30 September 2014

September 30th

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) directed by Jeff Burr
There's not much special about this one. The introductory text ignores part 2 completely to tell us that W.E. Sawyer (presumably meaning Drayton) was given the gas chamber and Leatherface disappeared after the events of part 1. Somehow, the retarded Leatherface, with a chainsaw-chopped leg that later requires a brace, managed to drag his Grandpa to this mysterious other Sawyer household where even more brothers live amidst bones and taxidermy. At least, I assume that's who they are. We never learn their last name and "Mama" is too young to have been Drayton's mother. Whoever they are, they never feel like anything other than actors trying to pretend to be stereotypical scary rednecks. You can really tell this one was made in California and not Texas.

The film is just a bog-standard slasher film. The bad guys chase people around and catch them sometimes, the good guys get away and seemingly kill the bad guys, the bad guys come back for one more scare, etc. etc. Even Leatherface is more slasher-fied than he's ever been. Like Jason, he now has the ability to silently appear behind a victim for a scare. He's given a ridiculously large chainsaw with engraving on the bar that says "The Saw Is Family" (recall in part 1, he used a standard 12" saw). His mask has been made Halloween costume friendly: no longer is it a woman's face and hair. The mask is now just leathery skin sewn together, looking not like much of anything. Easier to get guys to buy an officially licensed Leatherface mask if it doesn't have lipstick on it, I'd imagine. I'm guessing that because New Line had just grabbed the rights to Leatherface and Jason at this time -- already being the "House that Freddy Built" -- and they had big plans for merchandising the three killers. I wouldn't doubt this had a little to do with this sequel's choices.

The Walking Dead 4.01: "Infected" (2013) directed by Guy Ferland
Captain Trips visits the prison. I'm having a real problem buying this. I get that the producers of the show wanted to tap into the whole swine flu / pandemic fear we have in society these days. But, c'mon, a highly infectious flu that kills suddenly within 24 hours by dramatically making you hemorrhage out of every orifice in your head? I guess it has to be so, so that they can have people dropping dead without warning to turn into zombies. Still, aren't zombies and bad humans enough? They are for the comic, which had no need to rip off the first few chapters of The Stand. Good way to save some money, though. I'm expecting a bunch of dull episodes starring a bunch of sick people trapping in the prison now.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) directed by Don Siegel
Fellow Six Weeker Kaedrin's review gave me a hankering to watch the Body Snatchers films again. This one's one of the better sci-fi films from the '50s, taking itself seriously and completely lacking in rubber-suited monsters. I remember watching this film in a college class. Their take, naturally, was that it was an anti-McCarthyism piece in line with The Crucible. The pod people demanded conformity and excised independent thought just as McCarthy did. I never really bought this. You can just as easily flip it around and say that the pod people are communists, doing the same thing. I think that fits even closer, in fact.

1956 Phillip Morris ad.
I kind of like star Kevin McCarthy's take, as noted in the IMDb trivia: the story is dig against Madison Avenue's attitudes. In the post-WWII era, the American people were being sold on "the American Dream." What that meant at the time was owning your own home with a white picket fence, wearing a gray suit to a steady job, a stay-at-home wife raising the kids, and all of the modern conveniences that make life easy. It was attractive, no doubt, but didn't leave a lot of leeway. Want to paint your house something other than white? But what will the neighbors think? Daughter get pregnant? Ship her away for 9 months. Wife want a job to help pay the bills? She's already got a job, keeping house and it's the man's responsibility for the bills. The culture of the time tended to trap people in their predetermined roles.

Why did Kevin's McCarthy's character end up being the lone survivor of Santa Mira? I think because he was already going against the grain of society from before any outer-space stuff started happening. Dr. Bennell was a 42-year-old divorced playboy who apparently hung out at a local bar so much that people knew to call him there where they couldn't find him. Becky, the penultimate survivor, also wasn't a typical Santa Miran. Near middle-aged and still unmarried, she'd just spent several years living in London on her own. This was no '50s poodle-skirt-wearing housewife. Together, they discovered that it was essentially impossible to hold out against the greater society surrounding them.

