Archive for the ‘horror’ Tag

Dementia 13 (1963) Revisited on Blu-ray   3 comments

I wrote a review of Dementia 13 a while back, but that was based on seeing a fairly grainy version on YouTube. Last fall, the lovely people at Film Detective sent me a Blu-ray of the fun horror gem. I had some dumb technical issues so I’m just watching it now. Sorry, Film Detective. I didn’t forget you.


“People get so dramatic when they’re not invited to the wedding.”

Dementia 13 was made in 1963, in black and white, for $40,000. Francis Ford Coppola filmed it, with Roger Corman’s blessing, around the set of The Young Racers, also starring William Campbell and Luana Anders. It’s just 75 minutes long and it’s a terrific little thriller. It’s not a perfect film, but it moves along and the acting is good, especially from Patrick Magee, who plays—surprise—a sinister doctor.


“Oh hi.”

Since I first watched and wrote about this film, I’ve seen it a few times, but it’s never looked this good. The Blu-ray version is crisp and clear and I managed to see more details of Dementia 13 in this viewing than I ever have. It’s a real treat to see a film you like in the best possible way. Director of photography, Charles Hanawalt, uses a lot of natural and dim lighting. That makes sense considering the modern Gothic setting. It also means that in the past, I’ve had to strain to catch details. Not this time.

I enjoyed actually seeing Dementia 13 after all this time. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must.

Psst…below is my review of Dementia 13, with a few additions.

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Fishy fishy in the brook
Daddy’s caught you on a hook
-Nursery rhyme

As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.

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“…and then I crushed its head.”

They’re a fun bunch.

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Weeeeee!

Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.

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If you see this you have gone too far.

Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.

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Eavesdropping on the funeral.

What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory version of Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.

Thanks again to the folks at Film Detective.

Fun fact: Early on in the film, Louise discusses Richard’s girlfriend saying, “You can tell she’s an American girl, raised on promises.” Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to the first lines of the Tom Petty tune, “American Girl”, released in 1976. I can’t find definitive information to link the song lyrics to the film, but it’s a neat tidbit.

quality
A sure sign of quality

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Check out cinemashame.wordpress.com for more horrific reviews and @cinemashame on twitter.

I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

October 2, 2014

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Circle (2015)   3 comments

A group of strangers play the worst game of musical chairs ever.


“I hope there’s a goody bag.”

Have you ever watched your favorite game show and hoped for the obnoxious guy to get eliminated? If you have, this film is for you! In Circle, a few dozen purposely average people awaken on the set of a macabre game show and get blown up one by one by an unseen force. In this competition there are no pesky questions to stump the contestants, just some weird Francois Truffaut-like hand jive movements that kill.


“Scary!”

Yeah, not so much.

With a play-like structure and dialogue taken directly from one of those ‘scenes for actors’ books, Circle manages to be both illogical and boring. It’s also unbelievable. Why are these people in this earthbound Carousel and where the hell is Richard Jordan?


“We did it first…with flying.”

What’s especially odd is how quickly the crowd of random stereotypes grasp the inner workings of this quick-killing version of The Weakest Link. After all, it took Truffaut and Bob Balaban half a Spielberg-length film to figure out their six-note code and these guys are not Truffaut and Balaban.


“We’re better than you.”

The Grand Wazoo or whoever runs this sideshow, knocks off a player every 30 seconds or so, but despite the kill count, nothing much happens. People make statements. They accuse and shout and connive like they’re trying out for Survivor. Backstabbing abounds. This part puzzles me. Somehow the dopey stander-arounders figure out (in about a minute) they can gang up on people, zap them, and save themselves. I don’t know how they got that by loitering on lit circles, but that’s me. Then, the movie does that ‘humans are basically horrible’ thing and shows us the ugly side of most of the characters we never get to know anyway so when they die we don’t care. Hooray!


Some people in the film.

