Saturday, October 31, 2009

HORROR EPICS: A note of thanks

Since I had to cancel my Netflix account earlier this year, it has to be said that this year’s edition of Horror Epics would not have been possible without the help of these two freaks:

Dan Hague, who said he didn’t have a whole lot of horror movies. Yet, he had plenty of videos and DVDs that warranted inclusion here. His collection helped add to both the international and obscure aspects of Horror Epics that we like to have represented. Check out his Kill That Cat video blog here and add his band No Reward on MySpace.

Bill Jackson contributed in the slasher department, and helped out with some of the older horror/sci-fi titles as well. He’s an opinionated fucker like me, so naturally he’s one of my favorite people to talk about horror movies and music with. Give a listen to his band Instant Asshole here.

Click here for A Zombie Love Story, the five-minute short film directed by Dan and featuring both Bill and myself in the cast.

HORROR EPICS: Deliverance (1972)

What’s that you say? Deliverance isn’t a real horror movie? Surely, you jest. Few movies out there send chills up someone’s spine like the mere mention of Deliverance. How many horror movies have you seen that borrowed heavily from the concept of being out of your element? Whether they took place in the forest, the desert, or even the big city, all of those movies owe a debt to Deliverance. Still need convincing? Fine. Let’s take you out of the city or suburbs for a weekend in the woods. Instead of going golfing or whatever dumb shit you do for fun, you let your dashing survivalist friend talk you into a canoe trip down a river that’s to be rendered nonexistent by an incoming dam. Mind you, you’re not exactly good at this Great Outdoorsman stuff either. After conquering one set of rapids, you feel like you’re ready to take on the world. And oh, does the world have plans in store for you. You thought you could handle rapids? How about you handle getting attacked by backwoods hillbillies? Then try killing one of them and burying his body. Could you deal with your traumatized friend losing his cool and going missing in the river? Can you scale a huge cliff, track down the other assailant, and take him out? After all that, do you still have what it takes to handle the aftermath? No, you don’t. You would’ve been satisfied with the rapids and crumbled under pressure otherwise. And you’d be frightened out of your wits the entire time. Therefore, Deliverance IS a real horror movie and warrants its spot in this year’s edition of Horror Epics: right at the top. If you have an appreciation for the woods, it’s easy to get engrossed in the film’s surroundings. Looking at the scenery with the trees growing out of the water, I wondered aloud if places like this still existed. It made perfect sense to me when Burt Reynolds gave his reason for the canoe trip to one of the locals: “because it’s there.” And it wouldn’t be for much longer. I don’t know about you, but it never ceases to make me nervous when Jon Voight is teetering on the edge of a cliff far above the river. The idea of that drop scares me more than the rapids or hillbillies. Aside from the photography, the best thing about Deliverance is the realism. For the most part, you can see these incidents really happening. Not much feels unnecessary or out of place. The story and setting are simple enough. Everything pans out the way it should, paced much like the current of the river being traveled. Deliverance has aged better than most. Forget about the pigfucker jokes for a minute and look at the big picture the next time you watch it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

HORROR EPICS: The Exorcist (1973)

Man, did this movie ever scare the CRAP out of people when it hit the theaters! I personally know a few Baby Boomers who claimed they barely slept for the next month after seeing The Exorcist. Others fainted in the theater and one woman reportedly went into a goddamned miscarriage! Maybe some of the special effects don’t stack up against today’s CGI, but try watching it with the lights off and the volume up. But I think the effectiveness is determined by how much of a religious background you have, to some extent. Personally, I don’t have much of one. Had I been raised Catholic, I might see The Exorcist much differently. That said, I still get into how the three stories cross paths. First is Father Merrin, the older priest. While on an archeological dig, he unearths a stone bearing the face of the demon Pazuzu. After seeing a statue with the same face, he determines that bad times are ahead and returns to the United States. Second is the younger priest, Father Karras. The church psychiatrist is losing his faith, along with his terminally ill mother. Third is, of course, the tale of the preteen girl possessed by the Devil himself, for all intents and purposes. None of this would’ve ever happened if her famous actress mother weren’t a single mom and a blasted atheist. You remember that the next time your parents pester you about going to church! Which I think was really supposed to be the point to all of this, but that whole message flies over my head anyway. I’m just left with this voyeuristic view of demonic possession dealt with by a priest who picked a bad time to struggle with his religious convictions. That’s good enough for me. I still think it’s ominous and creepy today. Based on the book by William Peter Blatty, which you knew already. Followed by two sequels, a prequel, and Repossessed, a parody starring Linda Blair.

The ORIGINAL trailer, which was rejected for being “too frightening.”
I say it was rejected for being "too awesome."

The Satanic Mass

“In the name of Satan…the ruler of the earth…the king of the world. I command the forces of darkness to bestow their infernal power upon us. Open wide the gates of hell and come forth from the abyss by these names…”

And so began The Satanic Mass LP in 1968, declared to be the first authentic recording of a Satanic ceremony. Prior to its release, Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan had received widespread media attention for performing the first public Satanic baptism, wedding, and funeral. The Satanic Bible had yet to be released in book form, making this record the general public’s first exposure to what LaVey’s brand of Satanism was really all about. It’s been criticized in the past as a synthesis of the works of Ayn Rand, Nietzche, and Aleister Crowley with ceremonies and rituals. Rather than serving as Christianity’s flip side via animal and child sacrifice, this concept of Satanism came across as more of a philosophy than a religion, based on self-preservation, indulging in life’s pleasures, and “constructive uses of alienation.” As its representative, Satan is intended to be the “literary metaphor for the ultimate prideful rebel, the alienated antihero who revels in his beastly/fleshly instincts yet remains always the gentleman.”

There are a variety of opinions about the late Anton LaVey. Some speak highly of him, others write him off as a carny and a hustler, and he probably resided somewhere in between. Regardless of where your opinion lies, this is interesting as hell (no pun intended) to listen to. I like to smoke a little bit of weed and get lost in the background music and LaVey’s monotone calling forth the Infernal Names and reciting The Book of Lucifer—The Enlightenment. It might be something of an endurance test for those of you who don’t have much of an interest in the subject, but still—load a bowl and give it a shot.

Appropriately enough, this post comes to you on the eve of Devil’s Night. Listen to the Devil’s music before taking to the streets to do his deeds. Indulge in earthly delights and do it amongst friends only. Most of all, have a happy and safe Halloween!

