Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sex Madness



This is another one of those over the top, ill informed, propaganda films released in the late 1930's that attempted to inform citizens and save lives, mostly about the dreaded Marijuana!! Reefer Madness being the most popular and well known of these films was one of at least three different (or somewhat different... same actors, same sets, same music, same topics, etc) films on the topic of the evils of pot smoking. Ironically, if it weren't for potheads, these films would have died out seconds after their release. Reefer Madness has been restored, colorized, and even remade as a musical. The same care should be taken with Reefer Madness's fellow films, as they are just as bad if not worse. This particular film is called Sex Madness and deals with the very real dangers of syphilis. Though not as "out there" as Reefer Madness, which obviously tries to explain something that it in actuality knows nothing about, Sex Madness is somewhat more informed. Only in the bare sense though really. We know it is transmitted sexually, affects vision, and is damn hard to get rid of (at least in the 30's). Like the others, this movie has a really lame plot and some of the worst acting imaginable. It isn't quite as chopped up as Cocaine Fiends, the editing here is slightly better, but not by much. Made in 1938, Sex Madness was pretty racy, for not only did it deal with syphilis, but it also had a lesbian subplot that didn't have anything to do with transmitting venereal diseases. A secretary hits on her coworker and convinces her to go see some showgirls together. While at the theater, the secretary actually pulls the old "yawn, stretch my arms and end up with my arm around her shoulder" routine. It works, but the story isn't continued. What this had to do with syphilis is anyone's guess. The real hunk of the story revolves around two showgirls named Millicent and Sheila. Sheila already has syphilis and Millicent contracts syphilis at a beach party when she gets drunk and boinks a guy in a Zorro costume. Apparently, it was illegal in 1938 (could be illegal today, I dunno) to marry someone if you know you have syphilis. You could only wed once you got the clean bill of health from a doctor, which back then could take years. Millicent is treated by a quack doctor that promises her she will be syphilis free in a mere 30 days. She falls for it and gets married the second the doctor says she's cured. She then proceeds to have a child. Soon, the husband is having vision problems and the baby is displaying weird symptoms. They all go to a doctor where all three are diagnosed as syphilitic. Millicent breaks down and admits it's her fault. Feeling lower than the rent on a burning building, Millicent nurses her ailing husband who is sick in bed. She has laced two drinks with poison and plans to end both their suffering, when she gets a call from Sheila. Sheila says that she has gone to a "real" doctor and got the news that she will be syphilis free in a year. She's elated at this news (a whole year? I personally wouldn't feel that much better) and says that she also plans to get married and have children. Millicent laughs hysterically and hangs up the phone. While embracing her deathly ill husband, she exclaims "If there's hope for Sheila, then there's hope for us!!!". Good ol' syphilitic showgirl Sheila shall lead the way! The end. This is probably one of, if not the cheapest movies ever made. There's a hilarious goof in it that completely boggles my mind. During a speech from Millicent to her landlady, a window set slams shut and makes the actress playing Millicent totally mess up her lines... and they left it in! I think even Ed Wood would have trashed that botched of a scene. It's topic is a bit more dismal that it's companion films, but it's still filled with all the hilarity of a cheap pile of vintage propaganda crap.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Cocaine Fiends


The Cocaine Fiends AKA The Pace That Kills is a little less propaganda-ish than it's companion films like Reefer Madness and The Marijuana Menace. Nonetheless, it still has those same preachy written opening credits. Although I did find it particularly funny when at the bottom, it was signed "The Management". This is a terribly boring film that drags even at a mere length of 68 minutes. And I have to say that following this film's plot was rather hard. It was 1935 and all unknown actresses looked alike because they were trying to emulate the looks of big Hollywood stars at the time. There's a character here that is an obvious fan of Jean Harlow's and a few Joan Crawfords as well. Anyway, most of the story revolves around Nick and Jane. Nick gets Jane hooked on cocaine by telling her it's "headache powder". Only after becoming a full blown addict does she learn that it's dope. By now, the drugs drive her every action. Like all the other anti-drug propaganda movies released in the late 1930's, this film completely mischaracterizes the actions of certain drugs. The anti-marijuana movies try to convince you that smoking pot will cause irreversible insanity and violent behavior, while the anti-cocaine movies make coke seem like a date rape downer, rendering someone 100% agreeable. Under this cocaine-induced completely agreeable attitude, Jane allows Nick to talk her into marrying him and moving to the city. Two things she would never normally do, but it's the only way to get her fix. They get a crappy apartment in a New York slum that is too gross even for the rats and roaches. Nick really enjoys the control that he has over Jane since he supplies her precious dope. He sadistically taunts her with it unmercifully. Now that he's in the big city, Nick has now become a major dealer. One who even waits outside schools to sell his dope to children, sorta like a narcotics ice cream man. Nick and Jane get evicted from the apartment. Jane turns to prostitution to support both their habits. I love the name of the place she solicits customers... "The Dead Rat Cafe"! Nick figures he can do better and dumps Jane. Jane is now a full time whore just to survive. Eventually, Jane overdoses and dies in the street. There's a tiny subplot about one employee giving another employee some "headache powder" at their place of work and both get fired from their jobs. Where, oh where will they get the money for their precious "headache powder"? There's also the Jean Harlow wannabe that gives money to drug addicts here and there as some sort of glamourous charity worker. There are only two more things worth mentioning about this pathetic film. No coke is ever shown and no one is ever seen actually snorting it. I'm not sure if that's because they weren't allowed to show that yet in a movie or if they just didn't want to give anybody any ideas. The other thing worth mentioning is a scene that has kept me laughing every time I think about it. There's a scene that doesn't have much to do with the film where some singers are performing at a night club. The funny part is the night clubs decor. It's nothing but upside down falling cats. I kid you not. There are falling cats all over the wallpaper, upside down cats on the mirror behind the bar and even more falling cats on the stage set. I guess when you only have the finances for a cheap film like this, a good designer is really hard to find.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Assassin of Youth




This movie is one of a group of about five or six drug related propaganda films released between 1932 and 1938. The most commonly known of this group is the classic "Reefer Madness", which has been restored, colorized, and re-released on it's own special edition DVD. Few people know about the other companion films, such as "Cocaine Fiends", "The Marijuana Menace AKA Assassin of Youth", "Sex Madness" and "Marihuana". In fact, most of these films have many of the same actors. This particular group of movies are hard to find, but if you really wanna know where to find these long lost classics, please feel free to contact me, the one and only Cultfiend, right here on Cultarama. We'll get to all of them, but today we are gonna discuss Assassin of Youth AKA The Marijuana Menace. Much like Reefer Madness, this cheap ass film was made with honest intentions about warning kids about "the dreaded devil weed call Marijuana!". Also like Reefer Madness, it's "true facts" of marijuana consumption are completely absent and are replaced with an unbelievable scenario including total insanity and extremely violent behavior. Anyone who has ever smoked pot or knows someone who smokes pot can agree that it doesn't cause violent behavior... Well, I guess with the exception of being mugged and robbed of your Visine and cookie dough. Anyway, like Reefer Madness, this movie begins with a written message against that terrible scourge that is annihilating Americas youth... the dreaded Marijuana!!! A young girl named Joan Barry stands to inherit the family fortune, much to the dismay of her cousin Linda and younger sister Marjorie. This inheritance has an unfortunate clause in it. Joan must prove herself to be a proper respectable person in order to receive her inheritance. Linda is a reefer dealer and supplies almost everyone in town. Marjorie is a regular customer of Linda's. Linda and her accomplice Jack decide that they are gonna make Joan look like shit so that the inheritance will go to Linda instead of Joan. Their plan begins at an innocent beach party where everyone but Joan is getting stoned and going swimming. Linda pushes Joan into the water and tries to dry her clothes over a fire and burns them, leaving poor Joan with no clothes. This doesn't settle well when she arrives home in just an overcoat. Rumors begin to fly and all sorts of stories are spread all over town. My favorite was that she got naked and danced to hula!" It was 1937, today that would be the same as if she screwed the entire attendance of the party in front of small children. A funny side note is that whenever you see any of these people driving, it's beyond crazy. The worst of drunks would be considered outstanding drivers in comparison. A new bartender named Art shows up in town and becomes employed at an after school hangout. He's also a reporter, doing research on dope dealing and the insanity that follows. It's soon made obvious that Linda and Jack are conspiring to make Joan look as scandalous as possible so that Linda can have the inheritance. When getting her to smoke some reefer fails, they drug her drink. She passes out in the bedroom and some weirdo from the party crawls in bed with her. Nothing happened, but the incident has made Joan look like an absolute whore. Talk is all over town about how despicable Joan is and how inheriting money would be like giving money to a total delinquent. Meanwhile, Joan's younger sister Marjorie has become a total dope fiend and has to be treated by a doctor who gives a diagnosis of insanity by self intoxication. It's so funny, she's just coming down off being stoned and they make her look like she's dying of Bubonic Plague! The doctor actually requests putting her in a mental hospital. Linda tries again once again to drug Joan. Once drugged, Joan acts totally spaced. Acid head aren't this spacey. Jack decides to take advantage of Joan in her drunken state and takes her to the nearest motel. Linda sees this and follows with a less than happy look on her face. From the motel lounge, Linda calls the police and pretends to be Joan's mother and requests that they come and pick up her daughter at the motel. Jack and Joan are henceforth arrested on a morals charge (!!!). Linda bails Jack out of jail and leaves Joan there. Now it's all over town that Joan Barry is in jail, this pretty much finishes off the goody two shoes image that she had before all this inheritance crap. At her trial, Joan is painted as a dirty floozie that has the morals of an alley cat. And even though her mother stands up for her daughter in the most heartfelt way, the court still thinks she's disgraceful and is about to award the inheritance to Linda. Soon, the bartender/reporter bursts into the courtroom with today's newspaper (featuring his article on reefer delinquents) declaring that Joan was only helping him in uncovering this scourge of the menacing marijuana. He also exposes Linda as a dope dealer, she is there forth taken away in handcuffs. The next scene is of a very rich Joan sharing an ice cream with Art (reporter/bartender). An announcement of their engagement can be heard outside by the old town gossip queen who has been loving making Joan look like a whore, but is now joyfully on her side now that she's rich.

