Monday, October 31, 2011

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1991) - if life is one big costume party, just be happy you were invited at all



My room is a garden of earthly delights; the earth's beautiful pleasantries filtered down into media, into images and words. After all, the real world is crumbling outside, so these works are an attempt to weed out beauty from the horrors and ugliness of reality. As it is now Hallows Eve, I demand some proper entertainment, so I pop in a VHS copy of Masque of the Red Death. How fitting; a film from the mind of one Edgar Allen Poe, about a grand costume ball that is free from an outside plague, only to grow sinister upon the threat of an intruder. After all, I am a man that prefers the classics, and this…wait a second, I appear to have made a mistake. The release date on this film is apparently 1991. I thought maybe it was the Vincent Price version. You know what, that’s quite all right. A man that cannot appreciate innovative twists on classic material is a man afraid of change.

Sure enough, some hot blonde stuff is driving along in her stylish convertible, a Penguin Classics version of "Fall of the House of Usher" sitting on the passenger’s seat. Alas, the post-modern flourishes are already out in full force. Our blonde hero parks and steps into a tomb, finding a heart sitting on an altar. Lo and behold, her chest appears to be missing that most crucial of organs, and then she awakes from what was a dream. I don’t recall a sequence of this type appearing in the original story, but it would appear that the film deviates from the text in order to expound on the heroine’s troubles of the heart slumbering within her subconscious. Might it be said that director Alan Birkinshaw understands the humanity of characters better than the man from which these characters sprung forth? I will let the scholars sort it out.

Dressed as a saucy cupid, our heroine enters the costume ball in a grand Bavarian castle. The cupid is not a conduit for love, but an undercover reporter with a camera hidden in her bow. She seeks to find publishable material related to the scandalous queen (Brenda Vaccaro), thematically supposing that love is merely another form of exploitation. Soon, the queen is murdered, and her death becomes a more profitable scandal than her life could ever be. Well, subtext aside, this beautiful old castle and the wild variety (an late 80’s modernist take on the medieval) of costumes worn by the guests provides a parade of garish entertainment. Oh yeah, and this happens…



HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Yeah, the song isn’t the greatest, but that might be the greatest visual front for music I have ever seen. According to the credits, the band is accompanied by “neo-punk dancers”, and the “Razzle Jazzle Dance Company” is responsible for the choreography. I imagine I could be thoroughly entertained for an eternity by this band alone. Alas, art has a humanist core, so let us get back to the characters. We get to know the duke, played by…FRANK STALLONE?!?!

FRANK FUCKING STALLONE AS A BAVARIAN DUKE?

I’m speechless. He seems to be just playing himself and even then, he’s fucking that up. Jesus H. Christ.



I’m beginning to sincerely doubt that these characters actually represent various post-modern subtexts in light of this Frank Stallone revelation. Maybe these are just images thrown together to cash in on dear Edgar’s name. Alas, the spell hath been broken. My eyes start to wander, no longer enchanted by the magic box, and I notice a cobweb in the ceiling corner. There is a monster loose in my room! I thought the room was properly sealed. What other creatures might have entered through various portals and have since found homes in the various crevices of my lair? I thought I was safe from my own little red deaths, but have I accidentally sealed them inside? Is my safe room but a tomb of monsters, and I am locked in with no escape? Well, if my situation is hopeless, I may as well brush these creatures out of mind, letting them live quietly in darkness while I return to the movie.

So, apparently, the castle is not sealed off from a plague because there is no plague, only a menace in a red cloak wandering the halls, picking off the party goers using "Pit and the Pendulum"-style traps (innovatively including a giant sewing machine). The entire point of the story, that of the rich falsely believing they can escape the horrors of the world, seems to have been lost in translation, and we are left with a stalking phantom wandering around an illustrious castle and offing them in stylish, somewhat Argento-esque fashion. Just as I probably shouldn’t worry about the horrors of the outside world, or the tiny horrors inevitably creeping inside and around me, maybe I shouldn’t worry about whether or not the art I intake contains allusions to these horrors and plagues. I should just be happy that I’m an invited guest at such a ball, surrounded by garish costumes and fancy murders and hot chicks and a kick-ass band. Monsters may have snuck into my room, but hopefully they won’t come after me if I don’t bother to go looking for them.




P.S. This is the final post in my 2nd annual Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown. Eleven down, zero to go. Happy Halloween! Don't overdose on candy or Pumkin Ale or embalming fluid or whatever it is the kids do on Halloween these days.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DEATH BED; THE BED THAT EATS (1977) - not just insult fodder for hipsters & not to be confused with "Lobotomy Armoire: The Armoire That Lobotomizes"



I think we can all agree that Patton Oswalt is a comedic genius. While the genius part was no doubt a result of hard work and intellect, the seeds of comedy were already built into the very fact of his existence. How so, you ask? Well, a guy with those looks and that brain was named Patton by his parents. I’m guessing his father was expecting a physically imposing figure that would defend the American fatherland at all costs, either by force or through words. Instead, out plopped a squat smartass that talks about his balls and does it better than anybody.




It should come as little surprise that Patton would take a humorous slant on a movie called Death Bed: The Bed that Eats. It’s a title that is ample fodder for a soldier of comedy (maybe the Patton label is not so misplaced after all). However, that does not mean he is necessarily dismissing the movie (although he probably would if he bothered to watch it). After all, you can make fun of something and still like it. Humor is not simply meant to destroy, like a jock pointing at the kid in a wheelchair across a crowded high school hall and yelling out “HEY RETARD YOU GOT A RETARD GO-KART AND IT IS GAY”. Unfortunately, people are quick to glom on to something being pegged as lame or unpopular (and vice versa), and since Patton sets trends, people follow in lockstep, taking direct orders that were never meant to be orders nor be taken directly.



Folks, I’m a movie nerd (shocking, I know), and this was never more clear to me then when I first heard Patton’s bit about Death Bed. He was talking about how difficult it is to get a screenplay filmed, yet a movie about a killer bed managed to get produced (although it was never released until much later). He tells the joke under the assumption that the audience had never heard of the movie, yet my initial reaction to the bit was “Hey, I LIKE that movie…I don’t know if I can get on board with this.” Then I thought to myself, “boy, I'm a fucking nerd”. I quickly realized that I should be able to laugh along without letting my nerdiness getting in the way. It would be stupid for me to think that Patton Oswalt is an asshole just because he doesn’t exalt Death Bed like I do (although he might if he actually watched it, though I doubt it...oh, and "exalt" is a strong word). Everyone wants to be part of a club that shits on certain things and praises other things as hot shit. Personally, I would never want to be a member of a club that would only have other people that think exactly like me for members. I may have screwed up that quote. Whatevs.



