Friday, January 27, 2017

Phantasm: Ravager





Undeniable
and undesirable, all good things must come to an end. Time takes and death upends the glorious and great. 2016 took many from us. That year took Angus Scrimm. This film gives him a proper sendoff. Okay, so many have and will continue to balk about that previous sentence.  I think it does. Scrimm became Legend with the career character that is The Tall Man, a Boogeyman conjured, we first thought, from the tormented psyche of a young man who lost his brother in a car wreck. Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) experiences adventures with his brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury), and together they encounter The Tall Man and his robed minions, small-sized bodies of those who have died, miniaturized at Morningside Funeral Home, many of them barreled and shipped off to the another red world, found once entered through a dimensional gateway between two poles. Introduced was Lady in Lavender (Kathy Lester), a female disguise or figment of The Tall Man, a knife ready to stab once she seduces you, and, more importantly, the silver spheres which fly towards humans, ready to drill a skull so blood can squirt from a hole at its center. In the first film, Phantasm (1979), a wonderfully odd and mad horror mishmash which doesn't feel obligated to follow any rules, it seems the film was a dream Mike was having. It does seem to operate within a type of dream logic, as interconnected events happen to a kid hoping his brother doesn't abandon him. Don Coscarelli had created some type of ever-increasingly convoluted and difficult series of films further piling on the enigma of who or what The Tall Man is and what exactly is going on to those that are his direct adversaries.

Reggie Bannister was initially a minor character, a buddy of Mike and Jody who worked as an ice cream man in their small town. He gets inadvertently involved just because of his friends, and it appears he'll serve as simple Tall Man fodder, nothin more than a warm body to bury a knife into. But he becomes so much more. So much more.

"Our paths cross again."

"When the time comes, they don't die. They come to me."

"It's a hell of a way to start a trio."

Along the way, Reggie emerged as the hero, the sawed-off shotgun packing, ponytailed, women-seeking boss, turning in the ice cream suit for the 'Cuda and jeans. The trunk had the weapons, and Reggie had the hippie vernacular to coexist with his willingness to forge ahead towards possible, most certain danger. His mission was to locate Mike and take out The Tall Man. Jody would return as a victim of The Tall Man, trying to usurp the villainous control over him and help his friends.

If you go to the Ravager message board on the IMDb, there are threads on fan theories regarding what Mike says to his dear friend, Reggie, visiting him at a hospital, regarding belief in parallel dimensions and multiple realities. The film even offers the distinct possibility that Reggie, suffering onset increasing symptoms of dementia, is losing his grip on reality...as dementia worsens, the whole Tall Man confluence of bizarre events of the past three films is merely an extension of what Mike experienced passed on to Reggie. The trio joining forces at the end and riding off in the Barracuda, all souped-up and reinforced for a war ahead, seemed like as good a way to send off the franchise, coinciding with Dementia Reggie passing away with his two dearest friends at his bedside. The film does a lot of alternating between Reggie and his travails with Tall Man and the ongoing nature of dying at a home.

This film wasn't exactly what series fans wanted. It can be a bit hostile in terms of storyline coherence due to how the direction never ceases to jerk us from fantasy Reggie-fighting-the-Tall-Man to Reggie-fighting-ravaging-dementia. And, quite frankly, does any of us want to accept that what we had been watching previously was all product of imagined, desired fantasy? And now it was all running together, reality juggling with illusion, the deteriorating mind rendering a beloved character shambles, unable to determine what is real or unreal. It'd be much easier to accept alternative dimensions run amok, and all these versions of Reggie, Mike, Jody, and Tall Man, variations coming and going, as proposed realities...not mind created fiction further interrupting a true reality, being ordinary existence now a home for the ill, and having to spend the final days losing grip on what is true as what is imagined continues come and go. Who wants to accept that there is no Tall Man, and all the delightfully wicked and absurd content concerning him was fantasy created by a mind wanting fantasy instead of the lonely and mundane. And now a mind ravaging dementia muddles it all until there's nothing left to discern truth from fiction. Only death seems to be release. But at least he's with his friends.



***

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

House of Blood



“Mercy, showeth thee not.”

Tis how I feltith while I watcheth this messeth. In the mid 2000s, 2003-2009 or so, there was a return of sorts to the gore film. Low budget films were splattering blood and body parts all over the place again and folks were dying in awful ways. 2005 was right around the time when the boom of Hostel, the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and the Euro-horror Extreme movement was coming into full blossom. Olaf Ittenbach was making the likes of Dard Divorce and Permutos right around this time, a German gore auteur, staking his own claim in the land of grue, offering his own meat train of zombie mayhem with “House of Blood” (also known as Chain Reaction), from 2006. It involves a doctor with a run of inexplicable bad luck, never unable to escape a series of Dept of Corrections prisoner van wrecks which involve him in one way or another. The first, he’s just driving and the van collides head on with him thanks in part to a dead bird and rock. The second, he’s a prisoner and the van wrecks into a woman, out of her car when a dead dear flies into the hood (!), causing her to pull over. The third, he has escaped from a house seemingly accursed with demons always thirsty for blood and hungry for human flesh, with a girl who lived there also fleeing, meeting the wrong end of the DOC van! With each incident the doc’s fate increased in its inevitable chances towards certain demise. Through it all, the doc always winds up at the House of Blood, a cabin located in the middle of a wilderness, as if from another time, with those living there speaking with plenty of thus and thee in their speech.

