Quantcast Trilogy Pics - 3 Movies You Should Watch Tonight

December 30, 2008


Well, well, well… it’s been a while since we’ve put together a TRILOGY PICK entry. And quite frankly, I miss this section! I love coming up with odd-ball themes to connect 3 movies for your viewing pleasure. So, needless to say, the method of this month’s picks is rather unorthodox. No, I’m not going to choose 3 holiday themed movies. (Well, quite frankly there’s not many to choose from to begin with!) But last night, the ICONS crew got together for a post-Christmas bash where we wore nice sweaters, drank egg nog & apple cider and wished each other a “Happy Garbage Day”! Yes, fiends. That means we watched a bunch of movies starting with SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. The only things these 3 films have in common are that we happened to have watched them all last night. (Oh and they’re awesome.)

We started off the evening with the best “so bad it’s good” sequel of all time SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. Seriously, this movie only gets better and more fun with each passing year. I love the over-the-top performance by actor Eric Freeman as Ricky Caldwell. I love that he keeps flashing back to the murder of his parents (at the hands of an unsavory criminal in a Santa costume) when he was only a baby during these scenes in the 1st movie. Or how he emphasizes every other word with a raise of his eyebrow. Or how the entire first half of the movie is really just a better edited version of Part One. And then we get to the original footage for the second half! Ricky runs over an abusive boyfriend in the park, kills a mobster thug with an umbrella and dispatches some noisy hecklers at the movie theater. (Is this Pittsburgh?!) Oh, did I mention the movie him and his smoking hot girlfriend (Elizabeth Kaitan, please take a bow for your hotness) go to see is actually the first SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT?

We did realize something during last night’s screening though. None of these kills take place on or around the Christmas holiday. It’s not until Ricky’s final showdown with the crippled Mother Superior (who… for some reason has a burned face from a stroke… our theory is that she had a stroke over a stove and passed out on it) that we see him decked out in the infamous Santa garb. Regardless, it’s still full of holiday spirit. Grab this DVD, throw it on with a bunch of friends, and start quoting dialogue like “NAUGHTY THIS!” and “GARBAGE DAY!” It’s a guaranteed good time. I love this movie so, so much.

After SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2, Jsyn attempted to clear out the party by putting on THE STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. His devious plan was thwarted when we decided to just fast forward to all the commercials from 1978. By the way, if you’re wondering, it’s as bad as you’ve heard. If you’d like to see an hour of Wookies grunting at each other with no subtitles, then this is the Holiday Special for you!

I figured anthology films would make for good party follow-ups, so I immediately threw on CREEPSHOW 2. Another new realization – The first segment in CREEPSHOW 2 isn’t… all that good, despite the appearance of Mike C.’s all time favorite actor George Kennedy. (Or Grandpa George as we like to call him.) However, both “The Raft” and “The Hitchhiker” segments are still terrifying and effective. (Ok, ok, maybe not so much as when we were kids, but they left such an indelible mark back then that I still get creeped out by the “Thanks for the ride, lady” guy.) You look at something like “The Raft” and the first thing that pops into your mind is… Wow, that dude’s wearing flesh colored shorts. (Ok, ok. Someone just said that out loud during the party.) The thing that gets me about this is how I’d still take a latex covered garbage bag over any CGI effect. There’s brilliant, horrific moments in this segment, like when the guy gets sucked down by the blob creature through the raft and his leg stands straight up next to his face. Ouch! How ‘bout the fact that the other lead character is trying to make out with his freshly deceased best friend’s girlfriend while she’s asleep? (Hmmm… was this scene directly lifted for CABIN FEVER?) And nothing tops the wonderful conclusion. “I… beat… you. I BEAT YOU!” Wave and… Splash! Sucker! Didn’t you see that “No Swimming” sign buried underneath a series of tree branches?! Aw hell, you & your friends would’ve have complied anyways.

Ah and “The Hitchhiker”! Starring former Bond girl Lois Chiles as an adulteress wife who hits a hitchhiker on the side of the road and attempts to flee the scene of the crime. (Silly adulteress!) Her victim however keeps coming back, spouting out the words, “Thanks for the ride, lady!” This segment used to scare the SHIT out of me as a kid. I remember CREEPSHOW 2 always being on Channel 11 here in NY and nervously holding the remote in my hand so I could change the channel really quick once the hitchhiker popped up with his taunts. Speaking of… we realized something else watching this last night. Was the hitchhiker really trying to hurt the lady? I mean, she kept freakin’ out, shooting him, kicking him off the car, running him over again and again. And the entire time, he’s just trying to climb into the passenger seat and thank her for the ride. I wonder if she didn’t shoot this poor bastard so quickly if he’d just get in, sit there next to her in the passenger seat and continue his thanks. “No really. Thanks for the ride, lady! I appreciate it.” Guess we’ll never know for sure!

We rounded the evening out with another anthology film, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE! Directed by George Romero’s long time friend (and DAY OF THE DEAD composer) John Harrison, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE tells 3 wicked tales of the macabre with a wrap around segment starring Blondie’s Deborah Harry (when she was still totally hot) and a super young Matthew Lawrence (Joey’s little brother. Whoa!) It’s fun to see this all star cast so early in their blossoming acting careers. For example, the first segment alone “LOT 249” features Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater and Julianne Moore! Hey, it’s not a fun movie night until you see Julianne Moore’s back get stuffed with roses and see her cinematic boyfriend’s brains get pulled out through his nose by a nasty mummy with a hanger! The second segment “CAT FROM HELL” features (original Andre Toulon) William Hickey and The New York Doll’s David Johansen (feeling “hot, hot, hot?”) as an assassin hired to snuff out a sinister black cat! He doesn’t get the chance to complete the deed as the nasty little bugger manages to jump down his throat (LITERALLY!) and settle comfortably for the night in his belly using Buster Poindexter’s insides as warm blankets! The third segment “LOVER’S VOW” is a neat gargoyle tale with (wacky in real life) Rae Dawn Chong (have you SEEN the special features on the COMMANDO: DIRECTOR’S CUT DVD?!) and James Remar (DEXTER’s dad, Harry!) as a struggling artist who makes a vow with a winged beasty to never tell of it’s existence! The entire movie is a lot of fun, but my personal favorite bit is the conclusion of the wrap around story at the end with little Lawrence Vs Deborah Harry. “Don’t you just love happy endings?”

So there you have it. At this year’s ICONS holiday party, we watched SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2, CREEPSHOW 2 and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (Sorry Jsyn! We’re not including the STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!) And all 3 features made for a wonderful trilogy night! ‘Till the next edition! –Robg.

PS: Isn't that DVD cover to TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE terrible?! Here's the original theatrical poster:

July 07, 2008



Trilogy Pics Return with:


It's the summer! Put on your bathing suits and get yourself all tanned up, because here comes the return of Icons of Fright's Trilogy Pics. If there's one thing I can remember about summer is that when you're a kid and there's no school that often means plenty of time for Mom and Dad to get out of the house and relax, and that meant sleepovers at a friends or at a relatives house.

Being 30 years old I don't find myself discharged on Aunt Denise or grandma's porch anymore while Mom and Dad go off to catch “Porky's Revenge” at the Westbury Drive-In, but sometimes I do find myself with of some of the younger members of the family in my charge. Yes, now I get to play the part of the older sicko relative that none of the kids want to visit because he smells bad, likes weird music, and has a too many scary things on his wall, like autographed photos of Joyce DeWitt. Ah, the childless existence of the elite horror journalist. But I digress...

If you should find yourself in the care of small children you may find yourself saying, “Oh damn it, now I have to hide all of my DVDs because what should happen if they accidentally pop in 'Cannibal Holocaust'? Aunt Bedelia would never forgive me.”. I say no! Certainly there are movies that in these sensitive times you would never show a 6 year old, but I say what's childhood without a healthy dose of cinematic trauma? And you likely own at least 3 movies you could, say, tell old Aunt Bedelia, as her children run screaming back towards her bosom the next day, “I don't know what happened, they were all rated PG!” Might I suggest the following movies you, the horror fan, can enjoy while scaring the crap your little nieces and nephews? (I am not a nice person.)