Frightmare


This little gem of a movie is actually quite thought provoking for a cheap piece of crap made circa 1974. It starts out in London, 1957, a man is found with half his head missing. Edmund and his wife Dorothy are arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in a mental hospital for the crime. Edmund and Dorothy have two daughters, Jackie and Debbie. Jackie is the older sister and remembers her parents and what they did. Debbie on the other hand was too young to remember them and grew up with foster parents. Jackie and Debbie now live together as adults, yet have quite a tumultuous relationship. It's been 25 years and Edmund and Dorothy are released. Debbie is not yet aware of her parent's true history, but Jackie visits them at night, bringing them supplies and suspicious bloody packages. Edmund seems rather normal, but Dorothy still obviously has some issues. Dorothy gives Tarot readings on the side, even though Edmund highly disapproves of it. I dunno, maybe it's because Dorothy has a nasty habit of sometimes killing her clients with a power drill. If someone doesn't quite like what Dorothy's Tarot cards say, Dorothy shuts 'em up with a hot fireplace poker to the gut... sssssssss. By now they have a few corpses piling up, and coincidentally they happen to be a little hungry. What better way to cover a crime and have a feast to celebrate the fact... eat the evidence. Through cannibalism they devour all the people Dorothy has flipped out on and killed. Edmund confesses that Dorothy was the killer 25 years ago (duh) and that he pleaded insanity just so that they could stay together (now that's love). Debbie eventually learns of her parents and confronts them. Debbie has her boyfriend with her, which Dorothy soon kills while Debbie watches. They hide the body in the hay baler with... the others. Obviously, Debbie gets her bitchy, homicidal attitude from her mother. They kill together and bond as mother and daughter (can you feel the love?). Jackie eventually notices that her mother is killing again and realizes that her suspicious bloody packages are not working. You see, Jackie has been pretending to be killing people in order to satisfy her mother's craving for murder. The mysterious bloody packages are supposed to be guts from the murder victim, proving that a murder did actually take place... and to give mom a little something to snack on. But the guts are actually butcher's leftovers that she has been getting from the local supermarket (what a weirdo they must think she is). Jackie's bizarre form of therapy has obviously been a total failure, therefore she contacts a real doctor to come and evaluate Dorothy. He disguises himself as a person wanting a Tarot card reading. Dorothy can see through the cards that he is not who he seems to be and realizes that he's a doctor that's come to take her back to the mental hospital. She kills him of course. It's funny, rather than be shocked that her mom just killed someone, she's more upset with the fact that Dorothy has bonded with Debbie. Edmund confesses that he's tired of covering up Dorothy's crimes. The job is then turned over to Debbie, who is more than willing to take over in her dad's place. With Edmund out of the way, Dorothy decides that she prefers Debbie as her daughter much more than Jackie. The corner Jackie and kill her. The end. Not terribly original, I must admit. But this film has an air of comedy to it that is just barely out of reach. There are many situations in this movie where you're really not sure whether to laugh or gasp. I'm not even sure if the film makers intended there to be comedy involved. Nonetheless, it's a good effort and well worth 90 minutes of your life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Return of the Living Dead



This is a great zombie movie that came forth from the 80's with dazzling intensity. This film has absolutely no affiliation with George Romero or his legacy of zombie films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Land of the Dead). To keep from stepping on Romero's toes, the idea and the execution of such were radically changed and some view this new interpretation to be much more sinister and scary. To name just a few of the changes: unlike Romero's films, which explained that the brain of the ghoul must be destroyed in order to kill it. In Return of the Living Dead there is no way to kill the zombies, only by reducing the body to ashes proves successful in killing it. In other words, if you chop up a ghoul into several pieces, the pieces will still come after you. Also, Romero's zombies were very slow and unsteady, in contrast to Return's zombies which can run like hell and are strong. The story starts with two employs named Frank and Freddie who work at a medical supply warehouse. Freddie (the trainee) asks Frank what the weirdest thing he ever saw was at the medical warehouse. Frank explains that in the 60's, several canisters that were intended for a military destination were accidentally sent to the warehouse by mistake and are now residing in the warehouse basement. As Frank explains, the army was developing a chemical substance called Trioxin to spray on marijuana fields or something and the substance accidentally leaked down into the morgue and made the corpses move around as though they were alive. The army put the corpses in airtight canisters and accidentally sent them to the wrong place. Why the army wasn't notified is anyones guess, and therefore the canisters have remained at the warehouse ever since. Frank and Freddie go down to the basement to check them out. After bumping into a canister, it cracks and spews chemical gas right into their faces, knocking them unconscious. While unconscious, the gas slips into the ventilation system and brings many biological samples to life, including everything from butterfly displays to a ballistics cadaver. They call Burt, the owner of the warehouse. After some serious bitching, he decides that they must destroy all the evidence around the warehouse and keep their traps shut. Burt's friend Ernie (they were named Burt and Ernie on purpose) runs the crematorium across the street. They convince Ernie to let them use his crematorium to get rid of the evidence. He reluctantly agrees. When the smoke from the burning bodies rise up from the chimney, it carries the chemical with it, mixes with a bad storm coming and produces acid rain that drenches the local cemetery making hundreds of corpses come alive and slither forth from their graves with only one thing on their decaying minds... live brains. A group of Freddie's friends that are waiting for him to get off work are hanging out in the cemetery to pass the time and are therefore at ground zero when the shit hits the fan. They freak and try to find Freddie at the warehouse, but have no luck since he's at the crematorium. Instead they come face to face with the slimy corpse that has obviously recently emerged from the canister that Frank accidentally cracked. Eventually, most of them end up boarding themselves into the embalming room where Frank and Freddie are getting really sick, as well as a very stressed Burt and Ernie. Swarms of zombies are outside and every attempt by the police and EMT's fail while trying to figure out what's going on, much less help those trapped inside the funeral home. After realizing that Frank and Freddie are not breathing and have no pulse, yet are still very much alive and conscious, it's assumed that they are slowly becoming one of the zombies that are now roaming outside in search of some tasty fresh brains, and are therefore locked in the chapel for safekeeping. Wanting desperately to figure out what the hell is going on, they capture a zombie (well, the upper half of a zombie) and are surprised to find out that they can hear and speak. When asked why they ate brains, the zombie explains that it hurts to be dead, they can feel themselves rotting and live brains are the only thing that relieves the pain. After several unsuccessful attempts to escape and the police blockades being overrun, the remaining few survivors see a number stenciled on the side of the canister that housed Mr. Green and Slimy. They call the number, it turns out to be the military who explain that they have been waiting for this call for some time and have a plan devised to deal with it. Unfortunately, the plan is to nuke the entire area (in this case, the entire city of Louisville, Kentucky) thus leaving no margin for the survival of anything. Just before the nuke, we see Frank, who is a zombie but has not yet been overcome with a taste for human brain consumption. He commits suicide by throwing himself into the crematorium. This again releases the Trioxin into the atmosphere, turning to acid rain and starting the cycle all over again. Really great zombie flick with just the right amount of shock, gore and even some rather unexpected comical scenes. A must see for any zombie fan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Children of the Corn


