It All Happens In The Dark

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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Just because the whole thing is crazy doesn’t mean it won’t make it on Broadway!

  

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

“We live in claustrophobia, the land of steel and concrete, trapped by dark water. There is no escape, nor do we want it. We’ve come to thrive on it…you can’t get the adrenaline pumping without terror, good people…our lure is a great one young friends, but beware the city of lights has many shadows indeed.”

Oh, Crystal Lake gets deep. The film opens with that voice over (from a radio DJ) and shots of the darkest looking “New York” (we’ll get to that later) since Taxi Driver. A businessman is mugged, druggies are shooting up, everything is steaming and covered in graffiti, rats are swimming in slime, and the lady with the eye patch wearing an afghan at the greasy spoon can’t get the waitress to give her enough coffee.

Before it gets too gritty for us to take, we cut to Crystal Lake. A boat is floating right in front of the ruins of the old camp and two young lovers are inside – Jimmy (Todd Shaffer) and Suzi (Tiffany Paulsen). They are part of the senior class of Lakeview High which is graduating on FRIDAY THE 13TH! and taking a senior trip/cruise to New York city. When Jimmy and Suzi say “I love you” to each other, I wonder – is that a Friday the 13th first? It is quite possible, I believe. Jimmy goes outside to throw the anchor over and wouldn’t you know it, the anchor gets snagged on a big underwater power line. When  he returns Jimmy decides to tell Suzi the history of Camp Crystal Lake since they’re so damn close to it. Strangely in the flashbacks that illuminate Jimmy’s story of Jason drowning, the boy flailing in the lake does not look Jason at all – that is to say he is not Mongoloid in appearance – he looks like a rather “normal” boy. Hmmm.

Surprisingly, the anchor pierces the power line and sends out a surge of electricity which resurrects Jason, whose corpse just happens to be right on top of the power line. And boy is he slimy gross. As luck would have it Jason is able to get a new hockey mask from Jimmy (who brought one along so he could scare Suzi, duh). Isn’t taking something like that to Crystal Lake just asking for a lot of trouble?

I really dug the creepy Jason synthesizer-y water-y sound they used as he swims up from the bottom of Crystal Lake.

I noticed that in this film Jason heaves his chest and shoulders up and down a lot – as if he is breathing heavily. Does he breathe? Is he a zombie, or does he now have a reanimated, working body?

I don’t want to shock anyone here – but what do you think happens to Jimmy and Suzi when Jason wakes up and find them making love right on his lake? Yeah, they’re not going on the class trip.

I don’t dislike this film as much as most people do. One of the major complaints is that we doesn’t even get to “New York” until the second hour (and then it is Vancouver) but I found the bits in “New York” to be the weakest – they are such super fake and over the top interpretations of the city. Yes, Jason Takes Manhattan is bad, but I don’t think it is as BAD as its reputation.

On the day of the cruise, just before the SS Lazarus departs to “New York” with the seniors of Lakeview High, an eye-popping deckhand – a student of the crazy school of Ralph if ever there was one – sees Jimmy and Suzi’s boat drifting nearby with bloody windows. Jimmy and Suzi never showed and douchey guy in charge, Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) is annoyed by it. (Actually, he’s annoyed by everything – and is annoying.) Chaperon and fellow teacher Colleen Van Deusen (Barbara Bingham) says not to worry too much because the two are probably just exploring each other rather than the city. I like her.

Old McCulloch is also miffed because Colleen has brought along McCulloch’s niece (and graduating senior) Rennie (Jensen Daggett) and Rennie’s dog, Toby. He’s not actually that upset that Toby is on board, more so that Rennie is. McCulloch and Colleen get in a tiff about it – he’s her legal guardian, she thinks Rennie should be able to decide what she wants to do for herself (and Rennie likes her more – maybe because Colleen never tried to drown her).

Amid this discord, Jason just avoids missing the boat! (Why exactly does Jason want to stowaway on this ship? Why does he want to leave the comfort of Crystal Lake? Is his blood lust so great that he simply cannot allow a vessel full of young nubile flesh to pass him by? Or is he in the grip of something greater, something like…wanderlust? Remember when  he visited Alice?)

The captain’s son Sean (Scott Reeves) and admirer of Rennie runs into the soothsayin’ deckhand who declares “This voyage is doomed!”

Those crazy sailin’ kids partake of shuffle board, and clay pigeon shooting and dancing in the disco – and even making music videos! Wayne (Martin Cummins) is a “filmmaker” and J.J. (Saffron Henderson) is a “musician.” They do some shots on deck and then J.J. wants to go down below and check out the acoustics. I am pretty sure J.J. is actually Jem in a dark wig.

Sean and Rennie meet each other on deck and make googly eyes – Sean got her a present – a really cheap looking Statue of Liberty necklace and of course she loves it.

McCulloch finds Rennie and says that it isn’t too late to take her back – I guess he doesn’t want her going to New York or something? She is afraid of water, you see, and can’t swim but she says she doesn’t even know why she is afraid anymore and when it started. McCulloch says facing your fear doesn’t always conquer it.

Rennie begins having visions of Jason as a young boy. Why? Because McCulloch pushed Rennie into Camp Crystal lake when she was a young girl, trying to teach her how to swim and Jason grabbed her and pulled her under and she almost drowned. It was all very traumatic. A better question would be – over the course of the film why does the young Jason go from looking “normal” to deformed?

The adult killer Jason is really cutting his way through the passengers and he takes out J.J. and a student in the sauna, the prom queen and the captain.

Then Jason teleports around the disco and kills Eva (Kelly Hu) on the dance floor. The “teleporting” didn’t bother me – the killers in these films always seems to be everywhere at once anyway – but what did take me out of the moment was when I noticed, as he is strangling Eva, the gloves Kane Hodder is wearing to make Jason appear all corpse-y end midway up his arm and you can quite clearly see the non Corpse-y real skin beneath (which the tattered ends of his shirt are supposed to cover but here don’t).

Sean finds his father dead and declares an emergency, calling everyone to meet at the helm. McCulloch thinks that the deck hand is responsible since he has been spouting off about Jason Voorhees since they got aboard. The few students who remain decide they are sick of listening to McCulloch and leave to gather weapons and look for the killer on their own. Wayne goes down below where J.J. said she was heading and some steam blows off his glasses. It is just like those episodes of Scooby Doo in which Velma would lose her spectacles – and she couldn’t see anything! Not a damn thing! And just like Velma always did, Wayne shoots an innocent person.

Is Wayne one of our first examples of a kid with a camera in a horror film?

Wayne stumbles upon the body of J.J. – and look at that guitar! Jason used it to smash her head in and it doesn’t have a mark on it. That is some fine craftsmanship. Though it is probably now haunted and will turn up in the little shop on Friday the 13th: The Series.

Jason kills Wayne and throws him into a control panel, which causes a fire and sets the whole ship ablaze. But Jason is thoughtful and he sets off the fire alarm.

McCulloch has locked Rennie “safely” in her cabin, where she is having another vision of a young Jason – who is looking more and more deformed. The grown Jason attacks her, shattering the window of her port hole and reaching in to strangle her. The fakest broken glass I have ever seen is featured in this scene.

How many people were there in the graduating class and on the crew of this ship? There are like four non-main characters left at this point – how many people has Jason slaughtered? And how does Jason’s mask suddenly get the ax mark in it from the previous films when it was a brand new mask he got from Jimmy’s boat in the beginning? Did someone take an ax to him on the Lazarus that we didn’t see? Maybe one of the many missing Lakeview High graduates?

As McCulloch is sneaking around with a flare gun in the kitchen you can see the reflection of someone’s head on something metal in the background. I never notice this many goofs in Friday the 13th movies! What is going on!

Rennie is such a poorly written heroine – she’s flaky, she’s all wet (literally) – the slightest provocation or the littlest deluge and she’s whipped. I want more backbone! She made me yearn for some of that crazy old Dana Kimmel Mormon spunk.

The restaurant below deck where Colleen left the four nameless, inconsequential characters is flooded so the group decides to just leave – don’t bother looking for them. Jason probably got them.

The few left – Rennie, Colleen, Sean, McCulloch and Toby the dog – crowd into a lifeboat and we see Jason above on the ship looking directly down at them. Why doesn’t he jump in? Throw his ax? He just decides to stand there and watch them patiently? And how did Julius (V.C. Dupree) survive all that time after Jason threw him overboard? He pops up and climbs in.

Now the film turns into Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and McCulloch pulls off his mask and reaveals he is really Tullulah Bankhead. OK, so that didn’t happen. But it should have. Why don’t they toss that stupid McCulloch overboard? He’s such a grouch and he won’t stop with the complaining already.

The “survivors” row-row-row their way to Vancouver New York and look! It is the Statue of Liberty! McCulloch checks his watch like he has somewhere to be. At the one hour and three minute mark they arrive in the city.

And how exactly does Jason get there? By swimming? As he gets out of the water and stands on the dock surveying his new surroundings he sees a billboard for hockey – a big blown up image of his mask looks back at him. I wonder if he thinks – is there really someone else like me out there? Do I have a brother? Why did mother never tell me? I wonder if Mrs. Voorhees ever warned Jason about the big bad city. He is just a simple country boy remember. And look how far he has come!

