FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Oct 31, 2005

Day 31- Somewhere, A Fat Lady Sings...

So here we are, the last day, the last movie of Shocktober! I had hoped to go out with a bang, but it's more like going out with a "OK, I saw that.".

As you can see from the box art here, the last movie in my month-long frenzy is Alone in the Dark (1982), and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the film of the same name starring America's favorite slattern, Tara Reid.

"The Haven", a new-agey, feel-good kinda mental hospital gets a new doctor, Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz) to replace Dr. Barkin, who took a job elsewhere. Along with Dr. Potter we meet the head of the facility, Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence), who's the pot-smoking touchy-feely type, who prefers to call his patients "voyagers"- they're just on a trip, man, dig? Everyone's got their own trip. Some of the "voyagers" Potter will be overseeing are the Men of the 3rd Floor- the most dangerous men in the hospital. We've got Frank (Jack Palance)- who really, really hates it when people call him "asshole", the Preacher (Martin Landau)- who likes to quote scripture about vengeance and set churches on fire, Fatty (Erland van Lidth)- a child rapist who's...umm...really fat, and Skaggs (Phillip Clark)-AKA "The Bleeder", who gets nosebleeds when he strangles people to death.

The only things separating these cuckoo wackos from the outside world is a door, held shut by the powers of...electricity! Dr. Bain feels locks are so cruel, man! These dudes aren't prisoners, man, they're voyagers! I'm OK, you're homicidal and insane, but still OK. So what happens when the town experiences a blackout and the doors to The Haven open? Hint: the Fab Four doesn't sit around playing Uno by candlelight.

Frank's schizophrenic delusions cause him to believe that Dr. Potter actually killed the beloved Dr. Barkin, and that's why he's taken Barkin's place. Thus, The Men of the 3rd Floor set out for some good old-timey revenge on Potter and family.

From here it becomes a house-under-siege flick, with Dr. Potter, his wife, daughter, sister, and some guy she met holed up inside, fending off the maniacs one by one. Who will live? Who will die? Who will save the day?

This isn't a bad movie, but it's not terribly effective in the fright department, either. There's the whiff of camp in the air, as if the film isn't taking itself too seriously, and that dooms it to Grade B status- not that that's a bad thing necessarily. Believe it or not, Landau chews up the scenery more than Palance does. I thought for sure this film was made in the 70s, what with the pot-smoking, the Valium, the nuclear power protests, the touchy-feely doctor and all. Pleasence is great as Dr. Bain- he insists his "voyagers" are just misunderstood right up to the end. He tries to talk the Preacher out of doing any more damage with lines like "Let's explore some feelings! Try and see what I'm about!", and my favorite: "Get back into your space!", at which point the Preacher slices off Bain's ear.

The most horrifying thing about Alone in the Dark is without a doubt one of the bonus features on the DVD: an interview with actress Carol Levy, who played "Bunky" the babysitter. That's Bunky up there on the bed with the knife sticking up in a sinister fashion. It's a good scene, I'll admit,- the killer hiding under the bed, pokin' at ya, pokin' at ya. But it's maybe ten minutes long- the interview with Levy is much longer and far more apt to give you nightmares. She talks extensively about all the work she'd done in commercials before she got the part in this movie- commercials for toothpaste and feminine hygiene products. We get to hear all about the shooting of a Playtex Tampons commercial, then a little about Alone in the Dark- I mean there's not much for her to say on the subject, since she was only in 2 scenes. Then we listen to tales about her post-acting career in real estate. Which she LOVES! She just loves it. But she'll return to the screen if it's a good enough offer. Apparently she did a soda commercial recently- she got the call because she was just right for the part, and she'd love to show us all what that means. So she does this:

And then she reiterates how much she loves being a real estate agent.

If you're looking for some Grade B fun, this could scratch your itch. And who ISN'T looking for a film with Martin Landau and Jack Palance as homicidal mental patients? I give it 5 out of 10 tragic, contorting real estate agents.

And that's it for Shocktober! Time flies when you're watching horror movies. I'll have my big post-game show tomorrow. Until then...Happy Halloween!

Oct 30, 2005

Day 30- Ewwwwww

Tonight's movie was Demons (1985), a collaboration from Italian horrormeisters Dario Argento (co-writer) and Lamberto Bava (co-writer, director). Like most Italian horror, the plot is secondary to the gore and needn't make much sense. Here we've got a movie that delivers the gross by the bucketful, along with a fine, driving mid-80s soundtrack and some genuine scares.

A man wearing a strange half-mask hands out invitations to the opening of a new movie theatre. The crowd consists of the usual types you'd see at a theatre: college students, young couples, old couples, and umm...a blind guy. There's some props set up in the theatre lobby- a dirtbike, a sword, and an evil-looking mask. Rick James looky-likey Rosemary (Geretta Giancarlo) puts on the mask for a laugh and when she takes it off, the inside of the mask cuts her cheek- and it won't stop bleeding. That's what she gets for horsing around.

When the lights go down, the audience is treated to a horror movie. On the screen, we watch as two young couples explore the grounds of an old, spooky cemetery. They discover the tomb of Nostradamus and some of his writings, foretelling demons who will walk the earth as instruments of evil: "They will make cemeteries their cathedrals and the cities will be your tombs". They also find a mask that looks just like the one Rosemary tried on in the lobby. Eyaahhhh! A character puts it on, gets a cut on his cheek, and is soon transformed into a bloodthirsty demon- guess what's gonna happen to Rosemary? Yup- events in the theatre mirror events on the screen! In the ladies room, Rosemary undergoes a hideous transformation which includes popping boils and alot of liquids coming out of various places on her face. Get scratched or bitten by a demon, and you become one, and soon enough the theatre is overrun. The gore throughout is unbelievable and stomach turning, whether it's torn flesh, popping sores, oozing liquids, a demon bursting through someone's back, teeth falling out as they're repaced by fangs...you name it, it's here and it's really, really gross.The audience members that remain human can't get out of the theatre- the doors they came in earlier are now, somehow, just fakes, and the entrances are all bricked up. But fear not! For a group of punks, all coked up and on the run from the cops, find a way INTO the theatre- and thus the demons find a way out. Our two survivors George and Cheryl (Urbano Barberini and Natasha Hovey) don't need to search for a way out, however. They're saved by a deus ex machina in the form of a helicopter that suddenly crashes through the roof, landing in the theatre. Conveniently, it also has a grappling gun and winch, which George and Cheryl use to hoist themselves onto the roof to safety.

The entire city has already been overrun by the demons, though, so their only hope is to get out of town...

The film was Dario Argento's attempt at finding success on American shores, as is evidenced by the soundtrack featuring Billy Idol, Motley Crue, Accept, and err...Go West. If you can deal with the gore (and MAN there's alot of it), Demons is a fun, sometimes scary movie. The demons themselves can be frightening, along the lines of Cheryl in Evil Dead- but alot more wet. The shots of them (and their eerie glowing eyes) emerging from the darkness are fantastic- these monsters are like Romero zombies on crack. There's even a few quieter sequences that are quite effective- like the scene with the two teens trying to escape through an air vent, only to hear the scratching of a demon's nails as it comes up behind them. If you prefer over-the-top effects and action to a coherent plot, give it a try...on an empty stomach. I give it 6 out of 10 strings of mint green demon drool.

Oct 29, 2005

OK, this is the last post in my big Halloween marathon, so if you're just tuning in, scroll all the way down to the beginning and start reading from there!

Halloween: Resurrection...or, Stacie Gets To Go To Sleep

No.

No no no no no no no no no. No no no nonononononononoNO! NO!

I flat-out 100% refuse to acknowledge this. I refuse to accept that what happens in the first 15 minute of this movie is the way the story of my beloved Laurie Strode ends. Nope. Not gonna believe it. Hey, if Hollywood can literally pretend that Parts 4, 5, and 6 never happened (And boy, are they. I guess they can be considered like 3 issues of "What If?" comics from Marvel. What if...Michael had a niece?) then I can pretend that Laurie really did chop off Michael's head at the end of H2O. She lived to a ripe old age, and spent the rest of her life in a well-adjusted, care-free fashion, just like she deserved. And that's that.

It's too bad, too, because if I were to acknowledge Resurrection's existence, I might comment that it was silly and occasionally over-the-top, like maybe there was a cussin', karate-choppin Busta Rhymes in it. I might even say that despite the silliness I enjoyed it. But nope. After the first few scenes, I decided that I had in fact fallen asleep after H2O and was simply having a strange computer monitor-laden dream brought on by all the movies I'd watched earlier.

Halloween: Resurrection, I stick my middle finger up at thee! How dare you kill Laurie! I'll never forgive you, Busta Rhymes or no Busta Rhymes. In fact, I stick both my middle fingers up at thee...and now I go to bed.