GRIZZLY: (1976)

I only caught this for the first time a few months back, but I was really surprised to find it was rated PG. It's one of the first films to come out in the wake of “JAWS” that was directly inspired by Spielberg's snappy little fish movie. Released only 11 months later in 1976 and directed by the late William Girdler, who also helmed 2 “Exorcist” rip-offs, “Abby” and “The Manitou”. Hey, Spielberg had to deal with a vicious and unruly 25 foot mechanical shark, but William Girdler got himself one of them actual real-life bears.

Ok, so he photographed the real life bear from behind an electrified fence and the “claw” close ups are an obvious puppet but if you're a kid you can suspend your disbelief, can't you? As a “Jaws” rip-off it's not too bad either, and it rarely betrays its small budget even with the ridiculous exploding bear at the end. It's got 70's genre staple Christopher George doing the bit as the ranger who knows there's a killer bear in those woods, while Richard Jaeckle does his best as the bear expert who's out to help stop it. Seriously, it's “Jaws” with a bear, plain and simple, but where Grizzly goes from thematic rip-off to traumatic rip-offs is one scene involving a kid and his leg. (Hooray!)

Now, if I wanted to traumatize a child with a nature run amok film I had a few choices from the 70s. I could have just gone with “Jaws”, there's the kid on the raft, and later in the movie the two kids nearly eaten by the shark. I could have gone with “Piranha”, where the ferocious fish feast on day campers but...I don't know too many kids with rafts, and I don't know too many kids who go to day camp. However, I do know a lot of kids with backyards, so when that bear decides to come and visit a 6 year old kid in his backyard a teddy bear picnic is not what's on it's mind. This kid that old Grizz has a little chat with won't be kicking anything, anymore, if you know what I mean. Your charges won't feel safe in their own yard for weeks to come.


1986's “House” probably isn't the kind of movie you'd get away with showing to a kid these days. It's a fairly decent haunted house number directed by Steve Miner, and it's a big nasty 80's “R”. And if that isn't enough you'd have to let the kids stare at William Katt's fro for 90 minutes. Traumatic we want to be, but cruel? No worries, less than year later the fairly tame PG-13 sequel was released.

So, if Aunt Bedelia happened to take the Kool-Aid stained ones to see “Indiana Jones And The Crap About Aliens” this summer you can pop this number in because, hey, it's all got more crystal skullduggery, guys in brown hats, Aztecs, alternate dimensions, and a...well, a dogapillar. Yes, some kind of puppy/caterpillar hybrid. Kids will love it, it's goofy, fun, and entertaining.

Until the last 15 minutes.

Then it gets ridiculous. Ridiculously traumatic, that is! Woo! Now, yes, the first 5 minutes feature a young kids parents being shot to death. However, by the time the young ones get their eyes on that dogapillar, they'll have forgotten all about that unpleasantness, besides Harry Potter pretty much starts out that way! Where “House II” gets down to business is near the end of the film in what feels like might be the last scene. The main characters, and an assortment of strange, but non-threatening weirdos collected throughout the movie, are having a nice dinner when...hey, what's that under the big serving dish? A turkey? A roast? Another dogapillar? Oh, no, no, no. How about a nasty 6 foot tall zombie cowboy with a skully face who wants to murder everyone. When I was watching this in the theater I nearly stained my everything. It comes out of nowhere and it comes on fast! The kids will never look at chaffing dishes the same way.

RETURN TO OZ (1985):

I know I said we didn't want to be cruel, but... Ok, here's the deal. If the kids you're looking after ask you to watch a movie and you happened to say, “Ooh, would you like to watch a movie about Dorothy and the yellow brick road, and Oz and Auntie Em, and talking chickens?” They'll likely throw their little hands in the air, sing your praises, and speak in tongues. Then, you're going to put “Return to OZ” in the DVD player, and they're poor little faces are going to get collectively more and more grim. Over the course of 109 minutes these kids will have aged 40 years and their hair will have gone stark white by the time this movie is done with them. It's a real winner.

Let's get down to it: The beginning of the movie finds 6 year old Dorothy, back in Kansas, but sent to an insane asylum for children where a doctor wants to perform electro-shock therapy on her. When she finds herself again magically whisked away to Oz, she doesn't find herself in Munkinland. She finds herself in a cage in a sand-filled desert with her (now talking) chicken Bellina. It's not pleasant, and even less pleasant is that the sand is deadly, and anyone that touches it instantly dies and skeletonizes. That's the kind of stuff that really scares kids, well, at least it always scared me. So, you may have gathered this isn't the Oz these kids remember, and it gets worse...

When Dorothy finally reaches the Emerald City again (by following the broken, destroyed remains of the yellow brick road) she finds all of friends from “Wizard of OZ” have been turned to marble. Ouch! And then she's perused by androgynous half-man/half-rollerskate creatures called “Wheelers” who say things to her like, “You have to come out sooner or later. And when you do, we'll tear you into little pieces and throw you in the deadly desert!”.

The deadly desert is the least of her worries, because eventually she stumbles upon the beautiful Princess Mombi. She seems friendly enough until Dorothy discovers the woman's got a room full of decapitated heads. Decapitated heads. Heads that she steals from young women to replace her own as the mood strikes her. Disney produced this movie and they've given Oz it's own glamour version of Leatherface. Oh, so guess what Princess Mombi wants to do with Dorothy? When Aunt Bedelia comes to pick up the kids the next day you'll have to give them all a xanax when she says, “Come on kids, there's no place like home!”

-Mike C.

June 29, 2008


May. 2007 Trilogy Pics:

Trilogy Pics:

Wow. Long time since I wrote a trilogy pic. Sorry for the absence.

Dead Men Walking

Fairly frequently during the 80's and early 90's you'd see a slew of movies with almost the same plot come out at the same time. There was the body-switch trend (Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, 18 Again), there was the school/academy trend (Police Academy, Stewardess School, Hamburger: The Movie), the shitty dance movie (Lamba!, The Forbidden Dance). Kind of like what happened last year when “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige” opened within weeks of each other. The horror genre's own contribution to this peculiar phenomenon was the host of “Executed Killer Comes Back To Haunt The Cop Who Stopped Him” movies. Goddamn the devil was busy makin' deals on Death Row from 89'-'90. There were quite of few of these made, but we're going to focus on the just three of the better know films of this type: “Wes Craven's Shocker”, “The Horror Show”, and “The First Power”.


Horace Pinker (great name, best part of the movie) is a serial murdering TV repairman. Make a mental note of that “TV repairman” part, it's important. He ends up killing the family of Lt. Don Parker, who has been investigating the case. Parker's son Jonathan has this psychic connection (in his dreams) to the killer and helps his father locate him. He's sentenced to die, but sells his soul so he can come back and (Ding, ding, ding! 80's horror gimmick alert!) haunt and kill people through their TV sets. He takes over their bodies and continues his murderous spree until Jonathan can find a way to stop him.

This was one of those terribly obvious attempts to breakout another “Freddy Krueger”-like character. This is also part of Wes Craven's post “Nightmare on Elm Street” period, and they weren't exactly the salad days of creativity for him. Poor Wes, after “Nightmare on Elm Street”, he was hired to write and direct several of these obvious, and very cheap, franchise start-up wannabes (“Deadly Friend”, “Chiller”). The film is purely by-the-numbers and you get the sense throughout that Wes' heart just wasn't in this one. I write this a lot, but “Shocker” plays out like they skipped over the first few films in a franchise and started right off with “Shocker IV”.

“Shocker” isn't all bad news. Horace Pinker probably would have made a great horror villain if Wes took the time to develop him a bit more instead of making a big joke. He's played fairlywell by Mitch Peleggi and Jonathan is played by Peter Berg, who has gone on to make a name for himself as a director. There's also some value in “Shocker” as an example of the end of the 80's horror boom. Oh, and Ted Raimi has a small part. You can't hate a movie that's got Ted Raimi.

The Horror Show:

Lt. McCarthy catches “Meat Cleaver Max”, a serial killer, and stands as a witness when he is executed in the electric chair. Now it seems that Max is back, still killing, and haunting his—whoa, sound familiar? Instead of being gimmicky and haunting TV's, Max's spirit is gimmicky and invades McCarthy's house and dreams.

