Archive for the 'Horror' Category

29
Oct
14

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

Perhaps ten years ago, I got into a conversation with a co-worker about Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993). I listened incredulously to his description of the plot: a voodoo witch puts a curse on Bernie’s corpse, such that it dances towards a buried treasure whenever music plays near it. The hapless friends tasked in the first movie with pretending their friend is still alive now are tasked with keeping the world from finding out that their friend is a boogieing zombie. It seemed hard to believe that there was a movie out there that would live up to the promise that description offered for over-the-top hijinx. When a while later I got my hands on a copy, I found out that, indeed, Weekend at Bernie’s II didn’t. A while later, though, I found myself in a situation where I was watching through a healthy backlog of movies at a clip, and made a double feature of the Sean Cunningham-produced House (1986) and House II: The Second Story. While House didn’t do a lot for me (it couldn’t settle on a tone, and seemed like its best bits were done better in Evil Dead II — sorry, Fred Dekker!), House II was a revelation: THIS was the zombie buddy-comedy that I’d been hoping for all this time… the Weekend at Bernie’s II  that delivered on its promise. We watched it again for Katy’s first time as the 25th movie in the 31 Days of Horror.

house 2 thaiIn the 1950s, a couple that lives in a creepy house give their baby away for safekeeping just minutes before a nightmarish figure (voiced by Fred Welker, using the same voice he used for Darkseid on Super Friends) kills them both. In October of 1986, that baby, now grown, comes back to claim his birthright. He is Jesse McLaughlin, an up-and-coming artist, and he and his music-biz girlfriend Kate have come to make the family mansion into their new home away from the city. Before too long, they’re joined by Jesse’s meathead “entrepreneur” best friend Charlie (Fright Night‘s jonathan Stark) and his aspirant rockstar girlfriend. After only a few minutes have passed in screentime, Jesse explains that he’s named for his great-great grandfather, who was a bandit in the old west, and who built the house they now live in. Seems the elder Jesse had found one of the legendary Mayan crystal skulls along with his partner,  the ominously-named Slim Razor. When great-great Jesse absconded with the skull, Slim felt he’d been cheated. The younger Jesse and Charlie figure that there are big bucks in it for them if they can find the skull, and rashly decide it must have been buried with the elder Jesse. Why not dig him up? So they do, the night before Halloween… and that’s when the REAL fun begins.

Look! It´s a prehistoric bird...

Jesse, Charlie, and a prehistroric bird

I won’t say too much more, but it should come as no surprise that the elder Jesse isn’t dead at all — he’s been kept alive by the mystic powers of the skull, and is played delightfully by Royal Dano. Grandpa Jesse explains that the house has been designed as a temple for the skull, and that it acts as a gateway to alternate universes. They all have to work to keep it out of the wrong hands… This state of affairs — zombie grandfather, dimensional gateways — is something the fellows decide is best kept from an increasingly incensed Kate (who’s being egged on by her lecherous asshole boss, played by a young Bill Mahr), and leads to all sorts of wacky cross-time adventures. This movie at times feels like the pilot for an especially zany Sunday-afternoon adventure show of the sort produced by Sam Raimi in the ’90s, by way of a multiple-camera sitcom of the same period. It’s stupid, and even childish, but never really mean-spirited or cruel.  It gets away with its increasingly outrageous twists through charm and goodwill, and some moments that feel really heartfelt in the midst of the silliness. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Slim continues to be a threat, but Cheers‘ John Ratzenberger’s guest appearance as an electrician with a helpful sideline comes as an unexpected delight. While, sure, it isn’t horror in the strictest sense, this seemed like a nice break from the gialli that we’d most recently consumed. Even Katy, who holds the ’86 House in high regard, was charmed by this one.

onset_house2

The whole House II gang… at least, all the regular humans

Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, scary, or intellectual here — it’s dumb laughs. But, like the Japanese House (1978) that I prefer to imagine this is the sequel to — this movie has nothing to do eith either other than its loose haunted house premise — this film is made all the better by virtue of its light spirit and easy demeanor.

