THE SON OF MADBLOOD'S NOMINATIONS JUST IN!
Well, kids - to get the ball rolling (although The Son of Madblood's balls have been rolling for some time now - hence the baggy-pants) - here for your perusal or to ignore completely are the good Doctor's Nominations for The Son of Madblood Horror Movie Election Poll 2010. You'll notice (or not) a good number of these have been featured on past Episodes of The Son of Madblood - with a gooder number to come!
For those who don't like to read - who don't care what other people think or have to say - here's the list in short form: (in no particular order): Alice, Sweet Alice ; Alien ; The Birds ; Black Christmas ; The Brood ; Castle of Blood ; Candyman ; The Driller Killer ; Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde ; Drag Me To Hell ; Eaten Alive ; Halloween ; Halloween III:Season of the Witch ; The Hills Have Eyes ; The Howling ; Inland Empire ; It's Alive ; Lemora:A Child's Tale of the Supernatural ; Long Weekend ; Maniac ; A Nightmare on Elm Street ; A Nightmare on Elm Street III:Dream Warriors ; Night of the Living Dead ; Phantasm ; Phenomena ; Quatermass II ; The Tenant ; The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.. It appears I went a bit over the 20 film ceiling - but I am The Son of Madblood and The Son of Madblood always over does it!
Don't delay to get your Nominations in - you just may see one of your Faves featured on an upcoming Episode of The Son of Madblood! Send your faves to: email@example.com - today!
Alice, Sweet Alice (1976, Alfred Sole) aka Communion aka Holy Terror
“Me and my rhythm box” Paula Sheppard just may have killed her younger and more spoiled sister moments before she is to take her first Holy Communion (Brooke Shields in her first movie role!) . Her aunt thinks so. The creepy yellow raincoat and never-as-creepy-as-it-is-in-this-movie see-through plastic mask are pointing in her direction - but she’s just a kid.. She definitely does throw a cat. There's maximum of scary in this somewhat small-ish shot-in-Jersey film. There's also a maximum amount of screaming - everyone in the family more often than not constantly yelling at each other - it’s HELL and I love it. I also love that it’s set as a period piece - by maybe 10 years pre-filming - to me it’s almost like a secret depth that the film keeps close to the breast. It's a film about being on the brink: Alice on the brink of puberty; America on the brink of disillusionment, and The Church on the brink of The Beatles being more popular than Jesus... And - Alphonso will definitely give most people nightmares...
We showed this for our Special Episode 5 Valentine to Brooke Shields. A hit!
Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
This will always hold a special place in my barely pumping heart since the day my friend's Mother took me - just ME! - opening week at the tender age of 11, and sat me down in the front row of Pembroke Theater - then LEFT during the previews! What I saw was a perfect distillation of everything I had loved growing up watching on late-night television - coalescing into the most terrifying movie I had yet seen. I don't think I've ever been happier than I was on that day.
We showed Alien on Episode 4 of The Son of Madblood and it's continued ability to bring on the scares left our rapt (and quiet for once!) audience breathless. It's a grueling watch but full of pleasures- details and nuances that continue to fascinate and it's ability to draw you into the situation and it's people ensure that you don't just watch Alien - you experience it. Also - you'd be hard pressed to find a better dream of a cast as this in any film - let alone a horror film...
The Birds (1963)
I get chills and pretty much melt whenever I hear 'Tippi' Hedren's timorous voice crack.. It's hard to believe that the general public did not like her an iota when this came out and even less when it was followed up by Marnie (stupid General Public! I think Major Dumps has something you'll like.. ) She was a far cry from the sophisticated and warmly romantic Hitchcock heroines people had come to expect. Comparatively, Hedren was seen as icy and shrill. It's Hitchcock's slow pecking and peeling of her cool, shimmering, steely exterior that almost puts this one in what, in today's critic-speak, they call Torture Porn Territory. What else would you call watching a woman who's more than likely to complain about chipped fingernail polish get ravaged by a horde of crazed birds? But it's Hedren's transformation and her loss of control over her extremely well put together exterior that makes her one of the most human of Hitchcok's heroines. It's an amazing work of sleight of hand: just when you're all caught up and settled into watching a romantic comedy run it's course it turns into a truly nasty game of woman on woman power playing and then.. well, yes - the birds.. That it's got so many ways it's able to be read keeps it fresh. Is it a psychic disturbance wrestled out of Melanie's sub-conscious to strip herself bare of her impenetrable facade? Is it Nature's Revenge against a taking-for-granted Humanity? Or is it just Hitchcock gleefully laying waste to a complacent audience? No answers are given and none are needed - in the end it's a chill to the bone Apocalypse.