Tales from the Darkside 1.21: "Bigalow's Last Smoke" (1985) directed by Timna Ranon
A bit of a rip-off of Stephen King's short story "Quitters, Inc." that, strangely enough, appeared in Cat's Eye the same year this episode aired. Bigalow wakes up to find his windows and doors barred. A mysterious man appears on his TV screen, explaining that they've started a stop-smoking program that Bigalow had forgotten about signing up for. As long as Bigalow doesn't smoke, he won't be punished. The episode has a nicely creepy tone to it, helped by the deadpan performance of character actor Sam Anderson as Dr. Synapsis.

Tales from the Darkside 1.22: "Grandma's Last Wish" (1985) directed by Warner Shook
A grandmother uses a wish to turn her loud and obnoxious family into premature senior citizens. Worst. Grandma. Ever.

Tales from the Darkside 1.23: "The False Prophet" (1985) directed by Gerald Cotts
Ronee Blakley, looking way younger than she did in the prior year's A Nightmare on Elm Street, is a astrology-obsessed woman on a journey to meet her soul mate on the advice of a fortune telling vending machine. Along the way, she runs into an even more advanced fortune telling machine and a lively preacher. It's a neat criticism of folks obsessed with predicting their future, though the twist ending is predictable.

29 September 2014

September 29th

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) directed by Tobe Hopper
How do make a sequel to one of the all-time classic horror movies? Do something different. Anyone trying to semi-remake the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre in order to attempt to recapture some of that magic is doomed to fail. Another group of kids running into the Sawyers and getting slaughtered is just going to be boring. Hooper and company wisely chose a different tack.

TCM2 is big and loud and gooey and goofy. This is a movie in which Franklin's uncle Lt. Lefty -- played Dennis Hopper in the same year he starred as Frank in Blue Velvet! -- decides to visit a chainsaw shop in order to arm himself for a fight with the Sawyers. There's absolutely no reason for this. A Texas lawman is going to already have plenty of guns he could easily use to pick off the cannibals from far beyond chainsaw-gouging distance. Nope, Lefty buys three chainsaws and straps them to his body. Why? Because it leads to an awesome duel with Leatherface, that's why. The film needs no other reason, nor should we. This isn't a study in the darkness of human nature. This is maestro Tom Savini showing us what we weren't allowed to see in the original: what happens when a chainsaw plunges into someone's guts?

But, how's this for an alternate theory? The introductory text tells us that Sally sank into catatonia after telling of her experience with the Sawyers. Maybe TCM2 is actually a delusion in poor, broken Sally's head? Think it through: who would Sally think could save her from her tormentors and get revenge? Well, her daddy's dead -- otherwise, we'd expect him to be living in the house they traveled to in the first picture -- but her uncle is a badass Texas policeman. Her madness cast him as the warrior to chase and destroy her demons, and she cast herself as Stretch. Stretch finds herself in exactly the same situation that Sally did -- captured by the Sawyers with grandpa trying to bash her head in -- in an exaggerated, funhouse version of the Sawyer's original house. When all is said and done, Stretch is not cowering in the back of a pickup truck. Nope, she's dancing wildly with a chainsaw, having conquered the Hitchhiker replacement Chop-Top. Hell, I bet Sally woke up right after this, feeling much better.

Tales from the Darkside 1.20: "It All Comes Out in the Wash" (1985) directed by Frank De Palma
A businessman orders a laundry's secret special service: they have the ability to wash away your guilt. Free from any guilt for anything he does, the businessman spirals downwards into eviler acts, even going so far as to order the murder of his son's friend's dad for a small slight. A great one-room performance by Vince Edwards.

The Real Ghostbusters 1.01: "Ghosts Я Us" (1986) directed by Richard Raynis
Sets up the show nicely. Right from the start there's that classic Real Ghostbusters mixture of silliness -- the family of idiot ghosts they chase at first -- and surprising darkness. The Elder God-like entity that the ghosts wake up in the toy factory is no joke. It's initial appearance is very creepy, looking like a giant gray worm with an eyeball at the front, and it threatens to destroy all of NYC. That darkness is what attracted me to the show as a kid, as it wasn't something you saw much in cartoons (with a notable exception of the contemporaneous Inhumanoids). I appreciated that the Ghostbusters always had a serious job to do.

