Friday, April 30, 2010

Genre Films on TCM (04.30.10)

There's a quartet of genre films on Turner Classic Movies starting late tonight that you may be interested in.  Peep it:

11:15pm: Nocturne (1946)
A police detective refuses to believe a composer's death was suicide.
Cast: George Raft, Lynn Bari, Virginia Huston, Joseph Pevney Dir: Edwin L. Marin BW-87 mins, TV-PG

12:45am: Johnny Angel (1946)
A sailor sets out to solve his father's murder.
Cast: George Raft, Claire Trevor, Signe Hasso, Lowell Gilmore Dir: Edwin L. Marin BW-79 mins, TV-G

2:15am: Incubus (1965)
An evil spirit plots to snare the soul of a courageous and good man.
Cast: William Shatner, Milos Milos, Allyson Ames, Eloise Hardt Dir: Leslie Stevens BW-74 mins, TV-14

3:45am: Brotherhood of Satan, The (1971)
A vacationing family is trapped in the desert by aging devil worshippers.
Cast: Strother Martin, L. Q. Jones, Charles Bateman, Ahna Capri Dir: Bernard McEveety [Jr.] C-93 mins, TV-14

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Horror at Martin's Beach by H.P. Lovecraft

The Horror at Martin's Beach
by H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Green

This story has been called by some "wild" and "improbable", and I must admit that both of these adjectives fit the bill quite well.  But how many of Lovecraft's stories do you read and then think, "Yeah...I could see that happening"?

A group of sailors kill an enormous fish-like sea monster after a lengthy fight at sea. Bringing the carcass back to Martin's Beach, a small makeshift museum is set up to house it, and everyone and their mother is more than happy to fork over a few bucks to see the beast up close and personal.

Scientific probing has discovered that this monster, large though it may be, is actually an infant, a virtual newborn. Meaning that were its natural lifespan not interrupted, it could have grown many times its current size. And also meaning that somewhere out there in the murky waters lurks the mother. A mother who is probably none too happy about the murder of her child.

The vengeance that Big Mama wreaks upon the beachcombing populace could have come across as a Cthulu-meets-Jaws scenario (and honestly, I was kind of hoping that it would), but instead we're given a vengeance so melancholy that it would feel right at home in some imported slice of Japanese cinema.

Which isn't necesarily a bad thing...but it is certainly far from what you might expect. It's worth reading if only to see where it ends up...strange and subtle as it is.

--J/Metro

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

The House Where Evil Dwells

Written by Robert Suhosky
Directed by Kevin Connor
Based on the novel by James Hardiman

Ted...Edward Albert
Laura...Susan George
Alex...Doug McClure
Otami...Mako Hattori

In 1840 Kyoto, Japan, a Samurai warrior catches his wife bedding down with another man.  Enraged, he cuts them both down and then kills himself harikari style.  These spirits, unable to rest, are still going strong some 130 years later when an American family moves in.

Ted is a journalist who has uprooted his beautiful wife Laura and young daughter Amy in search of a story.  His best friend Alex, who resides in Japan, found them the house for a real bargain.  Because, he says, the place is haunted.

And sure enough, in no time at all strange things begin to happen: lights turn on and off by themselves, water faucets behave as if they have a mind of their own, and Ted catches brief glimpses of three people who aren't there from the corner of his eye.


It goes far beyond this relatively harmless specteral horseplay, though, as the spirit of Otami the slain woman enters into Laura's body for brief moments, just long enough to make a suggestive comment to her husband's best friend, planting a seed of lust in his mind.

The very nature of this film brings up a number of questions that beg to be answered.  For instance,  is Otami just a spirit slut who gets off on banging her hubby's buddies, or does she have no choice, forced to repeat her sins over and over again even in death?  And was the attraction and sexual tension between Alex and Laura always there, or was it created by Otami?  And, perhaps most importantly, how did Ben grow such a sensational mustache?

The world may never know.

Perhaps loosely inspired by Japanese folklore traditions, this movie still very much feels like an American horror movie in a Japanese setting...because that's what it is.  Suitably shot, well acted, and backed by a great score, it just barely fails to live up to the beauty of the opening scene.


I'm not usually much of a fan of haunted house films, but this one I quite enjoyed.  Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for the whole Zen/Buddhism thing (despite the fact that it goes completely against my lifestyle of chemicals, excesses, and bitter hedonism), and that whole vibe ran throughout this movie both in scenery and character...albeit a probably bastardized and Americanized version of the aesthetic.  In fact, the actual House (you know, the one where evil dwells) is pretty much my dream home, haunted or not.  If I knew how to calculate dollars into Yen, I'd be all over that.

A solid and different take on the haunted house genre.  Well worth a watch once you get tired of the American versions of Ringu, Ju-On, etc.

View the trailer below!


1982
Rated R
88 Minutes
Color
English
United States/Japan

"It Never Forgives Or Forgets"
--J/Metro

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dark Ditties: The Convict

Now, I'm not much of one for country music, but I do make certain exceptions--The Man in Black being the primary example.  Today's Dark Ditty may not have been a part of Mr. Cash's oeuvre (hell, maybe it was.  What do I know?), but it definitely could have been.  There doesn't seem to be any answer as to who actually wrote the bloody thing, but I can tell you that this version came from the 1910 edition of Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, collected by John A. Lomax.  Click here to download the whole she-bang.

The Convict
When slumbering In my convict cell my childhood days I see,
When I was mother's little child and knelt at mother's knee.
There my life was peace, I know, I knew no sorrow or pain.
Mother dear never did think, I know, I would wear a felon's chain.

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink,
Ah, don't you hear the clinking of my chain?
Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink,
Ah, don't you hear the clinking of my chain?

When I had grown to manhood and evil paths I trod,
I learned to scorn my fellow-man and even curse my God;
And in the evil course I ran for a great length of time
Till at last I ran too long and was condemned for a felon's crime.

My prison life will soon be o'er, my life will soon be gone,--
May the angels waft it heavenward to a bright and happy home.

I'll be at rest, sweet, sweet rest, there is rest in the heavenly home;
I'll be at rest, sweet, sweet rest, there is rest in the heavenly home.

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink,
Ah, don't you hear the clinking of my chain?
Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink,
Ah, don't you hear the clinking of my chain?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hypnos by H.P. Lovecraft

Hypnos
by H.P. Lovecraft

"Hypnos" is a logical melding of Lovecraft's dream-related fantasy tales and his horror stories, a melding which proves to be quite beneficial. Our Nameless Narrator here is a sculptor, who one day meets a strange man on a subway platform. Looking into this man's intense and powerful eyes, our narrator senses a natural wisdom regarding the unnatural world, and sees a way into the realm of forbidden secrets that he has longed for.