See? Even Michael Myers is all tuckered out after his long long day of killing...and driving...and killing...and...It's 2am, but it's really kinda 3am- but then we set the clocks back a hour for Daylight Savings. Wow- 8 Halloween movies in about 16 hours. It's kinda like Groundhog Day, but...it's Halloween. Or something. I'm tired and my ass won't go anywhere near my couch anymore. Nighty night!
Halloween H2O...or, Laurie Goes Nuts

OK, we get the franchise back into the hands of a director who knows how to make a horror movie (Steve Miner, who helmed Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part 3), and things get a little better. In fact, this movie just flat-out pretends that Halloween 4, 5, and 6 never existed- which is what I intend to do from now on.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) faked her own death years ago in order to go into hiding from her psychotic brother, Michael Myers. She's changed her name to "Keri Tate" and is the headmistress at a posh private school, where she lives with her 17-year-old son John (Josh Hartnett)who's a student at the school. Laurie...err, Keri...spends her days in a prescription drug-addled, boozed up state to cope with her demons, and folks, it ain't pretty. Michael, meanwhile, has tracked her down by searching through files kept at home by Nurse Meanie Smoker from Parts 1 and 2- the nurse who was driving the station wagon the night Michael escaped the asylum the first time. Nurse M. S. ends up dead, and Michael drives from Illinois to California to find his sister. He sure does like to drive.

Once he arrives at the school, he ends up killing only 2 students and a guidance counselor before he and Laurie have a showdown. Laurie really, really puts and end to things by beheading her brother- this makes me wonder why I still have a movie left to watch.

This entry isn't too bad, really, and it would be a good way to end the series (I'm talkin' to YOU, Hollywood!). I like the fact that Laurie is still coping with the events of Halloween night 20 years earlier- her reliance on meds and alcohol are very real. There's a few nice sequences that harken back to moments from the first two movies- the moments where Laurie sees Michael walking towards her and thinks it's a vision, so she keeps closing her eyes to make him go away...but he keeps coming...

The moment where the Myers siblings are face to face again after 20 years, looking at each other through the round window in the door is intense. And yet, the movie still can't recapture the magic of the original. Why is that? It's a really loud movie, very much of its era, the late 90s. The characters scream, they swear alot...and the music is driving and tends to dominate whenever it's playing. I missed the eerie, spare notes of John Carpenter's score. The biggest single factor, however, is that while ignoring all that psychic "Thorn" bullshit of 4, 5, and 6, a fatal mistake was made in Part 2 when it was revealed that Michael Myers was Laurie Strode's brother. Gone completely from the story was the idea of The Shape, of The Boogeyman, of the killer as pure, nameless evil. He's just someone's psychotic brother now, which makes him much more real and much less terrifying. He's not the thing of childhood legend who could be hiding in anyone's closet- he's Jeffrey Dahmer, another hour-long special on 20/20. Give me myth, not reality.

It's too bad Donald Pleasence wasn't still alive to bring back Dr. Loomis for some real closure- he just disappeared somehow at the end of Part 6. His character deserved a far better finish than that (and so did the audience). It was great to have Laurie Strode back, though, even if she was hepped up on goofballs the whole time.

One more to go...man, this marathon ain't nuthin' compared to the last one I did (back in the middle of this month...you can hunt around in the archives, if you want. I'm far too lazy right now to post links). Only 8 movies? Pfft. Oh, and despite wht it says below, it's really 12:52am.
Part 6- The Curse of Michael Myers...or, The Curse of Filmmakers Who Try To Explain Everything That Should Remain Unexplained

So Jamie Lloyd is all grown up now. The movie starts with her giving birth in a dungeon and then...and then...and...sorry, it's...hard to type...through...my tears...

...Tommy Doyle from Part 1 is back and is really weird...
...there are more Strodes in the world...
...Thorn? Runes...
...no..please...don't try to explain Michael Myers...please...
...shock jock....
...exploding head...
...druids...people in black robes...what the...
...diving out a window...
...Michael Myers is so short and unimposing...and he has a gut...
...what the hell happened at the end?...
...better than part 5 but still...so...terrible...
...Thorn?...

...help me, Jamie Lee Curtis...you're my only hope....
Part 5- The Revenge of Michael Myers...or, Stacie Goes Insane

OK, let me say right off that I may not be able to control my language in this post, so if you think you may potentially be offended, please look away. I went through about 16 stages of fury to reach a place of cold, cold loneliness while watching this film. When it ended, I was curled up in a fetal position, asking for it to just please...please...stop.

The short of it: Michael Myers did NOT die at the end of Part 4, and is continuing his search for his niece Jamie so he can kill her.

Now. A few questions and comments for you.

So when he fell in the big hole at the end of Part 4, he ended up floating down a river...floating down a fucking river? Hint: psychos floating downriver are NOT scary. It would've been better if they sent him on a fucking tubin' trip.

What's up with the mask? It's not remotely similar to any other mask he's worn, and it's got so much hair he looks like a fucking pasty-faced troll doll half the time.

Since we were treated to the fine Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers) in the original movie, the Haddonfield police force is so awful that they now employ some bumbling, jokey Keystone Kop idiots who are accompanied by a soundtrack of bells, whistles, boings, and other clown music? You've gotta be fucking kidding me. They would've been bad enough alone, but there just HAD to be that ridiculous music playing that made me so mad I punched myself in the face twice. Well, I wanted to, anyway.

Jamie is now psychically linked to Michael? That's why she attacked her stepmom at the end of Part 4? Because she was possessed? What a cowardly cop-out for what they could've done with the character of Jamie.

Please...PLEASE...I beg all of you aspiring filmmakers out there...or anyone currently making films...do not- I repeat, DO NOT create a character that is "wacky". And certainly do not make him or her the longest-lasting character in the movie. I will put a pox on your house so fucking fast...here we had Tina (Wendy Kaplan), who we know is zany and wacky because she not only tells us repeatedly, but she wears clothes with zebra stripes. I spent so much time begging Michael Myers to put an end to her, I could feel my blood pressure rising by the second.

So what's with Michael's friggin' jailhouse tattoo and the fucking Midnight Cowboy dude with a matching tattoo who follows him around all movie and then blows up the jail at the end so Michael can escape?

Michael Myers chases Jamie in a car. HE CHASES JAMIE IN A CAR. THROUGH A CHRISTMAS TREE FARM.

Dr. Loomis (who is practically as indestructible as Michael Myers) keeps luring Michael back "home"...but is it me, or was it NOT THE FUCKING MYERS HOUSE? It had a fucking turret.
So Jamie stops Michael fom killing her by calling him Uncle Boogeyman? At which point a tear rolls down Michael's cheek? My eyes were filled with tears of hatred and anger, and they burned...they burrrrrrned....

I spent the 90 or so minutes of this movie filled with pizza and rage. The world better pray...pray, I tells ya...that Part 6 is better.
Part 4- The Return of Michael Myers

Alright, well, if they really felt they HAD to bring poor Michael back one more time, I guess this isn't the worst they could've done.

The whole "didn't Myers and Loomis explode at the end of Part 2?!" thing is solved pretty easily- "They both nearly burned to death!". Ahh, good enough for me. Now it's 10 years after the tragic events in Haddonfield, and Michael Myers is being transferred from one asylum to another. In the back of the ambulance, one of the paramedics oh so foolishly lets it slip that Myers has a niece living in Haddonfield. This makes Michael so pissed off that not only does he clutch the gurney sheets in a fury, he kills everyone inside the ambulance and heads off in search of his niece! And he doesn't just kill the paramedics, either- he umm..inserts his fingers into the head of one of them like it was a bowling ball. Not the easy way, through the eyes and mouth, either- I'm talking directly through the skull. I guess he spent some time with a Fingers of Steel videotape.

Where did this niece come from, you ask? Well, apparently Laurie Strode got married and had a daughter, Jamie (played by Danielle Harris, who is just so cute I want to put her on a keychain or something). Laurie and hubby are now dead, so Jamie is living with a foster family. Dr. Loomis is back, too, hot on Michael's trail, knowing he'll find Jamie soon enough. Michael does find her, and chaos and dead bodies ensue. At the end, Michael is shot up real good and falls into...some kind of...big hole or something. Loomis and everyone assumes he's dead. Then in a lovely twist, it seems young Jamie will be picking up where Uncle Michael left off...

I've actually never seen parts 4-6, nor Resurrection, so at least I've got some surprises tonight. The first being, this movie wasn't so bad! I really liked the end scene, with Jamie in the clown costume holding the bloody scissors. The rest certainly can't hold a candle to the original (and Michael's mask just doesn't look right), but it certainly could've been worse. It coulda been scarier, too, but we can't have it all, now, can we? What I WILL have right now, however, is some pizza and Part 5!
Halloween III- Season of the Witch- one of these things is not like the others...

This 1983 movie doesn't feature maniac Michael Myers at all...unless you count the fact that Halloween is playing on some background televisions. Outrageous! But...

