Posts Tagged ‘Suburban Nightmare


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!


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.


Society (1989)

In keeping with the golly-gee-80’s-horror-movies-had-great-special-effects theme, Day 5 of 31 Days of Horror continues with Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut, Society. Usually when I hear Yuzna’s name, I cringe just a little bit. I haven’t seen too much of his stuff, and judging by the internet’s opinion, what I have seen is not the good stuff. The Dentist comes to mind as one big fat mistake. But hey, we all make mistakes, and everyone deserves a second (third, fourth) chance, right?
The perfect Beverly Hills family

The perfect Beverly Hills family

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) is a rich teen living in Beverly Hills, but he’s always had the sense that he doesn’t quite belong there – not amongst his friends, and especially not his family. The older he gets, the more he starts to believe that he’s adopted. His parents seem to have a special affinity with his sister Jenny that they just don’t share with him. Right around the time of Jenny’s coming-out party, the situation seems to come to a head. His shrink doesn’t really have much advice to offer him, except to pump him full of drugs and tell him that he’s paranoid. All that paranoia starts to gel when a friend of his takes a tape recording of his family, where they say some very strange and shocking things to one another, alluding to family orgies and cannibalism! But when Bill plays the tape for his therapist, it just sounds like a normal, wholesome family conversation about how sad everyone is Bill can’t make Jenny’s party. Either there’s an intricate conspiracy going on or young Bill is losing his mind!

Hell-bent on discovering the truth, Bill charges home unexpectedly only to find his family involved in some very outrageous behavior. This movie has one of the most surprising and bizarre endings I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know too much about what to expect when I started watching it, so its desire to shock worked 100% on me. What starts off as a pretty normal teen coming-of-age movie ends with one of the most gloriously gooey and disgusting scenes I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t want to spoil too much, but if you are sensitive to viscous fluids you might want to keep a blindfold handy. 
Mama's got a brand new hand

Mama’s got a brand new hand

It’s difficult to continue writing about Society without giving away some of its best secrets, so if you haven’t seen it and you like surprises, read no further. What Bill finds at this party is all of Beverly Hills’ most elite nouveau riche preparing to dine upon the lower classes, literally sucking the life out of the poor. Screaming Mad George’s special effects are a sight to behold; something like twenty minutes of pure gross-out slimy excess that makes the whole film worth watching (because admittedly, the first half of the film seems to drag a bit). Turns out his parents aren’t his parents at all, and that Bill was reared from childhood to serve as a special feast for the rich. Comparisons to John Carpenter’s They Live are not unfounded; it’s basically the same message, only here the rich are simply a different, superior species than you and me instead of aliens! 

It probably comes as no surprise to those of you acquainted with my politics that I loved the ending. Just like They Live, the film’s commentary on life in Reagan’s America is just as relevant today; perhaps even more so. We live in a

I'm glad she's not *my* sister

I’m glad she’s not *my* sister

time where corporations merge and grow to gargantuan, powerful proportions, paying their CEOs 300 times what they pay the automatons that work on the bottom rung. The idea that behind closed doors these privileged assholes literally feast on our flesh is depressing and hilarious at the same time. I think that particularly is what I like so much about its presentation: it is so gloriously excessive that we can’t help but laugh, even if the meaning behind it is painfully true. 

Though the special effects are awesome, the rest of the movie is weighed down by its inherent b-ness; the acting leaves something to be desired, the pacing is a bit frustrating and the soundtrack is noticeably shitty – in fact, I think a new score would improve this movie a whole bunch. But the film’s ultimate message and special effects make up for all of this. Another aspect I really liked about this movie is that it is a coming-of-age film from a boy’s perspective. For some reason, it seems all the coming-of-age stuff I’ve seen in the last few years revolves around girls and their first period, so a boy finding out he was born into a family of flesh-eaters is refreshing, to say the least. 

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

What better way to follow-up Elvira’s Haunted Hills than with another old-horror parody flick? No better way, I say, and so Day 4 of 31 Days of Horror is dedicated to Killer Klowns from Outer Space. This time instead of Elvira’s Poe and Price fixation, Klowns rethinks alien invasion movies from the 1950’s! Only these aliens aren’t like any we’ve ever seen, in the 50’s or otherwise! They are, well, you guessed it, Klowns. You know, with a K. I think that means they’re kooky.

