Monday, March 30, 2009
This is an odd movie that's probably in bad taste simply because they stick so close to the actual events. Well, actually, let me elaborate a little. It's in bad taste because it plays like a comedy while sticking so close to the actual events. Technically, Gein wasn't even a serial killer. He was only ever convicted of killing two people (I looked this up on wikipedia). In this picture, he kills three. He was probably known more for being a graverobber and upholstering his furniture, lampshades, etc with skin. To the people in his town, he was a bit strange but apparently not strange enough to prevent him from getting jobs on the babysitting circuit.
The only other Gein adaptation that comes this close to being an accurate depiction is the Steve Railsback picture, In the Light of the Moon. Railsback was great in that thing but it was a depressing afair, which probably served the material best in most opinions. In Deranged, Roberts Blossoms plays Ed Gein, only they changed his name to Ezra Cobb. The picture opens with Cobb taking care of his bed ridden mother, the only woman he'll ever love. She dies and it's apparent that Ezra was the only one that loved her as well. The funeral service is pretty strange with Ezra's boyhood "friend" Harlon and Harlon's wife being the only other guests. They comfort Ezra with lines like "she was a good woman" which ring hollow. I don't even think the minister showed up. A few days later, Ezra exhumes Ma Cobb's corpse and brings her home. He's pulled over by a cop for speeding who asked Ezra about the strange smell to which Ezra responds with an explanation about having to transport a dead hog. Later, he apologizes to his mother for calling her a hog. I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be funny. It was.
The movie gets even weirder though as some kind of newsman-narrator makes the occasional appearence to give this a sort of docu-drama feel. Ezra will be inside minding his own business sewing skin into a blouse and this news guy will suddenly appear in his house, in the foreground saying things like "and Ezra was spiralling even further into madness" or some shit like that. I kept waiting for Ezra to notice the guy, say something like "where the fuck did you come from" and then sew his ass into a hat.
The tone is all over the place. Harlon and his wife insist that Ezra start dating so he can be married like a normal middle aged crazy person. Ezra goes on a date with an overweight woman claiming he "likes em' fat, like a hog" (also, similar to Buffalo Bill). The woman is deranged in her own way though. She's a widow and insists that her and Ezra have a seance so they can talk to her husband and his mother. Like all movie seances (see Horror Rises from the Tomb), this one ends poorly. The woman claims that her husband is telling Ezra to have sex with her. At first, Ezra is all for it but then his mother tells him that this woman is a bit of a whore and that the wages of sin are syphillus and death. The scene plays like a comedy until Ezra pulls a gun out from his pants (not the kind she was hoping for), places a pillow over her head and shoots her three times. That part was pretty harsh, but then the feathers from the pillow float up into the air in front of the framed photograph of the, now, dead woman's husband who is surely thinking "not exactly what I had in mind." The movie is constantly mixing scenes of shocking brutality with dark humor like that. I appreciated it at the same time I was thinking this is probably wrong.
Blossoms is great in this role constantly referring to people he meets as "sir", even those younger than him. He tries to hit on a waitress but when that doesn't work he just slashes her tires and then abducts her when she comes to him looking for a ride. I wonder though if Gein would have been a more successful killer if he knew how to cover up his actions because Ezra is pretty terrible in this department too. Harlon notices a story about the missing waitress in the newspaper and Ezra says that she's up at his house but Harlon just laughs it off. Good ol' Ez. Such a card.
And, then we come to poor virginal Sally Mae, the girl hanging upside down in the poster. At this point, the picture decides to get serious. Sally's a pretty young thing, working at the local hardware store where Ezra comes in to purchase some anti freeze. While he's there, he loads a bullet into a .22 takes aim on poor Sally and knocks her out with what I'm thinking is a pretty weak rifle. Then there's a chase through the woods, a bear trap incident, and finally a point blank shooting that finishes the job. It's an effective set piece that probably belongs in a different movie. Sally was so cute and innocent that if you're not rooting for her to survive you're probably no better than Ezra. To further illustrate his ineptness, he left a shit load of evidence at the hardware store and then hung up poor Sally in the barn with the barn door wide open. Also, I'm not sure, but I think it might make you a transvestite if you dress up in women's skin?