"Children of the Corn" was originally a short story in Stephen King's book Night Shift. Many movies have been based on King's novels and short stories, likewise many of the movies suck. This one I hold as an exception. It's actually very well made. It has a great idea, good plot, decent acting and a really creepy religious atmosphere that Stephen King has often employed amongst his many works, both books and film. Plus, the idea of killer children always fascinates me. Anyway, the story starts off with a hell of a massacre in a little coffee shop in the rinky dink town of Gatlin, Nebraska. As a creepy child preacher watches through the window as all of the children suddenly employ everything from knives to poison in killing everyone in the place. A young boy named Jobe witnesses the massacre, yet is left alive. This happened everywhere in Gatlin that day. All the adults have been slaughtered by their children under the commandment of the boy preacher named Issac. Isaac has been given what he believes to be direct orders from God himself, by name referred to here as "He Who Walks Behind the Rows". A sentence from the Bible that reads "And a child shall lead them" is one of the supports for the convincing of children that adults should not live. These children often gather in the cornfield and with pitch forks and scythes (chanting "Kill Kill Kill") they listen to Isaac's preaching and obey every word he says. On the day of the slaughter, Jobe's sister Sarah suddenly has a talent for precognition (she sees the future). She often draws pictures that are scenes that are soon to happen. Three years later, Burt and Vicky, a couple traveling through Nebraska get lost amongst it's bland back roads that are nothing but road and corn fields as far as the eye can see. Suddenly a child stumbles into the middle of the road, and because Vicky and Burt are looking at a map trying to figure out where they are, they don't see him. They hit him head on and his bloody mangled corpse is truly a sight to behold. Burt is a doctor and while examining the boy's body, he notices that his throat has been deliberately slit and was probably already dead when he stumbled out onto the road. They put his body in the trunk and go in search of help. By the way, the boy (Joseph) was murdered by Malachai, who is sort of the enforcer among the child cult, answering directly to Isaac. Because Joseph tried to flee and get help. Isaac preaches "Joseph fled this happy place because the worship of me is no more upon him, so take you his life and spill his blood, but let not the flesh pollute the corn. Cast him instead upon the road. And so it was done, Joseph the betrayer was cast out". While trying desperately to find a town, so that they can report Joseph's murder, Burt and Vicky get lost and end up in the barren town of Gatlin. Quickly they realize that it's a ghost town with the exception of a few mysterious children running around. Because Sarah has the "gift of sight" she is coveted and protected by Isaac, even though she and her brother Jobe are often caught playing which is evidently a big no-no among satanic child cults. "God" has given Isaac the vision that outlanders are to come soon and that these outlanders will be unbelievers and profaners of the holy and must be sacrificed as an offering to please He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Isaac's vision is confirmed by Sarah's drawing of a car upon the road. Burt and Vicky start realizing that this town is definitely strange, but do not yet know how much danger they're in. Burt goes to the town hall to look around. He notices biblical graffiti everywhere as well as some disturbingly vandalized religious pictures. While Burt is checking out the town hall, Vicky is accosted by the children, dragged to the corn field and is tied to a cross in a crucified position. Since no adults are to be allowed to live, they must offer themselves to "The Lord" on the first day of their 19th year. When a child named Amos has to "leave", Isaac is told that this is the opportune time to offer the blood of the unbelievers. Malachai eventually gets sick of worshipping Isaac and decides that he can deal with the god of hell all on his own. The children remove Vicky from the cross and put Isaac in her place. Using Vicky as bait, they lure Burt into the corn field. He and Vicky break free as He Who Walks Behind the Rows comes forth as a thundering red cloud to take Amos. Isaac is taken instead, comes back possessed and kills Malachai. Burt, Vicky, Sarah and Jobe (who have all sorta bonded by this time because Sarah and Jobe hate having to worship a prick like Isaac) hide in a nearby barn. The rest of the children follow. I guess after seeing so much death and how Isaac was so easily betrayed, they figure that this whole murderous cult thing is for the birds. The wind rises and billows of flaming clouds fill the sky, "The Lord" is evidently coming forth to take everyone because he's pissed that the sacrifice of the outlanders didn't occur and that the children have seen the truth in that they were deceived by a false god feeding his appetite on the blood of sacrifice. Before his slaughter, a policeman tried to defeat the monster but was killed before he could execute his plan. Jobe tells of a passage from the Bible that the policeman was reading shortly before his murder... "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and shall be tormented there day and night forever and ever". Jobe also tells that the officer was working with the gasohol still when killed. Burt makes the connection between the Bible passage and the gasohol... fire. Mr. Officer was gonna burn the field. Burt then painstakingly hooks the gasohol to the corn field sprinkler system which drenches the field in a highly flammable substance. A bottle with a burning rag is thrown into the field and quickly burns it down. Eventually the fire makes it to where the demon is and a dazzling performance of his demise, done with rather cheap yet effective digital effects is employed. Burt, Vicky, Sarah and Jobe, make it back to their car which has been vandalized with corn, much like everything else in this creepy little town. Mangled, exhausted and down right pooped, they have no choice to try and walk to the nearest town, one that's not so dramatic. Since Jobe (who was at the coffee shop during the sermon that foretold that every adult was to killed) and Sarah (who was home in bed with a fever drawing precognitive images) also didn't witness the occasion when He Who Walks Behind the Rows made himself known and therefore have no violent tendencies. We never learn what happened to all the other children, but Sarah and Jobe are somewhat adopted by Burt and Vicky. The End. I've had to leave many interesting topics and situations out, which are very intricate to the film's many facets and subplots, but I can only divulge so much information, making it possible to keep some surprises when/ if you ever get to view this masterpiece. I must mention though that a few things did differ from the short story and the film adaptation. The short story follows the basic structure of the movie for most of the beginning, but doesn't have such a happy ending. In the short story, Vicky is crucified and has her eyes cut out and Burt is sliced to ribbons by the children shortly after he figures out what has happened with the boy preacher and the blood sacrifices, he is soon caught and both Burt and Vicky are presented as offerings to the God of Hell. The children then continue to inhabit the corn field awaiting the next set of outlanders that will be offered to the devil by bloody sacrifice. The atmosphere of this film is so ominous that you really feel the emotions of the characters and the dread that they feel as the coming of devil is at hand.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Street Trash


This gory little 80's flick has finally gained some notoriety as a cult classic, primarily due to a recent DVD release making it much more accessible. It's a simple story really, mostly made to show off some new, impressive, and downright gruesome special effects. The basic story is this: A liquor store owner finds a case of some kind of weird booze called Viper that seems to have been hidden in the wall of the basement some 60 years ago. He plops the case of Viper on the shelf and sells it for a dollar a bottle, thus attracting every homeless bum and wino in the the neighborhood. The story loosely follows the life of Fred, a dirty, nasty, stinky bum who other than possessing those qualities is actually a decent guy. Fred lives in a junkyard with his kid brother. The junkyard is ruled by some homeless freak named Bronson, who thinks he's some kind of garbage overlord who holds power over all the other bums in the junkyard. In reality, he's a brutish, sociopathic, schizophrenic, lunatic that thinks he's still in Vietnam. Anyway, Fred buys a bottle of Viper and before he can drink it, it gets stolen by another bum. The other bum drinks the Viper and melts into a psychedelic pile of goo. It's pretty gory, yet has an air of silliness to it because it isn't just blood and guts. It's bright blue, green, purple... an acid heads dream come true. Throughout the movie, poor Fred keeps trying to get a bottle of Viper for himself without it getting stolen. Fortunately for him, he notices that all the people who have drank the Viper turn into slimy rainbow colored puddles. He hatches a plan to kill Bronson the evil junkyard overlord by offering him a bottle of Viper as an offering. Bronson's bitch grabs it from him and takes a sip and soon her boobs are melting all over the place. Bronson obviously sees the plot against him and goes after Fred. Fred throws a bottle of Viper at Bronson like some kind of molotov cocktail and melts half his face. Still undaunted, Bronson pursues, only to be severely decapitated by Fred's younger brother who uses an oxygen tank as a torpedo-like projectile. There are numerous subplots going on as well that are useless to the main story and also have no relevance or even any interaction between themselves. Among them are a mafia restaurant, a game of "keep away" with a severed penis, the hard up junkyard manager fucks a body that washes ashore, and a cop who gets absolutely nowhere. It ain't the best effort I've ever seen and Lord knows the story is dull, dull, dull. But it's worth watching at least once for the special effects which are a delightful combination of gore and comedy. A funny side note to this movie is that it actually tried to achieve some product endorsements and the only company that would have anything to do with this production was a little franchise called Drake's Cakes. Because of it's endorsements and affiliations with the film, Drake's Cakes would send complimentary snacks to the cast and crew every week. After three months, everyone was really burned out on eating nothing but cakes so they decided to save some money and use the cakes in some of the special effects. In one scene, a man grows large and explodes after drinking the Viper and all of his innards are nothing but cakes and red food coloring.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Satanic Rites of Dracula