Now, I know what you’re thinking; surely a movie about a bed running around eating people can’t be very good. It sounds like a sad knockoff of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (although the three sequels could already be described as such, including the third movie that stars George Clooney’s mullet and tomatoes and George Clooney, in that order). Alas, it is something entirely different. I once described it as a skid row (not the band dumbass) Grimm's fairy tale that is filtered through the mind of a dying Jean Cocteau stricken with dementia. Maybe that doesn’t exactly clarify things, so let me attempt to explain why this bed eats people. After all, every character in a drama should have some sort of motivation, whether a human being or a piece of antisocial furniture.



You see, once upon a time, a demon living among the trees noticed a beautiful maiden below. Enchanted, he transformed into a breeze, so he could brush up against her, and eventually he fell in love with her. Hoping to consummate their relationship, he took a convincing human form, with only his eyes of blood giving him away. He built a bed that they could make sweet demon love upon (“sweet demon love” might be a KISS song, for the record). They did indeed “consummate their relationship”, but she could not withstand the force of his demon package and died (I’m reading between the lines here). The demon was so stricken with grief that his eyes swelled up and cracked, and traces of blood dripped from his eyes and directly on to the bed. As we all know (well, those of us that pay attention to heavy metal lyrics), the blood tears of a demon give life to inanimate objects, and things that are living need to eat in order to stay alive.



Now that the movie is set up and everything makes sense, we follow a group of ladies that explore the estate where the bed resides (one of those deals where they inherited the blah blah whatever). They are eaten, one by one, as they eventually find themselves on the bed for some reason or another (it doesn’t move around or anything; it gets its digestive enzymes going when someone sits down and then sucks them in). The brother of one of the girls comes looking for her and ends up getting the flesh and muscle dissolved off of his hands by the bed, leaving him with two skeleton hands (which looks rad in a surreal dimestore Halloween kinda way). While this is going on, we are treated to flashbacks that include the origin story, past matricide (he he…get it? Never mind), and the curious case of a sickly painter who, once upon a time, decided to lie on the bed and paint. The bed doesn’t eat him, but instead sticks him in the wall, hidden behind one of his own paintings (his painting of the killer bed, fittingly). Apparently unable to escape or even speak, he serves as the narrator (I guess he has nothing better to do sitting there in the wall all day), trying to explain everything while also warning potential victims to no avail (it’s hard to warn someone when you can only speak in interior voice over).

If this all sounds like a bunch of pretentious horseshit, keep in mind that you probably came in expecting a bunch of stupid (read: unpretentious) horseshit. At the very least, it surprises. To put it another way, here is an ugly fairy tale for the hopeless, a rotting fable filled with scuzzy magic. Its major failing is that it operates as a short story clumsily stretched out to novella length, like a great obscure literary work awkwardly translated to a different medium. Regardless, the director’s balls clearly outweigh both the budget and the cynicism that most audience members might bring to the table, and I’ll take balls over “taste” most every day of the week.


P.S. This is post#10 in the Lazy Baker countdown to Halloween. One more coming...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

HISSS (2010) - Jennifer Chambers Lynch blesses the world with a pseudo-bollywood snake woman fable that slithers with erotic confusion



If Boxing Helena felt like a feminist parable conceived by a pretentious 19-year-old (which it actually was), Hisss feels like a 2nd attempt at a similar parable after the first one was laughed out of a creative writing class. Her confidence shaken, she opts not to attempt to bare her soul, but instead goes the safer route of updating a cultural fable to modern day, one which carries with it ripe material for ideas about gender dynamics and what not. After all, if you’re pretentious, you can’t just come out and tell a story about a snake lady eating people without at least the pretense that there is some subtext going on.

The basic plot is that an Indian snake woman (she can change from a human into a snake woman) is trying to find her cobra lover (that is, a regular snake that she can straddle), who has been kidnapped by a deranged white man (George) who apparently is trying to lure the snake goddess into a trap, since he believes that she can grant the gift of immortality. He is dying of a brain tumor, so I initially thought that maybe the venom from the snake goddess cures brain cancer or something, but no. Why not just have some old guy trying to find the secret to immortality? Or some entrepreneur trying to find the secret to immortality so he can sell it? Would immortality automatically cure a brain tumor? Does it just make it so you no longer age? I have no idea.



While Lynch has appropriately picked a story that seems like ripe material for a feminist monster movie, she appears unable to transform her ideas into something that is cinematically logical. She seems to employ mostly vague notions to transfer the original myth to modern day. I’ve read a bit about the original Indian story and watched the movie and tried to connect the dots, but symbols and concepts slip through my fingers and crash onto the floor.

Take, for example, the scene where the snake woman (having just taken human form for the first time) happens upon several women bathing in the river and attempts to imitate them as if looking up to them, to where she suddenly starts worrying about her looks. However, just moments before, she was crawling around as if she thought she was a regular snake (yes, that is hot). This bathing scene would make sense if she had been living the life of a human for awhile and had found herself in a situation where she was being taken care of by several women (which does happen later) to where she looked up to them and wanted to imitate them. I mean, she seems to have no idea that she is even human yet (she hasn’t even looked in a mirror), but she sees some girls with pretty hair and immediately worries that her bangs aren’t up to snuff. Of course, in the next scene, not only is she clean of mud, she seems to have a luxurious new perm and caked on makeup. Ummm…okay. It becomes necessary to the plot to imbue her with feminine wiles of a sort, but you’d think she would have to acquire human characteristics first (apart from the body, of course).


When I think of uncivilized women in the wild with heavy makeup and beautiful hair, I think of Evelyn Kraft from The Mighty Peking Man.