And, as Cathy, Veronica Cartwright learned her screaming and whimpering ways well in this one for future use as Lambert in Alien!
Black Christmas (1974, Bob Clark) aka Silent Night, Evil Night
Despite the protests of Igor and some of our Manorette friends that it is “dull” - I said “No way - I love it - it’s scary as all get out” and showed it on our first Christmas Special regardless.. The audience was screaming like never before and I was told by a few that this one gave them nightmares. A resounding success, I’d say - and one of my favorite Episodes because of it. People were jumping out of their seats! Some have never come back for another show BECAUSE of this one.. So - sit on THAT, Igor! I have to admit - I for a long time did not think too much of Black Christmas. It wasn’t until I got the chance to see it in a theater (by myself - not smart!) as an ‘adult’ that it truly chilled me and had me squirming. Who in the heck is Billy and why does he say all those awful things? Where did he learn such language? How does one even make a call from INSIDE THE HOUSE? The fact that Black Christmas doesn't explain these things only makes the whole thing that much more unsettling. It lingers!
And Steve Martin claims to have seen it over 20 times!
The Brood (1979, David Cronenberg) aka Chromosome 3 ?!?
Although Cronenberg's Rabid does contain one of the Best Outfits Ever in a movie - the killer kids (?) of The Brood do wear some pretty nice looking snowsuits.. As well they should: this is Cronenberg at his chilliest and creepiest and the idea of bottled-up rage become physically manifest somehow doesn't seem too science fiction - ulcer, anyone? That is - until the BIG REVEAL! Yes, there are scares and shocks aplenty! But The Brood, written at a time when Cronenberg was going through his own divorce and child custody battle, also manages a deep emotional sadness - especially when focusing on poor little Candice. Possibly, the greatest child-scream-queen out there; she's the real victim of (among other things) her parents' messy, very (yuck!) messy break-up. It's a sad and bitter portrait of the psychic scars and wars of a relationship gone bad and what happens when your ex gets into some self-help shenanigans called Psychoplasmics led by Oliver Reed. This one will get under your skin - and then crawl around a bit once it's there.. And - it's another Art (Black Christmas) Hindle joint!
Castle of Blood (1964, Antonio Margheriti) aka Danza Macabre
Barbara Steele my breath away! When a skeptical Cad takes a bet to spend ONE night in a supposedly Haunted Castle what does he get for his efforts? (And it's not just any night - it's All Soul's Eve! You know that's a loaded gun waiting to go off..) What he gets is MY dream come true: the chance to spend eternity with Barbara Steele! And she's never looked more fetching than she does here as the possible ghost of Elizabeth Blackwood (just one of a myriad of possible ghosts and unusual folks) in this Italian Gothic ripe with atmosphere, innuendo and undead. It turns out there's murder in the Castle's history - and the victims are doomed to spend this ONE evening relieving those murders. Unfortunately for our Cad, he's fallen in love with the doomed Elizabeth - but who could blame him? Ok, so it's not really an Edgar Allan Poe tale - he's just there - in the movie! In the tavern! On hand to be the one who makes the bet with the Cad to spend the night in Blackwood Castle! And then, back again, for the deliriously well turned finale... This one has haunted me since I saw it as a child - up at 1am alone in front of the tv..
Candyman (1992, Bernard Rose)
Like the (somewhat annoying, sorry) Philip Glass soundtrack - endlessly looping back in layers and layers - Candyman deftly layers theme upon theme to create one heck of a full-blooded and thoughtful horror movie. Rooting it's Urban Legend horror in the very real horrors of urban decay, gang violence, class and race tensions and Graduate Thesis Research gives it a depth that it seems to come by with ease - so much in this movie is just plain SCARY AS HELL. And it sets up all of it's scares so thoroughly by blurring the line between the un-real horrors and the real horrors and making the un-real just as real as the real. For reals! When Virginia Madsen (nevah bettah) goes into that concrete outdoor bathroom hell-hole I don't know what to be scared of - Tony Todd's terrifying (yet oddly romantic) Candyman or some other evil that may lurk.. I just know I'm scared shitless! Unlike that bathroom... And, admit it - can any of you say "Candyman" five times in the mirror? I know I can't.. It's one of those movies that makes it hard to walk around the Manorette without all the lights on at night.