This cheesy 70's throwaway isn't really that great of a movie (and that means a lot coming from a cult classic fan like me, who thrives on crap), but still manages to hold up over time. Mostly because of the minor details, such as the title which makes the movie sound as though it could potentially be scary... Vampires and Satanism. It has veteran horror actors such as Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the heir to the family that destroyed Dracula on what seems like numerous times, depending on how many sequels you've seen. Christopher Lee reprises one of his more famous roles as the very non threatening version of Dracula. We also get to see Joanna Lumley as Jessica Van Helsing, the great great granddaughter, in one of her first movie roles (The world mostly knows Joanna Lumley as Patsy Stone on the super successful British comedy "Absolutely Fabulous") Instead of a big spooky castle, this film mostly takes place in a house with an office setting. Desks, phones, chairs, secretaries... like it's CIA headquarters or something. The "office house" is suspected to be a secret center for espionage, but instead there is something a bit more sinister at work. Satanic rituals are taking place in the basement. Evidently a satanic date of world destruction is only a few days away and there's work to be done in order to carry out the prophecies of Satan. Among the guests at the ritual are many well known, well respected individuals, a nobel prize winning doctor, a senator, etc. As a strange Chinese woman presides over the ritual, sacrificing chickens and the occasional small breasted virgin. Van Helsing pays a visit to his old friend Dr. Kelley (the Satanic doctor) and soon learns that he's been up to no good. He's perfected a devastatingly strong form of bubonic plague (obviously eluding to the source of the world destruction to come according to Satan's prophecies and is to be carried out by his stupid followers). During the visit, Van Helsing is non-fatally shot and the doctor has been killed, hung by his neck from the ceiling rafters. Also, the petri dishes of disease the doctor was working on have ben stolen. There are four regular attendees at this satanic ritual and are regarded by Dracula as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Apparently Dracula is still pissed off about what the van Helsing family has done to him over the years, so he decides that not only will he kill Van Helsing but he's gonna take the whole damn world along with him. Dracula also see the destruction of the human race to be his own grand suicide to finally escape the wrath of the van Helsing family (and living a rather laborious existence)... you kill the world, who've you got left to feed on? Taking the human race down with him gives him that last piece of vengeance, delightful revenge and a last act of power over all that is evil. The ending is rather simple and boring. Since it was obviously one of Dracula's henchmen (a motorcycling crew of guys in fur vests) that stole the virus, Dracula now holds the power and chooses his four favorite followers to be the spreaders of the plague. Jessica Van Helsing is chosen to be his consort (why he would need one with the end of the world only days away is anyone's guess). She escapes and makes it to the basement where a minion of female vamps accost her. She kills them by turning on the sprinklers, thus melting them (I thought that only happened to wicked witches). Another odd side note is that Van Helsing is creating a silver bullet to kill Dracula this time (I thought that was werewolves). Obviously he got his horror characters confused, therefore Van Helsing's silver bullet doesn't do shit to Dracula. Instead he burns the house down, effectively killing off the petri dishes of disease and all of Dracula's disciples. While chasing Van Helsing through the woods, Dracula gets tangled in a thorn bush. This scene is totally hilarious, you'd think that someone who's lived as long as Dracula would be able to avoid such a dumb mistake. While hopelessly caught in the bramble's grasp, Van Helsing uses this opportunity to grab a stake from a nearby wooden fence and stab Dracula in the heart... again. I'll be honest, the plot idea had potential but the execution of it really sucks. This is about the blandest, boring, most predicable piece of shit. Proving, if anything, that even when you have well established actors in the type of roles that they are very familiar with, it still won't earn any Oscars, or even a good movie make.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Carrie




This is Brian DePalma's movie adaptation of the #1 best selling novel by renowned author Stephen King. In fact, Carrie is the first book that King ever had published. Actually we have his beloved with Tabitha to thank for the saving of this masterpiece. You see, during the course of writing his first novel, King had no confidence in his abilities as a writer. Believing that it was a badly failed attempt, he threw the manuscript into the fireplace. His wife on the other hand (probably because of the novel's subject matter being very close and empathetic among women in general). Tabitha saved it from destruction, sent it in, a deal was made to publish it and henceforth we have the fantastic future works of Stephen King. Proving that behind every successful man lies an intelligent woman. I've read all of King's books and seen a lot of terrible screen adaptations of them, but the first film version of Carrie was pretty close to the book. A remake was later made under Stephen King's "strictly by the book" direction. Out of all of them, the remake of Carrie was very well made and adheres to the book even more faithfully than the original film version. Even though the actors were at the time unknowns, most of them have all since gone on to make many more successful movies. Of these are Sissy Spacek, who's portrayal of the lonely misfit Carrie White was truly exceptional. Piper Laurie who plays Margaret White, Carrie's overly religious maniacal mother who occasionally locks Carrie in a "praying closet". Nancy Davis who played the evil Christine Hargenson and John Travolta who plays her boyfriend/willing stooge Billy. Amy Irving who plays Sue Snell, the only person who gives two hoots about poor Carrie. Let's not forget William Katt who plays the school top jock with a sympathetic heart, he's also Sue's boyfriend. The plot is very simple and most people know the story and anyone (most of us) who were ever picked on in school and made to feel terrible, all for the amusement of other students can closely relate to it. The story begins when after being picked on all day in gym class, during her shower, Carrie White gets her first period. Since her mother never told her about it, she naturally thought that she bleeding to death. Terribly frightened she asks for help from the other girls in the class, who end up humiliating her by cornering her and throwing tampons at her. The girls who assaulted her are punished, which doesn't sit well with Christine (school hottie/total bitch) who thinks that Carrie White deserves to be picked on because she's so damned weird. The Prom is approaching and it's all anyone can talk about. Feeling horrible about participating in the tampon assault, Sue asks her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the Prom. At first he refuses, but after some coaxing from his girlfriend, he agrees. Apparently he's gotten more agreeable since they started having sex. Another issue that should be brought up is that Carrie is also telekinetic and at first, strange things seem to happen when Carrie is freaked. The gym teacher slaps her and an overhead light bursts into sparks. While walking down the street, a young boy on a bike peddles by screaming "Creepy Carrie, Creepy Carrie". She glances at him and he instantly crashes to the ground. As the intensity of her mothers overly religious cruelty increases, Carrie has noticed that the objects around her are beginning to act according to her wishes. Tommy asks Carrie to the Prom. At first she refuses, but after some sweet talk she agrees. Christine still has it in for Carrie, so along with her boyfriend and a minion of teen followers, they concoct the ultimate practical joke, a prank to purposely humiliate Carrie to the extent that will satisfy Christine's hatred for her. A prank that fits the ridicule of having your first period in front of people and subsequently humiliated. They decide that it would be really fun to rig the vote for Prom Queen and King, so that Carrie and Tommy win. Once Carrie is on stage, they will dump pig blood all over her in front of everybody. The plan goes off without a hitch. The pig blood drenches her and Carrie is totally humiliated, but soon her humility is taken over by a telekinetic revenge unparalleled in human history. With her powers increased ten fold by this disastrous prank, no one at the prom survives. With the high school burning to the ground with everyone in it, Carrie walks home. While walking home, Christine and Billy attempt to run her over, only to feel the wrath of Carrie's glance. Their car goes tumbling and soon explodes. When she gets home, she is attacked and stabbed by her mother, because Carrie has gone so far astray and she "obviously" has the devil's powers that she is considered a witch, and after all, the Bible does say "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live". Telekinetically tossing knives at her mother, she is eventually pinned to a door frame in a very creepy replica of Christ on the Cross. Carrie's mind is now irreparable and her surroundings act according to her diminished condition causing the house to crumble and collapse. Like I've said, there are three versions of this story. The book, the movie, and the remake. All wonderful, I recommend the book first. Not enough time to read but could handle a two and a half hour movie that adheres to the book "almost religiously", watch the remake (after all, Angela Bettis plays Carrie with an amazing genuineness, you may remember Angela as "May", if not you can look it up here on Cultarama). Or you can sit back and enjoy the first movie at a mere hour and a half and witness one of the best stories ever told by some of the worlds foremost actors and actresses before anyone knew who the hell they were.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Food of the Gods


