Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cryptopopology: Bob Dylan in The Madhouse on Castle Street

The Madhouse on Castle Street

While Bob Dylan was a burgeoning newcomer performing in New York City circa 1962, he was watched closely by directer Philip Saville who was apparently impressed enough with the performer's charisma that he asked Mr. Dylan to come to London to star in a television play entitled The Madhouse on Castle Street.

The Madhouse on Castle Street
was written by Evan Jones and directed by Philip Saville, and it told the tale of a lonely man who locked himself in his room, refusing to emerge until the world has become a better place.

Bob Dylan was initially slated to play the lead role of Lennie--'an anarchic young student who writes songs'--but indeed he had no prior acting training or experience. This also seemed to entail a lack of acting ability as well, and during early rehearsals it was discovered that he could not remember his lines--which could be considered odd, seeing as how many song lyrics he already had in his repertoire.

Not ready to call it quits with Dylan, Saville shuffled the play a bit and created an additional role for him. Actor David Warner took over as Lennie, and Dylan became something of a wandering minstrel by name of Bobby, performing songs that commented on the action taking place on stage. At the finale of the play, Dylan is said to have performed Blowin' in the Wind, the first in a long line of huge public performances of the song that would later become a hit.

Dylan and Warner, who was just starting out in his career and would later go on to participate in such eclectic genre features as The Omen, Tron, Twin Peaks, and Batman: The Animated Series, were also joined by television performers Maureen Pryor, Ursula Howells, Reg Lye, James Mellor, and Georgina Ward.


The teleplay was broadcast on the BBC on Sunday January 13, 1963, part of the network's Sunday-Night Play series, with a running time of sixty minutes. One would think that a copy of this early performance of Bob Dylan's must exist, but it would seem that footage is forever lost. As was common practice of the era, the 35mm master was junked in 1968, after its shelf life had "expired" in accordance with the contract. Reportedly an unfathomable amount of priceless television footage had been destroyed by the BBC before their 'junking' policy was revoked in 1978, and The Madhouse on Castle Street was only one of many, many shows to have disappeared forever.

Still photographs of the production have survived, however, as well as some audio recordings made by viewers utilizing their then-advanced reel-to-reel recorders. Although a full-length audio copy of the proceedings has yet to surface (and it is very unlikely that it ever will), fans and collectors alike keep their fingers crossed, and keep the hope alive.

Below is a sample of one such song, "The Ballad of the Gliding Swan", said to be taken from the missing teleplay.



Along with "The Ballad of the Gliding Swan" (largely thought to be a collaboration between Dylan and playwright Evan Jones) and Dylan's own "Blowin' in the Wind", Dylan also performed the traditional tracks "Hang Me Oh Hang Me" and "The Cuckoo".

To coincide with the release of Martin Scorsese's 2005 Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home, the BBC broadcast a documentary entitled Dylan in the Madhouse that detailed the musicians first BBC appearance, and issued a worldwide plea for collectors to come forward with any footage they may have in their possession.

The Beeb (and the rest of the world) is still waiting.
Further Reading:
Don't think twice, it's all right...
--J/Metro


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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Vampire Maid by Hume Nisbet

The Vampire Maid
by Hume Nisbet

Hume Nisbet was first and foremost a painter in his own eyes, but when he failed to make a profession out of it, he turned instead to the written word.  Even then, he often wrote about the art world, but his tone turned bitter and cynical whenever speaking of the chances of becoming a successful painter.  As a counterbalance to his artsy tirades, he also composed fiction, including this very brief vampire tale first published in the yesteryear of 1900.

It should perhaps be stated that in art, it is generally important that a painting be instantly recognizable for what it is.  In literature, that isn't necesarily true.

A city boy who has grown tired of the hustle and bustle takes up residence as a lodger in a remote country abode.  He has done so in search of solitude, hoping to get some work accomplished, but his ambitions change the moment he meets his landlady's daughter.

It may not be love at first sight, but it is fascination at first sight, and that gives way to love soon enough.  He forsakes solitude and career goals for his growing obsession with her, and is quite happy with the result.

Now if he could only figure out his decreased level of energy, and these strange nightmares he's been having.

