Friday, August 30, 2013

Lovely Molly





Molly has moved into her parents' house after becoming newly married. When alone as her husband is on the road, she experiences possible possession, hallucinations, or trauma from the past (perhaps all of the above.), and this all could be related to her dead father.
****½

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Collection



In the Hotel Argento, the Collector holds a new girl prisoner as a small group of  mercenaries, guided by the survivor from The Collector (2009), raid his joint, hoping to rescue her and kill the psychopath. These plans, however, don't work out so well.
****

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sweet! Loved the Argento homage in The Collection (2012)!

No One Lives



A psychopath (who is behind the kidnapping of an heiress and the slaughter of her college friends) dukes it out with a group of thieves who love to burgle wealthy houses, responsible for an opening massacre of a rich family returning from vacation. The battleground is a rural location near a scuzzy, run-of-the-mill motel and the surrounding area nearby (including a junkyard). It isn't much of a competition, however, and the results are relatively one-sided despite a "strength in numbers."
**

American Mary

In medical school studying to be a surgeon (and already possessing skills useful in the profession she so desires), Mary Mason is immediately put to the test when she encounters a deal she can't resist...perform a special surgery on someone associated with a stripclub owner (who is obviously into other criminal activities not quite elaborated in specific detail) for $5000. Paying the rent and getting creditors off her back, it helps, but soon a drug-induced rape from a deviant professor warps Mary into a gradually-developed psychopath.
***

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Canyons




A love triangle forms between a trust fund stud, his squeeze (totally apathetic and not in love with him, but does enjoy the fruits of his family's fortune), and a wanna-be actor. Because of wealth and connections, the actor's life will fall into duress, and the squeeze (followed by her stud's stalking texter, keeping tabs on her activities) will be left with as little privacy as possible. It doesn't help her cause with all the lies she tells to her trust fund stud.
 **
The Canyons (2013)
I was actually pretty excited to learn of Paul Schrader's return to the director's chair, even if Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist did nothing much for me personally. The Canyons just sort of appeared in a commercial, and soon I "attained" a copy of it to watch. I am barely into the credits, and this moment pops up, stunning me with its visual power...a theater, once so active, I can only envision, now a bleak reminder that age hits and soon time conforms a significant place in people's lives into a relic.

Bait





After a quake rocks a city in Australia, a group of survivors, emerging from within a supermarket holding water, its structure battered badly, will have to fend off two sharks blood thirsty for human meat.
**½

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bait (2012)

You ever watch a movie, in this case a supposed "when sharks attack" movie, and wonder to yourself, "Am I watching a shark movie? What is this?" Yeah, kind of feeling that...

Bait (2012)
Surf's up.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Final Slumber Party



To close the Scarecrow Slasher Summer 2013, I chose a double feature of the Slumber Party Massacre movies as the final two to make it to the line-up this year. It has been fun, but the change in approach allowed me to prolong the series of slasher films over a longer period and not burn myself out. 2012 had me watching a large amount of slasher films in a short period of time and while it was a lot of fun to revisit all of them, I think the 2013 approach made for a bit of a more relaxing, less "get it all in before summer end" race, which got a bit exhausting. One could easily say, though, that the line-up last year was far superior to this years. I couldn't argue with that, to be honest. But 2013 wasn't a total loss, either. Gosh, summer went by in a flash, didn't it? I plan to form a page for all the films that made the line-up this year after I finish the Slumber Party blog post.

Slumber Party Massacre: ****
Slumber Party Massacre II: ***

Friday, August 9, 2013

Extremities





This was, at first, designed as a user review for my imdb account, but the writing just kept coming and wouldn't stop.
 
A rapist in a ski mask (James Russo, in a performance that will make your skin crawl) is waiting on Marjorie (Farah Fawcett) as she leaves her job from a museum inside the back seat of her car. He surprises her, a knife to the throat, and demands Marjorie drive to a secluded parking garage with plans to rape and murder her. She frees herself, but the local authorities can do nothing. Losing her wallet to this rat bastard, Marjorie fears he will strike again real soon, particularly since she was “the one who got away”. Sure enough, “Joe” arrives…with demands. 

For her to dress in a negligee, to invite him in her bedroom, to cook him some food, to talk nice to him, allow him to touch and suckle a breast: it is all about his need to control and humiliate her. Earlier, we see him going through her wallet as his child tells him mommy says that dinner is ready. This little detail lets us know that while the creep that is Joe masquerades as a family man, he’s really a vicious, sick, psychopathic monster in need of a lesson in manners and behavior. Fawcett, after enduring about twenty minutes of horrible mistreatment (credit to the actress for suffering emotional and physical hardships that demand a lot from her) from a rotten scuzzball, eventually gains the upper hand thanks to some insecticide. Becoming incapacitated, thanks to poisoned eyes and through digestion from the insecticide, Joe never counted on such a fight, especially when Marjorie smashes a lamp over his head and ties a cord around his arms and neck. She will determine if he lives or dies, with her two roommates (Alfre Woodard and Diana Scarwid) arriving home to offer their two cents.

