Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Ramble: Anything but The Exorcist

One of my earliest memories of a horror movie almost scaring me was around the time when The Exorcist was making its debut on a local TV station. I’m pretty sure I was 8 years old when one night, my dad and I were watching TV and I was dumbstruck by an ad showing a couple of highlights from this classic and very terrifying film. My mind came unglued. The sight of Linda Blair as Regan staring off into space with goo dripping from her face freaked me the fuck out. About 5 minutes later, my dad reminded me it was time for bed. I begged and pleaded not to have to sleep in my room upstairs. The house seemed so creepy all of a sudden that I couldn’t even think about ascending the stairs. He agreed to let me sleep in my sister’s room next to the den. She was staying at a friend’s house so I retreated there and left the door open.

My logic was unfortunately flawed. You see, I could still hear the TV from my sister’s room and my dad was still watching TV on the same channel that was playing the ad. So every 10 minutes or so, I could hear the demon’s threatening voice, the shouting of the priests, and the screaming of Regan’s poor mother. Worse still, my sister had these cheap closet doors that wouldn’t close completely. I had to keep getting up to try and close them. Every time it seemed they would stay closed, they would come unlatched and slowly open again. I just knew there was an evil girl in there about to jump out and kill me at any moment. I called my dad into the room about 10 times and he finally had to yell at me to get me to chill the hell out.

This isn’t the commercial that scared me but it’s got a few snippets of what got to me:

It wasn’t until many years later that I got up the nerve to rent The Exorcist and finally watch it. I think I was 13 or so when I finally confronted one of the most horrifying films ever made. We picked up the VHS at the video store and I watched it alone in my room. This experience was anything but disappointing. I was mortified, exhilarated, and shaken to the core. My only option was to check out the sequel. Woops, that didn't work. To this day, I still haven’t managed to sit through Exorcist II: The Heretic. I have read a few reviews that have highlighted the film’s good points but seriously, I find it interminably boring. I promise to give it another chance sometime (especially since Ennio Morricone did the score).

Now Exorcist III is where it’s at, y’all. I didn’t see this film until it had been around for quite a while. One of the last ma and pa video stores in Jupiter, Florida was going out of business and I managed to score this and Blue Velvet on VHS for $1 apiece. It was during this time period in my life when I would watch whatever few films I owned over and over again. My love for Blue Velvet eventually waned (stupid mechanical bird) but I still love Exorcist III. William Peter Blatty brought the pain by pretending that Exorcist II never happened and assaults the viewer with all kinds of crazy craziness. The film gets under your skin with some truly scary scenes and a severely angry George C. Scott yelling at people (and demons). Plus, Brad Dourif delivers one of the finest monologues of his career.

In 1998, The Exorcist came stumbling drunkenly back into my life and featured even more abominations. My girlfriend at the time and my best friend Scott were psyched beyond belief to catch the movie re-released in theaters. This was a very bittersweet experience. The film looked great but some new cheesy sound effects and digital touchups and outright lameness. When it came out on DVD dubbed as the ‘Version You’ve Never Seen’, I was pretty pissed off. Several of the film’s scariest bits are telegraphed to the audience via digital images hidden behind doors and slapped onto tense scenes that don’t fucking need any help being creepy. One thing I did learn about the original Exorcist is that the more I watch it, the more it scares me. Knowing what is coming next only makes the wait more unbearable. If anyone can tell me which Exorcist DVD does NOT have any of the digitally enhanced bullshit, please let me know and I'll buy it.

Somebody gave me a copy of Exorcist: The Beginning but I haven’t watched it yet. For some reason, I’m not in a hurry. Oh yeah, I know why: I’M TOO FREAKIN’ BUSY WATCHING ALL THE RIP-OFFS! I doubt I will ever be able to articulate what it is about all of the films that rip off the 1973 classic but for some reason, they fascinate me. First, it started with The Antichrist. This is one seriously demented film when a grown woman gets possessed by a demon and all kinds of Satanic hilarity ensues. Next came what is probably the best of the Exorcist clones, Beyond the Door, which has some very chilling and mind-bending moments of insanity. I also enjoyed the Spanish flavored Exorcism starring the great Paul Naschy.