Okay, the secret is out.  The girl is an undead bloodsucker.  Before you cry spoiler, just keep this in mind:  The story is called "The Vampire Maid", for Pete's sake!  If you didn't figure this out by page two, you were probably just browsing for pretty pictures anyway.  The ONLY surprise this story held was that the vampire in question wasn't a maid at all--at least not in the Amelia Bedelia sense.

And that lack of surprise is the dooming factor here.  You know the "twist" ending before you even start reading the story.  Still, the manner in which our healthy narrator becomes sicklier and sicklier while his sickly lover becomes healthier and healthier (thanks to her secret nocturnal feedings) was pretty inspired.

It's a moody, brooding, slightly-gothic romance that will probably be of interest to fans of this particular melodrama--Dark Shadows fans, I'm looking at you!  For the rest of us, the good news is this: the story is so short, it's over before we even know we're bored.

Too bad the same couldn't be said of Dark Shadows.

That's right.  I said it.

The Vampire Maid has slipped willingly into the public domain.  Click here to download it or read it online, courtesy of ManyBooks.net.

--J/Metro

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Friday, February 26, 2010

House of the Devil (2009)

House of the Devil

Written & Directed by Ti West

Samantha Hughes...Jocelin Donahue
Megan...Greta Gerwig
Mr. Ulman...Tom Noonan
Mrs. Ulman...Mary Woronov

During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satantic cults...

Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups...

The following is based on true unexplained events...

Nevermind that the phrasing of those statistics imply that more than 100% of Americans believed in Satanic Cults during the 1980s.  If the director didn't care, we probably shouldn't either. 


College sophomore Samantha Hughes is in need of her own place. Her current living situation on campus is less than ideal, as she's stuck with a dorm mate who consistently leaves a sweatsock hanging from the doorknob--a variation on the ol' Knockin' Boots indicator. Samantha has found the ideal apartment, but being a student she is a little lacking in the funds department, so it's almost like kismet when she reads about a babysitting job on a campus bulletin board.

Hitching a ride to the isolated house with her best friend Megan, Samantha learns that what she'll be sitting isn't a baby at all. Rather, it is the elderly mother-in-law of her dignified but somewhat eccentric employer Mr. Ulman. Her gut reaction is to flee, but when she learns that four hours of work will more than pay for her first month's rent, need easily defeats instinct.


Stupid, stupid babysitter! Haven't you ever seen a horror movie before? Bad things always happen to pretty young women in strange houses, and tonight being a total eclipse of the moon is just icing on the cake!

There's been a lot of hype about House of the Devil on the blogosphere, so I was really hoping to love this movie. Unfortunately, for the most part this film was like telling ghost stories around the camp fire: fun at first, lots of atmosphere but very few genuine chills, and quite a bit of smoke--being blown right up your ass.

There's a surprising act of violence about 35 minutes in, and a decent finale, but a full hour of the movie is essentially Samantha wandering around the house, slightly spooked. I understand that there is a whole cottage industry for scaring babysitters, but usually--usually--they're actually given something to be scared of.


To paraphrase every guidance counselor that I have ever interacted with, this movie had a lot of potential that it just never lived up to. It was merely a so-so horror film, but as a throwback film it's freakin' genius! From the props (rotary phones, Walkmens), to the locales (single-slice pizza joints), to the wardrobe (high waisted jeans, over-teased hair), and even the cinematic techniques (freeze frames during the opening credits), this movie screams 1980s louder than Warrant ever did. Hell, it was even released on a big-box VHS tape. It's just too bad that the execution couldn't live up to the concept.  I'll go with the similarly themed, but often overlooked, Babysitter Wanted any day of the week.

Call me crazy, but I don't think I'll be adding this to my collection anytime soon.

Well...maybe the VHS version. That's still pretty damn cool.

See what that other J had to say about this flick over at the Cheap Bin!



View the trailer below!


