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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

RIP- Charles Durning


RIP CHARLES DURNING


    Charles Durning had a fine and distinguished career, spanning decades and appearing in countless good movies over the year.  A constant presence in both films and television, he became a familiar face.  Seeing him on the screen became comforting almost, as if he were a relative.  Among his countless roles he played over the years, his work in the horror classics "When A Stranger Calls" and "Dark Night Of The Scarecrow" definitely made an impact on me.  Durning was a fantastic actor, and always gave every role 150%.  His appearances in "Tootsie", "Home For The Holidays", "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas", and "Dick Tracy" are equally memorable, and just a few of many.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

                                                         
                                                              HAPPY HALLOWEEN

      Just wanted to wish anybody reading this a  very happy and safe Halloween!  Hmmm..... what scary movie to watch tonight?






Friday, October 19, 2012

Satan's School For Girls


     Talk about a perfect movie to curl up on the sofa with on a dark and stormy night... ABC's SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS is some downright delicious 70's made-for-tv terror [produced by you guessed it- Aaron Spelling. SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS was yet another supernatural shocker to cash in on the shocking success of ROSEMARY'S BABY, of course. I loved watching this one, and it boasts the novelty of featuring both Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd years before "Charlie's Angels" ever hit tv.



      It tells the story of Elizabeth Sayers, who enrolls in a distinguished all-girls school in Salem.  She is investigating the mysterious and sudden "suicide" of her sister. Seems the police have labeled her death as a suicide, but Liz knows in her heart she did not kill herself.  Lucky for us, Liz soon gets more than she bargained for.



     Elizabeth meets and befriends Roberta Lockhard (Kate Jackson) and Jody Keller (Cheryl Ladd), and they soon get their Scooby-Doo on as they begin unraveling the mystery of her sister's strange death.  Elizabeth thinks somebody at the school might have some information about her sister, but nobody seems to know anything.  Or do they?  Soon, the girls get more than they bargained for, as they soon realize they are in the midst of a terrifying Satanic cult. It's actually somewhat similar to Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA- a very primitive version of it, you might say.



     There are many things to savor about SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS.  I mean, it's a 70's tv flick about a 300 year old all-girls academy in Salem, MA!- who wouldn't be all over this? It's grainy and campy and just a helluva lot of fun. It's got atmosphere for days and some reasonably suspenseful scenes sprinkled throughout. It earns even more cool points for starring Roy Thinnes, star of the fantastic tv terror flick, THE NORLISS TAPES. Thinnes plays a mysterious teacher at the Salem school who may or may not be involved in a Satanic cult. I'll certainly never turn down Pamela Franklin, (who was hot off the classic LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, by the way...), who shines here in the lead role. Plus, Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd only seal the deal.

     Predictable? Sure. Cheesy? Yes. Entertaining? You bet. This is certainly nothing to take serious, and I'm sure nostalgia once again helps this little movie along. We recently watched this on a dark and windy Friday night, sitting in candlelight while the wind blew leaves against the window outside. And it was a great Halloween experience. This was remade in the 2000's with Shannen Doherty, and I feel that this could be remade into a rather interesting feature film. If you're in the mood for a devilish good time with a healthy dash of 70's cheese, this is the tv movie for you!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers



      After the failure of the much-hated yet very underrated HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH, the powers-that-be knew (or thought they did) that they must bring back Michael to satisfy the hordes of blood-thirsty movie-goers in the late 80's.  Which really doesn't make sense, as by then the slasher genre was pretty much dead anyway. APRIL FOOL'S DAY from 1986, was a clever tongue-in-cheek satire of those hoary slashers of the early 80's, seeming to already know the genre was on its way out. And, by the mid-to-late 80's, the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films and HELLRAISER had ushered in a new dimension of supernatural terror. Jason Voorhees was having a hard enough time keeping up with the changes in horror, so why they felt compelled to resurrect Michael Myers is honestly beyond me.


