Showing posts with label 1980s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1980s. Show all posts

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Curtains (1983), or Girl Jealousy Kills Girl Love

Repost from 2010. This movie will finally be released in a modern format (Blu-Ray & DVD) on July 29th!

Dir. Richard Ciupka (a.k.a. Jonathan Stryker) || 1983 || Canada

The more I watch Curtains, the more odd I find that the film is. Canadian horror productions from the 1970s and 1980s as a whole tend to deal with adults more so than teenagers. Curtains is about being an aging actress and the treachery of the film business. It also has a weird level of meta to it, because the credits list the director as "Jonathan Stryker", which is also the name of the director within the film, played by John Vernon. The lead actress is played by Samantha Eggar, of Cronenberg's The Brood, playing an actress named Samantha. Samantha has bought a dramatic property named Audra, for her to star in and for Stryker to direct, since they seem to have a collaborative relationship of sorts (although more is implied as the film goes on). Audra seems to be an Ibsen-esque piece of work, and Samantha being the Method actress that she is, has  herself placed in a psychiatric hospital on some sort of indefinite basis so she can study the patients and find out what it is like to be mentally ill. There is a vague deal that Stryker will bail her out when the time comes, but as time wears on, he stops visiting her in the hospital and she finds out that he is holding auditions at his private residence for the weekend to find a new Audra. So although she has a mysterious friend break her out of the hospital, we never see any other instance of Samantha having friends or support.

Here we meet the other six or so aspiring actresses. While according to Wikipedia, their characters do have names, I swear I barely heard their names uttered within the film (but my copy of this film does have wonky sound). With the exception of one, all of the women look like Samantha. They all have dark hair, are pale, and are pretty. Therefore they are all interchangeable for the most part, but unlike in most slasher films, this seems to be done on purpose to display just how expendable they are. It is never said how old Samantha is, and although she is still very pretty, one can guess that she is perhaps 35 at the most. All of the women auditioning are in their early-mid 20s. So the aspiring actresses are more or less defined by what they were doing before they were called to audition. One is an ice skater, one is a serious actress like Samantha, one was a centerfold, one was a ballerina, and one is an unfunny comedienne who kind of dresses like Robin Williams circa Mork and Mindy. There is a sole blonde woman who is characterized by her love of acting out rape fantasies with her mustachioed boyfriend, but she is killed en route to the audition house.

As you can imagine, Stryker pits the women against each other, while at the same time sleeping with almost each and every one. Of course, after he sleeps with each one, they are killed by a figure in an ugly crone mask soon after. Some of his actions seem to be to get Samantha's attention, as if he is pushing her to go insane, like Audra. But as the film wears on, his actions seem more indicative that he is just selfish and on the misogynistic side. As the women begin to go missing, the remaining actresses tension levels go up, and Stryker uses that to get them to the apparent Audra-level as well. It is somewhat vague as to how the women feel about the other actresses going missing. While they are not overly snipping at each other and spend some nights hanging out together, their attempts at friendship are not unlike the awkward attempts at bonding and friendship made during early episodes of each season of shows like America's Next Top Model (however the words, "I am here to win, I am not here to make friends" are never uttered). There is want of human contact with people other than the creepy director, but no one acknowledges too much that they are in competition, or how unfair this audition process is. Still, no one calls the police, no one tries to leave the house, no one suspects that a killer is amongst them. During the day everyone continues with their audition exercises, including one instance where Stryker has the meek ballerina feeling up the woman who was in the centerfold. It is made clear at this point that this is not an audition process for Stryker, but a way to have sex with as many women as possible within one weekend. The fact that he is played by an actor who is middle-aged, balding, and paunchy does not help matters, as he seems to seduce the actresses by making them feel protected (while also verbally abusing them in some cases), and the actresses are inherently going to feel as if they cannot turn him down for sex for fear of losing the part. Only the centerfold sleeps with the younger attractive guy at the house, although it is never said what his role is or why he is at the house. Curtains is good for keeping the killer's identity a mystery until the end. Of course suspicion is placed on Stryker until he is killed, and Samantha because she disappears for a large portion of the film.


The ending is a twist, because we find that there are two killers. Samantha killed Stryker, and inadvertently the other serious actress after they had sex. She shot them, and they fell through a window. One of the other aspiring actresses as killed everyone else, and in the final scene kills Samantha after she tells her that she killed Stryker, that there will be no film now, and that she will wait patiently for the police, if you would be so kind as to call them. The irony is that Samantha killed Stryker in a crime of passion perhaps, but is not insane. She understands what she did, but her motives are somewhat unclear to the audience. Was it out of jealousy or was it because Stryker had left her in the psychiatric hospital, stolen the dramatic property she had bought for herself, and was going to place another actress in the role, thereby making it murder for revenge? Samantha is shown as to not having much issue with the other actresses, just Stryker. There is the small implication that she is not the first actress he has left in the dust, and that he will continue the pattern again if he does find another actress amongst these women. It is an attempt to end the cycle of abuse, if you will.

The aspiring actress uses the motif of creepy dolls the size of real toddlers to get the attention of some of her victims, including the blonde actress and most notoriously, the ice skater. While the use of the dolls is almost fleeting, it also implies that this is how the killer feels about herself and the other actresses, that they are dolls just being played with for the weekend, and that they will be put away as soon as Stryker is done with them.

The murderous aspiring actress' motives are just plain ambition, hunger for fame, and jealousy gone awry, for Stryker has barely paid attention to her the entire weekend, although that may be hard to do if  you are slipping out to murder the other actresses. She wanted the role of Audra enough that it drove her insane to have to compete with other actresses. Remember, the murder of the sole blonde actress was before the weekend auditions had started, so her actions were presumably pre-meditated. So this was her twisted response to the unfair audition process for the film, not protesting it, or even working hard in the auditions, such as they were. The sole instance that she comes to Stryker's attention and reluctant admiration is when she confronts him about his lack of attention towards her. Other than Samantha, she is the only other actress who confronts him in anger. While she is seen throughout the film as being the most friendly towards the other actresses, it displays how underhanded jealousy can be at times. These traits make her more of the equivalent to an Iago, even if she does not understand it.

The two killers give Curtains a strange and confused duality in their approaches to confronting problems with sexist men. While murder should not be endorsed as a way to solve problems anyway, Samantha goes for the source of the problem, Stryker; while the aspiring actress goes for the other victims of this problem.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Demons & Demons 2 (1985 & 1986)

Repost from 2009.

Demons (a.k.a. Demoni): Dir. Lamberto Bava || 1985 || Italy
Demons 2 (a.k.a. Demoni 2): Dir. Lamberto Bava || 1986 || Italy

It’s taken years and I probably had too many beers when I watched this for a third or fourth viewing this past weekend, but I think Demons is finally growing on me. Does it make any sense? No, it still doesn’t. Will I ever understand some of the academic theories around this movie? Not for awhile, but mostly because I’m thinking about the scene where the blond guy is riding a motorbike through a theater slashing at demons with a samurai sword. And how right after that, a helicopter magically falls through the ceiling. Or what that red haired chick dressed as a Irish pilgrim had to do with any of this. Same with the guy in the silver mask. Why do the blond guy and the silver mask guy look like characters from Mortal Kombat?

