Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This film is truly delicious camp gold. It works because even though many aspects are part of a familiar formula, it is beautifully shot and it is executed with true emotional sincerity. The interactions between the group of friends are, for the most part, fairly genuine. Even Paris Hilton, who is numb and stiff as a board, seems to have somewhat of a pulse. She is, at least, willing to contribute to gags at her own expense and milk her less than sterling reputation. Every time you see her through Dalton's digital camcorder(especially while making out in neon green nightvision) you can't help thinking about the porn tapes. She even has a pseudo strip scene to a terrible rap song, while her boyfriend, Blake, gets revved up to get busy with her. I think this is my favourite scene with her, aside from her death scene which is also priceless and hilarious. I've gotta say, she's far more believable as a corpse than live person.
I would say that the Dark Castle House of Wax is an engaging remake. I know there's no Lionel Atwill, no Vincent Price (one of the evil twin's names is Vincent, though) and regrettably, instead of the disarmingly beautiful and alluring Fay Wray, we've got "If it looks like a ho, acts like a ho" Paris Hilton, queen of amateur porn and reality tv. She's no scream queen, to be sure, but nevertheless, she brings a certain level of hyperreality to this film by virtue of being a reality star celebrity. Suddenly, when you see her through the digital camcorder lense, it is metacinematic and oddly surreal. Paris is someone we all feel we know to a certain degree, even if we don't. It's the weird dichotomy of someone who seems so fake and false and yet allows an audience a voyeuristic intimacy that you can only get with reality and amateur porn stars. She's disgustingly close, yet forever intangible (mostly due to her lack of substance)
In the tradition of its predecessors, wax here, is a symbolic substance, both equating uncontrollable emotions and its artificial means of containment. Solid wax is the veneer that coats decomposing bodies and rotting flesh, pain and shattered dreams. Melting wax is passion taking hold of the senses. Wax is mudlike, fleshlike, it glows and yet it is opaque. Wax is the substance that most reselmbles the soft glow and pliability of human skin. And just so you know, all the wax in this film is real. It is incredible to see it being molded over still living bodies and at various stages of solidity. It drips, it bends, it cracks, all the textures run into eachother in the great finale.
This whole movie is about veneers and the nature of what we see. The House of Wax is really made entirely of wax. The wax in the film is all real. The consentual reality of story anf actors is a willing illusion we engage in as viewers. The wax people in the town look real and actually are real dead people(live actors) encased in wax. Wax figures have the uncanny quality of not really looking dead or alive.
In the original 1933 Mistery of the wax Museum, there is a very disturbing and erotic scene, far ahead of its time, with Fay Wray, bound, on her back, being showered with hot wax, while she screams and strugles to no avail. It is impossible for one not to think, in this context, that the hot dripping, spraying wax does not resemble another white substance often seen sprayed at women in certain types of 'films'. Much hotter, I've gotta say, than the Paris Hilton blow job or sex tape.
As a lead, Elisha Cuthbert is a very lively presence. She fights tooth and nail while being bound, maimed and even having her lips glued shut with superglue. She kicks ass and looks great doing it. The little town is definitelly very creepy and abandoned looking. It is like a mosoleum with electricity. Never mind that a house made entirely of wax could probably not survive in the sun or perpetually lit candles within, it looks freakin awesome, especially at the bottom level where there are faces coming out of the walls and it seems like something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but in wax.
I had alot of fun with this movie. It is genuinely creepy, it moves along at a good pace, it takes its time to build atmosphere, so that by the time all the shit starts going down you are definitely weirded out and geared up for the mayham. I cannot believe some of the trully disgusting images of decayed corpses at various stages and once again, the wax effects, which are beautiful, cinematic, trippy and terrifying. It's definitelly an experience worth having.
"Oh no he didn't!" you might be saying.
Oh yes, I did.
Sorry I'm talking like this, but anytime I think about something featuring a performance by Paris Hilton my IQ drops. Whatev.
But there in lies the genius of this film. If you go into a horror film with your brain full, you're going to end up sorely disappointed. You just have to check your expectations at the door. You have to suspend disbelief. If you do that, you open up your mind to what's genuinely good, bad, and so bad it's good within the horror genre. The casting of Paris Hilton is both genius and wryly funny, and that's just one element that House of Wax '05 has going for it. People decry the film for featuring the heiress. She's not that bad of an actress (I mean, she faked it on that video, right?) and even if she isn't she's the perfect mold for the horror movie - there's always the dumb blonde nympho you just know is going to get slaughtered. And who better to slaughter than Paris Hilton? (Okay, Perez Hilton would have worked, too). But from minute one, you're awaiting that to happen...as it does in every horror film. It's perfection. You know that caricature character in every horror film. You know she's going to bite it, just like you know the black guy's going to die-off first.
