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Name That Trauma:: Mike B. on a Supernatural Neighbor

October 11th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

I remember something from when I was a kid that I wish I could identify. I seem to vaguely (and perhaps incorrectly) recall seeing something on TV where a couple lived next door to an eccentric/reclusive rich guy, who they may or may not know/suspect to be not-quite-human and/or in possession of some kind of supernatural abilities. Anyway, the man in this scheming couple sends the woman over to seduce or at least get close to the rich guy so she can get access to his safe or other riches when he’s not around. I don’t recall how long this plot gets drawn out (maybe the rich guy grows to think she really cares for him over time or maybe he quickly catches her trying to slip away at a dinner party or something), but at some point he walks in on her trying to get his stuff, realizes what’s been going on, and (possibly as an involuntary reaction or perhaps deliberately) “does his thing”, which I think might have been depicted with him emitting a high-pitched shrieking/whistling noise or something. Maybe she screams, but I don’t think we see the effect of this incident before it cuts away, back to the scheming man, who hears the woman come home and enter but doesn’t yet see her when he asks how things went or whatever. She then is seen approaching the man as she starts to say something like “It’s alright…” before the man turns around in horror as he (and the audience) sees that her face is disfigured and she says something like “You still love me!”

I recently saw a clip from the 1978 movie “The Medusa Touch” that kind of reminded me of the (distantly remembered) intensity of this scene, with some of the same elements, and that film’s main character’s telekinetic powers could almost fit the bill (and I even think his last name of Morlar seems to ring a bell), but the scene and overall plot don’t otherwise match my memory, so perhaps I’m conflating two different films…

Now the funny thing is, I had seen a really short clip (HERE) of a much lower-budget movie (maybe even the scene I’m remembering) years later in part of the video intro at a Weird Al concert (which he apparently first used in a 1987 concert, so the film must be from 1987 or earlier if that’s true).  Luckily, I found this video online some time ago, and now I found your website.  If this is the movie, the clip is a bit different than I recall, as it appears the scheming man has been captured by the rich man and strapped down to a table for some other horrors when the woman enters and says, “Don’t be afraid, Jason”, but maybe I’m just misremembering it or this is a later part of the movie. Any ideas?  Thanks.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

October 9th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

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Name That Trauma:: Rob M. on a VHS Trap

October 8th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

Hey Unk,

I hope you’re doing well. I have another one that I can’t seem to track down. It’s from the Netflix early years… before they had their own content. It was one of those “You liked Cleopatra’s Second Husband”… you might like.

It’s about a man and wife living in an apartment. Maybe Australia or NZ? Green tint to the film production. His wife is a cheater and maybe he was too… or maybe he was an abusive too. Anyway, she leaves him, but as so far as I can recall… she traps him in their apartment with VHS tapes of her and her lover. He can’t leave, his life is in ruins and he has to watch her systematically torment him via VHS tapes.

Can you help me recall this film?

Thanks,
Rob
M.

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Five Favorite Things:: Humanoids From The Deep (1980) By Unk

October 7th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

1: Pure Nostalgia

I often notice people speaking about nostalgia like it’s a bad thing and I just don’t agree with that at all. Nostalgia is a wonderful harmless drug and I enjoy partaking as frequently as needed. My father took my brothers and I when we were young to see HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. I’m assuming the idea was that because it involved the ocean it would be akin to one of our favorite flicks, JAWS. Well, HUMANOIDS is nothing like JAWS. No matter how wacky this movie may be, I really cannot watch it without viewing it through a child’s eyes. It catapults me backward to a time when movies still seemed completely uncontrollable and dangerous to me. I feel an unexplainable primal energy from every late-night forest stalking scene and every twig snapping under the foot of an ambiguous intruder still gives me a thrill. I feel really lucky that I can even now tap into my younger self’s excitement all of these years later. Unlike me, this movie never gets old.

