Wednesday, June 30, 2010

TOP 100 FAVORITE FILMS

Here is the list of my favorite films of all time:
  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, dir- Stanley Kubrick)
  2. Ace in the Hole (1951, dir- Billy Wilder)
  3. Apocalypse Now (1979, dir- Francis Ford Coppola)
  4. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, dir- Robert Bresson)
  5. Badlands (1973, dir- Terrence Malick)
  6. Barry Lyndon (1975, dir- Stanley Kubrick)
  7. Beauty and the Beast (1964, dir- Jean Cocteau)
  8. Before Sunrise (1995, dir- Richard Linklater)
  9. La Belle Captive (1983, dir- Alain Robbe-Grillet)
  10. The Big Lebowski (1999, dir- Coen Brothers)
  11. Black Narcissus (1947, dir- Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
  12. Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir- Mario Bava)
  13. Blow Out (1981, dir- Brian DePalma)
  14. Body Double (1984, dir- Brian DePalma)
  15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974, dir- Sam Peckinpah)
  16. Carlito’s Way (1993, dir- Brian DePalma)
  17. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974, dir- Jacques Rivette)
  18. Christiane F. (1981, dir- Uli Edel)
  19. Ciao Manhattan (1972, dir- John Palmer & David Weisman)
  20. The Conformist (1970, dir- Bernardo Bertolucci)
  21. Corridor of Mirrors (1948, dir- Terence Young)
  22. The Cranes are Flying (1957, dir- Mikail Kalatozov)
  23. Crows (1994, dir- Dorota Kedzierzawska)
  24. Days of Heaven (1978, dir- Terrence Malick)
  25. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, dir- Luis Bunuel)
  26. Donkey Skin (1970, dir- Jacques Demy)
  27. Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971, dir- Joel Seria)
  28. Dr. Caligari (1989, dir- Stephen Sayadian)
  29. The Earrings of Madame De... (1953, dir- Max Ophuls)
  30. Eyes Wide Shut (1999, dir- Stanley Kubrick)
  31. Eyes Without a Face (1960, dir- Georges Franju)
  32. Fallen Angels (1995, dir- Wong Kar Wai)
  33. Forbidden Games (1952, dir- Rene Clement)
  34. Forbidden Zone (1982, dir- Richard Elfman)
  35. Freddy Got Fingered (2001, dir- Tom Green)
  36. Gertrud (1964, dir- Carl Dreyer)
  37. Gimme an "F" (1984, dir- Paul Justman)
  38. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, dir- James Foley)
  39. Halloween (1978, dir- John Carpenter)
  40. The Holy Mountain (1973, dir- Alejandro Jodorowsky)
  41. The Hunger (1983, dir- Tony Scott)
  42. Juliet of the Spirits (1965, dir- Federico Fellini)
  43. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976, dir- John Cassavetes)
  44. King of New York (1990, dir- Abel Ferrara)
  45. Kwaidan (1964, dir- Masaki Kobayashi)
  46. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982, dir- Lou Adler)
  47. Lancelot of the Lake (1974, dir- Robert Bresson)
  48. The Last House on Dead End Street (1977, dir- Roger Watkins)
  49. L'eclisse (1962, dir- Michelangelo Antonioni)
  50. Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973, dir- Richard Blackburn)
  51. The Leopard (1963, dir- Luchino Visconti)
  52. Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948, dir- Max Ophuls)
  53. Liquid Sky (1982, dir- Slava Tsukerman)
  54. Lola Montes (1955, dir- Max Ophuls)
  55. Millennium Mambo (2001, dir- Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  56. Mouchette (1967, dir- Robert Bresson)
  57. Naked Killer (1992, dir- Clarence Fok)
  58. Network (1976, dir- Sidney Lumet)
  59. A New Leaf (1971, dir- Elaine May)
  60. The Night of the Hunter (1955, dir- Charles Laughton)
  61. The Ninth Configuration (1980, dir- William Peter Blatty)
  62. Nostalghia (1983, dir- Andrei Tarkovsky)
  63. O Lucky Man! (1973, dir- Lindsay Anderson)
  64. Once Upon a Time in America (1984, dir- Sergio Leone)
  65. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, dir- Sergio Leone)
  66. Opera (1987, dir- Dario Argento)
  67. Paris, Texas (1984, dir- Wim Wenders)
  68. The Party Animal (1984, dir- David Beaird)
  69. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, dir- Peter Weir)
  70. Point Blank (1967, dir- John Boorman)
  71. Punishment Park (1971, dir- Peter Watkins)
  72. Repo Man (1984, dir- Alex Cox)
  73. Repulsion (1965, dir- Roman Polanski)
  74. Roller Blade (1986, dir- Donald G. Jackson)
  75. La Rose de Fer (1973, dir- Jean Rollin)
  76. Le Samourai (1967, dir- Jean-Pierre Melville)
  77. The Secret of Roan Inish (1994, dir- John Sayles)
  78. The Seventh Victim (1943, dir- Mark Robson)
  79. The Shining (1980, dir- Stanley Kubrick)
  80. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, dir- Victor Erice)
  81. Splendor in the Grass (1961, dir- Elia Kazan)
  82. A Sunday in the Country (1984, dir- Bertrand Tavernier)
  83. Suspiria (1977, dir- Dario Argento)
  84. Sweet Smell of Success (1957, dir- Alexander Mackendrick)
  85. Taxi Driver (1976, dir- Martin Scorsese)
  86. TerrorVision (1986, dir- Ted Nicolaou)
  87. Tess (1979, dir- Roman Polanski)
  88. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir- Tobe Hooper)
  89. Trick or Treat (1986, dir- Charles Martin Smith)
  90. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992, dir- David Lynch)
  91. Two-Lane Blacktop (1971, dir- Monte Hellman)
  92. Umberto D. (1952, dir- Vittorio De Sica)
  93. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970, dir- Jaromil Jires)
  94. Veneno Para las Hadas (1984, dir- Carlos Enrique Taboada)
  95. Vicious Lips (1987, dir- Albert Pyun)
  96. Videodrome (1983, dir- David Cronenberg)
  97. Week End (1967, dir- Jean-Luc Godard)
  98. Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966, dir- William Klein)
  99. Withnail & I (1987, dir- Bruce Robinson)
  100. Zabriskie Point (1970, dir- Michelangelo Antonioni)

KILLER PARTY (1986) - it's not a real party unless you find a dead hooker the next morning

Here's the rad (although misleading) poster, reminding me of Night of the Creeps, or maybe one of the other zombie prom movies.


Sadly, we open the film at a funeral, forced to confront the horrors of human mortality. The priest does it in his own way, quoting The Wizard of Oz (some shit about the size of your heart). He then tells everyone that the service is over, saying "try to have a nice day". An old man mutters "imbecile!” in response, as if insulted that the priest would attempt to rectify the death of a loved one with such a vague and lifeless pleasantry. A girls runs back in to yell at the corpse after everyone has left the church, and, curiously, gets dragged into the coffin. The coroner sticks the coffin in the oven while listening to his walkman, completely oblivious to the fact that a living being is fucking screaming.

