Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Invasion of the Body Snatchers


Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a true cult "classic". It was made in 1956 and much like Night of the Living Dead, had a great idea but no money to back it up. Also like Night of the Living Dead, it wasn't expected to be the monstrous success that it was. With no real budget for special effects leading to a rather simplified movie (at least for it's genre) actually helped both of these films. Sometimes a great idea is so good that it doesn't really need any real reinforcement like special effects in order to be very effective. Anyway, the movie begins with Dr. Miles Bennell returning to his hometown after a vacation and coming across many patients complaining that someone they know is not really that person anymore, but some kind of impostor that only looks and sounds like the person they knew. Miles starts to rekindle an old flame with former sweetheart Becky Driscoll. They are drawn together again through many strange events. Her uncle Ira has been acting strangely and Becky herself feels that something is terribly wrong. Even though he looks and sounds like her uncle, he somehow now has a lack of emotion. Even stranger, after a few days, the panicky people complaining about impostors are now completely calm and are admitting to feeling silly at the thought of such nonsense. Well, they may seem to be better, but they are still acting strange. They start toting around weird giant seed pods and are also showing a lack of emotion. Miles and Becky team up with friends Jack and wife Teddy (Carolyn Jones-Morticia Addams) when jack calls Miles and complains about a dead body in his house. They rush right over and find a body that is completely devoid of character, has no fingerprints and is not breathing. Over a small amount of time, the body starts looking more and more like Jack, starts breathing and then disappears. All are stunned and mystified. They decide that it's better to stick together rather than run, as the whole town is quickly becoming impostors. Meanwhile four pods are out in the greenhouse just waiting for these people to fall asleep, as that seems to be when the transformation occurs. Miles, Becky, Jack and Teddy discover imitations of themselves forming from some kind of huge seed pod producing plant and naturally freak out. Jack and Teddy make a break for it while Miles and Becky are desperately trapped in his office with the whole town after them. They observe the towns people distributing seed pods to different trucks to be transported to different cities. Faking emotion, Miles and Becky fool everyone for a while but when Becky shows emotion towards a dog almost getting run over, they catch on and chase them out of town. Eventually Becky takes a nap and is "changed". Miles makes it to the highway, trying desperately to convince people about what's happening, hence the infamous line... "They're coming! They're here already! You're next!! You're next!!!". Of course no one wants to take him seriously because he's acting like a raging lunatic. Finally, at the police station he explains his story. Naturally they lock him up until it's reported to the station that a truck hauling abnormally huge seed pods has been in an accident. The story ends here, leading you to use your imagination as to whether the world gets overrun with alien plants from outer space or if the problem is caught in time before it takes over the world. Originally a book by Jack Finney simply called "The Body Snatchers", it was turned into film in 1956. A remake of the original movie was made in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland and Veronica Cartwright that was actually pretty good. It was much scarier and took place on a much larger scale. The original takes place in a small town called Santa Mira and the remake takes over all of San Francisco. Yet another remake was released in 2007 starring Nicole Kidman called The Invasion, which tried to be as subtle and creepy as the original and not go over the top as in the 1978 remake, but failed miserably at the box office. In this day and age, we like "in your face" movies that both shock and intrigue. Well, we already had both, so why make a third? It's a great story, but it's becoming a little overcooked. If you can't get your hands on the book (the very best version of the story) then stick with the original 1956 version. It's a true cult classic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Alive