I don’t understand films that don’t bother to establish a single character. I get that this isn’t a masterpiece, but someone wrote it…on purpose. I’ll bet Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione, the writing/directing team, had a great idea for this film. They just didn’t let us in on it. I don’t mean to beat these guys up, but Circle is a prime example of an intriguing idea that leads to a movie that goes nowhere. Someone should have said something like, “The circle concept is great, but why are they there? Are you doing a Pirandello/Sartre thing or can’t you think of an ending? Also, why do all the characters sound like they’re auditioning for summer stock?”


“I hope I get it! I hope I get it!”

Maybe it’s not fair to criticize the film this harshly, but it’s not good or the least bit frightening. I try to find positive things to say about most of the films I review, but the only thing that stands out about this film was its shape—round.


“Goodbye.”

“L’enfer, c’est le cercle.”
-Fred Sartre, insurance actuary


Ahhhh here he is.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)   Leave a comment

 

cenobites

Kirsty, Julia, and Pinhead are back!

Hellbound: Hellraiser II starts immediately after the first film ends. Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) wakes up in a mental hospital and tries to explain to doctors and the police why there’s so much blood at their house and everybody’s dead. Oddly, they’re not buying the cenobite story. Nutty Doctor Philip Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who interned with the Marquis de Sade, runs the sanitarium. He also has a wacky hobby. He collects puzzle boxes, phrenology diagrams, and spare body parts. Needless to say, he has a bangin’ social life. The doctor asks the police to bring a blood-soaked mattress from Kirsty’s crime scene house. Yep, it’s completely normal for law enforcement to hand evidence over to some guy who collects kinky dead people stuff. Anyway, the authorities bring Channard the nasty mattress and since he’s done extensive research on nasty mattress dead people retrieval, he knows what to do. Channard’s a sadistic bastard so he brings a highly delusional patient to his home, plops him down on the bloody mattress and waits for the magic to happen. It does. Julia (Clare Higgins), emerges from the depths and steals the poor schizophrenic’s guts and Channard’s heart. Well, maybe the heart is the wrong organ.

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“I’d walk through the gates of Hell for a good Chardonnay.”

Julia’s not ready to settle down, at least not until she gets a face. To that end, Dr. Channard drags his hopeless cases over to Julia so she can eat their innards and get some skin so they can consummate this affair.

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“Bring me the head of a manic depressive.”

Dr. Channard has been yearning for this kind of depravity his whole life. We see flashbacks to the doctor’s misspent youth as a torturer of small animals and scenes of him experimenting on patients. He’s not a right guy. Of course, by now, we all know Julia’s no prize either so the doctor had better watch his back.

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Breaking up is hard to do.

At the same time Dr. Channard and Julia are playing the balcony scene from Romeo and Dahmer, Kirsty and another patient, Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), battle with the cenobites in a weird Escher-like rampart opened by the puzzle box. Full of tortured souls, long hallways, and candles, the dungeon houses the cenobites, their victims, and Uncle Frank. Remember Frank (Sean Chapman) from the first Hellraiser film? He’s been lounging around Pinhead’s playhouse waiting for a little action.

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I think I had this calendar once.

There are a couple side stories too. Tiffany is a gifted puzzle-solver the evil doctor imprisoned in his asylum to help him open the box. She’s compelled to do puzzles of all kinds and instead of curing that compulsion, Channard encourages it.

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Cenobite Puzzle Boxes: You can’t stop at just one!

There’s also Kyle (William Hope), a young resident at the hospital, determined to help Kirsty.

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“Sooo then the guy with nails in his face showed up? Mmmkay.”

That’s when some major stuff goes down. Kirsty, Julia, Frank, Dr. Channard, and the cenobites act out And Then There Were None in the Escher drawing. It’s bloody and thrilling and full of cool, disgusting effects. Dr. Channard’s torture is downright ghastly.

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“Candy bar!”

The writers, Clive Barker and Peter Atkins, interject some humanity into this morass as well. Kirsty and Tiffany are our heroes, of course, but they find an unlikely ally and that adds depth to the film.