The tent's first victim: good ol' boy Royal Dano

The tent’s first victim: good ol’ boy Royal Dano

The action centers around a wooded area in a college town; the kind of place those krazy kidz go to make out and do the nasty! Mike and Debbie are just having some fun when they see something like a shooting star touch down in the woods. Like any inquisitive pair of horny teenagers, they decide to check it out. The last thing they expected, of course, was to see a giant circus tent in the middle of the woods! Of course it could mean nothing but innocent fun, right? WRONG! Inside the tent are grotesque clowns who spin humans into cotton candy and suck out the blood with a silly straw! If only they had a friend in the police department…

Oh but they do! Seems Debbie’s ex is the only reasonable cop in town, and he’ll do anything to win her back – even if it means scouring the town for Killer Klowns! The only other cop at the station, Mooney (John Vernon), is having none of it! He doesn’t trust these out-of-town college kids a lick, and he’ll be damned if any damn kid will

Mooney ain't gonna buy any of that shit them kids are sellin'...

Mooney ain’t gonna buy any of that shit them kids are sellin’…

get him to believe in the invasion of the Killer Klowns!

This is a gleefully stupid horror movie and I love it so fucking much! What’s not to love? The plot is ludicrous, and so enjoyable to watch. The special effects and make-up are totally stellar; the Chiodo Brothers know what they’re doing, I only wish they did it more often. Watching a movie like Killer Klowns today, when there is so much CG bullshit flying around, makes me appreciate their talents that much more. I sure as hell hope the fabled sequel to Klowns, supposedly due out in 2016, will feature the same beautiful make-up work. Above all, shitty CG is the biggest movie-ruiner for me these days, so it would be nice to see some real gooey make-up action on the big screen again.



Another great thing about Killer Klowns from Outer Space is it’s a relatively tame movie. Sure, it’s a horror movie with terrifying clowns and it features a few make-out sessions, but I don’t think there’s any serious gore or nudity. The tone is very light-hearted, even if the clownish antics of the aliens (puppet shows, marionettes, pies in the face) all turn out to be very deadly! All in all this is a hilariously goofy way to spend an hour and a half. It’s pretty much a must-see for anyone interested in boning up on their b-horror canon, and always worth another viewing for those already in the know.


Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

When I first heard someone had filmed a horror movie at Disneyland, I thought ‘how the heck did they get away with that?’ After seeing the trailer for Escape from Tomorrow, I became impossibly intrigued. I’m already a person with an intense distrust of all things Disney, so a film using the theme park as a stage for horror sounded like the perfect idea. My only fear was that my expectations were way too high; nothing could possibly live up to the horrific ideas I’d created in my head.

Ooh la la!

Ooh la la!

Then, we waited. A few months passed by and people stopped talking about it. Every now and again, Q and I talked about whether or not we should pick up a copy (at Target of all places) and for whatever reason, we didn’t. Until we did. And then, it sat there, in the middle of a pile of movies we intend to watch in the possibly distant future. There are, after all, an awful lot of movies to watch out there! Then, one fateful night we finally decided it was time. Ladies and gentlemen, my fears were totally unfounded. I was incredibly impressed with this film!

Jim and Emily White are a terribly typical couple. Their kids Sara and Elliot haven’t fallen very far from the tree. Today is the family’s last day at Disneyworld, and Jim is determined to enjoy himself in a very Clark Griswold kind of way, despite the fact that he spent the morning on the phone getting fired from his job. Naturally, Jim doesn’t share this information with his wife, and the family sets off for one last “great” day of vacation.

On the way to the park, the Whites share a shuttle with other happy-go-lucky folks, including two too-young French girls. Jim, doofus that he is, can’t take his eyes off of them. The girls seem to know what he’s interested in, and coyly swing themselves around a pole, almost taunting the poor goober. The exchange isn’t lost on Emily, either, but she is pretty sure it’s just harmless attraction.



Things only get stranger from there; while on one of Disney’s famously irritating rides, Jim sort of blacks out: the dolls seem to become evil before his very eyes, and his family turns on him. Eventually things turn back to normal, but Jim is clearly shaken. It seems as though this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and while I wouldn’t have let my prone-to-blackouts-husband take my only son alone in a giant theme park, that’s exactly what Emily does; what else are you supposed to do when your kids can’t agree on what ride to go on next?

