Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Spiral Staircase (1946)



Well damn, I figured I'd give this thing a shot again.  I watch movies.  I watch a lot of movies, though not as many as I used to.  I guess I'm getting old.   Not as old as this movie I watched called The Spiral Staircase.  This picture was good, possibly great, certainly unique.  Set in early 20th century, in a small New England town.  A talkie set during the silent film era featuring a protagonist who can't talk.  She's mute as a result of some trauma or other.  I wonder if not being able to vocally communicate plays into this particular story about a murderer who stalks disabled women?  Also, this film's views on disabled women is......interesting?  The first victim is described as "dim witted"?  I think one victim was described as "lame" which is a thing people used to say about people that....couldn't walk well?  Now they just say it about horses and this blog, any blog.  Also, I think one victim had a scar or something.  So, this killer targets women that are vulnerable is the point.

The picture opens in the screening room at some Inn where a projectionist cranks a lever and projects a silent film on a wall.  The crowd gasps, gawks, oohs and ahhs.  There's an old lady providing live piano accompaniment.  It's not unlike most arthouse theaters today.  The movie they're watching is called "The Kiss".  It looks bad, but was probably the highlight of the year for most of these hicks in the year of our lord 1906.  Anyway, while the picture plays downstairs a poor, "lame", woman is murdered in her room upstairs.  We see the killer's eye peering out from the closet as she changes.  He descends, she screams, the crowd downstairs reacts and moves upstairs to check out the ruckus.  This was a silent film after all...and also it wasn't called "The Scream".  Missed opportunity.

By the time they make it upstairs, the woman is dead (strangled) and the assailant has vanished.  Our main character was at the picture show.  Her name's Helen.  She's a mute.  She gets a ride home with Dr. Parry who tended to the dead woman.  Her home is the Warren estate, where she works tending to the bedridden matriarch Mrs. Warren.  On the ride home (horse and buggy style) they encounter, who I immediately deemed suspect #1, Freddy.  Freddy's a young lad who stops the doctor in hopes he'll stop to check in on his ailing father.  Dr. Parry takes a rain check.  He's too busy being smitten with Helen.  Freddy's a creepy little kid.  I forgot to snap a picture of my television screen so you'll just have to take my word for it.  He's definitely suspect material.  We don't see him again.  I wonder what happened to his papa?  Also, everyone's ailing in this fucking town.  His pa was probably in his 30s, but I imagine he looked to be about 65.

So, they finally reach the Warren home and this is where the movie decides to stay for the duration.  It's a big house, gothic as shit.  There's even a spiral staircase in there somewhere.  It's an incredible location.  The house contains a cast of characters and the rest of our suspects.  We've got Professor Albert Warren, the oldest son.  We've got Steven Warren, the youngest son recently back from Paris.  His arrival home correlates precisely with the start of the murders.  Maybe too obvious.  There's Nurse Barker, the cantankerous care provider for Mrs Warren that everyone seems to hate, especially Carlton the Bull Dog.  We've got Blanche, the young woman the two Warren brothers fight over.  And then there's Mr and Mrs Oates who I had trouble placing in the context of what was happening.  As far as I could tell, they lived at the estate (maybe caretakers?) and Mrs Oates was drinking all of Mrs Warren's brandy (and possibly her ether too).  And then there's this guy, Nurse Barker's arch nemesis and an obvious suspect.


Nurse Barker trips over him constantly and refers to him more than once as a "useless loaf".  At this point, I can't be positive that the eye I saw staring at victim #1 from her bedroom closet wasn't a dog's eye.

So, we got an old fashioned whodunit with some decidedly modern trappings.  It's almost a proto-slasher or even a proto-giallo.  Women die while the killer remains unknown until the end.  There's even the old person (Mrs Warren) telling the young woman (Helen) to leave and never come back if she knows what's good for her which is not that far off from the old coot at the gas station warning the kids away from Camp Crystal Lake in whatever Friday the 13th film that happened in.  Probably all of them.  Helen not being able to speak must have seemed like a masterstroke at the time but if you hired the wrong actress it could be a disaster.  Luckily, this actress has an expressive enough face and vintage silent era eyes.

Truthfully, I'm not really sure how to categorize this movie.  It's a mashup.  We've got a horror picture.  Light and shadow used to creepy perfection, especially when characters descend down the stairway or into the basement.  There's a film noir buried in here somewhere as well.  Consider this wonderful line from Dr. Parry (did I mention he's lusting after Helen?) in response to Stephen making a lewd comment directed towards her:  "The only thing keeping me from striking you in the jaw is the absolute certainty that it will break your neck".  He's a doctor so we kinda believe him.  There's also a bit of a love story which culminates when Helen has a fucking bizarre waking dream where she is getting married to the doctor but gets stuck on the "I do" part.  The men in this picture also say things like "run along now" to the women after they've grown tired of them.  Imagine that line making it's way into a picture today?  That would be weird.

This was made 20+ years prior to Wait Until Dark and in that one at least Audrey Hepburn could speak.  I won't spoil the finale or the reveal of the killer only to say it was (the finale) and wasn't (the reveal) shocking.  I can't imagine what audiences must have thought.  The film grossed under $900,000 at the time but doesn't that translate into something like 8 billion dollars today?  I have no idea.  Whatever, this is a good one.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Schlocktober Fest, 2018: The Final Chapter



If the hardest thing I had to do this year was watch a horror movie a day during the month of October then I've either had a pretty good year or I don't work very hard.  Still, this shit was exhausting.  I'm going to unwind in November with a book I probably won't finish.

October 30, 2018
Blood and Black Lace (1964)
viewed on: Shudder

Mario Bava, sometimes considered the grandfather of Italian horror, directs this ridiculous early entry in the giallo genre.  Essentially, that's Italian for "yellow" or "pulpy".  Most giallos centered around a string of murder set pieces and a "guess who the killer is (?)" type of game for the audience.  Like most color Bava films this picture is incredibly lush, wonderfully set designed, and filled with melodrama.  What we have here is a fashion house full of models, models that get picked off one-by-one in increasingly brutal ways.   Why don't you go ahead and guess who or what the killer is?

Surprise!  It's The Invisible Man.  The end.


Ok, I'll keep going, I guess.  It's not the Invisible Man.  Just a man (or woman) with a panty hose on his (or her) head.  We see the killer early and often in this picture.  Since none of the characters wore a fedora and face concealing panty during normal, non-kill laden,  times I was able to surmise that this must be a disguise.  Anyway, we have our suspects.  The house manager, because he's the only man (other than the two idiotic detectives) that spends any time of consequence hanging around the ladies.  Also, it's almost always a man.  Suspect #2: the recently widowed, house madame.  Recently widowed?  That's not at all suspicious.  Uh, yeah....they're pretty much the only two suspects in this thing.  No spoilers here.