The list of ‘good’ rip-offs is pretty short but the list of ‘bad’ yet entertaining is quite long. Here in the states, there is the blaxploitation take on the phenomena with Abby and the shaky Piper Laurie vehicle Ruby. Spanish horror genius Amando de Ossorio directed his own half-hearted attempt to cash in on the phenomenon with Demon Witch Child and some damn fool named Mario Gariazzo directed a dull monstrosity entitled The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (a title cooked up to get some of that Rocky Horror cash) starring the one and only Ivan Rassimov as the devil himself. This movie sucks but oh man, it is friggin’ outrageous. Uh oh, I’m starting to forget some of these. There’s one called Satan’s Wife that just came out on DVD this year and Werewolf Woman has some possession scenes in it that couldn’t have just happened on their own. You know?

I guess when it comes down to it, the original Exorcist is a lot of work for the viewer and is anything but a popcorn movie. It is a grueling film experience, a beautiful and painful endurance challenge that requires patience and a strong constitution. Plus it’s over 2 hours long! When I need my demonic possession fast and cheap (and trust me, I always do), I turn to the Italians (or the Spaniards). These films are a delicate balance between the genuinely scary and the delightfully tacky. I still have a special place in my heart for the original but nobody ever had a crisis of faith while watching The Eerie Midnight Horror Show! Well, I mean, I hope no one did because that would be some sad shit right there.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot The Night Child.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Could I Ever Resist Her?

Some guitar parts I ordered went into backorder status. I called bullshit on that and ordered The She-Beast. While it's not my favorite, I think I'll get some good mileage out of this Barbara Steele clunker. So screw you, Musician's Friend, I am much better off.

Some of Barbara Steele's other Italian flicks I've enjoyed:

The Faceless Monster

The Horrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock

The Long Hair of Death

Lucifera: Demon Lover

Lucifera: Demon Lover
AKA L’amante del Demonio
Directed by Paolo Lombardo
Released: 1972
Starring Edmond Purdom, Rosalba Neri, Spartaco Conversi, Francesca Lonti, Carla Mancini
Running Time: 80 minutes
DVD Studio: Mya Communication

Helga (played by Rosalba Neri) and her friends are out sightseeing one day when they pass by a lovely castle in the countryside. Inside they find a creepy butler (John Benedy) who invites them to dinner. Suddenly, Helga doesn’t feel very well and she is encouraged to have a rest in one of the bedrooms. She falls asleep and is transported to another time. In this past life, Helga is about to marry a handsome man named Hans (Ferdinando Poggi) but she is afraid that her marriage is cursed after a mysterious hooded stranger sees her wedding dress.

Desperate to prevent bad things from befalling her marriage, Helga approaches an old crone who tells her of a good luck spell. Helga needs her two friends to carry out this sketchy magic and they agree to join her at the gallows. Once the spell is cast, her friends are taken away by a coven of witches/vampires. Thinking that she has it made, Helga prepares for her big day but then a mysterious stranger named Gunther (Edmund Purdom) shows up and presents her with a new proposition. He offers her limitless pleasure and all she has to do is sacrifice Hans on her wedding night. Will Helga be tempted by the DEVILish man?

By the early 1970s, the Italian gothics had lost their edge. The budgets got smaller, the gore (yay!) and the sex (meh.) got more explicit, and things just seemed to be winding down for the subgenre. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Obviously, I wish that more directors slumming in this crap had made some cheap gialli instead. And yet there are some magnificent films from this era (such as The Devil’s Wedding Night and Blood Castle) but they are usually campy and more than a little rough around the edges. Paolo Lombardo’s 1972 film, Lucifera: Demon Lover, is a particularly clunky example of compensating for a lack of suspense and scares by throwing in more skin.

The title card promises the audience a film in the tradition of the Grand Guignol. Well, this mishmash of Satanic horror, vampirism, sex, torture, and low cut gowns is definitely entertaining once it gets going (after the friggin’ half hour mark). The cinematography by Antonio Modica is a little drab for my tastes but he gets the job done. I really dig the musical score by Elvio Monti. He gets points for keeping things nice and tacky. The plot is a little gamy with its reliance on adding too many characters and trashy sex scenes (not that I was all that surprised).

