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Streaming Alert :: Close Your Eyes (2002)

October 23rd, 2011 · 4 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve recommended something on Netflix Streaming so let’s fix that. I noticed the other day while throwing some titles into my queue that they’ve recently acquired the underrated, in my eyes, CLOSE YOUR EYES from 2002 (has it really been almost ten years?). This is a movie that really surprised me both in content and in the fact that it didn’t garner more attention. Scratch that, maybe I’m not so surprised that CLOSE YOUR EYES failed to make a significant mark. It’s one of those movies that is too gruesome for the serious crowd and too serious for the gruesome crowd and like many movies that refuse to court a specific audience, it failed to find a seat when the musical chairs music stopped. People tend to love or hate it and my theory is that’s because it sets up a very believable reality only to turn it on its head and not everybody can make the leap from the everyday to the fantastic mid-film. Personally I love to be taken off guard when a carefully constructed game board is flipped.

Policewoman Janet Losey (SHIRLEY HENDERSON) is so impressed with the abilities of her hypnotherapist Michael Strother (GORAN VISNJIC) that she solicits his help with a child who escaped the clutches of a deranged serial killer. The little girl (SOPHIE STUCKEY of the equally underrated THE DARK) was found with a strange tattoo and that is the only lead as the experience has left her mute. While his traumatized subject is hypnotized, Strother is able to enter her subconscious as if it were another world. Some of these alternate reality zones are a bit dated looking but it allows for some pretty cool ALTERED STATES/DREAMSCAPE type stuff to occur and I’m always into that. The first part of the film plays like a London based psychological detective story (think PRIME SUSPECT) but once the truth begins to emerge, we get some pretty heavy occult action (think BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN). I won’t say more about that latter development so that you can discover that twisted angle yourself but suffice to say CLOSE is not afraid to get crazy dark.

I have to applaud the performances and the chemistry between the film’s two leads. Easy to watch VISNJIC brings to mind GREGORY PECK in SPELLBOUND and HENDERSON is sorta like JENNIFER JASON LEIGH doing Clarice Starling with the help of a smoking habit and big SINEAD O’CONNOR doe-eyes. Their romance-free simpatico relationship is as refreshing as it is strangely endearing and it’s nice to see the novel gender reversal of HENDERSON being the aggressive cop and VISNJIC taking on the sensitive, put-upon psychic. If you dig mysteries, serial killer thrillers, ARGENTO-like obsessions with architecture or season four of TRUE BLOOD (big bad FIONA SHAW swipes a few scenes in CLOSE too!) you should give this a viewing. I’ve seen it a couple times now and besides a few wonky CGI effects and a stray random cliché or three, I think it’s a clever, bracing mind-screw that one could easily get lost in if they allow themselves to.

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Tags: Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert! · Tykes in Trouble

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!

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

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

September 1st, 2011 · 6 Comments

After the hurricane split town it was finally safe for me to venture to the movie theater to see DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Many, many people felt differently for I found myself to be the only person in the place. I pretended I was rich enough to buy out the entire showing to watch it by myself and sadly this made me feel like a big shot. Outrageously the trailer for THE WOMAN IN BLACK was withheld from me and I had to be satisfied with the trailer for THE THING instead. It’s too early to tell if that film will suck or not, but the music in the trailer contented me. DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK was about to start! I’m excited for this because it exists on account of the original T.V. movie happens to be GUILLERMO DEL TORO’s own personal kindertrauma! I’ve never to my knowledge seen a movie based on a kindertrauma before! Gummy bears are in my pocket. God, CONTAGION looks like crap. What is WINSLET thinking?

There are a few major changes from the original DBAOTD but they all make fine sense. Sally is no longer an infantilized adult but an actual child and it’s her dad (GUY PIERCE of RAVENOUS) rather than her husband whose careerism prevents him from properly engaging with her. Pop’s girlfriend (KATIE HOLMES) is named Kim (after DARBY) and she reveals with a bit of dialogue that her own childhood was such a wreck that she’s weary of the prospect of mothering by default. Sally’s biological mother is briskly painted as an apathetic goon who can’t be bothered even by a frantic phone call from the child she dumped like a load of laundry on her once husband. Naturally Sally is feeling so unwanted and so starved for connection that she starts chatting up the whispering demonic voices that come from the pit in the basement. They sound absolutely evil but they say exactly what Sally longs to hear, “We want you.”

