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Friday, August 26, 2016

Maniac Cop


The late Robert Z'Dar sure cut a menacing figure in Maniac Cop (1987). It was on in the afternoon the other day, and I hadn't watched it in a while. The score as backdrop for the prisoners who attacked him in prison was quite unnerving. Valiantly defending himself, he was stabbed with a chiv in the back. Maniac Cop threw caution with the wind and allowed him to just withstand anything. Shots directly to the torso and face (cut by the chiv repeatedly in the face along with the stab in the back in prison which would easily kill any normal man, particularly the way he was bleeding out; the coroner reflection has Z'Dar on a table under a blood-soaked sheet, resuscitating him from the brink of death) do not stop him. You can plow into him with a car, too. Oh, and the end has him impaled by a post while driving a police van at full speed, not to mention, the vehicle drives right into the harbor, but the psycho emerges with that damned hand snakily slithering up a post.

I was talking to my wife while watching it. I was in the back bedroom as she passed, and I related a memory one of my internet buddies mentioned about the tragic fate of Tom Atkins. In my IMDb review, I commented on how it was cool that Atkins got top billing over Bruce Campbell, who had come off the success of the first two Evil Dead movies. Neat was the fact that I felt he totally deserved it although few other than John Carpenter and his buddy Tommy Lee Wallace would give him such a position in the credits. He was the trench coat detective in the film that never felt Campbell was the killer cop on the loose killing civilians, and the further he investigated the closer to danger he got. I found myself barely able to watch what Z'Dar does to him in the film, and it always summons the reflection by the internet buddy that when he was in the theatre, the audience were in a state of shock when Atkins left the film. That is what a beloved actor can do: you give a shit about him and don't imagine (or want to) he'd get the rotten and rough Z'Dar mistreatment.

Campbell as a cheating husband the film makes a default hero, with Laurene Landon as his lover (a narcotics cop who works a lot of undercover work as a hooker) helping his cause, is a surprising script decision. He's not exactly a completely sympathetic figure, but how he's framed, through the brutal murder of his wife and subsequent cop killings of the maniac cop incorrectly tied to him, goes a long way to help him out.

Whatever I might feel about Cohen's script (this was something I spent a lot of time on when writing my user comments on the IMDb), it is cast quite well. Z'Dar is shot by Lustig in the dark as quite a scary figure. Atkins makes for a veteran cop whose instincts are right throughout but his duty takes him right into the crosshairs of Z'Dar. Richard Roundtree as the commish, and William Smith, as the scratchy-voice captain, both are cocksure that Campbell is their man despite every kind of evidence regarding the brute strength and force it would take saying otherwise.

I have read of Lustig's bad direction, but I felt different. I think he takes an uneven mess of a script (and I love Cohen), pacing the film and stylizing it impressively. I think he tries to mask the flaws by getting the most out of the cast and how dangerous and intimidating Z'Dar is. I think the extended version, with the mayor and his chief of staff (Lerner and Rossi) is the ideal way to go as it adds some meat to the bones and further elaborates on why Z'Dar is so pissed off. With a thrilling car chase with Landon and an officer following Z'Dar in the police van containing Campbell in hot pursuit, Lustig keeps the film moving along at a clip. Sometimes that's what it takes to persuade us not to focus on the implausible aspects of the script. Z'Dar's herculean abilities are quite grandiose. Can't leave without mentioning Sheree North as a cripple Z'Dar is fond of and vice versa...she conceals his actions and takes Atkins into account for driving a wedge between her and her maniac cop...supporting casting like her doesn't hurt.

