Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's finally here!?

Work has been ridiculously stressful for the past three months or so, as I have been given the unwanted (and probably unwarranted) title of ACTING MANAGER, but finally...finally...vacation time is here!  And none too soon.  I was quickly running out of booze.

Headed to the mountains (of madness), hipsters!
Regular postings will resume in slightly more than a week.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Genre Film on TCM (05.23.11)

Only one film of genre interest playing on TCM movies tonight, hipsters.  Check it out.

6:30 PM Shadow On The Wall (1950)
A child is left mute by the sight of her stepmother's murder.
Dir: Patrick Jackson Cast: Ann Sothern, Zachary Scott, Gigi Perreau.

Dahmer Vs. Gacy (2011)

Dahmer Vs. Gacy

Written by Andrew J. Rausch
Directed by Ford Austin

Dahmer...Ford Austin
Gacy...Randal Malone
Stravinski...Peter Zhmutski

Dr. Stravinski is a geneticist in charge of Project X-13, the long-term goal of which is to create a super-soldier who will kill without mercy or regret.  This soldier won't even require compensation for his services.  He will kill only because of his love for killing.  The method behind this madness is a whole lot of scientific mumbo jumbo, in which the most notorious serial killers of all times are cloned so that their killing genes can be isolated, thrown together in a blender, and then used to create a brand new, super killer.

But then the unthinkable happens (at least unthinkable to anyone who has never actually seen a horror movie):  Two of the clones escape--and neither of them are Dolly the sheep.

John Wayne Gacy and Jeffery Dahmer flee the military compound in which they were imprisoned and go their separate ways.  Rather than be thankful that they have been plucked from the depths of hell (because these are indeed the real Gacy and Dahmer scientifically reincarnated) and given a chance to continue their killing spree, they are instead furious at Stravinski, and both set out to kill him.  When it becomes obvious that they don't want to share, that's when the titular VERSUS takes place.

Throw in a redneck who has been dispatched by God (Harland Williams) to dispose of the serial killers, an army of ninjas, and the mentally-defective genetically modified result of Project X-13, and you've got one hell of a recipe for violence.

Any movie that takes this as its premise shouldn't take itself too seriously, and so it's a good thing that Dahmer Vs. Gacy doesn't try to.  It attacks the viewer with a tongue-and-cheek, self-referential sensibility and a particularly sick sense of humor.  And a seeming hatred of little people.  It often teetered on the edge of ridiculousness, occasionally plummeting right into the abyss.

There were far too many instances where the film cut to mock news reports covering the carnage, rather than actually showing us the carnage, and the movie as a whole suffered because of this.  Had nearly all of these scenes been cut, it would have been a drastically shorter movie...but I can't really say that would be a bad thing.

For a movie titled Dahmer Vs. Gacy, there are surprisingly few scenes with the two together.  The whole 90 minute mess is supposedly leading up to some grand and epic battle between the two, but when it finally happens, it is a poorly-constructed Three Stooges type of fight that is over before you even know it.

Further, it is difficult for me to truly enjoy a movie that makes a mockery out of real life serial killers that are still so fresh in the public mind.  It is disrespectful to their victims memories and those that survived them.  The only well-known serial killer I can think of that would be okay for this type of project is Jack the Ripper, as so much time has passed that he is more myth than man at this point.  Pair him up with the practically unknown H.H. Holmes, and then maybe I'll come back for the sequel.

Highlights (and I use that term loosely) include a crazy fight scene between the aforementioned chosen redneck and a squadron of killer ninjas; and a guest appearance by former Guns 'n' Roses drummer Steven Adler as a pitiful junkie who gobbles man-bits in public bathrooms for his next fix.  In other words, Steven Adler is playing himself circa 1990.

Not Rated
91 Minutes
United States


Saturday, May 21, 2011

I fell asleep....

...did I miss the Apocalypse?


Genre Films on TCM (05.21.11)

There's a slew (a literal slew!) of great movies playing on Turner Classic Movies today.  Check out the titles of interest below!

9:30 AM Son Of Kong (1933)
Producer Carl Denham returns to Skull Island in search of more monsters.