Why are they the "real" Ghostbusters? Because in this first episode, the trio of ghosts pretend to be ghost catchers in order to run the real Ghostbusters out of business. It had nothing to do with any crappy Filmation cartoon that may have existed at the time, no sir!

28 September 2014

September 28th

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) directed by Tobe Hooper
"If I have any more fun today, I don't think I can take it!" The universe was screaming at Franklin that day to turn around and go home. Pam reads him a very bad horoscope. A passing truck makes him fall down a hill while peeing. A crazy hitchhiker mysteriously burns a picture of Franklin, slashes him with a straight razor, and writes an arcane symbol on the side of the van in blood. A gas station owner directly tells them not to go and strongly suggests that the locals don't like trespassers. Once Franklin enters the house, he discovers a weirdly arranged pile of bones and feathers on the floor, and a mobile made of bones hanging directly over his head. This all makes Crazy Ralph shouting "You're all doomed!" in Friday the 13th looked like chopped liver.

On one level, this is comforting to us in the audience. Those dumb kids ignored all the warnings! What did they expect would happen? The Cabin in the Woods has this take as well, telling us that the kids are choosing their fate. But, on another level, it adds to the fear the movie creates. Would we alter our travel plans in real life if those things had happened to us? What if we're not paying proper attention to signs like this in our own lives? What if that flock of crows bursting out of the trees as you turn down a side road to take a scenic detour was a warning? What if that bum who cursed at you when you refused to give him change is something worse that just a bum? We often like to think that if we could just listen closely enough to what life / the universe / the stars / our intuition / God is trying to tell us, we could figure out what lies on the path before us. I think that's a terrifying thought if true, as it makes everything that happens to us completely our responsibility. That's a heavy weight.

On a completely different subject, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could be seen as a pro-vegetarian film. As I see it, vegetarians -- at least, the moral ones, not necessarily the "for health reasons" ones -- extend their empathy further than us omnivores. Some will even tell you that killing cows for food is just as bad as murdering a person. Perhaps they have a point. Why do us meat-eaters draw the lines that we do? I won't eat dog meat or monkey meat, but I find the very intelligent pig to be quite tasty. What the cannibalistic Sawyers are doing is just adding one more meat to their internal good-to-eat list. Why is that wrong, but it's OK for me to eat pigs?

There's also an implication that participating in the slaughterhouse industry desensitized the family. Decades of slamming a sledgehammer into cows' heads must have an effect on a person. After a while, and it's clear by the decor of the house, the Sawyers had no problem killing any kind of animal at all. A vegan might argue that once you're OK with killing animals, moving on to killing people isn't a great leap. And, they also might have a point there. Serial killers almost always start by killing animals first.

I think I'll go make myself a bacon sandwich, just the same.

The Walking Dead 4.01: "30 Days Without an Accident" (2013) directed by Greg Nicotero
I can't say I was terribly excited to start watching this show again once season 4 appeared on Netflix. Outside of the fantastic first episode of season 1, The Walking Dead has mostly been a long chain of disappointments. I'm not expecting anything different for this year, though this premiere episode was a pretty good start. In fact, the scene in which the zombies fall through the rotted ceiling of the grocery store is one of the best zombie set pieces I've ever seen. I especially loved the first zombie to fall through whose entrails get tangled up in the broken ceiling, causing him to dangle like a flesh chandelier. I suspect this was 80% of the season's zombie budget, though, and we'll not being seeing anything so flashy until perhaps the finale.

It was nice to see the colony in the prison farming and, in general, being more practical about their survival (they've finally learned to poke zombies through the fence!). Hopefully, the Governor attacks in his tank as he did in the comic on this more settled prison later in the season.

27 September 2014

September 27th

Suck (2009) directed by Rob Stefaniuk
When company comes over, it can sometimes be a real challenge to select a Six Weeks movie that everyone will enjoy. If you've never watched a horror movie with them, how do you know how things will play with them? Should you avoid excessive gore, or sexuality, or films that takes themselves very seriously, or films that don't take themselves seriously at all? It can take a while for everyone to figure out what to watch. Eventually, our choices for the night came down to the funny Suck or the equally funny Slither. I think either would've worked with group, though the less gooey Suck probably was the best choice.

