STREAM QUEEN: when a triple feature gets unexpectedly queer

I guess my gaydar was working overtime not only when I tossed these three into my watchlist, but also when I randomly watched them one after the other. They’ve all landed places on both my die, gay guy die! list and my homo horror movies list, so let’s get into them.

TERROR ON DEAD ISLAND (2010)

Lately I find myself rewriting movies in my head…and then blogging about it. So here goes another one.

This is a 70-minute found footage home invasion film that doesn’t do much until the invasion finally hits near the end. While there are hints of creepiness that seem to be building to an intriguing outcome, pretty much everything about this low budget film goes nowhere. The plot sort of just bottoms out, which could have been remedied using what was right at the heart of the script.

This husband, wife, daughter, and son move to a new house on an island (that gets its name because it is home to a dead volcano that has no bearing on the movie whatsoever). The kids constantly film with their phones (which begs the question, why do scenes fade when footage on a camera phone simply cuts once you hit the stop button?). They keep seeing a creepy neighbor watching them. Ew! Look at that creepy neighbor watching us film him…

They are immediately accosted by the friendliest girl in school on their first day, who won’t leave them alone. They film their entire first meeting with the principal and he never complains, yet their teacher immediately takes the phones from them and says the school has a zero tolerance policy for phones. Huh?

Interestingly, when the brother and sister are hanging out filming each other, several times she questions his sexuality and references him hooking up with a guy. He (undecidedly) says he’s not gay, but admits he hooked up with the guy, never denies his attraction to guys, and later rejects a girl’s advances. I mean, are we even supposed to question the possibility that nature wasted these lips on a straight guy?

I assumed his sexuality was going to have some major bearing on how the film unfolds…but it absolutely doesn’t.

It’s totally obvious who will be responsible for the home invasion, which is where this dangling gay subplot is frustrating, along with several other things the siblings film. While it kind of comes across as the invasion happening just because the invaders felt like it and the new folks were there (The Strangers approach is just not enough for me anymore), the kids’ footage actually provides motivation that could have been used as a weapon against the family during the invasion.

Their phones are confiscated at school more than once. The invaders actually use the phones during those periods. All the kids’ dirty secrets are on videos on the phones, from his sexuality issues to their snotty attitudes about their new town and the people in it. So I simply can’t understand why this one didn’t allow the invaders to have a little more character motivation by expounding on their reasons for targeting this family.

The way things play out, it feels like we’re just to assume the invaders chose them simply because they were outsiders. Although, there is a sort of underlying suggestion that the invaders were also enthralled by the big city technology these kids had in the palms of their hands, which I think (?) could be the intended takeaway.

BLOOD IS BLOOD (2018)

Argh. Blood is Blood feels too invested in its own bombardment of plot devices to allow viewers (or at least this one) to make any sense of it or enjoy it. Everything that’s chilling, disturbing, and engrossing is absolutely swallowed up whole by time shifts, questions of reality vs. mental states, excessive secrets and dark sides of every single character, and preconceived notions each character has about the other.

So let me cut straight through it all as cleanly as possible to outline the basics. Two brothers, two sisters. One Johnathon Schaech looking brother is engaged and secretly likes to wear a creepy mask.

The sisters hate the fiancée, but the other brother, a cross-dresser who loves origami, has the hots for her.

The masked brother goes psycho and chases his sisters, which results in…one of the sisters ending up in a mental institution!

And that all happens within the first fifteen minutes. Perhaps everything that transpires after is all in the mind of the institutionalized sister (played by Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona). Maybe she has split personality and there are no siblings. I have no idea.

But she’s still being terrorized by the masked brother even in the hospital, so she escapes, returns to her sister, and they are chased and terrorized by both the masked brother and the drag brother, who seem to be psycho killers that torture the ones they love down in a basement lair.

And honestly, I would swear from the start that the two brothers might be having an incestuous relationship.

CUPID’S GUILLOTINE (2017)

Hold on to your genitals before entering this haunted attraction. I never would have guessed this would be my favorite film of this trio.

I really had no idea what I was in for when I began watching Cupid’s Guillotine. It begins with a guy setting up the haunted house with a friend so that he can later show the new changes they’ve made to his fiancée. He reminds me of Hal Sparks, she reminds me of that actress who reminds me of Helen Hunt. You’d know who I’m talking about if you saw her…or if you’ve seen Joyride.

The film initially had me cringing, with the actors delivering dialogue in a passionless and halting manner that got on my nerves fast. However, some video tour guide then came up on a screen in the attraction and I was thinking, “This guy’s got gay face (gay 80s face, to be more specific). What’s going on here?” So I continued watching.

At first I felt that a really fascinating and thought-provoking look at how transgenderism changes lives and relationships was being disastrously wasted in a terribly low budget production, but by the end of the film I realized that this could easily be a cult classic in another place and time because its bad aspects are what make it so mesmerizing and consumable.

Along with its serious and challenging assessment of transgender identity, it is actually campy as hell, whether intentional or not, and should be treated as such to be appreciated. Unfortunately, in this day and age of hypersensitivity, what is actually a very positive outlook on trans acceptance will most likely be judged as some sort of exploitation of or mockery of the subject—as the forced sex change action film The Assignment with Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver was.

So the guy takes his woman through the attraction, but something goes horribly wrong. The sets have been changed and are even more grotesque and morbid than he created. Suddenly they’re running for their lives…but only one of them gets out.

The other is captured…and given a sex change operation before being released! WTF?

This crazy movie then delves into the couple trying to cope with this irreversible change right before their wedding. In fact, it’s virtually preachy in its demand for recognition and acceptance of gender identity. Can their love survive a person being the same on the inside but different on the outside?

Will they ever be able to have sexual relations that challenge gender norms?

Will the people in their lives—parents, gay best friend, therapist—help them come together or just make matters worse?

And why does this virtual tour guide at the haunted attraction have so much power over them and keep calling them back to the house to experience more horror?

We get a trans catfight, hilariously odd parents that are surprisingly open to the possibilities of transgender love, a ridiculous flooding scene in the house, and yes, there’s a guillotine, so no heads are safe…

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Werewolf flix that make me howl with laughter in between screams

I’ll never forget back in 1981 when An American Werewolf in London and The Howling changed the werewolf genre forever, from the transformation effects of both to the comedy of An American Werewolf in London and the bipedal wolves of The Howling.

Since then I’ve built up a list of favorites, including Big Bad Wolf, Ginger Snaps, The Beast of Bray Road, Howl, Wolf Moonand these five…

STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET (1985)

Based on the illustrated Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, this 80s classic is a faithful adaptation that logically casts young Corey Haim in the lead role.

I loved the novella when it was released, and the movie perfectly captures the spirit of King’s tale of a small town frozen in fear as a new victim is massacred each month—and the crafty young boy in a wheelchair who figures out the killer is a werewolf.

