Archive for the 'Horror' Category

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.

22
Oct
14

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

For Day 18 of 31 Days of Horror, I finally broke the seal on The Dunwich Horror. Roger Corman, Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, Ed Begley, the Necronomicon, psychedelic nightmares, satanic impregnation and bulging eyes aplenty, this movie is pretty damn amazing. Again I have to wonder: what took me so long? Fans of Lovecraft will be disappointed with this loose interpretation of one of his stories, which I suspect is why so many people seem to hate this movie. Having never read a lick of Lovecraft myself, I am more than content with the psychedelic smear Corman brings to the screen in this film.

Dean Stockwell wants you to watch The Dunwich Horror. Don't you?

Dean Stockwell wants you to watch The Dunwich Horror. Don’t you?

It’s just another normal day at Miskatonic University; local coeds Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) and Elizabeth Hamilton are finishing up at the library, casually putting the Necronomicon back in its glass case. Out of nowhere, a handsome man with compelling eyes, curly hair and what must be a fake mustache (right?) walks up to them requesting to see the book… just for a few minutes, he promises. Elizabeth outright refuses, but there’s something about this man’s eyes Nancy can’t resist, and she allows him to take the book. When their professor, Dr. Henry Armitage (Ed Begley) discovers the book is not where it should be, he is rightly concerned and promptly goes over to the young man, demanding he return it. But his anger turns into joy when he discovers the young man interested in one of the world’s most powerful books is none other than Wilbur Whateley, the youngest in a family known for their connection to the book, among other things…

Nancy's psychedelic dream bed. Do they sell those at Ikea?

Nancy’s psychedelic dream bed. Do they sell those at Ikea?

It seems as though Nancy has no control over herself when she is with Wilbur, so when he misses the last bus back home, she insists on giving him a ride. Though Nancy intends to return home after dropping Wilbur off, it seems he has other plans, and he convinces her to stay for tea and take a rest before getting back on the road. Of course, Wilbur has more than just tea in mind; after drugging her and ripping vital parts of her engine out of her car, he can now be sure that she will stay the night, if not forever… mwahahahaha!

More psychedelic nightmares... nothing scarier than primal, painted humans, right?

More psychedelic nightmares… nothing scarier than primal, painted humans, right?

Though there are a host of very strange things going on (Wilbur’s grandfather, a crazed old man always spouting nonsense; the locked door upstairs Nancy is forbidden to explore; the hallucinations; the hatred the locals have for the entire Whateley family), Nancy is too drugged-up and entranced to give any of them a second thought. Elizabeth and Dr. Armitage come looking for her, but she sends them away saying she is staying the weekend with Wilbur. Everything is going as Wilbur had planned, now if he can just get his hands on that Necronomicon, his plans for the return of the “Old Ones” will finally come to fruition.

Nancy at the altar of the Old Ones.

Nancy at the altar of the Old Ones.

Don’t go into The Dunwich Horror expecting a faithful Lovecraftian horror adaptation. This is Roger Corman we’re talking about; this is all psychedelic hallucination and exploitation, and it is god damn glorious, people. I am pretty certain there are no legitimate scares in this film, and there are plot-holes-aplenty, but that’s part of what makes this such a joy to watch. Everyone hams it up here, but Dean Stockwell is just the best! There is no subtlety to his grand gestures and bulging eyes, but with a mustache like that, who would have expected subtlety? When he’s calling the Old Ones to Earth, he holds his hands up to his cheeks exposing his wonderful pinky rings for the whole world to see. It is just fantastic.

Dean Stockwell will be upset if you don't watch The Dunwich Horror!

Dean Stockwell will be upset if you don’t watch The Dunwich Horror!

But maybe even better than Stockwell’s performance are the psychedelic scenes, where we get a vague sense of monstrous beings and writhing primitive human bodies, but never a full picture of what this “horror” actually is. It is unfortunately difficult to capture this in a still; it works best in motion. These scenes definitely make the movie unique and are the most fun to watch: flashes of light interspersed with action seemingly from another dimension; hell yes! What better way to make up for a low budget than just confusing the hell out of your audience with shit like this? I love it.

I don't even know. I don't even care. Is that Zardoz?

