Wednesday, May 27, 2009

White Zombie

It might be hard to imagine, but zombies weren't always the trendy shuffling brain eaters they are today. You know, I've grown quite tired of zombies lately, having pretty much abandoned the subgenre for SciFi originals, sexploitation from the seventies, and 80's camp I procure on VHS, the real intellectual stuff. Zombies have been the new pirates for awhile now. But one zombie movie I never tire of, partially because it doesn't feature drooling, rotting gut muncher zombies and stars Bela Lugosi, is White Zombie. It's classics like White Zombie that make me remember why I love horror movies in the first damn place. White Zombie is smart and allegorical and, although it predates much feminist literary criticism, it can be read and argued in feminist terms, mainly the concept of the madwoman in the attic.

Beginning with Jane Eyre, the madwoman is a figure throughout the literary canon and film. In 1932, Haitian resistance to American occupation was increasing. White Zombie, arguably the first zombie movie, treated audiences to seminal elements of the myth of the zombie. Murder Legendre, played with eerie creepiness by Bela Lugosi, is a voodoo sorcerer that reanimates the dead to work in his sugar fields. He falls in love with a young white woman, who he transforms into the white zombie of the title. Poster art from the movie shouted, “A white girl caught in the zombie spell – slave to the evil will of the master zombie!” Haiti was long vilified as a land of voodoo and evil, which sustained Americans indifference towards the island. In this film, the terrorized peasant transformed into the soulless zombie is transferred over to the young virgin, “lustfully coveted by the evil ‘Voodoo’ sorcerer, the quintessentially innocent victim who must be rescued from her zombification before she is basely violated by racially impure hands” (Paravisini-Gebert 43).

Madeline is the young woman who arrives on the island of Haiti, in love with a man she met while aboard the ship to the island. Since she is so blissfully in love with this man, she is dumb to the entreaties of a rich planter on the island that covets her, a man controlled by Legendre. The planter solicits Legendre’s help in procuring a zombie poison to administer to Madeline so he can possess her. He gives her the poison literally as she is walking down the aisle to her groom and she falls into a coma at the altar. She is buried in her wedding dress on what would have been her wedding night. The wedding dress/night motif is indicative of her status as zombified/commodified woman. Paravisini-Gebert claims, “the wedding night motif, with it’s promise of carnal fulfillment, emphasizes the erotic quality of her death-like vulnerability, as does with the flimsy shroud (the wedding dress) in which she is buried and in which she will spend the rest of the movie” (43). Erotic gazing continues when Legendre sees Madeline as zombie; he is enchanted by her lack of will and decides he must possess her as well. Another ad for the movie told audiences they would be treated to, “A beautiful girl torn away from her lover on her bridal night, rendered lifeless…soulless…then brought back to life again by a fiend and made to perform his every desire!” (Rhodes 316).

Toward the latter part of the movie, there is a telling scene of Madeline squirreled away in the turret of a castle. The planter has completely turned her into the zombified madwoman in the attic. She stands on her balcony, glassily staring out to the rough sea below, perhaps trying to remember what her life was like before her capture. The final climatic scene of the film finds all the aforementioned characters on a high cliff, the sea raging below them. The resolution confirms hierarchies as Legendre is killed by the white planter in a burst of coming to his senses and Madeline is returned to her lover undefiled, or so we are led to believe.

This tale ends happily, given that it was made by Hollywood in a golden age of cinema. Although Madeline is released from her zombie state, she remains commodified because she returns to the arms of her lover. She does not descend from the attic, as it were; she rather retreats to her normal role of sweet, complacent bride. She still dons her wedding dress, indicating her gender and her race will not be challenged any further. However, the film, and others like it, is radical in many ways and zombie woman can be viewed favorably in some feminist terms.

Ellen Draper argues for the support of zombie woman films. She says, “the film recognize that the world beyond their fiction is riddled with sexism, an in no way preclude a further feminist critique of Hollywood film practice. The second thing to be said in support of these films’ exploration of patriarchal fiction is that the patriarchy itself is a fiction…erected and maintained by feminist theory to unite disparate experiences into a cohesive political force” (55). Draper’s statement indicates how these films predate much feminist film theory. Like Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea, “the zombie woman films claim to have inherited directly from the Romantic poets artistic self-consciousness: both the possibility of radical mastery and the isolation of authorial creation are addressed by these horror films from the Thirties” (Draper 59).

White Zombie then function as text at odds with a classic Hollywood style, rather than merely commodifying woman, but depicting them with an almost passion for madness. And let us not forget, it's where Rob Zombie got the band name.

Other good, if not great, movies features old school zombies include but are not limited to I Walked With a Zombie (another great madwoman in the attic example), and a bit more recent, Serpent and the Rainbow.

Lemme know if you wanna see my list of sources.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Four words. Brian Yuzna. Paul Naschy. That should be all you need to determine that Rottweiler is the the unsung hero of the dog/robot hybrid movies from Spain, if there was ever such an untapped subgenre.  You don't even have to go put it at the top of your netflix because I've taken the necessary steps to ensure that upon reading this writeup won't actually have to see the movie. Hey, it's Memorial Day weekend, you shouldn't be cramped up at home drinking wine by yourself, with your many cats, watching horror movies anyway. You should be out there celebrating this holiday for some reason. 