Hail Satan.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chuck Biscuits loves his cereal

Apparently, the Chuck Biscuits death rumor was debunked by his agent. But since sugary kids' cereal is a part of American Trash Culture to me, I'm keeping his "Professor of Cerealogy" video. It's from Danzig's Danzig II: Lucifuge video. Now I have a reason to watch it.

HORROR EPICS: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Those of you who read last year’s entry for Night of the Living Dead know just how much that movie meant to me when I was a kid. After reading a book about George Romero called The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh, I had high expectations for (what was at the time) the two sequels. I believe I rented Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead on consecutive weekends…and for fuck’s sake, I hated them both. For years, I wondered why anybody would think to call Dawn of the Dead one of the greatest horror movies of all time. In fact, it had been ten years before I let a friend of mine persuade me into borrowing his copy of the remake. How I felt about that version is a story best saved for another time, but it did make me want to revisit the original. It’d been a decade since I last watched it, and—Shock! Horror!—maybe my opinion might have changed. I went to the store and picked up Dawn of the Dead on DVD. And not just any ol’ DVD either. The only version of Dawn of the Dead the store had was the ultra-ridiculous Ultimate Edition. We’re talking about four discs, in which three of them were different versions of the same movie. You have to be a real Dawn of the Dead nerd to really appreciate this layout. And yes, I did buy it. Why the hell not?

* DISC ONE: The standard US theatrical version that I didn’t like in the first place.

* DISC TWO: An extended version, erroneously referred to as the director’s cut. In fact, the original theatrical release is George Romero’s preferred take.

* DISC THREE: The shorter European version re-edited by co-producer Dario Argento and titled Zombi. Supposedly, it cuts out chunks of the story to make it look more violent. Some of you may actually prefer that, but I’ve never bothered to watch it for whatever reason.

* DISC FOUR: Eh, documentary stuff that I rarely concern myself with. Thought I’d mention it anyway. As you can see from my take on the last two discs, I’m a hard-working professional.

I watched it and like it happened with Carrie and a host of other movies I used to hate years ago, I wound up loving it. I don’t complain about how slowly the film moves along, simply because spending several months locked up inside a shopping mall should take a long time to unfold. By the time our heroes make the decision to leave, we’re right there with them. And no, I don’t mean that in a turn-off-the-movie sort of way. When watching Dawn of the Dead these days, I always go with the extended version. Running twelve minutes longer, you get more gore, additional scenes, and a different soundtrack. As far as the movie’s pacing is concerned, it feels more realistic. I get fully immersed in what’s happening onscreen and enjoy it more. I don’t know if I’d recommend that for everyone, but the option is there if you’re feeling adventurous this Halloween season. Chances are you’ve seen the original version time and time again anyway.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HORROR EPICS: The Howling (1980)

Released around the same time as An American Werewolf in London, and I gotta admit that I’m on the side that enjoys that movie more. But that’s not to say that The Howling doesn’t deliver the goods. Director Joe Dante and writer John Sayles tackle the subject of lycanthropy after pairing up for the funny Jaws parody Piranha two years prior. Dee Wallace is TV news reporter Karen White. She suffers a traumatic encounter with a serial killer, and is having difficulty dealing with it. Her therapist decides to send her for treatment with her husband to The Colony, his secluded psychiatric resort. But what Karen didn’t read in the brochure was that The Colony is actually a front for a pack of werewolves. That’s certainly not going to help her get her head on straight. The Howling is not without a sense of humor, which is to be expected from the parties involved. It’s been mentioned as the first self-referential horror movie, years before Wes Craven did Scream. Some of the film’s characters are named after directors of old werewolf movies, and there’s often something wolf-related going on in the background. But the best thing about the humor is that, in a way, it’s only there if you want it to be. The comedic elements don’t overshadow the fact that this is a horror movie in the end. Things take a while to heat up and the movie slows down at times. But the story is interesting enough at least. One might have to consider that the special effects were state-of-the-art in their day, but the werewolves still look cool to me at least. The support cast includes Patrick Macnee (Sir Denis Eton-Hogg in This is Spinal Tap), Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles), and John Carradine. The Howling may not be held in as high of a regard as An American Werewolf in London, but I think it’s had a longer-lasting effect. For instance, it’s worth noting what The Howling did for certain people involved. Special effects genius Rob Bottin first turned heads in his direction with his rendition of the werewolves. Joe Dante further established himself by directing a segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie and hit it big with Gremlins. Dee Wallace met future husband Christopher Stone (who actually plays her husband here) on the set. Her next role would be the one she’s most remembered for—the suburban mom in the smash hit E.T. Loosely based on a 1977 novel by Gary Brandner and followed by six sequels.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HORROR EPICS: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963)

If only the Brazilian government knew what they were getting into when they did away with their national censorship board and left those decisions up to individual states. Director José Mojica Marins seized the opportunity to make À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma, the first Brazilian horror movie. With that came the debut of a character that became an icon in South America, and to cult movie buffs all over: Zé do Caixão, meaning “Joseph of the Grave.” Or more commonly known as Coffin Joe, played by Marins himself. When not working as the local undertaker, Joe spends his spare time terrorizing the general population of the village. His favorite thing to upset the townspeople with is blasphemy, making a point to eat meat on Good Friday. Not one to enjoy a leg of lamb by himself, Joe forces others to join in. At least he thought to share, right? Otherwise, the only thing that really concerns this cold-hearted bastard is continuing his bloodline. That’s right, Coffin Joe is a normal ol’ guy beneath the callous exterior. He wants a son to follow in his footsteps and make him proud. It probably wouldn’t make him any more pleasant of a guy, but it’s nice to think that it could. But tragically, Joe’s wife is unable to bear children. Obviously that’s not gonna work. Filing for divorce would take too much time, so Joe tortures and kills her instead. No court, no alimony, no clue that he had anything to do with his wife’s untimely death. With that out of the way, Joe has the perfect woman in mind to sow his seed. Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite agree. Joe is in a bit of a hurry to get this fatherhood thing started, so he takes what he wants by force. Before committing suicide, the girl vows revenge for his brutality from beyond the grave. The threat is laughed off as supernatural hocus-pocus, but it isn’t long before Joe gets his just desserts. The cult/horror buffs rave about this movie, but not because it’s the best one ever made. At least I hope that’s not why they’re raving. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is easy to write off as mere low-budget trash. Especially when you see some of their ideas for special effects. No, what the die-hards rave about is the movie’s bad-dreamlike feel. More interesting than many of the similarly funded drive-in movies of the same era. Above all is José Mojica Marins’ performance as Coffin Joe. One can only imagine the first impression he left on a predominately Catholic film audience back then. It’s possible that they saw Coffin Joe as the Devil incarnate, what with all of his anti-religious proclamations. A black-clad, feral-eyed menace bearing long fingernails that could easily gouge out an eye. It’s no surprise that Zé do Caixão was literally born of Marins’ nightmares. You’ve seen blood, gore, and blasphemy before, but you’ve never seen anything like Coffin Joe. Followed by a couple sequels, plus a handful of movies featuring Joe as a character occupying some abstract realm or whatever.