This isn't so much a whodunnit as much as it is a series of stalky murder scenes and then, about an hour into the film "of course he/she is the killer (!), and then...30 minutes of denouement.  I mean, we've figured the whole thing out but, just in case we weren't sure, we get a god damned over talky killer(s).  There's a frame job in here somewhere, a diary that reveals all, a medieval hammer to the face, a non-sexy bathtub drowning, and a bunch of shots of a ringing red phone.  As far as I can tell, that's the main motif of the picture.  Ringing red phones.  Red phone rings, gorgeous model answers it with "pronto, pronto", horrible death follows.  The screenplay to this thing was....weak.  Of course, though, it's still worth watching.  Bava isn't considered the Italian Hitchcock for nothing (he just didn't hire writers on the level that Hitchcock hired).  This fucking thing is beautiful to behold.  I spent as much time looking into the corners of frames as I did trying to read the subtitles (which are mostly pointless, you don't need the dialogue to get this story).  Also, please, please, please start making readable subtitles people in charge of making subtitles (let's put the kibosh on tiny white subtitles, already).

Oh yeah, I forgot.  There's one other man in this picture that could be considered a suspect.  The Butler.  The film threw me for one of many loops when he didn't do it.  In fact, the best part of this script is all the loop throwing.  The first scene features lovely Isabella arriving at the fashion house.  My first thought was this is going to be the main girl, how great.  She's magnetic...and beautiful, seems to have a personality.  She's the first victim.  So...I guess this was Psycho-lite.  I think the second loop was the lack of nudity.  The final shot is a red phone hanging by a cord, off the hook.  I think there was a loop in the cord, don't really remember.  If there was a loop in that cord, spooky shit.


October 31, 2018
What We Do In The Shadows (2015)
how viewed: Vampire double feature at Revival Brewery

I'm glad Halloween fell on a Wednesday this year.  It allowed for keeping it low key.  Low key involved hitting up the Revival Brewery (Cranston, RI) where I could throw back 8% beers and take in a vampire double feature.  First on the docket, the 2015 New Zealand mockumentary called What we do in the Shadows.  If you're a vampire, living in present day New Zealand, it would make sense that you'd want to live with other vampires.  It's a good idea for a film and never really gets fully fleshed out (Only Lovers Left Alive tackled the idea a bit).  Here we have four such vamps; Viago (kind and sensitive), Vladislav (the suave-ish one), Deacon (uh...slightly less suave-ish?), and Petyr (he's the 8,000 year old one, looks like Nosferatu -- also, vicious as fuck).  By day, they sleep.  By night, they stalk the city looking for prey to bring home.  Also, there's a camera crew that follows them around.  They're wearing crucifixes.

What struck me most about this film was the way they use their human familiars.  A familiar is basically a human who works for the vampires, procuring their victims, doing their laundry, etc.  I guess Renfield would be the most famous of the familiars.  Most familiars hang around because they want to be turned.  Some hang around too long, well past the age that any rational person would want to spend an eternity living at.  Yet they still hang around, hoping for that bite followed by the sucking of vampire blood (procedure established here and before for becoming a vampire).  Deacon has a familiar named Jackie.  She brings a couple over one night, Nick and some girl.  Nick gets turned and becomes the newest flat mate, which is worth it for the addition to the crew of his best mate Stu (human).  Nick getting turned, that's gotta sting Jackie a bit, but why?  She's got a husband, has some kids, a normal life at home.  I guess the grass is always greener.  Viago also has a familiar but his familiar is now 90 and lives on the other side of the world (their painful separation involved that familiar shipping Viago -- in his coffin -- to New Zealand so he can pursue his one-true-love but using the wrong postage so Viago's voyage lasted 18 months).  They Skype from time to time now (sessions full of familiar lament) but Viago has mostly moved on, still pursuing his one-true-love, who is also 90.  Viago's indecisiveness is his crutch.  What a sad existence these familiars live.

So, this is a good one.  The story just rambles along with interviews, snippets of vampire action (turning into bats, biting into arteries, sniffing out werewolves, fending off vampire hunters, etc), vampire masquerade balls, and some more lamenting from familiars.  The characters are all great.  And, oh yeah, the picture is hilarious.  I probably should have mentioned that earlier.

Bonus content:

The Lost Boys (1987)

I stuck around for the second vampire feature even though I've probably seen it anywhere from 5-10 times.  I don't know, this one is pretty good.  If you haven't seen it, Dianne Wiest and her two sons, Corey Haim and Jason Patric, relocate to the small beach community of Santa Clara, CA.  They move in with Grandpa.  There are vampires.  Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jami Gertz are all there.  It's all very teen and very 80s.  A new rule for vampires gets established in this one, at least I think it's a new rule.  Kill the head vampire and anyone that the head vampire turned will revert back to human form.  It's basically the conceit the film writers came up with so a traumatized audience wouldn't leave the theater thinking about the awful eternity Jason Patric will have to spend looking like peak-era Jason Patric.

That's it, until next year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Schlocktober Fest, 2018 Vol. VII



The end is nigh...

October 25, 2018
Halloween (2018)
viewed on: theatrical

Alright, saw the new sequel to Halloween that erases all the other sequels and it was pretty good.  It's also called, Halloween which is....weird.   In this one, Michael Myers is caught at the end of the first one and then spends 40 years in a state hospital where he wisely uses his time standing in the middle of a, heavily guarded, concrete field staring into space.  Until a couple of true-crime podcasters show up to get his side of the story.  They bring the mask.  It stirs something.  That night, there's a prisoner transfer.  It doesn't end well for anyone.

Anyway, like I said, pretty good.  A great cast led by Jamie Leigh Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode.  The twist I guess is that's she's not his sister in this one.  That was introduced in part II where Myers stalks her around an empty Haddonfield hospital as she recovers from her injuries that she got in the first one.  Also, twisty is that Myers doesn't really think about Laurie Strode that much while he's all she's thought about for the last 40 years.  So much so that her daughter was eventually taken away from her and she ended up living in a fortified house in the middle of the woods, armed to the gills.  Judy Greer is daughter Strode, now grown up and with a daughter of her own (I guess she's the traditional final girl but this picture mostly eschews tradition), and trying to reconnect (somewhat) with Laurie.

Halloween night, Michael's on the loose, there's a high school dance, some #metoo stuff, and some stalk and slashing which is really more along the lines of straight up slashing (Michael sees a victim, almost all chosen at random, and kills them within 30 seconds).  Like the first one, he walks out in the open and no one notices him because it's halloween.  Will Patton is the sheriff.  He's great, not that bright.  There's a teen that looks like Jack Black.  A couple lovable deputies (they compare lunches -- one deputy has a homemade brownie and a gob of peanut butter -- he's my hero).  This feels very much like a David Gordon Green movie.  We're introduced to characters briefly, they get to be funny, and real...and then they die horribly which, come to think of it, isn't really a David Gordon Green trope.  Well, there's some horrible death in Your Highness, I guess.  Watch Your Highness.  Also, of interest, asshole characters don't necessarily get their comeuppance.  This is very not a 1980s picture.  I liked almost all the characters that got slaughtered.

There's even a new Dr. Loomis, referred to once as "so you're the new Dr. Loomis".  He gets to be funny, then fucking weird, and then....I don't know?  Seriously, what was up with that guy? Hopefully in the sequel, he'll get to hear Michael speak (spoiler: I don't think he will).  I spent the first half of the picture thinking to myself "I like this, back to basics, thank god they're not trying to reinvent the wheel" until I started to think "god damn it, they went and tried to reinvent the wheel, didn't they?"   It's good!