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“Does anyone have an aspirin?”

I like Hellbound: Hellraiser II a lot. For a long time, the first film in the series was my favorite, but this one is edging it out. I like it more with each viewing. The acting, especially in the first two films, is far better than in a lot of gory films of the period and the story and characters are riveting. Christopher Young’s music even won a Saturn Award. The best part is you get a lot more cenobite for the buck. The filmmakers must have known they had a good thing so they didn’t hide the leather-clad freaks. Giving Pinhead and his merry band more screen time works a treat. This is a fun one.

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“Anyway, we opened the box.”

 

#Horror (2015)   Leave a comment

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Six 12-year-old girls we hate gather at a friend’s house in Greenwich, Connecticut for a sleepover.  One by one, they separate and a slasher preys on them.  I don’t often wish for the deaths of middle schoolers and their parents, but in the case of #HORROR, I’ll make an exception.

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“We’re awful.”

As the girls bully and browbeat each other, we like them even less.  I started out hating them so you can imagine how I felt after an hour and a half.  They’re so nasty.  They say things like “You look like a fat tranny.” and “Your mom slept with Hitler.” and “Kill yourself.”  It’s super fun.

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Fun.

The girls peel off from the group, as girls do in slasher films.  It doesn’t go well for them.

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“Do I get a goody bag?”

The # part?  Oh, you see, when the girls post horrid pictures of each other online and tag them with cruel epithets, the film changes.  Weird, cartoony images, emojis, and goofy phrases appear onscreen like a bad digital pinball game.  The colorful, puffy typeface lets you know you’re watching quality.  No, really.  It looks as though the filmmakers watched SPRINGBREAKERS fifty-seven times in a row and decided to reproduce that film’s crappy, repetitive mantra graphically.  It’s like a widescreen version of Candy Crush, but with cruelty.  After thirty seconds, my eyes started bleeding.

horror
Subtle.

So, horrible girls die, but not too horribly.  I mean, I have seen bad films redeem themselves with terrific kills.  This isn’t one of those films.  There’s screaming and cameraman-tripped-on-his-shoelace cam and blood, but who cares?  The kids are awful and there’s a hinted-at backstory no one sees fit to tell us and a whole lot of bad parenting.  Also, there’s terrible art.  The party/killing spree all happens at a huge, modern house in the Connecticut woods.  If that sounds idyllic, think again.  As the girls die, their screams echo through the sterile rooms, bounce off the crappy art, and fade to nothing somewhere near the vodka Mom pours on her cornflakes.

art
“Why is the yolk pulsating?”

I forgot to mention the parents in this Bataan Death March of a movie.  There are real actors in this.  Chloë Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, and Natasha Lyonne all show up.  Lyonne has about twelve seconds of screen time, but Hutton has eons to chew the scenery and Sevigny looks a little dazed.  She does play an alcoholic though.  I must say, I liked her part the best.  I love the idea of a selfish mom leaving six 12-year-olds in her home alone, pouring a vodka tonic, and drinking it on the way to her AA meeting.  Ballsy.

Chloe-Sevigny-horror-21
“I think my scarf knows what I’m thinking.”

I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the ending.  The point is that it ends and that’s a good thing.

A couple points:

Early in the film, Chloë Sevigny chats with a friend in her house.  An assistant, Molly, has a few lines.  Later, Sevigny goes out, leaving the girls alone.  Where the hell is Molly?  She never comes back and no one mentions her again.  She’s a plot device to show how rude Sevigny is to her servant, but they didn’t bother to give her an exit.  Oops!  I forgot one of my characters again!

Timothy Hutton, Chloë Sevigny, and Natasha Lyonne can act.  Hutton has a Oscar and a gang of nominations.  Sevigny has some critics’ awards and an Oscar nom.  Lyonne has won critics’ awards and an Emmy nomination.  What are they doing in this certified wedge of Gouda?  Did they lose a bet?  Are there pictures somewhere of them kicking midgets or something?  I can’t think of any other reason for them to be in this mess.  That mystery will stay with me longer than the film.  Do yourself a favor.  Watch ROAD HOUSE.  It’s probably still on Netflix.

