Monday, December 11, 2017

Fool's Views (11/1 – 11/30)

Hello, my friends!

Running out of 2017! Keeping it short this time around, both in terms of write-ups and intros, but happy to report that I got a ton of flicks in – the same number as I did for the October Challenge, as fate would have it. Thanks to the packed schedules that comprised the inaugural voyage of Cinepocalypse at the Music Box and the 15th annual Gobblerfest known as Turkey Day, as well as an impromptu Michael Haneke film festival (inspired by a short film I recently shot called So I Watch You from Afar, which was itself inspired by Haneke’s Cache), the numbers tallied up to a respectable monthly tally in a year that has seen precious few of them.

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



Summer of Fear (1978) d. Craven, Wes (USA) (1st viewing)

Got the call from my good pal Ian Simmons over at Kicking the Seat that he had picked up the new Blu-ray of this neglected TV-movie from Freddy daddy Craven starring Linda Blair and how could I possibly say no? We ramble on at length for the KtS podcast, but the general consensus was “pretty darn good cheesy fun.” Available now from Doppleganger Releasing.

Creepshow (1982) d. Romero, George A. (USA) (6th viewing)

With Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray release of Creepshow 2 landing on my doorstep, I felt obliged to dig out my old bare-bones DVD copy for a little post-October comfort food with the femalien. Riffing off the classic EC horror comics, this remains one of the best anthologies out there in terms of overall quality of segments and general sense of cohesiveness. Amazing what happens when you have a single screenwriter (Stephen King), single make-up maestro (Tom Savini), a genuinely inspired director (Romero) all pulling in the same direction with an all-star cast (Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, E.G. Marshall, Leslie Nielsen, Tom Atkins, Viveca Lindfors) as well as some on the verge (Ted Danson, Ed Harris) happy to get messy for the camera.

Creepshow 2 (1987) d. Gornick, Michael (USA) (2nd viewing)

A fair-to-middling portmanteau in its own right, but when compared to the A-list roster for the 1982 original, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed by the so-so stories (“Old Chief Wood’nhead,” “The Raft,” and “The Hitchhiker,” as well as the lame animated wraparound of a young horror fan antagonized by bullies), uninspired performances (when late-career George Kennedy is your headliner, you’re in trouble), and “nice try but…” effects (by a then-fledgling KNB working without a budget) on display.

But the movie does have its fans (who happily shout “Thanks for the ride, lady!” at the drop of a hat), and for them, there are plenty of goodies to be found on Arrow’s high-def upgrade, including an audio commentary with Gornick (who cut his teeth as George Romero’s cinematographer), interviews with award-winning effects wizards Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger who share memories of their challenges on the shoot, and featurettes with actors Tom Savini, Tom Wright, Daniel Beer, and Romero (who contributed the screenplay).



Dead Shack (2017) d. Ricq, Peter (Canada) (1st viewing)

Suspiria (1977) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (4th viewing)

Veronica (2017) d. Plaza, Paco (Spain) (1st viewing)

Housewife (2017) d. Evrenol, Can (Turkey) (1st viewing)

The Crescent (2017) d. Smith, Seth A. (Canada) (1st viewing)

Mohawk (2017) d. Geoghegan, Ted (USA) (1st viewing)

It Came from the Desert (2017) d. Makilaakso, Marko (Finland/UK/Canada) (1st viewing)

Bullet in the Head (1990) d. Woo, John (Hong Kong) (1st viewing)

Hard Times (1975) d. Hill, Walter (USA) (2nd viewing)

Animals (aka Tiere) (2017) d. Zglinski, Greg (Austria/Poland/Switzerland) (1st viewing)

Jailbreak (2017) d. Henderson, Jimmy (Cambodia) (1st viewing)

I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) d. Wayans, Keenen Ivory (USA) (2nd viewing)

Beyond Skyline (2017) d. O'Donnell, Liam (Indonesia) (1st viewing)

Downrange (2017) d. Kitamura, Ryuhei (USA) (1st viewing)


The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959) d. Berwick, Irvin (USA) (3rd viewing)

Taking more than a few cues from a certain inhabitant from the Black Lagoon down the way, this amusing low-budget creature feature takes place in an oceanside village suddenly menaced by a scaly biped with a taste for human blood and the lighthouse keeper’s sexy daughter (Jeanne Carmen). Following the ’50s monster playbook, we don’t see much of the beastie until more than halfway through the film, but once Fish-face finally steps into the light, creature designer Jack Kevan’s results are none-too-shabby. If it seems like you’ve seen those claws that lovingly fondle Carmen’s abandoned garments before, it’s probably because you have: they were also used in 1956’s The Mole People. No new ground is broken here, but for fans of “guy-in-a-suit” monster flicks, this one certainly serves the turn.

