Jun 28, 2005
I hope you don't think I'm running out of steam for this blog already...because I'm not! I'm just a travelin' fool!
I spent the last 5 days on a big road trip down to Charlotte, NC for Heroes Con, a super-sweet comic book convention. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a huge comics fan, and I'm also trying to break into the comics business as an inker (I've got lots of upcoming projects I could blah blah blah about).
To keep this somewhat on topic, above is a sketch I got from the uber-amazing artist (and one of my favorites) Mike Ploog, whose work can be found in the 1970's classic Marvel horror comic Werewolf By Night, as well as Ghost Rider and Man-Thing. And while I haven't seen the Man-Thing movie yet (my kingdom for cable TV!), I've heard about it's wretchedness, and when asked, Mr. Ploog gave it a huge thumbs-down.
I had a great time at the con, met lots of people, bought lots of comics and art...and if the Man-Thing sketch isn't enough to tide you over until my next real post, here's a picture of my favorite movie psycho lurking behind a tree. Some camper is probably fornicating...Angela does not approve!
Jun 22, 2005
The movie opens during a New Year's Eve bonfire party, thrown by a bunch of wacky pre-med students. The nerdy, quiet Kenny is persuaded by some frat brothers to follow the super foxy popular girl Alana (Curtis) up to a private room for a little nookie. Oh, Kenny! Wake up! Think for a moment! Why would the foxy...aah, never mind. He's already up there, stripping down to his tightie whities. Alana's in the bed, it seems, beckoning him..."Come on, Kenny, don't be shy...it's my first time, too. Kiss me, Kenny!" We all know, however, that it's just a cruel joke- Alana's hiding behind a curtain (and we know she doesn't really want any part of this because she frowns alot whilst luring the nerd)...so who does Kenny climb into bed with? It's a limbless cadaver! EWWW! Ha ha on you, Kenny! All the frat boys enter the room and laugh and laugh...Alana looks concerned...and Kenny totally flips out. He stands on the bed, sort of shrieking, sort of going "uunnnnnhhhhh" while spinning around and getting all caught up in some gauzy material. They fried his brain! This can't be good. Don't they know that traumatic events like this make psycho revenge killers out of people? Didn't they see The Burning, or Prom Night? Guess not. Dumb med students.
Now it's three years later and all the people we met a moment ago are ready to climb aboard a train for a costumed New Year's/graduation (don't ask) party on board a steam locomotive. Yay! Party! In fact, the only person we don't see three years older is Kenny. Hmm...that's strange.
Over the next hour or so, the practical jokers get killed by someone wearing various masks. Who could it be? Could it be...David Copperfield? That's right, David Copperfield is on board the train as well, to provide some magic tricks for the kids- including a marvelous bit where he endlessly makes playing cards fall out of his sleeve while disco music blares. Personally, I would've preferred Doug Henning as "The Magician", but what're ya gonna do. Oh, and yes- he's called "The Magician". Not "Fantasmo the Amazing" or something cool...just "The Magician".
Anyway, Copperfield also wows the crowd by performing some weird synchronized tai chi with his "beautiful" assistant, then making her levitate and finally disappear. He also makes eyes at Alana, who seems to find him charming. How does he get all the girls? How did David Copperfield wind up with Claudia Schiffer, you wonder? Probably by using his old trick from this movie: asking "Do you believe in magic?", then making a red rose float in the air. Le sigh, le swoon.
Jun 21, 2005
In the letter column of the new issue of Rue Morgue (read in the car during the loooong trip across Pennsylvania), a reader has an idea for a feature about actors who appeared in horror flicks before going on to become famous in the mainstream. Hmm. Not a bad idea. And so, without further ado, here are some faces you'll recognize in roles you may not have known they had:
This one most everybody knows about: Kevin Bacon as "Jack" in Friday the 13th. After makin' bacon (nyuk, nyuk!) with girlfriend Marcie, Jack lies back for a little relaxation and, in one of Tom Savini's best effects, gets a spear through his throat from someone hiding under the bed. Mr. Bacon has gone on to be separated by everyone in the entire world by a mere six degrees.