I love Rosalba Neri (Amuck!) and she is definitely the best thing about this movie (despite some busty competition from some of her co-stars). I really love how her character Helga is willing to sacrifice her friends because she thinks it will protect her. Nice job spoiling your innocence, you dumb stupid idiot. Of course, I would be a fool not to mention the awesome Edmund Purdom (of Rosso Sangue) who makes his Gunther AKA Satan character into a real charmer. There are some other kind of cool actors involved here but none of them get to do much acting. Plus, there’s just too much going to keep track of everybody. How many sped up swordfights can one man handle? The answer is none but this film has more than that.

While picking on the logic of a film with a setup as thin as Lucifera: Demon Lover is a little too easy, I have to call this one out on a few doozies. First up is one actress complaining about how dark it’s getting outside and how she and her friends should hurry home. Lady, it ain’t even dusk! It continues to look like 2 in the afternoon for the next few scenes and boy is it distracting. The other mistake that I cannot overlook is the cellophane window. There is a scene where someone is standing in a doorway and the windowpanes of the door are covered in cellophane stapled to the frame. I did not realize they had that stuff back in medieval Italy.

What can I say? I hate to be a jerk to Lucifera: Demon Lover but this is one mediocre flick. As usual, I’m trying not to let my love for Italian trash override my ability to judge this sexed up and only slightly bloody junk objectively. If you can’t get enough of Rosalba Neri (and seriously who the hell can?), then check this one out. You’ll be better off with something more fun (and more lucid) like her classic performance in Lady Frankenstein. All the thunderstorms, candelabras, graveyards, and see through negligees can’t save this one but you could definitely find worse ways to waste 80 minutes. Oh and what the hell was with that last line? Paolo Lombardo (who also wrote this ass-terpiece) had no idea how to gracefully end his film and so we get Edmund Purdom spouting some gibberish and smirking at the camera before the “FINE” pops up.


“My wedding dress. It was contaminated.”

DVD Stuff

Mya Communications brings this forgotten title to DVD but not without some trouble. The print is pretty grubby. It’s got a bunch of scratches, blips, blackouts, washouts, muted colors, and is occasionally too soft for the eyes. The Italian audio is pretty clear though it gets a little quiet once in a while. What keeps their version of Lucifera: Demon Lover from being only slightly better than a bootleg are the easy-to-read subtitles and its anamorphic widescreen presentation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

200th Post Ramble

On April 27th last year, I dumped the old blog for this one. My productivity went way up and I'm proud to say that I have tried not to suck too hard (fail) over here at CinSom. Hopefully, I can keep this going with the same energy even though I'm working on a horror movie book, a horror movie screenplay, and a horror fiction book. Wait a second, I think I gots me a theme going there.

When I first started blogging, I didn't really get what it was for. Doomed Moviethon had already been going for a few years and I didn't know what the hell to blog about. I figured I would post some trailers, talk about music, and maybe brag about some horror DVD shopping sprees. (Uh oh, I sort of do that now.) But seriously folks, this shit is fun. I've met some really cool folks who are amazingly amazing at blogging about interesting stuff. For once, I don't mind being 10 steps behind everyone else.

So happy Friday and here's some crap:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

She Wakes

Uh yeah, She Wakes is not an easy read. It is especially difficult after you've read several other Jack Ketchum books beforehand. I was really interested to read his first supernatural tale and I was not disappointed. However, the book is quite divergent from his other work. The pacing is very off and there are a couple of ponderous moments that made me just want to give up. But I slogged through it and I'm glad I did. She Wakes is quite cinematic and feels like a big early 80s supernatural freakout with a star-studded cast. I had a great time casting who would play what character.