     Now it was the 10th anniversary of the original.... but still.  Nothing against Michael Myers- he's my favorite slasher. I can't praise the first two HALLOWEEN films enough.  But I truly feel the story had been played out by this point. I've said many times before and I'm saying it again- I feel they should have still forged ahead with the whole HALLOWEEN anthology films after killing off Michael in Part 2, which was the original plan in the first place. Those two films alone would have been a great contribution to the classic slasher genre. But oh no. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing a good horror icon being milked to death until it reaches a point of utter absurdity- it's happened to Dracula, Frankenstein, and countless others.  And it happened to Michael Myers when some noodle-head decided it would be cool to bring him back to life. This is when the HALLOWEEN films jumped the shark, in my opinion. Not the third one. This one. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS starts off promising- the opening credits are quite effective.  So good, in fact, that nothing else in the entire film lives up to those first few minutes. A wonderfully sinister atmosphere is established with the credits and the score that really captures the spirit of the season, but don't get your hopes up, kids. All hopes are shattered once the story begins. And it goes a little something like this.


       Michael Myers has been in a coma for the past ten years since terrorizing Haddonfield and Laurie Strode. Myers is being transferred from Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium to good ole' Smiths Grove. Our favorite final girl, Laurie Strode, is what the fuck are you telling me here dead.... but her daughter, Jamie Lloyd, is alive and well and living in Haddonfield.  Jamie was adopted by the Carruthers family, and is plagued by nightmares of Michael (?). I don't know either. Suddenly Michael awakens in the ambulance after hearing one of the orderlies talking about his niece, escapes, and immediately sets his sights on little Jamie. Being Halloween night, little Jamie goes out trick-r-treating, unaware that she's now the target of her uncle's rage. Frazzled Dr. Loomis is still around, and rushes to Haddonfield once again, screaming to everybody that will listen that Michael is back in action. The chase is on to protect little Jamie. There are several things I found horribly wrong with all this.


     First off- why in the world would you kill off Laurie Strode?  Unforgivable. Blah. Second- Danielle Harris. I'm sure she's a lovely lady and actress, and this is nothing personal against her earlier, but her character really grated on my nerves. I tried to accept it all, and just couldn't. Third- the mask is just not the same. Like, at all. It just looks too silly to take seriously. This is not the terrifying Michael Myers of my youth who haunted my dreams. He's just not scary this go 'round. Michael has no neck in this installment, and seems to be sporting some Joan Crawford-worthy shoulder pads here. The finished effect is just goofy looking, sorry not sorry. Fourth- the characters are not one bit likable. At all. I was furious a mere 30 minutes into this movie, and wanted them all dead immediately.


     And what is up with the current residents of Haddonfield?  You would think after the events of the first two films, that it wouldn't take an act of Congress to get them the least bit concerned about the return of the masked killer. It seems to take practically the entire movie to convince them they are in any sort of danger. Snore. Fifth- does nobody remember the ending of HALLOWEEN 2?  Laurie shot out Michael's eyes, right before Dr. Loomis blows the hospital up, remember? I suppose I should find some solace in the fact that the awesome Donald Pleasance returned for this dreck, but I couldn't help but feel slightly embarrassed for him the entire time.



     Now I'm completely in the minority here, and perfectly willing to accept that.I used to think I was the only one who loved HALLOWEEN 3, but the film is a bona fide cult classic today. I still find the third film to have far more creativity and actual intelligence involved- whereas this one is just re-hashing somebody else's original ideas to capitalize on the 10th anniversary of the first film. HALLOWEEN fans vehemently love and defend this sequel- and that's fine.  But it's just not HALLOWEEN to me. The absence of John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Jamie Lee Curtis is glaringly obvious, and probably is a large part of my dislike for this movie. And this is just NOT Michael Myers either- it's somebody pretending to be him, and badly at that. He is about as scary as Richard Simmons, honestly.  And what's up with the hair on this mask?  In some scenes he resembles a manic Neil Diamond.