The Burning is an early slasher, long out of print in the US, that was the first movie for Oscar winner Holly Hunter ("Sophie"), Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander ("Dave"), and the man who almost became Mr. Michelle Pfeiffer, Fisher Stevens ("Woodstock"). This little movie also started the careers of uber-producers/Miramax dudes Harvey and Bob Weinstein (story/producer and editorial consultant, respectively). AND The Burning was also the one and only movie ever to feature James Van Verth, which has nothing to do with anything.
See George Clooney, before becoming one of People Magazine's 100 Most Awesome Wonderful Good Looking People You Really Ought to Care About, get offed (as "Oliver") in the first 15 or so minutes of Return to Horror High, aka The Poor Man's Scream.
Who's that "WWAR Assistant" in Halloween 2? Why yes, it's none other than a way-pre-Church Lady Dana Carvey.
Poor Jennifer Aniston. Seeing the last days of your dying marriage played out in the gossip rags can't be fun. Neither can thinking back to your first starring role ("Tory Reding"), when the film is Leprechaun. She does, however, get to spout such memorable lines as "That thing is a leprechaun and we've GOTTA figure out how to stop it!". Now if only 10 years ago she had cried "That thing is a mediocre sitcom and we've GOTTA figure out how to stop it!"...
By far my favorite early-in-the-career role goes to Cheers alum John Ratzenberger, in Motel Hell. As the "Drummer" in the band Ivan and the Terribles, Good ol' Cliffie ends up planted in the garden of the maniacal Farmer Vincent- soon to be ground up into some of Farmer Vincent's fritters and meat pies. There's nothing quite like seeing Ratzenberger (and the rest of the Terribles, for that matter) buried up to the neck, tongue protruding while he gets hypnotized by Vincent's trippy...uh, hypnosis machine thingy.
Do I need to mention Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode) in Halloween? I should hope not.
I loves me some Naomi Watts. She's a damn fine actress, in my opinion, and she's certainly paid her dues on the way to Mulholland Drive, having appeared not only in Children of the Corn IV ("Grace Rhodes"), but in Tank Girl. Shudder.
So for all of you wannabes out there who are trying to decide whether or not to sign on as "Girl Impaled on Dinner Fork" in Freddy vs Jason vs Dame Edna, just think...you could be the next Jennifer Aniston! Or the next James Van Verth! Well, scratch that last one. Hitch your wagon to a star!
Jun 14, 2005
Stupid victims are a given in these flicks, whether male or female. They're the ones who go off to "investigate" by themselves...who trip and fall down...who act so idiotically that the audience winds up yelling at the screen in protest. It's just one of many conventions and cliches in the genre. If everyone in these films acted rationally, if they calmly called the police or got in the car and drove away, well, who would be left for the killer to chase? I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't think outside the cliches every once in a while, but it seems pointless to be angry when they are put to use.
I will agree that there's stupid...and then there's stupid. There's hiding from the killer, and then there's hiding in the refrigerator. And so I have to agree with Ms. Whitney's number one choice, Patsy Pease in He Knows You're Alone. Yeah, hiding under the sheets is inexcusable, unless maybe you're not only alone, but also 3 years old. And then you could just close your eyes and the killer couldn't see you anyway.
But Linnea Quigley (#3- Silent Night, Deadly Night)? Who ever expected her to play the smart one? She's just there to provide some...err...titillation. By "titillation", I mean "boobs".
Judith O'Dea's "Barbara" in Night of the Living Dead (#2) is a strange character as she spends most of the movie in a stupor, never recovering from the shock of seeing her brother Johnny get killed by a zombie early on. It's not a completely unnatural way for a person to react to the situation, really. Not everyone snaps into action in the face of peril. I myself tend to either march in place, or simply sit down. Rather than being angry at the character, however, I grew attached to Barbara, and found her death at the hands of Zombie Johnny the most tragic death in the film. But come on, Ms. Whitney:"Running away from someone trying to kill you in ridiculously high heels? Check."
