Sunday, October 31, 2010

HALLOWEEN (1978) - the "Citizen Kane" of movies where a dude runs around stabbing people

here's James Rolfe's (the Angry Video Game Nerd) video review of Halloween

The slasher film started with Halloween, but, more to the point, it started with the success of Halloween. The movie was released in October of 1978, and by the time it was clear that this low budget film was a cash cow, tons of similar films were put into production. This wave of films, mostly released in 1980, constitutes the beginning of the slasher genre.

While there were precursors to Halloween (Psycho, giallo films, etc.), none of these had all of the conventions that the slasher films did post-Halloween. Also, the term was not coined until sometime in 1980 to describe what was clearly becoming a genre. Even films released in 1979 that were considered slasher films retroactively, like When a Stranger Calls and Driller Killer, still differed quite a bit from the films released just a year later.

I read a review of Halloween somewhere saying that it was like the shower scene in Psycho drawn out to feature length. While probably meant to be flippant, this is a pretty good entry point to understanding what distinguishes a slasher film from what is merely a story of some asshole running around killing people.

With Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock took a literary source and grafted it onto a series of cinematic set pieces. When Marion Crane checks into her room, the audience is still following the story of the character, through her point of view, just like the novel. Marion’s story ends in a barrage of stab wounds, just as the narrative is hijacked by a visceral cinematic exercise realized through a rapid series of cuts.

Halloween can be viewed as Psycho with the literary narrative ripped out and replaced with an environment, both in terms of location (suburbs) and spacial dynamics (some psycho just wandered into frame). Rather than watching a “story” of a group of young people being slaughtered, you are placed in their environment, and are forced to accompany them as they are being killed. It’s like the difference between hearing about a killer stalking someone, and being there to witness it yourself.

The opening scene is both the background story for the killer and a stalking scene that sets up the structure for the rest of the film. Its Halloween night in 1963, in some faceless suburb (the invented Haddonfield, Illinois). The narrative is basically that Michael Myers, an all-American kid, completely snaps, hacking up his sister with a butcher knife for no clear reason (and therefore, left up to the audience’s imagination). This conveys the idea of the innocence of a town being destroyed.

The entire scene is shot in an unbroken steadicam take, all in Michael’s point of view (not including the final pull out from Michael’s face). The camera glides along, prowling outside the Myers’ house. This creates the feeling of a precise, inhuman presence, existing in singular, exacting movements. If they had used a hand held camera, it would feel more human and naturalistic.

The fact that the scene unfolds in an unbroken shot allows the audience to keep track of the spacial dynamics throughout the scene. The young couple’s (Myers’ sister and her boyfriend) location is always clear in relation to Michael’s location, both in terms of the general area (second floor bedroom vs. living room) and in terms of distance. This helps to place the audience in the physical space; to feel as if they are being stalked themselves. The audience may try to plot how they would escape the prowling menace themselves, or how they would fight back.

Flash forward fifteen years, and Michael escapes from a sanitarium, driving off in a station wagon before his psychiatrist (Dr. Loomis) can complete his transfer. Michael apparently has spent this entire time locked in his room, sitting there in silence, despite Loomis’ attempts to reach him. Dr. Loomis facilitates the plot, providing exposition as he spends Halloween night looking for Michael. He also acts as the creepy soothsayer, warning everyone of impending evil.

Loomis is also the voice of scientific reason in regards to Michael. He tries to convince both the sheriff and a hospital official about the impending slaughter, but they both prove skeptical, despite Loomis being the expert on the subject at hand. Many of the ominous signs of Michael’s presence are blamed on the holiday itself, what with people trying to scare each other and engage in harmless pranks. This conveys the idea of a society that feels like it is safe from evil, and therefore content with the status quo (authority figures in later slasher films tended to be even more ineffectual).

The killer might be seen as a vitally important character in a slasher film, and they are, but mostly as a “cinematic intruder”, rather than as a character in a conventional sense. We can extract the importance of the killer’s identity by seeing how they are presented in these films. A mask is often used to hide the killer’s identity, as well as conveying the sense that the killer is a faceless entity, a boogeyman cipher. Also, there is usually a single scene that gives the killer some background (a motive or an identity). However, throughout the bulk the film, the killer is an autonomous killing machine. Their sole objective is that they kill. The vast majority of killers in slasher movies are interchangeable, except during the big finale reveal or the background scene.

Just as Dr, Loomis states, Michael Myers is “purely and simply evil”, reinforcing the idea that Myers is a boogeyman, and not a human being that murders because of some motive. He has an identity and a back story, however slight, but this has little correlation to the role Michael Myers has in the film. The opening of Halloween is more important for the fact that it establishes a killer and sets up the inevitable return to the original spot of the murder. The idea that there is a killer on the loose, lurking in the shadows, is planted for purposes of creating suspense. If the Michael Myers back story were completely excised, his role in the bulk of the movie would remain virtually the same.

Usually, there is also a big reveal at the end, and the killer is suddenly given an identity and a motive. Whether they were human or not, or had any sort of motive, doesn’t change how they affect the film’s characters and the environment they are intruding in on.

Laurie Strode walks to school like any normal morning, except that she stops at the old Myers house to leave a key under the mat for her father, a realtor. Young Tommy warns her that it’s a “spook house”, but Laurie is much more practical than this imaginative child, and just laughs it off. This creepy house, and the accompanying story of the murder fifteen years prior, functionally creates an urban legend within Tommy’s mind, and resultantly, the audience. Most viewers can identify with this idea, as many a neighborhood fostered a creepy story or a strange old house, not to mention all of the standard folk horror tales that you hear in your youth (like the hook killer, for example).

The knowledge that Laurie, our heroine, lives near the decrepit Myers house immediately sets up a feeling of unease and helps create suspense. Michael also walks into frame two separate times during this scene, alerting the audience that he is stalking the neighborhood. This also sets up a paradigm where the frame, normally following characters in their suburban setting, can be infiltrated at any time. This puts the audience on edge, as they know Michael can suddenly invade the cinematic space.

During the course of the day, Laurie becomes more and more suspicious that someone is following her, often dismissing it (after all, it is Halloween night, where people are wandering around wearing creepy masks). It isn’t until the third act when she stumbles upon Michael’s makeshift lair filled with corpses that she becomes fully aware of the situation. This separates it from previous murder mysteries where the character suspects a murder and ends up investigating it. Here, she is a passive heroine, going about her everyday business while suspecting that something may be afoot. She is not exactly a virginal heroine, but is more shy and aloof, as she needs to be receptive of the various warning signs of Michael’s presence while the world around her remains blissfully unaware.

