Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women In Horror (Guest Post): JoBeth Williams


Special Guest Post
Women In Horror:  JoBeth Williams 
By Jimmy Retro 

Jamie Lee Curtis is often regarded as the Queen of Scream for her bout in the Halloween series.  While this title is well-deserved, I’d like to pay some attention to another highly talented, but unjustly disregarded, screamer who displayed her Might of Fright just a few years later:  JoBeth Williams.  


Almost exactly 10 years older than Jamie Lee, JoBeth Williams claim to horror fame was accomplished by playing the role of Diane Freeling, a young suburban housewife in Poltergeist (1982) and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) opposite Craig T. Nelson as hubby Steve Freeling.  Put bluntly, Diane was a 32 year-old, pot-smoking, daisy duke wearing MILF. Seen early in the movie rolling joints with Steve and  jovially laughing about their free-loving days before kids and obligations, one got a sense that Diane had some passing remorse about that particular phase of her life having come to a screeching halt.  Her inebriated giggling state, engaging in foreplay with her husband, was abruptly curtailed when their youngest daughter Carol Anne walked into the bedroom a bit stunned, stating she was thirsty, or couldn’t sleep, or some such childhood bedtime delay tactic.

Her unhappiness, or frustration, was a very subtle subplot in the movie but very well delivered by JoBeth.  The oldest child, Dana, was an unruly 16-year old teenager flirting with construction workers on her way to school. (Do the math!  Can you say, “Shot gun wedding”?)  Robbie, the middle child, was constantly taunting both his older and younger siblings. The point of highlighting this familial grief was to accentuate Diane’s coming full-circle with embracing and fully accepting family life and motherhood when Carol Anne was sucked into her closet and trapped in some sort of netherworld, only being able to communicate through the static of an un-aired channel on the television.  (Thank goodness they didn’t have satellite!)


Her grief of potentially losing her child was brilliantly portrayed.  The scene that still brings me chills to this day is when the spirit of Carol Anne passed through Diane.  The look on Diane’s face was wrought with amazed emotion.  Diane gasped and started smelling her scarf exclaiming, “It was her! It was her!  Steve, smell my scarf!  It’s my baby!  It’s my baby!”  JoBeth executed this brilliantly, as Diane truly became a mother in that moment and the audience knew that she would stop at nothing to get her daughter back.

With the help of Tangina, a psychic, Diane learned that only she, as Carol Anne’s mother, could rescue the child.  Tied to a rope, Diane had to step into a nuclear-glowing walk-in closet and yank Carol Anne out.


The portion of the movie where you really got to see JoBeth scream in fright, thus showing her talent as a horror goddess, was during the climax—starting with the calm before the storm.  Carol Anne was rescued, the family decided they were going to pack up and move despite the fact the house was supposedly “cleaned”.

Steve was working late, the kids were in bed, and Diane decided to take a nice shower to color the anomalous grey streak she had developed from the stress of the ordeal.  Afterwards, she was lounging in bed with a rather seductive over-shirt and panties.  Suddenly, havoc ensued in the children’s bedroom; and Carol Anne was soon to be sucked up in the closet (again!).  I think the Victorians had it right with wardrobes!  Oh wait; there are lions and witches in there!  Everyone should just have cedar chests!  Jesus!

Anyway, Diane rises to respond to these screams and the laws of gravity suddenly change, flinging her against the wall.  And like a vending machine gummy spider in reverse, her body starts rolling upwards and onto the ceiling.  Successfully fighting this supernatural force, she drops to the ground and proceeds to run to her children.  Again, she battles more of the Poltergeist’s chicanery as the hallway starts to elongate. She has to run as fast as she can to get to her children’s door.  But the Poltergeist isn’t done tricking her.


Prior to the grand rescue of her children, Diane is forced outside her house, screaming for help.  But with none of her neighbors willing to come to her aid, and nowhere else to go but back inside, she slips on the mud and slides into the family’s unfinished pool.  To her horror, she is surrounded by floating corpses.  The look on her face as dead bodies brushed by was frightful enough to scare even the most stout-hearted viewer.