Demons is about an assorted group of people who are given tickets to a sneak preview for movie at this mysterious art deco-style theater. No one knows what the movie is about, but it turns out it’s a horror movie that seems to be about young archeologists on the search for a mask. A similar mask was in the lobby and one of the prostitutes attending the film with her pimp and co-worker puts it on, and is cut on the cheek. Something similar happens to a person in the movie, and all hell breaks loose.

I like Rosemary, the ground zero demon. She has hair like my middle school chorus teacher (or Rick James if you prefer). She is one badass demon.



The movie has a good, apocalyptic ending once you get past the goofy points that come before it. Also, a cameo appearance from the kid from Fulci’s The House by the Cemetary.

As far as Demons 2 goes, I want to like it, but it’s kind of a mess. I do not know whether or not it was supposed to be in continuity with the first movie. The first character we see is the guy (who looks like the result of what would happen if you mixed Michael Berryman’s genes with a young Rupert Everett’s) who played one of the coked up punk kids in the first movie, as a security guard for this building in the second movie. Also in this movie: the guy who played the pimp in the first movie, this time as the building’s very bossy/poor man’s Ken Foree-type personal trainer; and a young Asia Argento.

This time the demons are coming through the television in a show that most of the characters seem to be watching. The show may or may not be a documentary on what happened in the first movie, or it may be more of the movie or a sequel to the movie the people in the first Demons movie were watching. I honestly don’t know, and wish I did know. This time the ground zero demon is Sally, who has having a birthday party in her apartment. Sally is one of those needy friends who is a gigantic drama queen. She storms off into her room at one point while her friends are dancing to The Smiths, where she catches the show and the demon that somehow makes it out of the television.



Demons 2 is somewhat reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s Shivers. It is a film that takes place in a completely secure and locked down high-rise apartment building, meaning that the other inhabitants become infected really quickly, although mostly because blood is continuously seeping through the floors and pipes. That’s a terribly made building right there. Under more capable hands, the main story of the hunky physics major who is trying to save his pretty and pregnant wife, would be more compelling. Instead, you just root for them cos even as a demon, Sally is still pretty annoying.

The ending is also not particularly satisfying. It’s pretty disappointing actually. It’s almost as if the budget ran out. The film in general leaves a lot of unsettled stories, like, what happened to lil Asia Argento?

I don’t live in a large city, and it’s probably goofy for me to think about this just based on Shivers and Demons 2, but why would anyone think that having a self-contained building and/or a building where if something goes wrong, the building is completely locked down and impossible to get out of a good idea? Was this entire sub-subgenre of film based on The Towering Inferno, where “people trapped and in danger in a large building = entertainment”?

I can’t remember whether or not I’ve heard recently that Demons is up for a remake. It probably is, since at this point, one may as well believe that any horror movie made in the past 30 years is up for a remake. Unless the makers find even someone more incompetent than Lamberto Bava to be at the helm of these films, the remake(s) may not be that bad. Which I hate to say about Lamberto Bava, because his first film, Macabre, is actually pretty good. I want to think that for some reason, Demons and Demons 2 got seriously butchered at some point, but considering that both movies have been on video or DVD in America for at least 20 years, I find it hard to believe that there are better versions of these movies out there, versions that match the pretty good concept with good quality. Oh well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dolls (1987) & Child's Play (1988)

Repost from 2010.

Dolls: Dir. Stuart Gordon || 1987 || USA
Child's Play: Dir. Tom Holland || 1988 || USA

Released a year apart from each other, Dolls (1987) and Child's Play (1988) both feature children from broken homes whom no one believes, murderous dolls; and at the very least, light criticism or jabs at the toy industry, Child's Play moreso than Dolls. Child's Play is the darker of the two films, while Dolls is more of a campy fairytale.

Dolls is meant to be an odd fairytale of sorts, what with its wicked stepmother, magical house with an old couple, and overall message about not losing one's childlike wonder, even in the face of death and destruction. It's a little too gory at times to show to children, but maybe pre-teens may not be too scared by it. Overall it has a lighter and campier nature, setting the stage for all the other evil doll films that Charles Band would later produce via Full Moon Pictures. Band produced this and most of Stuart Gordon's films in the 80s and 90s. The story revolves around Judy, a little girl who is vacationing in Italy with her inattentive and borderline abusive father and her new wicked and wealthy stepmother. Their car gets stuck in the mud one evening and they along with a nice guy and two Madonna-wannabes, find a house belonging to two elderly dollmakers. Only Judy and Ralph the nice guy marvel at the dolls and toys, so as predicted, everyone else gets to encounter the darker side of the dolls as the night progresses. Dolls takes a light jab at the manufactured toy industry early on, but mostly plays up the inherent creepiness of older and handmade dolls. While I believe the film peaks 10 minutes in with the brilliant killer teddy bear scene, it is a fun film to watch.

Child's Play is an odd film with a few tonal shifts that veer from satire, horror, and a vague and somewhat gritty realism. While I have not seen all of Child's Play 2 and 3, I have seen the more recent sequels Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, which exist entirely on camp. The first film sets the tone a bit for the later films, especially in the beginning when the film shows the little boy watching the Good Guys cartoon that encourages children to beg their parents to buy the dolls and accessories, while he is already wearing Good Guys pajamas and eating their franchised cereal. The Good Guys dolls are clearly based on the My Buddy dolls that were popular in the 1980s and meant for little boys (the Kid Sister doll were meant for girls), although I don't remember if there was a cartoon associated with the doll. Those toys always seemed to be advertised to lonely children, without siblings or friends, and the film plays up that idea, as if a doll, even a large one, is a replacement for a friend or sibling.  Being that it is his birthday, he guilts his mother, who is a single widow that works at a department store, into buying him a Good Guys doll for his birthday. The dolls normally cost $100 (!!!), but his mother is able to buy one from a homeless guy in the alley of her store for the shocking low price of $30. It is after this scene that the film loses its elements of light satire and realism (because if the mom had been like mine, she just would have said, "no, I can't afford to buy you a doll that costs $100"), because of course, we all know that the doll the mother has bought is no ordinary doll, but a doll possessed with the soul of a serial killer who just happened to die in a shootout in a toy store the night before. Which, while kind of spooky, is also silly. I can see why the more recent films veered into pure camp, because killer doll movies are hard to take seriously.