But besides that little slice, there's so much more cooking here. For example, the cast is a quality horror film cast. Elisha Cuthbert is a nice diversion from the Tara Reid-wannabes that were clogging the horror flicks of this time. And yes, the film is nowhere near as classy as the original. It's different, decidedly eerier and creepier - it's no easy task to make a town with no pay phones spooky in this age of cell phones...but they do it. I'm sorry to our redneck readers, but rednecks are creepy as fuck. I know that "Deliverence" does not apply to the redneck or hillbilly nation as a whole, but small, Southern-fired towns scare the piss out of me.
Regardless of what you think - and that's the problem - House of Wax exists as high-grade camp, but still offers a few scares and paranoia. But let's not forget...Paris Hilton fucking bites it. And really, wouldn't that improve every horror film?
Yesterday, Leza came in holding a chihuahua. Jordan was standing beside her with a gas can and next to them was guest contributor, Eric Mays author of Naked Metamorphosis and creator of the Authors Speak interview series.
"I come from the boss lady," Leza said.
This made no sense to me.
"What the fuck are you talking about? Did you buy expired box wine again?"
Lionel entered, head hanging. He was wearing his "Wax Sculptoff to End Domestic Violence" t-shirt.
"Garrett, I'm sorry," he said, "Vincent and I..."
Lionel was interrupted by the arrival of an excited Vincent.
"Hey guys! I just realized that we could put inner city gang members to work sculpting wax figures and it would increase their self esteem!" He turned white as a sheet when he saw the three visitors. "Uh oh."
I glared at my partners.
"What is this about, guys?"
"Well, you remember how last week I lent all my money to John Barrymore?"
Vincent placed a hand on my shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Garrett, but a wax museum has overhead, particularly one with a snow leopard AIDS prevention lab."
"We sold our shares to Paris Hilton," said Lionel. He was starting to cry.
"But I thought we were turning a profit!"
"We are," said Lionel, face in hands, "but Paris Hilton doesn't understand math."
"Yeah," said Eric Mays, "so that's why we're burning your pretty little wax museum to the ground!"
Jordan highfived him. It was the evilest high five I had ever seen.
"Leza, you've got to stop this!" I begged her.
"I didn't like the original," she replied, "and the Vincent Price one couldn't be that great."
The thugs dumped out the gas can, laughing on their way out and dropping a lit match. My wax museum, my partners and the hope for HIV positive snow leopards went up in flames. I was hideously scarred, forced to wear a wax impression of my face, but I was live and bound and determined to get Paris Hilton for what she had done to me and vintage horror.
House of Wax (2005) is a travesty. Turning a turn of the century gothic classic into another brand x piece of redneck horror is sickening. It's akin to making The Man Who Laughs into a straight-to-video American Pie sequel. The plot makes barely any sense, the notion of a wax town surviving the elements for so long confuses the fuck out of me, and oh yeah, Paris Hilton is involved. Does anything about this make it sound like an even remotely good idea? Will there be a Doctor X remake set at a naughty sorority house and starring Kim Kardashian in the Fay Wray role...well, that might be kind of sexy. Forget I said that. Paris fucking Hilton, playing a part originated for Fay Wray...it's gross. 2005 was a bad enough year for Fay Wray with charisma challenged Kidman clone Naomi Watts taking over her part, causing the infamous Watts Riots. Hilton believes she is the iconic sex symbol blondes of all time and stealing the spotlight from Fay Wray shows just how deeply set this delusion is.
Paris thinks this because she does something that this generation of filmmakers and filmgoers does often: she patronizes the past. "It occurred before me and I am awesome, so therefore it must be inferior". Filmmakers and some misguided horror fans think that because the pacing is slower and because the films are pre-gore vintage horror is impossible for this generation to relate to. Madness, perversity and a feeling of otherness are universal and films like Mystery of the Wax Museum, Phantom of the Opera, The Black Cat, The Raven and Doctor X are some of the finest vehicles for these themes. We of the 21st century are the ugly Americans of the space time continuum, thinking "our century right or wrong" and threatening the 1930s with beatings if they try to creep into our homogeneous historical neighborhood. Nonsensical assemblyline garbage like House of Wax hurt our ability to relate to and understand our cinematic past. Not to mention, letting Paris Hilton act. She doesn't even give a convincing blowjob.
So I ask you, Dollarbin Massacre contributors: House of Wax (2005), does it suck?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Nothing could be more unsettling, and to top it all, an ancient and creepy Rudy Vallee, who is some kinda schitzophrenic candy fanatic is the only voice of forewarning to two guilless teens on their visionquest to the mountains.
What could be sadder, what could be worse...
...To be raped after you finally make love for the first time in your life (with your bestest friend ever, no less), to be told to just get over it by your absentminded hippie buddy(the tragically miscast Robert Englund) , who you thought was the hippest cat ever 'cause he left your lame-ass school to go live in the mountains in a wood cabin, as he offers you some fucking tea and bitches about his itchy leg(he had a run in with some poisoned oak, poor baby). Oh, fuck me gently with a chansaw! ( please do, it might relieve the boredom)
This movie is torture. It makes you want to cut yourself or step on baby bunnies just to relieve the gut wrenching sensation of your mind turning to goo.