In Poltergeist II, JoBeth was more mature, but still looking fine.  She was simply portraying a more motherly Diane, this time dealing with a progressively drunken Steve.  (I’d drink too if insurance didn’t cover a missing house and braces gone array on my preteen son!)  She also had to deal with her mother passing—as the family was living at Grandma’s house.  She didn’t have as many “in-your-face” scream scenes in the sequel but still earned Demon Diva status as she and her family had to jump into a campfire to learn the truth about the Poltergeist haunting.  (You’ll just have to watch).

Two other movies JoBeth starred in that delivered doses of horror were Endangered Species (1983) and the made-for TV The Day After (1983).  The former was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind-esque movie where JoBeth played a sheriff of a rural county investigating mysterious cattle mutilations.  The latter was a drama about a nuclear bomb that followed a nurse into a shelter where she eventually succumbed to the devastatingly sad effects of radiation.

JoBeth continues to star in movies and bit roles in television series, but she will forever be known as that hot number in shorts just a tad too high--thankfully!--, thwarting demons in her southern California home-gone-array, and belting her hot body’s worth of screams.

We salute you, JoBeth Williams, you sexy Scream Queen, you!


--Jimmy Retro

Sunday, February 26, 2012

From The Dead Letter Office

Heya, Hipsters!

I'm starting a new, not-so-exciting feature here at Midnite Media called FROM THE DEAD LETTER OFFICE, where I can keep my readers updated on what's going on, express some musings that don't necessitate an entire post of their own, etc. It will be my equivalent of Stan Lee's Bullpen Bulletins. This new feature will begin....

NOW.

Just a few minor updates on the state of this blog: I started out the new year with a bang, posting almost every day during the month of January, then fell off quite a bit in February. March is just a few days away, and I fully intend on getting things back on track.

As seen in yesterday's post, I received a screener of classic cheesefest ZAAT from the fine folks at Film Chest, so you can expect a review of that very shortly.

Also, esteemed blogger and author William Malmborg had apparently mentioned my name among his online circle of writers, and as such I have recently received a number of e-books to read, so a big thank you to him. They're all sitting on my "review queue" in the order in which they were received, and will be covered as real life permits.

I've decided to do away with my half of Netflix DVDs--my wife will keep hers--and resubscribe to streaming, at least temporarily. I can watch movies much more quickly that way, and much more often, so expect my number of reviews to increase dramatically soon.

And finally, in the very near future, I will be doing a William Shatner blogathon (Trek, TJ, and Boston not included). So keep your eyes peeled and prepare to get Shat on.

--J/Metro

Goodies In The Mail

ZAAT, bitches!
Thanks, FilmChest!
...Review Coming Soon...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Horror (2002)


Horror

Written & Directed by Dante Tomaselli

Luck...Danny Lopes
Reverend Salo...Kreskin
Reverend Salo, Jr...Vincent Lamberti
Grace...Lizzy Mahon


A group of teens, so desperate to continue their High Life that they're willing to commit murder, escape from the hospital they were confined to and head to a secluded country home where an acquaintance--Father Salo, Jr.--lives. Partaking in a grab bag of mind-altering substances supplied by the preacher, things begin to go sour even before they arrive.


Tripping balls and seeing demons, the crazed leader of the pack murders the preacher and his wife immediately upon arrival, right in front of their fragile daughter Grace. And then strange things begin to happen.

Or something like that.

Horror is a drugged up, art house attempt at a horror flick that falls flat for me every step of the way. The drug sequences are unconvincing, the symbolism is forced and unclear, and the scares are minimal. There is some great imagery on display, but it takes more than a pretty picture to gain my appreciation.  And the goat was the best actor in the cast.


The Amazing Kreskin appearing as Grace's grandfather is a novel attempt at stunt casting, but the display of his real life "mentalism" abilities is pointless and distracting, having nothing to do with the rest of the film. Or maybe it did, I don't know. I really couldn't follow this rambling mess of a movie.


I know that plenty of my esteemed fellow bloggers sing the praises of Horror, but for me this one falls into the category of films that tries way too hard to be a dark art piece, right next to the even worse Slaughtered Vomit Dolls.  For better examples of this peculiar subgenre watch Actress Apocalypse, Fever Night, or anything by Jodorowsky.