And here's a bonus Son of Madblood joke you can use on someone:
You: Knock, knock.
Someone: Who's there?
You: Knock, knock.
Someone: Who's there?
You: Knock, knock.
Someone: Who's there?
(repeat the back and forth until the Someone yells): Ok - who the fuck is there?!?
You: Philip Glass..
The Driller Killer (1979, Abel Ferrara)
Although not particularly scary in a horror movie kind-of-way, the absolute HORROR of life in the big city has never been as fully and grittily delineated as it has in this. Struggling to be an artist in that most horrific of worlds - the Art World, dealing with roomates, the constant noise of the streets and the Band Upstairs' incessant rehearsals.. the ever present unpaid phone bills, the squalor, the filth, the pizza, and the rootlessness of vanished family - not the stuff of your typical horror film. But the claustrophobia of desperation has to hit a breaking point. That's where the drill comes in... Is he lashing out at the most abject of society because he knows that there, but by the grace of God, goes he? Is he killing the image of his father over and over again for abandoning him? In all of Ferrara's films the violence is rooted in Truth and Consequences - it's never there for just thrills or to look cool. This is what sets him apart from the crowd he's most often lumped with (ie: the Scorseses, Tarantinos). People die, people cry - people experience pain and suffering. Anyone who loves this City enough has suffered with and through it and has probably, at some point, wished they had a cordless drill on them.
And - as a special treat for you dedicated Fans: it's The Driller Killer Soundtrack! Thank you to "3brainkarnakinterloper", whoever you are, for putting putting this out there in the blog-world for me to find - I love you and I love Tony Coca-Cola, whatever Reno thinks of him...
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971, Roy Ward Baker)
Although coming a little late in the Hammer day, this one doesn't succumb to their attempts to keep up with the times in gore and sex in such a way that keeps it from being a total class act. Smartly written by Brian Clemens and well acted by the usually dull-ish (but not this time!) Ralph Bates and the intriguing, incomparable Martine Beswick - it manages to interlace, not only the Dr. Jekyll theme, but the Jack The Ripper and the Burke and Hare mythologies, as well! It's got quite a lot in it's pot but it's all stirred together in a way that makes for a very tasty gumbo. The Stevenson tale goes distaff when Jekyll's "immortality serum" turns him into a very sexy woman who, to cover, goes about as Jekyll's "sister", Mrs. Hyde. The fun really gets going when Jekyll starts to really enjoy the new found power of being a woman - Hyde doesn't want to go back to being a dreary ol' man who has no fun - it's a Girl Power movie! And Beswick relishes in these scenes for all their gender implications. The problem is that the serum is based on hormones derived from the bodies of dead women - this is where Burke and Hare come in - and the more Jekyll wants to stay Hyde the more is needed which has Jekyll running about killing off prostitutes ala Jack The Ripper! The whole thing gets bloody disgusting and is constantly engaging... And Bates and Beswick even have that separated-at-birth-thing going!
Drag Me To Hell (2009, Sam Rami)
There are those who felt that this was the movie that saved the horror movie - granted, good ones that actually hit the theaters are fewer and farther between, these days - but they're always out there: Splinter, Descent, Paranormal Activity (the first one), Pandorum..um..yeh - but when was the last time you heard an entire audience errupt in unanimous applause at the end of one? This was a great theater-going moment for horror - a movie you wanted, almost needed to see in a packed theater with a bucket of popcorn (a big one - so when you jumped and sent some flying you wouldn't be left empty handed). Yes - it has frights! Yes - it's funny! Yes - it's smart! One of the smartest things Rami does here is in giving us a very believable and well-fleshed-out character at the center of it all in Christine. Her desires and needs (even before the curse and struggle to save her soul) are real ones: one of my favorite scenes is her driving, listening to the language tape to try to un-learn her Southern accent (wait - doesn't she know a woman with a Southern accent is sexy?). She has a sad desperation to "make it" at all costs that adds layers to the film and gives it an edge of cynicism it could easily have missed. Most of the rest of the characters are comic-cartoonish - if her character had been (ala any Bruce Campbell) - it still may have been fun - but maybe not as honestly scary as it is. Rami's ace in the hole here (besides his inventiveness and sureness as a filmmaker) is Alison Lohman - she pulls off with gusto the woundability and the kick-ass rising to the occasion the character requires to keep us on her side even though she's a bit despicable. Even though she does that thing with the cat. She's the Final Girl that wasn't and the best horror character we've seen in a long time.