Trekking the doc (Christopher Kriesa) through repetitive scenes of abuse, both verbal and menacing, by two sets of inmates, returning him to the same damned location twice, having the poor guy endure rampant fanged demon onslaughts, somehow surviving those encounters, only to go splat when a *third* DOC van comes around the curve without a sense of potential danger ahead, Olaf Ittenbach pretty much condemns his most likable, dignified character after suffering almost the entire film. I don’t mind a grim ending, truth be told, but sometimes dragging a hero through endless peril and not let the guy have some sort of relief at the end was a real drag. And to further bang home that no one was making it out of Olaf’s movie alive in one piece, the member of the cabin clan most integral in doc getting out of that damned house of hell intact (Martina Ittenbach) suffers the final blow with a direct gunshot wound to the forehead!

Nothing about the two trips to the cabin with the two sets of inmates, having escaped the DOC van without too serious an injury (well one has his arm severed due to potential gangrene, while another had a through-and-through in his scrotum!) much changes; in fact, it is almost a retread with less energy and pop in the gory attacks. Prisoners getting ripped apart out of the picture are perhaps the most disappointing kills of the film, while there are eye-popping body mangling accompanied by a family of farmers proposing bible verse before emerging with fangs, growling, pallid eyes, and additional face prosthetics to give them that demonic design enhancing their ferocious, forward-charging carnage. A head taken off, bullets (taken from guns off of DOC security guards) riddling torsos, ax body chopping, disemboweling, flesh-eating, and body part munching are what Olaf specializes in; this is the stuff Olaf is most confident in and produces with a sledgehammer blunt force. It is the handling of actors and what comes out of their mouths that Olaf has the most trouble. And the dialogue tries to get by a lot on accusations, illogic, profanity, arguing, toxic back-and-forth exchanges, yelling, and insidious behavior. Doc spends his time negotiating with leaders of each band of inmates, Arthur (Simon Newby; never without a scowl or bark) and Paul (Dan van Husen; with a soft voice and even-tempered speech, his polite, articulate banter is just a disguise to hide the creep he really is) in the hopes of getting them out without violent escalation. Doc fails.

Jürgen Prochnow’s name in the credits shouldn’t encourage any enthusiasm as he doesn’t lift the needle past autopilot. He’s a police interrogator wanting details about the first disaster the doc survived with inmates massacred despite heavy arsenal. That is all he does. Interrogate. And even that doesn’t seem to require inspiration. He peddles his acting wares without much reason for fanfare.

*

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Scream Queens..And so ends the..


First Season. It was fun. The finale of course went off the deep end as slashers often do, with this ridiculously elaborate set up that gets the final killer off because she's the smartest, most cunning, and slippery girl in the Kappa House. There's another killer who also involved in getting his hands bloody, as the Red Devil costume can be a disguise for anyone to use if needed. Boone, Rodger and/or Dodger, Gigi, Taylor Swift fangirl, Sam, Candle nut, Earl Grey, Caufield, and the Dean's husband: just some to head off the mortal coil with Red Devil so often to blame. Even the first student mascot to wear the Red Devil and Ice Cream Coney disguise just happened to be shit outta luck. And don't even get me started on the poor pizza delivery guy who paints the sorority house red when the final killer straps a bomb to him, with a timer rigged to explode!



Coming out of Scream Queens, what I certainly consider either be appealing or disapproved is its exaggerated style, performances, presentation, and behavior. One moment, when Chanel Oberlin is found guilty in court she sinks into her chair and her eyes and body language scoff, with mannerisms all hoity-toity towards this whole experience, considering the justice system for her “kind” to be beneath them, that being “stupid-rich” can rescue you from suffering whatever sentence is passed down to you. Oberlin, ordering a snake online, thinks she’ll just end it all when one of her caustically abusive rants towards the Chanels under her is manipulated into being towards so many others besides just them. Murders committed against the Kappas and Dickie’s Dollar Scholars are explained as warranted because of what sororities and fraternities do to those deciding to “join a sisterhood/brotherhood”, with the hazing and ridicule causing unpardonable repercussions.