That being said, *looking deeply and intensely into your eyes* do you know how much I love you? I love you a lot. I love you so much that I've watched Rottweiler twice now. I love you so damn much that I purchased Rottweiler so I could watch it again just for you. Actually it's because I just won't rent something twice. I think if you're willing to watch something twice, you should just buy it and have it in your collection. Because somebody might come over one day and say remember that robot dog ghost movie that you were talking about that time you had too much blow and you couldn't stop talking? And I can be all like, no, but yeah, Brian Yuzna's Rottweiler, wanna watch it? And then I can show it to that person that asked about it, rather than having to find clips on youtube. But our love is still like the deepest of oceans or something. 

See the lengths I'm willing to go? 

Okay, yeah, the movie. Dante is this douche American who, along with his girlfriend Ula, play a game called Infiltration. Basically, to play Infiltration, you travel internationally without a passport or other credentials to see if you can go to other countries without getting caught. Dante and Ula are aboard a immigrant vessel bound for Spain or somewhere, it doesn't really matter, and get caught by Kufard played by my boyfriend Paul Naschy. I think if I got caught anywhere by Paul Naschy, I would spontaneously explode. I say that to Christian all the time, like if we went to a convention and Naschy was there, I just wouldn't know what to do. I wouldn't be able to stand in his line and meet him, I would be too nervous. I would probably just go rock back and forth in a corner or something. 

So they get caught by Kufard and Kufard does sexy times with Ula in an SUV in exchange for their release. Some other stuff happens (there are lots of flashbacks), and Dante finds himself separated from Ula and in a Spanish prison, which he manages to escape from, which is no easy task, being as how there's a bounty hunter and a part-robot rottweiler on his trail. Most of the film is Dante fleeing from his captors and said rottweiler. At one point, he kills the dog, only to have some fog rise up from the ground to resurrect the beast and get him up and running to find Dante again. Dante's sole purpose is to reunite with Ula, who may or may not be a prostitute in some red light district somewhere. 

Dante also manages to get raped by a woman in a house where he seeks refuge, which is not something you see too often. I can't even think of another movie off the top of my head right now that features a woman raping a man. It's an interesting choice to portray this. While he gets raped, the rott kills the woman rapist's dogs, something I was not happy about, since I can't stand stuff like that. Somehow it's okay when Dante shoots the rott, because it's so fakey looking, and the eyes are all glowing blue and some of the metal is exposed; it's like it's not a real animal. When the rott killed and maimed the real dogs, I got upset. I got even more upset because the woman's daughter, the little girl that played Ophelia in Pan's Labrinyth, is moved to tears when she sees her precious Bella dog all bloody and fucked up. I'll watch people get killed and mutilated all day long, no problemo, but show a dog, or even worse, a cat, get killed or abused, and I will start freaking out. It's part of a horror movie being effectively fucked up for me, when there's animal cruelty. Not that I enjoy it, but it is something that often has to be endured in this genre. 

Where was I? Dante eventually makes his way to the red light district and faces Kufard again. Seems that Kufard had the dog engineered (not that that explains the whole incident with fog, unless the dog's programming was off wack and it just needed some fog to reboot the system, yeah, that sounds about right) to track Dante throughout this whole process. Kind of like Dante's little game of Infiltration, Kufard was playing his own game with Dante as the game piece. He orchestrated the whole Dante in prison and escaping bit for his own amusement. If only I was so powerful...

It's all kinda dumb but also kind awesome. But it wasn't all for naught. It was a learning experience.  I learned the following about cyber-rottweilers:

1. They can't go into water.
2. They can eat firearms.
3. They are capable of leaving wounds that bleed when they are the vicinity of the victim. 
4. They frequent red light districts. 
5. They can attack in the day or night.
6. They can only be killed by fire. 

So I'm ready now if the cyber-rottweiler Apocalypse comes anytime soon. I know their patterns and I know their weaknesses. Oh, they might prove to be worthy opponents at first, but I know what to do. Do you think the aforementioned apply if the dog is any breed besides rottweiler?

I'm not going to stop watching Brian Yuzna movies. I will not forgive Faust, but I really enjoyed Rottweiler. Shit, you could do worse than Corbin Bernsen in the The Dentist. And Society is on the top favorites of all time list. Slap Yuzna's name on it and I'm there. And I don't care if Paul Naschy has a bit role as a mean ass motherfucker border patrol guy with a cyber dog, that's the role he was born to play. You think Yuzna and Naschy get together over tapas and tempranillo and talk about the horror movie biz? Then they prank call Jess Franco, Stuart Gordon, and Guillermo del Toro. 

Okay, it's Friday night. I was supposed to work but the boss let me go early because no one wants spaghetti on Memorial Day weekend. So you guys come over and we'll watch something cool. But we won't really watch it, we'll just get fucked up and rant a lot, start pointing at each other and saying, no, no, that's not it! my point was this! and maybe we can even make some prank phone calls and eat pizza. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sharks in Venice

To Do List:

1. Teach non-descript class involving Oceanography, deep-sea diving, and shark attacks at University

2. Find Medici treasure from the 8th Crusade

3. Expose shark conspiracy in Venice canals

4. Run afoul of the mob

5. Avenge father's death

If this sounds like some sort of hackneyed Indian Jones 'to do' list, you're right, in that it's Stephen Baldwin's 'to do' list in Sharks in Venice. See if any of this sounds vaguely familiar: adventurer professor Dr. Daniel Franks (Baldwin) is summoned to Venice from his cushy teaching job at University because of a 'propeller accident' involving his adventurer professor father. Upon finding dad's apartment in shambles from someone searching for the late Dr. Franks' notes on sharks and Medici treasure, Daniel sets out to find out who or what killed his dear old dad. Seems he has some of the same spirit.