The Brides Wore Blood (1972) d. Favorite, Bob (USA) (1st viewing)

Shot in Jacksonville, Florida, this anemic vampire curiosity concerns a quartet of attractive young single ladies who are invited to spend the evening at a mysterious and opulent mansion, guests of the mysterious and opulent De Lorca family. As the night predictably turns sinister, our token blonde (Dolores Heiser) is tapped for the honor of carrying on the family name/curse while the others are drained or vampirized (sporting supremely unconvincing toothpick fangs held in place by the actresses gripping them with their lips). A mostly boring affair enlivened by a bit of female nudity and finale that vaguely recalls Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Mist in its dark humor.

Frozen Scream (1975) d. Roach, Frank (USA) (2nd viewing)

This delicious slice of cheese-infused Turkey delivers the groceries big time with a cast incapable of uttering a line of natural-sounding dialogue mangling a plot about killing off/reanimating random bystanders. Not since Pat Barrington garbled her way through Stephen C. Apostolof's Orgy of the Dead has there been an actress who so brazenly captured the “No Human Ever Spoke Like This” line-reading crown as Lynne Kocol, but her Teutonic co-star (and producer) Renee Harmon and groovy scientist Lee James aren’t far behind. Playing the ostensible hero detective, Thomas “Gowen” McGowan’s wildly inappropriate voiceover narration is just the gravy on top.

The Capture of Bigfoot (1979) d. Rebane, Bill (USA) (2nd viewing)

In a small Wisconsin mountain town, two mysterious creatures have been spotted in the woods, sparking the interest of unscrupulous businessman Richard Kennedy who hopes to snag the hairy beast for monetary gain. Square-jawed heroic lawman Stafford Morgan, when not making time with his best waitress gal Katherine Hopkins, tries to preserve order in his peaceful burg, but he’s got his hands full between marauding monsters, speeding snowmobilers, bellowing backstabbers, and low-budget mainstay George "Buck" Flower. As clunky as some of the staging and performances are, there’s a cheerful energy that pervades throughout (with a couple wingding auto stunts in the final reel) and the albino bigfoot suits/masks are actually pretty darn impressive. (Rebane probably could have sprung for a better yeti growl, but that’s a minor complaint.)

Winterbeast (1992) d. Thies, Christopher (USA) (1st viewing)

Where to even begin. Kitley was already giggling like a three-year-old on laughing gas before popping in the disc, eagerly awaiting the reaction of the assembled group, telling us that this was going to change our lives forever. Keep in mind, this is a group that not 6 months prior had watched the Canadian brain-melter Things, so I was a little surprised that our host was hyping it as much as he was. Well, I needn’t have worried – this is one for the time capsule, to be counted dear and oft amidst the Legendary Turkeys.

Clearly shot over a period of several years, such that mustaches, wardrobe, and hairstyles are constantly changing (sometimes within the same scene!), the crazy plot follows a mountain resort town having its fall festival (wait, wasn’t this called Winterbeast?) with tourists flocking (well, a few show up) to revel in the great outdoors, but DAMMIT SOMEONE BUILT THIS PLACE ON NATIVE AMERICAN HOLY GROUND AND NOW THERE ARE RANDOM STOP-MOTION MONSTERS WE’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE EATING RANDOM CHARACTERS WE’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE EVERY 15 MINUTES. Akin to a crazy waking fever dream, one that plays like a combination of Jaws (“You keep those beaches, er, mountains open!”) and The Evil Dead (“What is even happening???”), with contributions by a cough-syrup guzzling toddler version of Ray Harryhausen. Must be seen to be believed, and yes, that’s a recommendation.

Wolfman (1979) d. Keeter, Worth (USA) (2nd viewing)

Earl Owensby, resembling a (very) latter-day Elvis Presley, decided that he wanted to be an action star and so opened his own movie studio in North Carolina and made his fantasies come true. Never mind that he didn’t really possess acting skills or charisma or good looks – when you’re the guy writing the checks, you can pretty much do what you want. This was one of his rare forays into horror, drawling his way through this kinda-sorta period piece about a lycanthropy-cursed family, childhood love rekindled, and smashing people in the head with bottles because that pretty much solves any problem that comes your way. Owensby keeps his shirt tucked in while he marauds the countryside, making him the daintiest werewolf on record, although it’s likely this was just to keep the budget down (one hairy mask and two fuzzy gloves). A special nod to character actor Ed Grady for bringing some much-needed energy to the proceedings as the maniacal Reverend Leonard who proves the main antagonist in the third act, literally dragging Owensby’s lady love Kristina Reynolds across the countryside.

