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Dead & Buried (1981)

April 4th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

The other night I was struggling with the age-old question of what to watch when I suddenly realized I was in the exact perfect mood for Gary Sherman’s 1981 shocker DEAD & BURIED. This must have been the very first R-rated movie I had ever seen because once upon a time, nobody asked about your age when you were in the back seat of a crowded car at the drive-in. You’d think that over the decades I’d come to find this movie less frightening than the first time I saw it and you’d be partially correct but the truth is, it still leaves me thoroughly creeped out. Here are some of the reasons I still find this underrated and relentlessly bleak, paranoid classic uniquely disturbing.

THE OPENING SCENE. D&B opens with a photographer taking photos on a beach. He meets a beautiful young woman (Lisa Blount) who slyly seduces him and just when he’s about to seal the deal, he is instead beaten by random townspeople, tied to a poll with a fishing net and then set on fire while the mob encircling him smiles and take photos. No matter how many times I see this movie, this startling introduction never fails to alarm me. Perhaps even more unsettling than the brutal violence is the way the fish netting twists, distorts and mutates the victim’s face. I can’t think of a more distressing visage, it’s as if it foretells the burn scars he’s about to acquire. Somehow the poor dude lives and is taken to a hospital but his recovery is short lived. Completely vulnerable and covered head to toe in bandages, he is visited by the same treacherous young lady who instigated his assault. Dressed in nurses’ garb she presents the worst remedy ever conceived- a hypodermic needle administered straight through the eye! Imagine surviving so much only to endure a crueler fate when you’re in the most vulnerable state imaginable- it all still upsets me. 

THE LOST FAMILY. Right smack in the middle of the film we
are unceremoniously introduced to a couple and their young son who are lost in
the remarkably foggy town. To avoid hitting a man that darts in front of their
car, they crash into a telephone pole. Although we’ll find out shortly the car
is quite operable, the beyond befuddled couple decides to venture into an
abandoned dilapidated house to search for ice for their child’s head (yes,
these people are insane). Making matters all the more surreal, the original
sound of this scene must have been lost because this entire portion of the film
is abysmally dubbed, resulting in tons of superfluous dialogue and general
awkwardness.

It seems every move and decision the trio makes is frustratingly ill-advised. At one point the mother even surmises that the owners of the (clearly abandoned) abode must be in the basement fixing the fuse box and suggests that her husband go down to verify her demented fantasy. It’s truly crazy-making watching this family stumble about while the shadows of maniacs wielding weapons loom just out of their view. Nonsensical and partially infuriating as this entire segment is, it’s also beautifully shot and genuinely unnerving to me. Eventually, crazy townsfolk are jumping out of every closed door and crevice like demented jack-in-the-box clowns engulfing the terrified trio. As the family somehow makes it back to their vehicle, the way the ravenous mob is presented as a mass of menacing silhouettes following them is stunningly nightmarish (and brings to my mind the finale of THE DAY OF THE LOCUST). It’s hard not to feel bad for the hapless child, who is dragged about like a suitcase throughout and has no say in the blundering decisions of his ineffectual guardians.

THE FOUND FOOTAGE. The entirety of D&B is filmed in a gloriously gauzy and grainy way that rather resembles peering through dusty cheesecloth. Remarkably the murky-visual-ante is upped even further when Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) develops a mysterious roll of film for his wife (Melody Anderson) and decides to check out its horrific contents. I won’t give away the devastating plot point he discovers but I will say it is presented in a POV semi-snuff looking way that leaves you with the unclean feeling of having witnessed something vile and atrocious. Years before THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, D&B presented this grittier than a Philly mascot slice of visual miasma and it still feels as disorienting and downright icky as ever. I don’t know if it’s the leering oldsters, the decrepit surroundings or Joe (CHILD’S PLAY) Renzetti’s persuasive score but combined with the clips sleazy revelation it really gets under my skin. I can almost smell the moldy dank air as I write this and I also get a poisonously putrid Lovecraftian vibe. 