When day finally turns to night, Michael dumps his station wagon and heads on foot, as if he was previously casing the neighborhood, and is now ready to go to work. Michael engages in some prolonged cat and mouse antics with Annie, eventually strangling her in a car. He stabs Lynda’s boyfriend and stares at his corpse, quixotically tilting his head. He then descends on Lynda wearing a ghost sheet and glasses, tricking her into thinking he’s her boyfriend, before strangling her with a phone cord.

While the ghost dress-up gag may be seen as Michael’s humorous side, the important thing is that it operates as a cat and mouse scenario. We can formulate motives for his few behavioral quirks, but most of the time, he is an inhuman cipher that stalks and kills, and should remain defined by his cinematic role. Michael does not kill for moral or sexual reasons, and therefore differs from earlier, more human boogeymen in horror films, who tended to be based on real life serial killers or psychopaths.

Laurie finally suspects something is really wrong and walks across the street to Annie’s house. The scene cuts between Laurie and her point of view as she moves cautiously towards potential doom. By this point, the audience has been conditioned to expect Michael to pop into frame. This time, nothing happens, and this helps build tension as she enters the house and searches it in the dark (Michael has cut the power line, another slasher cliché that is used to amp up suspense).

Laurie finally finds Annie’s body lying in an upstairs bed, and thus begins the climax that the film has been building to. The bedroom is Michael’s de facto lair of bodies, a device present in most slasher films in one way or another. The other two corpses pop out at Laurie as she is trying to stumble out the door (resulting in two more shock scares). She collapses, terrified and exhausted, next to a dark doorway, and we see Michael’s white mask slowly appear within the frame, surrounded by total darkness. This is extremely effective, and is sort of the slasher equivalent to the mirage scene in Lawrence of Arabia.

Michael slices Laurie’s arm, causing her to fall off the banister and down to the first floor. She escapes to the house next door and screams for help, but her pleas are ignored. She then bangs on the door to Tommy’s house and screams at him to unlock it as Michael approaches. This scene, with Laurie desperately trying to find help and being ignored while an unstoppable presence stalks her, has a primal, dreamlike feel. I think many of us have had similar nightmares where we are running for our lives from some force, desperately and unsuccessfully trying to find help. The pared down nature of the film creates more of a primal, subconscious effect, similar to a nightmare (as opposed to a conscious narrative).

Laurie stabs him in the neck with a knitting needle, and Tommy tells her “you can’t kill the boogeyman”, and Michael pops up again just in time. While Laurie has remained skeptical and practical throughout much of the film, Tommy’s young mind is much more impressionable, perceiving Myers as a mythic boogeyman, which is correct in the context of the film. She stabs him a couple more times, and, assuming him dead, she cowers in the doorway again. Similarly to the mask appearing in the doorway effect, we see Michael lying down in the background, out of focus and supposedly dead. He slowly rises from the dead to attack Laurie yet again.

Laurie briefly unmasks Michael right before Loomis shoots him numerous times, and he falls off a balcony. Loomis looks down off the balcony and Michael is nowhere to be found. It is now clear that Myers is functionally inhuman. The film closes with several pillow shots of the neighborhood, married to the sound of Michael’s heavy breathing. This conveys the notion that Myers represents the evil that lies dormant in any “innocent” town, perpetually lurking in the shadows.

Michael’s survival and escape back into the neighborhood conveniently sets up the sequel, which is a direct continuation of the first film (though Carpenter himself said that he didn’t originally plan to do a sequel). While obviously not on the level of the original, I think Halloween II is a very good sequel that elaborates on the original (moving it to a hospital and adding more murders), while trying to keep a similar tone. It also takes place later the same night, as if it was the second half of a mini-series.

John Carpenter’s structural use of framing can be compared to Sergio Leone’s. For example, in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, when Goldie and Tuco are walking along and bump into a huge army camp, they don’t notice it until several soldiers and their bayonets enter the frame. In Halloween, Myers intrudes on a character’s space by entering the frame, not by being in their vicinity necessarily, or by being seen.

Since the film is cinematically spare, stripped of literary content, the structure becomes more important than the meaning, like the difference between a statement and a photograph. Rather than presenting the story of a town that Michael intrudes as a character, the world is the very frame itself, and Michael’s intrusion is a tactile, visceral force.

P.S. BAM! The final (number 11) in the lazy baker series of horror movie reviews. I decided to post my boring breakdown of Halloween, instead of the usual smartass tomfoolery you might expect. An exceedingly obvious choice for this particular holiday, but appropriate nevertheless. I didn't include any clips or stills because I figure every "normal" person has seen the film a couple of times and knows what I'm referring to. I might add some stills of certain shots I refer to later on. Whatever yo.

P.P.S. HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Try not to die from alcohol and/or tootsie roll abuse. That's all the wisdom I have for you at this time.

SLEEPWAY CAMP (1983) - leaving a child molester alone with a young girl confused by her own sexual identity is a recipe for psycho-sexual disaster

Here is the awesome trailer, using the motif of the scared kid writing a letter to his parents. Nowadays, a kid would just e-mail the cops with their i-phone.

The good thing about your typical NAMBLA member is that they always dress the part. When some ten-year-old boys are getting sweaty playing basketball at the park, you immediately know that the dude with the creepy grandpa sweater sitting on the park bench is a full blown chicken hawk. As a parent, you can keep an eye on him, and if he gets too close to your son, you can run over and tackle his ass, maybe get him in a patented NAMBLA-plex.

Unfortunately, some child molesters wear a uniform as part of their job (hello priests), and cannot be properly identified in time. Take, for example, the chef in Sleepaway Camp. When you look at someone in a uniform, you tend to thoroughly identify them in that role. You see the chef costume and imagine he spends all day cooking, not aware that he has a personal life. The summer camp chef in this film definitely has a hobby, and it involves fucking kids, in his imagination or otherwise. I guess he found the right job to support his “lifestyle”. What a piece of shit. Of course, if any camp counselors catch wind of his "ways", he can just join the clergy and be protected by the pope, free to finagle the children of the world without fear of repercussions. Unless, of course, one of the victim's fathers finds out and manages to hunt him down. The former chef is, at the very least, gonna get hogtied to the back of a pick-up truck and driven around town.

