Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Last Exorcism Part II

I had planned to just write an imdb review for this (I will just truncate this into something manageable), because it really isn't very good (in fact, it's pretty awful), but for whatever reason my review just kept going on and on. This is basic rambling about the movie.

 *



“I saw your devil and he’s planning something…for you.”

This is one damned frustrating, oddball film. It really shouldn’t have ever been made. A regular film based after a found footage film. The Order of the Right Hand Path is her only hope, the girl, now flowering into a woman, has little support that is functional enough to rescue her from “him”. Abalom, the demon that possessed and controlled her during the found footage The Last Exorcism, has been temporarily (I guess; but the film questions whether he ever has really left) disposed of from her. He loves, cherishes, and adores Nell and wants to have her mind, body, and soul all to himself. This demon is too powerful to put an end to without multiple people commanding its departing of Nell. 
 
The rest of the film has crazy shit happening to and around Nell. The pace is rather glacial, and the demonic stuff is all over the map regarding its potency. Nell has lost it all, seemingly the only survivor of a bonfire sacrificial Satanic ritual that was combated by the found footage preacher (who found his faith after being challenged when he seemed to accept that God, spirituality, and the Holy Ghost power were real). 

She is taken to a halfway house for “abandoned girls” and tries to maintain a maid job at a hotel while finding teenage love with a troubled young man around her age named Chris. The girls at the house seem to become more aware of her past and become antagonistic (as teen girls sometimes do), and Abalom increasingly awakens around her, using whatever (or whoever) it/he can to draw her into his/its grips. This does have a provocative nature to it thanks to Abalom’s sexual interest in Nell (one scene of levitation seems to indicate that Abalom fucks Nell while she sleeps!), beyond just the demon’s love for her. The ending is rather underwhelming as the order that is supposed to cleanse Nell of her demon is basically three amateurs who seem to have read up on exorcisms on the internet yet besides the basics don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Abalom proves too much for the trio and offers to bond with Nell if she will just accept the demon (the trio decides to poison her with a morphine overdose in a bag of holy water that seemed to have as much power as tap water from a sewer).
 
The PG-13 liability curses the film into subjection so it can’t go very far (there seems to be a desire to, but those involved in this film cater to the rating system hoping to make a profit instead to a wider audience but the film is a failure thanks to it), and perhaps this film could have been better accepted had it went balls to the wall. Instead you have a bunch of people around Nell acting peculiar or trying to figure her out, as she deals with some nutjob in a church telling her to give in (who is this guy? A preacher actually belonging to Abalom? He just appears and starts acting weird towards her), a couple of people having seizures (a girl who seems to go through a bone crackling possession, another Nawlins tourist on the street trying to get a picture with the “Youtube possession freak”), flies appearing on occasion, hallucinations of her pops, a particular roommate who seems to be a harbinger of doom, a phone call that toys with Nell’s emotions (claiming to be Chris but is actually Abalom), a hotel wall “reacting” to Nells’ face up against as she listens to a couple having sex in the next room (!), and sleep seductions. 

The gist of the film seems to be that Nell has never fully been relinquished of the hold by Abalom. Nell tries, she really does, to live a normal life, but Abalom has plans for her that could include their bonding causing the ‘end times’. The presentation is a sloppy mess, and the budget just isn’t strong enough to tell a really gutpunch supernatural story regarding an innocent caught in the trap of evil, not able to free herself, and there just isn’t a religious support system needed to help her. That’s about as good as I can do to describe it. The film’s pace, lethargic and lacking in truly telling the story about Nell’s inability to overcome Abalom, doesn’t help matters. I guess we shouldn’t have expected the sequel to rock the house, but why not just try to tell a story that embraces the viewer? Because Nell is just so creepy I think she distances herself from those watching her plight. 

Ashley Bell in this film just exudes freakshow…I guess that can work in its favor as an unintentional comedy. But I just couldn’t take the film seriously. It wasn’t even close to Linda Blair’s possession in The Exorcist, which is the vibe I got that the filmmakers wanted us to sympathize similarly to Bell’s Nell. The film also seems to promise a lot more to horror fans than it provides. Not a lot of body contorting or physical demonic nastiness, either. Even the coming of the end at the finale of the film leaves much to be desired.