I've had my suspicions about Garrett's sanity(suspicions, come on, who's leg am I trying to pull here), but Jordan Krall really seemed like a cool guy. When Garrett told me he wanted to see this movie next, I wondered to myself who had the biggest brain tumor of the two.
Garrett has been trying to get me to see this stupid movie ever since he gave up on making me watch The Manipulator(I'm probably gonna have to watch it now anyway, since we have this site, though, dammit!). He kept saying how cool it was that Robert Englund is this chill hippie guy who counsels this girl who gets raped. How it's so ironic and strange. He was like "It's like if I Spit on Your Grave was an after school special."
Not really sure what he meant by that, and not really caring, I refused to watch it repeatedly until Jordan Krall decided it might be neat to review this shit pile of a movie. Thanks Jordan. I owe ya one.
If you like lengthy hiking montages to ear bleeding muzak and no plot you'll love this movie. If you think Freddy Krueger is lame, you'll love this movie. If you like fake hippie dialogue, you'll love it too. If you think that fucking someone you love will inevitably lead to rape, you'll love this movie. The list of uninteresting features is long, and I could go on, but I am already bored about being bored about this movie. So I will be brief and brutally honest.
Leza's Official Summary of Slashed Dreams:
Butterface girl frolics naked in lake (don't get too excited, you can't see shit even though it's broad daylight and I'm pretty sure she actually is naked), makes flaccid love to okay-looking guy, gets briefly and halfheartedly raped and slapped around by an ornery-looking, self-obsessed chatterbox, gets some comfrey and pep talk from an absentminded hippie douche and then some amateurish ax weilding transpires.
I want my fucking 74 minutes back! I swear to God, I am not watching this freakin movie again. Even if Jordan Krall threatens me at knifepoint while shoving licorice nips down my throat!
"I hope this doesn't have as many shitty things on it as Drive-in Classics," said Leza in the check-out line.
"There's a lot of good stuff on Drive-in Classics."
"I guess you're right," said Leza.
When we got home, I eagerly opened up the new box of weirdass cinematic treasures. Over time I would find about twenty six of these to be kinda watchable. At that moment, however, Slashed Dreams caught my eye.
"Hey, there's a rape revenge thing with Robert Englund," I said.
"That sounds really unplesaant," said Leza. So we watched Bad Taste instead. But of course, the next time I was home alone, I had to check out Slashed Dreams. I thought perhaps my brain would come oozing out of my ears. What the hell? Preppy college students going to visit their hippy friend? This is the film? I was pretty pissed off. I got over my disappointment to try and show it to Leza. We didn't watch it. Not until a couple weeks ago. I laughed my ass off, Leza fell asleep. But not before telling me she hated me for this.
When I told Leza that Jordan had suggested Slashed Dreams, she was a little bit irate, but, I argued, it was certainly strange and offputting and we shouldn't just review movies that we think are super cool. And this was as far from a movie we thought was supercool as we could get. But then, I noticed something. When the protagonists of the film prepare to visit their friend on the mountain, they go to a general store. At the general store, they encounter Francoamerican singing sensation Rudy Vallee. Suspicious, sketchy, eager to sell them a knife or make them eat gross candy...this man was awfully sketchy in that Lynchian kind of way in which a person is horrifying that doesn't need to be horrifying. He acts like the gatekeeper of a whole new realm of menace, the man who warns them a la Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th, that they are about to leave their whitebread world and enter a realm of terror. They should have bought that knife. They should have taken more candy. They should have followed the rules.
. A few minutes after the college kids start traveling up the mountain, the scariest thing in the film occurs. They are menaced by a bear. The bear seems innocent and cute, but at the same time, he wants to get in their way, to deprive them of their lifeforce. I had to wonder what this bear symbolized, until suddenly, it struck me, the bear was Rudy Vallee. And he had taken their snacks since they were not willing to take his or to stand up for themselves with the knife he offered to sell them. I thought perhaps this might be a bit critical of their bear protocol, so I had to consult my friend Bizarro author and bear expert Mykle Hansen, author of The Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere. I asked him five questions and here is how he responded:
1. If a bear wants your snacks, should you relinquish them or should you fight for them?
You should definitely fight for them if you are in a horror film. If you are in a
sensitive romantic date film, you should just hand over the snacks, allowing
your eyes to meet the bear's briefly, furtively, exchanging unspoken promises.
If you are in a film about being raped, you should close your eyes, bend over
and think of Werner Herzog.
2. What do you do if the bear doesn't like your snacks?
Sometimes bears are picky eaters. It helps to arrange the snacks in
an eye-pleasing manner, perhaps on a "Smøegma" bamboo-veneer serving
platter from Ikea, or, alternately, a log. Also, be aware that some
bears have food sensitivities. For instance, urban black bears
may prefer rotten food, whereas the polar bear only eats animals that
scream and thrash about when bitten. If the bear "turns up its nose" at your
snack offerings, try not to take it personally. You might consider
letting the bear rape you instead, as a way to reduce awkwardness.