October 26, 2018
Tarantula (1955)
viewed on: VOD

Here's a 1950s creature feature with Clint Eastwood in an uncredited role as an air force pilot (we hear his voice, don't see his face).  Like Island Claws (1980), a movie I wrote up earlier this month, this one concerns scientists experimenting with growth hormones on animals to cure world hunger.  You know, they grow guinea pigs and rabbits and stuff.  The intent was never to use it on a tarantula because who the fuck would want to eat that?  Anyway, it happens and we're all the better for it.

This one, unlike Island Claws, is set in the desert, probably also near some nuclear test sites which serves as a double whammy for the poor folks stranded in this isolated community.  We got a mutated biologist names Jacobs (think Elephant Man), fast talking reporter Joe Burch, hunky Dr. Matt Hastings and lady scientist Tiffany Clayton.  The picture is nothing if not progressive ("give women the right to vote and what do you get?  Lady scientists.").  Ahhh...the fucking 50s.

Anyway, the tarantula grows to the size of a mountain and, let me tell you, the special effects (scroll above) are wonderful.  Seriously, the use of perspective in this thing is masterful.  Jack Arnold wrote and directed.  He also did It Came From Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon so I guess all I really need to know is why did it take me so long to see this thing?  If you like horses, you'll be horrified.  Typically abrupt 1950s monster movie ending but, seriously, are we really going to have scenes of characters "coming to terms" after that final shot?


October 27, 2018
What We Become (2016)
viewed on: Hulu

Here's another foreign language (Danish?) movie I watched this month.  The opening title gave me a seizure.  Basically, we got a pleasant little neighborhood that, not so eventually, becomes not so pleasant.  We got a teenager named Gustav and the girl across the street that he spies on with binoculars called Sonya.  Gustav has a young sister.  I forgot her name but she's always looking for her bunny (I think it was called Ninus, my notes are unclear).  Little sister loses a tooth.  This factors in later.  Anyway, things start happening; sirens escalate, old men die while watching television, then disappear, the newscasts become increasingly ominous (although that's nothing too alarming these days), guy gets hit by a car and is clearly dead but the ambulance keeps speeding by as bystanders flag it down, etc.  Also, there's a dead deer in here somewhere.

I loved all this set up.  A family trying to go about their day-to-day business as the world around them starts to crumble.  Military guys in hazmat suits show up.  The neighborhood gets quarantined.  People get sick and then they disappear.  The military might show up at your back patio door and ask to inspect your open mouth through the other side of glass.  Experts on the news refuse to comment on how many people have died.  Everything will be fine, just wash your hands the proper way, etc.  Shit, I forget...hot water?  Do I pat my hands or firmly rub them into the towel?  Fuck, hand dryers are right out these days, aren't they?  Where's the PURELL?

This was a good one, almost a great one, and then it became like that stuff in Twenty Eight Weeks Later when the military leaves and lets the people fend for themselves.  It became pretty standard shit is what I'm saying.  Well done standard shit but still standard shit.   A clear nod is given to Night of the Living Dead with the little girl (the one searching for her bunny -- am I misremembering this bunny stuff?) and then reconvening with her mother and father.  Then the end title flashed on the screen and it was, once again, seizure time.


October 28, 2018
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
viewed on: VOD

I'm shocked to be writing this but this might be the best picture in this particular block.  Or, well...It's hard to say it's better than Vampyr (up next -- 1932, so it's a classic, right) or even Halloween (2018) but it fucked me up more than any of them.  First thing I did after watching this was put black tape over the camera on my laptop.  Those fuckers can deactivate the little green light, apparently.  They see everything, man.

This is the story of a young man (Matias) who "borrows" (he stole it) a laptop from the internet cafe that's supposedly been sitting in lost and found for weeks.  My guess, it was there for a day.  He logs in (this whole movie takes place on his screen) and immediately starts to replace the autofills on all the popular sites (Facebook, Spotify, Skype, YouPorn, etc).  He then connects with his deaf girlfriend (her name is Amaya) but she's annoyed because he hasn't been going to his ASL classes (his plan, apparently, was to get a faster computer so he could download some apps that would improve their communication -- he's lazy, I respect that).  While this "conversation" is going on, he skypes with the gang (we got Lex -- musician, I think, AJ -- liberal Alex Jones, Nari & Serena -- newly engaged couple, Damon -- British, so smart, and maybe etc...or, no, that's it).  It's game night.

So, they play Cards against Humanities or some shit, while Matias tries to reconcile with Amaya and then the laptop's owner messages Matias (he accidentally opened the Facebook with the wrong log-in) and things spiral out of control.  It's called Unfriended: Dark Web so if you guessed some silk road shit that involves an anonymous group of 1%ers bidding on girls, having them kidnapped and then, possibly (I won't spoil it fully) murdered for their enjoyment (and large sums of bitcoin) you'd be close to on the money.  I started out hating every character in this thing (again, we only see them on Matias' screen) and then a funny thing happened.  I started to fucking like them.  Even AJ.  So, what happens to them actually matters.  The tension building in this thing, while maybe not ingenious, is at least really fucking smart.  After it was over, I sat up, went to bed, and didn't even open my laptop which is like a fucking ritual over here.  Shit man, I don't even remember the first Unfriended.  In fact, I was thinking about it the other day and confused it with Friend Request, which is a complete piece of shit.  So, this movie?  Shockingly good.


October 29, 2018
Vampyr (1932)
viewed on: theatrical (Avon Cinema, Providence)

Almost home.  I never thought watching a movie a day would take this much of a toll on me.  It's the ultimate passive sport.  I haven't been to the gym in two weeks.   It's not even the watching and jotting down a couple notes.  I also have to cook dinner and I prefer to be in bed by 9.  I've been staying up until 11 or...gasp....11:30 this month.  Then there's a night where you decide to catch a screening at the Avon Cinema in Providence of a 1932 French-German coproduction of Vampyr (I can't imagine French and Germany having many coproductions in the years to come), put on by the good folks of Magic Lantern Cinema.  And, it was free.

First thought.  Shit, the Avon is incredible.  A throwback to a bygone era.  I've been searching for something to replace the Brattle since I moved because, let's be honest, the hour drive back to Cambridge is...a chore.  The Avon is a classic (beautifully curtained and lit) single screen theater, great for creature feature doubles (I need to contact the programmer).

I'll be honest here, for a moment.  Seeing a black and white, 1932, foreign language, plenty of text on the screen (damn it was almost silent) film on a Monday night at 9pm is not very conducive to my staying awake.  Thankfully, I only nodded out a couple time and was nudged awake by the kindly friend sitting next to me.  What we got here is something which, while somewhat tame now, must have felt revolutionary back in its time.  Allan Gray (he's the main guy) stumbles upon an isolated Inn looking for a bed.  What we don't got here is the gothic trappings usually associated with vampire pictures (and let's be honest, Tod Browning's Dracula came out a year earlier -- ok, ok, Nosferatu came out ten years earlier, but that shit ain't really gothic either -- but I don't think any influence can be found here).  This thing is near psychedelic.  There's certainly a vampire (an old woman) and some dastardly ministers of evil (an Einstein looking mother fucker and some guy with a peg leg).  There's a sickly bed ridden young woman (think Lucy) and there are stakes and coffins.  But, really, what the fuck?