Nonetheless, Child's Play doesn't go where I thought it would, which would be to have the other characters demonize the single working mom. That seemed to be a favorite past time of some groups in the 1980s, so score another one for the general open-mindedness of horror. The child is more demonized, at least by the other authority figures in the film; and he is placed in a psychiatric hospital. Mom eventually pieces it all together and convinces the cop to help (which he only does after being attacked by Chucky). It is also in the first film that the sequels are set up, since by the third act, Chucky begins his long and often interrupted quest to possess the soul of a human.

Child's Play has aged well, or better than it has any right to. I think it is due in part to having two Oscar-nominated actors in the cast, although you still have to wonder how the hell actors like Chris Sarandon and Brad Dourif got into a film about a killer doll. This wasn't Sarandon's first time at the horror rodeo; but unless you count The Eyes of Laura Mars, it was for Dourif. And he since become one of the go-to guys for horror, although he still has roles in higher profile or higher quality films. The film also stars Catherine Hicks as the mother, and while she isn't bad, this is mostly amusing because she later went on to play the mom on the WB/CW Christian family drama series 7th Heaven.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crazy Theory #8: Ghostbusters as a Metaphor for Koch Era NYC


Last year for my Cinematic Urbanism class, I chose NYC to write about for my final paper. It was not until almost very late in the semester that I chose to write on Born in Flames after realizing No Wave Cinema was not going to pan out due to inaccessibility of most of the films. I briefly flirted with using the more mainstream films of 1970s and 1980s NYC in my paper, including Ghostbusters.*

I conducted some historical research into the Koch era of NYC beginning in the mid-1970s when everything was rather bad and the US government declined to help financially save the city that was on the brink of bankruptcy. NYC began to see some reversal in the early 1980s. But you still see how bad it was in films** - the city did not prevent these films to be made, sort of under the guise of "any publicity is good publicity". Wolfen (1981, Dir. Michael Wadleigh) was shot in the Bronx after a large portion of it was burnt down (primarily by landlords or pyromaniacs hired by landlords) and the borough's destruction becomes a part of the film: 

A shot of the Bronx from Wolfen (1981).

Ghostbusters was released in 1984, or thirty years ago this month. Stories have been told, particularly after Harold Ramis' death in February, about how he helped Dan Akroyd scale the film down so it would have a more reasonable budget and therefore more studio support. The film was originally supposed to take place in space in the future, instead of then-modern day NYC. Perhaps partially due to the fact that Ghostbusters was filmed in NYC as well as a soundstage in Los Angeles, the audience is never shown how rough NYC was or looked, even as it was in the beginning-middle stages of being cleaned up. The Ghostbusters somehow never leave Manhattan, nor do they venture to Times Square or 42nd Street - which were filled with porn theaters at the time, because Ghostbusters is a family film. But their work appears to be a metaphor for the clean up NYC was in the midst of during the film's production and release. They are cleaning out the past to make way for a future for the city (or arguably, the ghosts are the have-nots). This is alluded to in one of the perkier MOR songs on the soundtrack with the line "the Ghostbusters are back here, cleaning up the town, oh yeah!" The only allusion given to the aesthetic state of the city is when Egon says the future Ghostbusters HQ is in "a demilitarized zone." 

But of course the clean up job turns out to be much bigger than anticipated, particularly after the government (the EPA) steps in and releases all the ghosts that they have caught. Despite perhaps only having no more than 6 blocks of the city destroyed by the end of the film, mostly due to the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man exploding, we find out that the city and state blamed the Ghostbusters***. By the release of the second film, when the clean-up of the city was a success (and maybe a handful of years before the "Disneyfication" of Times Square), the Ghostbusters are not needed anymore. It is hard to say whether they are there to remind the city to not forget its past, including the past buried in NYC's infrastructure, or to remind the city to come together in the face of adversity.  

* If this post seems a bit stilted, it's because it's somewhat impossible to write about the one film I have seen the most times in my life. I used to watch Ghostbusters obsessively as a child, and I still watch it a few times a year as an adult. 
** While there is a coffee table book released within the past 5 years on NYC in films, I do not know if it chronicles the rougher Koch era much. You can see the issues in not only in Taxi Driver and Wolfen, but in The Warriors, Street Trash, C.H.U.D., Smithereens (and Desperately Seeking Susan to a lesser extent), Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper, Frank Henenlotter's films from this period (Basket Case, Frankenhooker, Brain Damage), and you can see the porn districts in Bette Gordon's film Variety. The documentary Blank City features clips from No Wave films and early Jim Jarmusch films shot in the mid-1970s-early 1980s. Escape from New York was primarily filmed in St. Louis, which also had some trouble during the same period.
*** Okay, maybe I am underestimating the destruction. This simulation video released this week demonstrates the amount of damage the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man would do in terms of zones. The maximum impact zone would be 4-6 blocks, while the total impact area appears to be 24 blocks of Manhattan.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Biker Chick Double Feature: She-Devils on Wheels (1968) & Easy Wheels (1989)

Repost from 2011.


She-Devils on Wheels
Dir. Herschel Gordon Lewis || 1968 || USA

Despite some impressive visuals in the few films of his I've seen, I'm not exactly an H.G. Lewis fan. I sort of appreciate Lewis' use of bright colors in his films, even if I tend to like the artwork on the walls in his films more than the films themselves. With this in mind, I watched She-Devils on Wheels expecting the worst and actually ended up liking the film. Lewis made the film after criticism of how women were often treated in his other films. She-Devils on Wheels is about a female motorcycle gang called The Man-Eaters that often fights better than the male motorcycle gangs. The Man-Eaters race each other, and whomever wins gets first pick in "the stud line", a group a men that come to their house. The film makes an attempt to follow newer recruit Karen, but tends to pick up and drop her storyline as it pleases. Karen comes into play only after the gang beats up her favorite "stud" Bill, who they think she's in love with, which is against the gang's rules. She comes into play later in the film when her clean cut ex-boyfriend Ted warns her about the male motorcycle gang that has it out for the Man-Eaters. Ted often implores Karen to leave, but she refuses. I think Ted and Karen are supposed to be the moral center, acknowledging that being in any sort of gang probably is not good, but most of the film makes it seem kind of fun. However, the majority of the film is racing and the stud line parties. Lewis uses the shots of people driving away and parking way too much, but it's kind of a fun film when there is dialogue. The final scenes of the battle with the male motorcycle gangleader is bananas in the most perfect way possible.