The group of “survivors” have been in “New York” for two minutes and they’re already getting mugged. Even though Julius was thrown into the ocean and floating around for God knows how long, he still has his wallet in the front pocket of his jacket. The thugs decide to drag Rennie off and shoot her up with drugs and rape her.

Stupid McCulloch tells everyone to split up, because obviously they are not doing well as a group – a killer is after them, they’re in the ghetto of a strange city – it is alone time!

Jason saves the day and kills the thugs before they can have their way with Rennie.

In another obvious homage to Hitchcock – this time by way of The Birds (they even used the old jungle gym set from that film in Jason Goes To Hell, you know – which I think is a bit of blasphemy) – Julius is in a phone booth attempting to call for help when Jason appears behind him and punches through the glass.

What follows is a long drawn-out sequence with Julius (who is a boxer undefeated) attempting to hold his own against Jason on a rooftop. What do YOU think happens?

The group somehow reassembles (minus Julius – where could he be?) and they find a cop with a very non-New York accent – they tell him their story and the cop says: “You’re right, I find it a tall tale indeed, but you seem like honest folks, so I’m inclined to believe at least some of what you say.” Really!

They all cram into the cop car and…

… Julius’s severed head is on the dashboard! Ahhhhh!

Why isn’t Sean phased by this?

The cop gets killed, Rennie jumps into the front of the vehicle and speeds off, hitting Jason and crashing into a wall. Sean and Rennie and McCulloch stumble from the wreckage, considerately leaving behind Colleen who perishes in the explosion. Rennie, who through all this still has perfectly coiffed hair, now remembers when her mean old uncle threw her into Crystal Lake. He says he saved her life, but since he was also the one who put it in jeopardy doesn’t that kind of diminish it?

In the end Sean and Rennie and Jason (hmmm…no McCulloch) get to take in all the notable sights of “New York” – Times Square! The Subway! Sewers! – and Rennie stands up to Jason, who morphs into his non-deformed young boy self again. None of it makes sense. There is also magic lightning that strikes the Statue of Liberty. And they are reunited with Toby! It is a happy ending!

Except…yes, they are safe from Jason, but if I was Rennie I’d really be worried about the Hepatitis I probably just contracted from the needle those thugs used on me. And what the hell are she and Sean and the dog going to do now? They don’t have any money since they were robbed and are without their luggage – where will they stay? How will they get home? Will they ever see the real New York? C

Happy Halloween!

The Third Kind

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Part III opens with a recap of Part II’s ending – the wonderful Amy Steel as Ginny finds herself in Jason’s little hut, and discovering his mother’s severed head, puts her psychology courses to good use. Poor Jason just wants his mama and Ginny pretends to be the deceased Mrs. Voorhees in order to trick Jason and lay a machete into him – well it doesn’t exactly work out quite like that, but in “the end” Jason is “vanquished.”

God, I love Betsy Palmer. Did you see her in Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film? She is so awesome – and utterly hilarious as she talks about playing Mrs. Voorhees and the back story she came up with for the character. She is just stupendous and I want her to be my best friend.

Part II is in my mind the best Friday the 13th film and Part III doesn’t even try to be as good – but it doesn’t matter because it is ludicrously fun. (Incidentally, Part II and Part III are both directed by Steve Miner.) I adore all of the Friday films – except for the mostly Jason-less Goes To Hell, the totally Jason-less A New Beginning and the how-clever! in space! installment. This was the first slasher series that I ever watched – one of the films in this series was probably the first slasher film I EVER saw – and so I have a great fondness for the franchise. Even if they are of questionable taste and quality, I enjoy them, and I think they get a bad rap. No, they are not art and do not try to be, but they are not as vile and worthless as some would claim either. Well, OK, A New Beginning is.

Part III supplies us with an uber-rad disco theme and credits “in 3D” that fly right out of the TV. Not really, but it was originally released in 3D, which means now we get a lot of shots of things pointed at the camera or flying at the screen – baseball bats, yo-yo’s, popcorn, an eyeball. That is unless of course you got yourself the 3D deluxe edition that was released in 2009 and came with two of your very own pairs of 3D glasses. I have not seen the film in its full 3D splendor, so I cannot discuss the merits or drawbacks of the film in that regard.

The opening of Part 3 proper, has always creeped me out. I don’t know what I found most frightening – the Sandy Dennis looking wife named Edna in curlers berating her husband Harold or Harold feeding his goldfish and deciding to taste the fish flakes or Harold sampling peanuts and orange juice and a chocolate donut (to go with the day fly eggs) from the shelves of the general store he runs with Edna and then putting them back OR Jason sneaking around sans his mask among the sheets outside. Sheets blowing in the wind are creepy!

According to some the actress Dana Kimmell who plays our final girl Chris here – felt the script contained too much sex and violence and tried to convince director Steve Miner to trim out much of it. If she was really in favor of “decency” why didn’t she get him to eliminate the truly awful scene of Harold taking a noisy shit?

Jason takes care of the troubled couple, and now we meet our main victims. Dana plays good girl Chris – and there is also Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) his pregnant girlfriend Debbie (Tracie Savage) and sad sack prankster Shelly (Larry Zerner). They’re all in Chris’ van going to pick up Vera (Catherine Parks) the date that Andy has set up to come along for Shelly and then they’re off to Chris’ parents cabin were they will be spending the weekend.

Aw, look at the customization on Chris’ van. How could Jason attack her after seeing that?

She also has Bruce Springsteen and “I ♥ Skiing” bumper stickers.

And she is really down on sex – Andy starts talking about it and Chris is all “sex, sex, sex! How boring!”

Shelly the prankster likes to pull gags like sneaking up on people and pretending to stab them while wearing a mask, or making it seem as though he has been murdered by an ax to the head. Shelly says it is “acting” and the poor guy really has low self esteem. At Vera’s house, her mother answers the door, and she sure doesn’t want Vera going on this trip – we hear a lot of yelling in Spanish and then Vera appears, and says she’s ready. She wants to know who her date is. Now, Vera is a very typical Friday the 13th female character – she’s a babe. She isn’t too thrilled that Shelly is her date, but she’s nice about it. If only Shelly had survived this film! I think he would have really hit it off with Maddy from The New Blood. What do you think?

I’ve always wondered why are these kids – especially Miss Priss Chris – are hanging out with two older stoners – Chuck (David Katims) and Chili (Rachel Howard)? How did they meet them? What is the story?

As they’re driving to the cabin, some cops pull up behind the van lights flashing and sirens wailing and everyone panics because Chuck and Chili – being stoners – are not only at the moment smoking up but also have tons of weed in the van. So to hide the evidence the kids decide to EAT the pot. The big sillies, the cops are just going to poor old Edna and Harold’s place.

Chris almost runs over some old bum asleep in the road and the bum says the kids are so “kind and generous” just because they didn’t make Mincemeat out of him. He shows them an eyeball he found (Edna’s? Harold’s? Who knows, the woods are probably full of body parts around there) – he’s crazy Ralph version 2.0 and he warns them to look upon the eye as an omen “to go back from whence ye came.” They get back in the car and continue on their way but the old bum says: “I” (or does he mean “eye”?) “have warned thee.”

They arrive at the cabin and everyone goes down to the lake except curmudgeon Chris who wants to take her bags inside and look around. She enters the cabin and is promptly grabbed – but it is just Rick (Paul Kratka) the guy she used to see who still wants to get into her pants. “Did I do something wrong?” he asks. “Did I? When I grabbed you by the throat and shoved you against the wall and tried to kiss you and you weren’t expecting anyone to be in the house – was that wrong?”

Shelly pulls another bloody stunt and Chris – who as I’ve already said is an old wet blanket – gets angry and storms off. Debbie follows after her and tries to calm her down. Chris keeps saying things like “It’s been two years since I have been here” and “Maybe I shouldn’t have come back so soon” and “He doesn’t know what happened” – oh, there’s some back story here! Betsy Palmer would be pleased.

Vera and Shelly decide to go into town and take Rick’s Volkswagen to the store where they promptly piss off a motorcycle gang and end up with the windshield and driver side windows of the car busted out. Rick is distressed to see the state of his car when they return and says he’s going to leave but Chris wants him to stay with her. He’s says OK, let’s go for a ride – “That’s right, just sit there on that broken glass.”

To even the score the motorcycle gang shows up at the cabin and decides to siphon all of the gas out of Chris’ van and use it to burn down the barn. Well, the barn is where Jason has been hanging out so guess how that goes. There is one interesting scene when Fox (Gloria Charles) goes by herself into the barn and seems mystified and extremely happy – she kicks over a bale of hay and runs her hands along a saddle, and examines an old canteen with pure joy and a smile on her face – she may be in a motorcycle gang but she has the secret heart of a cowgirl.

One thing these original Friday the 13th films really got right was the sound of the woods – we hear crickets, the lapping of water, things howling and chirping and echoing – a small touch, but one I always notice and appreciate and something that was especially missing from the remake.

Now Chris and Rick have found a place to park and Chris shares the tale of what happened to her two years ago. She and Rick had been out, and he brought her home late, and when she went went back inside the cabin her parents were none too happy and they got into a huge fight. Chris decided to hide out in the woods TO SHOW THEM and fell asleep under a tree. She woke up when she heard someone approaching and it was Jason, who attacked her, and they struggled and she blacked out and doesn’t know what went on after that. When she came to she was in her own bed and her parents never said anything about it.