Unfettered from his wife, Jim spots the two French girls and, like a total idiot, blatantly follows them around the park. The girls take notice, and so does Elliot, especially when his dad makes him ride Space Mountain just so he can keep up with the girls! The boy vomits all over himself and Jim, naturally, is in very big trouble with his wife, who has yet to allow him to kiss, hug, or even touch her at all. The parents exchange kids and Jim takes Sara around the park, this time meeting some other weirdos, including a nurse who warns Jim of an impending Cat Flu epidemic, and a former Disney Princess, who lets Jim in on a few secrets of the Disney Princess trade…

That is a terrifying child!

That is a terrifying child!

The first half of this movie is so extraordinarily anxious and claustrophobic, I could barely stand it! Even without the evil dolls, it is so frightening with the anticipation of something really, really bad happening. Will Jim lose the kids? Will he actually approach these French girls? What’s up with that creep on the scooter? As the movie progresses, and Jim walks around the park in a swirl of drunkenness, the anxiousness turns into terror, confusion and conspiracy. At a certain point, the film turns into a real mindfuck and goes in some very strange directions. I don’t want to give away all the film’s secrets, so I’ll let you discover some of the strangeness for yourself. I definitely recommend you do.

I really, really loved this movie. I thought it was hilarious and terrifying at the same time, a feat that is never as easy to achieve as it seems. I must say I am very surprised at its negative reception; only 58 on metacritic? It does such a great job of capitalizing on the average Joe’s fears of loss, rejection, and sickness all while being filmed at ‘the happiest place on earth,’ I’m surprised more people aren’t legitimately horrified by it. Perhaps they were expecting an axe-wielding Mickey, a psychopathic Minnie, or maybe Goofy in a skin-suit? I think by preying on the simple fears of the typical American white dude (i.e., the fathers of Disney’s target demographic) is what makes this movie so

The Disney Princess finds it difficult to let go of perfection...

The Disney Princess finds it difficult to let go of perfection…

effective. Personally, I think watching it is a lot more fun than any expensive trip to Disneyworld would be!

I can’t rightly publish this post without mentioning just what a marvel it is that they were able to actually complete the thing. Somehow the filmmakers were actually able to pull off shooting the film guerilla-style in a place that is heavily guarded and surveilled. That in itself is an achievement to be lauded, and knowing what difficulties they may have encountered doing so is enough to forgive the obvious green-screen shots. No matter how clear it was that a particular shot wasn’t actually taken at the park, I never felt removed from the setting. I was definitely there, in Disneyworld, living a nightmare.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about the film, except that I’m not quite sure why it takes some of the strange turns it does. The answer may actually be that they had to make it more obviously a parody in order to avoid legal issues with Disney. As it is, I’m shocked they got away with releasing the film at all, let alone on DVD and on sale at Target.


Serial Mom (1994)

Maryland isn’t a bad state to be from. We’ve got the Chesapeake Bay (nevermind the fact that it may be destroyed in a few years, it was awesome once) and with it, Old Bay seasoning. There’s Natty Boh and marriage equality. I guess there’s some other cool stuff, but when it comes to movies us Marylanders can boast that we come from the same state as the one and only trash king John Waters, and that’s the coolest thing of all!

It’s hard to believe Serial Mom will be my first John Waters entry, and that it’s taken me 300 movies to get here! As a young, curious movie lover I somehow got my hands on a copy of Pink Flamingos. I really wish I remembered more about how I’d heard of it; I’m not sure if I read about it because I’ve always had an affinity for garbage, or if it was more available to me in the Maryland suburbs than it would have been to me elsewhere. It doesn’t really matter how I got my hands on it, but that videocassette circulated throughout my high school and I never got it back. I did earn a reputation for being weird, though, and I’m glad for that. At any rate, Serial Mom is quite a different film than Pink Flamingos, and that is not a bad thing. Comparatively it’s downright wholesome.

The Sutphins are good at putting on a happy face...

The Sutphins are good at putting on a happy face…

The Sutphins are the picture of suburban happiness. There’s Misty (Ricki Lake), a boy-obsessed teenager. Her brother Chip (Matthew Lillard) runs a video store and his favorite movies are, naturally, gory 60’s exploitation (he’s got good taste). Papa Eugene (Sam Waterston) keeps everyone in business by providing the town with the best dentistry around. And then there’s Mama Beverly, just about the best mom anyone could ask for. And, like any good mother, she’ll go to the ends of the earth to keep her family happy.