So what is this book about? There are a bunch of characters and a bunch of crazy shit happens. And it all takes place in Greece. How's that? Okay okay, there's also lots of sex, gore, zombies, Greek gods, and earthquakes. It is worth the read but if you're expecting another razor sharp and insanely cold Ketchum book about man's inhumanity to man, you're gonna get burned. I had to be very, very patient with She Wakes before the book revealed the good stuff (over halfway through). In the afterword, Ketchum admits he was going for something different here. He humbly admits that he was trying and failing to write a Stephen King-ish book. Don't rush to run out and read this one but don't pass it up if it falls into your lap either.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Ramble: My Life with Demons

My friend Shawn was the first of my friends to come from a ‘broken home’. His parents were divorced! This alien concept was a struggle for me to accept at first but as time passed, I realized that kids from homes with divorced parents are people too. Shawn’s cool redneck dad lived next door to me so I only got to see my friend every two weeks or so. Okay, maybe ‘cool redneck’ is an oxymoron. He had a really racist dog named Shiloh. So anyway, one weekend when I was ten years old, I managed to convince Shawn that I had to spend the night at his mom’s house. She had remarried several years before and for some reason, I imagined that Shawn’s life at her place was some kind of Shangri-La.

I was right. I swear to you, this kid had every friggin’ G.I. Joe figure and vehicle ever released and we spent so much time choosing our forces and setting up the battle, that we never actually had the battle. The next day, with only two short hours left before I had to leave Heaven, his mom reminded Shawn and I that we hadn’t watched all the movies we’d rented. There were two left: an action movie I can’t remember and Lamberto Bava’s Demons.

The horror bug had already crawled into my brain and was laying eggs (which are still hatching to this day) so my vote was for Demons. For some reason, the hideous creature on the box art was strangely hypnotic and I couldn’t stop staring at it, even as the movie played out. Obviously, I had no idea who producer Dario Argento was or who director Lamberto Bava was. I had no idea that Italians made horror movies. That revelation was a long time comin’.

[Some minor spoilers coming up. Shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of the film.]

There has rarely ever been a more perfect entertainment. My ten year old brain devoured Demons. The film is about a movie theater full of patrons who get possessed by murderous and slime-spewing creatures from hell. Luckily, there are samurai swords and motorcycles lying around to enable all kinds of nonsensical mayhem and gore-soaked action setpieces. The only scenes that truly frightened me were when the survivors finally get outside the theater to find that the city is overrun with possessed people. I have this thing about society breaking down. Very scary.

So the hero guy and the survivor girl hitch a ride with some heavily armed parents and their kid in a jeep who are trying to flee the city. As they’re cruising along and we expect the ending credits to roll, the girl suddenly starts growling and we see that she was scratched by a demon at some point. While she’s turning into a demon beast, the kid nonchalantly turns around in his seat and shoots her with his shotgun. Point fucking blank. She goes flying and my jaw hit the floor. After all the gore and pretty much relentless insanity of Demons, the last thing I expected was this kid to be a bad ass.

Shawn and his mom were nonplussed by this monumental event. Shawn thought that the kid was dumb for taking so long to react. You see, I always identified with kids in movies so to see one actually kill someone (even someone possessed by a demon) was very shocking (and empowering) to me at the time. I would be similarly bowled over by Hob, the kid drug kingpin in Robocop 2. Demons would pop up again a year later when my sister and her husband were looking after me. This time, something truly scary happened: I accidentally kicked over my brother-in-law’s spit can. I know that the cigars I smoke are disgusting and all but my God, the toxic waste that came slowly oozing out of that Coke can was truly odious.

When the sequel to Demons hit the video store, I was more than a little ecstatic. Some people have claimed disappointment with Demons 2 but I have to say, I was completely satisfied the first time around. In this film, the demons go after the residents of an apartment complex. It may not be the most memorable or inventive film but for my preteen brain, it was magic. The scene where the demon comes out of the television… Genius! And of course, the fight scene in the weight room where a bunch of roid-raging lunkheads are no match for the demons is freakin’ awesome.

I guess the most frustrating thing about Demons and Demons 2 is that I had to grow up (don't believe it). Back in 2003, when I revisited these flicks from my childhood, they just didn't measure up. Call me crazy but the first film drags. I wasn't friggin' BORED with Demons when I was 10! What fucking horrible trauma happened to me between 1986 and 2003 that made me into such a lame-o? Oh yeah, that's right. I worked at Pier 1 Imports. It's sequel is just kind of redundant and mostly disappointing. Thankfully, I can still appreciate these films for their killer soundtracks and Italian oddness but alas, most of the magic is gone. Boo hoo.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creature of Darkness