2: It’s goofy

I really hate to see animals killed in movies and I also have an aversion to onscreen rape. In fact, the same year HUMANOIDS was released (1980) my brother (who worked in a movie theater) snuck me in to see MOTHER’S DAY and I simply could not handle it and ended up fleeing profoundly disturbed. HUMANOIDS involves many dead dogs (!) followed by a lot of fish creatures prone to rape and yet I give it a pass because ultimately the film is good-natured and goofy. It’s sort of like a 1950’s beach monster movie dipped in eighties-era inhibition. Sure, an obvious obsession with T&A abounds but it also makes a point of presenting one hell of a powerful and intelligent female lead (Ann Turkel as Dr. Susan Drake who takes zero guff from anyone). Word has it that Director Barbara Peeters delivered a far less exploitive film to producer Roger Corman who unsatisfied, forced additional re-shoots of more explicit scenes. Maybe it’s because I grew up with this movie (it was rented on multiple occasions and became a family favorite of sorts) but I’ve never found the end result particularly offensive even though its premise of aquatic monsters impregnating women against their will might be a little iffy to modern tastes (HUMANOIDS was remade for cable television in 1996 with its levels of sex/violence toned down). I mean, this is the type of movie in which a ventriloquist dummy inexplicable becomes sentient to witness a double homicide and it’s presented as the most natural of occurrences. It’s difficult to take too seriously.

3: Vic Morrow

I dig Doug McClure and Ann Turkel as the film’s intrepid leads but Vic Morrow playing hateful racist asshole Hank Slattery is pure gold! Nobody does bad guys as convincingly as Morrow and I’m forever sorry he and his young costars in THE TWILIGHT ZONE MOVIE (1983) received such tragic (and avoidable) fates (Pssst, while we’re on the subject: HUMANOIDS handles the same anti-racist theme as Morrow’s TWILIGHT ZONE segment and in a less ham-handed way. Also, this flick’s got you covered on the anti-greed, pro-environmental issues too! It’s pretty sneakily progressive for a monster fish movie, I’d say).

4: Those Monsters!

As much as I love eighties era slashers, there’s something special about the monster movies that were able to creep their way out of the floorboards at that extraordinary time (I’m winking at you, THE BOOGENS). The monsters that inhabit HUMANOIDS have a bit of a throwback feel to them (they’re unavoidably linked at the fin to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) but they’re also innovative and impressively daunting. How can they not be cool when the legendary Rob Bottin (THE THING) had a hand in their creation? I wish I could share a proper centerfold of these equally humorous and disgusting creatures. Their brains seem to be half exposed, their arms are unnaturally long, they seem to be covered with slime, kelp and gooey debris and the mean, green dudes stand about seven feet tall! What’s not to love and furthermore, where is the action figure I deserve?

5. The Salmon Festival Massacre!!!

Like most young folk I had a soft spot in my heart for destruction. Movies like EARTHQUAKE, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO all brought me great joy (I especially dug the opening of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA which involved multiple planets being mercilessly annihilated). Right up there with the best scenes of chaos of my youth is the remarkable Salmon Festival fiasco of HUMANOIDS. There are sea creatures popping out of seemingly everywhere (impressive as only three monster suits were created), frenzied beauty pageant contestants fighting for their lives and innocent townspeople running about pell-mell. At this point, the mystery is over and the frightful fish folk couldn’t be more up close and in your face. It’s a lot of fun and provides an incredibly satisfying payoff to the film. HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP taught me at a young age that horror movies could be as joyful as they are scary and for that I will always have affection for this somewhat silly, yet unquestionably awesome film.

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Name That Trauma:: Matt S. on a Marked Witch Doll

October 4th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

OK Obi Wan, i think you might be my last hope….

I have searched the internet for years. I cannot find or ID this film. Not sure if it was made for TV or not.