     If it were me, I would have celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the original HALLOWEEN simply by re-releasing the first two films in theaters to show audiences what started the slasher craze in the first place. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS just does not bring anything new to the table.  It's not a terrible film.  It's not a glaring disappointment.  It's greatest crime is that it's boring.  Slashers were pretty much dead by 1988, and by that time of the decade, most were pale imitations of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH anyway.  So.... I don't really see the point of this. Oh well. If you have never experienced a HALLOWEEN film or the terror of Michael Myers, I suggest picking up the first two sequels and leaving it at that. The intentions of this film were good, but the finished product just doesn't do Carpenter or Curtis justice. Maybe it was just a product of its time. Maybe I was somewhat jaded as a wee junior in high school.  Maybe it was Maybelline. Or maybe it should have never been made at all. Because all it really accomplished was opening the door for even more mindless and ridiculous sequels. I don't hate this film. But I don't understand the love for it either. I'll give it one more try, and maybe I can find something in there I missed.

P.S.- the original movie poster is pretty awesome, I will give it that!

 

Monday, October 8, 2012

More Halloween-themed movies, please!

     I  re-watched the 2007 horror comedy anthology "Trick 'r Treat" recently.  I remember thinking that even though the movie wasn't the greatest, I enjoyed the film and respected that it was paying such obvious homage to Halloween night.  I love it when a film, especially a horror film, explores the time period of October 31st.  John Carpenter did it exquisitely with "Halloween".  It perfectly evoked the magic and mystery of that special night of the year. (I still lament the decision of the powers-that-be behind the "Halloween" franchise to bring back Michael Myers in the fourth sequel, instead of following the original idea of a yearly anthology of Halloween-related stories.  Why somebody doesn't jump on this is beyond me.  The possibilities here would be endless..).  And although pretty uneven in its storytelling, "Trick 'r Treat" offers up some spectacular Halloween atmosphere and imagery.  Which makes me long for more horror films taking place on or around Halloween.  It just adds that extra-special touch, doesn't it?

     There is just something about October that lends itself so well to horror.  Maybe it's just a huge part of me that refuses to let go completely of my childhood.  All the monsters of my youth ran rampant throughout the month of October- Dracula, Frankenstein, Michael Myers and Jason. I grew up in an exact copy of Haddonfield- I related to every minute of John Carpenter's "Halloween" (well, except the sex scene- I was only ten!)  October to me meant pumpkins and black cats, witches and ghosts, overcast days and falling leaves.  It meant listening over and over to Disney's "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House" and watching every late-night horror flick I could find.  Halloween was the most magical time of the year to me, and it signified the beginning of the holidays.  I love, love, love Halloween even more now as an adult, I think.  As a matter of a fact I'll be finishing my Halloween decorations today at the house.  So on that note, I'm going to finish decorating.  I'll leave you with some of that rad Disney record.  It's the perfect day for it.
   

Sunday, September 30, 2012

SCARY SOUNDS- The Amityville Horror

     "The Amityville Horror" has one of the scariest music scores of all time! It's a score that, to me personally, rivals that of "Psycho" or "Halloween" for sheer iconic creepiness.  The infamous theme has been creeping audiences out since 1979, and it's easy to see why.  Any score with children chanting "la la la's" is disturbing anyway- no doubt about it.  And this film scared the bejesus out of many kids my age back in the hoary old 70's. 'Tis the season for anything creepy, so turn off the lights and enjoy, kiddos!


Monday, September 3, 2012

VHS HALL OF FAME- FRIDAY THE 13TH PARTS 1-4












         Call me crazy, but I miss VHS tapes.  There was just something, I don't know...comforting about that stack of video cassettes in your arms.  So I'm a nostalgia buff.  There are worse things to be, I suppose.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Audience Reaction To "Halloween" (1978)

     This is like the coolest thing ever. This is horror history right here.  It's an actual audio recording of an audience watching and reacting to the very first "Halloween" in a Hollywood theater.  I find this stuff utterly fascinating, and would love to find more footage like this- audio or video.  So rad.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Initiation


     If you're ever looking for a fantastic 80's slasher about a mysterious killer stalking nubile sorority pledges in a deserted mall at night, then how about THE INITIATION?