***

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Watched V/H/S (2012) for the third time and I can certainly say that it digresses with each viewing. I do think there's the idea, concept, whatever, that is a cool nostalgic tool that appeals to us of the video age. Those of us who dealt with rough recordings/copies of movies both made by us and rented from elsewhere get a bone tossed at us by those who also spent their time experiencing the scratchy, glitchy, video quality, with all the tracking problems and irksome degeneration of the tape. But glasses being able to record a demon obliterating his drunk and horny friends while the wearer tries to flee her advances and a "glitch psycho" picking off teens in the woods (think your tracking problem turned into a phantom who is wicked with a knife (what he is and how he came into existence isn't elaborated) don't quite capitalize exponentially on the concept. In and out appearances of murdered friends of a girl recorded from a previous visit to the woods and what is being captured present seems as questionable even if jarringly unsettling. The chilling idea of snuff on film is rather effective in and of itself, but glitch killers carrying them out is rather dubious. Boring touring footage of a couple in Arizona going about their travel exploits and how the wife might not be quite so happy in the marriage (as evidenced by what someone else does to her husband) doesn't thrill as much as remind me of the inundating dullness of watching everyday life. Only a brief scourge of knife violence to a throat jars the banality. Halloween hijinks by dudes looking for a party and inadvertently interrupting an exorcism unleashing a house invaded by dark spirits levitating people and objects, with hands reaching from walls, as they drag a girl out of the clutches of folks hoping to rid her of evil plays on Paranormal Activity films, including the grim finale where a car ride escape with the wrong passenger brings on a train...this is closer to what currently exists than a throwback to the days of 80s/90s youth. Vandals damaging property and stealing tapes from a dead man's home, who just so happens to turn into a zombie for whatever reason, as a wraparound and excuse to have others survey the recordings that make up the anthology, features shaky footage at its worst. Yeah, no legs for this found footage offering which earned plenty of pop upon release and word of mouth.

Chilling Visions 2014

 This was meant for my imdb user account, but the 1000 word limit wouldn't allow it, so I'll just drop it in full here and try and reduce the review so that it can be accepted.

This is an anthology of unrelated short films all dealing with fears ranging from the inability to move, burial alive, losing your ability to function without assistance, succumbing to derangement which results in cutting yourself, and losing a loved one too soon.

"Ego Death": a narcissistic, womanizing cretin, with a hefty bank
account, drives his "mouthy, nagging" lover out to the desert to rid
himself of a nuisance, returning to his pretty, calm-voiced wife.
Before burying the other woman alive, she laughed up at him, with this
seemingly serving as a type of guilty attachment he can't seem to
shake. Her phantom re-emerges to mock and torment him. Returning to the
scene of the crime when his dinner with the wifey is interrupted by the
"spectre of a bothered conscience", he will confront more than just a
lone figure in the dark of the desert…we soon learn than this burial
wasn't a "one time occurrence". Sufficed to say, he cannot overcome his
past transgressions, no matter how big the hole he dug is or how much
earth he covers across them. I actually liked this, considering it is
eight minutes and a lot of backstory needs to be elaborated in that
time. We get the details we need, plus the buried lover returning from
beyond the grave (even if a demon on the mind) to haunt the creep is
coolly elaborated. Like when she is silhouetted in another room behind
the wife (nice contrasting shot), or you see multiple specters emerging
across the dirt (silhouetted themselves, with only their figures,
darkened by the night, transparent) "approaching" the villain as if a
coven ready to get their pound of flesh. Gets the point across, for
sure. Impressively photographed for a low budget short. ***

"Separation": An elderly man, seemingly succumbing to dementia and
memory loss, is approached by his daughter and her husband (who he
despises) to move out of the house (which he built with his own hands
he yells at his son-in-law), but he's persistent that the only way that
will happen is in a coffin. Appearing to have his best interest at
heart, a noble effort to keep him safe and well looked after, the
couple try as they might to convince him to go to a home they said he
liked. But all is not what it appears when the old timer digs up the
dog he supposedly put down, after building a coffin and planning to
blow his brains out with a shotgun (a shotgun he forgot to load the
shells in!). Best laid plans are soon thrown into mortal terror when
"premature burial" visits itself on those who would manipulate and take
advantage of their elder. The image of the old man above ground and a
begging victim in a coffin pounding the wood deep in the earth is
especially inventive. While it isn't too uncommon to see a horror film
where characters appear one way only to be revealed completely
different, with a rather unsettling agenda, I thought this was rather
effective in its execution. Just desserts, too, as the victim soon
turns the tables. Is this altogether original—not really—but the
direction gets the most out of the material. It does verify that there
is cause for alarm (the stove incident, occasional falls), but
ultimately when he gains understanding of how he's been duped, there's
enough cognitive reasoning left to usurp those wanting to capitalize on
his vulnerability. **½