Well, the camera pulls back, and the scene we were watching is a movie playing at a drive-in. Hot valley girl April is being pawed by some guy in his car, so she decides to go get some popcorn to keep from getting date raped. No one is working the concession counter, so she steals some popcorn and heads back to the car, noticing that her date, along with everyone else, is a zombie. What an awesome promotional gimmick. The movie within a movie suddenly turns into a metal ripoff of the "Thriller" video, where April runs through the foggy drive-in being chased by zombies. The featured group is White Sister (a real band, and sort of an aerobic, balding Dokken), playing their power rocker "You're No Fool".

Once again, we pull back, and a girl is watching the video on TV. Christ on a stick. Killer Party is the rare piece of horror trash that feels the need to obliterate the fourth wall within the first five minutes. Normally, this would set up the viewer to be on their heels, that the rug of reality can be pulled from underneath their feet at any moment. However, the rest of the movie is mostly a straight forward horror enterprise (with a bit of the "April fool's joke" motif). I guess the opening acts as some sort of palate cleanser, shifting the audience’s focus away from the narrative and onto the raw details. Either way, it’s anything but a typical way to kick off a horror movie, and totally preferable to some boring ass intro loaded with exposition.


Well, back to the narrative, where several sorority pledge sisters ride their bikes to class, while the insanely catchy synth pop theme plays ("these are the best times of our lives…these are the best times"). The current sorority sisters are chilling in the house sauna, and some champagne is being delivered, keeping this party going. Lo and behold, the delivery is a frat boy prank, and they invade the sauna with an army of bees, and videotape the girls as they are forced to flee for fear of being stung. The girls struggle to keep their supple sorority parts covered with towels, but resolutely fail amidst the chaos.

The sorority house mother gets an oar to the face by a mysterious killer, and our three heroines have to deal with the unfortunately still alive pledge mistress. She calls them "slimebuckets", and tells them that they have to say the phrase "I myself prefer a big fat cucumber" if asked a question at any point during the day. Lo and behold, the girls are in a literature class taught by professor Paul Bartel (of Chopping Mall), who conveniently asks Jennifer "have you ever curled up in bed with a big book?". She is forced to offer up her phallically charged proclamation, and Bartel blames this act of foul mouthed subversion on the fact that she wears a single white sock and a single red sock (These punk rockers today). Bartel should be vaguely turned on by such an exchange, but he must be one of those pretentious tightwads, since the phrase "prevailing bourgeois influence" is written on the chalk board. Therefore, any cucumber metaphors are too low brow to land on his radar. Well, he asks Jennifer to leave, and the other two follow. This irks Bartel to the point of rhetorically asking if everyone wants to leave, to which they do, as they have yet to learn what rhetorical means. All except the nerd, who wants to know about the sexual subtext of Madame Bovary (answer: she needs a cucumber to spice up her boring life).

Later, we get one of those fabulous pledge ceremonies with a bunch of sorority girls wearing robes (surrounded by 73, 000 candles). The pledges are forced to swallow goat eyes while the others taunt them with "baaaaa". A candle shoots sparks to scare them, they have to hold raw yolk in their mouths, and Jen gets her ass paddled. A noise is heard coming from the basement, and pledge Viv investigates, accidentally getting decapitated in a guillotine (I hate when that happens). Well, it turns out nerdy Viv used her ingenuity to pull a prank, using a fake rubber head to horrify the bitchy sorority sisters. That’s way cooler than some stupid sparkling candle.

Paul Bartel shows up again, presenting a "dangers of hazing" educational film. Hopefully these drunk idiots pay attention and take notes, and we can finally stop this tradition…oh wait, someone switches the film with the naked girl sauna footage from earlier. He he…that’s pretty funny. Well, more importantly, the girls are setting up an April fool’s day party at a creepy house, and this spurs my imagination. Namely, I find it curious that three of these slasher type movies that take place during April fool’s day were released within a year of each other (this one, Slaughter High, and...oh yeah, April Fool's Day). Bartel shows up of course, worried about the plummeting morals of these young women, but gets electrocuted by the guillotine in the basement (I really hate it when that happens).

Well, the April fool's costume party gets under way. Phoebe shows up as some sort of ragged ballerina (possibly a stripper that moonlights as a ballerina), Jen is a playboy mansion waitress (they won’t give you a lap dance BTW; don’t bother asking), and Viv is a jester, as the smart ones tend not to dress up as sluts during the holidays. With all the victims in place, a slasher ghost goes to work, possessing costumed party goers. This final sequence is the titular party the film has been building to the whole time. Really, much of the film up to the party scene is an amusing 80’s trash look at college life, featuring three perky ladies that maintain interest (they're cute, stylish, smart, and spunky, in no discernible order). The end credits thank "Hollywood Jeans of Montreal", and I am reminded that this Canadian production does come through with some of that canuckle quirk we know and love, gentler yet more surreal than its American counterpart.

Monday, June 28, 2010

GIRLS SCHOOL SCREAMERS (1984) - in a school filled with screaming girls, it's a wonder any work gets done (or any glass object remains unshattered)

The misleading (but strangely erotic) VHS box art unfortunately fails to capture the class and nuance of the video within.


After the Troma Team seal of approval, a quote pops on the screen stating "in the darkness there is evil…within the evil there is death". While I’m no poetry expert, I don’t know why they don’t just say that death resides in the darkness, and just cut out the middle man “evil” bullshit. Anyway, a kid succumbs to peer pressure and enters a creepy house, as possible death is preferable to being called chicken. He walks up the stairs, and a zombie wearing a wedding dress cackles at him (to the extent that zombies can cackle). He runs away like the chicken shit he truly is (that may qualify as irony), and some truly unspeakable Casio nonsense strips away a layer from my eardrum membrane, like so much aural paint thinner.

We see a darkly lit close up of a girl's face screaming, and the word ”screamers” flies out of her mouth to make up the title card. That is what is known in the art business as “symbolism”. Anyway, the Trinity School for Girls is inheriting the spooky ghost house from the opening, and it is up to a group of Catholic school girls to inventory the collection of valuables within. That there is a fucking plot. Several of these girls are called into the office, as they apparently like to drink and get frisky with the boys. This is quite a positive sign, that these girls aren’t all uppity god freaks that would never throw their skirts off if a proper party environment presented itself.

So the girls head over to the house in a van, while a sloppy xylosynth ditty chugs along. One girl is wearing a white headband and a blue sweat suit (hopefully ready to get “physical”). A doctor pops in and scares the old ass nun, saying he is interested in possibly buying the house. She agrees to let him check it out, but tells him not to "stall" the girls (i.e. statutory rape). The doctor shows up at the house to begin his tour, to which the sluttiest girl says "you can start in my room". He turns her down (again…jail time) and starts to check out the house, while a dying synth bird coughs up its own lungs.