I don’t even know. I don’t even care. Is that Zardoz?

The bottom line is, if you are the type of person who prefers a coherent plot and legitimate scares in your horror movies, you aren’t going to like The Dunwich Horror. Instead, what Dunwich offers is ham, style and psychedelia, which I will take over substance any day of the week. If you go in knowing what to expect, this movie will offer you the perfect thrill a horror flick should.

21
Oct
14

Night of the Creeps (1986)

CreepsNight of the Creeps is one of those horror movies I should have seen twenty-or-so years ago, but just never made the time for. No better opportunity to catch up on decades of missed horror than October, so for Day 17 of 31 Days of Horror we finally gave it a chance. It was a choice I’m glad we made; I only regret it took so long!

The film starts off in the 1950’s. Two hot-and-heavy teens are going at it at the local make-out spot when they see a shooting star touch down in a nearby field. The adventurous boy and his somewhat frightened date drive to the spot to investigate. She decides to stay back, just in time to hear a radio report announcing that a crazed maniac has escaped the local insane asylum! Her date is too busy getting infested by alien bugs to hear her scream as she’s hacked to pieces.

Fast forward to the 1980’s, where only a fraternity-rush prank could resurrect the evil bugs! Chris and JC are two down-on-their-luck college boys. Chris believes he’s found the woman of his dreams in Cynthia, but she’s dating a super-douche. Perhaps he can impress her by joining a fraternity? As is to be expected, the frat boys have no intention of actually letting Chris and JC join, but they decide to have a little fun with them first and challenge them to dump a stolen corpse on a rival fraternity’s front steps. The boys actually get pretty close to accomplishing their goal, but instead of stealing a body from the morgue they release a cryogenically-frozen-and-alien-bug-infested zombie upon the college town.

At first, Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) is prepared to slap the boys six ways to Sunday for such a stupid prank, but eventually he learns the boys are legitimately sorry for wreaking all the havoc. When JC falls victim to the spreading alien bug, Chris and Cameron have something in common: revenge. Now that both have lost loved ones to the evil alien zombie beings and they’re going to band together to make sure the alien slugs won’t get away with it! Can they save the town before everyone turns into a Creep?

Night of the Creeps hilariously spoofs every horror movie you’ve ever seen, but not in an unforgiving Scary Movie kind of way: it actually has a cohesive plot with likable characters, and even some respect for the material it is parodying. The make-up and special effects are even pretty good, and there are a few actual scares, too. But, I think it is fair to say that if you’re not a horror fanatic, you can still enjoy Night of the Creeps on the level of a simple horror movie. It is, of course, much better if you’re in on the joke! If you’re not into the genre, you might, for instance, miss that almost every character is named after a famous science fiction or horror director. It’s cute little nods like that that put this movie over the edge from okay to great. Then there is Tom Atkins, who plays the bitter, hard-boiled detective to a tee and delivers his one-liners like no other (those Raymond Chandler novels scattered around his apartment are a nice touch, too)!

I definitely recommend Night of the Creeps to any genre fans who have, like myself, somehow missed it all these years. It certainly isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, but I’m definitely reserving a spot for it on the short list of good horror-comedies. It lives quite comfortably next to the likes of Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Even if you’re not into horror, it is still a fun ride to go on, and what better time to buy a ticket than Halloween? Actually, its comedic tone might be just right for someone who isn’t into horror at all. So there you have it, a movie for everyone! Check it out!

17
Oct
14

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

allcheerleadersdieposterFor day 16 of 31 Days of Horror, we picked Lucky McKee’s All Cheerleaders Die. This one somehow managed to totally skirt my radar; I hadn’t even heard of it until Q suggested we mine the Netflix instant queue to make up for the fact that the movie we really wanted to see that night, The Babadook, had sold out (though I was pissed, at least people are still going to the movies). I haven’t seen a lot of McKee’s stuff, but I loved Maylot, and his offering for Masters of Horror, Sick Girl was a bright shining light in a series that was more often dull than not. So, I was excited to give this one a shot.