11:00 AM Bodies Without Minds (1939)
In Chapter Nine of Buck Rogers, Buddy tries to rescue a brainwashed Buck.

11:30 AM Broken Barriers (1939)
In Chapter Ten of Buck Rogers, a spy stalks Buck and his crew.

12:00 PM Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943)
The jungle king braves a lost prehistoric world to obtain malaria serum for the Allies.

1:30 PM Valley Of The Kings (1954)
Archaeologists clash with graverobbers during the search for a priceless Egyptian treasure.

3:00 PM Monster that Challenged the World, The (1957)
An earthquake unleashes a horde of giant prehistoric monsters.

6:15 PM Night Of The Hunter, The (1955)
A bogus preacher marries an outlaw's widow in search of the man's hidden loot.

8:00 PM Cat People (1942)
A newlywed fears that an ancient curse will turn her into a bloodthirsty beast.

9:30 PM Curse of the Cat People, The (1944)
A lonely child creates an imaginary playmate with surprisingly dangerous results

12:30 AM Devil and Daniel Webster, The (1941)
A farmer sells his soul for seven years of good crops.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Doghouse (2009)


Written by Dan Schaffer
Directed by Jake West

Vince...Stephen Graham
Neil...Danny Dyer
Mikey...Noel Clark
Matt...Lee Ingleby

The battle of the sexes reaches epic, undead proportions in this British import as a group of friends, feeling tied down in their romantic relationships, head into the country for a a Men's (excuse me...bloke's) weekend. The small town of Moodley doesn't have much to offer except for an affordable gin joint, a free place to stay, and a populace where the women outnumber the men four-to-one.  Sounds like a recipe for some indescribable sexual hijinx to me.

Upon arrival, though, the men learn that there's something rotten in this podunk village.  An unknown airborne virus that only affects the fairer sex has turned all of the lovely ladies of Moodley into literal man-eaters, and six fit and attractive big city bastards are just what the doctor ordered.

It's a dark horror comedy--think Shawn of the Dead meets The Hangover--with a few glimmers of sexual politics. Thankfully, the filmmakers don't use this movie as a soapbox, and so while we may be given a few comments, we're never given full-on commentary.  There are moments that could be viewed as misogynistic, but they are (slightly) tempered with moments that are anti-misogynistic, so nobody should get too upset about it.  Besides, it's just a movie, for Pete's sake.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  Or turn the thing off.

It was a fun little romp, with good gore, creative kills and enjoyable humor, even if it was never laugh out loud funny.  The zombies (maybe they're not technically zombies, but whatever) are pretty cool looking, and occasionally sexy in a sick and twisted sort of way.  There was plenty of excitement and a cool soundtrack to go along with it.

Unfortunately, there were so many main characters that we never spent enough time with any one of them to really get to know them.  Most of them are just archetypes--the womanizer, the movie nerd, the lovable loser, the token gay friend, etc.--who never transcend their stereotypes.  Which is a shame, because a few of them really had some promise.

Worth a watch if you're looking for a little light-hearted gore (how great is it that we live in a word where such a term could even be applied?), but if you're hankering for a straight-up zombie film, you better look elsewhere.

89 Minutes
United Kingdom

"Now is not the time to stop objectifying women!"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sorority Row (2009)

Sorority Row

Written by Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger
Directed by Stewart Hendler

This movie starts off with a ridiculously overblown college party that could only have been dreamed up by the overactive imagination of a horny male.  Don't get me wrong:  I'm not complaining that they misrepresented reality here.  I'm complaining that reality refuses to bend to the overactive imagination of horny males the world over.

Oh, what a marvelous world that would be.

Shown above are the core members of the Theta Pi sorority house, from left to right:  Claire, Ellie, Cassie, Chugs, and Jessica.  Megan is not pictured, as she is unconscious in the next room after being slipped a roofie by Chug's brother Garrett, supplied to him by her "sisters" so that he could date-rape her following a little lover's spat.

Now that's sisterhood.

