Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grace (2009)



Written & Directed by Paul Solet

Madeline Matheson...Jordan Ladd
Michael Matheson...Stephen Park
Vivian Matheson...Gabrielle Rose
Patricia Lang...Samantha Ferris

*Warning: If you haven't seen Grace yet, but intend to, I strongly urge you to rush out and do so before you read any further. While I'm fairly certain that there are no blatant spoilers contained within my review--at least no more than you will see elsewhere--discovering the subtle nuances of this film on your own is highly recommended.*

Madeline Matheson is one of those dedicated Earth Mothers--vegan, holistic, etc.--one of those people who would view my lifestyle full of red meat, nicotine, processed sugars and foodstuffs as an affront to all that is holy.  She and her husband Michael are a young married couple attempting to get their family off the ground.  They've already lost two children in utero, so when the third pregnancy comes along--and this time it seems healthy--it's just this side shy of a miracle.  But then a freak accident in which an air bag actually causes a collision leaves Madeline all alone in this world, in one fell swoop killing her husband and her unborn child.

For reasons known only to her, Madeline opts not to induce labor but to carry the deceased baby to term. When the time comes to deliver, that fantastic event that was her healthy pregnancy then gets sidelined by a genuine, certified and authenticated miracle.

Her child, baby Grace, is born alive.

Initial tests show that Grace is fine and normal, but Madeline gradually learns the horrible truth: the devil is just as capable of miracles as God.  Baby Grace's thirst for life-giving bodily fluids goes far, far beyond mother's milk.

Grace is one of those movies that actually deserves an audience but never found one in its limited theatrical run because the studio probably didn't know how to market it.  So, they didn't really market it at all.  I've never once seen an ad for this film, and wouldn't have even known of its existence if not for my fellow horror bloggers.  It became the subject of a nearly homegrown viral campaign, and with the positive reviews from respected members of the BHS (Blogger Horror Society) such as Freddy in Space, I Like Horror Movies, and Horror Movie A Day, I knew I had to see it.

And boy, am I glad that I did.

True, it's not a balls-out horror film.  It's not hyper-violent and it doesn't unfold at a machine gun pace.  It's a very personal horror, and it takes its time reaching a culmination, choosing for the low-key creep out that stays with you as opposed to the high-octane shock that wears off all too soon.  It's a deeply unsettling film--the sight of a woman cradling a dead newborn and pleading with it to return to life can't help but be unsettling.  But what's more, it has a macabre beauty to it that hasn't been seen since Lucky McKee unleashed May upon the unsuspecting populace.

I know that others have covered Grace before me, and many will cover Grace after, and many of them are bound to refer to it as something akin to Larry Cohen's It's Alive for the sophisticate.  And while that's a perfectly apt comparison, it's also a little too easy.  You, my devoted readers, have come here for the straight dope, something that I offer to you for free right now...but as soon as you're hooked, I very well might jack up the price.

So here it is:  Grace is Little Shop of Horrors.

With a vagina for the flowerpot.


View the trailer below!

Rated R
85 Minutes
United States/Canada

"She's teething."

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1980s Monster Kid Memories


The term 'Monster Kid' is usually associated with a generation older than me, one who grew of age in their own glory days of Castle of Frankenstein and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines. Well, I may have been born too late for all that (1979, for those of you keeping track at home), but I'm a Monster Kid, too, dammit! These are some of the things that I, and people of my generation, grew up with.


True, we didn't have Vampirella or Ghoulardi, but we did have Cassandra Peterson, AKA Elvira, that well-endowed Mistress of the Dark who jiggled in all the right places and whose combination of somehow-innocent sexual imagery and B-Movie feature presentations kept many an adolescent up late nights, for more than one reason.


When I was a child, these were the closest I ever came to sports. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I opened a shoebox one Christmas morning to find a whole array of these bad boys. I was so enamored with them that not only did I regularly rent their video from Blockbuster, but I also had (okay, I admit it--still have) the 3-issue miniseries from Marvel Comics' Star line.

M.U.S.C.L.E. Men

That stands for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere, people! And while they weren't strictly horror, per se, many of them were surely strange enough and gruesome enough to fit the bill.

My Pet Monster

This was the 'My Buddy' for the demon child--before Child's Play hit theaters two years later and made the 'My Buddy' cool, that is. And just so your Pet Monster didn't get lonely while you were at school, there was also...

My Pet Monster Pet

The above monstrosity is the one that I had.  Unlike the My Pet Monster, his nose looked like a cherry tomato as opposed to a pickle, and he was also a hand-puppet.  And finally, what list would be complete without...

Garbage Pail Kids

Buy them, collect them, trade them with your friends!

Oh, that's right, I didn't have any friends.

This could be either the cause or the effect, I'm not really sure which.