3.What if the bear is actually singing sensation Rudy Vallee?
First, determine whether you are dealing with an immature
Rudy Vallee "cub" or with a full-grown adult. The former can
be discouraged with a sharp whack across the snout with a
tenor saxophone. The latter will not be discouraged by anything
smaller than a baritone.
4.Could Rudy Vallee play saxophone in bear form?
It is a widely-held misconception that bears cannot play the
saxophone. Circus animal trainers have in fact taught these clever,
versatile creatures a panoply of legitimate job skills including
woodwind and brass instruments, piano, tympani, unicycle,
swordfighting, balancing on a ball, dancing in a tutu, and raping
and dismembering a circus animal trainer.
5.Do you think Rudy Vallee controls his transformation like Apache Chief or a Viking berserker can? Or is it some kind of curse?
Excellent question! As you know, Rudy Vallee is a man of
many moods -- many of them documented in his breakthrough
1947 album "The Many Moods of Rudy Vallee." In fact,
moodiness was a cornerstone of Vallee's unique "crooning" style.
If one of Rudy's moods is a transmogrifying-into-a-rapist-bear
mood, or even a morphing-into-a-towering-robotic-saxophone-
and-humping-the-Pompidou-Center mood, can he be blamed?
Certain modern phrenologists define all "moods" to be mild forms
of mental illness, a disease to be cured by pills with names like
"Friendlax" or "Mediocra"; call me old fashioned, but I prefer to
be swept away in the moment. So I cried during the trailer for
the Karate Kid remake -- does that make me "sick" or
"dangerous" or a "lycanthropic sex-beast?" Sure, okay, I may
have raped one or two children afterwards, but it's not like I do
that every day. I may have "moods," but they don't control me.
Besides, all Girl Scouts are sluts.
But anyway, I guess the honest answer is "yes and no."
So, you see? Mykle Hansen, author of Eyeheart Everything cottons to this theory and we all know from the world of academia that if you can quote somebody on something it becomes empirically true. It's a moment of sheer terror as the heroes see the price for violating the covenant with the bear. They stumble blindly, traumatized by the loss of snacks and then there's some unpleasantness with a local frenchman and Robert Englund offers them tea. So, if you want to see dreams slashed by the talons of nature's vengeance, see Slashed Dreams.
Or don't, because I'm completely bullshitting you. This is the dullest movie ever made. Even if Rudy Vallee had shapeshifting powers, he wouldn't use them for this movie. The only thing you can get out of this is a halfassed rape scene, a couple halfassed nude scenes and a halfassed hatchet attack, which I didn't even think was possible. And then there's a halfassed epiphany after Robert Englund comforts the halfassed heroine of this halfassed movie over tea. I'm just lucky that I got over watching this movie with a cup of herbal tea and a little help from my friends.
So they changed the title from SUNBURST (which is a weird fucking title to begin with) to SLASHED DREAMS and so cue the sappy 70s music complete with annoying female vocals.
And what we get is a movie that is pretty much the opposite of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
On the bright side, Peter Hooten is in it. Who’s Peter Hooten? He not only starred in the original THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS but also the DR. STRANGE tv movie from 1978. He’s like a cross between Billy Zane and Thomas Ian Griffith (who played Terry Silver in the KARATE KID PART III) but with curly hair.
Having been made in that great year that is 1975, SLASHED DREAMS relies on heavy themes like “purpose” and “roots” and “nature” and the “meaning of life” …all that pseudo hippie crap. Robert Englund plays a guy who dropped out of college to live in a shack in the woods. For most of the movie we only hear ABOUT him. Having a look at the college he dropped out of (the University of Lame?), that was a wise decision. What an embarrassing time capsule of college life in the mid 70s.
I’ve watched this three times. Why? Well, the first time I watched it, it was out of pure curiosity. The second time was so I could pretend that it was really Billy Zane in the movie in Peter Hooten’s role. The third time I pretended that it was really Thomas Ian Griffith in the role and that he taught Cobra Kai karate to Robert Englund so he can fight bears.
Back to the “movie”… look out for the stoned hippie at the Shell Gas Station eighteen minutes into the film. It may seem like a unnecessary shot but in fact, the director is giving us something to think about. What that is, I’m not sure but I know it’s there. I can just FEEL it.
So what the hell is the movie about? Peter Hooten takes his girl into the woods to look for their friend played by Robert Englund so they could see how he’s doing because, like I said, he dropped out of college to, you know, “find himself” or some shit.
That’s it. That’s the fucking premise. On the way they meet a creepy general store own played by the famous Rudy Vallee who you might remember from the brilliant 1947 epic THE SINS OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK (Criterion Edition due out in 2011). Valle also not only runs the general store but he sings musical numbers to invisible guests in the back room. Oh, and he also acts like a really fucking creepy candyman who insists Peter Hooten and his girl have some licorice nips. “Let them melt gently in your mouth,” he says right before giving them a knife.