2009
Rated R
95 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch T.V. DIE!"
--J/Metro

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Old School Logo


/'\_/`\  __    /\ \          __/\ \__          
/\      \/\_\   \_\ \    ___ /\_\ \ ,_\    __   
\ \ \__\ \/\ \  /'_` \ /' _ `\/\ \ \ \/  /'__`\ 
 \ \ \_/\ \ \ \/\ \L\ \/\ \/\ \ \ \ \ \_/\  __/ 
  \ \_\\ \_\ \_\ \___,_\ \_\ \_\ \_\ \__\ \____\
   \/_/ \/_/\/_/\/__,_ /\/_/\/_/\/_/\/__/\/____/
                                                
                                                
                    __                  
 /'\_/`\           /\ \  __             
/\      \     __   \_\ \/\_\     __     
\ \ \__\ \  /'__`\ /'_` \/\ \  /'__`\   
 \ \ \_/\ \/\  __//\ \L\ \ \ \/\ \L\.\_ 
  \ \_\\ \_\ \____\ \___,_\ \_\ \__/.\_\
   \/_/ \/_/\/____/\/__,_ /\/_/\/__/\/_/ 
 
Courtesy of the ASCII Generator.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Graveyard Rats by Robert E. Howard

The Graveyard Rats
by Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard may be best known to pulp fiction fans for his Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, and Solomon Kane tales, but he also authored a number of one-off old-school horror stories. The best of these is his untouchable "Pigeons From Hell", to which "Graveyard Rats" is a second cousin.

Both stories begin with a man waking up from a nightmare, only Howard defies expectations here and the man does not turn out to be our protagonist. Sure, he might have been if things had gone differently--if he hadn't woken up to find himself trapped in a pitch black room with a vicious little bastard of a rat and the severed head of his recently deceased (and already interred) brother John Wilkinson. But as things played out, he did wake up to such a scenario and it was too much for his weak country boy psyche to withstand. His mind snapped like an old man's hip bone.
"Saul Wilkinson began to laugh--horrible, soul-shaking shrieks that mingled with the squealing of the grey ghoul. Saul's body rocked to and fro, and the laughter turned to insane weeping, that gave way in turn to hideous screams that echoed through the old house and brought the sleepers out of their sleep. They were the screams of a madman. The horror of what he had seen had blasted Saul Wilkinson's reason like a blown-out candle flame."
With one brother dead and one brother mad, only two Wilkinson boys remain. They believe that both the death and the subsequent incident were the work of Joel Middleton, the sole surviving member of a bloodline with which their family had been feuding for years. Looking out for their safety and hoping to bring Joel in is private detective Steve Harrison, whose no-nonsense gumshoe ways make him the real hero here.

As Harrison investigates this case, things just get stranger and stranger. Police procedural gives way to supernatural thriller (of sorts) as stories of vengeful Native American ghosts are invoked, as well as the urban legend of the titular Graveyard Rats, whose unseemly eating habits turn them into vicious, demonic creatures of the night.
"The Indians used to tell strange tales about them! They said they were not beasts at all, but evil, cannibal demons, into which entered the spirits of wicked, dead men at whose corpses they gnawed!"
No matter who is behind the murder, no matter who has desecrated the corpse of John Wilkinson, and no matter how many warrior spirits show up to fulfill an age-old blood curse, the rats are the real villains here. They are an ever-present menace, crawling in the walls and watching you with their blood red eyes. Howard knows that the fear of vermin is innate in many people and so he ratchets up the terror, taking an almost perverse pleasure in detailing their carnivorous exploits.
"The graveyard rats abandoned the head with rasping squeaks, scattering before him like darting black shadows. And Harrison shuddered. It was no face that stared up at him in the lantern light, but a white, grinning skull, to which clung only shreds of gnawed flesh."
As stated previously, "The Graveyard Rats" is the kissing cousin of "Pigeons From Hell", and although it doesn't quite match up to the subtle genius of that other tale, the more graphic sensibilities on display here are ready to be rediscovered by a new generation of literary gorehounds.

This story has lapsed into the Public Domain, so click here to download it for free or read it online courtesy of ManyBooks.net.

--J/Metro

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ThanksKilling (2009)

ThanksKilling

Written & Directed by Jordan Downey

Johnny...Lance Predmore
Billy...Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson
Darren...Ryan E. Francis
Kristen...Lindsey Anderson

_______________________________________
NOTE: This is the sixth in my series of Netflix Challenge posts, in which you the reader challenge me the reviewer to watch the absolute worst pieces of cinematic garbage that Netflix has available to Watch Instantly.  Today's film was suggested by Andy of Toolshed of Horror!.  If you would like to learn more about the Netflix Challenge, or suggest a movie yourself then make with the clickity right here.
_______________________________________

This movie opens with an extreme close-up of a nipple, then pulls back to reveal a massive pair of heaving, exposed breasts--so at least it's playing to its strengths. The ample bosoms in question belong to a lady pilgrim, and the scene takes place moments after the first Thanksgiving. She is running in terror, her lovely lady humps swaying like pendulums from what turns out to be one very pissed off and very talkative...turkey. "Nice tits, bitch!", he cracks before using his little turkey hands to dispatch her with a tomahawk.

