Sunday, July 31, 2016

Twilight Zone- 80s Revival: The Toys of Caliban






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.


Tragic, heart-wrenching episode of the 80s revival of Serling’s Twilight Zone has the great Richard Mulligan (Empty Nest) offering a sympathetic agonized father of a special-needs kid dealing with a child-like mind, equipped with the power to summon objects using brain power. If the kid looks at a book with images, all he has to do is mentally yearn for them and they appear! 

Mulligan’s weary and tired wife, played by Anne Haney (many of us 80s/90s kids know her quite well; my own most memorable part of hers came in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Survivors”), succumbs to a heart attack when she enters his room and finds the boy playing with bloody organs from a magazine he demanded from memory (he remembered it from a hospital stay)! 

Alexandra Borrie would appear to be a nuisance and threat to the familial regularities of the Ross trio, but she just has the kid’s own welfare and best interest at heart. Ultimately—and this is why the episode’s story is so grueling and seemingly hopeless—the kid’s “curse” is the undoing of them all. The kid (played by David Greenlee; “Fame” & “Beauty and the Beast”) isn’t to blame for the use of the power he’s “inherited”, but this proves to be what truly has rented the family in two. Alexandra’s family services counselor is unable to rescue any of them from the inevitable. 

Truly depressing conclusion and overall the execution of the episode is just heartbreaking. Mulligan’s heavy burden is so realistic and understandable. Any parents of special-needs kids (in this episode, Toby is considered “retarded”, but he’s more or less simple-minded and a mentally/behaviorally a child) can relate to the dilemma of the parents, but I don’t think that is necessarily the burden as much as his supernatural ability and what it could bring to him. 

Specially emphasized is Mulligan’s fear that his son would be a government experiment, while Alexandra sees the situation as he’s imprisoned in his own home when he should be allowed to have friendships with other children and attend a type of school. It’s presented as no-win, with the result a desperate act of a father to keep his son from what he believes is detrimental. Not exactly a fun time to be had but comments on the effects of what a family might endure if parents to a child with special abilities.

Probably, besides the bloody organ scene that results in a coronary, the most troubling scene involves Toby's request for his mother, with her dead body returning to where she once sat! Another scene has Mulligan talking about the dead animals he has had to bury in the back yard because Toby summoned them from television (before the parents had to get rid of it).





 **½ 


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Twilight Zone- 80s Revival: If She Dies...








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.


“If she dies…” is part of a double-story episode first season (along with “Ye Gods”), fifth overall. I’m a fan of Tony Lo Bianco from the wonderfully odd Larry Cohen film, God Told Me To. 

Here he’s a widower facing the horrible possible inevitable loss of his daughter after a kid doing a wheelie on his bike in the middle of a street causes Tony to swerve into a parked car in a neighborhood on the way to work/school. While she lies at the point of death, comatose, Tony’s girl (Andrea Barber, the annoying pal to Candace Cameron on Full House) could go at any moment as her doctor at the hospital seems accepting of the loss. Tony is urged to get some rest (rocking the night shade gruffy chin, he does look like he’s had little sleep and a lot of worry), and as he walks to his car notices a red-headed girl in a gown at the roof of a Catholic orphanage being emptied of staff for another location. The head nun at the orphanage (Nan Martin; she might be best remembered by horror fans as the ghost of Freddy’s mom, disguised as a nun and often visiting Craig Wasson in A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors) is trying to sell off items as they coordinate their exit. She is startled by Tony’s knowledge of a girl named Sarah (Jenny Lewis) and her teddy bear, Toby. Sarah had visited Tony after he purchases her old bed (he didn’t realize when she was pointing towards it that it was hers), with him even tucking her in. For whatever reason, he feels that if she is reunited with Toby it will help his own situation. He even goes as far as to confiscate his sleeping daughter from the hospital as the nurses insist he don’t. Placing his daughter in the bed Sarah once slept while dying of tuberculosis many years ago, it seems to be a healing method…a miracle from God?