However, it seems some stock footage of great whites is stalking the canals of Venice, put there by the mob boss Clemenza, so divers won't be tempted to look for the Medici treasure. Actually, it's a combo of stock footage and a plaster looking orca (for the close up attack shots) stalking the canals of Venice, if you want to get technical. And by Venice, I don't mean Venice, Italy, I mean, that hotel in Vegas that you can ride the gondola through, computer generated images of Venice, and a sound stage in Bulgaria.

As menacing as all this sounds, Daniel, being the great adventurer professor he is and like his father was, finds the Medici treasure no problem, of course attracting the attention of Clemenza. (The scene where Daniel finds the treasure is strait outta Last Crusade - complete with booby traps, cobwebs, triumphant music, the whole thing, but instead of being pursued by Nazis, Daniel is pursued by great white stock footage.) He takes a cheap looking emerald to prove he's found the treasure and jumps back into the water, barely escaping with his life.

At this point, I was a little disappointed because we are yet to be treated to giant CGI sharks attacking people in Venice or sound stage in Bulgaria, whatever you want to call it. (I guess Sharks on Sound Stage in Bulgaria isn't as compelling a title as Sharks in Venice.) I won't be disappointed for long, though, as the movie (sort of) delivers, with three or four cheap looking digital shark attack effects. I mean, seriously, this is why I watch these types of movies, for the cheap CGI, not for stock footage of great whites, which I can see on the Discovery channel. But where can you see a whole CGI city? There are some scenes of Venice exteriors that are completely computer generated. I think it would have been easier to just spring for the actual trip to Venice and then CGI the shark in, rather than the other way around. But I'm not a stickler; it really just adds to Sharks in Venice's cheapie charm.

Anyway, Clemenza offers Daniel two million bucks (Aren't they in Europe though? Shouldn't it be euros?) to go back in the shark infested canal and find the Medici treasure again. Well, being a mob guy, he doesn't really offer, he more tells him he has to do it or else he'll kill his girlfriend, medieval history professor adventurer Laura. Sparing you the details, Daniel follows through, natch - he's a great professor adventurer, and Clemenza gets fed to the plaster orca and everyone hugs and gives each other kisses and calls it a day It's all wrapped up nice and neat, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the canals of CG Venice are now safe, credits appear, and then, BAM! a shark attacks a gondola! We're not safe after all! Stephen Baldwin failed us again! If I had a nickel for every time someone's said that....
I might not be a great professor adventurer like Stephen Baldwin, but anything involving giant CG sharks is at the top of my 'to do' list.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fiancee of Dracula

In case you were wondering what Jean Rollin's been up to the last five or seven years or so, you can stop wondering because he was obviously hard at work toiling away at making the masterpiece that is Fiancee of Dracula (2002). (I'm always wondering what people are doing right at the moment I think about them. Like I wonder what Michael Jackson or David Lee Roth are doing right now. I wonder the same about Jean Rollin, like what is he doing right this very moment? I don't really have a lot going on.)

Fiancee of Dracula is like most of Rollin's oeuvre - it's disjointed and surreal and features some lesbian vampirism, as well as some over-the-top situations involving nuns (not that a lot of the other work I've seen by Rollin has to do with over-the-top situations involving nuns, but that's what sets this one sort of apart, amongst other things, I suppose.) The film starts suddenly when we see two men, an old professor type and a younger curly-haired leather-jacket wearing gent, peering into a cemetery. We'll find out later that the professor is a professor who really wants to meet Dracula and the young man is Eric, his assistant. As they look into the cemetery, they see a dwarf in a jester outfit and his vampire lady friend traipsing about. The vamp gets nakey and drinks the dwarf's blood and as they are about to do sex to each other on top of a crypt, the Professor grabs the dwarf and demands to be taken to his leader, Dracula. He's pretty fearless in the presence of the vampire, perhaps he's done this sort of work before? He is a professor, I guess. The dwarf says he doesn't know where Drac is but if they go talk to this insane woman in the nearby village, she can tell them where to go.

Satisfied with this, Prof and Eric go off to find the village idiot. They meet her by a silo or a tower or something, and she rambles on about sharks, opium dens, and the Queen of Shadows, who is really the HBIC if you want to talk to Dracula. She also tells them that the Queen of Shadows is kept by the Sisters of the Order of the White Virgin and they should go to their convent if they want to talk to the Queen. She tells them all this while humming and dancing around foolishly, and none of it makes much sense, but the Prof trusts her, I mean, why not?, and they head off to wherever the hell the convent is.

Upon arriving at the convent, they meet Sister Pipe and Sister Cigar (an attempt at some kind of Freudian allusion?), who welcome the men into the convent because it's been awhile since they've seen mens. These are not your ordinary nuns - they make out with each other, lift up their habits to show the Prof and Eric their underwear, perform ritualistic gypsy pagan exorcism dances, and have oil paintings of naked ladies all over their ornately decorated convent. Oh yeah, and they also take care of Isabelle, the aforementioned Queen of Shadows, who we are told later is going to become Dracula's bride. When we meet Isabelle for the first time, she's wearing a sequin and tassel number and spouts all manner of nonsense about Jesus filling our hearts with whatever and then she retires to her jungle themed room for the Prof and Eric to come interview her. She's as crazy, if not crazier than the village idiot, and tells them all manner of things about how Dracula lives inside a clock and how he speaks to her telepathically and fills her with darkness.