Monday, October 26, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Die-hard fans of Asian horror have to know about this one. Unless you count decades of monster movies, word has it that Shiryo No Wana (renamed Evil Dead Trap internationally) put Japanese horror on the map well before Ringu, Battle Royale, and eight million weird-ass Takashi Miike films. If you’ve seen a lot of horror movies in your time, this one won’t strike you as being particularly original. Evil Dead Trap mostly pays homage to Dario Argento, but there’s the occasional nod to Lucio Fulci and David Cronenberg too. At least the filmmakers had good taste, right? Nami hosts a late-night TV show that plays videos sent in by its insomnia-ridden viewers. After asking for better submissions, a tape shows up in the mail that’s more than what she bargained for. I know the Japanese sometimes get into some odd shit regarding sex and violence, but surely this video wouldn’t be allowed to air. It’s a snuff film depicting the brutal torture and murder of a young woman. And the son of a bitch who killed her even made sure his camera caught every landmark leading to the building where the girl’s death took place. Whether the video is real or not, Nami sees an opportunity to boost her show’s dwindling ratings. She convinces her boss to let her track down the video’s source in the name of investigative journalism. And hey, if she dies in the process, that’ll just make for a higher rating. That’s not me being morbid; Nami makes that observation on her own, thank you very much. With her film crew (three women, one man) in tow, Nami follows the video’s directions and ends up at an abandoned military base. They split up to look for clues…and one by one…yeah, you know what’s gonna happen. Each of Nami’s friends fall victim to an elaborate series of “evil dead traps” that kill them in gruesome fashion. I should probably stop there. Like The Descent, this is one of those movies where you’ll like it more if you know less about the story. What I can tell you is that the first half of Evil Dead Trap is a fine rendition of Italian horror aesthetics, complete with colored lighting a la Suspiria. But then the film crew dies, and so does the movie to an extent. The pace slows considerably, running about ten minutes too long. It does pick up with the bizarre turn of the final twenty minutes. But by that point, you’re almost ready to pack it in. The finale is great, but rendered less effective. Evil Dead Trap isn’t bad overall, but it’s recommended more for the sake of context. You should always make a point to check out the “granddaddy of ‘em all” movies to see where everyone got their ideas from. With this one, I think you might pick up on how future Japanese horror films improved on the craft.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Years before it became trendy to remake seemingly every old horror movie in existence, Martin Scorsese reintroduced Cape Fear to modern film audiences. We will get to that one shortly. But we must start with the original black-and-white version that was released nearly thirty years prior. This dark, Hitchcockian masterpiece is one of my favorite suspense thrillers and it’s never gotten old in my book.

Gregory Peck is Sam Bowden, a lawyer who has everything a man of the early ‘60s could want—money in the bank and a big house on the nice side of town. He is of high social standing, with a pretty wife and a daughter who probably wouldn’t know teenage rebellion if it grabbed her ass. Speaking of which, a relic of Mr. Bowden’s past has resurfaced and plans to screw up everything ol’ Sam has going for him. Robert Mitchum is Max Cady, a convicted rapist sent to jail by Bowden’s eyewitness testimony. After eight years behind bars, Max is back with bad intentions on his mind. But Cady is crafty. He studied the law as a convict and is using it to his advantage. Whatever he does to torment Sam and his family is perfectly legal. Stalking laws didn’t exist back then.

While Max Cady follows the law, Sam tries to find ways to bend it, if not outright break it. When his friends on the police force object to arresting Cady on suspicion alone, Bowden hires a private detective to follow the ex-con’s every move. Cady beats up and rapes another woman, but she doesn’t want to relive it by testifying in court. The private eye suggests hiring a few thugs to beat some sense into Cady, and Sam eventually agrees to it. But Cady thoroughly trounces his assailants. Fearing for their safety, Sam takes his family to their houseboat on the Cape Fear River. And then the showdown.

The support cast also includes Martin Balsam (Psycho) and Telly Salvalas when he still had hair. As Max Cady, Robert Mitchum doesn’t need a bunch of tattoos and profanities to come off as a bad motherfucker. All he needs to do is stare. Whether it’s an air of casual disinterest towards Sam Bowden or leering at his wife and teenage daughter, you just know that Cady has bad intentions on his mind. His threats are subtle, but effective. This man isn’t one to sell wolf tickets. I like the subtlety the most. Chalk some of that that up to the time Cape Fear was originally released. The censor boards wouldn’t have allowed for certain aspects of the story to be depicted. I like the idea of not showing or discussing the actual act of rape. A lot of women out there probably agree that scenes of rape are difficult to watch, so the psychological approach is better in that regard. From the battered woman to the threat of sexual assault on a child, you know what the deal is. But you can’t call it for what it is because it’s so reprehensible. And you feel worse inside because of it. The strength that Cape Fear has is not in what it says, but what is implied.

Martin Scorsese wasn’t so into implying it, I guess. His remake goes for the throat where the violence and creepiness is concerned. Still, his rendition of Cape Fear turned out very well, if a little over the top. While my friends were going to see Terminator 2: Judgment Day a million times that summer, I was watching Cape Fear on the big screen. And I don’t mean TV.

Some of the story elements have been changed. The main point is that everyone has flaws. Max Cady knows all about that. During his fourteen years as a convicted rapist, he taught himself how to read. Feeling like his public defender didn’t do his job, Cady studied the law to appeal his case. Sam Bowden was that public defender and no, he didn’t do all he could to keep his client out of jail. Back then, a woman’s “questionable” sexual history was often used as grounds for a lighter sentence or acquittal in sexual assault cases. Knowing that Cady was guilty, Bowden buried a report that could have been used in this fashion. Of course, this is a direct violation of Max Cady’s constitutional right to a proper legal defense in court. The bad guy was actually done wrong by the good guy for once.