Here’s all I can tell you… it was a film shown on tv (may just have been local to the San Francisco Bay Area) at some point in the 70s. I have a vague feeling like it was aired at two different times…

But here’s all I remember. Witches. A sort of woods, kind of gray and maybe foggy? And a rag doll (possibly a Raggedy Ann) with a mark of blood on her forehead ( like someone marked her forehead with blood using their finger), and possibly people in 17th-century clothing? I feel like at least a glrl in a cloak in the woods.

That’s it. It’s driven me crazy for 40ish years. I feel at this point like I hallucinated it….. hellllp!
Matt S.

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Name That Trauma:: Michael From Minnesota on a Haunted House Book

October 3rd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 8 Comments

Hi guys, Michael from Minnesota here. Love the site and hoping you and your readers can help with a memory that’s haunted me for decades. In grade school in the mid-80s, I remember watching a Reading Rainbow-type video that highlighted different children’s books. The one that stuck with me was a book about a family that moved into a new house and noticed some strange goings-on. In the end, it turns out a body was buried underneath the house and the restless spirit was causing the disturbances. I believe it ends with them giving the corpse a proper burial, and things go back to normal. I’ve gone through the Reading Rainbow archives and nothing has jumped out at me, so it might’ve been on a similar, knockoff program. If anyone can help, I’d love to find the book. Thanks!

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

October 2nd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 12 Comments

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Five Favorite Things:: Killer Party (1986) By Matty F.

September 27th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

Hello terrific and magnificent Kindertrauma readers!

Killer Party is one of those underrated, bizarre movie finds that doesn’t seem to get much credit or love from scary movie fans. As of right now, it only has a 5.1 on IMDb and rarely gets mentioned on horror websites, but that needs to change right now and I am leading the charge! I will host a fundraiser telethon on PBS if I have to in order to get the word out that this is must-see TV. Everyone should be having a Killer Party party! I want Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Adele to sing songs about it. I want Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Laura Linney, Ryan Reynolds, and Mark Ruffalo to do a Zoom script reading for it. Blimps should fly in the air with the movie poster on their sides. That’s how magical this movie is. Let’s face it, 2020 has been a rough year for a lot of us. We all need more Killer Party in our lives. To quote the amazing Kelly Clarkson, my life would suck without you. Here’s why you should give this one a chance (or a reassessment if you’ve already seen it).

Jennifer, Phoebe, and Vivia. Horror movies aren’t always known for giving the audience likable characters to root for (I’m looking at you, The Gallows, Grave Encounters 2, Unfriended, and especially you, creepy creeperton Paul from Hell House LLC). Killer Party gives us not one but three charming, well-acted leads with Jennifer (Joanna Johnson), Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes), and Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch). They’re relatable, thoughtful, quirky, capable, supportive of each other, and completely believable as best friends thanks to the phenomenal chemistry the actresses have together. Along with Blair, Tootie, Natalie, and Jo, this is the group of 1980s best buddies I’d most want to hang out with. Far removed from the cool-girl clique from Heathers, they’re the kind of friends who would have sleepover dance party singalongs to Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual and I want in on that invite list. If I had my way, Jennifer, Phoebe, and Vivia would have made several The Love Boat crossovers and had their own nighttime soap opera like Dallas or spy series like Alias. They’d certainly fit in as useful, eccentric additions to the Scooby Gang on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In having these three personable, affable women as leads, Killer Party stands out from the crowd of late-80s slasher fare. We should all be so lucky to have best buddies with such personality, character, and loyalty. Horror scriptwriters, take note and make your characters this engaging.

The bonkers opening. In the first ten minutes of the movie, we get a movie-within-a-music-video starring April, whose crimped hair is the crimpiest crimp ever put to film. The off-kilter, slightly humorous tone is set immediately, with a somber funeral starring a vengeful corpse, angry family member, bumbling priest, and distracted crematorium workers. But wait! It’s just April and her date Stosh watching a horror movie (not Cats) when they realize they’re trapped inside a rock music video starring Whitesnake’s second cousin White Sister. However, instead of Tawny Kitaen gyrating on top of shiny cars, April has to battle goopy, choreographed zombies who want to eat your brain but also want to dance like they’re on tour with Paula Abdul! The opening scene’s audience fake-out ends up being something Phoebe is watching on television as the main plotline begins. This creatively meta approach was way ahead of its time and not yet a popular trope in horror flicks of the 80s (with exceptions such as the great Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives), having come to prominence with 1996’s Scream.

