29
Apr
17

The Love Witch (2016)

Dear friends, I’m out of practice. Like way, way out of practice. But a movie like Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is enough to get me hopping back into the game. I mean, a blog called schlockwave couldn’t in good conscience not write about this campy homage to sixties sexploitation.

Life can be a fairy tale, if you just give your Prince Charming everything he wants!

What do men want? Elaine, The Love Witch knows: “Just a pretty woman to love; to take care of them.”  Fresh off the loss of her husband Jerry (they couldn’t prove she killed him) she’s ready to explore the sea for bigger, better fish. Using sex magick she woos all sorts of men, only to discover they’re never as good as they seem. In fact, she dazzles them so much she turns them into whimpering crybabies – and Elaine has no time for crybabies!

This film is gorgeous. It’s shot on 35mm and the colors pop amazingly. I want to live in Elaine’s technicolor world. You spend 90% of the time immersed in the 1960’s – the props and clothes are spot on (not to mention to die for – my GOD I want every decanter in this film), until Elaine’s friend Trish pulls out a cell phone, or you see a modern Subaru next to a classic

Wiccans know how to party – naked, and in a circle.

car. The acting and pacing is also pretty-well perfectly matched to any classic sexploitation horror flick you can think of. It’s obvious Anna Biller has done her homework (and though I have not yet seen Viva it’s pretty darn high on my list now).

I admit when it was over, I knew that I’d enjoyed it – but I wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It seemed strange to me that there were anachronisms like cell phones and new cars in this world that was obviously painstakingly made to look like another time and place. I’d also wondered exactly what it was trying to say – was there a coherent message?

After giving it some thought, I’ve at least interpreted it in a way that does make me love it, and makes me want to see it a second time. We’re never quite sure what Elaine’s real motivation is. Sure, we know

Congratulations?

it’s love but what does that mean, and why? We know that Elaine was berated by her husband, humiliated by her father, and schooled into the world of sex magick by a dude. A bunch of different dudes expecting different things out of a woman, and a woman feeling conflicted trying to fulfill all these different roles? Add to that the confusion and conflict between Elaine and Trish – each one wants to be like the other – until they realize they don’t. Think of how much easier it would be for these women to navigate social expectations if only they could support each-other instead of hide behind jealousy and lies? These problems are timeless and persistent, and perhaps those anachronisms are saying that though we feel modern, we’re still stuck in the same old world where women are subjugated rather than celebrated.

This movie is well worth a watch. It is beautiful, hilarious and even shocking at times. I am loving all these flicks paying tribute to the beauty (and idiocy) of exploitation horror. This, The Editor, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears – love them all. Keep them coming!

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20
Jan
17

The Demoniacs (1974)

It’s not that I don’t like Jean Rollin, because I do, actually. Even still, every time we watch one of his flicks the first thing I wonder is how long it will be before I end up drifting off to sleep? Well, the magic number with The Demoniacs was 46 minutes.

demoniacswreckers

The wreckers are out for loot… and blood!

Rollin definitely has his thing, namely mute naked chicks roaming around in gothic settings. And fear not, there is plenty of that to be had here. The mute naked chicks in question in The Demoniacs are the latest victims of a ragged band of wreckers (folks who trick ships into wrecking on the shore and then pillaging their contents). Their ship crashes, they wander towards the wreckers in their white linens all helpless and stuff, and of course are raped and left for dead.

demoniacsghost

Seeking ghostly revenge

Somehow the mute naked chicks end up at the local ruins where they find a clown, a Jesus, and I dunno, a devil or something? They make a deal with the devilish character, and obtain his power through sex (just in case you forgot you were watching a Jean Rollin movie) in order to seek revenge against the evil wreckers.

demoniacsclowningaround

Clowning Around

So, as is usually the case with Rollin’s flicks, there are some really good-looking moments (perhaps he should’ve done photography instead of film?). Alas, he can’t seem to string them together in any meaningful way. More than any other flick of his, The Demoniacs left me perplexed as to what it was actually about or what, if anything, it was trying to say. It was almost good, which makes it all the more frustrating that it wasn’t really worth a damn in the end. That being said, there are some truly bizarre moments that I don’t regret having experienced, and the boldness with which Rollin plants naked women in unlikely scenes and poses amused me until the very end. Still, I can’t really say that I’d recommend this movie to anyone.