“The Horror Show” was actually released a few months before “Shocker” (it was also released outside the US as “House III”, it is unrelated). It's actually not that much better a film than “Shocker”, but it's is a probably a lot scarier, and much darker. The late Brion James, in one of his few leading roles, plays Max, and unlike “Horace Pinker”, he's actually menacing. It's said this was one of his favorite roles. Lt. McCarthy is played by Lance Henricksen, who is great as the tormented cop. What makes this one different and a little bit better than “Shocker”, even though it's essentially the same movie, is there was a much better attempt to take the premise and the horror seriously. It's not really played much for laughs. The first time I saw “The Horror Show” I remember my father commented, “Now...that was a scary movie”, it's probably the only time the man ever said that. Nearly 20 years later, it's not that effective on me, but look for this to pop up on cable sometime, otherwise it's really hard to find.

The First Power:

Rounding out the “Executed Killer” films is 1990's “The First Power” and if it wasn't the last the last of these films to come out within a year, I'm sure it would have gotten a little more respect from critics. It was the best performing of all three of these films at the box-office, but that was probably due to the still twinkling star power of Lou Diamond Phillips. He will be playing the part of our tormented homicide detective tonight. Of the three movies in this month trilogy this is my favorite and probably the best one.

The story by now is familar: A very nasty killer, Patrick Channing, is stopped by LAPD Officer Russell Logan and executed in the gas chamber (see, different already), but it seems that Patrick is back and he's taking over bodies, and killing again.

“The First Power” succeeds in getting a few things right the others didn't. First, it's played as a straight horror film. We got the dead guy coming back, but he's a much more violent, frightening character than our other two villains. The film doesn't attempt to explain too much about how Patrick came back, but we know he was a Satanist and made some deal. There's no cheesy FX sequence showing his spirit moving around. I liked that about “The First Power”. Also, the police procedural aspect of the film is played out much better than in “Shocker”. It's darker, it's nastier, and it's all works as a horror film. You can catch this one easily on DVD. -mike c.


Dec. 2006 Trilogy Pics:


The horror genre gets a lot of crap from its critics. It's often assumed by those that don't appreciate the genre that horror films are low-art and hence easy to make, anyone could do it. Of course, we know that a good horror film that scares its audience has an effective atmosphere, and a compelling story is just as hard to make as any Oscar-winning drama. December is the last month of the year, and often sees the release of many of Hollywood's Big Oscar Movies so this month I'm doing something a little different. Rather than highlighting three great movies you should watch tonight, I'm channeling a bit of “Jsyn's Vault of the Forgotten and Obscure” and giving you 3 absolutely terrible movies. Three terrible movies from three phenomenal directors. Two are early efforts from Oscar-winning directors Oliver Stone and James Cameron, the other is from Stanley Donen, better known for his big, colorful 50's musicals, like “Singin' In The Rain” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. All three are highly recognized and immensely talented, but neither was able to pull of a really great horror film. Um, it's some strange coicidence and not intentional that all three of these films are from 1980-81.

The Hand (1981):

Oliver Stone's first big feature film starred Michael Caine (big red flag here already) as a comic strip writer who loses his hand in a car accident. Nobody can seem to find the hand at the scene of the accident, however, the hand does a pretty good job of finding Michael Caine's enemies. Whenever Michael Caine gets a little angry (stiff eyes, staccato line reading, see also “The Swarm”) the hand, still alive, seeks people out and strangles them. It's ridiculous, and it's all taken entirely too seriously and, er, heavy-handed (ho ho ho) that it renders the film stiflingly boring.

Piranha II: The Spawning/Flying Killers/Sushi Gone Wild (1981):

Damn it, 1981 was a bad year to be a struggling up-and-coming talented director as James Cameron would find out on his first feature film. He got himself stuck in an Italian-produced sequel to the Roger Corman produced original. “Piranha” was no big thrill itself, but something about it works (I think it's the scene where the fish attack kids at a summer camp). This one...not so much works. First it has major logic problems, for example, piranha are fresh-water fish, and um...they don't fly. That's right, dear reader, they fly in this movie. Not the jump out of the water and glide kind of flying, full on wing-flapping flying fish. And when do they like the most to fly? After a good, healthy fuck, that's when. You got a movie where the big climatic scene is of horny fish flying through the beach attacking tourists. So, of course, you ask, “Hey, what's not the love about this movie?” Not much, unlike “The Hand” and Donen's movie (we'll get to that in a second), “Piranha II” is mildly entertaining in the so-bad-it's-good way. To Cameron's credit he was fired after the first half of the production. How do you get fired from “Pirahna II: The Spawning”? The film was finished and re-edited by the director of “Tentacles” and “Beyond the Door”.

Saturn 3 (1980):

“Saturn 3” is not a sequel. What business did the director of light, colorful, big-budgeted Hollywood musicals have making a film that wants to ape the style of better, dark sci-fi films from the 70's and 80's? This movie is one big mess. In fact, it was nominated in all major categories at the first Razzie Awards. The movies biggest problem is that it’s boring - really, really, really boring. And for all the money they must have spent it looks damn cheap. Kirk Douglas and Farah Fawcett are the ONLY TWO people on Saturn 3, a space station located near, er, Saturn. The ONLY other person who shows up in the movie is Harvey Keitel, who's pretending to be a spaceship captain that he's actually murdered. He brought along a robot named Hector. A robot named Hector. Hector!! Hector is a bastard. He's going to try to kill Farrah and/or make sweet greasy, hydraulic robot sex with her. I can't tell. There's the brilliant scene where Kirk and Farrah try to get the robot to crash through the floor of the space station so it'll fly off into space, without realizing this will also suck out their air. I remember this best from when I was a kid. WNYW-5 in NY would often show it on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for “The Big Apple Movie”, it bored me then too. - mikec.


Oct. 2006 Trilogy Pics:

An Evening With Jessica Harper: Murder, Mayhem, and Music

This month's Trilogy Pics invite you to slip, slip, slip into your little black dress, throw on some ballet slippers, and sign over your immortal soul for a chance to spend an evening watching 3 films featuring actress Jessica Harper. Her genre pictures are more than unique in that they're all extremely focus on music in some fashion. In Dario Argento's classic ‘Suspiria’, Jessica moves to Europe to study in a dance conservatory run by witches, and her other two genre films, the criminally overlooked ‘Phantom of The Paradise’ and ‘Shock Treatment’ are musicals with horror motifs to them.

Why Jessica Harper isn't a major star today is a mystery. Watching these films over again (and watching Shock Treatment for the first time) I can only guess that while these are excellent films that have stood the test of time, and attained the status of cult and horror classics none of them were really appreciated or truly understood upon their original release. Today you can see Jessica popping up in the occasional TV appearance but she focuses mainly on her success as a singer/songwriter of children's songs.

Suspiria (1977): If I find that a friend doesn't care for the horror genre, or maybe has just never seen an Italian horror film, this is one film I like to whip out. For people who think horror can't be art, who think violent images can't be strangely beautiful this will change their minds. For those who've only experienced pop-horror ‘Suspiria’ is such a powerfully influential film it can be a life-changing experience for the new horror fan. The story is almost secondary to the images that Argento presents. He juxtaposes scenes of incredible violence with scenes that are quiet, skin crawling creepy. There's a fantastic and now classic score by Goblin. The opening scene is heart-attack inducingly violent and shocking, and possibly one of the scariest in modern horror history. It's got a relatively simple story: Jessica Harper is an American dance who comes to Europe to study at a world renowned conservatory. The school happens to be run by a coven of witches (not really giving away much here) who will do anything to protect their secret society. There's been a lot of imitators and cheap retreads, but nothing has ever matched ‘Suspiria’, not even close.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): There's something specific that I love about Brian DePalma's early films. They're fantastically excessive, but really extremely cinematic. He took a lot of shit back in his day for this excess. It's the kind of excess you hear film school professors warning you against and critics calling cheap. I love it. DePalma is and was known for his use of things like slow motion, split-screen, wild camera angles and tricks. Lots of stuff that if it's misused is distracting and probably cheap, but I never get that feeling when I'm watching DePalma, and especially not with ‘Phantom of the Paradise’. Nobody works the camera like DePalma did in his early days, and this is so evident in this strange horror-musical. The story is a criss-cross and mish-mash of elements from ‘Faust’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Winslow Leech is a hapless singer-songwriter who gets his songs stolen by soulless (literally) music producer Swan. Winslow ends up horribly disfigured and trying whatever he can do stop Swan from using his music to open his rock club ‘The Paradise’. However, when Winslow sees Phoenix, played by Jessica Harper, auditioning he decides she's the only one who can sing his music and insists Swan use her, and her alone, to open his club, or else. The film is an over the top satire of music at the time (taking particular aim at glam rock and the 50's nostalgia trip people were on in the early 70s), but it's got a real fun spirit to it. The original songs are by Paul Williams (who also plays Swan) and they're almost all excellent. Williams would go on to compose film scores, including all the original songs for ‘The Muppet Movie’, and the ‘Love Boat’ theme song. Brian DePalma would direct ‘Carrie’ a few years later (featuring this films set decorator, one Sissy Spacek, in the title role). Considered a terrible flop upon it's initial release, ‘Phantom’ has developed a strong following, and although we still can't seem to get a special edition DVD released in the US there is an excellent region 2 one available.

