the lead character’s last name is Kidd).

While both stories are about saving a child and then paying the price for it in the end, the filmmakers behind Insidious give a deeper connection to the Old Woman and the family she terrorizes. There are small scenes featuring Josh (Patrick Wilson) plucking gray hairs and applying eye cream to those sexy fines lines of his. Josh’s repressed memories appear in the most innocuous moments in the film, adding a nice kick to my post film coffee talk discussion! It’s been years since I’ve seen the excellent Woman in Black, but it’s hard to deny the resemblance of those two characters. Black has recently been remade with Daniel Radcliffe and should hopefully be hitting our shores soon. I can’t wait!

The other hit-me-over-the-head reference I got regards the overall film. I believe James Wan and Leigh Whannel were inspired more by Fox’s 1991 tele-pic The Haunted than Poltergeist. In some ways they are noticeably similar, but I was most struck by the association with the baby monitor incident in Insidious and that creepy talking pillow in The Haunted. The 1991 film is based on the Smurls, a devout family who are haunted by some less devout manifestations. And perhaps it’s simply by the very nature of small screen horror that Insidious’ deftly intimate atmosphere can’t help but to harness good vibes from any audience member heavily reared on television terror, i.e. me!

Made for very little money, Insidious manages to creep inside and wring your guts. There are so many touches, such as the constant ticking sound beginning with the grandfather clock, moving to the metronome to the EKG machine and finally back to that dang metronome, that prove those fabulous men behind the curtain were meticulous with crafting what I think is the best damn horror film to come in far too long. The atmosphere alone makes it a fine companion with such small screen fare as The House That Would Not Die (1970), Something Evil (1972), The Possessed (1977) and Don’t Go to Sleep (1982). Wherever the inspiration arose from and whatever I am putting into it myself, I was pleased to finally come across a new horror movie that wanted my imagination to work as hard as the filmmakers’.


 

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Tags: Amanda By Night · Telenasties