The girls decide to get this party started by playing a game of hide and seek. During the “game”, the lead girl finds a diary that belonged to the niece of the owner (her name being Jennifer), and a former student of the school. She is so intrigued by the private words of the diary, she almost trips down the stairs while that synth bird makes one final death gurgle. They have dinner together with the nun, saying grace for what looks to be 7-Up and Wonderbread. I should make mention that one of the girls looks like a long lost member of Salt ‘n Pepa (maybe Paprika), and perpetually wears headphones, even at the “dinner” table. The final girl asks the nun about Jennifer, and she mentions that she died in a "terrible fall". Interesting.

The girls suggest that Jennifer may have been murdered, and they should have a séance to ask her directly, in their sleep wear no less (including the popular football jersey/panties combo for one of the girls). Paprika says "I ain’t messin’ with no voodoo shit!", but these Catholic girls carry on with their satan ritual regardless. They spell out the word “picture” on their makeshift ouija board before shit starts flying everywhere, like it always does with these sort of things. The girls all jump up and scream, and the nun pops in and tells them to go to bed, as they are waking the dead with their noise (nuns aren’t above a little irony sometimes).


Two of the girls find a “picture” covered with a sheet, so they pull if off, revealing a painted portrait of Jennifer (ouija boards are pretty useful devices, I guess). Well oh well, Jennifer looks exactly like final girl Jackie. Coincidence? Well, Jackie reads more of the diary, and we get to see reenactments of Jennifer’s daily life and relationships, and the same actress gets to play both Jackie and Jennifer. Therefore, we amusingly get to see some “Troma Team” actors perform a period play (30’s high society), attempting to speak in the parlance of the times. Also, I guess it conveys a bunch of backstory and plot and shit.

Two of the girls fool around with the dumbwaiter (lucky bastard…oh wait, it’s an inanimate object). Rosemary goes down to the basement in this miniature elevator of sorts, getting a meat cleaver in the mouth. However, the girls are too busy enjoying some chili to notice Rosemary’s blood curdling screams. Paprika then sneaks up on the slut who, incredibly, is reading a book, while Karen heads to the basement and finds Rosemary's body, but gets mysteriously hooked (a la TCM). One girl walks around the house exploring, but gets pulled into the pond for some reason. A killer car (apparently) also shows up and causes some issues for the girls (and two boyfriends that show up to "help" them).

More weird shit happens, and we figure out that Girls School Screamers is of the “kids show up at a scary house, and a bunch of random creepy stuff happens” school, along the lines of Norman J. Warren’s Terror and Class Reunion Massacre. The movie seemingly starts off as a low rent slasher, but descends into surreal gothic territory (still low rent) as it moves along. A fine and unique direction to be sure, but I was hoping that these Catholic school girls would become possessed by Satan, thereby delving into the evils of lesbianism; the whole thing ending in an orgy of blood and flames and shit.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981) - I stay away from anybody that thinks drinking moonshine in the woods is a productive way to spend an afternoon

Two adorable twins spend a beautiful school day playing "junkyard", thankfully not rotting their brains by staying inside and playing video games.


The film begins with a camera pan across a mountain vista at dawn, showcasing an endless wilderness that is untouched by man. It looks like the town drunk is proselytizing at an abandoned church, wretchedly clinging to a dying system, while his buddy reads god the riot act through a hole in the roof. The drunk goes outside to investigate, and his truck starts rolling (parking brake asshole), hitting a tree and exploding (after all, every car that gets into an accident has to explode, per movie union regulations). He escapes, but his buddy gets a machete in the crotch by a giant inbred mongoloid. So goes the unfettered maw of nature and/or religion and/or hillbillies.

Five young people (including DePalma-fave Gregg Henry and Chris Lemmon) are rollicking along in a RV camper, listening to "Heart of Glass" (I’m surprised they could afford this song…the movie, not the “teens”). The group nerd takes pictures of the quirky locals, namely two twin girls covered in dirt, hanging out in a junked car. If your child, instead of being in school, is covered in dirt and leaning against a junked automobile…you might be a redneck. They happen to crush a deer (these fuckers are always running out in the middle of traffic) on their way to fun and/or adventure and/or certain death. Henry shows park ranger George Kennedy a deed for some mountain, to which he retorts “the mountains don’t know how to read”. Good point. After all, man’s sense of structure is of his own making. Also...it’s a fucking mountain. George adds “let me know where you’re headed, so when you don’t come back, I’ll know how to fill out the report”. They decide not to heed the warning, mentioning that they are experienced climbers and such, and not merely schmucky slasher movie teenagers in over their doomed heads.

On their quest to conquer nature, they come across the old drunk from earlier, who’s whining about demons in the woods or whatever (maintaining a religious mindset). They decide not to pick him up (they must’ve seen TCM), but the hillbilly with the machete hitches a ride on the back of their RV. The drunk, despite being smashed (he’s an alcoholic after all), finds this development hilarious, as irony can sometimes function even when the recipient is completely ill equipped to verbalize such a concept. Either way, the trip continues, and they check out a sweet waterfall before cuddling around a campfire with some liquor, getting in touch with mother nature through her fermented spirits. Chris and Greg takes advantage of the creepy situation by scaring the girls (this includes the nerd).

The next day they curiously happen upon a young hillbilly girl, but she flees when in their presence (I guess she’s scared of those city folk who take baths and such). They manage to cross a rope bridge, which begs the question...why make a shitty bridge out of rope tied together? If you can’t spring for a real bridge, just lay down a long plank of wood and call it a day. Either way, all of this nature shit is starting to get heavy, so they decide to do some skinny dipping in a pond. The redhead shows her tits, and also plays aquatic grab ass with Lemmon. This curiously creates a Haunting-esque sequence, where a hand that she thinks belongs to Lemmon grabs her from beneath the water. In this case, I don’t think it’s a ghost, as they don’t go swimming as far as I know…unless it’s one of those ghost fishes. Maybe.

It’s getting to be night again, so they set up camp. The frisky redhead starts grooving to some generic honky funk, and the others chime in with their bootys. Unfortunately, somebody shoots their boombox out (probably one of those punk rock assholes). Things are starting to get ominous, but luckily, George heads out on horseback to save the day.

The next morning, the girl in the woods sneaks up on Lemmon wearing smeared, crazy person makeup. I guess this turns him on a bit (if there’s grass on the field you can play ball, even if you’re playing with a potential inbred). Unfortunately, two giant inbred retards with machetes corner him on the rope bridge (as if it wasn’t already dangerous enough), and he is forced to take a bath in the stream below. Meanwhile, Greg and the blonde catch a big fish with their bare hands, just to fuck with it apparently, and Lemmon’s corpse tumbles over the nearby waterfall and in their vicinity. When life hands you a dead Lemmon, you don’t make lemonade; you get the fuck outta dodge.

Meanwhile, the redhead and the nerd are hanging out at the abandoned church, and he photographs her in various saucy poses. His brilliant plan is cut short by one of the hillbillies, who then steals the camera while his retard brother puts on the nerd’s glasses. They take care of the redhead, albeit off screen, while the hillbilly takes photos of it all; sort of a snuff movie in still form, left up to our imaginations. This sets up the ending, where Greg and the blonde have to conquer a matching set of inbreds on top of the treacherous terrain.

