Monday, June 29, 2009

Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971)

Don’t Deliver Us From Evil

Written & Directed by Joel Seria

Anne. . . . Jeanne Goupil
Lore. . . . Catherine Wagener
Priest. . . . Serge Frederic
Gustave. . . . Rene Berthier

Lore and Anne are just a couple of average Catholic school girls—except for the fact that they have vowed to forsake the Lord and live a life of sin, giving themselves fully to Satan when the time is right. Until then, it’s mostly small potatoes sorts of wicked deeds: getting other girls in trouble at school, stealing from the priest, confessing to sins that they didn’t commit and committing sins that they don’t confess—that sort of thing. But when Anne’s wealthy parents go on vacation for two months, leaving Anne in the care of the servants, it’s high hell time at the old chateau.

In an ass-backwards religious ceremony akin to a black mass, the girls make the final leap into the devil’s arms, and it’s not long before they see how truly deep the river of darkness can run, and how far they really are willing to go to carry out their promise, culminating in a finale that is excellently existential in a way that only the French could pull off.

This film is equally magnetic and appalling, precisely as it is meant to be. Although there are no truly frightening moments (it’s not precisely a horror film, more of a glimpse into the world of two girls who invite horror into their lives), it is chock full of sleaze. A strong sexual current runs throughout the entire story, surpassing any sort of coming-of-age, hormonal awakening and reaching toward outright perversity. There’s a brief teaser of a lesbian scene between two nuns (mirroring the mostly-unspoken relationship between Lore and Anne), and there is no shortage of middle-aged men ogling the young school girls—nor is there any shortage of them giving the men something to ogle. Disturbingly, little Lore is almost raped during the film, not once, but twice by two separate men! The first of these scenes was particularly troublesome in that it offered a full frontal, full-body glimpse of the nymph. These scenes, while still rather exploitative, were obviously meant to shock the viewer, and not to titillate them in a sexual manner. Believe it or not, I fully bought our two stars as fourteen-year-olds, and was relieved (if not disbelieving) when I learned that they were actually 19 and 20 years of age.

A few qualms with the Mondo Macabro DVD release of the film, however. Although English subtitles are available, there is no menu option with which to turn them on. You have to use the ‘subtitle’ button on your remote control. Also, there is one particular scene in which a character quietly reads a letter which seems to be fairly important, as the camera lingers on it long enough for the viewer to read. However, it is written in French, and the subtitles don’t translate it for us English-speaking viewers.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Don’t Deliver Us From Evil is inspired by the same true-crime story as Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures; This film was banned in France because of its anti-Catholic tone, and was never theatrically released in America.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal

102 minutes
French (with English subtitles)

Don't Deliver Us From Evil is currently ranked #44,632 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Evil Dead Trap 2 (1991)

Evil Dead Trap 2

Directed by Izô Hashimoto

Shoko Nakajima .... Aki Ootani
Rie Kondoh .... Ami Kageyama
Shirô Sano .... Kurashi

This in-name-only sequel takes a few similar elements from the original (news reporter; serial killer) and throws a blatant Right-To-Life spin on the genre.

A series of brutal murders against women has former teen idol Ami Kageyama struggling to make a name for herself in the world of television news reporting. The murder scenes provoke some sort of perversion buried deep inside her and she finds herself aroused and running to the arms of Kurashi—a married ladies man who would rather be nailing Ami's film projectionist friend Aki. Even when Ami suspects she is pregnant, her dedication sends her back into the field to follow the next lead. All the murders have taken place near an old shopping mall which is undergoing renovation and speculation states that the building may have something to do with the crimes.

Aki—who seems to have an unnatural fondness of death related images—has problems of her own. Besides fending of the advances of chubby-chaser Kurashi, she's plagued by visions of a ghostly child who seems to pop up literally everywhere. Taking the interesting (to say the least) advice of her manager, Aki visits an evangelistic cult that worships and preaches the power of “Shinki” and spouts a lot of bunk about karma, foxes and automatic writing. While under some sort of trance brought on by a lot of shouting and fan dancing, Aki utters the word “Hideki,” a name shared both by Kurashi's son who recently returned from an unexplained hiatus and the unborn child in Ami's womb.

According to the cult leader, Aki is surrounded by a dark force that was spawned by an abortion she had years ago. Kurashi and Ami? Well, they have problems of their own. And when their problematic little worlds collide, all Hell breaks loose and we're treated to the mother of all cat-fights.

But there's a lot here that troubles me. The film seems to rely heavily on so-called “Dream Logic,” which would have been fine if it had tied in to some sort of reality. It still could have succeeded if the visuals had been above average, but they too seemed lackluster and uninspired to me. The characters were crass and unlikable, each and every one, so I didn't care one way or the other about their fate. To top things off, I couldn't even follow this film. The plot seemed convoluted and weighted down, leading you into too many directions at once, many of which never even panned out.

Which makes me question the many positive reviews I've read about this film. To each his own, however. I may not have completely understood it, I may not have really liked it, but I'll give it this much: it was 102 minutes long.

Bonus features on this Unearthed Films DVD release are limited to a photo gallery and original theatrical trailer (in Japanese with no subtitles.)

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: Rocky Horror lipstick; It's never too early for coke; Mild Seven cigarettes; Puking in the rain; These eggs are undercooked; Lesbian kiss and kicking ass;

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: The name of the film being shown in the theater where Aki works is Adada; Evil Dead Trap's Japanese title, Shiryo no wana, translates to "Creation Of A Ghost";

View the trailer below!

102 minutes
Japanese (with English subtitles)

Evil Dead Trap 2 is currently ranked #109,057 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Man-Thing (2005)


Written by Hans Rodionoff
Directed by Brett Leonard

Sheriff Kyle Williams....Matthew Le Nevez
Deputy Eric Fraser....Alex O'Loughlin
Rene LaRoque....Steve Bastoni
Teri Elizabeth Richards....Rachael Taylor
Frederic Schist....Jack Thompson

I’ve read comic books since I was a child, and I’ve enjoyed each and every one of the modern Marvel movies—even the much hated-upon ones like Daredevil and The Punisher. So when I stumbled upon this little-seen, straight-to-DVD Marvel title in the bargain bin at the local video store, I thought, this has got to be a slam dunk, right?


The film starts off like a run-of-the-mill slasher flick: a group of horny teens partying in the middle of nowhere. Two of them decided to frolic off into the wilderness (which just happens to be a swamp this time, instead of the usual forest), where she takes off her top and they have what is probably unprotected sex. And then, shock of shocks, the boy is killed.

Enter the new sheriff of this backwoods little bayou burg known as Bywater. Why? Because it’s “By the water,” get it? Bringing his big city attitude and experience to this small town, the last thing he expects is to be walking into a local feud between environmentalists and a polluting oil baron, much less an enormous missing-persons and murder mystery. But could the two somehow be related? All of the police reports list them as the victims of alligator attacks, while the unofficial belief is that a half-Native American hermit may be to blame. The question remains, however, how would an alligator or a crazed hermit kill a man by causing a tree branch to grow inside of him? (An even more pertinent question would be, who thought this would be a good idea?) Perhaps it has something to do with the old Seminole legend about the Spirit of the Swamp, angered when its home turf is invaded.

This would-be environmental warning-film doesn’t come off like a comic book movie at all, instead feeling like exactly what it is: a low-budget piece of B-grade horror garbage with cheap special effects, slow plotting, poor characterization, and a ridiculous looking monster. It’s a real shame that the filmmakers had so much source material, and this is the best they could come up with. I would have given up on it halfway through, but my dedication to you, my Midnite Minions, wouldn’t allow it.

Damn you all.

For comic-book completists only.

View the trailer below!

Rated R
105 minutes
United States

Man-Thing is currently ranked #40,993 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!


Monday, June 22, 2009

This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (1971)

This Stuff'll Kill Ya!