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Pet Sematary by Stephen King


Pet Sematary

by Stephen King

Dr. Louis Creed has just relocated his family—wife Rachel, young daughter Ellie, and 2 year-old son Gage—to Ludlow, Maine for his new job as head of health services for the State University. It’s quite a change from the big city living of Chicago, but they adjust easily enough and Louis befriends the elderly Jud Crandall who lives next door. Jud quickly becomes a father figure to Louis and warns him of the high traffic road that they live along, constantly traveled by large chemical trucks. He also introduces the family to the Pet Sematary in the woods beyond their backyard, the archaic sign misspelled in children’s script.

Soon, school begins and Louis starts his new job. He loses his first critical patient, a jogger who had been run down by a car, and before you can say Jim Morrison’s Indian Guide, the young man’s spirit visits Louis to warn him about the Pet Sematary and its horrible power. No sooner than Louis has convinced himself that the visitation was just a dream, Church—Ellie’s pet cat—is run down in the road. At Jud’s advice, rather than telling his family what happened, Louis buries the cat in the Pet Sematary. The next day, Church is back—alive or undead, it’s hard to tell, but he’s definitely changed. No longer quick and graceful but slow, lumbering and markedly unfriendly.

Tragedy strikes again, and this time it’s Gage under the wheels of the chemical truck. Just like in the tale of The Monkey’s Paw, Louis wishes his son back to life, but unlike that old fable, there’s nobody around to wish him away again just before the door is flung open.

By far King’s bleakest book—even more so than anything written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman—Pet Sematary was originally seen as too disturbing for publication by both King and his wife Tabitha. So it sat in limbo until unburied in 1983, much to the glee of fans hungry to read the “story so horrifying that he was for a time unwilling to finish it.”

It’s a solid if somewhat disturbing read—although many, if not all, of his books have had death in them, never before and never since has any one been so much about death—and when you reach the conclusion, you inevitably think to yourself, “There’s no other way it could have ended” and get up to grab something to drink, anything to wash away that sour taste left over in your mouth.

There’s no happy ending here.

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Mr. Sardonicus (1961)


Mr. Sardonicus

Written by Ray Russell
Directed by William Castle

Sir Robert Cargrave...Ronald Lewis
Maude...Audrey Dalton
Sardonicus...Guy Rolfe
Krull...Oskar Homolka

It is the year 1880, and after a brief but colorful introduction by William Castle himself, we meet our hero, the young doctor Sir Robert Cargrave, whose innovative medical techniques are practically miracles in and of themselves.  Maude, a former love interest of his, sends him an invite and Robert boards a train for the Gorslava region of Europe. Once there, he is welcomed not only by his one-time lady lovely, but her new husband as well, the feared and revered Baron Sardonicus!

The baron is a strange man, almost Dr. Doom-like in a way. He has rid his estate of all mirrors, and all reminders of his forefathers; He performs cruel and unusual experiments upon his helpless maid Anna; and he is never seen without his mask--a lifeless but almost life-like waxen thing that really is quite creepy. Despite his regal mannerisms and his sophisticated behavior, it's obvious that Baron Sardonicus is not merely an eccentric. He is...something else entirely. Some strange malady ails this poor fellow, and only the good doctor can hope to cure him. Whether he wants to or not.

As is often the case, the protagonists here are mostly dull and unimpressive moral plot vehicles. The real reason to watch are the villains. Sardonicus is a great and evil character, oozing calmness and madness in equal doses while his one-eyed man servant Krull is a sniveling, pathetic worker bee ("When my master says, 'Krull, do this thing,' I do the thing, whatever it may be."), quite capable of committing unspeakable acts simply because he is instructed to do so. The two of them together could comprise quite the kooky sit-com. Imagine Bosom Buddies or The Odd Couple, William Castle-style!

At times slow-going, Mr. Sardonicus is still quite enjoyable. It's got all the ingredients for a cult classic, although I don't believe it has ever reached this status. It's off-key, off-color, slightly twisted and quite bizarre. The major problem with the film is that the big reveal (Sardonicus removing his mask, natch!) came too early, leaving a full third of the movie after Castle blew his load. Despite the questionable timing, the image is pretty startling and is guaranteed to make your jaw drop!

The 'Castle Gimmick' this time around was the "Punishment Poll", where the theater audience would get to choose the punishment for one of the characters at the end of the film by holding up a Thumbs Up or a Thumbs Down card (kind of like the gladiators in the Colosseum).  According to Castle, the audience almost always voted in favor of the punishment, although I have heard rumors that no matter how the voting turned out, that was the final reel that they played.

Good, clean wacky fun. Make it a double-bill with the even-more-bizarre Spider Baby for added thrills!

View the trailer below!

Not Rated
89 Minutes
Black & White
United States

"My name was not always Sardonicus, and I did not always wear a mask."