Suck is a thoroughly enjoyable horror comedy about a band whose bass player is turned into a vampire. Her vampiric, ethereal beauty -- shot with computer-assistant lighting to make her look completely unreal -- magnetizes the audience begins to help the band's star rise. Soon, the entire band takes the plunge into vampirism, with the notable and amusing exception of put-upon roadie Hugo. Along the way, they run into Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Moby (as a metalhead whose audience throws raw meat at as part of his show!), and Henry Rollins. All this and the made-for-movie rock songs are actually pretty good. A recommended effort from our neighbors to the north.

26 September 2014

September 26th

Yo Gabba Gabba! 1.13: "Halloween" (2007) directed by Christian Jacobs
As always, a surrealist masterpiece disguised as a children's show.

The eldest daughter and I ended up watching this one after an unsuccessful try at watching the feature-length Frankenweenie. Sparky, the dog who gets resurrected, freaked my daughter out so completely that we had to stop (and she later had to sleep in our bed for part of the night due to nightmares). Something about the appearance of that stitched-up dog just really got to her. Ah, she'll thank me when she's older and discovers to her dismay that no horror movie has the power to scare her anymore.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) directed by Henry Selick
As a replacement for Frankenweenie, I gave this one a try and it worked out much better. I think the more fantastical characters and the musical aspect helped ease the impact of any scary bits. Both my 6- and 4-year-old made it through and loved it.

I hadn't seen this movie since in was released in the theater 21 years ago. At the time, I wasn't particularly taken with the film and never felt the urge to watch it again. I'm not much for musicals, generally.  I see now why this movie became the darling of the goth crowd (Hot Topic, in the least, should send Burton a fruit basket). The design aesthetic is powerful and uncompromisingly weird. "Hey, being into horror stuff is cool," it announced. This ain't no small thing. Horror geeks well know how we're regarded by outsiders: as depressed losers, or, worse, potential serial killers.

Storywise, the movie is actually pretty conservative. If you're not from Christmas Town, you're never going to be able to figure out this Christmas thing. Stick with what you know and stay with your own kind, it tells us. I suppose Jack is sort of like a Catholic priest waltzing into a mosque and attempting to perform a Muslim service there. It's just gonna piss everyone off. But, you know, holidays are inherently conservative. We're tend not to want our holiday traditions to change much. How ever they were when we were children, that's how they're supposed to be. I like that the movie defends this idea.

Frankenweenie (1984) directed by Tim Burton
Since it was on the same disc as Nightmare, I decided to give the short version a try. The elder child made it to the end, but still had a little bit of issue with the live action Sparky. I guess a resurrected dog is a little freaky, even when he's super-nice and constantly licking Shelley Duvall's face. I did have a lot of fun pointing out how the movie intentionally mirrored Frankenstein, which the daughter and I had watched three years ago.

Tales from the Crypt 6.04: "Operation Friendship" (1994) directed by Roland Mesa
For our pizza-eating break in the middle the boardgaming session I was hosting with friends, I popped in the traditional Six Weeks of Halloween show Crypt. I guessed it right away: the obnoxious guy was an imaginary friend. Everyone then thought that his girlfriend would end up having one of her own -- that seemed like the typical way these things go -- but the twist ended up surprising us. Not a very dark episode, but a little amusing.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (2014) designed by Jonathan Gilmour & Isaac Vega
The new hotness in boardgaming at the moment is Dead of Winter. It's nominally a zombie game -- like the also excellent Last Night on Earth -- but it's mostly concerned with survival and trust. The zombies are just an environmental hazard like the cold of winter. The game has a main objective that needs to be completed -- we did the one where you need to take samples from zombies, meaning we had to go zombie hunting a lot -- and each player also has a secret objective that they must complete themselves in order to win. If the main objective is completed and no one has completed their secret objective, everyone still loses. To spice things up, there's a chance that one of the secret objectives is a betrayal card. A betrayer's goal, among other things, is to fail the main objective and lose the game for everyone but himself. Even more fun is that the non-betrayal secret objectives have people doing things that look suspicious -- hoarding food, for example -- which can cause all sorts of fun false accusations to fly.