It's just too bad that Megan overdoses, starts foaming at the mouth, and promptly dies before Garrett can even get her panties off.  Fearing for their future, the surviving Theta Pi gals and Garret decide to dispose of the corpse in an abandoned mine.

Wait, what's that?  It was all just a practical joke?  Now that is freaking hilarious.  But, if Jawbreaker taught us anything, it's that practical jokes played by hot girls always end up in tragedy.  Megan ends up dead--this time for real--and since the stage has already been set, they decide to dispose of her real corpse in the same manner that they had initially planned to dispose of her fake one.

Flash forward to eight months later...Graduation Day.  The Thetas are throwing one last party before saying goodbye to the college life that they have enjoyed for so long (probably much longer than the standard four, judging by the intellect on display throughout much of this film).  A mysterious figure cloaked in a graduation robe lurks in the shadows, picking off the girls one by one in typical slasher fashion.

Somebody should really tell Hollywood that in order for the viewing audience to care what happens to characters in a film, we first have to care for the characters.  These are some of the most unlikable girls I have ever had the privilege of seeing dismembered!  They are a catty clique of spoiled, immature, bratty, bitchy, cruel, callous, and straight-up slutty skanks.  One of them even allows herself to be sodomized by her doctor on a regular basis, just so that she can score some prescription drugs for her and her sisters to use recreationally!  The few girls that we probably are actually supposed to root for come off just as terrible as the rest--judged by the company you keep, and all of that.  That left only one person to cheer for--the killer; and s/he was so free of personality and imagination that really I couldn't give a damn about them either.


There are only two good things about this film (if you don't count the occasional bit of female nudity):  the casting of Carrie Fisher as a frustrated house mother that eventually finds her inner badass; and the fact that Audrina Patridge (formerly of MTV's The Hills, currently of Audrina, and--if there's any justice--soon of your local T.G.I.Friday's) is only around for about 10 minutes or so, and she's playing a corpse for the majority.

If you want excitement, suspense, or anything resembling fright in your horror movies, you won't find it here.  But if all you're looking for is the murder of slut after slut after slut (with a tricked out cross between a tire iron and a Swiss army knife, no less!), then this is the movie for you!

Rated R
101 Minutes
United States

"He, she or it is about to get two rounds to the face."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Black Swarm (2007)

Black Swarm

Written by Todd Samovitz & Ethlie Ann Vare
Directed by David Winning

Devin Hall...Sebastien Roberts
Beverly Rowe...Sheena Larkin
Jane Kozik...Sarah Allen
Kelsey Kozik...Rebecca Windheim
Eli Giles...Robert Englund

Deputy Sheriff Jane Kozik and her young daughter Kelsey say goodbye to the Big City and hello to the small town of Black Stone, New York ("The Town of Good Neighbors").  Jane, who grew up in Black Stone, still pictures the town as a safe refuge from the dangerous outside world, and thinks that it will be a good place to raise her child.  Little does she know that they are not the only new residents in town.

Almost immediately upon her arrival, Jane has to investigate the death of a vagrant.  It appears that he was stung to death by insects.  Turns out that a swarm (probably a black swarm) of mutant killer wasps has descended upon Black Stone, and is just about to begin picking off the populace in strikingly strategic ways.

The Wasp Resistance is a rag-tag one:  A deputy and her daughter, an exterminator (who also just so happens to be the twin brother of said deputy's deceased husband), an entomologist (that's a Bug Nerd, in layman's terms), and a kooky old blind woman.  The probably could use the help of Eli, the curmudgeonly self-professed Bee Keeper...but he's not much of a people person, and if that impossibly expansive secret laboratory hidden beneath his mobile home is any indication, he probably has something to do with the whole thing, anyway.

Here's the breakdown:  the acting is pretty decent here, especially from horror alum Robert Englund (watch for a brief in-joke reference to his most-famous franchise).  The special effects are passable on the occasions when they are practical, but more often than not it is mediocre CGI.  Cinematically, it looks pretty good, too, although there is occasionally some MTV-style editing that is pointlessly distracting.  The pacing is pretty decent, although it lags a little toward the end.  There were some elements that could have proved interesting if they were explained properly--at times, Black Swarm is part Nature Strikes Back and part Zombie Flick (of all things)--but the "scientific" explanations given were really pretty dumb, and barely even touched upon.  These large lapses in logic are the main problem just seems highly unlikely that a human body could be controlled like a big, fleshy Muppet by a group of wasps acting as Jim Henson.  It seems even more unlikely that the body could simply explode into a swarm of wasps, as if it was never actually a body at all, just a swarm of wasps pretending to be a body.