Written & Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis

Jeffrey Allen .... Rev. Roscoe Boone
Larry Drake .... Bubba
Terence McCarthy .... Carter
Tim Holt .... Clark
Ray Sager .... Grady
Gloria King .... Elsie
Pamela Polsgrove .... Mary Ellen

Mr. Boone, the corn-fed old preacher of the most carnal backwoods church in history is leading a semi-secret double life as an illegal bootlegger of White Lightning moonshine swill. He and his Manson family-like gang have to keep their operations secret from the Feds, townfolk and the church council but when people start turning up dead—one girl is stoned to death, two more are crucified, and one of his drivers are killed in an explosion—all eyes are on them and they're getting too much unwanted attention.

In this, one of Herschell Gordon Lewis' less-than-famous hillbilly films, the acting is as bad as in his more well known gore flicks, and although it's missing the jazzy instrumentals we've grown accustom to, some of the country tunes are great. The print is damaged in many places but still watchable. The problem is that the scenes are so drawn out and slow going that without the trademarked Lewis gore to keep you interested, you probably won't want to watch.

It's easy to speculate that this film is anti-organized religion or anti-alcohol or anti-government interference or even anti-corporate, but keep in mind that this is just another H.G. Lewis cheapie and is probably meant to be nothing more than mindless (anti-) entertainment.

This Stuff'll Kill Ya comes double billed with Year of the Yahoo on this Something Weird DVD release. Extra features include audio commentary by Lewis regular David Krogh, “The Old Grey Goose Is Dead” musical short (country music, natch), “Naked Moonshine” short feature (in which 3 roommates get half naked and make punch out of cheap booze), Gallery of Herschell Gordon Lewis Exploitation Art with drive-in radio commercials playing in the background, and theatrical trailers for 8 Lewis films.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: A 40-oz for the Lord; Go-Go square dance; A waste of good booze; Construction is hard work; Countless guitar interstitials

View the trailer below!

98 minutes
United States

This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (double-billed with Year of the Yahoo) is currently ranked #98,739 in DVD's at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!

"If you can put oil on the water, I ain't gonna set that oil on fire."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Minotaur

As it is Father's Day, I'm going to step out of the box that this blog normally resides in, and present one of my most personal works. It has been 'published' elsewhere before, but I feel that it needs to be shared once again.

The Minotaur
(please excuse the lengthiness. life is fleeting, the soul is not.)

On June 20, 1955, the day my father was born, there was a total eclipse of the sun, the single longest eclipse in more than 1200 years. The world was dark for a total of seven minutes and eight seconds that day. But just shy of 46 years later, when my father died, the world went dark once again.

I’m still waiting for the sun to shine.

When I think of my father, the first word that comes to mind is noose. It’s unfortunate that his death overpowers his life so, but trauma latches on to your brain center and leeches all the joy out of you.

He was a good man, a good human being and a good father. Of all the things I inherited from him, these were not on the list. Beyond our physical similarities—both good and bad—we also shared the Curse. And now that he is gone, the Curse is mine alone to bear.

So what is this Curse I speak so freely of? The barebones, strictly speaking, could be summed up as such: manic depressive with suicidal tendencies, homicidal fantasies and chemical dependencies. But there’s more to it than that. There’s oh-so-much more meat on that skeleton.

The Curse runs through our bloodstream, passed on from father to son, and manifests itself as an unseen entity residing within the unconscious. I can’t say for sure how far back it goes, but more than likely it transverses four generations of men.

Not much is known about my great-grandfather, only that he was a drunken and rambunctious buffoon who constantly fought with his wife and eventually cut ties with his family. My grandfather was also a drunkard who cheated on and possibly abused his wife. He killed himself and his best friend in a drunken automobile accident on the way to his mistress’s house only four months before his son was born. My father (named after both men killed in the accident) was in turn born with the Curse and passed it on to me, his only son.

He called his the Village and I call mine the Minotaur.

My father thought that the Village was a blessing at first. Something that separated him from the herd and kept him entertained. Then the Village in his head began speaking to him and it was all downhill from there. In the end, he self-destructed.

As he wrote in his journals, “When I’m alone, I frequently talk to myself and answer myself, often in different voices. I’m afraid someone is going to realize I’m insane…I call it my Little Village, where the opinions that I express are actually the opinions of an individual who lives in my Village.”

There is no mistaking my Curse as a blessing. I was never allowed that luxury. It did not play nice before turning rabid. It has almost always been there, inside me, eating me away.

One may wonder why we bothered giving such a damnable thing as the Curse a name, which could only serve to give it life and form, solidifying its existence. The running theory is that by separating the Curse from ourselves, it turns the enemy from an intangible into a tangible form. It gives it substance, and what has substance can be defeated.

The old tale of Rumplestiltskin comes into play here. That mischievous imp came into the life of a young woman and tormented her to no end. The only way to put a stop to his antics was to guess his name, which she did. He promptly vanished, and his reign of terror was over.

It’s what anthropologist and psychiatrist Fuller Torrey calls “The Rumplestiltskin Effect.” Put a name to the ailment, and the ailment loses its power.

Selfishly, I suppose that by naming the Curse, it may also free us from any form of residual guilt.

It’s not my fault I feel this way. It is the Minotaur.

The name came to me almost as if a dream, while I was chronicling my pain in poetry. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how accurate that title was.

The myth goes something like this: Minos was the son of Zeus and Europa. He grew to be the king of Crete, and married a woman by name of Pasiphae. Minos somehow angered the god Poseidon, who took his fury out on Minos’ wife, causing her to grow lustful for a bull. The bull and Pasiphae bedded down together and she gave birth to the half-man half-bull beast known as the Minotaur.

Knowing no mere cage could hold the beast and not having the heart to kill it, Minos commissioned the great artist Daedalus to construct a labyrinth so vast that nothing could ever find its way out, and that’s where the Minotaur was imprisoned.

Now, Minos and Pasiphae had a son of their own, Androgeus, but he had been killed by Athenians. To avenge his son’s death, Minos appealed to his father Zeus, who then unleashed a plague upon Athens. In order to appease Zeus and cease the plague, Aegeus, the king of Athens, would offer ten of his people in sacrifice to the Minotaur per year, five boys and five girls. And the plague did cease.

But when Theseus, son of Aegeus, was of age, he made plans to kill the beast, tired of seeing his people slaughtered. When the next time of sacrifice came around, Theseus volunteered and traveled to the labyrinth with nine innocents in tow.

He left behind him a trail of yarn as he walked, until finally meeting the beast in the center of the maze. Then, using a smuggled sword given to him by his love Ariadne, Theseus defeated the Minotaur. He followed the trail of yarn back to the outside world and sailed home a hero.

But somewhere along the way, there was a dreadful miscommunication. Aegeus, believing that his son failed in the mission and had been sacrificed, took his own life in grief.

Symbolically, the Minotaur has always stood for the duality of mans nature and the dangerous, animalistic aspects of his psyche hidden deep within the unconscious. The Minotaur is my curse. This, of course, makes me Theseus, embarking on a dangerous mission to topple the beast. My wife Melanie is my Ariadne, and her love is my sword, the weapon with which I hope to defeat the Minotaur. Leaving my father as Aegeus, who did indeed take his own life, but did not wait until my victory. In order to defeat the Minotaur, I must lose myself in the labyrinth of my mind, and the only way to get back out is to follow the trail I have left behind me—my words.

I like to think that the Minotaur has always been there, lurking in the shadows of my skull and plucking the heartstrings. He did not come into full bloom, however, until the age of six. My mother, sister and I were en route to our new home in Phoenix, Arizona, but had made plans to spend a month or so with an aunt who resided in a small North Carolina town. The memories, for the most part, are hazy. I remember barbeques in the back yard, chasing June bugs and fireflies. I remember ghost stories of a headless ranch hand searching for his visage a few farms over. I remember that same farm catching fire and sending great clouds of black smoke into our yard, and knowing without doubt that the headless ranch hand was the cause.