Just Before Dawn is a pitch perfect cross between Deliverance and Friday the 13th, integrating a realistic survival tale with a series of stalker set pieces. Few films can claim to present a dangerous wilderness trip as realistically and enveloping as this one does. While relatively straightforward (as these things tend to be), there does seem to be an air of diseased religion about the whole affair. The movie starts off in a decrepit church, and the mountain family clings to their religion, inbred both in body and spirit. This family structure only nets two completely amoral monsters that go around hacking people up, hardly a ringing endorsement of a religious upbringing. The twins also take souvenirs from their victims, I guess as hunters might do. They are also quite child-like, enjoying these new found “big city” toys.

Director Jeff Lieberman created three cult horror classics to start his career (this one, Blue Sunshine, and Squirm), but was never able to keep it going, However, this triumvirate lives on as a small yet potent body of work, showcasing an auteur who is maybe a horror Walter Hill, with a touch of Brian DePalma. I guess it comes as little surprise that successful horror directors tend to be a rare bunch, as they are usually ghettoized as cretins at some point during their careers, or they drop dead after snorting an anthill of cocaine.

Friday, June 25, 2010

THE FUNHOUSE (1981) - when the carnival was a defacto descent into madness, and not merely a pretense for selling cotton candy and/or broken fantasies

From color scope to pan and scan black and white, either way, a practical joke between siblings veers into the horrors of Freudian malfeasance.


The opening credits showcase a parade of creepy dolls and mannequins, coming and going through a series of wipes; simulating a funhouse ride. On top of that, the first scene combines the opening of Halloween with the shower scene in Psycho, supplemented with Universal monster memorabilia and such (and Bride of Frankenstein is playing on TV). The twist here is that the creepy younger brother stabs her sister with a rubber knife, resulting in an unpunctured, yet still naked older sister. In a nice, assholey touch, he sticks a knife through the top of a creepy doll’s skull and leaves it for her to discover. Thank god I was never an older sister. Either way, Tobe Hooper is attempting to out self-reflex Brian DePalma in the slasher sweepstakes, refreshingly doing so in a cinematic territory that typically decries such witty meta-fun.

Our heroine Amy, unlike many of her horror movie peers, is truly sympathetic and believable as a girl next door in a small town (read: no fake tits). She has a date for the carnival with some jerk off named Buzz who works at a gas station (read: don’t name your kids “Buzz”). Being that two girls were murdered at the carnival ten years prior, she lies to her parents, telling them that they are going to the movies (where people are safe from the horrors of reality). Buzz looks a little too fast and sleazy for such a nice, wholesome, un-whorish girl like Amy. He even drives a bitchin' car with those big furry dice hanging from the rear view mirror. Why someone would roll furry dice I do not know.

The couple is flanked by our token blonde (thankfully wearing breathtakingly tight red jeans) and our token geek with glasses. After a little “puff, puff, pass”, they finally drive over to the carnival. Amy’s misanthropic little brother Joey sneaks out of the house to follow his sister to the carnival, as playing two disgusting practical jokes on his sibling in one night is apparently not enough.

Much of the run time is dedicated to the various amusements to be found at the carnival. They do the strength test where you smack a bell with a hammer, the wonderfully gimmicky cart rides, cotton candy (the most chemically mysterious of treats), etc. Our girls get some private time together in a very shady looking bathroom, and the blonde tells Amy that she should lose her virginity to Buzz because “he is a pistol". I readily admit I don’t understand women, but I think this means that he has functioning sperm, and isn’t “firing blanks”, as it were (or not, as chicks are a mysterious bunch). This leads into a wonderful scare when a creepy old lady jumps out of a shadowy toilet area and yells out "god is watching you". I guess she is the defacto soothsayer, but I don’t know what the fuck god has to do with any of this. Joey also gets a scare when a trucker pulls a gun on him and pulls the trigger. Unfortunately, the chamber is empty, and the trucker laughs maniacally. If only he knew what he was truly dealing with, he may have saw fit to load some actual fucking bullets.

Well, we finally get to see those carny freak tents. You know, two headed cows, monster fetuses, etc. We also catch wind of William Finley as Marco the Magnificent (bare ass naked in Dionysus '69…oh wait, he’s a dude…never mind), performing his vampire themed magic act, where he impales the heart of a squeamish teenage girl with a wooden stake. Wait a second…she works for the carnival and is in on the trick! Ah, the shameless treachery of it all! Arghh!!!

Another timeless attraction is the fortune teller (played by Sylvia Miles), who rants about the teens meeting a "stranger", but she gets pissed at the nerd (at this point baked out of his mind, eschewing the usual sober math homo), and thereby stops providing plot information . If this attraction seems weak, no problem; there is always the haunted house ride, where, like the opening credits, a bunch of wax dummies and stuff pop out and scare people. For the jaded (male) viewers, we have jiggling breasts courtesy of the burlesque portion of the carnival. Boy…those were the days. You threw on a smoking jacket and headed down to the carny to catch some magic and/or freaks and most definitely a parade of tits. Note to self: bring back the smoking jacket.

Well, the “kids” rightfully decide to spend the night in the funhouse. After all, while the rides are pretty creepy, you really get your money’s worth with a carny sleep over. Pesky fuckface Joey decides to stick around, but as soon as he bumps into that creepy old lady, he resorts to plan B - get the fuck outta dodge. After a quick make out session, the teens notice that they are “resting”above another room, and, through the floorboards, they see that the fortune teller is discussing moolah with some sort of faux-Frankenstein. I guess Frankie felt like he got stiffed, and he electrocutes Sylvia Miles, ending her run as queen of the crystal balls. This leaves our heroes to sneak around (a la Scooby Doo) through the various crevices, back rooms, and connecting tissues of this house of fun. Even little Joey gets his balls back and sneaks back into the carnival (to the extent that he has balls).

Frankenstein goes ape shit and pulls his mask off, revealing a deformed monster face, which is basically the fetus from earlier all grown up. I guess our comforting carnival of freaks has finally hit the reality wall…and so begins the teenie destruction. Of particular note is the blonde getting cornered by one of those fan corridors you only see in horror movies (or Alien 3). She pleads for her life by hitting on the monster, not realizing that most mutants are impotent (unlike studmuffin attendant Buzz).

Amy attempts to escape through the inner workings of the funhouse, in a more emotionally realistic state than others films of similar ilk (i.e. fucking hysterical). Amy doesn't suddenly turn into Rambo when confronted with the monster, but rather, just wants to go home and finish her homework. However, when confronted with certain doom, she does manage to whack the monster a couple of times with a crowbar, which causes him to fall into a live wire that is randomly situated near his villainous vicinity. The next morning, Amy wanders, disheveled and in shock, out of the carnival, while the various workers dismantle everything, unaware of her presence. They are ready to move on to the next town, coldly ignoring the ramifications of their handiwork.