"Mutilation": A handsome couple decides to visit a Connecticut area,
remote and seemingly vacant, once a thriving community that fell to a
type of lyme disease. The husband seemed to have been there some with
his father and so this is an important revisit for him. The wife agrees
because it means a lot to her beau. What they encounter is a type of
infection, even perhaps a mental breakdown resulting from a type of
radioactive or bio-chemical mad science. The fence with the warning
sign should have told them that perhaps visiting the place was the
wrong idea! This is a particularly grisly tale with an opening scene
that really sets up the short film in skin crawling fashion: a
scientist from a Plum facility is cutting away at whatever he thinks is
inside him. An ominous figure - never truly elaborated in full figure -
seems to be a weapon that keeps the area a secret from outside
"invaders". Seeing the couple crippled by madness and tearing away at
their body (particularly the wife) with a knife is quite
squirm-inducing. This might test some folks resolve. There is some
explanation before it begins that might clear the air on what is going
on to those in the story. The gray, dead winter aesthetic of the
environs is quite a backdrop to the disturbing violence unleashed on
the viewer. **½

"Extinction": A grieving mother's daughter's ghost visits her with
instructions: to kill the husband who plotted and executed her demise!
Instead of killing him outright, the mother prolongs the man's
suffering so she can continue to spend time with her daughter who seems
to be withering! The "restless spirit" angle is given quite a fresh
coat of paint as the mother, asked to get revenge for the phantom
unable to have peace until her loss is avenged, just wants more time
with the daughter gone far too soon. The mourning of a mother
counteracts with justice for her daughter…she would have to give up
further time with her daughter if she does kill the bastard that took
her life. A pickle for the mom, for sure. The daughter's wishes
ultimately will force the mom to comply…or the killer's moving things
along by breaking free from his restraints. **½

"Loss of Autonomy": A news reporter has been committing infidelity and
his wife (who reports the news alongside him) knows all about it.
Convenient stroke leaves him unable to move or talk, just move his
eyes, and the wife plots her revenge, with plenty of tormenting and
ridicule – and plots to take what money he has invested for their son
and kill him! – capitalizing on his unfortunate state. What I thought
made this effective was how the husband communicates with nothing but
his eyes the struggle while the vengeance-fueled wife carries out her
wares right in front of him with plenty of malice and venom. The
vulnerable position he is in (she has sex in front of him with a
graphics designer, doesn't change his diaper, sets his wheelchair to go
into a pool) is sympathized because we see what he's been married to
all his life. The telekinesis which arises is a neat little addition
which eventually favors him and grants us a twist which gives her a
little dose of her own medicine. **½

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

I had already wrote a user comment on the imdb for this, not realizing it. I will discard the one meant for it tonight here:



Rod Serling penned the brilliant script for this memorable episode (it is my #1 personal favorite episode of the series) of the Twilight Zone, about a bright light that flashes momentarily over Maple Street, with accompanying electrical and airwaves stoppage causing burgeoning paranoia and increasing distrust among those living in the neighborhood. The persistent advice and warnings from a boy on the street, using content from sci-fi literature he reads, and a steadily building and mounting degree of suspicion regarding possible neighbors being aliens from outer space soon turns everyone against each other. A car that starts and stops by itself, lights in houses going on and off, and ominous footsteps from a distant walking “figure” (who they suspect to be an alien, despite the fact that one from their neighborhood had told them he was heading over to a different street to see if they had similar electrical problems) complicate matters. Not to mention, pointed fingers, vocal accusation, suspecting “neighborhood watch” gives way to thrown stones, a gunshot, shouting, heated reactions, frenetic chaos of scattered people looking to mob a scapegoat, and a street in ruins…all that was needed was to turn some lights, a car, and a lawn mower on and off and let the street destroy themselves.

