Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Spider-bitch is played by Suzanna Ling, who really should have made other movies because she was lovely and actually does a fine job in a role that asked for very little. The movie starts with creepy 70s shot-on-film scenes of a little girl wandering around in the woods and playing with spiders. Her name is Susan and her father is a mortician. Unfortunately, her mother is sick of spiders, sick of the morgue, and sick of her husband, which she announces angrily about five minutes in. She's also screwing Susan's cop Uncle and planning to kill off her husband. Little Susan overhears this and sics a tarantula on Mom, which kills her, although it seems to be via heart attack, which I suppose is intended to explain why nobody finds a spider bite on her. You can't actually die from a tarantula bite, although we know from The Beyond that they can eat your face, so that can do it. Here, everyone seems to die from heart attacks. Also, nobody ever seems to just swat the spiders that are crawling on them and making them have heart attacks.
Luckily, one Halloween night, a young boy gets up the courage to call Susan and ask her on a date. Naturally, Susan thinks her blossoming young vagina is going to experience the pleasures of a good pounding. Instead, some idiot dudes show up hoping to steal some coffins from her dad and bully her and, in the process, they kill one of her pet tarantulas and then chicken out and run away. Apparently, young men in the 70s had no game whatsoever- again, Suzanna Ling is a very hot chick and you stomp on her pet spider instead of trying to make time with her? Way to go, Horshack
Anyway, Susan follows two of the idiots to the drive-in where they're making out with some non-spider-owning girls in their car and she does what creepy girls with tarantulas do best in these movies: letting loose spiders to do her evil bidding. This seemingly takes forever, since spiders aren't great at hitting their marks, and finally the horny teens realize they're covered with tarantulas and freak out and die and shit. Their deaths are very tragic, painful and time-consuming.
After that, she has to kill anyone who figures out her secret, keep her spiders alive, and not get porked by her uncle. A few people die in some very painful ways, including a young girl who gets strangled in a scene that reminds me once again that a 70s PG rating was a lot different from a pussy 2010s PG. That's pretty much the movie. Susan doesn't exactly have a character arc and she even seems to forget about the spiders towards the end. It's all pretty tame stuff and probably could have played as a TV movie-of-the-week. Pretty dull.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Young Michael (played with conviction by Paul Clemens) is a medical anomaly. His metabolic system is in hyperdrive and he's lying in the hospital dying. His loving parents (played by Ronnie Cox and Bibi Besch) suspect that this has something to do with the hulking mutant that raped Mom after their car broke down on their wedding night, putting the beast within her, so to speak, and creating Michael. Hoping to help the boy, they return to the shit-hole Southern town where all of this took place and start asking questions that, of course, strike the town elders (who are seemingly all played by Sam Peckinpah regulars) as nosy. Meanwhile, Michael gets up and goes on the lam. Apparently, he's okay, except for his dreams about an old abandoned farmhouse with something locked in the basement and his need to kill people in gory ways. Puberty's a bitch.
In between getting painful headaches that cause him to kill and having these nightmares, Michael falls in love with a young girl named Amanda (Katherine Moffat) whose papa is an almost-comically goony redneck (John Dennis Johnston) and naturally wants to shotgun him. The parents, meanwhile, are discovering that this has something to do with this guy Billy Connors who raped the wife (and then died?) and the murders are connected because all of the people getting killed are from the same family. Also, Michael is apparently haunted by the cicadas whose life-cycle involves laying dormant for seventeen years and then shedding their skins. Like the dead rapist, Michael has a kinship with insects...
See what I mean? It's hard to discuss this plot without it getting silly. Because the big reveal is that Michael is sure as hell going to shed his skin and turn into a rubber monster, just like a cicada. We'll get to that in a second, but please see if this plot makes sense: Billy Connors was fucking some redneck's wife, so the redneck shot he,r and chained Billy up in the basement, starved him, and then fed loverboy her corpse. This, naturally, turned Billy into some sort of beast-man and he broke out, raping Besch and impregnating her. Her offspring, Michael, now, has the desire to kill off the members of the family that chained up Billy. So far, so good. Now, as he reaches seventeen, he's going to turn into a rubber monster and go on a rampage because his dead raping father loved cicadas- and that's where it gets silly.
The transformation scene, incidentally, is the highlight of the film with Tom Burman inflating Clemens's head like a rubber balloon. It's pretty cool 80s latex effects that will make you exclaim "fuck CGI!" if you're anything like me. It does require the suspension of belief that everyone basically stands around and watches this happen for an eternity without popping the kid's head with a pin. But, compared to accepting that the offspring of a rape turns into a cicada-monster, that's not much of a stretch!