Anyway, she heads to a nearby town, and all of the locals are dancing in a ceremony, and she joins them in a free-spirited erotic dance since, as luck would have it, there’s a snake charmer blowing his flute. She innocently flaunts her sexuality in the process, and two guys immediately drag her into a house and try to rape her. Although she is na├»ve and innocent in her slithering sexuality, to dumb males, she just looks like a slut, and to them, sluts don’t mind being raped. She turns into a snake lady while one of the rapists, a huge Baywatch fan (perhaps poking fun at crass American pop culture, or maybe implying that Baywatch turns men into rapists), stares at her without blinking for like 90 seconds straight. I know it would be pretty amazing to watch a woman turn into a snake lady, but if I was a potential rapist in that situation, I would cut my losses and get the balls out of dodge. I guess she’s supposed to be a femme fatale luring evil men to their doom, but she does so unconsciously, rather than out of moral indignation. Either way, I guess rapists being killed is a step in the right direction.




The first two transformations are fairly impressive looking (and done practically), but this attack and the subsequent attacks descend into laughable Syfy channel CGI territory. I don’t know why you would bother creating the transitional stages of a snake woman out of latex if you’re gonna marry that to CGI snake effects that look like they were done on an iMac. Either competently aim for suspension of disbelief or don’t bother. Also, there is occasionally a curious cutaway to a repeated shot of a moon with a cloud slicing through it. It is common in cheap movies to have a cutaway to a moon or a cat sitting there or whatever, so the editor can link two unmatched shots by cutting back and forth. However, the fact that this very specific moon shot is repeated makes me think it was supposed to be symbolic, perhaps a “homage” to the beginning of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou, which employs a similar shot. If I’m on the right track, this would have to be the cheapest way anybody has ever used to proclaim “hey, my movie is surreal!”.



Later, she senses another rape happening (rape is how men entertain themselves in India, apparently), and she turns into snake girl again and bites the guy, and does so again when another dude repeatedly punches his wife in the face for no reason (not that there’s a good reason to punch your wife in the face). In both of these cases, she appears to have a natural impulse to kill scumbag males (which is every man in the movie except for the two detectives trying to figure out why rapists and wifebeaters are suddenly dying from venom bites). However, for her next attack, she inexplicably goes to a temple and prays before turning into a burka wearing angel of death (reminding me of I Spit on Your Grave, minus the burka). She chases the snake charmer through the city, as he is also an assistant of George (although I’m not sure how she even figured that out). Amusingly, she runs like the T-1000 during the chase, and even does some roof jumping. It’s curious that the snake woman would suddenly turn into a killing machine with a specific agenda, when she was previously a monster that would attack only when provoked. Maybe there’s supposed to be some subtext here, in that the snake charmer used his flute to “control” the snake woman and needs to be eliminated, but his music works equally on male snakes (like her snake “boyfriend”). I dunno.


courtesy of Gustavsonny on YoutubeLink
I guess the George character (a ridiculously hammy performance by Jeff Doucette) is supposed to represent the evil white man exploiting Indian culture without understanding its myths. However, he believes that he needs to go through with this snake rigamorale in order to survive, and his only real crime is that he is abusive to the male snake. He’s not simply a poacher looking to exploit a culture. One might think that his character is only a plot device, but with his evil mugging and extended camera time and the fact that he hires local Indians to do his dirty work, I gotta think Lynch was using his character to try and stick it to greedy westerners. I mostly see some dude yelling and grabbing his head in pain, which is exactly what I’m doing now, having just attempted to dissect the plot holes and thematic incongruities of Hisss. I’m just sane enough to be able to do so and insane enough to want to bother.

Now, I know what some of you are desperately curious about; is the snake chick hot? YES! Her name is Mallika Sherawat (I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly), and she’s ridiculously beautiful and has a pretty arresting screen presence (her nudity also has screen presence). She also respectably manages the “girl with the mind of an animal looking around and being confused” shtick without dialogue. There’s another inexplicable scene where she goes out at night naked and slithers up a lamppost while crying. I guess the scene is supposed to convey to the audience that she misses her life as a snake, but I can’t help think that what it actually says is that Sherawat is hot and looks great slithering up and around objects whilst in the nude.



While certainly watchable, Hisss makes me pine for the days of Boxing Helena, which was at least interesting as a unique one-off; a piece of ludicrous outsider art committed as an inside job (after all, it would’ve never been greenlit without the family name). Wait a second…am I waxing nostalgic for Boxing Helena? God help me.



You know what, that’s actually pretty fucking amazing, in a moronic slapstick kinda way. Maybe it’s a homage to the black knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Let’s hope so. I don’t know what it says about male/female relationship exactly; maybe that men prefer limbless women so they can’t run away or slap them in the face. Regardless, stubby Sherilyn Fenn is pretty damn hot. Not as hot as limbed Sherilyn Fenn, but I’ll take what I can get.



P.S. This is post #9 in the Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown. Shit just got real.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

BODY COUNT (1987) - if you're gonna go camping on an Indian burial ground, burnt marshmellows are the least of your concerns



The credits roll to a hacky, pseudo-American Claudio Simonetti synth score, nevertheless saved by the pretty ballsy move being influenced by the Friday the 13th 3-D disco theme. Of course, since this is an Italian production pretending to be American, the film has to open with some white bread American institution, like, say, a basketball game. Bob turning the ball over again! Ugh! Naturally, coach tells him that he’ll suck less at playing the point if he sees a psychiatrist. Apparently, his plummeting assist-to-turnover ratio is in direct correlation with the trouble he’s having with his girlfriend. Just then, the team doctor’s daughter asks permission to go the local campground, and this segue-facilitating wish is granted.

As if our collective ire of suspicion has not already been raised by the mere suggestion of camping, these particular grounds have several quirks worth mentioning:

1. It is run by David Hess, one of the most notorious psychos in screen history.

2. It was built on an Indian burial ground.

3. A witch doctor has placed a curse upon the campground.

4. The daughters of prominent town doctors go there to have sex.

I think I know where this headed.

However, the daughter survives long enough to come across a cop car. She takes a seat, clutching a teddy bear close to her heart. Surely she will be safe after all, what with the cuddly bear, not to mention that a friendly officer is on his way back to protect her. Surely these warning signs I listed above were nothing more than empty stabs in the dark, a blind connecting of the dots, emblematic of nothing in…oh wait, someone is stabbing at her through the seat. Oh, well, never mind.