Easy Wheels
Dir. David O'Malley || 1989 || USA

Easy Wheels is an odd and occasionally funny comedy with the pedigree of having been written by Ivan and Sam Raimi (Sam writing under the pseudonym Celia Abrams) and being produced by Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell. Like She-Devils on Wheels, it concerns a rival male and female motorcycle gangs, but with added mythos behind each leader. She-Wolf (Eileen Davidson from The House on Sorority Row and the soap operas The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, and The Bold and the Beautiful) is the leader of the gang The Women of the Wolf. They have been riding around the Midwest and stealing babies. They deposit the female babies to a park so that they can be raised by wolves and they leave the male babies with a baby broker who runs a sleazy bar. She-Wolf was raised by wolves herself and believes that she can create a new and more formidable society of women by stealing babies and having them also raised by wolves. They are tracked throughout the Midwest by The Bourne Losers, lead by Bruce, a Vietnam vet with a steel plate in his head that causes him to have visions. The gang's goals are to "find the evil, destroy the evil, and find a really great lite beer." So in real life, they would probably still be roaming around, twenty years later. Of course when they finally cross paths, She-Wolf and Bruce are immediately attracted to each other, causing She-Wolf to want to give up her abstinence (much to the dismay of her more devoted and/or lesbian gang members) so that she and the other members can bear children of free-spirited men. Bruce mostly remains in denial about She-Wolf being a babynapper.

Yeah, for a goofy little comedy, it kind of has a complicated plot. The ending gets a little confused in its message. Both gangs are laughable in their own ways, but I guess it is a given that babynapping is wrong, so The Bourne Losers are given more preference. Unlike The Man-Eaters in She-Devils on Wheels, The Women of the Wolf are a gang not only because they can fight and fight well, but because they are sick of being treated as second-class citizens. But it's hard to view them as "evil" when all they want is to remain independent and have a better society, either at a micro level or at a macro level.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

Repost from 2011.

Dir. Deborah Brock || 1987 || USA

Slumber Party Massacre II is a weird amalgamation of the first film, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Driller Killer, with a healthy dose of a fear of losing one's virginity and/or penises, I'm not sure which. It's perhaps only notable for starring Crystal Bernard of the late 80s/early 90s sitcom Wings, the lady who played Veronica Sawyer's mom in Heathers, and a smattering of people who acted in slasher films throughout the mid-80s.

The film begins about five years after the first film, and focuses on Courtney, the little sister from the first film. Valerie's in a psychiatric hospital, and Courtney has a lot of nightmares about that night five years ago, but still functions as a normal teenager. She's even in a rock band with three other girls. And while their band only has one song, their song is better than everything else on the soundtrack, whose definition of "rock 'n' roll" is bad 1950s doo-wop songs filtered through the 1980s need to recreate such songs. The band decides to go to the singer's parents' new condo for the weekend to practice their song(s) for the upcoming school dance. Throughout the weekend, which is also Courtney's 17th birthday, her nightmares that concern a rocker dude with a gigantic drill on his guitar get worse.

If Slumber Party Massacre gets called a feminist horror film based on its little details, then the sequel cuts those little details by at least three-fourths. The girls in the film are in a decent band in a 80s Go-Gos-Bangles sort of way, and whether they are faking it or not, they're not bad with playing instruments (Crystal Bernard wrote a song for Paula Abdul around this time that appeared on her first album). The few boys in the film actually seem to enjoy watching the girls practice their song(s). SPMII is surprisingly less given to copious T&A shots, unlike the first film. Like the first film, there isn't too much shaming going on when one character just wants to have sex with her boyfriend, even if her boyfriend is the most annoying person in the film with his bad valley or surfer dude dialect. Also like the first film, most of the kids are pretty nice or normal and try to help each other when the killer finally shows up, even if their attempts are the most short and futile out of all the films. And despite how little goes on in the film, the sequel a bit better paced than the first film, although it is not as technically adventurous. The shots are quite boring; and there quite a lot of perspective and "play to the camera" shots, to the point where it seems as if they just called in actors one or two at at time to shoot or re-shoot.

Where SPMII fails story-wise however, is that for much of the film, it is unclear whether the killer rocker guy is real; and that he is an awful, unfunny rendition of Freddy Krueger prone to ridiculous dance moves, even whilst stalking the teens (what rockabilly breakdances?). The film often tips its hat to other slasher films. In the one holdover from the first film, Courtney's last name is "Bates", but the Devereaux household's name is changed to "Craven". Two police officers who stop by the condo are named "Krueger" and "Voorhees". I'm not sure if these references were considered clever in the 80s. SPMII is not the first 80s horror film to do this, but I find the references annoying as an audience member 20+ years later. Anyway, the film is too short to build up an obvious world or idea that the rocker dude can shift between the dream and real world, or why exactly he is stalking the Bates sisters and Courtney's friends. Or why he is a rocker with a drill on his guitar rather than something resembling the killer in the first film. I almost would have preferred a more obvious cop-out that the film seems to set up more as it goes on, which would make Courtney the killer. When Courtney dreams of the rocker, it is also when she is dreaming of Matt, her crush who resembles a poor man's Guy Pearce. It gives play to the idea that Courtney is secretly afraid of losing her virginity or is afraid of penises. The rocker hints that he has killed Valerie in the hospital and that he is the only guy that Courtney is meant to "go all the way" with. It makes no sense, but I guess Deborah Brock is no Rita Mae Brown in the writing skills department, or maybe something else was going on for the film's ending to be so haphazard. We're never told if Valerie has died in the psychiatric hospital. Valerie's fate in general is sad enough, so it would be nice to know if she is dead. The film has two or three endings that all infer slightly different things while setting it up for a sequel featuring the rocker again.

Slumber Party Massacre II is not a bad film for the first 50-60 of its 70 minutes. There is one instance of pretty good special effects where one girl's imagined pimple grows to cover most of her face, then explodes. It just has a very confused story with perhaps some mixed messages about sex.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Repost from 2011.

Dir. Amy Holden-Jones || 1982 || USA

For the next month, I'm going to be writing about the Slumber Party Massacre series of films, along with Sorority House Massacre. The Slumber Party Massacre series, along with the first Sorority House Massacre film, were all written and directed by women. The films were also distributed by two Roger Corman companies, New World, then Concorde (or New Concorde). Corman also produced all but the first Slumber Party Massacre film.


Slumber Party Massacre is considered the godmother of feminist horror films. Some credit it as being the inspiration for Carol Clover's Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in Modern Horror Film, although the film is mentioned only a few times throughout the course of the book (Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and I Spit on Your Grave are given more consideration). The film is notable as being  the first slasher film written and directed by women. Feminist author Rita Mae Brown co-wrote the script with Amy Holden Jones, who also directed. The film focuses on a group of high school girls that are on the basketball team together who have a slumber party for "old times sake" while the lead girl, Trish Devereaux's parents are out of town. Of course, that very weekend, a serial killer has escaped from prison. Brown and Jones intended it as a parody of slasher films, which in 1982, was still doing well as a genre, although there were already at least two parodies out, Student Bodies and Wacko. At some point, Jones decided to shoot the film as straight-forward, although there are a few amusing moments throughout the film. Brown later disowned the film claiming that the film added more to the problem rather than turning slasher films on its head, while Jones claims in the documentary Going to Pieces: the Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film that she remains proud of the film.