17
Apr
16

Eraserhead (1977)

Wow. It’s been a good six months since I’ve graced these pages with my incoherent, babbling thoughts – apologies to those who care. Sometimes, life just gets in the way of this self-indulgence. In this case, I went and had a kid, and it has kicked my ass like nothing else in my life ever has. That shit they say about having kids is true: it changes everything.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I've ever seen on film.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I’ve ever seen on film.

Sure, I didn’t doubt that was the case, but I guess I didn’t grasp just how profoundly everything would change – including my perception of movies.

Like most people, I first saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead in college. Whatever copy they played us at one of the last gatherings of University of Pittsburgh’s Twin Peaks club (named Wounded in Pittsburgh, smirk) had Japanese subtitles. I remember having no fucking clue what it was I had just watched, and loving it for that reason. Over the years my memory of the movie faded, I mostly remembered it being an incredibly bizarre, outlandish and freaky nightmare starring a stunned Jack Nance. In the meantime I’d become intimately familiar with Lynch’s work, so that all seemed accurate to me.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

For the uninitiated, Eraserhead is, in short, a story about an awkward couple in the early stages of a relationship. Though I find it difficult to imagine them having sex, they have, and they made a baby. But the baby was born extremely premature and is basically a fetus in bandages sleeping on a dresser. We watch in horror as the baby unravels whatever tenuous relationship the main characters (Henry & Mary) had. While that all sounds fairly straightforward, it isn’t. This is Lynch at his weirdest, so, suffice it to say there is a lot of freaky shit happening.

Of course in the 12 or so years since I’d first watched Eraserhead I often toyed with the idea of revisiting it, either through some Lynch marathon or inviting some square over just to scare the shit out of them with it, but it never happened. Not until I had a kid, and my husband couldn’t stop thinking: watching Eraserhead would be really freaky now. So on an evening where we had somehow had enough sleep to sit through a movie after getting the kid to bed herself, we did it.

And oh my god.

It was fucking hilarious.

I get it now. Eraserhead is a fucking comedy! Okay, until there’s that unmentionable violence. But, up until that point, oh my god! Hilarious! Yes, I have looked at my baby like she was an alien. Yes, I have convinced myself the baby was ill, only to find out she was fine, only to turn around and once again swear there is something wrong with her. Yes, I have shouted SHUT UP numerous times in the middle of the night due to my own lack of sleep! Yes, I have put the humidifier too close to her head. All these things that seem nightmarishly cruel are very true to the experience I had during the first few months of parenthood. Nail, head, et cetera.

That baby don't look right.

That baby don’t look right.

I don’t think I can give Eraserhead a star rating. Did I like it? Yes, I like it on two levels. The first is obvious: I like David Lynch, I like weird shit, and I like movies a lot, so of course it follows that I like Eraserhead. The second level is that I finally feel like I’m in on the joke, and it’s always more fun when you’re in on the joke. While it is true that a large portion of this movie remains an inexplicable nightmare, I feel like I finally understand the motivation behind it. All it took was becoming a parent! But how can I translate that into any kind of rating? Movies like Eraserhead don’t get rated. In David Lynch’s world, movies rate you. I mean, should you see Eraserhead? If you are over 25 and you haven’t already seen it, probably not. Unless, of course, you are a new parent. In which case, yes, you should. You should definitely see it. Like yesterday. If it doesn’t make you laugh, well, you probably have no sense of humor.

17
Oct
15

Embrace of the Vampire (1995)

Alyssa Milano smolders coyly

Alyssa Milano smolders coyly

Have you ever been curious about Alyssa Milano’s breasts? If you answered ‘yes’ then boy, oh boy have I got the movie for you! Embrace of the Vampire is a one-stop shop for Alyssa Milano boobery that will have you tittering at its super lame plot that really only has one end-game in mind: exposing more of Alyssa Milano’s breasts.