Our Nameless Narrator and his equally Nameless New Friend strike up a complex relationship and move in together. From there they begin to explore an alternate plane of existence, one hidden behind the veil of sleep, a nightmare land populated by forbidden knowledge and aspects of the arcane. With the assistance of a pharmaceutical cocktail, they dig deeper and deeper into this new world...but it's only a matter of time before they find themselves in too deep.

The horror here is once again unglimpsed, barely even spoken of, in fact. We see more of the side-effects of said horror, actually, which is in fact a horror of its own. The utter fear of sleep that these two develop, and their willingness to medicate themselves to stay awake, are both conventions used here that predate the Nightmare On Elm Street series by a vast number of years. So don't let anyone say that Freddy started it all...

The major difference between this story and the author's other dream tales is that the characters her are, well, real characters and not just fleshy vehicles used to explore the imaginary topography of Lovecraft's fantasy lands.

But the biggest difference? I actually wanted to finish reading this story, and didn't just do it out of some ridiculous obligation.

--J/Metro

Friday, April 23, 2010

Genre Films on TCM Tonight (04.23.10)

There are a small handful of genre films playing on Turner Classic Movies tonight:  two you've probably seen, and two you probably haven't (but what do I know?).  Check 'em out, hipsters!

8:00pm: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Classic sci-fi epic about a mysterious monolith that seems to play a key role in human evolution.
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter Dir: Stanley Kubrick C-149 mins, TV-G

11:00pmClose Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
A blue-collar worker's encounter with a UFO leaves him a changed man.
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Terry Garr, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon Dir: Steven Spielberg C-135 mins, TV-MA

2:00amHell's Angels (1969)
Two brothers plot to use the Hell's Angels to provide a diversion while they rob a Vegas casino.
Cast: Jeremy Slate, Tom Stern, Conny Van Dyke. Dir: Ernst Schmidt Jr C-96 mins

3:45am: Rebel Rousers (1970)
A businessman fights to rescue his pregnant girlfriend from a motorcycle gang.
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd Dir: Martin B. Cohen C-77 mins, TV-14

Modern Love (2006)

Modern Love

Written by Nick Matthews
Directed by Alex Frayne

John...Mark Constable
Emily...Victoria Hill
Edward...William Traegar

In what is being called an Australian Gothic Psychodrama, John and his family (wife Emily and son Edward) say farewell to the city for what is supposed to be a brief sojourn into the countryside to claim an inheritance left when John's uncle Tom committed suicide.  But finding themselves in the strange rural setting where John grew up, surrounded by the off-kilter locals that he once knew, seems to have an unwanted effect on John's mind.

Unable to accept the idea that Tom had killed himself, John begins to display a change in personality--perhaps even the personality of Tom himself.  He also hears voices from the radio, telling him that not everything is as it seems around here.

American cinema has made great use of the Creepy Little Town motif, so an Australian take should have been a slam-dunk.  The rural Aussie townsfolk would be foreign enough to American audiences to warrant attention, but recognizable enough to keep us in the game...in theory.  Too bad that in practice, Modern Love doesn't manage it successfully for my tastes.

With its slow-moving storyline, non-linear plot structure, complex soundscapes, artfully managed camerawork, and deadpan color palette, it becomes obvious that this is meant to be more than a mere genre film...and I can respect that.  I'm all for bringing a little of the arthouse into the grindhouse.  But only if it doesn't compromise the film as a whole.

The truth of the matter is that I found this movie to be a convoluted and pretentious mess.  And a painfully dull one at that.  It took everything I had not to hit that FF button (to say nothing of the EJECT button), having faith that in the end it would pull itself together.

It tried.  Lord knows it tried...but too little too late.

Call me crazy, but I'm pretty damn sure that art doesn't have to be boring.  Anyone else agree?

And no, the title makes absolutely no sense at all.  Just in case you were wondering.
--J/Metro

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Psycho by Robert Bloch

Psycho
 by Robert Bloch

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that nearly every genre fan reading this blog has seen Alfred Hitchcock's seminal prototype slasher film Psycho, or, at the very least, seen the epically pointless Gus Van Sant remake.  And I'm going to go out on another limb here and say that not nearly as many have actually read the source material, the novel of the same name by "Weird Fiction" writer Robert Bloch.  In more dated instances (Dracula, Frankenstein) this would be more understandable, but it's a bit more difficult to explain when it comes to modern fare...and yes, when it comes to cinema and literature, 50+ years can still be considered "modern".

This becomes more forgivable upon actually reading the book, however.  Hitchcock was so thoroughly faithful to the Bloch novel--with pretty much all characters and plot points accounted for and only a few nominal changes made for cinematic presence--that the book could just as easily have been a novelization of the film.  This works both as a pro and a con.

On the one hand, it's always refreshing to see an adaptation that doesn't bastardize the original source.  But on the other hand, for those of you who have already seen the movie, there is nothing new or undiscovered waiting for you between these covers.  It is the equivalent of reading a novel-length plot synopsis of the movie.  An exercise in futility, almost, which is ironic and a shame, since Bloch's work predated the film.

If one were somehow to go into this book fresh, having no familiarity with the film or the story, this would be one hell of a good read.  Mary Crane, recently having lifted a hefty sum from her employer, flees from her old life en route to a new one.  She stops at the nearly-forgotten Bates Motel, where she piques the attention of motel proprietor and mama's boy Norman Bates, who watches her through a secret peephole as she undresses, filled with a combination of lust and disgust.  In short order, Mary is attacked and killed while she showers by the titular Psycho (Norman's frail and feeble mother)...and that's when the story really begins.  Mary's fiancee and her younger sister form an unlikely alliance with a licensed investigator, and eventually the local police, as they attempt to discover the missing girl's fate.  To say anymore would spoil the surprises...if five decades of time hasn't already done so.

Bloch crafted here a crime story that slowly evolved into a horror story by way of the psychological thriller.  It is a convincing character study of madness, one that cares just as much about the cause and interior workings of the mental illness as it does about the mental illness itself.  Inspired by the real-life case of Ed Gein (which is said to have happened something like 35 miles from Bloch's home), this is thankfully not a mere true-crime work, but a rock-solid original piece that is grounded in reality, which gives it a much more timeless quality.  Even if it is overshadowed by Hitchcock's movie.