This is really the story of Angela, a young girl dealing with a host of issues. Angela’s dad was killed in a freak boating accident eight years prior, and she has been living with cousin Ricky and aunt Martha since. Ricky is a good hearted soul looking to protect Angela, and does so through hostile means (like calling someone a cocksucker before punching them in the face), but Martha is, unfortunately, batshit insane (and this comes into play during the world renowned super twist ending). This home situation has traumatized Angela to the point of rendering her a wide eyed zombie, incapable of human interaction, or, indeed, being able to blink her eyes. The other kids see this as an opportunity to make fun of her, as young people are insecure enough to destroy the childhoods of others in order to feel better about themselves. If I were them, I’d keep my mouth shut, what with the parade of early 80’s fashion faux pas these schmucks are flaunting (half-shirts, full blown mullets, knee high socks, an Asia shirt, bandanas, etc.). Even super bitch Judy wears a “Judy” shirt at one point, which is easily the least ironic t-shirt I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and that baby fucker is running around.

She finally opens up to a nice young boy who develops a shining to her large, perpetually open puppy dog eyes. She has big time intimacy issues on top of everything else, not to mention issues on top of that. Meanwhile, anybody who fucks with Angela gets killed in some gimmicky way (no machetes to the face here). All of this is explained, albeit in initially confusing form, in the world renowned twist ending, followed by the much lesser known, yet no less stellar, Sleepaway Camp theme song.

The film was followed by two spoofy, but still pretty righteous sequels, starring Bruce Springsteen’s sister, no less (spot her quickly in the "Born to Run" video). However, they lack the psycho-sexual dynamics of the original. If your sexual identity is in flux, and you also suffer from gender confusion, it’s pretty hard to figure out who you’re supposed to schnook. Not to mention, your confidence is probably gonna take a big hit. Oh yeah…and you won’t be able to love other human beings. That’s a bit of an issue. Oh well...GO BRUCE! Who's the boss? It still ain't Tony Danza, that's for sure. OH SNAP! Yeah, I said it Tony.

P.S. Review number 10 in the lazy baker onslaught of 11 horror reviews.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NEVER PICK UP A STRANGER (1979) - good advice all around, especially if you're a hot chick who lives in immoral urban decay

Here's the video teaser for this "terrifying tale of Hitchcockian suspense". If you're talking Frenzy, I can halfway see it. Sorta.

The original title of this film is Bloodrage, and that's also the title used for the VHS copy I have (the original 1983 big box release from "Best Film and Video", which is scarcer than a vagina at a Slayer concert). I would normally go with that title, but I prefer the Never Pick Up a Stranger moniker, as it better evokes the subgenre it belongs to (the sleazy woman hating serial killer likes of Maniac, Don't Answer the Phone, Don't Go in the House, etc.). Also, I want to try and avoid confusion with another movie called Blood Rage, aka Nightmare at Shadow Woods, the identical twin slasher film with Louise Lasser (she plays the twins' collective mother). Curiously, the first Bloodrage title is one word, and the second is split into two words. Webster's Dictionary officially calls bullshit on the former.

Well, the film is about a hooker snuffing psychotic named Ritchie (played by Ian Scott, although not the guy from Anthrax), who looks like a sunken eyed, super creepy version of Ron Howard (the guy who played Ritchie Cunningham, appropriately, and also directed a bunch of Oscar bait horseshit on the side). Let's just say he has "issues" with women. Namely, he is fixated on prostitutes and strippers and the sexual allure they provide. He has no particular hobby or "vice", as his screeching female roommate puts it, other than going to strip clubs and staring out the window at prostitutes in the adjacent building (several rotate in and out of an apartment) as they entertain clients and parade around naked. Particularly alluring to me in particular is the lovely Betsey Ranlow (her only other role being a small one in The Yum-Yum Girls) who plays one of the hookers, gyrating in her birthday suit, showing off her long, lithe figure (and everything else for that matter). Also, in a nice Polanski-esque touch, there is a creepy old lady in the same building across the way that sits there all day and stares out the window and, resultingly, stares into Ritchie's fractured mess of a soul.

He solicits hookers, as they are the only women he can find that will agree to be intimate with him, or indeed the only people of which he can have any sort of human relationship it would seem. He seems to hate that they're tough cookies (realistic and well portrayed cookies to boot) who quickly become annoyed with his possessive weirdness, instead of the feminine ideal he has in his head (whatever the fuck that might be). The opening hooker murder takes place in the small town where Richie grew up, and it's truly savage and abrupt. Afterwards, he flees for New York City, where hooker killers can get lost in the big city (not to mention hone their craft), with a cop on his trail. He lets us in on his inner thoughts, saying "she disgusted me...I wish she was somebody else, we would've gotten along real well...god damn whore...". The first hooker murder when he gets to NYC is truly uncomfortable to watch, prolonged as it is (contrasting with the first murder), as he repeatedly drowns the girl in a tub before eventually choking her with a telephone cord. "I'd thought she'd be different, but it didn't take me long to find out about her". I don't know what he was expecting, but women are people too, and a hooker is just a woman with a (usually) shitty job. Here we dip into the mind of a true psychopath, and specifically, how empathy eludes him.

While the film is padded with a ridiculous police procedural subplot (although occasionally featuring an always entertaining Lawrence Tierney), including a hilariously abrupt ending, what we have is sort of the sleazy hooker slasher version of Taxi Driver, albeit in a rough, hour long format (if you take out the stuff with the cop on his trail). It lacks much of the "thriller" element of similar films (Maniac is similar on the surface, but still functions as a series of thriller set pieces). Instead, it feels uncomfortably realistic, a genuine psychotic trapped in an urban wasteland with no future prospects. He does manage to find work in a Yoo-Hoo factory, sticking cans in cardboard boxes (and doing a horrible job of it, no less), but this is obviously not a career path to look forward to (even if you really really really like Yoo-Hoo). One needs to find a hobby, lest a hobby finds you, and killing hookers becomes Ritchie's lone form of self expression by default.

The centerpiece of the film is Ian Scott's uncomfortably believable performance, hinting at a tortured childhood while expressing a raw hatred for humanity. The other important character (apart from the victims) is the city itself, a wonderfully convincing portrait of NYC sleaze circa 1979. Such enveloping urban hopelessness is hardly a healthy environment for the misanthropes of the world, especially when they're packed in like sardines with other humans. Then again, maybe I'm just a pessimist. Perhaps I should click my heels more often. That might help. time like the present.

/attempts to click heels together
//clumsily falls over
///hits head on corner of table
////bleeds to death

P.S. Post number nine in the lazy baker Halloween horror countdown. Shit just got real.