Charlotte (Milano) is a college freshman still adjusting to life outside of the convent (yeah, really, she used to live in a convent, ok?). Her boyfriend Chris patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) awaits her 18th birthday, because he thinks that is when she’ll decide to give up her virginity. You know she’s a virgin because she’s always wearing white, she talks

Virgins wear white, right? And they love those knee-high thingies.

Virgins wear white, right? And they love those knee-high thingies.

about being a virgin all the time, and campus trollops make fun of her for being a virgin.

Her virginity makes her a target for more than just sorority sluts, though: you see, right around the corner from campus is a giant castle where a vampire (Martin Kemp) lives and he needs virgin blood, like, stat. So he infiltrates her dreams in hopes of planting seeds of doubt about her boyfriend and making her super horny so he can take advantage of her and they can live deadily ever after or something. For some reason, he only has three days to sink his fangs into some virgin blood or he dies forever, so let’s hope Charlotte’s a quick convert.

I mean, I don't know, I don't think this guy could turn me to the dark side. Not even with that sword tattoo thing.

I mean, I don’t know, I don’t think this guy could turn me to the dark side. Not even with that sword tattoo thing.

Usually when I write up a flick like this, I have to include a paragraph about how bad the acting is. But that’s just not the case here; everyone actually seems to pull their weight. Sure, they aren’t given much to work with, but no one is cringeworthy. Martin Kemp is kind of gross as the vampire, but he’s not a bad actor. And Milano is pretty solid, too, which makes me wonder why she had to resort to taking her clothes off to make cash in Hollywood. She’s a decent actress and probably deserves better. But hey, the mid-90’s were probably a great time to score wads of cash off the direct-to-video-not-quite-softcore market. Everyone likes easy money, I guess.

So, you know, Embrace of the Vampire is really good for three things: Alyssa Milano’s right breast, Alyssa Milano’s left breast, and solid, mindless, smutty entertainment. The

HOT CAMPUS GOTH ORGY SEX SEX ORGY! BAD DANCERS!

HOT CAMPUS GOTH ORGY SEX SEX ORGY! BAD DANCERS!

great thing about this movie is it has absolutely no illusions about what it is. It was made to show boobs, and it’s not afraid to embrace that fact. If you don’t know what you’re getting into when you start watching this, you’re clearly not paying attention. It’s not like one could accidentally happen upon a copy of this and think: “Oh, this looks like an interesting, innovative vampire movie.” No. No, you know exactly what you’re in for, and it delivers perfectly. I guess it is almost a teeny-weeny little bit arty because it’s kinda sorta an homage to Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula, what with the whole Udo-Kier-lookalike-needs-virgin-blood thing. But yeah, no it’s not. It’s not arty. It’s just garbage. But it’s glorious garbage! Bonus: ultra-90’s goth vampire sex romp campus party! They didn’t have those at my college.

14
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989)

Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is one of those flicks that was always on cable while I was growing up. How many times I’d seen it as a youngster either in full or in part I have no idea, but the only thing that really left an impression on me was the name Gage. Seriously, who names their kid Gage? Anyway, I remembered the film being in ‘good enough’ territory and worthy of a revisit as an adult, so we hit it up for this year’s 31 Days of Horror.

It's always nice wen King makes a special appearance.

It’s always nice when King makes a special appearance.

Louis and Rachel (Denise Crosby) Creed move to a new house in Maine, where Louis has gotten a job teaching medicine at the local university. Their young daughter Ellie and her cat Church look like prime horror targets, but maybe not so much as their toddler son Gage. It’s pretty clear within the first five minutes of this flick that someone is getting hit by a truck before this movie is over. See, the Creeds’ new home is situated on a road frequently traveled by speeding semis. Their friendly neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) politely warns them to keep an eye on their cat as a result.

Fred Gwynne is the one true highlight of this movie. Too bad he's underused!

Fred Gwynne is the one true highlight of this movie. Too bad he’s underused!