Just then the battery in Rick’s car dies, and it looks like the two will be walking back.

Why is Chili wearing a blue boot on a key chain as a necklace? Just curious…

Stupid Shelly and his tricks. He puts on a wet suit and a hockey mask and grabs a harpoon and hides under the dock where Vera is sitting and grabs her leg. She gets angry and doesn’t understand why Shelly has to be so stupid all the time.

Yes, this is the film where Jason first dons the hockey mask.

Andy and Debbie have just finished having sex – sorry, I mean making love – in a hammock and Debbie goes to take a shower. Andy asks her if she wants a beer and she says yeah. TSK, TSK, pregnant girl drinking beer – what was that I was saying before about these films not being that bad? BUT WAIT! She changes her mind – see! She doesn’t want it anymore. She gets out of the shower and decides to read an issue of Fangoria instead. But it is never safe at Crystal Lake – not even to read!

Those stoners sure say MAN a lot. “Stop fooling around MAN.” “Be a man MAN.”

When Chris and Rick return to the cabin there’s popcorn burning on the stove, the lights aren’t working, and they can’t find anyone. You can’t leave this bunch alone for a minute! Not even to recount a past Jason trauma to your hard-up boyfriend.

Since everyone is gone and it is dark Rick decides to go outside and look around. I’ll leave you to theorize just what fate befalls him.

Chris goes looking for Rick and discovers one of the members of the motorcycle gang who has been strung in a tree. She runs back inside and uses a floor lamp to barricade the door. In her defense, it does look like a very heavy floor lamp. These homes near Crystal Lake – and especially the summer camp cabins themselves – need panic rooms. Or I guess they would be called “Jason Rooms.”

Chris and Jason have their final showdown in the barn, Jason reveals to Chris that he is the goon who attacked her those years before (he wasn’t wearing a sack over his head then) and it all seems to be over, finally. Chris decides to do an Alice and gets herself into a canoe and goes out onto the lake where she falls asleep.

When she wakes up the next morning she’s a chocolate mess and thinks she sees Jason in a window, and then running towards her… but it was just a delusion… wasn’t it? Mrs. Voorhees comes jumping up out of the water, grabs her and pulls her in. Now, how did Mrs. Voorhees get in the lake? How did she get her head back on? If it was a hallucination then Chris must have known of the existence of Mrs. Voorhees, right? Oh, me and my questions.

Later, the police have arrived and as they load Chris her into a car we see she has gone totally around the bend – laughing and screaming – she is broken. This bitch won’t be able to look at a potted plant without losing it. No more woods for her.

So, yeah – this isn’t a good movie – but it is amusing, it pays homage to the original, there is quite a bit of gore, if that is your thing – and I like it. Isn’t that enough? C+

 

Rollergirl and Mrs. Mills slummin’ it with some Satanists

Blessed (2004)

Do you think this might be a Rosemary’s Baby copycat?

Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorites – be it horror or non-horror. And, I confess – I love Rosemary’s Baby knock-offs. There is something about devil worshipers and pregnant women that just tickles me.

Blessed has some thoroughly awful opening credits that were almost enough to make me give up on it before I’d even seen much of anything. But I kept my chin up and toughed it out.

The film begins with a very pregnant woman in a nightgown on her balcony, which doubles as a ledge, high above the city, drinking what appears to be wine. As tears flood her face, she kisses the cross around her neck and steps off the edge.

And we cut to Heather Graham waking up. What is it with these pregnant women and their dreams about other pregnant women in nightgowns leaping to their death? (Yes, I’m looking at you Witchery.)

We now are treated to a production of a school Christmas pageant which Heather Graham – I mean Samantha Howard (played by Heather Graham!)  – appears to be in charge of – so she is a music teacher? We are never told, and Samantha never really expresses any interest in anything musical – or anything really – aside from having a baby, shopping and snooping around outside her neighbor’s house. So I’ll go with music teacher. Oh, yeah, and the place she teaches is called Saint ROSEMARY’s Catholic School.

Oh, I do like Heather Graham. What the hell happened to her?

Well, the pageant ends, everyone leaves, but Sam stays behind to wait with a cute little boy whose parents have not yet turned up. My advice to her at this point would be to kidnap this boy, run away, get new names and black wigs for both of them and raise the child as her own. She is so going to get screwed and end up giving birth to the devil’s spawn – and this little Bo Peep’s parents don’t seem to care about him! It would be best for everyone! And look! Why the two wait, the boy is already asking Heather hard hitting questions like “Where do babies come from?” It is meant to be.

Alas, the bad parental unit shows up and Sam’s chance is gone. Sam takes a taxi home through the big bad city, and at her apartment we meet her husband Craig (James Purefoy). He is British, he’s a struggling writer and he just got fired from his job. He thinks now would be the perfect time to make a baby. Oh, yes – you’ve just lost your job, Sam has just said that the two of you cannot survive on her income alone – let’s add to the family!  Also, I think their apartment is haunted, because as Sam and Craig make out in the bathtub (sexy!) the camera pulls out of the room and the door swings shut on its own.

Well, it looks like they can’t have a baby anyway. At least not in the traditional way. But don’t take the time to wonder why because you will not be told. All you need to know is that Sam and Craig talk to their doctor and the doctor recommends the PERFECT clinic for them – in a sleepy little upstate town called Lakeview – full of Satanists! I gots a hunch. The doctor says that the clinic is super busy, but he can use his influence to help them out. He is such a smug Satanist bastard.

As the two drive to Lakeview I notice that Craig is wearing a jacket from The North Face. He’s in on it! He’s a Satanist too! He promised them the baby! Or he promised them Sam as a vessel to bring evil spilling forth into the world! Oh, Sam, I wish I could warn you!

It is now that I realize I have had the “Little Lord Jesus asleep in his bed” song going through a loop in my head for the past five minutes, thanks to that damn pageant.

This clinic is serious business, kids – you have to pass through a security checkpoint to get in. Dr. Leeds (Debora Weston) tells the couple “we’re pioneering many new procedures here at Lakeview” – like adding the devil’s blood to the eggs they have extracted from Sam. Satan’s blood of course being something they just happen to have around. They inject the embryos that they’ve Bezzelbubbed up back into Sam and while this conception is not as romantic as the one Rosemary Woodhouse shares with Satan, it is sterile.

While Heather and her husband are in Lakeview they are staying in a rental cabin and their neighbor is a very pregnant woman who rushes away with her husband in the middle of the night. Heather sees them fleeing from the window where she is nosy parker-ing, and she also notices a black figure in a black hood. Well, pregnant neighbor and husband do not make it far – the husband is dispatched and the pregnant woman is hit in the stomach with a big stick.

Lakeview has something called “an Annual Stampede” in which all the men run a race around the lake – while wearing supremely silly looking reindeer antlers. Betty (Stella Stevens) tells Samantha that this dates back to the 1700s. A local virgin reached marrying age whereupon five suitors asked for her hand, but her father couldn’t choose, so he made them all race around the lake. None of this is really important – I just wanted to be able to post this screencap:

Sam and Craig find out the fertilization took – so baby is coming! Sam will soon be chopping off her hair, eating raw meat, drinking Tannis Root smoothies, and wearing super Mod print dresses. I’m telling you stretch marks are the least of her worries.

Sam and Craig are invited to a party, and everyone at the party seems to know already that Sam is pregnant. Great ethics Dr. Leeds – I guess you missed that whole course on confidentiality while you were busy sacrificing virgins. Well, no matter, Sam is just so thrilled and honored that Dr. Leeds wants to supervise Sam’s pregnancy herself, and Craig gets introduced to a real Roman Castevets character, Earl Sidney (David Hemmings) who works “in publishing.” I think he probably works “in evil.” Earl is very interested in hearing about Craig’s writing – well, of course he is now that you sold your wife’s uterus to him and his wacky devil worshipping pals.

Returning to the city Sam and Craig find someone has broken into their apartment while they were away and totally trashed the place. Miraculously, Betty calls and informs them that the house across from the chalet they rented is now available – because the previous tenants are dead! Well, Betty doesn’t mention this but we know it to be true – remember the disappearing husband and the big branch to the belly lady?

Craig goes to meet with Earl Sydney and takes along his agent J. Lloyd Samuel (Fionnula Flanagan) – and is offered a one hundred thousand dollar advance on his next book.

Sam and Craig go take a tour of the house in Lakeview – it even comes fully furnished – because when you’re dead you don’t need your lamps or armchairs. And the rent for the next three months is already paid up! It almost seems to good to be true!

Sam finds out she is having twins! Dr. Leeds and Sam are both happy with the ultrasound but it worried me a little. Maybe it is those Demon-y screeches on the soundtrack every time they showed the monitor.

Sam spots Mr. Hoodie, the guy she saw the night the neighbors (or rather now – former tenants) disappeared, in the mall while she is shopping. All in black with black gloves on – and he appears to be pursuing her.

Her pursues her right into the road where she his hit by a car.

Sam is OK and the babies are fine, but she had odd visions of a menacing looking church and black robed figures and fire, as she was rushed to the hospital. Craig tells her not to worry, that they’re in Lakeview “a million miles from bad people and bad things.” Oh-ho-ho-ho silly lying British husband.