This movie rides a fine line when it comes to being a comedy or a horror film. I mean it's about a killer baby for goodness sake! That alone made it worth watching. Plus the movie poster was very clever... a deformed clawed hand coming from something inside a baby carriage. Anyway, this little gem opens with a couple that are proudly expecting a rather large (10 pounds... ouch.) but otherwise healthy baby boy. All seems well until the actual birth when after the proud father walks in, he discovers a delivery room slaughterhouse. The umbilical cord looks chewed off and there's a killer baby on the loose! Whoo, I'm all a panic. We don't see much of the baby actually, except for the occasional "baby's point of view" shot. The baby has some serious double vision, fangs, a rather large head and long claws. It makes the most hilarious cry/screech when it kills the milkman for some moo juice. Well, remember it is a baby. Dad decides to pursue it while mom proceeds to lose it. I guess having your newborn infant on America's Most Wanted tends to take a toll. The "baby" finally figures that it should be with mom and dad and finds it's way back home. It eats the family cat and crawls into it's crib, all is well. Since he helped bring this monstrosity to life, dad feels that it's his duty to kill it. Dad and police chase it into a sewer, dad has a change of heart and wants to love it and at the last moment tries to save it. But with half the American Armed Forces waiting outside, they don't get very far. Dad pleads for the life of his son saying that it can't hurt anyone. I guess he hadn't yet picked up the newspaper and learned about a killer baby on the loose with about 20 victims already under it's belt. The baby screeches like a banshee, lunges at a cop and get pulverized with about a gazillion bullets. At the very end of the movie we learn that another one has been born in Seattle. Leading the way for two more sequels that really sucked. If you really want to have a few laughs making fun of a movie that was intended to be pretty scary and came out totally hilarious, this Bud's for you. The movie also has a great tagline... There's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby... It's Alive!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mausoleum



During the funeral of her mother, a little girl runs off and stumbles across the family mausoleum, the Nomed Family mausoleum (Nomed/Demon, get it? "Yeah, but didn't really want it"). Upon entering the mausoleum, her eyes glow and she fries a cemetery grounds keeper. She opens a the main crypt and releases a demon of sorts. As an adult, she reads in an old family diary that no woman must ever enter the mausoleum. Being that it's already too late for that, her eyes glow on a regular basis which ultimately results in the death of people that cross her path. She seduces a perverted gardener that won't stop hitting on her (she is rather beautiful) and then changes to some demonic entity (actor in really bad monster makeup) and shreds his ass with her six inch claws (very much like today's modern women). Susan's demonic outbursts are becoming more frequent and more freakish. She starts turning into some huge demon-like thing with claws and fangs and eyes of fire (still very much like today's woman). A female friend of Susan's drops by and finds Susan all demoned out, forcing Susan to levitate her over the balcony and causes her chest to literally come apart. A funny and out of place joke was made at this point by the maid (LaWanda Page, Isabelle Sanford)... "I ain't never been this nervous since I been black."). Susan is seeing a psychiatrist, he tries hypnosis to understand Susan's "problem". Under hypnosis, she vamps out, indicating that she is not schizophrenic, it's far worse... demon possession! Susan gets to be a real bitch (even when not demoned out). She also starts to vamp out more frequently and eventually kills her husband which is supposed to be scary but are relentlessly hilarious. Her tits actually turn into fanged demon faces that lunge at people. Supposedly according to family lore, there is a crown of thorns located in the mausoleum that must be placed on the possessed persons (Susan) head. She unleashed this horror as a child, but must now end it as an adult. I considered this the ending, but a brief confusing sequence follows that I've never really been able to figure out. The crown of thorns is place on her head, the demon returns to the mausoleum. Susan's psychiatrist walks up to the mausoleum and speaks to a guy in a monk outfit advising him to not let anyone enter the mausoleum. As the camera pans, we see that the monk is the gardener that Susan hacked up earlier in the film. He laughs hysterically... The End. It looks undoubtedly like the perverted gardener, yet these two characters claimed two different names in the credits. Go figure.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bloody Birthday