But fast trucks aren’t the only spooky thing about their new digs; just down the path in the backyard there’s a creepy-ass cemetery. Crandall explains that this cemetery was built by the kids who owned the countless pets that fell victim to speeding trucks on the road. Since this is podunk Maine, we can’t expect the kids to know how to spell, so the name of the place is actually Pet Sematary. Ok?

So a few short days after starting his new job, Louis is confronted with his first human victim of the speeding trucks, Victor Pascow. The kid somehow knows his name and spouts warnings about life and death or something, and then he dies. Shaken up and weirded out, Louis bids his family adieu as Rachel takes the kids to see her parents for Thanksgiving (her dad really hates Louis so he decides not to go). Of course this is a perfect time for Church to get killed by a truck, no? Crandall finds the cat’s corpse in his yard, and breaks the bad news to Louis. But, he says, there may be a way around having to be honest with your kid and telling her what a dumb shit you are for letting the cat run into the road…

Ancient burial grounds are pretty cool looking amirite?

Ancient burial grounds are pretty cool looking amirite?

That’s right. The same shit Pascow warned Louis about is what Crandall is about to show him right now: the real cemetery, some sacred-ass earth which is of course formerly a Native American burial ground. Word on the street is you bury something here, and it won’t stay dead. It comes back. Sure, it’s evil and might kill you and you’re seriously fucking with the balance of the universe, but that’s so much better than being honest with your kid, right?

I thought I wasn’t going to give the whole plot away, but maybe I am. So the cat comes back, and is mean and evil, and somewhere along the line we learn that Rachel had to deal with a sick sister as she was growing up and it made her afraid of confronting death or something. Which is exactly what she’s going to have to do when her kid gets nailed by a truck. Unless of course humans can be buried in the sacred ground and come back to life? Hmmm…

The story of Rachel's sister Zelda seems to be there just so we can have some scary shots of her being scary. At least the make-up is good?

The story of Rachel’s sister Zelda seems to be there just so we can have some scary shots of her being scary. At least the make-up is good?

Look, I haven’t read the book, or any King beyond a handful of short stories, so I can’t speak to how well this is adapted. But I can say that this movie is pretty much shit. I just have absolutely no empathy for any of the characters. The actor that plays Louis, Dale Midkiff, seems as though he is sleepwalking through the role. You’d think a guy whose entire family falls apart and watches some shit come back to life would have some real emotion to display, but no. This guy is like a tree trunk. It is seriously painful to watch.

And let’s talk about Rachel for a second. I think Denise Crosby does a fine job playing her, but she is made so unlikeable and unsympathetic, I really don’t give a shit that her family was basically abusive while she was growing up, or that she’s going through a lot of trauma with a dead kid of her own. She is written like an irritating, one-dimensional mother; you know, the kind of woman you might see at buybuyBABY shopping for the most expensive stroller, and being really, really loud about it.

Denise Crosby pretty much has this look for the whole movie. And whoever's responsible for her wardrobe should be forced to pay her damages.

Denise Crosby pretty much has this look for the whole movie. And whoever’s responsible for her wardrobe should be forced to pay her damages.

In terms of characters, Fred Gwynne’s Jud Crandall is the only saving grace, but even he isn’t given enough time to explain his motivations but for a two-minute indulgence in exposition. I guess a lot of people really take a shining to Victor Pascow, who I forgot to mention spends the rest of the movie as a ghost trying to guide these idiot characters into doing smart things instead of dumb things. Honestly, I kind of felt his presence was annoying. But, uh, the make-up looked good.

I can see some truly interesting things hiding in this movie, which leads me to believe the book probably has a shit-ton more to offer than the shit piled on the screen here. Then again, Stephen King does have the screenplay writing credit, so who knows. The movie obviously tries to tackle a family’s pain in dealing with loss, but either the actors or the writing, or maybe just the two of them together, can’t make it work. There are similar problems with Rachel’s death issues; obviously we are meant to feel bad for Rachel and the crap she dealt with as a child, and how difficult it is for her to come to terms with death as an adult. But the character in the film is so god damn shrill and annoying, I don’t give two shits about how difficult anything is for her. I just want her to shut up.