So, the film comments on the injustices of the law when it comes “her word against his”, female empowerment (tell me, there wasn’t applause when Fawcett struck back and persevered her ruthless attacker…) after punishment and ridicule from a brute who sneaks around to terrorize women for kicks, and “taking law into one’s own hands” (what does someone do when it appears that the law will not be able to stop a human beast threatening to kill her when released?). Joe tries to manipulate the other women against Marjorie so he can be freed from a temporary “prison” (a fireplace with a grating holding him at bay) and get away (or kill them if given a chance). Joe knows details because he is a stalker, spying into lives for his own pleasure and amusement. When Fawcett starts to dig a grave, Scarwid and Woodard try to convince her to call the police. When they start to belittle each other, fall prey to shouting matches, Fawcett wants a confession, plain and simple. But Joe is all about manipulation, so he tries to win “social worker” Woodard to his cause (he’s dying of the ingested poison and needs medicine). Scarwid spends most of her time freaked out and panicky. Marjorie is always one step away from crushing Joe’s skull with a hammer. When Joe nearly suffocated her with a pillow, that desire to use a hammer on his ass seems justified. 


There’s a GREAT scene where Marjorie finds the knife hidden on Joe’s person, forcing him to “say it”, mocking a similar situation she was put through by him. Powerhouse performance from Fawcett is a huge asset to the film and Russo is so loathsome that his comeuppance is ultimately a moment of sheer nirvana. Using “Tony” as a weapon to place a wedge between Fawcett and Scarwid is one of many tactics Joe attempts to use in his favor (as does he try to appeal to Woodard’s charitable, sympathetic personality by exploiting the poison ingestion ). Wallowing on the floor, finally admitting his guilt, even offering up three murdered victims in a confession, Marjorie justified, Joe is properly put in his place.



There was a final “bow”, so to speak, for Farah as she turns on the lamp, slides into a seated position, letting out a satisfied sigh of relief, perched up against the fireplace as a fetus-positioned Russo lies weeping and in pain. I thought about Farah in this moment. Sure, she’s a sex symbol. God, like a lot of people, I’m just always admiring that iconic poster in the 70s of her. But, she’s a hell of an actress. Sorry, she was. I’ve seen some of her television movies. I haven’t seen The Burning Bed (1984) in ages, but this was her  “I’ve arrived” moment which told the country (world) she’s the real deal. To me, Extremities (1986) is an accompaniment with The Burning Bed, and proved further she’s got some chops and a willingness to suffer for those characters. How grueling Marjorie must have been, and to suffer in that part on stage and film for this character is worthy of applause to me. 

There was a technique the director used where he places a lot of emphasis on first person shots were his actors look right at the camera. It is rather unnerving to have to look right into Russo's face as he torments Fawcett. That and the shots of Fawcett's torment, too, is rather hard to hold on her face and not look away. Wiping away her teary face, attempting to keep her composure, and all the while Russo is antagonistically demonstrating his will over her...that is until she tips the scales in her favor.


I had mentioned that Farah remained on my mind after finishing Extremities, and, in particular, I felt a sense of sadness  inside looking back at the day she died, how her death was enveloped by the media fascination with the train wreck that was Michael Jackson. Karen Black had lost her battle with cancer today and Farah’s losing fight with it left me thinking about how film can durably retain that greatness that existed within them, produced from them, and attaches itself to others who watch them at their finest moments. For me, Farah has several in Extremities.  1996 was the first time I ever come across the film on HBO when I had my first apartment. This was the first time I watched it since then. 17 years…yowzers! That performance hasn’t lost its savor. I won’t watch this film again maybe for another 17 years because Russo’s such a slime, and seeing Farah going through all of his cruelties wasn’t easy. Her work, however, made it worthwhile.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

The loss of Karen Black certainly reminded me that the horror genre and film in general has lost yet another gem of a performer. But we are fortunate. She left behind some great performances in her time. She's the only one I liked (no, loved) in Five Easy Pieces. Nashville was a film of certain renown that gave her the clout a Children of the Corn 4 simply doesn't. But we have Trilogy of Terror, even if it isn't held as an iconic film in the same sentence as Easy Rider. It gave her a platform to work her absolute magic. I don't care that if detractors bring up the less stellar examples of a prolific career that had its share of stinkers and less-than-extraordinary fare, but it really takes just one film to remain a vital name, performances written on celluloid and stamped into the mind. In later years her characters had a tendency to be oddballs and more than a little eccentric. I loved them just the same. Like Children of the Night, a little known vampire tale that has yet to find its proper audience (too bad it remains obscure; she's a hoot in it, and it was a chance for her to "vamp") or the high-energy television producer in Cut and Run (she has little time on screen but I just remember saying, "Hey, Karen Black's in this?!?!") With horror fans like myself, we don't forget you. You provide and we appreciate. We're often tough to impress. We're a tough crowd. I recall Burnt Offerings, and how she continues, as the film continues, to grow more and more strange...she showed this emotional change, and the payoff is a full bore symbol of pure evil. The "crazy ole bat" roles were there, but in Some Guy Who Kills People she emerges with a dandy of a role as this rather cranky, cynical, tough mother trying to whip her son into shape. I appreciate the fact that as her career was coming to an unfortunate end, she had that role on the way out. But it's Trilogy of Terror that I think will stand the test of time. Nashville, Five Easy Pieces, and Easy Rider were blessed to have her in supporting parts, but in ToT, it was all Ms. Black. It remains such an enjoyable treat, and she gets to play three (some consider four) roles of differing temperament, personalities, and styles. It is such a tour-de-force that I treasure. It is quite a legacy to leave behind so few of us are fortunate to have. A gift unwrapped every time you stick in Trilogy of Terror. RIP, Ms. Black and thanks.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mountaintop Motel Massacre