J.Lloyd Samuel does a search online for Escom Industries and these are the results she gets:

Don’t you love when someone thinks ahead!

With all of those helpful pages to guide her, J.Llo-uel finds a page about the “Spiritus Research Group” and “Multiple Egg cloning.”

J. Lloydy goes to see Earl Sidney and she wants to know his relationship with Lakeview. Sidney offers her tea which I’m guessing is poison, because he is a Satanist and also because he has a pompous grin on his face.

And I was right! J. Lloyd tries to call Craig but when he picks up she can only choke to death. Don’t the Howards have Caller ID?

We get some more of malevolent Sonogram sounds and Sam begins having pains in her stomach that she says feel like scraping needles but from what the soundtrack “implies” sounds like the slashing of a dozen knives.

Samantha is out shopping again when see the the black hooded creeper and now he is teleporting around like Jason Voorhees in the discotheque of the SS Lazarus.

She decides to get some coffee at a shop in the mall, and suddenly Andy Serkis is sitting across from her. This doesn’t seem to phase Sam. Yes, she keeps seeing a stranger who dresses in all black and wears black gloves – yes, she saw the stranger outside the night her neighbors disappeared, and yes, she was frightened of this person so much that she ran into the street and got hit by a car. And yes, Andy Serkis is dressed in all black and wearing black gloves – but there is no hood in sight – so no worries, right? The two begin a conversation and Andy says he is in the business of “souls” – oh, no, my bad – he points to his shoes – he means “soles” – what a silly man with a silly accent!

Craig’s book is published and there is a big party in New York. It must be a building that belongs to Earl Sidney because he leads Sam upstairs and shows her his personal art collection and also lays on her a big ole chunk of exposition.

He tells her of Saint Ambrose who slayed the Angel of Light – the angel who turned people away from a God who didn’t care very much for mankind. Saint Ambrose killed the angel before the angel’s good works could be done and the light left the world, and the centuries that followed were known as The Dark Ages. A monastery in Italy is rumored to have a small vial containing the blood of the slayed angel – the angel Lucifer. The vial eluded man for centuries, many sought to possess it, if found a new apocalypse would begin and the light would return to the world one final time.

OK… two things… a new apocalypse? When did the old one occur? And didn’t he just pretty much tell Sam that he was a Satanist?

Well, duh, the vial was found – I already told you they used the devil’s blood to make Sam’s babies. Sometimes I think you don’t take me seriously at all.

Craig is writing all the time, he never gives Sam any attention, they haven’t slept together in two months, he doesn’t even seem to like Sam to touch him. Also, Sam thinks Earl Sidney is creepy. Her husband starts being the biggest prick ever and thank God she slaps him. Good job Sam! Now push him out a window!

Sam sees Andy Serkis again while she is out and about and goes to say hello to him. He is still dressed all in black and wearing black gloves. Andy starts going on about Evangelists and that they are really “evil agents” – see how clever he is? He asks Sam if she believes in evil, and starts talking about the Spiritus Institute being in the same building as the fertility clinic. Sam has forgotten that the first time she met Andy he knew her name even though she did not tell him – why does she give this guy the benefit of the doubt? He FINALLY starts to creep her out and she gets the hell out of there. See what happens when you’re nice to people?

We see Sam watching an episode of Jerry Springer called “Who’s The Daddy?” Rich!

Sam decides to do some research of her own on the Spiritus Institute and finds the same page J. Lloyd came across about Multiple Egg Cloning. Sam looks worried. Why they advertise that on their website? 

Andy shows appears and sneaks up on Sam and says, you will not be harmed – don’t scream or fight, k?

Oh, and look, he’s a priest. He takes her back to his hotel room. I’m surprised the Satanists aren’t keeping a more watchful eye on Sam. Especially after the last people in the house disappeared and Sam is carrying their precious cargo.

Andy tells Sam that her babies must not live, they are the spawn of science – agents of evil. He just wants her to give him the ring drink some green sludge, which he says is salvation, but is totally poison. I’m kind of torn here – if Gollum tells you that your baby is evil, should you listen?

And also, isn’t suicide considered a major no-no by religious types? In theory wouldn’t Sam killing herself send her straight to hell? Or would she be forgiven because she is doing it for the sake of humanity? Loophole!

It all turns out OK, in the end – well, kind of. Poor Sam, she goes into labor and doesn’t get any pain meds – she has to deliver her babies in an ambulance – and not only is she delivering twins, but twins that are the spawn of Satan. Can you imagine the pain? I can’t. Oh, childbirth, what a beautiful thing.

Four years later and Sam and Craig have the creepiest blond little Village of the Damned bitches I have ever seen. But they can still get away with dressing as angels for Halloween. The ending seems suspiciously similar to the last scene of The Astronaut’s Wife – so now Blessed is “imitating” another “imitation” of Rosemary’s Baby.

Is one to assume that all the women who were going to the Lakeview clinic were getting Satan’s blood with their insemination?

Blessed lacks the psychological depth that is needed to make it really chilling, and not a lot happens – Samantha never really seems aware that anything weird is going on and the majority of the “action” takes place in the last twenty minutes. There isn’t nearly enough tension to keep one involved or interested and it doesn’t help that you can guess everything that is going to occur before even watching the film. If you’ve seen one pregnant with the Antichrist movie, you’ve seen this one. C

Witchful Thinking

Witchery (1988)

This is the description of the movie I read (from IMDB): “A pregnant woman is taken back to the house of her husband’s mother. There she begins to have strange nightmare about her child and step-family. For the husband and mother are actually reincarnated lovers who were burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. She must soon escape from their clutches or have her child sacrificed to Satan.”

Sounds intriguing, right? And it stars David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair! Tell me that doesn’t make you curious. Well, sorry, folks, that description is totally wrong. This is the real description of the film (which I got from Amazon): “Gary (David Hasselhoff) and his gal pal Linda (Catherine Hickland) visit an island off the coast of Massachusetts where a haunted resort hotel looms to do research on witchcraft. They’re joined by the Brooks family (including a pregnant Linda Blair), prospective buyers of the property. When a violent storm prevents them from leaving the island, they’re forced to endure the vengeful wrath of an evil witch who won’t quit until every last one of them dies a horrible death!”

And even that description isn’t totally correct. Gary’s “gal pal” is actually named Leslie and played by Leslie Cumming. Of course I didn’t find out that the original description I had read was totally wrong until I had suffered through the entirety of Witchery and forgotten all about reincarnated lovers and babies being sacrificed to Satan. I believe the description from IMDB actually applies to the 1989 film Witchcraft. All of the misinformation probably stems from the fact that Witchery has about one hundred Also Known As titles and one of them was Witchcraft. (The others include: La Casa 4, Evil Encounters, Evil Dead 3, Ghosthouse 2, The Haunted House and Witchcraft: Return of the Exorcist.) And to further confuse things the title card that came on screen during the opening credits of the version I watched was: Witchcraft (Evil Encounters). OK, does your head hurt as much as mine does?

The movie begins with a pregnant woman running from a group of Witchfinder General looking types. As the names of the film’s “stars” appear two of the actors credited side by side are Leslie Cumming and Bob Champagne and of course I pause to consider – wouldn’t Cumming Champagne be an interesting name? Sorry.

Our being-pursued pregnant woman is wearing some kind of shiny magic diamond pin on her nightgown. The magic pin does not help make her very bright, however. She runs into a large house, dashes upstairs and down a long hallway. All of the doors in the hallway are closed and she begins banging and pounding on them, trying to get one open. One of these “locked” doors she tries very clearly has a key in the keyhole.

She continues attempting to open doors – she tries another one that, yes, has a key in the lock. I am now hoping she dies. Soon. Oh yay, the witchfinder gang appears in the hallway and advances toward her. Pregnant girl tries another door – and guess what? It has a key in the lock too! I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this movie…

Oh, thankfully she jumps out a window just as the mob wielding gardening tools closes in on her.

As she falls to her death we cut away before she hits the ground and now zoom in on the face of Linda Blair bolting awake in bed. Oh, she was a-dreamin’. About a really stupid chick. As Linda gets out of bed we see – that she is pregnant! And wearing a night gown just like the girl from the dream. Linda regards her baby bump in the mirror glumly. Where is that glow that pregnant women are supposed to have? Where is the baby’s daddy?

Now we are introduced to Leslie (Leslie Cumming) and she is walking down the same hallway that Linda Blair was just dreaming about – only now all the doors are open. I guess someone in this movie knows how to work a key. Leslie comes to the end of the hallway and wouldn’t you know it, there is a broken window.

This place that Leslie is at, and that Linda was dreaming of is a rundown hotel on a privately owned and thus deserted island and Leslie has come here, with her boyfriend Gary (David Hasselhoff) to work on her book about witches. Gary is a photographer and Leslie asked his to accompany her and shoot some photos for her book.

We cut back to Linda Blair – the name of character is Jane Brooks – as she is walking in the city and passing a construction site. She stops when a creepy looking woman in black (Hildegard Kneft) catches her eye. This woman has the magic pin from Jane’s dream, and the light from it blinds Jane just as a girder falls from a crane overhead and crashes down a few feet in front of her. She could have been killed! Poor pregnant Jane! And the woman in black has vanished!

