Archive for the 'Cult' Category

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!

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.

27
Nov
14

Mad Cowgirl (2006)

It’s very rare that I sit down to write about a movie and have absolutely no idea where to start. Sometimes a good lead-in escapes me, but that’s usually nothing a few minutes of thumb-twiddling can’t sort out. But with Gregory Hatanaka’s Mad Cowgirl nothing comes easy, especially not the task of writing about it. The movie fell into my lap as so many others have; a random recommendation that I decided deserved a chance probably on its title alone. What I encountered was an experience far more strange than I was ever prepared for.

The Mad Cowgirl contemplates beef.

The Mad Cowgirl contemplates beef.

The film is very fragmented, frenetic and above all weird. The action centers around Therese (Sarah Lassez), a beautiful young meat inspector who can’t seem to get enough beef in her life. Despite the ever-present news reports of tainted beef imported from Canada she devours the stuff morning, noon and night; it’s the one constant in her life. She suffers from a never-ending string of failed and/or strained relationships, especially with the men in her life, all of whom treat her with pretty blatant disregard, desperation or contempt. We don’t know what happened really between her and her ex-husband, but he doesn’t seem quite willing to let her go. She is currently sexually involved with a local televangelist played by Walter Koenig of Star Trek fame, but not far into the film he rebuffs her gruffly over the telephone. Her brother, with whom she has an incestuous relationship, runs a meat-packing plant and has been selling tainted beef – some of which he gifted her way. Is the tainted beef the cause behind a brain disorder that she may or may not be dying from?

Walter Koenig as the eternally sexy televangelist

Walter Koenig as the eternally sexy televangelist

Written down, it all seems like it is kind of straight-forward, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We get mere clips of Therese’s life as it happens; there is no narrative thread holding any of it together other than Therese herself. Some of what we see are tortured memories, others are acts of desperation: making love to the television set while her ex-lover preacher flame expounds on God’s glory; gnawing on a nearly-raw steak prepared for her by a new friend acquired in the Catholic church, and finally in the last act assuming the role of The Girl with the Thunderbolt Kick, a kung-fu favorite of hers in which the titular Girl must slay the Ten Tigers of Kwangtung.

Who could blame a girl?

Who could blame a girl?

To be honest, Mad Cowgirl is kind of a difficult film to appreciate. Watching it for the third or fourth time, I remain mostly mystified at what exactly Hatanaka aims to prove. That being said, I still really enjoy this movie and find it rather a shame there aren’t more people to whom I can recommend it. This certainly isn’t the movie for you if you’re interested in a clear plot line with an unambiguous resolution. I will say at the very least the film is definitely thought-provoking, and perhaps makes more sense when the weird ride is over and you’ve had some time to mull it over.

Anyone hungry for a bit o' beef? What's your favorite cut?

Anyone hungry for a bit o’ beef? What’s your favorite cut?

What I think Hatanaka may be trying to convey is just how difficult life is for a typical American woman. Therese is obviously a very confused woman, and with society expecting her to switch between roles as it sees fit, how could she not be? She must be a good daughter, ex-wife, sister, lover and patient all at once. She must be chaste one moment and insatiably horny the next, a point made most obvious by her sexual relationship with her brother. As Therese loses her grip on reality, she forgets when each role is appropriate. Sure Mad Cow Disease provides an easy scapegoat for Therese’s mental deterioration (and obviously a poke at the ills of consumerism), but social pressure seems like a pretty likely candidate in explaining her descent into madness.

While I really like the idea of the film being about a woman’s difficulties in today’s society, for all I know I may be barking up the wrong tree. The movie leaves virtually everything up to its audience’s interpretation. I’m not really sure how else to describe it other than ‘Batshit Arty,” which I don’t think is a widely accepted genre term… yet. If you’re more interested in attempting to solve a puzzle that may not be solvable, you should check this movie out. I still dig it after multiple viewings. I am glad it exists and glad to live in a world where movies like this have been made; I can only hope that more Batshit Arty gets made in the future!

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.

10
Oct
14

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

It’s inevitable that attempts to watch nothing but horror movies for an entire month will result in a few views that aren’t exactly horror films. Such is the case with Day 10’s selection, Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, a twisted, rock version of The Phantom of the Opera (with a little Faust and Dorian Gray thrown in) starring Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, William Finley and my favorite, Gerrit Graham.