But there is trouble in paradise! A pair of cops stop by with a horrendous note one of the Sutphin’s neighbors received and, I can barely type this, it said ‘PUSSY’ on it! What a shock! Of course the Sutphins know nothing about this, after all Beverly can barely even say the “p” word! That’s what she says, at least, but does she, in fact, relish saying that very word? As soon as the cops leave and the rest of the family is off, she runs upstairs to make an obscene phone call to her neighbor! Oh dear, it looks like things aren’t exactly what they seem in suburban Maryland!



Surely we’d be willing to forgive Beverly for a few obscene phone calls and letters. Life as a stay-at-home mom can be mundane, you can’t blame her for finding her own way of spicing it up a bit. But it seems Beverly harbors a secret much worse than obscenity! When Chip’s teacher suggests he see a therapist due to his lust for gory flicks, Beverly loses it and it’s curtains for the teacher. And that’s just the beginning! Mrs. Sutphin has lessons to teach all over town; there’s that kid who never wears his seatbelt, that woman that never recycles, and worst of all that old cow who never rewinds her videotapes!

All those slobs probably deserved it, right? It’s about time someone whipped this town into shape! The trouble is, Beverly’s not so good at covering her tracks. Her family and the cops are all sure that she’s the culprit behind the rash of murders. But she might be charming enough to get herself out of it, and if her kids can sell the story to the right media outlets, the Sutphins might even stand to profit!

It's amazing what people will do behind closed doors.

It’s amazing what people will do behind closed doors.

Serial Mom is a sheer work of genius! Beverly’s maniacal obsession with her family’s happiness, neighborly duty and outward appearance trumps any sense of right and wrong. What a perfect way to show how people can get wrapped up in the most mundane details of life while forgetting the bigger picture, namely that, you know, murder is wrong. Serial Mom is the other side of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet: They both depict the dark side of suburbia and the secrets hidden underneath the idyllic veneer of singing robins and picket fences, and both have quite a bit of voyeurism involved. The difference is Waters does it with outrageous humor rather than dark drama — instead of finding weird freaky rape fantasies played out behind closed doors, Beverly finds something she considers much more horrifying: people eating without forks!

Beverly has perfected the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Beverly has perfected the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Not only does Waters do a great job of showing how despicable suburban life can be, his handling of the Sutphins’ rise to fame as a result of Beverly’s murder spree offers pretty pointed commentary on the shamelessness of good old American entrepreneurialism and thirst for fame. Q pointed out that Natural Born Killers did the very same thing the very same year, and though that film had a good bit of humor in it as well, it wasn’t a comedy first and foremost. In Serial Mom Waters saturates the screen with parodic (roast as murder weapon?) over realistic violence. Ultimately, I’d have to say I prefer comedy over drama or violence as the vehicle for any message; usually things are funny because they are true.

But the greatest thing about Serial Mom is that it isn’t trying to convince you how horrible things can be under the covers. Instead, it assumes you already know that people are dirty and gross, no matter what they look like on the outside. Waters is just showing us what we already know, or at least suspect, about our neighbors. And maybe that’s the biggest difference between him and Lynch; Lynch relies on naïveté and innocence for his films to be effective, whereas Waters not only makes fun of the concept of innocence, he tries to prove that true innocence and naïveté are, in fact, rather rare. If we’d all get off our high horses and laugh about camel toe once in a while, wouldn’t the world be a better place?



The Faculty (1998)

The Faculty is one of those movies that had been lying in wait for me to watch for a long time. I’d always heard, though I can’t for the life of me name the sources, that it was much better than anticipated; a smarter than the average horror movie. So, when we came across one of those 8-in-one DVDs with it on there we figured it was worth a gamble.

Poor Casey, he's just so misunderstood! If only the whole school knew what a great guy he was!

Poor Casey, he’s just so misunderstood! If only the whole school knew what a great guy he was!

All I gotta say is: ugh. I’m sure I’ve written this before, perhaps even in the very same words, but there is nothing worse than a movie that thinks it’s clever, but in reality is predictable and exhausting. I guess Kevin Williamson, the guy that wrote the screenplay, figured he could use the same formula he did for Scream, only this time it’s not a horror movie, it’s a sci-fi movie!

