Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fool's Views (7/2 – 7/15)

Greetings, boils and ghouls, lycans and geraniums,

This entry covers a frantic two-week period that not only included the 23 flickers examined below (5 of which being last-minute submissions for Elvira’s Horror Hunt), but also the closing of a certain critically acclaimed / commercially successful theatrical endeavor plus three days spent among the kaiju faithful at G-Fest XIX. The pell-mell pace continues into the recording of said Views, as I am poised on the brink of yet another plunge into the cinematic abyss in the form of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada.

Those of you who follow these blithe and blithering ramblings with any regularity at all observed an incredibly fertile Foolish period last April whilst I was in attendance at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival . Over the course of 13 days, I viddied 53 films, interviewed a slew of filmmakers of various international stripe, and I gotta admit, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. But a glance at the Fantasia schedule indicates that a much higher and more dangerous wave awaits any and all would-be Great Kahunas of the Moving Image.

With over 150 features on the docket (and nearly as many shorts) over a 22-day period, this will be an endurance test unlike any other. The good/bad news is that it may prove impossible to actually see every item on the menu, since many screen only once and there are at least two, sometimes three cinemas operating at all times. The press room screening laptops will allow me to keep a higher pace than the average festivalgoer, but there are only so many hours in the day and only so many synapses available for burning. Choices will have to be made. Stay tuned, as it’s about to get keeee-razzzzzy up in here.

However, before that, we’ve got some ground to cover, so sit back and strap in.

As always feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.



R-Point (2004) (1st viewing) d. Kong, Su-chang

Muscular South Korean chiller about a disparate group of Vietnam soldiers that experience bizarre and terrifying visions after taking shelter in an abandoned, temple-like structure. A dark spirit, learned in blurring reality and delusion, turns the band of brothers’ minds and artillery upon one another, while Kong conjures effective and haunting rain-and-blood soaked atmospherics throughout. Well realized military horror, a milieu revisited by the director in 2008’s GP 506 (aka The Guardpost).

Strigoi (2009) (1st viewing) d. Jackson, Faye

Bizarre little UK vampire film set in Romania (the performers speak their lines in English through oft-impenetrably thick accents, an odd choice to be sure) that conjures memories of The Wicker Man in its intensely collusive community and wry, unblinking dark humor. However, the rules of these bloodsuckers are a little sketchier, and while this may have been by writer/director Jackson’s design (leaving the audience as off-kilter in dealing with supernatural elements as the onscreen characters), the result is troubling in that I found myself asking, “What just happened?” when I probably should have been asking, “What’s going to happen next?” That the living characters are just as quirky and unpredictable as their undead counterparts doesn’t help matters, though it definitely lends a foreign, otherworldly quality to the proceedings. Not wholly satisfying, but still somehow strangely worthwhile.


Beast Wishes (2012) (1st viewing) d. Dietz, Frank / Geiger, Trish

An affectionate look at one of the most beloved elder statesmen in the realm of horror and sci-fi nostalgia. Bob Burns, along with his devoted and equally passionate wife Kathy, has ended up the de facto curator of countless (and priceless) treasured props and costumes from over 50 years of sci-fi/horror genre cinema. Residing within the Burns’ basement are artifacts ranging from the original 1933 Kong stop-motion armature to the actual Time Machine from George Pal’s eponymous movie to a wealth of original set pieces from Alien, but the real marvel is the amount of sheer heart this dynamic duo impart to all who have crossed their path. Their cheering section includes a roster as luminous as their collection: everyone from Rick Baker to Tom Woodruff to John Landis to Joe Dante to Greg Nicotero have nothing but glowing memories of Bob and Kathy, and they are likewise thrilled to have the opportunity to reveal them on- camera. Great stories and wow-worthy items share the stage with footage from the couple’s elaborate annual haunted house attraction (which utilizes the skills of some of the finest craftsmen in the business, all working gratis). A terrific doc even for non card-carrying Monster Kids.

On Vampyres and Other Symptoms (2011) (1st viewing) d. Novis, Celia

Is it a documentary? Is it an art house pic? Is it a portrait of an artist in his sunset years? Is it a commission from the Sitges Film Festival on one of their own? Is it a tribute to a relatively obscure horror director (Jose Ramon Larraz) known primarily for making one of the worthier lesbian bloodsucker pictures (Vampyres, 1975)? Does it feature shots of that film’s nubile stars, Anulka Dubinska and Marianne Morris, now 35 years older, inexplicably running down hotel hallways? Does it feature stark black and white comic book panels depicting Larraz meeting famed director Josef von Sternberg in his youth, a chance encounter that led to the former becoming a filmmaker himself? Does it culminate with Larraz receiving a lifetime achievement award at Sitges? The answer to all of these questions is “yes,” and yet, perhaps because of that, the end result seems to obscure as much about its subject as it reveals. While Novis’ unconventional approach deserves merit for its own sake, one cannot help but feel that the full story has been left untold or that, maybe, just maybe, a man with only two significant international credits (1974’s lesser known Symptoms) wasn’t much of a documentary subject.