Paul Williams plays Swan, a mega-music producer and the owner of Death Records. He is responsible for the “nostalgia-wave” musical craze that is sweeping the nation. His hallmark band, The Juicy Fruits, dress up like greasers and sing music reminiscent of the 1950’s, while he rakes in the big bucks. But being the savvy music producer he is, Swan knows he can only ride this nostalgia wave for so long; it’s time for something fresh and new. And what better way to market the opening of his new music venue, The Paradise, than debuting a new star? But who could it be? And what song will they sing? The search is on.

Swan is such a charmer. What a trustworthy face...

Swan is such a charmer. What a trustworthy face…

Winslow Leach (Finley) makes the choice of song easy; he performs part of his rock version of Faust where he knows Swan can hear it. Poor Winslow optimistically believes that he will get credit for his music when he hands it over to one of Swan’s goons. But more than a month later Swan is holding auditions for singers who are to perform Winslow’s song, with no mention of Winslow’s name on the piece. While investigating the audition line, Winslow meets Phoenix (Harper), a woman whom he believes is perfect to perform his music. And though he tries to use her to get in to see Swan, Winslow is not only violently turned away, but sent to jail (Sing Sing, no less) where he can be out of Swan’s hair (and is also subject to several medical “experiments,” all of which the evil Swan is behind!).
Swan stole his music! William Finley as Winslow Leach.

Swan stole his music! William Finley as Winslow Leach.

Not to be so easily disposed of, Winslow escapes prison, and in the process is maimed and scarred almost beyond recognition. It isn’t until he makes it to the under-construction Paradise where he finds a mask befitting his new look. And that’s when the haunting begins! But Swan is not about to let a disgruntled, maimed phantom ruin the opening of his Paradise, so he makes a deal with Swan: finish writing his Faust and Phoenix, and only Phoenix, will sing it. After signing a contract the size of War and Peace, Winslow is holed up somewhere deep in the Paradise, working on polishing his masterpiece, while Swan plots his final destruction. Not only is he planning on sealing Winslow up in a secret spot of The Paradise, he’s going to relegate Phoenix to back-up singer and replace her with a glam-rock, speed-popping hot mess named Beef (Gerrit Graham)! As I’m sure you can guess, Winslow doesn’t take kindly to the change in plans…
Jessica Harper belts it out as Phoenix

Jessica Harper belts it out as Phoenix

I’ve seen Phantom of the Paradise three times now, and I must conclude that it is just an all right movie. It is one of Q’s favorites, and has a pretty strong cult following, but to be honest if Gerrit Graham weren’t in this, I wouldn’t really get the attraction. It is interesting to me that this is a De Palma film, though. Honestly I haven’t seen much of his stuff, but this is just about the last thing I’d have ever expected out of him. It is light-hearted, goofy, and funny – not like anything else of his I’ve ever seen (and quite a surprise given the subject matter he’s covering!). I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did; it just seems to drag a bit at points and I found it a little boring. Somehow, it’s never really left much of an impression on me. This might have something to do with the fact that musicals, even tongue-in-cheek ones, have to be really good or really over the top for me to give them the time of day.
The "Phantom" sings.

The “Phantom” sings.

All that being said, everyone’s performances are pretty great. Paul Williams does an excellent job of playing a despicable music-industry devil. I love William Finley’s phantom, too: his constant look of surprise, disappointment and anguish all rolled into one is just about perfect. Then there’s Jessica Harper, who can do no wrong in my book. But, as I already said, Gerrit Graham is the real winner here. The movie is worth watching just for him! Long live Beef!

Gerrit Graham as BEEF!

Gerrit Graham as BEEF!

In the end, I think it’s the musical numbers (except Beef’s, of course) that really kill this movie for me. Whenever they come on I kinda start tapping my foot a little bit faster, waiting for them to be over. After hearing me say that you may be wondering: why the hell are you watching this to begin with? Ask Q. It’s always his fault! I’ve seen The Apple and I think it is Phantom’s crazier counterpart. The Apple I really like, because it is such a wretched, messy train wreck how couldn’t I? I can tolerate Rocky Horror Picture Show, at least it’s pretty to look at and Tim Curry is amazing. But Phantom of the Paradise occupies this weird middle-ground territory between those two crazy musicals and, well, normal ones. It just doesn’t do it for me, I guess.



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