Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cat People/Curse of the Cat People

Last night, we were sitting around, looking on Netflix. Now Netflix allows Mac users the instant watching thingy, so we were pretending we were in the old school video store, browsing all the horror movies Netflix currently offers with this feature. Most of them were either somehow affiliated with Troma or Brain Damage films (seriously, Brain Damage seemingly puts out like ten movies a week, all terrible, all forgettable, but I must give them props for being at least prolific), with the exception of Dario Argento's (made for TV?) The Card Player. So we clicked on that, watched Dario basically direct an episode of CSI, and then decided we wanted to watch something else. Cat People was just that movie and, since this movie is only an hour long, why not have a mini-marathon of sorts and watch Curse of the Cat People as well?
Cat People (the 1940's version, directed by Jacques Tourneur) isn't a bad movie. It's well shot, kinda spooky in places (the pool scene, the chase on the desolate street), and I personally really don't have any complaints with it. I actually really enjoy the underlying sexuality to it, it gives it a very noir feel. Curse of the Cat People, totally different story. 
While Curse does have the same characters reprising their roles from the first film, the premise doesn't really have much to do with the original. In this round, Oliver, is married to Alice, the woman of whom Irena (the original 'cat person' from the first film) was so jealous. They've spawned and produced Amy, a daydreaming wandering silly child, who doesn't get along well with the other children. Oliver even remarks at one point early on that Amy could be Irena's child. Alice freaks out about this, natch, because she wants to forget everything that has happened from her husband's previous marriage. Some other stuff happens, mostly people just sit around talking, I don't remember since my faculties were likely impaired by Franzia's delicious chablis that I received for Xmas, and somehow Irena presents herself in ghost-slash-snow queen-slash good witch form to Amy, and they become secret friends. I started to get a little sick of this stupid movie at this point. Where were the cat people? Where were any cats at all? Irena as a ghost was seemingly very non-threatening, she had that Glenda the Good Witch vibe going on, right down to her outfit. She was kind to Amy, a girl who felt like an outsider and needed a friend. No mention of cat people or curses of them and Amy doesn't turn into a cat or seem like she has the tendencies to do so. She's only 6 or 7, so the whole sexuality of the first doesn't play out here as far as Amy is concerned. 
And then there's the mysterious Mrs. Farron, who Amy also befriends. In her wanderings, Amy comes upon Mrs. Farrons Old Dark House and they get to chatting and Mrs. Farron gives her a ring and there is sort of a spell that goes on, maybe, and then Mrs. Farron cusses her daughter out, which is by far the best scene in the movie. She's old, has to have a cain to walk around, and she seems really nice. That is, however, until you mention the younger woman that lives in the Old Dark House along with her. She starts freaking out, She's a fraud, an imposter! I have no daughter! After she completes this tirade, she goes back to normal. Typical of 1940's overacting or just the character? Totally weird but wonderful. Mrs. Farron treats us to this melodrama a few more times before the hour and fifteen minute running time is up, and it becomes more and more peculiar. She shouts, I have no daughter! My daughter is dead to me! She died when she was six! Bahhhh! Well, the 'Bahhhh' was my addition, but it would have sounded good, trust. 
So yeah, all this stuff goes on and people are talking and it's whatever and then the movie is over. No curse, no scary stuff, not a single godddamn spooky or even atmospheric moment. No cat people, not even a real cat anywhere. I couldn't even in good conscious call this a horror movie. It's one of those horror movies that poses as a horror movie and the poster is all horror looking and stuff and then there are no thrills, no chills, no spine tingling feelings. Just some stupid girl wandering around and people referencing the sequel. Frustrating? Yep. Cat People must have made money for the studio so they churned out another one, hoping to cash in on the original concept. It's pretty obvious. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bloody Birthday