When he is finally released from prison, Max comes out a Bible-quoting scumbag tattooed with scripture referring to vengeance. And what a time to seek vengeance on his old lawyer. Cheating on his wife with co-workers nearly ruined Sam Bowden’s career, and he and his family have relocated to start anew. But his wife still has trust issues, and rightfully so. There are already signs of Sam reverting to his old habits. Sweet Sixteen is just around the corner for their daughter Danny, who slips back and forth between rebellious, awkward, and sexually curious. And they thought they had trouble already… Max Cady’s behavior is a bit bolder this time around, as is to be expected. He assaults the same woman that was on the verge of having an affair with Sam. Then Cady ups the ante by calling Danny and pretending to be her new drama teacher. He approaches her at school, and the private lesson taught is one that reaffirms Cady’s sick fuckin’ bastard status.

Nice to see Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, and Martin Balsam in support and cameo roles here. Joe Don Baker is great as the private detective, especially during a verbal joust with Cady outside of a restaurant. Max Cady is of course played by the great Robert DeNiro. Throughout most of the movie, he does a great job letting the viewer know just how much of a bad motherfucker Cady is. Few can do it the way DeNiro can. But then there are the times when his performance degenerates into what one could call a parody of the irrational. When Cady is injured during his final attack on the Bowden family, he finally becomes just another horror movie killer. And that isn’t what you wanted to see. It sure is, uh, interesting to see Martin Scorsese resorting to stylized techniques and unnecessary slasher film ploys. A different director would have hung their hat on Cape Fear using the same approach. But this is Martin Scorsese, and it’s funny how standards work. Compared to the obvious classics on his resume, this isn’t one of his better movies. And maybe that’s the point after all: that even the great Martin Scorsese has flaws.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

HORROR EPICS: The Descent (2005)

When I reviewed Battle Royale for last year’s Horror Epics, I made a rather bold statement. I’d made the claim that it was the best horror movie released in this decade, and pretty much said that nothing else was going to top it. Well, it turns out that I’ve underestimated Neil Marshall and his ability to put together a movie that isn’t just a remake of a low-budget 1970s obscurity. Although it doesn’t top Battle Royale, The Descent certainly deserves better than being ranked as a “distant” second. Sarah, Juno, and Beth are weekend warriors who fancy themselves as badass extremists looking Death in the eye and laughing. But Sarah’s ass-kicking exterior erodes when both her husband and daughter are killed in a car wreck. A year later, our trio of ladies reunites with some other friends at a log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. There’s a mother and a daughter, plus some irritating faux-punk chick who seems to believe that speaking of female sexual pleasure is still a radical statement in this day and age. Anyway, the purpose of this journey is to help Sarah move past her trauma and re-enter the real world. A noble cause to be sure, but Juno’s idea is to take the group cave diving in the middle of the woods. Personally, I’ve never understood anyone’s need to do things like spelunking. No thanks. If I am feeling “adventurous,” I’ll just take a late-night walk through certain parts of West Oakland while smiling. Apparently that thought never dawned on Ms. Juno, but the thought of outright lying to her friends about their whereabouts did. Turns out that the cave they’re exploring is uncharted…which means that if something should happen to go wrong, the search and rescue team won’t know where to find them. Adrenaline junkie Juno thought it’d be cool to find the cave complex and name it, and never considered what a dangerous situation she was putting everyone in. Especially since their transfer tunnel has just collapsed in a pile of rubble, leaving our explorers with little choice but to look for an alternate exit thousands of feet underground. The tough extremists begin to crack under the pressure, but so would you if you were trapped in a goddamned cave. For those of you that still haven’t seen The Descent, I won’t spoil the rest for you. The less you know, the more you’ll enjoy it. Damn, I wish I saw this in the theater. Considering that what was described could actually happen in real life, the idea scares the bejeesus out of me. I watched it in bed with the lights off and could feel the characters’ claustrophobia and paranoia emanating from the screen. In that sense, The Descent deserves to be mentioned alongside classics like Deliverance, Jaws, and Alien—all movies that use tension and space to their advantage rather than buckets of gore. I have a feeling that film audiences will continue to hold The Descent in that high of regard in years to come. Make sure to check out the unrated DVD, although you’ll wonder why they’ve got a sequel coming out soon if you do. I gotta check out Neil Marshall’s previous film Dog Soldiers sometime.

Friday, October 23, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Repulsion (1965)

Roman Polanski’s date rapist past has come back to haunt him big time recently, but that isn’t going to stop us from commenting on his first English-language film. While Repulsion is certainly dated by today’s standards, it remains an effective look at a young woman’s descent into madness. At first glance, Carol LeDoux is an attractive young lady that any guy would be lucky to have. But a closer look reveals a woman with some deep-seated psychological issues. She treads lightly through life with an expressionless stare, and drifts off into space at her job as a beautician. Sharing an apartment with her sister Helen, the two barely have any semblance of a relationship outside of the standard pleasantries. Helen appears to be well adjusted and engages in an affair with a married man. Carol is the opposite. She doesn’t like men at all, and is in fact repulsed by the very idea of interacting with them. Hearing the sounds of her sister and the boyfriend having passionate (and quick) sex only compounds Carol’s resentment towards men, and her own sexual repression. These days, they call a refusal to have sex with men an admirable lifestyle choice. But Andrea Dworkin wasn’t around in 1965, so they called it repression (or frigidity) instead. A couple years later, you’d simply be encouraged to drop a ton of acid and get over your hang-ups. Whatever. Anyway, when Helen and her beau leave for vacation, one would think that Carol would enjoy a break from their loud late-night fuck sessions. But left to her own devices, Carol sinks deeper and deeper into her own paranoia until it suffocates her. The walls begin to crumble in her imagination, leading to multiple hallucinations of a shadowy rapist breaking into her room. Fantasy and reality bleeds together, and woe be unto the sorry sons of bitches that choose to invade her space. Repulsion is another movie that I’ve owned for a few years, but never got around to watching until I’d decided to include it for this year’s edition of Horror Epics. After finally seeing it, I wondered why I hadn’t watched it sooner. This isn’t a film that you watch casually with your drunken friends. Repulsion demands your undivided attention so those odd little things that go on in the story make total sense. Some of those things are obvious. Others, not so much. Most movies that attempt to blend European “new wave” cinema with the more conventional Hollywood approach usually come off as pretentious and artsy, in which the only people who get it are those pompous assholes who blather on about “the language of film.” Rest assured that this is not the case with Repulsion. It’s easy to follow the story and wrap yourself up in Carol’s mental decay. By the time it’s over, you’ve felt the same claustrophobia as poor Carol did. Whatever expectations I had were certainly exceeded. The cast includes Yvonne Furneaux (La Dolce Vita), Patrick Wymark (Where Eagles Dare, The Conqueror Worm), and Ian Hendry (Children of the Damned, “The Avengers”). But the film belongs to onetime Chanel No. 5 model Catherine Deneuve as the doomed Carol LeDoux. We go through the ordeal with her and understand why she’s bludgeoned a would-be suitor to death with a candleholder. But most importantly, Deneuve appears to understand something that a lot of loudmouths often forget: that silence can often be the most frightening sound imaginable.