Anyway, this is not what I expected. Frankly, I thought it would be boring. It's not perfect although it's the rare movie that can make you feel sick and laugh almost simultaneously. At one point, Bob Clark (Deathdream, Black Christmas, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things) was attached to direct but he thought the material was too bizarre. I guess he hadn't seen Deathdream yet. Alan Ormsby wrote this and Deathdream...and, in an interesting bit of trivia, the director of this picture played Santa Claus in Clark's A Christmas Story (according to imdb). If you've got a stomach for some truly macabre and funny shit then I recommend this without reservation. If not, then what the hell are you doing here anyway?
Final note: The subtitle to this thing is "the confessions of a necrophile" but, as far as I could tell, he never confesses to anything (at least he's never taken seriously) and he never has sex with a corpse. It's possible they filmed those scenes but left them on the cutting room floor. We may never know.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It's possible there's a good movie in here somewhere but I kind of doubt it. Unfortunately, the version I saw, distributed by St. Clair Vision, ia an indecipherable mess. Where the fuck was the 70's euro-sleaze I've heard this described as? I came to this thing based on Paul Naschy's reputation (The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Women) and Helga Line's beauty (The Loreley's Grasp), but left scratching my head in both perplexity and boredom.
What we have here is a low rent version of Black Sunday, only with the promise of tits. The best part of the picture was the prologue, set in France, which sounded like it was narrated by Vincent Price. A parade of Knights leads a warlock (Naschy is Alaric) and his sorceress-wife (Line) to their excecution; through some woods, across a stream, over a hill, into a field. The thing takes fucking forever. Finally, they arrive at the tree of execution, a dead, creepy old thing. The crimes are read before sentencing is pronounced. Crimes like the drinking of human blood, the eating of human flesh, being a vampire, a lycanthrope, etc. Funny how I always thought the last two were mutually exclusive. I haven't seen them, but maybe there were werewolf-vampire hybrids in those Underworld pictures. Anyway, Naschy is decapitated and Helga is....well, I'm not sure what the hell happened to her. I think she was hung upside down or something, but the camera cut to some other scene before I could figure it out. At least they got to curse their persecuters before they "died".
Suddenly, the viewer is transported to Paris, present day (if this were the 70s). Hugo (ancestor of Naschy's warlock, played by Naschy) and his painter friend, Maurice (ancestor of the guy that put Naschy to death played by the guy that put Naschy to death) are reunited with their women (Sylvia and Paula). Without wasting time, Hugo decides it would be fun to have a seance so they can contact his deceased ancestor and figure out where his head was buried. Seance's never seem to work out very well for anyone involved, at least in motion pictures they don't. Maurice, at least, has the good sense not to get involved. Unfortunately, that damned warlock comes back and somehow possesses him while he's miles away working on his new painting. Upon being possessed, his frantic brush strokes eventually reveal the headless warlock holding Hugo's severed head. I know! Let's all take a trip to Hugo's mountain chalet where the head is rumored to be buried and investigate further!
The last few (dozen?) or so films I've reviewed have all seemed to rely on nudity, gore, sex, stuff like that and frankly, while I'm never going to get sick of it, I can't help but wonder, "will the reader?" I've almost forgotten what it's like to write about a picture that can survive on it's own laurels without having to rely on a gimmick like tits (and the occassional bush). Well, this picture is bad without those things. Apparently, I watched the butchered cut so this review can only refer to what I've seen. This is no indictment on Carlos Aured (the director) who I'm sure did fine work. This feels like a cut that would be released for Television and St. Clair should be ashamed of themselves for releasing it in such a condition. The other pictures in this pack seem untouched, so I guess the only excuse might be that the unedited version cost too much. Fuck man, it looks like they copied this thing from an old VHS tape that someone used to record it off the TV back in the 80s. Thankfully, they also edited out the commercials. Not only are we, the viewers, deprived of some fabulously beautiful women in the buff, but we also don't get to see them torn to shreds for having the gall to take off their clothes. The quick, and extremely awkward, cuts do nothing but render the work utterly imcomprehensible. I had no idea at times if a certain character had just died, fornicated, or eaten dinner. This is a dreadful release.