Once again, a brilliant H.G. Wells novel (The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine) has been turned into a really cheap-ass film. Some of the film adaptations like "War of the Worlds" did indeed come out well, even if it did vary greatly from the novel. I can safely say that "The Food of the Gods" was an excellent novel, that was turned into a really laughable movie. It's funny for all the wrong reasons. I believe that the special effects department meant well, but just really made the movie ridiculous. We'll discuss them as they occur. Too begin, this film was made at a time when science fiction was making a comeback. Giant "this and thats " of some form or another, mostly created by modern means and mistakes like bombs, radiation, pollution, nuclear waste, etc. The giant villains this time are mostly rats. Anyway, the story: A famous football player needs a little vacation before an important game. He takes along a few friends, his coach and some teammates to an island getaway. A narrative theme begins with a man talking about how nature will someday rebel for all the shitty things we do to it, unfortunately the victims are innocent people who only suffer the wrath of the actual polluters. They arrive on an island only to be met with giant wasps. The crappy special effects begin here... the wasps are transparent, you can see right through them. There's one close-up of the attack which shows a most obvious big plastic bug. One fatality, one down... more to come. The group comes across a chicken coop that looks like it's been partially torn apart. He peeks inside only to be met with a giant chicken (well, a big plastic chicken head that someone is thrusting toward the actor). This scene is sidesplittingly funny. The plastic head doesn't move it's mouth or blink or anything, pretty pathetic. The owner of the chicken coop is located in the nearby farmhouse. It's an old lady that explains how some weird chemical started bubbling up in her backyard. She feeds it to the chickens (Yeah, that would've been my first choice too). The chickens grow and grandma thinks she's got the solution to hunger. The problem is, other creatures are grubbing on this chemical that granny has now spread all over the damn place, resulting in large bugs, large worms, and mostly large rats. The pests reign supreme and kill most of what's left of a forgettable cast. The big plastic rat heads are as funny as the big plastic chicken heads, so obviously fake and totally laughable. The special effect used for when a giant rat is shot with a shotgun is this, the rats are being shot with a paint ball gun. Problem is, those things shoot hard, not much for people, but these poor rats were looking mighty stunned and rendered unconscious upon impact. One of the last people left, theorizes that even though rats are really good swimmers, the fact that they have been enlarged, the same rules of gravity do not apply and if the rats are submerged in water they will sink and drown. This is absolutely not true by the way. Remember hippos, anyone? Four tons of flesh that floats along the water like a swimming pool floatie. Anyway, these two guys plant pipe bombs on a nearby damn (on an island?). The damn blows, the rats drown. You would think/hope that it would end here, but it doesn't. A creepy aftermath is hinted at. Some of the growth chemical makes it into a nearby stream and out into fresh water areas where cows drink from. You then see a cow on a milk machine, then school children enjoying their afternoon milk and cookies. I guess it's hinting that we can soon expect large ravenous children, not to mention larger than life cows (now maybe a good steak won't cost so damn much) and whatever other life that the chemical came in contact with while in the water. I see a sequel with giant crawfish! Aaaaaagh!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't Look in the Basement!


This movie is cheaper than cheap. It was shot in a mere 12 days at a cost of about $10,000. But even in with the odds against them, I believe this movie is quite well made. It has a very ominous atmosphere, an asylum in the middle of nowhere, where the patients are free to move about the property. Dr. Stephens is the head doctor at this facility, he has hired a new nurse to replace one who is leaving because she can't take the potential danger of being harmed by one of the inmates. First, let's meet the patients: There's Jennifer, who is for the most part catatonic, but now and then enjoys attacking people with knives. An army sergeant who stays glued to the window with binoculars convinced that the beastly hun is just around the bend. Sam, a sweet guy, probably the most stable of the bunch, yet is slightly retarded and has the mind of a child. A judge who still thinks he's in front of a jury. Harriet, a sad woman who lost her baby and now is seriously overprotective of a baby doll. Let's not forget Allison, who for the most part seems very sane, but actually has a love obsession with EVERYBODY, constantly repeating "I know you love me". On with the story. The movie begins with Dr. Stephens teaching the judge how to release aggression by chopping wood. Giving an ax to an asylum inmate just spells disaster, and the judge eventually turns on the good doctor and whacks him in the head with the ax. An apparent nurse tells everyone to calm down, that she knows just what to do. This apparent head nurse, takes control over the asylum in the doctors absence. She seems to be next in line and is in charge now. The new nurse named Charlotte arrives, is informed of the doctors untimely passing and introduces herself as Dr. Masters, Dr. Stephens assistant. Dr. Masters isn't particularly thrilled about having a new nurse around and tries to send her away. Desperate for a job, she pleads with Dr. Masters and is eventually allowed to stay. Many of the patients forewarn Nurse Charlotte that danger lurks, but who can tell if an insane person is telling the truth or just being their little insane selves. An old lady that has been warning Charlotte from day one, apparently has cut her own tongue out. Dr. Masters doesn't seem too bothered by it and writes it off as the mere act of a lunatic. Someone has cut the phone lines as well, making the isolation all that much more ominous. Dr. Masters is beyond aggravated that a telephone repairman shows up and bitches him out and tells him never to return. He explains that he's just doing his job and is reluctantly shown the phone lines by Dr. Masters. Soon we see that the repairman has been killed, throat slit wide open. All the while Dr. Masters is starting to get weirder and definitely crankier. Sam tells Charlotte that he talks to Dr. Stephens and that the doctor is very concerned about nurse Charlotte. Sam also is carrying Dr. Stephens watch. Again she doesn't know what to believe because after all, these are asylum patients. Before his demise, the telephone repairman encounters Allison who is convinced that the repairman loves her. Upon finding him dead, she tells Charlotte that Dr. Masters killed her eternal love (the repairman). She also tells Charlotte that Dr. Masters is a patient as well who like to pretend to be a doctor. Again, Charlotte can't believe it could be true. The old lady can't exactly tell Charlotte anything because she no longer has a tongue, but when asked if Dr, Masters was the one who cut out her tongue, she nods yes... because she was trying to warn Charlotte from the beginning that all is not what it seems. Sam gives Charlotte a note saying that the doctor is alive and very worried. Nurse Charlotte has decided that it's definitely time to go, and begins what seems like an endless search for a way out. What's wrong with the front door is anyone's guess. She goes down to the basement and find Dr. Stephens barely alive. Of course since she's never met him, she doesn't know it's the doctor and smashes his head in, finishing him off. Sam saves Charlotte while the other inmates attack and kill Dr. Masters with various sharp objects. While Charlotte runs her ass off getting out of there, Sam goes back and kills the rest of the inmates. Covered in their blood, he sits and enjoys his favorite treat, grape popsicles. A creepy little flick, where the inmates run the asylum is a scary enough idea to keep you on the edge of your seat and totally makes up for the overall cheapness of the film.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Thing From Another World


Typically, I'm not a science fiction fan. Though, of course I can certainly be persuaded when the film is really good and enjoyable (or really campy, crappy, and stupid, I like both so I guess it makes no difference). The Thing From Another World is much more a suspenseful film with incredible atmosphere, unlike it's remake which concentrated mostly on special effects. The beginning of both movies start out the same... an arctic research station discovers a strange object buried in the ice. Upon inspection, it appears to be a flying saucer. They use explosives to try and uncover the ice to see exactly what they're dealing with here, and in doing so, they accidentally blow the whole space ship up. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on one's optimism at this point), a "space man" is seen frozen in the ice as well. The spaceship may have been blown to bits, but the space man seems unharmed. They unearth it and bring it back to their camp in a frozen block of ice for study. Some putz who is supposed to be watching over the damn thing, puts a blanket over it so he doesn't have to look at its creepy eyes. What the idiot doesn't realize is that it's an electric blanket that is turned on and it melts the space man to freedom in about 20 minutes. This is where the original and the remake split as far as story wise. The original is funny and somewhat tongue in cheek (while retaining it's sullen and effective atmosphere) and the remake becomes the story of a shape shifting alien that could easily destroy the world if it ever reaches civilization, directed by the ingenious John Carpenter. I do believe that the remake is considered #174 in the top #250 best movies ever made (source: IMDB.COM). Though it may not be the thriller that it's remake became, the original has that special something that makes it an instant classic. It's a creepy cold atmosphere placed near the North Pole with some really strange happening goin' on. After Mr Moron melted to creature and it escapes into the blizzard outside which doesn't seem to effect it much, a search engages. While tearing apart the sled dogs, "The Thing" loses an arm (that grows back) which is taken back to the laboratory. Upon scientific inspection, it is deduced that the arm is comprised of plant tissue. The scientists among the group explain that on another world, plant life may have evolved the same way that mammals evolved here on Earth. It feeds on blood, in fact blood from the dogs on the severed hand bring it back to life. Much like a plant, severed pieces that break off of "the Thing" begin their own growth. One of the weirdo scientist is actually growing some baby Things which creepily appear to be breathing. The group starts to remember their botany rules and realize that ice cold does not always kill a plant which is why the Thing creeps around outside. But, extensive heat will wilt a plant beyond saving (I know this to be true because I've killed many many many houseplants, after a while you just start blaming it on botanical suicide, the plant won't know you're lying). They electrocute the sucker, set him ablaze and destroy him. Not many fatalities and I can definitely say that the remake is totally superior. But hey, in 1951 they didn't have the razzle dazzle of great computer and make up effects that we have now. Granted, the villain in this movie is an intelligent carrot, I can't say that could be accomplished even with today's special effects. Watch the remake if you want a really suspenseful alien flick with a very oppressive atmosphere, but if you just want a comical story being taken totally serious with hilarious puns sprinkled here and there... watch this gem of an original, well thought out, cult flick...a true classic!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blue Sunshine