     Daphne Zuniga- yes, Jo from Melrose Place, plays Kelly Fairchild. Seems Kelly is pledging her local college and learns she must participate in the annual sorority initiations to earn the respect of older sisters. The initiation ritual is to break into the mall after hours and steal the uniform worn by the hunky security guard.  Just so happens that rich girl Kelly's daddy owns the mall, and Kelly knows her way around the facility. And wouldn't you just know it- the initiation is the same night a mental patient has escaped from the nearest mental asylum, and is currently hiding in the dark mall, unbeknownst to the girls. I love this stuff!



     Kelly is doing her thesis on dreams and dream analysis. Which is funny, because she has been suffering from the same recurring nightmare over and over.  Kelly turns to sexy professor Peter (James Read), who is also heavily interested in dreams and the symbolism behind them.  He introduces her to his Dream Factory and his assistant, sassy and delicious Heidi- who promptly steals the show. Those glasses alone... She's 100% awesome. Kelly's parents (Clu Gulager and Vera Miles) are richand come across as conniving, suspicious, annoying, and possibly evil. And Mum seem to drink a lot. Mum doesn't like the thought of her daughter discovering what's causing her nasty dreams, and would like for her to just forget it!



      Even though it doesn't kick into high gear until the gals are locked in the mall, this is still a super-fun slasher. I love Jo from "Melrose Place" in a slasher. I love the creepy after-dark atmosphere of the mall. I love the corniness mixed some moderately decent stalk/slash scenes. I love the many POV shots of the killer throughout the film. I love the short shorts on the boys, who all look 17. I love the sorority girls, who look about 35. I love the dream/psychology mumbo-jumbo. I love the Tom Selleck poster seen on a sorority girls' wall.  And I love the totally didn't see that coming shock twist of an ending. Ha! This is pure 80's slasher fun all the way.



     There's no extreme gore, but some decent scares sprinkled throughout that certainly deliver the goods.  This easily ranks alongside such notable classics as HELL NIGHT, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME,  and THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW as some of the most memorable college-themed splatter flicks of the 80's. What could be better than having a bunch of 80's kids being stalked by a maniacal killer in an empty shopping mall? I can't think of a thing.


   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sorority House Massacre


      By 1986, slashers were on their way out.  However, the influence of "Halloween" was still being seen, and "Sorority House Massacre" was a memorable entry in the dying slasher genre.  "A Nightmare On Elm Street" had introduced a new trend in fantasy/horror, and this film curiously combines elements of both that and "Halloween". It was marketed as part of the Massacre Collection, and makes a great double feature with "The Slumber Party Massacre".



     "Sorority House Massacre" tells the story of Beth, a rather butch college gal who's just moved into a new sorority and happens to be suffering from some nasty bad dreams and visions.  Mainly of some weird dolls and a strange man with a knife.  Beth left school for a bit to attend the funeral of her aunt, and comes back to an almost empty sorority (most of the sorority girls are away on a trip for the weekend).  And of course, in time-honored slasher fashion, an escaped mental patient has just escaped from the nearby asylum.  Yes.



     I mentioned "Halloween" earlier because this film has been widely criticized for being too much like John Carpenter's classic slasher.  It is.  The killer escapes, comes to town in a station wagon, stops by a hardware store, and goes back to his old house where he killed his family years earlier. Really.  And to top it off, he's hunting his surviving sister, who is unaware of her family history.  All that's missing here is Donald Pleasance running around, and well, everything that made "Halloween" so great in the first place.  Now don't get me wrong.  I love me some "Sorority House Massacre", but for different reasons than "Halloween".  Carpenter made a piece of art- an undying and influential classic.  This is not art, nor a classic.  It's pretty generic and unmemorable, actually.  But, like so many horror movies from the 70s and 80s, it's such a good time to be had that I find it irresistible.



     It's perfectly reasonable not to expect a classic when you're talking about one of those many nondescript and formulaic slashers from the dying days of the genre.  But don't let that stop you from watching this one.  Generally known as a rather anemic but oddly fascinating slasher from the late 80s, it's also known for having Carol Frank (director of "Slumber Party Massacre) directing it.  It's got some pretty good cinematography, some rather cool and kinda creepy dream sequences, some bitchin' 80s fashions, and a pretty decent score.