Don't be hatin'. This movie rocks, and you know it does. You know it. Oh sure, everyone hates it, right? Well, it's like Marty McKee said in the comments from a few posts ago...this is one glorious bad movie. I give you Exhibit A:
Tom Atkins. Do you need more than that? Well? Do ya, punk? OK, fine. This movie about an evil toymaker who plans to kill children on Halloween night via rigged masks and television signals ALSO contains:

-Nancy Loomis. She's listed as Nancy Kyes, and yeah, it's a very small part, but...Nancy Loomis.

-Super-strong robot dudes in grey suits that kill people by crushing their skulls- or ripping their heads off- and then set themselves on fire.

-Exploding Stonehenge parts.

-An exploding factory, on some of the worst blue screen effects I've ever seen.

-A woman who gets shot in the face with a laser...and the grossness that follows.

-The kid whose face...umm, melts inside the mask after the commercial- and all those snakes and bugs inexplicably come pouring out.

-This movie is gross gross gross!

-It has a downer ending where the hero doesn't save the day.

-It's got Tom Atkins, man! Come on now.

Trivia for you, because I care: Santa Mira, the home of Silver Shamrock Novelties in the movie, is also the setting for the original 1956 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Yeah, Halloween III borrows heavily from that flick, as well as Alien and maybe even movies like The Stepford Wives. Yeah, it makes little sense. Sure, it doesn't belong in the same series with the rest of the Michael Myers saga. Yup, it's a bad movie- and I love it! And you know you do, too. It's OK- I won't tell.
Sing along now... "Happy happy Halloween...Silver Shamrock!"
Part 2- The One in the Hospital

If you're going to do a sequel, I think it's a nifty idea to set it directly after the events of the previous movie. Halloween 2 (1981) picks up exactly where the first film ended, with Michael Myers getting up after not only being shot 6 times by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), but also falling from a 2nd story balcony. The Shape disappears in the night, and will almost immediately continue his bloody spree.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to the hospital, where a majority of the film takes place. The problem with this setting is that it requires quite a bit of forgiveness on the part of the audience. A quiet neighborhood, we can accept easily. But a hospital with 1 patient, 1 doctor and 4 nurses? Hmm. Spending time wondering where everyone is means less time involved in the story.

While written once again by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween 2 was the directorial debut of Rick Rosenthal. It's not a terrible movie, and I've seen far worse movie sequels (in fact, I think I'll be seeing some later today...), but there's some shots lifted straight from the original flick to lesser effect here. Michael is much more a simple psycho killer here, despite Dr. Loomis laying it on pretty damn thick this time about what an inhuman monster he is. We know all about the killer at this point- there's not much mystery left to him. He doesn't stalk anymore, he's not "everywhere and nowhere"...he's just another killer on a rampage. The murders are beginning to get a little extravagant, as well...the nurse drowned in the boiling waters of the hot tub (which didn't burn Michael's hand because why...?) and the nurse who's had all of her blood drained come to mind.

This movie also introduces the concept of Laurie Strode as Michael's sister- apparently she was adopted by the Strode family after Michael was committed to the asylum. Yawwwwwn... To my mind, this completely diminishes the power of the Michael Myers character established in the first film. I thought he was "pure evil", without reason or any concept of meaning of life and death? Nope, he's just a guy who wants to kill his sister. The bloody writing of "SAMHAIN" on the blackboard at an elementary school is meant to give Michael some sort of official affiliation with the Devil, I guess, but it feel very tacked-on and pointless.

I remember liking this movie way back when I was a kid. It certainly scared me then, though now it more or less just invokes warm fuzzy memories. It's possible, too, that Halloween 2 was my first exposure to Night of the Living Dead, which is seen on a few televisions during the course of the film. There's still some parts of this that I really like- Michael walking right through the glass door of the hospital...the blood dripping from the eyes of his mask after Laurie shoots him, then Michael blindly slashing the air with the scalpel...and of course, of course, the cowboy walking the streets of Haddonfield, listening to the news on the giant boombox atop his shoulder. I wonder how this movie would've turned out had Carpenter directed it himself.

When Dr. Loomis blows himself and Michael up at the end, surely they're both undeniably dead, right? Hmm...how can I still have 6 movies left to watch? Snack time!
The Original 1978

Well, what can I say about this movie that hasn't been said a million times before? While it's not the first slasher, it's the one that brought the genre to the forefront. John Carpenter's $300,000 effort went on to become the most successful independent film of all time- until another horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, claimed the mantle 20 years later.

There's been talk of this film getting remade. The latest I've heard, however, is that Carpenter put a halt to that- which is good, because if he didn't, I might have had to. Had a remake made it to the screen, there's no telling what I would've done. There's a good chance I would've climbed the Empire State Building, King Kong style, and shot fireworks out of my balled-up fists. I would've pulled my hair out and thrown it at people...I'm tellin' ya, I would've gone on a rampage of explosive hate and pain like the world has never seen! You hear me, Hollywood? YOU HEAR ME? I'm talkin' to YOU!

Ahem. But really, what could a remake bring to the table? What would've been changed? Halloween has such style and atmosphere and firmly establishes its own mythology, I can't imagine what a new version would be like. The first half, if not the first two thirds, of this movie are build, and they just don't make 'em that way anymore. From the start, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) lets us know that Michael Myers is not human, and that he WILL be coming home to continue what he started the night he killed his sister 15 years earlier. Michael, even as a child, we're told has "the blackest eyes...the Devil's eyes. [He is] purely and simply evil.". He's the boogeyman of everyone's nightmares.

We're introduced to Michael very early on, and we know Loomis is right- Myers has returned to Haddonfield. He drives around, he stands behind bushes, appears and disappears in the blink of an eye...you get a heavy feeling of dread that lasts all the way until the credits roll. Michael's face isn't shown fully, isn't revealed, until he kills Annie (Nancy Loomis- where the hell has she gone?)- and then we see it through the fogged windows of the car. Carpenter is so adept at creating a spectre of a killer- it's what makes Michael Myers, to my mind, the most frightening of all movie maniacs.

John Carpenter and co-producer/co-writer, the late Debra Hill, made a "list of scares" before they set about writing the script, then they simply worked them into the story. There's so many fantastic, scary moments throughout that I could go on forever: hearing Michael breathing somewhere in the darkened kitchen while Bob gets his post-coital beer...the image of Annie, sprawled dead on the bed, with Judith Myers's headstone behind her and a lit jack-o-lantern beside her...Michael sitting up to turn and look at Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) after she thinks she's killed him...Michael slowly emerging from the darkness behind Laurie after she finds Annie's body...the movie just plain works. And it's all so simple- Carpenter uses an economy of shots and that soundtrack rather than excessive violence or gore to scare the audience. It lacks the obviousness and crassness of later slashers. What's more terrifying than the long distance shot of Michael simply carrying Annie's body into the house?

Like I said, I could blah blah blah all day about Halloween. It's one of my favorite movies, and no matter how many times I've seen it, it still gets to me. I felt my stomach tighten even this morning when Laurie was trying to get in the house ("The keys...the keeeeeysss!") and Michael was coming across the street toward her...but I've got 7 more of these damn things to get through, so I'll shut up now and start Part 2.

"It was the boogeyman, wasn't it?"

"As a matter of fact, it was."

Day 29- The Night He Came Home...Then Went Somewhere Else...

...then came home again...

OR, Here I Go Again, on my own.
As you can see from the photo, I'm ready to begin this Halloween marathon. I've got my coffee, my breakfast goulash...and I'm about to watch one of my favorite movies. Onward!

Oct 28, 2005

Day 28- Yarrr, Me Gold!

Umm. All right then.

In the last day, the traffic to my little blog has increased by approximately Alot%. I don't know how that happened, or why...does it have something to do with the trip I took through Mississippi last fall? The trip where I...uh..stopped here

and sold my soul to the Devil in return for more blog readers? 10 points to everyone who knows who else stopped at those very same crossroads and sold his soul...yup, I was right there where Robert Johnson met the Devil wayyy back in return for some mad guitar skillz, as these kids today might say. And there ain't even a dang plaque on the site.

Anyway, I'm glad so many people are stopping by here, and a big thanks to anyone who's linked to me or some such. Wicked awes (which is short for "awesome" and shows you how cool I am...I am, really, I swear...). Anyone who wants to talk horror movies, or has any recommendations or whatevs (see? cool.) is fine by me. However, I must give some pointers regarding how to make your stay at Final Girl a pleasant one:

1. If you email me, please don't use any Prince-speak. "U R a cool girl" is a nice sentiment, but R U Prince? See, I assume that if you type like him, then you must dress like him, and this forces me to think about crushed velvet, purple, assless pants and puffy shirts, which does not make me happy.

2. Emails asking if I've ever been naked, if I'm naked right now, or if I have any intention of possibly being naked at some point in the future are most UNwelcome. Please don't make me Hulk-out about this, because I may crush my mouse as I click the "delete" button. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry, and I'm not in the mood to spend money on a new mouse. And besides, I could look like Bea Arthur for all you know. I could be Bea Arthur, even. Except that I'm not.

