Posts Tagged ‘Psychedelic

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.

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19
Sep
13

Faust (1994)

So you get stuff like this weird claymation baby... that's cool, right?

So you get stuff like this weird claymation baby… that’s cool, right?

Writing this movie blog has really exposed my literary shortcomings. Imagine, a grown woman who’s never read Faust! The closest I’ve come is Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which I understand draws heavily from Goethe’s Faust (and is amazing, in case you’ve never read it – go out and get a copy right now). Even so, I’ve never read the actual Faust, but I must have seen a bazillion film adaptations of the thing. And, out of all of those adaptations, Jan Švankmajer’s has to be the most entertaining, creative, and hilarious of them all.

The story starts off with a rather miserable-

Our hero,  but who's pulling the strings?

Our hero, but who’s pulling the strings?

looking fellow is on his way home from work. A man on the street shoves a map into his hands. Uninterested, our hero crumples it up and throws it out, but the thing mysteriously appears again in his apartment. Naturally, the man is curious, and so follows the map to a warehouse where, suddenly, the man is put on stage and is unexpectedly cast as Faust. Whether he likes it or not, he’s about to make a deal with the devil.

Here’s where watching films with an English faustfinalpuppetPhD Candidate is helpful: the film flips between different literary versions of Faust, at times quoting directly from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Goethe’s Faust among other versions – obviously subtleties that were lost on me. This did not affect my overall enjoyment of the film, however. It’s so visually exciting, almost everything else is secondary.

For the Švankmajer-uninitiated, let me explain: Švankmajer’s a stop-motion animation genius, so we aren’t just watching actors at work, we’re watching his art, too. And his art is so gloriously weird! Personally, I think this is a great way to watch a classic story unfold: with ultimate weirdness and coolness.

05
Jul
13

The Boxer’s Omen (1983)

The battle between good and evil will always serve us with endless fodder for movie plots. The good news is, movies based on this never-ending battle can vary immensely from run-of-the-mill to straight-up batshit crazy. The Boxer’s Omen, a Hong Kong production from the 80’s, thankfully falls into the latter category, and can easily be filed under one of the most disgusting movies I have ever seen in my entire life.

Psychedelic rainbow halo, duh.

Psychedelic rainbow halo, duh.

At this point in my movie-watching career, I really should not be surprised at the insanity Asian cinema produces. Movies like House, Mystics in Bali and Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion serve as a very small sampling of this phenomenon, and even though I have seen them all, and they are all unforgettable in their own way, I was still awed by The Boxer’s Omen.

A glimpse of the den of evil.

A glimpse of the den of evil.

I will try to sum up the plot as succinctly as I possibly can: a Hong Kong boxer is permanently disabled by a corrupt Thai boxer, and asks his brother to seek revenge against him. Meanwhile, the able-bodied brother is approached by the spirit of a buddhist monk, who is apparently his psychic twin or something like that. He is sought by the monk to defeat the powers of evil who are preventing him from achieving enlightenment (or something?). The only way evil can be defeated is if the young man quickly becomes a buddhist monk in order to face evil head to head.

Brains, it's what's for dinner.

Brains, it’s what’s for dinner.

Whatever. The important thing is, we get to see lots of animated, fuzzy animal-like things, regurgitation, painted folks, bubbling skin, vomiting, crocodiles, skulls, brains and the like. It’s the gooiest, slimiest, most viscous movie ever. It gives me the skeevies just thinking about it! I gagged a minimum of twelve times while watching it.

...??????....

…??????….

Films like The Boxer’s Omen are why I will give almost any movie a shot; there’s just no way of knowing what you’re missing unless you give it all a chance. There is a whole, wide world of unbelievable shit out there, just waiting to make your jaw drop (or almost make you throw up). Movies can be forgettable, trendy tripe or they can leave an indelible impression on you. I think I can safely say I will never, ever forget The Boxer’s Omen.

Don't mess with this lady.

Don’t mess with this lady…

Don't mess with this guy.

…or this guy.

26
May
13

John Dies at the End (2012)

Soy sauce. It's alive!

Soy sauce. It’s alive!

I must say, the Netflix instant queue has been very good to us lately. Without it, we wouldn’t have seen some of the best, recent horror we’ve seen in a while; Beyond the Black Rainbow and The House of the Devil topping that list. Those two films both wear their adoration for the 80’s on their sleeves, and so are very different from the latest film I can add to my list of Netflix instant queue  success stories: John Dies at the End.

It’s probably fair to say John Dies at the End has nothing to do with the 80’s. Instead of trying to evoke something familiar, John Dies at the End does exactly the opposite: nothing is what it seems, everything is something new, unexpected and alien. All that being said, I can’t claim that parts of John Dies didn’t remind me of Cronenberg‘s Naked Lunch, what with talking bugs and strange, addictive substances…

In a nutshell, John Dies at the End is about two friends who stumble upon a hallucinogenic drug called Soy Sauce and end up

Weird alternate-masked universe!

Weird alternate-masked universe!

saving the world from alien domination. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot; I don’t see much sense in elaborating.  Part of the fun of this movie is having no idea where it’s going to take you next. To be fair, I haven’t read the book (a frequent Schlock Wave refrain, I know) so of course I really had no idea what the thing was about. I have read the inevitable “this movie isn’t like the book wah wah wah” internet whines, who claim Don Coscarelli (of Phantasm fame, a franchise I’m quite fond of and plan on rewatching so I can write it up here) should never have been at the

We're all made of meat, after all.

We’re all made of meat, after all.

helm. Despite my ignorance of the book I’m just going to come right out and say they’re wrong. This movie is so enjoyable and so unexpected, it can definitely stand on its own two legs, book or no book. And what a pleasure to see Coscarelli make something fresh and new!