The Prof tells her to get the eff outta dodge, but don't let anyone stop her so Eric and him can follow her to this clock where Dracula lives so they can talk to him about important Dracula stuff, I guess. He then casts a spell on her so she'll sleep until midnight, the appropriate hour to go see Dracula. Then two weirdos stop by the convent to talk to Mother Superior about claiming Isabelle as their daughter or relation or cousin, who knows. After Mother Superior lights a cig on an ornate light-up singing Crucifixion lighter, she tells them hell to the no, they ain't getting Isabelle. The weirdos vow revenge and take their leave. It's all very theatrical.

Meanwhile, the dwarf takes Isabelle to some castle ruins in the sidecar of his motorcycle with a white lacey bassinet on the back. They meet up with an Ogress (the same actress that played the village idiot - only now she's an Ogress, which there is no real indication of her Ogress-ness, except the fact that she tells us "I am an Ogress." She's got on a lot of eye liner and a sexy dress and she eats the baby in the bassinet. So we're, of course, supposed to believe she's an Ogress, then.) She tells the dwarf and Isabelle she'll eat up their bones but then Eric shows up and shoots her, which is awesome, because she talks waaaaay too much. They navigate through the castle to a courtyard and the dwarf and that weird revenge swearing couple bring out a coffin. A woman in a blue dress shows up and plays a violin. The the beautiful (subject to opinion) She-Wolf shows up, and much like the Ogress, we're merely told she's a She-Wolf, although she does have long fingernails and wears a red dress, two She-Wolf qualities if there ever were two. She's the MC for this unholy night and tells everyone that the nuns gotta be killed as the sacrifice to bring Drac back to life. She, like the Ogress and the vamp, aren't particularly frightening. At one point, the She-Wolf and the vamp make out, but in about the least erotic way possible. Some other stuff happens like a nun gets her heart ripped out and the vamp gets thrown off a stone wall by the dwarf, but none of that really advances what attempt, if any, at a plot.

We finally get to meet Drac at about an hour in, and he does indeed rest inside a clock, like one of those big grandfather clocks that could actually fit a human inside. I know this because when I was a kid my mom inherited a clock like that from her grandmother and I loved that clock because it was really ornate and had all these animals intricately carved into the wood. I was like seven then and I could fit inside the clock if I really smooshed myself in there. My mom caught me doing it and yelled at me because the clock was an antique. I wonder if she still has that clock, I haven't thought about it in years, but I would love to have it in my own house. Anyway...Drac presents himself, and checks out Isabelle in her wedding attire, which consists of some white netting and red flowers placed over her boobies and crotch. The Professor and Eric are still hanging around, as are the nuns who are carrying human skulls and wearing funnels on their heads (seriously), and now the Prof can apparently communicate telepathically with both Eric and Isabelle. The dwarf is still running around somewhere too, but now instead of being dressed like a jester, he's dress like a skin, with combat boots and a bomber jacket and braces.

Eric decides somewhere along the line that he's got to save Isabelle from Drac's clutches, because all this is a bunch of mumbo jumbo anyway, and he doesn't believe in it. Then why is he the Prof's assistant in the first place? The Prof looks into Isabelle's mind and sees terrible darkness and evil and the whole thing dissolves into a cacophonous craziness that I'm not really entirely sure I understood.

Christian said Fiancee of Dracula was as bad as Alien Blood, which also featured some non-threatening, non-vampire-acting vamps, but I'm not convinced. Yeah, it was bad, but in a pretty okay, kinda alright way, because it's just so damn surreal. It's like what were you thinking, Jean Rollin or guy that wrote this, did you really think this made sense? And then we're watching the credits role and I said something like, do you think that out of the hundreds of people that worked on this movie, not one person was like, hey, this doesn't make any sense? It's not nearly as erotic as Rollin's stuff from the seventies and it has a lot more dialogue, which isn't necessarily a good thing. But seriously, what other movie are you going to get an Ogress, a jester and skinhead dwarf, a vampire, a dracula that lives in a clock, a she-wolf, a random violiness, a Van Helsing, psychic connections, and some totally silly nuns? Where? Yeah, I though so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Soledad Miranda's Hotness

Is there any limit to Soledad Miranda's hotness? I don't think so. This weekend, I watched She Killed in Ectasy directed by Jess Franco. It's a fairly simple murder revenge tale with Soledad as the beautiful angel of death hellbent on bringing her husband's tormenters and murderers to justice, read: death. And it has pickled deformed babies in jars in a lab-or-a-tory. How can I not love something with pickled deformed babies in jars in a lab-or-a-tory. Seriously, I'm having a hard time putting into words how freakin' awesome this woman is in this movie. (I had to abandon my note taking and picking apart that I usually do when I watch a movie, because I just wanted to absorb it.) Understately sexy and with unravelling sanity, this is the role that truly encaptures the talent and the extreme hotness of this woman. You might also know her as the extremely delicious Countess Nadia from Vampyros Lesbos. Watch this woman's movies. Watch them now. You will not be disappointed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flesh Eating Mothers

Good Evening. How is everyone doing tonite? How was your day? What'd ya do all day long? I brought people spaghetti and pizza for twelve hours straight. They were relentless. They wanted their fucking pizza and their fucking spaghetti and they wanted it now. And now I am drinking wine and writing this to deal with that pain. So if you are thinking that I should have timed this review (if you even want to call it that) in time for Mother's Day last week, I'm sorry.  Because you're right, I should have. But on Mother's Day, I had to bring people pizza and spaghetti, but only for about six hours. Since we're on the topic of food, let's talk about the subject at hand. 