Back on the island, Leslie and Gary are discussing a light they’ve been seeing every day at noon shining from one of the upstairs windows. Gary says there is nothing that could be causing it! He has studied the hotel from every angle! Then Gary has to start in about that whole virgin thing again! He tells Leslie he doesn’t think it is natural for a woman her age to have never slept with a man, and why doesn’t she just give in and go to bed with him? He thought if he came with her to the island she would put out. Well, Leslie doesn’t want to discuss it.

It turns out that Jane’s mother Rose (Annie Ross) has bought the old hotel and she plans to turn it into a club. The whole Brooks clan will be going to see the property tomorrow, but the architect that Rose wanted to use to restore the place is not available. Rose’s husband Freddie (Robert Champagne) says he know of someone and makes a call.

The phone begins to ring just as blondie Linda (Catherine Hickland) gets out of the shower. She sees a vision of the woman in black in her bathroom mirror! She answers the phone, and we find out that she is the architect Freddie was talking about and she makes plans to meet the family at the docks and sail with them to the island to see the property. Linda asks who recommended her to him and Freddie says he got her name from the Taylors. But she says she doesn’t know any Taylors!

The woman in black is in an upstairs room of the hotel, where she appears to live, rocking an empty white bassinet. Why not black?

Leslie’s research for her book seems to consist of her walking the same hallway over and over. She is a hardcore serious investigator. Honestly, she seems as if she can barely read, never mind being capable of writing a book. She reads passages to Gary out of an old text she brought to the island about witches and it is in a deadly dull monotone – the same monotone she delivers every line of dialogue in. I don’t know if this actress has a slight accent or her mouth is filled with marbles or she is missing part of her tongue, but she slurs everything she says. It is kind of fascinating actually – like a mystified Dorothy Parker from another planet using the English language for the first time. And the actor who plays Tommy (Michael Manchester) Jane’s younger brother is equally as horrible and enthralling – he delivers his lines in drawn out halting bursts of syllables.

While the Brooks family is trying to find someone to sail them to the island, Tommy meets a young girl who tells him he should not go there – because a witch lives there.

We get more of the magic light, and this time it illuminates the sky in a dazzling display.

The realtor that Rose had been working with is unable to make the trip, but offers up his son, Jerry (Rick Farnsworth) as a substitute. On the boat ride to the island Freddie asks why it was so hard to find someone to take them and Jerry replies that the locals have all kinds of crazy legends and superstitions about the island – “Witches and rainbows and shit.”

When they arrive, the sailor tells them that if they are not back by low tide, he will be gone.

Taking a tour of the house Jerry informs everyone that the last owners were just desperate to sell, Oh, hahaha! Always a good sign. Freddie says that the place gives him “the shivers” and Jerry says not to worry about that, “we’ll have the heating fixed up in a snap.”

The sailor waiting at the shore sees the woman in black leaving the hotel. He pulls a bottle of booze out of his jacket and when he looks back, the woman is gone. But! Her face appears in in the bottle just as she materializes beside him and uses the magic diamond pin to do her sparkly light thing on him.

Jerry is telling everyone now that some movie actress who used to be a little crazy was the last person to live in the hotel. She quit making movies because she didn’t want people to see her aging. “By the time she retired she was already… you know… retirement age. She couldn’t possibly still be alive.”

I thought he just told us that there were owners, plural form and that they were desperate to get rid of the place? Were they renting it to the actress? Did no one ever go through the place and make sure that it was vacated? Because obviously the woman in black (is she the actress?) has set up camp in one of the upstairs room. Or did the lady in black own the place and put it on the market? Was it all part of her plan to lure them to the island?

Now the boat that brought everyone is sailing itself away and we see the dead captain hanging from fishing nets on the mast. Foxy Lady is the name of the boat, F.Y.I.

Jane, the old adventurer, has wandered off on her own and typical Jane! drops a bottle of her pills into a bathtub full of absolutely filthy water. As she tries to retrieve them something grabs her and pulls her in. Now, if you thoughts the effects from the light in the sky picture above looked hokey, you have to see this. I wish I had an image of it to share. Jane is shown “falling” into a swirling vortex of red. I don’t know if it is a doorway to hell, or an entry into an alternate dimension or if she is just going down the drain. I do know though that it is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen.

Jane ends up somewhere – I don’t know where, but I think it is a baaaaaaaad place. And she isn’t even wet! There are fires burning and as Jane watches she sees what look like two old bums fighting over the body of baby, wrestling for it over flames. When they notice Jane, they begin smacking the baby against things, and with a gruesome smile, one of the them tears some flesh from the baby’s leg with her teeth and takes it out of her mouth to show to Jane. The light show trickery happens again and Jane passes out. She wakes up on the floor of the bathroom with everyone standing around her.

Jane says that something pulled her down into the tub – which has no water in it now, and she still isn’t wet. In the palm of her hand she finds a tiny porcelain baby hand which shatters on the floor when she drops it. Everyone decides it is time to leave.

Gary and Leslie have been hiding upstairs in one of the rooms this whole time because though Leslie did ask for permission to come to the island and do research it was never given to her.

Well, duh, the boat is gone and Freddie blames Rose because she didn’t tip the captain. Tommy starts taking about the woman in black and points to an upstairs window were the curtains are moving and says “There she is!” Everyone heads back to the hotel, and Gary thinking they’ve gone, is coming downstairs just as they come in.

Gary explains who he is and tells them that he and Leslie are ready to vacat the island too. Gary has a Zodiac parked outside, and though it won’t fit everyone, he can make a run to the mainland and send back help. But it turns out the sea is too rough for him to go safely.

Jerry’s mantra is: “Don’t worry, when my father finds out I never came back, he’ll save us.”

Rose decides to go upstairs and get some rest and is killed in what I thought was a service elevator but turns out to be a safe – which opens into a long, deep shaft. Rose is pulled in and we get the bad red vortex effects again.

Leslie is telling Jane about her book and why she picked this island to do her research – she read about an island where many witch burnings took place and a woman accused of witchcraft took her own life instead of burning at the stake – and the island she read about is exactly like this one!

Rose is tied to a chair, and the old bums are sewing her mouth shut while the woman in black talks about the “three doors to hell” – the first of which is greed. Rose somehow returns from – hell? the realm of the woman in black? – and is now hanging upside down in the fireplace chimney. How she got there I have no idea – I suppose the old red vortex deposited her. Everyone decides to build a fire, being as how it is so cold, and no one smells Rose cooking to death. Wouldn’t that be pretty noticeable?

Linda and Jerry decide to head upstairs and have some sex and Freddie being the creepy perv that he is is spying on them. But before he can really get an eyeful the candle in the lover’s room flickers and then goes out. And now both Linda and Jerry in that evil swirly redness!

Jerry’s father has noticed that his son hasn’t returned and goes to talk to a police officer. The police officers says there are killer waves out there making it impossible to get to the island, and wonders why Jerry’s father is so worried anyway – after all, they are in a hotel.

Linda and Jerry end up where everyone else did, only in the beginning it is filmed like the mirror ball scene from Labyrinth. Now the woman in black is going on about the second door being a door of lust. Linda is tortured by the two old bums, while Jerry is crucified.

Freddie goes downstairs and tells Gary that “the strangest thing” just happened and the two go looking for the couple – and find Linda, a swordfish snout impaled through her neck.

The woman in black appears in a sleeping Leslie’s room murmuring about “virgin blood.” A skinny man with slicked back black hair and a melted mouth appears and rapes Leslie. This is Satan. You wouldn’t know it from watching the actual film, but I know it because I looked it up in the credits. Leslie wakes up screaming, and the room is now empty, but her top is ripped open and she has scratches and blood on her inner thighs.

The woman in black is upstairs in her room and has made an effigy which she lights on fire. Outside on the beach, Jerry is on an upside down cross being burned alive. Gary and Jane and Tommy and Freddie all freak out and Gary runs upstairs to get Leslie.

Leslie – because she knows about this stuff – says this is all part of some ancient ritual – a satanic ritual. Only SUTONIC is how she says is. She fails to go into any details of what the ritual entails or what the ultimate goal of the ritual is.

Rose’s body is discovered, Freddie is killed (though this happens without him ever going through the vortex and I’m not entirely sure what the third door is or what his death was supposed to be representative of) and Jerry’s father gets the police to take a helicopter to the island – but the house is smarter than them and locks all of the doors and windows – and even makes the windows shatter proof so that when Gary tries to bust one out with a chair nothing happens.

The broken window in the upstairs hall magically repairs itself – and guess what? Linda Blair gets possessed. She begins speaking in the woman in black’s voice. She says they were all chosen and she brought them to the island, and she talks about the three doors to the dark side. Linda Blair is so obviously in this movie just for a paycheck and invests nothing in her character or her acting. I can’t say I really blame her considering the ineptitude of the group she is surrounded by and the horrible script she had to work with.

The ending comes to us directly from The Exorcist as the demon inhabited Linda Blair throws herself out the window – and we find that love conquers all – as long as you have a Sesame Street tape player.

The last scene of the film is Leslie in the hospital being informed she is pregnant.