I do get that it also took the use of a sci-fi story about aliens told from a scared kid to plant the seed that eventually blossomed into anarchy. The camera’s focus on speeding legs, tilted angles of the Maple Street sign, and direct close-ups of hysterical faces add incredibly to the narrative of how a situation can escalate out of control when feelings perhaps buried inside can surface if flamed by circumstances most unusual (the tricks used by aliens planning to colonize once the human race obliterates itself). A most superb cast: Claude Akins (who tries to be the voice of reason as accusations even point his direction because he was messing around with a ham radio!), Jack Weston (as a ringleader in the mob), Barry Atwater (as the first accused because of his car’s on and off trick), and Burt Metcalf (as a friend of Akins and Weston who soon turns on both of them) among others really aid the intentions of Serling’s story. At the beginning, seemingly hospitable, level-headed, friendly, honest, and temperate folks—representing the All-American, white picket fence family of the Cleavers or Mayberry—eventually descend into monsters themselves…done in a startlingly thirty minute show that has no fat, a lean and staggering critique on how we ourselves can become the very danger that terrifies us. When the women even participate in spreading panic, all hope seems lost.


I had it already written, so I had to do something with it. Waste not, want not.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Woke up early this morning and watched The Crazies (1973). Of all the scenes I could mention, this one above impacted me the most. To say that things had spiralled out of control would be an understatement. But Lynn Lowry, lit by the sun behind her as it had risen for the day as soldiers in decontamination suits and gas masks surround her, uttering "Oh", collapsing to the ground in a quiet heap certainly spoke volumes about how control was lost. Lowry, what a stunning woman, in this film, after succumbing to the Trixie, is not overtly hostile as much as giggly and childish, walking into the gaggle of soldiers free from any recognition that life for her was coming to an end. The soldiers lost all resolve with anxieties and fears for their own welfare at the forefront.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Fender Bender



I kept asking myself about Mark Pavia, the director of “Fender Bender”, a home invasion slasher little brother to The Collector, when I noticed his name come up at the end credits as the film was concluding. I researched him and sure enough, he directed “The Night Flier”, a film based on a Stephen King story that starred a particularly nasty Miguel Ferrer. I always liked his film but wondered why he hadn't directed more than he had.

Fender Bender (2016, a joint ChillerTv and Scream Factory effort) itself is quite a mean-spirited slasher, with a short supply of bodies butchered, but just the same the killer doles out some hostile violence certain to leave an impression. A serial killer preys on teenage girls by using fender bender “accidents” as a means to derive information from them so he can descend upon their homes (sharing info after the wreck occurs), puts on a leather mask fashioned with metal rings for eyes and metal pins favoring teeth, wears a thick leather jacket certain to withstand retaliation from those who might return some of what he dishes out, and drives a particularly menacing ride that serves as his “introduction” to the victims he desires.

His next selection is a cute Makenzie Vega, not long with her driver’s license, dealing with an ex jock who cockily emerges at her door thinking he might can get her back. Vega exchanges info not imagining Bill Sage (I know him from the CSI: Miami episode, “Recoil”) will return to her home with a knife meant for her torso. Dre Davis and Kelsey Montoya are Vega’s buddies, coming over to hang out with her. Soon all three (including Harrison Sim as the prick ex who Vega threatens with a bat!) are targets for Sage.

There’s no doubt that you can pick this apart and find one flaw after another. There are stupid decisions aplenty (particularly from Vega) and what Vega does to Sage (the use of a crow bar multiple times and even gasoline lit fire fail to keep Sage down long!) would kill any normal human being. The ending shows Sage as human which belies what just happened before him. His going through Vega’s bedroom and personal items, removing his “murder disguise/gear” delicately/meticulously, and setting up bodies in cars in a line as a type of artistic statement really leave an unsettling feeling I found especially effective. But I simply have a hard time with you asking me to accept that this human monster could endure what Vega delivers on his person at the end of the film, and then buy the bill of goods regarding his ability to go on with his life as if he didn’t just receive heavy contact across the face/head by a crowbar and get lit on fire! Countless opportunities for Vega to call for help and how she’s punished for the fender bender despite not being responsible for it are also details that really noise aloud at how preposterous the film can be at times.

