Posts Tagged ‘Witchcraft

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!

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.

06
Apr
15

Amer (2009)

AmerposterIt’s been said many times before, mostly because it’s true: either you give a shit about Giallo or you don’t. I’m hardly an expert on the genre, but in my dabbling I think I’ve sampled enough to know this much about myself: I wish I liked them more. They are so dang stylish and beautiful to look at, but often times the circuitous mystery plot loses my interest and I find myself appeased only by bright-colored gore, which frankly gets old after a while. It’s possible I blew my Giallo load by watching too many of them in a short period of time, causing their plots, directors and titles to get jumbled into a hot, Italian mess. But then comes along Amer, a beautiful homage to the genre that makes me want to revisit all those old movies anew.

Amer doesn’t have much of a plot to speak of; it relies much more on style to tell its tale. It is centered around Ana during three pivotal moments in each stage of her life. Each segment takes place in or around her family’s creepy, old mansion overlooking the seaside. In the first, Ana discovers her nanny/housekeeper/old-lady-who-makes-her-food is also a witch, her dead grandfather maybe isn’t so dead, and her parents having sex. In the second, the adolescent Ana (and her jealous mother) are painfully aware of her budding sexuality, and a trip into town turns into a clear rape threat as her

It seems as though someone is always watching Ana.

It seems as though someone is always watching Ana.

flirting with a boy her own age drags her into the territory of some leather-bound bikers who can’t help but lick their chops as the wind creeps up Ana’s very short dress. In the final sequence, Ana returns home to the now-dilapidated mansion, presumably after her parents have passed away. The taxi driver who drives her there ogles her through the rear-view mirror, and Ana seems both excited and distraught by the palpable sexuality in the vehicle.

Though there isn’t really a plot, Amer is compelling and intriguing throughout. There is barely any dialogue, and so we are guessing at each character’s motivations, fears and desires, which is a large part of the fun, and kept me engaged and excited for each new turn. The film’s directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani pull out all the stops, nodding to every genre convention you can possibly

Adolescent Ana

Adolescent Ana

imagine, straight down to a score loaded with tracks from old Italian films. Even still, the tale they present here is more interesting than any Giallo I can ever remember seeing, and though a story of a vaguely threatened woman is not at all original, presenting it within the confines of this genre works really well. Nearly every scene oozes eroticism and about as much sexual suggestion as a Georgia O’Keefe painting, but there is very little sex or nudity; instead we are faced mostly with voyeurism and fluids that aren’t bodily, but may as well be.

I can imagine watching this film with no background in Giallo and finding myself very confused indeed! But I think the reason why I liked this film so much is because it

Adult Ana

Adult Ana

takes everything I like about Gialli and eschews the confusing plot, allowing the viewer to focus on the interior of the main character rather than a million plot threads and unnecessary characters. I suppose the real question is, though, can someone go into this movie with no knowledge of such films and still enjoy it? I think the answer is yes, with many, many qualifications. Most notably, don’t watch this if you’re really interested in a story. While, yes, there is a story here, I can imagine a great many folks saying nothing happened in this movie at all. Anyway, what story there is definitely plays second fiddle to the images that tell it. In fact, I’m certain Cattet and Forzani chose this subject matter because it lends itself so well to such imagery. If nothing else, Amer is a beautifully crafted film; that much can’t be denied. Personally, I think it’s worth watching for that reason alone. Bottom line: Cattet and Forzani know what they are doing, and I don’t think they care if you like it or not. Me? I love it.

17
Oct
14

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03
Jan
14

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?

15
Dec
13

The Conjuring (2013)

Honestly, I didn't know they had five kids until this shot.

Honestly, I didn’t know they had five kids until this shot.

Well, the ghost story has struck again. This time, it’s The Conjuring that had me clutching stuffed animals from my childhood to my face in hopes of stifling my screams. Now, it is important to note that a ghost story doesn’t have to be particularly good, or even particularly scary for that matter, to work on me like a charm. It just takes a little “boo” here and there and I turn into a pile of fear jelly.

The Conjuring is supposedly based on a true story. The same “paranormal investigators” that inspired The Amityville Horror and A Haunting in Connecticut, Ed & Lorraine Warren, are behind this one, too. This time, they’re called upon by a woman in absolute desperation: she and her family (husband, five girls) are being terrorized in their new home. Selling the thing is out of the question; they sunk all their money into the place.

Ugh, creepy toy!

Ugh, creepy toy!

Her children can’t sleep, and she is covered in mysterious bruises, which she blames on anemia. Lorraine Warren has a different suspicion, though, and despite her husband’s reservations is determined to help the family in need. Her research yields terrifying results; you’ll have to watch (or heck, read Wikipedia for the details) that lead to plenty of screams and spilled popcorn.

Yes, this movie scared the crap out of me. Surprisingly, I did not suffer nightmares or the need to run from the bathroom to my bed in the middle of the night like I did after The Innkeepers. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the movie kind of gets a little ridiculously over the top towards the end, or it just might be that the build-up is always more exciting to me than the actual ghost-human

Mr. Livingston, you should have stayed in the office.

Mr. Livingston, you should have stayed in the office.

confrontation. And, since The Innkeepers is 95% build-up, that would explain why it’s scarier to me, and more effective than this movie. But, if you like ghost stories, you shouldn’t miss this; it is pretty standard, but it does its job pretty well.

Ghosts aside, though, the costume and set design is a mid-century cream dream! The film is set in 1971, and the clothing, the kitchenware, the furniture, everything is just to die for. I think I actually said a few times I’d live in that horrible, terrifying, haunted house if it came fully-equipped with that gorgeous freaking kitchen! This is probably not going to be a distraction for most viewers, but for me, it actually helped make me feel a little more at ease when I know I was supposed to be tensing up. I wonder if I’m the only one that felt the urge to hit up etsy after watching this?




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