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Here's some cool shit I stumbled across while browsing this here inter-web. Get your credit card ready, Freddy!

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The Haunted House of Horror (1969)


Haunted House of Horror

Written & Directed by Michael Armstrong

Gary...Mark Wynter
Dorothy...Carol Dilworth
Sylvia...Gina Warwick
Chris...Frankie Avalon

Gary is the oh-so-dapper ladies man, employee of the fashionable men's store "Mates."  Dorothy is his suspicious blond girlfriend.  Suspicious, it turns out, for a good reason, because he's cheating on her with Syliva, the drop-dead delicious brunette tramp who dresses mannequins at a rival store across the street.  The three of them, along with dozens of others, converge at the house of Chris, the swingingest cat in all of England--which is a bit strange, seeing as how he's American.  But even the coolest kids are capable of throwing a boring party, and it's not long before they realize that this little shindig is, like, dullsville, man!

One of the happening hipsters decides that it would be a real gas to move the party to a nearby haunted house, and so they pack up their beer and cigarettes and one of those new-fangled reel-to-reels, and things really get jumping when things start bumping in the night.  It's just too bad that one of them ends up dead...

Rather than go to the authorities, Chris decides that it would be best to dump the body.  And suddenly, everyone is a suspect, not just in the eyes of their fellow party goers but the cops as well.  It could be anyone, because as Chris is quick to point out, "Any psychopath--male or female--can have superhuman strength when aroused!"

Despite the title, this isn't a haunted house flick.  It's more of a thriller/whodunnit with hipper-than-thou leanings.  In fact, with the jazzy music, mod fashions, bright colors and highly stylized settings, it's almost as if some schmoe decided to take a script from The Monkees that was rejected for being too dark and turn it into a bastardized giallo!

Frankie Avalon, believe it or not, is pretty good as the smarmy and sarcastic Chris, obviously taking a little time to step out on Annette for a bit of British tail.  This may seem like an odd vehicle for the man most revered for his series of beach movies, but if you take the murder angle out of the equation, it kind of makes sense.

The beach films pandered to a young, pampered audience who was seeking some sort of rebellion, and with the saccharine Big Kahuna and his eternal mate, they found a safe sort of rebellion--one that even their parents could get behind.  With the beach kids abundance of slang, bongos, and "wild" parties, they were, in essence, Hollywood's version of a homogenized Beat Generation.  Just nevermind the fact that there were few, if any, beatniks that surfed, and the real surfers were surely closer in manner to Sean Penn's Spicolli than these well-tanned wannabes.

Over in London, they didn't have surfers.  What they did have were mods, sort of their equivalent of the beatniks.  With the Beatles and the British Invasion, American teens were becoming enamored with their cousins across the pond, so dropping a box office hunk of man meat like Frankie Avalon right into the middle of this film would guarantee at least some semblance of a built-in audience here in the states.

So, yes, The Haunted House of Horror is extremely dated.  But that's part of its charm.  It is at times corny and occasionally slow.  There's no denying that.  But no matter what is happening on screen, you have to admit one thing:

There is always--ALWAYS--something nice to look at.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Horror House; The Dark

Rated PG
92 Minutes
United Kingdom

Halloween Poster Party


In case you weren't aware, it's Halloween.  Not only that, but there was once a swell little movie franchise that revolved around this very holiday!  So what better time than to take a look back at some of the poster images that advertised said franchise?  That's right my friends, it's a veritable Halloween Poster Party!

(USA) The one we know and love...

(Germany) Looks a little cornball to me.

(Japan) Pretty cool...even though Michael looks vaguely like a Simpsons character.

(Spain) It looks Michael just cut Laurie out of a magazine.

(Yugoslavia) Bitch-slapping hand ready...

(USA) All New!

(Australia) Well, I guess orange and black are the official colors of Halloween.

(Germany) Umm...spooky?

(Japan) Obviously the coolest fucking poster in the bunch.

(USA) Three more days 'til Halloween, Silver Shamrock!

(France) Seriously? This is the best you could do?

(USA) How does that big ass head fit in that itty bitty house?

(France) Better than their last effort...

(Germany) The itty bitty house has been replaced with itty bitty green heads.

(USA) This one must be good, because they looked the same all across the globe.

(USA) Why so blue, Mikey?

(Thailand) The letter 'E' has been brought to you by Eminem.

(Italy) Michael gets an eyeful.

(USA) Josh Hartnett must have complained about being stuck in the back...

(Japan) they fixed him up right this time.

(France) eh.

(Germany) Again with the pumpkin?

(Germany) This one looks like a Lifetime Network Made-For-TV Movie.

(USA) The only place to see Busta Rhymes and Jamie Lee Curtis as the bread of a Tyra Banks sandwich.

(China) There's a certain circus vibe here.

And then there was Rob...


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