Oh, and how can I forget. There’s a bear. A real bear. I would’ve preferred a guy in a bear suit but hey, they tried. Nothing really happens so it’s sort of anticlimactic but I guess if you can rent a bear for a few hours, you might as well put it in.
Then there’s lots of frolicking, “nature is great” shit while terrible music plays on the soundtrack. It’s mind-numbing but for some reason, it makes me feel all sweet and safe inside as if my organs turned into cotton candy and licorice nips.
Not too long after all that frolicking come the obligatory backwoods hicks. Really, the hicks, this cinematic threat, are just two guys who look like they just stepped out of any 60s-70s biker flick.
Then there’s the rape. Yeah, those scumbags rape the chick. I know what you’re thinking: Where the fuck is Robert Englund? Shouldn’t he jump in to save the day with his knife-fingers? Nah. He’s not there yet.
We have to wait for nearly and hour and then finally: ROBERT ENGLUND!
And so, in his really shitty nature shack, Englund counsels the girl. The botton line to his counseling boiling down to, “You gotta let go of the itch, forget about the scratchin’”
He tries to get a girl to accept her rape as fate, learn from it, blah blah blah. At the time, I’m sure it made a whole lot of sense but in hindsight, considering everything Robert Englund has done and the trauma that getting raped would bring, it’s a true WTF moment.
In case you’re wondering, yes, there is a half-assed revenge scene. Peter Hooten goes after the hicks who raped his girl but with pretty pathetic results. It boils down to a mud-covered tie and the hicks get to walk away. Big deal, right?
A big mistake of the “filmmakers’ is not exploiting the backwoods concept. Where are the cannibals? Where are the psycho slashers? Shit, they dropped the ball on this one.
Anyway, I started writing this blog entry thinking I might just defend this as a good movie to watch while having some beers but now I’m actually getting angry at it. This is pure lazy film-making even for 1975. I would have liked if they kept the title as SUNBURST and then have the movie end in some sort of apocalyptic explosion, the sun burning the earth, leaving only Robert Englund and his shack to survive. And maybe the bear. Yeah, definitely the bear.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Orgasm, death, dissolution!
Know you now why her eyes
so fearfully glaze, beholding
Terrors and infamies
Like Filthy flowers unfolding?
Laughter widowed of ease,
Agony barred from sadness,
Death defeated of peace,
It is a film within a film and it is his nightmare come true. It's the moment Dr. Frankenstein realizes he's really fucked. It is Alice, trapped in Wonderland because she can't wake up from something she's no longer sure is just a dream of even her own dream anymore. It's the moment when you realize that the dead end job you are still at is your fucking life and you walk over to the open window, gaze down to the street, and wonder if you are high enough up to actually kill yourself and not just end up with broken limbs.
For any creator of horror art, it is a daily realization; these are not brain farts, meaningless dreams, paranoid absurdities, this is your brain and you are stuck with it for better or worse.
This film is about a man who is a director. The man and the filmmaker are enmeshed, but they are not one and the same by any means. This is about a man who likes his job, sure, but he wants to be able to leave it on the set, like any normal human being. He wants to be able to go and eat a nice juicy rare steak on his lunch break,without seeing human flesh being ground up and chopped when he looks at it!
This film poses an interesting problem for the audience to grapple with as best they can, as they endure a visual onslaught of sex, violence, gore and derangement, with little breathing room between chopped limbs, women being slapped and violated, eyes being gouged, and so on.
Are you sick for liking this?
The character, Fulci, is asking himself if his fevered imaginings are driving him mad and could he really be capable of murder and rape?
The horror here is the very need for horror. As a viewer and a director, the eye likes what it sees, the libido is aroused, the senses all stimulated at once. At the end of a good horror movie you feel satisfied. You have been filled, sated, for now... The Id hungers for more and it must be fed. But what if, like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, will simply not be sated, what if it eats everything you love and destroys your life? Where do you draw the line?
Is this why girls always fall for assholes who hit them, cheat on them, or just plain ignore them, and why so many alcoholics and drug addicts just can't stop no matter how badly they want to, as they watch their life fall apart and everything and everyone they love being destroyed along with themselves? What's a little pain, a lifelong hangover, a broken home, for a pulse quickening experience that reminds you you are still alive.
The horror director is constantly interacting with these forces that pull us down that spinning vortex of exess, madness and monstrous hungers. Call it what you like; the Id, the Shadow, The Unconsciouss, the beast within, it is alive and well always. It can be fed or starved, coddled or disciplined, repressed or let loose, but it is here to stay.
I don't know every person's individual reason for enjoying horror films, I'm sure there are many and variant, but I know mine. I am convinced that if we ignore our inner beast, darkness, whatever, it is bound to come out and bite us in the ass sooner or later. It's just a matter of time, but you can't hide, because its inside you, it may seem alien, but don't be fooled. It is always watching, and when the moment is right, it will jump out and tear right through your brain. It is a scavanger as well as a hunter and it will find its nourishment where it can find it.