The girl runs away bleeding, and ends up underneath a log. Quite ruthlessly, the killer stabs her through the fucking log. Her boyfriend shows up looking for her, and, incredibly, finds her alive! Well, she didn’t get stabbed through a log after all! The teddy bear did in fact protect her! Thank the good…oh no, he gets stabbed too. It’s the killer again, wearing her shirt to trick the boyfriend. Alarmingly, Hess also has a creepy red herring son, and he pops his head in for good measure.



Eighteen years later, a RV full of schmucky fake yank teens are getting lost on their camping trip. Through the magic of recorded sound, we become privy to their conversations. Their hopes, dreams, and ideas come rushing forth like a flowing stream of humanity. At one point, someone says that Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time (less an opinion, more a “fact”). A girl says the trip is bad for her ovaries. The fat guy complains about someone stealing his chocolate bar, and later divulges the wisdom that stealing somebody‘s girlfriend is “like a negro picking cotton“ (before this revelation, I smallmindedly looked upon these two situations as separate, un-linked events).



David’s son shows up, now a soldier returning home, and they bond together by setting traps for any pesky Indian Shamans that might be running wild on their property. Oh yeah, I forgot. In addition to those suspicious campground quirks I mentioned earlier, there are one or possibly two evil Indian shamans running around the area. We are later made aware of a bit a volatile love triangle between the sheriff, David, and his wife, the ever lovely Mimsy Farmer, who apparently likes to hide some pork sausage on the side.



The team doctor from the prologue goes fishing at a water hole near the campground, and engages the sheriff in small talk. They notice that two young female kayakers (who speak in ridiculously dubbed faux-southern speak, like if Scarlet O’Hara was played by a 10-year-old drunk Canadian girl) are also headed to the campsite (along with a bunch of other schmucks I haven't even mentioned), finally setting up this wild convergence, a plethora of victims and suspects, all conveniently showing up in a previously isolated setting. All of these characters run around from place to place and get killed in a wild stew of coincidence, happenstance, and circumstance, even including dreams and flashbacks, supplemented by that teddy bear popping up everywhere through the magic of teleportation (presumably a symbol of lost innocence, or there to appease any three-year-olds in the audience). It’s sort of like a retarded drawing room comedy version of Ten Little Indians spread out over five acres.





(BIG TIME SPOILERS IN A SMALL TIME BLOG)

In the end, Deodato rips the ending of Friday the 13th Part 2 by having a killer Indian shaman doing a slow-mo jump through the window at the final girl while her and nerd boy are barricaded in a cabin. The sheriff eventually shows up and blows away the rascally redskin, who turns out to be the soldier’s son (what the shit?) in injun garb. The next day, the sheriff explains that Ben killed everyone, except for the doctor’s daughter from the prologue (the horny one with the teddy bear). Presumably Hess was responsible for that bit of business, so naturally he has to get his comeuppance, and an axe promptly finds its way into his frontal lobe, courtesy of an actual Indian Shaman. This particular character, true to the spirit of the film, is introduced during the final fucking shot.

Lest we forget director Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust and its critique of the media’s unethical distortion and destruction of the very subjects they are reporting on. Here, Ruggero may be attempting to tackle the American nuclear family, who try to whitewash any potential issues in order to maintain the illusion of the moral, all-American family to others and, more importantly, themselves. These repressed demons eventually come rushing forth, apparently in the form of teenie hacking Indian shamans.



Wait a second. Maybe it’s a treatise on the plight of the Indians, and the long standing refusal of the white man to accept responsibility for what amounted to ethnic cleansing. Not to mention that “negro picking cotton” comment…
how did I miss that? Shit. Well, if you wanna watch a triple thesis on the immoral foundations of America disguised as a middle of the road campground slasher, head down to your local video store and…oh wait, you won’t be able to find it. Never mind, forget I said anything.

P.S. This was written as part of the Italian horror blogathon over at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Moves. Clicky and check it out!

P.P.S. This is also post#8 in my Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown. Hitting the home stretch people.

P.P.P.S. This movie is also know as "Camping del Terrore" and "Alaridos del Terror", and is not to be confused with the other movie callled "Body Count" from 1987, which is directed by Paul Leder and is aka "The Eleventh Commandment".

P.P.P.P.S. You can also consider this post a tribute to the recently deceased David Hess.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BERZERKER (1987) - camping with beer and friends and a Viking bear is pretty metal, but it is also a bit on the dangerous side


You are a loser
and it’s such a shame that you’re a fool
and you don’t know that I am a Viking
-Yngwie Malmsteen, “I am a Viking”



I heard Yngwie Malmsteen is an asshole. Well, that's the word on the streets anyway (and by "streets", I probably mean the pages of Kerrang magazine). I haven't met the man personally, but there must be something to it if everyone who seems to have met Yngwie agrees that he is a dick. Ask Eddie Trunk, who'll probably say something like "I had Yngwie as a guest on my radio show, and his manager told me ten minutes before we were to go on the air that if I was to ask him about anything that didn't have to do with his new album, he was going to immediately get up and leave". Or, you could ask Steve Vai, who might say something to the effect of "I co-headlined a show with Yngwie, and no one was allowed to touch his guitars, or even point at them, and he had to have a minimum of six Swedish meatballs in his dressing room at all times, even when he was on stage". Well, you get the idea.




Myself, I never had a beef with the man until I heard his music. I don't know about you, but if someone rapes me in my earhole, I'm not exactly gonna consider them a "friend". Having said that, Yngwie is kind of interesting to me as an "idea", and looking at the cover of Yngwie's trilogy album and pondering his occasionally Viking themed lyrics, I can't help but view Yngwie as a symbol of religious struggle.


While Christianity is currently the official religion of the western hemisphere, the distant ghosts of vanquished foes lie dormant, biding their time to seek revenge. The Vikings are one such group, and their explosive fury is best illustrated by the cover of Yngwie’s Trilogy LP. Our resident squealy bar magician summons a fireball through his Stratocaster and into the no doubt flummoxed face (faces?) of a hydra. This clearly represents the oppressive regime of Christianity and its inflexible “hey asshole, here’s a bible” policy. I realize that the Hydra is a Greek mythological creature, but you can’t shoot a fireball at the pope and except Wal-Mart to carry your album.