Overall, this wasn't a bad film considering it was a Sci-Fi Channel original movie.  If you go in expecting a little excitement, a lot of nonsense, and a fair share of soap opera silliness rather than an actual good movie, there is plenty here to be enjoyed.

Not Rated
89 Minutes
United States

"You're officially the weirdest wasp I've ever seen."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spatter Analysis #7: April 2011

The above cover image was once again graciously donated by Jeremy of iZombie fame, the hippest of the horror hipsters!

April is a strange month for horror fans.  It is exactly half a year away from October--the month in which our beloved genre gains some semblance of mainstream authenticity--and its major holiday is April Fool's Day, a day dedicated to mirth and Tom Foolery.  Not exactly the stuff of horror--1986's and 2008's films of that title notwithstanding.  As such, the blogosphere was overrun with a pair of different memes this past month--The 30 Day Horror Challenge and The Cinematic Alphabet--which proved both fun and interesting when enjoyed one at a time, but turned into overkill when all of your favorite blogs were doing the same thing.  So this month's issue of Spatter Analysis will be 100% free of Challenges, Alphabets, and Practical Jokes.  What it will have is the same quality content you have come to expect, from a range of very talented and diverse writers who have taken their love of the genre to the interwebs.  Who needs an overpriced magazine?  We've got the goods right here, and all it will cost you is the amount of time it takes you to make with the clickity-click.  So click on, hipsters!

As always, I'm just one man with only so much free time.  Meaning that there are way too many great blogs  out there for me to keep track of them all.  If you have a blog post, article, review, or frightening prom story that you are particularly proud of and would like to submit for inclusion in an upcoming issue of Spatter Analysis, just e-mail me the link, and I'll be glad to give it a look-see.  There is no restriction on content, only on timestamp--meaning that the post must have been made during the current month in order to be considered for the next month's issue.  May's issue is just around the direct all submissions to JonnyxMetro[at]hotmail[dot]com.

NOTE: None of the articles below are hosted on my blog, and the authors retain sole ownership. The links are provided here without explicit permission in many cases, because, as far as I know, linking with proper attribution does not go against proper blogger etiquette. Consider this the Midnite Media equivalent of an award, only rather than be awarded for your blog overall, it's for a specific post. You know what that means, don't you? More chances to win! But, if for whatever reason you would like the link to your post removed, just let me know and it will be dropped faster than an American Idol contestant with a sex tape scandal in her past.

Table of Contents

Who Let The Fog Out?  10 Reasons To Watch The Fog:  Andre from The Horror Digest gives us the low down on why each and every one of us should watch what she calls "One of the most atmospheric horror films of all time."

UN-True Romance - Was It All A Dream For Clarence Worley?:  Larry Taylor of the Movie Snob offers up a new way to view this classic Tarantino-scripted caper...even if he doesn't fully buy into it himself.

The Monkey Did It (Maybe):  W.B. Kelso of Micro-Brewed Reviews travels all the way back to 1932 to offer up his "Beer-Gut Reaction To Frank Strayer's The Monster Walks".

Five Horror Remakes That Don't Reek Of Failure:  Bleaux Leaux of the Bleaux Leaux Reveaux shows that quality horror remakes aren't mythological like the unicorn...but they are hard to find.  Like the jackalope.

Dracula Returns Again - In Book Form!:  Frederick from My Monster Memories revisits a pulp paperback from his youth.

Review:  The Dracula Papers, Book 1:  Over at Grim Reviews, The Grim Blogger's coverage of the new book by Reggie Oliver had me running straight to Amazon.  The website, not the rain forest.  That would just be foolish.