I think the feminism, as well as the horror and the humor in Slumber Party Massacre is more in the little details rather than the big picture. Upon second viewing, I forgot how T&A filled this film is, and between watching the second film and reading a little about the third film so far, it is my understanding that the T&A becomes less gratuitious and copious as the series wears on. Since the first SPM comes roughly 14 years after the height of the Second Wave feminist movement, it's a bit bizarre having to wonder if the braless-ness is due to feminism or due to wanting to appeal to guys. In retrospect, it seems like one of the rare times feminism and sex appeal intersect, but in the odd realm of the time before Third Wave feminism where people were sometimes more comfortably combining the two (of course this makes me wonder why bra burning is still not considered a tenet of feminism, whereas not shaving and constantly talking about not shaving is considered a rite of passage for most baby feminists). Watching the basketball scene early on in the film, I noticed both the braless-ness (logically, wouldn't that chafe while playing sports?) and that the actresses were perhaps not that great at pretending to play basketball, although most of the actresses are tall. Even with all the bouncing and nudity, the film still occasionally carries the air of an old Summer's Eve commercial.

Then there are the other little details. Besides the fact the film is about a girls basketball team, which is rare not just in horror films, but in other types of films; the film also features a telephone repairwoman and a general handywoman. All the girls seem obsessed with sports statistics, a point driven home quite often throughout the film. The most petite member of the team flips her much larger boyfriend after he sneaks up on her. The ostracized new girl, Valerie, and her younger sister Courtney, read Playgirl while occasionally keeping an eye on Trish's house (signaling that Brown and/or Jones are not anti-porn feminists). Trish did invite Valerie over, but Valerie overheard the snobby petite girl saying mean things about her and declined the invitation. These scenes sort of play as the anti-Carrie, displaying that some teenage girls can be nice and appreciative towards classmates who are talented and pretty and not make everything a competition.

The thing that has stood out for me with both viewings is that once they understand that a killer has been hanging around the house, characters both inside of the house and outside of the house make a valiant attempt to work together so as many people as possible are saved. The two goofy male classmates of the girls who came to the house to spy on the party seem to understand that in their attempt to go find help outside of the house, that they may not make it back alive. They're normal dorky teenage boys, they do not pretend to have machismo. Valerie has an intuition that something is not right and calls their coach as well as checks out the house herself, both from afar and eventually, up close. The film has this communal feel to it in these scenes as well as earlier ones where the girls do not fall trap to the usual horror trope of "I'll be right back, I'm gonna go check out the fusebox in the garage" by having everyone go check the fusebox together. Yeah, the kids do fall victim anyway due to things like not locking the garage door and not keeping all the window and doors in the house closed and locked, but there are interesting attempts to buck the tropes a little.

The humor in the film is somewhat amusing. Throughout the film, there are sort of faux-jump scares. They do not work, but I'm not sure that they were intended to most of the time. This mostly consists of assorted male (and sometimes female) characters coming up behind one of the girls and inadvertently scaring them. The weirdest attempts at humor come towards the end of the film, as one of the girls decides that fear makes her hungry and that eating will make her feel better, and she starts eating a slice of pizza atop the dead pizza delivery guy, much to the disgust of the other girls. There's also the scene where a girl searches for a suitable deadly and threatening tool in the basement, and charges up the stairs with a plugged-in circular saw.

I was flipping through my copy of Clover's book, and she mentions in the afterword that a lot of horror filmmakers do read Freud, and that some other directors had changed their films a bit after reading the first and early-released chapter of her book, including the director of Slumber Party Massacre III. So yes, everyone knows that the drill that the killer uses is one absurdly huge phallic symbol. As is the machete that one of the girls uses to dispatch the killer. While I haven't read Clover's book in years, I have the vague remembrance that she discusses the sort of fluid sexualities of most slasher film killers. I think the killer in SPM is perhaps no exception. Yes, he kills a couple of women at first, but for a good stretch of the film, he mostly kills males. However, there is the feeling that he is killing the males just to be able to get to the girls easier. The killer is psychotic to the point where he kills a person in a front yard, so he is pretty single-minded in his pursuit of the girls. I don't think he is telling the males that they are pretty and that he loves them and that is why he has to kill them, but then again, Brown and Jones do not have him utter a word until the final scene of the film.

Slumber Party Massacre is not the greatest slasher film, but it is an interesting one and deserves its place in horror history. The characters are likeable. The way the film is shot is gritty and more technically adventurous than most female directors' first films. While perhaps not a straight parody, it has a lot of different details to it and it was attempting to buck the tropes a decade or two before the most recent horror trend of neo-slashers playing with the tropes and usually with middling success.

Image Association: Deleuze and Films About Money

The Queen of Versailles (2012, Dir. Lauren Greenfield)

Wall Street (1987, Dir. Oliver Stone)
Danger: Diabolik (1968, Dir. Mario Bava)

"Money is the obverse of all the images that the cinema shows and sets in place, so that films about money are already, if implicitly, films within the film or about the film. This is the true 'state of things': it is not in a goal of cinema, as Wenders says, but rather, as he shows, in a constitutive relation between the film in process of being made and money as the totality of the film...What the film within the film expresses is this infernal circuit between image and money, this inflation which time puts into the exchange, this 'overwhelming rise'. The film is movement, but the film within the film is money, is time...And the film will be finished when there is no more money left."
-Cinema 2: The Time-Image by Gilles Deleuze, 1985

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Smithereens (1982)

Repost from 2011.

Dir. Susan Seidelman || 1982 || USA

Recently, there have been a few films that have popped up on Netflix Watch Instantly from the 1980s that concern young women trying to become famous via punk music. So far Smithereens has been the only one I have watched (unless you count Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains). The premises of Smithereens and the like films kind of boggle my mind, but I came up in a post-punk, post-Ian Mackaye, post-hardcore, post-riot grrrl world where one is not supposed to get into punk or zines or whatever for fame, money, or even glory really. Punk and its various subcultures now are perhaps overly earnest, naive, and insular; things I'm realizing more and more as I get older and more distanced. I was a year old when this film was released, but it is my understanding that punk was already on the decline by 1982, and that is the world that Smithereens somewhat reflects. It's also one of those New York City films that could never be remade today. This film and The Howling are two films off the top of my head that show how decrepit NYC was 30+ years ago.

Smithereens is about a 19-year-old girl named Wren from the North New Jersey suburbs who comes to NYC to yes, seek fame in punk music. She works in a copy shop where she makes fliers of her face to post around the city. She constantly claims to be busy trying to get bands together, but it never happens. She's rarely seen actually speaking to musicians who might want to be in a band. She's blown off by a band who plays frequently at The Peppermint Lounge. She gets involved with Eric (Richard Hell) a has-been singer from a one-hit wonder band called The Smithereens. From Eric she learns that most of the punks have left NYC for Los Angeles. So she schemes to somehow get enough money to leave with Eric. In the mix is Paul, a cute guy traveling through NYC from Montana who sleeps in his van and eventually wants to settle in New Hampshire. He's enamored of Wren, but she blows him off and generally just toys with him until he gets tired of it, which takes awhile.