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1/5 Duckfaces.

 

 

Multiple Maniacs (1970)   6 comments

credits

Question: How do you know you’re watching a John Waters film?
Answer: When the film opens with a carnival barker luring unsuspecting victims into a tent full of fetishists so he can rob them, you’re in a John Waters film.

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Mr. David hawks the Cavalcade of Perversions.

Yup.  Lady Divine (Divine) and her cohorts put cigarettes out on each other, sniff a topless woman’s armpits and eat vomit.  Then, when the square suburbanites can take no more, Divine brandishes a revolver, robs the crowd, and shoots any dissenters, cackling all the while.

div
“Say what again.”

After the robbery, the gang flees and we discover that Mr. David (David Lochary), the barker and lover of Lady Divine, has fallen for another woman.  David keeps the affair a secret because Lady Divine threatens to tell the police he was in on the Tate murders.  It IS 1970.  Lady Divine, gets word of David’s betrayal and vows to kill him.

Edith-Massey-in-Multiple-Maniacs-dreamlanders-13728651-416-320
Edith Massey drops a dime on Mr. David.

On her way to commit murder, two lowlifes accost her and drag her into an alley.  Dazed from the attack, Lady Divine runs into a toddler dressed as the Pope who leads her to a church.  Lady Divine prays for guidance.  As she kneels in prayer, she meets Mink Stole who clearly has eyes for her.  It’s a John Waters film so the two women have sex in a pew using a rosary.  Now Lady Divine has an accomplice.  The two lovers head to Lady Divine’s apartment to snuff Mr. David.

tiny pope
Lady Divine walks with a tiny Pope.

Mr. David and his oversexed lover await the pair in Lady Divine’s apartment where they’ve accidentally killed Divine’s ever-topless daughter.  Now there’s no turning back.  There’s a nutty bloodbath with one survivor.  As Lady Divine lies on the sofa surrounded by the bodies of her enemies and crowing about crimes to come, a huge lobster crawls into her living room and rapes her.  I never thought I’d write that sentence.  Anyway, stuff, like a crucifixion, happens after that, but who cares?  A giant lobster rapes Divine.  Needless to say, the scene catches you off guard.

lob
“Quick! Get the drawn butter!”

John Waters wrote, directed, produced, and shot MULTIPLE MANIACS in his native Baltimore.  During his introduction to the film at the Provincetown International Film Festival in June of 2016, he said he filmed the Cavalcade of Perversion on his parents’ front lawn.  Waters cast friends Edith Massey, Mink Stole, Pat Moran, David Lochary, and Divine in lead roles.  Friendship trumped acting ability, but that’s not important.  This is not so much a film as a happening.  It is also, as film critic J. Hoberman notes, John Waters most overtly Catholic film.  Janus/Criterion just restored the film and it looks great.  It’s also weirdly entertaining.  Everyone is crazily over the top and the whole film is a riot.  I watched MULTIPLE MANIACS for the first time in a full theatre with John Waters in attendance and the place went nuts.  It’s vile, disgusting, and fun to watch.

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Rating: 4 Lobsters

Maniac (1963)   Leave a comment

maniac poster

American artist Jeff Farrell (Kerwin Matthews) stumbles into an isolated village in the Camargue region of southern France and meets Annette Beynat (Liliane Brousse).  There’s obvious chemistry between them, but Annette gets blocked by her stepmother, the sexy Eve Beynat (Nadia Gray).  Eve’s still married to Annette’s dad, but he’s out of town so Eve makes a play for Jeff.  She’s very subtle.  After Eve and Jeff go horseback riding, she takes off her blouse and asks him to towel her off.

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“Jeff? Are we still on for tonigh…oh.”