TERROR ON TOUR (1980) - sometimes a rock and roll fantasy can turn into a nightmare, with all apologies to Bad Company

The Clowns are ready to rock out in strictly hetero fashion (yes, cocaine is involved)

Don Edmonds, the director of Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S., which is 90 minutes of women being tortured in a Nazi camp, does an aesthetic about face with Terror on Tour. This is the heart warming story of a band, "The Clowns", an afro’d scuzzbucket cross between Alice Cooper and Kiss, who specialize in cutting off women’s body parts on stage, all in order to fund their coke orgy lifestyle. Unfortunately, someone is killing off their groupies while wearing the costume of the band, which is: afro wig, white face paint, black cape, and black leotard. Seemingly low rent, but keep in mind that this is pre-exploding codpiece era.

There are generally two depictions of hard rock/heavy metal in film (and that includes
VH1 Behind the Music). They are:

1. The band doggedly pursues crass commercialism in the form of anti-establishment hijinx in order to fund their drug and sex habits.

2. The music takes precedence to the point that it results in dour committal to the craft. Bathing in a canoe filled with Molson Ice and naked sixteen-year-old girls is perfectly acceptable as long as it doesn’t interfere with band practice.

These “clowns” clearly believe in the former, which is fine, but they must be resigned to becoming a laughingstock when rockers in leotards who chug their chords becomes passé, as they won’t be propped up by the crutch of artistic “integrity.” Manowar has, from day one, proclaimed from the highest mountains that screaming about the derring-do’s of elvin warriors while wearing loincloths is out of pure self expression, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go fuck themselves. Resultantly, they managed to tour and release albums even in the grunge era.

Well, the structure of the film is pretty cyclical. The band comes on stage, plays their music, rips apart some mannequins, and tells the audience that they are going to kill them (which functions as antithetical posturing in the light of the usual love and joy expressed towards the audience, by the likes of, say, that asshole Stevie Wonder). They party with groupies, and occasionally take one to some sleazy back room for some sexy action (one particular room is a surreal filth hole, spattered with fake blood, complete with chains and a noose). Occasionally, a presumably fake clown stabs a naked girl, and this raises the ire of a useless porker who snoops around.

The band occasionally counsels with their manager (played by Larry Thomas, Seinfeld’s soup Nazi, clearly one of the party’s more endearing efforts) on drugs, ladies, and future success (i.e. money). Eventually, the fake clown is revealed to be the Nazi soup manager, who uses the old chestnut “they are all whores”, which, they kind of are, but that is no reason to be judgmental. His last murder spills onto the stage during a performance, thereby blurring the line between real violence and fake violence, fake whores and real whores.

I place the film in the narrow genre of the hard rock horror film, along with Hard Rock Nightmare (and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park might qualify here). Musically, the band lacks the savage punch of a heavy metal knee to the groin (the knee packs quite a punch, if you follow). Also, as stated earlier, the ethos at work here is more "party band" than empowering musical fantasy, and that places it in the hard rock horror category as opposed to the heavy metal horror slot (I make the rules around here). I know this seems like a ridiculous splitting of hairs, but I guess that makes me the world's most anal retentive barber.

The victims are all young women stuck in an adolescent state, permanently “partying with the band”. These girls sink to the level of proclaiming the band is “better than The Kinks”, which is clearly not the case, but nevertheless, it keeps the party going. It would seem to be ironic that groupies would be killed for “being whores”, which would defeat their very existence, but, again, it is their state of adolescence that is being disrupted. The killer’s motive is just a means to an end. It’s a justification in that someone is using it to justify something. The streets of hard rocking dreams are paved with tar heroin and groupies, with or without limbs. The audience is just an unwitting vice supplier.

P.S. More fun in the soon to be over lazy baker's dozen Halloween horror countdown. Only a couple more to go! Three I think. Shit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) - a tragedy wrapped in shag carpet, accompanied by a large green fella who likes to grunt for no reason

"Twice as grim and a hundred times more terrifying!" proclaims the trailer. Thanks for making us do math, Mr. trailer guy.

While considered an obvious story device in retrospect, I do find the idea of a movie monster showdown curious. The general concept behind a horror film is typically that innocent people(s) are forced to deal with some form of evil, a mysterious threat that renders their normally safe surroundings disturbingly askew. You had a clear delineation between hero and villain. However, once these movies became popular, the monsters became the defacto heroes, as they were what interested audiences about these films, and not so much the "normal" characters. Sequels were made, and as these sequels ran out of ideas, and grosses dipped, studios started stitching together box office draws, so to speak. Even though these monsters came from different worlds that contained different rules, they were forced to cross over and meet in conflict. Now, after many decades of horror film showdowns and especially comic books, where heroes and villains cross comics to fight or team up, audiences demand this kind of thing, even debating who would win if certain fictional characters were pitted against each other. However, when movie monsters get together to tee off on each other, the results are typically disappointing. Freddy vs. Jason was okay, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys sure as hell wasn't, but some of these ideas in and out of development are getting a bit ridiculous. Look no further than the upcoming film "Freddy vs. Jason vs. Pinhead vs. Jigsaw vs. Hitler vs. Dolly Dearest vs. Mommie Dearest vs. the wolf man vs. Virginia Woolf vs. clowns (any clowns, they're all evil) vs. 3-D". No, the movie isn't in 3-D. Instead, the actual third dimension is physically assaulted during the film. I'm curious to see how Industrial Light & Magic is gonna pull that one off.

The film opens with two graverobbers digging up the wolf man's corpse to steal whatever valuables he happened to be wearing at the time of his burial (maybe one of those Danzig necklaces). People are always doing this at the beginning of horror sequels. Surely there are safer ways to make money (shark hunting, for example). Needless to say, their money making scheme goes awry, and an angry furball is free to roam the streets. Thanks boys.

The next morning, Lon Chaney Jr. is found in the streets and taken to the local hospital. The cops are a little confused, as Lon died four years prior, so they figure he's just a Lon Chaney Jr. impersonator. Well, the moon decides to go full (thanks asshole), and Lon goes into full furball mode, killing some English bobby. Well, these porkers on the case deduce that the "officer" was killed by a wild animal, and the Lon Chaney Jr. impersonator who is back resting in a hospital bed is innocent, despite admitting to the crime. Shit starts finally coming together when they investigate Lon's tomb and find a graverobber corpse instead, and they also locate a photo of Lon and realize that he looks exactly the same as the dude in the hospital. Unfortunately, they are bit late in figuring out the obvious, as Lon has since escaped the hospital, biting through his straitjacket. I think if you can manage to get out of a straitjacket, you should be declared legally sane. You've earned it pal.