I love the horror medium for its courage to harness demons, to accept into its heart the chilling horror and raging savage beauty of existence, understanding they are not mutualy exclusive. There is a reason sex and violence go so great together. A cynic might say, well, it gets asses in the seats. There's no arguing that. Fulci tells his therapist, sure, he could make romances, but he wants to sell tickets! There's no denying it, and there's no point, really.
Horror can be therapeutic, cathartic, inspiring, even healing. If you sit through this movie till the end, you'll know what I mean.
The nightmares need a place to live, I'd rather it be the movie screen anyday.
Jordan Krall's Halloween 3 review brought to you by Brawny. And by Tom Atkins, who gave everyone in New Jersey $1,000 to think his moustache is cool.
Tonight, Leza and I are going to give you a double dose of Dollar Bin Massacre commentary. As if Jordan's rollicking defense of the ponderous Irish bashing glory that is Halloween 3 wasn't enough, we're also going to talk about a real movie. Well, maybe it's a real movie. Maybe it's the realest movie you'll ever see. A lot of you might think that honor goes to the brilliant Slashed Dreams, but we're saving that for Sunday. Mo, I'm talking about Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain. Amazon, IMDB and some film blogs weren't particularly kind to this movie and a lot of people don't know what to make of it. So, what else is new when it comes to a work of Italian horror? Even Argento and Bava's best movies are divisive. (With the probable exceptions of Suspiria and Maschera del Demonio.) This one has a lot going for it, though. It's not often when you see a movie juggle literal and figurative guts and brains so well.
When I first saw Dario Argento's Opera, I was floored. First of all, its title is one of the more interest double entendre I've seen. Not only does it describe the setting of the film, but it's subject.
"Umm...so, does Caddyshack," you say. If you say this I'm assuming you do not know that "opera" is Italian for work as well. If you did know that, I'm sorry for patronizing you like that. Also, you get a virtual cookie for being so perceptive. This double entendre reveals that it is not just about the opera, but about filmmaking and Argento' s body of work. The film examines voyeurism the nature of observing and the nature of directing and it does it very well. It's very good metahorror. When the killer says "I can take you any time I want" and you know it's Argento talking, it's an experience.
But in watching Opera, you get the feeling that Argento hasn't opened up all that much. He's given you some of his insights into gore, directing and perception but you don't walk away with quite enough in my opinion. Lucio Fulci' s Cat in the Brain takes things further. Just as Fulci goes further to test the boundaries of good tastes with the gore and sexuality in his movies, so too does he go further into himself in Cat in the Brain.
The protagonist of Cat in the Brain is Fulci himself, a director becoming unhinged as his works creeps into his day to day life. There's nothing exceptionally special about the plot of this movie. It's pretty derivative (though if you watch this movie, take note that it predates Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness). A mad psychologist uses hypnotism to make an artist think he's committing horrible crimes. Pretty sloppy. You can make an argument that it's basically Mad Love (without the love). The artist tormented by his work is a pretty old chestnut too.
So, what makes Cat in the Brain so special? It's the depth to which Fulci goes to show you his world and his neuroses. There is no respite from horror. From the sound of a man cutting logs outside his window to a plate of steak tartar, he is haunted, reminded that he has made a covenant with the dark side of human nature and it cannot be broken, no matter how much he longs to escape it. Cat in the Brain goes further than asking if art shapes how one perceives reality, it asks if the artist can truly be a part of rational reality or is his imagination inescapable?
The mad psychologist of the film, Professor Egon Schwarz (a name that calls to mind painter Egon Schiele and the dark side of the psyche, his last name, after all meaning black) seems to think so. He sees Fulci's hallucinations and the intrusion of his imagination as something to exploit. He intends to use Fulci's art as a means of exploring his own perversions through murder. Can we blame him? Aren't we exploring these very perversions watching this psycho psychologist butcher people or Fulci experience his gory delusions? He acts like a true B horror movie villain, not hearkening back to the traditional giallo killer, but further, to Christopher Lee, and god help him and us, Bela Lugosi. He looks straight at the camera, revealing his plans out loud, he fights with his shrew of a wife like Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill. This vintage horror cliche reminds us that we are just watching a movie, even while it is very real for Fulci.
Fulci's hallucinations are things of stock footage, mannequin parts, fake blood, awkward acting and poorly made eyeballs to us and yet to the director this is real, this is serious, his work, his world and his heart, an important thing to think about when looking at any work of art but doubly so for Cat in the Brain. While some think that the creation of gore and horror is the work of a callous person, this film argues that it is a sensitivity to the dark and frightening nature of the world around an artist that draws him into horror.
Cat in the Brain is a film about how there is something in us that wants to claw its way out, and with its intelligent meditations on the genre and the people that work in it, it succeeds in letting the cat out of the bag about the inner workings of a bizarre cult genius.
Tom Atkins, star of such excellent cinematic masterpieces as Night of the Creeps and The Fog, is at the height of his acting prowess here. He plays Dan Challis, an alcoholic doctor who is a hit with the ladies much to the dismay of his ex-wife played by the always-lovely Nancy Loomis.