Shock Treatment (1981): So anyways, I'm watching "Shock Treatment" on my TIVO, it's been showing on the Fox Movie Channel (which shows a significant amount of genre films from the Fox library, almost always in widescreen. Excellent channel if you get it). Ever heard of it? It's the sequel to "Rocky Horror Picture Show". Came out in '81, and was looked upon as favorably by the Rocky Horror fans as your average Michael Bay produced horror-remake. While some loved it, and it does have a following, it probably strayed too far from "RHPS" to connect with those fans. Besides, trying to strike cult-movie gold like that again would have been tough anyway, that's just one of those organic things that kind of has to happen on it own.

Back to the movie--I've watched it about 4-5 times since I caught it one FMC. Now, I'd never seen it before and was always curious, especially since it came with such a stank reputation (10 crap cinema points), was a sequel (20 more points) and it's also one of those extremely rare cinematic animals, the musical sequel (CRAP JACKPOT), and a sequel to a horror musical at that.

I knew a few things about it going in: It's got nothing to do with fishnet tights, transvestites, floating castles, or other wild and untamed things. I knew that the setting was a game show in which Brad and Janet were contestants on and that in this one they were played by Jessica Harper and Cliff DeYoung. I was really drawn to this because of Jessica Harper. Also returning were Richard O'Brien (acting and writing), Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray, and that screechy chick who wore the sparkley top hat.

It's a very, very strange movie and years ahead of it time (well, as "ahead of it's time" as a chintzy 80's movie could be). It takes place entirely in the TV studio of "D-TV", Denton's local television station. Brad and Janet, whose marriage is on the rocks, are in the studio audience for the taping of the days shows when they are selected to participate in a game-show called "Marriage Maze". It's hard to write out the rest of the plot because it's going to make very little sense out of the context of this movie, but I'll try: On the game show Brad and Janet are separated. Brad is secretly drugged and taken away to be treated by TV doctors on another show, while the D-TV station manager tries to steal Janet away from Brad by turning her into an instant star.

It's awfully bizarre, and truthfully it's even hard to follow. Story wise, "Shock Treatment" lives up to it's reputation of being an absolute mess. I could not follow it the first time through, but one thing was perfectly clear: I really liked the look of the film, how it was directed, and the songs were brilliantly catchy and I couldn't get them out of my head (especially one called "Bitchin' In The Kitchen").

The look and direction of this film was really interesting. Since it takes place in a TV studio and on TV shows, the whole thing was shot in soundstages on these very exaggerated, sometimes garish sets. Everything, rightfully so, looks artificial, thin, and it gives the film a fantastic surreal feel to it. Adding to this is the way it was shot, which alternates from film and video. For example, one musical number is shot partially to match the frame of a TV set. Sometimes when the characters are addressing the studio audience they shoot it so it looks like you're looking at television monitor. It's interesting, this is both "Shock Treatment"'s strength and it's fatal flaw. It's design and cinematography are so busy it really draws you away from what's going on otherwise in the movie.

However, as far as "bad" movie musicals goes you could honestly do much worse than "Shock Treatment". Ever seen The Blue Bird or Grease 2? I mean, bad musicals are a strange passion of mine because they're often so hilariously unwatchable that the biggest shock I got out of this is how on the cusp of being really good this film was. It's almost a shame that it did so poorly upon release because it's obvious that O'Brien and Jim Sharman were two extremely talented guys. After this failed to catch on they never made another film again and I can't help but think we've missed out on something there. If it were released today it would probably be looked on as brilliant satire of reality TV (and that's where it seems ahead of it's time).

I still can't stop watching it, and I'm really excited to picking up the DVD when it comes out since it's going to include a lot of extras about the making of the film. I'm really curious what was going on with O'Brien when he wrote this. I mean, it strays so far from "Rocky Horror" that you have to agree with the original marketing for "Shock Treatment" in that it's not really a sequel. It's not really an equal either, but certainly joins the ranks of some terribly overlooked films (I'm told even a lot of RHPS fans never knew there was a sequel). Hopefully, 25 years later, "Shock Treatment" can really find, outside of a handful of fans, an wider audience to appreciate it's weirdness. - mikec.


Sept. 2006 Trilogy Pics:

TRILOGY PICS: Great Horror Anthologies

Masters of Horror has returned short horror to the small screen, but there have been dozens of theatrically or feature length horror anthology films released. Most seem to have been made between the 60s and the 80s, and they’ve rarely been met with any sort of success, commercially or critically. It’s much easier to take your short horror in the form of a TV series like “Masters”, “Tales From The Crypt/Darkside”, “Twilight Zone”. For a theatrical audience, it’s sometimes a bit much to ask them to invest in 3 or more stories and sets of characters over the course of 90-120 minutes. Still, while many horror anthologies can be cheap, low-budget, and mostly ineffective collections of short films, there have been a select few that really go the distance. Here are a few really excellent anthology films to check out. Not every chapter in each is a winner, but most have a two, maybe even one chapter that makes the whole film worth seeing. Hey, think of it as a bonus Trilogy Picks, instead of just three movies, why not enjoy 10 tonight instead!

Twice-Told Tales: There was only one Vincent Price, so getting 3 distinct Vincent Price performances in one film is, well, priceless. You really get to see what an extraordinary actor Mr. Price was, and what a ridiculously vast range he had. Even though he mostly plays the baddie here, it’s great fun watching him play the antagonist 3 different ways. The film is based on three stories from Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, and “The House of Seven Gables”.

The first, “Dr. Heidegger” involves three friends and woman who have seemingly discovered a youth-inducing elixir. “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is the absolute standout of the three and features Price as a demented scientist who’s done something truly, awful to his beautiful daughter, rendering her poisonous to anyone who tries to touch her. “The House of the Seven Gables” is the weakest of the three, mostly because it condenses a long novel into a short film. Price plays the tormented Gerald Pyncheon. Curiously enough, Price starred in a feature-length version of “Seven Gables” 23 years earlier, playing the younger Charles Pyncheon.

Creepshow: Here’s a title that you should all be familiar with, but no horror anthology night could be complete without it. It’s probably the finest example of how to make this sort of thing work. Director George Romero paired with writer Stephen King to a film that looked, felt, and flowed like an old 50’s era horror comic book, like “Tales from the Crypt” or “The Vault of Horror”. Not adaptations of any of those books, the stories are all originals. Those comics had already been directly adapted a few years earlier by a British studio. They were admirable efforts with great casts and directors (in front of the camera Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, and behind the camera the great Freddie Francis), but they decidedly were a very British version of an American artform. They just didn’t get the look and feel down right and they look, appropriately, like well-made 70’s British horror films.

King and Romero decided to make their comic-book inspired film act the part. The stories are sufficiently wacky:

“Father’s Day” involves a lovely family reunion with the guest of honor being Nathan Grantham, who’s been dead for 10 years. This segment’s got a great cast with including a young Ed Harris, and the late Viveca Lindfors as wacky “Aunt Bediela”.

“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill” features Stephen King himself as the title character who’s gradually overcome by weeds and fungus from outerspace. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t a good idea to cast non-actor King, virtually alone on screen for 20 some odd minutes. A lot of people are harsh on this segment, but really all Stephen King is required to do as an “actor” in this one is look stupid, make a bunch of stupid faces. It’s over the top and campy, but this is supposed to be a comic book film. Sure Viveca Lindfors method’s it up in the “Father’s Day” segment but that wasn’t really necessary here. It plays out fine, and it’s all rather funny.