With Gary Busey as the free-spirited uncle who helps the boy and his older sister hunt down the werewolf, the film has plenty of 80s kid-focused charm and suspense in the style of E.T., Cloak & Dagger, and Stand By Me.

The only things that really made me cringe watching it now are the Desperate Housewives Mary Alice-esque narrative by the sister as an adult, and the terribly cheesy, whimsical 80s instrumental that plays whenever Corey rides around in a souped-up wheelchair car his uncle makes for him.

The werewolf attacks hold up, from the gore to the look of the werewolf, which is in the style of The Howling. But for some reason, during the final battle with the family, the werewolf looks a little different to me…and a little goofier.

Aside from Corey being such a good little actor, Megan Follows, who plays the older sister, is a fantastic actress who helps carry the film. It still astonishes me that she didn’t have a bigger career, if just for a short time in the 80s.

BAD MOON (1996)

It’s kind of crazy that director Eric Red has made so few horror movies in the past three decades considering he started with Body Parts and this one.

It’s also hard to believe Bad Moon came out in 1996, because everything about it screams 1980s. It stars Michael Pare, a portion of his peen, and Mariel Hemingway.

It has a werewolf right out of The Howling. And despite major gore, a sex scene, and some great scares, it has a young boy and his super protective dog as a hero, giving it a classic Spielberg feel…with a good dose of Silver Bullet on the side.

It smartly takes place within the confines of the family’s house and the plot is simple—the family dog becomes immediately suspect of a guest who turns out to be a werewolf, making this mostly a werewolf vs. dog plot. But just be warned if you’re easily triggered. There are several scenes of the dog in distress, and the dog is a really convincing actor.

As awesome as the werewolf looks, the transformation is not entirely practical effects, so the mid-90s CGI is a bit dated.

DOG SOLDIERS (2002)

This werewolf cult fave comes from the director of The Descent. As I watched my DVD for the first time in over a decade, for the first 20 minutes or so I was wondering why I was such a fan…because it’s about a bunch of asshole military men in the woods. I guess I really do detest toxic masculinity.

My worries were unfounded though, because once the werewolves start attacking, it’s a blast and more campy and funny than I remembered. And since it runs 105 minutes long, it sure would have been great if 10 or 15 of those military men minutes were edited out.

The fun really begins with the first jump scare at their campfire. It’s super effective, especially since it happens as you’re being lulled to sleep by their boring conversation. Soon cool, ferocious 2-legged type werewolves are attacking.

The group hops in a military vehicle, and after a brief encounter with a werewolf while driving, they hole themselves up in a house in the woods.

With the windows all boarded up, this becomes Night of the Living Dead with werewolves, right down to the main group hatching a plan to use a getaway vehicle car outside if they can reach it safely.

Gore galore, great werewolf design, and plenty of funny moments abound, and the final battle using every household item the guys can get their hands on totally rocks.

And like Bad Moon, a dog gets in on the action…

CURSED (2005)

Nearly a decade after first teaming up for Scream, writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven brought their sleek, scary, campy teen Hollywood horror vibe to the werewolf genre for one of my favorite werewolf flix. To this day I do not understand why there’s so much hate for Cursed. The only issue I have with it is some of the goofy CGI during werewolf transformation and running scenes—especially the weredog.

The cast is the perfect lineup of faces from that glorious commercial period of horror: both Joshua Jackson and Michael Rosenbaum of Urban Legend, Shannon Elizabeth of 13 Ghosts and Jack Frost, Judy Greer of Jawbreaker and The Village, then popular pop artist Mya, Portia de Rossi of Scream 2 and Dead & Breakfast, Scott Baio as himself (and as usual he’s so much cooler on celluloid than he is in real life), Milo Ventimiglia of Stay Alive, and as our lead brother and sister, Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci.

From the first attack when Shannon Elizabeth is trapped in a car to Mya’s chase in a parking garage, the initial werewolf scenes are scary and suspenseful, and the werewolf is a rockin’ modern bipedal beast.

Then come the campy aspects of Ricci and Eisenberg realizing they have both been bitten by a werewolf. Even campier is their major confrontation with the beast at a big Hollywood event.

But what I want to focus on is the gay storyline that’s both a nice touch and somewhat glossed over. Milo is the school jock who bullies Eisenberg with anti-gay rhetoric. There’s some hint of a romance possibly brewing between Eisenberg and Milo’s girl, but she’s a minor character forgotten for most of the film.

It’s Milo who plays the bigger role in Eisenberg’s story. Once Eisenberg begins to have powerful side effects of being bitten, he kicks Milo’s ass in wrestling, calling him out on being a closet case and throwing in a derogatory gay term of his own. It’s interesting that either way the dominance goes between these two, the stronger male in each situation uses gay slurs to humiliate the weaker one.

Eventually Milo does confess his sexuality to Eisenberg and tries to kiss him, expressing his relief at meeting someone just like him. So in Milo’s head, Eisenberg is not his natural choice for a partner, but his only option. Eisenberg passes, explaining that he is a werewolf and that his extra strong pheromones are the only reason Milo is attracted to him. He reassures Milo that gay is okay and all is fine between them now that they’ve both come out to each other as gay and werewolf.

In the end, Milo brings his now ex-girlfriend to Eisenberg, who gets a heterosexual kiss just under the wire of the film’s conclusion, while Milo is forced into the shadows as the awkward, third gay wheel whose chance at a kiss was denied. It’s kind of interesting that Williamson, gay himself, is forced into the Hollywood mold of suppressing the gay guy’s sexual desires while suddenly forcing heteronormativity onto the main straight guy with a virtually irrelevant female character. He might as well have grabbed some random cheerleader walking by and sucked face with her. Seriously, we didn’t get to know anything about this girl for the entire film and Eisenberg showed little interest in or time for romance because of what he was going through. If mainstream movies had more guts, the girl’s character could have been eliminated completely, and Eisenberg could have come out as gay in the end and walked off into the sunset with Milo. It would have been a much more natural progression for both characters and the plot itself.

ATTACK OF THE WEREWOLVES (Games of Werewolves) (2011)

And finally, I really woofed it up during this Spanish horror comedy. It’s just my style, with the added bonus of the main guy having an adorable dog that figures heavily in the film.

This writer comes back to his hometown to accept an award and stays in his creepy old empty house. Before long he’s joined by his local buddy and his “agent.”

They share stories about all the scary tales their elders used to tell them about the town. There’s a locked barn and underground caves…and naturally, they end up in them.

It’s nonstop fun from the moment they first encounter the werewolf in the caves and the unforgettable way they escape it. And the danger quickly multiplies, for it’s a whole pack of them.

They’re the good old Wolfman type werewolves, and they are mean, vicious, relentless, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The cast is lovable and funny, and these guys are up there with some of the better comic teams of horror. It’s rare that I laugh out loud at movies as much as I did with this one (there are classic comic moments), and even more rare that I root for all the characters to live.

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STREAM QUEEN: when Prime time is prom time…

With this slasher double feature I was treated to one 80s throwback that takes place right after the prom, and one late 90s throwback about a prom reunion 8 years later.

