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, so beware yon spoilers!

May 15, 2008

watcher in the woods

Ahh, another day, another cheap-ass 50-pack of B-movies is cracked open. I've mooned over these multi-packs and my propensity to scarf them up before; while it's an undeniable fact that the majority of the movies included in said packs really blow, my undaunting optimism means that every once in a while I'll score a hit- or at least something that's so bad I manage to eke out an enjoyable review.

This newest purchase is "Drive-In Movie Classics" and I'm super psyched about digging into these 50 films. My "these movies simply have to be awesome!" meter is in the red, kids. Really, how is Mama Dracula starring Louise Fletcher not going to be the best movie ever? Or Rattlers? Or Black Hooker (what is that about, I wonder)? Or Jive Turkey?

Dude, I own movies called Jive Turkey and Mama Dracula. I feel like the prettiest girl in the world!

But! Mama Drac's time will come...for today, I'm here to talk about The Creeper (1977, aka Rituals), a Canadian riff on John Boorman's Deliverance that is thisclose to being super duper.


A bunch of cranky, almost-middle-aged doctors head off into the Canadian wilderness for a bit of fishing, R&R, and male bonding over the bonfire. Someone busts out an inflatable doll at one point, and I'm not sure if it was supposed to be funny or a prelude to...shenanigans; either way, the doll is forgotten before anything happens. Regardless, the men are indeed in the middle of nowhere, miles from somewhere, and the seaplane that dropped them off won't be returning for a week. No matter! The men are happy to galavant around the woods in their matching yellow terrycloth fishing hats.

It takes no time for this idyllic getaway to get all screwed up, however; when the fellas wake up on the second day, they find that all of their boots are missing. Who the hell steals boots from campsites in the middle of Nowhere, Canada and why? One of the Dr. Campers opines that the boots were taken to...uh, I guess resell on the black market ("They're $40 a pair!") or perhaps they've all fallen victim to a "boot freak". I fell victim to a "Dr Scholl's wooden sandals freak" once in 1982, and that was unpleasant enough; I was totally relating to these guys at this point.

Fortunately, DJ (Gary Reineke) had the foresight to bring along an extra pair of shoes. While every one else stands around, he heads off to find a hydroelectric dam he spotted on the map. The thinking is, dam = people = rescue from walking barefoot in the woods. The next day, the remaining doctors find another morning surprise when they emerge from their tents: some rascal has strung up a freshly-killed deer and...err, put some snakes on it.

Everyone decides that things are getting a bit too hinky and, shoes or no shoes, they're gonna head after DJ to find Yon Dam. Unfortunately for the docs, they ain't seen hinky yet! Before they can trudge too far in their spiffy new moccasins made out of bags (moccabags? baggasins?), somebody throws bees at them! As the bees go nuts, everyone flails around and heads into the water- sadly, it seems that poor Abel (Ken James) headed in head first and...err, hit his head and...drowned. Or something. Regardless, he's dead. As the three remaining men try to figure out what to do, one of them utters the words that I so want engraved on my headstone (with a gender change, natch):
He was such a boob...such a gentle boob.
Wouldn't we all like to be remembered as gentle boobs? Yes, I think we would.

Soon they find DJ's rope strung up across the river. Hooray, they're on the right track! As they cross the river, though, that pesky creeper proves he's always one step ahead: there are bear traps under the water, and poor unlucky Martin (Robin Gammell) steps on one. Harry (Hal Holbrook) and Mitzi (Lawrence Dane) (yes, "Mitzi") are then saddled with the sucky task of hauling Martin around with them- as if hiking through the Canadian wilderness wearing baggasins and enduring the creeper's antics weren't enough to deal with!

Once AGAIN, the boys wake up to a surprise; the creeper has also started leaving behind clues, like Army x-rays from 1945. Wait...x-rays? Doctors? Could they be related? Stay tuned and find out!