“Something to Tide You Over” is a classic adultery-revenge tale with an undead twist at the end. It features a pre-“Cheers” Ted Danson and a just post-“Airplane” Leslie Neilsen as two men in love with the same woman. Leslie plays a bit of a heavy here, that’s interesting to watch, and you get to see what Ted Danson looks like in Tom Savini’s zombie makeup!

“The Crate” is about a “something” that’s been living in, you guessed it, a crate that’s been hidden under a stairwell in the research building at a prestigious university. This “something” hails from Antartica, hence the fur, and is very hungry, hence the enormous teeth. Hal Holbrook plays a man who’s had a bitch too, um, I mean a bit too much of his dear wife, “Billie” (Adrienne Barbeau, who bravely takes on the role of an insulting, drunk, unpleasant, ugly wife. The role was far from type, as she was considered something of a sex symbol at the time).

“They’re Creeping Up On You” is a virtual soliloquy of paranoia for the late E.G. Marshall. He hates dirt, and he really hates bugs so he’s locked himself up in a virtually sanitized prison. It’s unfortunate that he’s forgotten to pay the exterminator this month. This one has an ending that literally makes the movie. So entirely sick and demented this entire segment is often cut out of network TV showings.

The segments are tied up in a wraparound story about a young kid (played by Stephen King’s son Joe) who’s dad isn’t too fond of horror comics. The really great thing about “Creepshow”, besides the writing and performances being so strong is it’s really fantastic how Romero designed the thing to look. There’s a lot of use of strange camera angles, fantastic and colorful lighting, comic-book style framing pops up from time to time to move the story along. It’s got the feel and look of the old-style horror comics down perfectly, and rather than feel gimmicky or intrusive, it works to make “Creepshow” feel cohesive, something horror anthologies often fail miserably to do.

Kwaidan:I’m no huge fan of current Japanese horror. Sorry guys, I just don’t get them. This however is Japanese horror from 1964, and ok, it’d probably be a challenge to sit through all 183 minutes, but your patience will be rewarded. The film is a beautiful work of supernatural art. There are four separate stories, “The Black Hair”, involving a samurai who leaves his wife for another richer woman. He eventually wants to be taken back, and she promises to stay with him, forever, horror-movie style of course. The story in “The Woman of the Snow” is probably familiar to you if you’ve seen another horror anthology “Tales from the Darkside”. This is the original Japanese version of the “Lover’s Vow” segment of that film, to say anymore would give away too much of my favorite segment. Next story is “Hoichi”, about a singing monk who’s music is so beautiful the spirits of the demand, at high cost, he sing to them at night. Finally, the film ends with “In A Cup Of Tea”, about another samurai who keeps seeing a spirit, and cannot seem to fight him. You probably won’t find much that’s very scary in “Kwaidan”, but it’s extremely interesting to at least once experience this beautiful film, at least to see a bit of where Japanese horror comes from. -mikec.


Aug. 2006 Trilogy Pics:

A Trilogy Pics Salute To USA UP! All Night

My parents and Gilbert Gottfried are largely responsible for my perpetual insomnia and love of horror films. Growing up my parents imposed a strict 9pm bedtime (with a weekly 9:30pm exception for “Doogie Howser MD”) on school nights. Not that I ever slept much anyway with them letting me rent gems like “Friday the 13 th, part II” from the local video store, and allowing my childhood literary favorites to become titles like, “Cujo” and “The Dark Half”. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a normal childhood, growing up on “Ninja Turtles” and “Goosebumps” books. Never mind, besides the delightfully “R” rated media that I was allowed access too, I was also allowed one small luxury: Absolutely no bedtime on Friday and Saturday. I mean, as a kid I was totally stuck on low-budget late night horror television. Everything from “Forever Knight”, the short-lived NBC anthology series “Ghost Story”, reruns of “Friday the 13 th: The Series”. My favorite late-night programming however were the awful, “Vault worthy” crap cinema classics shown on cable network USA.

Sure, sure, USA wants you to believe its all Emmy-worthy programming these days with its “Monk”, “The Dead Zone”. All good shows, mind you, but I miss its chintzy days. “The USA Cartoon Express”, which was this 2-3 hour block of cartoons that someone pulled out of Hanna and or Barbara’s trash bin, was worthy junk TV. So was it’s woefully inept “Club MTV” knock off, “Dance Party USA”, which was an all-big hair, totally 80’s dance-o-rama. There were the crap made-for-cable films like the Joanna Cassidy vehicle “Wheels of Terror”, a film that ripped off “Duel”, “Christine”, and “The Car” and also the only horror film I know that stars a driverless, child-molesting 1974 black Dodge Charger. Neat!

They also had a weekend late-night line up called “USA Up All Night”. It was probably one of the last great late-night movie programs. The show was hosted, if I remember, on Friday night’s by Gilbert Gottfried, on Saturday, by Rhonda Shear. In between the movies, they’d host various skits, sadly the only one I remember was Rhonda Shear’s Date With Jason Voorhees. As funny and goofy as the hosts were, it’s the movies from “Up All Night” I remember most. So this month the trilogy pics are 3 of my favorite films that used to pop up fairly frequently.

So, New York, I’m your host, Mike C. and you’re watching USA “UP!” All Night. This week on Up All Night first we have “Eat and Run”, followed by “Neon Maniacs”, and finally, for those of you still awake, it’s “A Polish Vampire In Burbank”

Eat and Run:

Ron Silver…the man spends the early part of the 80’s working with legendary director Sidney Lumet. He pals around with Oscar winning actresses Meryl Streep and Cher in “Silkwood”. Then, in 1986, he does a turn in this absolutely bizarre horror-comedy. An outer-space creature named “ Murray” ends up in NY. Murray eats Italian. Italian people. This is the one big joke in the movie. Murray is an extremely obsese alien played by R.L. Ryan (The Toxic Avenger, Street Trash) whose first encounter on Earth is with an Italian cab driver that he, well, eats. After that he’s stuck on piasanos and it’s up to Ron Silver to stop him. If I remember correctly, this movie somehow involves a zeppoli stand, and a heroine laced drug dealer. Haven’t seen it in years, but it’s absolutely worth tracking down if you can.

Neon Maniacs:

This one actually scared me. When I was 7. It doesn’t hold up so well, because it’s one of those things where you get the movie stuck in your head, and you change the plot around so it fits your demented idea of a good movie. Except when you’re 27 and you see it again you think to yourself, “Ah, crap, what the hell is this shit?”. So, the movie I saw when I was 7 was about these creatures that lived under the Golden Gate Bridge. Really nasty bastards that would come out at night and kill you up real good. Then they’d steal your body and you’d become one of them. They were also allergic to water. Ok, so here’s the movie “Neon Maniacs” actually is: These alien creatures live under the Golden Gate Bridge. They come out at night and kill you something fierce. They don’t steal bodies. However, they’re still allergic to water, except now I don’t quite understand why they’d want to live under a bridge. They’ve never seen “Signs”, apparently. Still, it’s got some pretty nifty gore scenes in it, like a girl getting decapitated while giving a hummer, and the last reel when the maniacs break into a prom or something has some memorable shots. It’s also got homicidal aliens being dispatched by water pistols, so there ya go. Swing away, Merrill!

A Polish Vampire In Burbank:

If any film captures the spirit of the crap that USA Up All Night showed it’s this one. From the inappropriately long title featuring a monster and a location (see other Up All Night classics such as “Beverly Hills Vamp”, “A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell”, Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death”, “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama”), it’s also so deliriously low-budget it was shot on 8mm and for a measly $5,000. Still, it’s not that bad. It’s even got Eddie Deezen (“Grease”, “Assault of the Killer Bimbos”). And it’s about…well, read the title. It’s silly, lots of bad puns, but if you’re looking for some classic NO-budget 80’s nonsense, if you got a thrill out recent crap like “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” this is the movie for you. –mike.


July. 2006 Trilogy Pics:

July 2006 Trilogy Pics

David Cronenberg is amazing and one of my favorite directors. I mean, have you ever seen him lately? He looks like the kind of guy who makes the movies he does. The brushed back gray hair, the owlish glasses, and his peculiar speech. His early films are filled with themes of psychology, twisted sex, and there he is - looking like a demented psychotherapist. He even played one in “Nightbreed”! I wouldn’t let this guy analyze the contents of my grilled cheese sandwich, let alone my subconscious.