PARTY NIGHT (2017)

This is one of those first time indie horror films that leaves me looking forward to what’s still to come from the director.

Party Night is safely obvious as a slasher—a bunch of friends goes to party at an isolated house after prom, has sex, and gets slaughtered by a masked killer. It even embeds plenty of meta moments, with the kids name dropping titles and mocking old 80s slashers.

However, director Troy Escamilla demonstrates what many wannabe horror directors don’t—that he studied and recognizes what makes the most effective slashers of the 80s work. On top of spectacular practical gore effects, the music cues, suspense, tension, atmosphere, jump scares, chases, body reveals, and unexpected surprises in seemingly obvious kill sequences (a different take on a shower scene, for instance) nail everything that made me a hardcore slasher fan back then.

What also stands out for me is that for a first time indie, Troy has also cast in the most crucial roles people who can act. When we’re down to one girl, she is such an emotionally strong character that I was catapulted right back to the days when we cheered on the final girl as she battled it out with the killer.

However, as is often the case with indie slashers, we aren’t quite aligned with who she is until she is suddenly anointed final girl simply because she’s the only one still alive. In the most successful slashers (Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th) we connect predominantly with one girl because it’s essentially her story, but we don’t get that specific narrative POV here.

Also, don’t expect much in way of a plot or character development. We learn that kids have gone missing, a group of friends goes to the home of one kid’s uncle after prom, we see some shots of a masked killer in his lair, he kills everyone…and the final girl battles him.

There’s no backstory, no explanation, no unmasking, and no clear clue as to who the killer was or why they killed. So in that sense, you have to enjoy it for what it is and not what it isn’t.

The only other real minor issue for me is that I personally think the outdoor scenes are actually too well lit! Lighting is a bitch, so I know there’s a risk of making things so dark we can’t see anything, but Party Night seems a bit oversaturated in outdoor nighttime scenes. Therefore, we don’t get that atmospheric grit and grain of some of the classics.

And finally, just from a queer perspective, it’s always refreshing when there are hints of homoerotic subtext, even if there are no gay characters. Here we get a montage of the boys bumping and grinding for the “girls,” and moments of sexually charged visuals of one particular hottie.

During his sex scene with a girl we don’t see any female nudity, but he spends the remainder of the film shirtless, and each frame he’s in walks that fine line of being a completely innocent shot of a guy who happens to have his shirt off, yet a subtly, totally erotic celebration of the male physique for an observant viewer.

FOX TRAP (2016)

This one screams Scream, with a complex plot, a load of suspects and red herring, a very drawn out denouement, and the polished look and feel of films from the slasher resurgence at the end of the 90s. There’s even a killer wearing a white mask and black hooded robe.

It all begins with a prank gone horribly wrong on prom night and everyone agreeing to never speak of their role in the tragedy that befalls the victim.

8 years later, the friends are called to an isolated house in the middle of nowhere for a reunion.

This is the first of many WTF moments in the film. Why would these kids, all guilty of doing something horrible, accept an invitation to a reunion surrounding an event they want to forget and distance themselves from?

As far as the slasher aspects of the film go, this is a definite winner. The kills are great, with plenty of suspense, scares, and brutality. One scene in particular involving use of a hammer is just about as explicitly cruel as I’ve seen in a basic slasher, making you feel exactly what the character is going through.

Chase scenes are great, body reveals rock, there’s a “dinner party” scene…it’s everything you’d want in a slasher.

Where as Party Night had little in the way of story, Fox Trap bombards us with details—which explains why it runs too long at 100 minutes—and most of them are never really carried through the narrative. It’s as if elements are tossed in at a moment’s notice because it’s a convenient plot device or something that worked in other slashers so…why not? Dolls scary. Put in dolls…

Even new characters are presented late in the game as flashbacks are inserted in an attempt to fill in the gaps and explain everything for us. Not to mention, new areas of the “house” seem to just open up or get discovered out of nowhere. It’s like you’re playing a survival horror video game and finally unlock that one door on the map that you couldn’t get in for the first half of the game.

Even so, it’s still loads of fun with a whirlwind of chases and characters making the dumbest decisions constantly. And the bitch of the gang is just about as big a mean girl as it gets. I love her for her dedication to being a bitch until the bitter end.

Finally, it’s kind of a hoot how the killer’s devious plan just completely falls apart yet somehow totally comes together.

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The takeaway from horror between 72 and 82…sex bad!

Considering these are the kind of movies that educated me in my formative years, I’m proof positive that horror movies do not give rise to psycho murderers. However, they may spawn bratty gay guys with Peter Pan Syndrome who are more likely to be distracted by a red laser dot moving on the floor than a cat. And therefore…what the frick is my point? Oh yeah. Movies with wieners and boobs! Yay! No, wait. Horror movies that failed to convince me when I was a kid that sex and sin are bad.

BLOOD FREAK (1972)

Blood Freak is the ultimate example of why those trying to shove religious morality down our throats shouldn’t try with horror movies. However, as a timepiece of bad 1970s horror cinema, it’s an American treasure.

A biker (played by one of the directors) helps a young woman with a flat. She is a God freak…yet brings him to her sinful sister’s party filled with sluts and druggies. This shit is hilarious. While attempting to be all moral, the film repeatedly has men telling him how handsome and strong he is. Good sis reads him the Bible, and bad sis gives him drugs and fucks him while he tells her the whole time he wishes she were godly like her sister.

He also gets a job tasting meat at a turkey farm to see if it has side effects. It does.

After lots of horrible 70s music montages of live turkeys and him eating dead turkey, he turns into a fricking turkey head! And get this. The slutty druggy bad sister is the one in love with him who tries to help and care for him without judging him (she even sleeps with turkey head).

But the narrator—yes there’s a narrator, who constantly looks down to read off a script—regularly makes it clear that it’s the biker being tempted into a world of sex and drugs that destroys him, and that awful people just turn to and stop ridiculing God when life hits rock bottom. Don’t look at me. I’m a responsible human who will never try to deny my own faults and mistakes and shift the blame onto everyone and everything else by becoming a Born Again…so I’m allowed to ridicule vindictive spirit in the sky.

Turkey head suddenly starts going around at night killing people doing drugs and having sex in their cars. I cannot believe how many people in small towns go out at night to sit in their cars for drugs and sex. I guess it’s that whole opioid crisis thing. I also can’t believe how many vile sinners there are in the middle of nowhere. Actually, I can, which is why I will never visit a red state. 

Anyway, turkey head hangs them upside down and slits their throats so he can drink their blood. But this “slasher” segment happens all at once in just a short section of the film, and it’s done so poorly, with edits that are a perfect example of just how bad indie filmmakers can be. People just show up suddenly on screen in the dark to get grabbed by turkey head before it cuts to them dead. There’s even a hilarious scene in which some guy randomly appears to mourn over a dead body before leaping a fence to fight the turkey head.