I got to be the betrayer in tonight's game, which was fun. I started out by, obviously, pretending to be a good guy. I contributed the correct items to the crisis, killed zombies for the main objective, and gave another player medicine to heal. My problem was that I played along for far too long. Through a series of lucky rolls, the good guys managed to take zombie samples way faster that I expected. By the time I started to poison the well, it was just about too late. Still, I was extremely geeked that I managed to convince another player to call a vote for exile on an innocent. To be fair, the innocent player had been acting a little weird during the game -- due to his secret goal -- but I amped up the suspicion by throwing in a bad card into the crisis pile at an opportune time to make it look like the innocent had done it. It worked exactly as I wanted and we voted to exile him. Unfortunately, his new exile objective was very easy and he won the game. Ah well, such is like in the zombie apocalypse.

If you can find a copy, Dead of Winter is highly, highly recommend for good times.

25 September 2014

September 25th

Happy Birthday to Me (1980) directed by J. Lee Thompson
My ongoing quest to catch up with all of the films spawned out of the early '80s slasher boom has lead me to the pleasant surprise that was Happy Birthday to Me. I didn't know anything about it going in and, boy, am I glad that was the case. The film is an expertly constructed whodunit with slasher-style killings.

Starring Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Sue Anderson as Virginia, the film follows a group of 10 friends at a private school. Virginia's the newbie, having returned to school after experimental brain surgery following an accident. Soon, one by one, a black glove-wearing psycho begins picking off her friends, while Virginia begins to remember more and more about the circumstances of her accident.

I was impressed at how well constructed to the story was. Nearly every character is made to look like a suspect at one point. I was delighted as my guesses on who the killer was kept changing every 10 minutes as I tried to puzzle out the new information the movie slowly feeds the audience. The climax probably has more twists per minute than any other movie I've seen. Yeah, it gets to be a little silly -- apparently, this was the fault of the producers wanting to spice things up -- but I bought it. And, the twists give the film an even darker ending that it was original intended to have.

While not a great slasher movie -- unlike its cousin film My Bloody Valentine, there's no iconic masked killer -- it is one of the better mystery-horror films I've seen.

Tales from the Darkside 1.18: "If the Shoes Fit..." (1985) directed by Armand Mastroianni
A mischievous hotel or its mischievous bellboy decide to drive a politician crazy for no good reason. We get a fun performance out of character actor Dick Shawn, but it feels mostly like a tantrum over the 1984 election than anything else.

Tales from the Darkside 1.19: "Levitation" (1985) directed by John Harrison
This is a little more like what I want from Darkside. Based on a short story by horror master Joseph Payne Brennan, it's a simple tale of two men who go to a carnival in order to see a magician perform his most famous trick. It's got a good build up and a satisfying twist ending.

24 September 2014

September 24th

Return to Horror High (1987) directed by Bill Froehlich
Not, as I discovered, at all related to Horror High, other than both take place in a high school. Probably most famous these days for being a mulletted George Clooney's first movie (though he's killed a few minutes in). A group of filmmakers decide to film a horror movie about some real life murders in the actual high school they happened in. Naturally, the killer had never been caught and he begins to pick off victims from the cast and crew. It's essentially a proto-Scream 3.

The movie isn't very good -- it's filled with weak humor and bad acting (Maureen McCormick, yikes!) -- but it does get creative with the story. The film continual cuts between two-and-a-halfish timeframes. The main thread of the story features the film crew making their movie. We also cut to the future in which the bodies of the film crew are being scooped up by the police while the lone survivor -- the writer -- makes cryptic remarks. We also look back into the original murders at the school as the film constantly tries to trick us into thinking the scene we're watching is a flashback when it's actually a film crew reenactment. It 's pretty fun, and sort of makes up for the tediousness of the rest of the movie.