Flesh Eating Mothers came out in 1988 and is directed by some dude named James Aviles Martin. I've never heard of James Aviles Martin, or anyone else affiliated with Flesh Eating Mothers but I'm not gonna hold that against it, at least I wasn't gonna hold it against it at first. It's got a great cover (although none of the mommies in the movie are nearly as attractive as the lady on the cover), as well as tagline ('They bit off more than they could chew' although that doesn't makes much sense to the movie's subject matter), no doubt about that, and one I remember from back in the day, although I never remember seeing the actual movie. If you recall, I was somewhat delicate in the matters concerning tape cover versus actual tape content when I was growing up and if the cover proved too scary,  I wouldn't rent the movie (hey, I was like, eight!), so while I would undoubtedly be familiar with such titles as Flesh Eating Mothers, amongst others, I would not actually see the films until much later. So when I happened upon a copy for a buck on ebay, I thought, why not? Throw caution to the wind, what do I have to loose? The answer? A buck plus three for shipping and a boring, boob free hour and a half of my time. Allow me to set the stage.

A hunter person wanders into frame. He glances around, looks down, looks around. Realizes his arm is missing. Pause. Starts screaming. A blond lady in a trench coat comes into the shot and he aims a shotgun at her, fires, and roll opening credits, featuring a totally goofy song about how great it is to live in suburbia. It's clean and nice and everyone gets along and children play and everyone eats din din together. Don't we all just want to go to suburbia right now, folks? - you get the idea of the ditty. 

So then we meet Roddy Douglas. He's just had the el sexo with a lady, not his wife (gasp!). He's got to bail on said lady, however, because wifey Sylvia, will likely be home from the dry cleaners any moment. Which just makes me wonder, how the hell long does the woman go to the dry cleaners for? I don't ever go to the dry cleaners for anything, being as how I wear jeans and tshirts all the time, but shit. It can't take that fucking long. I digress. Seems, after some stupid build up where we meet all the teens and mommies and daddies in the neighborhood (and get to know how fucked up they all are - everyone's got something fucked up going on - one's a drunk, the other a wife beater, everyone's committing adultery, you name it, it's a suburban cliche), that Roddy is the town man slut and has been sexin' up all the mommies all around the cul-de-sac. And he's beyond gross. Beyond. So is everyone else, though, so I'm not worried about it. 

Roddy goes to get checked for VD, because he's such a fucking slut, and isn't afraid to admit it either (at one point he asks Sylvia for an open marriage and she starts sobbing) and the doc tells him he's clean from syphillis and gonarreah (only, since that's what this particular clinic checks for), after offering him the card of the madam he (the doc) frequents, but Nurse Felicia notices something else in Roddy's blood sample. Seems it's some weirdness, but Doc dismisses her.

So it turns out Roddy has this vicious type of sex disease that turns everyone he's done it with into a cannibal. They almost seem more like zombies to me, but the word 'zombie' is never mentioned, although cannibal is bandied about quite a bit. Those women infected, and it's only women who have had children and also sex with Roddy that become infected, must eat the flesh of the living, preferably their children, not out of any kind of hunger really, but just because of an insatiable, sadistic desire. The one gross-out make-my-skin-crawl scene is when Sylvia, Roddy's wife, eats their baby. She kisses him first, sort of pervertedly, then starts devouring with glee. 

I think the rest of this stupid fest is supposed to be funny (think lots of ridiculous puns like 'What's eating you?'). It's either the ineptitude of the Jersey-accented cast that has never acted a day in their lives before or after this movie was shot, or the fact that the social commentary is so overt it might even be an accident, that leaves me feeling bored and tired. Yes, there's a bit of splatter and the effects are all practical. But, there is no nudity, but after I thought about it, I wouldn't really want to see anyone in this movie nude in the first place. Everybody's a bumbling idiot or a complete cliche or both. And then there's like an attempt at a plot twist, maybe? I don't know. 

All in all, it's like a big flip flop. The movie coulda been the ultimate punk rock movie, where the notion of suburbia could have been turned on its head and the moms/suburbia could have been brought down by the teens and blah blah. And it starts off that way. But then, as it progresses, the teens want to find a cure for their moms and save suburban life and blah blah. Do they want to rebel or do they want everything status quo? They, and this movie, can't make a decision. That, and the score is fucking horrible and inappropriate. Think upbeat below z-grade 80's pop throughout. Ugh. 

I'm gonna go drink more wine. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sole Survivor

I wanted to see Sole Survivor for a really really really really long time. I can't even remember why I wanted to see it in the first place - the cover ain't even all that cool, and kinda gives me a science fiction vibe, which isn't really my normal fare, but I'm not opposed to a decent sci-fi flick, especially it it borders on horror. I think I wanted to see it because a.) Thom Eberhardt directed it and he directed the superb Night of the Comet and b.) Chris Alexander gave it a good write up when he still had his column in Rue Morgue, which btw, turned me on to The Brain, a wonderful Canadian flick from the 80's (Boglin Marsh, I'm looking at you). However, Sole Survivor is long out of print and hasn't been given a DVD release and I've had no luck locating a copy on ebay or Amazon, not that every moment of my life has been consumed by tracking down a copy of this movie for the last five years or anything, but still. I was pleasantly surprised when I happened upon a copy at the video store I blogged earlier about here. The guy wouldn't sell me his copy but he consented to renting it to me for a buck fifty and I agreed. It was also wholly satisfying to go to a video store straight out of the eighties and rent a VHS tape. How long has it been since I went to a video store and rented a tape and driven the tape back up to the store after I watched it, and deposited the tape in the drop box? Man, it took me back.