Fast forward to present day. The talky turkey has somehow been defeated in the past and buried in the woods with a tiny totem pole as a grave marker. The pet collie of a reclusive hermit takes it upon himself to urinate on the totem, and like a scene out of Nightmare on Elm Street 4, the killer is resurrected by the magical power of canine piss. He's back, he's bad, and he's got a score to settle.


A group of overaged teenagers who would never hang out with each other in real life (a football hero, a pot-bellied redneck, an awkward geek, a neighborhood slut, and an innocent daughter of the local sheriff) accidentally stumble into the sights of ol' Gobble Gobble, and he's not going to stop until all of them are dead.

This movie is patently ridiculous, and thus impossible to take seriously, but that's okay. It's not meant to be taken seriously, perhaps its only saving grace. That isn't to say that it's a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its enjoyable moments if you go in with the right frame of mind. And that frame of mind is slightly inebriated and just a hair off-center. It was truly a surreal experience to watch a man dressed like a turkey chat over coffee with a turkey dressed as a man.


The special effects are exactly what you would expect: namely cheddar, baby. Cheddar. The turkey is a rubbery looking hand puppet that has no ambitions of realism, but there is at least a pretty cool scene of limited animation, explaining the back-story. The acting is pretty weak as well, but, surprisingly, the soundtrack is rather impressive--everything from the odd electro-gobbling of the theme song, to the instrumental score, and the off-beat "Best Friend Billy" that reminded me of "Stu's Song" from The Hangover. And Thankskilling runs for just over an hour (at least the version I watched; the IMDB lists it at 85 minutes), so it doesn't wear out its welcome as badly as a lot of other equally bad films do (although the numerous tasteless references to the Jon Benet Ramsey case was a bit much).


If you've got 60 minutes to kill and are in the mood for a little holiday-themed horror next November, place the whole family in front of the TV for this oddity. It beats another Hallmark Channel period piece, and besides, where else can you see a turkey drive a car, blow a man's head off with a shotgun, smoke cigars, nail a co-ed doggy style, or wear a man's face like a mask (completely fooling everyone)? Outside of a bird flu fever dream or a hallucination brought about by watching H.R. Pufnstuf on LSD, this is the only place I can think of.

And, if you liked this one, the closing credits promise that the series will be continued....IN SPACE!

If you've seen the movie, or are just curious be sure to check out the official webpage, which offers a wealth of information and downloads. 

Want a different take on the film?  See the other J tear it a new one at the Cheap Bin!



View the (priceless) teaser trailer below!


2009
Not Rated
66 Minutes/(85 Minutes?)
Color
English
United States

"Pull your shirt down, honey. It's Thanksgiving, not Titsgiving."
Silly girl...every day is Titsgiving!
--J/Metro

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Monday, February 22, 2010

[Cryptopopology] Dark Blood

Dark Blood


When 23-year-old actor River Phoenix died on Halloween 1993 outside of Hollywood's Viper Room, the victim of a drug overdose--a mixture of cocaine and heroin known as a speedball--he left behind a small legacy of critically acclaimed films including Stand by Me, Mosquito Coast, and My Own Private Idaho. He also left behind an unfinished post-apocalyptic-esque movie entitled Dark Blood.

Although it was approximately 90% complete, Dark Blood was still missing a great number of key scenes that were to involve Phoenix, and so was never finished and never released to the public.

The script was written by the relatively-unknown Jim Barton, The plot (as noted on the IMDB, and confirmed at director George Sluizer's webpage) follows River Phoenix's character, a widower hermit named (imaginatively) Boy who resides on a nuclear testing ground, awaiting the end of the world. He wiles away the hours fashioning dolls that, he believes, possess great magical powers. Boy's self-confinement is interrupted, however, when he is forced to help a couple (played by Jonathon Pryce and Judy Davis) whose car broke down during their sojourn across the desert. It's not as peaceful of a gesture as one might immediately assume, as they both become Boy's prisoners and he announces his desire to use the woman as his Eve to help create a new and better world.