3. If you like my blog, I urge you to check out the other horror-related blogs in the links to the right. They kick my ass all the time.

That's all. Now, onward...

Typing out all that stuff has allowed me to put off the inevitable...talking about today's movie, the 2003 blecchfest Miner's Massacre.

Sweet merciful crap, what a bad movie. Damn that Karen Black for being in it! I really have to stop assuming a movie will be OK because someone I like is listed on the box.

I had a sinking feeling about this one when the title came on the screen:

A computer animated pickaxe busts through a computer animated wall...what am I, Lara Croft? Should I pick up my controller? Cheese-o-rama. Cheesy can be good, as we all know, so there was a part of me that was hoping this would be added to the bad-but-I-love-it pantheon. But alas, it was just...bad.

The movie begins with a skeleton lying on a dirt floor somewhere...behind the skeleton is a table with 6 lit candles atop 6 skulls. Yikes! There's a pentagram on the wall! What will happen? I'll tell you what happens: suddenly some stuff flies through the air and lands on the skeleton. I couldn't tell if it was glitter, sparks, gold dust, or Rice Krispies, but whatever. The skeleton then fleshed out, was re-animated, and voila...here comes the evil 49er! He seemed very angry about something.

Cue the young folks that will get killed in the movie. I ask you, is there a problem these days with having characters that are interesting and likable in horror movies? To make it so we care when people get killed? Wouldn't that make for a more satisfying horror experience? I understand the "need" for that one jerky character whose death makes the audience happy- he sure gets what's coming to him! But why must ALL characters be jerks? It's always a group of "friends" who can't seem to stand each other, fighting and yelling, and I wonder why they hang out together at all. Here we've got the greedy yuppie, the bitch who hates the country, her stupid boyfriend, the couple with matching his-n-her frosted blonde tips...just the usual horror movie fodder.

The kids all set out for a long-abandoned mine in a ghost town because someone's brother found gold in them thar hills, so they're all going to cash in and be rich. "Ooh", you're thinking. "Abandoned mine...ghost town...how scary!". Guess again. There's no atmosphere whatsoever. The scariest thing in this movie is...umm...well, there's nothing scary in it. Everyone heads into the mine, where they find boxes full of gold. Gold nuggets...as well as gold chains and soup tureens. What, no crowns bedazzled with rubies? Gold chains? What, did they find Mr. T's secret stash or something? No, it's not his stuff- it belongs to the eeeeevil miner, who will come back from the dead and kill anyone who messes with it. Of course, the kids don't find this out until they start dying off. The curse is explained to us by Karen Black who seems to be channeling a coked-up version of Piper Laurie in Carrie. I loves me some Karen Black. Then there's a flashback featuring Jeff Conaway of Taxi.

I repeat: there's a flashback featuring Jeff Conaway of Taxi.

It seems the miner was a real bad dude when he was alive, a-rapin' and a-pillagin' and a-murderin' and a-claim jumpin'. After being shot up by an angry posse, the miner curses his gold and jumps into the mine, followed by some CGI black wispy things.

The only way to kill the miner, it seems, is to set him on fire. Because...umm...Hell is made of fire and that's where he's from or is supposed to go or something. Anyway, Lord and Lady Clairol blow up the mine and the miner and that's that. Or is it...?

This flick was pretty lame. It lacks that Special Something that would've made it fun, and it certainly doesn't even reside in the same county as "scary". I give it 2 out of 10 brass knuckles. If you want to watch a movie about someone with a gross face who'll kill to get is gold back, watch Leprechaun. If you want to see a Miner 49er in action, watch this because it's scarier than Miner's Massacre:

Shocktober is winding down now, and while I'll post a movie-a-day until the 31st, tomorrow is really my big finale. I'll be having another Marathon of Madness, this time watching all the Halloween movies in a day. Check back throughout the day for updates!

Oct 27, 2005

Day 27- Something something...Charlie Brown joke

I think I should give up the whole idea of this horror blog thing. I bet you'll all force me out of the business as unworthy when you hear that the movie I watched today- for the first time, obviously- was Pumpkinhead (1989). How can I call myself a horror fan if I'd never seen this movie before? Screw the angry mob- I'm going to shake a flaming pitchfork at my reflection in a mirror, then douse myself with boiling oil. And then I will wear a scarlet letter of some variety as I burn myself in effigy.

Anyway, yes, on to Pumpkinhead. The movie is based on a poem by Ed Justin, and it's a spooky little rhymer:
Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won't protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.
When I was growing up, I never heard any poems about local terrors. No "1, 2, Freddy's coming for you...", no "Tommyknockers knocking at my door..."- and frankly, I feel a little deprived. Sure there was "Bloody Mary" and that sort of thing, but nothing so grand as to have a real story- a rhyming story, dammit- attached. I can't seem to locate much info on "Ed Justin", either, so I have no idea what the context for this poem is. Is it just a silly rhyme? Was there a real legend somewhere? Does Ed Justin actually exist? I need to get all Nancy Drew on that poem's ass. Ooh, I hope I can nerd out with a microfiche at some point while solving the mystery! Turn the dial- whizzzzz!- stop- headline: Murder in the Heartland!- read read read- turn the dial- whizzzzz!- stop- picture of scary dead old lady- read read read--et cetera. Wouldn't it just all be so exciting? Sigh, dare to dream.

OK, I'm not sure what just happened there.

Pumpkinhead is the directorial debut of Stan Winston, the special effects/makeup guru behind such scarefests as John Carpenter's The Thing and the 1977 television special An Evening with Diana Ross. After spending years on horror movie sets, it seems Winston has picked up a trick or two. It's a very strong debut, which leaves me wondering why his other efforts have been such duds.

Lance Henriksen (wicked sweet, as always) stars as Ed Harley, a single dad trying to raise his son Billy (Matthew Hurley) the best he can, getting money from his little general store to support them on their dirt farm. They (and the other locals we meet) are a little like a celluloid version of the James Agee/Walker Evans collaboration Let Us Now Praise Famous Men . They're dirty and poor, but honest, hardworking people who...ah, you get it. Anyway, enter the city kids- the spoiled teenagers on their way to a cabin for a weekend that will include dirt bikes, beer, and probably fornicating. Damn horny teens. Actually, with the exception of the uber a-hole Joel (John D'Aquino), these are good kids- I was shocked that they were all decent and likable. Well, one dirt bike accident later, and young Billy is dead- and Joel is responsible. The teens flee to their cabin, and Ed goes to see the crusty wrinkly old lady in the woods- Haggis- to see about settin' to some revenge. And of course the scary old lady's name is "Haggis"- it couldn't be "Debbie" or something, now, could it? Haggis does some hoodoo and brings about a demon of revenge- Pumpkinhead- who will take care of those teens and anyone who gets in his way.

So we've got your standard revenge story here, right? Ha! WRONG! You are so busted. I smell smoke! Someone got burnt! (What the hell is wrong with me tonight?) Once the killing begins (and Pumpkinhead doesn't fuck around- he busts a move right to the cabin and gets down to bizness), Ed sees the gruesome acts through the monster's eyes, and yes, it bugs him. See the message, there? Who is the monster here? WHO, I ask you? I am the monster, the monster is me! What hath Ed wrought? Revenge is bad! Ed learns his lesson and decides to end what he's started- the Pumpkinhead Rampage- and it may just mean the end of himself as well.

I really enjoyed the early scenes between Ed and Billy. Even this cold-hearted snake (look into my eyes) found it sweet, and I even got a half-tear in one eye when Billy died. The relationship seemed very natural, and while Matthew Hurley was pretty damn cute, he never went for that "Daddy, I wuv you, pwease lowah your cowestewol" shit that makes me want to drown most kid actors in their fucking Cheerios. The acting was decent across the board, and of course the monster effects were stellar. Winston keeps a nice creepy atmosphere throughout, with lots of fog and some very dark, very foreboding woods. I don't really find "monster" movies scary, but this is about as close as one has ever come for me. I liked it quite a bit, and I'll give it 8 out of 10 noble dirt farmers.

There is a Pumpkinhead 2 (Blood Wings) which is most likely awful. But the cast...the cast, man- look at the caaaast! Soleil Moon Frye (that's Miss Punky Brewster if you're nasty), Kane "Jason Voorhees" Hodder, Linnea Quigley (and her bare boobs, I'm sure), Roger Clinton as...THE MAYOR, Steve Kanaly- who played Ray Krebbs on Dallas...oh man, you know I'm all over this one.

Is there a Visine for THAT? Nyuk, nyuk.

Oct 26, 2005

Day 26- They're Coming to Get You, Barbara...in Color!

As a George Romero fan...as a Tom Savini fan...how is it that before today I had never seen Savini's 1990 remake of Romero's '68 classic Night of the Living Dead? I should make myself go sit in the corner.