The Legend of Hell House

One of the best (if not the best) viewing experiences of last October (2014 will go down as one of my most disappointing years of the 2000s regarding Halloween month viewing) was the Legend of Hell House from 1973. In terms of the overall mood, the use of psychic ability and science clashing to discover what thrives within it and “erase it” from the residence, the tortured faces of the small group gathered together to uncover its corruption and cleanse it, the effects and toll on the group, the atmospheric spook show that derives from the way the location is presented (the photography and shrouding fog give the residence a sinister appearance I found pleasing to the eye and thrilling as a horror fan who desires the aesthetics of a haunted location) and what evil lies within its walls, its rooms, its halls, and structure, and the actors congregated for this motion picture, The Legend of Hell House was quite a rewarding late night viewing for me personally during a Turner Classics Haunted House night (I had just watched The Uninvited from 1944 prior to this). I have the dvd, purchasing it some years ago for maybe five dollars. I had watched it once not long after buying it, but that was perhaps ten years back. So I was game for another viewing. Thinking about it, I believe I had only watched it once before this dvd viewing. So the film had a fresh and enlighteningly compelling grip on me. I don’t know what it is about Pamela Franklin but this, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and a personal favorite of mine that I wish earned her more credit, And Soon the Darkness, have been reasons I can’t help but remain enamored by her. She has this allure, some sexual power I find in her characters. She is “pure” to a point, her character of Florence Tanner, and her fate has always left me rattled. It is a sacrifice McDowell’s “physical medium” capitalizes on towards the end.


As good as this film is, I still wonder why director John Hough didn't become a director of renown. It is hard to believe the same man that directed this was behind the helm for The Howling IV.



Friday, January 30, 2015

Baron Blood


Nothing against Joseph Cotten, but I can't help but wonder how much more aware horror fans would be of Mario Bava's Baron Blood (1972) had Vincent Price been able to fulfill the role of the titular villain. Bava and Price on the cover of the movie poster sure is quite a seller. I guess the film might be considered too old fashioned for the 70s and Bava's output suffered as attentions in Italy seemed to turn towards gialli which were modern day focused, with special attention devoted to urban/suburban elite classes and the fashion industry (a genre Bava helped to give birth to). Still as latter day Bava, the film does infuse the "modern opposite historical" clashing as the Baron, resurrected by a specific parchment containing a witch's incantation cursing him to revival brought to his old castle (about to be turned into a tourist attraction/bed'n'breakfast) by an ancestor, Peter (Antonio Cantafora). The past and present converge and the Baron still has that itch to cause human suffering and punishment, and those (including Peter, seen above) in his way would be of significant interest in his use of the ole torture devices still existing in his castle.



Probably my personal favorite scene has a victim of the Baron's (Italian horror mainstay Luciano Pigozzi), named Fritz, rising from a spiked casket (similar to an Iron Maiden) after a certain medallion is dropped by accident from the hands of constantly-frightened Elke Sommer onto his dead body. There's an immediate reaction of pain to Cotten's Baron once this happens, and his victims (walking zombies) return from the dead (mindless and following the witch's curse that his victims would be his destroyer) emerge to torture and vanquish him. It does get rather silly, I have to admit, but I loved the way Bava stages Pigozzi's uprising. I was not a fan of Sommer's hysterics. I think Sommer is a very nice looking woman, but I wasn't a fan of her acting. She just transforms into a rattled bag of nerves barely able to walk, while Cantafora's Peter Kleist, suffering worse punishment than her, seems capable of carrying her out of the castle.

Spare Parts: The Tripper


A lot of times I have a number of images I just can't use for a full length review. After a while it just goes on so long that I feel it tends to get a little absurd. Still I wanted to do something with some of the images I have extracted from the film and thought they were neat enough to give a blog post to.