It works.  Soon, they’re making the beast with two backs all over the place and Annette’s left out in the cold.  There’s just one little problem.  Eve still has that pesky husband.  I said he was out of town, right?  Well, he is.  He’s in an asylum for the criminally insane for using an acetylene torch to kill the guy who raped Annette years earlier.

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“Just a little off the eyes.”

And you thought ONE LIFE TO LIVE was complicated.  Eve says her husband has all his marbles.  He just went a bit overboard (a bit) and if Jeff helps him escape from the sanitarium, he’ll leave the country and start a new life leaving Eve and Jeff to do the horizontal mambo as much as they want.  Sounds logical, right?  Jeff, blinded by lust, says he’d love to help a torch-wielding maniac (TITLE-DRINK!) out of the booby hatch and can we do that toweling-off thing again, honey?  Anyway, cool asylum-escaping ensues, but things go a little twisty.  Will Jeff do crimey stuff?  Will Eve’s husband find his matches?  Will Annette get a little action?  Will Eve take Jeff horseback riding again?  Please?

torch check
“An adjustment et voilà! Ready for your close-up!”

Writer Jimmy Sangster loved LES DIABOLIQUES.  He set MANIAC and SCREAM OF FEAR in France and added a bunch of plot twists in both.  He also cast women in lead roles and made them strong and smart.  Eve’s a real multi-tasker too.  She runs a tavern while hatching an escape plot and seducing a young stranger.  Way to go, Eve!  Sangster writes realistic dialogue and the plot hums along nicely.  Director Michael Carreras and cinematographer Wilkie Cooper keep the mood tense and the atmosphere noirish.  There are some terrific night shots around the inn and later, they film a nifty climax in a cavernous quarry.

final battle
“This is the biggest version of Don’t Break the Ice I’ve ever seen.”

This film is a hoot.  Despite the over-the-top elements of the story, it’s all very natural.  It’s naturally gruesome, but MANIAC was made by Hammer so they have to have a soupcon of gore.  It’s in the contract.   I had fun watching this one.  The cast, screenplay, location, and complexity combine to make it a fun watch and Sinbad, uh, Kerwin is a cutie.

cyclops
“Anybody else see a Cyclops?”

 

Stop Me Before I Kill (1960)   Leave a comment

stop

British race car driver Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis) and his new bride, Denise (Diane Cilento) get into a nasty car wreck on their honeymoon.  The accident leaves another driver dead and Alan with a severe head injury.  After months in the hospital, the couple finally head to the French seaside for their wedding trip.  It’s clear that Alan still needs time to recover since every once in a while, he goes into a trance and tries to strangle his wife.

choke
“If I can just get your neck size…”

What a bore.  Denise dotes on Alan and seems to have made the leap from wife to mother seamlessly.  Since she’s running out of scarves to hide the neck bruises, Denise seeks the help of a psychiatrist they happen to meet on their trip.  David Prade (Claude Dauphin) proposes a radical form of therapy to help Alan remember the accident and stop choking his wife all the time.

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“Just five minutes more.”

Since Alan is paranoid and his moods turn on a dime, Denise lies to him about meeting David to ask for medical advice.  Yup, that goes well.

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“Analyze me, will ya!!”

Will David cure Alan?  Will Alan kill Denise?  Will Denise stop saying Alan’s name all the damn time?  I’ll never tell.  I will say this is a neat little thriller with an unusual psychiatric bent.  Director, Val Guest keeps you guessing and the mood tense.  Parts of the film drag, but even the talky parts keep the plot moving forward.  The script, apart from Denise saying Alan’s name about 82 million times, flows naturally.  Cilento and Lewis are believable lovers and I found myself worried about them both.

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“The doctor said to wear that radio around your neck until you’re cured.”

STOP ME BEFORE I KILL is another fun Hammer thriller.  I’m a big fan of these films.  They’re racier and more violent than most American films of that era and they generally have a more mature attitude toward love and sex.  It makes for a more realistic film which, in turn, makes the scary parts scarier.  Scary is good.

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