The Brood: Rarely have I heard horror fans speak in reverence of “The Brood”. I think it’s easily the creepiest and outright scariest of his early films. A blend of themes explored in Scanner and Shivers: Oliver Reed is an on-the-fringe psychologist whose method includes training his patient’s bodies to physically react to their past traumas while role-plays out the scenarios for him. For example, in the first scene of the film Reed takes on the role of a hypnotized patient’s father, causing lesions and welts to appear over the man’s body. The effect is supposed to be temporary, however his patients appear to grow addicted to the procedure. Oh yea, one other problem: His “star” patient (Samatha Eggar)…well, her anger unfortunately manifests itself not as welts and bruises. Her anger comes in the form of an increasing number of creepy albino children in snowsuits who are awfully handy with a hammer, awfully handy. She’s locked away at Reed’s institute, but if she gets angry at you during one of his sessions—lock the doors. It sounds ridiculous, I know it does, it even sounds downright confusing. It’s not either, because in Cronenberg’s very capable hands “The Brood” at times is horrifyingly effective. The first scene where members of “the brood” attack should be held as one of the scariest moments in horror. It’s not what you don’t or do see, but how Cronenberg choose not to let you see it (check out the shot when one of the little monsters is on top of the fridge, I get chills just thinking about it).  Finally, and typically of early Cronenberg, when you’ve had enough scares he whips out the brilliantly disgusting and twisted conclusion. I wouldn’t even dream of spoiling that one for you, but I assure you, its fetus licking good.

Videodrome: One of Dave’s better known early works, but again, probably not as widely seen as it should be. It’s a more difficult and challenging film, and it actually took me a few tries over the years to finally sit it out. James Woods is set into investigating a satellite TV feed that looks to be authentic snuff and torture film footage. He gets a videotape of it and soon enough it’s clear there’s more being broadcast than you can see. Something about this begins to affect his mind, and the minds of anyone else that’s watched it. This one is hard to explain, but let’s say things start to get weird for Mr. Woods. Weird like...crazy body piercing sex sessions with Debbie “Blondie” Harry and strange hallucinations like the TV trying to suck you in (no, there are not midget psychics in “Videodrome”). There’s a very uneasy tone throughout this one, much in the way some of his more recent films like “Crash” or “Spider” have been.

Scanners: If you’re having yourself a triple feature screening of Cronenberg’s earlier work, then why not top it all off with ‘Scanners’? Within the first 15 minutes of ‘Scanners’, you’ll get one of, if not THE best head explosions in cinematic history. There are 237 “scanners” in the world. These are people with telekinetic abilities that stemmed from an experimental drug their mother’s took during pregnancy. In a nutshell, all they have to do is think really, really hard… and your head will explode. And to make matters worse, Michael Ironside is one of them. And he’s a bad guy. This is probably the only Cronenberg film to spawn 4 sequels! (All of which aren’t all that bad! Yes, Even ‘Scanner Cop’!) So, there you have it. ‘Til next month … -mikec.


April. 2006 Trilogy Pics:
April 2006: Classy Ghost Stories

The Haunting (1963)

Often genre films from 40+ years ago don't retain their effectiveness on a modern audience. Especially if they're in black and white, with no real special effects, and are of the too often hokey haunted house genre. The 1963 adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel "The Haunting of Hill House" however remains highly effective terror.

For one, it's just a great story and setup: Hill House has a history of death, violence, and misery. 90 years after it's built, it's a haunted legend and a paranormal investigator wants to see if he can't stir something up. He recruits two women, Theo, a psychic, and Eleanor, a 30-something neurotic with a history of poltergeist phenomena. Also staying is Luke, a non-believer who's set to inherit Hill House. Everything in Hill House is built wrong. The house is purposely designed to be an angle off here, an inch off there. Doors close by themselves because they're off-center, iron staircases are barely screwed into the walls. Nobody will come near the place after dark, even the housekeepers leave promptly at 6pm. All this sets up great atmosphere for the ghostly happenings to come in the film.

When they do come it's loud, crashing noises, objects moving, doors that breathe. It's all very low-tech, but under the hand of director Robert Wise ("The Sound of Music", "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"), and thanks to the performances of Julie Harris and Claire Bloom the nights in Hill House are incredibly creepy and unnerving. During its scary scenes you can see how parts of this film were almost transposed shot-for-shot into Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" films. I was utterly amazed to find myself lowering into my seat waiting for the next shock and scare. The 1999 remake of this film relied on impressive sets and special effects to try to drum up scares and came across campy and
unintentionally funny. This version is much more serious in tone, and very scary. It should be in every horror fans DVD collection.

The Innocents (1961)

The 60's were a good time for these kinds of movies, I guess. Two years before "The Haunting" came "The Innocents". Based on a novel, this time Henry James' classic ghost story "The Turn Of The Screw" with a screenplay by the noted Truman Capote ("In Cold Blood", "Breakfast at Tiffany's"). This film is a bit slower in pace than something like "The Haunting", but the real star of the picture are the performances of two creepy kids and the great black and white cinematography by Freddie Francis ("The Elephant Man", "Dune", and Scorsese "Cape Fear").

"The Innocents" concerns Deborah Kerr as a woman who becomes the nanny to two children. She becomes convinced either there is something wrong with the children, the house is haunted, or both. If you were a fan of 2003's creepy "The Others", than you'd probably be very interested in this. Also-if you're a fan of this story you might also want to check out 1972's "The Nightcomers", a prequel of sorts to "Turn of the Screw" starring a very "screwy" Marlon Brando.

Burnt Offerings (1976):

Look, "Burnt Offerings" isn't really a very good movie. Slow, a little dullish, maybe not the best performances Oliver Reed or Bette Davis ever gave. In fact, for this month's pics the third ghost story was going to be "The Entity", but then I read that "Burnt Offerings" director and "Dark Shadows" creator Dan Curtis passed away. This is to honor a horror legend. In "Burnt Offerings" Karen Black, Oliver Reed, along with their son, and mother (Bette Davis) rent a country house from Burgess Meredith. Well, they've never seen the "The Sentinel" and don't know that Burgess Meredith and real estate-not such a great idea. The decrepit house and its dead vegetation gradually begin to come to life, as the family inhabiting gradually begin to psychologically and physically deteriorate. There are some neat bits in the film involving a killer swimming pool and a creepy hearse driver, but that's about it. Most distracting is the photography. It's filmed in a supposedly artsy fuzzy "dreamlike" style that looks like somebody kept touching the camera lens. It was apparently a hit when originally released, and is something of a cool '70's pop-horror relic. Not highly recommended, but if you can catch it on cable this month you could do worse than waste
90 minutes with it.

Honorable Mention:

The Entity (1981): As mentioned above this was one of my original pics. I was stuck, but this isn't exactly a "classy" film, as the subject matter revolves around an invisible "entity" that repeatedly attacks and rapes Barbara Hershey. So.I had to pass on this month. However, it is a much scarier ghost story than something like "Burnt Offerings". A highly recommended film that remains criminally overlooked by horror fans. More on this in future Trilogy pic. - mikec.


March. 2006 Trilogy Pics:
March 2006: Antagonizing Angoras, Frightful Folders, and Toothy Trojans

You don’t have to look far in the horror genre to encounter some unlikely monsters. In fact, most monsters in the horror genre are pretty “unlikely”. Ever meet a zombie in a hockey mask? 70 foot tall lizard? There are a few monster, however, that make even us horror fans question our suspension of disbelief. This month’s trilogy pics are three films that feature some of the looniest antagonists in the history of the genre. If monsters are the product of our nightmares, you have to wonder who was having nightmares to come up with these.