Motorists stop off to stay at a lodging in some backwoods remote area, not knowing that the owner was just recently released from an asylum (and responsible for killing her own daughter). Will they suffer the same fate as her daughter?
***

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hollywood After Dark (1968)



Strangely (or maybe not), I was thinking about Peg Entwistle’s suicidal leap from the Hollywood sign in 1932 as I was watching Hollywood After Dark (1968), part of a double feature of Rue McClanahan films by Something Weird Video. This isn’t a good film in the slightest but those involved in its making do try to take a sincere stab at commenting on the boulevard of broken dreams that exists in The City of Angels, where success isn’t as easy to come by as failure. You wind up shaking the moneymaker (or star in no-budget turkeys like Hollywood After Dark) in some sleazy rundown strip club, the epitome of desperate times call for desperate measures. I have to say, though, that Rue honest to God tries in this tedious, extremely talky melodrama; it looks like it cost about a buck-forty in production costs (in other words, locations owned by people the director/writer John Hayes knows). “Alan Smithee” first emerged around 1968 from what I gather, but I think Hayes made the film years prior to its release date; he might  could have used it in the case of this film. Anyhoo, this film features Rue as a down-on-her-luck actress stuck in a strip club hoping to eventually get that one great read at the right time to secure the part of her dreams. However, such a lofty goal seems always out of reach, as she eventually latches onto a poor fella who runs a junkyard. His name is Tony (the morose, often sulking, most-of-the-time-miserable Tony Vorno), and Rue’s Sandy works at a club whose owner enlists Tony in a robbery scheme. This is the kind of film that stages both strip numbers and a heist with as little excitement as possible.



I’ve read that this was a film Rue (not surprisingly) didn’t acknowledge, and obviously her doing the butt-jiggle probably had something to do with that. It is one of those humiliating lowlights of a career that would improve in a few decades. The strip dance was perhaps not even as embarrassing as a Hollywood screenwriter (a real sleaze) fondling her legs after getting her drunk. This was supposed to be her big chance at attaining an acting gig, but it was your basic “casting couch” that produced only Tony’s beating the shit out of the writer in a fight that winds up being a real bore (nothing in the film seems to work, not even a good neighborhood fisticuffs grows out of what is a volatile turn of events.).

 He may not be amused....


 ...but this guy is.


The worst kind of jazz plays as backdrop to the most boring heist in cinematic history (perhaps not, but good grief is this heist dull!). No sound, just bad jazz and a heist that couldn’t be less exciting. There’s just no energy. Everyone (rightfully so, I guess) is slumming through this.






This was the period of the aching young man, and I imagine every actor was giving his best James Dean and Marlon Brando. Vorno gives it his best shot, here, with a character stumbling around in the listless wasteland of the mundane. The potential for securing some "easy money", getting out of Hollywood, and finding "an island" to spend has too much allure for Vorno to withstand. He wants to go away with Rue, but she isn't keen on joining him with money stolen, instead confirming his suspicions that she will once again head back on stage to perform for ten leering males ogling her wiggling ass. 





Vorno is to share the money with two men who came to him with the job, but one of them is a bit greedy, killing his accomplice. We see the killer dumping his accomplice in a boat prior to Vorno's arrival. It never usually ends well after a successful heist, does it?



Vorno gets his "I'm cold. So cold..." moment in the film. And Rue has that "gasp" and "sigh" that accompanies the potential for a happy ending squandered. Vorno also has plenty of moments where he agonizes (to the best of limited capabilities) about decisions made. Rue doesn't have to do much because her character's dilemma speaks itself.






That said, as I have mentioned previously about the likes of Ray Dennis Steckler, that I’m glad little Z-grade curiosities like Hollywood After Dark (1968) exist. It proves that anyone can make a movie. Plus, these kinds of junk movies are a lens on an era of time now 45 years removed. With the studio system falling to its knees, these films were allowed to be made and circulated. Something Weird Video is our vehicle to travel back to that time. This company never met a film they wouldn’t like to distribute to the cult masses.



We are kidding ourselves if there’s any reason to believe this film would matter at all if it weren’t for Rue’s involvement. There’s just something about seeing an actress pre-stardom in a disastrous part that she hopes remains buried six feet under in obscurity. With a company like Something Weird Video (or jokesters like Rifftrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000), that wasn’t likely to happen. She’s long gone now and here it is, Hollywood After Dark, a turd from yesteryear ready to stink up the nostrils for all bad movie lovers everywhere.



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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...