Well, I forgot that I actually needed to finish this review. Here I am, a few days later, and I don't really have anything to add. It's possible if I go back and watch the uncut version that I would enjoy this more. Not just possible, it's highly probable. Unfortunately, the story is just too damned derivative for me to care enough to do that. The characters are, for the most part, boring or just plain unbelievable. At one point, Hugo tries to convince Maurice to walk into the girls room wearing white sheets...you know, give 'em a good scare. Maurice quickly dismisses the idea as absurd...as if ghosts really dress like that.
The one moment I thought worked in the film was when Naschy (as Count Alaric de Marnack aka "the horror that rose from the tomb") calls upon his dead victims to walk the earth as zombies and assault Hugo's chalet. Any other picture would have had these zombies turn on their creator but I'm glad this one skirted that particular cliche. Later, there's a bit of a twist when Maurice (having been mind controlled by Naschy's Alaric) kills Hugo and then fights (mentally) with his possessor, eventually freeing himself and joining forces with the last girl, a lovely young dollface aptly named Elvira. Helga Line (who is pretty hot I think) is more exotic than scary and does her best with lines like "I'm rabid, I want her heart." She's just not naked enough for my tastes. I'm fairly certain this is a bad picture. It's not scary. It's not campy enough to be fun. There's little gore and littler nudity, i.e. none (a product of this shoddy release I'm sure). The ending involves Alaric cowering, like Dracula from a crucifix, from an amulet which has some sort of power over evil. A little more of this and the picture would have been a laugh riot. So, I can't really recommend it. Unless it's on television and you're paralyzed or can't reach the remote or something, go ahead and skip it.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Well, rather then write a proper review, I've decided to transcribe my notes (exactly as I took them). Mind you, this was when I first started so I would write far too much. Hell, at this point, I tend to just wing my reviews (sans notes). I think I had six pages for this thing. They're incredibly ridiculous. In parantheses you'll find my current reflections on said notes. Fuck it man, I think they suit the movie:
-WB Emblem (yep, I wrote down everything)
-$ Vandy (My alma mater - Siena - was playing Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament when I wrote this up - maybe I put money on Vandy?)
-Aaron Eckhert? (Labute regular) - cameo - diner
-doodle of a penis
-fire!!! glass & explosion
-Rowan Woodward => missing
-Summerisle - red girl
-cell phone - bad reception
-island of women
-bag? "what's in the bag??" dripping blood! laughs!!
-bar full of women - bee under cannister - allergic!!!
-cute girl - hot sugar tits (alcohol must be kicking in)
-Nic Cage sucks balls (I don't remember this scene so it must be a comment on his acting, a comment I don't necessarily agree with)
-Bee allergy (redundancy anyone?)
-creepy blind whores (whose being mysoginistic now?)
-Leelee's apples (am I referring to Sobieski's breasts?)
-moon - hard on (this is getting ridiculous)
-blurry faggy visual (jesus Brian, get your homophobia under control)
-red sweater - LRH (what?)
-homage (to what?)
-fashy wood (double what??)
-big bull (am I even watching the movie anymore?)
-pigeons - gap sweater (uh huh)
-danger - tense scene - barn (i'm some kind of fucking genius)
-under hole - shaft (the innuendo is rampant) - faking
-sweating (booze does that to me)
-sunrise - almost - Hot Fuzz (finally, I make a valid point!)
-I wanna fuck Leelee (another valid point)
-hitting - sugar - pussy - vagina (Jesus Christ, do I have tourrettes?)
-feet - guy drunk feet
-woman = man (excellent observation)
-Dan left to piss (another excellent observation)
-Cute = Leelee = butt
-"What's happening here the day of town" (I'm drunk) - day of the 2nd.
-Stream of preggers (no comment)
-pole - phallic - skipped (i need to watch this again)
-Molly Parker - hot for teacher (Classic Van Halen song)
-"pursuers of lofty but impractical ideas" (finally, I got a quote right!)
-crow! fucked up kids!!
-impregnate bowels (i don't think this is possible)
-firm in mouth (this could apply to lots of things, Lelee's apples for example)
-verbatim with Parker (I'm impressed that I'm using words like "verbatim" when I'm this hammered)
-classroom scene - burned to death - more rustic
-workers - ones not - field
-blonde hotty (there were a few notties)
-beautiful redhead - off island - bang bus (reference to an adult web site that I've heard of which features a bus full of guys driving around picking up chicks and then filming their encounters)
-Dr. Moss (character in the film?)