27
Oct
14

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

As I probably have mentioned before, October is a triple-treat month: my birthday, my wedding anniversary AND Halloween, all within 31 days! Best month ever! Being the total romantic that I am, I insisted we continue 31 Days of Horror on our first wedding anniversary. The movie I chose was, of course, Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Q happily complied; that’s why we’re married, folks.
John Harrington is a studly fashion designer, whose expertise is in wedding gowns, bridal lingerie and murder. His favorite kind of murder involves newlyweds; preferably women who are still wearing the bridal gowns they’ve purchased from his shop. He knows he’s mad, but he can’t stop murdering brides! It’s just something he must do; every bride he cleaves will bring him one step closer to solving his insanity, or so he thinks.

John Harrington: Normal Guy

John Harrington: Normal Guy

At first, it seems obvious why John thinks the only good wife is a dead wife: his own wife Mildred is an absolutely miserable human being. She goes out of her way to make John’s life a living hell, and constantly holds over his head the fact that it’s her money that funds his whole fashion operation. Meanwhile, she holds seances so she can speak to her long-dead previous husband, whom she actually loved. All John wants is a divorce, but of course she won’t grant him one. Instead, she vows to be with John forever and ever, no matter what. I guess John decides to test her resolve and kills her in an almost understandable fit of rage. Sure enough Mildred hangs around, if only as a ghost to make him look insane to others.

Mildred said they'd be together forever...

Mildred said they’d be together forever…

Now with Mildred out of the way, perhaps John won’t be so batshit? Not so; he’s still got mommy issues to deal with, namely getting over her violent death. And what about that detective who keeps snooping around his shop, his house, his fashion shows for chrissakes? Could it be he knows John has been slaying newlyweds?
I think most Bava fans would agree Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of his best movies, but it is definitely a better-than-average horror movie. It is especially a better-than-average giallo! While I love the style of the giallo films, I have to say a lot of the time they are pretty darn disappointing; the plots are always going in a million directions too many and I am never genuinely surprised by the endings. At least with Hatchet we already know who the killer is. Instead, Bava is asking a more interesting question: why is John a killer? Though the answer doesn’t surprise you, it is still a fun ride.

Holy shit he's wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

Holy shit he’s wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

What is interesting about Hatchet is it seems to be the predecessor to a few other flicks I wouldn’t have expected. Comparisons to American Psycho are pretty obvious: both John Harrington and Patrick Bateman are self-obsessed rich guys who hide their murderous identities from the fools around them. But the whole mommy-issue thing reminds me a lot of my least favorite Cronenberg movie Spider.  Both Spider and Harrington are nut jobs who didn’t like to think of their mothers having sex. Throughout Hatchet we see John as a little boy re-experiencing his mother’s violent end, an awful lot like the scenes we see in Spider when the main character is transported into the past. I can’t help but think Cronenberg took a few cues from Hatchet; it doesn’t seem out of the question!

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon...

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon…

But, as always, my favorite thing about this Italian horror flick is its style. If only I’d watched this when I was shopping for wedding dresses, I would have had so many more ideas! And what about John’s pajamas? Wow, if that’s what dude lounges in just imagine what he’s hiding in that closet (aside from the cleaver, of course). And of course the film itself is just stylish beyond words, because that is what Bava does best. It just looks so good. This one is definitely worth a watch or two.

I want those pajamas.

I want those pajamas.

24
Oct
14

Satan’s School for Girls (1973)

It’s all too often that a horror film’s name is much better than the film itself, isn’t it? Film’s like Blood of Ghastly HorrorThe Thirsty Dead and many others all come to mind; titles with such promise that deliver nothing close to what our jaded, bloodthirsty minds have dreamt up. Day 23 of 31 Days of Horror delivered disappointment along these lines. I can think of a million directions a film named Satan’s School for Girls could go! Unfortunately, the film itself never went any of these fun, degraded places. Instead of what you might expect, it’s a relatively tame made-for-TV flick from 1973.

Martha's freaked out.

Martha’s freaked out.