But when it gets down to the bread and butter of the economical slasher film, Fender Bender does have its moments. Bill Sage in costume summons the Shape and moves about the grounds and home like a silent phantom, purposing a mission of destruction that seems impossible to defy. Sage has a type of make-shift switchblade he impales with quiet ferocity in the victims who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time: around Vega, at her home. Vega, though, is allowed to be the raison d'etre for Sage’s devotion. The others are playthings for him to slay before getting to her. A blade through the stomach or throat, and even using his car to drive over a victim, are appetizers: Vega is the meal.


As far as what to expect: the usual. It has style and Pavia knows how to build scenes to their apex. His script wasn't afraid to lure us into relaxation only to bum us out. As mentioned, the killer is ridiculously superhuman (he does kind of function as a spectre who winds up where he needs to when it is time to kill victims) and we are asked to believe he is impervious to bodily harm. Vega could have been victimized at different points but the killer waits until the script wants him to attack. The three scatter chaotically instead of go out the nearest exit immediately when the killer showed himself in the house. The parents away so that the killer has the "final girl" all to himself... And on and on.

By now we kind of know what we're getting into. The film seemed designed as a throwback with a score that isn't exactly synth but has a beat to it that follows the hunt and the execution. I particularly like how Pavia unveils Sage with lightning strikes that reveal him in the dark. The phone voicemail from her mother after all the carnage, and how it is Sage who listens is particularly disturbing. Vega begging for her life and Sage diminishing it as meaningless also leaves a really bad taste. This shows that Pavia is willing to not pull punches. But there's a lot of stupidity I had a hard time looking past.

Not a total success, but I think some slasher fans will approve.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Killer Holiday

Like clowns and scarecrows, there just aren't really a whole lot of good amusement park horror movies. Not sure why. You'd think they'd be a bunch of them by now. At any rate, I guess the likes of Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse and Dark Ride (part of After Dark Horrorfest's 8 films to die for 2006) come immediately to mind. Killer Holiday (2013) is a very typical slasher film that doesn't function as an outlier in the slightest. I never felt as I was watching it that those involved weren't totally sold out to the formula as it is. Kids not far from high school commit to the gnarly road trip certain to feature booze and possible sex. Life's a party and this trip was a means for those riding in the RV for a summer to remember...however, of course, things don't go according to plan. While cruising Route 66, the gang finds a fallen sign pointing towards an old amusement park and decide to see what it is all about...big mistake, obviously.

Before even leaving, the kids are at the home of Rachel Lara, fresh out of rehab. Upstairs, unbeknownst to them, a hunky psychopath is butchering her parents with a kitchen knife. He will follow behind them in a cherry red convertible, stopping off in a desert town (right after they do) to pick up a cowboy hat. He'll meet them, as you might have guessed it, at the amusement park.

Rachel Lara stood out with the best impression, Vibrant red hair and a flaming sensuality to match, Lara is very attune to her body and presence...it is hard to take your eyes away from her. There's a funny scene where one of the guys, cuckolded by his uneasy lack of confidence and awkward inability to read the tea leaves of a flirt, has Lara in the RV while the others search for three of their gang had been grappling with the killer. Lara shamelessly flaunts her figure in a pull-down shirt after coyly taunting his desire to look at her when she walked to the back room to change. In a separate event, around a camp fire, she performed a little dance for the company, settling on the lap of David Namminga.  The token "nerd" of the group (one of only three girls, among a chorus of dudes), is Julia Beth Stern. Stern has a certain fondness for Namminga, so Lara choosing him was almost strategic in how feminine wiles drive the engine of male attention.

I was rather disappointed in the lack of atmosphere for the amusement park.Most of the movie, when at the park, is just too dark. Even worse is that the park doesn't get much definition during the late afternoon. The violence is very familiar: the weapons of the trade you normally see are in the killer's toolbox. The kitchen knife is his favorite. There's a clever rigged guitar with a sharp, pointy handle trap that emerges after a victim believes he's survived an electrocution. An accidental arm decapitation (and not so accidental beheading) leaves the victim emasculating the killer! A knife surprises another victim in the eye while the killer takes great time impaling another with a broken bottle (here, he stabs her, allows her to suffer before finally ending her after telling her "to breathe"). And so on.