Begat Your Cunting Daughters:  Bookworm Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction gets down and dirty with William Peter Blatty's controversial novel The Exorcist.

I Got The Goods (100 Things I Love About The Movies): The Mad Hatter from The Dark of the Matinée offers up a plethora of things that make him giddy about cinema.

Memorable Movie Robots Part One/ Part Two:  Francisco of The Film Connoisseur unleashes another double-dose of Memorable Movie Monsters, this time

Scarred For Life - How Walt Disney & Others Ruined My Very Existence:  Christine Hadden of Fascination With Fear goes back to her youth, and discovers that many decidedly non-genre flicks of her childhood were scarier than the horror films of her adulthood.

Blades Don't Need Reloading:  Rabbi of The Haunted Drive-In pontificates (rather darkly) why the knife is scarier than the gun, and why the former is a horror movie staple while the latter should remain holstered.

What Is A Horror Movie?:  Todd Miro of Into the Abyss defends his narrow view of the horror genre.  Which films fit into his definition and which films do not will likely stir up a bit of controversy among fans.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mental Shrillness by Todd Russell

Mental Shrillness
by Todd Russell

Historically speaking, flash fiction is nothing new although the term itself didn't come about until the early 1990s.  Some of Aesop's fables have retroactively been dubbed flash fiction, as have some of the more airy stories of H.P. Lovecraft.  The greatest piece of flash fiction ever written is often referred to as the shortest story ever written, although surely someone somewhere has attempted to usurp that distinction in word count if not in quality.  Apocryphally attributed to Ernest Hemmingway in some instances, the fact that the author's true identity will never be known with any certainty only heightens its power.  It's like a message in a bottle that has washed upon our culture's shore.  Six words, that is all.  So simple and yet it has it all.

For sale.
Baby shoes.
Never worn.

That is flash fiction at its finest, at its purest, and at its shortest.

Despite its age and pedigree, flash fiction did not truly come into its own until the birth of the internet, when any number of amateur authors were suddenly able to share their works with anyone willing to read them at little or no cost.  Coupled with the fact that the newborn e-zine format required original content to fill its pages, and that this new age of information was the dawn of the Short Attention Span generation, its easy to see why the artform took off during the early days of AOL and the BBS.

Now the main problem with flash fiction is that while it is extremely easy to write, it is extremely difficult to write well.  The short story format has its disadvantages--mainly, less time to build the action, storyline and character;  indeed, subtlety, nuance, character growth, and subplots are virtually unheard of in the short story format except when crafted by a true master.

Flash fiction is the short story taken to the extreme, so it suffers all of the same weaknesses, only they are magnified ten-fold.  By virtue of the format, too much is left unspoken, only hinted at, and left up to the reader to fill in the gaps.  Even the aforementioned Baby Shoes story, a sterling example as it may be, suffers from the maladies.  One reader may assume that the mother in question is selling the shoes because her pregnancy scare was a false alarm.  Another reader may assume that the baby was miscarried or stillborn.  And another, slightly more warped reader, may assume that the baby is alive and well...but it was born without legs.  None of these interpretations can be wrong, and yet none of these interpretations can be right.  It's the nature of the beast.

Author Todd Russell recently supplied me with a copy of his ebook Mental Shrillness, and while each of the stories contained within are significantly longer than Baby Shoes, five out of the six of them definitely fall into the flash fiction category.  As with anthologies of any sort, the quality varies from tale to tale, so let's do a Flash Review for each piece, shall we?

MEMORIAL DAY DESCENT  This cross between classical gothic and Jacob's Ladder attempts to surprise you, but the ending is too easy to see coming.

PAINS IN THE GLASS  A woman's broken heart manifests itself in surprising ways.  Viewed literally, it's only decent.  Viewed symbollically, it has a certain potentcy that may not be visible at first glance.

DEAD WARMED OVER  The premise, revolving around a man trying to revive a dead lover killed during a kinky sex act, seems like the opening act of some underground German horror flick.  Brief as it is, it attempts (moderately succesfully) to emulate the feel of a Tales From the Crypt back issue.