He hasn't just left medical documents, though, oh no. The creeper is getting really...uh, creepy! In the night, he planted Nathan Lane with a horrible toupee Abel's head on a stick next to their campsite. Eww.

Hal Holbrook disposes of it in a delightful manner, however; seriously, there's no end to the glee I feel when someone chucks- and chucks hard- a macabre head-lollipop over a cliff. NO END I SAY.







Unfortunately, I don't think I was supposed to be feeling glee at this point...but come on. It's even better in the screen cap, because Abel now looks like a mulleted Michael Myers.

Anyway, what's left of the gang finally makes it to the dam, only to find it abandoned and decaying. Bummer! Then they find DJ tied to a chair, barely alive! Another bummer! Then Hal Holbrook gets his mercy kill on and takes care of DJ! This totally grosses out Mitzi, who decides to splitzi! Then Hal Holbrook decides to leave Martin behind since he can't carry him alone! Bummer to the tenth, y'all!

I used all those exclamation marks to add some excitement and pizazz.

Eventually, Hal Holbrook finds a cabin in the woods that looks straight outta Wrong Turn; this cabin belongs to both The Man With the World's Biggest Beard No Really It Was Fucking Huge and his brother The Creeper Or As I Like To Call Him, Good Ol' Winky McGee!


So, those x-rays and stuff? Well, Beardo says that his brother "ain't been the same since the war"- whether that means his unfortunate face is due to Army doctors or enemy fire or what, well, that's up to us to decide. Stuff happens and Hal Holbrook ends up sitting in the road as the sun rises, waiting for a car to come along, I suppose. This shot was also used on the cover of Hal's 1978 album of lite rock, "On the Road to Soft Gold".


Sadly, it only sold 956 copies. This was a blessing in disguise, for after his musical failure Hal continued to act; as we all know he went on to star in two of my favorite horror movies, Creepshow and The Fog.

Judging from other reviews, The Creeper is held in somewhat high regard amongst horror fans. I'd like to join that club, but ultimately I can't. It had a lot of the right elements but they never quite came together for me into something awesome or scary. For a superior stalker-in-the-woods flick, check out Deliverance or Wilderness. Eh, my expectations weren't too high so I wasn't too disappointed- at least it was never terrible. 49 movies to go!

To sum it up:

THE GOOD

- The scenery was great and really added to the atmosphere. As the group fell farther and farther into despair, the setting subtly changed from lush forests to desolate, rocky cliffs, which is all, like, metaphorical and shit.
- It was nice to see a group of adults featured on screen instead of the stereotypical teens. There was a lot of talking and several of the characters were very well-drawn. Kudos for having a gay character who wasn't a joke and none of his buddies thought it was, you know, weird.
- Kookadook stalkers in the woods are pretty much always welcome no matter what.
- Again, chucking a head-lollipop over a cliff will never, ever get old. Ever. My only wish is that it had exploded upon impact.

THE BAD

- The film was way too dark in parts, making it impossible to see what was going on.
- Good Ol' Winky McGee was interesting, but his story wasn't realized completely.
- It didn't feel as tense to me as it should have.

THE UGLY

- The instances when Hal Holbrook resembled some weird love child of Michael Stipe and Bill Murray *shudder*

26 comments:

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Bill Walsh said...

OMG, it's Abel, the lost Baldwin brother!

Nice work as usual, Ponder!

beto melodia said...

is ... take beer with friends,,, do things all the time ...
great ideas in your great blog.
my congratulations, from Brazil to you.

Muhib said...

Helooo...

Fox said...

Those Canadians and their blow-up dolls... I swear!

Also... Black Hooker and Jive Turkey?? Wow. It reminds me of the poster you once posted for *Zebra Killer* with the tagline: "No Black Man Has Ever Killed Like This!"

Awesome, and entirely entertaining review Stacie!

p.s. PLEASE LET US KNOW WHAT *JIVE TURKEY* IS LIKE!

Joe Gelb said...

excellent site and congratalations on a blog of note!