The Mangler (1995). Dir. Tobe Hooper

Tobe Hooper gets the shit end of the stick, doesn’t he? He directs “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, follows it up with the middling “Eaten Alive”, next everyone says that Spielberg really directed his biggest hit, “Poltergiest”. Poor guy then gets to make a movie about one of the most ridiculous monsters in horror history. Hey, do you mean space vampires? Er, no, actually not that Tobe Hooper movie, I’m talking about “The Mangler”. It’s based on a silly Stephen King short story (RED FLAG!) about possessed industrial laundry equipment, namely a giant sheet iron/folder with an appetite for old ladies and virgins. There’s also a refrigerator with an appetite for 7 year olds, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Obviously the problem with “The Mangler” is that it’s incredibly hard to take the premise seriously. This is a shame because it’s actually a pretty damn entertaining little horror opus. Sure, it’s about a laundry press, but the production designers really went out of their way on this thing. It’s a rusty, creaky, grease-dripping gothic nightmare of a laundry press. It really is the stuff of nightmares. Hooper also tries to makes the best of the premise too: There’s a really ominous, gloomy, uncomfortable mood to it. Overall, it’s a little bit too heavy handed, but at least he’s not just taking the cheap way out and going for laughs. You want to know what kills it? Robert Englund. Now, I love that guy. He IS Freddy Kruger, was a great Phantom, excellent as our friendly neighborhood alien Vistor. Yet, Robert, buried under some awful old-age makeup, goes too far.  He’s supposed to be the owner of the factory, and the guy who keeps the killer folding machine happy. He takes it too far, and it’s a painfully bad performance to watch. Then there’s the ending when the machine goes nuts and becomes mobile…what can I say…it looses steam. Oh-ho-ho! Really though, for a film that came out in ’95 it’s very atypical of the kind of horror we were getting then. It’s a unique, albeit flawed, vision, and totally worth a spot on your Netflix queue.

Night of the Lepus (1972). Dir. William F. Claxton

Yea…it’s the giant killer bunny rabbit movie. It was notoriously hard to get your hands on until a DVD release last year, and so naturally, it’s got quite a cult following. Really, there’s not much to say about it that hasn’t already been said. Yes, it is, in fact, about rabbits that grow to the size of large dogs and kill. Yes, the special effects consist mostly of close ups of rabbits twitching their noses and running in slow motion. I was surprised at how violent some of the attacks were, especially for PG rated film from ’72. Still, it’s not the huge laughfest it’s supposed to be because it’s kind of boring, lots of “scientists talk science” scenes and not enough bunnies until the end. Hilarious though are the scenes when they discover the rabbits are holed up in a cave. It’s just too much. I mean, you expect bats or wolves to burst out of the darkness in these kind of movies. This is rabbits. If you can find it cheap, maybe worth picking up the DVD, especially if you ever been curious about it.

Killer Condom: (1996). Dir. Martin Walz

Or “Kondom des Grauens” in it’s native German. That sounds like a tasty pastry, doesn’t it? Well, if you ever walk into a restaurant and “Kondom des Grauens” is on the menu, fold up that bitch and get your coat. In fact, if you ever walk into a video store and see “Kondom des Grauens”, you might as well have the same reaction. So…yea, it’s about an carnivorous condom-monster that is biting off penises in a hotel called “Hotel Quicky”. The crime is investigated by Det. Luigi Mackeroni. You read right.

I’ve tried to watch it a few times, and I never make it through. Maybe I’m just not into German humor. Maybe this is just a very poorly made movie. Who knows. I’m including it this month because it’s the only other thing I could think of. There is also a movie called “Killer Tongue”, if you’re into oral. - mikec.


Jan. 2006 Trilogy Pics:
January 2006 Trilogy Pics: Violent Vegetation

I'm dedicating this month's trilogy pics to Raw Vegan Horror Filmmaker Scott Goldberg to celebrate the release of his film "The Day They Came Back". Scott only eats raw veggies, which seem harmless enough until you consider this month's Trilogy Pics. Here are three films that want to us to question what's at the bottom of our salad bowls.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Yea, I'm going with the remake on this one. The story is still the same: An unknown species of plant begins growing wild. Some people just don't seem themselves anymore. Could there be a connection? Sure the original 1950's version would the obvious choice for this month's pics, but this remake is often overlooked. Plus, this is the one where a pod person gets punched in the face and the results are...can I say..."sappy"? The writers transposed the setting from a small town to the big city of San Francisco, but while it might seem less believable there's a lot they actually do with this that works. After all, it's a lot easier for those pesky pod person to hide, isn't it? Easier for them to spread slowly, unnoticed. It adds a great level of suspense and an extra dose of paranoia. I know I complain about remakes all the time, but this is one of the few that, while probably just as unnecesary, manages to get things right. Keep your eye out for some strange cameos by Robert Duvall, and Kevin McCarthy (from the original film).

Habitat: This film fits into this month's theme, but I'm not sure I'm actually recommending it to you so much as I am saying, "Hey, pop this one in the DVD player for a few minutes and get a load of some kind of neat stuff for a few minutes". I haven't seen it in years, and I remember it being pretty hard to sit through. But parts of this movie I've always remembered.This film has it's fans that claim it's a vastly underrated work of sci-fi. I'm not so sure about that. There's a whole lot of enviromental hokum about the ozone layer having been completely destroyed, yadda yadda. The film really gets strange when Hank Symes has an accident during an experiment that transforms him into plant lifeform, which gradually begins to take over the house his family lives in and certain members of his family. Alice Krieg ("Star Trek: First Contact") gives one of her typically weird performances as the wife slowly consumed by her husbands new form. There's some pretty cool scenes where the house attacks invaders by giving them horrible allergy attacks...that kind of thing you don't soon forget.

Day of the Triffids (1962): I had a teacher in high school who said this film scarred her. She couldn't get near sunflowers because they reminded her of the creatures from this movie. This is another film that has it's fans and haters. It's based on a novel by John Wyndam, and there was a remake in 1981 by the BBC that is more faithful to that novel. Even so, this one is a step above your typical silly 60's sci-fi. The premise alone is a little disturbing: A beautiful meteor shower over England blinds anyone unfortunate enough to have looked at it. This leads to the accidental release of nasty, whip-snapping, poison spitting, er, sunflowers called a Triffids. If you're idea of fun is watching actors stumble around "blind" and get eaten up by plants this is your movie. -mikec.


Dec. 2005 Trilogy Pics:
December 2005 Trilogy Pics: When Gory Things Happen To Adorable Little Children

'Tis the season folks! That old adage that "Christmas is for children" rings true in my heart this month. December's Trilogy Pics is a tribute to the rarest of horror victims: The Adorable Little Kid. Kids and puppies have remained relatively safe in the horror genre. Even today it's a considered shocking when something really nasty and violent happens to children in a movie. Sometimes even the most hardcore genre fanatic can be left with a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to violence on children. There have been, however, notable exceptions: The one that scared the living hell out of me at a tender age was Chuck Russell's 1988 remake of the "The Blob". There is a scene where The Jellied One shockingly grabs a 12 year old and then holds up the dripping, half-digested remains for all to see. Guillermo Del Toro's "Mimic" has a shocking scene of little bugger vs. big bug that nearly sent me out of the theater. Anyone catch the Stuart Gordon directed episode of "Masters of Horror"? Woo-boy! That's a killer. I want to pick out two films you may not have seen, and one that I think is terribly underrated for all the wrong reasons. This months pics are: "The Children", "Don't Torture a Duckling" and "Pet Sematary".

The Children (1980): Another one of my USA Up All Night memories, I was thrilled to find a very beat up, but commercial free and uncut VHS copy a few years ago. Here's the deal: These kids are on their way to school when the schoolbus drives through a cloud of nuclear whatsamcallit. The results are awesome: The kids fingernails all turn black, they go zombie on us, and begin to kill their parents and immediate families. They don't just kill ya though: They hug you to death. Anyone who comes in contact with their blackened little fingers begins to burn. It's pretty sicko stuff. Now, I'm gonna spoil the ending of this movie for you because it's the one other reason I'm recommending it to you. The only way they can find to stop all the kids....is to cut their fucking hands off. Oh yes, you'll see this. It's not pretty. This one is kind of hard to find, you're going to have to do some hunting at a horror convention or on Ebay.

(*editor's note: THE CHILDREN is now available on DVD thanks to Troma!!!)

Don't Torture A Duckling (1972): This is one of the first times Lucio Fulci got a little nasty on us. In a rural, mountainous part of Sicily somebody is murdering the local school children. You know what you're going to see when the name and phrase "Fulci" and "murder school children" appear in the same review, so I don't need to go much further. Just know that the sleaze factor is cranked up to a full Italian-giallo style 10. First off, most of these aren't "innocent sweet adorable kids". They're like...disgusting foul-mouthed 11 year olds. We've got once scene where one is kinda-sorta seduced by his mother's always naked female tenant. It's a film I've seen once, and really don't need to see again.