Not everything in D&B makes sense but I believe that is part of the reason I find it so disturbing. Some folks are able to “fall out” of a movie when it presents something that is unlikely to occur but I sometimes find such lapses in logic remind me of the relentless way an inescapable nightmare works. I get the feeling that the writers didn’t fully lock down exactly what is going down in Potter’s Bluff, there are mentions of voodoo, witchcraft, and pseudo-science but when a definite explanation is teased by the central culprit it is soon nipped at the bud with, “I’ll take my secrets to the grave.” I’m fine with that. I find the horror in DEAD & BURIED especially potent because it is so darn amorphous and impossible to fully pin down. You get the sense that Potter’s Bluff is a town abandoned by light and rationality long ago and now it’s kind of stuck in an endless death spasm. I wish I could chalk up the way DEAD & BURIED hits me in my psychological Achilles’ heal to mere nostalgia. The truth is the inescapable mortality that engulfs the town like an impenetrable fog may be even more unnerving to me today than it was when I witnessed it in my youth.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

March 29th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

Check out this super groovy TERROR HOUSE (aka TERROR AT RED WOLF INN) poster! There are ten differences between the one above (A) and the one below (B). How many can you spot? 

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Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972)

March 28th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

Mill Creek has put out a new movie collection entitled NO TELL MOTEL, which offers eight horror films focusing on ill-advised overnights in dangerous locations. The first disc sports spiffy letterboxed titles like VACANCY (a decent enough thriller) IDENTITY (love that one) and ELI ROTH’s HOSTEL and its first sequel (both semi-annoying and yet very interesting and disturbing). The second disc consists of several public domain flicks with lackluster quality of various degrees. There’s the ubiquitous THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE (a favorite) IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN (haven’t had the pleasure), LEGACY OF BLOOD (skip it) and a charming, low budget oddity that has always stuck in my brain, TERROR AT RED WOLF INN (I had to get this whole set just for this one film).

TERROR AT RED WOLF INN isn’t represented as well as it should be but until a superior version is available it’ll just have to do. Sadly this is a PG-rated version of the 1972 movie that is also known as TERROR HOUSE and THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN. This particular cut is ten minutes shorter than the one I watched on VHS back in the day but from what I’ve gathered (Googled), the missing scenes don’t amount to too much. Ironically, this truncated, supposedly tamer arrangement contains a violent scene where a character beats a small shark against a rock and I’d much rather have that unsightly bit excised above anything else. They took out a visual of human fingers in a soup bowl and left behind a scene of actual animal abuse? I guess there’s no way to understand the randomness of the rating system.

The movie introduces us to a charming, quirky and too-trusting character named Regina (Linda Gillen) who suspiciously wins a weekend vacation over the phone (much like the set-up for I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER). Soon she’s jumping on a plane and taking advice from strangers that she needn’t inform anyone about her dubious getaway prize. There’s no doubt that Regina has made a major judgment error when the house she’s meant to relax in turns out to be the same joint (Newhall Mansion) featured in DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW and countless horror-themed TV episodes. Her hosts are oldsters Henry and Evelyn Smith (Arthur Space and Mary Jackson) and their touched in the head grandson Baby John (John Neilson), all of whom would seem equally comfortable inhabiting MOTEL HELL or AMERICAN GOTHIC. Two other contest winners have already arrived (Janet Wood and Margaret Averly) and it’s not long before they’re all being fattened up with gluttonous course after gluttonous course of meats of highly questionable origin. Warning: Do not watch this movie if you suffer from misophonia and object to the sounds and sights of folks with terrible table manners munching out and licking their greasy fingers.

