Sunday, October 5, 2008

Return to the Grindhouse: Don't Go In The House and Blood Freak!

It was a Friday night and I had shit for plans. So, I couldn't think of a better thing to do than head over to the Brattle theater in Harvard Square to catch a double feature as part of their "Return to the Grindhouse" series. All I knew about the two movies playing were that one is basically Psycho with a flamethrower and the other involves drug abuse and a guy with a turkey head. I could check these out for a measly ten bucks or stay home and watch something equally shitty with a bottle of $18 Jim Beam. My choice. Holy fucking shit, you're never going to top this at the local AMC or Regal.

Unfortunately, I was working the next day near the ass crack of dawn so my imbibing would have to be kept to a minimum. I only had time for a quick pint at Charlies before heading to the show. I expected the theater to be either completely packed or completely empty. It seemed a little over half full which, as it turned out, was probably the perfect amount. After sitting in my seat I wondered if my lack of alchohol was a mistake. As it turns out, I didn't really need anymore. This was as much fun as I've had going out to the movies in a long time. I feel like this should be a regular thing, if not at the Brattle, then somewhere! Oh wait, it is a regular thing. Only it's usually just me. In a little apartment. With a bottle of jim, a bottle of gordons, or a few beers. Oh, and my friend Dan is often there. Unfortunately, for us anyway, these pictures are much more fun with a crowd. After a quick introduction, the first movie began. Sans trailers. The only, albeit minor, disappointment of the night.

Don't Go In the House (1980):

I didn't think there was any possible way to improve on Hitchcock's Psycho until I saw this picture. Basically, all you need is a flamethrower. That's it. Dan Grimaldi (Patsy Parisi from "The Sopranos") plays Donny, the awkward type of son a mother couldn't help but love even as she's holding his hands over a flame to "get the evil out". He's essentially a good kid; still lives at home, makes honest wages at the fire factory, and mommy doesn't have to worry about some harlot stealing her son away since this kid has no idea how to talk to women. He's a true momma's boy. Until, one day, Donny comes home from his job at the fire factory to find momma's a corpse in a rocking chair. Finally, he can play his disco as loud as he wants.

Donny's a strange one alright. He's reprimanded at work after a prank goes awry and a coworker catches on fire. I thought it was a pretty funny prank (the ol' flammable spray can in the incinerator gag) but his supervisor didn't agree. Donny, inexplicably, has a friend at work named Bobby. Inexplicable because this guy, Donny, is not really the kinda guy other guys befriend. Especially not a cool customer like Bobby. Bobby is a typical blue collar guy; fun loving, cheating, alcoholic, and into disco. For some reason, he likes Donny and sticks up for him at work. He even covers for him when he doesn't show up for a week or so. Their relationship is a bit on the homoerotic side when Donny says they should "spend a quiet evening together." This would be enough to put most men off, but Bobby insists he come out to the club so they can try to bang these two chicks. Donny acquiesces, but maybe that was a mistake, since he ended up setting his date on fire. I know what it's like man. I'm not good at the whole dating scene either.

Anyway, with his evil mother out of the way, Donny is finally free to bring home girls. Unfortunately, they all remind him of her, so these "dates" don't really end well either. Oh, did I say "dates"? I meant to say abductions. The first one involves the flower girl who misses her bus. There's kind ol' Donny with an offer of a ride, a quick detour to his home, and an introduction to his rotting mother. The first scene is one of the few effective scares of the picture as the recently knocked unconscious girl, now naked of course, comes to in a fire proof room. Locked up to chains on the floor and the ceiling. Let's just say the beautiful red head gives new meaning to the term "fire bush".

This was a fun one. The house was a terrific set, especially the room of charred corpses dressed in mother's sunday's best. Donny is in the Anthony Perkins mode of serial killer, albeit a little more pushy. He's not a very patient guy and his methods of getting girls into his truck become increasingly ridiculous. One girl, in a grocery store, resists his advances almost to the point of crying out rape. The clerk intervenes and Donny tells him everything is fine and that he's just going to go out and apologize. Cut to girls charred corpse. That Donny, hell of a guy.

Ok, so the guy is more than a little nuts. But he's got a flamethrower, so I'm giving him a pass. Still, I wouldn't let him date my sister or anything. I'm missing several plot points on this thing, but I do remember that it takes place in Jersey, which can be pretty fucking scary as well. If you're a Hitchock fan this one can probably tide you over until his next picture. Joe Ellison (he directed one other title, called Joey) probably won't blow you away with his directing skills. He's from the "ok, flamethrow the shit out of that dummy", point and shoot school of directing". It's a good school. He also did a great job with the soundtrack from this one. Some terrific disco hits such as "I'm on fire", "Your love is flamin'", and "disco inferno". I'm just kidding, couldn't remember the songs, nor could I find a listing online (I didn't really look, sorry). The songs were good though, 'cept this is 1980 (date of release). Someone should have told Ellison disco is dying. Or, he should have waited a year to start filming. This one's a part of the whole "don't-sploitation" sub genre which features such titles as Don't go in the Woods, Don't go in the Basement, etc. I'm surprised some joker didn't yell "don't watch this movie" at the screen. He'd be wrong.