Dentist, The (1996) (2nd viewing) d. Yuzna, Brian
Dentist 2, The (1998) (1st viewing) d. Yuzna, Brian

As a twitchy deranged D.D.S., Corbin Bernsen (only a couple years off his extensive L.A. Law stint) gives his absolute all and it’s fair to say he’s the best thing about this double drill bill. Tapping into people’s inherent fear of the white-jacketed floss Nazi should have been the easiest thing in the world, but director Yuzna only sporadically revels in the aural pain porn potentials, focusing instead on Bernsen’s neat-freak tendencies and vengeful fantasies involving his libidinous wandering wife (luscious Linda Hoffman). Not to say we don’t get a few choice moments of enamel blasting, root piercing, jaw breaking zaniness, but these are offset by incongruous set pieces involving strangulation, cranium cracking and wild-firing pistols and nail guns. Not bad by a long shot, but never really hits the sweet spot either. One gets the feeling that it all should have been a bit more sadistic fun and, ahem, filling. The 1996 original’s script comes courtesy of Re-Animator boys, Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli (and Charles Finch), the sequel from Richard Dana Smith.


Cannibal Girls (1973) (1st viewing) d. Reitman, Ivan

“They do EXACTLY what you think they do!” Before he acquired the golden touch with smart, snappy winners like Stripes, Meatballs and Ghostbusters, director Reitman toiled on this uneven horror comedy, featuring future SCTV stars Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin as a groovy guitarist and his whinging gal pal who spend a romantic getaway at a remote and mysterious bed & breakfast. Because it never quite commits to a specific course (and because much of the dialogue was reputedly improvised), the comic bits never really catch fire and the loosey goosey ramblings leave the chills out in the cold. On the plus side, the titular trio of crunchin’ munchin’ Bonnie Nelson, Randall Carpenter, and sexymama brunette Mira Pawluk keeps interests alive whenever they’re onscreen doing their disrobing n’ disemboweling thing, and there is a certain freakish attraction to seeing the American Pie franchise veteran sporting an impossibly lush white-guy ’fro and ’stache. (The unrecognizable Levy’s voice even seems dubbed at times.) In the end, this is more curiosity piece than forgotten gem, a glimpse at better things to come.

Grave Encounters (2011) (1st viewing) d. Vicious Brothers, The

What do you get when you cross The Blair Witch Project, a Ghost Hunters-type reality TV show scenario and some lousy CGI? Yep, you get this. Has a few worthwhile moments, but mostly it’s a dragged out drag. It’s true: Canadians can do substandard found footage movies too.


As before, I’m not at liberty to discuss these features in any critical fashion at this time, as per the Mistress of the Dark’s super-secret screening committee policy. But once the official selections have been made, I’ll be happy to clue you into which of the various nominees will be screening at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis 2012 and which you absolutely should not miss.

Dear God No! (2012) (1st viewing) d. Bickert, James
Empress Vampire (2010) (1st viewing) d. Condit, Phil
Found (2012) (1st viewing) d. Schirmer, Scott
Shallow Creek Cult (2012) (1st viewing) d. Jeff, King
Wicked, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Winther, Peter


A glorious, Paul Naschy-themed Share the Scare event, sponsored by the good Joe Wallace over at (who dished up a bounty of pizza, chili and snackables) and the Keeper of the Krypt himself, Jon Kitley (who provided the flicks).

Night of the Howling Beast (1975) (2nd viewing) d. Iglesias, Miguel

Naschy stars in his fifth installment of the ongoing adventures of tortured lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky, this time leading a Himalayan expedition which runs afoul of inclement weather, roving bands of marauders…and yetis. Naschy is bitten by a couple of nubile, scantily clad, cave-dwelling wolf women and transforms into his venerable wolfman character (shocker, that), which comes in handy when battling bloodthirsty cult members (who employ some nasty back-flaying practices) and abominable snowmen. Throughout the engaging adventure, I found myself wondering what might happen were a bigfoot to be bitten by a werewolf…and getting legitimately excited by the prospect. Sadly, the answer is not revealed here, but it remains enjoyably furry fare, directed by Iglesias under his “M. I. Bonns” moniker.