But, still, a movie in which the killer kid felt a kinship with cicadas would make sense and have a certain poetic logic to it- having him turn into a rubber cicada-monster via inflate-o-head? It's really hard not to find that a little silly.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
In the 1930s, gun moll Ruby Claire's lover Nicky was gunned down by her gangster boyfriend and the Dade County Gang down in the bayou in a neat opening scene that reminded me vaguely of Creepshow. As he sinks beneath the swamp, Nicky vows revenge and, simultaneously, Ruby goes into labor with his brat. Now, Nicky never knew that Ruby didn't set him up, which is an important plot point because he haunts her, but she sort of deserves it anyway.
Why? Well, she pretty much put the Dade County Gang to work in her drive-in movie theater where she's living in the 50s. She's living in decadent Southern Gothic luxury with her old man, the gang, and her mute daughter (played by Baldwin) and is played by Laurie as a sort of Southern Norma Desmond. We learn at some point that Ruby was once a movie actress and nightclub singer, but has since gone to seed. Unfortunately, not enough is made of this- it would have been cool to see more flashbacks to her old moll days or a drunken rant about the new drive-in movies. The 50 foot woman stayed big; it was the pictures that got small!
Anyway, the movie is basically a ghost story for the first two thirds. The mobsters all work at the drive-in and get killed off in creative ways by an invisible assailant. A highlight is the goon who gets shoved in the guts of a coke machine, which then delivers a cup of blood. In the third act, the film switches to a possession story with Baldwin acting a bit like Linda Blair and a bit like the horny dead mobster who wants to get back together with Ruby and, meanwhile, hoodlums keep dying and Laurie wanders around the drive-in lot drunk at night.
I know what you're going to ask and, yes, it's about as silly as it sounds, which is why I found it enjoyable. Making matters even more confusing, director Curtis Harrington got fucked on the ending of the film- his was more romantic, which makes sense because it is a movie about a woman who's in love with a ghost, so it makes the most sense for her to kill herself somehow. They replaced this with Piper Laurie getting drowned by a skeleton, which just looks cheesy as hell. Also, there's a whole other version of the flick going around with the TV edit, which had entirely new scenes shot and directed by Stephanie that reportedly don't make a fuck of a lot of sense. I'd go with the VCI DVD (with commentary but without the later Kiss of the Tarantula double feature) and drink a few beers before watching because it's a loopy hoot.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The lawsuit was successful, incidentally, and AIP pulled Abby from theaters. It's been hard to find on DVD, but I have my sources. Yes, it's a total rip off of the Exorcist, but an entertaining one with an all-black cast.. Clearly, the idea was to make a blaxploitation Exorcist- AIP even wanted to call it the Blackorcist- but it's better than a blaxploitation Exorcist has any right to be.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
In some circles it would probably be blasphemous to review this version of the Mario Bava film Lisa and the Devils, which is cut up and reassembled into House of Exorcism, destroying Bava’s original vision in the process. House of Exorcism is definitely one of the weirdest money-driven mutations of a horror film ever to be produced. It’s about 2/3rds Bava’s original move and 1/3rd a whole 'nother plotline that was shot a few years later to capitalize off the Exorcist. In the process, at least twenty minutes was lost from Bava’s film and horror fans feared his original vision was lost forever until a full print finally turned up. That version is far superior to this one, but House of Exorcism is definitely one of the weirdest flicks you’re likely to see.
Bava’s original film was a dreamy, atmospheric gothic horror flick about a young student, played by Elke Sommer, on a class trip who sees the devil painted on a fresco and then runs into his double in an Italian workshop- played by Telly Savalas, naturally- before getting a lift that takes her to an old mansion with a screwed up rich family- Mom is blind, the Son (who strongly resembles Al Pacino in Scarface) keeps his dead wife in his bead, Telly Savalas is the butler, Italian exploitation stalwart Gabriele Tinti is the chauffeur, and everyone seems nuts. Meanwhile, the couple she hitched a ride from are bitter and the wife is screwing around, which isn’t terribly surprising since wives in Italian exploitation films are always screwing around. Before long, of course, people start turning up dead. In one particularly morbid touch, a dead body is too tall to fit in his coffin, so his ankles are broken. For some reason, Mr. Savalas makes dummies of people in the house, which explains what he was doing in the carpenter’s shop earlier in the film.