But most of all, I remember the ditch. A deep drainage ditch ran behind the house and for miles in both directions. My sister and I, along with the neighborhood kids, would often pretend that we were falling into a vast canyon and that it was up to the rest of the children to save us. The girl next door, whose name escapes me but even as a child walked with a dripping sensuality, called this game “Rescue.”

I remember her dark brown hair and eyes, but not much else. I was enamored with her, entranced, and I would follow her all around the area like a lost dog. So when she suggested a new game to me, which she called “Married,” I wasn’t about to turn it down.

“How do you play Married?” I asked, and instead of telling me, she showed me, climbed into the ditch with another boy from the block and stripped naked. My job, she said, was to keep everyone away while they played. When I wasn’t scaring off the other children, I would gawk down at the muddy couple inside the ditch, cavorting naked in the pseudo-sexual act. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I did know this: I wanted to play.

Finally it was my turn and the other boy took over the role of guardsman. I stripped nude and began to mimic what I had seen the other boy doing. Whereas he had just been going through the motions, so to speak, I became physically aroused and after some coaching and coaxing by the little neighbor girl, our pseudo-sexual act turned into the real deal.

Sex, of course, at such an early age can be extremely damaging to ones psyche. It wasn’t until much later in life that this memory would resurface, or that I would realize the likelihood that she herself had previously been sexually molested. Although the memory would fade, the damage was already done. The Minotaur had been awakened.

Needless to say, I became much more interested in members of the opposite sex than my peers. And seeing as how the first girl I ever liked was also the first girl that I played Married with, I believed that it would be that easy from here on out. Find a girl, let her know that you like her, take off your clothes. But I was a frail kid, pale, with bad teeth, bad hair and thick glasses. Not only did this make me a repellent for females but it also made me the target of bullies.

No girls. No friends. It was me and me alone, which continued for years. I was terrified to leave the house because every time I did, I seemed to be attacked, beaten and humiliated. Sometimes by a single person, sometimes by a large group of them.

Because I was such a frightened child and overrun with hate for my peers but primarily for myself, while at school I would try to blend into the background and disappear into the woodwork, a strategy that rarely worked. But when I got to the safety of my own home, I would act up and act out, throwing tantrums and breaking things with no provocation. My mother’s response was to make me go outside and “fetch a switch from the tree.” She rarely actually used it on me; the idea was that the fear of having to fetch the instrument of my punishment would be enough to set me straight.

It wasn’t.

Exasperated and unsure what to do next, she threatened to send me to a child psychiatrist. Out of sheer defiance, I collected all of the phone books in the house and crossed out all the listings for psychiatrists with a black permanent marker. Upon learning what I had done, my mother assured me that she had already copied down a number and if I didn’t straighten up, all she had to do was make the call.

I didn’t straighten up. She didn’t make the call. To this day, I wonder how much better my life would be if she had only gone through with the threat.

I don’t blame her. There’s no way she could have known. The Minotaur was my little secret.

By the time my mother—and newly arrived step-father—decided to say goodbye to the gang-ridden streets of Phoenix and hello to the cobblestones of Trinidad, Colorado, I was already so full of fear and hate and self-loathing that there seemed to be little hope of salvation.

Trinidad is one of those God forsaken small towns that seem to revolve around gossip, alcohol and high school athletics. I began my life in town as a 7th grader, still seething with disparity and hatred. As the new kid, I had no choice but to be bullied and sought refuge with my kindred, primarily Jimmy, another 7th grader who would become a lifelong friend. By the time we had made it to high school and I had made friends out of my tormentors, I had entered into a phase of delinquency and drug use in which I would swallow any pill on the table and turn coat on practically anyone if there was anything in it for me, especially a female.

I believe it was early in my sophomore year when I attempted to kill myself. I had an old Aspirin bottle tucked beneath my mattress, stocked with pills of all kinds—prescriptions and otherwise—that I had pilfered from medicine cabinets all across town. On one particular starry night, I climbed out on my roof and looked out at the sky, thinking long and hard about my life, thinking long and hard about my death. I decided that death would be more fitting.

I took the entire bottle of pills in a few mighty gulps and then lay down in bed, waiting to be consumed by the end.

Turns out, the end didn’t want me. I awoke the next morning, jittery and disoriented, and spent the next two days vomiting incessantly. Rather than becoming determined to try again and this time succeed, I concluded that although death would mean an end to the pain, somebody like me did not deserve to escape it. I was born to hurt.

Following graduation and some bad actions on my behalf, the consequences of my past came knocking on my door, demanding blood and retribution. Like a fugitive, I made hasty plans to move to Greeley some 5 ½ hours away where Jimmy was now attending classes at the University of Northern Colorado. With no job, no money and no permanent place to stay, I decided that some serious changes needed to be made in my life. I had to turn myself around, stay straight and sober, and try to be a good person. It was my only chance of redemption.

A few minor slip-ups and a few years later, I’m making amends of my sins while the Minotaur still runs rampant upstairs.

My father had been involved in his own constant battle with depression but had refused therapy and medication on personal grounds. He had contemplated death on numerous occasions in the past, but in 1999 he was diagnosed with Barret’s Esophagus. For three months, he was forced to come to terms with the fact that he may have cancer and could be dying. When the results finally came in, that it was not cancerous, he was not relieved but angry. He wanted to die and cancer would have taken the responsibility out of his hands. He was, as he put it, “all dressed up with nowhere to go.”

But when the Curse took over to the extent that he was unable to get out of bed, much less go to work, he had to look into treatment in order to collect disability to support his family. For more than a year and a half he spoke to therapists, doped himself up on their multitude of pills, and even went so far as to receive electroshock therapy.

The electroshock was an unpleasant experience that my father called barbaric. Besides the pain involved, there was also the severe memory loss and the disorientation to contend with. Although doctor’s claim that it helps in 83% of all cases, studies of patients who have actually received the treatment show that the success rate is much, much lower. Physicians are notorious for not offering full details of the procedure and often neglect to mention the side effects or the fact that it is science strictly by chance.

Nobody understands how or why electroshock therapy “works,” but despite this it is endorsed by the American Medical Association, the National Mental Health Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.

Regardless, it did not improve my father’s situation. In fact, it did the seemingly unprecedented and actually made his depression worse, which the doctor declared was impossible.

The last time I had spoken to my father on the phone, his spirits seemed lifted, he was much more lucid and I even heard him laugh, which was a sound I hadn’t heard in ages. After I hung up, I was thrilled, ran around town telling my confidantes that he was getting better, that things were looking up, that everything just might be okay after all.

A week later, he was dead. I understood then that he wasn’t just calling to talk and check in. He was calling to say goodbye, and I had no idea.

So why, if he was feeling better, did he finally go through with killing himself? Studies show that suicides rarely occur when the victim is at the worst of their depression—they are then too broken and lethargic to take action—but rather when their mood begins to elevate and they finally find the motivation and energy needed to tie the knot.

Consider it one of nature’s cruel jokes, that death and despair can rise out of your hope.

I was only one shot and one scene into a night of drinking and horror movies with Jimmy when the call came in. It was my mother in tears, delivering the bad news that she had received from my sister who had in turn received it from our step-family. The details were sketchy, only that my father was dead, that he had killed himself and life would never be the same again.

Our conversation was short and painful and I was angry at myself that the tears did not come immediately. The anger turned to fury and I demanded to Jimmy, “Let’s walk.”

He followed me faithfully outside and I stormed down the alley, taking swings at street signs, brick walls and anything within arm’s length. In the back of my mind, I hoped that some drunken college kid or rambunctious thug would see me and start trouble so that I would have an excuse to release my rage on human flesh. Whether I won or not, it would have been a fight to the death, murder and suicide in the very same day.

We had made our way to Jimmy’s apartment, my knuckles busted and bleeding, and that’s when the tears finally came. I was suddenly overwrought and blubbering, shouting at the heavens, “How am I supposed to have kids after this?”

The Curse had ruined my life, had ruined and then taken my father’s life. How could I possibly become a father and risk having a son who would suffer the same fate? How could I risk passing the curse onto another young soul who would also be at risk of losing his own father?