I know there’s no way most folks out there would enjoy this film. It’s too offbeat, too psychedelic for people to get behind. But for horror fans looking for something new and interesting, this is a definite must-see.

20
Apr
13

Performance (1970)

What do you get when you mix a hardcore London Gangster on the run, a washed-up, drugged out rock star, an androgynous French model and psychedelic mushrooms? Nic Roeg’s Performance, of course. How could you not be intrigued? But wait, it gets better: the washed-up rock star is played by none-other than Mick Jagger. Yeah. Really. If you haven’t seen this yet you should be asking yourself why.

Chas, hard at work.

Chas, hard at work.

Our London Gangster, Chas, is a cruel man indeed, and he takes his work very seriously. His boss, a big-time London mobster, is always reminding Chas to keep personal beefs out of day-to-day work, but that seems to be the one thing Chas can’t handle. He takes it too far and ends up on the run, hiding out in the mysterious Mr. Turner’s (Jagger) scummy apartment. Turner is quite skeptical of Chas at first, but soon realizes he can provide him the creative spark he needs to jumpstart his stagnating career. He just needs to find out what makes Chas tick. And that’s where things get trippy.

Chas meets his match(es)?

Chas meets his match(es)?

This might be one of the most aptly named films I’ve ever seen. It is all about the many performances people put on throughout their lives; at their jobs, in their homes, in the mirror. Are we just the sum of our performances, or is there something more?

Who are you?

Who are you?

This movie starts out pretty damn brutal, so if you can’t handle violence, I’m afraid this one isn’t for you. However, the pay-off is definitely worth it. This is one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen, and the one thing I’m sure of is that I think I’m going to have to watch it a few more times before I can be sure I’ve gotten the most out of it I possibly can. I look forward to that task.

Ooh, Mick.

Ooh, Mick.

09
Feb
13

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

BeyondtheBlackRainbowPosterI’m not really sure where to even begin with Beyond the Black Rainbow. About 85% of the reviews I read for this movie are negative: people say it’s too slow, it has nothing to say, and it relies far too much on visuals that it fails to deliver an interesting plot. I think they’re wrong on all counts. This movie blew my ass away. It’s one of the few five-star movies I’ve seen since I’ve started this blog.

Imagine every worthwhile 70’s and 80’s science-fiction/horror film you’ve ever seen. Now, think about the images in those films that resonated with you, and put all those images in a brand new context. This might help to give you some idea as to what to expect with this movie. It references so much of what we already know, but wraps it up in a horrifyingly alien package. This is not derivative, and it’s not merely an homage – it’s like a re-imagining of our existing sci-fi/horror cultural experience. And there’s a glowing pyramid with smoke coming out of it, dudes, come ON!

Doctor & Patient

Doctor & Patient

Okay, but what is it about? I’ll keep this short and sweet: in the 1970’s, Mercurio Arboria opens up Arboria, a happiness clinic. Fast forward to 1983, where the severely messed-up Elena is virtually held prisoner at Arboria, never knowing her mother and not allowed to see her father. She’s kept heavily sedated and is constantly goaded by the new doctor in town, Barry Nyle, who really digs manipulation and secrecy. As the story moves along we learn about drugs, cults, zombies, sentionauts and the aforementioned glowing pyramids.

Just one of many glowing pyramids.

Just one of many glowing pyramids.

 

 

I seriously don’t get the folks who found this movie boring. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m usually a tough-sell for a slow-moving film, but hot-damn this movie drew me in at the first and kept me going for the whole 110 minutes.  I didn’t even get up to use the bathroom while it was on – now that is truly a feat few films have achieved. Certainly this movie isn’t for everyone, but Q and I are anxiously awaiting Panos Cosmatos’ follow-up. I must also mention the awesome soundtrack: a psych-synth wet dream by Jeremy Schmidt that I could listen to all day.

 

08
Oct
12

The Sorcerers (1967)

October’s 31 days of horror got off to an extremely rough start with Frankenstein Sings. Yikes, what a dog. Luckily, hope and redemption was found in The Sorcerers. 

Boris Karloff stars as poor, desperate hypnotist professor Marcus Monserrat. Much like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect; he has few patients and has to haggle with a store-owner to get his ad placed in the window. He and his wife Estelle have struggled to pay the bills ever since his work was discredited by a reporter in a London newspaper ages ago. But the professor has been working on a very special project – something he and Estelle are very excited about testing on an unsuspecting patient. But who? Not a drunk, alcohol clouds the mind. Not someone they know, it must be a stranger. What about a bored, young mod? Yes, the kids these days are always looking for a thrill, after all… right?

Right. Professor Monserrat finds just the perfect subject in young Mike Roscoe. He’s got a cute, French girlfriend who really loves dancing and drinking coca-cola, but Mike can’t help but think life can pack more thrills than just that. He leaves his girl Nicole with his bumbling, acne-ridden friend Alan and skips around the city on his own. Monserrat can sniff his ennui a mile away, and convinces Mike to come back to his apartment for a brand-new thrill.

And what a thrill he finds: a psychedelic mind-control machine that allows Monserrat and Estelle to control Mike’s actions. Plug it in and the subject is yours, with no memory of the event. Finally, after years of toil and disgrace, the professor and his wife can seek cheap thrills by living vicariously through a young man!

Soon after the incident, Mike’s friends start noticing that he is acting strangely, and Professor Monserrat notices Estelle’s taste for thrills is going way too far. Will he ever be able to stop her?

This movie was rad. Catherine Lacey is fantastic, frightening and intense as Estelle. The music and clothes are mod and awesome. Though the budget for this film was pretty low, you’ll hardly notice – all the fun is in the acting.




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Old Wave