2002
Rated R
90 Minutes
Color
English
United States

--J/Metro

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971)


Let's Scare Jessica To Death

Written by John D. Hancock & Lee Kalcheim
Directed by John D. Hancock

Jessica...Zohra Lampert
Duncan...Barton Heyman
Woody...Kevin O'Connor
Emily...Mariclaire Costello


Freshly released from a mental institution after suffering from a breakdown, Jessica moves from the noise of the big city to the country with her boyfriend Duncan and friend Woody.  Tooling around town in their hippie hearse, they're greeted with suspicion by the strange locals, and so spend most of their time on their farm, along with Emily, the seductive squatter they invite into their haphazard family.


Jessica's mental state is still a little off-kilter, that much is obvious right off the bat. She's hearing voices, suffering visions, and is acting slightly erratic. Whenever she voices her concerns, though, everyone questions her sanity, so she suffers in silence as best she can. She's certain that her sanity is in tact, and that she's being tormented by unseen forces.

But you can never really trust a lunatic, can you?

For a low budget picture made more than 40 years ago, it still looks and sounds pretty damn good on DVD. The picture is crisp, and there are some great retro moments on the musical score. Some of the dialogue amongst the characters seems improvised, which if done properly could have offered authenticity, but it's poorly done at times, and comes across as strangers trying to sound as if they're long time friends. Zohra Lampert puts in a fine, fragile performance as the haunted Jessica, though, which makes up for a few of the weaker links.


Jessica isn't the badass heroine that we are accustomed to these days. She doesn't know how to fight, and she's a hippie, so she probably wouldn't want to even if she could. She is, more often than not, a damsel in distress; but she's a damsel whose knight won't believe that her distress is real.

It's almost taboo to show a Final Girl as being weak. Maybe Jessica is, but what's wrong with that? In fact, it's her weakness and vulnerability--that she is a victim--that makes her character so great. We care for her and fear for her that much more, and it makes her survival this long all the more impressive.

Combing elements of the ghost story with vampirism and zombieism, Let's Scare Jessica To Death is deliberately paced and pretty low key at times. It's a subtle kind of horror that may not be for everyone. There are no jump scares to be found, but there's an inherent creepiness that gets under your skin and stays there for a while if you manage to stick around to the end.

1971
PG-13
89 Minutes
Color
English
United States

"Dreams or nightmares?  Madness or sanity?  I don't know which is which."
--J/Metro

Friday, February 10, 2012

Joe Monster Wants YOU! (Or at least your stories)


I received an e-mail from fellow blogger Jose (AKA Joe Monster) announcing a new project that he's putting together entitled Mad House, a digital magazine inspired by classic horror.  It sounds like a great idea to me, and if anybody can pull it together, it's Jose, who is one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated writers I know of when it comes to vintage scares.  Read the official "press release" below, and contribute if you like.  If nothing else, show your support.


AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO SINISTER SCRIBES
AND OTHER VARIOUS FIENDS

Do you crave classic horror stories? Do you love the musty smell of a paperback anthology containing vintage horror? Stories about creepy old houses, aristocratic vampires, Lovecraftian creatures, and tales of psychological spooks?


We wanted to send a shout out to all interested parties who would want to submit pieces in this vein to MAD HOUSE, new digital magazine that’s eager to hear the terrifying tales that all you storytellers have to share. In addition to fiction, we're open for nonfiction, poetry, and artwork.


If you pine after the Universal and Hammer horror films and worship authors like Poe, M.R. James, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and many others, than MAD HOUSE is the monster mag for you!


The official deadline for any and all submissions for our premiere issue is MAY 5TH, 2012. We are planning on releasing the anthology in time for the Halloween season and need to have all materials at the ready by the above timeline. Don’t miss out on your chance!


At this time we cannot offer payment to our contributors. We're putting this magazine together for the pure fun of it and out of our love for all that is classic horror. We hope to someday offer monetary compensation for the great work that we’re provided with. In the meantime it is our desire to simply put together a loving publication that we can all share with other terror-loving friends.


  • We prefer that your submission is in Word document format, 12 point Times New Roman, single-spaced.
  • Stories can reach up to a 7,000 word maximum. Maximum word count for articles is 5,000 words. 
  • Attach it to your email and make sure you include the piece's title and your name in the subject line.
  • We will request short bios upon acceptance of your piece(s).

Address all submissions to madhousemag [at] yahoo [dot] com.


MAD HOUSE will require the non-exclusive right to use submissions in our free online edition and any possible PDF editions. First world electronic rights revert back to the creators three months after publication in MAD HOUSE. Reprints are more than welcome. We only ask that creators notify us of previous appearances of their work and credit MAD HOUSE for future publication of their accepted piece.