The bananas ending. The finale goes all-out. Is it a slasher movie? Is it a haunted house movie? Is it a possession movie? Be like Wilson Phillips and hold on, because it’s all three. The supporting characters are dead and the party has cleared out, leaving Vivia and Phoebe to fend off their best friend Jennifer, who has been possessed by the angry spirit of Allan. It seems that Allan was the unfortunate victim of a fatal fraternity hazing 20 years prior at Pratt House, and Jennifer is the perfect person to use to carry out his vengeance. It’s an interesting twist, as Jennifer is set up as the main final girl from the beginning, even so far as to take a page from Crazy Ralph’s playbook and forewarn her friends that something is “wrong”. Usually the prescient, hyper-aware characters survive the carnage, but here she spends the movie’s conclusion destroying staircases, growling and snarling in a boogeyman baritone, climbing the walls and ceilings, and terrorizing her best friends. If only they had heeded her warnings. Vivia and Phoebe shine as final girls in these scenes, highlighting how resilient, smart, strong, brave, and resourceful they are; from the always-appreciated “find-the-bodies” slasher staple where they first discover the imminent danger to the realization that their beloved bestie is now a bloodthirsty maniac to their resolute determination to save each other. The final scenes of the movie are extra creepy fun as well, wherein Allan’s spirit overtakes Phoebe (“You raised a demon, Vivia,” she says in a spooky possessed voice) as the paramedics load Vivia and Phoebe into the same ambulance despite Vivia’s shrieking protests. No happy endings here (except in the fanfiction I wrote where they all make it out alive, finding happiness running a motel chain with the Rose family from Schitt’s Creek and making Moira their fourth BFF).

The killer’s costume. The movie was severely edited in order to receive an R-rating, leaving out almost all of the gore and bloodshed. These scenes have never been released uncut, though photos of the special effects were shown in old issues of Fangoria magazine. The more graphic footage was reworked to have all of the violence occur in a particular section of the film. Here is where the killer, dressed in a cumbersome, bulky diver’s suit shows up to quickly decimate the cast. Any killer that can wear 190 pounds of costume just to slaughter a bunch of partying college kids has serious dedication to their job. It’s an impractical yet visually arresting, unique, and memorable ensemble that is right at home with the weirdness of the movie. How do none of the victims hear him coming? How much Zumba did the killer have to do be in such good shape to choose that particular get-up? Where does one even find a trident to kill people with? How do you pronounce “gif”?  I have no answers. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

The soundtrack. We’ve already discussed White Sister’s contribution to the stellar soundtrack, but wait until you hear “These Are the Best Times”. This tune, which sounds like the best Bananarama or Spice Girls song that they never made, is sung by the three lead actresses and plays in both the beginning and over the end credits of the film. It is a jingle and a jam that you will never get out of your brain. Had this been officially released in any capacity, I would have requested the DJ to play it every time I went roller skating at Skatetown USA. If you haven’t heard this enchanting melody, you can find it on YouTube. You’ll want it to be your wedding song.