Will she listen to Franco who is warning her to stay away from Soledad Miranda? Of course not....they never do.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Tripper


***

I remember the talk of David Arquette directing a horror film a few years ago, and it was on the tongues of horror fans. Slasher movies, once all the rage in the 80s, resurging in the 90s/early 2000s, have fallen prey to stagnation. For those who hate them, this is welcome, but I’m a fan of the genre so it has been kind of a bummer for me, truthfully. But, really, there isn’t a lot left in the tank it appears. The zombie and reality horror genres have flourished, however, and so if I can find a gem every now and then (or at least something entertaining) it is cool.  It is hard to believe, to me, that this was made eleven years ago! I would love to read top ten slasher movie lists just to see if a person can put together one for the 2000s, especially the 2010s. The Tripper (2006) brings together the 60s and 2000s, with broad swipes regarding “tree hugging”, “free love”, “hippies”, obsessive love, redneck disgust with outsiders, and political angst between the right and left of the spectrum.

I’m not about to proclaim The Tripper as something great or substantially extraordinary. I love the cast, though, and Arquette’s in-your-face stylistics provides an exuberant energy (I think you can sense the director was excited about directing a film and the free reign it allowed to cover topics within the over-the-top confines of the slasher film).

Kids doping it up in a van as they head to a “free love festival” in rural Cali. Of course, George Bush is commented on as a shitty president who sucks corporate dick by sending armed forces into Iraq and how he hates black people. You have a naked couple walking about (buck naked both a dude and his girl). You get old folks either warning the kids of not walking into weed traps or pissed at them for their pro-tree philosophy. The local hicks hate the hippies, with Lucas Haas getting a bottle busted over his noggin, with girlfriend Jaime King having to stitch it up. Arquette cast himself as one of the harassing hicks who is about to assault King when an old weirdo at the service station pushes him down, resulting in the joker receiving a protruding bone sticking out if his arm (a big owwie). Jason Mewes has a part as one of the drugged kids fully committed to wasting himself into a stupor. He spends a great deal (if not all) stoned. Of course, besides the threat of the hicks, the hippies are unaware than some wacko in a Reagan mask with an ax has it out for them.



I was really thrilled with the casting of Thomas Jane as a sheriff grumblingly enduring the festival’s sexually liberated, drug-fuelled, carefree, life-loving trippers. One line has him confessing annoyingly to accusatory King (regarding a young man chasing a rabbit so he could pet it while nude from head to toe, before being dragged away to his doom), that he couldn’t waste his time chasing after guys who are “banging some other big-bushed granola-eating broad.” He was called a fascist pig for not taking the concerns of the missing guy’s girlfriend seriously. When he’s later found upside down hanging from a tree with his large intestine sticking out like an appendage Jane’s deputy asks him if he felt it was an accident! Of course Jane politely figures he couldn’t have done it to himself! Haha. Cooper, Jane's clueless deputy, wonders to him if it was possible that Bigfoot might have got to the dead guy once missing! Not unless he likes jellybeans (as Jane found one in the guy's hair).





An incident at the beginning has this kid watching environmentalists refuse to budge so his lumberjack father could cut trees down and help pay for his cancer-dying wife's medicine. Enraged by a treehugger's comment that the tree was worth more than the lumberjack's wife, the tree-cutter's son takes a chainsaw to him! Decades later, the father is now an embittered old man full of hate towards those "damn hippies who consider a tree worth more than a human life".



I thought it was a rather decent set up. Hell, slashers have done a rather shitty job in the past of setting up just why psychos pick up the chainsaw or chopping ax with something raging inside motivating them, so at least The Tripper provides something unique in that a son would stand up for his paw if he felt others were purposely trying to hurt him. That his mother died and father endured hardships due to the tree-loving activists does seem like an adequate motivation (if you are unable to corral your anger in a way less violent and life-threatening) to spurn his wrath...particularly when there's a congregation gathering in celebration that remind him of those who "robbed" him of happiness. That he took the persona and "face" of Reagan does give the film a visual sight gag, not to mention, a peculiar "identity" to the killer. Jason has his hockey mask and Michael has his Shatner mask, so why not a Reagan mask?