Three completely (genetically) unrelated births take place in one hospital during a total eclipse of the sun. Two boys and a girl, all of whom are very smart, very cunning and very deadly, they also share a closeness that seems stronger than natural siblings, much stronger. Pretty much anybody that crosses their path gets "dealt with". From school teachers to parents and from siblings to strangers. These little brats honestly have no sense of remorse, no conscience, and a real knack for making homicides look like accidents. Joyce and Timmy, another brother and sister become targets of these three little sneaks, when they start questioning some of the deaths. "The Three" (Debbie, Curtis and Steven) lock little Timmy in a junkyard refrigerator, they poison the cake at their birthday party, They kill Debbie's father, etc. Timmy's big sister Joyce is an Astrology junkie and discovers that when the children were born, both the Earth and the Moon were blocking Saturn during the eclipse and since Saturn rules emotion, the children were born with no emotions at all (other than a slight revenge complex). In the end, after a ruthless pursuit on behalf of the "eclipse brats", Joyce and Timmy win out in the end (never saw that coming). One brat gets hog tied when he runs out of bullets and the other gets locked in a trunk. The girl (probably the most cunning of the three... naturally) gets away and is on the run with her mom. They've changed their names and have begun a new life. There's only one problem, she still has no conscience and keeps on killing. The last scene is of her killing a mechanic by lowering his jack and crushing him. Susan Strasberg makes a cameo appearance as the bitch teacher that gets killed. Also look for Julie Brown as Debbie's big sister. We get to see quite a lot of Julie actually (if you know what I mean). Her little sister has a peephole in her closet and charges little boys to watch her big sister getting undressed while dancing to music. For what they got, I so would have charged more than just a measly quarter.

Sleepaway Camp


On the surface, this looks like the usual (usually boring) slasher film with a campground setting. There's so many out there that it's kind of hard to tell one from the other, but this one really stands out for the people who give it some thought and don't just dismiss it for what it appears to be. Because a lot of thought was put into this story. It's not a clean cut plot and has a totally creepy underbelly story that requires actual thought to decipher the results. This movie also boasts one of the most shocking endings in cinematic history (I totally agree). Anyway, let's get on with the story. The movie opens on a terrible boating accident in which a father and one of his two kids (a boy and a girl) are killed. Not sure which child yet. Several years later, we discover that the remaining child has gone to live with crazy 'ol aunt Martha and her son Ricky (the orphaned kids cousin). Apparently it was the little girl that survived the boating accident because it's a girl named Angela that is Ricky's cousin and Martha's niece. Ricky and Angela are off to Camp Arawak for the summer when before leaving the (very eccentric) aunt gives Ricky the papers for their physicals that are required for attendance at camp and remarks that that should "take care of everything", Aunt Fruitcake (I mean Aunt Martha) is also a doctor/surgeon (with criminal dress sense). Anyway, the kids get to camp, Ricky is out going but Angela is painfully shy and says maybe 10 full sentences throughout the entire movie. She's a little weird in other ways too. She hates the water (why then go to camp?), almost never speaks even when violently shaken and has a tendency to blatantly stare at people with the most vacant look imaginable. Being weird, she stands out immediately and is soon picked on. Her cousin Ricky always comes to her aid with a vicious and violent retort towards the people picking on her. Eventually, all the people that picked on Angela start dropping like flies. For most of the movie, you're not really sure who the killer is, but it's made painfully obvious that it's either Ricky or Angela. Predictably speaking, it would be Ricky killing people to avenge his disturbed cousin. A twist (a very simple twist though) would be Angela doing the killing because she's a little weirdo. At the end we learn it was at least one of the two and it's made to look like that person did it alone. I don't think so, I think both Ricky and Angela did it together. There is a scene where after Angela is maliciously thrown into the water that she really hates, Ricky rescues her and says "Don't worry, we'll make them pay". There's also a murder in the movie where a kid is drowned by the killer under a canoe. Angela really hates water, so how can this be? And trust me she hates water for a legitimate reason. Anyway, there is one camper named Paul that actually penetrates Angela's shyness and they sorta become an item. Eventually, he makes the moves on her and she begrudgingly let's him kiss her. While she is in this situation we are shown a memory from Angela's past when she and her brother observe their father (that was killed at the beginning of the movie) in bed with another man. She quickly refuses his advances and runs off. He continues to pursue her even after being caught kissing some snotty bitch named Judy that's been harassing Angela all through the movie. Angela finally tells Paul to meet her by the waterfront (with a crazy freakin' look in her eye) with the assumption of messing around. At the end, we see a very different Angela as she is approached by a couple of camp counselors. She seems to be naked and is stroking a naked Paul's hair. When she stands and turns around Paul's head tumbles from her lap and she is seen frontally nude. Surprise, it's a guy! It sounds quite comical, but there's a really deep creepiness about the way Angela looks. All over hairy, a dangling peter and the creepiest panting, scream shaped face you could ever imagine. Has to be seen to be believed. Left me with chills for years. Right before the total reveal of Angela as a guy, we're taken on a flashback to when her father and sibling were killed. Apparently it was the sister that got killed in the boating accident. When the boy goes to live with his nutty aunt Martha (y'know, the surgeon) aunt Martha decides that since she's always wanted a girl, she's gonna change Peter into Angela. Not sure how far she got though. When nutty aunt Martha is telling Peter that he's to become a girl, the poor kids got bandages around his head. When I saw it as a kid, I always assumed that aunt Martha gave Peter his sisters brain, so he's think like a girl. No matter how it happened, Peter had a gay father and being a man forced to grow as a woman he had serious sexual issues and gender confusion. Hitting puberty and having a boy make sexual advances towards her/him obviously just sent Angela right over the top. Like I said, it seems really contrived at first but has a nice little unexpected twist at the end. This ending made it look like Angela was the killer, but upon further inspection it's totally obvious that Ricky helped her kill. After all, he also knew about her little secret, that's gotta twist a kids mind a little.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Day of the Dead