What makes this film one of the most fucking brilliant of the 1980s is its bat-shit crazy concept. Think about it: An old Irish warlock stealing one of the stones from Stonehenge (with the help of his druid automatons) so he could chips pieces off it, put those pieces into Halloween masks, and sell them to children so their heads are crushed in a shower of blood and insects.
That’s brilliance incarnate, people.
Another spot of brilliance is that the previously mentioned druid automatons put on gloves before they murder as if the police could possibly get their fingerprints and trace them back to Santa Mira, California, home of Silver Shamrock Novelties.
And that brings me to Silver Shamrock Novelties. Is this not a social statement on how a powerful company can take over a town? (example: Walmart) Director Tommy Lee Wallace wasn’t just giving us an entertaining homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He was warning us about the dangers of mass production, greedy children, and indulgent parents. The town of Santa Mira is an empty shell of a town thanks to the business but apparently they owe a lot to Silver Shamrock Novelties. You know, big businesses pump a lot of money into the economy so how dare you criticize the curfews and the surveillance cameras?
The “witch” (warlock?) of the movie is Conal Cochran. What makes him such a creepy villain is how fucking calm he is. He doesn’t run around like a maniac. In fact, his grandfatherly personality makes me wish he was MY grandfather. He’s a charming motherfucker. That’s another social statement: the smooth businessman infiltrating society in order to fulfill his own self-serving agenda. Evil? That guy? No way, he’s fucking sweet as pie. He might as well be Andy Griffith.
Another thing I like about this movie is the hospital. Tom Atkins is a doctor in one of the most empty hospitals I’ve seen outside of an actual abandoned hospital. That makes for a pretty spooky setting…maybe not spooky enough for my pal Garrett but, shit, Garrett ain’t afraid of nothing so how can he be the judge of that?
It’s an entertaining flick. Is the plot flawless? No, of course not. But considering the set-up, the plot pretty much bumps along the way you'd expect but with some slight twists and turns that make it pretty interesting. Which brings us to the ending.
The ending is brilliantly nihilistic. One of the best endings OF ALL TIME. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: something seemingly harmless you buy your kid turns out to be the very thing that kills them. TERRIFYING.
So all your Halloween 3 haters need to take the silver spoon out of your asses and appreciate a somewhat campy but still creepy 80s horror movie.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
He doesn't need much... a little land, a little property, maybe a little wife. We can all learn something from Upstate Man. He's simple, maybe he's a little crazy, but Otis means well. He just wants his little slice of mother earth, like we all do.
You don't usually expect a morality lesson on the wholesomeness of country living in a low budget slasher flick with pervasive sex and nudity, sadistic violence and kinky barnyard erotica.
All the typical tropes of a slasher are present and yet do not make this movie anything you could call typical or predictable. Granted, you know, after the first sex scene there will be more. You know it will all end in murder. You know the jaded and corrupted will become further corrupted, but what you don't know is the strange raw power of grindhouse trash to deliver a moving message of humanity.
The characters are all stereotypes of one sort or another, the dialogue out of place and unfunny, the situation, blatantly staged. And yet, I always find myself getting sucked in, amused by the four friends silly antics; the implied savagery of the mustachioed lumberjack who wants to fuck the jaded and restless divorcee, and of Otis; the strange and lonely man, who talks to his dead brother and fucks around shooting rats on the rich stockbroker man's watch.
What does it all mean? It's like a trick box without a trick. Red herrings galore, this bizarre excursion into the wilderness of upstate New York and into the vicious little heart of darkness, rage and unquenchable lust, is oddly satisfying, meaningful, and yet still rife with gratuitous violence, sex and strange little scenes that make no sense in connection with the main storyline.
This movie will surprise you, it will amuse you(mostly laughing at and not with), though it's more likely to baffle than truly shock, it is definitely sure to entertain you for its duration with it's odd yuppie caricatures and the truly raw savagery of this long and bloody weekend.
You choose the occasion, they deliver the fun!
I talked to Leza about what we should start off with and we began by thinking the film Wages of Sin (2006) might be a good start, but we were concerned that somebody might end up watching it. Don't watch Wages of Sin. Really, just don't. If you think you want to just because I recommend not watching it, follow this blog for awhile. Look at the crap I'm willing to watch. It's not like sex, in this case, no means no. Then, I suggested The Manipulator starring Mickey Rooney. I've wanted an excuse to finish watching this film and the moral support to face my elfin nightmare. Leza wanted no part of it. At least not this time. We went through some other titles that we'll probably talk about later but none of them seemed quite right. Until Savage Weekend (1979) came up. Savage Weekend is directed by way cool pervert David Paulsen and stars the awesome William Sanderson from Blade Runner and every tv show that needs a softspoken redneck for twenty minutes. He also did a voiceover for Batman: The Animated Series, which is interesting, but not very.