Welcome to Herrington High. It’s one of those high schools that’s exactly like adults think high schools are like: Delilah (Jordana Brewster) the captain of the cheerleading team and editor of the school newspaper is a total fucking bitch, but we’re still supposed to root for her. There’s Casey (Elijah Wood), a dork who crushes hard on her, even though she treats him like shit. There’s Stokely, an angsty loner who reads science-fiction novels (those will come in handy later!) who everyone calls a lesbian because… it’s 1998? There’s Stan the quarterback, who is tired of being loved for his athletic skill and wants to quit the team so he can focus on his… studies. There’s Deke (Josh Hartnett) the entrepreneurial drug and porn dealer who’s repeating his senior year, to sell more drugs, I guess. Finally there’s Marybeth Louise (Laura Harris, that blonde chick from Fifteen, remember that shit?), the new girl who’s bright, cheery, blonde and friendly.

So angsty. Wouldn't she look better in lavender?

So angsty. Wouldn’t she look better in lavender?

The only thing that could bring this unlikely group of cliches together is aliens taking over the school! No, seriously, like Casey and Delilah totally saw Piper Laurie and Robert Patrick suck the life out of Salma Hayek in the faculty lounge! Casey gets the cops involved, but of course they don’t believe him (he’s so misunderstood!) and Delilah goes “incognito” by, you know, putting on a pair of glasses or whatever, and won’t back him up because, uh, I don’t know, it’s not good for her reputation or something?

Could it be the faculty’s strange behavior and a weird, new species Casey finds on the football field are related? It certainly seems that way when the creature bites everyone’s favorite teacher Mr. Furlong (Jon Stewart), Mr. Edward Furlong (ha ha, get it! Get it?) and dude goes apeshit trying to infect Deke! That’s right, it’s this alien creature that’s been infecting the faculty, and the students one by one, in hopes of taking over the whole town! It’s a damn good thing Deke’s drugs are nothing more than No-Doz in powder form;

Eddie Furlong goes apeshit.

Eddie Furlong goes apeshit.

see, the aliens thrive on water, and the diuretic drug dries them out! Now the ragtag group of shitty teens has their weapon. Can they defeat the alien invaders?

Well there’s certainly no way they’d be able to win if it weren’t for Stokely and her vast knowledge of science fiction stories. She knows deep in her geek brain if they kill the mother alien, all the rest of the folks who have been inhabited by the alien will turn back to normal and everyone can be happy again! In theory. Now the trick is to find the mother of them all…

I don’t find Williamson’s cast of characters or how they relate to one-another interesting or innovative in any way. I suppose it’s possible the film just hasn’t aged well; perhaps in 1998 his choice was, oh, I dunno, edgy or some bullshit like that, but now it seems boring, flat, tired and predictable. Worse still is what happens to the kids after everything’s over: Casey is heralded a town hero, and only then does Delilah find him acceptable to be around. Am I supposed to cheer that Casey gets the girl; the bitchy, shitty girl that I fucking hate, in the end? Perhaps worse, Stokely, the black-clad geek kisses her new boyfriend Stan at the end of the film. Am I supposed to be happy that she’s not a lesbian? Now that she’s got a man, I guess the dreariness of life has lifted and it shows; she’s wearing a fucking lavender sweater. What the fuck are you trying to tell us,

She's infected... with bitchiness!

She’s infected… with bitchiness!

Williamson? If we use our geek knowledge for good we can be happy? That in the end no one really wants to wear black? Fuck it, let’s all go out and buy fucking lavender cardigans! I call fucking bullshit. It’s pretty much Ally Sheedy’s transformation at the end of the Breakfast Club; “you know, you look a lot better without all that black shit under your eyes.” At least she had the balls to say she liked all that black shit. This is all the more troubling being that the alien’s reason for attempting to take over the high school was because it knew the students wanted to belong; all it needed to do was exploit their lack of self-confidence in order to gain their submission. And what happens in the end? The alien hasn’t won their submission, but society has; they’ve given up their individual strangeness in favor for playing for team normal. And that is some lame-ass bullshit.