I was a bit worried from DBAOTD’s trailer that the opulent mansion setting would be distractingly over the top and strain credibility but it’s explained that our characters find themselves in such an extravagant environment while working on a temporary renovation. The joint is called Blackwood Manor as it was once where artist/biologist Emerson Blackwood hung his hat at least before he was pulled through a chimney by trolls. The biggest addition to the framework provided by the 1973 T.V. move is the extended mythology of these creatures who forever now can be referred to as “Homunculi” rather than “walnut heads” or “prune goons.” The beasties are now linked to tooth fairy legend as their hobbies include trading children’s teeth (which they crave) for silver coins. Better still, the creatures (whose humanoid mugs on rodent-like bodies now favor LOVECRAFT’s Brown Jenkin character as much as the dudes from 1987’s THE GATE) are seemingly connected to the work of Welsh author ARTHUR MACHEN, particularly his tale “The White People” which also concerns a young girls relationship with extraordinary beings. Nice!

Not everything runs like clockwork though and sometimes the clichés outnumber the trolls. The goth cloaked SECRET GARDEN vibe is very inviting and the acting is fine considering the box office poison death wish cast but things do get vague and choppy (or MIRAMAX-y) towards the end of the film and it feels as if valuable pieces are left behind in an effort to rush toward the climax. Allow me to be an even bigger stickler for a moment and say that the film’s largest break from known reality involves not fairy monsters but a magical Polaroid camera that never runs out of film. I want one! Still, this is a dark fantasy; a fairy tale really so reality does need to shut its trap to an extent.

Which brings me to my ultimate question, why in the name of ROALD DAHL is this movie rated R? Are they trying to make sure that anybody who might relate to it can’t see it? There is no sex and little gore and what I like most about it is that it feels like one of those early eighties dark DISNEY flicks like WATCHER IN THE WOODS or SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. Most adults don’t have the required imagination to make this work for themselves so why court wet blankets? I don’t get it but I suspect that this is a movie that will gain traction in the home market. Indeed, as much as I enjoyed it, I won’t try to sway you folks to run out to the theater to catch it. I think the preferred way to watch this is at home in the dark on the couch under a blanket late in the month of October with your critical brain drugged and gagged. It’s a fun spooky and mostly harmless “things that go bump in the night” flick with a couple lapses in logic but several decent, jolty scares and I think it will feel most at home exactly where it originated on the living room television set.

There is a sweet scene in DBAOTD where Kim realizes that young Sally needs some grounding guidance before she floats away for good. She takes her to see a pond within the grounds’ labyrinth garden that is home to some brightly colored Japanese fish. She explains that the fish’s markings attract badgers and that it is exactly what makes them special that makes them vulnerable and I’ll say that is true for this film as a whole too. It may be a bit too precious for its own good and it has no business hanging out at the mall after dark. As an R-rated horror film for adults it leaves something to be desired but as a PG-13 fantasy, I think it deserves a silver coin. Director TROY NIXEY apes producer co-writer GUILLERMO DEL TORO well and although this movie may not be on par with the best of DEL TORO’s work, I have a sinking suspicion I will be revisiting it more often. If it plays its cards right and freshens up with a smoother director’s cut on DVD, it may even find its way to my Halloween heavy-rotation pile.

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma Au Courant · Tykes in Trouble

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.

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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.

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

Insidious

April 2nd, 2011 · 11 Comments

One selling point that is unlikely to ignite my interest is the line,“From the makers of SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.” I’m not what you would call a fan of either of those films. Be that as it may, I am now willing to let bygones be bygones and move forward. JAMES WAN you and I got off on the wrong foot but all is forgiven thanks to INSIDIOUS. Have you been reading my diary Mr. WAN because you have somehow delivered just the type of film I’ve been seriously yearning for lately, a straight-forward, old fashioned spook-a-thon that has faith in its audiences imagination. What a pleasure it is to be legitimately creeped-out for a change. The sound of a theater audience gasping in unison and then chuckling at themselves is music to my ears.