Although there was initial speculation that Sluizer would use the existing footage in a documentary about River Phoenix, legal reasons have prevented that project from ever seeing the light of day. A few minutes of raw footage from Dark Blood have been released to the public, however, a sample of which can be viewed below.


For those who want to see the whole project in your lifetime, it's beginning to look like you are out of luck. The best that you can hope to do is find a theater company (such as The Script Factory) who are performing the film as a stage play--although, from what I can gather, even that has been out of production for more than a decade. This does hint at the fact that the movie script is floating around out there somewhere, though, and a little digging may allow you access to your own private Theater of the Mind.

In Idaho, perhaps.
Further Reading
--J/Metro


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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beware! Children at Play (1989)

Beware! Children at Play

Written by Fred Scharkey
Directed by Mik Cribben

John DeWolfe...Michael Robertson
Julia DeWolfe...Lori Tirgrath
Sheriff Ross Carr...Rich Hamilton

_______________________________________
NOTE: This is the fifth in my series of Netflix Challenge posts, in which you the reader challenge me the reviewer to watch the absolute worst pieces of cinematic garbage that Netflix has available to Watch Instantly.  Today's film was forced upon me by TimTE01 of Mondo Bizarro.  If you would like to learn more about the Netflix Challenge, or better yet, suggest a title yourself (my queue is looking pretty slim!), then just click here.
_______________________________________

A small town near the fabled Pine Barrens in New Jersey has a problem: like clockwork, a local child goes missing every two months, leaving behind not even a trace. They're up to an even dozen (not to mention the numerous adults that have gone missing as well) before Sheriff Carr realizes that his standard operating procedures just aren't cutting the mustard anymore. Deciding to think outside the box, Carr calls in his old military buddy John DeWolfe.

John DeWolfe isn't the first person you would think of when you hear the word 'ringer'. I mean, for most of his professional life he was a respected literature and poetry critic--not exactly a Fox Mulder, you understand? But in order to make ends meet, DeWolfe has in recent times taken up a new profession: writer of lurid tabloid paperback books about such subjects as UFO's, satanic cults, and unexplained phenomenon. So while he's no Fox Mulder, he is a poor man's Kolchak (who was Mulder's spiritual godfather anyway), and the Dynamic Duo team up to solve this Merry Mystery.


This is a low budget movie, and it shows in some spots. Some of the acting is pretty poor, and there are a few scenes that rely far too heavily on dialogue to explain the story to the viewing audience; The special effects are cheap but practical, and offer more than a handful of memorable moments--key among them a salesman who gets sliced clean in half but still attempts to crawl away. You gotta love that gumption!

There's no denying that this is just a bargain basement version of Children of the Corn, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed on some level for its own merits. The children here on occasion share the lumbering gait of zombies, and their creepy chanting is constantly heard on the soundtrack. When they're not creeping around the barrens, they're spouting ancient poetry like it was the gospel and preparing for their uprising. There's also an undeniable air of sleaze and trashiness that major studio fare just can't produce. And who can pass up so much violence performed by...and aimed at...children!? The final showdown is an insane and bloody massacre that you absolutely must see, even if you commit that cardinal sin of fast forwarding through the rest of the film.


It's not a great film, but it's quite a bit of fun and is heads and tails above most Troma fare. It's not about to take over the head spot in anyone's Top Ten list, but in a pinch, you could do a whole lot worse.

Hell, you could be watching the Sci-Fi Channel's remake of Children of the Corn.

Now THAT is scary idea.

1989
Rated R
94 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"You Bible-thumping moron!"
--J/Metro

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Defenders by Philip K. Dick

The Defenders
by Philip K. Dick

It has been nearly a decade since the world erupted into war, eight years since all of mankind descended to cities beneath the earth, as the toils of modern warfare had made the surface uninhabitable. No longer able to face each other on the battlefield, man has instead constructed advanced military androids dubbed 'leadys' to fight their battles for them above ground, where no living soldier could survive. Mankind has largely been relegated to a 'Rosie the Riveter' role, fueling the endless destruction taking place outside while the leadys do the dirty work, reporting back often with the latest news.

But what if these robots, mindlessly sacrificing themselves for the benefit of their nations, had been deceiving everyone all this time? An American crew, the first people to venture to the surface in eight years, is about to find out.