There's even a visit to the killer's pop who tried to warn the kids away and is held in contempt for do so. He's forced to hold the knife as the killer drives a victim's head into it. Par for the course. Michael Copon summons his inner Fred Krueger. He mocks his victims, taking great pleasure in being the final face they see before the fade to black. Lara's parents' execution at the beginning immediately presents the kind of killer you'll see throughout. Being a slasher, there's a twist (which isn't much of a twist considering slasher fans have grown to read the signs from countless others before Killer Holiday) involving family revelations that ties the killer to a member of the RV gang. And another twist involving the killer in a whole different way to a member of the RV gang. The fact that the killer was so intimately involved with murdering the parents should be a clue. The relative twist is noised to us repeatedly.

What the director does with slow motion, B&W photography featuring moments in scenes we have previously seen, and ADD editing all interfere with the pacing of the plot and just rather feel desperate in begging us to recognize an attempt at filmmaking style. But they really don't add anything of value to characters that do little to distinguish themselves. Few are colorful enough (well, just one or two, really) to leave their mark on us. Meat for the grinder, really.

Monday, August 15, 2016

I was rather surprised to find Jack-O (1995) available with audio commentary and it was of definite interest particularly because I wanted to know opinion on the nude shower scene with Linnea Quigley and how it seems rather shoehorned into a film that, for the most part, feels rather PG-13. Sure the pumpkin-head killer wields a deadly scythe, the special effects aren’t overtly gory (due to the budget), so the nudity is rather startling (even though it is Quigley, known for her showers naked). Considering at this point she was 37, and she should’ve been quite proud of her body. She looked fantastic. That said, it does feel out of place with the vibe and personality of the overall project. I recommend trying to find the film with the audio commentary as director Latshaw is quite vocal about the shower scene, and how admittedly hated its inclusion. Just the same, it is in the film, strategically placed (or is it sandwiched?) in among one of the film's major developing kill scenes. I reckon it depends on your preference for how you take your horror movies (with Quigley involved). Amusingly, the debate on Quigley's involvement and her naked shower gets Latshaw stirred up and annoyed.



You know, this third Slumber Party Massacre film surprisingly has received very little notoriety unlike its previous films (the first for its violence and the second for its surreal comic value) despite being absolutely mean-spirited and oftentimes cruel. Maybe it is because of its availability. I don't think it was as accessible as the first and second films. Perhaps it was the fact that the slasher genre (as the 80s ended and 90s began) was fading. Everything about the cover of this box reads "more of the same". By 1990 I think the audience this aimed for were just no longer interested. Well, I think there's always interest in the slasher films of yesterday, especially those less mentioned than the usual suspects. Sequels with familiar franchises and subliminal cover arts are bound to find those interested. The slasher film might fade but always seems to linger on the periphery.

I myself didn't see this film for the first time until 2009. I was not impressed. This second viewing left me quite taken aback. It lingers unpleasantly now. Those that hate the slasher film would find much to despise about this bad boy.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Slumber Party Massacre III






Summer in 1990 should be an ideal time for friends from high school to enjoy a night together with a slumber party, including games, pizza, and talking guys. Too bad a killer decides to ruin the fun!

**

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I visit the IMDb Horror message board on occasion to see what buzz might be stirring about particular horror movies and hopefully discover interesting users who might have relatable interests in the genre. I have this private message sent to me telling me that a secret vote was taken among this douchebag and other boarders about how I should leave and blow my opinions out my ass. I kind of laughed because essentially I have just been participating in Top Ten threads with little opinion actually offered. The board, by and large, has become a sad state of affairs with slight glimmers of good trying to free itself from the muck and mire. Obviously I won't allow some crude pimple on the ass of the internet to dictate my visit to a board far from its glory,  which was peaking around 2005 or so. Trolling is the norm over there and some good folks who might still entertain the board are long gone because of the infestation. Oh, and I happened to peek at his profile and it is a puppet account with no posts on the horror board and has been active three weeks...this kind of insect flies around so it can buzz in your ear, get in your mouth, and be a nuisance. Wonder why so few congregate there anymore. Why bother?