Eaten Alive (1977, Tobe Hooper) aka Horror Hotel, Starlight Slaughter, Legend of the Bayou, Brutes and Savages, etc... take your pick..
I don't care what people say - I am NOT taking my Eaten Alive poster down from my kitchen wall! (Mine's the Eaten Alive version - not the Horror Hotel one pictured here.) I was quite surprised to learn that this is not considered the classic I had always felt it to be. I'm still creeped out by it. I'm always creeped out by it. It's one creepy movie. Families and everybody screaming at each other, a muttering and mumbling maniac, endless screeching sounds and warbling music on the soundtrack.. this thing just pounds into the skull. It's anything but a comfortable movie to watch - unsettling and completely horrific-terrific. It's particularly pleasing to see Hooper, straight from the heights of success with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, take his new-found fame, kinda fortune and bigger budget and, instead of going bigger and slicking things up - he goes and makes this odd-ball weirdo of a termite movie. It's so claustrophobic that it feels like the entire thing was filmed in a closet with everybody smelling and really starting to hate each other.. Hey - sounds a lot like TCM! Sure, everything looks fake: the sets, the constant red glow, the alliga..I mean, crocodile.. even the dialogue seems overly ripe - but it's so peculiar and pointed that it almost veers into the realm of Avant-Guarde Theater - or the stuff of nightmares!
This one is always in consideration for any of The Son of Madblood Thanksgiving Specials...
Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)
I have this problem.. ok, ok, I have many problems - but there's this one particular problem I have that relates specifically to Halloween. And, like most problems - it's doomed to repetition. Here goes: whenever I'm confronted with someone who says, quote, "I don't like horror movies", unquote, I'm ALWAYS bound and determined to show them this movie. I think - this one 'll win 'em - and I go on and on about all the non-horror stuff that this is packed with: the tooling around town in the car, the way Annie jokingly browbeats her Sheriff father, the way Lindsey loves popcorn and horror movies (seriously, if I had a daughter, she'd HAVE to be like Lindsey - I would make it a requirement - or it's back to the orphanage with you, kid!), the way Lynda can say totally totally all the time and still not sound totally annoying...and then there's Laurie Strode's just all around coolness... I mean - who wouldn't want to spend, like, forever hanging out with these three? Who wouldn't want to be BFF with this gang? Who wouldn't write any one of their names over and over in their notebook with hearts all around? There's so much honest, easy fun and humor in this that I usually make a convincing case - and then the problem hits: often times those who say, quote, "I don't like horror movies", unquote - actually don't like being scared! And, duh - this movie is friggin scary! One of the scariest there is! So, I lose, again.. But, at least I'm in love. TLA, Halloween!
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Tommy Lee Wallace)
The movie with the best jingle in the history of cinema - less of a slasher film than it is a spaced-out-sci-fi-ish-thriller with quite it's own strange rhythm and pacing. Originally, producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted to start a series of films under the "Halloween" banner - a kind of movie Night Gallery of which this was to be the first. Carpenter's love of the similarly worked Quartermass movies (The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass II, Quatermass and the Pit - all BIG favorites here at Madblood Manorette) had him bring in those films' writer, Nigel Kneale, to write this far-reaching and multi-faceted... um.. kind of a jumble.. but a good jumble! It involves stolen Stonehenge stone, killer robotic-automatons, Corporate Evil, and a loon who wants to send Halloween back to it's roots.. Helmed
by none other than NANCY LOOMIS' HUSBAND (lucky ducky!) it's got great horror moments in bushels but still comes off as being just a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately, the general public (darn them again!) wanted more Michael Myers of which this has none so the whole concept of the series was scrapped.