Creature of Darkness
Directed by Mark Stouffer
Released: 2009
Starring Devon Sawa, Sanoe Lake, Dan White, Fernanda Romero, Kevin Alejandro
Running Time: 89 minutes
DVD Studio: MTI Home Video (Screener)

After a skirmish with Air Force jets, an alien spacecraft lands in a remote part of the California desert. The alien aboard the ship is not a friendly creature. It hunts humans and it uses a dude's spinal column (taken without consent) as a weapon. The creature gets a fresh supply of human prey when Andrew (played Devon Sawa) and his budz just happen to show up to do some extreme ATV-ing in the desert. When his friends start getting attacked and taken away by the alien, Andrew remembers a story his schizoid uncle told about a very similar occurrence that happened to him when he was in the army. Not willing to go down without a fight, Andrew and his surviving friends take on the deadly alien.

Just so you know, it took me three hours to watch this movie. Any distraction that came up, no matter how insignificant, was a blessing. Even if taken just for laughs, Creature of Darkness will still leave you wanting. This is just a plodding and awkward flick to sit through. The editing is clunky with its fits of energy and then slumps of nothingness. There is some gore and some T&A but they hardly make up for how dull this film is. When shown up close, the alien creature effects are acceptable. Unfortunately, the film relies heavily on bad video game CGI for much of the action shots. Whenever the Army jets or helicopters are shown in flight, it looks like the playback feature on an old flight simulator game.

The actors are all in big trouble here. The occasional moments of decent (though hilarious) dialogue clash with the stretches of screaming and arguing that feel like scripted reality television. Devon Sawa (Idle Hands) is especially manic here and I get uncomfortable just watching his over/underacting. I can't blame these poor folks too much though. All of their characters are irritating and have weak or painfully obvious motivations for every single thing they do. The scene where the girls get high, dance, and discuss which guys they want to screw is probably my favorite in the movie. Just watching it made me smarter and more aware of my surroundings.

I hate to say this but Syfy Channel probably won't even want this one. Oh, who am I kidding? They'll show any dang thing! Creature of Darkness will surely appeal to fans of dune buggies, smoke machines, Devon Sawa's tragic downfall, and generic music queues but this mess is just an embarrassing waste of time. Unless you enjoy pausing bad films to get up and go rooting through your liquor cabinet, unloading the dishwasher, or just running in place, then skip this one.


"You know what, Casanova? If you knew jack shit about bitches, you'd still have yours!"

"Courage doesn't need explaining. It needs action."

"Why am I sitting here like some ebony meatloaf?"
"Because we're gonna drag that thing to an ultra-violent death, that's why."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Doomed Divas Moviethon

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: what is horror? I'll tell you! Horror is Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, and Mariah Carey. Chilling, eh? Over at the new Doomed Moviethon HQ, we subjected ourselves to 5 films in a row starring these true divas of the pop world. This was not a zombie splatter moviethon or another giallo meltdown. Oh no, that would have been much too easy, much too... entertaining. This was probably one of the most terrible things I've ever subjected myself, my friends, and my family to. You are all good and descent people. Do not make the mistakes I have made. Learn from my erroneous errors. And so, I present to you...

The Doomed Divas Moviethon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Ramble: That Eurohorror Thang

Can you describe in 700 million words or less that European horror movie thing? I sure as hell can’t. What is it about Eurohorror that makes it so friggin’ addictive? Could it be the lazy menace or the incalculable morbidity? The feeling that something dark is lurking just around the corner or hiding just behind that tombstone is a big part of what makes horror so great. The European flair usually just means that the payoff will be bigger, brighter, or cheaper and yet somehow more endearing. This shit might bore Europeans to tears but for us kids over here on the other side of the pond, their films’ alienness is intriguing if not utterly fascinating. Eurohorror has secret transmissions that awaken those happy (depressing) and morbid (ecstatic) neurons that destroy (invigorate) my dumb brain. For the purposes of this ramble, I’m going to call this unique phenomenon ‘The Vibe’.