The film starts off with Martha, a young blonde woman driving down the highway in California. She seems to be running from something or someone. All we see is a man with a cigar who may or may not be after her. She is on her way to see her sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin). When she gets there, she is absolutely frantic; no one is coming to the door and they’re (?) coming to get her! Elizabeth’s landlord let’s her in. Minutes later he hears a scream, the cops arrive just in time for Elizabeth to open the door and see that her sister has hanged herself.

Though Martha has a history of depression and alienation, Elizabeth is convinced she’s been doing much better and doesn’t believe she would have come all the way out to see her just to kill herself. So she decides there must be something fishy going on at the Academy her sister was going to. So like anyone else would, she drops her whole life and goes undercover, enrolling at the same Academy as a student; not revealing to anyone that she is Martha’s sister.

Elizabeth is afraid to look.

Elizabeth is afraid to look.

The school seems pretty darn normal to me, but I guess I’m supposed to think some of it’s weird. There’s a chick named Debbie who did a painting of Martha in a basement somewhere. There’s a psych professor who is all-too excited about making the rats in his maze passive. There’s the art teacher all the girls drool over. Finally, there’s the headmistress, nicknamed by all the “Dragonlady” though I never quite understood why; she seemed perfectly nice to me. But clearly something weird is going on because girls keep committing suicide, and Elizabeth finds out after they drop dead, their files disappear from the main office. Someone in the administration is behind this, and Elizabeth is hell-bent on finding out.

Could it be, Satanists?

Could it be, Satanists?

Dang, this movie is a total snoozer. Pamela Franklin is cute and all, but I don’t think she’s cute enough to spend your time watching this movie. It’s pretty sub-standard satanic cult stuff; we don’t even really get to the interesting part until like the last twenty minutes. The characters aren’t very interesting or all that developed, and to be honest I don’t really give a crap what happens to any of them. All that being said, I can imagine if I’d been a kid in 1973 when this was released on television it would have been one of my favorite movies; I guess it just takes a lot more to impress me these days, eh? I guess if you have a kid who likes scary movies this might be worth showing them, but it’s pretty boring as far as adult fare goes.

It seems they remade the movie in 2000, also for television, this time starring Shannen Doherty as the lead undercover gal. I can’t help but think it’s probably just as boring (or perhaps even moreso) than the original; a film with a name like this really needs to be made as an R-rated feature. Imagine what fun we could have with Satan in the movie theaters!

23
Oct
14

The Tingler (1959)

TheTinglerPerceptoHalloween is without a doubt the best time of the year! Not only does it give me an excuse to watch nothing but horror movies for a month (or let’s face it, longer), it means everyone else is watching horror flicks, too! I’m lucky enough to live near a theater that plays old-timey horror flicks in October, and also lucky enough to have friends that want to go! For day 22 of 31 Days of Horror, we ventured out into the real world to experience William Castle’s The Tingler.

The film starts off with a warning from Mr. Castle himself, in which he informs his audience the film they are about to watch will be frightening. Some of us in the audience are, apparently, much more sensitive than others. Those sensitive types, should they feel the urge to, must scream, for it may be a scream that saves their lives! And now it’s time for the show to begin…

Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) is used to performing autopsies on criminals who’ve been killed by the electric chair, and he’s noticed they all have one strange thing in common: their spines are broken! It doesn’t seem as though the electricity is what killed these men, it’s almost as if fear itself had a hand in their deaths! Casually chatting with Oliver Higgins, brother-in-law of the very criminal he is dissecting as he speaks, the good Doctor posits we all have a creature living inside us… let’s call it the Tingler… that lies in wait and strikes when we feel fear! If we don’t have an outlet for the fear we feel, the Tingler takes hold of our spine, crushing it and killing us to death!