And when the women scream, it seriously sounds like turkey’s screaming and it’s fricking annoying as hell. The one great exploitative kill has turkey head buzz sawing off a guy’s leg. That’s some good gore for a low budget religious mess.

The big twist leads to this one spiraling out of moral message control, but I do love the cleverness of the scene in which turkey head gets taken down. But beware—they throw in what appears to be actual footage of a turkey running around with its head cut off. Sick fricking Christian filmmakers.

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES (1973)

Not quite a horror film—and not about a vampire or werewolves as the poster art and title might suggest—Tenderness of the Wolves is definitely a movie that plays into every gay panic phobia one could think of back in the early 1970s.

It’s also kind of boring.

The protagonist is this gay creeper dude guilty of just about every sleazy crime imaginable, including murder and cannibalism…and virtually pedophilia.

He targets young men between 18 and 20 who are out on the street. And he not only eats them for himself, he also feeds them to his neighbors.

There’s lots of full frontal nudity of boyish looking guys, a couple of feasting scenes, the killer in drag, and a focus on his jealous rage because he’s in love with one of the guys living with him, who is into girls…

And in the end, it’s about him being the tragic gay predator who hopes to find salvation with God! Ugh.

Everything about this is just way too dated for it to have any value as gay cinema these days beyond historical significance.

THE BROOD (1979)

This is the ultimate Cronenberg film for me. Sure it’s somewhat fantastical and bizarre in premise, as are all his movies, but it’s generally an easy plot to follow and delivers unforgettable baddies and brutal deaths.

Oliver Reed is an experimental therapist who makes all his patients call him daddy. Hot.

Anyway, he’s treating Samantha Eggar at his home. Her husband, adorable Art Hindle, becomes convinced Eggar is abusing their daughter during visits, so refuses to bring her anymore.

And that’s when these hideous little children in red hooded coats start going around and bashing in the brains of all the people in Eggar’s life.

There are plenty of disturbing scenes intertwined with a substantial plot as Hindle tries to figure out where these little children are coming from and what they want. And of course it all leads back to Reed’s home, mentally fucked up Eggar…and her birth canal. I can’t believe I went through one of those things once without puking. I will never go on that ride again.

It’s still a great film for fans of WTF scenarios in horror, and I’m shocked it hasn’t been remade.

THE ENTITY (1982)

This, not Beaches, is the first movie that pops into my mind when I think of Barbara Hershey…and a movie for which she deserves high acclaim.

Considering I try to avoid as many paranormal ghost movies as I can these days because I simply don’t find the subgenre effectively scary anymore, it amazes me that this film—based on the claims of an actual woman in the 1970s who believed she was repeatedly raped by a ghost—still makes my stomach turn right from the start.

The attack scenes stand the test of time as being absolutely disturbing and are reason enough to watch this one even today. Not only is the experience incredibly intense for a horror audience, but the creation of scenes depicting the fucked up twisting of passion and intimacy into sexual assault and violence should make anyone understand why rape victims in real life are devastatingly traumatized for the rest of their lives.

The isolating atmosphere creates a constant unsettling sense of dread. Hershey is a single mother living with her three children—an older teen boy and two young girls, one recognizable as the little daughter in The Amityville Horror. Within minutes of the film beginning, the first attack happens, and they just keep coming after that, with every scene being dark and silent as we are filled with anxiety waiting for the incubus to strike and shatter the calm.

Nothing is left to the imagination during the attacks, they even happen in front of the children, and the incubus beats off anyone who tries to intervene, further ruining our nerves. And that damn pulsing style soundtrack they just don’t use in films anymore is still gut churning and seriously needs to come back into vogue.

Adding to the relentless cruelty of the situation is the flippant attitudes of the doctors analyzing her, deconstructing her past with men and sex, and trying to make her fit into psychosexual molds in order to blame the victim, right down to suggesting that she is so lonely that she’s fantasizing about having sex with her ridiculously good looking son.

Not to mention…the damn entity follows her wherever she goes, so griping that she’s an idiot for not just leaving the house is wasted breath.

The cast also includes Jo Polniaczek’s dad as Hershey’s infrequent boyfriend and Ron Silver as a caring doctor whose fault is that he refuses to believe in the paranormal.

If there’s any downside to the film—aside from it running two hours and five minutes—it’s perhaps some cheesy effects that timestamp it, like electrical lightning bolts zapping the son.

And the plot moves into typical overblown 80s territory by the end, in a controlled lab with experts observing, which most definitely sucks out all the perfectly established atmosphere that carried us through the film.

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Johnny Gruesome is the face of evil in the basement

I finally took a moment to watch some up and coming movies (they might be out by now for all I know), so the only common theme between these three is that they are recent releases. We have a torture thriller, a demon-zombie-infected “sort of” comedy, and an all-out teen supernatural slasher comedy. So, which are worth a watch?

THE BASEMENT (2018)

Someone decided there just hasn’t been enough torture porn lately, and the best way to get people back into it is to throw Mischa Barton into the mix while she’s still riding high on her The O.C. fame from 12 years ago. Hey, pick on her all you want (I am), but she’s been in tons of horror movies since then, and I watch them every time I see her name in the credits.

This is an hour and a half of a guy strapped to a desk in a basement being tortured by some serial killer dude, while occasional clips injected throughout the running time show Mischa at home waiting for her man’s return.

But at least there’s an interesting twist to the torture. Whenever the killer uses a new form of torture (teeth bashing, finger severing, blow torching, etc.), he’s dressed as a different “character”: doctor, a prison inmate, a lawyer, a cop, a priest, a woman…

Yet my favorite part is when a pizza delivery guy hears grunting and groaning in the house, and the killer scares him away fast by inviting him to join in on some role-play.

So where does Mischa fit in to all this? Does she ever get anywhere near a basement? If you ask me, by the final scene it feels like someone came up with a good twist for a movie and then went back and filled in an hour and twenty-five minutes of time to get to it.

FACE OF EVIL (2016)

Based on the trailer for Face Of Evil, I thought I was in for an Evil Dead influenced zomcom. I thought I was going to love this movie. I really wanted to love this movie. I tried to love this movie. But the movie had a plan that didn’t include me.

A young military man returns from the Middle East and is welcomed with a barbecue thrown by his friends. When someone drinks some “Arab” liquor, it suddenly turns into an Evil Dead type demon-zombie-infected outbreak.

This first segment definitely delivers some good, suspenseful, and creepy moments in the dark house that kept me clinging to hope that this would be a new fave. And I felt like the film was also trying to offer us fun, quirky characters while capturing the horror humor of Evil Dead, but the vibe and the rhythm is just…off. And not in the intentional offbeat way. Neither the characters nor the comedy quite clicked for me.

When the main guy runs away from the house, the film really runs away from me. Oddly, it seems to be approaching the sensitive subject of PTSD through a not quite funny zomcom. And to the easily offended it can be interpreted (whether intentional or not) as playing into the “patriotic” biases that have infected our nation as a result of the last few wars (and current president). For instance, our main guy’s symptoms seem to be triggered by the type of people he dealt with while away at war—if you know what I mean—who are also painted as the root of the evil infection.