I don’t really know precisely where this very rambly Wednesday Ramble is going but I think I’m talking about white stucco walls, dirt floors, strange camera angles, overly bright blood, achingly beautiful actresses, claustrophobic spaces, ethereal music, ridiculous plots, etc. These are all things that make the Italian gothics of the 1960s so great. I want to blame it all on Mario Bava. These characteristics were replicated (and in some cases improved upon) very, very well by Spanish horror cinema in the 1970s. I mean, the Italians didn't really lose it until the mid 1980s. Of course, horrible 70s wallpaper helps too so things like the inept but strangely perfect Werewolf Woman make the list as well. And speaking of werewolves, most of Paul Naschy's body of work (especially with directors León Klimovsky and Carlos Aured) contains this unique sensation as well. Check out any of his performances as the doomed Waldemar Daninsky to see what I'm talking about.

I can’t (or rather, I won’t) think of any quintessential titles that perfectly encompass what it is that makes European horror so wondrous because I’m sure everyone out there has a different list of flicks. But I do have a few here that I’d like to mention that really get under my skin. One of the first European horror films I ever watched that gave me ‘The Vibe’ was Pupi Avati’s Zeder. Ohhhh doctor, I tremble with joy just thinking about watching this movie. Every frame is filled with so much dread and the production design lays on the dull off-white and gray tones that just amp up the feeling that we, the audience, are alone are we are about to die horribly.

One fairly blatant example of that distinctly Euro flava is the wacked out Vampyros Lesbos. Jess Franco shot this little piece of brilliance in Spain, Germany, and Turkey. I’m not much for the softcore elements (and I’m not really complaining about them either) but this film instantly grabbed hold of my soul when I first took a chance on it. There is just something undeniably hypnotic about this shit. And while we’re on the subject of lesbian vampires, there is also a very important and dreamy little number called Daughters of Darkness. If this soft focus gothic poem doesn’t knock your socks off then you’re not breathing, duder. And while I love the film, José Ramón Larraz's excellent Vampyres, doesn't give me the same feeling. Strange, huh? It has all the required elements: buckets of blood, lesbian vampires, and a killer cemetery but nope, 'The Vibe' just ain't there. I'm sure some folks would disagree but damn it, I just don't feel it.

Here are two more Italian examples, one from Dario Argento and one from Lucio Fulci. First up is Argento’s Phenomena. Most of this movie is so wild and bizarre that it is impossible without multiple viewings to pick up on ‘The Vibe’. Late in the film however, when Jennifer Connelly is trapped inside the killer’s house, she finds a hole in the floor and descends right into what I’m freakin’ talking about here. The catacombs beneath the Brückner house are starkly lit, gray, and insanely creepy. Lucio Fulci competes with the sheer awesomeness of Phenomena with his own bizarre adventure in abstract moodiness: The House by the Cemetery.

One Italian director that consistently delivers on ‘The Vibe’ is the late, great Joe D’Amato. Before he disappeared forever into directing porno movies for a living, good old Joe was a cinematographer on the silly but very atmospheric The Devil’s Wedding Night. When he got a chance to direct his first horror film, the man made an art form out of style (and softcore sex) over substance with Death Smiled at Murder; a film that helps me escape the real world and threatens to never let me return. Even when he is wallowing in cheap crap, D’Amato still manages to deliver on that nearly indescribable gloomy goodness with Anthropophagus and Anthropophagus 2 (AKA Horrible). Part 2 in particular is responsible for my current condition as it first entered my mind over 20 years ago when I caught it on late nite television. This Halloween-influenced gore flick with piles of accidental atmosphere never left my mind and has thankfully landed on DVD in the good old US of A. Oops, I almost forgot his death-obsessed masterpiece Beyond the Darkness!

Usually, 'The Vibe' comes from supernatural films but there are also several gialli that deliver what I crave. Whether it is through intent or accident, I get brief flashes of gray brilliance when I watch the yellow thrillers of Sergio Martino. I obsess over the tiniest scenes in everything from The Case of the Scorpion's Tail to Torso and I still can't quite put my finger on it. Other gialli that produce the same haunting reverberations in my soul include Emilio Miraglia's The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and Armando Crispino's The Dead Are Alive. It helps that both of these films have a dreamlike quality, a heightened sense of ghoulish improbability.