Sounds like questionable science, but that’s such a 21st century thing to say. Naysayers be damned, Dr. Chapin and his faithful assistant David are hellbent on proving their theory. They know they’ll need cold, hard evidence: but how to get it? First they try frightening alley cats; the x-rays show something strange indeed, but is it enough to prove their position? No, no first the doctor must trip on LSD and scare himself shitless, all in the name of science! Yes, yes that’s it – trip on acid, don’t scream, and maybe you’ll be confronted with your own tingler! Trouble is, it doesn’t work; the doctor couldn’t control himself and screams! Now if only he knew someone who was born without vocal cords… ah yes, of course! Oliver Higgins’ wife, Martha! She is not only a mute, but also very easily scared! Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from her…

TheTinglerPhotoWow. Just, wow. The Tingler is one hilarious, entertaining experience! During its original theater run, seats in the audience were rigged to vibrate at a certain point in the film when the screen goes black and Price shouts for everyone to “scream for your lives!” It’s a shame the gimmick (dubbed “Percepto”) isn’t something we can experience in the theaters for ourselves these days, though watching it in a theater filled with movie dorks was still pretty great!

My gosh, what isn’t great about this movie? First, there’s the ridiculous premise and Dr. Chapin’s relentless attempts to document this so-called Tingler. Everyone from his assistant to an average Joe who just walked into his laboratory simply believes such a theory would be true! Then there’s the actual Tingler itself, which strongly resembles a lobster with huge pincers and, when it moves, is very obviously pulled by threads the audience can plainly see. It is just so unabashedly, gloriously low budget and absurd it is impossible to resist. Then there are the one-note characters: Dr. Chapin, who cares only about finding the Tingler. There’s his wife Isabel, a promiscuous drunk to whom he must stay married, because it’s her money that funds his silly little experiments. There’s Oliver Higgins, the put-out husband of the deaf-mute who only wants a beer, for chrissakes. There’s Mrs. Higgins (Judith Evelyn) herself, who manages to do a pretty damn good job acting in this film given what she had to work with! I absolutely loved this movie. A total riot, I highly recommend for Halloween or any time of year!

23
Oct
14

Near Dark (1987)

As many of my horror-movie-hound compatriots likely do, I tend to haunt used media shops. I can spend a good hour or two scouring any used DVD section looking for stuff I’ve never heard of or stuff I’ve always wanted to see, but never had the chance to. I think I ran into Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, our selection for day 21 of 31 Days of Horror, two or three times before I finally decided we should own it. I’d seen it once before, and my first reaction to it was overwhelmingly positive; somehow as time passed it wasn’t positive enough to convince me the DVD was worth $11. But after seeing it so many times, hovering around that $11 mark, I decided to pick it up. I’m glad I did, but maybe not for the reasons you think.

Mae's mysterious eyes are hiding something...

Mae’s mysterious eyes are hiding something…

Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) is a small-town farm boy. He spends his night carousing around in his truck with his cowboy friends, but his tendency towards romance seems to separate him from the rest of the roughnecks. That’s at least how it seems to Mae (Jenny Wright), a vision under fluorescent lights suckin’ on a soft-serve, lookin’ all come-hither. It’s not long before Caleb woos her into his truck and the two spend the whole night together, Mae pointing out the dark sky in deep admiration. But the fun stops short when the sun starts to rise; Mae gets tense and demands Caleb take her home. He promises he will, but not until she gives him a kiss. She does, and of course it’s a kiss he won’t soon forget: a passionate nip on the neck that draws blood. After the tender love bite, Mae runs off, and Caleb seems mystified by her strange action. Things get worse when he tries to run home in the sunlight, smoking through the farm and alerting his father Loy (Tim Thomserson) and sister Sarah. “Caleb looks sick” she says curiously, right as a roughed-up Winnebago comes tearing through the farm, lifting Caleb into its cab.

Meet your new family!

Meet your new family!

What started off as a budding romance has now turned into a living nightmare; Caleb is now one of “them,” this rag-tag group of dirty, desperate thieves and murderers who hide from the sun. They consider themselves a “family.” Mom and Dad roles are played by Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) and Jesse (Lance Henriksen). Their two “sons” are both psychotic; Severen (Bill Paxton) a full-grown sociopath ready to toss Caleb out into the sun right then and there, and Homer, an ancient creature trapped in a young boy’s body with all the bitterness to prove it. Then there’s Mae, the newest addition to the family; someone Homer thought would be a good companion for himself. Homer is most disturbed by Mae’s wish to create her own companion, seeing it as a slight. In short, no one in this group is on Caleb’s side but Mae, and he has an awful lot to prove if he wants to survive with his new family. The only way to do that, surely, is to go out and kill. Will Caleb pass muster?

