Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fool's Views (12/3 – 12/16)

Criminey, where is the year going? Oh, thataway. Right.

Spent a few nights catching up on the civilian flicks I’d piled up way back in January to take with me to Milwaukee. (True story: of the 72 originally pulled, I’ve only made it about halfway through the stack. Yes, I get distracted easily.) Meanwhile, the horror views were largely comprised of selections dictated by the able roster of HIDDEN HORROR 101, sparking interest in revisiting and/or sampling firsthand choice offerings from the frightful fringe.

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



Antichrist, The (aka The Tempter) (1974) (2nd viewing) d. De Martino, Alberto (Italy)

Ah, leave it to the Italians. This could have been just another run of the mill Exorcist rip-off, but it offers a few twisted bits that almost make it worth checking out. It’s about 25 minutes too long, so it’s hard to be really enthusiastic, but our lead actress Carla Gravina gives it her Linda Blair all as a daddy-obsessed invalid who gives it up up to Satan (yes, that “it”). She drools and blows pea soup for all she’s worth, and does things with her tongue that would make Jenna Jameson green with envy. It’s got its moments, but sadly, not enough of them. However, on a completely different level, watching Arthur Kennedy (as an ineffective priest) attempting to conceal his self-hatred for his career’s downward turn is compelling throughout.

Frailty (2001) (2nd viewing) d. Paxton, Bill (USA)

A sadly overlooked gem whose sharp script by Brent Hanley allows it greater traction and staying power in the memory cells than your average bloodletter. Paxton, in addition to stepping behind the camera for his feature film debut, slips into one of his meatiest, subtlest performances since 1992’s One False Move, as the stalwart single rural father to a pair of young lads (Matt O’Leary, Jeremy Sumpter). But when he awakens one night from a vision from Above, telling him that he and his family have been selected to be demon hunters, things take an unpleasant turn for the darker side of religious vengeance. Matthew McConaughey plays the elder version of O’Leary’s character, telling his tale to FBI Agent Powers Boothe. While I would have preferred the ending to remain more ambiguous, the twist is a knotty one that sticks.

Motivational Growth (2012) (1st viewing) d. Thacker, Don (USA)

Chicago-based writer/director Thacker explodes onto the scene with his debut feature, one that rattles viewers’ synapses with an ever-changing view of reality and dazzles practical effects lovers with a wealth of impressive latex and karo syrup splatter. Adrian DiGiovanni stars as a depressive shut-in being given life lessons from an expanding fungal growth in his bathroom (a superb alliance of puppetry and Jeffrey Combs’ mellifluous vocal performance). A terrific exception to microbudget filmmaking, one that requires no forgiveness for technical shortcomings (i.e. there are none) despite its ambitious scope and vision. I was lucky enough to witness a private screening for cast/crew; rest assured, you’ll be seeing this one in your neck of the woods soon enough.

Night Warning (aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker) (1982) (1st viewing) d. Asher, William (USA)

Fearing her hunky nephew (Jimmy McNichol) might be scampering off to college and/or giving his male gaze to other, younger females, a hormonally unstable auntie (Susan Tyrell) throws herself at the local TV repairman; when he rebukes her advances, the already sticky plot thickens and bloodshed ensues. Tyrell is astonishing, delivering a breathtaking, near-Shakespearean performance, shredding scenery and overshadowing her onscreen counterparts. McNichol is easily outclassed, but Bo Svenson makes the most of his screen time as a repellant, homophobic, racist and all-around prick of a lawman. A Video Nasty whose skeevy incestuous subject matter has kept it locked and barred in the out-of-print doldrums for decades.

Sender, The (1982) (3rd viewing) d. Christian, Roger (UK)

Star Wars’ Oscar-winning set designer Christian takes the helm for the first time in this intelligent horror piece that samples equal parts Carrie and William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration, with psychotherapist Kathryn Harrold attempting to understand mysterious new patient Zeljko Ivanek’s ability to transfer his dream imagery into the corporeal world. Shirley Knight makes the most of her brief screen time as Ivanek’s taciturn mother, while an impressive array of physical and makeup effects keep things fizzling, popping and dripping vibrant red.


Bully (2001) (1st viewing) d. Clark, Larry (USA)

Kids’ director Clark again casts his unflinching eye upon the entitled wastrel youth of America’s suburbs, here focusing upon a casual murder plot that germinated in a Florida social circle with tragic results for all concerned. With Nick Stahl, Brad Renfro, Bijou Philips, Rachel Miner, Michael Pitt and Leo Fitzpatrick. Harrowing and unpleasant, based on Jim Schutze’s book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) (4th viewing) d. Capra, Frank (USA)

Bedford Fall is safe once again from the clutches of that bastard Potter. Atta boy, Clarence.

Land of the Pharaohs (1955) (1st viewing) d. Hawks, Howard (USA)

Jack Hawkins and Joan Collins star in this soapy saga of ancient Egypt, with a cast of thousands and production values galore. Hawkin’s Pharaoh is obsessed with retaining his massive acquired wealth, compelling a captured architect to design a robbery-proof tomb; Collins is the scheming Cyprian princess with designs of her own. Thin, but with memorable sequences.

Lincoln (2012) (1st viewing) d. Spielberg, Steven (USA)

Considering everyone knows the outcome, the struggle to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is dramatized with an impressive amount of suspense. Day-Lewis renders another monumental transformation, capturing the 16th President’s thousand-yard stare and gift for persuasion – although it must be said that Spielberg’s penchant for holding on silent contemplative shots of his star in repose borders on the excessive, especially when nothing is revealed beyond impenetrable thoughtful consideration. Peopled with a venerable supporting cast, one that cries out “Here is your ensemble of the year.”

Massacre at Central High (1976) (2nd viewing) d. Daalder, Rene (USA)

Amazing exploitation flick about new student Derrell Maury butting heads with the tyrannical cool kids at school (headed by former pal Andrew Stevens). When they take their bullying too far, Maury starts offing them one by one in unexpectedly vivid fashion (unexpected because until the bloodshed, the thing plays like an afterschool special). The violent excess (and frequent nudity) is what takes it to another level, especially in the third act where the formerly bullied (including Robert Carradine) become the bullies themselves.

2012 Totals to date: 587 films, 508 1st time views, 354 horror, 161 cinema


  1. Clicked here to see what you thought of NIGHT WARNING and was pleased to see you liked it. Tyrell was a total treat in anything she was in, but this was her masterpiece.

    1. Seriously, she's astonishing. I've only seen her in a few things, but MAN, need to make her a priority in '13.

      And Svenson is SUCH a colossal douche in this. Loved it.

  2. It's funny, but you must have watched Night Warning right around the time it was mentioned to me. (In a discussion about Paul Verhoeven's Flesh + Blood I called Susan Tyrrell's performance her Tyrrelliest and was pointed in this film's direction.)

    And I always like to see you tick off another one of Danny Peary's Cult Movies. Land of the Pharoahs is definitely one that overstays its welcome, though.

    1. Clearly I need to revisit FLESH + BLOOD, as I have no recollection about anything in that film at all, much less Tyrell at her Tyrelliest. It'd be hard to imagine her topping NIGHT WARNING (although she's pretty memorable in 1999's BUDDY BOY as well).

      While there's a lot of scenes of slaves wandering back and forth, I enjoyed LOTP more than I would have thought. Seeing Joan Collins in brown pancake and wild eyeliner has its own rewards for a certain sector.