Surely I’m not the first man to believe that he is cursed, and surely I won’t be the last. But I will be the last of my blood. To pass this genetic malfunction onto an innocent child, now that it has been fully realized, would be a cruel trick indeed. I have enough on my conscience without adding to the burden. And despite my now-reformed ways and self-imposed mission to earn my proverbial wings, it comes down to the fact that there is no salvation for an old salt like me. I sailed the seas of sin for far too long for that, and left too many victims burning in the wake of my vessel. I don’t need the added guilt of unwanted company in this, my tiny little circle of hell.

With my mother still living in Trinidad, my sister with her family in Alaska, and my then-girlfriend (now wife) Melanie out of town for a family reunion, Jimmy was my primary source of support. He allowed me to punch things when I needed to, fetched me cigarettes and caffeine, and drove me around at all hours of the night simply because I couldn’t bear having to sit still, all the while listening to me bawl my eyes out and preach my hatred against the world. Once the waterworks were opened, there was no turning them off.

Roughly a week later, my sister and her ever-expanding family drove in from Alaska and picked me up, and then we all headed on to Alvin, Texas, once a happy place where a son would be reunited with his father, but now a haunted little town where ghosts of memories reared their teeth at every turn. We pulled into the driveway at dusk, greeted by my stepmother and stepbrother, both of who appeared to be much stronger than me.

The house and all the rooms seemed strangely out of focus, all the furniture slightly shifted only a quarter of an inch from where they should have been. There were too many empty spaces and everything hurt to look at.

We chatted idly through the evening about everything except for my father, even had a laugh or two. But the Minotaur, morbid beast that he is, insisted on seeing where it had happened.

We paused so that I could make a telephone call and I spoke to Melanie, telling her about the solemn vow I had made not to procreate. I had not told her before because I was expecting her to be crushed and possibly end our relationship, as she is a teacher and always wanted children of her own. Instead, she told me that it didn’t matter, that she was with me for me, regardless of whether or not we had kids. I was struck with the knowledge that she loved me unconditionally and the Minotaur whispered that it was a love that I do not deserve. Although I am unable to give her any of the things she wants and deserves, she still stands by me, as painful and difficult as it must be to do so.

Once the rest of the world had gone to sleep, I crept into the back room, my father’s study. The door creaked when I opened it and I leaped backwards in fright when I flipped the light switch. I don’t know what I was expecting to see or what I thought I saw, but my heart stopped all the same.

On the surface, the room resembled much of what I had remembered from my last visit: my father’s paintings tacked to the wall, hundreds of classic rock records stacked neatly in wooden milk crates, science fiction paperbacks scattered everywhere. But below that, a menacing specter coated everything in dark shadows. Amongst the paintings which I had seen before and always admired were a small gallery of disturbing new ones: a self-portrait of my father reclining in his favorite chair, wrists and throat slit and gushing rivers of blood which came to rest in a pool by his feet; a landscape of the depths of hell depicting myriad tortured souls being raped and mutilated by demons; and worst of all, a simple black canvas with the words “I want to die!” written over and over again in dull red lettering.

My veins ran cold and against my better judgment, I picked this canvas up and turned it over to read the label. Under the heading of Medium, my father had scrawled: Acrylic and Blood.

Trembling, I returned the painting.

I opened the door to the walk-in closet, cluttered with art supplies and nudie-girl magazines that my father used “to study the female form.” Although I had never been told so, I knew instinctively that this was where he had done it. I was suddenly floored with a painful vision, whether brought on by sheer imagination or something else, I don’t know. But I have never doubted its authenticity.

My father dead in the closet, wearing his blue pajama bottoms and surgical scrubs top from his days as a medic in the army, hands and feet bound together by duct tape, an extension cord noosed around his neck and tied to the clothing rod. His glasses were on but severely cockeyed and his face was blue. His bare feet dangled only a few inches from the floor, and just out of reach is a footstool, kicked away after long moments of mental preparation. Nearby, scribbled into the pages of his sketchbook, was his suicide note. It didn’t offer much in the way of explanation, only said, “I’m sorry,” and gave directions on how to disperse of both his body and his belongings.

As it turned out, I would be leaving with a bit of both.

My father had chosen to be cremated, not out of religious reason but because he never understood the point of burial. To him, once the goodbyes were said, there was no need to clutter the earth with another corpse and suck up the family’s remaining bank account with all those expensive proceedings. For him, it had to be ashes to ashes.

So his body was placed into a cheap wooden box which was in turn slid into the oven for two or three hours at approximately 2000 degrees. When all was said and done, a two hundred pound man had been transformed into five pounds of dust.

When my stepmother pulled out the container that now held my father, I almost lost it completely. It was not a fancy urn like you always see on television, but rather a plastic carton that uncomfortably resembled a Chinese take-out box, with the fold-over flaps and dual metal handles. He had requested that his ashes be scattered in the woods of Brazos Bend State Park, where he had spent so much of his time.

I excused myself and stepped into the backyard to smoke a cigarette and calm my nerves, which were crawling atop one another like beetles. The bird feeders, which my father used to always keep fully stocked, were empty. There were no birds singing or fluttering about. The world was frozen in time. I looked across the yard at the screen shelter my father used to frequent, sort of camping in his own backyard, sometimes for a night, sometimes for a full weekend, sometimes just to steal a moment or two of privacy.

Where it had once been an efficient tent—with running water via a garden hose and electricity via an extension cord—it was now run-down, dilapidated, with gaping rips in the walls and large dents and dings in the support poles. It sagged terribly and I had a definite sense that things had gone terribly wrong somewhere along the way and nobody had bothered to tell me until it was too late.

We drove out to the woods of Brazos Bend 28 miles southwest of Houston. We scattered the majority of his ashes far off of the beaten path, where he would have wanted to be, away from human and society’s reach.

Although he would take each of us kids camping at least once a year at Brazos, when he would go by himself, he refused to “rough it.” He was not camping so much as retiring to his Fortress of Solitude, merely getting away from the rest of the world. The Village in his head was made up of more than enough people to keep him company; he didn’t need or want any more. Just like me, cohabitation raised his stress level tenfold, always feeling like he was on stage and performing for an audience.

He would rent a screened-in shelter, block out any other campers with curtains, recline in his easy chair—which, embarrassed, he always brought—and just be. He would paint if the urge struck him, he would sketch if he felt like it, he would write in his journal even if he had nothing to say, all the while relishing the sanctity of nature song that is usually blocked out by civilization.

To maximize the time, he relied on coffee and cigarettes to get through a lot of late nights and a lot of early mornings. If he slept through the morning orchestra of crickets, cicadas and birds, danced to by legions of deer and straggling raccoons against the colorful backdrop of the rising sun, he felt like he had missed something special, one of the last beautiful remnants of a world already ended. It was during these times that he felt most at peace, the closest to actually having something to believe in, even if he was unsure what that something was.

Reading through his journals, it’s easy to see the evolution of my father’s mind. Where he was once a freewheeling hippie, writing poetry and attending protests, soaring through the chemical alphabet with long hair and free love, he grew up and became a scientist. His smile faded as his youthful ideals gave way to physics and binary code and the Big Bang. Whatever he had once believed in and hoped for was replaced by facts, cold and hard data that leaves you little room for free thought.

It wasn’t until my stepmother gave him a heaping box of art supplies for Christmas one year that he began to reclaim his throne as the crown prince of individuality. He had once again found an outlet for his creativity, which had never truly died but been overwritten. His days may have been spent at the space center in Houston, but his nights were spent creating new worlds that even the most powerful telescope could not see. He was pillaging the Village quietly, seeking out answers to questions he was afraid to ask and putting the results into a tangible form.

Unfortunately, not even this could save him.

He attributed his depression to the guilt feelings that he had been living with since he divorced my mother and left us children in 1981. Although we had forgiven him, and he never was absent from our lives, he couldn’t let go of that guilt. If this had truly ever been a sin on his behalf, surely time had granted absolution but he refused to accept it. And so, in his journals, he made note that with his death, he would never hurt us again. Instead, it’s just one big hurt that goes on forever.