     On the other hand, you've got some downright bad acting, a bland killer, and a totally pointless yet downright hilarious montage of a bunch of sorority girls who pop in a cassette tape and try on each other's clothes. It's the fashion show from Hell, and it's totally rad.  Oh and this is the only slasher I can think of that has somebody murdered in a wigwam.  Don't ask- just watch!  While "Sorority House Massacre" offers up its fair share of gratuitous nudity, the film does offer up some surprising male nudity as well.  Fair is fair.  It's typical 80s lunacy, but for this genre, you could do so much worse.  It's nowhere near as sleazy as it's made out to be.  I like this movie- as bad as it is.  I like it a lot.  I also very much liked "The Slumber Party Massacre". It's a total guilty pleasure, and sure does hit the spot.  I'm irresistibly drawn to these movies- I can't explain it.  I just am.  All in all it was a helluva lot of fun watching this one.
   

Sunday, August 5, 2012

VHS HALL OF FAME- HALLOWEEN

     Friday nights were a religious experience for me as a teen.  It usually meant renting a handful of VHS tapes and ordering a pizza.  My local video store, Totally Tape, was hallowed grounds in my eyes.  Ran by a hippie couple in their late 40s, they had literally tons of horror movies- the biggest selection I've ever seen in one place.  Every title you could possible think of was crammed into that mondo horror section.  This is where I discovered many gems of horror that I still love to this day.  I'll never forget browsing all those wonderful VHS tapes on the shelves for days, and those faded but powerful images are forever burned into my brain.  Nostalgia is a great thing.

     "Halloween" made the biggest impact on me, so we'll start with the wonderfully retro VHS covers of the first three "Halloween" films.  I couldn't even tell you how many times I rented this movie growing up. This was a staple of many Friday night sleepovers.


     Usually if I had the original "Halloween" in my hands, the sequel was coming along for the ride.  I usually consider the first two films one big movie anyway.  It was a big deal to order 3 large pizzas and make this a double feature.  Yes.


        Good times.  Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to overdose on the 80s...


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Legend Of Boggy Creek


     Being a child who grew up in Arkansas, of course I remember the story of the creature who terrorized the small town and surrounding area of Fouke. Known as the "Bigfoot Of The South", the story became quite well-known in the early 60s and early 70s. THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK is a documentary-like telling of the famous story masterfully done by Charles B. Pierce, an ad salesman from Texarkana.  He borrowed some money from a friend and set out to create a psuedo-documentary of the legend he had heard as a kid, and it's one of the best-known and most-loved Bigfoot tales ever to hit the silver screen.



     Released in 1972, it quickly became a drive-in sensation and one of the top ten highest-grossing films of the year.  On top of that, it kicked off a wave of Bigfoot sightings all over the country as well.  And it's actually quite scary.  I remember this film being absolutely terrifying as a child, and it honestly holds up rather well today.



     Best enjoyed on a dark and windy night, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK works on many different levels. It works first and foremost because it's based on actual events. Many of the same people who experienced these horrifying events actually play themselves in the film. The extreme low-budget of the film and its grainy look and feel really amps up the atmosphere of horror here, very much like the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. And director Pierce wisely refuses to show us the monster- instead we're only treated to short glimpses here and there, which just adds to the overall mystery. It's a fun docu-drama that's genuinely creepy at times, and utilizes camera effects, sound editing, and imagination to great effect here. It's like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT- it purposely shows us very little, and we're forced to use our imagination instead. If only THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES were done like this...



   This is a little slice of 70's drive-in horror that's developed quite the cult following over the years, and I believe two sequels were filmed and released. If you fail the find the Fouke monster story frightening, there is still plenty to be entertained by. This was the early 70's in southern Arkansas, after all. At times, it's harrowing, other times it's hilarious- but always fascinating. The film is painfully dated now, but still a perfect representation of 70's monster movies and hillbilly culture all rolled up into one nifty little homespun b-movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK.  


THIS IS MY SHRINE TO ALL THINGS SCARY- MOVIES, BOOKS, MADE FOR TV, SOUNDTRACKS- I LOVE IT ALL.
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