High on Fire

What does High on Fire have to do with Halloween? Funny you should ask. Not much to most, but they certainly played a most vital role in one of my favorite Halloween memories. It was one of those events that will go down as legendary in the annals of East Bay punk history, at least if I have anything to say about it.

High on Fire is undeniably a pretty big name in metal circles these days. But it doesn’t feel like it was very long ago that you had the chance to see them as a strictly underground band at places like Gilman, where they caused a great deal of hearing loss by turning their twin Green Matamp stacks up full blast. Amazing? You bet. Painful? Oh yeah. Did we go up front and see who could last the longest without running for a pair of earplugs? You’re goddamn right we did! So, yeah, this supposed legendary event story…

It was Halloween of 1999, and the punk house on Genoa and 57th Street was hosting another one of their epic parties. Sounded interesting and oh yeah, High on Fire was going to play in the living room. Now, THAT is what I call interesting, and of course I’ll be there. Early in the evening, I was sitting on the front steps shooting the shit with Matt Pike because, well, people can actually do that around here. When I offered the guy who played on an album titled Dopesmoker a hit off the pipe, he blew my mind when he told me that he didn’t actually smoke weed anymore. I conceded when I realized that he’d probably utilized every conceivable method with which to indulge more times than my economical eighth a week ass ever would in my life.

Murder Takes No Holiday (Bryan Ward’s band between Eldopa and One in the Chamber) also played and were as good as we wanted them to be, but we were clamoring to see High on Fire in a goddamned living room. The twin towers of Green were in place, and the living room was rockin’. If I recall, stuff was falling off the walls and shelves because it was so overpoweringly loud and heavy. And then it ended as soon as it started. A bunch of cops showed up to shut down the party due to noise complaints that were probably phoned in the second High on Fire started to play. These cops didn’t appear to be a particularly happy bunch, and they didn’t seem to care that this was probably the one and only time High on Fire would play in somebody’s living room. Cops just don’t know how to party.

So that’s what High on Fire has to do with Halloween, and why they’re the subjects of today’s post. The preceding story always comes to mind whenever I listen to this CD, which was released in a limited quantity later that year. Generally referred to as their demo, this three-song CD was intended more as a promotional disc for future label interest. It wasn’t long before the now-defunct Man’s Ruin label showed interest and released High on Fire’s first album The Art of Self-Defense. You know the rest of the story, I think.

And that’s why I still hold out hope that High on Fire will blow up huge like Mastodon—who went from being their fanboys to headlining over them on tour within five years—someday. I kinda like the idea of seeing a great band like them go from some punk house living room to big arenas and making that kind of an impact. Unlike the punk bands from around here that have done the same thing, at least High on Fire would deserve it.

Get high here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Stagefright (1987)

Just when Italian horror seemed to be on its last legs, along came Dario Argento protégé Michele Soavi to breathe some new life into the industry. Stagefright is Soavi’s directorial debut in feature films after the documentary Dario Argento’s World of Horror. The story combines elements of good old-fashioned slashers and the older giallo films that originally put Italian horror on the map. A group of actors are busy rehearsing a musical about a mass murderer known as the Night Owl, with a director who embodies all the stereotypes you’d expect—he’s an obsessive bisexual bitch with a coke habit and little regard for his actors’ well-being. So when his leading lady twists her ankle, it’s natural that he doesn’t give a shit. But the wardrobe director talks her into getting the ankle checked out at the nearby hospital. Turns out it’s a psychiatric hospital, and one of their patients is a former actor who went nuts and killed a bunch of his fellow actors. If you really think he isn’t going to escape and hitch a ride in the back of the car, you’ve obviously never seen a single horror movie in your life. The wardrobe director eats a pickaxe, but is that enough to convince the director to wrap up for the evening? Hell no! He’s got a play to direct, and no mad-dog killer is going to stand in his way. In fact, he sees an opportunity to cash in on the wardrobe girl’s death by re-tooling the play to match current events. Renaming the Night Owl character after the ex-actor turned murderer, the director forces his cast to continue their rehearsal. To ensure that nobody decides to leave, he orders the doors locked and the key hidden. You may guess that there is a fatal flaw to his plan: he’s also locked a madman in the theater with him and everybody else. Nice going, champ! Despite not taking direction very well, the killer is determined to book himself in the leading role no matter what anyone has to say about it. A lot of Dario Argento’s style is appropriated for Stagefright, and Michele Soavi at least demonstrates that he can tell a coherent story, unlike some of his better-known horror counterparts. There are also some good death scenes, including one where a woman is dragged down from under the floor and then cut in half. But when the plot holes thicken and the acting becomes noticeably bad (even for Italian horror), Soavi is all too willing to rely on the same cinematic tricks as his mentor to distract the viewer. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Stagefright was a bad movie, because it’s not. It’s an interesting enough take on two horror sub-genres. What I would call it is a fair effort from a new director who had yet to step out on his own. Though, I’d gladly take this one over Soavi’s next film, The Church. Also known as Deliria, Bloody Bird, Aquarius, and Sound Stage Massacre.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Rabid (1977)

David Cronenberg revisits the biological terror story in his second film, which also stars the late Marilyn Chambers in an attempt to cross over from her previous fame as the porn legend of films like Behind the Green Door. Although that didn’t happen for her, Rabid works as a testimony for the potential close-minded studio executives missed out on. Chambers is a motorcycle victim whose burns are treated with a radical skin-grafting technique. But a complication arises in the form of a phallic-shaped growth under her armpit that drains blood from hapless victims. The victims then turn into crazed zombielike predators, who attack people and spread “rabies” throughout the entire city of Montreal. Panic ensues, and martial law is declared to try to prevent further spread of the plague. Rabid may not be what you call a perfect film. For instance, we never get an answer to how Chambers’ affliction materialized in the first place. I would have liked to see more regarding the genetic mutation through plastic surgery being explored. The movie also slows considerably in its second half, after getting off to a great start setting the stage for a citywide catastrophe. But despite its flaws, Rabid is a more effective retelling of themes explored in Cronenberg’s previous film Shivers. Think of it as a vampire story crossed with Night of the Living Dead (and I guess bits of George Romero’s The Crazies as well). Much better than the tedium of Cronenberg’s debut, or The Brood for that matter. The cast also includes Susan Roman, who anime fans may recognize as the voice of Sailor Jupiter on “Sailor Moon.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