Pet Semetary (1989): I watched this again, for the first time all the way through, on cable the other night and was inspired to write this column. A lot of the reviews from it's original release are pretty nasty towards this film. I found it to be one of the better Stephen King adaptations. The story is a take on the old "Monkey's Paw" story: The Creeds move to Maine near an old Indian burial ground that can bring the recently deceased back to life. Throw in tractor trailers and two-year olds and you see where this is headed. "Pet Semetary" is much more than that on a whole. It's a really interesting American Gothic tale and Mary Lambert creates some scenes of shock, suspense and mood. You've got an excellent performance from the late Fred Gywnne ("The Munsters, "My Cousin Vinny") as the neighbor who shares a secret best left secret. The great spooky stuff like Pascow, the spirit of a dead patient of Louis Creed who has returned to warn him, Rachel Creed's flashbacks to her insane, deformed sister. And of course, you have a semi mowing down a two year old who comes back from the dead with a surgeons scalpel and a bad attitude. And the ending is very disturbing and almost tormenting to watch. I think time will ultimately be very kind to "Pet Semetary". -mikec.


Nov. 2005 Trilogy Pics:
The lonely, mistrusted, misunderstood horror-comedy. These are the bastard children of the horror genre: Never really funny enough for the masses or scary enough for the hardcore horror fans. Of course, many horror films have an element of humor to them though, for example all the "Evil Dead" films, and as I was telling Rob G the other night, I liked "Saw" because I thought the whole thing was one big sick joke. Last years "Shaun of the Dead" managed to be both funny and, I think, a very realistic view of what a zombie invasion might be. I think the problem with comedy and humor in horror is most people automatically are quick to assume "humor" means something along the lines of the lesser "Nightmare" sequels or the teen-horror films of the late 90's. It doesn't have to be. A laugh and a scream are just strange cousins of each other. It takes just as much clever timing and talent to get a scream as it does to get a laugh. So here's three horror-comedies I think have great, sick, twisted senses of humor, and shed plenty of red:

Student Bodies: This 1981 film has sadly been forgotten since cable TV stopped playing late night horror movies, and that's really sad. The horror starts on Jamie Lee Curtis's birthday when the students of the local high-school begin to be terrorized by...."The Breather", a seemingly asthmatic serial killer who murders with paperclips, erasers, plastic bags, and most memorably, horse-head bookends. Only 2-3 years into the early 80's slasher cycle, this was the first film to spoof the genre. What I love about "Student Bodies" is that of all the horror spoofs to come this is the only that really feels and looks right. It's got that early 80's horror photography, the cast of regular kid unknowns, and for all it's corniness, there are real laughs here. So far, not available on DVD, but definitely try to track a copy down at your next local horror convention!

Terror Firmer: My favorite Troma film and one of my favorite horror-comedies. There's something about the writing, the cast, and the energy of "Terror Firmer" that works so well that I find myself laughing at it every time I watch it again. from. A serial killer has infiltrated the cast and crew of Troma's "Toxic Avenger 4" and that brings on the pickle-sex, transvestite hermaphrodites, a disgusting death by escalator, and a lot more gore and sex where that came. The cast are all fantastic from Trent Haaga, in his first movie, to b-movie veteran Debbie Rochon, right down to director Lloyd Kaufman starring as the blind director. Written by James Gunn, who would later go on to write the "Dawn of the Dead" remake (ok, ok, and "Scooby-Doo").

Serial Mom: You probably have to be a fan of John Water's unique brand of humor to really enjoy this one. Fortunately, I am. This one pops up on cable pretty frequently. Kathleen Turner stars as an ordinary housewife who slowly discovers she has this talent for murder. It's never scary of anything, but does have it's moments of brutality (a de-liver-ry by fireplace poker, and a fiery death by hairspray). Ok, it's not my favorite John Waters film, or my favorite horror comedy, but I put it here because L7 are in it too. So there! -mikec.


Sept. 2005 Trilogy Pics:

I’m not going to throw stones at “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” because I haven’t seen it yet. However, I’m sure that a strong opening weekend and a few extra bucks over the next few weeks will ensure that numerous “religious” horror projects will be green lit. A look back to the films that came out in the wake of the successes of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” in the late 60’s and 70’s shows we can probably expect a lot of Holy Shit.

Here’s a sampling:

Beyond The Door (1974): I swear to god this movie features a woman spinning on her bed like a top.Who spins her right round? Her baby. Right round like a record? Her baby. Right round, right round. As best as I can remember, Juliet Mill’s unborn baby is possessed by the devil. This causes her to vomit pea soup, curse too much. Her head also spins around. It’s so much an “Exorcist” rip-off that Warner Bros. famously sued the producers for plagiarism. A milestone in crap cinema. From Italy, of course.

The Sentinel (1977): Former model and 3-year “Battle of the Network Stars!” contestant Christina Raines moves into the cheapest brownstone in Brooklyn. Why such a deal? Could it be all the dead criminals living in the other apartments, or the ash-white mutants that come out of The Gate To Hell in the basement. Or both? Famous for it’s “Who Was” and “Who Would Be” cast: Ava Gardner (as a dead lesbian murderer), Beverly D’Angelo (who masturbates in spandex), Burgess Meredith (as cheerfully deceased fancier of both cat and bird), Chris Sarandon, Jerry Orbach, Christopher Walken, John Carradine. This thing is cast like a disaster movie. Also famous for casting real-life cancer patients as mutants from hell. Cheers!

The Antichrist: 1974’s other Italian “Exorcist” rip-off. This time Mr. Lord of Flies inhabits the body of a paralyzed woman with a penchant for killing Boy Scouts and incest. The scene where said paralyzed woman straddles her legs up on the dinner table and shouts, “You're all afraid, you stinking pots of shit!” is a personal favorite of mine.

Honorable Mention:

The Manitou (1978): I’ve already reviewed this in the DVD section, but it’s totally worth mentioning again. Susan Strasberg becomes possessed by an ancient Native American god who rebirths himself out of her back and re-emerges into this world in the form of…a slimy brown midget? A slimy brown midget that Tony Curtis throws a typewriter at? Because the soul of typewriter can destroy it? No…really. That’s what happens. The floating 80 year old lady, frozen nurses, and tits are just a bonus. -mikec.


July 2005 Trilogy Pics:
In the spirit of all this Zombie talk this edition, & thanks to the triumphant return of George Romero, this month we're giving you 3 Zombie recommendations!!!

First up, start your evening off with a little zombie oddity that goes by SO many different titles. Here in America, Anchor Bay put it out on DVD as 'Let Sleeping Corpses Lie' aka 'The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue'. This is a different type of Italian-style zombie flick, which for me, is what makes it stand out amongst so much competition. We've got britt's. We've got bad dubbing. We've got suspense! (it's a while before you see zombies, and when you do it only starts with one) We've got red eyed zombies! YES! One of the creepiest additions to the zombie genre is in this flick when we see close up's of these zombies whom all have redish eyes. Then we've got an out-of-control ending sequence at a hospital. This is an horrific way to start off your zombie marathon. And I mean that in the best possible way.

You might as well follow it up with a classic. Second, go for Lucio Fulci's 'Zombie'. Or as it's called oversea's 'Zombi 2'. This flick's got some disturbing looking zombies. It's got some eye violence! A zombie vs. a shark sequence! And an image at the ending which will forever be forged in your memory once you see it. (Especially if you're a New Yorker, such as myself!)

Getting tired? Then let the good time's roll. I can ALWAYS watch what's easily one of the best zombie films of the past decade, 'Shaun Of The Dead'. It's a very well made film with so many homages and subtle hints toward all things 'Zombie', that you'll HAVE to watch it more then once to even catch them all. In fact, the DVD offer's you a number of different ways to watch the flick. I strongly recommend the Zombi-o-Meter with pop up facts pointing out even the most hidden of references. First half? Hilarious. Hell, I love hearing English blokes argue over pop music. Second half? Turns into a kick ass straight forward zombie epic. Hell, if the zombie's invade, I'm going to the pub too!!! (Brilliant!)

So, that's all I got for now. Whew. This was a rough month putting together. I feel... pretty dead! -robg.

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