Maybe one needs to look at is as if the film version was the version that was meant to exist, and Robert Bloch's novel was just the first step in its natural evolution.  Without Bloch, there would be no Psycho, there would be no Norma/Norman/Normal Bates.  And as far as being overshadowed by Hitchcock, you could do a lot worse.  He was the Master of Suspense.

He cast a pretty big shadow.

--J/Metro

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Horror Hotlist of Bad People (Fever Night)

Every now and then, I like to turn the spotlight over to the members of the indie horror community, and let them shine it on their influences and favorite flicks.  For this edition, I tapped Jordan Harris and Andrew Schrader of Bad People Motion Pictures to see what gets their spooky mojo working.  Once you've browsed the list, click here to read my review of their film Fever Night AKA Band of Satanic Outsiders, or here to view the official webpage.
_________________________________

1) Am i Fucking Crazy or Is This Place Haunted?

  • The Shining
  • The Haunting
  • The Innocents
All these movies deal with people who are just completely insane, and the scary devices are so simple... Just faces on the other side of glass or something. We stole one of the coolest shots in Fever Night straight from The Innocents... with a face on the other side of glass that moves in and out...

It's a great dynamic when you have a character that may be crazy, because you never know if the movie is taking the perspective of a lunatic. Low budget filmmakers should watch all of these just for the sound, too, 'cause it's so simple and effective... like a lunatic.

2) Documentary/Dramas are Scary, Too!

  • JFK
  • The Thin Blue Line
  • 9/11: The Rise of Martial Law
  • Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
Most people don't think of JFK as a horror film, but that movie scares the shit out of me... So do the others, and several other docs like Silver Lake Life: The View From Here. Not many have heard of this one, but it's the saddest movie I've ever seen, and I'll never watch it again. Although I do own it... it's a documentary made by two gay men who take care of each other while both are dying from AIDS. They make a pact to film the dead body when they find it... enough said.

These movies touch on some kind of horror you can't get from horror genre flicks. They are all frightful, produce revolting feelings, etc. but they are about collective political fears as opposed to collective sexual or religious fears... or those fears like being physically tortured to death. The way we classify movies in general seems vague, but especially horror movies. The newer trend of conspiracy movies are really interesting in terms of how they interact with the audience, too. They put you in a very awkward place socially and politically. Whether or not you agree with their arguments is beside the point--what's cooler is how they divide people, make you take a side, and keep you on guard.

3) Carnival of Souls 

We watched this during pre-production and modeled Warren's ghost's make-up from Fever Night after it. It's very simple, just black and white on someone's face; that's all you need, and it's much scarier than the ghouls/zombies today. Actually, the whole movie is simple as hell... again, is the protagonist crazy? And it has an awesome score.
    
4) De Palma Flicks 

Movies like Carrie, Sisters, Blow Out, and Murder a la Mod make me realize the incredible potential of movies as both art and escapism. Murder is especially interesting since it was his first movie, and the opening is great. It's got all the De Palma goodies, but on such a small budget, and he's really trying hard.

5) Vampire's Kiss 

The only thing actually scary in this movie is Nicolas Cage's facial expressions--overall, it's just uncomfortably hilarious (fast forward through any scene without Nic Cage... or not, it's your life). For more great vampire monologues, watch another Bad People favorite, the Warhol-produced, Morrissey-directed soft-core horror porn, Blood for Dracula... "The blood of these whores... is killing me!"

6) The Brood 

My favorite Cronenberg because this is the one in which I feel he most successfully presents a relatable world in the beginning of the film that gradually depreciates into bizarro mutant insanity.

7) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

This is one of those films you can only watch every once in a while because it definitely pushes the limits of entertainment--just below Cannibal Holocaust on the list of making you feel like shit while you watch it, but afterward you feel like you've watched something really amazing... then you realize every scene was one shot.

8) Suspiria

Is this movie perfect or did I just crane up into a light bulb? High art meets low art at its very best. This is the surreal, saturated aesthetic we strove for when making Fever Night.

9) Zucker's American Carol, Fox News etc. 

It's not the politics, it's the attitude of disinformation, manipulation, propaganda, and traditionalism that scares the heckballs out of Bad People everywhere, but we can't stop watching it... Chances are, Fox is on in the background at Bad People HQ right now.

10) Evil Dead 2 

Intentional/unintentional humor that will never be topped, no matter how hard many try (including Bad People). For actual unintentional humor, look to the little known sub-genre of crawlspace dwellers- start with Bad Ronald and Hider in the House (with Gary Busey in top gear).

--Bad People

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Burnt Offerings (1976)

Burnt Offerings

Written by Dan Curtis & William F. Nolan
Directed by Dan Curtis
Based on the novel by Robert Marasco

Marian Rolf...Karen Black
Ben Rolf...Oliver Reed
Davy Rolf...Lee Montgomery
Aunt Elizabeth...Bette Davis

The Rolf family--father Ben, mother Marian, young son Davy, and rascally old aunt Elizabeth--rent an enormous Victorian mansion in the country for the summer.  The owners of the house, odd brother and sister pair the Alyrdyces, give them a hell of a deal on the place: only $900 for the whole season.


There is, however, a catch.  They must care for the aging matriarch who lives upstairs.  She shouldn't prove too much of a problem, though.  She's notoriously reclusive and never lives her room.  All that she requires is 3 solid meals a day, left outside her bedroom door.

All seems fine at first, as the Rolfs get down to the task of maxing and/or relaxing.  But there seems to be a strange energy in this house, one which effects everyone inside it.  The normally reserved Ben begins to lose his cool; Marian becomes obsessed with the house and its myriad treasures; and the lively Elizabeth begins to lose her spunk, becoming more and more like a little old lady each day.  And that is saying nothing of the house itself, which seems to be undergoing mysterious repairs and renovations, returning itself to its previous luster.

Equal parts The Shining, Amityville Horror, House of the Devil, and Rose Red, this sounds like a pretty potent brew.  But director Dan Curtis (who I like to think of as the Dark Aaron Spelling) plays it very low-key, which is both helpful and harmful to the effect.  A quiet and understated horror is great for adding atmosphere, but you still need the occasional solid scare to drive it home.


Sadly, this movie seems to be missing that, and so whatever creepy-crawlies it may give you never solidifies enough to be fully effective.  For the most part, this is perhaps more of a gothic melodrama than a true horror film, which makes sense considering Curtis' involvement with TV's Dark Shadows.  It's not until the (admittedly wicked) finale that this blossoms into the movie I would have preferred it to be.

It's not a bad flick, and there are some great performances here, but Burnt Offerings just doesn't seem quite so fresh when viewed through modern eyes.


View the trailer below!