Blue Sunshine came out in 1977 and has all the earmarks of a seventies film. Polyester, disco, and bad hair. Speaking of bad hair... this movie has a lot of it and is in fact the main catalyst for the story. OK, here goes... A few certain people start noticing unnatural hair loss and displaying very erratic mood swings which are starting to become extremely violent. Their violent behavior quickly evolves into homicidal actions. I won't go into each one, but there is incredible character buildup which makes the action in the film much more exciting because you begin to feel like you actually know these people. An element that most mainstream horror/sci fi movies often neglect. Before any of them can be cured, it's realized that all the balding lunatics went to the same college university ten years ago. It turns out that some asshole sold them all a bad batch of acid called "Blue Sunshine". For those of us old enough to remember, LSD always had colorful names... Blue Sunshine, Black Dragon, Red Mercury, etc. A bumbling detective figures all this out and tries to save the world from this "plague". The most suspensive portion of the movie is figuring out who took the Blue Sunshine and who didn't. You see, a lot of the lunatics are wearing wigs so it's hard to tell because the hair loss comes before the violent tendencies occur. The climactic ending to this movie is full of humor, which changes the mood of the story ten fold. Three different puppets with the likenesses of Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones, introduce the opening of a new disco (which was just making it's big splash around the time of filming). I guess the techno pop that disco had, really pushed the bald acid heads (who are more like crazed zombies now) over the top and they start freaking out and killing everyone. Moral of the story... avoid bad drugs (good drugs are OK) and if you freak out from bad acid, you should probably avoid discotechs. A really great period piece and very effective for a cheap independent film from Jeff Lieberman who also brought us the cheap but effective horror film about worms called "Squirm" which most of us have only seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000. A side note that must be acknowledged is the ever present full moon with a slight bluish tint, obviously foreshadowing the bald lunatics who took the Blue Sunshine.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Alice Sweet Alice



This is a strange movie to say the least. Not quite up to a David Lynch level of strangeness, but very strange nonetheless. This was Brooke Shields first movie (I think maybe age 8 or 9), it was also Paula Sheppard's first (and only other) film. Paula's other movie "Liquid Sky" can be found here on Cultarama, so by all means give it a look see. In both movies, Paula Sheppard plays an incredible bitch, but from what information I've managed to obtain about her says that she's a very sweet and generous woman, who after making only two films, retired from show business to become a mother. Oh well, not to be rude but if she hadn't succumbed to the grapplings of motherhood, I'm sure that she would have given us many more wonderful performances. Brooke Shields character of Karen, younger sister to the demented and violent older sister Alice (Paula) is the main center of the story even though she gets killed off pretty early in the movie. Karen is a sweetheart, but Alice could easily pass for a sociopathic serial killer. She's a prankster (and an evil one too), she detests everyone, especially her sister Karen. The movie begins with Alice stealing her sister's favorite doll with promises of smashing it. Mom is convinced that Alice was just up to her usual tomfoolery and soothes her by letting her try on her new dress to be worn at her upcoming Communion. The day before Communion, their Priest Father Tom gives Karen a very special present (a beautiful gold cross necklace that belonged to his grandmother). Since Alice didn't get shit, she now has many hostilities towards her sister. Mrs. Tredoni (Father Tom's housekeeper/cook/answering service, maid, old friend of family, etc) also seems a little miffed about Father Tom giving Karen such a wonderful gift. Midway through this story, we are introduced to many odd and somewhat annoying character, such as Mr. Alfonso, a 600 lb tenant with piss stains on his pants and eats cat food right along with his 300 felines in an apartment the size of a broom closet. Another is Catherine (Karen and Alice's mother) who is just trying to be as good a mother as she can in trying keep peace amongst her feuding children. At the actual Communion, Karen goes missing. We see her being attacked by someone who looks like Alice because it's a small built individual (probably a woman), wearing the same kind of raincoat that Alice always wears, and donning a specific mask that we know Alice has stashed in her secret trunk in the basement. One of those creepy-ass masks that were mostly clear but had exaggerated makeup on them (y'know, typical nightmare fuel). Karen is subdued and thrown into a large wooden box and set aflame. A nun finds her charred body after smelling the smoke. She screams and everyone panics. Catherine (the mother) is very bluntly told by her bitch sister Annie that Karen in dead. Pandemonium erupts, and everyone starts screaming and crying... meanwhile we see Alice slipping Karen's veil under her raincoat to conceal it. Alice is the perfect suspect in the murder because not only did she like to dress just like the killer was dressed, but she also has very sociopathic tendencies, and is hateful and jealous towards her younger sister for many reasons. The estranged father of Karen and Alice arrives in town for his daughters funeral, to comfort his ex-wife and to get to the bottom of who killed his daughter. All the clues acquired point directly at Alice. As the bitchy aunt Annie (who is in a constant battle of wills with Alice) is leaving the apartment. Again, "someone" dressed in the raincoat and mask that Alice wears, attacks Annie in the stairwell and stabs the hell out of her. Once Annie is taken to the hospital, she is convinced that Alice is the person who stabbed her. Alice is taken to a psych ward and questioned about the stabbing of her aunt. She is given a polygraph test which establishes that she knows who stabbed her aunt, but she tells the truth when she says that it was her dead sister Karen. So either Alice is nuts or she really saw Karen (or someone who looks like Karen, possibly wearing the same yellow raincoat). Alice's parents think maybe it could have been Angela (Annie's daughter/Karen and Alice's cousin) who also has a yellow raincoat and just happened to be missing when Karen was killed. One problem, Angela is fat and doesn't resemble Karen or Alice in any way. Angela calls Alice's father (her uncle) and says that she has run away, has Karen's gold cross (which was given to Karen shortly before she died and was then taken by the killer) and asks her uncle if he could possibly meet her at some abandoned building. He follows Angela into the building where she stabs him, he chases after her and they struggle. During the struggle, the mask slips off revealing that it's Mrs. Tredoni and not Angela. The cross is hanging around her neck (which identifies her as Karen's killer). The father manages to bite the dangling cross from her neck before she pushes him off a ledge, landing on a pile of concrete, killing him. Mrs. Tredoni hates Catherine and her family (not yet sure why). She kills Karen because she is jealous that Father Tom gave Karen his grandmother's gold cross. She attempts to kill Catherine too, but misidentifies her and stabs Annie instead. Also being very religious (fuel for the best crimes imaginable), she thinks Catherine is a total whore because she is divorced. Catherine goes to Father Tom's house, but only Mrs Tredoni is home. She starts telling Catherine about how she herself had a little girl at one time, who also died during her first Communion. She feels that her little girl was killed in order to pay for the sins of her parents. Afterwards, she came to care for Father Tom (she points a knife at Catherine) not YOU! During the autopsy of Alice's father, they find the cross lodged in his throat. The cops make the connection that it's the same cross that was stolen from Karen and figure out that Mrs.Tredoni is the actual killer, not Alice. She goes to the church (where police are waiting to apprehend her) and gets in line for Communion. Since Father Tom knows what she's done, he won't give it to her. She screams out "But you gave it to that whore!!". At which time she stabs Father Tom in the neck. As she holds his lifeless body, the cops rush in. The last scene is the creepiest... as the cops are rushing around, we see Alice pick up Mrs. Tredoni's shopping bag that contains the knife used as the main murder weapon. She looks at it and slowly hides it back in the bag and gives the camera a really evil look. The look of an accused and innocent young girl who now has the capacity and desire to kill.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Terror Toons