There's a huge amount of remakes coming out of Hollywood nowadays (they're even talking about remaking Friday the 13th, for Charles Nelson Reilly's sake!), as we all know. It's like Remakemania, or Remake-a-go-go, or Remakegate, or Remakeapalooza, or...ok, I'll stop. These new versions of old favorites are, almost across the board, reviled more than Potted Meat. Savini's NotLD seems to fare pretty well in public opinion, though, with good reason. George Romero wrote the screenplay (he co-wrote the original with John Russo), so he DID have a major hand in the way the new version would stack up.

While the basic plot of the film remains true to the original- a bunch of people end up stranded in a Pennsylvania farmhouse trying to survive the onslaught by the living dead- the characterizations in the two versions are different to varying degrees. Most notably, Barbara has gone from being a near-mute lump on the couch (as portrayed by Judith O'Dea in '68) to a take-charge ass-kicker (as portrayed by Patricia Tallman). While she starts the film in a long skirt, she ends up in pants, big boots and a tank top. She's about one pair of glacier glasses away from being Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. She's a more interesting character to watch in this version, I suppose, but to me the shell-shocked Barbara seems more realistic.

There's alot of points to compare and contrast between the two movies, and I can't seem to form big, smart sentences easily tonight. Thus, I will do this thang as if the two versions of Night of the Living Dead are locked in a steel cage, prepared to kick each other in the nuts until one cries "uncle". Let's get ready to comparrrrrrrrre the two mooooovieeeeeeees!

Barbara vs. Barbara- I know Romero was ashamed of the original Barbara. He felt she was weak and he's sought to make his female characters strong ever since. He's going for that here, and I suppose he succeeds, but I empathized much more with the black and white Babs. Winner: I'm in the minority, here, but I'll go with 1968.

Ben vs. Ben- Tony Todd does such a great job in the new version...he's much more human than Duane Jones's's's Supermanesque Ben. The new Ben still takes charge, but he makes mistakes. He's much more affected by what's going on in the world around him, and, aw shucks- he cries. Winner: 1990.

The killing of Mrs. Cooper- When Land of the Dead, Romero's newest zombie flick, hit the screen, people were bitching about zombies using tools and weapons. Well, it was an idea he introduced in 1968, folks! Poor little Karen Cooper (Kyra Schon) comes back to life and kills her mother with a fucking garden trowel in a harrowing scene. Romero uses funky camera and sound techniques while Karen's stabbing away that are really, truly, unsettling. 30 years later, Karen is now "Sarah" (Heather Mazur), and she just chomps on mom like any other dumb old zombie would. Boo! Winner: 1968.

Johnny: Yes, he of the horn-rimmed glasses, polka-dotted tie, and driving gloves. He, the annoying brother who delivers the infamous line "They're coming to get you Barbara!". Let's just say that New Johnny (Bill Moseley) has a better death scene in the cemetery, but that's his only advantage. He's far more annoying than the Old Johnny (Russ Streiner), and has none of the humor. AND he just ends up in a zombie pig pile in the back of a truck- he doesn't come back after Barbara or nuthin'! Winner: 1968.

Gore/FX: I haven't listened to Tom Savini's commentary track or watched any of the DVD bonuses yet, but from what I've read, I understand that Savini was only able to bring about half of his vision for the film to the screen. That may account for a noticeable lack of full-color gore. I was shocked, flabbergasted, taken aback, and dumbstruck (in that order) by the fact that other Savini zombie efforts were so much more explicit. Maybe it's because he was too busy directing and Everett Burrell was Special Makeup Effects Supervisor, I don't know. I expected a real gross-out feast scene after the pickup truck explodes, and to my surprise the '68 version was wayyy more graphic. The zombies themselves, however, look far superior in '90. Winner: tie!

The ending: Romero's classic version ends with such a downward spiral to the final bonfire scene. Everyone we've come to care about is dead, whether through their own undoing or circumstance. The still images shown with the credits- the meathooks, the bodies, the fire- are haunting and accompanied by very little sound. In Savini's version, Barbara survives. She becomes the eyes of the audience as she watches the zombie-bustin' posse using the living dead for sport (another idea revisited in Land of the Dead), laughing and carrying on amidst the horror and carnage. We kinda get smacked over the head with the whole just who ARE the savages here ? idea when she utters, "They're us. We're them, and they're us.". Why not put a big flashing neon arrow onscreen, blinking "METAPHOR!"? And quite frankly, something about the music and dancing around during the final bonfire scene brought only one image to mind, and I hope you know what I'm talkin' bout, Willis: Yub Yub! Winner: 1968.

All in all, I did like the Savini version. I just like Romero's better. But how does this movie stand on it's own? What does it rate if I get all Quantum Leap and pretend the B&W version never was? It's a fun movie. Not really scary, but enjoyable- although I did spend alot of time trying to shoot lasers out of my eyes at the TV to make Judy Rose (Katie Finneran) stop the fucking screaming already. Overall, though? 7 out of 10 stinky corpses.

BUT WAIT! I cannot end this without mentioning that this movie contains he who is now my all-time favorite big screen zombie. Move over, Bub. Here comes this guy:

Him hate fire! I don't know who he is, but he is hamming it up SO MUCH that I absolutely love it. He's like Silent Film Zombie or something.

Oct 25, 2005

Day 25- Like Mother, Like Daughter


Way back in September when I was gearing up for 31 days of movie watching, I picked up a whole bunch of cheap VHS flicks from various places. One of the first titles to arrive was Frightmare (1974) - also known as Once Upon a Frightmare and Frightmare II. I kept putting off viewing it for some reason. Honestly, I think it was mostly because of the box art. I mean, can I get a "blecch" here, people? Also, I've seen newer versions of it as part of the "EuroShock Collection", and while there's nothing wrong with the line necessarily, I remember thinking that Frightmare was going to be an exceedingly gory, distasteful exploitation flick. Hey, no one ever taught me not to judge a book by its cover. If you're ugly, I don't like you! Today, however, when movie-watchin' time rolled around, I really had no choice in the matter. This was the only movie left in my house that I had never seen. All my Netflix choices are in postal limbo, and it's a cold, rainy day- I was feeling far too lazy to venture to the video store. I bit the bullet, put the movie in, and was treated- yes, treated, I say!- to a fine little piece of British horror cinema. Have I learned my lesson? OK, fine. But I doubt it will stick.

The movie opens with a black and white flashback, wherein we learn that Edmund and Dorothy Yates (Rupert Davies and Sheila Keith) are being sentenced to an insane asylum for horrendous crimes against humanity. It was only Dorothy who actually committed the crimes, but Edmund knew about her evil ways and did nothing to stop her, so off he goes as well. Hey, the man is whipped, what can he say?

Cut to the here and now. The odd couple have been released- they are totally 100% sane- and are living together in a remote farmhouse. Meanwhile, their two daughters Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) and Debbie (Kim Butcher) are living together in London and having a difficult time of it. Debbie's a 15-year-old juvenile deliquent who mouths off alot and comes home in the wee hours, while Jackie sneaks out in the wee hours and can't control her punkass little sister. What kind of debauchery is Jackie getting up to during her late night/early morning sojourns? She's visiting the farmhouse and bringing stepmom Dorothy strange packages...

Soon we see that despite Edmund's insistence that Dorothy is really truly "cured", she is so doing bad things again! And by "bad things", I don't mean "sneaking an extra cookie". I mean she's been luring lonely young women to the farmhouse for Tarot card readings, then killing them, drilling into their heads, and eating their brains. Another triumph of the mental health system! So what does Edmund do when he finds Dorothy smeared in blood, grinning like the madwoman she is? I guess he learned no assertiveness in the nuthouse, because he just helps her cover up the bodies. Crack that whip! Not to mention that he had Jackie bringing those packages to the farmhouse all the time...fresh brains from the butcher's for mom...

Jackie tried to keep Debbie in the dark all these years about their parents, telling her that they were killed in a car crash right after her birth. Debbie knows the truth, though, and she truly is her mother's daughter...**insert evil cackle here**

Director Pete Walker has a long filmography of horror flicks (as well as naughty 60s sex romps), and it shows in Frightmare. The characters and dialogue are great, particularly Sheila Keith as Dorothy- she can turn from the kind-grandmotherly type to the scary-psycho type at a moment's notice. There's a fair amount of bloodshed, but not nearly what I was expecting, and it never feels too over the top or exploiatative. There's some definite chills in that creepy old farmhouse- my favorite, the off-screen sound of the drill as Jackie is about to find out what Dorothy has really been up to.

This one's a keeper, although I'll be putting it in a new box. I'll give it 8-and-a-half out of 10 Mommie Dearests.

Dorothy knows that giving is the greatest gift of all.

Oct 24, 2005

Day 24- Behold, the Power of Cheese

Today, folks, I broach a subject I plan to cover further in-depth sometime next month: that of the category of movie popularly known as so bad it's good, or as I call 'em, good/bad. Good/bad movies have a certain something special that makes them enjoyable despite their obvious flaws, whereas bad/bad movies are just plain...well, bad. Bad/bad? See yesterday's flick, Girls Nite Out. Good/bad? Though it skirts the line, today's flick Hide and Go Shriek (1988) qualifies. The only entity I know of that seems to exist on BOTH sides of the line at once is Walker, Texas Ranger.