-no cell...(yeah, i mentioned service was bad)
-crazy dive for Chloe
-bad dream => worst dream - "god dammit"
-Chips (reference to TV show I'm guessing since Cage is a motorcycle cop)
-hobbit den (possible crossover movie idea?)
-book = "Rituals of the Ancient" (maybe stevereads can review this?)
-hiding in bush - clear view
-jars of It's Alive (I don't remember jars in that film)
-"worst harvest on record" (I concur, it looked to be a bad one from where I was sitting)
-Oh god I wanna fuck her (Leelee I'm guessing)
-cock smack (not a reference to something I was doing at the time)
-logs - hand
-retarded men (sorry to all you retarded men)
-goes to help - bike
-bee buss!! (spin-off to bang bus involving...you get the idea)
-honey comb yeah! (me trying to be funny at the time)
-flash - Ellen Burstyn (she's in the movie) - Crazy - Seal (that song isn't in the movie...why did this pop into my head?)
-festival - mother goddess - exorcist??? (Burstyn picture from the 70s)
-not subservient to bees??
-"sounds like inbreeding time" (i think this is a quote from me, not the picture)
-says "sister" (um, ok)
-murder is murder (another fantastic observation on my part)
-"under the impression I'd already given it to you" (given what? I need to watch again)
-grave site - doll
-exhume - crypt - under water (hey, i remember this scene!)
-no tits - severe lack of (I think I was trying to submit a definition to Webster's at this point)
-so many flashbacks!!! (the 3 exclamation points let me know this was not a good thing)
-being bus (The Being is the creature at the top of my blog - I'm guessing this was a running gag I thought up that night)
-"How'd it get burned?" - "Repent!"
-Willow! (character from Wicker Man or Warwick Davis?)
-mutated guy - bee sting
-"Summerisle!" (glad we've established location)
-Crazy (again with the SEAL song)
-"we're all preparing" - "the time for sentiment is over"
-take your stupid mask or he takes her bike (not in quotes for some reason, is this a quote?)
-men = wussies (Labute turning the tables on his previous characterizations? Although, in a way, his men have always been cowards I guess)
-runs like girl - is this ironic? (I think I'm referring to Cage. See the irony?)
-"Stand out of the fucking way!"
-awesome....awesome!!! (awesome scene apparently)
-dead old guy - creepy
-"entire family of bears" (so much I don't remember. This is an actual quote?)
-beats barkeep up (The barkeep is a woman. Is he in the bear suit yet?)
-kids dressed as bees
-fuck, not fight (my motto)
-awesome!!!!!!! (I really had 7 exclamation points here. Whatever is happening is just that awesome)
-Bear suit (here we go)
-gay (i went so long without saying it too. Shame)
-ritual - bear suit (yes, Cage is in a bear suit)
-sacrifice??? - girl??
-awesome!! (you see why I no longer drink and take notes?)
-error of our ways (mine or theirs?)
-"grounded bear" (South Park quote)
-Rowan sucks (yes, she does...ahem, wait, that's his daughter...never mind)
-ugly bitch (so judgemental) - hot bitch sucks (at least I'm equal opportunity)
-cum in box (oh boy)
-pull the fucking trigger!!! (I'm getting angry)
-Willow needs cock in c.....(runs off at this point...can't read)
-Misery-like scene - "you bitches!" (Cage quote)
-"This is murder" (Cage quote)
-"honey" (Burstyn quote)
-"What is not" (?)
-"not the bees!" (Cage quote again) - bee beard (not a good look)
-"my legs!!" (Cage)
-What a bitch (I might be referring to Burstyn)
-"The drone must die!" (Burstyn referring to Cage I believe)
-6 months later - alternate ending - my legs - guy from spiderman
I need to start taking notes again.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Typical of Argento, the plot (if you can call it that) is not easy to follow. The very night that Sarah comes across the urn, her friend, and fellow student, is murdered in fairly horrific fashion (which involves some kind of corkscrew to the mouth followed by one of the most relentless disembowlments i've seen - strangulation by your own guts is a fairly original way of dying I think) and the urn is stolen. Sarah is questioned by the police and goes home with her lover Michael (Adam James) whose son is later abducted sending Michael on a fruitless quest to retrieve him (thankfully we don't follow his quest too much. It doesn't end very well for Michael I'm afraid).
