Saturday, November 16, 2019

PANIC

Directed by Tonino Ricci
Gorgon VHS

THE FILM
What is going on? Why is the army here? This is the United Kingdom! We have rights! What are those noises in the sewers? Why are there so many middlemen in government? Why do we live in the one village in Britain populated by nothing but Italians? Why is David Warbeck the only British guy here?

Where is Professor Adams? You told me he went fishing! Why is all his fishing stuff in his home? