Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Deadly Spawn

This is a great monster movie from the early 80's. Two campers see a meteorite fall the earth, when they go inspect, they encounter a giant alien eating machine with multiple heads and literally thousands of teeth. The creature moves into town and hides in someone's basement. People start disappearing left and right. A tea party is subsequently attacked by what look like baby spawn, which bear a striking resemblance to the "Killer Condom". Sort of like tadpoles on steroids with nothing but rows and rows of razor sharp teeth. A few teenagers figure that they better kill the parent creature before it makes enough spawn to devour the whole planet. One of the teens is really into magic and puts a huge amount of flash powder in a dummy head and dangles it in front of the creature, who is hesitant at first but finally gives in and takes a great big bite. Then suddenly... boom. The creature splatters everywhere. All seems well with world again. That is until the end, when you see a HUGE spawn emerge from a mountain and bear his uncountable teeth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Alien Dead

Even though I knew this movie was gonna be crap, the title was very catchy since I love both alien and zombie movies, I decided that it was definitely worth a try. The story begins with an alligator poacher who's wife is killed by what he claims to be "monsters". While on a late night walk, the mangled corpse of the wife is found. Even after this gruesome find, the sheriff still doesn't buy this story about monsters in the swamp. The next day, the sheriff and a reporter scouts the swamps and encounter strange human-like creatures that eat human flesh and somehow survive under the water. In total denial, they're convinced it's some kind of rabid alligator responsible for this murderous mayhem. A bounty is put on the alligator and tons of people trying to make a quick buck by catching a murderous gator, end up facing their own massacre by the "swamp zombies". Soon a story emerges, about a "falling star" that landed in the swamps. Another story emerges with a more detailed account... apparently the "falling star" is not a spaceship as one might assume from the title, but rather a meteorite that crashed into a houseboat full of people. The effects of the meteor revive the mutilated bodies that it just crashed into, turning them into blood thirsty zombies. The zombies also seem to have that cliche' "If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie yourself" motif that George Romero originally conceived. Therefore, before long (or at least an hour into the film), there's an army of zombies and like three survivors. The remaining survivors hole up in a cabin a la Night of the Living Dead. Are there any survivors? It's always mandatory that there be at least one. Nice effort, but too damn talky and hardly no blood splatter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Amityville Horror

This is a big one so hold onto your computer! There are so many facets to this story, it's ridiculous. Let's start with the 1979 movie starring Margot Kidder and James Brolin. George and Kathy Lutz think they have found the perfect home for their family, only to find out that a year earlier, a guy murdered his parents and four brothers and sisters in the house because demonic voices told him to do it. Pretty soon, the Lutz family start having some seriously creepy events happening in their newly acquired home. George starts getting sicker and meaner by the day. He also is obsessed with the fireplace and chopping wood, and develops an unnervingly affection for his ax. Their parish priest comes to bless the house and is told by "the voices" to "GET OUT!!!!". Following this event, the priest becomes violently ill and eventually goes blind. The Lutz family endures all sorts of phenomena in the house... money disappears, the toilets flood with black slime, the door gets ripped off it's hinges, a marching band that only George can hear, their daughter befriends a demonic pig named "Jody", Kathy breaks out in blisters after touching a cross, blood oozes from the walls, a swarm of flies at the wrong time of year, etc. Finally after 28 days, the Lutz family can't take anymore and run for their lives. Although, they did return the next day to have a garage sale. Now here's where it gets tricky. This movie is based on a book by Jay Anson, coauthored by the real George and Kathy Lutz. After buying the house, with a sky high mortgage, that George and Kathy cannot possibly afford, they along with author Jay Anson, concoct an "out of this world" story to justify leaving the house. They use the true story of what happened in the house prior to their purchasing it as the basis for the supposed hauntings. Like I said, there was a guy that actually did kill his whole family in the house, but it wasn't demonic voices driving him that night, it was greed and lots of drugs. Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr was an unhappy camper. He fought with his family a lot, mostly with his abusive father. The family had quite a bit of money and Butch needed some cash to fuel his drug habit. Killing his parents would unleash the inheritance, but he would have to share it with the four brothers and sisters... Marc, John, Allison, and Dawn. Ronnie didn't want to share, so he killed them too. All shot with a rifle in the dead of night (pardon the pun). Ronald DeFeo tried to make up a story about how he came home and they were already dead. It didn't work and Butch was put in prison for the rest of his life. Now, there are lots of rumors surrounding the house. It was supposedly built on an indian burial ground, it was also supposed to be the home of a man named John Ketchum who was expelled from Salem for being a witch. There was also a story about how the native americans used the area as an exposure pen for the diseased and insane to be left there to die. All of which are complete bullshit. Butch's lawyer was also in on the game of ghost storytelling, thinking that he might actually be able to convince the jury that Butch was innocent because he was under the influence of demonic possession... it didn't work, but gave rise to one of the best (albeit fake) ghost stories ever told. Kathy Lutz passed away some years ago, and on her death bed she admitted that the story was false and concocted over several bottles of wine. A remake of the 1979 film came out in 2005, using more of the DeFeo story than before. Only this time, "Jody" was the youngest of the DeFeo children. It might have made more sense than a demonic pig, but alas there was no Jody DeFeo. The youngest daughter was named Allison. Ever since the Lutz family left the house, they went on a huge tour promoting the book. Three different families have lived in the house since the now notorious ghost story of the Lutz family. All three families have said that it was a beautiful house with absolutely no supernatural phenomena. In fact, one of the families actually sued Jay Anson, author of "The Amityville Horror" and George and Kathy Lutz, stating that their fictitious story has caused them to have total loss of privacy because of thrill seekers, ghost hunters, and the downright curious. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Blob