First thing, aren't movies that have been transferred to DVD supposed to have been cleaned up - the audio, the picture quality? I know that not every movie warrants the Criterion treatment, but if the movie is going to go onto DVD, shouldn't it be a little cleaned up? Granted, my knowledge of this process is extremely limited, aka nonexistent, but still. This version of Bloody Birthday had not been cleaned up in the slightest, which, I came to discover, added to its gritty charm. I really did feel like I was watching the VHS tape from 1981.
Bloody Birthday is the tale of three kids who all happen to be born during a eclipse in 1970. This is evidenced by some very apparent stock footage of a lunar eclipse overdubbed with the sounds of three women's screams of labor pains. We don't see any kind of birth, we do get to see the outside of the hospital, though. We are supposed to assume the kids are going to be really fucked up somehow because of the eclipse thing. Okay, leap ahead ten years. Insert typical scene of young man and woman making out in a cemetery. (Sidenote: I spent most of my teen years as 'goth' and some might even go as far as to still qualify me as such, but I never ever in my life made out/had sex with someone in a cemetery. You would think....well, anyway. I don't get why a non-goth couple would want to make out in a cemetery. You would think that they would be grossed out by it. Who knows.) So the couple is in the cemetery and they are playing Ambulance (don't ask! - kind of like a version of doctor, I think) by the light of the full moon. They begin by a mausoleum and progress into an open grave (!) only to get their asses killed by a few (?) off-screen killers.
Next day: The sheriff is interviewing a grade school class about the murders in the cemetery, why we don't know. Does anyone know what a murder is, he questions the nine year olds. Three students obviously slump down in their seats. A little blond girl jumps up and says a murder is when someone kills someone. Seriously, truer words were never spoken. This same little girl happens to be the sheriff's daughter. So at this point, I might have closed my eyes, I do that a lot when I watch movies, especially late at night and often during the afternoon too, gone to start the dryer, or to feed a meowing Moochie, but this movie started to get fucking interesting.
So obviously the sheriff's daughter is one of the killers, as are the two other little boys who slumped down when Sheriff was asking about murder. They wind up racking up quite the body count, the couple in the cemetery, the Sherriff himself (!), another fornicating couple, this time in a van, and a slutty sister who dances in her underwear (Julie Brown of MTV fame, but not Downtown Julie Brown, the OTHER Julie Brown - I think she was in Shakes the Clown too). The murders also become increasingly elaborate, especially for a group of nine year olds. The most memorable scene is in a junkyard, it's most entertaining, if not utterly ridiculous. Seriously, I'm surprised no one has culled from it, it's so great. The styling of the whole thing is just dead on. How three children could get away with something this elaborate is absurd, if not wonderful. One is steering, one is pushing the gas and the break, all in pursuit of nubile teen girl, running around a junkyard screaming! It's the highlight of the film, seriously.
And the performances! The little girl, Debbie, is strait-up channelling Rhoda from the Bad Seed, and the brunette little boy, Curtis, pulls off his murderous act with such glee and charm, it's a wonder he didn't go on to be typecast for the rest of his days ala Anthony Perkins. The third child, Stephen, however, is a weak link, with a leaden performance. He also wears the same outfit throughout the whole thing. I IMDB'ed the cast, mostly the kids, because Debbie and Stephen were just so good and somewhat familiar looking. With the exception of some obscure 80's television, they both hadn't worked in over a decade. A shame, truly.
Bloody Birthday, though, it's one of those I might have watched back in the day and dismissed it, but now that I have a taste for such crap as an adult, I'm going to call this one upper-echelon. I enjoyed it a helluva lot more than the overlong Happy Birthday to Me and then it got me started thinking about other Birthday themed horrors out there and I couldn't think of any, but I'm sure I will sometime or will at least look it up. It has some great inventive kills too, crossbow through a peephole right into Julie Brown's eye, anyone? And where the hell does a kid get a crossbow anyway?

The Beginning, The Reckoning

I love the tagline 'The Beginning' especially for movies that have been franchises for quite some time. The New Beginning of the Friday the 13th series springs to mind first. I also love the tagline 'The Reckoning' although I can't think of a single movie with this particular tagline. (Quick IMDB search yeilded nothing I'm familiar with, mostly just French TV stuff) Wonder why I love this tagline so much? When I make my own movie, I'll likely give the sequel the tagline 'The Reckoning.' Anyway, it's my first post and here's the part where I introduce myself. I'm Jenn, I'm a horror movie freak and I've got a lot to say about this favorite topic of mine. There are a lot of horror blogs out there but this is MY horror blog and I'm excited about it. I've loved horror long before I knew who Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney were, I loved it long before I read an HP Lovecraft story or knew who Ray Bradbury was, and it would be years and years before I discovered Fulci, Argento, or Bava. I loved horror because of the Movie Time Video store and the horror VHS within. Those boxes, I could have stared at them for hours. I had no idea who HG Lewis was, all I knew was that 2000 Maniacs must be the scariest movie on the planet because the box (the big clamshell one with the girl after her tongue had been ripped out) was just so lurid. Who knew what it contained? It looked so taboo, so scary. The box for Uninvited made me never want to touch the cat again. And the interactive box for Frankenhooker was just so freakin fun. Who cared who Frank Henenlotter was then? I was drawn back to the horror section time and again, I always wanted to know what was behind those covers, what the tape really had in store for me. My mom didn't really care what we watched so my brother and I rented these horror stories and found out we really had a taste for them. It wasn't so much about the directors, or the effects, or the social commentary back then, it was about the thrills. It was about renting that tape, not knowing what was in store for you, taking it home, and watching something terrible and fun unfold. Years later, my brother worked at Movie Time Video and when the place went out of business a few years later, we loaded up the back of his car with most of the VHS from the store. I took most of the horror tapes home with me and still have them to this day. (I have a mighty DVD collection too, but I maintain you just cannot drunkenly pass out to a DVD like you can a VHS. The menu comes up, it startles you, you have to get up and take your contacts out and move around and you wind up in a bad mood - this means I will never get rid of my beloved VHS tapes.) This was almost 15 years ago and my addiction to horror is still going strong. I know there are lots of blogs out there about horror movies and so forth but I figure why not add another one? At least I can get some of this stuff out of my brain, something I don't get to do often as a waitress and part time English instructor. I know it's hard to believe my customers and my students don't want to discuss which Brian Yuzna movie is their favorite or if they prefer Mario's movies to Lamberto's. I'll be posting mostly review type stuff and other crap for as long as I feel like it.