The Strangeness (1985) d. Phillips, Melanie Ann (USA) (2nd viewing)

A kissing cousin to The Boogens (and saddled with an equally unsexy title), an old gold mine re-opens despite persistent rumors that whatever caused the mysterious disappearances of its workers years ago is… still down there. As far as “cave movies” go, David Michael Hillman’s low budget creeper isn’t likely to unseat The Descent anytime soon in anyone’s minds, being a slow-moving affair filled with unappealing characters, but it still has a few fun scrambler-in-the-dark moments and features some nifty stop-motion creature f/x from co-screenwriter Chris Huntley and Mark Sawicki in the final reel. Thanks in part to its inclusion in Stephen Thrower’s literary love letter to ’70s and ’80s exploitation cinema, Nightmare USA, and Code Red’s recent Blu-ray release, it will be interesting to see if this an elevated profile and reevaluation by genre fans in years to come.


Black Girl (1966) d. Sembene, Ousmane (Senegal/France) (1st viewing)

Disturbing and groundbreaking piece that examines a young woman’s move to Paris to work as a nanny for an affluent couple, only to discover that they expect her to work as an indentured servant and to serve as a status symbol for their liberal friends. A rich piece within its short running time, delivering a devastating final blow.

Locke (2013) d. Knight, Steven (UK/USA) (1st viewing)

The entire movie takes place in a car with Tom Hardy the only onscreen character, driving through the night and having phone conversations. Yes, it’s absolutely a stunt, but one that also manages to recall an effective radio drama by engaging viewers’ imaginations as we picture the events under discussion.

O.J.: Made in America (2016) d. Edleman, Ezra (USA) (1st viewing)

Oscar-winning documentary that contextualizes the racial climate of Los Angeles during the early 90s when “The Crime of the Century” blasted into our consciousness via every means possible (nightly news, tabloids, live courtroom coverage) while also drawing a vivid portrait of a phenomenal athlete and star who refused to identify as an African-American during his rise to fame but whose genetic background ultimately got him acquitted. The 7-hour running time flies by.

Roar (1981) d. Marshall, Noel (USA) (1st viewing)

Director Marshall (executive producer for The Exorcist) and wife Tippi Hedren (The Birds), in an effort to raise awareness for the plight of African lions and wildlife, decided to make a movie starring themselves as fictionalized versions of themselves and their family (including a young Melanie Griffith, Hedren’s daughter) interacting with the great cats in their natural habitat. The result? 80 of the tensest minutes you will ever spend watching a movie, because the animals are clearly not domesticated and the actors are clearly in danger throughout. “Holy shit” material from start to finish, and highly recommended not so much because it’s a great picture, but because there is no other picture out there like it.

Sometimes a Great Notion (1970) d. Newman, Paul (USA) (1st viewing)

Newman’s second directorial effort is a curious one – a tribe of union strike-breaking loggers (Newman, Henry Fonda, Richard Jaeckel, Michael Sarrazin, and Lee Remick) try to keep their family business afloat in spite of the fact that their doing so is bound to ruin the rest of the town who are desperately trying to negotiate for fair wages and benefits. There is no noble cause here, and the Stamper clan are comprised of pig-headed S.O.B.s and doormat wives – are we really supposed to root for them? There are a couple of dramatic moments that resonate (including a logger trapped under a fallen tree with the water slowly rising), but overall it’s a pretty unpleasant watch. Based on a novel by Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).


I won’t even pretend that I have the intellectual capacity to give the Austrian filmmaker his proper due. In fact, I made a point of watching his movies so that I could check out a few books from the library and enjoy other people’s interpretations of them. I was introduced to the original German-language Funny Games over 10 years ago courtesy of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I have rarely felt as emotionally suckerpunched as when “the rewind moment” occurred. But I hadn’t made the effort to track down the rest of his output, and watching them over the Thanksgiving holidays seemed like just the kind of sick joke the director would appreciate.

I will still argue that the English language remake of FG (starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt) is disappointing in its shot-for-shot redundancy, a cinematic experiment that can’t register the same impact for anyone who has seen the original. Of the first-time views this time around, I would say Piano Teacher and Seventh Continent were my “favorites,” with Code Unknown and Cache scoring high the second time around.

The Seventh Continent (1989) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria) (1st viewing)

Funny Games (1997) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria) (3rd viewing)

Code Unknown (2000) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria/France/Romania) (2nd viewing)

The Piano Teacher (2001) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria/France/Germany) (1st viewing)

Time of the Wolf (2003) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria/France/Germany) (1st viewing)

Cache (2005) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria/France/Germany) (2nd viewing)

Funny Games (2007) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria/France/Germany/USA) (2nd viewing)

2017 Totals: 228 films, 162 first time views, 110 horror, 51 cinema


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