Good lordy, I love horror on VHS.

So, um, yeah, Sole Survivor. If you ever wondered where the guys that made Final Destination got their idea for Final Destination*, look no further than Sole Survivor. If you weren't wondering that, that's okay too, read on anyway. Karla Davis, an actress who has prophetic nightmares and hits the booze pretty heavily, has one of her prophetic nightmares about coffee commercial producer DeeDee surviving a plane crash. Seems DeeDee is the only one who survives the violent crash for whatever reason. Well, this scenario plays out in real life when DeeDee actually survives the crash much in the same way Karla dreamt it.

Needless to say, DeeDee winds up in the hospital, even though she's seemingly fine and is unaffected about what happened to the rest of the passengers on the plane. She even finds it appropriate to flirt with her doctor, who she later starts a sexy times relationship with, even though it's probably not in the Hippocratic oath or anything to get involved with patients. Doc warns her about Survivor Syndrome, where survivors of bad accidents often feel guilty about surviving or unworthy that they are still alive. Often this results in the patient's subconscious suicide - they drive too fast or put themselves in other dangerous situations to inadvertently kill themselves. You know, to deal with the guilt of being alive. All of this is part of a very slow build up that leads to more slow build up.

DeeDee leaves the hospital via the back entrance to avoid news reporters and sees a small child dripping wet and silent standing on a loading dock. (I got a real J-horror vibe here. Little creepy kid, water, maybe a curse or something going on.) DeeDee asks the kid if she needs help or wants her to take her back inside, but the kid just stares menacingly and causes a truck with no driver to almost crush DeeDee. Then Kristy, DeeDee's friend and neighbor, pops up to get DeeDee out of there in her bitchin' Camero. There's some more slow build up and the dorkiest coffee commercial ever, as well as a shot of a fabulous 80's answering machine.

We get the (obvious) sense that something is after DeeDee at the hospital but later again when she's driving and a dude just steps in the middle of the road, causing her to almost wreck. Later again, she's in a parking deck and hears some weird noises. Another scene pits her against an elevator that's acting mysteriously. Whereas FD had some pretty inventive kills from what I can remember, as well as some fabulous attention to detail (the first one), DeeDee thwarts death in some really unscary and stupid ways. Refusing to believe that she is suffering from Survivor Syndrome, DeeDee takes some anti-depressants and goes over to Kristy's for cocktails. Kristy manages to get herself killed in the pool (in a scene that is a little bit giallo-esque, at least in its POV shots), and returns as a corpse intent on killing DeeDee. So it seems the recently deceased, as well as mechanical equipment, can come back and kill DeeDee?

So, did DeeDee imagine all this? Is is just part of her suffering from Survivor Syndrome? Are the dead really returning to life and trying to kill her? Are elevators working for Death? Wait, why did DeeDee survive in the first place again? Do I care? I'm not saying that I regret having watched Sole Survivor, but I had this whole mythology built up in my mind about it, that it was going to be greater than the sum of its parts, especially since it seems to have had so much influence on future films, and culled from other genres as well. Sigh.

*FD is one of those movies that you talk about with people at work if you feel like talking about horror movies but you know everyone at work isn't really into horror movies like you are. Everyone's seen at least one FD movie and has some sort of opinion about it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the town

Bloodthirsty elves

Are about to get down

I did not make that up, although I wish I had. This is actual copy from the back of the Elves (1989) box. Actual copy, people! I think I derived more pleasure from looking at the box and reading the description than I did from actually watching the film, although I did highly enjoy the movie, even though I was tired and it seemingly would not end, despite the fact it has an 89 minute running time. Looking at the cover and reading the description of Elves, I mused aloud, 'why would anyone want to get rid of their copy of this movie?' Probably because they have too many copies already and felt the need to bring a copy into the life of some less fortunate individual that already wasn't privileged enough to own one. Yeah, that had to be it.

Look no further. Elves is your movie, that is, if you enjoy the following:

1. Elves genetically created by Neo-nazis as the ultimate fighting machines because of their magical element. Magic = can't be harmed or killed. Sounds pretty obvious.

2. Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams*) as a chain-smoking, feather-haired, down-on-his-luck ex-detective sought to save the world against elf domination.

3. Incestuous situations involving father/daughter relationships for the sole purpose of impregnation so that offspring (lead character Kirsten) can be the perfect genetic specimen for elfen sex to create a Fourth Reich and perpetuate the master race. The father/grandfather is a wheelchair-bound, German-accented ex-Nazi who uses the word elfwooten on more than one occasion.

4. Many scenes filmed in 'elf vision.' These are scenes through the eyes of the elf, natch. Think a moving frame with a constant star wipe filter effect applied repeatedly.

5. Gun stores in malls. Never in my life have I been in a mall that housed a gun store. I always thought this odd when watching Dawn of the Dead, as well. Seems I read somewhere that those scenes in Dawn of the Dead that were in the gun store were shot at an actual gun store somewhere else in Pittsburgh, not one that was actually in the Monroeville Mall.