The movie opens with shots of a man in a suit putting on makeup- blush, lipstick, mascara- and a fedora. He gets in his car and goes looking for a hooker, but when the prostitutes (male and female) get a peek at his weird makeup, they all practically run away from the car. He finally finds one who's game, and they head to an alley. There's some up-against-the-wall humping, then he pulls out a switchblade and stabs her in what's GOT to be the most tame killing I've seen all month long: the hooker says "ooh" and falls down. At that moment, I knew I was gonna like this movie.

Now we meet our young cast: "Eight fabulous friends who got through high school and are going to do great things!", which includes having lots of sex at their all-night graduation party, held in a furniture store after hours. Little do they know that one of the store employees, a weird ex-con with a big snake tattoo on his hand, LIVES in the store. Mr. Makeup-and-Fedora is in the store as well! Egads! Who will live? Who will die? How many boobs will be shown?

When I watch older movies, I try not to get hung up on pacing, music, clothes, or any other hallmarks of the film's era that people immediately make fun of. I just watch the movies for what they are and try to enjoy them all from an equal starting point. That said, however, this movie is FIRMLY entrenched in the mid-to-late 80s, which really adds to the fun. There's scrunch socks, pink boom boxes, tank tops and suspenders for all, a synth-beat ripoff of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" riff, and some of the biggest hair I think I've ever seen in my life, second only to Janet Jackson during the "Control" era. Witness:

Ohhhhhh yeaaahhhhhhh, that's good stuff.

So our plucky teens decide to play a rousing game of "hide and seek", which gives them all the opportunity to pair off, find dark corners, and have sex on model beds. Mr. Makeup-and-Fedora then lures them out, one by one, and kills them off. This is no...err, ordinary maniac, however. You see, after he kills the victims, he takes their clothing and poses as them in order to lure the NEXT victim to his or her doom. For example, the first person killed is...Malissa, I think...I didn't really catch any names...when she goes off to put on a negligee to turn on her boyfriend. After smashing her head/drowning her in a bathroom sink (it was a little unclear...), the killer PUTS ON the negligee, acts all girly, and does away with the boyfriend by impaling him on a sculpture.

This goes on and on until the end, by which point the killer is giggling, dancing around in girls clothing, and saying things like "A housewife's work is never done!". Eventually he takes it even further, and he comes after the last four kids standing while wearing blue eye shadow and bondage gear.

I know this all sounds weird, and believe me, it is. It's a really silly ending, which is why I love it. Do you want to know the motivation behind all the murder and mayhem? OK, keep reading. If you want to find out on your own, skip to the next paragraph NOW! You see, our killer, Zach, was the jailhouse lover of the ex-con working in the store! But Zach couldn't just leave the backdoor shenanigans in the jailhouse bunks: he wanted to continue the relationship in the outside world. A fact to which ex-con responds: "I told you it was over, and now you kill people!", and then the ex-lovers get in a knife fight to the death. Sheesh, and people got up in arms over "Buffalo Bill" in Silence of the Lambs! Speaking of which, at the film's end, when we think Zach is dead, he pulls a Hannibal Lecter and kills the paramedic. He drives away in the ambulance, but not before pausing to look at the camera and smile. Ohhhhhh yeeeaahhhhh, that's good stuff.

The movie DOES have its sorta creepy moments in the darkened furniture store. There's mannequins all over the place, which are always spooky- I kept waiting for one of them to move. But it's the bad acting that keeps you from getting too entrenched in the atmosphere. And when I say bad acting, I mean it's my favorite kind: the hair-wrenching, cheek-slapping, flailing limbs, snivelling, whining, shrieking, with lines delivered through gritted teeth variety. Ahhhh.

This month, there have been movies that kicked my ass (The Brood), movies that made me want to go kick someone else's ass (Girls Nite Out), and movies that just were kind of...there (Fade to Black). So far, Hide and Go Shriek is the only so bad it's good flick I've seen in Shocktober, And for that, I gotta give it 7-and-a-half out of 10 pairs of Skidz.

Oct 23, 2005

Day 23- Bad Mascot! Bad!

I blame Hal Holbrook.

You see, Hal's picture is on the box for Girls Nite Out (1984), and because of this, I thought, "Hmm. This movie might be OK. Would Hal Holbrook star in an inferior movie? Surely not after The Fog and Creepshow. Boy, I sure like Hal Holbrook- I'll check this out!". I'd like to say that this was better than Graduation Day, which as you may remember is the lowest scoring movie thus far in Shocktober. However, Graduation Day had the novelty of Vanna White and the amazingness of the football with a sword attached, and thus it is far, far superior to tonight's piece of schlock. Not good schlock, but bad, bad schlock. Damn you, Hal Holbrook! Damn you to HELL!

My guess is that Holbrook got blackmailed into doing this movie. His son David also appears in it, so maybe that's got something to do with it. Maybe some sleazy producer told him:"You want your son in this picture, Holbrook? Then you gotta do it, too!". Yeah, yeah- maybe Hal didn't want to, but then his son whined alot, like Francis in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and so Hal gave in. He does seem really, really miserable throughout the proceedings. It's rare when he actually appears with someone else in a scene: he's usually filmed alone, as if he shot all his scenes in one day to get them over with. You can see the embarrassment in his eyes when he's forced to deliver lines such as "My daughter was about your age, then she met a guy like you. Now she's dead.". Poor thing. He suffered as much as I did.

The night after the DeWitt University basketball team wins an important game, there's an all-night scavenger hunt on campus. Someone murders the school mascot and steals his costume. The killer wears the bear costume, fashions "claws" out of steak knives, and slashes the victims at the locations where the scavenger items are hidden. Now this sound like it could be fun, right? Yeah, that's what I thought, too. Well, tough luck! It's just a dull little movie- nothing like having the killer call the girls "slut" and "whore" before doing away with them for good viewin'. With the exception of the school mascot, the victims are exclusively female. Is the fact that the killer is female too supposed to make up for the whiff of misogyny? Bleh.

The most notable thing about this movie is the soundtrack, which has actual real songs you may know! While it's not uncommon on soundtracks today, I can't offhand think of another slasher from back in the day that used licensed songs exclusively. Of course, their budget wasn't that big, so you get to hear all the songs (including Do You Believe in Magic? and Yummy Yummy Yummy) at least twice each. Woo hoo! One can never get enough of the Lovin' Spoonful in a horror flick.

You know, I think I'm letting Hal Holbrook get off too easily. This movie stunk! I want my 90 minutes back! If you see that guy, punch him in the back of the head for me, would ya? I give this 1-and-a-half out of 10 fists shaken in rage!!.

Oct 22, 2005

Day 22- Identity Crisis

Oh, Final Terror, you are a confusing piece of work. I don't know when this movie was made- imdb.com says 1983, another site says 1981, and the box says 1984. Take your pick, I suppose. And if you don't like the title The Final Terror, then feel free to call it by one of these alternate titles: Bump in the Night, Campsite Massacre, Carnivore, The Creeper, The Forest Primeval, or Three Blind Mice.

When the tape arrived the other day, I read the box and thought "Hmm...that doesn't really tell me anything but useless trivia, does it?". See for yourself:
"Beautiful actresses Daryl Hannah (minus her "Splash" mermaid costume) and Rachel Ward, who were once actually roommates in Hollywood, join up again along with sexy Adrian Zmed (T.J. Hooker) in this ghoulish tale of murder and the macabre from the creator of "Alien"."
Yup, there's actual celebrities in this flick- not earning a box credit is Joe Pantoliano, who sports a southern accent that comes and goes, and Mark Metcalf, from Animal House and that Twisted Sister video everyone loved back in the day.

What we've got is a bunch of people in the woods, although I'm really sure, still, what they were doing there, or why. The guys and girls (with the exception of the 2 troop leaders) are meeting for the first time on this trip, and I have no clue why they were going camping together. I don't even know if they were supposed to be camping. Who are these people? Are they forestry workers? Convicts? Exchange students? Eh, it matters not. They all end up in the woods, lined up for a killer who looks like a big pile of matted hair. Imagine if Chewbacca went grey and had stopped brushing himself years ago, and you'll get the idea. "Lined up for a killer", I say, but despite the fairly large cast, the body count is the lowest I think I've ever seen in a slasher. Actually, this movie is less a slasher than it is a Deliverance-style survival movie. But don't worry, there's none of those Ed Beatty style scenes to make you uncomfortable- phew! Like one character says (I'm not even sure of their names, to be truthful- this movie was really confusing), mystically: "If you people wanna survive this thing, you gotta start looking and thinking like the forest.". Looking like the forest means putting leaves in your hair. Thinking like the forest is never explained.