He teams up with some redneck dude who’s also supposed to be a quirk, funny, memorable sidekick (I think). Their motivation for the rest of the film is to run from the government because they know too much…with the military guy spiraling into a haze of paranoia the entire time.

The overall plot is just not my thing personally…or at least it didn’t work for me as presented.

JOHNNY GRUESOME (2018)

Longtime cult director Gregory Lamberson (Slime City, Slime City Massacre, Killer Rack) makes a surprisingly straightforward teen horror comedy, and I liked the hell out of it.

Without falling into a heavy metal overload trap, the movie focuses on headbanger Johnny and his trio of friends—his girlfriend, a pretty boy muscle punk, and an unassuming black dude—and how things go horribly wrong one night when they’re out cruising and Johnny drives way too fast.

Rebellious Johnny had problems with a number of people, including the high school jocks and his dad (played by Michael DeLorenzo, who I’ll always remember as one of the dancers on Fame, but who was also on Head of the Class and New York Undercover).

And therefore, Johnny comes back for revenge…

Gory kills, horror rock music, and campy moments abound as corpse ghost Johnny confronts and kills each person who wronged him.

While he has some funny moments, the one who really steals the show for me is his muscle punk buddy, whose reactions to every new clue revealing the truth behind Johnny’s death are priceless.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s also the perfect blend of pretty boy and butch.

He even gets shirtless for a sex scene that also shows girl boobs. It brings me back to the glory days of gratuitous nudity in horror.

Definitely going to add this one to my collection if it hits DVD.

 

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Ooh, baby, baby! It’s The Lullaby vs. The Nursery

They both have babies, they both have supernatural bitches after those babies. So which one did I like better?

THE LULLABY (2017)

The Lullaby is yet another carefully polished supernatural film (all the perfectly timed scares and ideally framed shots are in place) about one woman being terrorized by an evil specter that may just be a figment of her mental state…

…and it all begins with a scene about mother and baby in colonial times. Do I even have to say more for you to guess which movie got on my nerves, and not in the good scary way?

I really can’t anymore with movies that delve deep into the psychological state of mothers and wrap it in a supernatural bow to make it look like a gift you want to open. It’s what’s on the inside that matters, dammit. And inside this box is a movie about a miserable mother.

In fact, this modern age single mother looks miserable about having a baby right from the start in the delivery room. It only gets worse when she goes to live with her mother and all they do is fight. Her mother is an emotional mess, too. Whatever happened to all the strong, loving mothers of horror like Dee Wallace and JoBeth Williams?

It’s definitely a reflection not on the movie but on my issues with tastes in horror, but…OMG this movie is so fucking annoying!

Aside from the fighting, the daughter is fricking manic-depressive, keeps seeing something attacking her baby, and gets the blame for endangering her baby every time. Her being a psycho mess is bad enough as it is, but like seriously, after the second time she appears to fuck up—by leaving her newborn alone in a tub—any normal grandmother would have forbidden her to go near the baby and filed for full custody.

But then we wouldn’t have a movie. I’d be fine with that.

The mom sends her to a doctor for therapy, so we get a bunch of psychoanalysis to determine she has postpartum. But we know better, because clearly there’s something supernatural going on in her nursery…or in her head.

There are a few glimpses of a ghost demon woman who wants the baby, but it’s really all about the battle between mother and daughter. We knew it was all leading to this, because it wasn’t leading anywhere else.

THE NURSERY (2018)

Aaaaah. A simple, low budget flick about a ghost girl chasing a babysitter and her friends around a house. Now this is what I’m talking about.

The ghost girl might be after the baby, but this one is in no way babycentric. The baby is pretty much forgotten about in the nursery, and we rarely go in there, despite the film’s title. This is an all-out supernatural slasher in which the teens totally neglect the baby. Now this is what I’m taking about.

After a brief meeting with the couple she’s sitting for, the babysitter is kept company by three friends, and pretty soon they’re all seeing a Sadako clone ghost girl in one way or another. And every time it happens, everyone is like “What did you see? What did you see?” and the answer is always silence or “Nothing,” even after they’ve already said they saw something! These exchanges aren’t exactly the film’s finest moments, but they are the kind of moments that make for a great b-movie. 

To keep with the times, the ghost texts them scary photos with ominous messages, and the babysitter’s brother video chats with her regularly as he researches what went on in the house. The ghost girl even makes an appearance in a television.

Fortunately for us, the kids don’t leave the house. They watch a Bela Lugosi film, have sex, and despite being terrified of the ghost, continue to go off alone to roam dark corridors and rooms without ever putting on a light.

It’s so damn ridiculous but makes for plenty of atmosphere, chilling setups, and cheesy ghost girl scares. And the film dares to use virtually natural dark when there are no lights on in a room, which is quite unnerving in the last few climactic scenes.

The Nursery made me feel like I’d rented a direct-to-video film from the horror section in the video store circa 1985, so I was completely satisfied.

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When a killer instinct leaves you with bones and dead birds

As I continue to dig through my collection for movies I haven’t blogged about yet, it’s time for three from the early 2000s about people trapped in a house or building.

KILLER INSTINCT (2001)

When a movie randomly begins with a man being lynched, cuts to a couple having sex under the very same tree, then to Dee Wallace and Corbin Bernsen as rivals in a board room, and finally to kids heading out on a road trip, you can’t deny you’re in for a post-Scream slasher mess.

The kids end up in some old asylum playing a scavenger hunt game, which is really the only part worth paying attention to.

There’s thunder and lightning, cheap scares, and some fun, dastardly kills, including a hottie tied to a bed.

Dee and Corbin are like chickens running around with their heads cut off, trying to make it seem that their soap opera dialogue has a valid connection to the story of the kids being slashed, but it just cheapens the worth of the slasher segment.

And in the end I didn’t get any of it. I think because I didn’t care to even try.

BONES (2001)

Bones is one mess of a movie that’s so damn fun and gory before all is said and done that I can’t help finding it irresistible.

It comes from Ernest R. Dickerson, the director of Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight. He has also directed episodes of various horror shows over the years, but based on these two films alone, he really should do more horror movies.

In this odd film, a group of kids in the urban jungle buys an entire derelict building at a great price and plans to turn it into a club. One girl in the bunch happens to be horror queen Katharine Isabelle, while the other girl is horror queen Bianca Lawson.

The reason the plot is a mess is because, well…let’s see. They find a corpse in the catacombs of the place and leave it there. This corpse happens to be that of Snoop Dogg, whose backstory we learn about through numerous flashbacks to 1979. There’s a dog with glowing red eyes that is basically a wolf, and when the kids feed it, it seems to cause bad things to happen, like helping Snoop’s corpse reanimate.