I don’t pretend to know much about European horror movies, but that’s sure to change with future editions of Horror Epics. However, I do have it on good authority that La Noche del Terror Ciego is a must-see classic from the other side of the pond. After watching it, I definitely agree. While on vacation, a couple runs into an old female friend at the swimming pool and invite her along on a train trip. The girlfriend is embarrassed over her sleazy boyfriend’s way-too-obvious interest in the other woman, as well as memories of a lesbian affair they had in school years ago. Rather than take part in her old man’s attempt at a most swinging threesome, she hops off the train in the middle of the countryside. Now on foot and miles from the nearest town, our leggy Eurobabe decides to spend the night in a long-abandoned monastery. Bad decision. The monastery is the final resting-place for a group of mummified skeletons, who rise from their graves upon nightfall and kill her. When her boyfriend and former lesbian lover are informed of her death, they set out to find out what happened to her. The police have a suspect or two in mind, but the path points to an old wives’ tale regarding the Templar Knights. And then comes the inevitable graveyard encounter. You may be disappointed if you watch Tombs of the Blind Dead expecting a crazy, over-the-top gorefest. There is some gore, but not as much as you’d think. Instead, the film relies more on atmosphere and does so very well. There is an unsettling feeling taking place throughout the entire movie, even before the Templars reveal themselves. And what’s more badass than the visual of undead knights on equally undead horseback? Not much. MUCH better than your average Lucio Fulci fare, and followed by three sequels: Return of the Blind Dead, The Ghost Galleon, Night of the Seagulls, and an unofficial fourth titled La Mansión de los Muertos Vivientes by Jess Franco.

Monday, October 19, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Soylent Green (1973)

Soylent Green may be more on the science-fiction tip than expected from Horror Epics, but it’s easy to believe that the events that take place in the film could really happen in a not-so-distant future. Now, THAT is scary. Maybe people had this movie in mind when protesting Obama’s so-called “death panels.” The year is 2022, and where else would it take place besides New York City. And this is no kind of future for anybody to live in. Overpopulation and depletion of natural resources have destroyed Adolph Giuliani’s Disneyland dream. Things we take for granted—natural food, ice in our drinks, soap—are now items for the privileged class who can actually afford to spend $150 for a jar of strawberry jam. The rest of us are unemployed and homeless, forced to sleep on top of one another and fight for things like water. Women’s liberation has also been put to rest. Young women are essentially prostitutes, considered part of the rented furniture in a luxury apartment. Like an old couch, the girls can be thrown out like useless trash too. Times are so bleak, there’s even an assisted suicide center serving as the only way out of this horrible mess. A corporate-controlled government appears to run the world (sound familiar?), and they are so unremittingly evil, you wouldn’t believe what ingredients they use to produce affordable food. The latest processed crap they’ve offered to the masses is Soylent Green, a tasteless wafer purported to be produced from high-energy plankton. One of the Soylent Corporation’s executives discovers the truth, but is beaten to death before he can spread the word. Detective Thorn is the cop assigned to the case, assisted by an elderly researcher named Sol, who remembers the days of democracy, trees growing, alcohol, and food with flavor all too well. Sol gets all emotional when Thorn comes back to their tiny dump of an apartment with real food and liquor stolen from the dead executive. Being too young to remember the good old days, Thorn laughs at Sol’s nonstop bitching and moaning about how things came to be the way they are. When he finally realizes that Sol makes a good point, Thorn sheds his corrupted and apathetic nature in favor of getting to the bottom of the case and uncovering the details behind the Soylent Corporation’s cover-up. But the trail that leads Thorn and Sol to the horrible truth also leads to their undoing. Charlton Heston is fine in the role of Detective Thorn. Fortunately, his teeth are less prominently displayed than they were in Planet of the Apes. The dead Soylent Corporation executive is played by Joseph Cotton from Citizen Kane, while Chuck Connors (former baseball and basketball player turned star of TV’s “The Rifleman”) is his bodyguard and government co-conspirator. Leigh Taylor-Young (Mia Farrow’s “Peyton Place” replacement) is a nice piece of furniture. But it is 1930s gangster movie prototype Edward G. Robinson who gives Soylent Green its heart and soul as Sol. It was his final role, and Robinson died just nine days after they’d finished shooting the film. When Sol has had enough and decides to “go home,” it is a most awesome send-off and a fine cap on Robinson’s illustrious 101-film career. Some people complain about the slow pace, but I’m of the opinion that it properly conveys the grim, claustrophobic feeling. In fact, I actually thought Soylent Green was too short at 97 minutes. I would have liked the movie to dwell less on the murder mystery and do more to illustrate 21st century Manhattan’s nightmarish dystopia. That aside, Soylent Green is an excellent film that does what it’s supposed to do: it makes you think about the potential for an ecological disaster that could be just around the corner. Based on the 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, although the movie changes around much of the plot.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

HORROR EPICS DOUBLE FEATURE: The Hills Have Eyes (1977/2006)

Although I’d heard the name in the past, you can consider me a member of the generation that was unaware of The Hills Have Eyes before Alexandre Aja (High Tension) remade it in 2006. But unlike most people in my boat, I went to the original source first. That’s how I roll, after all. The Hills Have Eyes is Wes Craven’s second film, and is somewhat based on the legend of a murderous Scottish family from the early 1400s. During that time, the cave dwelling inbred Bean family supposedly killed and cannibalized more than a thousand people over the course of twenty-five years. Eventually, they were captured by King James VI of Scotland, and executed without a trial. Somebody should consider making a movie about the legend itself sometime instead of just taking cues from it.

Since you’ve probably seen the remake, that means you know the p
lot. A nice middle-class family is driving to California to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 25th anniversary. But instead of taking the normal route, they detour through a barren desert wasteland to check out a silver mine left to them by the grandparents. Despite warnings to stay on the main road, Dad knows that caution would result in a boring movie. Instead, he takes the dirt road and puts the pedal to the metal, wrecking the family station wagon in the process. Before long, a family of desert rat cannibals descends upon the makeshift campsite and things quickly intensify. Heinous crimes are committed, forcing the survivors to shed their civilized inhibitions and fight for their lives. Cell phones didn’t exist in 1977, and there is too much iron in the hills to allow the CB radio signal to reach anyone helpful. But there is a rebellious hillbetty who wants to leave the desert wasteland behind. And don’t count out the family dog that owes a sizable debt to Rin Tin Tin, which is annoyingly convenient at times.

