Helloween Day Twenty-One: Sleepaway Camp

October 21, 2016 0

Sleepaway Camp (1983) is another of those movies I saw in the horror section of my now defunct video store and never rented, maybe because it reminded me of a low-rent Friday the 13th. While we’re on the subject of video stores, can anyone tell me why they always smelled? Anyway: I watched Sleepaway Camp on my new Shudder subscription ($4.99 per month, cheap!) that I forgot to cancel (as predicted last week).

The plot: a horrific boating accident ravages a family frolicking in a lake. Eight years later sole survivor Angela (now a teenager) and her cousin Ricky go to Camp Arawak. The scenes at Camp Arawak are the most realistic part of this movie. I went to Buck & Beaver Camp as a youth, and I can tell you the behavior of the kids is so spot-on it’s amazing. It all came back to me, the cursing, the short-shorts, the dumb pranks, the sheer bile of youth. Unlike Friday the 13th, where everyone’s a sex maniac, the kids in Sleepaway Camp are nasty, stupid and foul-mouthed. I am willing to bet the writer and/or director of this movie hails from the Tri-State area, if not the Garden State.

Anyway, Angela doesn’t speak, which of course makes her the object of bullies. To his credit, her cousin defends her. Pretty soon the murders start. The first few are almost goofy, with the victims being assholes and worse. One of the fascinating things about Sleepaway Camp is how the tone of the movie changes, from a schlocky Friday the 13th remake to something truly nasty.

Sleepaway Camp is a disturbing movie, and the creepiest things about it aren’t the murders. This movie’s attitude towards certain social issues is very 1980’s, otherwise known as the Neolithic Age, so please be warned. I found parts of this flick to be very offensive. Finally, Sleepaway Camp has a twist ending that is truly shocking. This is an effective horror movie, but not in the way the filmmakers intended. Not recommended.

Helloween Day Nineteen: The Brood

October 19, 2016 0

 

Directed by David Cronenberg, The Brood is a 1979 Canadian horror movie. Back when video stores still existed, I saw this movie whenever I browsed the horror section but never rented it. I’m still not sure why. Maybe the cover freaked me out? Anyway, I finally watched The Brood on Hulu Streaming.

The plot: Frank Carveth notices bruises on his young daughter Candice’s back after a visit with her mother. Nola, Frank’s soon to be ex-wife, is in deep therapy with controversial psychiatrist Hal Ragan, the founder of Psychoplasmics. Psychoplasmics seems to be a form of therapy that involves the release of negative emotions, which manifest in physical symptoms such as hives, cancer and deformed dwarf-children. Hey, it was the 70’s. People believed all sorts of weird shit.

A deformed dwarf-child murders Candice’s grandmother; since we learn the old woman abused her daughter, it’s hard to feel sorry for her. The creature is asexual, feeds on the nutrients in the hump on its back and has no bellybutton. Pretty soon people Candice despise are popping up dead left and right, murdered by the Brood. Could Psychoplasmics be involved?

Yeah, I really dug The Brood. This movie is proof that you can make a horror flick without tons of makeup or special effects. The Brood look like kids wearing Halloween masks, but Cronenberg manages to make them creepy. Honorable mention goes to Oliver Reed, who is wonderful as therapist Hal Ragan. Be warned that the violence in this movie is unsettling. There’s a scene in a kindergarten class that’s extremely disturbing.

What I liked best about The Brood is the emotional rawness. A potential romantic interest of Frank’s drops him because she doesn’t want to deal with the shit he’s going through. Apparently Cronenberg was going through a nasty divorce when he directed The Brood, which doesn’t surprise me. This movie deals with primal emotions. Hatred is what gives the Brood life. Frank and Nola despise each other and Frank literally cannot hide his hatred, even to save his daughter’s life. Highly recommended!

Helloween Day Seventeen: Suspiria

October 17, 2016 0

Suspiria is a 1977 Italian horror movie directed by Dario Argento. I watched the English language version, which I’m guessing was dubbed. I’ve heard a lot about this movie over the years – it’s on a ton of best-of lists – but I’ve never seen it. To tell the truth, I wasn’t crazy about the Dario Argento movies I’d sampled, and certainly didn’t expect this one to knock me on my ass (spoiler: it did). I borrowed Suspiria from my local library, because I couldn’t find it streaming for free.