And random deep thoughts… There were a few extra things about the movie that I wanted to mention before I’m done convincing the world at large to watch it. The poster and VHS/DVD cover art is incredible and perfectly encapsulates that video store rental experience. The supporting characters are fun and enjoyable, beginning with Alicia Fleer as sorority mean girl Veronica, the Regina George of Briggs College. From her sneers and outfits alone, she is a memorably crotchety foil for Jennifer, Phoebe, and Vivia. The wonderful Paul Bartel shows up as the amusingly kooky Professor Zito. Just Before Dawn’s Ralph Seymour makes nerdy Martin more than a one-note caricature. Martin Hewitt takes his role of Blake, who could have been just a stereotypical jerk who listens to Jock Jams on repeat, and gives him some depth. The loopy Mrs. Henshaw (Pam Hyatt), while dispatched too early on, adds to the offbeat nature of the proceedings as she pleads at Allan’s gravestone for him to move on. Killer Party deserves more recognition because of Barney Cohen’s idiosyncratic script, solid direction from William Fruet (who directed several episodes of the awesome and underappreciated Friday the 13th: The Series), and the general peculiar proceedings that both adhere to and conversely stray from the conventional slasher movie. It’s a weird, wild, lively, amiable movie with no loftier goals than to be entertaining, and succeeds in a big way. Killer Party is a fun time that would make for a fantastic drive-in movie experience, night in on the couch and under a comforter with some Hot Pockets, or maybe someday, an uncut version on a big movie theater screen. I can dream! One final fun fact: the title of this movie was originally going to be “April Fool” but had to be changed because the April Fool’s-themed Slaughter High and the excellent April Fool’s Day were both in production. Thank you so much for reading! Be happy, safe, and healthy! Wear your mask!

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

September 25th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

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Five Favorite Things:: The Sender (1982) By Unk

September 24th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Everyone should know how great THE SENDER is by now and yet somehow they don’t. All these years later and I still rarely see it mentioned. Obviously it’s my duty to sing its praises yet again and so here we go…

1: The Tone

THE SENDER is one somber piece of work and it’s magnificently consistent. The colors are uniformly grey, bland or beige and its subdued rainy day mood refreshingly goes against the grain of most early eighties fare. There’s little if any levity and I think the only time we see the sun shining is during a suicide attempt. It’s like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET through the eyes of Ingmar Bergman. It’s probably not for everybody and its glum nature may explain its limited appeal but I LOVE it. It’s not too surprising that director Roger Christian was the art director for ALIEN and cinematographer Roger Pratt would go on to gift his talents to BRAZIL and 12 MONKEYS.

2:The Central Relationship/Actors

Intense Zeljko Ivanek portrays the wounded and confused “John Doe #83” who is sent to a mental clinic after trying to take his own life. The insanely underrated Kathryn Harrold is Gail Farmer, his concerned and intuitive therapist who takes him under her wing. The two are great together and it’s easy to root for their positive, nurturing relationship as it threatened by shock therapy enthusiast Dr. Denman (effortlessly unlikable Paul Freeman) and John’s unnerving and overtly religious mother (a quietly spooky Shirley Knight).

3: The Shock Therapy Scene

As it turns out John Doe#83 has quite a special talent and can “send” horrific nightmarish images and hallucinations into the minds of those around him- in some cases, triggering their deepest fears. It also turns out that when dealing with somebody with such ability that shock therapy is definitely not the way to go if you’re trying to quell the issue. We’re talking doctors and nurses flying about in slow motion through glass windows and fellow patients literally losing their heads. This scene is so beautifully done and continues to be a jaw-dropping sight no matter how many times I revisit the movie.

4:The Score

The great Trevor Jones (LABYRINTH, ANGEL HEART, DARK CITY) really gets behind the material and pushes everything to a higher level. Some of what he delivers is the saddest thing to ever hit your ears and then when needed, he brings on the bombast and creeping dread expertly.

5: The Visions

Rats crawling out of mouths, cockroaches swarming the fridge, decapitated heads flying about; what THE SENDER does not deliver in the body count department it certainly makes up for in the horrifying visual imagery arena. The line between reality and nightmare is cleverly blurred (and it should be noted, years before such a scenario was presented in the NOES series) and there’s a grounded, realistic quality to the happenings that make them that much more disturbing.

THE SENDER was way ahead of its time and it may still be. I guess it’ll never be an outright crowd-pleaser but it beats its own idiosyncratic drum in a way that has always impressed me. It’s a mature, thoughtful fright flick that stands on its own two feet and caters to no one and I’ll always be proud to champion it.

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