RED WOLF INN feels a lot like a seventies made for television affair and maybe that’s why I dig it so. It’s got an offbeat sense of humor too that never goes far enough over the top to bring you out of the paranoid predicament. It’s also genuinely unnerving in spots, utilizing distorted camera angles to disquieting effect. There’s something about simply sticking an idiosyncratic tomboy-type in a giant old mansion that’s always going to hit me in my horror comfort zone. I could have used a little more background information regarding just about every character overall, but there’s something to be said of the simplistic approach that plays out almost like a gingerbread house fable. Plus, it’s got a message that’s still valuable today: Young people, please never assume that the generations ahead of you have your best interest at heart. Spoiler alert: They don’t. Amusing, delightfully odd and routinely creepy, TERROR AT RED WOLF INN is an appetizing seventies offering worth making room on your plate for. It’s also a great reminder that the best way to avoid cannibalism is to become a vegetarian.

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Kindertrauma funhouse

March 22nd, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

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Figgy

March 19th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 17 Comments

It is with a pulverized heart that I share the sad news that we have lost an integral member of the Kindertrauma Family. Our beloved cat Figgy has passed away. She was a proud feline who was also a cherished daughter, a loyal sister, a best friend, an empathetic caretaker, a muse, a role model, a magical familiar and my most trusted ally against the darkness of this world. I have never met a cat like Figgy before and I never will again. I won’t linger on her illness as it was such a tiny fraction of her spirited life but I need to say that she was an incredibly brave, noble and trusting spirit throughout her most challenging hours. I hope when it is my time to go that I can do my best to face things as valiantly as she.

One of the best the finest days of my life was when Figgy and her two sisters Rory and Kevin decided to strut into our South Philly backyard. Who would have guessed it would be such a privilege to have three kittens using our garden as a litter box? We built the girls a safe abode where they could sleep dry and warm and made sure they were (very) well fed. Eventually, we realized we would have to find them homes. Originally we only meant to keep gregarious Kevin but once we got to know Rory and Figgy, they had to become part of our family too. Figgy (not unlike myself) was inherently suspicious of humans when we first brought her inside. She was a Goth loner dressed in black who hid behind anything she could and hissed at the mere sight of us. Her initial rejection inspired me to try all the harder and I made it my mission that I would turn this feral malcontent around. And turn her around I did. She became the most affectionate cat you could possibly imagine and we became inseparable. I’ll never forget watching HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON with her and thinking it was our story on the TV screen. I’m not proud of much that I’ve accomplished in life but I am proud that I was able to steer Figgy’s disposition away from apprehension and fear. The cat she became after she was properly adored held one of the greatest souls I have ever known, human or otherwise.

Let me tell you about this beautiful cat. She cared for her sisters and with the diligent concern of a well-trained nurse. If one of them had a hairball or any such ailment, she’d come running to their aid in an instant and hover until she knew they were OK. She was incredibly generous. She never fought over food and she’d constantly bring toy mice up to my room. I’d often find them in my bed or shoes. She was so clever. She would come running whenever I asked her if she wanted to take a nap and she’d speed by me on the stairs and make it to bed before me. For many years our cats hid in the basement whenever we had company but over the last few, Figgy became more and more friendly and outgoing. Just this past Christmas when we had a party she came out and lounged around on our bar like she was Michelle Pfeiffer in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. Boy, did she know how to enter a room. When she slinked in she always reminded me of Sean Young’s first appearance in BLADE RUNNER– she had the same walk! She had but one vice: Dum-Dums lollipops. We made sure she had a fresh bag every Halloween. She would throw them around the house like a miniature baton for hours and be seen carrying them around in her mouth like a happy dog with a bone. She wore a tuxedo every day; her black fur was impossibly shiny and sleek while the white sections were as soft and fluffy as a bunny. Her paw pads were the most remarkable mauve that resembled the gray-purple color of a half-finished grape popsicle. She had the coolest beauty mark- a kissable half-mustache of white right beneath her regal nose.