However, Bava’s film didn’t do very well in
Even more confusing, the mansion story seems to be set in a much earlier decade, giving the impression that Lisa was reincarnated. Really, it makes no sense that she went through that whole ordeal and then went on a class field trip where she was possessed. And who the hell is Telly Savalas playing in this movie: the Devil, a doll maker, a butler, Kojak, or what? Even worse, the revamped version cuts entire sequences out and shuffles others around weirdly. As one moviegoer in the Vagrancy screening put it, when the film returns to the streets of
It’s all ridiculously confusing and never really makes complete sense- sort of the David Lynch version of the Exorcist. If you go in with no idea that the film is actually a Frankenstein’s monster version of an earlier movie and an entirely different flick, you’ll feel like you’ve been taking drugs when you see it. But, that’s not exactly a bad thing.
The psychotic forest ranger in question is played by Aaron Corbett as one of those guys who takes his job way too seriously. In credits footage, it’s explained that he was studying for the seminary and decided to do God’s work as a forest ranger instead and went missing after a horrible fire. In keeping with the slash film tradition, the back story doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a good character and the filmmakers are already trying to rally support for more psychotic forest ranger films, which one supposes hearkens back to the slasher film convention of franchising the shit out of characters. That got old pretty quickly as I recall.
As you can imagine, alcohol serves as fuel for these proceedings- the amount of booze you consume beforehand will determine how long you find this funny. I was about half-lit during the Shock Stock screening, so I was laughing almost through the second act and it picked back up in the third. It’s definitely a very amusing homage to slasher flicks and I’m pretty sure fans of the genre will get a kick out of it. I also suspect it will reward repeated viewings.
Carradine is out romping about in the California deserts when he gets captured by some dudes in white suits on hopped-up dirtbikes. The guys also capture Claudia Jennings, who plays Deneer, member of a nomadic tribe. In the process they also capture the rest of the tribe, but a brat along with them gets captured by some desert mutants, so that’s a subplot as well, although a very small subplot because Allan Arkush probably didn't want to deal with the difficulties of directing a kid.
When our heroes try to escape, they’re forced to fight in the “Deathsport”, a sort of gladiatorial joust on the “death bikes”, which are those retrofitted dirt bikes- retrofitted for death! Note: There will be no death refunds for anyone arriving after the designated starting death-time. Anyway, they defeat a bunch of death-guys on death-bikes and Lynch sets off the landmines that cause a whole bunch of shit to explode in fireballs, including a number of death-bikes. Corman likes blowing shit up in his movies and, as noted in the documentary Corman's World, he likes using a motorcycle until its trashed and then blowing it up- hard logic to argue with. Unfortunately, you're not gonna get a death refund that way.
Jennings kills the king during her naked torture using only her powers of nudity and Carradine escapes during the Deathsport and they both go on the lam. Lynch probably could take power now and forget about the two of them, but he’s a bit bonkers too and, besides, the movie would be pretty short otherwise.
After that, there are a lot of battles in which the dirt bikes blow up really easily. Clearly they're called "death bikes" (or "destructobikes", I forget) because they blow up really easily. One would imagine it was not a masterstroke of intelligence to send out an army in bikes that explode really easily though. There are some cool Raimi-cam shots taken from the front of the bikes and a battle with clear plexiglass swords that look pretty nifty. Actually, a lot of this movie seems to have been devised with the intention of looking super neat-o cool, which is nice if you're either below the age of 11 or really drunk.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Viva la Muerte doesn’t seem like such a shocking film when you’re watching it, but afterwards, most of the storyline recedes into the distance of your memory and what’s in the foreground is plenty horrific. A surrealist classic about the deep psychological toll of fascism, Viva La Muerte is more horrific than most of the films discussed here because its terrors are internal as well as external- the film shows how fascism controls the body through state violence, while colonizing the mind along with it. There’s nowhere to escape.
Fando (Mahdi Chaouch) is a young boy whose father was arrested for treason during the Spanish Civil War. The film shows his laconic days with his mother, playing around the house, and finally coming upon information that he cannot quite understand: his mother turned in his father as a traitor, resulting in his execution. The family unit ate itself and the rest of the film depicts the boy’s fantasy world in a shocking and surrealistic style.