Meanwhile, Pam Grier is on the scene and she warns the kids to stay away and not to feed the dog…but then goes and does some sort of séance that kind of resurrects Snoop’s ghost.

Once the party starts, the kids get killed off in bloody ways, and every time one does, Snoop’s corpse goes all Hellraiser and gains more flesh on its bones.

Trying to follow what is going on is a chore…time jumps, dimension jumps, different versions of Snoop, talking severed heads… 

Just grab the popcorn and enjoy the awesome kill sequences and demon dimension effects.

DEAD BIRDS (2004)

I have memories of this one being pretty darn scary, and upon a re-watch I can see why. It is so damn manipulative with the endless jump scares and orchestral stingers. 

It’s surprising that I was a fan considering it’s a period piece—1863 to be exact. A gang robs a bank and then holes up in an old house near a cornfield, and includes the likes of Henry Thomas and Isaiah Washington (the guy who tossed around the “f” word on the set of Grey’s Anatomy gets referred to by the “n” word in this film).

You would think that when the gang is immediately attacked by some skinless demon beast they would think of looking for a new place to crash.

They don’t, and pretty soon they’re being terrorized by little demon children. Cool faces, but these days you quickly realize it’s just that demon face app effect that became so popular a few years later.

There’s a lot going on here as each character explores the house and the pieces of the puzzle come together. However, a ghost literally has to explain exactly what happened years before that led to the supernatural occurrences.

There are thrills galore, atmosphere, scares, some bloody kills, and cool monsters and ghosts, but the classic occult plot is all over the place—kind of an “everything but the kitchen sink” situation. By the end of the film I was more than ready for it to be over.

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More Vincent Price horror and beyond

I thought the only Vincent Price flick I still hadn’t blogged about was The Last Man on Earth, but my late brother’s collection strikes again! I inherited a handful more films to cover along with it. So here goes.

SHOCK (1946)

 

In this early Price film, he plays a doctor who bashes his wife’s head in when she finds out he’s fucking around with another woman.

Little does he realize a woman living across the way sees and hears everything. But it causes her to fall into a comatose state, and she’s sent to the hospital to be cared for by….him!

Turns out Price’s other woman is his nurse, and when they realize the patient knows everything, they start to plot ways to make her forget…

 

Not a particularly frightening film on its own, but more of a thriller, Shock does have one super creepy scene, but it doesn’t involve Price. Set to the kind of scary, raucous thunder and lightning only old black and white moves seem to be able to pull off, this chilling scene has a psycho patient escape his room and sneak into hers.

 

TOWER OF LONDON (1962)

 

A more bizarre experimental crossover for both Vincent Price and director Roger Corman, this is basically Shakespeare’s Richard III reimagined as a semi-horror movie blending a ghost story and torture porn.

 

Wearing a ridiculous wig, Price is Richard, who is not happy when his dying brother Edward leaves his kingdom to their other brother. So Price kills the brother, blames Edward’s wife, and starts killing anyone who doesn’t swear total loyalty to him…and tortures anyone who doesn’t back up his lies.

 

In other words, it’s a historical lesson on what’s happening in the U.S. right now. Holy fuck, the dude does shit like suggesting that if you just keep repeating lies, the people will start to believe it. Someone he’s torturing even says, “Do you think you can destroy everything that stands against you?” 

 

Seriously, that mirroring of our current state of the union is the most frightening thing about this one. Other than that, Price makes silly scared faces as he’s endlessly confronted by ghosts of people he’s already killed.

 

There’s nothing classic Price horror about this one, and the climactic scene is horribly indicative of a b-movie trying to stage a major historical battle on film.

DIARY OF A MADMAN (1963)

 

This is one of Price’s better lesser-known films, with a premise that has long been borrowed in horror movies since.

Price is a lawman who meets with a man on death row. The man mentions the thing inside him made him do it, his eyes glow green, and he chokes out Price. Little does Price know the dude put the evil in him!

 

The odd thing about the film is that the evil inside Price talks to him through a mirror. It’s a mirror mirror on the wall situation. And the orders to kill amp up when Price starts dating a woman whose husband wants her back.

 

Price sort of goes Jeykll and Hyde when he kills, dressed in black and not quite remembering what he did when he snaps out of it. But the ultimate scene for a film of this age is when he discovers something he has hidden inside a bust he sculpted…

 

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964)

 

This is the first film based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, and it’s easy to see why it is credited as the inspiration and template for Night of the Living Dead, which came only a few years later.

 

It’s supposed to be about a lone man stuck in a house after a vampire infection spreads and kills everyone else, but these act much more like zombies, even if they do talk and he uses garlic to repel them.

The fatalistic opener with dead bodies on desolate streets is so foreshadowing of scenes from future Romero installments, and Price’s house is boarded up like Night of the Living Dead.

 

While hordes of vamps eventually bang on the doors, it’s mostly one particular vamp that comes at night and calls his name while hitting the house with a piece of wood. Since the vamp is so dexterous, it’s kind of weird that he can’t just rip the boards off the windows.

 

In daylight it’s safe for Price to go out and do errands and scavenge. He also kills as many vamps as he can and throws them in a huge fire pit.

 

There’s a whole sequence in which he realizes he’s not going to get back to his house before dark, and he fricking just runs right out into hordes of these things and fights them off! EEK!

The film shifts into flashback mode to show how he got to this point, how he was trying to figure out a cure for the infection, and how it got his family. So creepy when it gets his wife.

He eventually he takes in a woman  on the streets alone, which leads to an unexpected ending…that definitely puts a disturbing spin on a community of people gathering in church.

 

Definitely one of my favorite Price films.

DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (1965)

 

The Dr. Goldfoot films are goofy exploitative sci-if comedies featuring Price as a mad scientist who wants to take over the world.

 

In the first film he mostly wants to get money from rich guys by having them marry what are essentially fembots he created. These bot babes then seduce their men into signing over all their assets.

 

Charmingly comical Frankie Avalon plays the one man who figures out the evil plot.

Once plenty of women are paraded around in their bikinis and sex gags are delivered, Avalon infiltrates Price’s laboratory…where Price even has an assistant named Igor.

And just for fun, there’s a “Pit and the Pendulum” scenario before a long-assed car chase finale.

DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966)

 

The sequel is directed by Mario Bava! But man is it bad.

 

Now Goldfoot focuses on taking over the world, beginning with swapping himself out with the leader of NATO, who looks exactly like him but has a stuttering problem…which Goldfoot has to master before he can go through with his dastardly plot.

 

This time teen heartthrob Fabian is the one causing him troubles…but he’s no match for Avalon’s humorous charisma.

 

The real comic gold in this stupid film is Price himself, who completely breaks the fourth wall and just has a total ball delivering the funniest lines.

Not to mention, he does drag.

It’s not often that we get to see just how great Price was at comedy, making this Goldfoot a piece of Price gold.

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STREAM QUEEN: 6 degrees of Bill Oberst Jr.