Well, he locates the gypsy from the first film to try and help him lift the werewolf curse. Lon is forced to seek help from modern medicine, and goes on a quest to find...Dr. Frankenstein! Well, he is the best doctor around. I mean, he made a living dude out of stitched together body parts, and that was back in olden times. Surely he can throw together some wolfsbane smoothie that'll knock out Lon's issues with uncontrollable fur. In another cross cinema move, the torch bearing mob from Frankenstein rabidly goes after the wolf man. I would be pretty pissed too with all these monsters running around.

the relevant footage begins at 1:50

As luck would have it, Lon (having reverted back to form) happens upon Frankenstein's monster frozen in a cave on the remnants of the doctor's estate. We can thank the mob for that bit of destruction from the earlier film, but that doesn't explain him still being frozen in ice (although it's been awhile since I've seen the original Frankenstein). Well, Lon frees him, figuring he can lead him to the doctor. As it happens, the monster is played by Bela Lugosi, who played the character Bela in the first Wolf Man, the gypsy's werewolf son who passed the curse onto Lon Chaney Jr.. Not only that, but Lon played Frankenstein's monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, also featuring Bela as Igor. Boy this monster stuff can get confusing.

This confusing dynamic reminds me of a scene from
The Face of the Screaming Werewolf, from our good friend Jerry Warren. If you weren't aware, Jerry made several low budget monster movies like Teenage Zombies, Man Beast, and his masterpiece Frankenstein Island (you can check out a clip of it in my review of Memorial Valley Massacre). He would also take two foreign horror films and stitch them together, with added dialogue scenes to try and make sense of the plot (usually John Carradine giving a nonsensical speech on a cardboard set). Screaming Werewolf was one such example, where he cobbled together two Mexican horror films. Anyway, an archaeological dig results in a sweet mummy find, and they eventually try to revive it in a Frankenstein-esque experiment. Lo and behold, the mummy comes alive and rips off it's bandages's Lon Chaney Jr. as the wolf man! While the Universal monsters may have fought each other, often with Lon Chaney Jr. playing one of the roles, here Lon plays all three monsters within one single character. It's either a brilliantly inventive take on monster showdowns, or possibly the dumbest thing ever. I'll let you decide.

Lon, under the guise of a perspective buyer, gets a meeting with Dr. Frankenstein's daughter, in order to ask to see her father's research (he's gotta have some werewolf cure among that big stack of monster papers). This sets up the Frankenstein-esque finale that includes a showdown between Frankenstein's monster and the wolf man, after a first half that's similar to The Wolf Man, so really, the title lets you know exactly what you're getting here. Well, as you can probably imagine, things don't turn out all rosy, as if you attempt to meddle with god's plan (which includes curses, I guess), fate will body slam you into a dumpster filled with hubris (that's a metaphor, for the record).

However, this is a story that, in effect, is about an invincible man trying to kill himself, to shed his wolf curse so he can finally die in peace. This ups the "air of tragedy" factor from the original Wolf Man, helped by Lon Chaney Jr.'s solid performance. While he made more than his fair share of crap, he could be a good actor at times (check out his underrated late career turn in Spider Baby). He gives what might be his best performance here, conveying the inner struggle of the character despite the extremely forced nature of the script. After all, the wolf man character is the closest the monster world has to the character of Hamlet, albeit furry and hostile. That is, he's debating whether or not to live or to die in light of a tragic flaw. Unless, of course, he finds that wolfsbane smoothie, in which case he can finally stop moping about how sad his vagina is (another metaphor, of course).

P.S. Written as part of my eleven part lazy baker's dozen Halloween horror countdown. Frankly, I've lost count at this point.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987) - quite ironically, a fable about living your heavy metal dreams

Here's Thor performing a song of his. He used to bend steel rods and pop hot water bottles between songs because, well...why not I guess.

Jon-Mikl Thor is a fucking closer. If need be, he'll drive a tank onto your front lawn late at night and blow your house straight into the sky, rendering it townhouse space junk, and leaving only the foundation and your teeny bopper Ikea furnishings. As you jump out of bed, he leaps from his tank, splitting your skull with a metaphoric foam battle axe. As you lay momentarily dazed, he pulls out a boom box, pops in a cassette, and pumps the rewired volume knob to 13 (fuck you Spinal Tap).

What's that song playing? ANOTHER FUCKING THOR EPIC. It's blowing through your eardrums and out your ass. THAT'S the name of the song. You drive a Hyundai to work? Thor drives a fucking TANK to work. That's
HIS name. His job is heavy metal...and he's number one on the board. Enjoy the steak knives poseur.

For those that need their evidence to be of the visual variety, look no further than his cinematic epic
Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, no doubt the heaviest film ever made on the cheap on the outskirts of Toronto. Thor and his bandmates head for a house in the middle of Bumfuck, Canada to lay down some scorching tracks for the new album. They require this type of isolation in order to be able to fully concentrate on laying down the perfect performance, without the distractions of modern life in Toronto circa 1987 (hockey, I guess). They do bring along some smoking Canucklehead chicks (well, at least the brunette is) and cases and cases of brewskis (one of those moose leaf whatever brands), as sort of a dual headed muse.

As I have said before (although I forget where), fooling around with big haired honeys in a tub of Molsen Ice is perfectly acceptable within Thor's heavy metal lifestyle
as long as it doesn't interfere with rehearsals. It's the Poison's of the world who lack heavy metal spirit, instead using the music as a springboard to snag chicks and free drugs. The true punters are in it for the musical long haul, and if two sixteen-year-old girls happen to borrow mom's station wagon and drive into a Thor show all the way from Winnipeg, they are to wait until all metal demons have been vanquished and all fists have been pumped. The girls might even be immortalized in a future song (maybe "Valkyries That Hath Looketh No Younger Than Nineteeneth, Officereth").

Not everyone is immediately on board with this artistic plan. The brunette girlfriend of one of the band members immediately complains that "there's no hot tubs and no Dynasty", and asks her boyfriend "why couldn't you have become something sensible, like a coke dealer?" Circa 1987, this was a legitimate question to ask someone. However, while she's a special brunette brand of Canadian hotness, she doesn't quite understand the heavy metal ethos, although she starts to get it a bit when she finds herself bobbing her head to a transcendent take of "Energy". She realizes that, in some small way, she's part of a team of warriors that will rule the heavy metal apocalypse. Or something along those lines.