It’s fitting that hanging was his method of choice, because of its connotations of capital punishment. It had been used as a method of execution by the Persian Empire even earlier than 400 A.D. and was used to punish common criminals in feudal England, whereas beheading was reserved for people of more noble blood. Ironically, until 1808 in some parts of the world, attempted suicide was punishable by death, and those guilty were killed by hanging. Had that law persevered and my father survived his attempt, the court would have hung him anyway.

My father did not just commit suicide; he executed himself as punishment for his imaginary crimes against my sister and I. Perhaps he is now free of his guilt, but the buck has been passed on to me.

The most common responses to learning my imminent feelings of guilt are that: there was nothing I could do; it wasn’t my fault; it was a selfish act. While the first two statements may be conceived as comforting on some level, even if I cannot believe them, the third statement is prone to set me off. These people, who have never met my father, are calling him selfish, insulting him, insulting the dead. Where do they get off? It would be equally acceptable to tell a friend who is mourning the heart attack death of his grandmother that she was ugly and old.

But they tell me that it’s okay to be angry at my father for committing suicide, to shout, scream, curse and yell at him, that such a catharsis would be therapeutic and could only serve to help. But I will not allow myself to do so, no matter how progressive the end result could be. I’ve always believed that in death, all is forgiven if not forgotten. A clean slate should be granted to all who pass over. Lord knows I have performed my fair share of transgressions and I pray that those will not be held against me even in death.

My inheritance consisted of a few grab-and-bag CDs and paintings, and his collection of journals that he had kept for the most part faithfully since he had joined the army at the age of 18, and then left exclusively to me. Twenty-eight years of his life recorded in roughly twenty volumes of various lengths and sizes, many of them with painted covers so that his life and his art remain inseparable in my eyes.

As we were packing to return home, it looked as if we would not have enough room in the trunk to take the journals with us. “Then we’ll leave my suitcase,” I said. “But the journals are coming home.”

After careful rearranging and streamlining, both journals and suitcase fit into place and we began the long drive home.

A small portion of my father’s ashes were also given to my sister and I, wrapped up in a plastic bag and sealed in small ceramic boxes that my father himself had made. My sister scattered her portion somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness, I’m assuming, and I took my portion to Vedauwoo Park in Wyoming, which I had always envisioned showing him someday.

With its magical rock formations jutting up every which direction in the middle of a hundred miles of nothingness, the appeal of such a place could be seen as simply aesthetic. But the first time I entered the park gates, I achieved a level of serenity that I can only imagine equaled that of my father’s at Brazos Bend. I was at peace, feeling as if I had found the last holy place in America. And with this in mind, Melanie, Jimmy and I hiked to an impossibly difficult to reach cave, and set my father free.

Having the journals in my possession was both a blessing and a curse. Whereas it was a chance to learn more about my father, reading them became my only obsession. All I wanted was to understand, to find the missing piece to the puzzle that would answer all my questions and pull the whole picture into focus. I read them, I re-read them, I read between the lines. I poured over his old poetry, stared deeply at his paintings, looking for some hidden meaning, some clue, something, anything.

But there was no missing piece. There was no hidden answer; there was no greater truth to the matter. He hung himself in the closet, case closed.

As the entries went on, they became more and more disturbing, detailing my father’s deepening descent into the abyss of depression. The images he laid out and the ones I made up stuck with me and lost themselves in the labyrinth. While I slept, these transient images were hunted down and devoured by the Minotaur, but rather than being destroyed in the process, they became a part of him, exploding into graphic nightmares that prevented me from being at peace in what had once been my only state of refuge.

The first, and one of the most frightening, came almost immediately upon my return home. My friends and I were lined up outside of a circus tent, waiting to see the sideshow. An old fashioned and grotesque carnival barker captured my attention, shouting offers to show me my future in perfect detail. I excused myself from the line I was in and approached the barker, paying him the two-dollar fee. He led me to another smaller tent around back and pushed me through the entrance.

A gypsy woman sat at a scarred wooden table and motioned for me to sit across from her. As I did this, she shuffled a deck of Tarot cards and pulled one from the center of the deck, placing it face up on the table. There were no arcane symbols or etchings on the face of the card as one is accustomed to seeing in the Tarot, but rather a photograph of me. Wordlessly, the gypsy scooped up the card and placed back on the top of the deck, turning them so that I could see the pictures.

Her bony fingers flipped quickly through the deck so that a movie seemed to be playing before my eyes, in which I watched myself grow older, turning into the spitting image of my father. At first it pleased me that my father’s image could live on with me, but the final card shattered my heart. It was my father—me!—with a noose around his neck, hanging in the closet.

That sealed my belief in the Curse, that I was fated to end the same way as my father. I refused to do it willingly, to go down without a fight, but it takes a hell of a force to defeat an entity such as fate.

My father himself stated that if he could only have found something to believe in, then he would have had something to live for. This became my quest, the only conceivable way to win the war. But every school of thought and every system of faith had its flaws, which prevented me from full devotion. I tried at various times in my life to live on faith alone, but failed.

So I developed my own philosophy in which I’m bound to no single belief but incorporate tidbits of wisdom from all areas under one umbrella that I call Amalgamism. It’s not enough to simply pick up these tidbits as I go, I must actively seek them out, from such varied sources as ancient literature, religious texts, and graffiti on the men’s room wall.

A few years went by before my next visit to Texas. The town looked familiar and yet oddly different, as if it had been torn down and then rebuilt by memory. My stepbrother was doing fine, excelling in his computer classes but still keeping his bizarre sleep schedule. My stepmother had gone back to work and somehow looked younger than ever. The screen shelter in the backyard was gone and the rest of the house had been repaired and revamped. My father’s study had been gutted and turned into storage. The whole world had moved on while I was still stuck in the past.

Time trudged onward and lack of employment in Greeley led me to find yet another home, this time in Denver. It was less than a week later that my father’s mother died, making the month of June even more unbearable than ever. My father’s birthday, death-day, father’s day, and now the death of my grandmother all lined up in a neat little row. June has come to be known as Hell Month in my world, the center of the storm. Each year, the nightmares return and the Minotaur grows larger and more powerful, waiting for the day that he can escape the labyrinth and take control. And on that day, I will be the one lost.

William S. Burroughs was one of the most influential and prolific authors of the Beat Generation. While living in Mexico in 1951, he accidentally shot and killed his common law wife Joan during a foolish game of William Tell. Once the bullet entered her forehead and she fell to the floor, Burroughs felt a Curse of his own take hold, a creature that he called the Ugly Spirit.

He claimed that only through writing could the Ugly Spirit be exorcised.

I can only hope that he was right.


Friday, June 19, 2009

[Cryptopopology] Batgirl: Unaired Test Pilot

Batgirl: Unaired Test Pilot

Barbara Gordon/Batgirl...Yvonne Craig
Bruce Wayne/Batman...Adam West
Dick Grayson/Robin...Burt Ward
Killer Moth...Tim Herbert
Narrator...William Dozier
In this short test episode for a proposed campy spin-off of the equally-campy 1960s Batman television series, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson visit the Gotham City Public Library, and are the only ones who seem to notice the four men sitting at a table dressed as giant moths. The ambiguosly gay duo leave, only to return as Batman and Robin! They're quickly thrwarted by The Killer Moth and his minions who wrap them in a giant cocoon. Luckily Commisioner Gordon's daughter Barbara, who works as a librarian there, secretly doubles as...Batgirl! She releases them from their silky prison, and WHAM-O, the three harrowing heroes make short work of those vile villains.

According to Adam West, had the show been picked up, it would have been broadcast right before Batman, and would sometimes feature crossover storylines, which would have amounted to one full rock'em, sock'em hour of bodacious Bat goodness. (Un)lucky for us, rather than giving the character her own show, she was instead made a character on Batman.