Shit, this is some sort of bizarre, halucinogenic, gore-laden masterpiece that's just so god damned hard to describe. As soon as the third mother is reborn, a coven of euro trash witches descend upon Rome and begin to wreak havoc, which thankfully includes lots of walking around topless. An insane, perhaps poorly chosen subplot, involves Sarah's spectral mother, a former witch herself (I think) advising her daughter on her journey of self-discovery or whatever. She seems to appear whenever danger is around until finally another spectral being gets annoyed and just drags the dead bitch off to hell (a great moment since Sarah's mother was nothing more than unneccessary comic relief). Although, through her dead mother, Sarah learns about her own latent powers that hopefully she can learn to use in the next hour or so. Argento is actually painful to watch in the scenes with ghost mom, calling her "mommy" and trying to deal with some serious abandonment issues. Let it be known that I think Asia Argento is a wonderful (and stunningly beautiful) actress and, for the most part, is terrific in this role. She's got at least two assets that I can think of off the top of my head. I loved her work in XXX.
This picture also makes use of an evil monkey. Apparently, monkeys are good for one thing. Calling out the good guy's hiding spots by jumping on their heads, pulling on their hair, and screaming. This little fucker eventually receives a perfectly justified demise that even PETA couldn't get up in arms about. Ok, let's get to the good stuff; copious amounts of breasts, lesbian breasts, witch's breasts, Asia's breasts, etc. Lots and lots of breasts. What is this, the 70s?Speaking of Asia's breasts, it's unfathomable to me (as a sheltered American) that a father could cast his daughter in this type of role. Unfathomable and, frankly, refreshing. Now on to the potentially offensive stuff; woman skewered by a spear through her privates and out her mouth...and that's not the worst of it. Of course, we don't see the entrance, just the exit....Dario Argento had the fortunate, or unfortunate depending on your psyche, lack of bad taste in this instance. Did I mention the picture had lesbians? In a topless embrace? Also a witch (witches are inherently lesbian-ish) licks the tears of her dying victims...hence the moniker.
The finale is kinda hard to explain, so I won't even bother. Well, ok, just a little. Sarah and her new detective friend track the mother of tears to an old castle where she and her disciples are having some kind of fucked-beyond-reason, orgiastic, topless (of course) ceremony. I swear there was an enema in there somewhere. What transpires after Sarah rips the ceremonial garb off the mother and flings it into the fire (yes, the mother is now completely naked and of course there's a fire, there's always a fire) is fantastically ridiculous. There really is no reason to like this movie if you're just an average joe-schmoe looking for a night out at the cinema. There's no reason to like this if you're the average douchebag "critic" (say, Ben Lyons). Things seemingly happen at random, the acting is so stylized to the point that the vast majority of people would consider it awful (and I don't mean "stylized" in that winking at the camera bullshit kind of way), the music is overbearingly weird at times...occasionally hitting a few Psycho chords....shit man, I'm rambling...and usually when I ramble it means I'm in love. Maybe I am. It's not as good as Suspiria, but it doesn't have to be. It's as good as it is.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Whatever man, I'll watch Squirm a thousand times before I sit through "quality" entertainment like Crash or American Beauty again. This picture, Squirm, is a perfect model by which all creature features should be judged. Made in 1976, directed by Jeff Lieberman and featuring some early terrific work by Rick Baker, Squirm is the story of a small Georgian town (Fly Creek) assaulted by an unstoppable army of sandworms. Some fantastic camera work allows us to see these horrific bloodsuckers, and their dirty little maws, up close and personal. A truly frightening experience. Lieberman is one of those directors that helmed a couple masterpieces (this and Just Before Dawn) before vanishing for good. Just Before Dawn is the finest fat guy(s?) with a machete movie you'll ever see. According to wikipedia, Squirm was given the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 treatment back in 1999 which is fucking bullshit. I dare you to watch this thing sober and talk over it. Trust me, I tried it sober and shit-faced. Sober, this is some riveting shit. It just goes to show that the 3000 crew wouldn't know a good (or should I say bad?) movie if it fucked them in the ass. *