However, the film's central musical number is "We Live to Rock", a statement of musical ethos of the truly direct variety. While many songs written before this one made allusions to real events and maybe contained an attempt at poetry, Thor has the balls to cut to the chase, refusing any sort of symbolism. It's called "deconstruction", where lyric and band and performance and audience are one in the same. It comes as little surprise that the engineer during the "We Live to Rock" take is pumping his fists in the control room, getting so into the song that he ignores all of the knobs and fancy effects. Frankly, dude, Thor doesn't need that shit. Lay it down dry baby, and let the engineer air guitar his ass through the entire session. A Jon-Mikl Thor song produces itself.

Of course, "the man" can't handle Thor's onslaught, and by "the man", I mean FUCKING SATAN. He invades the recording house, with the help of some evil hand puppets (to the extent that hand puppets can provide assistance). Why would Satan want to stop a heavy metal god from recording an album? You'd think they would make natural allies. However, Satan is really just a selfish jerk, and doesn't want earthly humans to experience heavy metal immortality. He wants whatever power he can cobble together in god's wake, and Thor is grabbing a piece of his action, so to speak. Despite the occasional bit of faux-satanism, heavy metal is an earthly religion of it's own. Speaking of which, most satanism seems to be of the "faux" variety. Then again, what the hell do I know about religion.

So, various characters get possessed by Mr. Beezlebub, as he is too much of a pussy to confront Thor head on. My favorite bit is when the engineer gets possessed and happens upon a group of young girls who claim to be members of the Thor fan club. They drive in from wherever in mom's station wagon, managing to find the secluded house and hoping to "hang out" with the band. The engineer lays down the law via Satan, explaining to the "fan club" that if they wanna hang out with Thor and the boys, they need to cut up some coke while their tits are hanging out. I guess that's how Satan parties. What a jerk. If these girls were to party with the real Thor, granted, they would need to keep the beer flowing, with some vodka thrown in, but cocaine wouldn't be allowed (drugs are bad for you after all). They would also be free to pull out their tits but only if they feel comfortable doing so. That Satan guy really has NO respect for women. Well, these girls smartly get outta dodge, as a little groupie fun with the band would've been awesome, but these respectable Canadian high school girls simply refuse to snort coke with Satan's minions. Thankfully, they also don't fall back on the old "if the cocaine abuse gets outta hand, it's no big deal since we can just hit up some free national health care" excuse.

Now if you know me (and you may not), you may have heard me declare that Luis Bunuel's
Simon of the Desert has the greatest twist ending in the history of cinema. Fuck you The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game can go eat a dick (spoiler alert!), and The Usual Suspects can go drive a Hyundai to work. However, quite possibly, Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare places number two on the list (or at least top three, although I'm blanking on the other contender). I don't want to give it away, but the final showdown with Satan is such an anarchic mindbender, a complete defilement of time and space, that, yes, it is worthy of a Luis Bunuel, while still somehow keeping within the internal logic of a man screaming at the top of his lungs wearing a codpiece. Oh yeah, Thor wears a codpiece in the movie. I probably should've mentioned that.

Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare
is one of four important heavy metal horror movies, along with Black Roses, Rocktober Blood, and Trick or Treat (probably the masterpiece of the bunch). I have now reviewed all of them, maybe because I have nothing better to do, but probably because no one else would bother. Well, the jokes on them, because I have learned a few important life lessons along the way. In the case of this particular epic, Thor's battle with Satan is a vanquishing of some asshole who wants to interfere with his artistic process. You can metaphorically insert whoever you want in this dynamic, whether it's a studio suit insisting that you tone down your heavy metal antics, or your parents yelling at you to turn down your guitar amp when your practicing in your bedroom, or your boss telling you to cut your hair. The attempt to squash your self expression comes from all directions, and it takes the spirit of a true warrior to stand up and tell these people to go fuck themselves.

P.S. This is horror movie review number six in my Halloween countdown. Only five more to go in this set of a lazy baker's dozen. Why go lazy baker 11 instead of a nice rounded 10? Well, the "man" would want a logical well rounded sequence, but he's a jerk, and I don't take math advice from a jerk.

Monday, October 25, 2010

TWISTED NIGHTMARE (1987) - a vague Indian monster lays waste to a rogue's gallery of young people suffering from a collective bad hair day

Here's what looks to be the UK VHS, which has a way more bodacious cover than the copy I have.

Curiously, the movie begins with a slightly comatose, vaguely robotized voice-over yapping about the history of evil or something. I hate it when films contain endless exposition to ultimately say nothing. Regardless, a Native American apparition looks to be arguing with some ghost chick while they hover over a fire. Turns out it was all a dream, and a girl wakes up, her deepest darkest injun quelled by an envelope left by her bed. Looks like “Camp Paradise” is mysteriously leaving invitations for a reunion, even bypassing the postal service in the process by breaking into people’s homes while they’re sleeping. That's a ballsy way to advertise.

Even more curious than this mysterious “reunion” is the hair these victims-to-be are flaunting. The token Asian dude has a supreme mullet usually reserved for lame honkeys (the other males also have mullets, but they pale in comparison). The hot brunette with the bandana in her hair drives along with her boyfriend, but she is mysteriously seen wearing a crappy blonde wig when she gets out of the car. Maybe she likes to mix it up. There is also a girl with an unfortunate hairstyle that looks like a poodle grafted onto a stingray (a stingray made of hair, if you follow me).

We learn that the brother of the girl who had the dream died an “accidental “ death at the camp many years prior, and there is also presumably an Indian spirit running around. There is also a creepy redskin caretaker, who yells at a couple when they make out in his barn filled with cats. They later come back to save some kittens, but get killed, including the dude getting his arms ripped off in total darkness. You’d think they would want to showcase the special effect instead of forcing you to rewind and freeze frame the fucking tape like three times just to catch a vague glimpse.

The couples split off to have sex, and the next day, the hot blonde/brunette finds the dead couple in the barn. She tries to call the cops, but instead gets an ineffectual redneck covered in oil (aren’t they always). She tries to drive away in the truck, but gets accosted through the back window, innovatingly sidestepping the "truck won't start" gag.

We finally get a flashback to how the girl’s brother died. He’s a retard named Matthew, chilling with the ladies while the “real” men are playing football. The girls tease him, telling him they want a taste of his retard sugar (sarcastically, I guess), and this upsets him to the point that he runs into a barn and catches fire for no reason. Maybe it’s one of those spontaneous combustion deals.

The Native American caretaker is repeatedly presented as a suspect (I guess he could be possessed by the Indian ghost). He even pulls his shotgun on a guy investigating the barn. The dude runs away, but gets his foot stuck in a bear trap. He manages to get his foot loose (ha ha, foot loose, like Kevin Bacon and stuff), but strangely doesn’t register any emotion. I guess the adrenaline you get in this situation can dull the most agonizing pain imaginable (or dull one's ability to act), but it’s rendered irrelevant when the slasher monster claws out his friggin' throat.