First, there was Night of the Living Dead. Then there was Dawn of the Dead. Now it's Day of the Dead, the third entry to this (at the time) trilogy. Three separate movies that are supposed to be literally the events that occur only a day or so after the first movie. The irony being that there was ten years between "Night" and "Dawn", and eight years between "Dawn" and "Day". One simultaneous event stretched over 18 years. The differences in clothing and hairstyles are obvious and dramatic, yet the films creator George Romero makes no apologies for his continuity short comings. Frankly, the movies are so great that nobody really cares. Day of the Dead takes place in an abandoned underground missile silo, where a handful of scientists and soldiers were grouped together to help figure a way out of this horrible zombie fiasco. This film has many elements of the first movie, being that the real story doesn't have much to do with the zombie outbreak, they are merely a backdrop for a story concerning people with strong personalities and the dynamics of those relationships in a desperate situation. The head soldier, who's a total prick (and a terrible over-actor) demands answers from the scientist half of the group and as usual, gets no answers. The soldiers are all a bunch of obnoxious neanderthals and the scientists are really demented (well, at least one is). The head scientist Dr. Logan is obsessed with mutilating zombies in the effort of understanding the zombie situation. He's convinced that the key to mankind's survival is teaching zombies to be good little boys and girls by rewarding them. Finding this preposterous, the relationship between the scientists and the soldiers comes to a boiling point. And when it's discovered that Dr. Logan's "rewards" are the remains of some of the recently departed soldiers that were assumed to be buried in the makeshift graveyard up on the surface of the silo, all hell breaks loose... again. Violence and death run rampant when one of the soldiers who has been bitten and knows he's gonna die, opens up the gates to the silo, letting all the zombies in. One of the scientists, the radio guy and the helicopter pilot make it out to the surface while the rest of the soldiers are made into a zombie buffet. The soldiers were real pricks all through the movie so their very graphic dismemberment by zombies in the end was very satisfying. The three that made it out, make it to a zombie free island (I guess), giving us hope for the resurrection of humanity... or at least another sequel!