One of my favorite shots from Near Dark; our nighttime family from afar.

One of my favorite shots from Near Dark; our nighttime family from afar.

I have to say, there’s a lot about Near Dark I like. There are a lot of beautiful shots to feast your eyes upon; the American West provides an interesting setting for the creatures of the night. But probably my favorite aspect of the film is how Bigelow demystifies these animals. I spend a lot of time watching vampire movies wondering how they manage to afford “living;” surely the aristocratic vampire’s bank account would eventually run out after centuries of living; I mean, hello, inflation and everything, right?! But here it’s no secret where these monsters’ money comes from: their victims. Their existence is much more tenuous than Count Dracula’s; they don’t have the luxury of retreating into their castle’s cold, earthen basement for their daytime slumber, instead they have to book hotels before dawn and line the windows with aluminum foil to avoid going up in smoke. I really like this view of the vampire.

A bloody Bill Paxton beckons!

A bloody Bill Paxton beckons!

Additionally, there are some really great performances to behold here. Henriksen is, unsurprisingly, really fantastic at playing a veteran vampire. His expressions are usually cool and collected, but when he gets pissed, hot damn, he is pissed! This role was practically made for him. And now, as much as it might pain me to say it, I have to admit that Bill Paxton is so perfectly Bill Paxton that I think I actually shouted “I don’t hate Bill Paxton… I LOVE Bill Paxton” while watching this movie (this is the aforementioned reason I’m glad to have picked up this flick to add to my collection, lord help me). Seriously, this is a real revelation for someone who has refused to watch Frailty for the longest time because of his involvement in the film. Severen is a heartless, bloodthirsty killer way off his rocker. I can’t tell you how many bulgy-eyed stills I got of Paxton from this flick. He is so deliciously over-the-top I couldn’t help but laugh, and admit that the man’s got a certain charm. Unfortunately, our main characters are played by the weakest links. Either that, or the material they’re forced to work with doesn’t give them a lot of room to be interesting or have any fun.

A nighttime tryst like no other, Mae feeds Caleb under the oil derricks...

A nighttime tryst like no other, Mae feeds Caleb under the oil derricks…

And that sort of brings me to what I did not like about Near Dark: the treacly romance. Oh god, it is eyeroll-inducing. Mae and Caleb’s romance is sweet, sure, but Jiminy Crickets, Bigelow lays it on way too thick. I don’t think Wright and Pasdar’s chemistry was nearly enough to convince me that Caleb’s character would willingly give up his human family (the one he obviously loves) for these judgemental assholes Mae runs around with. And Mae’s constant reveries involving the moon and the stars make me want to barf. When we first started watching it I was ready to apologize to Q for suggesting we put the damn thing on. Luckily the movie more than makes up for these mawkish missteps, but be forewarned: it’s a little gushy.

What is so interesting, or maybe confusing, about Near Dark is its extremes. Those lovey-dovey scenes between Mae and Caleb are so tender and sweet, and ten minutes later we are violently jolted out of our romantic stupor as we witness Mae’s crew partake in one of the bloodiest bar brawls I’ve ever seen on film. I’m not exactly sure what Bigelow’s trying to say there, if

Lance Henriksen as Jesse, papa vamp.

Lance Henriksen as Jesse, papa vamp.

anything at all. Perhaps it is meant to highlight precisely why Mae sought out a new, tender-hearted companion: she can’t live off the violence alone, as the rest of her family seems to be able to do without issue. Either way, it is easy to see how Bigelow started with a film like Near Dark and ended up making Point Break: both are very serious about their content. Sure there are a few jokes here and there in both films, but neither are campy in the least. I think that works very well, somehow, for Point Break. After all these years of loving the shit out of that movie, I still haven’t exactly figured out why it works so well. But I think Near Dark loses a little something in all its seriousness. That being said, it is still a very good vampire flick. It is certainly one not to be missed by anyone who is a fan of the genre.