6. Speaking of Dawn of the Dead, more movies that rip it off. Elves does so when a suited Nazi type says, 'When there's no more room in Hell, elves will walk the earth.'

7. Toys and Christmas decorations that confound an elf, but don't stop them when it's time to don a Santa hat and get stabby.

8. Coke-snorting Santas**.

9. Dumb bitch ice queen mother figure who kills the family cat by drowning it in the toilet. Regular readers know that animal cruelty is something I am particularly squeamish about in my horror movies, especially when involving felines, being a crazy cat lady and all. So this is particular scene is not on my list of things I like to see in my movies, but it does much to illustrate how fucking horrible the mom is and really make it so you want her to die. Which she does. But later than I was hoping.

10. An elf being called a faggot. When Kirsten sends the elf back to Hell or wherever, she says, See you in Hell, Faggot. Yes, she calls the elf a faggot. Weird, I would have gone with motherfucker, personally, albeit that's a bit cliche.

Yes, I know, it seems flawless. However, the following are some concerns voiced by the audience during last night's screening (the audience consisting of Christian and myself and the screening taking place in my living room):

1. The title is misleading. From what we could tell, there is only one elf, singular. So the movie should have been called Elf. Being as how it was made in 1989, it would have preceded the Will Ferrell movie of that same title, so it would have been cool to just call it Elf. I guess it alludes to the Fourth Reich consisting of plural elves later on, but still.

2. The elf uses guns and knives to kill. It's a mean lookin mother too, so it would likely just use its claws and teeth. We were forgetting, of course, that the elves are trained as soldiers, so their use of weapons then is justified.

3. Kirsten, the perfect genetic specimen to give birth to the new world order, has a little brother. Is his grandfather and father the same wheelchair bound Nazi weirdo too? It would explain his tendency to spy on Kirsten in the shower.

So really, all concerns are alleviated, given the context. Except for:

1. There is no gratuitous nudity.

2. There is no gratuitous sex.

3. There is no reason for there to be a lack of gratuitous nudity and/or sex, given the time period in which this film was made and subject matter this film contains. Lack of these elements = disappointment.

4. There isn't really much 'true meaning of Christmas' bullshit, which is odd (there is a little in the beginning), but it's not really a Christmas movie persay, it's just set while Christmas is going on. Unless of course, you account for the fact that the elf must get his seed inside Kirsten on Christmas Eve at the stroke of midnight.

So the next time you're about to be inseminated by a Nazi elf and he stops raping you to offer you a cockroach to eat before eating it himself, stop and think about the true meaning of Christmas, would you?

*There's a guy that comes in my restaurant who we call Grizzly Adams. He looks just like him, except his hair isn't as perfectly coiffed, it's more frizzled. He comes in and gets a filet mignon cooked well and drinks an entire carafe of chianti at like 11 in the morning! He's pretty nice, but he'll sit at your table for like two hours, drinking and reading at the height of lunch rush and then leave like two bucks on a twenty-something check. And he says, Appreciate it, appreciate it every time you bring him anything. I don't think he's ever had to defend the world from the nazi elf invasion, though.

**Mrs. Claus comes in to find Santa's body all murdered and shit and his coke laid out in nice lines on the table. She doesn't take his coke and leaves it for the police to just lock away in evidence. Come on now, Mrs. Claus. You could have sold that coke to kids coming through Santa's magical village, or at the very least, used it to party with yourself later.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Piranha II Comma The Spawning

Calling your attention to the latest addition to the Cavalcade's vhs collection, Piranha II, The Spawning. Of particular attention and indication of my particular nerdish leanings, I will also call your attention to the title, Piranha II comma The Spawning. Why the comma? If any form of punctuation should be used, the more practical choice would be a colon. These are the things I spend most of my time contemplating. Grammatical errors also make me laugh. Like when I took this out of the envelope yesterday, I laughed and laughed at the comma for hours. Well, more like ten minutes, but still! There's something wrong with me, I know. Stupid comma aside, this is a sweet frickin' cover. I love the mean-as-the-devil lookin' flying piranha swarm attacking the beach goers. Hmm, new tattoo, maybe? Well, after I get Paul Naschy immortalized as the Hombre Lobo on my forearm. I probably won't get around to watching Piranha II Comma The Spawning any time soon, since the stacks upon stacks of movies are piling up in all the corners of my home, but thought the cover art was worth a mention here. That's why I bought the damn thing anyway.

The Demoniacs

I swear to you I didn't have a single cocktail last night while I was watching Jean Rollin's The Demoniacs (1974). Not one. Not even a glass of wine. I don't have a fever or anything, don't get too worried about me, I was just hungover from Sunday night and decided to dry out for a day or two. I'll be back to my regular shenanigans by at least Wednesday. So it wasn't liquor, it was Rollin that left me with that stoned, nonsensical huh? feeling normally wrought by substance abuse. Allow me to explain.

As the movie opens, we meet the shipwreckers, a group of rough and tough dirtbags that purposely draw ships to the coastline so they'll wreck and they can salvage the goods. Hey, it's a living. Amidst a background of a burning ship, we are introduced to the Captain (John Rico), Le Bosco (Willy Braque), Paul (Paul Bisciglia), and the absolutely gorgeous Tina (Joelle Coeur), the most ruthless and naked shipwrecker of them all. One dark and stormy night, the shipwreckers are out on the coast going through some booty when they see white-nightgown bedecked blonds wandering in the wandering. Rather than help them, they rape and brutalize them while Tina and the Captain get into some naked situations on a giant rock. Why the stunning Tina fucks that nasty old Captain is beyond me, I know he's their leader and all, but really, Tina should be the leader, she's the most charismatic, mean-spirited, and energetic of every character, but whatevs.