Science fiction stories often explore one of three types of worlds: the Utopia, the Dystopia, and the Inter-Planetary. Taking place exclusively on (and beneath) Planet Earth, "The Defenders" does somehow make our planet come across simultaneously as the first and the second--although both can be viewed as strictly illusory.

It's interesting to note that the robots here are not merely mindless drones carrying out the whims of their creators, nor are they out-of-control robo renegades in the role of the adversary--roles they usually fill in tales of a Utopia and a Dystopia respectively. Here they act as secret saviors of the human race, showing not the author's fear of technology, but the author's fear of mankind itself.

This short story was originally published in the January 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.  While written in a pulpy style suitable for the era and audience, author Philip K. Dick does show promise of the mastery he would eventually gain. While the blatant moral and anti-war posturing may be a turn off for some, those interested in the pre-history of the mind who brought us the source material for the hit films Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and Scanners may want to set aside a few minutes to give this fable a look.  Even Dick himself must have been somewhat impressed with his own themes, as this story was expanded into a full-length novel entitled The Penultimate Truth approximately 11 years later.

If you're at all interested, please click here to download the story or read it online.  It's free, you bloody cheapskate!

--J/Metro

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Friday, February 19, 2010

TerrorVision (1986)

TerrorVision (1986)

Written & Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Stanley...Gerrit Graham
Raquel...Mary Woronov
Sherman...Chad Allen
Grampa...Bert Remsen
Suzy...Diane Franklin

When Stanley Putterman installed the "Do It Yourself 100" satellite system, he thought he would be opening up a whole new world of television entertainment: Samurai films from Z Channel, pornography on Channel 69 (natch!), and maybe even a Noodle music video or two on that new-fangled MTV. What he didn't expect is that his satellite would literally open up a whole new world, or at least a portal to one, through which a killer monster would escape. Trapped in the Putterman's palatial estate, the monster (a refugee from the planet Pluton's Mutant Creature Disposal Unit, of course) preys on the family members like he was a good ol' boy and it was duck season.


Young son Sherman is the only one who truly knows what's going on, but his parents quickly lock him in the bomb shelter so they can have a little kinky fun with a swinger couple they met through the classifieds. Sherman is forced to go all Toy Soldier to save himself--and what few family members might also make it out alive.


The characters here are deliciously wacky, from the swinger parents (Stanley comes off like a Sex Panther cologne-soaked version of Steve Martin/Dan Akroyd's Wild and Crazy Guys), to the survivalist grandfather (who preaches the benefits of eating lizard tails, a self-regenerating food source; pretty ingenious, actually), and the Cyndi Lauper-esque teenager daughter Suzy. The nameless alien monster is pretty shoddy, but you can't help but respect the effort. He looks like a Muppetized lump of slimy scar tissue, and has the rather bizarre ability to manipulate the heads of his victims like puppets--using only his disgusting tongue! The bedroom puppetshow that he puts on with implications of grandfatherly incest greatly disturbed me as a child, and it still makes me grimace.

The cheapness of the production, the ridiculousness of the storyline, and the abundant overacting works against TerrorVision as a serious product of the genre; but it all works in favor of it as a fantastically fun bad movie. There has got to be a cult audience for a film of this magnitude...and fuck the nay-sayers, I'm proud to count myself among them.

View the trailer below!


1986
Rated R
83 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"Made you cry like a butthole!"
--J/Metro

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spooky Patents












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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist Trap

Written by David Schmoeller & J. Larry Carroll
Directed by David Schmoeller

Molly...Jocelyn Jones
Jerry...John Van Ness
Eileen...Robin Sherwood
Becky...Tanya Roberts
Mr. Slausen...Chuck Connors

When their friend Woody goes missing while looking for a service station to repair his flat tire, four city slickers--law student Jerry, his sexy and scantily clad wife Becky, adventurous Eileen, and virginal goodie-goodie Molly--track him to a closed down tourist trap called Slausen's Lost Oasis. There, Woody's trail turns cold and the foursome experience mysterious mechanical difficulties of their own.

Stranded, they become the guest of the Lost Oasis's strange but kindly owner, Mr. Slausen, who lives alone on the property with his plethora of life-like mannequins and wax figures.


This tourist trap turns out to be more of a trap than most, as the city kids are hunted down by a psychopath in a mask who threatens to turn them into dummies to be put on display.