Pete was an ongoing investigator throughout the first season with Grace. There was this romantic development between them. In fact, at the very end Grace is about to offer herself to Pete, a ready virgin willing out of great affection and maybe even love. Then Pete bears his soul, and lays open his secrets.

That Pete was the Red Devil, killing Boone and one of the Rodger/Dodger twins, escaping near death to the twins in Red Devil costumes, almost about to unveil the final killer to an enraged Grace when he's interrupted...By the Red Devil.



The final chapter (besides the guilty verdict, which sends three sisters to an asylum where they wind up *happier*) really goes into the absurd. It gathers the remaining principles (a few not involved, like Chad) and Hester (who survived a flight down the stairs that would have killed pretty much anybody) just unleashes a flurry of “you, you, and you are guilty!” of tirades that directs guilt right at her, as parents disown their children (or tells their daughter she was adopted!), Denise Hemphill, given the chief of police position because the current department was so incompetent and stupid (they hired paranormal investigators instead of bringing in reinforcements to help with the serial killings investigation!), agreeably accepting everything all too willingly. Hester’s pointed accusations are so preposterous (after researching her past, Grace and Zayday realize *she* is the best candidate considering her records are fake) that she winds up getting away with murder and accomplishes what she sets out to do…tear down the mean girls hierarchy and initiate a new way the Kappa Kappa Tai to function, where girls of all types have a chance to belong to a welcoming and friendly sisterhood. This winds up becoming the model sorority Dean Munsch could be proud of. The Dean’s near death experiences and Oberlin’s rant that turns the campus against her, Hester’s incredible accomplishment of seeing those who are horrible (but not the murderers) punished (they *do* try to kill the Dean, and Oberlin does try to kill the former head sorority president who suffered serious burns due to acid in the spray tan because she believed her to be the Red Devil seeking revenge for her scars), Chad’s persistent narcissism and self-glorification, Oberlin’s lack of a filter (Zayday, despite Oberlin’s ugly soul, talks to her about not always saying everything that pops in her head), Hemphill’s focus on Zayday as a suspect despite zero evidence to the contrary, and Grace’s dad engaging in carnal relations with DeanMunsch, at first because Grace needed to get her hands on the files of the remaining sisters, before they become an item; it all closes the show in as deranged and crazed fashion as expected. The show wasn’t subtle or even tried to be. It was outlandish and exaggerative, unapologetic about it, with plenty of dialogue (particularly from Oberlin!) that would make many blush…I couldn’t help but laugh or react in great surprise, just wondering what M&F would throw at us next. The show is quite inflated in its embellishment of characters excessively devoted to themselves, involved in seeing their own avarice and egos are satiated. It was quite a trip. But not for all tastes. Definitely not for all tastes.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Last Flight

Once again, I didn't realize I had already written for an episode of Twilight Zone, having put myself through the writing process and then noticing a review already on my IMDb account.



Classic early TZ time travel episode from the great Richard Matheson holds your attention due to its emergence of the past landing in the present, with events affecting time frames. A WWI British pilot from 1917, during the Blitz, inexplicably lands in 1959 at a US Air Force base in France, not quite understanding exactly how. Lt Decker (Kenneth Haigh), later admitting he is a coward who left his pilot partner, “Ole Leadbottom”, to battle surrounding German planes, is considered by those on the base—General George Harper (Alexander Scourby) and Major Wilson (Simon Scott)—questioning him as having flipped his lid. What they will soon learn, once Decker decides he must return from whence he came and make sure his pilot comrade receives the assistance he deserves, is that as inconceivable as a travel in time might be, there could very well be truth to it all… Great closing scene involving Robert Warwick as the aged Leadbottom, Alexander Mackaye, as Harper and Wilson provide him with possessions collected by Decker that offer proof that they indeed met him. Also neat is how the biplane lands, quite of its time and clashing with the modern 1959 planes on the US base. The piercing eyes of Haigh, gathering his thoughts and collecting his bearings, trying to come to terms with where he’s at, and the performance which reads like an open book all the differing emotions from the actor is especially memorable. Haigh looking out from the window into the sky, remarking about another pilot who vanished similarly, taking the whole gnarly situation in as he reflects on the “vacuum” that seemed to consume him before landing in 1959 is damned effective…Haigh delivers one hell of a performance. Scourby and Scott ably back him up, too, as officers having a hard time (obviously so!) wrapping their head around all of this, but eventually accepting the fact that Decker was indeed from another time and all that happens leant itself to Mackaye’s survival. To me, this is what TZ is all about. Just plain well made, well written, and well acted. A TZ must-see.  How Decker evaluates the information about Mackaye, sees the errors of his cowardice, takes it upon himself to defy being held for questioning, and his heroism afterward resulting from all he processes is pure Twilight Zone…it offers a second chance if one is willing to take it.

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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 ...