Barbara kicks off those heels when they get in her way. That's why Ben gets her a pair of shoes from upstairs at the farmhouse! **end geek soapbox**
Since the "dumb victim" is such a staple of the genre, wouldn't it be more interesting to compile a list of the women in these films who buck the trend? What about the ones who use their brains and get away- sometimes even taking out the killer in the process? If the typical slasher girl makes Ms. Whitney "appalled and ashamed of (her) gender", then why not focus on the slasher girls who get it right? Here's a few, just off the top of my head:
Adrienne King - Friday the 13th
Adrienne keeps it together throughout the nightmare, and doesn't hesitate to cut off Betsy Palmer's matronly head in order to save herself.
Gaylen Ross - Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Lori Cardille - Day of the Dead
Director George Romero has said that he felt so guilty about making Barbara in NotLD so helpless that he wanted to make up for it in future films. These two characters do just that. Ross's Francine is calm, cool, and collected during the zombie invasion. She's pregnant, but tells her male counterparts she doesn't want any deferential treatment. She also demands they give her a gun so she can defend herself while they're gone. Cardille's Sarah is a sight to behold as she stands up to insane military men ("Yes sir! Fuck you, sir!") AND fights off encroaching zombie hordes. Mr. Romero, your sentence is commuted.
Marilyn Burns - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
She runs for help. She doesn't look for survivors. She jumps out of two windows to get away. In fact, she gets away from an entire family of psychos. Sure, it's evident at the film's end that she'll spend the rest of her life wandering the streets, pushing a shopping cart and wearing a winter coat in the summertime while giggling to herself, but hey. She jumped out two windows to get away!
Jamie Lee Curtis - Halloween
Amy Steel - Friday the 13th, Part 2
For my money, these two ladies are the ones I'd want to be with when the machete hits the fan. Curtis's Laurie Strode is resourceful under pressure- witness the coat hanger to Michael Myers's eye! The knitting needle to the neck! She's got good instincts- bang on the neighbor's windows and door! Send the kids off to get help! She even thinks of the little things, like turning off all the lights. I never woulda thought of that. Steele's Ginny is even more proactive. She hides from Jason, then pops out at him to kick him in the goodies. She fights him off with whatever she can find: a chair, a chainsaw, her fists and feet. And talk about resourceful: she dons Jason's mom's crusty old sweater and sweet talks the maniac into calming down long enough to hack him with a machete.
While these characters are examples of strong, smart women who can take care of themselves, I still want the Linnea Quigleys and the Patsy Peaseseseses. I myself am pretty useless in a panic situation, so I like a character I can feel superior to. That Laurie Strode- she thinks she's so big.
Jun 13, 2005
This is a movie I missed during its original run, and saw for the first time a few months ago. With Joe Bob Briggs himself hailing it "One of the all-time drive-in movie classics", how could I go wrong?
Released in 1981 to cash in on the success of the previous year's hit Friday the 13th, Madman centers around the campgrounds at North Sea Cottages, a camp for "gifted children" (all 6 of them) and the horny counselors in their charge. It's the night before camp closes for the season, and everyone has trudged out into the woods for one last session around the fire.
The movie opens as counselor "TP" is singing a vague song about someone scaring somebody or something...I don't know. The sound quality was pretty bad, and I was still recovering from the shock of the movie opening with a song to understand all the words. Doesn't matter, though, because after TP has gotten his applause and taken a seat, we get the spoken-word version from the camp's head honcho, Max. He tells the spooky tale of a crazed farmer who enjoyed drinking, getting into bar fights (said farmer had his nose bitten off in one of those fights...now that's hardcore), and chopping his family up with an axe, though not necessarily in that order. When the townsfolk discovered the farmer's grisly handiwork, they strung him up a tree and hacked his face with an axe for some good ol' country justice. Upon returning the next day to cut the body down, however, the Justice Mob found the farmer gone. Now he stalks the woods, looking for heads to chop off and bodies to hang. Oh, and by the way, he lived in that farmhouse right over there! Don't say his name above a whisper, or he'll hear and come after you. His name? MADMAN MARZ! Upon hearing this, the obligatory annoying kid in the group- Richie- stands up and, in his best Arnold Horshack voice, yells "Marz! Hey Marz! We're over here! Come and get us!". Uh oh. I smell trouble...or is that Madman Marz? You see, you can smell the ripe old farmer coming when he's got you in his sights. It's the "smell of death", which I understand is remarkably similar to Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds.