The Funhouse has wonderful scope photography by Andrew Lazlo, as the frame is filled to the brim with onlooking dolls, mannequins, clown heads, and even actual humans, lurking in frame, their penetrating gaze subconsciously influencing a cast of innocents. The movie starts off in realistic terms, becoming more surreal towards the conclusion, achieving this with colorful lighting and expressionistic shadows. These “innocent” suburbanites become confronted with the freak dregs of society over the course of a long night, thereby dissipating their sense of structured existence; forced to deal with humanity in all of it's gloriously deconstructed chaos.


P.S. Written for Stacie Ponder's Final Girl Film Club via the magic of a time machine. Here is her review. She brings up some good points I didn't touch on (like pedophilia, and other fun whatever).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CHOPPING MALL (1986) - if you think it's cool to hang out at the mall, you deserve whatever is coming to you

Nintendo's R.O.B. plays a mall cop that doesn't take guff from anyone, especially a ragtag group of kids


The Nintendo Entertainment System is surely one of mankind’s greatest inventions, courtesy of our friends from Japan. Unfortunately, there are a couple of skeletons in the proverbial closet, in the form of two peripheral add-ons: the Power Glove, and R.O.B. the robot. While the Power Glove was a (somewhat noble) failed attempt at virtual reality, R.O.B. was almost impossibly useless. You could use him for Gyromite (and another game, though I forget the title), and you would press a button, and the robot would stick a pedestal on another button (after about thirty seconds). Of course, you could just cut out the middle robot and just press the fucking button yourself. In theory, it's pretty cool to have a helper robot, but it’s hardly worth it to push a button just to get something to push a button for you. It’s sort of like having a remote control for your remote control.

Well, at least R.O.B. grew away from his humble, useless beginnings to work security at a shopping mall. It goes to show you that if we stick to it, even when we come from lowly beginnings (or synthetic ones) that we can make something out of ourselves. Anyway, some guy is robbing a jewelry store in the mall, and the robot intervenes by zapping this unsuspecting asshole and...wait a second, it's all an instructional video! Yes, our head of security is giving a mall seminar regarding their new security system, which amount to three of these R.O.B. things outfitted with lasers. This sounds boring as hell, but luckily Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are in the audience, cracking wise like nobody’s business. She remarks that "they look like the three stooges" and he retorts "I don't like the middle one...he has a vaguely ethnic quality" (I’m friggin' dying over here!). We then get "they remind me of your mother....it's the laser eyes". Say what you want about our bald friend Paul…he’s a fucking genius. Oh yeah, and he directed Death Race 2000, Private Parts, Eating Raoul, etc. Fucking genius.

Looking at the box cover for Chopping Mall, I’m a little confused as to where this is headed. It shows a shopping bag filled with body parts, with the tag line "where shopping can cost you an arm and a leg". At quick glance, this gives off the impression that a psycho is going to be running around a mall, hacking limbs off. However, upon closer inspection, the hand holding the bag is robotic. This doesn’t explain how lasers can sever limbs clean, but at least I think I know where the plot is headed. I could also just read the plot synopsis on the back of the box…or just watch the fucking movie. Maybe I’ll do that.

So, we head to possibly the greatest pizza joint in movie history (and certainly in the history of movie shopping malls). Not only are Barbara Crampton and Kelli Mulroney the resident waitresses (hotness alert!), but director (and borderline genius) Jim Wynorski saw fit to cover the walls with posters for every movie he had made up to that point. Whether shameless promotion or post-modern winking…either way, it’s pretty awesome. Hell, even the super pisan chef is covered in flour and marinara sauce, so you know you’re gonna get an authentic wopper of a pie.

Well, these "killbots" (you think the name would be a giveaway) start killing the workers of the mall. One guy gets stabbed through a Playboy centerfold, Dick Miller gets electrocuted (in his requisite cameo), and the comically brilliant Gerrit Graham even gets dispatched by “security”. Meanwhile, a group of 32-year-old teenagers (including Kelli and Babs) decide to throw an overnight party at the mall department store where John Terlesky (Wynorski regular and Bruce Campbell surrogate) works. He even utters the "klaatu berata niktu" line from Army of Darkness before Army of Darkness (and originally heard in The Day the Earth Stood Still) Included in the group is a typical nerd, who, incredibly, gets to hook up with Kelli and watch what looks to be Attack of the Crab Monsters (that’s a fucking night out).

The robots stalk the teenagers through the mall, interrupting their innocent breaking and entering party (the doors are automatically locked by the security system, limiting their escape). The resident bimbo gets zapped in the head with a laser, and this causes her head to explode. The robot responds with "thank you, have a nice day", which strikes me as being reminiscent of Robocop. Maybe Wynorski’s influence stretches further than I first imagined. Anyway, the mall becomes a death zone with lasers flying everywhere, reminding me of the shoot outs in the Death Star, and our heroes are forced to resort to Dawn of the Dead mall survival techniques.

Luckily, the mall has a Peckinpah's Gun Store, as this was in the 80’s, when you could buy a machine gun over the counter already fully loaded, without having to answer dumbass questions about your criminal background or whatever. The wild bunch grabs some firepower and goes to work, but find that robots are immune to bullets (figures). They are forced to resort to plan B, which involves rolling a propane tank at a robot and then igniting it with rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle. Kids today are pretty resourceful (circa 1986).


(PRETTY BIG SPOILERS KNUCKLEHEAD)


The girls also help out, using their homemaking skills to make molotov cocktails. This literally backfires on poor Babs when a laser hits her molotov can and sets her ablaze. Kelli tries to use the mannequins as decoys, but that also fails, and the rest of her friends eventually end up dead. If things weren’t already heading south, she hides out in the pet store and gets covered in snakes and spiders (do people even buy tarantulas at the mall?). She eventually blows the last robot up with a road flare and escapes alone.

But wait! The dumbass nerd is alive after all! Well, it looks like Kelli and the geek with the fatal head wound will ride off together towards the sunset. Lucky bastard. I think she’ll begin to doubt her choice of mate when she becomes pregnant and gets an ultrasound, noticing that her little fetus is wearing a pocket protector and thick rimmed glasses. Christ I’m jealous.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SILENT SCREAM (1980) - one of the more esteemed shameless ripoffs of Psycho in the derivitive canon

Barbara Steele likes to keep things both quiet and insane, and rational discourse violates both of these rules of thumb


Rather than watch some extraneous schnook get smoked in the intro, thereby dropping a hint in the audience’s head that future carnage is imminent, we get what looks to be the ending of the movie. However, this bloody aftermath is presented in frame by frame slo-mo, all fuzzy and bleached out. I guess it's trying to prod our imaginations while not spoiling the resolution. It also saves them the trouble of shooting another scene, but I'm sure that wasn't a real factor in the artistic process.