This is a great stereotypical 50's cult flick. The Blob also takes the credit for having introduced Steve McQueen to the world as an actor and Burt Bacharach to the world as a composer. Even though the movie is 98% crap, we have at least those two things to be thankful for. The story is quite simple. A "falling star" crashes near a small town. When investigated by an old man, a meteor is found, which cracks open, revealing an unidentifiable blob of goo. When the old man gets too close, the blob adheres to his arm and won't let go. He goes screaming into the street, where he's almost run over by a young couple in an automobile. They take him to the doctor, where the blob finishes off the old man and moves on to the doctor and his nurse. Every time the Blob consumes something (or someone) it grows bigger and bigger. It grows huge when it ambushes a bunch of teenagers in a movie theater. The young couple from earlier in the film (Steve McQueen and his unknown female costar that hasn't done much before or since. Mostly bit parts in various sitcoms. When you see her acting, you know why) is trapped inside a diner. When blasted with fire extinguishers, the Blob retreats. They figure out that the blob hates cold. Everyone is asked to bring their fire extinguishers into town so that this gooey enemy can be subdued. Once the blob is frozen, it's shipped Federal Express to the North Pole where it will never thaw out and become a problem ever again. I guess they didn't take global warming seriously back then. This would be an ironically good time for a sequel.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Faces of Death

Released in 1979, "Faces of Death" was banned in over 46 countries until a video boxset containing all six volumes was released. Only parts 1 and 2 (and a "greatest moments" version containing clips from parts 1 and 2) have been released on DVD. Dr. Frances B. Gross (great name huh) takes us on a journey through the different arenas of death in all it's blood and gore. From suicides to gruesome accidents, and from eating live monkey brains to orgies and cults that dine on dead human flesh. Part one is by far the best. Although, some of the footage is faked. Mostly blended together with real footage for appearance sake. Part one probably has the highest volume of real footage out of all six volumes. Part two is a slightly cheaper version of part one. Part three is pushing the boundaries of being all fake. Part three has a new host who loves to give the camera big eyed closeups that are far more frightening than any of the fake footage piled together. Part five is a hodgepodge of clips from parts 1 and 2. Part six has absolutely no extra footage. The first 30 minutes are from part 2, and the rest are clips from parts 1 and 3. Therefore, stick to volumes 1,2, and 3. The rest is a waste of time. Well worth seeking out, especially for those cult fans who thought they had seen it all. There's even a rip off series called "Traces of Death" which steals all the "real" scenes from Faces of Death and has added some new scenes of their own, set to an instant headache inducing death/speed metal music soundtrack.

Toxic Zombies

Pothead zombies, ain't that a kick in the rubber parts. A truly unique combination, don't you think? It starts of with a ripoff reproduction of the beginning of the classic "Night of the Living Dead". A long winding road with an approaching car, creepy soundtrack building in the background. Quick cut to some Feds watching a naked woman take a bath in a creek. They chase her and shoot her. Turns out she was part of a group of potheads (hardly a reason to kill someone) growing a field of dope out in some campgrounds, somewhere. Looks like backwoods Tennessee, I dunno. Anyway, The Feds decide to dump a load of some experimental chemical herbicide that hasn't been approved by anyone, onto their crop. The potheads and the idiot pilot that was conned into crop dusting with this chemical weapon, all start to get sick, puke blood and crave human flesh. Y'know, the typical symptoms of "zombieism". A few unexposed potheads, a ranger and his wife, and a family camping in the woods (complete with retarded son), all get caught up in the drama. We lose a character here, a zombie there, until the Feds finally figured out that they have really screwed things up and go out to see the damage, getting killed in the process by the few remaining zombies. That's about it really, the rest is all women screaming at the top of their lungs and moaning zombies. There's a lot of rather convincing gore, but other than that it was kinda boring. It ends with the ranger leaving office, mourning the death of his wife, who by the way was one of the worst actresses of all time, and that says a lot coming from me. It was about potheads and zombies, two things that truly fascinate me, so I thought it would be cool. And as far as cult films go, it's pretty good (translation-it sucked). It's very Troma, although I can't say for sure whether it actually is or not.

Robot Monster

Wow, what a piece of doggy doo. This movie is a great example of a "so bad, it's good B-film". So bad in fact, that it makes the worst of Ed wood films look positively top drawer. Released in 1953, this movie has all the hallmarks of a 50's sci-fi drama. It's filled with Christian overtones and is riddled with scenes that are so blatantly sexist, that you can't help but laugh to yourself. Anyway, little Johnny pipsqueak gets zapped by a falling star while picnicking with his family in what looks like a barren desert wasteland (probably some small corner of California). Soon, there is a guy in a cheap gorilla costume wearing a diving helmet with antennae, named Ro-Man. Often, just called Roman. Can you feel the preach yet? Ro-Man has conquered all mankind. All of course, except the Brady Bunch which are hiding out in some adobe shanty just outside Ro-man's cave headquarters. Ro-Man often reports to a TV screen boss who constantly bitches at him for not doing his job in completely wiping out the human race. NASA, FBI, CIA, KGB, and all the rest of the world was conquered with ease, but the "Partridge Family Robinson" somehow stops him dead in his tracks. For some reason, because they're a family, Ro-Man gets all soft hearted (what happened to the rest of the world?) Amidst Ro-Mans destruction, a couple gets married, walks off into the desert on they're honeymoon, and makes out in a ditch. Ro-Man kills the husband and kidnaps the wife. Even Ro-Man hits on her. Truly, if I listed all the totally sexist remarks in this movie, I'd be at this damn keyboard for days. The goofs in this movie are the only things rivaling the sexism. Ro-Man goes to tie the girl up, can't do it, gives up, and throws the rope down. Literally two frames later, she's all trussed up with a perfect rope job, complete with square knot. A rocket is shown that already looks like a plastic toy rocket with a sparkler shoved up it's tailpipe, reveals it's special effects secret when a flash goes off and you can see a guy in black holding the rocket and making it "fly". Often we see "dinosaurs" attacking each other. Some are claymation stock footage, and others are alligators or armadillos with dinosaur looking fins and other attachments glued onto them. What this has to do with the story, is anyone's guess. Another funny bit is the intermission the film has... on a movie that's only an hour long. If you really want to laugh at a serious 50's period piece, this film's for you. true B-movie, all the way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

I have really been avoiding the addition of this movie to Cultarama, mostly because an explanation of it is just too damned tiring. Like Eraserhead, this movie can be endlessly discussed and critiqued because of the sheer amount of plot vagueness and surrealistic symbolism involved. Y'know, the whole "was it a dream/fantasy/real life distortion/etc?" Made in 1920 germany, a silent movie of course, therefore the lip reading you can do on American silent films is totally lost here because the actors are speaking in german. You have to rely on facial expression and the rare written text to make heads or tails of this incredibly dreamlike movie. Most dreamlike of all has got to be the sets, which are totally bizarre. Mostly made of paper, there are crooked houses, warped streets, and the trees look like cheap silhouettes made from construction paper. Probably one of the cheapest sets ever made, yet mesmerizing in it's puzzling appearance. This strange atmosphere dramatically enhances the feeling of being in a dream, a fantasy, a delusion, or whatever the hell this movie is supposed to be. The bare bones of the story is this: Francis is sitting on a bench telling someone his story. A glassy eyed woman drifts in front of them, Francis remarks that this is his fiancee. One look at her and you know somethin' ain't right. Francis tells the story of how he and his best friend Alan are in love with the same woman, Jane. A creepy carnival (is there any other kind?) comes to town. With this carnival is a creepy old man named Dr. Caligari, presenting as his exhibit, a somnambulist (a sleep walker) named Cesare who has been sleeping for the past 23 years. When awoken, Cesare can tell your future. Cesare, by the way, is the creepiest looking dude imaginable, with solid black eyes and a mouth that looks like a cross between Joan Crawford and Mick Jagger (blood red and HUGE!). Anyway, Alan asks Cesare "How long will I live?" Cesare informs Alan that he'll die by tomorrow morning. Naturally, Alan freaks. That night, a murder by stabbing takes place. The next morning comes and Alan's fortune comes true when he is found stabbed to death as well. We see a shadow of the murderer which looks an awful lot like Cesare. Soon, Jane is kidnapped by a man that looks like Cesare, yet Cesare's whereabouts are confirmed by police to have been sleeping in his cabinet/coffin/bed, whatever it is. This proves very puzzling until Cesare is to be inspected a little more closely by police and a dummy is found in the cabinet instead. Francis is enraged and chases Dr. Caligari who flees to an asylum. Francis asks if a patient named Caligari is a resident of the asylum. He is met with confusion and brought to the asylum Director's office. Guess who the asylum Director is... that's right, Dr. Caligari. That night while Dr. Caligari is asleep, an investigation ensues. Francis and some friends raid Caligari's office and read his diary. They learn that his main course of study is somnambulism. They also find a book containing information about a mystic named Dr. Caligari, who in 1703 toured with a carnival, exhibiting a somnambulist who he had enslaved into doing his bidding and committing crimes that kept many towns in a panic for months on end. Having the sleep walker committing Caligari's crimes proved beneficial in relieving Caligari from being caught as the actual killer. The present day Dr. Caligari (his real name is never given) begins to obsess over his idol, the Dr. Caligari from 1703 that could make a sleep walker do all his bidding. His diary reveals his desire to become Caligari and his elation that a somnambulist has finally been committed to the asylum in which he is the Director of. This means that he can finally study and unravel the secrets of how the Dr. Caligari from 1703 succeeded in making somnambulists do his will. The present day doctor's plans are finally discovered, he is put in a straight jacket and hauled off to his crooked paper cell. In the next scene, we see what seems to be the inside of the asylum. Francis is there telling another inmate not to talk to Cesare or you'll end up dead. He then asks a comatose Jane to marry him. She responds with a nonsensical answer that an asylum inmate would definitely come up with. When the doctor approaches, Francis exclaims "I'm not crazy, he IS Caligari!" The doctor then mumbles something to himself about how he now knows what the cause of his mania is and how to cure him. OK, so we're left asking ourselves... Was Francis also an inmate at the asylum? Did he simply fabricate a story using other inmates as the characters? Was the present asylum Director really obsessed with an old mystic named Caligari? Was Francis just displaying his own insanity by accusing the Director of being the real Dr. Caligari? Who exactly was the insane one? My guess is that it's a little of all of those possibilities. Whether it makes sense to you or not, it's still a cinematic masterpiece. Made in 1920, it's often regarded as the first horror movie. It didn't really scare me, but for the time, a twist ending like that was not at all common. The sets definitely give you that surrealistic dreamland sort of feeling, and are at sometimes almost dizzying. Common sense tells you that this was a black and white film, but on the DVD release, almost every scene is tinted by a wide range of colors. Tense scenes were tinted brown, tender scenes in pink or purple, and asylum scenes in various shades of blue. Overall, it's one of the most artistic and beautifully conceived movie I've ever seen. A little confusing, but what a boring world it would be if every movie was plain and bluntly predictable. Being quite the opposite, this movie can be watched and discussed over and over again... and maybe with the right drugs, it could actually make sense. A side note for Rob Zombie fans, Zombie used this film as his inspiration for the video of his hit song "Living Dead Girl". He plays Caligari and his wife Kitty plays a combination character of Jane and Cesare.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Entity