1976
Rated PG
116 Minutes
Color
United States/Italy
English

"The house takes care of itself."
--J/Metro

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Lurking Fear by H.P. Lovecraft

The Lurking Fear
by H.P. Lovecraft

Our Nameless Narrator in this short story is perhaps an ancestor of Fox Mulder, a paranormal investigator before the term paranormal was even coined. He doesn't do it for fame, and he doesn't do it for money. Instead, he does it all in the name of obsession.

In this instance, the obsession leads our narrator to investigate an old secluded house that some have said to be haunted, the apex of a series of bizarre mutilation murders. He assembles a team to assist in the investigation, and when they're dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, well, he just assembles another one.

This isn't the best of Lovecraft's work, nor is it the most original. It shares its serial format with the previous great work "Herbert West: Reanimator" (doing away, thankfully, with the reiteration of the previous chapter at the beginning of each new one), but it takes itself much more seriously--which is in step with the majority of the author's work. It is partly a haunted house tale, and partly a forerunner of Tremors, which may sound quite novel, but the surprise ending will come as no surprise to anyone who has read Lovecraft's own "Beast in the Cave" and "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family", of which this tale is relatively derivative. If you haven't read those stories, and you're going into this one fresh, you may have an enthusiasm for "The Lurking Fear" that I just can't quite muster.

It seems almost as if Lovecraft was unhappy with these earlier pieces, and so pilfered the aspects that he thought could be reworked into something usable. Regardless of this, it remains a very well-written (perhaps over-written) story with a few chilling scenes, and you could do much worse if looking for a suitable jumping-on point.

--J/Metro

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft

The Tomb
by H.P. Lovecraft

This story is another rare instance where a narrator in a Lovecraft story actually has a name. Unfortunately (for him) that name just so happens to be the unlikely moniker Jervas Dudley. Jervas is an odd young chap, and perhaps more than a little off his rocker--he admits right off the bat that he is currently a patient in a mental institution. But is he truly crazy, or is the truth of his story just too crazy for the rest of the world?

It seems that many years ago, there was a particular house in his neighborhood that went up in flames, killing the last surviving members of the Hyde family. All of them were entombed in a private crypt built into the recesses of a hillside.  Having grown up in the area and having heard many stories about this family's untimely demise, young Jervas develops a perhaps unhealthy fascination with the crypt, and longs to visit the inside. But the door is solid and sealed tight with a plethora of chains and padlocks. For quite some time, he is content to lay at its entrance and daydream...until the day he finds the key.

Finally admitted entrance, Jervas begins to bear witness to and be the subject of many strange events, culminating in one big daddy of a spectral shift.

While "The Tomb" is a superbly written story and has some great, creepy quotes contained within, the actual story itself is only mediocre. There seems to be very little of a threat here, and the narrator refuses to tell us so much that it feels as if all the good parts are being left out. The ending seemed a bit of a cop-out, too, although the whole ambiguous 'was it real or was it a dream' theme was probably not as played out then as it is now.

Interestingly, the climax of this story has a lot of similarities with The Shining, so fans of that great work may want to give this one a read for comparison's sake.

--J/Metro

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Terror in the Haunted House (1961)

Terror in the Haunted House

Written by Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Harold Daniels

Philip...Gerald Mohr
Sheila...Cathy O'Donnell

Philip and Sheila are two Americans living abroad in Switzerland, but now that they're beginning their life together as a married couple, they decide to move back to the States, and no amount of cheese, army knives, or politically neutral timepieces are going to convince them otherwise.


It's just too bad that Sheila has been suffering from these strange nightmares, ever since she and Philip first got together.  In these dreams, she is ascending a staircase in an old and mysterious house, headed upwards into the attic where she finds...

Well, we're not quite sure what she finds, because she never quite remembers when she wakes up.  But it slowly starts coming back to her when she realizes that their new American homestead is the very same one she has been dreaming about.

Calling it a haunted house is a bit of a deception.  It's more like a house of mystery, and not a terribly compelling one at that.  The characters are melodramatic and oftentimes annoying, except for the loony caretaker Jonah, who was melodramatic in a manic and fun sort of way.  There are no real special effects to speak of, and no true scares, so how effective this is as a horror movie is questionable.  The moody, convoluted plot line is more like something you would see spread out over the course of years on a soap opera, with a little dash of Freudian psychology thrown in for good measure.  And just in case you're unclear as to what's going on, just wait until the end, when everything is spelled out for you in such a way that blind children who don't speak the language could understand it.  Because actually showing it would take too much time and effort.

I will say this: while this initially seemed to be another ridiculous "drive-the-wife-insane" story (i.e. The Screaming Skull), it took a quick left turn into drastically different territory.  Which helped my overall impression of the film...but not by much.

Seemingly the only reason one would choose to watch this mediocre chiller is because it was filmed using a miraculous new process called PSYCHO-RAMA, which utilizes subliminal techniques to enhance the viewing experience.  Or some such hooey.  In essence, Psycho-Rama means that a piece of clip-art flashes across the screen for a fraction of a second before anything remotely spooky happens. 


It's not truly subliminal because your conscious mind still registers that it saw something, but it is truly annoying.  Rather than enhance the viewing experience, it actually distracts from it, because as soon as you see the flashing image, you know it's time to be scared, which actually counteracts the intention by dispensing with any possible element of surprise.

In my opinion, you will probably want to steer clear of this one unless you're a die-hard gimmick fanatic and you're looking to move beyond the (far superior) works of William Castle.

ALSO KNOWN AS: My World Dies Screaming

1961
Not Rated
85 Minutes
Black and White
English
United States

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Genre Films on TCM Tomorrow (04.15.10)

I hope you don't have to work tomorrow, hipsters, because starting at 6:15 AM and running pretty much all damned day Turner Classic Movies is running a marathon of classic horror/sci-fi shenanigans.  Check out the line-up:

6:15 AM The Mysterious Island (1929)
8:00 AM One Million B.C. (1940)
9:30 AM The Thing From Another World (1951)
11:00 AM The Time Machine (1960)
12:45 PM War of the Planets (1965)
2:30 PM The Wild Wild Planet (1965)
4:15 PM The Land that Time Forgot (1975)
6:00 PM Return from Witch Mountain (1978)

The Music of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft

The Music of Erich Zann
by H.P. Lovecraft

Our pre-requisite Nameless Narrator is this time a college student whose lack of financial stability has forced him to take up residence in the only place he could afford: a very strange house in a very strange neighborhood. Lovecraft's description of the area conjures up images of subtly nightmarish gothic architecture that would feel right at home in a fever dream.  
"I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d’Auseil. It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall. Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation. The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below."
 One of the very few other residents living in the house is Erich Zann, a mute German musician that rents a room above our narrator. At night, while he is trying to sleep, he can hear Zann's music coming from upstairs, a bizarre and otherworldy tune vastly unlike anything ever heard before. Entranced, our narrator makes an effort to befriend the old musician and witness a performance first hand.