OK – what the fuck? What I mean is – what the fuck? Who made this? Who ever allowed it to be released? What the hell was that pin? What was the woman in black trying to do – release the devil from hell? Get herself reincarnated back into a baby? Take over Linda Blair’s body and life? And if Leslie has already been impregnated by Satan why did the woman in black even bother with possessing Linda Blair? And if she wanted Linda Blair on the island why did she appear to her her in the city and nearly kill her? Or was she saving Jane’s life by distracting her so that she didn’t walk to where the girder was about to land? And why wasn’t she killed when she was sucked into the vortex? And if there are only three doors and it takes one death for each to be opened, why were four people (not counting the sailor) killed? But most importantly: Why do I care? D

Those little slices of death.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Dream Demon (1988)

This movie is a strange little amalgam. A dash of Sam Raimi gross out, a hint of haunted house potboiler and a pinch of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

Our main character is Diana (Jemma Redgrave) and she is having awful dreams in which her soon to be husband Oliver (Mark Greenstreet) is a total tool. In the dream that opens the film, it is her wedding day, she it at the altar with Oliver and when the priest finishes his “Do you take this man?” spiel, Diana decides she can’t go through with it. Well, Oliver gets very upset and CANNOT BELIEVE SHE IS DOING THIS TO HIM. He hauls off and slaps her. Well, Diana isn’t about to take that and she hits him back – and his head flies off. A geyser of blood spurts out of his neck that would impress Old Faithful. Diana is soaked in the stuff, and takes off running Julia Roberts style from the church. But she doesn’t get far because there is a mob of reporters and photographers waiting as she bursts of out the doors.

But Diana doesn’t have anything to worry about – not really – does she? Oliver is a very nice young man (or is he?) and Diana’s doctor friend tells her that she she’s just nervous, which is perfectly natural and normal (did I mention Diana is a virgin?) and that everything will be fine.

A young American (oh yeah – this takes place in England) Jenny (Kathleen Wilhoite) arrives in the city. She was born in England but can remember nearly nothing about her childhood (she should go to The Dream Factory! Actually so should Diana…) and was raised by her adoptive parents in Los Angeles. She wants to find out about her past, and one of the few thing she does recall is a house – the one that Diana now lives in.

Oliver is a Falkland’s hero (look it up, I had to) and so his wedding is generating public interest – two news rag dudes turn up in front of the school Diana works at and ask if she is willing to be photographed and to answer a few questions about the upcoming nuptials. She’s not a bitch, so she agrees until their inquiries quickly become rude and she tells them THEY HAVE SOME NERVE and ends the interview.

The photographer Peck (Timothy Spall) and the reporter Paul (Jimmy Nail) are waiting for Diana outside her house when she returns home, but Jenny comes to Diana’s rescue and both girls run inside.

Jenny tells Diana about why she is in England, and about her interest in Diana’s house – which seems so very familiar to her. They two make plans to meet the following day.

Peck decides to sneak into the house during the night – but he never comes back out! Paul slips in the next morning to look for  him and Diana and Jenny discover him in the basement. Paul wants to know what is going on – where is Peck? Well, Diana had a dream about him, in which he tormented her and then fell into a hellish pit…

Diana’s dreams get exceedingly worse and she invites Jenny to stay with her. Oliver isn’t around because he is off shagging some hooker (see how he is). When Diana nods off, she manages to suck Jenny into her dream. Jenny is able to wake her, but she is pretty freaked out because something was after her in the dream and what would have happened if she hadn’t been able to rouse Diana?

Jenny decides she doesn’t care anymore about her past and just wants to get out of dodge, but she cannot get a flight home for a week. Diana accompanies Jenny in her hotel room and Jenny believes that since they’re out of the house, Diana should be able to sleep peacefully, and Jenny should be safe.

Paul shows up while Diana is asleep and informs Jenny that the only reason Oliver is marrying Diana is because he is broke and she has money. And Paul and Jenny find that Jenny was quite wrong about the influence of Diana’s dreaming as they both begin to fade and then completely disappear. Has Diana dreamt them away forever?

Dream Demon has some very strong visuals – the first few dreams are considerably well done – and the performances are all believable, but the story is too threadbare. This becomes especially noticeable during the film’s a-bad-thing-happened-in-the-house-and-that-past-trauma-is-responsible-for-the-current-crisis denouement.

The pay off isn’t substantial enough – emotionally or story wise and things are wrapped up far too easily and neatly. And a lot is never explained – for example why is Diana able to send people into her dreams? Why does the house manifest “the haunting” through dreams? And who is the Dream Demon anyway? C

It ain’t easy being Greek.

The Initiation (1984)

Thunder! Lightning! Rain! A doll’s head! A dimly lit hallway! Curtains blowing in the wind! Walking in on your mother having sex! A man on fire!

Are you still with me?

This is the dream that Kelly (Daphne Zuniga) has been having. As if that isn’t bad enough when she awakens from this nightmare she finds a horde of sorority sisters gathered around her bed chanting “Delta Ro Kai never will die.” It is the hour of the oath, yo.

The official commencement of hell week is about to begin and Daphne, Marcia (Marilyn Kagan) and Alison (Hunter Tylo) are the only three who have made it this far. And since Daphne’s father owns the Fairchild Department store and she has access to the keys, the prank of PRANK NIGHT! (hmmmm, I kind of like that for a title) will be for the three pledges to sneak into her father’s store Saturday night after is has closed and steal the night watchman’s uniform.

In what feels like the channel being changed we now cut to Fireside Sanitarium. There is a mean old nurse inside threatening all the patients and outside working in the garden is a guy with some very awful scars on his face. I did not like them. They really creeped me out. How could he have gotten them? A fire perhaps? The nasty nurse shrieks at him about hanging around (even though he seems to be employed there) and he stabs the ground furiously with a garden fork – uh oh, anger issues much? There is one patient in the sanitarium whose face we do not see – they just film the back of her head. I wonder why. Don’t you?

Later, someone is spooking around the place in latex gloves and unlocking all the doors that hold the patients – who free proceed to go outside and play Ring Around the Rosie – harmless enough – they weren’t hurting anyone! Well unfriendly Nursey Nurse Nurse discovers them and is all – What do you think you’re doing out here?! Get back inside! They don’t listen to her, so she runs to her car and they gather around the vehicle. And someone is in her back seat! And they stab her to death with – a garden fork! This nurse has some claws on her. Check out those nails. She could have used them to defend herself!

Kelly’s parents Frances (Vera Miles) and Dwight (Clu Gulager) get a call from… the sanitarium. Seven inmates escaped. Vera says, “Oh my God, was – ?”
“Yes,” answers Dwight, “but the doctor said not to worry about it. These people usually turn up in a day or two. And we are three hundred miles away.”

Ooooooh, we’re not being told everything!

Kelly wants to write her Psych paper on dreams. She has to run this by her T.A. Peter (James Reed) and he is pretty into dreams himself and wants to know why she picked that topic. She mentions it is a personal interest. Well, has Peter got something to show her! He leads her to THE DREAM FACTORY. And no, it has nothing to do with Rob Dyrdek. That is THE FANTASY FACTORY people!

THE DREAM FACTORY is a lab where Peter works with his research assistant Heidi (Joy Jones) and studies dream patterns and brain waves. Kelly says that she fell out of a tree when she was nine and was in a coma for three months. When she came out of it she had no memory of the accident or anything before it. She tells Peter about her burning man dream and he says – Ah, yes, all the classic symbols. Freud! Jung! Peter wants to hook Kelly up. “Everybody is a little nervous the first time…” he tells her. Kelly says she’ll have to think about it.

Over at Kelly’s parents place, Frances is staring at herself in the mirror and wondering “why we did this thing, why we created this horrible lie.” She says, “For years I thought it was for Kelly, but it was for us wasn’t it?”

Kelly decides to do the dream study. She gets all hooked up to electrodes and as she dreams she moans, “Daddy.” (All this Daddy stuff and the dolls and the recurring mirror motif – are you thinking what I’m thinking? If it is about that short black and white film Illeana Douglas shows the kids in Ghost World – then you are!)

Peter later tells her that her EKG indicated little or no dreaming, which is probably a malfunction of the machine. Heidi thinks it isn’t that at all – she thinks it is psychic phenomenon! Peter doesn’t buy it, which is surprising since he is working toward a degree in parapsychology.

At Kelly’s parents house, someone is sneaking around. Dwight comes outside to get into his car. We get a cute shot of a lil’ owl. Awww, this movie just went up in my book. And now Daddy is stabbed with the gardening fork. And oh, wow, he gets beheaded. With a big machete. I didn’t expect that. I’m starting to like you a lot The Initiation!

Frances notices that Dwight forgot his glasses. “Sometimes I think that man would forget his head if it wasn’t attached,” she says. Zing!

Now someone is sneaking around outside the sorority house. Very Black Christmas.

Look! A Tom Selleck poster!

And it is time for the “dress as your suppressed desire” party! Marcia goes with Ralph who dresses as a giant penis and says, “If a woman is turned on in bed I know she’s insincere.”

Kelly and Peter leave the party and go back to his place. What follows is a scene that would never exist in most horror films made today. Kelly and Peter have a conversation. And not about anything that really pertains to the events of the film. They just talk, like real people do! The best acting in the film is right here. This added substance and made me care more about these two. What is up with that? Like – character development?

Well, it took me until half the film was over to remember that Hunter Tylo was supposed to be in it. In case you don’t know – who the hell are you? – Hunter is a reigning daytime soap diva on The Bold and the Beautiful. In this film – her first role – she is credited as Deborah Morehart. Hunter is also – I am just guessing here – a fan of plastic surgery.