Wren is not a sympathetic character. She's manipulative and is basically a bum in both the sense of constantly couch-surfing (or bed-surfing, or van-surfing), borrowing money to the point where even her family refuses to loan her anymore, and being a social climber of sorts. And yeah, people like her do exist in punk and zines. Although she goes as far as acting jealous and fighting other women Eric speak to and ruining "business" Eric is trying to attend to so he can further his own career; you do feel sorry for her sometimes, especially at the end of the film. But despite how unlikeable almost every character in the film is, Smithereens is a interesting and fairly compelling movie. Seidelman gets bonus points for having The Feelies' "The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness" as the main and recurring theme for the film. The Feelies' Bill Million helped with the soundtrack.

PS - I was finding it weird that the film was called Smithereens, after Eric's band, when Eric is a secondary character. But it is perhaps an appropriate title to the film because of the phrase "blown to smithereens", which is what Wren's life is throughout the entire film.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crazy Theory #4: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 as Superhero Origin Story



I think between my research a couple of years ago and the documentary Never Sleep Again, in my mind, the Nightmare on Elm Street series has kind of built itself up as the only respectable slasher series. It was consistently trying different things within the confines of slasher sequels, while also having an almost enclosed narrative because it rather smartly stuck to one town or one circle of people. Within the enclosed narrative, only maybe parts 2 and 6 were somewhat jettisoned out of the entire Nightmare narrative to various extents, because Nancy was not linked much in those films. Nancy exists in a sort of off-screen space in 2, with the new inhabitant of her room finding her diary. When she returns for part 3 and later dies after teaching the kids that their "superpowers" within their dreams can help defeat Freddy, she still manages to become the link to the fourth and fifth films. 

Part 4 quickly jettisons the remaining survivors of Part 3, who have returned to relatively normal teenage, high school lives. Kristen manages to call her friend Alice into her dream right before she dies. Alice then gains Kristen's power. As each of her friends and her brother begin to fall victim to Freddy, she gains their skills or powers. Her brother was into karate, her above-pictured friend was into weightlifting, another friend is highly skilled in science and can create tools out of simple objects. Alice becomes the only person who can defeat Freddy with her superpowers and release the souls of her friends and his other victims. Essentially, the film is a sweet story about how your loved ones never really die wrapped in a superhero origin story. This is not to say this storyline is maintained into the fifth film exactly, but it's an interesting experiment for the fourth Nightmare film.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My New Favorite Bad Movie: Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (1987)

Repost from 2011.
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Dir. Peter B. Harsone || 1987 || France

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is perhaps my new favorite bad movie. I have been watching some Jean Rollin films on Netflix Watch Instantly this summer, and RotLDG is likely just a trashier retread of his films (also lacking the atmosphere and melancholy that are in Rollin's films), with perhaps only a vague knowledge of how film zombies typically work. Granted, European zombies have always been a little different. The zombies in Italy's Nightmare City and Burial Ground: Nights of Terror work together to terrorize and catch their human prey, sometimes even using tools and weapons. A running theme through the Rollin films I have watched so far and RotLDG is that the dead were brought back to life via toxic spills, so there is the element of environmentalism to these films. RotLDG is part corporate espionage thriller, part zombie film, and part revenge movie that is almost constantly on the verge of turning into a softcore porn.

The version on Netflix Watch Instantly claims that it is the "Special Uncut Edition", which cannot be true. The film only clocks in at 73 minutes and the last 5-10 minutes of the film are extremely rushed and haphazardly put together; introducing not only Catholic priests who believe the zombie girls are the work of the devil, but random townspeople who are out to destroy the three zombie girls. There are disparities to how the zombie girls look (the main one has full makeup that covers her hands, while the sidekicks do not seem to warrant the full treatment and have living human hands), disparities to how they move (slow, then fast) - and such disparities are not limited to just the three zombie girls. The humans in the film seem to suffer from intelligence and motivation issues that vary at any given moment. In one of the weirder scenes of the film, our supposed human hero who is a chemist that works for the corporation, arrives to the house of his boss because he is having an affair with his wife. Little does he know that the zombie girls just dispatched her (for the zombies seem to run on the old adage, "I'll kill your family, then you"). Our chemist, not realizing anything is wrong, proceeds to drink one glass of champagne, gives a short monologue that seems to revolve around the fantasy that he and the boss' middle-aged wife are newlyweds and she's a virgin (it includes the line "I'm going to caress my expert hands all over your virgin body")...and he fucks the main zombie girl. For the rest of the film, he only has a vague notion of what may have happened and it's apparently not that big of a deal. A messed up hand that's becoming infected? No big deal! Your cute, but dumb wife manages to miscarry her near full-term pregnancy and/or the fetus and uterus turns itself inside-out? Crazy and disgusting; but since this comes in the last 5-10 minutes of the film, this is also no big deal. I know everyone has different tolerance levels for alcohol of any sort, but one glass of champagne typically does not lead to necrophilia.

It is sometimes easy to forget as an American just how good the Europeans are with making trashy films. Revenge of the Living Dead Girls does suffer from some pacing issues, which are basically most of the corporate espionage parts. The gorier and trashier parts (such as the zombie girls having a murderous lesbian sex scene with the prostitute in the film) are somewhat sprinkled throughout the film almost as an afterthought, as if the filmmakers and editors knew that the audience would get bored. Since I cannot find even a solid page on Wikipedia on this film, it is hard to tell if there are other versions of this film out there and if this is one of the many European horror films that were cut up several times in the 1980s and have several different edits to please whatever restrictions a particular country may have against gore, violence, necrophilia, hinted male rape and lesbian zombie group sex/rape onto a female human. I would be interested in hearing any information anyone may have on this movie. I do believe that there has to be a slightly better version of this film out there (and yes, the ending is somewhat bananas in the scheme of film zombies and what they can do).


George Romero did not in fact invent swimming and/or pool zombies. The odd and kind of cool thing about this scene is that the main zombie (the middle one) keeps splashing her hand in the water either as a sign of impatience, to signal the other two zombies as to when to attack, or to just see if the humans would hear. It is at least a sign that someone was trying.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What I have been watching lately: Jean Rollin, Red State, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story...