What can I say? It's stupid, it's laughable, it's's everything you love (or hate) about the original series. It features the same characters, the same "SOCK-O" sound effects, the same music, the same narrator with the same love of lurid alliteration...pretty much the same everything, only in a smaller pill that is easier to swallow. It's probably best that this didn't become its own series. The test pilot, while fun in a retro-ridiculous sort of way, proves that the series would have nothing new to add to the franchise.

Look for it on YouTube.

7 minutes 25 seconds
United States

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indestructible Man (1956)

Indestructible Man
Written by Vy Russell & Sue Dwiggins
Directed by Jack Pollexfen

Charles “The Butcher” Benton....Lon Chaney Jr.
Lieutenant Dick Chasen....Max Showalter (as Casey Adams)
Eva Martin....Marion Carr
Paul Lowe....Ross Elliott

San Quentin death row inmate Charles “The Butcher” Benton vows revenge against the three “crumbs” that wronged him: former cohorts turned state’s evidence Squeamy Ellis and Joe Marcelli, and his lawyer Paul Lowe, who not only failed to keep him from prison but is also trying to get Butcher’s $600,000 stash from a hijacked armored truck.

When the time comes, Butcher is lead to the gas chamber and executed, but he doesn’t stay dead for long. Fueled by rage and aided by the mad science of Dr. Bradshaw, he is resurrected as…THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN (or T.I.M., as I like to call him.) T.I.M. hightails it to Los Angeles to fix those crumbs, but good.

Who do we root for in a situation like this, the monster of the dirty double-crossers? Neither, which is why we’ve got police lieutenant Dick Chasen on the case, out to stop all of them while wooing burlesque dancer Eva Martin, the Butcher’s former girlfriend.

One part crime-drama, one part sci-fi horror, Indestructible Man is a moderately entertaining revenge tale made watchable only by the presence of Lon Chaney, Jr. and the impeccable hard-boiled Dragnet-style narration of Lieutenant Chasen. I only which Chaney wasn’t rendered mute upon his transformation and the action scenes weren’t over so quickly. I liked watching T.I.M. hulk-out and toss his enemies around like rag dolls.

View the trailer below!

70 minutes
Black & White
United States

Indestructible Man is currently ranked #130,311 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!

"You thick-headed ape, you're gonna die tomorrow!"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

King of the Zombies (1941)

King of the Zombies

Dick Purcell...James 'Mac' McCarthy
John Archer...Bill Summers
Mantan Moreland...Jefferson 'Jeff' Jackson
Henry Victor...Dr. Miklos Sangre

Pilots James "Mac" McCarthy and Bill Summers (along with "Mr. Bill's" valet Jeff Jackson) are on a search and rescue mission, seeking the missing Admiral Wainright, whose plane went down on the way to Panama. Coincidentally, McCarthy's and Summers' plane goes down as well, landing on the mysterious island of Dr. Miklos Sangre and his household of freaky family members and superstitious servants.

Forced to be the doctor's house guests, Jeff discovers the truth that no one else will believe: The island is overrun with zombies, and it's a truth that the doctor wants to keep hidden. Before long, it seems that neither plane crash was an accident after all.

Neither of the pilots in this film seem like Navy men, strutting about in snappy suits rather than uniforms. Why the valet came along on such a mission is beyond me. The doctor's accent is overwrought and theatrical, while Jeff's Olde-Time Ebonics accent is so stereotypical of the time that it is sad. While he's there for comedic effect, it only goes to show how ignorant the age was. "Watch the monkey dance," as it were. In fact, the racist undertones that run throughout the entire film ruins whatever fun this bargain bin bastard could have been--no matter how big of a Mantan Moreland fan I am.

King of the Zombies is currently ranked #61,281 in DVD's at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!

67 Minutes
Black and White
United States

Remember kiddies: Voodoo magic works slow, but it is sure!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Evil Dead Trap

Written by Takashi Ishii
Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda

Miyuki Ono .... Nami
Aya Katsuragi
Hitomi Kobayashi
Eriko Nakagawa

Remember that episode of Scooby Doo where those meddlesome kids got trapped in the haunted amusement park? And all the scares were fake and all the monsters were just men in masks? Well, it's kind of like that, only the kids are a group of reporters, the amusement park is an old industrial complex, the scares are real and so are the monsters.

Nami, the hostess of a network news show, asks her viewers to send in their personal videos for review and broadcast. She receives a package in the mail, a video tape filled with gruesome (and I mean gruesome!) scenes of torture and murder. Wanting to make her mark in the business, she decides to investigate the story. Taking her crew with her, they follow the clues on the video tape and arrive at the abandoned factory where it was filmed.

After they break into the property, they stupidly split up to take a look around. Two of them decide to fool around, and apparently even in Japan sex means death in horror movies. Before long, the crew is being killed off one at a time by a shadowy man in a dark rain parka in excruciatingly gory and ultra-violent ways.

Will anyone get out alive?

Good Lord, I hope not. The kills and special effects in this movie were for the most part spectacular, but unfortunately that's where it ends. When someone isn't dying, the movie is slow-going and really rather boring. Is the violence alone enough to be worth the price of a rental? If you're a gorehound looking for something new, yes. Otherwise, it's just a mediocre flick.

I will, however, credit this film with delivering the most twisted ending imaginable. It was a bizarre whacked-out finale straight from the pages of an 18-and-over manga magazine. Crazy shit.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: Hamburger casualties; Eyeball popping; Horny snake; It's raining worms; Puking up blood; Cigarettes and Wild Turkey;

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: This film was banned in Australia; The Japanese title Shiryo no wana translates to "Creation Of A Ghost";

ALSO KNOWN AS: Evil Dead's Trap

View the trailer below!

105 minutes
Japanese (with English subtitles)

Evil Dead Trap is currently ranked #78,741 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!


Monday, June 15, 2009

TromaDance Volume 2 (2002)



TromaDance (sponsored in part by Chupa Chups, Bacardi Rum and Bromo Seltzer) is Lloyd Kaufman and Company's answer to independent film festivals around the world. Unlike other festivals, TromaDance is free of charge for both film-makers and film-goers. It is an annual one day event that features both feature-length and short films from the underground that shuns Hollywood ideals and elitism.

What follows is a hit-and-miss smorgasbord of shorts. Some are good, some are bad, some are so bad they're good. All, at least, are watchable.

Foet--Pronounced feet, as in fetal. As disgusting as it sounds (and it is intentionally so), the newest fad around the city is aborted Soylent Green handbags. Is this actually a social commentary on the Right to Life issue and American consumerism, or just a 15-minute Dead Baby joke? You be the judge. And don't worry: as the closing credits ensure us, "No living or aborted children were used in the making of this film."

Mondo Ford--Hilarious mock-vintage mock-documentary narrated entirely in Spanish with English subtitles that links Gerald Ford, the Roswell aliens, Easter Island, Bigfoot, Stonehenge, and Amway to the JFK assassination. Must be seen to appreciate.

Cheese Theatre--Cheese Theatre is actually the name of “the first and only sketch comedy troupe who's not from Canada,” and this is a handful of their skits. Imagine MTV's short-lived The State, but more tasteless and infinitely less amusing.

Tasty--A brief exploration of produce as phallic symbols, a whole new type of salad and why you should always eat your vegetables. Short and pointless, but also kinda kinky!

Arrowhead Beer--A series of supposed television commercials for the fictional Arrowhead Brewing Company. A pretty damn funny waste of 5 minutes, even if it does play much like Saturday Night Live's similar efforts.

30 Minutes or Less--What starts off as the most sexual film about pizza-making you're liable to ever see quickly diverges into a series of misadventures involving a delivery boy who just wants to get home to his girlfriend. Along the final stretch of his shift, we're witness to new age trailer park relationship counseling, police brutality, organ harvesting, and an undead Hitler-esque Walt Disney. It's ridiculous and poorly crafted but a lot of fun. Worth watching at least for the great line: "Hey, Walt! Hakuna matata, mother fucker!"

Radiation March--Umm...a bizarre micro-short with children in leotards dancing around to protest pollution. What the hell?