FALLING THE BOBBIT WAY  Every man's dream becomes every man's nightmare in this epistolary tale.  Again maintaining the underground German film feel, the surprise of this sexually explicit story is given away by its title.  It just goes to show that there really can bee too much of a good thing.

DUELING EYES  If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out seems to be the motif for this story of madness.  Unfortunately the methods and motivation of the madness are never fully explored, and while this could be a good chapter in a great book, it is only mediocre as a standalone piece.

THE ILLUSION  This is the longest piece in the collection, and also one of the strangest.  It's a sick fantasy variation of the kid who wants to run away and join the circus.  Occasionally convoluted and pretentious, and feeling almost like an excised portion from a lost Clive Barker novel, I'm still a sucker for all things circus and carnival related, so I enjoyed every minute of it.

Like I said...a mixed bag.


At this point, I would like to point out that Mental Shrillness author Todd Russell is visiting Midnite Media today as part of his promotional Blog Tour for the collection.  He will be answering the following interview-style questions in the comment section of this post, and will be checking back periodically to interact with you readers who choose to leave a comment as well.

--What is it about the flash fiction format that appeals to you?  What do you feel are the benefits and the drawbacks of working in the format?

--Do you plan on continuing to write flash fiction/short stories, or do you have aspirations for longer-form fiction?

--Where do you draw your inspiration from?  What books and movies have inspired you the most?

--Are there any other, lesser-known authors that you would like to bring to the attention of the readers?

--Now that Mental Shrillness has been released...what's next?

--And finally, is there anything else that you would like to add?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blackout (2008)


Written by Ed Dougherty
Directed by Rigoberto Castaneda

Karl Maddox...Aiden Gillen
Claudia...Amber Tamblyn
Tommy...Armie Hammer

"There is no chance.  No destiny.  No fate.  There's only what you take from the world.  And what the world takes from you."

Remember that movie from a year or two ago, where a group of strangers get trapped in an elevator?  And each of them has some sort of dark backstory that landed them there?  And, oh yeah, one of them is something other than what they are pretending to be?

Right now, you're thinking Yeah, jackass.  That movie was called DEVIL.

Well, two years before Devil, there was Blackout.  So who's the jackass now?

Dr. Karl Maddox, a widower who has taken to womanizing, using his sob story to pick up chicks.

Claudia, a frazzled student whose grandmother was struck down by a vehicle right before her eyes, and now lays dying on a hospital bed.

Tommy, an angst-ridden, tattoo-covered, motorcycle-riding bad boy whose current lady friend is trapped in an abusive home.

Three, death and violence all around them.  Surely they've all got secrets, but one of them has a really big secret.  One of them is a freakin' serial killer!  It's supposed to be a big game that keeps you guessing right up until the very end, but really, it's fairly obvious right from the start who the lunatic is and who the red herrings are.  Hell, they're not even very good red herrings.  One of them you don't even suspect for a second!  A few more suspects would have helped in this regard, or at least a few better suspects.  At least Devil had me second-guessing myself, even when I thought I knew who it was.

It's a claustrophobic atmosphere, but each of the three characters have their own flashbacks  that take us outside of the narrow confines of the elevator.  These flashbacks are, presumably, supposed to give us reason to suspect the innocents if not give us a little insight into who they are.  Unfortunately, they don't do either very successfully, and they just seem like wasted time, padding out what should have been a 30 minute short into a feature-length presentation.

It was not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, and sure, it was intriguing to see an unacknowledged prototype of Devil.  But it was way too tame for my tastes, there wasn't an iota of suspense to be found, and the surprise element that it promised to bring simply did not exist, and so I walked away disappointed.  I'm just willing to bet that you will too.

It should be noted that IMDB has this film listed as 120 minutes, while the version that I Instant Watched clocked in at just under 85 minutes.  Normally, this would upset me, but I'm just going to assume that in this case, less is more.