There's PLENTY of fun political jabs at Reagan. The old "loonies escape/released from the asylum to butcher" slasher trope is spun by Arquette using Reagan's budget cuts as California governor as a reason why the murderer of this film is set free to slay. When the killer is about to execute Balthazar Getty (playing King's explosive-tempered former boyfriend), he is befuddled because "he's a Republican". The anti-war standing (excerpts of the bodies killed and tossed to the side in Vietnam), George Bush jabs galore, cameo by Courtney Cox as an animal lover who defends the killer's man-eating dogs from police fire before being attacked herself (!), defiant tree-hugger taking a sawing by a chainsaw, a capitalist (played by Paul Reubens, absent Pee Wee Herman persona, wearing a fro, with Uncle Sam's costume) so consumed with the money in his cashbox he's willing to hide in the toilet of a crapper in order to hold on to the rewards, and enough colorful, hallucinogenic light shows (if you have a film called "The Tripper", there should be some trips, right?), nakedness, dopeheads, and party-hearty atmosphere loaded in this film, it hardly has time to stop long enough to get boring.


The conclusion is right out of the slasher handbook. No matter how many times you hit someone across the face with a hammer, it just can't inflict enough damage to keep the killer down! And King takes that hammer to him too. Over and over and over. Still if he doesn't survive, we don't get to see him split apart a scumbag with a chainsaw. So there's that.


Truth be told, in the end, The Tripper is still just a slasher movie. It is busy with "stuff" (mentioned above), and I guess hearing Reubens get "Fuck you" off his chest in a variety of ways towards everyone has its appeal, with enough blood and grue to perhaps satisfy you (the hand is cut off, with a stump spewing blood, a hunter is gutted, and a couple beheadings result from the wielding of the chopping ax) if not in the same queasy league as Savini's work. Still, I can't really say this is one of those slashers that finds its way atop the "Best Slashers of..." lists.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Take a Bite out of the Darkside

Cat's Eye (1985)




Let’s just be honest, many of the films from the 80s perhaps aren’t as good or substantial as we once felt as kids or teenagers. However, regardless of how less-than-remarkable they might be, there’s a value that rises above perhaps the quality in writing or special effects. For instance, I feel every time I watch Cat’s Eye (a movie anthology based on Stephen King works), it diminishes a little less and less in terms of its overall excellence as a horror omnibus to me. That will never change what it means to me as a film of special stature due to its relevance in nostalgia and presence over and over in my childhood. I think why the film has diminished with each viewing rests almost solely on the final story. The little creature about the size of a fist wanting to harm a little girl (Drew Barrymore; her iconic image as a child has continued to give films in the 80s memorable posters and will provide future memes to further draw audiences to Firestarter, ET, and Cat’s Eye) while a cat comes to her rescue. I liked the idea of this sinister independent corporation that “insists” you quit smoking “or else” (as James Woods soon learns) and a wager which forces a young man (Robert Hayes; Airplane (1980)), who had been sleeping with a nasty fat cat’s wife (wanting to leave the city with her), to ever-so-delicately move across the narrow ledge of a high rise as he is harassed and tormented by his nemesis (and pigeons). These two stories were a lot of fun to read and don’t stray too much in the film. The third tale is so different in tone and transplants the film to suburbia after the first two were quite urban flavored, with a supernatural bent that just felt jarring and clashed with how grounded in reality (a scary reality where men are willing to use violence to see that their results are successful) Cat’s Eye (1985) had been up until that point. Still, it is every bit the lazy Saturday afternoon 80s movie I find myself on occasion watching and never tiring of. That’s nostalgia for you.




Sunday, January 25, 2015

Clay Pigeons


Looking back at the late nineties with fondness, it is cool to watch little movies that feature actors who were the next crop of stars to make their mark in the film industry for years to come. To think that the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn co-starring in this rural psycho-thriller with black humor are big stars today is no surprise. But I particularly find this young portion of Vaughn's career fascinating. Now he's one of comedy's elite. Ben Stiller, Vaughn, and Owen Wilson have carved quite a career for themselves. However, I often like the lesser recognized stuff. For instance, I dig Wilson's little crime comedy, The Big Bounce, which isn't all that heralded. Certainly, 1998's Clay Pigeons isn't. This was the same year a great batch of late 90s actors were corralled into the universally despised Van Sant "reimagining" of Hitchcock's Psycho. Of that batch, Vince Vaughn plays another psychopath (who is far more confident and charismatic here than as Norman in Psycho) in Clay Pigeons. Phoenix, a young man with a bright future ahead of him, is sort of Vaughn's psychopath's patsy. His life due to an affair, a friend's suicide to that affair, and the befriending of a killer who kills the widow he was having that affair with all hurl Clay (Phoenix) into a turmoil. The ending might be a bit of a surprise. Phoenix doesn't exactly do as you might expect, and Vaughn might not wind up with a toe tag like his many victims, either.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Devonsville Terror (1983)