Friday, August 12, 2016

I was starting to think about a memory as I was listening to the soundtrack of Day of the Death (1985). I think back to 2010, during the month of October when I was watching all of the Romero zombie movies with my favorite uncle. In the moment, you don't contemplate that this is the last October you'll watch zombie movies with someone you consider one of the closest people in your life. But even still, my other uncle (his brother), who wasn't often over with us during "movie watching nights", just happened to be over when we were both watching Day of the Dead. I'll never forget it. Let's just say he wasn't accustomed to seeing the graphic violence and hearing the language so prevalent in this film! It was quite an experience. He was rather docile really. One uncle would die of kidney cancer that eventually spread to his brain while the other died of Alzheimer's. They're gone, but I can listen to Harrison's score (this guy is seriously underrated!) for Day of the Dead and that evening of zombies, guts, shouting, hopelessness, and rage with them comes right back all vivid and alive in the mind. I just wish I could have that night one more time...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Monster on the Campus



A professor at a college university suffers a peculiar bite from a prehistoric fish that arrives at his laboratory from Madagascar. The wound, accidentally soaked in "radioactive" water doesn't help matters. What this bite does (and blood that drips in his favorite smoke pipe) is change the professor into a beast man, causing a physical and mental return to what man once was when the prehistoric fish was alive instead of a fossil. Turning the professor into a homicidal monster, with deathly consequences, what will he do to stop it? Will he be able to prove it to the police and his scholarly colleagues?

**½


Monday, August 8, 2016

I once again had my annual summer watch of Shock Waves (1977) with the kids. It was the third year watching it with them, but their distracting bickering and horseplay (just being kids) disappointed me. Previous years they seemed totally into it. Just the same the sunlight gleaming off the water would seem (well it does) alluring if death wasn't a present force that will envelope charter boat vacationers on the wrong island. Watching it on a Monday evening after work didn't quite feel like the right time. I've watched it in the wee hours around three in the morning and late afternoon Saturdays as the hot sun is setting, with both seemingly fitting. Next year I'll need to do that if able to.

There was a post on the Shock Waves IMDb movie message board where I think I describe my reasons for why others are totally bewitched by the film, compelled to watch it all the time:

I think it's a mix of things: the hopelessness, degraded resort, creepy zombies, the silence when the zombies seize upon them, the look of the film due to the stock used in the camera, the island setting, the presence of icons in such unique if limited parts, the eerie sunlight as it hits the water, the way the zombies emerge from all over, the bone chilling score, and the inability for the characters to save themselves through fault of their own. The 70s was ripe with these kinds of cult gems. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cult of the Cobra



Excited about seeing a snake cult, Air Force soldiers have a curse visited upon them when their presence at the ceremony is exposed. Will the cult's "snake woman" unleash her venomous bite on them all?

 **½


Dr. Cyclops



In the Amazon, a mad scientist shrinks a group who came to his camp at his request to corroborate his findings. Their interest in his work--and perhaps the mineral that assists heavily in the success of his work--puts them in harm's way and this mad scientist doesn't want to share.

***

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2012 was certainly this blog's finest year. I was rejuvenated during this year after some fits and starts. I have certainly wrote quite a bit since then, but I think 2012 was when the blog was in its prime. I often think this blog has staled into mediocrity. Too much writing can do that. There was a newness to the blog back then. Why all this? Well, I was watching Final Exam (1981) Wednesday night, and I realized that the blog is coming up on its seventh anniversary. I was reading my review for Final Exam (review here: Click if you so desire), really getting a good sense of how high my spirits were at the time. I think we all can recall when writing about something we love was at its apex. You feel like the work is coming hot off the press clear and clean, purified by the thought processes vigor. I don't think I'm suffering burn out, necessarily, but I do wonder if maybe some time off would do the blog some good. The blog has its peaks and valleys. More valleys, these days, than peaks. 2012 was Mount Everest. I don't think the blog will quite reach those heights again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Out of the Dark




Another grisly crime rocks the City of Angels

Sweet Nothings is a sex hotline company that operates in a LA building and a particular psycho in a clown mask decides that talking with the ladies on the other end of the line isn’t enough…he needs to kill them as well! Here’s a plus: Karen Black is the brains behind the operation! She signs up the girls and makes sure they have the vocal chops to get callers aroused through “performance”. A fashion photographer who is a boyfriend to one of the hotline girls also shoots head shots and glamour pictorials for her co-workers.