Immediately upon arrival, Alan is wide-eyed at the sights.  There's the shadow of a soldier that he follows.  The shadow then arrives at a bench where he sits next to...a soldier....the very soldier the shadow is a shadow of.  I wasn't sure where they were going with this so I probably nodded out at this point.  If this movie were to be remade today it would probably resemble something like The Apostle (also watched this month) where Alan stumbles upon an isolated community, gets drawn into their shenanigans and then dies, gets placed into a coffin with a window (so he can see out, of course) and then gets carried around the town in what I'm pretty sure is an iconic moment (this movie has many iconic images, including the weird guy with the scythe down by the river).  Also, this is nothing like The Apostle.  There's a wonderful, and horrific, set piece that I saw evoked 50 years later (Witness) where a character gets buried by grains in a mill.  What I liked most about this film is the helping to establish vampire rules. Again, we got stakes.  We got coffins, but I don't think the vampire sleeps too much in them.  There's the whole blood thing.  And then there's the thing where characters get stuck between the dead and the living and sit next to themselves on benches, etc, get replicated, and triplicated before walking pretty girls to the relative safety that exists on the other side of a forest.  I'm not sure if that rule stuck.  Excellent film.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Schlocktober Fest 2018, Vol. VI


October 20, 2018
The Witch in the Window (2018)
viewed on: Shudder

This story opens with a desperate mother trying to protect her young son from the horrors of the world (he apparently stumbled upon some particular brand of nastiness online) by sending him off to spend time with her ex-husband in the country.  Since the movie opens in NYC, we can infer that "country" is Vermont.  Off they go to the land of "what's that smell?"  It's the fresh air...or it's the cow shit.  This felt like a Lifetime movie, for men.  Father and son get to reconnect while fixing up a house that the father bought that he's totally not planning on flipping.  Also, father reveals he has a hole in his heart at one point.  I can't imagine that will come up again.  Oh, and there's a ghost in the house.   The ghost of a woman that, while alive, used to live in the house and sit up in a cozy chair looking out the window for hours, days even, at a time.  No normal person stares out a window for hours, days even?  Maybe we should check on her, one of the boys (now the town electrician) might say.  Yeah, she was dead for days, in that chair.  This was 25 to 30 years ago.  The house has been sitting vacant that entire time and now here come some city folk (father and son) to restore and then flip the house, which is a very city like thing to do.

We got one (interesting-ish) idea proposed by this movie involving those magic art paintings.  You know, the paintings that if you stare at them long enough, and relax or focus (or de-focus) your eyes in just the right way the image will reveal itself?  I could never figure those paintings out.  Fuck it, I hate them.  Knocked the movie down a peg or two for me.  Anyway, the idea being that the ghost realm is the same way.  So, next time you're wandering a haunted house at night take this little tidbit of knowledge into account.  Back to this ghost, her name's Lydia.  I wasn't sure what her plan was other than to maybe not be so alone.  She just wants company.  There's a funny bit involving the son being sent home by bus and then reappearing (spoiler: it's Lydia in troubled boy form) and helping pops restore the house.  They make a day of it, clearing out 2X4s, knocking out drywall, shoveling stuff, etc.  A whole day of laughing and talking and working.  Then she reveals herself.  What was that all about?  This was a decent picture.  The performances were pretty good.  Believable father-son interactions and not-quite-as-believable father-ghost stuff.

October 21, 2018
Born of Fire (1987)
viewed on: Amazon Prime

Born of Fire is the story of a master flautist who wants to use his flauting powers to destroy the world, with fire, and the somewhat lesser master flautist who plans to stop him with his own brand of flauting skills.  This is the type of picture you might go a lifetime without stumbling upon and then, on your deathbed, totally lament the fact that no one made such a picture (only they did, you just missed it).  I loved this one.  It's like if The Exorcist II had actually been watchable.  The movie opens in England somewhere, then jumps to Turkey and a flautist's search for his father who, I guess, may or may not have been a master flautist.  He's followed by a female astronomer who is never properly named in the picture.  At first, I figured I just missed her name as I'm easily distracted but, no, it's right there in the credits.  She was billed as "woman".  She was a main character!  Why not at least bill her as her occupation?  Astronomer (to be fair, she said "astronomer" but she seemed more "astrologer" to me).

Anyway, come to think of it, I can't even remember the flautist's name.  I think it was maybe Carl?  Carl has a brother, unknown to him until her reaches these mystical caves in Turkey (where 90% of the movie is set), simply named "the silent one".  Also, he was born deformed and is now heavily bearded.  He doesn't talk.  He's....adorable?  Eventually, we see this master flautist and, fuck, is he a sight to behold.  He's all albino like with flames shooting out of his eyes.  He plays the flute well.  If you didn't think this picture would end with a flute battle you would be mistaken.  Along the way, we get lots of fire, possession stuff, snake woman sexy stuff, magical pregnancies, human sized larvae birthing, and some of the best visuals from an 80s movie I had previously never heard of until this week.  I was an impressionable lad.  I would have taken up the flute if I had seen this upon release.

October, 22 2018
The Power (1984)
viewed on: Amazon Prime

I made a mistake and doubled down on 80s movies I had previously never heard of by watching this mostly piece of shit.  Here's the good; 84 minutes padded out by a ten minute opening credits sequence that is simply cheap piano music with white credits on black screen.  The picture opens with a guy giving a lecture on ancient idols or some type of shit like that.  It's a poorly lit classroom in a poorly lit movie.  I would have fallen asleep.  After class, the professor is met by his former friend Matthew where they discuss a particular idol.  Then the professor becomes possessed and then impaled.  Or, wait, the professor was named Matthew, I think.  The old friend was named Francis.  Post impaling, Francis travels to a site in Mexico and then I think he got impaled.  Maybe it was Central America.  A few shootings, perhaps another impaling or two and the story mercifully becomes about what it's going to be about.  A bunch of high school students ouija-ing the shit out of stuff.  Also, there's a newsroom drama in here somewhere ("woman killed by legions of killer bees, now that's a story.  Always report the facts.")  Halfway through this thing everyone was still pretty anonymous to me.  We even have a second Matthew character.  He barely factors in except to confuse this viewer.

Watching this picture so soon after "Born of Fire" it's evident that some filmmakers are good and some are not good.  My favorite scene involved Jerry becoming possessed and trying to shove his girlfriend's hand in the garbage disposal.  Also, I had to wonder, who the fuck is Jerry?  This was close to the end of the picture.  It all came down to whoever holds the amulet holds the power and then I finally understood the title of this picture.  Jerry was "The Power" all along.  Ahhhh, I finally get it.  Cut to "3 Years Later" in a library.....I don't know, who gives a shit?  Perhaps if this had been a professionally lit film I may have followed along or understood what was happening, who anyone was, etc.