You know, sometimes I sit down and start writing about a movie I’ve watched, and it isn’t apparent to me just how much I disliked it until I’m done. And, wow, I guess I really hated Pet Sematary. There are a few redeeming factors, and some legitimately scary moments, but for the most part this movie is insufferable. There are far better King adaptations out there, some of which I’ll be writing up later on this month, so stay tuned!

13
Oct
15

The Invisible Man (1933)

invisiblemanposterWhile I would undoubtedly call myself a fan of horror films, I am by no means an expert. There are many, many holes in my horror knowledge, in part because I got started late, and in part because there is just so much stuff out there. The good news is, every year has an October, and October is just the perfect time to fill in some of those holes. When thinking about which movies to pick for 31 Days of Horror this year, James Whale’s The Invisible Man was one of the first to spring to mind.

Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) is a dedicated scientist working under Dr. Cranley’s tutelage. He and his colleague Dr. Arthur Kemp both have taken a shine to Cranley’s daughter, Flora. It seems as though Flora and Griffin have a thing going on, but even so, he can’t help but feel inadequate. Compared to Kemp, he is poor, and worries that he won’t be able to adequately provide for Flora should they ever marry. This is probably only part of Griffin’s motivation for perfecting a serum that turns him invisible, thereby giving him incredible power and the ability to take over the world!

Well, it's tough to eat through all those bandages.

Well, it’s tough to eat through all those bandages.

The only trouble with the serum? He can’t perfect the antidote. So he moseys on over to an inn during a snowstorm and demands a room. The crowd there is a little taken aback, and Jenny Hall (Una O’Connor) the lady of the establishment doesn’t quite know how to deal with his temper, or the fact that he’s covered in bandages. But they leave the man to his work for a few days. But he is soon behind on rent and still hasn’t figured out the antidote situation. Here, Griffin’s anger gets the best of him, and he storms out of the place leaving a few poor, injured souls behind.

So, he goes to the only place he can think of for help: Kemp’s home. But rather than being apologetic and asking for help, Griffin threatens Kemp if he doesn’t do as he says. Kemp tries his best to get Cranley and the police involved, but they are no match for a crazed, arrogant invisible man. Or are they?

Una O'Connor has no idea what to do with this invisible man!

Una O’Connor has no idea what to do with this invisible man!

This movie is so much fun. I should have known; everything else I’ve watched by Whale has had both a darkness and a sense of humor about it, and this film is no exception. Dr. Jack Griffin is only slightly sympathetic; only in the scenes with Flora where we see his vulnerability to we feel anything like pity towards the guy. The rest of the time he is incredibly bombastic and pompous, which leads to a lot of hilarious moments, frankly. But the best and funniest moments are those with Una O’Connor, who also delighted me in Bride of Frankenstein. While I guess you could call her performance a bit over-the-top, I think it definitely adds to the air of incredulity that’s already present in this film. I mean, how would you react if there was an invisible man running about?

But aside from all that stuff, what’s really impressive to me here is of course the special effects. Sure, you can see a wire here and there, but that’s not the point. Nor does it detract from the ultimate effect: it really looks like that bike is riding itself, for instance. I’m no expert in the evolution of movie effects, but I know that what these guys did here was really damn impressive for 1933. Hell, it’s impressive to me even

The Invisible Man taunts his victims!

The Invisible Man taunts his victims!

today. I could take a million stills from this movie that made me say “wow, that looks so cool!” Just knowing how hard the effects crew must have worked to make the film look this way leaves me super impressed with the final output.

So, yeah, The Invisible Man is funny, impressive and also quite scary, when you think about its implications. As I’m sure I’ve said before, sometimes old-timey flicks are a hard sell for me. I typically have difficulty getting into the brains of characters from older movies, especially the female characters. Sure enough, Flora the love interest is just about as damsel-in-distressy as you’d expect from a 1933 flick. Even so, the insertion of humor in this movie really helps alleviate some of those issues for me. The lightened tone is a good reminder that not everything is so darn serious, and doesn’t have to be read that way. If you’re a horror fan, I definitely recommend this. A great watch!