Marnie


Even though this 1964 Alfred Hitchcock classic isn't very cultish (it has two major Hollywood stars and a famous director) it's very deserving of a mention due to it's endless values. This post is also dedicated to my good friend Dave at DaveLandWeb.com, who has a major crush on Tippi Hedren. I highly recommend that everyone visit his site because he's a brilliant artist. In fact you can view his now famous painting of Blanche and Jane from the film "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" right here on Cultarama! This one's for you Dave! Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a woman of many faces, she's a calculated thief, a compulsive liar and professional chameleon when it comes to changing identities. Why, you ask? Let's find out. Marnie (under an assumed name) has been a loyal book keeper for the company she works for. Out of the blue, she steals $10,000 from her employer, dyes her hair from black to blonde and stashes the money in a train station locker and throws away the key. Marnie goes to see her mother who is loving to other children but acts like Marnie has some kind of disease. In fact she doesn't seem to feel much love for Marnie at all. Another mystery surrounding this already beyond mysterious woman is that she can't stand the color red. When she sees red, she completely freaks out. Marnie changes her hair from blonde to brown (her hair must've felt like straw after all that dying) and goes on to find another job as a book keeper. Her new employer Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) recognizes her from her previous job, but hires her anyway, without any references, knowing she's a criminal, basically just to figure her out. She is of course the loyal employee, observing everything, mostly the practices surrounding the safe, until the day comes when she again robs her employer blind. Since Rutland knew she was a thief, he managed to catch her red handed. Rather than calling the police, he blackmails her into marrying him. He may have fallen in love with her, but she was far from in love with him. In fact, she pretty much hates his guts. She hates being married to him and is utterly repulsed by his "husbandly advances". It's not really his fault though, Marnie hates all men, pretty much equally. Their honeymoon is predictably miserable. Mark starts to notice that Marnie is having nightmares about her mother. He studies her dreams and also discovers that she's been sending money to a mother that he never knew existed. Anyway, some jerk that recognizes Marnie from one of her other identities won't get off her ass no matter how many times she tells him that he's mistaken. He eventually confronts her husband who already knows she's a hardened criminal. Marnie breaks into her husbands safe and is again caught in the act. Knowing that there's some mysterious issue with her mother, he drags her kleptomaniac butt over to mom's house so he can finally figure out what's going on. Oh yeah, along with men and the color red, Marnie also hates storms, knocking sounds and men in white suits. Anyway, Mark confronts Mom only to discover that mom was a war whore. Prostituting herself to sailors (men in white suits) to support Marnie. During a weird childhood regression, Marnie tells the story of the night that changed her life and the circumstances that made her the way she is. One stormy night one of moms tricks knocks on the door (the hated knocking sound) comes in to be serviced by mom, Marnie is afraid of the storm that night. The trick comforts Marnie from the storm, but soon tries to molest her. Mom freaks out and in trying to protect her daughter from the trick (Bruce Dern cameo) gets beaten all to hell. To protect her mother from the trick, Marnie grabs a fireplace poker and beats the trick to death, resulting in lots of blood, hence the hatred of the color red. Marnies actions that night were never revealed because Mom told the police that she killed the trick in self defense. Willing to turn herself in (20 years later?) she is afraid of being sent to prison. She confesses to her husband that she would rather be with him than go to jail (who wouldn't?) Being married to Sean Connery vs. prison. Bet that was a hard decision on her part. The money being stolen and stashed at the beginning was just a false lead, very much like many other other Hitchcock films. She steals thousands of dollars without spending a dime (well, maybe a little on hair dye) simply because she's a kleptomaniac. Great movie, keeps you guessing till the end, extremely engaging. There is also a rumor that Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock had a major falling out during the filming of "Marnie". Alfred made some unwelcome romantic advances toward Tippi who was already engaged to someone else. When she refused his advances he made a very rude sexual slur towards her and she called him a fat @#%&*, thus ending their friendship.