In Berserker, this rage comes rushing forth in the form of a campground visit from a Viking were-bear/man/regular bear curse-based assault, designed to wipe out the most recent remnants of Christian society: modern (circa 1987), horny, and drunk 30-year-old teenagers. We know these kids are all modern and stuff because of their music; cutting edge AOR slop peppered with electro vocals and laser breakdowns. However, the group nerd, not yet swept away by technology, has the temerity to bring a book on a camping trip. This prompts derisive insults from his peers, because, let’s face it, reading is gay. We are also provided with the astute information that the campground was originally inhabited by Vikings, which may or may not be important.

Speeding down the highway and throwing empty beer cans out of the window tends to raise the ire of local authorities, but, quite cunningly, the teens get out of their bacon pickle by admitting to a lesser charge of littering. As they finally enter the campsite, they subsequently stumble upon a mysterious Norwegian asshole (well, not that mysterious; he’s an asshole from Norway) known as Pappy the caretaker (played by the esteemed George “Buck” Flower). He warns them about the evils of littering and the prevalence of hungry wild animals, which may or may not further the plot. There’s some more “modern” sub-Van Hagar, sub-Montrose Van suckage in the form of a song called “Cool Dude”, which plays over a montage of these city slicker poseurs riding an ATV and frolicking in the river. This builds to a “guys spilling beer on each other’s bare chests” crescendo, which is what real men do when they get away from all of the hubbub and reading of the big city. However, our resident "thinker" still hasn’t allowed the proper amount of manliness to rub off on him, and decides to read from his little book about Viking legends over a spooky campfire.



Included is a mention of the “Berserker", a Viking were-bear spirit, which is a Viking that turns into a bear, who then turns into a ghost, which then possesses a Viking descendant, who then promptly turns into either a bear or a just feisty dude in a fur loincloth; certainly the most ferocious pile of vagueness anyone could ever hope to bump into on a campground. This threat probably proves too confusing to bother heeding, so they continue to party and litter, doing their part to help kick this “story” into high gear.



Our sole line of defense from this most confusing of obstacles consists of old Pappy and some police officer, who endlessly babble over a game of chess. This proves an interesting mirror image twist on the scene from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, in which the Christian Antonius Block staves off Death and his obnoxious black plague with a merry game of chess. This allows him to stay upright and keep his ass bubonic free in his quest of defeating heathen types (like the Vikings), spreading the word of God and the bible and shit.



In the case of Berserker, a Viking descendant, in an era of widespread Catholic meddling, plays a game of chess with the local bacon enforcement in order to keep his skillet greaser ass occupied while the animalistic, were-bear spirit of heathenism roams free to bear claw teenie noggins (thereby exacting sweet, furry revenge). The central theme is laid abundantly clear; one culture’s holy counter- attack is another’s terrorist intervention. This dynamic has continued back and forth throughout human history, sort of a socially destructive see-saw for masses of religious nutballs.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, ALTHOUGH I WAS CONFUSED SO THE SPOILERS MAY BE WRONG)

The nitty gritty of this tale involves various characters wandering around in the woods, partaking in energizing walks and/or refreshing nookie, and periodically getting paw slashed by the “monster”. This builds to a “holy shit” twist ending crescendo, where it ‘tis revealed that the bear is really a real ass bear (and therefore a red herring that conveniently sauntered near every murder scene to mislead the public) and the real killer is a dude merely dressed in Viking bear paraphernalia (like assless chaps constructed from grizzled fur, sort of like the stuff Manowar likes to wear on their album covers). Of course, the killer may in fact be the real bear, but I don’t think so considering the evidence…wait a second, they could have been in cahoots. Fuck. The next morning, one of the survivors finally tracks down the chess playing cop, and bacon boy lays a shotgun blast into the Viking without so much as a feigned attempt at due process. As it turns out, the were-bear-Viking-ghost-guy-whatever-in-a-suit-killer was indeed Pappy under a rather heavy Nordic-curse-bear-ghost-conversion influence. I guess that makes sense.


video courtesy of Judavo

During the end credits, the audience is finally treated to a decent attempt at rock music, the thankfully non-Hagar and damn near metal-esque “Prisoner of Rock n’ Roll”, sending the audience away on a thematic high note filled with hope. Let us finally break this vicious cycle of religion and construct a new way of life built on Marshall stacks, drum solos from hell, the headbutting of strangers, and, most importantly, the ribald destruction of all things sanctimonious. Vikings are invited of course (they're pretty damn metal after all), as long as they promise to not let Yngwie Malmsteen play classical scales at 400 beats-per-minute. Also, no horned helmets in the mosh pit. There have been complaints. Thanks.




P.S. I think this is post#7 in my Halloween countdown, which would mean there are 4 more to go...possibly.

Monday, October 24, 2011

VAMPIRE BOYS (2011) - if you're incredilby desperate for a gay version of Twilight, this is the movie for you!



“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my works. I want to achieve it by not dying.”
-Woody Allen

Many people would happily sign up for immortality if all they had to do was bite a wayward hooker on the neck every once in awhile. Even then, you’re giving Porsche or Licorice the gift of immortality. However, there’s all the other shit you gotta deal with as a vampire, like having to avoid garlic at all costs (pizza is probably a no-go) and being unable to wander around in the daylight. Then there’s also the holy water, and the wooden stakes, and the crucifixes, all of which can quickly put the kibosh on the whole immortality thing. However, lead vampire boy Jason (who has 3 vampire boy underlings) doesn’t have to put up with any of that stuff, chalking it up to “false myth” in a long exposition passage (thank god he took the time out of his busy schedule to explain all of these vampire plot discrepancies). The only other rule is that the vampire boys are not allowed to wear shirts under ANY circumstances. Maybe they have extra hot vampire blood, and they need to be shirtless in order to keep their body temperatures at a normal level. That must be it.

Oh yeah, there is one major caveat (sorry...it’s hard to keep all of these rules straight): Jason has to find a vampire life partner by his 100th birthday or he turns into dust. He has two potential partners: a blonde chick that goes to college with the vampire boys (yes, they are working towards degrees) and a boy named Caleb, who used to be a swimming champion but has since “hung up his Speedos” (although he’s traded them for borderline-Speedo boy shorts). This is a tough call for Jason, and he has to choose by…TOMMORROW! Yes, he waited until the last day or two to look for an eternal partner, when hitting the deadline without one means certain death. I’ve started school papers the night before, rushing through in a No Doz-induced haze in order to finish it on time, but my mortality wasn’t at stake (sorry).