I think we all know where this is going, yes? But the fun, dear reader, is in the getting there.
Our group very responsibly puts out the fire and heads back to the cabins. Richie, the last in line, looks up to see the silhouette of a very large man in a tree above, peering down- very creepy. But does Richie scream out? Does he point? Does he slap his own face Curly-style and say "Woob woob woob"? Nope. He remains behind while the others march off...he watches the figure climb down from the tree, and he follows it back to the dilapidated Marz farmhouse. Oh, Richie. You are a moron.
Back at camp no one notices that Richie's gone. Oh well. At least TP and Max are setting up a nice plot device for us- there's an axe deeply embedded in a tree stump that no one has ever been able to pull it out. In fact, there's a reward offered to the he-man who can extract this modern-day Excalibur! Our boys pull on the axe together to no avail. Max is willing to give up, but not TP- he can't stand losing. As TP still pulls on the axe and turns red from the effort, Max offers these words which should be printed on a daily inspirational calendar:
"Losing, winning, what's the difference? Play the game with a fair heart, and you'll always be able to look at yourself in a mirror. Play too hard to win, and you might not like what you become."
To this, TP replies heatedly, "You become a winner! That's what you become!" He smacks the stubborn axe handle and storms off. Future Little League Parents of the World, UNITE!
Out of a cabin door stumbles who I assume to be the camp's chef. He's got on a filthy apron, and he slides down the wall to pass out with an empty bottle of Southern Comfort resting on his belly. A counselor wakes him up and tells him to go do somthing or other somewhere dark...ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Victim Number One! It's a good thing, too, because from the looks of him, this guy would've done more harm to the kids with Ptomaine than Marz ever could with an axe. Are there no cleanliness standards at summer camps? Hmm, perhaps I've stumbled onto Madman's deeper message: a call for health inspection reform. Anyway, throat slice, squirting blood, blinking after death.
Back at the farmhouse, Richie is...well, what is Richie doing? He's just sort of hanging out. Marz enters, lights some candles, puts them out, and leaves again. Oookay. As he runs from the house though, we do finally get a decent look at him from the back. He's a big fat barefoot dude with damaged hair, wearing overalls. I'd steer clear of this guy, but our Richie decides to follow.
Now comes the moment we've all been waiting for- a little of that sweet sweet lovemaking. We've got body parts being de-clothed...and we know one of them is TP when the oversized "TP" beltbuckle gets unfastened. The chicky-poo is Betsy, who at this point we assume will be our "final girl". Through the whole movie, I kept thinking, "Well dang if'n that Betsy don't look like Gaylen Ross from Dawn of the Dead," but no matter how many times I checked the DVD box (and yes, I was stupid enough to check it multiple times), she was listed as Alexis Dubin. So, I eventually checked http://www.imdb.com and Gaylen and Alexis are, in fact, one and the same. Forgive me if I was the last to know. OK, now, back to the nookie. We've got our nude lovers in the hot tub now, and they're....on opposite sides, twirling around and around the tub, while we listen to an entire song that sounds like a reject from Time Life's Singers and Songwriters series.
"Please, let your feelings throoooough...tell me what you knoooooow!"
Finally, after the second verse, TP n' Betsy lock eyes, smile, approach each other, and get on with it. By "it", I mean "the sex". As they fog up the windows, we get a glimpse of them through Marz-O-Vision as he stands outside watching, breathing like Darth Vader. Marzie like da nekkid!
Now we get a few random scenes: Richie is still lost in the fucking woods, a female counselor is sitting in a rowboat playing the recorder, Marz pulls the axe out of the stump with one hand and a grunt- the man deserves that reward money! At long last, despite the haze of post-connubial bliss, TP notices that Richie never came back from the fireside chat- so off he goes, alone, to find him. TP makes his way back to the fire site and scans the bushes with his flashlight. Here we get a nice little scare from Marz, peeking out from the shrubbery. Finally we get to see what his face looks like- he's badly in need of a nose, an eye, and an Alberto VO5 Hot Oil Treatment, though not necessarily in that order. TP, however, thinks it's Richie behind the bushes, and goes to get him. When he discovers no one behind the bush, our brave counselor stands looking around...then his face changes expression from "Where's that Richie? I'm worried!" to "Who cut one?" TP, the stench of Marz is upon thee! He gets a noose around the neck and he's dragged and strung up a tree. Marz, surveying his own handiwork, says "Brammllrrr" and splits.