This is a really screwed up film... on many levels. Wow, where does one start? First of all this film looks like it was filmed with a home camcorder, the characters are beyond surrealistic and totally unbelievable, the concept is really weird, and the acting is some of the worst ever caught on celluloid. Anyway, the story is about how Satan discovers the amazing qualities of a popular modern item we all know as a DVD. He creates a monstrous cartoon character (mostly played by a guy in a costume) called Dr. Carnage and his sidekick, a ravenous monkey named Max Assassin, and places them on DVD's and drops one in everyone's mailbox (I guess since AOL always did that, he thought could too). Some weird chick with breasts big enough to be classified as weapons of mass destruction, that also looks 35 years old but acts like a 6 year old, finds one in her mailbox and decides to play it out of childish boredom. Meanwhile, her parents (consisting of an obvious man in drag with a voice like John Wayne) are going out of town for the weekend and put her older sister in charge. Somehow as if planned, the "older" sister looks much much younger than the "younger" sister. Anyway, the older sis invites some friends over, some boys, some liquor, what have you, and has a party. Little sister with boobs so big they have separate zip codes, is watching what looks like a stupid cartoon about a mad doctor and his rabid pet monkey. Suddenly, Dr Carnage and Max Assassin leap from the TV and extract very cartoonish (and strikingly gruesome) ways of killing everyone. All the cartoon cliches are used... safe dropped on the head, sawed in half, spine ripped out, TNT explosives, etc. Live action is mixed with cheap cartoon overlay and computer effects, some of which are truly hilarious and deserve really good drugs. As expected this movie is extremely colorful, being about cartoons and all, but this is as gory as can be expected when a safe falls on your head. In a real cartoon, their head came out flat, they blew on their thumbs and everything pops out into place. But here, when a safe falls on you, you're squashed beyond recognition, your guts are coming out and brain matter is staining the wall. All through the night, everyone gets it in a different way. Monday when "Mom" and Dad return, they find the house a mess and body parts everywhere. The drag queen mom goes into a totally hilarious spastic fit that was so side-splittingly funny that it was almost worth sitting through this cheap piece of crap! And, I serious stretch the word "almost".

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Short Films of David Lynch


Before David Lynch made his first full length feature film, the cult classic "Eraserhead", he produced several short films during his early years using different filming styles and techniques. Most of them are only a few minutes long and don't make much sense. Even Lynch himself has a hard time describing them and has only the faintest recollection of what he was thinking at the time and what he was trying to portray. Fortunately, these rare gems that show us how the creative genius that is David Lynch came to be, have been gathered together, dusted off and put together on one DVD. Now if we could only get John Waters to do the same thing with his early short films.

Six Men Getting Sick Six Times:

Filmed in 1967 with a cost of $200. Lynch made his first short film after gazing at a painting on display. A door opened and a stray breeze made the painting move a little. This inspired him to make a "moving painting". He built a sculpture screen 6X8 and animated a surrealistic image of what looks like six figures that move slightly, then puke. This sequence repeats six times and has a (very annoying) looping siren sound track. The final product is about 3-4 minutes long. A gentlemen named H. Barton Wasserman saw this piece of artwork, loved the idea and offered David Lynch $1000 to make one for him. Lynch bought a new camera with half the money and used the other half to film a new piece. He filmed over 100 ft of footage only to find out that there was a problem with the camera and all the footage was ruined and completely unusable. Fortunately, the buyer took pity on Lynch and gave him a little more money and said "Just give me a print". The result was his second short film, The Alphabet.



The Alphabet:

David Lynch was married to a girl named Peggy at the time, who was an exceptional painter and he used her talents to make most of this short film. Lynch got the inspiration for this film one night when Peggy's niece woke up from a nightmare where she was frantically repeating the alphabet. Filmed half live and half animated, letters appear (a capital A even gives birth to a bunch of little lower case a's) and change. A girl (played by Peggy Lynch) writhes around in bloody sheets, reciting the alphabet, blood red flows from her mouth and eyes in an otherwise completely monochromatic atmosphere. The soundtrack is mainly an operatic male singing and wind sounds. Approximately 4 minutes long. Very gothic, very nightmarish.



The Grandmother:

After completing "The Alphabet", David Lynch had been "bitten by the bug" and immediately started putting together another project titled "The Grandmother". The script was very dense and very short, a trait that we soon learned came with most of David Lynch's movie scripts. Lynch was already in the process of making Eraserhead (almost a hobby, taking over five years to complete) for over a year and the money had run out. Lynch applied for a grant from the American Film Institute, not at all expecting to get it. The scripts for both movies were submitted and surprisingly, he got the grant which was eventually used for the shorter of the two films (Eraserhead was over 90 minutes and The Grandmother was only 23 minutes). The Grandmother was finished in 1970 and quickly gained notoriety and very much displayed what was to be known as David Lynch's gothic personal style. It begins with some stop-motion animation using photo cutouts. A man, woman and child are "born" from the earth, the man attacks the child, which is the opening to the film's theme in live action. The story is told through imagery and has probably a total of six words said throughout the entire film. Basically, a young boy that has very neglectful and abusive parents yearns for love and affection. After getting his ass whipped for pissing the bed, the young boy pours dirt on his bed and plants a seed of some kind. He "waters" it daily and grows a disgusting looking plant that "gives birth" to an old lady. She turns out to be a grandmother figure towards the child. All is well, apparently the grandmother has no problem with the kid wetting his bed (we see it colored yellow against a mostly monochromatic background). One day the grandmother starts to "malfunction" and goes flipping out all around the room. The kid goes to his parents for help, but is met with abuse. The grandmother disappears. Next we see the kid strolling through a cemetery and he runs into the grandmother there, they both scream, kid goes home... The End. What does it all mean? I don't even think David Lynch knows for sure.



The Amputee:

Filmed in 1973, The Amputee exists in only two takes on two different types of film tape. The American Film Institute was looking into buying a large quantity of a particular kind of film tape and since there were two major brands being made at the time, both were tested using the same scene to see which looked better. Lynch asked if he could film whatever he wanted and was given permission to do so as long as it was exactly the same scene. With the freedom to do what he wanted, he scripted a scene where a male nurse (played by Lynch) is cleaning and dressing the wounds of a woman who has recently had both of her legs amputated. The woman (played by Catherine Coulson which we all grew to love as "The Log Lady" from Twin Peaks) is busy writing a letter or novel of some kind and pays absolutely no attention to the nurse who is about to puke because oozy crap is flowing out of her wounds. The first take had the better quality, but the second take is much funnier. Much more ooz than in the first one and the actress is clearly on the verge of laughing. Catherine Coulson who plays the amputee, was married to Jack Nance at the time. Jack Nance who played Henry in Eraserhead and Pete Martell on Twin Peaks was married to Coulson when Eraserhead and The Amputee were being filmed. They were reunited several years later when both had major roles on the hit series Twin Peaks.



The Cowboy and the Frenchman:

After Blue Velvet was released, David Lynch took a vacation in Paris. While there, he was approached by an associate about a TV series about how Americans see the French. David originally declined because he didn't really feel that it was something that could be done in what was becoming an ever evolving personal film style of his, which was very artful, abstract and gothic (everything this film wasn't supposed to be). Six different directors were chosen to make a short film that could possibly end up being the pilot to a new TV series. David Lynch went home and did some thinking about the offer and thought that maybe he could make a film with this theme. He should have stuck with his gut instinct, because this film really sucks and is my least favorite of the entire collection. Basically the story goes as such... Four ranch hands are sitting around chewin' "Tabaccee" and out of nowhere, a Frenchman comes staggering out of the forest carrying a suitcase with all the french essentials, such as wine, cheese, snails, perfume etc. Eventually, the group is joined by three women, who only dance around and have no apparent purpose for being there. Also a choir of three other women break in every now and then to sing a single verse and then back to the "story". When David Lynch presented his version of the pilot, he was greeted with the insult "Great, two cliches for the price of one". Needless to say, his version wasn't chosen. Can't say that I blame them, it really was bad and had a theme that I don't think Lynch could lower himself enough to even attempt to make this kind of crap. I think he felt a need for a more artful kind of work and a little more freedom when it came to his artistic integrity. But hey, it was worth a try.