This is...

... the same person.

Kelly and Peter do some more sleep stuff – no, not that – regression and hypnosis. He wants to take her back to when she was nine.

These scenes made me think of one of my favorite EVER slashers – Happy Birthday To Me and indeed the films do have some shared elements and a similar feel.

Kelly in her trance, remembers Houston and broken dolls. Being in Mommy’s room…

Well, Mama Miles shows up looking for Peter and discovers what is going on and does not like it one bit. The professor tries to awaken Kelly – he says “Kelly Fairchild, you will awaken” and nothing happens. Frances says – “Randall, for Christ’s sake, Kelly Randall!” So Peter uses that name and Kelly opens her eyes!

Mother tells Kelly to wait outside and threatens Peter saying that if he talks to her daughter ever again she’ll have him thrown out of the school.

Peter realizes that the dream isn’t a dream at all. It is a memory!

Well, good job Peter, but we have a PRANK NIGHT! to get on with. Kelly got the keys and goes ahead of everyone else to turn off the alarm so they won’t be caught. Three frat boys are on hand to give the girls a good scare. Kelly, Marcia and Alison have one hour to get the guard’s uniform. Which should be a lot easier now – because he is dead!

What follows is everyone splitting up, Alison putting on roller skates and zipping around the store, Kelly and Alison and Marcia getting the uniform (spares are kept in the lounge) and attempting to leave and realizing they can’t because Megan (Frances Peterson) the alpha bitch ringleader who was supposed to wait for them outside the door is now somewhere inside with the boys – and she has the keys!

Everyone meets up (except for Megan and her boyfriend – they’re dead!) and they decide to get all Dawn of the Dead-y. They get themselves some new clothes from the shops and sit down to share some wine. Marcia decides to inform everyone at this moment that she is indeed not a virgin as is the rumor, but her violin teacher raped her when she was a young girl. Way to ruin the mood, Marcia.

Back on campus, Helen runs into Peter’s office and boy has she gotten the lowdown. She knows all about why Frances told them to use the Randall last name and who it belongs to and Houston and the secrets being kept from Kelly that are the key to her dreams.

The relationship that develops between Ralph and Marcia is cute, tender and sweet – I liked these two and wanted to see them make it work.

As in most horror films, the character don’t seem to possess any peripheral vision, and while they do hear a vase falling over they do not hear a display case being smashed as the killer gets a knife.

When there are just two left, they do exactly what I would do – they jump into an elevator and stop it between floors. I’m not kidding, I’ve considered that option often when watching these movies. Oh, but the damn killer comes in through the top. See – that was my major concern with that plan. That and the killer cutting some cords and me plummeting to my death.

The killer’s idenity is revealed and boy did it give me pause – but wait! It was only a fake out! I was right all along!

Daphne struggles here at points – she doesn’t seem to be able to play frightened very convincingly – and her acting while “dreaming” leaves a bit to be desired. But I still liked her. Not my favorite final girl, but I found her endearing and girl-next-door-y.

I liked this one a lot. I was expecting it to be pretty awful or at the most just okay, and it really worked its charms on me. Don’t expect a masterpiece and you’ll find a nice little gem in the rough. B-

 

Evil taking place.

I had a review all written for the 1999 remake of House On Haunted Hill but thanks to technical difficulties it has been lost. If you remember in the film the guest list for party is deleted and re-written by the evil computer under the influence of the spooky abode. I suspect some similar supernatural hijinks are behind the disappearance of my document. Now just because I care about you and don’t want you to be as sad as I am I will supply you with some wonderful images from the film:

And now you’ll never know how I really feel about it!

The Second Time’s the Charm

Halloween II (2009)

When I heard Halloween II was being done by Rob Zombie I was less than interested. His remake of Halloween sucked on a major scale, so why waste time on the sequel to a suck fest? Well, for some reason or other, in what at the time must have surely been a moment of weakness or a total loss of my mind, I gave the Halloween II trailer a look-see. And I liked it. But what does that mean? Nothing really. Movie trailers are often better than the films they represent. But seeing it did awaken a curiosity in me about the movie – and I’m glad it did.

We open with a flashback to young Michael in his Sanitarium days. It is Christmas and Mama Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) brings Michael a white horse as a present – not a real white horse, silly, but a white horse figurine. Michael says it reminds him of a dream he had where Mama was dressed all in white – “like a really beautiful ghost” – with a white horse and she had come to take him home. Mama tells Michael that whenever he looks at the horse he can think of her. I have to say, I liked the actor (Chase Vanek) who played this young Michael a lot better than the young Michael from the previous film.

Now we cut to Halloween night years later, immediately following the events which ended the first film. Laurie is wandering the rainy streets of Haddonfield having just shot Michael in the head and is still clutching the gun. Scout Taylor Compton really does earn her Laurie Strode card here. She gives an amazingly dedicated performance and though she still isn’t MY Laurie Strode, I was willing to accept her interpretation this time.

Sheriff Bracket (Brad Dourif) finds Laurie, takes the gun and hauls her to the hospital. What follows is a really gruesome and well done emergency room scene with Laurie being operated on. We are allowed to see the full extent of her injuries and she has suffered a lot more bodily damage than Laurie ’78 did.

The paramedics take Dr. Loomis from the Myers house and yes, he is still alive.

I really, really like the opening scenes of this film – and the only thing that mars them is the foul van drivers transporting Michael and Lynda’s bodies. For the most part Zombie has restrained himself from populating this film with overly vile characters. They do still crop up  – but now it is not EVERY character. He now allows room for characters one can care about and sympathize with. When Danielle Harris was originally cast as Annie I thought it was a mistake. She wasn’t bad in the first film, but here I loved her. The evolution of her character and Danielle’s performance are the highlights of this film. I found myself wishing this sequel had focused on her instead of Laurie. The best writing in the film comes courtesy of Annie’s dialogue.

But back to the action – after the van crashes, only one of the men inside appears to still be alive, and bleeding profusely and hearing someone banging around in the back he calls, “Help me!” Who exactly does he think is going to come to his rescue? Well, Michael takes care of him and afterwards sees a vision of his mother in the road before him – and lo and behold, she is all in white, and with a horse of the same color. He walks toward her. Did he always want a pony? Is that why he kills? Based on the crackerjack psychology of the ’07 remake this would not surprise me.

At Haddonfield General Hospital, Laurie’s operation is over and she awakens in recovery. I really liked the use of “Nights in White Satin” and the accompanying footage that is laced throughout this segment. I have always found it to be quite a melancholy song, and it really adds something here.

Michael makes an appearance, but it is after visiting hours, so he cannot see Laurie. Do you think that will stop him? Laurie is on the run again, and Michael has killed every damn person in the hospital and as Laurie tries to escape she falls into a pit of carnage and piled bodies. I like that Zombie filmed a response to how deserted the hospital in the 1981 version was – and on a Halloween night no less.

Zombie really plays with light and shadows in this film. This is eerie and beautiful stuff. There are so many startling, memorable visuals that it is almost threatens to overload your system.

I don’t know why I enjoyed this movie as much but I did. Maybe because even though 1981’s Halloween II was a decent film, it was nowhere near as amazing as its 1978 older brother so I was willing to give this “remake” more of a chance. Or maybe it is because aside from those opening moments, this film doesn’t attempt to recreate anything from the movie that it shares its title with. Or maybe it is just that this is a much better film than Zombie’s previous effort. Also, we aren’t saddled with over an hour of  Michael’s backstory here.

Michael is truly terrifying in the scenes at the hospital, and it is unfortunate that for the following majority of the film he is reincarnated as Grizzly Adams.

Everyone fits their roles much better this time. Even Brad Dourif who I never FELT as the sheriff, I appreciated. The only letdown is that Loomis is written as a total asshole – Malcolm McDowell does what he can – but sadly the character has become such a douche that he makes Weird Al look good. Even the doctor’s retribution in the end is hollow. Dr. Loomis is the weakest link in these two films, which is a shame, because his character was such a driving force, and one of the few constants in the original series.

Zombie’s writing has really matured with this effort – the characters don’t all seem like a variation on the same white trash stereotype – they have something approaching layers, and even a humanity that Zombie’s writing has never tapped into before.

Laurie’s mental health has deteriorated so drastically that Margot Kidder is now her therapist. In the original theatrical version Margot was barely there, but thankfully in the unrated director’s cut she has quite a few more scenes and her presence is felt – I really enjoyed seeing her and she is sublime.

There is basically little story besides Michael returning and Laurie being really fucked up. Sheri Moon Zombie’s Deborah gets all Friday the 13th on Michael – “Kill for Mommy, kill for Mommy.”

Zombie stages some crazy cool dream sequences that are truly nightmarish. An especially nifty bit shows Laurie sprawled out on a buffet table – looking unmistakably like a sleeping beauty – snow falling, and ghoulish Alice in Wonderland type creatures dining around her. We also get a shot of her in a glass coffin, furthering the fairy tale feel. If Laurie is Snow White, Sheri Moon Zombie is the evil queen, and Michael is the henchman who is tasked with taking her into the woods. They do all make it to the enchanted forest in the end but no one gets a happily ever after.

I know I said before that “Love Hurts” should never be in a Halloween movie, but now I take it back. The cover that is presented here, in the end, as the camera glides down a long, long white hallway makes the scene snap, crackle and pop.