Mannequins are inherently creepy, like red headed children and used car salesmen, and so this movie is rife with creepy moments, although short on outright scares. The acting is typically run-of-the-mill, except for Chuck Connors as Slausen, who did a pretty outstanding job. The musical scoring is often times bizarre, and doesn't always work, but that's pretty easy to look past. The women, on the other hand, demand an eye be kept on them. They are all beautiful, but despite a skinny-dipping scene only 13 minutes in, never actually "bare it all" (which, for a low-budget picture of this era is fairly rare, making it equal parts commendable and disappointing).


The mannequin-faced killer was actually pretty disturbing, especially when he gets all gussied up and looks like a Bizarro version of Robert Goulet. If Leatherface and Carrie White swapped fluids to make a bastard baby boy, this fella could quite likely be the result.

A sufficiently spooky and twisted little tale that manages to not come off as too dated...despite the fact it is well past it's sell-by date.


View the trailer below!


1979
Rated PG
90 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"We're going to have a party!"
--J/Metro

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Creature From the Haunted Sea (1961)

Creature From The Haunted Sea

Written by Charles B. Griffith
Directed by Roger Corman

Renzo Cappeto...Antony Carbone
Sparks Moran...Robert Towne
Mary Belle...Betsy Jones-Moreland
Happy Jack...Robert Bean

A bumbling international man of mystery (whose idea of incognito is an expensive pair of Groucho glasses) embarks on an adventure of “robbery, double cross and murder,” and—lucky us—we’re along for the ride.

A treasure of gold has been stolen in order to fund a third-world revolution. Renzo Cappeto, the criminal who is charged with transporting both the treasure and the revolutionaries (as well as the undercover agent XK150), plans to murder his passengers one by one and keep the loot for he and his gang, blaming the deaths on a mythical sea monster. What he doesn’t realize is that the mythical sea monster is no myth at all.

If Roger Corman had been commissioned to direct The Creature From the Black Lagoon, this would very likely have been the result.


Let’s get this out of the way right here and now: there is nothing good about this film, except for the fact that it doesn't take itself much more seriously than we do. The script is laughable, the special effects are shoddy (the monster looks like a cheap Muppets knock-off), and the overall look of the film is rushed and shoddy--show me a Corman flick of this era that wasn't!  However, from the awesome animated opening credits and history of the revolution, to the pseudo-hardboiled narration and mock hipster jive dialogue, to the random musical number in the middle of the movie and the bizarre characters (one man is the equivalent of a human See-and-Say), it’s painfully obvious why, if you’re in the market for a so-bad-it’s-great-‘horror’-movie, Roger Corman is the way to go.

File under “So-Horrible-It’s-Hip.”

View the trailer below!


1961
Not Rated
75 Minutes
Black and White
English
United States

"It was dusk. I could tell 'cause the sun was going down."
--J/Metro


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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Have A Heart...

Happy Valentines Day
From Me To You


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Lame Priest by S. Carleton (1901)

The Lame Priest
by S. Carleton (Susan Morrow Jones)

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WARNING:  Consider this an official Spoiler Alert.  Although, as with most crimes, I'm pretty sure that this has a statute of limitations, and if you haven't read this story yet, chances are you're not going to.
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It's the beginning of a long hard American winter when an aging hermit has the odd fortune of making the acquaintanceship of the titular Lame Priest, a limping and darkly holy man of faith. Despite his obvious handicap, the man moves with a swift fluidity that implies he is something more than his appearance would suggest.

Shortly after their initial interaction, the hermit returns to his desolate homestead to find Andrew, his only close friend, waiting for him. Andrew, being a Native American of the spiritual sort, had a certain atunement to the universe that the hermit does not have. After a number of cryptic warnings (which the hermit neither understands nor heeds), Andrew disappears, leaving only a strange, very Blair Witch-like totem in his stead.

As the winter progresses in its severity, Andrew's odd prophecies begin to be fulfilled as the locals live in fear of a lone wolf that has strayed from his pack and is preying on young children. The hermit, having heard stories of these attacks, keeps an open and vigilant eye, but everywhere he looks, he sees only the Lame Priest.