A witch curses the locals of Devonsville for burning her alive in The Devonsville Terror (1983)


So Susanna Love will probably be best remembered as the victim of an invisible rapist in a scene that enraged Siskel and Ebert in the 80s called The Boogeyman, one of the most well liked of Ulli Lommel’s mostly mediocre-to-bad career. I’m an absolute fan of The Boogeyman (this will definitely get the Darkside treatment one of these days), and The Devonsville Terror is often paired with it basically because of when they were released. While not a good-or-great film by any stretch, compared to the shit Lommel has made over the last decade, Devonsville is a masterpiece.

The Commonwealth of Devonsville, as the film opens, has sadists using the guise of spiritual sanctity just to fulfill their bloodlust, used God as a template to massacre liberal women considered witches or consorters with the “incubus”. So they could feed a victim to pigs and salivate (I laughed my ass off at the leader of this “purge”, as he licked his chops while she screams in agony as the pigs devour her!), bind another to a carriage wheel while holding a burning torch to her feet in a method of getting the poor girl to confess to worshiping the “deveel”. This has a bit of cheekiness to it as the torturer shows relish on his face as he makes an innocent suffer for something she is no part of. This is dated November, 1683. If you weren’t a woman devoted to a state of servitude and “purity” within the doctrine and watchful dictatorship of the Commonwealth (that means if you weren’t an independent woman, free-living and thinking), then the bastards came for you to satiate their thirst for shedding blood and torturing. One girl, the one tied to the wheel, is rolled down a hill, for Petesake! A final victim, burned alive while rope-tied to a tree is the real deal, and she curses the Inquisition as the lightening lights up the sky and moon.

Horror has certainly provided plenty of  witches or sorceresses declaring a curse on those who tormented/killed them films. Devonsville follows this. The inescapable scourge of a curse against all those that follow the bloodline of a certain group who decided to perform heinous acts towards the wrong one(s) is an old fashioned story that seems to be lasting even to today. The Devonsville Terror is a rather old fashioned film even after it arrives to 1983. Rural folk in a sleepy nothing town know that the curse is real; their unhappiness is visible, and the behavior of all in town evokes a heavy anvil pressing on their psyche and soul. I think Lommel sees rural America--particularly the dustbucket, bible belt, heartland, and if-you-blink-you'll-miss-it stops--and documents one such place, except this one has a witch's curse on it.


The film goes forward 300 years into present day 1983 as the anniversary of the Inquisition's purge is approaching. Susanna Love (Lommel's wife at the time, an "actress" figured highly in all the films she financed for him due to her heiress fortune) is a school teacher that arrives in Devonsville for a new job. The horny teenage males and young adult guys (and older uglies as well)  eyeball her. Paul Willson (the poor slob who just wanted to be part of the gang at Cheers) sees her naked. Yep, he's the owner/operator of a store. He "lost his wife" and would love to shack up with Love. So would all the guys in the film (including Robert Walker Jr. who has that face you would recognize due to his work in television in the 60s and 70s; he's the son of the actor who played the psychopath in Hitchcock's masterwork, Strangers on a Train). Walker is a decent character, at least. Pleasence sleepwalks like Willson through his role as a stoic doctor in the town who is a direct descendent of the chief executioner responsible for the witch's burning. Cursed with a flesh eating worm affliction (quite gross, as you might expect), Pleasence hopes like most of the town that their burdensome trial would be subsided. Pleasence's ancestor died of the worms and he feels he will suffer the same exact fate.

The ending shouldn't come as a surprise. Direct descendents of those who took out the women at the beginning choose unwisely to try the same torturous shenanigans with Love. This time, there's special effects Lommel can incorporate into his film like an exploding head right out of Scanners and a melting face right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. There's even an ax to the head as an abused wife gets retribution for years of a sorry excuse of a husband treating her like shit.

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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 ...