The lead girl disrobes for a candlelit bath and, surprisingly, the bath is not merely an excuse to show nudity (although there’s plenty of that). She slashes her own leg with a strait razor, not because she sucks at shaving, but because she’s depressed about having to relive memories about her dead retard brother. It’s really just a less fatal version of slitting your wrists. The candles are a hint. Anytime a chick wants to commit suicide, she’s gotta take a bath after filling the bathroom with 7,000 candles.

We get yet more sexy time when two couples start to get busy in the steam room. Thankfully, we get to see a black couple get down to some soul action (a rarity in 80’s slashers), but it just amounts to an erotic massage, depriving us of the excitement of watching two afros bang together. The honkey couple runs off to have sex underneath what looks to be an old tractor, before being impaled with something that looks like a giant crucifix (or maybe a steel beam or something; it’s just too damn dark to tell). The black couple is the next to get it, right after the dude sings “I Feel Good”. While an obvious choice, any James Brown song is a brief respite from the horrific score that sounds like a balloon being rubbed in a dying cat’s face.

It’s clear at this point that the lead girl is in cahoots with the killer, as she keeps telling people that everything is okay, in particular the 90-year-old sheriff who’s investigating the phone call from earlier. Putting a unique spin on the useless blue bacon-head we all know and despise, this sheriff wants to get to the bottom of everything and help people, but is too much of an old piece of shit to accomplish his goals.

This sets up the finale, where people wander around the almost complete darkness of the woods (the fog machine being set on high doesn’t help with the visibility factor) and look for each other, usually just finding whatever that killer monster thing is. It’s rare for a slasher that the sheriff gets his head ripped off, but that’s what he gets for intervening in on a supernatural revenge plot (and being old and useless).

In the end, the Indian caretaker saves the day by blowing himself up, proving that it takes a man of apparent knowledge in mystical mumbo jumbo to defeat a creature apparently constructed from mystical mumbo jumbo. I guess the lead girl wanted everyone dead, and her zombie brother was the one to (almost) get the job done. Such is the penalty for sexually exciting a retard so thoroughly that he bursts into flames. I figured this all had something to do with angry Indian spirits taking their revenge on dumb white mulletheads, but I guess it's hard to mount a revenge plot when your race has been so thoroughly wiped out.

P.S. This is review number five in my fancy Halloween horror marathon. Only six more to go to hit the magical lazy baker number (11). By the way, don't try to order a lazy baker at your local donut or bagel shop. This will only confuse them further.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

THE COMMUNE (2009) - a modern take on the hippie-sploitation genre that is about as exciting as watching an ultimate frisbee tournament

Here's a trailer. Take note of the vaguely annoying new age chant score that sounds like some third rate Lisa Gerrard.

Can we, as a society, please stop using the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" every five fucking seconds? The biggest offenders seem to be sports writers and announcers. They'll say they are "drinking the Kool-Aid" on a team, meaning that they are in agreement with the cult of people that believe that Oklahoma has a good football team this year after pasting LSU 77-2. You're so fixated on going out on such a wild limb that you've completely missed the fucking point. The People's Temple all got together one evening to kill themselves, not collectively point out the obvious. Use it as a reference to either insane religion or mass suicide, or don't use it at all.

Well, this particular commune wouldn't even use Kool-Aid and arsenic if they were staging a mass suicide. It would probably be something like soy milk tainted with poisoned mushrooms. That Kool-Aid shit just ain't very good for you. It's pretty much just sugar and food coloring. Remember that scene from House Party, where the kid is mixing the Kool-Aid? I rest my case. Either way, this is a horror movie of sorts that takes place in a crazy commune, so either there's going to be a mass suicide, or a human sacrifice, or the F.B.I. is gonna descend on the place with AK-47s and smoke bombs, and crack some hemp wigs back. Yup Yup.

Until then, we have to watch heroine Jenny hang out at a commune (very authentic looking but curiously sparse) for seventy odd minutes, royally annoyed that she is forced to hang around some hippies (insert tasteless hacky sack joke here). She is supposed to be a fifteen-year-old virgin, but comes across as a 24-year-old party girl pretending to be fifteen and, while borderline hot (she does turn sixteen during the movie so, rounding up a bit, I'm only mildly disgusting), there's nothing conveyed in the form of a burgeoning sexuality or a young innocent forced to confront the horrors of her elders (or even anything more than minimal sympathy). She just comes across as totally bored, rolling her eyes at everything the commune mother says (or whatever the fuck her title is), wishing she were off at a club somewhere tossing back highballs. She does finally find something to do when she hooks up with a local rocker dude named Puck (not the guy from The Real World, a show I have never ever ever never ever watched). While she is stoked that her boredom is being quashed by some alone time with a studmuffin rocker, the dude has a soulpatch, and that shit is simply inexcusable. I find it ironic that dudes with soulpatches are the ones who happen to have a soul count of exactly zero. Anyway, the subtext conveyed here seems to be that communes are boring and that hippies are annoying, rather than any sort of satire on new age nonsense, or the psychosexual journey of a young innocent that the film seems to be going for.

Here is a wasted opportunity to comment on the new age group think. I don't see the process of how a group dynamic based in wonky beliefs functions, or how the new age way of thinking relies on presenting vague emotional interpretations of reality as rational facts (although less dangerous than beliefs based in anger, like those asshole terrorists who blow stuff up for no reason). There's a part where the commune mother mentions that they occasionally get together and watch The Secret, you know, that book and movie thing that says that you can have whatever you want if you imagine it hard enough. It's a secret all right. The secret is that it's bullshit. You're welcome.

She is haunted by the occasional dream or image, but these don't really convey the underbelly of her surroundings so much as remind you that something bad will eventually happen. This amounts to a conceptually disturbing (but narratively ill-fitting) ending wise, a bit ripped off from two horror classics that shall remain nameless. While I appreciate the effort to create a slow build, we spend most of the run time hanging out in an annoying commune with Jenny, waiting for something to happen. Just because time passes doesn't mean suspense is being built.