It takes some time to gain the confidence of Zann, but when he does our narrator learns that Zann's room comes with a view and that view comes with a terrible price. Most of all, he learns that Zann's music has a purpose (although to give away that purpose here would be a crime).

This short story is beautifully written, and is a sterling example of Unglimpsed Horror. Lovecraft was reportedly very happy with the way it turned out, as it was free of the grusomeness and overwriting of some of his earlier works. It's written with such subtlety, in fact, that to offer any information about the threat that our characters face would give away too much--even the author refused to tell us!

Coming hot on the heels of the glorious excess of "Herbert West: Reanimator", the change in style almost makes you reel.  Which isn't to say it's a bad thing. In fact, despite their drastic differences--and they are drastic; an uninformed reader could easily mistake them for the work of two separate authors--both tales are among my favorites of Lovecraft's work...so far.

Stay tuned.
--J/Metro

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Hiking Trip (2007)

The Hiking Trip

Written by Robert Parent, Karen Parent and David Lawrence
Directed by Robert Parent

Tracy Young...Kortney Adams
Todd Lincoln...Dennis Lemoine
Stephanie Brooks...Leah Polacco
Dr. Morgan...David Lawrence

A young woman named Tracy awakens in a strange hospital room with no knowledge of how she got there. The last thing she remembers is embarking on a hiking trip with two friends, Todd and Stephanie.  In her mind, she was with them only moments ago.  But in reality, she has been in a coma for approximately three months.  So what happened to her on that hiking trip, and what horrible fate befell her friends?

That's exactly what her doctor intends to find out.  Through the course of her treatments, Tracy takes us back to that day in the woods, revealing her story in tidbits and snippets (oh, my!).

The doctor, I should mention, is not your ordinary doctor.  And no, he's not one of those mad doctors either.  He seems quite sane, and quite good at his job in fact, but you never actually see the man.  He presents himself to Tracy (and to us) from a different location, appearing as a large mechanical eye/camera attached to the wall of her room.  Why?  I couldn't tell you.  Just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Tracy's story packs quite a few horrific images, but it also packs quite a few inconsistencies.  You're never really sure if what is being shown actually happened, or if it's some lunatic hallucination being recounted by a crazy person.

This unlikely mix of the dreadful Gothika and and the so-bad-yet-so-addictive Fox Reality Channel show Solitary is a fine attempt at psychological horror, but unfortunately it's just not quite up to the challenge of meeting its own ambitions.  The mixing of reality and fantasy is always a fun concept that runs out of steam real quick, and The Hiking Trip is no exception.

The acting is sometimes stiff, and the scripting a little rough in patches, but overall the direction wasn't bad.  Weighing the pros against the cons, this isn't a bad movie (certainly it's better than much of the low-budget horror out there), but it isn't quite a good movie either.  Quality-wise, it's strictly middle-of-the-road, worth perhaps a rental, but definitely not begging for a second viewing.



View the trailer below!


2007
Not Rated
90 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"Some trips are only in the mind."
--J/Metro

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dark Ditties: Of One Self-Slain

Here's another Dark Ditty, this time taken from 1919's The Second Book of Modern Verse.  Click here to grab the book for free. It's a very brief couplet about a man who committed suicide, only to then find himself berated by God.


Of One Self-Slain.
by Charles Hanson Towne

When he went blundering back to God,
His songs half written, his work half done,
Who knows what paths his bruised feet trod,
What hills of peace or pain he won?
I hope God smiled and took his hand,
And said, "Poor truant, passionate fool!
Life's book is hard to understand:
Why couldst thou not remain at school?"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Herbert West: Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft

Herbert West: Reanimator
by H.P. Lovecraft

Once again, a nameless narrator recounts a personal tale of terror, as is the norm for Lovecraft's work. However, this is not your typical Lovecraft story--not in the least. There are no alien gods here, no primordial races, and no hint of black magic. Lovecraft here gives us his first mad scientist in Dr. Herbert West, and with it the first instance of a character bringing the horror upon themselves. It's also a very human horror...or at least it used to be.

The story begins with our narrator and Herbert West as medical students at Miskatonic University, where West has been conducting a series of unnatural experiments behind the backs of his advisers. The narrator has been assisting him out of some strange sense of hero worship, thinking that West's powerful mind must surely lead to great scientific breakthroughs.

If the title of the story didn't clue you in (and if you somehow missed the film adaptation), the two med students are using a chemical formula that West created in order to reanimate the dead. And almost right off the bat, it works.

Sort of.

The results are both promising and disheartening. Obviously, the formula hasn't been perfected yet, but more than that, the corpses available to medical students just aren't fresh enough. So how do two enterprising young upstarts procure fresh corpses? Oh, there are plenty of ways.

This tale could practically be called an epic, as it spans nearly two decades of this ungodly partnership, taking the dastardly duo from Miskatonic U, to practitioners during a time of plague, and even into the trenches of World War I. And as time goes on and the chapters flip by, the experiments continue, growing more grotesque and more perverse each time.

Were this story written somewhat later, during the days of WWII, it would have seemed strange for West to be on our side--his nasty experiments would seem right at home alongside the Nazi scientists. West would have seemed right at home as well, as this not-so-good doctor was of the blue eyed, blond haired Aryan persuasion. And Lovecraft isn't about to let you forget it, casually tossing this tidbit of information into the pot whenever the opportunity presented itself, as if it were a crucial plot element. I understand that each of the six chapters required a recap of the one before it due to its original serialized form, but the fact that West was a tow-head didn't need reiterated quite so much.

In fact, its only these recaps (a necessary evil--this tale was serialized from the February-July 1922 issues of Home Brew) that slow things down. The rest of the story was a non-stop thrill-ride (to quote every Hollywood critic known to man), and I loved every minute of it. Well, almost every minute. Just when you thought Lovecraft might make it through an entire story without letting his racist views shine through, he goes and disappoints you.  "Product of his time," blah, blah blah.

I hear that Lovecraft wrote this as a parody of sorts of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and that he was unhappy with the final product. I find that difficult to believe, even if it is the truth. While he may not have been exorcising any personal demons with this story, it read like, for the first time, he was actually having fun while he wrote. This is Lovecraft at his wildest, absolutely unhinged.