The plot: Suspiria doesn’t have a plot, but here goes. Suzy, a young dancer from America, joins a prestigious German dance academy. Suzy arrives during a downpour in the middle of the night and witnesses a fellow student fleeing into the forest. She never returns. The Tanz (which means Dance, no points for originality) Academy looks like the palace of an evil queen. Suzy’s fellow students are all right, but the instructors – led by Miss Tanner – are a bit off. We get the sense something’s wrong with them, although it’s hard to tell what. In fact, the plot revolves around the question ‘where do the instructors go at night?’

That’s the basic plot. What follows is a pastiche of vivid images, knives, pierced hearts, barbed wire, mad dogs, crazy bats, maggots, an undercurrent of Technicolor sadism surfacing suddenly and then slipping away. There are scenes of people flying…just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not real. With murders as finely choreographed as any ballet, Suspiria bursts with bright, pastel colors; the reds are so very red. The eerie soundtrack, composed by the rock band Goblin, heightens the effect.

Suspiria is an evil fairy tale. Perhaps ‘old school fairy tale’ would be the better way to put it. In the unexpurgated version of Little Red Riding Hood the wolf eats the girl. Much of this movie’s imagery reminded me of The Shining, which makes sense because both movies are obsessed with fairy tales. I was surprised by how much I liked Suspiria, even on a second viewing.

Highly recommended!

 

The Unreliable Narrators Watch… The Pit and the Pendulum

October 17, 2016 0

 

The Pit and the Pendulum movie poster

Or, to be more formal, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

But it isn’t, really.

It’s Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum. It’s also Richard Matheson’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

And more than that, it’s Vincent Price’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

Let’s get started, shall we?

As always, we’ll begin with our final impressions; you’ll find the full transcript after the jump.

Spoilers Ahoy!!!

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

Chris
Cath
Chia
George
Special Guest: Bryon

 

Chris 9:27 PM That was like 5% Poe, 95% Richard Matheson

Cathschaffstump 9:27 PM For sure.

Chris 9:27 PM but Matheson is awesome

Cathschaffstump 9:27 PM Definitely a critter of 1961.

Chris 9:29 PM Okay, so I guess Richard Matheson had an idea for a screenplay, and Edgar Allen Poe is public domain so why not tack his name on?

Cathschaffstump 9:28 PM So, there were a boat load of films like this, focusing on Poe stories.

Cathschaffstump 9:28 PM Because Poe is you know, scary.

Cathschaffstump 9:29 PM But there isn’t much to most of his stories, so yeah.

Cathschaffstump 9:30 PM Having grown up with these somewhat, I appreciate them, but I think they would be hard for modern audiences.

Cathschaffstump 9:31 PM Films that belong to a very different time.

Chialynn 9:32 PM They do what they need to do very well.

Chialynn 9:33 PM Which is kind of a Corman hallmark.

Chris 9:34 PM They have sort of a theatrical appeal

george_galuschak 9:35 PM it’s a fine movie

chialynn 9:35 PM Low budget, made fast, some amazing performers, a lot of schlock.

Cathschaffstump 9:35 PM More like theater than a movie.

Chris 9:35 PM They feel very proscenium arch despite being full sets to me

Chialynn 9:35 PM Perfect for a night at the drive-in.

Cathschaffstump 9:35 PM but a different kind of thing than Hammer.

Cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Hammer is rawer, racier.

Cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Corman is well, as Chris just said, proscenium arch.

Chris 9:36 PM Hammer didn’t even pretend to have plots, really

george_galuschak 9:36 PM Vincent price makes that movie

cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Vincent Price makes pretty much any movie.

Chris 9:36 PM that’s true, remove him and not much is left

cathschaffstump 9:36 PM Even Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

Chris 9:37 PM The acting is very declamatory, which I think sort of saves it. Makes it like an intentional artifact rather than just dated.