Check out our blog for more information. Be careful as you traverse through MAD HOUSE and always keep your hands at the level of your eyes! You never know who you may run into.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Women in Horror: Riley Lawson


Riley Lawson was your average modern teenager--bright, beautiful, occasionally smart-mouthed.  The kind of girl that so many of us dreamed about in high school.  Unfortunately for her, she also proved to be the kind of girl that a rather demented pizza boy named Otis dreamed about as well.


Otis abducted Riley on her way to the school bus, and when she came to, she was chained up in a basement, dressed in a cheerleader's uniform.  Forced to act out his sick fantasies, Riley played along just enough to ensure her survival, and when the time came, she turned the tables on her captor and escaped.


Disgusted by the FBI's inability to find Riley's kidnapper, the rest of the Lawson family took the law into their own hands--which didn't go exactly as planned.


She's the girl that everybody loves, so much so that they're willing to kidnap to be next to her, and kill to protect her.  It's because of your sheer loveableness and audacity of spirit that we salute you, Riley Lawson, during 2012's Women in Horror month.

--J/Metro

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Women in Horror: Sidney Prescott


Woodsboro High School student Sidney Prescott retreated into herself following the rape and murder of her mother, finding comfort only in the presence of her friends and family.  A year after this initial tragedy, another struck when those around her began being killed off by Ghostface, a masked madman seemingly inspired by the slasher subgenre of horror films.


Sidney was one of the few survivors of the Woodsboro Massacre, and following that, she became the primary target when Ghostface returned time and time again, no matter how many times he was killed.  Having grown stronger over the years, Sidney became more of a warrior woman with each new murder spree, bound and determined to live to see another day, and bring as many of her friends along as possible.


Sidney may have been notoriously difficult to get close to, but who can blame her?  Although many theorize that her distance is caused by the fact that her loved ones tend to be murdered, it's equally possible that it is caused by the fact that her loved ones tend to be the ones doing the murdering--boyfriend, friend, cousin, etc.  No wonder she has trust issues.


She is one of the only heroines in memory that has performed an impossible feat: not only has she survived each of these killing sprees, but she also has returned for each installment in the series.  It's because of your bravery and longevity, Sidney Prescott, that we salute you during 2012's Women in Horror month.

--J/Metro

Friday, February 3, 2012

Women in Horror: Regan MacNeil



Regan MacNeil was never exactly an average child. Raised in a life of luxury by her movie star mother, she was never wanting for anything. But she crossed over from being non-average to being abnormal upon playing Ouija with her "imaginary" friend Captain Howdy.


What was initially believed to be a nervous disorder turned out to be a full-blown case of demonic possession as the old trickster Pazuzu took control of Regan's body, requiring the professional assistance of a young priest and an old priest to rid her of the devilish pest.


She survived bouts of incontinence, nausea, Tourettes, uncontrollable hormones, terrible acne, a deepening voice, and homicidal rage--kind of an accelerated and magnified puberty--while possessed by the demon, and in the end, she still came out in one piece.


Because of your endurance and fortitude, we salute you, Regan Teresa MacNeil, for 2012's Women in Horror month!

--J/Metro

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Women in Horror: Sally Hardesty


It happened on August 18th, 1973.

Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother Franklin were on a road trip through rural Texas with their friends when they were accosted by a deranged family of backwoods cannibals. Although the rest of her group was murdered, this cannibal clan saw something special in Sally, so much so that rather than kill her, they gave her a dinner invitation.


It was terror that was on the menu that night.

Some may fault Sally because when it came time for fight-or-flight, she chose flight. But when a madman with a chainsaw approaches you, the smart money is on running, and that's exactly what she did. She ran like a marathon champion, and when they caught her, she bided her time and then she ran again. No obstacle--certainly no plate glass window--was going to stop her from getting to safety.



Franklin's wheels couldn't save him. Jerry's keen fashion sense couldn't save him. And Pam's ass couldn't save her--which is a damn shame, if you ask me.  But Sally survived, among other things, being beaten with a broom and sucked on by an old man.  The only one to escape the events of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, she owes it all to her stamina, pristine lungs, and sculpted calves.

This is why we salute you, Sally Hardesty, and your beautiful green eyes, during 2012's Women in Horror month.



--J/Metro

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