Yo, Marz- we've still got 4 more counselors to dispatch, plus our Final Girl to deal with! Get on with it, man! Here are the untimely ends of the remaining counselors, in order. These are, however, names I assigned them during the movie, not the actual character names.
- WEIRDO: head chopped off by axe while looking for TP.
- CURLY SUE: head chopped off by hood of truck while looking for Weirdo.
- Yes, I said head chopped off by hood of truck.
- JOHN OATES: umm, I'm not exactly sure how he died. Marz held him aloft, and then...broken back, maybe? At any rate. he died while looking for Weirdo and Curly Sue.
- FRIZZ POP: Let's talk about Frizz Pop...
She accompanies John Oates on his search. She sees him die. She takes off running back to camp. She is screaming and yelling. Marz is in hot pursuit...oh no, wait. He's going back to the farm house. Then suddenly we see Richie stand up, covered with dirt. Apparently he had been napping in the bushes. He...decides to follow Marz to the farmhouse again. By "Camp for Gifted Children", did they really mean "Camp for Stupid Fucking Idiot Children"? As Richie waits by a tree, Marz goes by again, back towards camp. You know, that crazy ol' farmer'd save himself a whole messa time if he'd simply do all his errands at once. Anyway, Richie goes into the house, down to the basement, where he sees Marz's special Dead Body Party. Richie is shocked and appalled, and he opens his mouth to prove it.
OK. Frizz Pop is now back at camp, whimpering and whining like a petulant 3-year-old. Marz, I beg you- please get rid of this one quickly. Oh good, here he comes. Frizz Pop hides...in the refrigerator. Hold on, I need to type that again.
Frizz Pop hides in the refrigerator.
She finally shuts up, and it's all quiet everywhere...so she leaves her hiding spot right away. HACK! Axe to the chest. So long, Frizzie.
Meanwhile, Betsy is finally growing concerned that she's the only adult left. She heads outside to take a look around, and sees Frizz Pop's dead body through a window. Betsy runs to a phone- the phone here actually still works- and calls...not the police, but Max, who's off at a card game somewhere. Dear lord. Betsy, think, woman! Despite the fact that Max is now on the way, she decides to round up the kids and leave. She grabs a shotgun off the wall and sets out to kiddie wrangle. There's a strange moment when Betsy walks by a cabin window and suddenly Frizz Pop jumps up- is she still alive? Was she thrown against the window? No matter, because Betsy blows her head off.
To sum up the next sequence: Kids on bus. Bus actually runs. Marz attacks bus (heh, "Marz attacks"). Betsy no shoot Marz- hit him fingers with stick. Marz run away like big baby.
At this point, would you leave the campground? Yes. Yes, you would. But Betsy sees Marz carrying Frizz Pop's body off, and decides to look for survivors. Sigh. The kids drive off to safety. Betsy makes her way to the farmhouse. After a struggle with Marz, she ends up on a meathook. Yes, the movie's one true surprise: they've killed the final girl. But not before she utters "Son of a-" and stabs Marz in the back with a knife we didn't know she had. The oafish farmer knocks over a candle, the hay ignites (I know it's a farmhouse, but keep your hay in the barn, idiot)...
...and we cut to Richie stumbling out onto the road, into Max's headlight beams. He's flipped his wig, and can only utter, "Madman Marz...he's real." Well, no shit, Richie. You followed him around all night! Max should've just run you over. Cue music, the end.
Because we never saw whether Marz died in the fire or escaped, we can assume the filmmakers were hoping for a sequel. According to the DVD liner notes, Madman is based on an urban Legend called The Kropsy Maniac. Info on this is very scarce, though, so if anyone out there has heard the tale, then...
Please, let your feelings throoooough...tell me what you knoooooow!
This movie was a little slow, but enjoyable with a few eerie shots as well as some laughable moments. Lots of blood, decent effects. According to the credits, there was a song in there somewhere called "Destructofunk". I wonder if it's the theme song, which has been stuck in my head for two days now. But was it a classic? Oh, Joe Bob. Let's just say I'd give it 6 out of 10 oversized monogrammed beltbuckles.