Savage Weekend is the story of five city folk whose names I forget because I've been drinking. I refuse to look them up, even though I doublechecked William Sanderson on IMDB. I could have easily done so, and yet I didn't. So, deal with it. The city folk include: Cocktease Divorcee, the protagonist of the story (maybe), her uninteresting new boyfriend Upright Stockbroker, her sister Vapid Slut, her sister's sometime lover and friend to Upright Stockbroker, Sleazy Stockbroker and her sister's best friend Homosexual Caricature. Things start off with Cocktease Divorcee running as a mysterious Upstate Man looks on ominously, chainsaw in hand? What happened? You'll have to find out later. The action shifts to a wideopen and yet claustrophobic apartment you've ever seen, meet up with Cocktease Divorcee's ex husband who takes his son for the (Savage) weekend. Then, with the annoying child out of the way, they set off for the country, domain of the awesome Upstate Man. Upstate Man is my favorite superhero. He builds boats, misspells the word whore when branding his cousin as he rapes her, talks to his dead brother, has his own Jackson Browne style theme song that plays constantly and rides a bicycle. He also owns a chainsaw, which those who know me will tell you scores big points with me. Forget the Batman/Captain America debate. Upstate Man fuckin' wins. They also meet Mustachioed Handyman who has a thing for Cocktease Divorcee because her breasts are perfectly round and she smells nice, I guess. I see no other reasons to like this woman. Also, when they arrived a bat was pinned to their door. Homosexual Caricature, who acts like a cross between Buddy Cole from Kids in the Hall and Johnny Slash of Square Pegs makes a joke about the bat. It's not particularly funny and beneath your attention. This was before Upstate Man and has nothing to do with him. So, could be much cooler. Perhaps Upstate Man could have said something ominous about the bat. But he didn't, so the scene suffers.
Then they go fishing, Vapid Slut has sex and everybody meets Upstate Man, who is working on Upright Stockbroker's boat. They are not as impressed as I am. In fact, they're very condescending. Which is one of the interesting things about this movie. During the seventies, you see a lot of urban horror and a lot of redneck horror, but seldom do you see urban horror in a redneck horror setting, which Savage Weekend does in a very unique way. As the film goes on, you see the perversions of the city folk surfacing, seeing that they are the ones from the heart of darkness and not Upstate Man and Mustachioed Handyman. You watch as Cocktease Divorcee tests Mustachioed Handyman's limits during some fetishized cow milking, you see the look on Homosexual Caricature's face as he watches Vapid Slut and Sleazy Stockbroker carry on and you see Vapid Slut and Sleazy Stockbroker tease, use and hurt each other. As the film goes on, a masked pervert creeps through the house, watching the city folk and eventually doing much more. Could this be Upstate Man, who has a history or rape, talks to dead people and does not respond well to these city folk getting the boat his brother once worked on? You'll have to watch to find out. This movie is full of kink ranging from Homosexual Caricature and Vapid Slut doing some puzzling Rocky Horror type thing to the aforementioned milking scene and some very good kills that I don't wish to spoil. Savage Weekend is food for thought and the id alike, the anti-Deliverance, the anti-TCM. The rape isn't out in the woods, it's in us and no amount of sophistication can change that.
Hey there film freaks!
I’m Jordan Krall You may know me as the author of SQUID PULP BLUES, FISTFUL OF FEET, and THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE KARATE KID PART 3 (2nd Edition).
It’s no secret that I love movies. That love goes beyond just appreciating the masterpieces of horror and film noir (two of my favorite genres). My love of movies reaches into the very depths of the cinematic abyss populated by such films as LAS VEGAS BLOODBATH, ASYLUM OF SATAN, ALABAMBA’S GHOST, and every film by Andy Milligan.
I’m an extremely critical person but over the years it seems like I’m one of the only open-minded people who is able to appreciate a movie like HALLOWEEN 3 or GLEAMING THE CUBE without being ironic about it. Fuck the neu-age film snob.
Believe when I say that I’m beyond excited to be a part of DOLLAR BIN MASSACRE and I thank Garrett and Leza for including me. I’m eager to hear what they have to say and I’m also eager to hear what YOU have to say. Feel free to drop questions or comments. But I must warn you. I have very strong opinions. I’m talking Dynatox strong. And in case you didn't know, that’s dump toxic waste in Borneo strong. You've been warned, kids.
Fair is fair. Over and out.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
There was Christmas movie called The great Rupert, that I was convinced had a magical guardian angel squirrel who was answering a family's desperate prayers, untill I finally watched it sober and found out the squirrel was simply doing some housecleaning 'cause the landlord next door kept on stuffing his loot in his cubby.
When you watch some of these movies, the assertion by Michel Medved that Plan Nine from Outer Space is the worst film of all time is laughable. Plan Nine looks like Citizen Kane compared the vapid Holywood shit that is shoved at us every day, as well as the denizens of low budget nightmares that only those who scour the dollar bins will find.
I hope you'll join us on this little excursion to the wrong side of the film tracks. Enjoy!