October 23, 2018
The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
viewed on: physical media

Here's a classic I suppose.  A classic, beautifully lit film about an orchestral violinist (Claude Rains -- also, The Invisible Man) that gets fired from the orchestra, has his opera stolen, gets acid thrown in his face (his origin story is 30 minutes of a 90 minute picture) and then spends the remaining run-time stalking and slashing in-and-out of the catacombs beneath a beautiful, French opera house.  The cast of characters includes this guy with mustache, that guy with mustache, and one guy that had mustache burned off with acid (I assume, forgot what he looked like pre-acid).  The first thing I noticed about this movie was boy, what a classy score.  A period appropriate, full orchestral affair.  It would be pretty strange if they went minimal ping ping piano music for something with "opera" in the title.   Second thing I noticed was "shit, this might be an actual opera" and "fuck, they took the title literally".  There's a lot of singing in this movie.  A lot of operatic set pieces involving the opera within the movie.  I was fine with it but, for a horror movie, there's very little horror going on.  Maybe ten out of ninety minutes of this picture could be considered actual horror.

Anyway, we got main girl, Christine Dubois.  She's the understudy that Phantom takes a liking to, tries to get her into the main role.  In the main role, Madame Bank-a-rolly (this is how it's pronounced, not sure of the spelling).  She's not a very good human being, in this viewer's non judge-y opinion, but probably not deserving of what the Phantom has in store for her.  Back to the mustached guys.  One was named Anatoli.  He's in love with Christine.  There's another guy named Verner, money-ed mustached guy behind the desk.  He fired Phantom in the beginning.  There's Raul, another mustached guy in love with Christine.  Shit, it's like a war movie at times in the not being able to tell these guys apart, kind of way.  Along the way, we've got horses on stage, opera singing, garish colors, garish stage sets, curtain climbing, stage collapses, a too-well-tuned piano in Phantom's lair, more opera singing, light horror stuff, and a bunch of French guys in mustaches.  Two stars.


October 24, 2018
Tales of Halloween (2015)
viewed on: Netflix

Horror really lends itself to the anthology more than any other genre.  You really don't need the proper feature length build up to generate genuine scares.  Anyway, here's a good one with contributions from directors I've actually heard of.  At 90 minutes long and with 10 stories (the wrap around, involving Adrienne Barbeau's DJ character from The Fog, makes its appearance in most of the stories but really isn't a traditional wrap-around).  Shockingly, Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible theme) does the main theme, probably because his son Ryan (I have no idea if that's their real relationship) directs one of the stories.

Sweet Tooth
Short and....sweet.  Halloween night.  A young kid returns home to devour his spoils.  His babysitter and her boyfriend make out on the couch some and then regale the poor lad with the ol' urban legend involving Sweet Tooth, a young kid who would return home from trick or treating every year only to be sent off to bed while his parents destroyed his treats (by eating them).  Well, one year, the little kid has had enough.  He comes downstairs, catches his parents in the act (by act I mean engaging in some sort of sexually charged candy fest), murders them and proceeds to eat all the candy (by "all" I mean all the candy they didn't eat and all the candy the did eat).

Is Sweet Tooth real or just a story to keep already terrified kids submissive?  It's a hit.

The Night Billy Raised Hell
This one kinda sucked.  Thankfully, it's only a few minutes.  A young trick or treater goes on a rampage of fast food, and looney-tunes mayhem with the devil that lives next door.   By the time you return to your seat with a fresh beer this one will be wrapping up.  Miss.

Trick
Throughout these stories the characters are watching Night of the Living Dead.  I like that.  Between Barbeau on the radio and the same movie on all the television sets it really gives you the impression it's all happening at the same time.  Anyway, here's a story about a bunch of twenty somethings drinking and smoking weed before getting massacred by a bunch of killer kids.  Hit.


The Weak & The Wicked
Have you ever seen that movie where a bunch of high school kids act like they're starring in Miller's Crossing and then they do bad things to each other?  This is like that only it's like a spaghetti western and there's a demon at the end.  Also, I'm starting to get the idea this movie isn't going to be very...diverse.  Semi-hit.

Grim Grinning Ghost
A young woman leaves her mom's paranormal party, drives home, listens to some Barbeau and then gets stalked by a ghost that was talked about at the party.  Features some cool shadowy stuff, but mostly just a miss.

Ding Dong
Here's a fucked up little gem directed by Lucky Mckee (hey, I've heard of him).  Jack and Bobbi (Bobbi with an i, so female) are home last halloween.  Jack is pretty meek.  They sit around lamenting that they can't have children of their own.  Jack dresses their dog up like Gretel.  Bobbi rages.  Cut to next Halloween (i.e., tonight).  This time, Jack is dressed up like Hansel.  There's a great montage of Jack and Bobbi handing out candy to kids (with Bobbi dressed as the witch).  Bobbi scares the kids by pulling Gretel's pig tail out of her mouth with piece of scalp attached.  Then we get oven stuff.  Hit.

This Means War
This one does a good job of illustrating the generation gap between Boomer horror and 80-90s metal influenced horror.  We got the old guy who uses quaint, spooky sets (skeleton, cauldrons, etc) and the young guy across the street decked out with leather and ordering all the gory shit from eBay.  Eventually, this one escalates to all out brawl.  Short (they're all short!), fun, and turn that fucking music down, punk.  I'm with old guy.  Side-al hit.

Friday the 31st
At this point, I started checking my watch.  I was enjoying it enough but, damn, too many shorts.  I was missing the character development and set piece build up that 20 minutes would allow.  These were all set pieces, no build up.  Here's take on slasher villains that felt vaguely original. Girl gets stalked and slashed by a Jason Voorhees looking motherfucker.  Alien lands after the slashing, gets squished by poor man's Jason (so, Victor Crowley), then squished alien possesses the dead girl, Evil Dead style.  Tables are turned and now Jason is running for his life.  Anyway, some sweet and terrible practical effects.  Then the UFO flies through the sky in the next episode (I feel like all this connective tissue stuff was added in post production).  Moderate hit.

The Ransom of Rusty Rex 
Here's the Ryan Schifrin episode.  I think Leonard Maltin was in it?  Or was that John Landis?  Anyway, a couple of kidnappers get more than they bargained for when they attempt to ransom Landis-Maltin's weird son-thing.  It was sorta funny, I guess.  I'm starting to think I should have written about the one or two stories I really liked.  Moderate miss.

Bad Seed (Neil Marshall)
Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, some Game of Thrones episodes) directs the last story about a pumpkin that eats people and the cop on its trail.  No idea how this pumpkin becomes sentient or grows teeth or gains an appetite for human flesh.  A 9 minute run time doesn't really allow you the opportunity to develop this stuff.  Anyway, we got lots of cop movie cliches (including getting dressed down by the captain) plus the pumpkin moves like a crite.  It was fine, ends with some X-Files type conspiracy stuff and then Barbeau chimes in with "the witching hour is over".  I might be done with anthologies for a while.  Side-al hit?  S-hit?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Schlocktober Fest 2018, Vol. V


Well, I almost didn't make it.  About a week ago my computer crashed (I swear it's not the porn) and I had to bring the thing to the Apple Store.  If you've ever made an appointment with the Apple Store you probably know that, while the fix might be quick, it's the actual "getting in for service" where they get you.  So, A week later, here I am, ready to bang out a few reviews.  I'm going to wing this one.  Short, short, brief, and little reviews.  Micro reviews.  Really tiny, is what I'm saying.  Again, here are the rules:

1) 31 movies for 31 days
2) It has to be something I haven't seen before


Here we go.