Undisciplined--A tasty sex-addict will do anything to get her lover to spank her. It's creative and kinky (sometimes disgusting), with excellent camera work and a killer ending.

Trauma--Shot in black-and-white, this surreal short is reminiscent of the classic Universal Studios creepshows. A young boy is plucked from his bed by a shadowy stranger and carried to a dungeon where he is locked in a cage until the unseen beast is ready to eat him. Or is he?

Overall, this DVD was a hoot. I question the inclusion of Radiation March and Tasty, which were so short and pointless that they seem to have been inserted merely as filler. But who am I to judge? As with Volume 1, I wish there had been a 'Play All' feature. If you're a Troma fan--and even if you're not, but lean toward the experimental--pick this bad boy up.

Extras are plentiful although many of them are lame, such as an ad for the website and another for Lloyd Kaufman's book Make Your Own Damn Movie! We're treated, at least, to 5 theatrical trailers of other Troma releases and a Tromatic Classroom Lesson that teaches us how to blow up a building on a very limited budget. To find an Easter egg, go to Tromatic Goodies and then highlight TromaDancing With Mark Borchardt, then hit 'left' on your remote control. This will highlight the word Goodies at the top of the menu. Hit 'enter', and you'll get to see an amusing display of the Troma team's antics on CJAD radio. The hosts are not amused.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: Mr. Tomato and Robot Face; Arrowhead ebonics; Paul Newman's money shot; a nod to the Driller Killer;

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Foet was based on a short story of the same name by popular author F. Paul Williams, who appeared in the film as a restaurant patron;

180 Minutes
Color (with one B&W short)
United States
English (with one Spanish language short & English subtitles)

TromaDance Vol.2 is currently ranked #52,690 in DVD's at Rent it at Netflix or buy it today!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

TromaDance Volume 1 (2001)


TromaDance (sponsored in part by Miss Hawaiian Tropic and Rue Morgue Magazine) is Lloyd Kaufman and Company's answer to independent film festivals around the world. Unlike other festivals, TromaDance is free of charge for both film-makers and film-goers. It is an annual one day event that features both feature-length and short films from the underground that shuns Hollywood ideals and elitism. Troma has released a number of DVDs comprised of these short films, only the first two of which I have seen.

Here's what we get this time around:

The Psychotic Odyssey Of Richard Chase—Bizarre documentary look at Richard Chase, a real life serial killer who drank his victims' blood. His story is played out by children's dolls, including white trash Barbies, and is interspersed with real locations and hand-made drawings. The whole thing is narrated by a digitally altered voice that gives you the creeps. Pretty bloody for a puppet show, and even more disturbing in that it doesn't seem to be playing for laughs.

Please Kill Mr. Kinski—Klaus Kinski is a famous personality that is renowned for having been difficult to work with. This is director David Schoeller's first hand account of his troubles during filming the Kinski film Crawlspace. Includes actual footage of the now-deceased Kinski. This short is droll and boring and may be of interest only to die-hard Klaus Kinski fans.

H.R. Pukenshette—A “tiny dicked” loser tries to drink himself to death after his girlfriend breaks up with him. His French guardian angel rises out of a puddle of his vomit and takes him out for a good time. Immature but ultimately amusing. I can't help imagining that this is what a team-up between Mr. Show and an early Kevin Smith would look like.

Harry Knuckles And The Treasure Of The Aztec Mummy—This short has nothing to offer except a sexy opening credits sequence. Harry Knuckles (codename: Spanish Fly) teams up with his partner (masked Spanish wrestler Santos) to retrieve a mystical chalice from a mysterious island. Along the way, they encounter robots, zombies, and the titular mummy. Mind-numbing and entirely too long for what it was attempting to accomplish.

Family Dinner Party—Completely unfunny skit by the TV Heads(?) about a manic--or is that insane--young man who invites his family over for dinner. Featuring horrible hairpieces, cross-dressing, and self mutilation.

Deadbeats—Wrestling hero Mick Foley stars as a drive-though criminal who takes a job at a collection agency at the advice of his parole officer. The rant given by the boss during training could be taken directly out of The Debt Collector's Handbook. It's amusing that we go from a scene that resembles a porno, minus the nudity and sex, to a scene in an airport bar that is downright philosophical in nature. In the end, Foley throws some wrestling moves on the wrong derelict and we're left unsure of who we're supposed to sympathize with: the asshole collectors who are just doing their jobs or the deadbeat slobs who racked up a debt they know they can't pay off. Despite the poor acting by all but Melissa McBride in the role of Janet, this remains a pretty decent accomplishment. Hell, even Mick Foley would be effective if he didn't look so much like Mick Foley.

Red's Breakfast 2: Dawn Of The Red—Cannibal serial killer Red, toting around a lunchbox full of human organs, meets his dream girl in the park. Her name is Violet Lee Lucas and she shares many of the same interests. He invites her back to his place for a “drink” and fun ensues. It may not sound like much, but this segment is one of the greatest on the disc. There's a handful of genre in-jokes spread throughout the film (Violet's last name is the same as Henry's; Red works in a slaughter house, like in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and lives on Elm Street. Figure that one out yourself) and the whole thing is narrated by a gravel-voiced hipster. But where the hell is part 1? And why does the written introduction to Red's Breakfast mention Violet being kidnapped by a Dr. Nefarious, which isn't in the film at all. A goof, perhaps?

Zit Lover—A vile slob who lives in vomit-inducing filth sniffs glue and has claymation hallucinations. Obeying his hallucination's demands, he robs a convenience store of all their nacho cheese. The sales clerk goes Rambo on him and they proceed to have their own little Vietnam in the back yard. Sick, bizarre and…fun? Maybe.

Spag—The DVD's written intro calls this short “a foreign film about spaghetti. Or rather about the underlying social and ethical implications of spaghetti, brilliantly explored in Einstein-like montage and mise-en-scene. Some call it a masterpiece, others a travesty. You be the judge.” The verdict is in: complete and total crap.

This DVD was a hit-and-miss proposition. My major complaint is that there was no 'Play All' feature, meaning you have to select a new title from the menu each time. Fans of Troma and independent cinema in general should give this a shot. For a more all-around good time in the same vein, check out Volume 2.

Extras include trailers for 4 Troma films, a Superstars of TromaDance photo gallery, and an episode of Troma's Edge TV, detailing the events surrounding TromaDance 2001 (featuring a hilarious scene in which TromaDance goes head to head with Sundance, and a host that looks like a young Steve Buscemi), and A Look Back At TromaDance 2000, a featurette which is also featured on Volume 2.

Two Easter eggs can be found by manually advancing to hidden chapters on the DVD. Go to title 13 (of 18) using the 'Go To' button on your remote for Karen Black in a brief vampire musical, and title 18 (of 18) for a mock Worst Of TromaDance film.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: Fucked up Muppets; The token midget; Tiki full of blood; Foley's shower scene; Ninja cop;

120 Minutes
United States

TromaDance Volume 1 doesn't seem to be available at Rent it at Netflix, or buy it from the Troma Store.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

House Of Leaves: The Movie?

A short while back, I posted a review of an amazing not-so-little tome called "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski. I have read this book time and again, and wondered...what if this book were made into a movie?

Of course, that's bound to never happen. But I found this inspired clip on YouTube, which teases what the opening credits could look like, if nothing else.



Friday, June 12, 2009

[Cryptopopology] Quantum Leap: A Bold Leap Forward

Quantum Leap debuted on NBC in March 1989, the creation of Donald Bellisario--the man behind Magnum P.I., JAG, and NCIS. Scott Bakula starred as Dr. Samuel Beckett, a scientist whose botched experiment caused him to be lost in time, leaping into the bodies of different people throughout different eras, "putting right what once went wrong." He was assisted in his journey by Al (Dean Stockwell), a cigar-chomping, womanizing wiseass who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see. The series ran for five seasons, a total of 96 episodes, coming to a close in May 1993 with a frustratingly unclear episode that raised more questions than it answered.