22
Oct
14

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has such a good cover, we bought it twice.  Maybe that’s not true; maybe my pal Grant had given me a copy at some point in the past, and I’d forgotten about it. But, whatever the reason, we ended up with two copies right around when we figured out what we’d be watching for this Fall’s 31 Days of Horror, and into the running it went. We watched it as title 20 of the series.

the-night-evelyn-came-out-of-the-grave-3Before I tell you about how it fared, check out that cover! It’s great! It’s got most of what you’d want in horror packaging: a scantily-dressed lady–a scantily-dressed lady with a skull head — holding an almost tasteful severed head. When I was a kid (much like Panos Cosmatos) I was fascinated by the jackets to the VHS horror films my parents wouldn’t let me watch. Because of my rather limited frame of reference, I often imagined them as more intense Scooby Doo episodes — lots of pursuit by monsters. When I was older and able to pursue such things myself, I realized that most weren’t like that (the closest I’ve gotten to that platonic childhood sense is Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse). Why am I sharing all of this? Because the jacket art to Evelyn is really great, and looks exactly like the sort of movie I’d like to watch.

Unfortuntely, the movie itself isn’t much to write home about.

To cut right to the chase, Evelyn in practice isn’t too far from Scooby Doo in the broadest strokes of its plot — I’m going to be spoiler-y here since I don’t think the reveals are all that shocking — we’re in territory that was well-explored, and better, by the likes of Dominique is Dead or, perhaps most exceptionally, by Henri Cluzot’s Les Diaboliques: a plot to frighten a lightweight into being scared to death. We get there in Evelyn by way of a by-the-numbers ’70s giallo, with all of the misogyny that entails.

Killing some braod, like you do. Though it's not impossible to have a libale protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn't even try.

Killing some broad, like you do. Though it’s not impossible to have a viable protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn’t even try.

In this case, the movie begins with our “hero,” the decadent and troubled Lord Alan Cunningham, bringing a comely redhead to his rotting Gothic estate somewhere outside of London. He takes her down to his torture chamber and tortures and kills her. Hey! Wow! Can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance! (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t). Seems sometime in the past, Lord Alan had a redhead — his late wife Evelyn — cheat on him, and he killed her for it. Now, he’s trapped in a terrible cycle of finding and killing more redheads to somehw assuage/amplify his guilt. Everyone in his life — his psychiatrist/childhood best friend, his playboy cousin, his crippled, very young aunt, his lawyer — knows he’s got this problem, and while they’re all troubled by it to varying degrees, the only one who seems to hold him at all accountable is Albert, the estate’s groundskeeper and Lord Alan’s brother-in-law. Albert is always there, watching Lord Alan’s murderous dalliances, sneeringly taking Lord Alan’s pay-offs to keep quiet. It seems only a matter of time before he gets his revenge…

Meanwhile, Aunt Agatha holds a seance to bring back Evelyn’s spirit — and it works! This is all too much for Alan. The doctor says he needs regularity in his life — he should consider marriage. Maybe that will let him work his issues out.

His cousin takes him to a fancy-dress party where Alan is immediately smitten by yet another redhead, whom he proposes to before they’ve even left. Everyone in Alan’s life takes this in stride; they think she’s awfully well-mannered indeed. That, i guess, is the only qualification that need be had to marry the lunatic patriarch.

Evelyn's come out  of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! ...Or was it?

Evelyn’s come out of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! …Or was it?

Strange things start happening — the new wife discovers Evelyn isn’t in the family crypt, Albert is killed by a venomous snake by a mysterious assailant, Aunt Agatha gets up and walks without explanation, and then is killed and thrown to Alan’s pet foxes by a mysterious assailant… Some one, or some group of someones has something afoot, though damned if any of the pieces seem to fit together (Spoiler alert: they don’t).

This movie does have some wonderfully atmospheric locations and sets to play with — the aforementioned torture chamber and fancy-dress party both look stellar, as does the rotting family crypt and gardens around it. The fashions and hairstyles of both sexes are top-of-the-line mod/psychedelic, and reflect a vision of Swinging London that we here at Schlockwave find almost irresistably alluring. That’s not to say exactly that the movie looks good — the camera placements are a mess, and a series of bad decisions were made in the editing room that manage to squander what seems to be this movie’s only real resource. It’s hard to believe this movie was handled behind the camera by folks who’d  made anything professionally before.