Cathschaffstump 9:38 PM yes! I like to think of this film as an artifact.

Cathschaffstump 9:38 PM A perfect specimen.

Chris 9:38 PM so, final verdict?

george_galuschak 9:38 PM thumb’s up!

Chris 9:48 PM Not bad, even though it has almost nothing to do with Poe

Chialynn 9:48 PM Excellent, very much a product of its time.

Cathschaffstump 9:48 PM I recommended it, so you know I gotta like it.

Chialynn 9:48 PM A better movie for watching with others than for watching alone.

Cathschaffstump 9:49 PM It’s also a good date film at my house.

Chialynn 9:49 PM Not because of the scary bits, but because cheese is best when shared.

(more…)

Helloween Day Sixteen: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

October 16, 2016 0

Billed as the first Iranian vampire Western, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a 2014 Persian-language flick shot in the USA. My first attempt at watching A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was at the IFC Theatre in New York City, where I left trembling with fear after ten minutes. This will be amusing to people who have seen the movie, because it’s not scary at all. I guess I have an overactive imagination. Anyway, I watched A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night on Netflix Streaming and managed to not bolt this time.

The plot: Arash lives in Bad City. His father’s a drug addict, and dear old dad’s dealer Saeed the Pimp (that’s as he billed) takes the car Arash worked years to buy as partial payment for services rendered. It’s enough to make a young man turn to crime, which Arash does, although he’s a crappy criminal.

Billed as the Girl, the mysterious newcomer to Bad City likes pop music and jewelry but has never had her ears pierced. The Girl follows Saeed the Pimp back to his den, complete with animal heads on the walls, and rolls her eyes as he does lines of coke. It’s almost a relief when she kills him. Afterwards she steals a kid’s skateboard and spends her nights skateboarding and watching her fellow nightcrawlers, the prostitutes and thieves and junkies, mimicking and unnerving and occasionally feeding on them. Yes, you guessed it. The Girl is bored out of her mind. She runs into Arash, dressed as Count Dracula and stoned out of his gourd, and it becomes a case of kiss or kill.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night isn’t your standard horror movie. Filmed in black and white, it’s moody and bleak and even funny in parts. The performances are excellent. The Girl doesn’t talk much, but her body language speaks volumes. If you’re expecting lots of blood or violence, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night will bore you silly. The phrase ‘art house horror’ – which applies to this movie – has sparked a bit of controversy in the horror field. Be that as I may, I really enjoyed this. Recommended.

Helloween Day Fifteen: The Wolfen

October 15, 2016 0

The Wolfen is a 1981 American horror movie starring Albert Finney, loosely based on the Whitley Strieber novel of the same name. First things first: this is not a werewolf movie. If you watch this flick expecting werewolves, you are going to be disappointed. I couldn’t find The Wolfen online, so I took it out for free at my library. Support your local library, kids!

The plot: a bigwig developer and his wife drive out to NYC in the middle of the night and are murdered by mysterious creatures we don’t see. New York City cops Dewey Wilson and Rebecca Neff are given the case. Playing hardboiled cop Dewey, Albert Finney gives his New York accent his all. I’ve lived in this area my entire life and can say that he doesn’t sound anything like a Native New Yorker, but I do appreciate him trying.

The murders are a political hot potato. The bigwig developer had plenty of enemies worldwide, so terrorism is suspected. Suspicion falls on a group of Native Americans working on a bridge, giving rise to some cringe-worthy dialogue. Edward James Olmos runs around naked on the beach. The mysterious creatures kill homeless people in the South Bronx, and then follow Dewey and Rebecca to Manhattan. The novel explains why; the movie doesn’t. Will our heroes survive?

The Woofen – I mean The Wolfen – is a long movie. The screenplay is unfocused. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a murder mystery, an eco-thriller or a horror movie. In the end it’s none of these things, which might be one of the reasons the movie’s not remembered, fondly or otherwise. Long periods go by when nothing happens and it takes too long to see the Wolfen. The action scenes – especially the climax – are laughable. As monsters, the Wolfen aren’t very frightening – in fact they’re downright fluffy.