I’m going to miss her so much. I feel irrationally guilty because right before she fell ill I experienced this miraculous moment with her. She was sleeping at my side and I felt such peace and love and it was like the whole room was glowing and time stopped. I foolishly wished in my head we could be together forever. Did this perfect instance attract the tragedy? I worry that experiencing such profound contentment was the equivalent of banging on a drum in A QUIET PLACE and some ugly force was alerted and came gunning for us. Maybe that’s the grief talking and my brain is just desperately looking for a reason when there isn’t any. In any case, I can’t allow myself to turn a happy memory into a sad one. The larger truth is that she was cherished every single day full-time and non-stop. I’ll never have to wonder if she ever felt unloved or abandoned and that means a lot to me. On our last day I wrapped her in a red blanket and told her she was my Queen and no truer words were ever said.  She’ll always be royalty to me.

Thoughts of heaven and reincarnation have not been helpful to me lately. Instead, I’m deriving comfort from a horror movie, which should shock few. I find myself comforted by the way death is presented in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER. In the film, the character of Alice gains a positive attribute from each of her friends that die and essentially they become a part of her. On the surface such an idea is outlandish but if you think about it for a minute it’s also an undeniable truth. Furthermore, I have witnessed proof of this phenomenon. The other day as I was going upstairs, I called to Rory and she actually came running and sped past me just like Figgy used to and she’s absolutely never done that before. Later that night Kevin somehow found a Dum-Dums lollipop (I’m guesstimating there are hundreds under the couch) and she was playing hockey with it like a seasoned pro (she wasn’t a fan of them before). Stranger still, Rory and Kevin who have never been close (both of them preferred the company of Figgs) have started hanging out, playing and even sleeping together (trust me, that’s unheard of). Things will never be the same without Figgy, we’re all devastated (Rory cries nightly) but there’s no doubt in my mind that she will always be with us. I spent the last few weeks thinking how very unlucky I am to have lost a friend I cared for so dearly but today I’m thinking of how lucky I was to meet Figgy in the first place. She could have chosen any backyard to set up camp in, any garden for her litter box, I’m forever thankful it was ours.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

March 15th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 8 Comments

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

March 8th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

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Name That Trauma:: Kyle S. on a Window Witch

March 5th, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

Hello! Was looking for some help on this one.  I remember watching either a movie or TV show probably late 70s/early 80s and it had this scene where a witch is hovering outside bedroom windows looking in to see which kids are still awake after a certain hour.  The kids that were sleeping were left alone and the kids that were still awake got turned into mice or some other small creature.  It may have been claymation or animation. Any help would be appreciated. Kyle S

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Name That Trauma:: Alex S. on a Creepy Turntable

March 3rd, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

Hey there, Kindertraumautizers…

A friend of mind suggested reaching out to you guys.

I can’t remember where I was, who I was with or how I old I was when I saw it, but I remember watching a film on television -– a black-&-white mystery, possibly “noir” -– involving a protagonist haunted by a recurring nightmare or vision. In that mysterious scenario, he’s in some clandestine chamber that holds some horrible secret –- a murder, perhaps? The thing that makes it distinctive, however, is that there is music playing -– a strange, lulling, creepy dirge. Again, the protagonist is driven to distraction by this eerie vision, but cannot connect the dots as to where it happened or its significance.

Later in the film, he’s at some social function, and there is music playing via an old-time record player. At one pivotal point, a woman near that turntable bumps into it with her elbow, inadvertently changing the speed of the turntable to a slower revolution-per-minute, like dropping from 45 to 33 1/3. When she does this, the music playing suddenly replicates the creepy music in the protagonist’s recurring vision, and he becomes convinced that the clandestine chamber with the horrible secret is immediately nearby.

Like I said, I wish I could cite more specifics, but I cannot. For the life of me, I’ve never been able to figure out the film. Much like the tortured protagonist, I cannot figure out the mystery.

Does this film sound familiar to you?

PLEASE HELP ME SOLVE THIS!
-Alex S.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

March 1st, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 15 Comments

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