Anyway, he prefers Caleb over the blonde (probably because he’s gay, but maybe I’m prejudging ), but his vampire bros want him to hook up with the blonde chick. This confused me, since I thought the whole clan was gay, and therefore would’ve wanted Jason to pick a dude to join them. Maybe the other three are actually straight and don’t approve of his gay ways, but they never come out and give that as a reason (one of them says “Caleb is a phase”). You know, to be perfectly honest, I have terrible gaydar. Usually I don’t start questioning another man’s sexuality until his hand is on my ass. I think that’s normally a good thing (it’s a form of being nonjudgmental), but functioning gaydar would probably be helpful when reviewing gay themed movies, and is a definite must in prison. It’s weird; I have excellent douchedar (that’s where you can tell if someone is a douchebag or not), and my gorilladar is second-to-none (that’s when you can tell if someone is a real gorilla or just a guy wearing a monkey suit). I guess we all have our blind spots.



Of course, there are a couple of vampire attacks mixed in, starting off with a woman being stalked through the L.A. River. If you’re wondering how somebody could be stalked “through a river”, keep in mind that the L.A. River is essentially a concrete basin with few small puddles of mud and the occasional “objet de trash” (like a rusty shopping cart filled with used condoms). Later, a girl drags two “straight” guys into the middle of nowhere (probably Griffith Park) and tells them that they have to make out if they want to have a threesome with her. They happily oblige, even showing off their mini-dudes to the camera. I guess guys like banging chicks more than they hate flirting with homosexuality. Either that, or guys are dumb and will do anything a hot chick tells them to do. Or maybe all douchebags are secretly gay. Regardless, they are just vampire fodder and are quickly dispatched, putting an end to a plethora of subtextual ruminations. By the way, if you need a title for a film class thesis, you can go ahead and use “plethora of subtextual ruminations”. I don’t expect payment; just please credit me in your works cited page. Thank you.

Anyway, these “horror” scenes seem perfunctory, as the relationship between Caleb and Jason is really the focal point. Like Twilight it seems (although I’ve only seen half of the first movie), the vampirism seems like a pointless side issue to the relationship. Vampire Boys could’ve just been a movie about a semi-gothy gay romance, where forced conflicts keeps the two apart. There’s Jason bros, who want him to go hetero, and Caleb’s roommate, who wants to hook up with him but Caleb isn’t biting (again…I apologize). The roommate becomes suspicious of Jason, pointing out that “he doesn’t even have a Facebook page!”. Little does he realize that vampires don’t need Facebook, as they can telepathically send messages to each other (however, Mark Zuckerberg is working on a “Facebook telepathy” app as we speak). Caleb is drawn to Jason’s mysterious abdominals, and not because Jason has vampire hypnotizing powers (there is some indication of this, but it doesn’t enter the equation once they actually get together). Meanwhile, he is flattered that his roommate his attracted to him, but that’s as far as he wants their relationship to go. All the vampire shit feels like padding, and all of the vampire discussion to justify the vampire shit feels like extra padding.

The relationship material between the three is undermined by a bad script and awkward line readings, but Christian Ferrer (Caleb) holds it together with a believable (believable for a non-vampire movie) performance as a young gay man stuck in a limp love triangle. You know what…maybe he’s actually straight in real life. Holy shit. If that’s the case, it’s an AMAZING performance. You know, Dustin Hoffman rightfully won an Oscar for playing an autistic savant in Rain man, yet I never truly believed his character was autistic (a savant, yes; he memorized the phone book after all). So, if Ferrer is actually straight, give the man a Golden Globe…make that two Golden Globes. They hand those out like they’re candy anyways. You know what…he’s probably gay. I really should get my gaydar checked out. Maybe I can buy gaydar pills on the internet. Oh wait, I’m broke. Never mind.



P.S. This was written as part of Project Terrible, hosted by our good friends at Mondo Bizarro. It is also post #6 in the Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown, and the review is also featured over at Planet Fury! That's called getting bang for your writing buck, folks (assuming you're not being paid).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

WHODUNIT? (1982) - a punk rock film-within-a-film Ten Little Indians that fails to live up to the hype, a hype that only exists because of my review


This movie is aka Island of Blood and Scared Alive, but my VHS copy says "Whodunit?", so I'm going with Whodunit?.

A bunch of young, relatively inexperienced, and utterly pitiful actors (played by not-quite-so young, relatively inexperienced, and only mildly pitiful actors) are sequestered to shoot a movie in an abandoned school located on an isolated island (no wander it’s abandoned). The plot of the movie is the whole “let’s put on a show, and sell tickets to everyone in the neighborhood, and save our high school even though we’re all in our late twenties” type of deals, famously featured in Breakin’ 2 - Electric Boogaloo, albeit sans bright neon robotronics.



The reasoning for such a hackneyed, family friendly plot is stated outright when an executive espouses the opinion that movies being made nowadays are presenting the negative idea that “everyone will die in one big holocaust”. They fail to mention that plenty of wholesome movie fare was produced while the real holocaust was going down, so maybe that kind of pessimism is warranted after all. Either way, I’m not quite following the logistics of the school's money making scheme, considering no one else lives on the island, but what the shit do I know about show business (I mean the show business plot of the movie-within-the-movie, if you follow).

If that isn’t enough plot, there is also a real estate agent who wants to take control of the island. So, we have a group of actors warding off an island craving, slime bag realtor, while trying to film a movie about actors that put on a show to fend off an agent that wants control of their decaying school. Already, by 1982, we are starting to see some so called “post-modern” flourishes, otherwise known as “innovation” (or “outright confusion”). However, the film doesn’t really do anything with these flourishes. You don’t get any situations where the scene they’re rehearsing overlaps into the reality of their situation and the two become blurred, thereby commenting on the relationship between the reality of filming and the filmed reality. It’s just a useless gimmick.