So, the result is a film about a commune where several horror elements feel like they are forced in, rather than naturally arising from the characters and the situation. The film might have played better, assuming the same actress in the lead role, as a quirky comedy of sorts, maybe along the lines of Lukas Moodysson's Together. A Lindsay Lohan type, a boozy tramp out of water, is forced to live in a commune against her will. Wild shenanigans ensue. Of course, spending time with people that live a life completely different from her own, she learns a valuable lesson in the end, that maybe she shouldn't act like a stuck up bitch all the time, and maybe getting drunk every night is no way to go through life. Of course, she immediately forgets this lesson after about a week after she returns home, but the important thing is that the audience is taught these valuable lessons in the process. So, yes, we can learn many a solid lesson from these hippie types, that war is retarded and free love rocks and Phish is tolerable (wait, scratch that last one). Just remember to ignore them when they start pulling out crystals and rambling about a god made out of hemp.

P.S. This is part four in the "Lazy Baker's Dozen Halloween Horror Movie Countdown". I think I may have changed the title of this marathon a couple of times, but the point is that I'm reviewing eleven horror films in eleven days. As long winded as I tend to be, this shit is not going to be easy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (1958) - all that an alien marriage will allow

Gloria Talbott is my kind of woman. You can have your big bosomed blondes and what have you. I'm going with Gloria's blend of squared off angular beauty and ravishing elegance. While mostly remembered as a proto scream queen of sorts (what with starring roles in this film, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, and Bert I. Gordon's The Cyclops, a movie about some big asshole with one eye that growls a lot) she, perhaps most importantly, had a fairly major role in Douglas Sirk's masterpiece All That Heaven Allows. She also did a lot of television and, amongst other roles, some low budget westerns. Check her out in
Oklahoma Territory playing an Apache chick named "Ruth Redhawk", with her bullet bra and faintly erotic brown shoepolish complexion. Wait, "faintly erotic"? Gloria dressed up as a sexy Native American? Who am I kidding? Drool is hitting the keyboard on my laptop as we speak just thinking about it. Oh shit, I think it's shorting out. I, uh...(four days and a hefty repair bill later). Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, Gloria is pretty smoking. I think that's where I was headed.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space
is essentially a wedlock version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As this was 1958, star Gloria Talbott is no doubt royally stoked that she's about to get married, looking forward to the two and half kids and the dog and the white picket fence and the super deluxe washer and dryer and the dental insurance and the leisure wear and the matching luggage. The cracks immediately start showing in this beautiful fantasy, what with her fiancee AWOL on the morning of their wedding. Her mother enters the room humming that wedding song (whatever the fuck it's called), agitating Gloria. What was once sweet music to her ears as quickly turned sour. "Mother, will you stop that dirge?" she snaps, standing there in her wedding dress, feeling as if she has been taken for a fool, by both man and institution.

Well, her husband-to-be (Tom Tryon, future author of
The Other and others, horrible pun intended) was having a bachelor party at a bar the night before with his friends. Ironically (or maybe not), Gloria's romantic view of marriage contrasts harshly with the male perspective showcased during Tom's last night of freedom. They all act as if he's going off to prison, spending the rest of his life behind bars. I don't think this equal partnership is best consummated from such polar opposite directions.

Tom leaves the party early, perhaps a bit turned off by the bleak view of marriage being voiced, and drives home through what looks to be Griffith Park. He thinks he sees a body in the road and slams on the brakes, and he is quickly ambushed by...AN ALIEN FROM ANOTHER WORLD! Figures. With all of these sci-fi movies partially taking place in Griffith Park (Ro-Man from the immortal
Robot Monster had his defacto headquarters in Bronson Cave), you'd think people would take their picnics and what have you elsewhere. I used to visit Griffith Park as a kid and, while I didn't run into any spacemen with ray guns, I did once fall out of a tree (don't ask). Anyway, the alien takes over Tom's body, the "soul" of the alien transferring in the form of some cool looking black smoke. The special effects in the film, while certainly inexpensive, are still pretty effective and creepy. As I have said many times, CGI can go eat a dick (I'm paraphrasing myself).

Well, Tom eventually shows up to his own marriage (every bachelor party throughout cinematic history has forced to groom to be late to his own ceremony), but under a completely different light (not the Bangles album, although it's pretty darn good). He is now an alien who is using Gloria as part of his big alien plan (one that is a bit better thought out than plan 9). The females of his alien race have gone extinct, so they have to integrate into the society of earth and figure out how to procreate with human women to keep their species afloat. While they figure out the reproductive logistics, they have to tolerate relationships with their new significant others (and VERY other to boot).

This creates a paranoia situation not unlike
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but instead of a society being infiltrated and taken over by stand-ins for communism, we have a single woman finding herself trapped in a male dominated society via the institution of marriage. Gloria was led to believe, by her friends and her parents and her television, that marriage was the only proper thing to do for a young woman like herself, and she completely bought in. This beautiful dream she envisioned for herself ends up as all nightmare, what with her husband being cold and distant (light years away distant), using her for his own ulterior motives. When she finds out that her husband is indeed an alien, she attempts to alert any and all male authority figures in her life, to help her out of this peculiar trap. However, it is all for naught, as most of these men are now aliens as well. She was looking for a lifetime of love and ended up being put in her place, as it were (at least until the final showdown rolls around). Maybe we're all better off working it like the gays, staying out of deadening marriages and working societal angst out on the dance floor. Or not.

It's pretty clear that I Married a Monster from Outer Space is attempting a sort of proto-feminism, using the sci-fi genre to turn this idea of the perfect fifties wife (cleaning during the day, having a warm meal on the table when her husband gets home, making sure there is always fresh ice in the bar so her husband can unwind with a scotch on the rocks any time he pleases, etc.) on it's pretty little head. While the script is a bit clunky and it lacks the taut direction of a Don Siegel, I Married a Monster deserves a rightful place among the classics of social commentary-based science fiction. Unfortunately, I think it historically suffers a bit on account of the campy title, just like I Walked with a Zombie (a horror masterpiece also with a misleadingly silly title).

I can't help but think back to All That Heaven Allows, which was also considered a piece of fluff on it's original release. Gloria plays the daughter of Jane Wyman, another woman trapped in her societal role. Gloria gives her mother a present, a television set. She can finally escape the shackles of her life and be free to explore the world from the comforts of her living room (after all of her chores are finished, of course). As the salesman explains to her how it works, and that "the world is at your fingertips", we see Jane's reflection in the empty screen, a sad, blurry ghost imprisoned in a wasteland of domestic bliss. Just as many audience members at the time saw the television set as an awesome gift, they too may have watched I Married a Monster and left the theater thankful that aliens don't really exist.

P.S. This is part three of the "Lazy Baker's Dozen Halloween Horror Marathon". Only eight more to go. I hope my math is right.