Fans of the movie series should definitely give this one a peep, and let me know what you thought. In my opinion, this is his best work yet.

--J/Metro

Friday, April 9, 2010

Clownstrophobia (2009)

Clownstrophobia

Directed by Geraldine Winters & Daniel Dowding

A boy, wearing a clown mask, kills his entire family except for his younger sister.  He's institutionalized for the majority of his life, but one night he escapes while the staff are enjoying a raucous costume party (chock full of sin and debauchery, natch!), and hits the road.  He winds up at an old house where his sister (now a psychiatrist) is hosting an experimental group therapy session.  As luck would have it, all of her patients are young and attractive slasher fodder...each with a deep and ingrained fear of clowns.

Chop-chop!


You know how in the Halloween series, the young Michael Myers wore a clown mask when he murdered his family?  But then when he grew up, he traded it in for a blank and lifeless latex mask?  Well, this movie seems to be that story on an alternate world, where Michael's name is Snuffles, he spent his formative years watching torture porn, and he never bothered to upgrade his mask.

True, it's not very original and even the un-Halloween-like aspects are derivative of other film series.  But hell, when was the last time a truly creative horror movie came out?  It certainly wasn't The Crazies, or Quarantine, or even Saw VI.  And if we don't hold that against Hollywood (we may say we do, but we still pay to see these movies, don't we?) then how can we hold it against the little guys?  And the villain is a killer clown, for Bozo's sake.  And if you know nothing else about me, know this:  I love me some killer clowns.


To be honest, this movie started out rough.  We're talking rougher than a redneck bar that has run out of Pabst Blue Ribbon on a Saturday night.  The acting was shaky, the characters were thin, and I hadn't the faintest idea what was going on.  But by the time the movie found its legs, it actually turned out to be pretty damn enjoyable...in a guilty pleasure sort of way.  The violence is extreme, at times like a low-budget Hostel at a McDonald's Playland, so both slasher fans and gorenographers should find something to enjoy here.

But those of you who hate the smell of greasepaint need not apply.



View the trailer below!


2009
Not Rated
78 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"Everyone loves a clown, don't they?"
--J/Metro

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Race with the Devil (1975)

Race With the Devil
Written by Lee Frost & Wes Bishop
Directed by Jack Starrett

Roger Marsh...Peter Fonda
Frank Stewart...Warren Oates
Alice Stewart...Loretta Swit
Kelly Marsh...Lara Parker

Motorcycle enthusiasts Frank and Roger take their significant others on an off-season vacation to Aspen, Colorado.  Rather than make their Betty's ride bitch on the back of their hogs, they opt to travel in the lap of luxury:  an enormous mobile home with all the trimmings, a wet bar and a color TV among them.  But long before they reach their intended destination--at the end of their first day on the road in fact--the trip takes a detour into the backwoods of weird.


Camped out in the secluded wilderness, the brothers witness what they perhaps first to believe to be a harmless hippie trip-out in the distance, alit by a roaring bonfire.  But the festivities turn from hippie and trippy to evil and bloody in the blink of an eye when a nudie cutie is offered up in sacrifice.

Fleeing the scene, the vacationers seek assistance from the local police, but their help is nominal at best.  Back on the road, it seems that everyone they encounter is hiding something, everyone is suspect.  Is it simply paranoia, or does this tribe of devil dancers have such an impossible reach?

At the risk of spoilers...what do you think?

The characters may not be fully fleshed out (the relationships between the main characters were never explored, nor did the aforementioned motorcycle mania ever come into play), but you can't help but love the casting: Peter Fonda, the great Warren Oates, and Hot Lips Houlihan?  Hell yeah!


While not an entirely original plot, what could have been and perhaps should have been  standard low-rent drive-in fare somehow turns out to be something else entirely: a hell of a good time!  And an exciting and tense movie to boot!

With some hella good chase scenes, ably enacted moments of paranoia, and quite possibly the greatest Man-Vs.-Snake scene ever captured on celluloid (sorry Sammy L.), this one starts off a little slow but kicks into high gear quickly enough, revving up to a chilling and fitting finale.

Imagine a nutty fruitcake comprised of equal parts Duel and The Hills Have Eyes, and you're already halfway there.  I've seen this one in the literal dollar bin (and am kicking myself for not picking it up!), so there's no excuse for not seeing this movie, hipsters.


View the trailer below!

1975
Rated PG
88 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"If you're going to race with the devil, you've got to be as fast as Hell!"
--J/Metro


Race With the Devil
       (buy it!)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Nameless City by H.P. Lovecraft

The Nameless City
by H.P. Lovecraft

In this short story from Lovecraft we have two nameless entities: not only the city of which the title refers, but also the standard Nameless Narrator. This time around, he is an explorer of sorts, poking his nose around where it doesn't belong: namely an odd little ancient city hidden in the relentless sands of the Arabian desert. The buildings are out of proportion with laughably low ceilings, and the walls are adorned with strange hieroglyphs and carvings that depict a race of humanoid lizard-like beings. But if these creatures ever truly existed, surely they went extinct long ago...right?

Don't be so sure, Nameless Narrator. This is, after all, an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Lovecraft fuses elements of actual world history and his own homebrewed mythology to make a believable framework for his tales, and he does it better here than he ever has elsewhere. And although it's something of a rarity in that it takes place in a distant land, rather than the author's own backyard, "The Nameless City" still could have been a solid entry, but it just barely misses the mark for a few reasons.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the concept of a man out of his element, investigating a missing culture of hybrid creatures. In fact, it's a hell of a story. It was a hell of a story the first time he wrote it, too, in a piece called "Dagon" only a few short years prior.

But while "Dagon" was a tightly written tale that left you wanting more, "The Nameless City" exists on the opposite side of the spectrum: it's a slightly bloated, over-written rehash with a fondness for adjectives unusual for Lovecraft. Up until now on this chronological journey of the man's work, every story (even the ones I haven't been so fond of) seemed effortless. But here, for the first time, it seems almost as if he's trying too hard.

Some sources claim that this is the first story that can be considered a part of the Cthulu Mythos, but I'm not quite convinced of that. As outlined above, this is a rewrite of "Dagon", and the character of Dagon would later appear within the Mythos, so if either of these tales deserve that title, it seems to me that it should be the earlier one. Granted, mention is made here of Alhazred the Mad Arab, who would eventually be revealed as the author of the Necronomicon (an important book in the Mythos), but other earlier tales had introduced reocurring characters as well. It seems to me that Lovecraft had been slowly building his shared universe since day one, when "The Alchemist" first saw print.