Perhaps Williamson was going for some sort of irony with the ending; a weak attempt at turning the genre on its head and pointing out all the faults with horror, sci-fi and teen films. But I don’t buy that. By the time we get to the ending, it’s far too late to attempt this kind of recovery. While Scream may have been a clear shot at meta filmmaking, The Faculty isn’t as much. It’s much more of a straight-forward horror/sci-fi flick that just happens to reference its source material. It makes its stabs at humor, but they rarely work and they certainly don’t color the movie as some sort of self-aware horror/comedy. Nope, I think this is just a shitty movie more interested in gaining the approval of the normal kids than appealing to the weirdos. It lost me. I think I hated it. Yes, pretty sure I hated it.



Lady in White (1988)

When I was a kid, there was a handful of movies I watched over and over and over and over. The more of these movies I watch as an adult, the more I wonder to myself: what the heck kind of kid was I? I am very thankful to have had parents that trusted me to watch basically whatever I wanted, because the movies I considered favorites as a kid obviously have had an enormous impact on my taste in weird stuff later in life, and for that I am forever grateful! Though I wouldn’t call Lady in White a particularly weird movie, I think it’s at least safe to say that, despite the fact there are children in the movie, it is not a movie made for children! Just what the appeal was to an 8-year-old me, I can’t say, except I did have a thing for ghosts…

The story is set in Small Town, NY, 1962. It’s Halloween, and little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is super pumped for his favorite holiday; the boy is, after all, an aspiring horror writer. He dazzles his class with his giant monster story, but two young boys are less than impressed, and decide it would be a great idea to lock Frankie in the coat room all night long. They trick him into thinking he’s left his hat, a gift from his father, in the coat room. While he goes in to look for it, they slam the door, lock it, and leave him to spend Halloween alone in the dark, conveniently overlooking a cemetery!

Frankie telling stories

Frankie telling stories

Frankie finally drifts off to sleep, but soon he is rudely awakened by the ghostly figure of a young girl, skipping and singing her way into the coat room. She is talking to someone, but we can’t see who. Their interaction becomes dark very quickly when the unseen person throttles the ghost and drags her out of the coat room by her hair. Frankie tries to keep silent and hidden, but eventually the unknown man notices him and starts choking him, too, until he passes out.

When Frankie wakes up, he is unable to identify the person who choked him, though according to the racist community all signs point to the African-American janitor, who had passed out in the school’s basement while drinking. The situation doesn’t look very good for the janitor; Frankie’s attack has been linked to the murder of eleven children over the years, one of whom is Melissa Ann Montgomery, without a doubt the same girl Frankie saw dancing in the coat room. Frankie senses the janitor isn’t the killer, but he has no proof. His only hope is to retrieve the man’s ring from the vent in the cloak room, which he is certain will identify the true murderer.

The ghost girl gets it

The ghost girl gets it

The film tells the story of a pretty standard murder mystery, intriguing for kids I guess because it’s kids who actually solve the thing, not the adults. And while there is definitely a lot of eye candy here for kids, there are some uncomfortable moments of violence against children that are definitely super creepy and must have scared the crap out of me when I was little. Perhaps the adult-world scary stuff was mitigated by Frankie’s friendship with Melissa the ghost girl; the two become “friends” and it becomes Frankie’s mission to reunite Melissa with her mother who committed suicide after her daughter’s death.

Then there is, of course, the actual story of the Lady in White, a local legend about an old woman who haunts a scary old house by the cliffs. The characters mention her throughout the film, and her true story is something Frankie uncovers while figuring out just about every other secret of his small town. So, there are an awful lot of dirty little secrets for a nine-year-old boy to stumble upon; good thing he likes a thrilling mystery.

All in all, this movie is good enough, though it must be said that it is absolutely dripping with sentimentality. Frankie is re-telling us the story years later, so I guess it’s understandable that a trip back home after years of being away would evoke strong nostalgia, but they lay it on pretty damn thick here – there’s Frankie’s grandmother, who is always yelling at the family to get out of the cold, and Frankie’s grandfather, who does his best to hide behind various buildings to get a smoke without being caught by his wife. There’s the general store with all your favorite old Halloween toys, goofiness between Frankie and his brother Geno; anything you can think of that would make you yearn for days long passed, it’s here and it’s a bit much. This is obviously something that didn’t strike me as problematic as a kid, but it’s virtually impossible to watch the movie now without vomiting a little in your mouth over its sickly sweetness.

The lady in white is... Katherine Helmond!

The lady in white is… Katherine Helmond!