In early 2002 , the internet was ripe with murmurings that a made-for-television reunion film of the cult favorite series was in the works, entitled Quantum Leap: A Bold Leap Forward. But it was July 2, 2002 when the Sci-Fi Wire, the official news service of the Sci-Fi Channel, announced:
The SCI FI Channel, which is now a part of Universal Television Group, is developing a number of original series and films based on existing Universal titles, the network announced. SCI FI will develop a two-hour movie based on the TV series Quantum Leap, which will also serve as a back-door pilot for a possible series. Series creator Don P. Bellisario will executive produce.

"Projects such as Quantum Leap...are exactly why SCI FI is excited about being part of the Universal family," said SCI FI president Bonnie Hammer in a statement. "We have an opportunity to access the rich Universal library—which includes a vast array of horror and sci-fi titles—to create new television experiences for a contemporary audience."
And, according to the official ZENtertainment Press Release, dated July 10, 2003:
Quantum Leap -- Whoever said that time wasn't on our side? The never-ending bounce through history continues as SCI FI reinvents the ever-popular Quantum Leap series - but with a twist. Look for some familiar names from the original production, as our cosmic Lone Ranger tries "to put right what once went wrong."
A July 11, 2002 report from Cinescape stated that they had interviewed Bonnie Hammer, who went on record as saying:
"QUANTUM LEAP is absolutely a classic. It's done well on our channel in repeats and we've always wanted to do a QUANTUM LEAP reunion movie. And then when we started thinking about it and then we merged back with Universal, we said, 'Wow, let's do a two-hour movie. Let's see who we can attract from the original series and let's start our own. So we're thrilled about that because [QUANTUM LEAP] is so pure sci-fi, but so mainstream that I think we're going to pull in a whole new audience."
The movie even had it's own IMDB web page for roughly three years, but it has long-since been deleted. By using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we're able to leap back in time ourselves and take a look at what information used to be hosted there over the course of its life.

Not a whole lot, as it turns out. This is the only synopsis that was ever listed:
"Twenty years after the original series left Dr. Sam Beckett "leaping" into the great unknown, Sam is finally reunited with Al, his old mentor and "partner in time." But when circumstances beyond their control send Sam away once more, Al must recruit his lost friend's daughter [Sammi Jo] to pick up where her father left off and hopefully help find Sam again in the process"
And over the three years, the following people were at one time or another credited for the upcoming feature:

Trey Calloway...Writer, Executive Producer
Donald P. Bellisario...Writer, Executive Producer

Deborah Pratt...Ziggy
Dean Stockwell...Al Calavicci
Scott Bakula...Sam Beckett
Kimberly Cullum...Donna Fuller

Fans were ecstatic from the moment the news hit the 'net. They waited patiently, then speculated about it's fate, then waited patiently again. Just where was this long-awaited film, anyway?

In a September 2006 interview with the BBC Online, Scott Bakula declined any knowledge of a Quantum Leap revival, and a short time later, the IMDB page disappeared. And right along with it, any talk of the film.

Until 2007, when the webmaster at Quantum Leap fansite Al's Place posted a thread reporting that Deborah Pratt, co-creator of the original series, had written her own script for the show--now a feature film rather than a telefilm--and was shopping it around. NBC Universal was supposedly interested, and she was seeking advice on who to cast for the role of Sammi Jo. The last official mention of the film in that thread dates from June 30, 2008, a quote from Pratt herself. She states that the movie is now called Quantum Leap: Time Child, and she was also working on the novelization of the film. A few posts later, and the webmaster tells us that Pratt had hopes of casting Jennifer Garner as Sammi, and Queen Latifah as her holographic guide.

In another thread at the same website, it was confirmed that all plans for the movie had been canceled at the behest of Don Bellisario, who, apparently, owned the legal rights to the franchise.

Fans were upset. They wanted desperately to know what fate held in store for Sam Beckett and his faithful holographic guide Al. Could they at least get a peek at the script?

Well, no. There WAS no script, but there WAS an extensive treatment. A treatment which, apparently, very few--if anyone--has actually seen. Scouring the Internet turned up no additional details, or anything else of merit.

As of this writing, neither the film or the novelization has seen the light of day.

The website A Slice of Sci-Fi features an article discussing the 20th anniversary of the series, dated April 3, 2009, in which Scott Bakula admits that the window of opportunity for a reunion show is closing.

And it's closing quickly. The cast is getting older, and so are the fans. We're no longer the target audience for Hollywood, and so it seems that our only hope of Quantum Leap coming back into our lives may very well be in fan films, such as Quantum Leap: A Leap to Di For.

On an interesting side note, the TV GUIDE website has an entry for Quantum Leap, stating that the series did indeed spawn a reunion movie called Quantum Leap: A Bold Leap Forward. Do they know something that the rest of us don't?

I have contacted NBC, Universal Studios, the Sci-Fi Channel, multiple webmasters of fansites, and have even managed to have a request forwarded on to Deborah Pratt for comment, but have not yet received any further information.

Oh, boy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Crazies (1973)

The Crazies

Written by Paul McCollough & George A. Romero
Directed by George A. Romero

Lane Carroll .... Judy
Will MacMillan .... David
Harold Wayne Jones .... Clank
Lloyd Hollar .... Colonel Peckem
Lynn Lowry .... Kathy Bolman
Richard France .... Dr. Walls
Harry Spillman .... Major Ryder
Will Disney .... Dr. Brookmyre

In George Romero's third film, a military plane carrying a biological weapon codenamed Trixie crashes outside the town of Evans City, Pennsylvania. Trixie leaks into a stream which acts as Evans City's water source and next thing you know it's Outbreak 1973.

Trixie has the distinction of causing "fever symptoms, delirium, and madness" in everyone it infects, and it is quite contagious. By the time the military shows up to quarantine the town, half of the population has already gone nutty. Colonel Peckem and Major Ryder lead the operation and set up a perimeter around the town, giving orders to shoot on sight anyone who refuses to cooperate or who is obviously infected with the disease. The hard part is determining who has contracted Trixie and who hasn't, and a mini-Vietnam takes place, pitting the soldiers against many of the townspeople, most of who are obviously infected and some of who probably aren't.

David and his pregnant fiancé flee from the quarantine, along with their friend Clank and a father-daughter team. Unwilling to cooperate with Big Brother, they scale their own war in hopes of finding out the truth behind what's going on. In doing so, they put themselves in harms way and pave their own path to a downbeat ending.

The basic plotline is a little thin and unbelievable, more of a blatant anti-war protest than any sort of horror movie. Although there is some gore (including an excellent bullet through the head scene), it's ineffective and there are very little thrills to be found. Rather than create a musical score that works in favor of the film, Romero used a rather drab medley of drum marches to accentuate the military theme. Much of the dialogue is muted and muffled, but the gas masks the characters wear are more to blame than the audio track. To put it bluntly, there was such an abundance of running around, rifle shooting, military mumbo jumbo and bad clothes that I felt like I was watching a rerun of the A-Team. I rolled my eyes so much I think I missed half of the picture.

I will say this for The Crazies: the scenes depicting the infected teenagers were hilarious. It looked like Beetlemania hit Evans City a few years late.

Overall, a bit of a disappointment coming from the man who gave us the Living Dead as we know it. But it could be of interest to those who want to see another side of George Romero.

This Blue Underground DVD features audio commentary by George Romero; a 14 minute interview with cult film queen Lynn Lowry (Kathy); 2 theatrical trailers; 2 television spots; poster and still gallery; and a written George Romero bio.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR: One hella good orange; the human torch; Wabbit season; The back of the President's head; Mistaken identity turns into incest; Knitted to death;

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: This was the first film Romero shot on 35mm; Richard Liberty—who played Kathy's father—was also in Romero's Day of the Dead as "Dr. Frankenstein";

ALSO KNOWN AS: Codename: Trixie; The Mad People;

View the trailer below!

Rated R
103 minutes
United States

The Crazies is currently ranked #23,666 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!



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