Of course, I'm in no position to be arguing the point. Maybe my perception will change as I read further. Stay tuned...

--J/Metro

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bikinis? Vampires? Babes? Bikini Vampire Babes!

Hey Hipsters!

Just received an e-mail from a fellow by name of Ted West, informing me of the upcoming indie horror film called Bikini Vampire Babes. As he describes it:
It's a story about Lizette, a web savvy vampire who makes her living by participating in bikini contests. Just because we're undead doesn't mean we don't have to make a living.
View the teaser trailer below. If you like what you see (and how can you not?--Ring-a-Ding!), visit the official website or follow the blog.



--J/Metro

Monday, April 5, 2010

Four Minor Works by H.P. Lovecraft

Here's four more of Lovecraft's short stories that I couldn't justify giving a full-length post to--but in my chronological journey of his works, I've promised to review them all, so my thoughts follow (brief as they may be).

The Cats of Ulthar: Another entry in Lovecraft's rather dull fairy tale type stories, this one is said to at least be peripherally attached to his Mythos. In the land of Ulthar, it is against the law to kill a cat. This is a fable explaining why. Originally published in the November 1920 issue of The Tryout, after "Poetry and the Gods" but before "Nyarlathotep".

The Street: Lovecraft was a notorious Anglophile, and that pathetic, xenophobic trait is on full display here. Lovecraft traces the history of The Street as it grows from a mere pathway into a town and then an idealistic city. In time, a new breed of immigrant moves in and turns his Anglo-Saxon haven into a festering slum. The Street itself has taken on a form of sentience thanks to its exposure to its original saintly inhabitants, and sends the whole city crashing down upon the violent newcomers, a little slice of genocide. Lovecraft seems to have forgotten that his holy Anglo's were once immigrants here themselves. But nobody ever accused racists of using common sense. Originally published in the December 1920 issue of The Wolverine, after "Polaris" but before "Ex Oblivione".

The Crawling Chaos: When Lovecraft described the title character of "Nyarlathotep" as The Crawling Chaos, he must have liked the way it sounded because he used it as the title for this unrelated short story, written in conjunction with Elizabeth Berkely--no, not that hottie from Showgirls. The story opens with a discussion about the effects of opium, and what we're hoping to be a Lovecraftian drugsploitation tale (how boss would that be!?) turns out to be about a man who hallucinates that he travels to a mythic version of our world and watches from a safe distance as it consumes itself. Originally published in the April 1921 issue of The United Co-Operative, after "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" but before "The Terrible Old Man".

The Tree: This is another of Lovecraft's less-than-fascinating fairy tale inspired stories. This time it takes place in Ancient Greece and follows two sculptors who enter into a friendly competition and the fate that befalls them. Makes reference to the Greek god Pan, but ignores those of the Cthulu Mythos. Originally published in the 1921 issue of The Tryout, after "The Picture in the House" but before "The Nameless City".

--J/Metro

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Short Film From Bad People: The Age of Bikes

If any of you have seen Fever Night AKA Band of Satanic Outsiders, then you know that Jordan Harris and Andrew Schrader, the brains behind Bad People Motion Pictures, can take a small budget and turn out a film that looks close to Hollywood quality.

Well, the boys are at it again. The duo just e-mailed me a link to a new short film entitled The Age of Bikes, which is actually serving as a prologue of sorts to their upcoming feature film The Age of Reason (currently in pre-production).

It's seemingly the polar opposite of Fever Night, just to warn you. Rather than another horror film, The Age of Reason is set to be a darkly humorous and angst-ridden drama. I'm greatly looking forward to it myself, but you can make up your own mind by viewing the short film below.

The Age of Bikes from Andrew Schrader on Vimeo.



--J/Metro

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dark Ditties: Miscellaneous Epitaphs

In 1895, Susan Darling Safford published a book entitled Quaint Epitahs, in which she collected hundreds of headstone inscribings that she found while visiting cemeteries across the globe.  The tone of the epitaphs ranges from humorous to heartbreaking, and below are a small handful of my favorites that I thought I would pass onto you.  (To grab the full text for free, click here)

Sacred to the memory of Anthony Drake,
Who died for peace and quietness sake.
His wife was constantly scolding and scoffing,
So he sought repose in a twelve dollar coffin.

Poor Betty Conway,
she drank lemonade at a masquerade,
So now she's dead and gone away.

Here lies Dodge,
who dodged all good
And dodged a deal of evil.
But after dodging all he could
He could not dodge the devil.

Alpha White Weight 309 lbs.
Open wide ye golden gates
That lead to the heavenly shore.
Our father suffered in passing through
And mother weighs much more.

My father and mother were both insane
I inherited the terrible stain.
My grandfather, grandmother, aunts and uncles
Were lunatics all, and yet died of carbuncles.

Underneath this pile of stones
Lie's all thats left of Sally Jones.
Her name was Lord it was not Jones.
But Jones was used to ryme with stones.

On a babe four days old.
Since I so very soon was done for
I wonder what I was begun for.

Here lies the bones of Richard Lawton
Whose death alas! was strangely brought on.
Trying his corns one day to mow off.
His razor slipped and cut his toe off.
His toe or rather what it grew to,
An inflimation quickly flew to.
Which took alas! to mortifying
And was the cause of Richards dying.

Beneath this stone our baby lays
He neither crys or hollers.
He lived just one and twenty days,
And cost us forty dollars.

Here lies old Caleb Ham,
By trade a bum.
When he died the devil cried,
Come, Caleb, come.

--J/Metro

Friday, April 2, 2010

Freakify Your Home...On The (Relatively) Cheap!

I was just browsing these old interwebs, and found a surprising number of framed posters from AllPosters.com available at quite reasonable prices. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm broke as hell...but even I could afford a few of these.

Of course, I'd have to convince the wife to actually let me hang them first...


It Came from Beneath the Sea
It Came from Beneath the Sea
($54.99)

Circle of Love
Circle of Love
($69.99)

Crime In The Streets
Crime In The Streets
($54.99)

De Hand Van De Mummie
De Hand Van De Mummie
($59.99)

Dial M for Murder
Dial M for Murder
($49.99)

Dragstrip Girl
Dragstrip Girl
($59.99)

Nosferatu
Nosferatu
($59.99)

Dracula
Dracula
($59.99)

Fantomas
Fantomas
($59.99)

The Amazing Colossal Man
The Amazing Colossal Man
($54.99)

War of the Colossal Beast
War of the Colossal Beast
($54.99)

Man Bait
Man Bait
($54.99)

The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera
($44.99)

Mole People, The
Mole People, The
($54.99)

King Kong
King Kong
($55.98)


(And no, I don't get a commission if you purchase from these links. Although, that wouldn't be a bad idea...)
--J/Metro

The Picture in the House by H.P. Lovecraft

The Picture in the House
by H.P. Lovecraft

An amateur genealogist of sorts is traveling through the Miskatonic Valley by bicycle, chatting with the locals and researching certain undeclared data. As a real doozy of a storm breaks overhead (my words), he trespasses into an old homestead for shelter, sure that it is empty.