So do you get it? Do any of you out there feel this thing; this unsavory and unwholesome longing for Eurohorror and don't have a friggin' clue why? Or do you have a name for 'The Vibe'? (I'm tempted to call it 'ghoulish improbability'.) Is there some obscure text that has coined a phrase for this stuff that I'm having a helluva time trying to describe? If you have an answer to any or all of these questions, please step forward. I'd love to commiserate with y'all. I know Riccardo Freda, God rest his soul, knows what I'm talking about. Just watch Barbara Steele in The Ghost and soak it up.
Here are some related things I wrote:

Say Uh... Phenomena!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Visitor

The Visitor
AKA Stridulum
Directed by Giulio Paradisi
Released: 1979
Starring: Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, John Huston, Joanne Nail, Paige Conner
Running Time: 101 minutes

Good aliens led by Jesus Christ (played by Franco Nero) send an emissary named Jerzy (John Huston) to Earth to capture Katy (Paige Conner), a little girl with super human abilities. Meanwhile, the bad aliens are trying to get Katy’s mother, Barbara (Joanne Nail), pregnant so that she will give birth to another super kid they can use to destroy the human race. Barbara’s lover Raymond (Lance Henriksen) is actually a plant by the bad aliens, led by the evil Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer), to help their evil plan come to fruition. When tragic occurrences befall Barbara, Detective Jake Durham (Glenn Ford) discovers that there is something very strange going on with the foul-mouthed and violent Katy. And before I forget, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is somehow involved in all of this. I mean like in a basketball-related capacity.

How did a movie this insane manage to hide from me for so long? And now that I’ve seen it, I’m trapped somewhere between elation and outrage. The Visitor is a confusing shambles of a movie with elements borrowed from The Omen and The Exorcist with alien beings thrown in the mix. I love Italian rip-offs of popular films so I was predestined to adore this film. But there is so much wrong with director Giulio Paradisi’s only horror film that I can’t even begin to pretend that The Visitor is anything but tremendously bad.

Much like the film itself, the musical score by Franco Micalizzi (which sounds like a fake name) is a schizophrenic mix of the perfectly eerie and the explosively lame. Producer Ovidio G. Assonitis (which sounds like a terrible disease) is the man responsible for other rip-offs like Beyond the Door and Tentacles. Unfortunately, he also had a hand at writing the inept story for this film. The cinematography, editing, special effects, production design, and stunts are all deftly handled by a talented crew but it’s a totally wasted effort as the lame script, weak direction, and understandably confused actors bring it all crashing down.

The 1970s must have been very difficult for Glenn Ford, John Huston, and Shelly Winters (who plays Katy’s nanny with psychic powers). They do an admirable job keeping a straight face during all the crap dialogue they have to spout off and I can’t imagine how they got through this project. Lance Henriksen is super menacing and he’s always a great bad guy. Did I mention that Franco Nero plays Jesus Christ? He is never referred to Our Lord and Savior in the script but IMDB has him credited as such. I’m a little surprised that Paige Conner didn’t go on to more things. She certainly has the ‘creepy kid who curses like a sailor’ routine down pretty well.

So is this movie worth suffering through? Well yeah, kind of. The Visitor has some very big names (including a dubbed Sam Peckinpah) looking very discombobulated, a modest budget totally wasted on surreal special effects that do nothing but screw up the plot, and a few genuinely cool jump scares. However, I must warn you that your brain will melt and squirt violently out of your ears if you try and figure out what is going on. My only guess is that this odd and ominous film was written with certain elements from profitable horror and sci-fi films as highlights and then paper-thin connecting scenes were added later.


“Yeah, that bugs me, man. That really bugs me.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Crazies

I finally got out to the theaters yesterday with my friends Nafa and Max to catch my first horror remake of the year (sorry Wolfman, I wasn't in the mood). The Crazies is about the destruction of a small town called Ogden Marsh. This normally peaceful community is suddenly plagued with violence as its residents begin going mad. The local sheriff (played by Timothy Olyphant) discovers that a military plane carrying an experimental biological weapon has crashed in a river that supplies the town with its drinking water and its only a matter of time before everyone is infected. The military rushes in to contain the virus but their orders are not to save the day. Instead, the situation in Ogden Marsh deteriorates completely while the sheriff and his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell) and deputy (Joe Anderson) struggle to get out alive.