When the film started, I thought we were going to be in for a rough, unpleasant ride. Our main girl Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is filming her best friend Lexi to find out what it’s like to be the captain of the cheerleading team, evidently for some school project. As stereotypes might predict, Lexi is an over-confident, air-headed bitch. Why Maddy, an apparently thoughtful, dorkish girl is her best friend I still don’t quite understand. Anyway, during filming one practice while Lexi is trying to show us her best stuff, the team drops her straight on her head, and she snaps her neck and dies. I worried the whole movie was going to be seen through Maddy’s lens, but thankfully after Lexi’s accident (or was it?) the movie carries on (mostly) without Maddy’s camera.

Maddy doesn’t believe Lexi’s death was accidental, so she aims to spend her senior year destroying the lives of those she holds responsible. The two who will feel her wrath most are Terry, Lexi’s ex-boyfriend and captain of the football team, and Tracy, the new captain of the cheerleading team and Terry’s new squeeze. A smart and resourceful girl, Maddy knows the best way to wreak havoc is from within, so she tries out for the cheerleading team. After all, everyone knows there’s an open spot…

For the first half or so, All Cheerleaders Die is a seemingly normal movie. We know from the title alone that something is going to go horribly, terribly wrong with Maddy’s plot, but I’ll be damned if I could’ve guessed the direction McKee would take this flick. Turns out Maddy’s obsessive, Wiccan ex-girlfriend Leena is not willing to let her go, despite the potential consequences. After an altercation between the football team and the cheerleaders causes a terrible car accident in which all the girls die, Leena whips out her Wicca and brings the girls back to life with magic stones. But resurrection comes at a terrible price, and the girls turn into blood-sucking zombie vampire things.

Boy oh boy, people seem to hate this movie! I read a few reviews after watching it and I’ve got to say, I don’t understand where all the vitriol and disappointment comes from. Since when did we start taking horror-comedies so damn seriously? I thought it was pleasantly surprising, original and funny. Looks like only 40% of viewers agree with me. A lot of folks seem turned off by the juxtaposition of the film’s apparent feminist plot with its objectification of the female characters. Sure, there’s an awful lot of scenes with women wearing revealing cheerleading uniforms, but my guess is that’s because they’re cheerleaders. Anyway, I feel like the baring of female flesh implicates the audience far more than it does the director; it’s almost teasing us, daring us to admit we’re a little turned on when we know we shouldn’t be. When Tracy walks into a stranger’s home in her underwear begging for something to eat, both the man and the audience are horrified by her newfound hunger and her unabashed urge to sate it, while also having our own base animal urges tickled. Nothing is neither more frightening nor hot than an empowered young woman, no?

I also don’t think the naysayers give enough credit to McKee’s treatment of stereotypes. At first the cheerleaders do seem pretty damn vapid, but I ended up sympathizing with all of them by the end of the movie. Just like everyone else they each have their own unique set of fears, hopes, dreams and idiosyncrasies. They’re just fucked-up high-school kids like everyone else at their school, it’s just easier for them to hide behind the assumptions the rest of society’s already made about how they should behave. I think it is fair to say that Maddy comes to the same realization as the rest of us do; these bitches aren’t so bad after all. My one beef is how unceremoniously most of them are dispatched by the end of the film. I suppose the purpose of that is to show us how our society is structured in such a way that the strongest man will always beat out the strongest of women, even if they are blood-sucking monsters. The men are treated far less kindly, I’d say; Terry’s captain is one cruel mother fucker, and his “boys” are pretty much trapped under his yoke. The one sympathetic boy tries to leave the team, but is forced to relent as Terry beats the shit out of him. There’s pretty much no redemption for the men in All Cheerleaders Die.

This is, of course, one of those movies that only a small group of people will appreciate. It is irreverent, offensive, gory and exploitative. It certainly isn’t meant for mass-consumption; a run-of-the-mill cheerleader slasher this is not, and thank the Wiccan gods for that. Fair warning that some of the special effects are quite cheesy (those glowing stones aren’t fooling anyone), but I’m willing to forgive that small piece of the puzzle. I found this so surprisingly delightful, and it gives me hope that all those bad reviews I read of The Woman are written by the same people who wrote bad reviews of this flick. At the very least, if this sounds appealing to you in any way, shape or form it is worth giving it a chance; you’ll at least have something to think about.




Categories

Old Wave


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 213 other followers