Repost from November 2011.
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I should be working on papers right now, although I took an extension on them for Winter Break because of intermittent severe headaches and vision problems leftover from my concussion in October. I have no control over when they happen, and unfortunately they keep happening when I want or need to write or do research. My papers, as I predicted in October, are on Jean Rollin, classical French film theory, and I also have one on Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon that I have been sitting on, unfinished, since the day before my concussion. I have been on a French film and surrealist bender this quarter. I have been watching a lot of Jean Rollin's films this year and this past month. While my paper will only be focusing on The Rape of the Vampire and The Night of the Hunted (one of his three "zombie" films), I have still been watching anything of his that interests me or that I can get my hands on. The only one of his films that I cannot recommend at any level is Zombie Lake, which oddly enough, is his fairly straight zombie picture...I say "fairly straight" because it does have a story line where one of the Nazi zombies has reunited with his pre-teen daughter...although the Nazis were assassinated during of course, World War II by the villagers, and the film seems to take place in 1980, which makes no sense if the daughter is ten years old. Zombie Lake was also one of Rollin's lowest budgeted pictures, and that's saying something if you have ever seen any of his movies or read much on his films. It is one of the few Rollin pictures where you can tell that it seemed impossible to make the most of what little money there was.


Yeah, I don't know either. At least the Italians made their zombies look all arts & craftsy, what with the papier mache faces.

I think I discovered Rollin at a good point, considering for the past couple of years or so, I have been quite bored with horror at times. While Rollin has his obsessions that anyone will notice if they watch enough of his films, including how entrenched he is in surrealism well after its time as an art movement was over; I like how unconventional his films are. His endings are rarely happy and even if certain films end relatively well for the characters, there is still a sense of melancholia or even a looming sense of death. 

Speaking of unconventional horror films, I watched Red State last weekend. I am not a Kevin Smith megafan. I liked his movies when I was a teenager, but now I tend to see every other one if it sounds kind of interesting. Red State is not a perfect film - it is not subtle in its message, it's final message is kind of mixed, Melissa Leo's acting was over the top, and the opening scene at the high school bugs me to no end because that is not how a public school teacher acts in any era; but it is unconventional. It is almost like Full Metal Jacket how abruptly it switches gears, tone, and the characters we follow. Who we expect to live just based on horror conventions, likeability, or even logic is defied. The only other good thing I can say about the film is that John Goodman is awesome in it. I have missed seeing John Goodman in movies.

I have been watching a lot of bad TV this past week since last Monday night I had the worst headache I have had since hitting my head. My doctor says it is okay if I watch stupid things. So I was bedridden for a couple of days watching nothing but the second season of The Walking Dead so far and whatever episodes of American Horror Story I could find on Hulu. 

I was not a total fan of the first season of The Walking Dead. I maintain that the first episode was wonderful. But if I have to remain diplomatic at some level, I will say that the even numbered episodes were terrible, while the odd ones were better. Other than Rick being Sheriff Exposition for the first five minutes of the second season premiere, the first episode of this season was pretty good. Unfortunately, it has become tedious and like a spinning tire*. I look forward to this week's episode if it means opening up the zombie barn and maybe losing a few more characters. The series likes to project things, then take several episodes, if perhaps another season to get to the issue and/or resolve it. Lori's pregnancy for example. What is being projected this year from the main characters and secondary or even tertiary characters is Rick's leadership, the issue of neglect, and the idea of splitting up the group. Shane and Andrea, obviously. Daryl in last week's episode (and Daryl truly needs to ditch the group, even if it means taking boring old Carol), and in the second episode, T-Dog, even if he reneges on the idea later. What I find weird about T-Dog's "fever" thoughts is that he is right - he, Dale, and sometimes even Glenn are sidelined because of their age (Dale) and races (T-Dog and Glenn). Women on this show are sidelined altogether. The Walking Dead is not exactly Lost, where we learn about each character every week. Granted, Lost was not a perfect show either and harped on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle for several seasons, but at least each character got his or her individual episodes! And maybe The Walking Dead is going in that direction a bit this season, where we followed Shane and his adventure to get medical supplies to help Carl, and last week's episode with Daryl in the woods, but it was too little and did not establish much beyond what we already knew: Shane is likely deranged, and Daryl is a badass...and oh, he's not as racist as his brother Merle because he has saved T-Dog at least three times by now**. I think they fired last season's writers and replaced them with even worse writers. But yeah, the group will at least temporarily disband before the season is over. And maybe Lori will finally tell Rick about her pregnancy and/or her time with Shane, and maybe The Walking Dead will finally have a Maury Povich-based episode. And I guess Daryl better watch it since characters played by noted indie character actors do not live forever on this show, as this season has shown yet again.


We know that Shane is crazy because of the shaved head, vacant stare, mouth agape, and furrowed brow.
American Horror Story is at least fun-bad and thoroughly entertaining. It is truly the most batshit live-action television show I have ever seen. The pregnant wife eats a brain like it's no thing! There is a teenage boy stuck in 1994 who frequently speaks of Kurt Cobain (just Kurt Cobain, never Nirvana), Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro; and the depressed neo-Blossom Russo-dressed teenage daughter of the family nevernever asks him his opinion on the more recent and terrible movies Pacino and DeNiro have been in! I have never been one for haunted house stories, but American Horror Story takes your average haunted house story and amps it up several times over and then combines it with at least one other horror story or trope every week, usually more than one! It is hard to say if there is a bigger meaning to this show, I doubt it even knows. The classmate who told me about this show said it was Ryan Murphy's gay revenge on America. We keep discovering the lives of the previous inhabitants who are now ghosts of the house. There is the drunk surgeon-turned-abortionist-turned-mad scientist and his wife, two nursing students, a gay couple, a woman who was raped, the pregnant mistress maybe, the male redheaded twins...but we also have the people from the home invasion episode, and rubber man who may or may not be a ghost. I mean, I guess redheads have been persecuted throughout society. Some people believe that everyone on this show is a ghost! We will eventually find out that the house was built on an Native American burial ground, because why not?

American Horror Story is also fun because most episodes feature at least one "hey, it's that guy!/lady!" moment. 


Rubber Man, Rubber Man. Does whatever a rubber can...except not.
* Yesterday, I read this post at the TCM Movie Morlocks blog that discusses how bloodthirsty zombie movie fans and movie characters are these days. I would not say that I am a bloodthirsty zombie fan or that the characters on The Walking Dead are bloodthirsty (although that is another inconsistency, especially with Rick). I would like The Walking Dead to be a watchable show that like in the first episode, does consider that the zombies were people once. Overall, I would like a good story and some characters I could care about and who are maybe more thoughtful or intelligent. The only thing The Walking Dead has been somewhat good at displaying is the tried-and-true story method of humans being just as dangerous to humans as zombies are, if not more so.

** 2011 seems to be the year of the (good) redneck in horror. I finally saw Tucker and Dale vs. Evil a couple of weeks ago because it surprisingly came to the indie theater in town (I guess because it takes place in West Virginia, and I live about 40 minutes away from the West Virginia state line now). I was worried that it would not meet my expectations because I have been anticipating this movie for almost two years, but I also had no idea what the film was about past the trailer. It was a good, fun movie that was surprisingly sweet and had some interesting twists to the story and characters. And yes, the film was quite gory at times. So there are surprises out there every once in awhile. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

What I've been watching lately in four sentences or less

Repost from 2011.