There is also another gimmick, in that each murder is accompanied by a tape recorder playing the same song over and over and over and over and over and over again (and some more, and then during the fucking end credits). It’s a punk rock song called “Face to Face“, and not a very good one, where-in the lyric is “blank me, face to face”, repeated ad hoc nauseum. The first word coincides with a method of murder (stab me, boil me, nail me, etc.). Not terrible mind you, maybe an okay filler track on a Black Flag album, but when this repetitious song is played repetitiously, and supplemented by someone going to town on a keyboard with a ball pean hammer, it creates a hypnotic, glazed over effect on the brain. Imagine if you hacksawed the top of your cranium off, pulled your brain out, and filled your skull with donut holes. You get the idea.



To further cement its status as a punk rock Ten Little Indians, we get a couple of actors dressed in punk garb, the main one being the angry, Brando-esque Rick Dean (who also doubles as a red herring, with his twitchy method mumbling and all). His signature role was probably as the psychotic antagonist in the titty-bar invasion flick Stripteaser, and he doubtlessly would have enjoyed being rediscovered during the titty-bar flick renaissance of 2013 had he not died in 2006. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.



The other relatively “interesting” character is a female dancer, solely because she calls the producer a “honkey fishface”, a phrase all of us would like to use given the proper opportunity and context. She suffers through the affection of the token geek, materialized in a “dressed-in-a-scary-mask-and-robe-and-swinging-a-humongoloidal-sword-Freudian-sex-act-substitution" false scare (one more reason he never gets laid). She eventually succumbs when she accidently takes a shower in battery acid. A nude shower scene is a nude shower scene, and we’ll take what we can get.

(SPOILER IN PARAGRAPH AHEAD YA GOOF)

In the end, there is actually a nice twist ending I didn’t see coming, involving snuff films (always a plus). I take back that thing about the movie within a movie gimmick being totally useless. The real "useless gimmick" is that the murderer plays a tape of that song right before killing someone. If you need it as motivation in order to murder somebody, use a fucking pair of headphones. Asshole.

P.S. Review #5 in the lazy baker. Six more to go! That's almost half. How god damn exciting.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

SATAN'S STORYBOOK (1989) - when Satan does battle with a porn star ninja whilst engulfed in fog, all bets are off and glue huffing burnouts win big





One thing I’ve learned from investigating Ginger Lynn Allen’s filmography is that she is, *ahem*, versatile. For example, she can do that thing where she…excuse me, just clearing my throat. So where was I? Oh yeah, Ginger is amazing at grabbing…uh…well, you know. I, uh…sorry folks, I’m blushing. Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, I think she tends to extend herself a bit too far at times. Take, for example, Evil Breed (2003), where Ginger plays an Irish farmer (so I’m assuming she farms either potatoes or bottles of whiskey). I know “stars” think they can play any role by just throwing on a wig and doing an accent, but maybe they shouldn’t. After all, there are plenty of great Irish actors that can pretend to farm by throwing a hoe around (stop it), and also plenty of great farmers that can do an Irish accent. Or, you can just go the Italian neo-realism route and cast an actual Irish farmer. However, I don’t know that Ginger Lynn Allen, for all of her wonderful attributes, would be my go-to actress for this type of role. Maybe the director is a fan, and wanted to provide her with a “respectable” role to boost her IMDB page. I guess that makes sense.



I couldn’t help of think of this example while watching Satan’s Storybook, another horror movie featuring Ginger in a pivotal role. Namely, she plays a ninja. Yes...a ninja. You probably think I'm a raving lunatic that is simply making this shit up, but no raving lunatic has a big enough imagination to be able to make that kinda shit up. Well, Ginger kidnaps the wife of Satan, but I didn’t actually catch why, although she mentions that they are sisters that were separated at birth. It’s a pretty cool coincidence that both sisters grew up to achieve great things, since being second in command of hell is a pretty big deal, and Ginger must have really gone through hoops in order to make it as a ninja, considering she’s a Caucasian female with big hair. Either way, they appear to be at odds with one another, and Satan is pretty pissed about his whore goddess being missing. Satan, by the way, looks exactly like Glenn Danzig wearing a goat head, which is probably the least shocking thing ever. My mind would’ve been blown if I had been sent to hell and that WASN’T the case. Anyway, Ginger loses the ninja costume and becomes an S&M heavy metal warrior of sorts, which is EXACTLY the kind of role Ginger should be playing.


that's my kind of ninja


tree ninja is one with nature

rapier time

It’s important to note that this foolishness is apparently the wraparound story for a horror anthology. Normally, wraparounds introduce the stories and maybe provide context, clarity, and thematic support. It’s hard to say what these “linking” segments provide, apart from TOTAL FUCKING AWESOMENESS! I mean, just looks at these stills! Holy shit.

red fog creates mystery

ninja duel



Satan is married to a goth chick


hell has scary monsters

Satan/Danzig

I know Satan likes atmosphere in the old throneroom, but I think this may be pushing it.



Oh yeah, there’s also a court jester. I guess Satan/Danzig needs to be entertained. Basically, this segment is like a mid-80’s shot on betacam satanic metal video with a ninja duel thrown in (ninjas were a big ass deal at the time). The problem is that I don’t know if an actual video exists that fits within these parameters (maybe our readers can help). Any “satanic” metal band at the time would not have bothered spending money to make a music video that MTV wouldn’t have played anyways, and by the time this situation might have turned around, dimestore satanism, hot chicks overdosed on hairspray, garish red lighting, fuzzy videography, and outlandish overuse of a fog machine (John Carpenter’s The Fog didn’t have this much fog, and that was a movie about fog) were all out of fashion. So, this footage would’ve made a GREAT Venom video. Maybe if I had a decent editing program and wasn’t lazy I could make that happen, but alas. Also, I don’t necessarily want Cronos showing up at my door screaming copyright infringement (although he screams everything it seems).