Hunchback of the Morgue, The (1973) (2nd viewing) d. Aguirre, Javier

Naschy plays the titular walking infirmity as a sensitive, lovelorn suitor who brings flowers every day to his favorite fatally ill female patient, the only person to show him kindness. After she expires, he secrets her corpse away from prying eyes, but mad scientist Alberto Dalbés promises to resurrect her in exchange for a few body parts here and there. You see, Dalbés is creating a new species of life form in his underground lair, a bubbling, bellowing beastie whose offscreen cries recall a wicked encounter with undercooked Spanish cuisine (BLEEEEEEAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!) The results are an energetic and gory good time, unless you happen to be one of the many rats that Naschy & Co. set ablaze for their squealing production value. There is no doubt animals were harmed in the making of this film.

Night of the Werewolf (aka The Craving) (1981) (1st viewing) d. Molina, Jacinto

This enjoyably souped-up redux of 1971’s The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women (which also starred Naschy) is directed by the actor himself (under his given name), and features one of the best wolfman makeups in the series, with great attention given to the lycan eyes and ears. Following a prologue featuring Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy) and Elizabeth Bathory’s (Julia Saly) execution centuries before, three college girls conspire to locate the dastardly duo’s final resting places and resurrect the fatal femme. As the nubile group’s leader, Silvia Aguilar makes quite an impression with her acting abilities and her god-given assets, both of which she uses to great effect throughout. Waldemar comes back to life as well and, after tearing up several villagers, falls for good girl Azucena Hernandez and defends her against Bathory’s nefarious intentions (that whole blood bathing thing). Good stuff.

Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973) (2nd viewing) d. Aured, Carlos

After a full day of Naschy, it seemed only appropriate to pull out all the stops for a double dose of the Spanish star. Here he appears not only as a medieval French warlock beheaded for crimes against humanity (alongside fetching witch Helga Liné), but also his modern day descendant. Naschy decides to take a double date holiday to his countryside Villas de Sade (nice name, that) estate, which just happens to house the tombs of his satanic ancestors. Before long, the warlock’s dislodged noggin is possessing innocents, barking orders, carrying out blood sacrifices as in days of olde, etc. It’s up to our hero to lay his doppelganger to rest and stop his bloody reign. Entertaining and quick of pace, an excellent wrap up to the day’s events.


Adam's Apples (2005) (1st viewing) d. Jensen, Anders Thomas

Extraordinary religious fable that follows Neo-Nazi convict Ulrich Thomsen released into the community service care of devoted priest Mads Mikkelsen (who would follow up his role here as Daniel Craig’s first Bond villain, Le Chiffre, in 2006’s Casino Royale). It soon becomes apparent to Thomsen – and the viewer – that this particular church and its small band of residents are loopy as mother’s crochet ring, but through a series of events neither predictable nor pat, writer/director Jensen engages our hearts, minds and sense of wonder. This Danish dark comedy resonates deeply, justifying its numerous international festival awards, and is a must-see for believers and non-believers alike. Currently streaming on Netflix.

Paranoid Park (2007) (1st viewing) d. Van Sant, Gus

Teenage skateboarder Gabe Nevins’ life begins to fray after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard. Van Sant revisits the estranged teen world he so expertly explored in Elephant, and in the same fashion, provides no real insight into the workings of the high school set – we are merely observers left to our own interpretations of motives, desires, dreams. Nevins is an outsider even within his own skateboarding clique, and though we are privy to his inner monologues (which struck my ear as a milder version of Travis Bickle, or maybe just a younger one), there are no concrete conclusions to be drawn, which is clearly how Van Sant intends to roll. There are some impressive floating camera shots within the titular skate park as we glide, rise and fall with the participants, lending a dreamlike quality. I can’t say I like the film, but I appreciated its unique, non-judgmental viewpoint.


I don’t really feel the need to offer too much insight or reviewing with these, since they’re all fairly well covered by the normal media outlets. Not to mention that they’re just kinda there.

Amazing Spider-Man, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Webb, Marc

Andrew Garfield is a sassier Peter Parker than we’ve seen before, Emma Stone is absolutely winning as Gwen Stacey, and the two have mad chemistry together. I do wish that they had gone with a more traditional dinosaur-headed look for Rhys Ifans’ The Lizard instead of this strange humanoid CGI thingie, but whatever. Did we need another Spider-Man movie? No, but it’s not a bad little reboot.

Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012) (1st viewing) d. Cutforth, Dan / Lipsitz, Jane

I know, right? What the hell was I doing at the new Katy Perry Behind the Music flick? Here’s the story: I had built my schedule around the showtimes and running times of four films, but my original plans were foiled at the last second when Savages turned out not to be playing at the time originally announced. Well, two movies in and another on deck, I had to fill two hours. I’ve heard Ms. Perry’s stuff on Pandorum and found it pretty vanilla, so I wondered if perhaps this doc would shed some light on the phenomena. Answer: It doesn’t. She may have a lot of props, costumes, set pieces and a big smile for everyone even when her marriage is falling apart, but I just don’t get it.

Magic Mike (2012) (1st viewing) d. Soderbergh, Steven

Somehow, I guess I thought the lives of male strippers would be more…wait for it…revealing. Nope, they’re just regular dudes who take their jobs seriously (or not), manage their money wisely (or not), have personal problems (or not) and have relationship issues (or not). The actors are all strong of performance and body, but I never found myself caring about any of them and often wondered why I should.

To Rome With Love (2012) (1st viewing) d. Allen, Woody

After last year’s winning Midnight in Paris, expectations may have been a little high, but of the four stories that unfold in the Italian capitol city, only that of young newlywed couple (Alessandro Tiberian and Alessandra Mastronardi) who end up respectively pairing off with a prostitute (Salma Hayek) and a movie star (Antonio Albanese) has any real inspiration or juice. The others feel like half warmed ideas that never really get off the ground – they’re a premise (guy meets younger version of himself and tries to change Fate, ordinary fellow wakes up an instant celebrity pursued by paparazzi, mortician has extraordinary singing voice…but only in the shower) with no real payoff. I’m invariably a fan of Allen as an actor, but here he commits the rare misstep of giving himself nothing clever to say, leaving only an unfunny Woody Allen impression with all the stutters and swallows in place. However, it was delightful to see Flash Gordon’s Princess Aura, Ornella Muti, pop up as an Italian movie star.

2012 Totals to date: 296 films, 251 1st time views, 169 horror, 81 cinema


  1. the thing with the rats definitely sours me a little on The Hunchback from the Morgue. We keep rats as pets--they are curious and affectionate pets, by the way--and it greatly upset me seeing that scene.

    Did you know that Ivan Reitman was David Cronenberg's first producer? He's the producer on Shivers.

  2. Trust me, it wasn't my favorite part either. Both times I've seen it, I've said aloud, "That's just not cool." Ditto the rat abuse in FOOD OF THE GODS and BEN. The 70s were not a good time to break into show biz if you were a rodent.

    I did in fact know that! Cyber high-geeky-five!

  3. So, this was your first time through The Night of the Werewolf, eh? I think that may be my favorite entry in the series (although Curse of the Devil runs a close second). And speaking of hairy Spanish beasties, I really enjoyed your article on Game of Werewolves in HorrorHound #36. I hope it isn't too long before I get to see it myself. Based on the stills, the creature effects look incredible.

    To wrap up, I had actually considered watching Cannibal Girls for this month's KA mission myself, but my local video store didn't have it. It appears I didn't miss much, though.

  4. Yep, it probably also qualifies as my favorite Daninsky flick as well. Haven't seen CURSE OF THE DEVIL...yet. Glad you dug the GoW write-up - I'm potentially going to see it a third time up here at Fantasia, although I'd be just as happy tipping one back with Sr. Martinez. Fingers crossed big time that it finally secures distribution at the festival - I can't BELIEVE it hasn't been snapped up yet.

    I saw that you'd picked a couple of winners for the KA mission - I was kind of jealous, truth be told. It would have been hard to do better than you did, good sir. I revisited both PONTYPOOL and DERANGED last year, if memory serves and they both hold up to multiple viewings.

    CG will be there for you someday - hell, if you're really dying for a copy, I know a guy.

  5. If I ever wind up seeing Cannibal Girls, it would be more out of curiosity than anything else. And if you decide that you want to get Curse of the Devil under your belt, I know a guy as well.

    Incidentally, I notice you were nowhere near as taken with Magic Mike as I was. I guess it helps to have more of an appreciation for the eye candy.

  6. Cool. Maybe my guy can get together with your guy for a meeting.

    You know, I liked it much more than the femalien, who thought it was about the most unsexy thing she'd ever seen. She thought the hot bods were fine, but the routines themselves were completely untitilating. Her words.

  7. Hello...Just wanted to know if those 5 movies listed above in Elvira's Horror Hunt the remaining finalists in the contest. If so, where can one learn more about them, such as the plot and actors and such? Thanks.

    1. The five films listed above are not necessarily finalists - merely submissions. If you go to the Elvira's Horror Hunt website, (, you can stay updated on the final official selections and when they will be announced. As far as finding out info about the films and filmmakers themselves, most if not all of them are listed on IMDb and/or have websites. Drop 'em a line, I'm sure they'd appreciate your interest!