23 September 2014

September 23rd

Horror High (1974) directed by Larry N. Stouffer
I'm probably missing it, but I can't think of any other horror movie that took the Jekyll & Hyde idea into high school. It's a great idea: have the picked-on science nerd create a potion in chemistry class that transforms him into a jock-slaying monster. The more his Hyde side comes out, the more confident the nerd gets and the more he loses control when angered. His downfall comes right before he's about to get the girl. These things tend to write themselves.

Strangely, the killer nerd in Horror High has it mostly in for the staff, rather than his fellow students, which makes me think that writer J.D. "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" Feigelson had a different experience in school than most nerds did. Also making an appearance in the script is the stock character "detective who immediately guesses the correct killer, but does nothing except repeatedly interview the suspect while letting him roam free to kill." Played by Assault on Precinct 13's Austin Stoker, Lt. Bozemen is even in the same building as the killer nerd while he's killing and still fails to stop or catch him. It's kind of a painful waste of the badass Stoker, especially when the film's tagline is "The Man Who Survived 'Precinct 13' Is Back!" and there's nary a shotgun to be found until the final scene.

Apparently, Crown cut the film down to a PG rating for its theatrical real, but even in its uncut form on DVD it's fairly tame. There's a bit of blood and a single gruesome scene involving fingertips, but nothing is lingered on. I kept thinking about how this film was released right between The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: two massive horror films that changed the genre permanently with this innocent little film squeezed between. Smart, actually, of Crown, I'd say. Kids unable to get into the popular "real" horror movies due to parents or theater owners could buy a ticket for this instead. Kids need their own horror, too.

22 September 2014

September 22nd

I.B.S. (2013) directed by Mike O'Mahony
I picked this one up from the Flint Horror Con last year. They'd shown the trailer and it looked pretty funny in a Tromesque way, and my last $8 were burning a hole in my pocket, and I always grab at least one indie horror movie at every convention I go to as a rule. As you'd expect, sometimes you find gold, but most of the time all you've got is a turd. This one falls somewhere in the middle.

Considering the title and subject matter of the movie, I was expecting much worse. Typically when backyard filmmakers go for the gross-out in a horror movie, it's a complete amateur hour of bad acting, bad shooting, and bad story. I.B.S. surprisingly rises above these low expectations. James Costa, who plays IBS-sufferer Larry, is a decent actor. He keeps things relatively subtle during the film's first two acts, even when pretending to poo on a toilet (which happens quite a bit). Director Mike O'Mahony knows how to setup a shot and there's rarely any issues with lighting and sound. There's plenty of humor, nudity, and gore to keeps things entertaining throughout.

Storywise is where the movie falters. It feels like the filmmakers had an original idea -- a guy discovers that killing people calms his life-ruining IBS -- but had no idea where to take it. So, that's all the movie has to offer: a guy slowly killing more and more people until he slaughters a whole bunch in a bar and the movie ends. While a fun film much of time, it needed something more than two musical montages in a row of Larry's killing sprees.

So, I.B.S.'s destiny is the same as all con movies I buy and don't want to keep in my collection: hidden in the hotel room of the next convention we go to for some other lucky soul to discover.

21 September 2014

September 21st

The Mummy (1932) directed by Karl Freund
Too tired from the long drive home to break out the Halloween decorations box as promised, I suggested to the kids that we watch a horror movie instead before bedtime. When I mentioned The Mummy as a possible choice, they both jumped at the idea. Boy, that was a mistake. I had completely forgotten what a dud this film is.

The Mummy is essentially a toothless -- pun intended -- remake of the prior year's Dracula, even going so far as to cast Edward Van Sloan in exactly the same sort of role. Worse, the mummy only appears as the mummy in the brief introductory scene before spending the rest of the movie looking like Karloff with a fez on. What a rip-off! I can only imagine the disappointment of the kids of 1932, excited to be going to see "a new monster movie from the makers of Dracula and Frankenstein." Though, perhaps, Zita Johann's revealing Egyptian outfit helped ease the tedium for some of the older boys in the audience.

I do feel like I deserve some kind of parenting medal, however, in managing to convince my antsy four-year-old to stay with the movie to the end. Poor kid just wanted to see a mummy. Maybe we'll get to one of the mummy-filled sequels later in Halloween.