So, like I was saying, this is one of those horror anthology movies. The first story is pretty righteous, and it’s about an angry heavy metal burnout (wearing an Exodus shirt) who likes to kill people, randomly selecting victims by pointing his finger at a name in the phone book. Wanna know how angry this guy is (apart from him killing people for no reason)? He has a satanic star written on the back of his jean jacket in magic marker. That’s pretty fucking angry, and very metal*, of course, and his nickname is even MORE metal (“Demon of Death”). He also suspiciously acts like the metal burnout character Bobby from The Kids in the Hall, yet dresses like Bobby's ex-girlfriend Laura. Anyway, the name he picks out of the phone book is a 20-year-old girl named Jezebel, who happens to be a hot, Satan rocking, witchcraft brewing blonde chick with teased hair who lives with her parents (I knew she had to have SOMETHING going against her). You’d think the killer would see how awesomely hot and rockin’ this chick is and spare her life, but no, he show up, kills Jezebel’s parents while she is on the phone with 911 for like 10 minutes, pleading “he’s killing us!” to these worthless bureaucrats before finally giving up. Thankfully, she survives, and Mr. Demon of Death (or fake Bobby) gets the electric chair. There is a twist of course, but it’s not what you think, which is refreshing, I guess, but maybe I’ve just been defeated by life.



sleeveless anger

Check out the black walls. It reflects the blackness in her soul.

that's fucking metal

suspicion

alarm

her eyebrows show concern

time for some fucking magic

fog spell

The next story is about an alcoholic clown that hangs himself because clowns suck (I think that’s what that Smokey Robinson song is about actually), and he is sent to a dressing room in hell, which looks the same as his earthly dressing room. The only difference is that another clown is there to annoy him (he’s sort of talkative, jackass-y version of Pennywise). The story ends and we are off to the next segment, which is about…wait a second, that’s it? TWO stories?!? Well, I guess that Ginger Lynn ninja vs. Satan stuff could be viewed as a third story that is just broken up, rather than a linking story, since it links exactly jack and shit, and jack skipped town at the ass crack of dawn.



So, you have two solid stories (maybe “story” is a strong word) padded out with fake news footage and other scenes and clown dialogue to hit an appropriate runtime. The movie on the whole is a bit of slog, but removing the clown story and the padding, you still have 40 odd minutes of SOV (that’s “shot-on-video”) gold that might possibly be the artistic pinnacle of the genre (I said “might”). In my review for Things, I mentioned that SOV movies work best when they realize that they are not “normal” movies, and instead go for their own fuzzy, foggy, garish aesthetic. In that sense, Satan’s Storybook nails the no-budget SOV 80
’s satanic metal video vibe, and this helps it to transcend its limitations as a conventional horror anthology movie. Let me bring it back this way: have you ever been watching a heavy metal video where a big hair leather hooker battles a zombie with a mace, swathing through waves of fog, when suddenly a minotaur crashes through a mirror and shoots lasers out of its eyes to blow up a giant pumpkin, at which point you think to yourself “I wish these events were the subject of a full length movie so they could be developed and explained in proper context”? If so, half of this movie is for you. I know, I know, you want to thank me for the recommendation. You’re welcome.

P.S. This is review #4 in the 2nd annual Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown. Here's another foggy metal video, this time for Helloween, performing their hit song "Halloween". I'll let you connect the dots on this one.



*Anyone who gets this reference gets a big thumbs up and several metaphoric gold stars and maybe a coupon for a free Frappucino (no promises).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HIDE AND GO SHRIEK (1988) - a standard slasher with creepy mannequins thrown in is American innovation I can get behind

VHS box courtesy of Fanpop.com


I’m sure transvestites are normally a classy bunch, so I guess the one in Hide and Go Shriek is the exception that proves the rule. He decides to take a lovely afternoon off from whatever it is transvestites do, heading to skid row to solicit a hooker. He drags her into an alleyway and boinks her against a brick wall before brutally stabbing her, letting her life blood gush out over a pile of gutter trash.

Back in the sanctity of the suburbs, two manly jocks lift some free weights, talking about how they are going get it on with the ladies, sweat dripping from their thespian starved mullets. One of the aforementioned porkees is a 32-year-old teenager who listens to the Teen Witch soundtrack on a little pink radio. This group of schmucky poseurs all decide that what they really need to help broaden their young lives is to lock themselves in a furniture store over night and have sex. Their ride over is punctuated by a rip off of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”, while a character utters the titular phrase, falling pathetically short of brazen copyright defiance.


This song appears in the background of Hide and Go Shriek, which was released a year earlier. I have no explanation for this.

So the teens head over to “Fine Furniture”, bumping into the "new security guy", a creepy ex-con with a snake tattoo that apparently lives between the walls of the store. Now that they have the store almost all to themselves, the teens do some exploring and drink some beer, as they have just graduated high school and need to blow off some steam before the rigors of community college pounds their noggins into a pile of mush. They also wisely decide to turn off all of the lights so they don’t get caught. Basically, the kids wander around, mess with the mannequins, sneak up on each other, play hide and go seek, and have sex (not at the same time...nobody's THAT ambidextrous). When none of this stuff is happening, they’re probably getting murdered. There is a pretty sweet elevator decapitation, not to mention someone getting impaled by a conveniently placed set of spikes. Then again, maybe large deadly spikes are indeed the newest wave (circa 1987) of “fine” modern furniture.

One interesting variation is that the killer wears the clothes of his last victim to try and trick his next victim. However, the main point of interest is all of the mannequins sitting there in the dark. Occasionally, the killer also arranges them in sexually suggestive positions, or pulls off mannequin limbs, making them even creepier than just a regular-ass mannequin.

(HEAVY SPOILERS MONKEYFACE)

The other odd thing about the film is the out-of-left-field twist ending. Apparently, our ex-con transvestite killer is wreaking havoc on hookers and teenagers alike because the ex-con security guard (who has managed exactly zilch in the security or guarding department this entire time) apparently refused to continue their romantic relationship once prison time was over. This is a bit jarring when compared to the rest of the movie. We have your typical heterosexual couplings and hackings, bookended by scenes straight out of William Friedkin’s Cruising (starring Don Scardino of He Knows You're Alone fame and that asshole that was in Revolution).



Maybe the director, Skip Schoolnik, is trying to tell us something about the psychological poisoning that prison sodomy can have on previously well adjusted convicts. Or, more disturbingly, is suggesting that, when homosexuals aren’t killing hookers or going to jail, they’re probably stabbing teenagers. Such is the completion of their descent into depravity. Either way, I think we can agree that the hooskow isn’t exactly the healthiest place to spend your free time. In the end, I guess it’s just one more reason to shop at Ikea. Gimme a wicker bar stool with a name I can't pronounce over gay-rape themed murder any old day of the week.



P.S. Post #3 in the lazy baker countdown...8 more to go until Halloween (so to speak).