I’d say that’s a pity, but this movie left me awfully frustrated. Beyond the first act, we seem to have been meant to view Lord Alan sympathetically… which is awfully hard to do once he’s mercilessly killed a few redheads. When he’s driven to madness and death, I wasn’t sad at all to see him go. And, when his death turns out to be a ruse to expose the plot that had been cooked up by the new wife, one of the redheads we thought was dead (?), and the playboy cousin, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Their “sins” pretty well pale in comparison to his… and in the reactionary logic of horror generally and giallo specifically, doesn’t that emminently qualify Lord Alan for a really juicy bit of narrative justice? Not here, it doesn’t.

So, should you run across a copy of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, take a moment and drink in that cover art. It looks so good! But, you can safely skip watching it, not to mention buying it — let alone buying it twice.

22
Oct
14

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

For day 19 of 31 Days of Horror, we decided to keep it Corman, only this time we watched one he actually directed: A Bucket of Blood. Starring Dick Miller as an aspiring artist, A Bucket of Blood takes a deep look into the underground world of the 1950’s beatnik. Okay, not really; it’s just a thoroughly silly but totally enjoyable exploitation flick.

It ain't easy being an artist, man...

It ain’t easy being an artist, man…

Walter Paisley (Miller) is a broke-ass busboy at The Yellow Door, the hip hangout for all the local beatniks. Poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, you name it: they all hang here, man. Sometimes, Walter gets a little too wrapped up in the poets’ pondering and forgets to bus the coffee cups. His boss Leonard is always on his ass about it. Carla, Leonard’s girlfriend/business partner/something is less tough on Walter, which may be why he harbors a devastating crush on her.

Anyway, another tough night at The Yellow Door is over, and Walter comes home to a can of cold beans and a screeching cat. But tonight is slightly different than most nights, because he’s also come home to a virgin package of clay, just waiting for his talentless hands to mold it into art. Unfortunately, Walter quickly discovers that he’s no artist at all. In his frustration, he blindly stabs at the wall in his apartment, accidentally killing the kindly cat he and his landlady care for. Suddenly Walter thinks of a great way to use all that clay he just got…

What lies beneath Walter's Art?

What lies beneath Walter’s Art?

Having created a wonderful masterpiece out of clay and cat corpse, Walter excitedly brings his art to The Yellow Door. Leonard is suspicious of the piece, but Carla just loves it and so they put it on display. Suddenly, the Beats start seeing Walter in a different light; they have real conversations with him instead of just asking him to take away their dirty dishes! But Leonard won’t be convinced until he creates another work of art, and that’s when the real carnage begins.

A Bucket of Blood is a short and sweet little exploitation horror movie. Its jabs at beat poetry are hilarious and spot-on; “Life is an obscure hobo bumming a ride on the omnibus of Art” Maxwell, one of The Yellow Door’s resident poets bellows. Walter takes those words, and everything else the artists utter, to heart. As he slathers clay onto his dead victims, he mutters the words verbatim. He wants so badly to be one of them, he goes to lethal lengths to achieve what they would consider greatness. And who wouldn’t want to graduate from forgotten busboy to revered artist?

I honestly don’t think a film like this would accidentally fall into the wrong hands. If you’ve rented or bought A Bucket

Walter is King of the Yellow Door!

Walter is King of the Yellow Door!

of Blood the chances are you know exactly what you’re in for: a silly little horror flick. That being said, it is a tad smarter than I’d usually expect out of such films, and that makes it all the more enjoyable. On top of all that, Dick Miller is so much fun to watch as Walter! Poor Walter just does not get it; he doesn’t understand what talent is, what art is, and hell, why would he when all he does is watch talentless, navel-gazing hacks stroke each-others’ egos?

Anyway, if this sounds like your bag, dig it, man. It is bad. Unlike Walter’s art, it knows it’s bad. And it is so damn good at being bad. Thank you, Mr. Corman.




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