I’ve always been really impressed with what Wes Craven pulled off with the limited budget he had to work with. Of course, this was back when
filmmakers actually had a sense of adventure and gave it their best shot, money be damned. Despite the financial limitations, the original Hills Have Eyes is one raw, gritty motherfucker of a movie. Michael Berryman—the guy on the poster—steals the show by simply showing up for work. Anyone who has seen him in movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Weird Science, or The Devil’s Rejects could tell you that there’s no makeup involved…he legitimately looks like that due to a genetic condition called Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia. We at Horror Epics would also like to welcome back Dee Wallace, who plays the eldest daughter. If you still haven’t seen this movie, what the hell are you waiting for?

Now for the remake, which took me a while
to get to. A lot of people told me that it was one of the worst movies they’d ever seen, but my girlfriend at the time seemed to love it. Although she rarely watched horror movies in the first place (and didn’t know it was a remake until I told her), she still wrote a cutesy review of it on her MySpace blog that didn’t help matters much. In hindsight I should have listened to her about a lot of things, and The Hills Have Eyes 2006 is one of those.

The plot has already been covered, so there’s obviously no point in rehashing it a second time. However, the story does contain a few different elements. The silver mine goes unmentioned, and the gas station owner purposely directs the Carter family to the dirt road that is their undoing. Instead of wrecking the car by driving like a moron, the accident occurs thanks to a booby trap in the road. There is also a political slant to the story that is reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah’s
Straw Dogs. But the element that separates the remake from the original the most is the extended look at the desert family and how they live. Although that difference is what I liked the most about this movie, it’s also where it goes wrong in a sense.

Like it says in the beginning of the film, the eyes of these hills are products of post-nuclear fallout—miners who refused to vacate their homes when the government declared their area a weapons testing ground. Instead, they hid in the mines, drinking radioactive water and producing offspring with their damaged DNA. Thus, mutants are born. I can dig the idea of basing them on photos taken of the effects of Chernobyl and Hiroshima. But damn it all, their version of the Michael Berryman character reminds me of Sloth from
The Goonies way too much. He even behaves like him at times, causing me wonder if he’s going to start yelling “HEEEEY YOOOOOU GUUUUUYS” after crashing through a window or something. I’m sure Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg are touched, but come on. Like I said in the Wrong Turn double feature: Real people are actually scarier than comic book-style monsters. Reason being because mutants wouldn’t require any explanation for pillaging, raping, and murdering. What else would you expect a mutant to do? Get a job and pay taxes like the rest of us? Merciless humans forced to live in the outskirts that possess a thought process dictating such actions are more brutal and unsettling to me.

That aside, I beg to differ with these people who say that
The Hills Have Eyes 2K6 is one of the worst. It isn’t perfect, sure. But I think the film does a good job carrying out something close to what may have been Wes Craven’s vision with a budget of more than fifteen bucks. If you still think this is bad, just wait until I bring up the sequels next year!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Gojira (1954)

This is where it all began. For decades, you had to be hip to Japanese-American theaters if you wanted to see the original version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters when it was occasionally brought back for a limited release. But it finally came out on DVD a few years ago, so now we can see what it’s like with subtitles and without Raymond Burr. The 1956 American version actually comes on a separate disc so you can make a comparison between the two. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, we encourage you to try to forget about Godzilla: Hokey Kid’s Matinee Hero. That nonsense doesn’t apply here. Instead, Gojira is the post-World War II nuclear nightmare and no friend to children, or anyone else. A prehistoric fusion of land and sea reptiles, awakened by American weapons testing in the Pacific Ocean. The horror of August 1945 is relived when the monster attacks the city of Tokyo, setting things aflame with his atomic breath and laying waste to everything else in his path. Gojira has more to offer besides some asshole in a rubber suit stomping all over a miniature version of Tokyo. Like Night of the Living Dead, the black-and-white photography gives Gojira a documentary-like quality that enhances the film’s somber tone. It’s not without its share of melodrama, but at no point do you feel like you’re watching a cheesy monster movie. There’s a more superior mind at work than that. The atom bomb metaphors are crystal clear, as are the questions the film raises about Japan’s psychological state in the early 1950s. One has to wonder how Japanese audiences reacted to the film upon its initial release just nine years after the traumatic events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you’re able to put aside the camp value of the American version and look past the obvious limitations in the special effects, I think you’ll find that Gojira is an excellent film. Surely you’ll agree that it completely deserves its status as the king of all “Kaiju” (fictional monster) movies.

Friday, October 16, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Dracula (1931)

Remember when Francis Ford Coppola directed Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992? I sure do, and I didn’t like it one bit. Mostly style, little substance. But it’s safe to say that Francis Ford’s rendition won’t be remembered the same way that the original Dracula is. Why? Because for as much of a great actor as Gary Oldman is, his performance as the Count doesn’t hold a candle to that of the late, great Bela Lugosi. Forget about your comedic impressions of Lugosi’s accent. Chances are your stupid impression is based on somebody’s comical interpretation anyway. Instead, sink your teeth (heh) into a shining example of how an actor can become the role they play to the point where they own it. Bela Lugosi certainly accomplishes that goal in Dracula, in which he still manages to be menacing even as we approach the film’s eightieth anniversary. The critics who point out his slow, theatrical performance completely miss the point. I don’t know what makes these people think that a centuries-old nobleman from the Carpathian Mountains would ever adapt to the 20th century. But they seem to think that this is what Dracula should have done, which doesn’t make much sense to me. The character’s appeal lies in the fact that he hasn’t changed with the times much, if at all. In that, he is unique in the face of bland Brits like John Harker. After all, there’s a reason why Harker’s fiancée Mina and friend Lucy are still talking about the Count (and not John) hours after being introduced to him. This isn’t to say that Dracula doesn’t have its flaws, but consider the context. Dracula was the first talking horror movie, and it’s clear that most of the actors are having trouble with the transition from the silent films that they were used to. The same thing goes for director Tod Browning, who had directed silent films for more than fifteen years before taking on Dracula. Although he’d directed “talkies” prior to Dracula, he wouldn’t really figure them out until he directed Iron Man later that year, and then Freaks in 1932. The ending is abrupt and anticlimactic as well. But if today’s generation takes nothing else away from Dracula, let it be Bela Lugosi’s career-defining (and ultimately career-ruining) performance. Oh, and don’t forget Dwight Frye as the doomed Renfield, a character that has been imitated in film nearly as much as the Count himself. Dracula is a film that you should see at least once, if you consider yourself a fan of horror movies at all. Perhaps I’ll check out the Spanish version (which is said to be far better) next year.