Made in 1970 by playwright and Jodorowski collaborator Fernando Arrabal, the film was shot in
In a sense, Pan’s Labyrinth told a similar story about the fantasy life of children under Spanish fascism, but Guillermo Del Torro’s film is a bit too taken with its fantasy elements. Fando’s dreams are vulgar and horrific: his father is buried up to his neck in the ground and run over by horses, hooded and dragged, whipped, tied up in a cage and shit on by his wife, and shot by her with a cannon, naked children carry a dead body through the streets, the boy’s piss drowns the city, eyes are gouged out and eaten by a laughing general, a priest is fed his severed testicles, a pagan priestess covers the boy with spaghetti, and other horrors take place. Nuria Espert’s performance is unbelievable here- playing a mother wracked by religious and state-enforced guilt in one part of the film and, conversely, Mother Mary, and a lascivious bitch in the other, she flagellates herself, abuses her child, and in the most shocking scene of the film, rolls around in the blood of a cow killed and butchered on film and sews up a priest in its carcass, while passionately kissing him.
Some of the fantasy scenes are shot in a clearly fantastic style- colored lenses, possibly shot on video, and with children’s music playing. The boy’s burgeoning sexuality seems somehow mingled with death, warped by the world around him. The society seems fixated on pain and punishment and there’s a suggestion that there’s a continuum between the old Pagan rituals, their Catholic replacements, and the norms of Fascism. Everyone in the country seems fixated on suffering and vengeance. It is not a pleasant movie- many unpleasant things happen in the film; but filtering it through the eyes of a child serves to soften the shocks a bit and the surrealist atmosphere helps as well. It’s almost pleasant in places, but it’s lingering images and implications are deeply disturbing.
Man, is this movie boring! It’s also fairly stupid, but it’s not as if that’s stopped me before. In this case, though, I was checking the timer every thirty seconds and trying to resist the urge to fast-forward the whole time. Some people just like punishment.
The story begins promisingly enough: the “Sisters”, a sorority presumably, are initiating two girls into their order with a fake game of “Russian roulette” that goes horribly wrong. This is why most sororities stick to making pledges ingest vast quantities of booze and frat brother jizz. Anyway, the bullets are supposed to be blanks, but one’s a live round, the girl gets an untimely aeration, and that’s that.
Jump forward seven years and the sisters have gone about their lives. Judy (played by exploitation stalwart Claudia
The reunion is certainly mysterious- two hired dudes show up and drive them to a secluded ranch that seems to be deserted. None of them seem terribly concerned about the totally inexplicable situation in which some stranger, who was clearly not in their sorority, invited them to a secluded ranch to throw them a reunion. Also, none of them have that shooting on their minds. Clearly, the filmmakers either thought that young women are really stupid, or just did not think the plot through; probably the latter.
The two dudes have hung around, hoping to get laid. The girls initially don’t believe their story about sticking around to protect them, because really what could there be to fear in an abandoned ranch where a mysterious stranger has invited you for a party seven years after the group of you killed a girl?
Long story short: Edward Clyburn (Arthur Franz) the father of the dead girl has invited them to el rancho to get revenge. There’s an electric fence around the ranch, blah blah blah. And he just sort of hangs out for the next half hour, playing a flute. Somehow he keeps hiding from the girls, who start dropping like flies. The hippie cultist gets strangled. One of the slutty ones gets stabbed. This also makes little to no sense because Clybourne is supposed to be trying to suss out the killer and her accomplice from the group, but killing off the girls doesn’t exactly help with that.
The movie has its moments, such as when one of the dudes brilliantly runs into the electric fence. There's also an inadvertently hilarious scene in which two girls argue over one taking a shower. “Francie, I really don’t think you should take a shower!”
“Cleanliness is next to godliness, right? So I figure, if I’m next to Him, Clybourne won’t get next to me!” She gets stabbed with a pair of scissors, thankfully.
One could maybe see where this could be suspenseful, but the direction is lackluster and the script leaves open vast expanses of nothing in particular happening. Also, the girls are so stupid it’s hard to care if they get killed. If you’re wondering (of course you are) there’s no nudity and the gore is minimal and more like ordinary effects than special effects. There was a surprise ending that actually was a surprise, but only because everything that went before was so unsurprising.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
And now we're in a flat with the lovely Catherine (Candace Glendenning) and her boyfriend lying in bed. For the count, we've now seen three nude women in less than ten minutes. Not that I'm counting, of course. But she's cute. And young Catherine is leaving with her mum and dad to go visit her Uncle and cousin who she's never met, right around the same time as her birthday, and she's having weird premonitions about it- none of this should be seen as foreshadowing!