Tanakwagu said...

hello, you blog are scary. i'm scared now..fuhh....

Pierce said...

I have that drive in pack, have you gotten to "Twister's Revenge" yet? I'm not sure why but that movie brought me a little more joy than it should have.

I'll never be able to see a head on a stick again without internally referring to it as a head-lollipop. Your influence strikes again!

Then again how often do I normally see heads on sticks anyway, like 4-5 times a year tops.

gasper said...

Soy de argentina. Y solo puedo decirte: beautiful and rare blog!

anu said...

Hi, its an interesting blog
ghostropiece :)

Anu

The Family Beckwith said...

I can't stop laughing! Kudos to you for your amazing writing skillz and love for cheesy horror films. Fantastic Blog!

houseinrlyeh said...

Better watch out. I'm fighting through some of these cheapo-packs myself just now and am starting to develop enthusiasm about Poverty Row movies starring George Zucco.
Oh, and "Rattlers" is awesome, in an idiotic way, while "Mama Dracula" is just painful.

Adam said...

Everyone loves late 70's/80's American horror and the Italians, but the Canadians have a very solid horror track record. How come Canadian horror isn't being dissected in cool college film studies classes across the land?
Heh-heh...gentle boob.

Mr. Tent Trash said...

This has to be one of the cheesiest yet!

Kim said...

So, I just snorted diet Dr. Pepper out of my nose...no problemo usually--but I am at work and it went everywhere...

head lollipops...chuckle...oh and "The men are happy to galavant around the woods in their matching yellow terrycloth fishing hats"...good gawd...what a nice freaking touch...

Thanks for the fun read!

GDI-SecretRevealed said...

Good site well done rock on :)

HombreMike said...

For another stalker-in-the-woods type movie, check out Trigger Man, by Ti West, aka the dude that made The Roost. Someone obviously showed him some Gus Van Sant movies. The difference though is Trigger Man doesnt suck. Did you see Gerry? Or Last Days? Guuhhh.

S. Eutin said...

Congrats on your blog of note. I like your writing style!

ARBOGAST said...

Stacie, The Creeper isn't Rituals, having been gutted of a lot of footage and most of the night scenes being unwatchably dark. Track down a copy of the Canadian version, which is complete and makes all the difference. Or don't, if you're lame.

Khris! said...

Just stumbled onto your blog. Great stuff!

That lollipop head over the cliff thing made my friggin afternoon. Thanks!

davey said...

Never realised that my life was so utterly devoid of exploding head lollipops. I feel like I've been living a lie.

Paul Stevens said...

Magic. If you could bottle that raw talent and sell it, you'd get at least five bucks on eBay.

Wicked reviews, and thumbs up so someone who lists beer as something she can't live without. Make mine a double, or two, or whatever.

Marianne said...

I loved your blog about this movie it made me laugh. I have only seen bits and pieces of this movie and never made it to the end.

I just had this image of that head on a stick taking out a Brady Bunch type family who was out communing with nature when it hit the ground.

It is obvious that Winkie didn't make it since good old Hal was seen sitting on that road. What happened to his blind brother? Hal left the old blind guy to manage in the woods alone?

Christopher said...

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ATTEMPT TO EVER WATCH MAMA DRACULA. I BARELY ESCAPED WITH MY LIFE.

rikp said...

I thought you were joking about the soft rock album, but you're not:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076630/trivia

Hal has sure made some strange films, like the one where he takes a bath with five prostitutes (at the same time) before planning to kill his wife, played by "Mama Dracula" herself, Louise Fletcher, but he went from there directly to "The Fog" so who can complain?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079613/

Rik

Anonymous said...

I first saw this as "Rituals" on late night cable in the 80's. When I saw Holbrook chuck that head over the cliff with such gusto, I almost peed my pants. I used to imitate it all the time. I love that you put frame grabs of it on your review...it truly is a hilarious moment. And another poster mentioned Hal's "hooker" movie...that is "Natural Enemies", and is WELL worth seeing.