INSIDIOUS is wonderfully simple. What else do you need to know besides the fact that it centers on a family experiencing a haunting? The good news is that unlike many a supernatural film that has come down the pike as of late you get the sense that those behind the camera may actual believe what they are telling you and have a healthy respect for the otherworldly. There is darkness in this film and it feels like darkness should, expansive and limitless and deviously shrouding the unknown. The beauty part of INSIDIOUS for me is that it’s like listening to somebody tell a ghost story and then recognizing a moment where the storyteller has entered the zone where they are freaking themselves out as well, rare stuff indeed.

Made for relative pennies and parading effective performances rather than CGI, INSIDIOUS takes a giant step forward by looking toward the past. The excesses of WAN’S previous effort DEAD SILENCE are robustly buffered here and it’s as if the film could stand as a eureka moment marker for the director where he gleans the concept of “less is more.” Timing is everything and there are so many visual moments in INSIDIOUS that linger only long enough to mark the psyche and then scatter into oblivion and the effect leaves you straining your eyeballs in a futile attempt to capture and pinpoint the cause. In other words, it plays rather like a communal séance where you have a ring side seat to witness the supernatural. That’s what I (and apparently the audience I saw this with) call fun. To quote ANIMAL HOUSE, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Both PATRICK WILSON and ROSE BYRNE are convincing as befuddled parents who resist the gravity of their situation for as long as possible only to discover their worst fears are just the tip of the iceberg. THE ENTITY’s BARBARA HERSHEY shows up to throw some un-played cards on the table and reveal that she doesn’t mind starring in TWO of the better films I’ve seen in the last year. DEAD END’s LIN SHAYE leaves the most indelible mark as a Tangina-schooled psychic in a gas mask. Can I just let it be known that as far as scream queens go y’all can have your pip squeaks and dopey debutantes and I’ll take the inimitable SHAYE? She’s wonderful in this and much like the late great ZELDA RUBINSTEIN in POLTERGEIST, her character is presented as whimsical comedy relief of sorts only to, with a glance or change of tone, suggest a razor sharp depth that unsettles and takes you completely off guard. Really it’s a classic performance.

So yeah, I highly recommend INSIDIOUS; it does something wonderful by allowing the mysterious and uncanny free space to roam and rather than tie everything up in a pretty bow, it stokes the imagination. The way it drop kicks the grotesque smack dab into the everyday at regular intervals is sort of like bumping into that homeless alley rat from MULHOLLAND DRIVE on every block you stumble down. This is a movie that I think truly earns its title and I’m going to award it a zillion extra points for recognizing the voluptuous horror of TINY TIM. Go see it in the theater rather than wait for home viewing and do yourself a giant favor by allowing the darkness extra room to play.

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Tags: Barbara Effin' Hershey · Trauma Au Courant · Tykes in Trouble

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.

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

Dreamchild (1985)

February 23rd, 2011 · 19 Comments

Children’s’ heads are usually force fed saccharine gruel by funnel. The process resembles teaching ducks to grow up to be foie gras. That’s why I’ve always loved ALICE IN WONDERLAND. For a book aimed at malleable brains it is deliciously dark and strange. Imagine WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS writing for Highlights Magazine in a psychedelic beanie. Alice’s encounters mirror a universal part of adolescence when one is trying to decipher their new surroundings and every question is met with nonsensical answers. What child can’t relate to the feeling of being indoctrinated into a world of seemingly random (forks on the left, spoons on the right) protocol? ALICE does more than grab the reader by the hand and tour them through a colorful landscape, it slyly teaches them how to spot the absurdity in their own world as well.