Our heroine Scottie (Rebecca Balding in a wonderful performance) is a late college transfer attempting to register. Apparently, her dorm options are fucked, so the bitchy registration lady hands her a list of local shitty rental opportunities, a murderer’s row of shady rooms owned by crazy old ladies. She finally settles on some big creepy house that’s straight out of Psycho, which sits on a cliff over a beach. She meets the landlord and a tenant, some nerd on a bike that looks like the retard from I Spit On Your Grave, only with a nerd mullet tacked on to the back of his skull. This hairstyle shows us that he’s “business in front” (inputing code on an Apple IIe) and “party in the back” (masturbating to reruns of Bewitched). Some asshole driving a Porsche also shows up, and he’s wearing a pink shirt and a sweater over his shoulder (do gay preppies exist?). Scottie and the preppie douche both procure a room and move in, and a little later we meet Jack, the fake Bon Jovi tenant.

Scottie learns that the room she’s renting once belonged to the nerd’s sister, which I guess would make the old lady landlord the mom. Things start to get ominous when the douchebag gets drunk on the beach and is (thankfully) murdered. Even more ominously, some dude with a Gene Shalit moustache teams up with Cameron Mitchell to investigate. Cameron shows up at the house to asks questions and jot down answers in a big ass yellow legal pad. The nerd pulls a Norman Bates, saying his mother is not well, and shouldn't be interviewed. He also admits that his sister Victoria moved out and is now "back east". Thanks…that really narrows it down asshole.

Well, having a roommate murdered sure is stressful, so the other dude convinces Scottie that they should go swimming at the beach where their (sorta) friend was killed the night before, in order to de-pressurize from the trauma resulting from their friend being killed on the beach. This includes making sexy time, while someone on the soundtrack makes sweet aural love with their saxophone. Meanwhile, Cameron has a "hunch" about the family being involved with the murder and, through shrewd detective work and heavy smoking, finds out that sister Victoria once tried to stab someone at a party in high school. At this point his “gut” is raging with suspicion (I hope it’s not an ulcer).

While the nerd is watching some girl getting raped on TV, the preppie stud puts further moves on Scottie as she’s about to start studying, successfully getting that sax blowing again. The other girl is stuck doing laundry in the dark, creepy basement, undeterred by the moans wafting through the air ducts. However, she is interrupted by a 4-way Psycho homage, which amounts to:

A. shrieking violins
B. stabbing by butcher knife
C. smacking into the overhead light bulb
D. pulling down a hanging sheet as if it were a shower curtain

We are finally introduced to the star of the movie, Barbara Steele, who plays sister Victoria, the apparent black sheep of the family, as she is barricaded in a room in the house. While I’m certainly a colossal source of shame for my own family, I’ve never gotten that kind of treatment. Her favorite past time involves staring into a mirror, the reflective surface replaced with old black and white photos of herself (longing for the past, perhaps?), while listening to some knock off 50's rock n’ roll (no doubt courtesy of the snake oil fucks at Time Life Books). Oh yeah, she’s also hanging out with the corpse of the chick that was just murdered. I’m normally not one to chastise shut-ins, but perhaps this isn’t the healthiest daily routine. Maybe some fresh air would help, or maybe she could join some bridge group or something.

Scottie investigates the basement with flashlight in hand, finding spatterings of blood. She also finds another set of stairs, loaded with cobwebs, and decides to scale these endless steps. What curious delights await our heroine at the top of the stairs? While some may say that curiosity killed the cat, Scottie ain’t no kitty, and curiosity is also a necessary component to scientific discovery. Either way, I won’t spoil this most obtuse of mysteries.


Well, Cameron and his fake Shalit buddy show up at the last second, after the final confrontation, further cementing their worthlessness. The opening scene is now played in context and with clarity, and we are left with the bloody aftermath of a family that, rather than dealing with their psychological hangups, just stuff them into a secret wing of the house. The mother figure never offered support or guidance, instead letting her two kids waste away in opposite directions. At the very least, she could’ve told her son to shave that fucking mullet off.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

WITHOUT WARNING (1980) - if you had to travel light years to get to some lame planet filled with schmucks, you'd be cranky too

this superior life form has a giant brain, using it's incredible intellect to kill teenagers


Cameron Mitchell and son take a Winnebago out to the woods, looking to bond, smoke cigars, and shoot living creatures with a shotgun. This is how real men went about their business, before political correctness tuned everything girly. The son notices some industrial waste in the river, a quick witted comment on the unfortunate consequences of men of industry who are stuck in their ways. Regardless, a couple of flying starfishes murder both father and son. I knew they were going to die, but I wasn’t quite expecting that.

Some time later, David Caruso (in his “sexpot” days, wearing short shorts and baring his chest) goes on a camping trip with his girlfriend and another couple. They arrive at one of those backward ass redneck gas stations (they usually have one of those names like "Joe Billy Stuckey's Gas, farming equipment, and live nude eatery"). One of the girls heads into the men's bathroom, and is startled by local crazy Martin Landau, and also notices some graffiti on a stall saying "no chance, no help, no escape" (crazy soothsayers also like to write messages on walls and such). They all head into the station, which is filled with cobwebs, baby rats, and stuffed animal heads (pilfered from Psycho), and, oh yeah…Jack fucking Palance. He warns them not to go to the lake, and one of the girls voices an objection to his hunting ways. He gives her a look, as if to say “I’m Jack Palance…I kill who I want, when I want...now bake me a pie”.

Next, we get some asshole boy scouts singing "99 bottles of beer". I used to annoy people with this song as a child, but I would start it off at 999 dectillion. I consider it the definitive performance. So, the ranger tells the group that Indians used to live in the area, and his compass goes haywire, which is something often reported during UFO related phenomena (just saying). The scoutmaster happens upon the abandoned Winnebago, tries to light a cigarette with a rock, and rightfully ends up starfish food.

Our "teens" take a dip in the lake. The natural surroundings seems to be an aphrodisiac, and Caruso immediately gets a tongue shoved down his throat, so the other couple decides to go for walk so that they won't be hit by any wayward saliva. They find that their radio doesn’t work (another staple of actual UFO encounters), and head back to the site, but Caruso and girlfriend are nowhere to be found. The two decide to follow a path through the woods to track them down, but the girl falls in a hole (maybe a trap set by Palance), but no problemo, her boyfriend saves her. They happen upon a shack, and finally find Caruso and girlfriend inside, along with three others, and it looks like they may be safe, having a party…oh no, they’re dead. Oh well.

They run back to the van, but a couple of those starfishes attack the vehicle. They finally get moving, speeding down the road with those things still attached. Our hero brilliantly moves into action, using his windshield wipers to destroy the enemy. They find a bar and the guy rushes in, and Neville Brand and town crazy Landau are hanging around, and the lady from UHF is tending bar. He explains the situation, but unfortunately, town crazy Landau told a similar story, so they are considered nuts by association. The girlfriend, who stayed in the van, is startled by what appears to be an alien, so she runs into the woods. She bumps into Palance and faints (he has that kind of effect on the ladies), and he brings her back to the bar. They call the police, but the power suddenly goes out, and they all argue about how crazy Landau is.

Unfortunately, Landau proves even crazier than they thought, immediately shooting the cop when he shows up. Apparently, he mistook captain oinker for a space alien (well, it was pretty dark). This sets up the final showdown mostly revolving around Palance and the actual alien, as Jack is a real man of action (like Cameron Mitchell), and he can throw together a MacGyver-esque trap that is capable of stumping higher forms of intelligence.