Blood Freak (1972) :

We had about a half hour between movies and I strongly considered running out to the liquor store so I could smuggle in a half pint of Jim for the follow up. Since I rarely go out to Harvard square, I figured finding a liquor store wouldn't be the easiest thing in the world to do, so I just sat there in my seat thinking about it. Hell, I used the time to peruse the theatre and see who else was there. You know what? There were actually fucking real life girls there. Holy shit, man. Finally some hope. I was sitting next to Dan, we left the seat open between us as a sort of buffer zone, when some girl looked back and engaged us in conversation; "what did you think of the movie", "etc", "etc". Ok, so she looked at him first, but I swear she made eye contact with me. Dan is convinced she engaged only him whereas I'm convinced she used him to get to me. Regardless, that was the last interaction we had with the girl the rest of the night. Oh well, the beat goes on.

As soon as Blood Freak ended I pretty much had no clue what I'd just seen but, I knew that I loved every fucking minute of it. First of all, this was one of the most inept pictures I have ever sat through and I've sat through quite a bunch. I just recently watched something called Oasis of the Zombies which featured a never ending flashback scene. The characters in that thing were so uninvolving that I couldn't even tell when the flashback began or ended. I had to piece it together after the fact. Well, this movie, Blood Freak, is much worse than that. The opening credits, I guess I'll stop there. Some guy, a cross between Russell Crowe and Elvis, is riding the most effeminite motorcycle I've ever seen (cross between a harley and a schwinn. A girl's schwinn). I'm guessing he must be Steve Hawkes since his credit shows up twice. Back to fucking back. He pulls over to help a stranded motorist, apparently. Again, I figured this one out after the fact. Then they drive up to a toll booth and we watch them sit there for a few minutes. Exciting stuff.

Steve Hawkes plays Herschell (which can only be a tribue to Herschell Lewis), a Vietnam vet living the straight life. Until he meets two sisters, whose names escape me (and imdb doesn't list them). One, sister A is a bible thumping jesus freak so it only makes sense that she would take Herschell to a party thrown by her sister, sister B, a not so good girl with a great ass. Anyway, Herschell falls in with sister B and her crowd, get's addicted to marijuana (after one toke!), get's a job at her father's turkey farm, and is recruited by a couple of mad scientists to test their experimental turkey serum or whatever. You shouldn't mix any kind of turkey serum with a drug as evil as marijuana. Herschell learns this lesson the hard way after passing out, being disposed of by the two mad scientists (in a couple of terrific performances by so-and-so and what's-his-name?). He wakes up later with a turkey head (see above) and a craving for the blood of female drug addicts. That's the story. Bask in the brilliantly conceived morality tale of co-directors Brad Grinter and Steven Hawkes (he's multi-talented).

If I was one for clever word play I'd probably come up with something like this one's a turkey. But, thankfully, I'm not. Also, that's pretty fucking lame. This is a picture that would make Ed Wood proud. I went to this double feature determined to get some unironic enjoyment out of these things, but I just couldn't help myself. I don't think I laughed this hard at Judd Apatow's latest picture (can't even remember what it was at the moment). Some scenes appear to have been placed in an order that doesn't make sense. One scene involves a voice over while others are talking and we can't hear what they're saying. I had no idea who the fuck was delivering the narration or if it was dialogue that was supposed to have gone with a different scene. Steve Hawkes as a turkey man is a wonder to behold. Every so often, the filmmakers would dub in the sounds of a turkey going "gobble gobble". He stalked his prey as if he were a zombie (I think he just couldn't see where he was going in the mask). The camera cuts back and forth, from Herschell to his prey, over and over....even as his intended victim has been screaming for the last five minutes or so. Plenty of throat slittings, one table saw amputation, and even a naked ass shot. The ass comes after the most poorly shot sex scene of all time (I haven't seen every sex scene, but I'm standing by this statement).

There really is no reason to recommend this thing except that, somehow, despite everything that's wrong with it (pretty much everything) I had a blast watching it. As soon as I find the DVD (it appears to be out of print) I'll be adding it to my collection. These guys somehow, against all odds (no talent or money) actually made a fucking picture. There's hope for us all.

That was pretty much the night. If I didn't have to work the next morning I would have stayed for the 11:30 showing of a nun-sploitation classic called Sex Demons. Instead, Dan and I headed back into Boston and went to Foleys for a quick drink (that quick drink soon turned into five) and wooed some women with our tales of flame throwed broads and also can a guy with a turkey head still perform decent cunilingus. Just kidding about the women part. They didn't come anywhere near us.


Beepy said...

These reviews should be collected into book form, printed and placed in the relationship section of our local Barnes & Noble. Where else are women going to learn to stay away from men with flamethrowers and dead mothers in the living room or men with turkey heads and drug problems?

elmo said...

sorry, just wanted to get that out of my system.