Rated R
84 Minutes
United States

"If I don't get out of here soon, I'm going to slit your fucking throat."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Devil Within Her (1975)

The Devil Within Her 

Written by Stanley Price
Directed by Peter Sasdy

Lucy...Joan Collins
Gino...Ralph Bates
Albana...Eileen Atkins
Hercules...George Claydon
Mrs. Hyde...Hilary Mason
Mandy...Caroline Munro

Lucy Carlesi's newborn baby Nicholas is not your run-of-the-mill tyke.  His birth was extremely difficult, and he emerged from the womb a 12-pound hulk with a strength far surpassing what could be considered normal. He uses this strength, and his innate violent tendencies, to cause all sorts of mayhem:  everything from scratching his mother's face to ransacking his own nursery, and attempting to drown the babysitter.  Kids these days!

The stress of having such an ill-mannered child threatens Lucy's peace of mind, even more so considering that every time she looks at little Nicky, she instead sees the face of Hercules, the burlesque actor dwarf who cursed her unborn child years back after she spurned his forceful sexual advances.  "You will have a baby as big as I am small...and possessed by the devil himself!"

Is the baby truly possessed by the devil?  Is it merely some sort of genetic abnormality coupled with a behavioral disorder?  Or is Lucy just off her rocker?  It's hard to say, and you'll probably get a different answer depending on who you ask--Lucy's Italian husband Gino, Gino's nun sister Albana, the baffled Dr. Finch (Donald Pleasance in a spot-on performance), Lucy's sexy stripper friend Mandy, or the suspicious housekeeper Mrs. Hyde.

The dynamic between Dr. Finch and Sister Albana is an unusual one, but probably the most powerful relationship in the film.  A man of science and a woman of faith exchanging quips as they attack the problem from both ends, regardless of the fact that both side seems equally implausible.  It's just a shame that there weren't more scenes of the two of them together.

This film burns slowly, filled with flashbacks and hallucinations and a definite 1970s vibe...and not just because of the shrubbery on display during one of the nude scenes.  It's atmospheric and enjoyable, even if it is occasionally a hodge-podge derivative of other, better films.  Primarily, though, it reminded me of a cross between Rosemary's Baby and Larry Cohen's It Lives.

A quicker pace wouldn't have hurt things, nor would a more sensible ending that answered some of the questions brought up along the way.  But it still remains a decent watch if you're looking to get your Sleazy Seventies occult fix in before dawn.

ALSO KNOWN AS:  Sharon's Baby;  I Don't Want To Be Born; It Lives Within Her

Rated R
93 Minutes
United Kingdom

"This one...doesn't want to be born."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dead Beat (1994)

Dead Beat

Kit...Bruce Ramsay
Rudy...Balthazar Getty
Kirsten...Natasha Gregson Wagner
Donna...Meredith Salenger

Albuquerque, NM.  1965.  Kit is a young loner whose entire existence is pretty much a falsification.  He colors his hair so that it's the perfect shade of black.  He wears makeup to give the appearance of a perfect complexion.  He stuffs his boots with crushed beer cans to give him those extra couple inches that would make him the perfect height.  And he paints a beauty mark on his cheek, the perfect imperfection.  He even so much as admits this all to his new friend Rudy when he tells him that "The secret to true phony perfection is practice."

Kit has made an artform out of lying.  When asked why he walks so strangely (the result of the Schlitz lifts in his boots), he assures people that he was shot in both legs by Mexican fedarales while running drugs for the mafia.  He tells one girl that he has leukemia in order to get into her pants.  He tells a whole series of girls that he loves them.  In short, he tells everyone exactly what they want to hear, or exactly what he has to tell them in order to get what he wants.

Kit is, no doubt about it, trouble.  But when he meets the beautiful Kirsten Beidermeyer, he seems to have met his match.  With a whole slew of almost dadaist crimes under her belt, and a mental state that is anything but balanced, the two seem made for each other.  In fact, Kit even tells her his deepest, darkest secret:  Not long ago, he (along with his cohorts Jimmy and Martha) killed a girl, and buried her in the desert.

Five minutes into this movie, I was stunned with the realization that I already knew this story.  I hadn't seen it before, nor had I read anything more than the synopsis before I sat down to do so.  But I had read Jack Ketchum's The Lost.  And I had seen the film adaptation of same.  Little did I know that both were tales were inspired by the same true-life event.