This is one of the more mainstream (translation for mainstream-they had a little bit of money to spend on production and had a rising newcomer, Barbara Hershey) cult films out there. A little more well known due to the DVD release. I have to admit, this movie used to scare the piss out of me. Probably because I knew that it had been partially based on a true event. I've been a believer in ghosts, poltergeists, and other such phenomenon all my life and I knew the basics of this particular case, before seeing the film. Barbara Hershey made us all believe that she really was going through one hell of an incident that proved to us that a living person can be haunted just as easily as old houses can. The first half of the movie is very close to the truth and the second half of the film is completely fiction. We'll of course start with the first half including occasional inserts of what really happened. Carla Moran (real name was not given at the time of the movie release, but we now know that her real name was Doris Bither) has a hectic life. She's a single mother struggling to keep a job, go to night school, deal with three children and a boyfriend who is almost never in town due to his job. One day she is raped. When the rape was over, there was no one there to call the police on. The attacker simply disappeared. people assume that she dreamt it, but Carla knows it really happened. Another attack ensues while Carla is trying to take a bath. Again she is brutally raped, this time the invisible attacker seems to have two smaller, yet very strong helpers. Carla seeks the help of a doctor, clearly displaying bruises and bite marks in places that Carla could not have possibly bitten herself. Like usual, the doctors aren't much help and are determined to convince Carla that the attacks are a result of Carla's checkered past. Frustrated with being told that she's just crazy, she abandons her doctor in favor of parapsychology. When other people start to witness the phenomenon and even capture photographic proof of it, things finally start to look up for Carla. Finally someone believes her and are trained (as best as someone could be, I guess) to help her. OK, end of the first half. All of the above is true, even the photographic proof, most photography experts say are one of the most authentic photos of this type, witnessed and photographed by many people. Unfortunately, the real Carla Moran's story ends here. After the "big showdown" that was photographed by several people, the well ran dry. The photographers helped people believe her, but it didn't stop the attacks. Carla moved her family from state to state, but was never able to escape her ruthless entity. It followed her and the attacks continued. After some ten years, Carla Moran was no longer able to be found. Efforts to locate her continue unsuccessfully. OK, now part two of "the movie part" of the story, which in my opinion is kinda stupid, but what the hell, it's Hollywood ('nuff said). The parapsychology team that investigated and witnessed the entity at Carla's house have decided to try to capture this being, using Carla as bait, since it seems to follow her outside of her home. They build a rough draft of Carla's real home, consisting of a chemical toilet, hot plate, and some furniture to make her feel more at home. They also have added a special little ghost catching device, that shoots liquid nitrogen, which we all know, freezes virtually anything on contact. Their theory is to catch a ghost in a block of ice. Poor Carla not only is bait for the entity, but has only a glass "safe room" to keep the liquid nitrogen from killing her instantly (which by the way doesn't work). The annoying doctor that says he cares so much for Carla interferes endlessly at this point, trying to convince her of the dangers of liquid nitrogen. She simply states that she would rather die that go on living the way she's been living. And with that he's thrown out for good. The entity finally shows up and takes control of the nitrogen machine and destroys just about everything. The huge tanks of liquid nitrogen that are stored above are ruptured and encases the entire place in ice. Carla survives by running for her life, when she can obviously see that all hell is breaking loose. The ice glows green, shakes for a moment and the entity bursts loose. The end. There's a brief epilogue about how the attacks on Carla and her family, though decreased in frequency and violence, continue to this day.