Anywho, this thing takes place in a small rural town. It begins with a violent storm that downs some powerlines which, for some unexplained reason, are left sending thousands of volts directly into the earth (for the entire picture!). Not being much of a worm expert, I simply had to accept the fact that electricity forces worms to the surface and you can only imagine that they wouldn't be too happy about it. This picture is a slow burn though, so first things first. Characters. We've got the pretty red headed southern belle, Geri (Patricia Pearcy), who lives with her mother and sister in an isolated farm house outside of the town proper. On his way to visit Geri (just as the storm hits) is the big city boy, Mick (Don Scardino). Mick's character is in the Matthew Broderick vein, the sort of character who comes across as a smart ass even when doing something as innocent as ordering an "egg cream" (city speak for chocolate soda apparently) at the local diner. Roger is the local bumpkin, a jealous good ol', slightly retarded, son of a bitch that does odd jobs around Geri's homestead when not slaveing away at his father's worm farm. Yeah, he and his pa run a worm farm, but Roger can't stand the fucking things. He's got bigger things on his mind, like wooing Geri which, let's face it, would most likely result in rape. I loved the Sheriff who wouldn't believe in killer worms even if the things bit him on the pecker. I'm pretty sure they do. This is the kind of scum bag that hits on a girl stranded in town by the weather, treats her to a spaghetti dinner at Fly Creek's #1 restaraunt italiano, probably gets her drunk, and then basically forces her to spend the night at his place so he can bang the shit out of her and ultimately become worm food post coitus. Good guy.
I also liked the antique dealer. He was played by a skeleton.
I guess my mantra is "they just don't make 'em like this anymore". I'd like that to be my epithet. This picture has several terrific moments. The fishing trip with Roger, Mick, and Geri has to be near the top. Mick, thinking Roger responsible for his Pops death (they found his worm filled torso a little earlier), abandons Geri, so she can keep an eye on Roger while he goes off to investigate. Finally alone with the object of his obsession, Roger attempts a little rape only to spurned, not only by Geri but also by his fucking fish bait! Roger stops being Roger and becomes known as Worm-face from this point on. Worm-face is the greatest character in the history of motion pictures and I'm not kidding. Somehow, those worms get into his brain and drive him insane, so not only do we have a billion bloodsucking worms to contend with, we've got a crazy retarded man with wormy pock marks, the greatest use of pock marks since Bava's Black Sunday. When Worm-face tosses Mitch into a ditch and screams after him "now you get to be da worm-face" I knew I was in the presence of greatness.
Shit man, Rick Baker is the guy that created the werewolf in An American Werewolf in London. In this thing, he creates an ocean of worms that take over the first floor of one of those giant plantation type homes, you know, the kind with the pillars. It's fucking genius. Sure, they don't really look like worms (more like mobile spaghetti), but they still creeped me the fuck out. This is not the type of picture where there's an easy solution. Basically, try your best to live. There's some bullshit about how the worms disappear when the light hits them so I guess try to avoid the night is the moral of the story. You could try climbing a tree (they do) but these are the type of worms that can eat through roots and cause a tree to fall on the house (which they do). And then, to top it all off, you have to contend with worm-face who is now a full on human worm hybrid that slithers, slinks, inches (what the fuck do worms do anyway??) towards our fleeing heroes.
I feel like I've missed a shit load here. If you enjoyed Slugs I think you'll like this one even better. I mean, Slugs is great and all but it left me feeling a little depressed after it was over. This picture has the superior effects and yet you still end up feeling a little dirty after it's over and I don't mean dirty in a bad sort of way. Other than the Mick character, everything is so god damned authentic. Geri is a pretty hot ginger girl (side-al breast at one point) but she's about the only eye candy in this thing. Everyone else is just poor. And white. I couldn't help wondering how Mick could even come to know Geri. Here's an annoying, intelligent New Yorker traveling to the back woods of Georgia to hook up with some broad he met god knows where. I don't for a second believe she attended college, so that's right out. This was before internet hook ups were in vogue, so that's out. It's the one element of the story I couldn't wrap my head around. The worms on the other hand....
*I actually like these guys but they really misjudged this picture. This is me playing for both teams, so to speak.