For fans of WONDERLAND, DREAMCHILD is really a must see. It focuses on the twilight of the woman who once inspired the tale as she travels to New York for a celebration of the work and life of its author. Some of the movie is as dainty as a doily, which makes its multiple plunges into near ELM STREET territory all the more disturbing. It’s like having tea with DAME JUDI DENCH and then she suddenly leans into reveal, “I’m tripping my balls off.”

Who is to say how accurate any of the flashbacks are but as the eighty-year old Alice Hargreaves is jolted with lightening blast recollections of her youth, we get a glimpse into her vaguely creepy relationship with the man she theoretically inspired. As played by IAN HOLM (ALIEN, THE SWEET HEREAFTER) Reverend Charles L. Dobson (also known as Lewis Carroll) is at turns off-putting and sympathetic. Plagued by a speech impediment and awkward social skills, one wonders if his fascination with the young quizzical child was merely a coveting of the normalcy she had to look forward to in life. Much speculation is made about the true catalyst behind CARROLL’s work, but here he is presented as a sort of shadowy Jaberwocky himself until elderly Alice comes to terms with her memories and is able to separate herself from her more famous fictional identity.

Whatever. As much as I love my homie HOLM there is literally nothing in this movie that is not utterly and completely upstaged by the fucking incredible creations by JIM HENSON’s creature shop. Don’t get me wrong, there is a very sweet, finely done drama going on here (written by DENNIS POTTER no less) but if you’re a brat like me you’ll only pretend to care whether the old lady gets her act together before kicking the bucket just so you can get a glimpse of the incredibly monstrous and borderline hideous denizens of wonderland that KRUEGER-stalk her psyche. If you want to learn about the real Alice Hargreave, go to the library or better yet Google the lady. Instead, I’m going to stare at these incredible images from DREAMCHILD

NOTE: If you want to check out this barrel of awesome get thee to Netflix Streaming. It has never been released on DVD and the VHS looks like crap. I like this movie a great deal but I have no option but to remove seventy hundred groovy points for not inviting the Chesire Cat to the party.

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Tags: Giant Turtles · I Have No Idea What This Is · Tykes in Trouble

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

February 18th, 2011 · 5 Comments

Aw, c’mon how’s a person supposed to not enjoy THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF? You’d have to be quite the Smurf kicking curmudgeon. Yes, the werewolf wears a turtleneck but decapitations, even if enacted off-screen, have to count for something. This 1973 PG-rated affair was the last film directed by NATHAN JURAN (ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN) and although it’s about as menacing as a bag of pink marshmallows, it’s a clever enough kiddie telling of the werewolf mythos and you don’t have to scratch too hard to sense heavier themes beneath the surface obstinate as ingrown hairs. For a film directed toward the younger set it refreshingly resists dunking its paw in sugar coating. Little Richie Bridgestone’s parents are getting a very un-Brady-like divorce and although Richie loves his dad, he’s thinking it might be a good idea to snitch on pop for frequently turning into a savage monster and pushing occupied vehicles off of cliffs. The movie says, “Werewolf”; I smell gin.

I’m not sure where this thing was filmed but the locations will probably look familiar to anyone who watched television in the seventies. I think most of us grew up in the haunts shown even if only via boob tube portal. There are some nice subtle references to UNIVERSAL studios more famous lycanthrope movie in the form of Dad’s trusty cane and with this being set in 1973, somebody cleverly transformed 1941’s THE WOLFMAN’s resident gypsies into hippies. The band of hippies really liven the movie and their love power is even shown to have a detrimental effect on the werewolf curse. Now that’s just adorable. Man, I wish I could have been a hippie but by the time I was old enough to join their ranks, everybody had already figured out that humans were hopelessly awful….dratz!

Another very cool thing about this movie is that it was released in a double feature with SSSSSSS. One thing that I’ve learned while working here at Kindertrauma is that there are exactly seven S’s in that title, so I don’t even have to look it up. Apparently it was the last double feature UNIVERSAL ever did and I missed it by being a stupid baby. THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF is not available in any format for some unknown reason, so I caught up to it on YouTube sporting Spanish subtitles. That means I got to learn a little extra Spanish while I watched and you can ask me what “Hombre Lobo” means and I’ll have the answer.