October 13, 2018
Terrified (2018), an Argentinian film (with subtitles)
viewed on: Shudder

I watched this thing in the morning with coffee.  That's fitting because the opening scene is too terrifying for dark (I guess that's where they came up with the title).  Here we have a movie not completely unlike Poltergeist if JoBeth Williams has left Craig T. Nelson in bed to go shower and then Nelson woke up to some thumping, wandered around the house looking for the source, left the house yelled at the neighbor, came back inside and found....(spoiler---redacted)...in the shower.   Also, wasn't the entire housing development revealed to be haunted in Poltergeist?  That's what happens here.  So, not such an original spin, I guess?  Anyway, we got a haunted block, dead boy that gets hit by a bus and returns home looking for dinner, hand impalings, blood sucking ghosts, the Argentinian Benicio Del Toro, postmortem spasms caused by gasses, Paranormal investigators and investigations, subtitles, etc.

October 14, 2018
We are the Flesh (2018), a Mexican film (also subtitles, I'm nothing if not worldly)
viewed on: Shudder

Here's a film that opens with heavy breathing and then devolves into heavy panting.  No, it's not a boy and his dog it's a Mexican film about the end of the world and fellatio in Papier-mache caverns.  I don't know, the film has lots of standard post apocalyptic stuff, at first.  We got food gathering (potatoes, mostly), incest, full on explicit dong and mouth stuff (alluded to above if you call that an "alluding to"), some incredible visuals (including Predator vision), misogyny ("How come a nimrod like you ended up with such a nice piece of ass"), bearded perverts, and apparently (checks notes) a "piano orgy".  I jotted down "wtf" a bunch.  They don't leave those reddish hued caverns until the end but, when they do, it's a stunner?  Probably not a movie you'll want to throw on when visiting the folks for the holidays.

October 15, 2018
The First Purge (2018)
viewed on: physical media

I like the concept behind these Purge films and then they went and overkilled it.  We even have a Purge TV show now (I watched the first episode a while back and forgot that I did until I saw the trailer for it before this thing).  When I mention I viewed this on "physical media" please don't go thinking I bought The First Purge.  It's not completely outside the realm of possibility but, let's be real for a minute, I don't even own the first 5 or 6.  I vending machined this sucker.  Anyway, "The Purge" is one night a year when all crime is a legal.  In the first films it's across the entire United States but here we get a look at the initial soft rollout.  They chose Staten Island for "The First Purge" which, if you've ever seen the film Combat Shock, is probably a good idea (that movie ends with a combat vet throwing his dead baby in the oven).  Of course, this is all about race.  It's a movie that could probably only exist (in this fashion) during the Trump administration, though this systemic racism stuff has existed for forever.  Now we're finally angry about it.  Anyway, we got a The Wire-lite like set up here with kids working on "the corner" and volunteering to take part in the "The First Purge" in return for cash, etc.  White people in high rises (monitoring with drones and cameras), brown skinned people on street level committing purges until the tables are finally turned, or are they?  I don't really remember.  Fuck Trump is the films lasting message.  Recommended for the Wolverine character with syringes where the claws should be.

October 16, 2018
Pyewacket (2018)
viewed on: Hulu

This is the movie I was watching when my computer shit the bed so fuck this movie.  It was ok.  Let's talk about it.  Briefly.  Pyewacket is not a word for wacking pies with a stick.  It's also not about a cat,  apparently.  I don't know, I heard Pyewacket was some dumb cat.  Instead, it's the story of some goth girl fascinated by the occult.  As the movie opens she tells her mom she's going to a book signing.  How refreshing that she actually went to this book signing.  For an occult-y type book.  The afterparty involves hanging around the parking lot sipping red wine as teens do.  Then the mom tells goth girl that they're moving to the country.  The girl throws a fit, calls up some demon (I guess the thing was called pie wicket) to kill her mom and semi-glorious mayhem ensues.  It's actually not even "semi", nothing glorious about this one.  I liked it enough.  The subject was heavy, goth kids and their dead fathers.  "I would take Billy Corgan over any guy" is what one goth girl says.  It's a movie.  I should give it another shot sometime on a night when my computer doesn't go all Evil Speak.

October 17, 2018
The Apostle (2018)
viewed on: Netflix

Here's one I really liked.  A man travels to a British Isle (I think) in the early 20th century (I think) to look for his sister (I think) who ran away from home (not clear) to join a cult (pretty sure).  Dan Stevens (new Indie It-guy) plays the brother (or dad or..).  He dresses like a 40s gumshoe.  Everyone else dresses more period appropriate I assume.  Anyway, basically The Wicker Man but if the leader of the cult was played by Michael Sheen (not Christopher Lee or, later, Ellen Burstyn).  Also, no music in this one (there's a nice score, just no weird folky interludes involving Ingrid Pitt in the buff) though I think there was some gentle Dan Stevens guitar strumming?  Memory is a funny thing.  Anywhoo, it's a gem, a long, long gem.  Two hours plus.  The cult is probably proved totally justified when the goddess of the wood makes her first appearance.  We got medieval torture, medieval executions, goddess satiated via funnel by one of those guys from Beastmaster.  You know the guys, right?  Cloaked mother fuckers.  These guys:

Anyway, good shit.  Nice, poetic ending.

October 18, 2018
The Hearse (1980)
viewed on: physical media (I own this shit)

Here's another one I like that I definitely, most definitely, have never seen before.  1980's The Hearse, courtesy of Crown International Pictures, or CIPs for short.   What we got here is the story of a woman inheriting (?), buying (?), or renting a house out in the country north (?), south (?) or, let's go with just outside of San Francisco.  The former lady of the house has passed.  Now it's owned by this very 1980s looking woman.  In the country there are hills and winding roads and the caretaker of the house lets her in one night wearing jammies under a trench coat.  Also, there's a house (did I mention that yet), and a hearse.  Unlike most 1980s killer car thrillers, this hearse clearly has a driver, looks like Higgiins.  Meanwhile, the town also has a sheriff (he stashes booze), a landlord (he stashes booze), a  priest (he stashes booze), and Shooter McGavin in a neckerchief:


Good film,  Everyone's drunk and the hearse explodes at the end (or, does it?)

October 19, 2018
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
viewed on: Shudder

This viewing was overly fueled by bourbon.  I'm still not sure I've seen it.  Here are some notes:


  • Michael Ironsides, top billed
  • church stuff
  • 1957 prom flashback with "tootie fruity"
  • hand smell -- poor Ironsides (??)
  • old guy "music too loud"
  • Ironsides is principal and also appears in the flashback as a student (!)
  • paper slicer kill
  • "I'm gonna drink too much beer and throw up in the can.  It's my (unintelligible), I'm a teenager."
  • dorky guy and cool girl "we could never be at prom together"
  • volley ball scene leads to getting knocked out which leads to Nightmare on Elm Street rip off (that's the movie, basically)
  • demon horse = bad
  • priest box buddy (I don't know, either)
  • back in class (I either wrote "hot for teacher" or "not for teacher")
  • meat grinder locker (iconic)
  • hugging a corpse
  • prom insane
  • goodnight
That's the movie in a nut shell.  Solid.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Schlocktober Fest 2018, Vol. IV



October 10, 2018
The Astounding She Monster (1958)
How watched:  Amazon Prime
key contributor: America's crippling fear of women (and nuclear shit)

Here's a picture from America's peak science fiction decade that capitalized on our fear of Nuclear annihilation and...um...women leaving the kitchen.  There are three women in this thing and not one of them wears an apron.  We've got Margaret, an heiress to her father's fortune, who leaves the house and is immediately kidnapped.  We've got Esther, one of the perpetrators of the kidnapping who never finds herself too far from a bottle.  And we've got Astounding She Monster, the titular radioactive dame from another world who appears vaguely (blur-ily) naked throughout and possesses a lethal touch.  Also, some men factor into the picture.  A geologist, and a couple hoods working with Esther. Also, there's a collie (I'm pretty sure the actor that played Lassie) and a bear (likely male).