Like I said earlier, the real Carla Moran has been identified as Doris Bither. Author Frank DeFelitta, who originally wrote the book "The Entity" kept in touch with Ms. Bither. The events originated in her house in Culver City, California. To escape the attacks of her entity, she moved to San Bernardino. Again unsuccessful at evading the entity, she moved to Texas. By now convinced that the entity would follow her wherever she goes, she decided to move back to California. The parapsychologists who investigated this case, had lost track of Doris' whereabouts after her move to Texas. But, Frank DeFelitta managed to track her down once she moved back to California. Since the investigation and the release of his book that inspired the movie, they had become friends. It's been reported that Doris Bither died in 2006, due to to liver failure (she drank quite heavily... but wouldn't you too?!).

Trick or Treat

This is a great 80's period piece. I saw this as a teenager and I loved it, mostly because it's a "revenge against your high school tormentors" type of movie. Sort of a "Carrie" for guys. Something I and probably thousands of other people can relate to back in those awkward (and sometimes traumatic and insanity inducing) teenage years. The story centers around Eddie Weinbaur... metal head, mullet sporter, torn denim wearer, dressed in a never ending selection of Metallica t-shirts. Needless to say, he's an obvious target for these overly preppy guys at his school. It always amazed me how preps wearing pink (and a various assortment of other pastels), playing polo, using gobs of hair gel to enhance their fake highlights, and throwing pool parties could possibly have the nerve to call us "fags". Did they not have mirrors or something? Anyway, Eddie is actually a pretty cool guy, loves all the best metal bands... Judas Priest, Megadeth, Anthrax, etc. But his favorite is (the fictional) Sammi Curr. Eddie absolutely loves Sammi Curr and writes him tons of fan letters under the pseudonym "Ragman". Mostly bitching about his lousy high school existence. One day, the unthinkable happens. Sammi Curr dies in a mysterious hotel fire. Eddie is crushed. He seeks empathy from his radio DJ friend (appropriately played by Gene Simmons of the band "Kiss"). His friend presents Eddie with a one of a kind gift. Sammi's new album that was scheduled to be released, but delayed because of his untimely death, was to be played at midnight on Halloween, and the DJ has the only master copy. He presents Eddie with the master album, because he's made a tape recording of the album of which he plans to play at midnight. Thrilled shitless, Eddie takes the album home, presses play and listens to the album over and over till he falls asleep. Eddie wakes up to the sound of the record skipping. The short bits of music between the skips sound like language in reverse. Eddie begins to play the album backwards and hears the voice of Sammi Curr leaving vague messages that seem directed at Ragman (Eddie). Eddie plays the rest of the album backwards and discovers instructions for a revenge plan to get back at his preppy bullies. He executes the plan as directed and it works perfectly. Eddie begins an ongoing conversation with Sammi Curr through the album. Eddie asks in forward mode and Sammi replies in reverse. Soon, Eddie is all powerful... that is until he realizes that he's just a tool for Sammi to be "reborn" as such. Using electricity as his general vehicle, Sammi Curr terrorizes the Halloween dance at Eddie's school, killing more than just the preps. And has plans to reach an even bigger killing ground (I mean audience) by his new album being played at midnight. It's up to Eddie and some hussy he picks up along the way to stop the playing of the album. They succeed in shutting off the power, by smashing a transformer or something. A pretty predictable ending, but still a good film. Don't miss Ozzy Osbourne's cameo as a Christian televangelist, bitching about the sexually suggestive lyrics of heavy metal music. Nice touch.