Taking a break from blogging about movies in my own collection, I perused my streaming watch lists and realized a bunch of the films included appearances by one of my indie faves, Bill Oberst Jr. Which means…BLOG THEME! These six films are a satisfying smorgasbord of subgenres…with varying degrees of Oberst in them.

THE DEVIL WITHIN: RISE OF EVIL (2010)

Being a sucker for throwbacks to slashers with a late 90s vibe, I ate this one up from the opening montage of kids partying while a cool alternative rock song blares.

Even with all the partying (it’s the main girl’s birthday) and teens being teens (drugs, bullying, sex, tit flashing), there’s a lot more going on here before the slashing starts.


I’m hot for teacher giving a lecture on sin…

We actually get some character development that makes us want to know where this is all leading, which generates a whodunit vibe that delivers a few twists later.

Aside from the usual bitchy girls and goofball guys, the film dares to dig a little deeper and mix it up with a troubled lesbian and a girl with disabilities, both treated particularly kindly by the main girl.

Adding to the edginess there’s prostitution, perverts (including Oberst as the creeper principal), themes of abuse, and a long sexual dancing montage at the party set to a 90s sounding girl group track.

It’s not until only 30 minutes remain that the killing starts and comes fast and furious.

As the hooded killer butchers kids, it kind of reminds me of a cross between the house party scenes in Scream and Freddy vs. Jason.

Despite any flaws and it not being a straightforward slasher (or perhaps because of them) I kind of liked this one.

A HAUNTING IN SALEM (2011)

Oberst stars as a man who comes to Salem with his family as the new sheriff…and lives in the same old Victorian in which the last sheriff died. Everything about that sentence would tell me that I really shouldn’t be taking the job. However, I’m sure glad the beginning shows that first sheriff’s end…and another cute man’s end as well.

The house is so cool looking as well.

For the new family, the spooky shit starts immediately, with items being misplaced, a crow crashing through a window, hair in a drain, and the daughter getting cryptic instant messages on her computer.

Naturally it has something to do with the Salem’s witchy past and how it relates to the house, but despite some great atmosphere and hugely effective jump scares, this is actually just a slasher in which everyone is killed off by a corpse-like ghost girl.

And even though victims are offed in bloody ways, when the bodies are found, they’re always simply hung (like a witch). But who cares when the body count is so satisfying?

It’s actually kind of fun in an 80s b-horror haunted house/supernatural slasher way, right down to the cheesy final frame jump scare.

A GRIM BECOMING (2014)

They don’t make straight up comedies with a horror theme the way they used to, so it’s a huge treat for me to stumble upon a silly slapstick film like A Grim Becoming, especially when I went into it thinking it was an actual horror movie but quickly had my funny bone tickled by leading man Brandyn T. Williams, who is a natural at farce.

On Halloween night, our main cutie has an unexpected encounter with a grim reaper. Turns out if you see a grim reaper at work, you must also become one.

So, while our main man is at a funeral, Death breaks the news to him.

He spends the movie trying to resist his new job of killing people. The catch is, every time he refuses to do his job of taking someone at death’s door, he has to fight another reaper to stay alive!

As an added bonus, whenever he involuntarily transforms into reaper mode, when he turns back and loses the robe, he’s naked. So it’s a bummer that we only get a single, panning glimpse of half his tush (freeze frame time).

A good balance of male nudity with the comedy would have made this one that much more fun, and less PG-13, perhaps my one complaint.

Even so, we do get a shirtless hottie in the opening Halloween scene. Also, indie horror hunk Jason John Beebe makes a surprise appearance after the closing credits, showing off his beef. Look at that pit. Yummy.

Oberst plays the father of one of the victims, horror veteran Lynn Lowry makes an appearance that doesn’t add anything to the plot, and horror queen Jessica Cameron plays “Life.”

If it hits DVD at some point, I will definitely be adding this to my collection.

HUNTING GROUNDS (2015)

After finding the ultimate Sasquatch flick in Exists, I don’t often watch Bigfoot movies. But when I do, it’s because Bill Oberst Jr. is in it.

Okay, so he’s not in it tons, but he is in a super fun gore scene.

The story focuses on a father and son who are so damn broke they have to move into a little ramshackle cabin in the woods.

Two friends of the dad, one a fun character and the other an asshole come to visit.

 

They force the son to go hunting against his will, and that’s when the shit starts hiding the fan. Quickly. The Bigfoot action is fast-paced and doesn’t shy away from showing the creature as it relentlessly tries to attack them.

It’s just dark and grainy enough to bring to mind old Bigfoot flix of the 1970s (when flix was spelled flicks).

The highlight for me is when the Bigfoot first appears, hovering over the son in his sleeping bag, with the kid pulling the old “if I just close my eyes it won’t see me” stunt like he’s a little kid. Intense.

On top of that, things get awesomely nasty between the main characters. The son, who reminds me of the kid from Fear The Walking Dead, shines in his role.

SCREAM AT THE DEVIL (2015)

I hesitate to watch anything that looks like yet another current day possession/exorcism film, but again, if Oberst is in it, I’ll give it a shot. Honestly, the first few minutes of this film made me think I was going to hate it, with a bit too much pensive footage of the main character and visual and orchestral cues to set a tone.

But then it shifts to the actual story and becomes an insane little film that can seem cliché at first, but takes so many off-kilter turns that it somehow ends up being more original than most indies I wade through these days. And thankfully—no exorcism rehashes from other movies.

Not to mention, the main actress is so out of her mind as a mentally broken woman that her intense performance carries the movie along perfectly.

She and her incredibly handsome husband buy a new home in the middle of nowhere so she can paint in peace. But suffering from PTSD after a life-changing event, she is pretty insane, seeing and hearing demons everywhere in the house. Some of the effects are pretty dang cool.

Her descent into madness worsens, in part because everyone who comes by and seems friendly at first is actually kind of weird and creepy, including Oberst in a brief scene as a delivery man that is wildly shot to make him seem even more unnerving.

But for me, it’s a scene with three younger women who do everything in sync that was the most fun…and pretty funny.

Seriously, shit just keeps getting crazier and unexpected as the film progresses, including a zany montage of her trying to get back into her house set to a hip hop jam, and demon artwork she doesn’t remember painting that follows her around the house.

I just love how this movie follows no rules and yet at the same time, unlike so many movies in which the director just turns on the camera and points, everything is so particularly thought out to create an experience that takes you on a ride.

And while it runs a bit too long for my tastes (ten minutes shorter would have tightened up the pacing and repetition), it finally peaks with an insane demonic assault on her. Even Tony Todd gets in on the action as a detective at the end.

Ordered the DVD of this one as soon as I finished watching.

DIS (2017)

Running only 61 minutes long, Dis is the one to watch if you’re looking for something much darker and complex than the usual fun horror.

Director/writer Adrian Corona delivers a surreal, sexually disturbing myth of a demon that uses the seed of killers to feed its garden. It’s bizarre, sleazy, and downright repulsive at times, yet somehow carefully crafted and artistically executed with plenty of subtle nuances to keep you thinking.