Like THE GATE or MONSTER SQUAD I think this movie makes a great horror starter kit for monster fans in training wheels. The transformation scenes are stagnantly old school but the resulting make up effects courtesy of TOM BURMAN are not bad at all (all turtlenecks considered.) I guess some will only see a campy howler here but the SHINING-esque parent-paranoia element does have some bite and it at least it takes its whiny protagonists dilemma seriously. If you can look beyond its corncob datedness (Dad dropped Mom for being a career gal!) it makes a fine companion piece to 1996’s BAD MOON. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this one but like most things in life, it’ll probably help. Adios amigos!

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Tags: General Horror · Repeat Offenders · Tykes in Trouble

The Night Child (1975)

November 17th, 2010 · 6 Comments

THE NIGHT CHILD, 1975’s possession/cursed medallion flick, can’t fill THE EXORCIST’s shoes but hey, at least it’s not as boring as AUDREY ROSE. The story is a bit flimsy, Michael Williams’ (RICHARD JOHNSON) daughter has been acting super spooky since her mom threw herself out a window while engulfed in flames and it appears that the necklace the girl inherited from the aforementioned deceased has something to do with it. Underage smoking simply can’t provide the same horrific highs as levitation and head spinning, but little Emily’s onslaught of persecution hallucinations have their own disturbing, albeit quiet strength. The film’s concentration on the medallion in question tends to frustrate as a cursed GOYA-looking painting is also involved and is a far more compelling point of interest. Ultimately though, the film does come together nicely enough; it’s final Freudian revelations have a butterfly effect which makes all that came before it gel into something more substantial.

THE NIGHT CHILD’s story may lack the type of demonic punch horror fans crave but its visuals are stunning and then some. It’s so damn gorgeous that you may, like myself, happily forgive the film its wishy-washy ways. Putting aside some severely out of date blue screen falling effects, director MASSIMO DALLAMANO (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?) delivers an autumnal smorgasbord of non-stop eye candy that must be seen to be believed. No image I can share with you can do the film justice because so much of what DALLAMANO delivers here has to do with movement and brilliantly orchestrated timing.

Two visual themes collide to great effect, there’s a muddy cavernous feel to much of the film’s night scenes and the daytime scenes bring flashing sun blasts and stark seventies flavored rusts and orange hues. It’s all very crisp and exquisitely staged and it’s all so classy and artsy you kind of forget that you might rather be on the edge of your seat for different reasons. The soundtrack composed by STELVIO CIPRIANI (TENTACLES(!), BAY OF BLOOD) compliments without overpowering.

Another great selling point for the film is its cast. In addition to ZOMBIE and BEYOND THE DOOR’s JOHNSON, DEMONS and DEEP RED’s pixie pale NICOLETTA ELMI makes a superb supernaturally tormented child and she really knows how to wail and appear haunted. Even more exciting for me is the fact that THE NIGHT CHILD has bragging rights to an early performance by the queen of everything, JOANNA CASSIDY (BLADE RUNNER, GHOSTS OF MARS, SIX FEET UNDER, et al.) Big haired and stunning, CASSIDY is hard to take your eyes off of and I swear she delivers the same sly, sexy expression seen in her infamous Kindertraumatic SMOKEY THE BEAR commercial; who can’t appreciate that?

I suppose EXORCIST comparisons really are unfair and unnecessary, obviously something else was intended here from the get go. In the end, THE NIGHT CHILD offers something more akin to a stroll through a graveyard on a brisk, bright day than a peek through a keyhole into hell. If you have a sweet tooth for seventies cinema and particularly seventies Italian cinema, do your peepers a solid and allow them to picnic on this. The plot might leave you hungry for more but on a visual level, you’ll be stuffed.

NOTE: I saw the subtitled version all cleaned up and sparkly in widescreen. This trailer is dubbed and obviously damaged beyond belief. Don’t think I’m insane, the version I saw really was a visual stunner even though this trailer seems to suggest otherwise…

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Tags: Tykes in Trouble