Now, despite all this, I kinda liked this movie. Parts of it I liked ALOT. The score really enhanced the atmosphere throughout, as did the graininess. I know that's just due to the low budget, but as it helped The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film grain helps establish mood here. Much of the movie is dark, which at times simply means you can't see what's going on, but at other times it makes things quite spooky- several scenes are lit exclusively with flashlights, which is almost always a welcome effect. The killer is shown very little throughout, which I like- the less you see, the scarier they usually are. There's the old creepy cabin in the woods, of course, and it's a right yucky place filled with jars of gross stuff and various unidentifiable piles of meat lying around. The ending, while abrupt, was shocking.

This is one of those movies that's thisclose to being really, really good. It's the variety that frustrates me so much. Rather than simply writing it off, I sit and think of all the things that would've made it better. Firstly, The Final Terror really needed a more coherent story. When I literally don't know what's going on, that's a bad sign. A higher body count would've helped, as well. A good hour or so goes by and no one dies, despite some close calls. More action, less rafting, please! It coulda been a contendah, but in the end I gotta give it 5 out of 10 WTF?s.
Daryl Hannah, sporting macrame hair:
a popular style at the time

Oct 21, 2005

Day 21- Sergeant Slaughter

My 90-minute relationship with The Prowler was one of the love/hate variety. For every 10 minutes of me thinking "This movie hath verily rocked my face!", there was 10 minutes of me waving my fist at the TV screen, telling the movie: "Get more good!"

Here's the Netflix description for the movie. Read it, and if you're a savvy slasher fan, another movie will most likely spring to mind immediately:
On the night of her graduation dance in 1945, young Rosemary and her date were brutally murdered by a prowler thought to be a jilted soldier home from the war. The killer was never found. 30 years later, the dance is held again for the first time since that horrific evening, and the grads are ready to party...but once again, something terrible awaits the teens of this sleepy town.
Sound anything like My Bloody Valentine to you? Wow! Me too. Surprisingly, though, the two movies aren't as similar as they sound.

1981 was quite a year for the slasher: My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Burning...lots of strong entries in the genre during its earliest days. I didn't see The Prowler in its original run- today was the first time, of course- but if I had seen it then, it probably would've scared the hell outta me and stuck in my mind.

The stalking scenes in this movie are still quite effective, and are some of the scariest I've seen since Michael Myers chased Laurie Strode across the street in Halloween. The gore effects by Tom Savini are without a doubt some of his best outside his zombie work. The killings are gruesome, particularly the knife through the top of the head and out the lower jaw bit and the exploding head. Yes, an exploding head. Gotta love Tom Savini. More than the blood on the screen, however, what makes these scenes so disturbing is that it takes a few moments for the victims to die. Instead of the stab! - eyes crossed! - dead! - variety, the victims here linger and twitch a lot. For me, this is a little off-putting, but I could be in the minority on that as far horror fans go.

So what's the "hate" in my "love/hate"ness? Well, Final Girl Pam (Vicky Dawson) encounters the killer pretty early on, so for a majority of the film we get incredibly lengthy scenes of Pam and her sheriff's deputy boyfriend Mark (Christopher Goutman) looking for clues. The scenes are silent and far too long, and they throw off the pace of the film. The victims are all fairly underdeveloped, as well.

I'd like to see a timeline of release dates for these films in 1981, to see who was ripping off whom. In The Prowler, we get some shots lifted from Friday the 13th Part 2, the most noticeable of which is a scene where Pam hides from the killer under a bed and has to keep her cool when a rat gets too close for comfort.

Director Joseph Zito and effects guru Tom Savini teamed up again in 1984 for Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter. I think they should keep teaming up, as their partnerships seem to lead to some above-average slasher fare. I'll give this one 6-and-a-half out of 10 exploding heads.

Oct 20, 2005

Day 20- Motorcycle Mama

Until I read the review over at Terror Trap a minute ago, I thought perhaps I was the only person on the planet who likes today's feecha film, Night School (1981). Phew! I'm glad someone agrees with me. Tracking down info for this entry, I came upon bad review upon scathing review upon "If you like Night School, the terrorists have won" review. "Hmm," I thought, "DID I like it? Did I sleep through it? What's wrong with me? When I thought about liking Night School, was I really thinking about mint chocolate chip ice cream or Charles Nelson Reilly?". But you know what? I did enjoy this movie, so there. Kiss my grits.

Some weirdo in Boston is killing students taking night classes at Wendell College (for women). Said weirdo wears lots of black, rides a motorcycle, and uses a very large knife to decapitate the victims. Enter Harvard-educated detective Judd Austin (Leonard Mann) to solve the case. He meets sleazy Anthropology professor Vincent Millett (Drew Snyder) and his assistant-cum-lover Eleanor Adjai (Rachel Ward, in her screen debut), who both have a connection to all the victims: Millett taught them all the ways of Anthropology as well as the ways of love. Meaning, he was sleeping with almost all of his students. Austin puts 2 and 2 together alot slower than the viewer will- about 70 minutes later- and figures out that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned- and it's a super wicked deadly fury when the woman is learned in the ways of Papua New Guinea headhunters.

That was really my biggest problem with Night School- there wasn't much of a mystery to solve. I mean, who would be killing these girls? Umm, most likely the guy sleeping with them or his jealous, pregnant main squeeze. There's a few other weak points- very little character development for the victims, and a completely gratuitous, silly sapphic frenzy. Well, it's less frenzy and more awkward, unsexy, and pointless. The rest of the movie, though, I really enjoyed.

For once in a horror movie, the cops (while slow to figure out who the killer is) aren't completely loathsome, inept individuals. They're- gasp- likable, and they get equal screentime with the bad guys. The death scenes are fairly standard slasher fare, however the killer always puts the victim's head in water after the decapitation, resulting in: head in a tank at the aquarium, head in a toilet, head in a bucket, and in a scene I thought was just fantastic, a head somewhere in a diner. I didn't know where it would turn up, and I don't want to ruin the surprise.

Night School was directed by Ken Hughes, who also directed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Maybe that accounts for the feeling I had when the movie was over: if it had less blood in it, I think Night School could pass for a Lifetime movie. I'm talking about one of the wicked sweet Lifetime Movies, like Midwest Obsession (starring television's Courtney Thorne-Smith as a murderous Dairy Princess). It's more of a thriller with some slasher aspects, how's that?

Like I said, kiss my grits, everyone who gave Night School a bad review- I'm giving it 8 out of 10 "Mother May I Sleep With Danger?"s.

Oh, and this month...this month, with all these movies, my life and this blog have become a big mobius strip. First there was the 2 Gary Sherman movies thing (see yesterday's post), then today I saw my second head-in-a-toilet bowl of the month. And THEN, another movie for viewing this month arrived in the mail today, starring...Rachel Ward. Weird, wild stuff.

Oct 19, 2005

Day 19- Tunnel of Love...and Grossness

Wow, it really is a small world after all: unbeknownst to moi, the director of Day 8's viewing, Dead and Buried, also directed today's viewing, Raw Meat. That man is Gary Sherman, and this movie is...well, I don't quite know how I feel about it yet.

This 1972 movie opens with a man cruising various London sex shops, then attempting to pick up a hooker on an Underground station platform. He's turned down, and after she's gone, the man is attacked by an unseen thing that's breathing quite...wetly. Later, college students Patricia (Sharon Gurney) and her American boyfriend Alex (David Ladd) find the man's body on the stairwell as they are exiting the station. They go to fetch help (over Alex's protestations), and when they return to the scene with a constable, the man's body is gone. I'm going to directly quote D.K. Holm from Movie Poop Shoot here, because it's all a little involved, and quite frankly I'm feeling a little lazy right now.
Through plot contrivance, the kids and now the police have the name of the person, and the vanishing corpse turns out to be an upper class figure gone missing. A police inspector (Donald Pleasence) leaps to the case and eventually uncovers the truth: that the toff was killed by the last surviving member of a cannibalistic clan of people trapped underground in a tunnel disaster since 1892. This man, dwelling in an abattoir off the beaten path, makes forays out into the tunnels and platforms to capture human beings for meat, if for no other reason to keep his dying pregnant wife alive. When that fails, he comes upon a new potential bride, Pat, alone on the station thanks to the forces of plot convenience. Alex and the inspector independently go in search of the lair in which she is trapped.

This movie is more an allegorical critique of class and society than straight-up horror, although it's got a huge amount of realistic looking gore. I know, one is shocked to find excessive gore in a movie about cannibalism called Raw Meat. The first time we see "Cannibal Dude and Wifey"'s lair, it's really an amazing few minutes of cinema. With a heavy emphasis on sound (particularly dripping sounds), we're treated to an incredibly long tracking shot, from each and every detail of the abbatoir to Cannibal Dude attending Wifey on her deathbed, out into the tunnels and onto the tube platform. Unfortunately, Sherman uses these lengthy style shots later to lesser effect. For example, when Wifey finally dies, Cannibal Dude's grieving scene would be much more impactful were it shorter. I know what Sherman's going for, though, as he attempts to portray the monster as more humane than the humans. (To see this themee perfected, try James Whale's Frankenstein [1931]) We've got the callous Inspector and the shallow, superficial, pretty young couple contrasted with the vile-looking underground dweller who's yet capable of true love. I ask, if you cut Cannibal Dude, does he not bleed? If you look at his pustules and open sores, are they not oozing? If he has crazy, nappy hair, does he not need a brush?