If you can get past the overt nostalgia and the weird adult-on-child violence, this movie’s pretty okay, but it’s a far cry from a must-see. The best mysteries always involve a ghost here and there, so it’s got that going for it. But, the best part about the movie is probably the casting; Lukas Haas and his big eyes are just about perfect for the role of a budding mystery novelist. It is hard for me to see that guy as anyone other than Frankie Scarlatti.


Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Elvira can't help it; she was born this way.

Elvira can’t help it; she was born this way.

I’m a little bit of a late bloomer: it took me 30 years to meet the man I married, 31 years to get my Driver’s License, 32 years until I learned what bukkake meant (ahem, not by experience, mind you), and, perhaps most shocking of all, 33 years until I finally saw Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. In short, my thirties have been wonderful (and educational); I’ve learned that some things are worth waiting for. Elvira is one of them.

Fresh off a Pee Wee’s Playhouse marathon, we decided to change the tune a little bit and flipped on this flick. Lo and behold, John Paragon (also known as Jambi the Genie from the aforementioned Playhouse) has a cameo and co-wrote it! Synchronicity!

Elvira’s job as a bad-movies-on-tv hostess just isn’t doing it for her anymore, so she’s decided to pack it all up and do a show in Vegas. Elvira and Vegas seem a match made in heaven, but there’s a catch: the

She's a little clumsy, too!

She’s a little clumsy, too!

producers need her to come up with a large chunk of cash that she just doesn’t have. Perhaps the estate bequeathed to her by her recently-departed (and unknown-to-her) Great Aunt Morgana will yield the dollars she needs?

Or, perhaps not! Elvira must travel all the way to Fallwell, Massachusetts for the reading of the will, where she encounters her greedy Uncle Vincent and a “Morality Club” hell-bent on getting Elvira’s cleavage out of their chaste town! But when Elvira learns that her Great Aunt Morgana wasn’t just your average old lady, things really get cooking, and Elvira turns the town upside down!

But she sure knows how to put the fun back into that morality picnic...

But she sure knows how to put the fun back into that morality picnic…

Well, a movie like Elvira can really only be one of two things: hilariously stupid or just plain stupid. Lucky for us all, it falls into the first category. It’s chock-full of suggestive puns and cleavage, but benign enough to have earned a PG-13 rating. It’s the kind of movie I would have watched a thousand times as a kid, with half the jokes sailing over my head. It’s exactly the kind of movie I like to stumble upon, and I seriously cannot believe it hasn’t crossed my path until this recently. I can’t say I’m surprised that Cassandra Peterson and the film itself were nominated for Razzies, but the truth is I kind of am: I feel as though Elvira accomplished all the goals it set out to in exactly the ways it wanted to. What’s so bad about bad puns, anyway?


Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

FrightNightPart2Well, it isn’t as good as the first, and it doesn’t have Chris Sarandon in it, but Fright Night Part 2 is still a pretty darn good vampire flick. We start off three years after the end of the first Fright Night, and Charley Brewster is cleared as “cured” by his psychiatrist: he now no longer believes that vampires are real; whatever it was that happened to him three years ago can be explained away by cold, hard science(ish).

Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), his old partner in crime, isn’t as easily convinced, though. Unfortunately, he’s fallen on hard times again, and Charley and his new girlfriend Alex stop by to say hello from time to time. It isn’t long until Charley starts seeing some weird things again, and this time it’s Vincent that has to convince Charley there are vampires afoot!

See, you can’t just kill a vampire, especially a really powerful vampire like Jerry Dandridge, without consequences. Seems his sister, Regine, is in town and she wants revenge! And when Charley starts feeling sensitive towards the sun and can’t eat garlic anymore, it seems she may have gotten the sweetest revenge there is…

So, yeah. Fright Night Part 2 is a lot like the first one, only with more androgynous vampires, and heck, it’s always good to have a little androgyny in your vampire movies, no? I’d also venture to say it’s a little sexier in general than the first, but I guess that’s to be expected, now that Charley’s a college kid. Without a doubt, though, I think it’s fair to say this flick’s got one of the best VHS covers of the 80’s! I saw it on the shelf in Jon’s Video Library, my childhood video store, and it burned in my brain; it’s a wonder I never rented it all those years ago. Anyway, nostalgia aside, I’d definitely give this a shot if you’re in the market for a goofy vampire flick.


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