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Twilight Zone- 80s Revival: The Beacon





The 60s classic sci-fi series was revived twice, once in the mid 80s and later in 2002-2003. While I can briefly recall a memory of the show’s return to television and my excited knowledge of it, it wasn’t until 2009 (I had assumed it was earlier, but just the same…), when it debuted on Chiller, that I could truly get an idea of how it compares to my favorite television show of all time. I will also be watching the 02-03 revival for the first time.





“You must atone. No one must escape…the beacon.”

Charles Martin Smith just runs into a shit load of bad luck in this effective episode of the the 80s Twilight Zone. This episode has Smith starring as a doctor whose car breaks down near a fenced off road telling anyone who nears to keep out. But with nowhere to go, Smith needs help repairing his car, and the next town is like 50 miles away. He encounters Martin Landau, who stars as a rather seemingly harmless (but rather stand-offish and secretive) shop owner in a coastal town overlooking the ocean, containing a peculiar lighthouse with a particular beacon that shines its light for a certain purpose. Smith needs a place to bed for the night and Landau indicates he might can get the car up and running in the morning. A kid Giovanni Ribisi has a sister that is ill and the lighthouse beacon posits its beam right on their house. This is the house Smith is staying in, and the mother accepts that her daughter is to be sacrificed for the beacon...this bewilders Smith. When Ribisi summons Smith's sympathy for his sister, a cure for her respiratory infection defies the beacon's next choice and there are repercussions. 

I think this is one of the revival's finest half hours. It appears in the first season's hour long format with another episode titled, "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty". Smith is an outsider who happens upon a town with an old history and kooky way of life, with an idol worship whose evil will envelope him. He's basically in the wrong place at the wrong time. His only crime is helping a sick girl. In doing so, Landau is pissed as our his fellow villagers. Their way for 200 years, since their ancestor, lighthouse keeper, Seth, died (well, he sort of died) was to offer a human sacrifice--chosen by the beacon's light--as a compensation for being kept happy, given proper guidance, and fully functioning in their own community. Smith questions this, addressing Landau and the villagers at the door of the lighthouse about whether it was the spirit of Seth or their own sustainability. 

The village is cut off from the outside world--normal society--and doesn't welcome anyone into their community. Smith is given a rather cold reception from Landau who grudgingly allows him in his shop. After it is over, I think the viewer can go over how this could have resulted far better for poor Smith had he not been so forthcoming about his willingness to help the girl. How could he have planned for what happens to him?

Landau, when on his game, can be so damn good. At the end, he turns from a calm and docile storyteller--leader and vocal orator for his community--into an advocate of murder, declaring that the beacon must have its sacrifice in order to continue to bless their village. He's fucking creepy when lighting his pipe and watching as the townsfolk descend upon a frightened Smith who has no one to help him. Smith was a memorable 80s presence, especially in "The Untouchables", "Starman", and "Never Cry Wolf". Here, he's typical Mr. Friendly. There's nothing at all offered from his character that warrants his resulting fate. It is horrible that a good deed goes punished.

Twilight Zone did that from time to time. The bad guys suffer but so do the good. When a reader working in a bank finally is allowed to have his time with his books, his glasses accidentally break. A nobody always bullied is given alien powers producing strength that allow him to defend himself until the aliens decide he doesn't need them anymore, resulting in him being mistreated again. Smith follows the mold. He arrives in a place that doesn't want him. He only agrees to help a sick girl when her little brother begs him. He mistakenly interferes (unbeknownst to him) with a supposed supernatural ritual demanding life in exchange for producing the good life for its people. In other words, classic Twilight Zone. 









And just remember: “May the Beacon pass you by.”

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