I could have done without this Michael using vocals – he grunts when he kills and as he plunges a knife into Dr. Loomis he exclaims, “Die!”

For the most part Zombie has tightened things up and excised what didn’t work. After Halloween ’07 I never thought I’d defend Rob Zombie’s involvement in this series, let alone praise it. I know a lot of people absolutely hate this film – it sure isn’t for everyone – but I found it satisfying and provocative. This is the best film Rob Zombie has made. B-

All trick, no treat.

Halloween (2007)

I was foolishly excited when I heard that the Halloween remake would be directed by Rob Zombie. House of 1000 Corpses was retro kitsch fun and The Devil’s Rejects was pretty intense, albeit flawed filmmaking. The Halloween franchise, I felt, needed someone like Rob Zombie to mix it up and bring fresh blood and a new perspective to the way off course and stale series. Halloween: H20 gave me hope again, but Halloween: Resurrection effectively put that to rest. And once more, with this remake, my hopes were dashed. Halloween ’07 is a film made by someone who appears to be a fan of John Carpenter’s movie but beyond this seems to have no idea of why it worked and what made it so great.

The back story showing us Michael Myer’s childhood with all the ‘soon to be serial killer’ categories checked off is the biggest misstep the film makes. In John Carpenter’s incarnation, Michael Myers was a force of nature – he was fate – he was unstoppable – ‘immovable, like a mountain.’ He was everywhere and nowhere at once. He was the boogeyman for God’s sake! And the boogeyman doesn’t need a back story involving a mother who was is stripper, a sister who teases him, a stepfather who is a drunk, and a bunch of kids who bully him at school. Not knowing is what is frightening – the history that Zombie adds isn’t scary or illuminating, it is a drastic misunderstanding of the character and the original film. But I won’t let Carpenter off the hook so easily either – the 1981 sequel to the original film made the mistake of making Laurie Strode Michael’s sister, thus reducing him to basically just a crazy guy who kills his sisters and won’t die.

In the original, Michael’s family was not a group of foul mouthed constantly arguing white trash nincompoops (“Bitch, I will crawl over there and skull fuck the shit out of you” is a sample of the dialogue Zombie supplies these characters with). They were middle class “normal.” Your neighbors. It was shocking because it could be our community, it could be the family across the street. How much more frightening (though still quite unnecessary) would Zombie’s reinterpretation have been if the opening segment showed us Michael with a stable home life, the product of a loving and nurturing environment  – and then one Halloween night he just snaps and murders his sister? Even still, it wouldn’t have packed the punch that the original did, when the killer of Judith is unmasked and we see a six year old boy.

At school – guess which day it is… I’ll give you a hint… it is in October – Michael is being tormented in the bathroom and the principal breaks it up. Mama Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) is called to the school, and so is a child psychologist, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) – this pains me – with hippie hair and aviator sunglasses. The principal has found snapshots of dead animals in Michael’s backpack and also, the corpse of a cat.

Mama Myers: Come on, big deal, he found a dead cat.

Um… and he decided to keep it? This is after he’s already killed one of his pet mice earlier in the morning.

Dr. Loomis tells mama that these are early warning signs. Michael is a very disturbed young man! Michael is sitting outside the principal’s office at this point and decides to skedaddle with his Kiss-shirted self.

Luckily school just happens to be letting out and Michael follows Bully # 1 into the woods and kills him. Gee, I guess Dr. Loomis was right.

I forgot how bad the first half of the movie is. I began to wonder if Zombie wasn’t making a comedy, but the elements of humor seem quite unintentional.

Now I’m thinking Rob Zombie’s remake did more to ruin this series than any of the awful sequels.

That night, Judith’s boyfriend comes over to the Myers house and instead of taking Michael trick or treating Judith gets all sweaty with him. The white mask comes courtesy of this dude, who whips it out during sex. I have to say Zombie did get this right – the mask in this film is probably the best one we have seen since the original.

Michael kills his step dad, kills Judith’s boyfriend, enters Judith’s room and finds the mask, puts it on, looks absolutely fucking ridiculous, kills Judith.

But who doesn’t he kill? Why the baby of the family, BOO. Yes. BOO. Little baby BOO. Who will become… who? Who? Laurie Strode, that’s who. Michael loves little baby BOO. Until she grows up to be annoying Scout Taylor Compton and then I cannot blame him for wanting to kill her.

So Mama Myers comes home and it is all “What a mess you made Michael! Blood everywhere!” and he is hauled off to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where Dr. Loomis is appointed as his psychologist.

Now comes the most boring portion of the film… Dr. Loomis tries to reach Michael, Michael cannot remember anything of THAT night, Sheri Moon Zombie visits a lot, Michael starts making masks out of papier mâché… an orderly played by Danny Trejo says to young Michael: “You can’t let the walls get you down, man! You got to look beyond the walls, man! Learn to live inside your head, man! Man! Man!”

Dr. Loomis feels that he is losing Michael and is all: “Michael is sliding into a hellish abyss – he’s become a ghost – a mere SHAPE of a human being – there’s nothing left…”

One day mama brings Michael a picture of himself and BOO. The very same day, Michael goes crazy and kills a nurse with a fork. Mama goes home and gets her sad on watching old family movies and kills herself.

Fifteen years later…

Dr. Loomis tells Michael (who has grown into someone who looks like he should be living at the top of a beanstalk) that he considers Michael his best friend. And to prove what a good friend he is in return, Dr. Loomis is not going to see Michael again. He will be too busy promoting his big hokum novel The Devil’s Eyes (based on his experiences with Michael) to counsel his prize pony anymore.

Michael’s escape from the sanitarium lacks everything the original had. How creepy it was that the patients were wandering around on the lawn in the rain like extras from Night of the Living Dead. There are two versions to this break-out. The version shown in theaters involves Michael being transferred to another facility and he kills all the guards and escapes. In the version featured on the uncut edition – a truly repugnant scene – two guards decide to rape a young female patient on her first night in the sanitarium, and they think – Gee, wouldn’t it be a good idea to do this in Michael’s room?

Well, Michael doesn’t care much about what is going on until THEY TOUCH HIS MASKS. Literally, there are hundreds of his arts and crafts creations hanging all around his room. So he goes SNAP and kills a bunch of people – again – even Danny Trejo who as Michael drowns him shouts ‘Mikey, I was good to you!’ – and heads for the hills. Or rather Haddonfield. But first he must drop by a truck stop and procure some duds from Ken Foree in another repugnant scene.

Remember how in the original we saw almost no blood? Well, not this time, sports fans!

Dee Wallace plays Laurie’s mother and it is always nice to see her, but I wish I was seeing her in something better. And I’m sorry, but Scout Taylor Compton is no Jamie Lee Curtis – the fault here lies more in the way Laurie is rewritten and not with the actress herself. Our initial introduction to this Laurie is of her fingering a bagel.

Amazingly, this Laurie does all the things the other Laurie did. Drops off a key at the Myers house for her father, spots Michael outside while looking out a window at school, babysits for Tommy Doyle, is a good girl scout (ha) and tells Annie she will watch Lindsey Wallace so that Annie can get her groove on with her boyfriend Paul.

At the one hour and five minute mark a title card that says TRICK OR TREAT inexplicably fills the screen.

Michael is again resting his boots at his childhood home and when Lynda (Kristina Klebe) and her boyfriend show up for some partying, Michael supplies the shish kabob. Bob the shish kabob. Sorry. This movie did something to my brain. Aside from Dee Wallace and the children who play Tommy and Lindsey (they are great) one of the few performances I liked was from Kristina as Lynda. She’s natural, she’s authentic, I believed her as Lynda, whereas I never saw most of the other actors fitting in the roles they were playing. Sheri Moon Zombie does well too, as a mother at the end of her rope. (But why the hell would she keep a guy like Ronnie around?)

Loomis has headed to Haddonfield upon hearing about Michael’s escape and he tracks down Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and tries to warn him about the evil walking among them.

Brackett: “Doc, I may have been born, but I wasn’t born yesterday.”

The second half of the film – the straight up remake – went down easier. Probably because I was pretending it was just another of the lame-o Halloween sequels populated with interchangeable characters and not a bastardization of my beloved original. Though Scout did grow on me she is still no Laurie Strode.

And – why doesn’t Michael kill Annie?

I did find it kind of sad – after Michael had abducted “Laurie” and taken her back to the Myers house – when he drops the knife and produces the old photograph of his younger self and little BOO. He even carries it in his front pocket over his heart! He just wanna be loved.

One of the things I ♥ in the original is when Laurie pulls off Michael’s mask and we see that he is the most attractive male in the film – he doesn’t look like a monster, in fact he’s damn cute. That always really struck me. That is so not the case here – this Michael is a stringy-haired grubber.

AND ANOTHER THING – in the original at the end Laurie says to Dr. Loomis, “…was the boogeyman.” Here Laurie, dodo that she now is, whines, “Was that the boogeyman?”

So, obviously, I haven’t gone the route of not comparing the remake to the original. But who could? Really? Who could? You go ahead and watch this one and see for yourself if you don’t keep a mental tally of all the things that are different, all the things that are wrong, all the things that are neglected or done inferiorly.

I don’t really have anything else to add. Oh, wait, yes I do. It couldn’t get my ghost. C-