I enjoyed The Wolfen, but that might be because I read the book and understood what was going on. The writers don’t do a good job of conveying basic information. I will say this movie was way ahead of its time in predicting the rise of scavengers, as witnessed by the spread of the coyote and the coywolf. Slow, confusing in parts, The Wolfen isn’t a classic and I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. This movie is a product of its time, for better or for worse.

 

Helloween Day Fourteen: The Beyond

October 14, 2016 0

beyond

Click on the image for the trailer!

A total gross-out of a movie, The Beyond is a 1981 horror flick directed by Italian director Lucio Fulci. OV Guide was supposed to have it for free, and indeed they did – the first twenty minutes. I watched the rest via a seven-day subscription to Shudder, so technically it is free. If you’re like me, you’ll forget to unsubscribe in time.

The plot: Liza inherits an old Louisiana hotel from her uncle. Fifty or so years earlier the angry townspeople killed the hotel’s resident painter, who was painting a portrait of Hell; sort of like Hieronymus Bosch, if Bosch had no talent and lived in Louisiana. The hotel itself is located over one of the seven gateways to Hell. This is NOT a spoiler, as that tidbit appears in the first sentence of the synopsis.

The action starts when Joe the Plumber (?!?!) gets his face squeezed off, treating us to a popping eyeball scene. For some reason much of the gore in The Beyond centers on faces. Tarantulas eat a character’s face, a dog bites off a woman’s face and acid melts no less than two people’s faces off.

A mysterious blind woman with freaky eyes tries to warn Liza off, but our heroine is determined to reopen the hotel, even though nobody but cackling ghouls and flesh-eating demons live here now. She’s aided and abetted by hunky Doc John McCabe. Could there be romance brewing? No. The Beyond has no interest in sex at all. After 70 minutes of extras getting killed off, the dead finally rise. Can Liza and Doc McCabe escape?

The Beyond is considered a classic in certain quarters. I don’t know about that, but I would advise you not to watch it while eating. There’s no plot. Even though there’s lots of jump scares, The Beyond isn’t a scary movie. If you have a strong stomach, it’s sort of funny. I like Fulci’s Zombie a lot better, maybe because there’s a shark-zombie battle and the eyeball-popping scene is better. Recommended for gore-aficionados only.

Helloween Day Twelve: The Pact

October 12, 2016 0

An American horror movie that came out in 2012, The Pact is yet another recommendation of English horror novelist Adam Nevill. The link to the article is here. I watched The Pact for free on Netflix streaming.

The plot: when Annie and Nicole’s mother passes, the sisters must reconcile their differences in order to solve dear ole Ma’s murder. No wait, that’s a Lifetime movie. In this movie Nicole disappears in her mother’s house in the first ten minutes. Annie, who hates her mother and the house she grew up in, nevertheless shows up on her motorcycle. Annie isn’t too concerned about Nicole’s disappearing act because she’s pulled this crap before, even though this time she left behind her little girl.

Staying in her mom’s creepy house, Annie starts hearing and seeing weird shit, ending with her being attacked by an invisible entity and her cousin Liz disappearing. Annie, showing great strength of character, goes back into the house to retrieve Nicole’s daughter Eva when she hears her crying. However, this ghost isn’t a quitter; it simply follows Annie to her hotel.

Determined to find out what happened to her sister and cousin, Annie doesn’t give up either. Plot abounds: a headless ghost, a hidden nook in dear ole’ Ma’s house with peepholes to every room in the house. Soon Annie discovers ghosts are the least of her problems…

If The Pact were a shitty movie, I’d say that the house’s wallpaper was the scariest thing about it. While it is true that dear old Ma’s house oozes creepiness, this isn’t a shitty movie. It’s a solid entry with plenty of jump scares. The Pact has lots of thriller/haunted house tropes: the good-looking cop, the ghost, the serial killer, the freaky looking psychic, but they never veer into cliché. The elements all blend, creating a movie that’s spooky as hell. Oh yeah, I also like the fact that they don’t explain the title; if you’re paying attention, it’s obvious. Recommended.

 

1 2 3 4 5