Life Magazine, March 4 1966

In 1964, Charles Schmid (who did, in fact, have the peculiar affectations demonstrated by both Dead Beat's Kit and The Lost's Ray Pie) murdered his first victim.  Even after his teenage friends became aware of his crime, they were so enamored by Schmid that they kept their silence for some time afterwards.

There are a number of differences between Dead Beat and The Lost.  The Charles Schmid character is pretty much the same in both adaptations, but the secondary characters are often drastically different.  In The Lost, we open with the initial murder and it poisons the rest of the storyline. Here, the murders are pretty much inconsequential (and indeed barely revealed) until the last 20 minutes or so of the film.  All of the characters in The Lost were guilty of something, while Dead Beat is narrated by Rudy Dobbs, who is, in the grand scheme, an innocent.  The Lost was also much darker in tone throughout its entirety, while there was a dark humor and subtle sweetness on display throughout much of Dead Beat.  The Lost was something of a horror story, while Dead Beat was a twisted time-piece and love story with moments of horror just underneath.  The Lost had Misty Mundae and Dee Wallace-Stone.  Dead Beat had Blondie's Deborah Harry, and that disturbed chick from Roseanne.

So, which one do I prefer?  Dead Beat, in my opinion, was a better movie than The Lost (and, I suspect, something closer to the truth).  However, Ketchum's novel The Lost was better than either films.  Regardless, they all give alternate views of the same story, and all are worth the time to enjoy.

Rated R
93 Minutes
United States

"In the butt, you idiot!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Gravedancers (2006)

The Gravedancers

Written by Brad Keene & Chris Skinner
Directed by Mike Mendez

Harris...Dominic Purcell
Allison...Clare Kramer
Kira...Josie Maran
Sid...Marcus Thomas

Kira, Sid, Harris and Dev.  They were inseperable in college, a foursome full of romantic soap opera antics and your typical university drunken buffoonery.  But somewhere along the way, following graduation, some of them grew up and they all grew apart.  Harris even got married, causing no shortage of tension between his new wife Allison and his one-time flame Kira.

Then Dev got dead.  And in the days following his passing, the three remaining members of the group reunited for the first time in years.  They catch up, they reminisce, and they partake in what (according to the synopsis on Netflix) is a "heartfelt Irish wake".  That is to say, they get drunk, betray the trust of their significant others, dance on a few graves to some rockabilly music, and pass out with their heads atop tombstones.  You know, the traditional stuff.

A short time later, as the trio attempt to go back to their regular routine, Strange Things begin to happen.  Little do they know that their cemetery Riverdance routine has awakened a group of evil spirits--one for each of them--who have one full month to haunt, torment, and ultimately execute them before they are dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the afterlife.

This film is the very definition of an uneven movie.  The acting is sometimes strong, sometimes passable, and sometimes just plain bad.  Dominic Purcell, previously of Prison Break, is still stuck in the lumbering, monotone meloncholy of his Lincoln Burroughs character from that show.  It worked very well there (Prison Break is one of my all-time favorite shows, and damn the haters), but doesn't work here.  When you're being pursued by the spirit of an axe-murdering piano teacher, a little inflection is probably a necessity.

The pacing is likewise a little rough, alternating between painfully slow and pretty exciting.  There is a good scene that takes place in the cemetery at night--which is when things begin to pick up--but when it finally happens, you have to ask yourself if the wait was really worth it.

The special effects are decent, but truthfully a little pointless at times.  I never understand when horror movies make their ghosts up to look all distorted and monstrous.  It seems to me that they would either look like they did in life, look like they did in the instant of their death, or look like they did in the grave.  But appearing (relatively) normal, save for an epic rictus grin?  That would only truly work for the ghost of Mr. Sardonicus.

Hmm...The Ghost of Sardonicus!  Now there's a movie I would like to see.  Maybe they could get the ghost of William Castle to direct it.

In the end, a watchable but empty and easily-forgotten spookshow.  It's safe to leave this one on the shelf, unless you've already seen everything else in stock.

Rated R
95 Minutes
United States

"Read between the lines."


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