Personal fave moment: the "bad guys" have just captured Tom Atkins - they all pack into an elevator - the doors close with a sci-fi whooosh - and then they all simultaneously, just a tiny bit - buckle at the knees to simulate the movement of the elevator.. Now that's Movie Magic! I love it!
Vincent Canby called it: "..anti-children, anti-capitalism, anti-television and anti-Irish all at the same time." And, if you've ever seen an Episode of The Son of Madblood - you know where we stand on such issues. This one did the honors for our very special First Anniversary Episode!
The Hills Have Eyes (1977, Wes Craven)
Craven's blood-drenched tale of Upstanding Middle-American Family Values thrown into a violent struggle for survival is a film that, at once, captures pointedly the undercurrent of violence in American culture at a particular time in it's history and, at the same time - scares the tube socks off of you. Issues of entitlement, class, and righteousness are dragged over the burning embers of the campfire that can no longer keep the evils of the night at bay and it's dusty, rugged, sun-bleached landscape is the perfect setting for this very American nightmare. Look at those hills! They actually have eyes! For some the American Dream is a Family Summer Vacation in a shiny new trailer - for others, it's baby-eatin! One man's dream is an other's.... My one complaint: Dee Wallace dies too early!
The Howling (1981, Joe Dante)
And - speaking of Dee Wallace! The Howling is, perhaps, the only truly scary movie Joe Dante has made. Don't get me wrong, I love 'em - but his true passions being classic cartoons and film history - his movies tend to derive a lot of fun from both. But he has downplayed those tendencies here - reigned them in enough to allow The Howling to stand on its own as a very adult and exciting horror movie. It's still very much relies on classic Monster Movie tropes but Dante's winks at film-fandom are, here, seemlessly woven into the story and don't detract from the plentiful scares. There's a great dream-like and fairytale-ish feel and look that borders on the surreal and heightens the dread and horror - the opening gambit of dropping us right in the middle of the action as Dee Wallace's newswoman is on her way to meet a serial killer in an adult bookstore (that's no Buddy Booth!) sets the tone of mystery, fantasy and disorientation the film will follow through to it's somewhat telegraphed but none the less satisfying and awesome conclusion. Yey for the Double-Dees!
Inland Empire (2006, David Lynch)
Sometimes I forget that David Lynch makes horror movies. Then he comes out with something new and it all comes flooding back: he's always been a horror director! I couldn't understand why people I knew weren't liking on this one - then it hit me: they're the same people who say , quote, "I don't like horror movies", unquote. Somehow they're getting tricked into seeing Lynch's movies anyway. Oh yeh - they play in "Art Houses".. I mean, think, kids - he gave us BOB - possibly the most terrifying boogie-man ever on television! Even his most "respectable" many-Oscar-nominated The Elephant Man owes just as much to Hammer horrors as to its source material..as do the best scenes in Dune - those involving the very horrific Baron Harkonnen - in both of these Lynch and cinematographer Freddie Francis (a former director for Hammer Films, himself) create some classic Gothic horror. Get the picture, kids - Inland Empire is pure Horror! It's the second of Lynch's Hollywood-as-Haunted-House films and is full of ancient curses, fractured identities, doppelgangers, murderous plots, soap-opera bunnies, and lurkers..strange lurkers.. Suffused with dread, paranoia and fear it also has a deeply human sympathy that gives it's nightmare world even more resonance.
It's Alive (1974, Larry Cohen)
This is the first horror film for Cohen in what would become a long and impressive list of B-movie greats and, in it, he's already shown full-on his ability to create a lot with a little by making sure all the little pieces are solid: a sharp, smart script, great actors, inventive turns on genre tropes, old-fashioned sock-em film making technique and a particular attention to real human emotions. Yes - it's a movie about a mutant killer baby with fangy-teeth, claws and bulging eyes (that fella is cute!) and it gives you everything you want from a movie about a mutant killer baby with all the trimmins. Then there's the parents - and it's here that Cohen doesn't skimp when it could have been easy to: we get, not only two great performances, but two richly and thematically important characters, as well. As the Davis couple, Ryan and Farrell give the themes of Cohen's scriptcredible and emotional weight - issues of guilt, gender roles, parental desires, fears and responsibilities are all made human in their very in-human circumstance and Cohen allows us to feel for both of them. As well as for their cute lil mutant killer baby (he's sooo cute I've got his framed picture hanging in my bathroom!). It's Alive is a class A act regardless of it's schlock movie status - scary, thoughtful and fun and with a wonderfully eerie score by Bernard Herrmann.