At sixty minutes, the picture flew by while barely qualifying as feature length.   The gang of hoods grab Margaret and hide out in a mountain cabin (where the geologist and his pet collie work) where they plan to extort the wealthy father for ransom.  At the same time, a meteor strikes the countryside, unleashing this Astonishing Radioactive She Woman Creature Type thing upon the region.  She wanders the hills around the cabin a lot.  For most of the run time.  Every so often, one of the hoods ventures out to look for better cell service or something only to succumb to her touch.  Like, they immediately die but not before screaming.  Not a very 50s-ish man thing to do but this movie is nothing if not subversive.  Also, a bear dies screaming.  And, later, Lassie too.

I liked this picture enough.  We've got double crosses, back stabbings, and women drinking to excess.  At the end, I missed the explanation for how the she-monster died so I had to rewind.  I went too far and watched from the point where the bear dies but I thought this was a different scene involving a different bear so I began to wonder how much I was really paying attention.  Anyway, all the hoods die horribly (as much as instantaneous sexually charged death by radioactive she women can be horrible) while Margaret and the geologist throw acid on the she beast, killing it, apparently.  The She Monster disappears but leaves behind a note ("People of earth, we'd like to extend an invitation for you to join the council of planets.  We dig your style, etc").  60 years later, we haven't learned a damn thing.  We're still killing the messenger.  I recommend this for the poster which, incidentally, makes a swell shower curtain.


October, 11 2018
Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018)
How I watched:  Shudder
key contributor: Lovely Molly (also, the name of a better film)

I really dug the first Hell House LLC so, fuck it, why not check out the second one?  I'm paying for Shudder, after all.  If you remember the first one, it was the story of a haunted hotel in Abaddon, NY (upstate somewhere) where a haunted house company (Hell House LLC) went to set up a haunted house (it's what they did) in the haunted hotel and then everyone got massacred (but it was really just a malfunction according to some shady lawyer).  The lone survivor of the first film (he didn't go tot he hotel, hence the "survivor" part) returns, 9 years later, to the scene of the haunts to uncover the truth about what happened to his friends.  There's also the host of a crime show called "Morning Mysteries" named Jessica, some arrogant Paranormal Investigatory prick named Brock and a couple of nerdy cameramen.  Then there's Molly.  Lovely, lovely Molly who refuses to go into the hotel until she stops refusing.

Even more than the first film, this one is seemingly pieced together from multiple sources (we've got re-used footage from the first film, new footage that the new crew take from inside the hotel, a bizarre talk show featuring the survivor mentioned above (oh yeah, Mitchell), Brock, and the skeevy lawyer (who, all respect to Molly, was probably the real key contributor to this thing), and (most effectively), a Facebook Live video of a local teen who goes into the hotel on a dare.

This time around, the hotel is fully awake.  It wastes no time.  You got the sense, in the first one, it was slowly waking up from a long slumber.  Here it desperately tries to draw victims into it's clutches.  Not sure if you're going to go through with it Facebook Live-er?  Here, we'll open the front door for you.   The scares are bigger and more ridiculous.  The hotel, most bizarrely, gets a James Bond villain moment of over explaining its evil plan.  We've got a portal, more ghost clown-mannequin type dudes, some randomly appearing nooses, characters standing in the dark and staring at walls blair witch style, etc.  Big, BIG, BIGGER scares.  Ultimately, too big, so big that the scares eventually stopped scaring.  I did love the layout of the house, described as being designed in the mold of HH Holmes' "murder house".

One thing really bothers me about a  lot of these found footage type of films though.  This one involves our characters fleeing from ghosts and shit up the stairs of the house and barricading themselves in a room where they huddle for hours.  At one point, the lights go out, and then silence.  The lights come back on.  The barricade, and Molly, are now gone.  No sounds of a struggle.  No scream.  I'm just saying I want one of these type of scenes where a character has night vision goggles.  I want to see the shit that goes down when the lights go out.  How did the ghosts/monsters/clowns accomplish this without a peep?

Oh well, I hope if we get a Hell House LLC III it's set in the wild west or space or some shit.  It's fine.


October 12, 2018
Mandy (2018)
How I watched: I paid for this shit
key contributor: Obviously I'd like to go with Nic Cage but let's go with Johann Johannson (he did the music) because it's his final film score and it was incredible

Here's the plot:  Lumberjack Nicolas Cage finishes a day's work in the woods, gets in a chopper with his crew, and heads home.  In the chopper, he turns down a beer from a coworker (stopped drinking years ago?).  He goes home to some more woods, where he lives with his girlfriend Mandy.  Mandy is fascinated by horror novels, always has one on her person.  One day, she's walking down a road and is passed by some cult-y type guys in a car.  The cult leader is smitten.  Later that night, he commands his underling to bring her to him.  His underling and his underling's underling (think Courtney Gains from The Burbs) venture out to get some help fulfilling this dastardly plan.  He blows into some sort of horn in the middle of some woods.  Moments later, demon bikers appear (they're cenobites on hogs).  The demon bikers break into Cage's cabin and kidnap the both of them, bring them to the cult leader.  Everyone's drugged, Cage is tortured, and Mandy is burned to ashes in front of Cage.  Cage escapes, returns home, downs a bottle of booze, Cage's out for a while and then meets up with Bill Duke (Predator) who gives him the backstory of these badass demon guys, I think.  Then Cage forges some weapons and revenge stuff happens.   Simple enough.

Panos Cosmatos (the director, visionary director is pretty fitting here) is the son of George P. Cosmatos.  We are all our father's sons but none of us are defined by our fathers.  Unless our father directed Rambo II, Tombstone, and Leviathan (amongst many others) then I might be ok with at least being partially defined by him (kidding, Rambo II sucks).  Anyway, Panos directed this (!!) and Beyond the Black Rainbow (unseen by me -- I've heard it described as visionary but it also sounds like something I'd struggle to get into in a what am I watching and why isn't Nicolas Cage in this sort of way).  The plot I described above is the movie but it's also not even close to the movie.  I really don't know how to describe it.  There are callbacks to Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Raising Arizona (I think -- demon bikers, Cage and Mandy reminded me a bit of Cage and Holly Hunter), and some more.  Mad Max Fury Road?    I'd need to watch this thing again to pick up all the references.  The visuals are..insane?  It's a post apocalyptic movie set during a non apocalypse.  Their world (it's a small world) looks lit by fire.  Cage wears two different shirts, one with a tiger and a sports jersey with #44.  The tiger shirt paid off in a scene with an actual tiger.  The #44 is a tribute to Mandy (she wore it at one point, but it's certainly not a sports thing).  Also, during demon battle we get "YOU RIPPED MY FAVORITE SHIRT!!"  The music and the chapters (yes, this picture has chapters) evokes the prog metal of the era (oh yeah, this took place in 1983).  There's animation from time to time.   We've also got the best chainsaw duel since "Lefty" Enright battled Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Cage gives one of these type of performances every few years (his last such performance may have been in Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans).  There is only one Nic Cage and when he's fully engaged there's no actor that can go the places he goes.  The height of his Cage-ness may be the bathroom scene when he first returns home (after being kidnapped and watching Mandy burn) and retrieves a well hidden bottle of booze.  Watching him process the last few hours with screams and swigs is an experience we don't often get with movies.  It's a long scene.