Jun 12, 2005
These are some typical responses I get when I tell people I like horror movies. They're so low-brow, that to enjoy them surely I must be a simple idjit or a raving psychopath myself. Add to that, slashers are certainly the lowest rung on the genre's ladder. Even horrormeister John Carpenter admits,
"If you direct my kind of pictures, you are kind of a ghettoized guy anyway. Horror directors are a little above pornographers. Just a hair." (Fangoria, June 2000)
I'll admit that sometimes these movies can be a little hard to defend. So what, if anything, is admirable about these movies? What do I get out of them?
Like I said in yesterday's post, I like scary stuff. When I was a kid, lying in bed I wondered if Jason Voorhees could climb up the outside of our house and get in my second storey window. This speculation would keep me awake for hours, and would give me quite a little adrenaline rush- I hated the butterflies in my stomach and also looked forward to getting them. For me, that feeling is still the big draw to these movies. While I can ferociously admire the work of Tom Savini and company, I'm not a gorehound. While people obviously will die during the course of a slasher, I personally don't get off on watching people be slaughtered or tortured. In fact, that's a major misconception about the genre- prolonged agony of the victims is usually scarce in these movies. Death generally comes quickly, if bloody.
These are the movies that got furthest under my skin and terrified me- more than Christopher Lee did as Dracula, more than any of Boris Karloff's thousand faces ever could. On a side note, however, a whole "new" genre is doing a decent job of getting under my skin: these new-fangled "J-Horror" flicks (that's Japanese horror to the uninformed among us). These movies have shown me that ghosts can be scary. Really, really scary. I've always thought seeing a ghost would be sweet, and I used to be disappointed when I'd go somewhere supposedly haunted and come out seeing squat (note, I said used to be). If a ghost is badly behaved, after all, it's just because it's become lost on its journey to the other side, right? Isn't that what the little lady in Poltergeist told Craig T Nelson? Help a brotha ghost out, he'll be gone quicker than Bette Midler's sitcom. That image of ghosts- that just as every hooker has a heart of gold, every ghost has a heart like Casper- was shattered when the weird kid in The Ring turned to Naomi Watts and said, "You didn't help her, did you?". What the fuck?! Samara was pure evil? Oh. Oh no. That's not playing by the rules. That's not cool at all.
So where was I? Oh yeah, professing my love. You see, as much as I enjoy the well-made slashers (yes, there is such a thing), the ones that might even provide a fright or two, I also enjoy the so-bad-they're-funny ones. Like any other genre, horror has its classics and its crap. As Halloween is to Halloween 5, Citizen Kane is to Glitter.
So let's shut up and talk about 'em now, shall we?
Jun 11, 2005
One. More. Blog.
I've found my niche and I'm running with it, though, dammit.
Why "Final Girl"? Well, it's the term used to describe the last survivor of the killer's deadly rampage: the good girl, the heroine, the one who gets away. Think Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, Adrienne King in Friday the 13th, or Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street...almost.
You see, I grew up with horror movies. My parents loved 'em. For some reason they never saw fit to get a babysitter, and so I tagged along to the drive-in no matter what was playing. I found that Friday the 13th Part 2 didn't give me nightmares, but rather gave me a thrill- I soon discovered a love for being just plain scared. After lights out, I'd get out of bed and approach my window, thinking "Wouldn't it be scary if the backyard was full of zombies?"- and then I'd dare to peek outside. I'd pour over issues of Fangoria magazine and Famous Monsters of Filmland (I wanted to see Motel Hell soooo bad after reading the Fangoria feature on it...). I was riveted every Saturday to WLVI Channel 56's Creature Double Feature.
Yup, I was big into horror and being scared. And to quote one Ronnie McDonnie, I've never stopped...err...lovin' it.
And so I'm dipping my toe into the horror blogosphere, to talk about the movies I loved most growing up: slashers. I have no idea where this blog will go, but I look forward to sharing those movies and whatever else I discover with you, dear reader.
I mean, wouldn't it be scary to have a backyard full of zombies?