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The Fall of the House of Usher (1929 || Dir. Jean Epstein || France)
Not nearly as surrealist as some would have you believe.

Blood and Roses (1960 || Dir. Roger Vadim || France)
A slightly more heteronormative-incestuous take on Carmilla, but still interesting.

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966 || Dir. Robert Bresson || France)
Poor donkey.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011 || Dir. Joe Johnston || USA)
The most watchable and fun out of the Marvel Studios films released this year. No daddy issues ('sup, Thor?), and it doesn't take itself too seriously ('sup, X-Men: First Class?). It honestly has Cap jumping a ramp on a motorcycle, away from an exploding Nazi camp. Cap runs away from explosions quite a few times in the film, so it almost cancels out the terrible creepiness of the first 30 minutes consisting of Chris Evans being made to appear shorter and skinnier through CGI.





The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962 || Dir. Jess Franco ||France-Spain)
Jess Franco's first film, a slightly sleazier retread on Eyes without a Face. It's not a very entertaining retread and the era it takes place in is indeterminable.

The Spirits of the Dead (1968 || Dirs. Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini || France-Italy)
European artsy-sleazy takes on Poe stories with pretty people? Bet you didn't know Fellini could do head decapitations, did you? I would like to frame most of the shots in Fellini's segment "Toby Dammit" and put it on my wall because that man could do Technicolor. The anthology is pretty good, although Malle's story isn't that great except for being able to look at Alain Delon and a brunette Brigitte Bardot.

Faceless (1987 || Dir. Jess Franco || France-Spain)
Another retread of Eyes without a Face by Jess Franco, this one being better, if a bit repetitive and drawn out. There are nods to The Awful Dr. Orloff.

Flyboys (2006 || Dir. Tony Bill || USA)
A dull movie that takes itself too seriously, despite what the trailer would have you believe sometimes (i.e., guy running away from explosion on top of a zeppelin). I fast-forwarded through much of the last hour and was a better person for doing that. Someone should have told James Franco that there were no frosted hair tips during World War I.




Punisher: War Zone (2008 || Dir. Lexi Alexander || USA)
The most comic book out of all comic book movies - the colors, the over-the-top violence and characters (complete with bad NYC accents for the villains), the cinematography  - all comic book. Sometimes the film drags a little, but then there's another insane set piece. 

Don't Open 'Till Christmas (1984 || Dir. Edmund Purdom || UK)
I watched this because the guy who played the dean in Pieces stars and directed this movie. I guess if the idea of a serial killer killing people in Santa suits sounds good, check it out. Otherwise, I can't recommend it because that's really all the film is: killing Santas and some police procedural - it's as if the movie was being written as it was filmed. This movie makes Silent Night, Deadly Night look profound.

Burnt Offerings (1976 || Dir. Dan Curtis || USA)
Many of the daytime scenes were very washed out looking and I am not totally sure why. It's perhaps better than most haunted house movies, if a little slow sometimes (this is a high compliment from me, considering that I've never been one for haunted house films). The ending is quite good and dark.

C.H.U.D. (1984 || Dir. Douglas Cheek || USA)
Not a terribly bonkers horror film, but it has a good "future stars" cast, good special effects, and it fits in well with other early 1980s gritty NYC horror films.




Children of the Corn (1984 || Dir. Fritz Kiersch || USA)
While I haven't read the short story since I was probably 12, this is not a good movie. It's like a moralistic, somewhat dull, and ballsless version of Who Could Kill a Child?. The film also has this bizarre dichotomy of the two good, non-cult children being cute, while the majority of the children in the cult are either awkward-looking or ugly.

The Bride Wore Black (1968 || Dir. Francois Truffaut || France)
Bet you didn't know that Truffaut did semi-Hitchcockian revenge films, did you? This is not a bloody film, but quite clever.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Riddle me this: What are Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers exactly?

Image by Szoki.

Since it was somewhat settled this week that my graduate thesis work is going to be on slasher films, PTSD, and whether or not the same people who are frequently attacked throughout a series can be considered empowered (that's a mouthful), I want to discuss one of the things that has been bothering me this summer as I read through the gamut of books on slasher and horror films. While there are series of films where the killer is human, what are Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers exactly?

Freddy appears to be the only one who does not shift in his existence, even if it takes almost the entire series of Nightmare on Elm Street films to settle on the fact that he is essentially a dead body possessed by demons. Jason, forever the product of a revolving door of writers, changes in his existence. Human, Frankenstein's monster-type, (a zombie, according to some people), and by Jason X, just plain unkillable to the point where he has to be cryogenically frozen. As of this posting, I am still waiting for Halloweens II-V to come in the mail so I can watch/re-watch and study them. But roughly based on parts I and II, Michael is pure evil that cannot be killed.

The second part of this question is, in one or two words, how can these three characters be defined as a group? Since the majority of books I have read this summer are from the 1990s, they all seem to be reluctant to define Jason, Freddy, and Michael as monsters in the sense of Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolfman, i.e., the classical Hollywood monsters. "Supernatural killers" seems to be the most popular definition of the three characters, although I am now re-reading Adam Rockoff's book and he calls them "heroes" in the introduction, which does not really settle well with me.

I am interested in hearing opinions, because I think that fans of these series are more likely to have a better grip on this topic. At this time, I do not have access to the one or two books actually centered around the Friday the 13th series, so I would also be interested book recommendations past the 90s standards of Noel Carroll,  Vera Dika,  Carol Clover, and Isabel Pinedo, or newer books from this past decade by Adam Rockoff and Jason Zinoman.

Postscript, April 2014
I ended up not writing a thesis due to 2-3 months of grinding gears and various other issues, and opted to take the comprehensive exam that my program was offering for the first time. As for what Michael Myers is, I think I have forgotten, if I ever knew to begin with. The Halloween series, despite starting off the strongest, falls and fails rapidly before retconning itself to the point where it was just rebooted. It is definitely the worst series to watch in a marathon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Grad School Residue/Image Association: Ghostbusters meets Situationists


"All cities are geological. You can’t take three steps without encountering ghosts bearing all the prestige of their legends. We move within a closed landscape whose landmarks constantly draw us toward the past. Certain shifting angles, certain receding perspectives, allow us to glimpse original conceptions of space, but this vision remains fragmentary. It must be sought in the magical locales of fairy tales and surrealist writings: castles, endless walls, little forgotten bars, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors.

These dated images retain a small catalyzing power, but it is almost impossible to use them in a symbolic urbanism without rejuvenating them by giving them a new meaning. Our imaginations, haunted by the old archetypes, have remained far behind the sophistication of the machines. The various attempts to integrate modern science into new myths remain inadequate...Everyone wavers between the emotionally still-alive past and the already dead future."


FORMULARY FOR A NEW URBANISM, Gilles Ivain (Ivan Chtcheglov) Internationale Situationniste #1, October 1953 + Ghostbusters (1984, Reitman)