Well, empty it is not. An extremely old man lives there, but not of the grumpy variety. This particular old man is a friendly one, and he welcomes the stranger with open arms. Despite this, our protagonist can not help but get the creeps from this old salt. Maybe it's the tattered rags he wears for clothes, maybe it's the thought-to-be-extinct dialect he uses...or maybe, just maybe, it's the unnatural obsession he has with the archaic, museum-quality book full of images detailing acts of bloodshed, carnage and (gasp!) cannibalism!

With this story, the downside of writing a horror tale in the first person becomes painfully obvious. There is a severe sense of dread permeating the entire story, and a palatable sense of impending doom. Unfortunately, since the narrator obviously lives to tell the tale, you never fear for the one man that we should be fearing for. There are only two characters here, and since we know that the narrator is our 'hero', then we instantly know that the creepy old man is our 'villain'. If there were at least one or two more sympathetic characters, this could prove to be a moot point, but with such a minuscule cast it kind of cuts back on the suspense.

I should warn you that Lovecraft, never willing to pass up an opportunity to belittle another race, drops the N-Word right in the middle of this tale.  I know, I know, he is a product of his times, but it can still be a little jarring.

On the positive side of things, Lovecraft's opening paragraphs here are some of the best he has so far written, and solidify his philosophy of the genre--genuine horror, whether cosmic or earthly, found in your own backyard.
"But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous."
"The Picture in the House" takes place in the fictional Miskatonic Valley and makes mention of the neighboring town of Arkham, both of which are important locales in Lovecraft's canon.

--J/Metro

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Manic Monday (Premiere Review)

Manic Monday

Written & Directed by Dex Baxter

Miranda Gamble...Elaine Barstow
Peter Gamble...Jeremy Winston
Melissa Jost...Heather Gamble
Tom Huston...Ezekiel Smit

_________________________________________________
NOTE:  Due to a technical issue, I was a little late getting this review published.  Hopefully you all aren't sick of hearing about this movie quite yet...
_________________________________________________

Just when I start thinking that nobody is reading this silly little blog of mine, something amazing happens. Sure, I've had a handful of screeners sent to me, and I've received a few small awards, but never have I been invited to a movie premiere. Until last night.

Apparently this film, Manic Monday, is all geared up to be the next Little Movie That Could, following in the footsteps of Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. There were a number of simultaneous 'Secret Screenings' in various states, and as this is a horror movie by horror fans for horror fans, among the invitees were genre bloggers from the twisted bowels of the interwebs.


The story follows the Gambles, your typical middle class family living in your typical middle class neighborhood. The director goes out of his way to show you just how typical this family is, almost idealistic really, but things turn a bit squirrely before long.

The daughter is hiding a bit of a secret. She harbors a secret fascination with the darker, decadent side of life that goes far beyond reading Poe and watching The Crow. She's goth on the inside and a cheerleader-in-the-making on the out...kind of like a reverse Oreo cookie.  Her parents wouldn't approve of her dark fascinations--especially her mother, who is a devout Baptist (albeit one who honors her religion quietly, which is why she can be married to a man who is agnostic at best)--and so she pretends to be something she's not. And she has everybody fooled...until the night of the Ouija Board!

While tinkering with the Other Side, she accidentally unleashes hell, quite literally, on her family.


To give away any further plot points would be a disservice to first time viewers, so I'll leave my synopsis at that. But I'm not yet done talking about this picture.

The familial relationships here are varied and complex, full of as many layers as they are with lies; that is to say, they seem genuine in a way that hasn't been seen or felt since Lance Henrickson and his son in Pumpkinhead, or the Freelings in the original Poltergeist. The acting was pretty solid all around, actually, although there were a few instances where the mother came off as perhaps slightly too melodramatic.

The characters were flawed and believable, but that doesn't equate to likable in all instances. The greatest character here by far was next door neighbor Ezekiel, a dark and mysterious man with an accent that I would have sworn was extinct.  His tall and impossibly lanky presence cast a creepy shadow over every scene that he appeared in, and was almost a special effect in and of himself.  He figures prominently in the plot, but was woefully underused when it came to screen time. His kitschy little catchphrases will be stuck in my head for quite some time.


The director, I'm told, was a one-time indie music video director, which thankfully didn't translate into an MTV-inspired mess. It may have influenced the soundtrack though, which was low-key and unobtrusive, and composed by unfamiliar bands. However, in an inspired if surreal moment, Aerosmith blares in the background when one of our characters gets their hand caught in a moving garbage disposal! (I can't tell you  the title of the song, because I was never much of an Aerosmith fan except for those videos that featured Alicia Silverstone in her hottie heyday).

The special effects were outstanding, really shining in all their gruesome glory in the aforementioned garbage disposal scene, and a nice little bit of nastiness involving a cheese grater!  There was even a scene with animated demons that was a subtle reference to The Gate, of all things.

So is this movie going to take the world by storm?  I certainly hope so, and I think it's capable if the filmmakers play their cards right.  This simultaneous premiere is a step in the right direction, a surefire way of building up hype before the official release...assuming it gets one.  I heard murmurings among the crowd (unconfirmed murmurings, mind you) that different premiere cities were playing slightly different edits of the film in order to judge which version garners the best viewer reaction.  If, on the off chance that this proves to be true, it should be noted that I caught the Wichita, KS showing.

Right now, all you diehard horror hounds are asking, "But is it scary?"  Let's put it this way: I may have just barely escaped without shrieking like a girl (and believe me, there was more than one macho male in the audience who can't lay claim to that)...but I did spill my Cherry Pepsi all over my lap during the initial Ouija scene, and probably would have done so again if I hadn't been too embarrassed to get up for a refill.

This film deserves an audience just as much as Evil Things does.  So consider this a clarion call: get out there and spread the word about this movie; call your local theater and demand that they book a screening; and most importantly, if it does come to your town, cancel all plans and buy a ticket!  I promise you that you won't be disappointed.

"Well I'll be a monkey in a hen house!"
--J/Metro

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