Lumiere:

In the late 90's, Lumiere Brothers Incorporated., a large producer of TV and movie cameras, was doing an experiment with an antique camera. The camera was made of wood and had a crank. This camera was passed around to a few different directors. Each individual director was to produce 55 seconds of footage with the camera. Also there were some restrictions enforced: you could have no more than three takes, and once you got the crank turning, it couldn't be stopped until the film was over. In the short 55 seconds that David Lynch had, we see quick flashes of events such as... cops finding a dead body on the lawn, people crying, fire, and a naked woman in a large aquarium tank. If allowed more time, this film could have had some promise.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me


Shortly after the cancellation of the hit television series known as Twin Peaks, fans still yearned for more. A year after the cancellation of the show, a prequel was made to help tie up some of the loose ends left by the series. Unfortunately, it created more questions than answers. The film didn't do very well, at least not in comparison to the cult phenomenon that emerged from the success of the TV series. It had more than a few strikes against it. A typical David Lynch (who abandoned the show in it's second season, yet returned to film the prequel movie) maneuver was to film as much footage as possible and then piece it all together later on. Over five hours of footage was filmed, yet was cut down to a mere two hours, leaving a tremendous amount of plot holes. Talk is in the air about a re-release of the film with the deleted footage returned. Maybe then, we can make better sense of the movie. Another strike against this film is the absence of all but a small handful of actors that were in the series. Most of them either declined to be in the movie or had other scheduling conflicts. A main character of the show, Donna Hayward, played by Lara Flynn Boyle, cited scheduling conflicts as well, but wide rumor has it that she just didn't want to do the nude scenes to be included in the movie. Therefore, since Donna Hayward was a critical part of the story, the part was recast with Moira Kelly, which confused a lot of people. Being a monster fan of the show, I found the movie quite a work of art and was able to (mostly) understand what was happening. As everyone who's seen the show knows, the story begins with the murder of Prom Queen Laura Palmer. The series builds momentum as the hunt for Laura's killer leads us face to face with the underbelly of the town and about how everyone in Twin Peaks has a secret. The first 17 out of 29 total episodes deals with the Laura Palmer case. The events leading up to Laura's death are slowly but surely revealed. The movie is more or less the last seven days of Laura Palmer's life, verbatim with what was described in the series. Another fault of the movie was that Sheryl Lee was already 25 when she played Laura Palmer who is only supposed to be 17 years old, and when playing out the tawdry secret life she lived, Sheryl Lee could almost pass for 30-something. Another complaint that many people have about the movie was that it was too "in your face", which was a stark contrast to the show where everything was bubbling just under the surface, the allure of everything being so secretive. I never really found this to be a fault though. I mean I loved the secrets of the town and all but this film was supposed to be about Laura's demise, which included drug abuse, prostitution, sexual promiscuity and bondage. So of course it's gonna be tawdry, because that's who Laura was. The audience craved for more information involving Laura Palmer, but when they got it, all they did was bitch about it. I'm positive that this movie could stand alone without having seen the series because that's how I saw it. One night a friend of mine rented it, I'd never seen the show before but was still able to understand what it was about and loved it. Like the show, it was well written and very clever. Granted a few things made more sense after watching the series, but if you don't have an extra 30 hours to watch the series, the movie does just fine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


Even though this movie is rather popular and competes with The Exorcist for the coveted title of the scariest movie ever made, it is still a cult classic. It was shot on a shoestring budget and under deplorable conditions. This was Tobe Hooper's first attempt at film making and does a rather good job all things considered. Through this film he became more and more popular and eventually began to get work on much bigger and better projects, such as Poltergeist which became one of Hollywood's greatest successes. The story goes as such... A series of graves in a local cemetery have been robbed and parts of corpses have been used to create gruesome sculptures. A group of friends, including Sally and her younger wheelchair bound brother Franklin, learn of the grave robbing and decide to take a road trip to the cemetery to see if their grandfathers grave has been one of the graves that were violated. Fortunately it was not, but while in town (hardly a town, it's in the middle of nowhere and has maybe three house and a population of ten) they decide to check out their grandfather's house nearby, which is decrepit and hasn't been lived in for some time. Before reaching the house, they pick up the hitchhiker from hell. Some weird greasy guy with a birthmark the size of Rhode Island on his face (probably the result of several generations of inbreeding). He babbles about working at the slaughterhouse and making "head cheese". He then takes a picture of Franklin, burns it and still manages to take a slice of Franklin's arm with a razor before being kicked out of the van. The group stops by a gas station along the way because the tank is empty. The station is out of gas, but at least they have some righteous BBQ. While visiting Gramps old house they notice strange things, like bird bones hanging from strings (very Blair Witch). Kirk and Pam (part of the group and friends of Sally and Franklin, there's also Jerry who is Sally's boyfriend) go down to a nearby watering hole only to find it dried out (much like everything else in Texas during the summer). They hear a generator and follow the sound to a large house close to Gramps old place. Kirk knocks but gets no answer. He enters the house and gets bashed in the head by a giant man wearing a skinned human face as a mask. When Kirk doesn't return Pam goes looking for him. She enters the house, then trips over something and lands in a disgusting room full of bones and feathers. Human skulls and rotting animals hang from strings. Human bones have been used to decorate everything from walls to furniture. Halfway into shock, Pam pukes and tries to run, but she too gets caught by the huge man with the leather face (even though this characters name is never revealed, he ultimately became known simply as Leatherface). Pam is dragged off and hung on a meat hook, she then has the pleasure of watching Leatherface turn her boyfriend into hamburger meat with a chainsaw. Sally's boyfriend Jerry goes looking for Kirk and Pam. He comes across the neighboring house with intentions of asking if anyone had seen his friends around. Jerry finds Pam's body in a freezer and is then greeted with tremendous blow to the head, inflicted again by Leatherface. When dusk arrives and no one is anywhere to be found, Sally and Franklin go looking for them. Out of the woods jumps Leatherface again. This time it's Franklin that gets it (by the way, despite the movie's title, this is the only killing actually performed with a chainsaw. Kirk was dismembered with a chainsaw, but was actually killed by a blow to the head). Sally (a damn good screamer!) runs back to the gas station with Leatherface closing in on her and hysterically lands in the arms of the station manager. The gas station manager (a creepy little BBQ cook) explains that he has no phone and goes outside to have a look. Meanwhile inside the station, Sally sees his BBQ turning over a fire. The meat looks suspiciously like human body parts, arms and legs mostly. The manager returns with a broom and beats the hell out of Sally before dragging her back to the house where he lives with Leatherface and the weirder than weird hitchhiker. Upon arriving home, the cook bitches at the hitchhiker to stay away from that damn graveyard (evidently it was hitchhiker that was making the cemetery sculptures). Poor Sally, who has long since passed out from fright, now awakens into a living nightmare. She comes to, tied to a chair, surrounded by the most disgusting dining room ever conceived. There are lamps made of human bones and skins. Rotting meat is all over the place. And all three cretins that we have been introduced to, are all sitting at the table with her, having their "supper". The more she screams, the more the "family" loves it. Creepier still, Leatherface now has makeup on his leather mask. For real, I'm talking frosty blue eyeshadow and ruby red lipstick. Truly bizarre, sort of as if Hannibal Lecter and Divine had a child. Indeed a very good argument for birth control. Anyway, Sally's screams and pleas for release only feed this "family's" appetite for horrification. We soon learn that there is a fourth member of this family of sub-humanoid cretins... a grandfather that though still alive, looks like he's about 175 years old. After wheeling Grampa to the table, Leatherface cuts Sally's finger and lets Grampa suck on it for a while. Apparently Grampa also worked at the slaughterhouse and was regarded as quite a pro at what he did. Forcing Sally to kneel before a bucket, Grampa is handed a large hammer and tries many times to hit her. He strikes her enough times to bloody her head but not enough to kill her. In the midst of the commotion, the hitchhiker goes for the hammer and Sally manages to struggle free. She runs and bursts her way through a window, plummeting into the early morning light, after a night of pure hell. Hitchhiker runs after her, stabbing her repeatedly until she is completely covered in blood. She makes it to the road where a huge semi runs the hitchhiker over. Unfortunately, Leatherface is still closing in on her. The man driving the semi tries to help, he throws a wrench and smacks Leatherface on the noggin', causing him to land on the ground with his chainsaw gnawing on his leg. Another truck comes by and with all the strength she has left, Sally manages to crawl into the back of the truck and screams for the driver to go go go. The movie ends with Leatherface wildly swinging his chainsaw in the air, showing frustration at having lost his prey. And poor Sally is in the back of the truck, hysterically laughing her way to the nearest funny farm. This film actually has the prestige of being accepted into the official Museum of Modern Art. There is also a plethora of great trivia surrounding the making of this film. To name a few... the meat in the dinner scene was real and rapidly making all the actors sick with it's atrocious stink of decomposition. As Sally runs through the woods in search of help, we see that her clothing is torn and she has bloody cuts all over her. This wasn't faked, she actually ran through the woods and all the bloody cuts were real. When they slice Sally's finger in order to feed Grampa, the fake blood tube in the knife got clogged and rather than fix it, they actually sliced Marilyn Burns (Sally) finger. To keep with the continuity of the film Gunnar Hanson (Leatherface) was not allowed to wash his clothes and therefore began to smell so badly that the other actors would stay as far away from him as possible when not filming. This film was made in August when the heat in Texas is almost unbearable, making strenuous acting difficult and causing the meat on the table to rot much faster and stink much worse. Almost every actor in the film said that if offered another acting job working with director Tobe Hooper, they would most assuredly turn it down. This film, along with Psycho, is loosely based on the actions of serial killer/cannibal/necrophiliac/all around weirdo Ed Gein. This lead to the boasting that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was actually based on a true story, though only about 5% of it was taken from the Ed Gein case. The rest is purely fictional. Regardless, this movie is a masterpiece and is very effective at installing pure terror into it's viewers.