Cohen's gloriously demented follow-follow-up It's Alive III:Island of the Alive was featured on The Son of Madblood Father's Day Special! It was...touching...
Lemora:A Child's Tale of The Supernatural (1973,Richard Blackburn)
This one has my heart for the simple reason that, other than the X-rated Cinderella, this is the only movie that Rainbeaux Smith gets to carry all on her own. She is the STAR. And her star does shine bright in this creepy, crawly little-girl-lost fairy-tale horror. Wonderfully atmospheric it makes up for what it may lack in budget with some impressive cinematic magic, a bizarre, unfamiliar story and a case of Vampirism loaded with sub-text (as a good fairy-tale should). Cheryl's Lila Lee leaves her parent-substitute Church on a journey to finally re-unite with her long absent (and criminal) father - where she ends up is with the mysterious (and strangely doting) Lemora who's dark secrets are very soon not very secret anymore.. It inhabits the dream-like world of a Southern Gothic nightmare - a Flannery O'Conner loss of innocence tale but with zombies, vampires and a very strange bus ride that's one of my favorite scenes in this very peculiar and unique film. And it's got Rainbeaux all over it!
Long Weekend (1978, Colin Eggleston)
The real horrors of a husband and wife's not so buried hatreds and spites for each other reach a breaking point on an ill-planned camping trip to a remote and isolated beach in this Aussie creep-fest. This isn't just your typical bickering couple - these people seem to be monsters to each other and anything around them (including the audience). There's something horrible in their past and they're certainly horrible in their present and, this weekend, Nature's going to give them their what-fors. All Hell breaks out in the form of rampaging birds, angry possums, spiders, lost out-roads and a ghostly sea cow that doesn't seem to want to stay dead.. And then there's...other creepy things... The panic of being trapped in this place where nothing seems to make sense is unnerving - the viewer is as lost and clueless as the couple and there seems no out, no escape hatch. The filmmakers subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly pile on clues and reveal information while, all the time, keeping up a remarkable ambiguity that only heightens the weirdness and increases the tension. The film's utter creepiness comes from its peculiar uniqueness - it takes you to such unfamiliar territory that you don't know where it could possibly be going and ends up leaving you very unsure as to where you've been. It makes Blair Witch look like a night at the KOA.
Maniac (1980, William Lustig)
Even more than just a disturbing and scary surface portrait glimpse into the mind of a serial killer, Maniac is also a pretty thorough picture of the New York City through which it's killer relentlessly stalks his prey: a hot-bed of sleazy motels, trashy streets, disco-fueled neon nights and one of the most frightful chases through the barren subway system that comes to a head (so to speak) in a perfectly grimy graffiti-filled subway bathroom (oh, the times I'd, myself, kill for a subway bathroom these days!).. The City is a character here - and when Lustig frames his Maniac, isolated in an outer-boro with the City sky-line looming on the horizon, it's cold depths are made manifest. But there's another City here, as well: the one that has our Maniac lounging in Central Park, dining in fine eateries and romancing Caroline Munro! It's a great counter-balance to all that's creepy and unsettling and so strangely different than what we think we're in for that it turns just plain bizarro-ville.. How is this possible that our very messed up Maniac, who we've watched killing and mutilating, is suddenly in a romance with a gorgeous photographer? Is this really happening - or is it some fantasy that we're living inside the Maniac's twisted mind? I mean - if he can pick up Caroline Munro with such ease - why isn't he out dating more instead of slicing scalps off random women? The "bad mother" contrivance as a reason/excuse/sympathy device doesn't quite answer anything. It does, however, give rise to even more extraordinary weirdness and nightmarishness: voices, faded photographs, images indecipherable and Spinell's endless monologue to her become a fantastic symphony of delirium that the audience is trapped in. The whole movie is an inescapable nightmare -and what really earns our sympathy for the Maniac comes from Spinell's ability as an actor to convey his believably pained soul and desires to be "normal". Coupled with his "romantic" scenes with Munro one gets the feeling that Spinell knows what Maniac is all about more than anyone.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984, Wes Craven)