We don't find out much, if anything, about the two blond girls - like who the hell are they? What the hell are they doing in the water in their nightgowns in the middle of the night? What's going on? It's around here that I started to feel like I might have a buzz. And then it gets more convoluted. Do the shipwreckers kill the girls? It would seem so - they are brutally assaulted and hit in the heads with rocks after they are raped. Christian and I were divided on this issue - he kept saying the girls were still alive, while I was certain they were dead.

Case in point - after the cut it's the next day and the Captain and crew are enjoying some hookers and spirits in brothel/bar decorated in a most macabre fashion. Seriously, I would drink at this bar every day of the week - think baby doll heads with wings on each booth, a giant taxidermied bat on the wall, some sort of weird black glowing mothman type statue, monkey skeletons, and papier mache sculptures of women giving birth. And it has a nautical type theme running through it as well. I think I might be redecorating my house to look just like this. Anyway...Captain and crew are getting loaded and the Captain sees (?) hallucinates (?) the blonds with pale faces and blood all over them. Is he cracking up or are the ghosts of the girls they killed back for revenge? Hard to tell because no one else seems to see them, but the bar proprietress, Louise (Louise Dhour) is also some sort of prophetic and alludes to the Captain's illegal activities and some of sort of village curse. After that, the Captain goes on a fucking tirade and challenges the ghost girls to a duel. Then Louise composes a piano piece about the situation and a devil gets released form the haunted ruins because of all this madness.

My notes keep saying Are the girls still alive? I still don't know. Why Christian and I argue about that, the shipwreckers go the abandoned ship ruins and try to flush the girls out with a fire but they escape and set back out to wander through the water. They seem afraid of the fire and cough as noxious smoke fills their lungs, but I still think they're dead. Tina almost meets her fiery death and then decides she really wants vengeance on the girls. The Captain tries to calm her, but with no use.

Okay, I know this all seems pretty tame, if not sort of jumbled and confusing, but then it turns another shade of WTF when the girls wander into a garden the next day after the ruins fire. They happen upon a red-wigged hippy clown who leads them down an ancient stone staircase and through another garden to a bearded fellow while a pan flute plays. Beardo admonishes the clown for bringing the girls here - she wants to keep them and take care of them - and he instructs her to find them a place to rest and he'll deal with the situation later. Seems Beardo has a devil incarnate locked in a cell with whom he discusses the girls' innocence with and also discusses an apparent destiny which will be fulfilled. The devil dude kinda looks like a seventies version of Criss Angel meets Siegfried and Roy mashup and is every definition of sleazy gross. More on him in a sec.

The clown, who is dressed like a clown to keep villagers away (that's what Christian said anyway, I think I was up feeding a cat or getting a glass of gingerale or something when she explained why she was done up like a clown, which is seriously lame, because I would have rather just had her as a clown, no explanation, nothing, because it's just better that way - to have an arbitrary clown), gets the girls some new tunics and lets them draw skulls and crossbones in the dirt. Then we see the Captain back at the bar starting to have sweaty revenge fantasies while Tina models some lingerie for him. Non-plussed, he thinks the girls are back from the dead to haunt him and he yells at Tina, 'you don't believe in ghosts! You're nothing but a trollop!' Then he strokes a taxidermied seagull while Tina cups her breasts. They then have energetic sex on the bed but the Captain fails to actually remove his pants.

The girls get nakey (funny, they don't look nearly as identical when they're not wearing those nightgowns or tunics) and the devil guy tells them he'll give them his powers for one night to take revenge on Captain and crew. Guess how he gives them his powers? Go on, guess! You get three; the first two don't count. I'll give you a hint - it involves seeing his naked hairy ass. Yep! He has the el sexo with them. Then it turns into a bad joke with no punch line. Two blonds with all the Devil's power walk into a bar...and stare at the patrons 'til they all leave. Louise sees them and offers them some grenadine and Tina comes down some stairs and sticks Louise with a hatchet and the girls and Tina both leave. The girls and Tina find themselves in a statuary garden and the girls telepathically get a marble Jesus to fall on Tina to smother her? Fuck her? I'm not sure what the point is, because Tina gets away and runs off into the night. The clown staggers in for an epic death scene but doesn't really die (Who dies?! Who is really dead!? Someone offer me an interpretation I can comfortably accept!) and there's another heaping dose of convolution, some more rape, then a few monk types show up and everyone drowns.

The dead(?) girls are troopers, I have to give it to them. In practically every scene, they are tortured, beaten, forced to walk around either naked or at least without shoes, half the time in water - they've totally got the beautiful women in peril thing down to a science. The bar is decorated in the way I've always wanted my local watering hole to look, and all the guys are effectively skeezy and gross. Once you get passed being annoyed that nothing really makes any sense and the fact that I never figured out who was dead when where and why, this ain't bad. In fact, it's hilarious and weird and all the girls wear fabulous blue eyeshadow and red lipstick that don't go together at all. As much as I like being drunk as a monkey when I take in my usual cinematic fare, this one is drunkening enough on its own. I actually felt with all the stuff that Rollin left out, that I was watching it at least in a half-stupor.