The settings and visuals are grotesque and chilling, reminding me at times of the most unnerving moments of Silent Hill…without the safety net of mainstream Hollywood film parameters. And much of the story here is told visually, with little in the way of dialogue.

Scenes in the catacombs of derelict buildings are a disturbing reminder that we have no idea what kind of satanic rituals and evil shit is being perpetrated on people in the darkest, unexplored corners of the world.

A demonic being in a gimp mask keeps its victims chained up in a lair, conditioning them into submission, and eventually masturbates them into orgasm to catch the fluids in a container. It is just so icky and violating to watch.

Oberst plays a man who has it out for the demon, so dares to enter its world. He is shadowed and followed by the demon and sort of seduced by it, at which point he has to figure out a way to break free of its grasp.

Stay tuned, because this blog is going to need a sequel. I still have a bunch more Oberst films queued up.

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Remade in the 2000s: De Palma, Cohen, and Carpenter

They’re some of my faves—Sisters (1973), It’s Alive (1974), and The Fog (1980). In the new millennium they all got the remake treatment. So, were they treated well? You’ll need a working knowledge of the original films to get what I’m talking about in this one.

THE FOG (2005)

This remake comes from the director of Stigmata, and I haven’t watched it again since I got the DVD over a decade ago. At the time my thought was that it was a horrendous remake that fixed only one thing about the original—the goal of the ghosts is to kill direct descendants of the settlers that caused their deaths in the first place, not just random people they came upon.

Giving it a second chance, I’ve discovered…first impressions are everything. Holy frick this movie sux.

Gone is any of that foreboding tone and atmosphere that Carpenter masterfully created, which grabbed you by the throat from the very start. In its place are absurd “action” sequences like fishing boat troubles, exploding ships from the past, and Stevie Wayne crashing her car into the water then being attacked by a glowing, swimming, CGI ghost.

That’s right, Selma Blair as Stevie doesn’t stay for the good of her town or battle leper ghosts on the top of her lighthouse. She selfishly goes to save her brat and is pretty much written out of the rest of the film.

She also doesn’t play sexy smooth jazz for this quiet town. Instead, she rocks the world of the young people with tracks by Fall Out Boy, Morningwood, and OK Go (remember them becoming famous for their treadmill music video?). There’s an entire sequence on a boat with young people partying that feels likes it’s going to go all Shark Night 3D at any second! It turns out to be one of the better “new” elements of the film once the killing starts.

Jamie Lee’s role is handled by Maggie Grace of The Twilight Saga and Fear the Walking Dead. She returns to the town she’s from after leaving for a few months, is actually the daughter of the woman in charge of the big anniversary event (where as Jamie Lee’s real life mom Janet playing the role in the original didn’t even know the character, who was just passing through), and has to patch up her relationship with Tom Welling of Smallville, who takes over the Tom Atkins role.

The movie follows the original film’s scenes pretty closely until Selma ditches the lighthouse.


Just turn on the garbage disposal, you dumb bitch!

Then it sinks faster than her car, becoming this ridiculously overblown Hollywood fiasco of people running all over town, being chased by one specific vengeful spirit, setting half the town on fire, and the living kissing ghosts.

I really can’t even with this crap. It was the simple intimacy of the original, with one small group in claustrophobic settings that made it work like a charm. I say abandon ship!

SISTERS (2006)

The only other horror the director of this remake has under his belt is a segment of The Theatre Bizarre.

It’s no surprise that even if you remake an early, less polished film of master Brian De Palma, it’s going to get torn to shreds. While there are some slight alterations to this story of one normal and one psycho Siamese twin, and it naturally doesn’t have De Palma’s style (like split screen), I think that this one delivers a rather creepy, confusing tone of its own.

Chloë Sevigny is the reporter who witnesses the murder (it was Jennifer Salt of Soap in the original). Only, she already knows the crazy doctor and is following him around to expose his controversial work with children…incognito in a clown costume at a birthday party where the doctor, played by Stephen Rea, is doing magic tricks. Okay, that’s a pretty weird way to start the remake, but the weirdness kind of sets the tone just right.

In the original film, Margot Kidder played the main twin (the doctor’s ex-wife and one of his patients), who hooks up with a black guy, an edgy movie back in the day. This time it’s plain old white Milton, the Governor’s lapdog on The Walking Dead.

 

Minor changes include Milton dropping a syringe of her meds under the fridge instead of spilling a bottle of her pills down the drain, and her cutting her hair before coming out to make love to him…which immediately makes you assume it’s her twin sister, not her. Adding a unique touch, he kind of, um, ravages the huge scar on the side of her body where she was detached from her Siamese sister.

The reporter doesn’t see the murder from her apartment this time, but from the doctor’s office across the street, which has monitors that show what’s happening in his ex-wife’s apartment. The murder isn’t committed with a knife but knitting needles, and the killer finishes things off with a frozen ice cream cake, which is then fed to investigators (sort of an homage to De Palma’s homages to Hitchcock).

There’s only a minor reference to the possibility of the body being hidden in a couch (where it was actually hidden in the original). Once the police don’t believe the reporter, her partner in crime-solving is Stiles’s hot dad from Teen Wolf. It was Charles Durning in the original (what a difference 3 decades can make).

The plot is basically the same from there…and equally as trippy and disorienting as in the original. However, it feels rushed when the reporter gets imprisoned in the mental hospital, and it isn’t anxiety-inducing or terrifying as in the original.


The Wizard of Odds?

Plus, Rea just isn’t creepy like that doctor fucker from the original. Personally, I think it would have been better to have an unfamiliar face with built-in freakiness in the role (aka, someone like the actor in the original, whose entire career was basically roles in indie horror films). But I did like the twist in how we learn that the treatment the reporter received in the hospital doesn’t actually wear off—the one change that truly enhances the eerie factor.

IT’S ALIVE (2008)

Even though Larry Cohen apparently thinks this is trash, the director of The Thirteenth Floor brings us what I think is the best remake in this bunch simply because it changes things up enough and modernizes the story, with plenty of awesomely bloody kills to entertain us.

Rather than the perfect suburban couple with one child and another on the way as in the original, this is a young, modern couple still in school.

When the child is born in the delivery room bloodbath, even the doctor is like, “Everything looks normal,” as in…the baby doesn’t look monstrous enough.

But that doesn’t matter, because we never see the baby again beyond one fast face flash during the climax, when it looks satisfyingly more hideous (I think because its baby teeth grew in).

Borrowing from the original plot’s end reveal, this movie uses that reveal as the entire plot. The mother is keeping her baby and it’s penchant for blood a secret, at first hiding dead small animals she finds around the house and eventually having to deal with the baby slaughtering anyone who comes too visit.


Look what the baby dragged in…

So yeah, it’s a slasher about a killer baby and the mom who covers for it. There’s also a pretty different and contemporary twist as to how the baby became deformed.

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