I don't know exactly what I expected from Raw Meat. It was enjoyable, though it could've used some more judicious editing. Donald Pleasence was borderline campy in this, adding comedy to the mix. This was strange not only because I've never seen Donald Pleasence be funny before, but also because the humor was so prevalent it left me wondering what to think. And don't get too excited about Christopher Lee's name appearing in the credits- I did, but he gets little more than an extended cameo. I'll give this one 5-and-a-half out of 10 "I'll pass on the meat loaf"s.

Oct 18, 2005

Day 18- Sham on: make that change!

I'm talking to the man in the mirror- I'm asking him to change his ways, because he's really, really mean.

Yeah, I'm talking about The Boogeyman. Not the new movie with the same title but, as it says right on the DVD menu screen, "The original 1980 version".

20 years ago, little Lacey and little Willy are banished from the house while their drunkard mother tries to score some sweet sweet lovin' from her weirdo boyfriend. When the kids are caught peeking in a window, the boyfriend puts a gag in Willy's mouth and ties him to the bed. Problem solved! Continue the sweet sweet lovin'. Lacey gets a knife from the kitchen and uses it to free Willy (Ha ha! I didn't even mean that! Zing!)- then Willy takes the knife and stabs the boyfriend to death, as Lacey watches the scene as a reflection in a mirror. This whole sequence has some blatant Halloween steals, including the child's eye-view of a knife-wielding hand.

Now it's 20 years later, and Lacey (Dupont heiress Suzanna Love) and Willy (Nicholas Love) are living on a farm with an aunt and uncle, as well as Lacey's husband and son. They're still troubled by the events of that fateful night: so much so that Willy hasn't spoken since and Lacey has a feeling something bad is going to happen. As Lacey grows more and more agitated, her husband Jake (Ron James) takes action to get her to snap out of it. First, they visit a shrink (late, great horror mainstay John Carradine) and when that fails, Jake decides that Lacey needs to re-visit the house where the murder went down in order to defeat her demons once and for all.

The house, it turns out, is for sale, so Lacey and Jake pose as prospective buyers so they can look around freely. Lacey's Nemesis Mirror is still hanging on the wall in the bedroom, and looking into it, she sees a reflection of the dead boyfriend coming after her. She flips out and smashes the mirror. Jake is pissed and embarrassed, and picks up all the pieces to reassemble back at the farm. He's gonna make Lacey stare at that damn mirror until she snaps out of it, dammit! It seems, though, that he missed one piece that remains on the bedroom floor- and here's where things get weird. Once the visitors have left, the piece of glass begins to glow red. Breaking the mirror has released the spirit of the murdered boyfriend, and he's ornery. He's able to manipulate objects, I guess, to the point where people lose control over them: for example, a young woman cutting her hair stabs herself with the scissors, despite trying really hard not to. A window then slams down on the head of her pesky little brother, killing him.

OK, sounds good, right? Yeah, it's not a bad idea, vengeful spirits and all that, but writer/director Ulli Lommel can't decide what to do from there. He tries the slasher angle by utilizing a subjective camera when the "spirit" is out and about- it breathes and lurks, but it isn't really there, so it's a wasted effect. People do harm to themselves, or objects move around to do the harm, so why try to make it seem that the spirit has a physical presence if it doesn't? Then Lommel tries the religious horror angle: Lacey, at times, is inexplicably possessed by the spirit, and the family priest is called in to help. A piece of the mirror flies onto her eyelid (?) and she doesn't really do anything bad except make faces and speak in a weird voice. We get the bad house angle right down to the quarter-circle upstairs windows a la The Amityville Horror. Willy finally speaks after 20 years, blurting out the solution to all their problems: "The well!". So Jake, Willy, and Lacey throw the mirror down the well, wherein the mirror explodes. You know I love random exploding things, but even that couldn't save The Boogeyman.

"But," you say, "I would LOVE it if Halloween, The Exorcist, and The Amityville Horror all got together and made a baby!". In theory, I agree with you, but this baby needs to be the baby in the attic that no one speaks of. Let's be honest, readers- this movie isn't very good. It's a classic example of trying to rip-off too many films that have come before, resulting in a big pile of mish-mosh. If you want to be a copycat, OK fine, but pick one movie, in one genre and go with it. Like my gramma always said, "If you try to be something to everyone, you'll end up being a nothing to nobody.". Well, she never said that. But it's more appropriate than "Go pound sand up your ass!", which she actually did say.

I really wanted to like this, but it disappointed me. It hurts, but I've gotta give it 4 out of 10 eeeeeevil glass shards.

See what I'm saying? Linda Blair, she ain't.

Oct 17, 2005

Day 17- You Dirty Rat!

Some years back, I had a basement apartment in a big, huge house in Connecticut. For a few consecutive days, I noticed that my cat had been paying real close attention to a closet door- he was a like a little sentry, sitting about 6 inches away and just staring at the crack under the door.

Then, one day, I heard the scratching.

I opened the door, and there was a friggin' RAT sitting on my suitcase, looking at me. A rat. In my house. A rat- in my house! I wasn't as cliched as the housewife-on-tabletop-going "eeeeek!", but I shut the closet door real fast. I called my landlord, and his solution was to simply drop off 2 boxes of D-Con. Well, I finally worked up my nerve and opened the closet door...and found a hole in the floor, where the rat (or rats) was getting in and out. I peered down into the hole, ready to pour the D-Con, and saw something glint in the light. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a tube of toothpaste. And next to it? A bar of soap! I looked up on the closet shelves, and sure enough, the little bastard had chewed through boxes in order to abscond with my health and beauty aids! Living in my house was one thing, but stealing my shit was quite another. I was pissed! My toothpaste was Tom's of Maine, too- no ghetto-ass AIM or something. It's premium, man, and I had to suffer the indignity of having it stolen by a rodent. I dumped the D-Con down the hole, and the little thief was never heard from again.

Having read my tale of woe, you can be sure I sympathized heavily with Peter "RoboCop" Weller's character in today's feature, 1983's Of Unknown Origin. Based on the novel The Visitor by Chauncey Parker III (yes, there's actually someone named "Chauncey", and of course he's "the third"), the movie centers around Bart Hughes (Weller), a fastidious executive who duels to the death with a big mama rat after she invades his newly restored brownstone.

Now, this box art just cracks me up. If your movie is a part of the animals-gone-amuck genre, just go with it. Don't try to sex up a movie about a rat the size of a koala bear! Sheesh. Although, between this image and "Introducing Shannon Tweed" appearing in the credits, I will admit I was a little nervous as to what awaited me when the DVD started. Don't worry- there's no human/rodent nooky at all. Nor, in fact, does Of Unknown Origin sink as far into shlockiness as most other entries in the killer-animals genre (see 1975's Bug, wherein intelligent cockroaches spell out "WE LIVE" on a wall). It's very telling that Bart's bedtime reading is Moby Dick, as he becomes so obsessed with outwitting the rat that he nearly loses his mind. He stops going to work, he takes to wearing baseball cleats around the house...the rat pushes him to the brink when she chews through the traps Bart lays and takes to destroying his house.

Without a doubt, the film is carried by Weller's intense performance. He's one of those actors that I feel could be a little off-balance offscreen as well, and when Bart begins his descent into Vendettasville, it's Weller who keeps it believable. There's lots of nice close-ups of rat parts- from the scaly feet to the beady eyes to the long, yellow teeth. Bleh!

During a dinner with company executives, Bart is distracted, thinking about his little problem at home. He's been researching rats in a "know thy enemy" kinda way, and at the table he spouts off alot of neato rat facts, which I will now share with you:

-One-fifth of all the world's grain is destroyed by rats. This amounts to 5 billion pounds in the US alone.
-A rat can wriggle through a hole the size of a quarter.
-Rats can eat through lead and concrete, exerting a force equivalent to 24,000lbs per square inch per tooth! Wow!
-In less than 3 years, 2 rats gettin' it on can result in excess of 20 million baby rats! Gasp!
-RE: The Bubonic Plague...honey, don't get me started. Don't
even get me started!

I should qualify this review by stating that I love animals gone amuck movies, particularly the films of the 70s and 80s, like Pigs and Slugs. I think they're great fun. There's been a small resurgence of these in the last few years (yes, I saw Killer Buzz), but the animals are for the large part CGI-rendered, which leaves me cold. Personally, I'd rather see an actor battle a rubber slug on a string than "brush off" something that's not even there.

This movie ain't Food of the Gods, or even Gnaw: Food of the Gods 2. Nope: it's one man vs one rat. All that's missing is a steel cage. I give it 6-and-a-half out of 10 pilfered tubes of Tom's.