Don't Answer the Phone! (1980) directed by Robert Hammer
Over the summer, I got into watching cheezy sex comedies produced by a company called Crown International Pictures.  I gobbled up flicks like The Beach GirlsThe Pom Pom GirlsTomboy, The Van, Van Nuys Blvd., Cavegirl, Hunk, Jocks, Weekend Pass, and Malibu Beach. These were all low-budget, goofy movies destined for late-'70s / early-'80s drive-ins in which half of the audience would be stoned and/or making-out most of the running time. The thing I liked about them, though -- outside of my obvious mid-life crisis issues of watching high school movies at the age of 37 -- was that many of them had a dark streak running though the lighthearted shenanigans. In the plotless The Beach Girls (the best of the lot, by the way), for example, two of the girls are just about demonic in their efforts to convert the obligatory nice girl into their debauched ways, while at the same time seducing the married, much older owner of the beach house in order to ensue their party never stops.

I saved the Crown horror movies for Halloween season, expecting even darker cheeze. Don't Answer the Phone! doesn't disappoint in that regard. I'm tempted to say it's the L.A. version of Maniac, but it lacks that film's style, acting prowess, and plot. Kirk Smith is a fashion photographer and crazy Vietnam vet who spends his free time, when he's not talking to himself in the mirror and lifting weights, stalking and killing women. Lt. McCabe is the dedicated homicide detective chasing him.  It's a good enough formula to hang a serial killer flick on.

But, man, some of the stuff in the movie is pretty messed up in that way early '80s slashers tended to be. For extra income, Smith sells photos of his victims to a sleazy porno mag editor, with the implication that many of the victims were dead at the time. The psychic that the detectives briefly consult gives a fairly graphic description of one of Smith's crimes that the camera had demurred in showing us. Most disturbing of all, Smith follows one victim home from her meeting with a psychologist with which she was talking about being molested by her father. Smith grabs her, ties her up, and torments her by pretending to be her dad while she sobs into a teddy bear. I'd imagine it was these things -- plus Nicholas Worth's hilarious maniacal cackling -- that etched this movie into the horror consciousness enough that it tends to be released by itself, outside of the 12-movie mega sets that Crown flicks are normally found in.

I wouldn't go so far as to call Don't Answer the Phone! a good movie, but its not without its charms. Worth a look if you're a student of the '80s slasher boom and tolerant of the rough edges ultra-low-budget films tend to show.

20 September 2014

September 20th

The Six Weeks kicked off with tall ships and pancakes. The daughters and I drove up to the northern port town of Traverse City to check out the Michigan Schooner Festival and visit with my pal Greg and his daughters.  I couldn't ask for a better journey into autumn.  As we traveled further and further north, the temperature cooled and the trees began to show larger and larger splashes of color in their canopies. Signs of the harvest season abounded, with roadside pumpkin stands around every curve and orchards laden with ripened apples and cherries dotting the landscape.  A cider mill provided a perfect rest stop, refueling us with donuts and apple cider.

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) directed by Drew Goddard
Once the girls had finally calmed down and gone to sleep, I kicked off the movie season with one of my favorite recent horror flicks.  Greg had never seen the film, nor had he any idea what it was about.  This, of course, filled me with glee.

While I don't have anything to add beyond what I wrote last year, Greg did come up with an interesting take about 20 minutes into the movie. Attempting to predict what twist was coming -- since the movie shows most of its hand right away -- Greg picked out the new security guard posted in the operations room. He guessed that the guard was in league with the Ancient Ones and would cause this year's sacrifice to fail. Which, thinking on it, might well have been the case.

Who tampered with the wiring to delay the tunnel cave in? It's implied that Marty did this playing with the wires in the elevator, but it's hard to imagine why elevator wires would cause issues with explosives miles away.  Meanwhile, the guard's reactions to the goings on seem to be professionally hidden disgust.  He seems to be an audience proxy in this, but what if that disgust is aimed not at the torture of the teens and, instead, aimed at the ridiculous degree to which humanity has pre-packaged and calculated and dissected and scheduled this ancient sacrificial process? Perhaps the Ancient Ones are less than thrilled at these highly controlled rituals, longing for the chaos of the old days? Maybe "Truman" the security guard was their way off making these things more authentic?