If a "boogey-man" is a device adults use as a cautionary tale to keep their youngsters in check - why are none of the adults of Elm Street talking about him? Because they've got a secret. In a theme that Craven has been working since The Last House on the Left - Elm Street is rooted in the violence and evil that supposedly "normal", "upstanding" citizens are capable of. There's a sense - in this one - that the world is already a nightmare because of this. Something is not quite right in Elm Street and it extends way beyond the dream-world Freddy-mares these teens are having. It keeps the feeling of dread alive even when the kids aren't nodding off and it's wonderfully sustained here. And it creates a monster that, despite being a phantom of dreams, still feels very real in this one. He would go on to become a stand-up comedian but, here, we never forget that he was a cruel killer who took little children into a grimy basement and murdered them. After Dream Warriors any sadness for his crimes would vanish.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3:Dream Warriors (1987, Chuck Russell)
Although not as creepy of a nightmare as the original, this one has Patricia Arquette! In pajamas almost all the time! It also has what should be apparent: any Nightmare with Heather Langenkamp is a good Nightmare! (And, yes - I have a likin for Wes Craven's New Nightmare, too, mostly, but not only, for Langenkamp) It doesn't have the overwhelming feeling of being trapped in an entirely skewed world - the "real time" feels too real and the nightmares are more obvious set pieces - but there's still inventiveness here and the device of having Freddy's prey all desperately troubled teens is an interesting, even sad, touch. It's too easily forgotten that Kruger preys on innocent children and this was probably the last time (until New Nightmare) that the series actually had kids in it you didn't want to see die. Also, I can't help it Patricia Arquette's voice make my knees buckle...
This one was featured on the very Second Episode of The Son of Madblood!
Night of the Living Dead (1968, George Romero)
It's still hard to believe this came out in 1968. That means that "Modern Horror" was born the same year as The Son of Madblood! I like the way this poster sums it up: "No Love Story, No Hero, No Heroine, No Message, No Questions, No Answers JUST TERROR Which Gnaws At Your Very Being". Romero has pulled the rug out from under conventional storytelling and audience expectations and laid waste to the horror genre's classic conventions, morality, rules and securities. There is nothing can save anybody in this world - the innocent, the heroic, the wrong-headed are all equally damned. There's nothing left but the mindless machinery of Death to swallow everything in it's path. After it's wonderfully staged opening grave-yard scene the movie just plunges us into an unexplicable nightmare and locks us there. The claustrophobia, fear, panic and desperation is sweat inducing. And there's no exit - for us or humanity...
Phantasm (1979, Don Coscarelli) aka The Never Dead
I think it was 1981 when it happened: friends started getting cable. I got to visit said friends on occasion - the first of those occasions, I got to see this. Cable was the BEST! I was 12 or 13 and it proved to be just the perfect age for Phantasm. What growing kid wouldn't want to be Michael? Busting out of a locked bedroom with an ingenious hammer, tack, shotgun shell and duct tape contraption? Filled with odd(ball) moments surrealistic images - Phantasm unfolds as a dream - always seeming on the precipice of reality. It's an adolescent nightmare of coping with loneliness, death and a world you can't understand that resonates those fears even after we've grown up from them. If you've never seen it - you won't ever see anything like it (except, maybe Phantasm II:The Ball Is Back, Phantasm III:Lord of the Dead or Phantasm IV:Obl(IV)ion). It exists in a world of it's own with it's own rules and logic. The richness of that world and Coscarelli's evocation of it on such a shoe-string budget (and at the tender age of 25!) is as remarkable as the film is frightening and fun.
The Son of Madblood Second Anniversary was celebrated gleefully with this one!
Phenomena (1985, Dario Argento) aka Creepers
The list of Argento movies that still terrify me is long but this one has the added ingredient of a certain level of tenderness - in the character of Connelly's lonely-girl outsider - that puts it at the top.