Portrait of the King

Fatal Portrait wasn’t the first King Diamond solo album I heard, but it is my favorite. If I’m doing something particularly festive for Halloween, few albums get me in the proper mood better than this one. In particular, the middle section gets my blood boiling for the Halloween spirit, starting with “Dressed in White” and continuing all the way to, well, “Halloween.” But don’t get me wrong, the entire album is flawless in my book. Fatal Portrait never fails to bring back hilarious and debaucherous memories of Halloween festivities. Most of them took place in San Francisco’s Castro district, where people would do ridiculous things to top one another in shedding their inhibitions. Unfortunately, the forces of law and order have done everything in their power to squash these senseless displays of decadence. I may not have Halloween in the Castro anymore, but I still have Fatal Portrait. At least no butch dyke pig is going to come between me and my enjoyment of the King. Cops suck, and so do you if you still haven’t opened your ears to King Diamond and his amazing vocal range.

Open those ears here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Scream and Scream Again (1969)

Scream and Scream Again would pique any scary movie buff’s interest because it’s the first (and I think only) time the three legends of 1960s horror—Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee—all star in the same movie together. However, the reason they’re given top billing is because you probably wouldn’t have bothered with this movie otherwise. The screen time these three occupy takes up about ten minutes combined. In fact, Peter Cushing’s character is killed approximately four minutes after being introduced. Obviously, this is not what anyone wanted to see. One could hope that a good story would make up for a marketing scam, but we’re not that lucky. First, we have the murder mystery: female attendees of a local Swinging London club are strangled and drained of their blood by some roving psychopath. It would be fine if they’d just stuck to that story, but they had to throw in some subplots to confuse us instead. There is the quasi-Nazi subplot, in which a secret military group obsesses over creating a new master race. They shoot a few people, torture others, and kill people with the Vulcan Death Grip. Subplot number three is the most amusing to me. A jogger collapses from chest pains and wakes up in a hospital room. To his horror, he realizes that one of his legs has been amputated. He screams. Upon subsequent visits to this poor sap, we discover a new limb missing until there aren’t any left. He screams (and screams again! Clever!) and the film cuts to the next scene each time. No common thread is established between these three plot lines until the end, well past the point when any of us still cared about trying to make sense of it all. I suppose the bright side is that this movie never really has a chance to drag or become outright boring. But it never builds on the tension created. The story (well, stories) just sits there, then kinda…ends. And they wonder why Vincent Price didn’t understand the script when he read it. Whatever saving grace this movie has comes in the performances by the lesser-known actors, particularly Alfred Marks as Police Superintendent Bellaver and Marshall Jones as the quasi-Nazi who pinches people into a cerebral hemorrhage. But their talent isn’t enough to carry Scream and Scream Again to the kind of territory that would compel us to recommend it.

Note that Peter Cushing isn’t even properly advertised in the trailer.
What the hell?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Captain Lou Albano RIP

HORROR EPICS: The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

Here’s an early ‘60s obscurity that was a favorite amongst the Elvira and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” crowds. If the story sounds familiar, it should. Aspects of it were later used in movies like Re-Animator, The Man with Two Brains, and Frankenhooker. Dr. Bill Cortner fancies himself a brilliant surgeon, willing to go the extra mile for science when his colleagues prefer to play it safe. He is at odds with the medical community due to his experiments in organ transplants, but has hit upon a means to keep human body parts alive. When Cortner’s fiancée Jan is decapitated in a car wreck (thanks entirely to his reckless driving), the doctor feels compelled to use his discovery to bring Jan back to life. He rescues her head from the wreckage and brings it back to his basement lab to revive her. When Jan in the Pan comes to and realizes what happened, she is understandably upset about this recent development in her life after death. But the good doctor is determined to restore his special lady and will hear nothing of her protests. Apparently he wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with her physical endowments though, because he goes prowling around strip clubs and beauty pageants for a sufficiently stacked female body that won’t go missed. Back at the lab, ungrateful Jan begins to plot her revenge. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die isn’t what you’d call a “great” movie per se. In fact, it’s goofy as hell. But it’s never boring, and always watchable. Surprisingly gory for its time, and I get the impression that this was probably considered the height of pure cinematic trash back then. At least until Herschell Gordon Lewis directed Blood Feast a year later. Recommended for the less pretentious members of our viewing audience who just want to kick back with some intoxicants and be entertained. Also known as The Head That Wouldn’t Die.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

HORROR EPICS: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

No comments from the peanut gallery about how a Christmas movie is being reviewed for Halloween this year. I grew up in a household that didn’t celebrate Christmas, and was occasionally teased about it as a little kid. Consequently, I sort of harbor a real resentment towards Christmas and much of what surrounds the holiday. In Silent Night, Deadly Night, Billy Chapman is another little kid who grows up with animosity towards the holidays. But he’s got a better reason to hate them than I do: his parents were murdered in front of him on Christmas Eve by a guy in a Santa outfit. Now THAT sucks, dude. Billy finishes out his childhood in an orphanage run by a sadistic nun who beats him routinely for any reason she can think of. By the time he’s a strapping young lad of eighteen, he’s working at the local toy store and appears to be just fine. But when Christmas rolls around, Billy’s Catholic guilt starts to get the best of him. Then his boss asks him to dress up as Santa Claus for the little kids, which is like playing with fire. Still in costume and getting sauced with his co-workers at the after-hours party, Billy snaps and kills them all. Why? Because Santa punishes the naughty children, boys and girls. And oh, how they get punished! If you’re naughty in Silent Night, Deadly Night, you can expect to be one of the following:

* Shot
* Stabbed
* Bludgeoned
* Impaled
* Decapitated
* Strangled by your own Christmas lights

I think little kids would behave a lot more if the Santa Claus story came with that kind of a twist, don’t you? Don’t despair…Santa does reward the good children if he finds them. But it ain’t no candy cane or an Atari system, that’s for sure. When this Yuletide slasher was first released, it caused a bit of an uproar amongst angry parents, who picketed the theaters. The critics who were outraged by the film make me chuckle. “Killing people on Halloween, that’s okay. But a killer Santa Claus? Now, that’s just going too far!” Screw the critics. Did you grow up hating Christmas too? Then this low-budget Santa slasher is for you. Followed by four sequels that we probably don’t care to bother with.

For an added bonus, here’s Siskel & Ebert with their view.