I'm not a purist when it comes to horror movies so if a remake is good, then I'm game. Even if the original is stellar and it's impossible to be improved upon, I still keep an open mind. George Romero's original film has never been a favorite of mine so I was pretty psyched about seeing the 2010 version after catching the cool trailers. Luckily, a cheesy line from the second trailer was not in the theatrical version. The two little girls who tell the sheriff they hear screaming coming from the funeral home didn't show up and I was glad they didn't.

The film sports some excellent camerawork from Maxime Alexandre, the cinematographer on High Tension, P2, and The Hills Have Eyes remake. Break Eisner does an awesome job in the director's seat on The Crazies. The film is frightening and very well-paced with likable and interesting characters. Casting is also a big part of what makes The Crazies so good. All of the main characters are portrayed very well and even the supporting cast is on the ball. I really like Timothy Olyphant. He reminds me of Micheal Biehn (of Terminator, Aliens, The Fan, etc.) and that is a very good thing. Radha Mitchell of Silent Hill is great as well. While I feel just a little guilty about feeding the remake machine, I'm very glad I caught The Crazies on the big screen.


For those of you who have already seen the remake (or have no plans to ever watch it), there were several key scenes that just blew me away. For starters, the discovery of the crashed plane in the river is chilling. When the sheriff realizes the plane is just underneath their boat and the next shot shows the view from overhead, I got goosebumps. The scene in the funeral home is truly harrowing as our hero discovers the town priest on a gurney with his mouth and eyes sewn shut. When he cuts the stitches on the poor bastard's mouth and the guy mumbles 'behind you', it was cheesy but in a good way. And of course the near-emasculation with the friggin' bone saw is just genius. Danielle Panabaker's death by hanging at the car wash also provided the chills. And moments later, the military helicopter blowing up the heroes' car had Nafa and I cracking up at the sheer dark comedy of the whole situation which was immediately echoed by Joe Anderson's own wry laughter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nightmare in Wax

Nightmare in Wax
Directed by Bud Townsend
Released: 1969
Starring Cameron Mitchell, Anne Helm, Scott Brady, Berry Kroeger, Victoria Carroll
Running Time: 91 minutes
DVD Studio: Mill Creek (Gorehouse Greats)

After being horribly burned by his girlfriend's jealous suitor/manager, actor Vincent Renard (played by Cameron Mitchell) takes over the job of curator at the local wax museum. He uses a special serum to turn the people he blames for all of his problems into living statues (and passing them off as his wax creations) or sometimes he just kills them. The cops get wise to Vincent's scheme and try and stop him before any more innocent people get hurt. Hey, who gives a flying f-

For better or worse, I will follow Cameron Mitchell (Blood & Black Lace, Maneater of Hydra) wherever he will go. In this instance, I am taking a big fall for my old friend. Nightmare in Wax is a sloppy half-assed snoozer from the same production company that farted out Al Adamson's Blood of Dracula's Castle. Oh look, the two films share the same writer too. If only I'd done my homework before. Now don't get me wrong, Nightmare is watchable enough but it delivers the pain. The script is as muddled as the sound and Mitchell's propensity to mumble through his scenes makes for a frustrating experience if you are actually trying to follow what is going on.

Mitchell chews the scenery in an eye-patch while reliable TV actors Anne Helm (as our big haired heroine), Scott Brady (as the gruff detective), and Victoria Carroll (as the ditzy go-go dancer) get some hilariously banal dialogue to spout off during uninspired scenes. The occasionally skewed camera angles, garish lighting (I thought this was in 3-D for a few moments there), and out-of-focus fun can't make up for how dull Nightmare in Wax truly is. Cameron Mitchell kisses a corpse several times and wrestles with an actress's head poking through a prop table (looks painful) so I had a few laughs.


"If I can't have you the right way, I shall have you... another way."

Gaze into my good eye.

Let the healing NOT begin.

Tell all the hep cats I'm back for revenge and stuff.

...and boy are my arms tired.

Vinnie, let me save the movie. PLEASE!

Give me that bass if you want to live.

Why won't Mr. Bava return my calls?

Yay, I got to move!

Hardy har har heartbreak at the expense of the viewer.