While by no means a balls-to-the-wall horror story, The Lame Priest is an excellently subtle and unjustly forgotten entry into the werewolf subgenre. How subtle is it? So subtle that, although there are definitely eerie elements throughout, you're not even sure that you're reading a horror story until the finale. Meaning that this tale won't necessarily be everybody's cup of tea. But for lycanthropy fanatics who want a little taste of history--this story is more than 100 years old! (although, like a MILF, it looks great for its age)--this is one to pounce on.

In retrospect, when picturing the Lame Priest, my mind's eye conjures up the image of Kane from Poltergeist 2, a fellow member of the dark clergy who also preyed on youngsters. Curiously, were this story written in more recent times, it would resonate on a deeper level and could be seen as symbolic of allegations within the Catholic church: a priest, having spiritually separated from his brethren (as the wolf physically separated from his pack), assaults the innocent children in his parish.

Whether any such allegory was intended when this was first published in the December 1901 issue of Atlantic Monthly, I can't be sure. But reading it in this modern context certainly gives it an extra layer of chills. And horror with a little social commentary is always a good thing.

Where would George Romero and the zombie film be without it?

One of the benefits of this puppy being a Centurion is that it has fallen into the public domain. Interested parties can download it (or read it online) at ManyBooks.net.  It runs about 36 pages, and it's free, so it isn't going to require any major investment on your part.  So what the bloody hell are you waiting for?  Get with the clickin'!

--J/Metro

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Digital Prophet (1995)

Digital Prophet

Written by Annie Biggs, Tony Brownrigg, Christopher Romero & Schnele Wilson
Directed by Christopher Romero

Meg Jordan...Schnele Wilson
Victor Salinas...Blake Bahner
Newman...Annie Biggs
Andy Coberman...Jeffrey Combs

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NOTE:  This is the fourth in a painful series of Netflix Challenge movie reviews.  Digital Prophet was viewed at the suggestion of Carl from the magnificent I Like Horror Movies blog (and, in a roundabout way, he's the man responsible for this whole Challenge to begin with!).  If you'd like to find out exactly what the Netflix Challenge is, or if you'd like to recommend a film yourself, just click here.
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Police detective Meg Jordan and her partner Vic Salinas become embroiled in a seemingly endless homicide investigation when a serial killer begins targeting victims in their city. The victims appear to have been chosen at random as they can find no link between any of them, until the waifish Newman (not the Seinfeld character) drops the answer into their laps: all of the deceased belonged to an internet chat site called Cyecom.


Cyecom's virtual inhabitants are deep into worlds of fantasy, and each of the victims had mentioned during the course of their chats that they read the underground fetish comic book called "Cyberthoughts". The storyline of this comic involves a "god-like artificial intelligence" that has the power to make people "computer-like", and leads a cult of cyberpunks in a rebellion against the world. Or some such twaddle.

The police here are, at their best, ineffective investigators; at their worst, they are downright terrible people. The contempt with which they view the comic book culture is vile and yet laughable, assuming they're all a bunch of virginal freaks and weirdos, any one of who could be slicing and dicing innocents at any given moment. It really makes you wonder what they must think about horror movie fans, doesn't it? This is really solidified when a pair of them beat the ever-loving shit out of a comic shop owner because they didn't exactly believe in his philosophies.



I have to admit that I was pretty much destined to dislike this movie from word go, and I'll tell you why:

I have a deep contempt for movies that rely on (at-the-time) modern technology for their plot, because they instantly date themselves when the next wave of updates come along. That may be fine and good for a comedy (it's okay for the creation scene in Weird Science to look dated, for instance), but when it comes to a supposedly serious film such as this, that datedness just makes it too hard to take seriously. I may even have been able to get past this if there were more positive aspects to dwell on, but there weren't: the acting is stiff, the dialogue is poor, the special effects are mediocre, and the story manages to be both dull and self-important at the very same time.

Jeffrey Combs is just about the only thing in this movie worth seeing as the creator of the "Cyberthoughts" comic book, a crazed heroin maniac who has a few good monologues ("You're nothing but a couple of cheeseball pawns on the chessboard of life!"), but sitting through the rest of this hot mess to catch his scenes is hardly worth it.


If you're a diehard fan of 1993's Ghost in the Machine (hey, it could happen!), but have always wondered what it would be like if it was crossed with a six-dollar version of The Matrix, then you might actually enjoy this movie. Everyone else should probably leave it on the shelf.

AKA: Cyberstalker

1995
Rated R
96 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"I think those subversive comics are dangerous"
--J/Metro

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