I think these kinds of stories are more in tune with Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories than what many of us Twilight Zone fans might consider—content wise—closer to the Rod Serling classic series. “If She Dies…” has the supernatural / spiritual angle to it, but without the ghost of Sarah included in the plot, very little of the story would seem creepy or thought-provoking. I think this was made with the family audience watching in mind. I think it has its audience, but those watching something like “To Serve Man” or “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” might not necessarily see “If She Dies…” in the same context. Tony’s good, though. He’s a sympathetic figure considering he lost his wife just prior to his daughter’s life endangerment. I think some will certainly consider this too sugary and sappy to be effective. It provides a pleasing conclusion for those uplifted by seeing children, withering away, resurrected by spiritual forces beyond medical practice and rescue.








The heart-warming, tickly sweets that come with this episode might be just too much for those wanting an episode with a kick in the pants.

**

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Normally around mid-to-late August, I start developing ideas for which movies I'll bundle together in October. Watching biographical docs on Manson and his victims, sadly a special on Sharon Tate inspired one of my first choices to open October this year: Fearless Vampire Hunters. I'm thinking about getting back into the old Dark Shadows soap, so I decided on perhaps House of Dark Shadows as a second film. In the past, as tradition, I watch Dracula's Daughter, but not this year. I'm thinking House of Dracula or House of Frankenstein.

I had intended to revisit Dan Curtis' Trilogy of Terror and Dead of Night in June, but never got around to it. Now I'm thinking they would be ideal for October this year.

Last October was the shits. Working night shift, I was unable to fully appreciate the month as so planned. Still, I did watch a lot of movies. Two newbies I thought about including this year: The Midnight Hour & Trick or Treat, both cult 80s movies I've never seen. Built around Halloween time, they seem perfectly appropriate.

That's what the month and holiday means to us. Two months in advance we get all excited about another year of October. What will we watch and how many films can we cram in? July, and Halloweenmonth couldn't get her sooner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

To understand the depths Joffrey sink, she sends her guards (the same guards who slaughtered Ned's entourage) to massacre children/infants possibly bastards to her dead husband, the murdered king, so his place as royal of King's Landing would be unencumbered. Stannis Baratheon is motivated by the letter Ned provided to him detailing an incest breed currently considered the next king, fully prepared, however he must, even if that means abandoning the gods he once served in favor of another, brought to him by a witch named Melisandre. "The North Remembers" features these details while "The Night Lands" shows how Tyrion understands how critical a mistake killing Ned and butchering innocent babies are, wholly realizing that his sister will stoop to horrible lengths in order to have her child on the throne and in charge. Even if the little creep takes a slap after insulting her and his father's numerous affairs, warning her of the consequences if it happens again. This monster, of her creation, looks at the throne as a playground suitable to his sadistic whims. Tyrion sending away the lead guard willing to obey the heinous orders directed by cold-blooded Joffrey, afforded so as the "acting Hand of the King" because of his actions against the previous one (Ned) in "The Night Lands" is a crowd pleasing moment. As the thought mentioned earlier: the honorable and despicable suffer, some worse than others.

The North Remembers: The Photograph Album

Game of Thrones episode one, season two











The obvious thought came to me as I was taking a shower regarding the poor Stark family, split apart across Westeros since their patriarch lost his head in first season's "Baelor" at wicked Joffrey's command: in Game of Thrones, pain and anguish befalls the honorable and the wicked. In "The North Remembers", you have Robb and mother, Lady Stark, arranging a possible trade/exchange with Lannister-ran King's Landing. The daughters, Arya and Sansa, returned and Winterfell granted independence from the seven kingdoms. Arya is sought after for her value as a bargaining chip while Sansa is betrothed to Joffrey, obedient and cautiously subservient. Sansa rescues a drunk from execby convincing Joffrey he'd be better served as a fool to laugh at for the king's amusement. Sansa disavows her surviving members as traitors when returning Tyrion offers condolences to her for Ned's execution. What other choice does she have? Robb has Jaime as a prisoner and bargaining chip, informing the "kingslayer" that his life is at risk, with the shackled Lannister trying to defuse his ego and pride at three victories against Lannister forces.