12
Oct
15

Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball (2007)

Just a little over three years ago, I packed a bag and housesat in the middle-of-nowhere Montana for six weeks. With not much else to do, Q and I decided we’d watch at least a movie a day. Montana was also the catalyst for me to start blogging again; I’d actually started this blog a few years before that but let it languish, wilt and die. Anyway, we brought a giant binder of DVDs with us, and many DVDs went unwatched (like I said, giant binder). It occurred to us that October would be a fine time to pluck Nic Roeg’s Puffball: The Devil’s Eyeball from the binder and watch it.

Set in the Irish countryside, Puffball centers around Liffey, a young and successful architect who has taken on a project renovating an old, dilapidated cottage. She and her boyfriend Richard are eager to get started, when he unfortunately gets called away on business in New York. Luckily, they bone on an ancient rock (which is actually an altar to Odin, as explained by Donald Sutherland) before he heads out of town. Unluckily, the condom breaks. While Richard’s away, Liffey discovers she is pregnant, and she is not happy about it.

A slice of country heaven.

A slice of country heaven.

She has more than that to be unhappy about, though. Liffey’s closest neighbors are well-versed in ancient Druidic magic. Molly, the matriarch of the family, believes the baby Liffey is pregnant with was actually meant for her own daughter, Mabs (Miranda Richardson), who has been trying to get pregnant with a little boy for quite some time now, for reasons the film will cram down your throat. It’s not working out, and the local doctor refuses her fertility treatments saying she’s just too old to be a new mum. But Molly isn’t worried, she is fairly certain that her knowledge of magic, coupled with Mabs’ daughter Audrey’s natural powers can get the baby back to the right family. A little penis mushroom here, a little tainted alcohol there and voila! The baby will be in the right womb.

Nosy neighbors.

Nosy neighbors.

Well, unfortunately Molly and her witchy cohorts aren’t as in tune with Liffey’s pregnancy situation as they think. The lines get a little crossed, and their meddling causes some seriously bad mojo for everyone involved. Most of this is happening without Liffey even realizing it. But, in the end, Liffey decides to keep her baby, much to Mabs’ dismay, which leads to a very unsettling argument/labor situation that is DEFINITELY not something you want to watch if you are eight months pregnant!

Too old to breed.

Too old to breed.

I’m still not sure how I really feel about this movie. It definitely made me very uncomfortable, but how much of that has to do with my own pregnancy and imminent labor I can’t be sure. Certainly the idea that there are forces outside of us working to influence the outcome of a pregnancy is a terrifying one. What I for sure don’t like is the insatiable I-need-a-baby-now attitude that defines Miranda Richardson’s character. Sure, the film makes no bones about why Mabs feels this way, and I guess this was necessary to contrast Liffey’s I-definitely-don’t-want-a-baby-but-oops-accidentally-got-pregnant thing, but it really made me feel as though the filmmakers, or perhaps Fay Weldon, the author of the novel on which the film is based, think there are only two categories of women: those who wish to spawn, and those who don’t. That sort of dichotomy leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Life-changing sonogram.

Life-changing sonogram.

I have other problems with the film as well, but I’m afraid they’re mostly due to the budget Roeg had to work with. The film is very cheaply shot and reminds me of a throw-away television production. Sometimes I’m able to overlook stuff like this, but here I found the cheapness distracting. I also felt a lot of the special effects, which were also distractingly cheap, were used in very heavy-handed ways. I am sure there are other ways to convey a fire from back in the day to a film’s audience than showing the present-day object with flames overlaid on top. Over and over again. Oy. We get it.

Somewhere deep inside Puffball there is a good movie. Maybe even a great movie. But as it is now, I am not sure I liked it very much at all. It is thought-provoking, which is of course a positive thing, but there are so many smaller problems with the film that they take away from my ultimate read of the thing. Also, don’t be too excited to see Donald Sutherland’s name in the credits; he is only in two short scenes and that made me sad, too. For the most part though, the other actors do a good job of pulling their weight; they just don’t have much to pull.




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