At any rate, it's something new and interesting to mull among many other neat thoughts this film provides, which are sure signs of a strong movie.

Bug (2006) directed by William Friedkin
This was another film I'd been wanting to show Greg, and to re-watch myself. After Bug, I am forever a Michael Shannon fan. Whatever else people may think of this film, everyone agrees Shannon does an astounding job as the paranoid schizophrenic Peter. Only slightly less convincing was Ashley Judd, who gives her all into the part as well.

While I'm not entirely convinced by Agnes's relatively quick transition into full-on madness, the idea itself is fairly terrifying. What if insanity were infectious? What if exposure to crazy ideas made it more likely those ideas would soon become your own? Isn't that how things work, anyway? How can we know that what we believe is sane, or makes sense, or wasn't implanted in our brain by generations of crazy people sharing their nutty thoughts?  But, then, wouldn't that imply the entirely of society is insane?

Tired from a long journey home today, these are the things floating in my head.

Six Weeks of Halloween 2014

Thomas Heart stands his ground.
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30
         01 02 03 04
05 06 07 08 09 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31

Movies WatchedEpisodes Watched
The Beyond (1981)
The Blob (1988)
Body Snatchers (1993)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Bug (2006)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Chopping Mall (1986)
Christine (1983)
Constantine (2005)
The Craving (2008)
Curtains (1983)
Delirium (2007)
Deranged (1974)
Devil's Advocate (1997)
Don't Answer the Phone! (1980)
Feeding Grounds (2006)
The Fog (1979)
Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)
Halloween (1978)
Happy Birthday to Me (1980)
Hell's Highway (2002)
Horror High (1974)
I.B.S. (2013)
Invaluable: The True Story of an Epic Artist (2014)
The Invasion (2007)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982)
Motel Hell (1980)
The Mummy (1932)
The Nail Gun Massacre (1985)
Nightbreed (Director's Cut) (1990)
Nightmare (1981)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Night of the Demon (1980)
Return to Horror High (1987)
The Ridge (2005)
Sensored (2009)
Sheltered (2010)
Suck (2009)
Terror in the Aisles (1984)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (Original Cut) (1994)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1997)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
Texas Chainsaw (2013)
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
The Real Ghostbusters 1.01: "Ghosts Я Us" (1986)
The Real Ghostbusters 1.06: "The Boogieman Cometh" (1986)
The Real Ghostbusters 2.08: "Night Game" (1987)
The Real Ghostbusters 2.15: "Ghost Busted" (1987)
The Real Ghostbusters 2.16: "Beneath These Streets" (1987)
Tales from the Crypt 6.04: "Operation Friendship" (1994)
Tales from the Crypt 6.05: "Revenge is the Nuts" (1994)
Tales from the Crypt 6.06: "The Bribe" (1994)
Tales from the Crypt 6.07: "The Pit" (1994)
Tales from the Darkside 1.18: "If the Shoes Fit..." (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.19: "Levitation" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.20: "It All Comes Out in the Wash" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.21: "Bigalow's Last Smoke" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.22: "Grandma's Last Wish" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.23: "The False Prophet" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 2.01: "The Impressionist" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 2.02: "Lifebomb" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 2.03: "Ring Around the Redhead (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 2.04: "Parlour Floor Front" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 2.05: 'Halloween Candy" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 2.06: "The Satanic Piano" (1985)
The Walking Dead 4.01: "30 Days Without an Accident" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.02: "Infected" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.03: "Isolation" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.04: "Indifference" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.05: "Internment" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.06: "Live Bait" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.07: "Dead Weight" (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.08: "Too Far Gone' (2013)
The Walking Dead 4.09: "After" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.10: "Inmates" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.11: "Claimed" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.12: "Still" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.13: "Alone" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.14: "The Grove" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.15: "Us" (2014)
The Walking Dead 4.16: "A" (2014)
Yo Gabba Gabba! 1.13: "Halloween" (2007)

During this year's HALLOWEENTIME, I thought I might pay a visit to:

Welcome to
The 12th Annual
Six Weeks of Halloween