While I'm far from a Jaime sympathizer, my GoT buddy at work enforces to me he finds redemption as the show goes on.
I'm kicking off a Game of Thrones bender, starting with second season opener, The North Remembers. Damn good beginning to the slate of episodes, methinks! Westeros, the seven kingdoms, up for grabs with Lady Stark opining that everyone's a king these days. The power struggle, with whore parlor magnate, Lord Baelish, doting to Cersei about what knowledge (her incestuous love affair with brother, Jaime, starting to gain momentum outside (and, frankly, inside) King's Landing) has, with her threatening his life through son Joffrey's guards a significant demonstration in itself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Light's Out


Sometimes a vacation can cleanse the pallet. A break from the norm. A means to separate one's self from how awful things are at the moment. On the last leg of our family vacation, we went by Jackson, Tennessee's Hollywood 16. Horror--especially PG-13--in the Summer has become quite an investment. We were in the mood for hopefully a chill or two and checked out Warner Brothers / New Line's new release, Light's Out (2016), a disposable but moderately diverting chiller which is over in a hurry (80 minutes). A ghost (well, I'd say evil entity), that uses the dark to eliminate anyone who threatens her existence, destroys a business owner of a textile company and we soon learn that it is tied to a clinically depressed mother with a history of mental illness. Her estranged daughter is forced to revisit a troubled past which includes a father who seemed to have left her and mom behind.


Teresa Palmer returns to the horror genre after a near three year absence, last seen in Warm Bodies (2013). She's a good one, not only nice to look at but has expressive talent to make things happen with her face and eyes. The complications of a mother deteriorating (Maria Bello, an actress in the chapter of her career where she shows up in supporting parts with some screen time and must work her talent to make damn sure you realize she's lost nothing) certainly show in how Palmer reluctantly returns to her home in order to keep her brother (Gabriel Bateman) safe. Diana, a girl with a skin condition which made sunlight unbearable, met Bello as a child...this relationship and secret hospital experiments which led to a "human stain" on a chair (ashy residue of what was once a person) factor into the night creature with glowing eyes and sharp talons.


How light is used inventively (the use of a neon red tattoo sign and a discovered blacklight, not to mention, a candle and phone light) towards the creature, which vanishes when the dark is interrupted, is an aesthetic knockout. The opening in the textile plant, where lights inside go on when someone claps their hands, featuring Billy Burke (the Twilight movies) and some creepily placed mannequins, is rather impressive. Again, light plays a major role in how effective the night creature is. Palmer is a good anchor for the film...she knows how to give you the appropriate responses when required. You want terror or angst? Palmer gives it to you. Irritation and aggravation...Palmer knows how to provide visual insight into what her character feels and ultimately she rises to the occasion when her little brother needs her. So does nervy, shaky Bello, rattled and nearly defeated by her "friend". Billy Burke was a threat to the "friendship" and was to be removed from the equation.


On a Tuesday afternoon at 1:00, the eighty minutes conclude with a decent amount of suspense, obviously a showdown at the family home where a sacrifice must be made. I felt as I was leaving that the film was missing something. As if the story with the missing father of Palmer needed greater emphasis. The past regarding Diana could have used more of the Japanese onryu style where discoveries are not glossed over but heavily enforced to us so the fury of the entity is greater understandable. It seems, though, that the filmmakers wanted a lean and economical summer spook flick with some raised hairs and goose pimples. There was enough here, I think.

***

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Oh forgot to mention Palmer's character is quite a hellcat when first introduced. She is a tattoo artist with gnarly Gothic art sketched from her talent throughout her apartment. She is bedding Alexander DiPersia, not necessarily committed to anything special or long-term while he is all-in on establishing themselves as a real deal couple. Distance is part of her current situation. A missing father and serially depressed mother, it's no wonder she seems hesitant to commit to anyone...she's been burned.

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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 ...