Curiously, the alien is never explained much, like what planet it hails from, or what it's motive is. Similarly to Predator, which may have been inspired by Without Warning (the same actor plays both aliens), this invader from outer space seems to be some asshole that hunts humans for fun, just as Palance hunted whatever it is he hunted (maybe bears, or possibly college students). Instead of a gun, it uses flying starfish things, but the results are the same. I think the moral of the story Is obvious; humans think they’re superior to other animals and eat them accordingly. Maybe if man felt what it’s like to be hunted, they’d have empathy for those lower down on the food chain.

UNHINGED (1982) - straight outta the PDX is a nutter mother that will smother her daughter

Two girls have a relaxing conversation about their certain doom, but I'm more interested in the revelation that a generic football jersey can be worn as a nightie of sorts.


The Video Nasty phenomenon is a great example of the foolish nature of censorship. You could have made the biggest piece of shit horror film in the world, shot on super 8 circa early eighties, and if you managed to get it tagged as a video nasty, you’re gonna be rolling in dough (or at least see an actual return on your investment). First of all, there is an incredible value in free publicity. You might even get television exposure in the U.K. for, say, a low budget U.S. regional horror movie, without spending a penny.

More importantly, the label is a cache in and of itself. Every serious horror fan in the U.K. owns (or at least has seen) most of the films on the list, just out of principle. Many people even use the video nasty list as a defacto shopping guide, collecting every single title, regardless of how horrible they may seem. While video banning did exactly jack shit in regards to social benefit, it was a wonderfully effective promotion tool. If the man tells you that something is evil, it can be a ringing endorsement. After all, “the man” is a lying asshole, and it seems wise to me to assume the opposite of what he says is closer to the truth.

Unhinged is the riveting story of a trio of female friends who get into a lame car accident (hitting a ditch with such force that it kills the vehicle) on their way to a concert. They are forced to take refuge in a creepy mansion, where an old hag and her spinster daughter argue ad infinitum, reeking of insanity with every line. The two hot ones hang out with the mother and daughter for what seems like four days or so, inexplicably changing outfits (and even hairstyles) along the way. The third girl spends this entire time injured in bed, but the other two make little effort to rectify this situation, despite many ominous developments.

Mostly though, the film is a mountain of padding, including black screens, driving shots, shots of rain, and, most of all, endless pages of dialogue. The events of note are the following:

1. A quick shower scene.
2. Another quick shower scene. While not quite lezzing out, the girls are certainly comfortable showering together, and this is still pretty hot.
3. The line "I'll make sure to excuse myself when she breaks out the heroin", spoken by the blonde to her mother in regards to her raven haired "wild child" of a friend.
4. An axe to the face murder.
5. A cool scythe murder (the best scene in the film).
6. A stabbing finale with a twist ending.

There is also a dialogue scene that I find amusing, although it may drive others to suicide. The two girls sit in bed, ironically complaining about an old lady driving them insane with her endless yammering. The blonde speaks in a bored monotone, rattling off the script without pausing for a breath or even punctuation. The dark haired chick delivers dialogue with equal cue card effectiveness, but seems to be paralyzed by fear rather than boredom; two mirror images landing in the same spot. The scene ends with a double homage to The Tenant and Ginger Rogers, when the blonde steps on a tooth and hops around, to which the other girl makes the comparison to Ginger. I don’t know about you, but finding a random tooth is pretty creepy, but I’m not quite sure why. Maybe I’m scared of the tooth fairy. That could be it.

Unhinged, like Edwin Brown’s The Prey, is so fucking boring that it is completely unique and partially worthwhile. Its “claim to fame”, apart from making it on the video nasty list, is that it’s a regional horror film made in Portland (and the only one that I know of). In an interview, the director claims that he wanted to get away from the slasher movies of the time, instead being influenced by the Val Lewton films. I hope he was kidding.

Well, in a sense, the director was attempting to be subtle and suspenseful with the material. However, this is achieved by hamfistedly stretching the whole thing out. Just because nothing happens for awhile doesn’t mean that when something finally does happen, that it becomes more effective. The movie has to build to its various peaks.

What makes Unhinged unique is that it takes a nonsensical, stilted script and stretches it out further than any movie has been stretched out. In a normal slasher that has a ridiculous script full of holes, you don’t have too much time to dwell on anything before it moves on to something else. Unhinged reaches for transcendent stupidity, unfurling nonsense in a glacial, calculated fashion that partially obliterates time as we know it. Sort of like a black hole spruced up with gratuitous shower scenes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

THE SLAYER (1982) - his reign in blood shows no mercy, as hell awaits just south of heaven

Poor Kay is besieged by horrific visions, and this is starting to chip away at her bubbly personality.


Kay is a painter who has struck subconscious gold. She needs inspiration for her oil doodles, and a reoccurring H.P. Lovecraft-esque nightmare sequence happily obliges. She’s been having this dream since childhood, and it entails her getting grabbed by some slimy creature asshole in a fiery room. This short clip, for my money, is one of the best representations of the work of our dear friend Howard Phillips, who understood better than anyone that the gleam of dreams shine brighter than the glister of fossilised pageants. Also, weird rubber monsters are pretty rad looking.

So she wakes up, and her mustachioed squeeze tells her to get her perpetually strung out, vaguely gothy (she appears to apply mascara all around her eyes) ass moving, as the hustle and bustle of reality has little patience for imaginary nightguants. They fly out to an island on a small plane with another couple (her brother Eric and his wife), as they hope this little getaway will help stabilize Kay’s mental hullabaloo. Quite ironically, Kay is experiencing Deju Vu about both the island and the house where they’re staying (she painted a similar house in one of her paintings). Looks like Kay is running from her subconscious only to slam head first into its very manifestations.

Well, as they are settling in, the caretaker warns them about an impending storm before heading out to the beach to gut some fish, where some jerk (maybe one of those tools from PETA) slices his head open with an oar. Me thinks it’s going to be a bumpy night, but luckily they located the bar, as liquor helps dull the horrors of living (imaginary or otherwise). They head to bed, with Eric reading a copy of "Fishing Lady" (one of the better erotic fish magazines on the market), and they all discuss Kay's emotional state (just north of batshit). Later that night, with the storm in full force, the husband heads to the attic for some reason (smooth plan), getting his neck all sliced up.

The next morning, Kay wakes up and starts kissing her husband, but lo and behold, it’s just his decapitated head, so I guess a little morning nookie is out of the question. Well, it was all a “dream”, and they decide to conduct a search for her missing hubby. Kay explores the decrepit ruins of another house, while Eric sifts through the jungle brush and the other chick gets beach duty. Kay finds her husband’s body hanging upside down and fucking screams.