Her best friends are BUGS! Phenomena is breathless, surreal horror turned up to a level that almost breaks but Argento keeps it fluid. It's got more of everything: more maggots, more crazies, more story lines, more gruesome killings, more dream sequences and more heavy metal! In this case - less is not more, more is MORE SCARY! MORE is AWESOME!
Here's something I have fun doing: singing the title of this movie to that great Muppets tune - "Manah-Manah".. try it!
We showed this one on the Foreign Girl in a Foreign Land Episode of The Son of Madblood!
Quatermass II (1957, Val Guest) aka Enemy From Space
Hammer Films and Nigel Kneale's Quatermass series (The Quatermass Xperiment, QII, and Quatermass and the Pit) are so chock full of original ideas that their influence is still being mined today. Carpenter's Prince of Darkness and Halloween III:Season of the Witch are but two examples that draw heavily from them. Or take almost the entire series of The X-Files (at least the ones that deal with it's mythos). I love all of them but this one is definitely the most utterly horrific of the lot. It comes out of the gate at breakneck speed and doesn't let up: what are thought to be meteorites are raining down causing some havoc in a remote English town and Dr. Quatermass gets caught up in finding out just what's going on here. What he finds is: they're not meteorites but some kind of weird pods and the town where they're falling is now under the control of some kind of Government/Military run industrial complex that looks strangely like his own plans for a moon base. There's a conspiracy afoot, it seems, that leads our heroes into all manner of brutal and horrifying circumstances.. The tense show-down inside the complex where they discover the "enemy" pulping human bodies to plug up a pipeline is just one of the truly shocking and gruesome moments in this violent and paranoid film.
The Tenant (1976, Roman Polanski)
The third film of Polanski's Apartment Horror Triptych is often given short-shrift when compared to Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby - but, for my money, I'd say it's more utterly diabolical then either of those, admittedly fantastic, movies. I once made the mistake (can you believe it?) of talking someone into going to a screening of this with me by billing it as a comedy. I was nearly beaten to a pulp. But it is a comedy - a diabolical comedy! The way Kafka can be seen as comedy. This is definitely one of Polanski's most Kafka-esque horrors - as a possible, inexplicable seeming conspiracy to drive our hero either out of his apartment or out of his mind eventually results in both. The Tenant makes that place of comfort and security, the apartment, into a place of paranoia, claustrophobia, fear and isolation where the walls seem to exude his character's growing madness. What does Polanski have against apartments, anyway? Where would he have us live? And getting out some doesn't help Polanski's character much, either - as the plotting against him seems to follow his every turn. He slaps a little kid. It's not going well. His identity meltdown is envisioned vividly - in Polanski's acting and in the eerie, often bizarre imagery - full of haunting and shocking moments: the strange watchers in the bathroom across the courtyard, the bouncing ball that becomes his own head, the moment where, waking from fever, everything in the room seems to suddenly be, somehow, flat (one of my favorite scenes).. and - the TOOTH! Where did that tooth come from? As in other Polanski horrors, explanations are in short supply - which only adds to it's creepiness and it's ability to cause nightmares.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)
To make a point: say it's the 2000's and you're working on a remake or re-imagining or recycling of a horror film about a family of possibly in-bred completely deranged cannibals and you need some dead animals and bones to dress up your set - you call up your Hollywood special effects company to have them fashion this stuff for you. Viola. Now imagine you're Hooper and company and you've conned some poor family into letting you use their house to make said movie and you need said items - it's a good thing your set design/decorator knows a good road to drive down where he's sure to find a dead armadillo and knows a girl who knows a girl who works in a veterinarian's office that might just have some extra dead animals lying around. Viola. Hooper and his crew knew the milieu of this film from the inside out. Sure - they were just trying to make a buck off a popular genre - but their grass-roots approach captures an essence of time and place and the textures of some kind of horrible reality. The heat, desperation and panic are palatable. By all accounts a nightmare to make - this is a classic example of translating that nightmare to the audience as no other film has. Can anyone really say they can watch this without, at some point, having to turn away to look over their shoulder, behind the couch, under the bed?
Phew. Read it and weep. Although, I guess if you're reading this it means you already have and are probably weeping as we speak... Dry yer eyes, milktaoast! And get NOMINATING!
Goodnight, gang - and thanks for turning us on....