I'll leave you with this brief exchange.

Bill Duke:  So, whatcha hunting?

Cage:  JESUS FREAKS!!!!  WEIRDO, HIPPIE TYPES!!!

Oh, and he also calls a demon biker a vicious snowflake during the heat of battle.

What the fuck did I just watch.  44 stars.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Schlocktober Fest 2018, Vol. III



Here are the rules, again:

1) It has to be a horror film (loosely defined by yours truly)
2) I have to watch one movie, per day (31 days)
3) In case I haven't made this clear yet, it cannot be something I have already seen (you'll just have to trust me)

October 7, 2018
The Chamber (2018)
Viewed on: Shudder
Key contributor: every action film where characters argue about dire situations, in the history of film

Here's a picture that would fall under the "loosely defined" as horror characterization.  I'd go so far to suggest that this should be "loosely defined" as a film.  Set off the coast of Korea, here's a movie that does not devolve into monster movie mayhem or some other type of science gone wrong, horror-ific shenanigans.  The United States Military loses a sub which contains valuable data.  It sinks to the bottom of the East China Sea.  There is then a race to destroy the downed submarine before the North Koreans can get their hands on it.  Only, there is totally not a race.  We never see the other perspective.  All we get is a black ops team commandeering a tiny civilian submersible and then bickering with, and murdering, each other for 90 minutes.  A fun time was certainly not had by all, especially not by me.

If you saw The Meg (abomination that it was) you might remember the tiny submersible from the beginning of that picture.  It fit 3, uncomfortably (though,  one of them was a giant).  They use the same submarine in this one.  There are somewhere between 7-9 people on board.  I wrote down one name in my notes, Captain Loomis.  If memory serves, I called him Loomis because he vaguely resembled Donald Pleasance.  He does not go on the voyage and is never seen again after the picture is 5 minutes old.  The main character, mission leader, the CO, is a woman.  I wish I knew more about her.  She bickers as well as any man.

Here's an example of one, snappy, exchange:

Disgruntled Crewman:  'This wasn't part of the plan, the plans coming loose!"
CO:  You're coming loose!"
Macgruber....

A few submarine tropes (bursting pipes, bolts, bickering seaman, straw drawing, a drowning seaman, etc) later and the picture mercifully approached it's ending.  There is zero reason for it to exist.  Every scene has been done before and done much better.  Pick a submarine movie.  Any submarine movie.  The one with Kelsey Grammar perhaps would even suffice.  Zero stars.  Were in this movie.  And that's also my rating.

October 8, 2018
Hell House LLC (2015)
Viewed on:  Shudder
key contributor:  Paul, the painfully dated camera guy

Typically, I tend to ignore most found footage because the whole gimmick seems played out.  We're 20 years since Blair Witch.  There's not much new that can be done.  Characters get in a sticky situation and keep filming, while arguing, until the camera falls to the ground because the last guy or girl finally died.  That's like 90% of them.  Then there are the hidden camera ones, I guess.  This is one that I heard a rave about (a solitary friend raved) so I figured I'd give it a shot.  I'm sort of glad that I did.

The setting (the Abaddon Hotel, in Abaddon, NY, couple hours north of NYC) is not at all unique.  It's a house that seems geographically mangled, architecturally unsound, and...a little more than a little creepy.  Into this setting arrives Hell House LLC, a haunted house company ready to scare the bejesus out of the good (maybe awful) people of Abaddon and any hipsters that make the drive up from the city.  As we learn at the beginning of this particular picture this all leads to something called the "2009 Halloween Haunted House Tour Tragedy" (could use a little work, maybe let's not trademark that just yet).

So, we got, basically, a movie within a movie.  The person making the documentary about the "Hell House LLC Tragedy" (better name) and the found tapes of the Hell House LLC film crew as they prepare the hotel for the big night.  Along the way we got some clowns, some gradual cracking up, some murders, suicides, and haunted house "malfunction" that may leave, I don't know, 12 people dead?  More?  Less?  This is a good one.  The scares are evenly paced throughout (and they get bigger and scarier).  It's not one of those found footage pictures where nothing happens nothing happens nothing happens nothing happens everyone's dead the end.  Also, I kinda liked some of these characters or at least I didn't outright hate most of them.  Recommended even if you think you've seen your last found footage film.  This is more of a schlockumentary anyway.

October 9, 2018
Island Claws (1980)
Viewed on: Amazon Prime
key contributor: Trouble the dog
Co-contributor: Irish Whiskey

Well, shit, if this isn't the greatest picture I've seen all month and probably in my entire pathetic life.  What did they call Grizzly?  "Jaws with Claws"?  Fuck it if this picture didn't just steal that tagline right out from under Grizzly which will now, heretofore, for absolutely forever be referred to as "Jaws with Fur".  This movie is incredible.  A whizzed-on-by Floridian nightmare steeped in moonshine and regret (for myself, not having seen it sooner).

What we have in this picture is a plucky blonde reporter, aptly named Jan Rains who returns home (I imagine this is the Gulf Coast) to cover world hunger for her newspaper.  Wait, what?  Yes, world hunger.  So, of course, she latches onto the regionally renowned scientist Dr. Legs Macneil and his handsome young lab assistant, Dr. Peter Adams.  Why, you may ask?  Well, they're researching the local crab population...and, by researching, I mean experimenting on the local crab population.  We're talking injecting them with some kind of super growth hormone.  You see, bigger crabs means more food for Africa or something like that.   They were so busy wondering if they could they never stopped to ask if they should (is what some smart guy totally wonders in this film long before it was ever wondered in any other film).

Also, there's a Nuclear power plant disaster, a near iconic bar scene that goes on near forever ("You missed the big crab race" and. oh dear god, that banjo player), and a fairly prescient side-story involving Haitian immigrants being mistook for giant crabs that all serves to enhance the film while also deterring would be haters from labeling this thing a mess.  It's a god damned mess-terpiece.  Also, the scene where the female jogger goes toe to toe with a giant claw (unseen by us) and loses an arm.  I mentioned Trouble, the dog.  The Irish dog.  He puts up a good fight, standing up for the Haitians.  Maybe he comes out in a single piece,  I don't know.  This is a classic.  They built a giant crab model (see photo up top).  We see it at the end.  Like Jaws, it probably worked terribly.  Sometimes, less is better.  I could go on and on about this crab that goes "rawrrrrrr" like a jaguar, but I ran out of notes.