Kay tells the other couple that if she dreams again, they too will be murdered by the monster, so she guzzles coffee like I guzzle the coffee (shades of Elm Street, albeit a full two years prior). Kay recalls a childhood occurrence where she dreamed about her cat getting murdered, and the innocent feline ended up dead. Undeterred by horror movie warnings, they force Kay to hit the hay and continue to investigate the island. Eric gets a fishing hook in the neck while checking out the pier (maybe the Fishing Lady mag was a piece of foreshadowing). His wife then gets awesomely impaled with a pitchfork, through her back and out the breasts, in an impressively realistic effect for the period. Thankfully, it predates the silicone era in slasher films, and therefore escapes a potentially messy logistical problem.

The next morning, Kay finds the bodies and runs back in the house, locking all of the windows and doors and arming herself with a gun. To stay awake, she repeatedly puts cigarettes out on her hand, and also tries to lose herself in a good book (which might be the bible, and, if so, I take that back). At this point, the film somewhat mirrors the ending of Repulsion, as she is not merely barricading herself from a killer, but crumbling mentally, the dark house becoming an extension of her fractured psyche. Well, some asshole shows up to investigate (played by the killer from Nightmares in a Damaged Brain), and Kay blows his ass away so hard he catches fire for no reason. The house is quickly ablaze, and, at this point, her dream comes alive, a prophecy fulfilled…or maybe it’s just a big ass coincidence.

Curiously, the movie ends with the young girl version of Kay, getting a cat for Christmas, with a ribbon wrapped around its neck (at least it wasn’t shoved into a box). This horrifies little Kay, as she recalls her dream about this same cat getting (presumably) killed by the monster. Going back to her brother Eric’s speech from earlier, he stated that the cat was found in a freezer, implying (to me, anyway) that Kay was the one responsible for the dead feline. Thankfully, the film sustains the mystery throughout, never quite explaining who the killer is. I tend to take the “it was all in her head” route, and that Kay was the murderer all along. I guess her Lovecraftian visions, while awesome to watch and a necessary component to her rad paintings, may have led to a few innocent casualties. Well, I think all great artists are entitled to a few snafus here and there, or at least a single “get out of jail free” card.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK (1988) - when college students decide to blow off some steam, a few are bound to end up dead (i.e. natural selection)

Two college football players attempt to broaden their horizons, hoping to find a couple of broads to do the vertical shuffle with.


Well, it looks like some convict is about to be executed. He yells about being framed, and says he is going to seek revenge on bad ass cop John Saxon for his role in the upcoming bake job. Interestingly, his name is “Diablo”, which may indicate a supernatural…hey, that’s some hot rock and roll music! Diva “Kirsten” belts out "take my body, not my heart", while various establishing shots of Ft. Lauderdale help divert our attention from the machinations of the plot.

The beaches of Lauderdale are overrun with sun bleached, beer guzzling teenagers, ready to push spring break from a vapid fun fest into a festival of permanent brain damage. Two of them in particular, Ronnie and Skip, are football players and intellectual stalwarts. They check into a hotel and discuss their goals for the week, all involving condoms and beer. Meanwhile, Saxon is investigating the fact that Diablos' body was dug up and stolen, presuming that his biker friends will attempt to seek revenge. Speaking of which, some girl hitchhikes with a biker wearing a helmet. He immediately starts speeding and than slams on the breaks, pushing a button on his bike to electrocute the girl. Interesting.

Ramping up the drama, the two football players almost get into it with the biker gang before Saxon breaks it up. Our “heroes” head to a bar where some pumping metal rips through, and one of them remarks that "this is what heaven must be like". Ronnie is trying to work his magic on the ladies, while Skip seems vaginally disinterested, even turning down the local priest’s daughter. The daughter is seen arguing with her priest dad about going to bars, saying "why can't I worry about my own soul?". Later in the film, they argue some more, as she wants to blast metal and get laid, and he has "higher plans" for her, whatever the fuck those might be. Listen, Jesus freak, girls just wanna have fun. You’re just delaying the inevitable.

Back to the beach, where young people are sowing their wild…OH MY CHRIST A SHARK ATTACK! Thankfully, the oink patrol shows up and unloads his firearm, saving the...oh wait, it's some jerk off in a shark suit playing a prank. Boy, that Jaws shit sure won't go away. Yet more ass rocking metal helps segue the scene into a wet t-shirt contest. I don’t know what this has to do anything, but lord am I entertained. Learning more about our heroes, we find out that Skip is a quarterback who lost the national championship for his team (throwing five picks, no less) and has since been depressed, even though he is a "sure thing" to go in the 1st round of the NFL draft. Ronnie, the horny wide receiver, decides to walk down the street and ask every girl he sees for sex, before finally hitting the jackpot with one of the biker chicks (randy as they tend to be). This doesn’t sit well with her biker boyfriend, so Ronnie gets pummeled by the gang before he can run a fly pattern.


Local bartender Gail, whose sister was apparently murdered by Diablo, has to deal with many an asshole in her line of work, as you might imagine, including a guy who chops off his fake hand, one of many practical jokes throughout the film. I guess these “jokes” are as good a reason as any to stay away from alcohol. She and Skip get to talking when Ronnie goes missing, and we are treated to a "Skip is looking for Ronnie while scoping out asses" montage while some more metal blares away. He then notices that the biker girl is wearing Ronnie’s necklace, and a plot alarm goes off in his head. So, Saxon, Gail, and Skip team up to solve this case, and if anyone has since lost track of this complex plot, we head back to the bar, with yet more metal blasting, just in time to watch Amy Lynn Baxter stroll in and out of frame. She also pops up in the sexy beach film Lauderdale, so maybe she’s just a local that hangs out at the beach, occasionally wandering in front of a camera.

I’d also like to make mention of an outdoor concert, where a hot chick in tight red spandex “rocks” out with some synth pop. The power goes out and pandemonium ensues, possibly perpetrated by one of the many metal bands featured throughout the film, offended by the presence of keyboards on the soundtrack. Also, the cops find that practical joker jack off, but, fortunately, this time he is actually dead, and not just putzing around. I guess the overgrown child who cried wolf finally got what was coming to him.

Our director is Umberto Lenzi, under the nom de anglo Harry Kirkpatrick (or, you could say that Umberto Lenzi is the nom de pasta of Harry Kirkpatrick). An Italian exploitation veteran of all shapes, sizes, budgets, and worth, here he attempts a decidedly American movie, with an American cast, albeit with a Giallo influenced script. He followed this one with another American shot production, Ghosthouse, one of his great unsung achievements (assuming you like crap like I do). While the Porky’s (or, more to the point, Spring Break) shenanigans are a bit at odds with the convoluted killer biker tale, never gelling into a cohesive whole, you could say that the film uniquely cuts back and forth between two totally separate exploitation genres. If you don’t buy that one, at least buy the soundtrack, featuring "Animal" performing "Rock Like an Animal" (their signature tune), and Derek St. Holmes performing "Eye of the Hunter" and "I Know How to Rock" (let’s just say that the latter title is a redundant piece of information). The clear lesson I took away from the film is that you should never trust bikers. I still can't believe that people thought hiring the Hell's Angels for security at Altamont was a good idea.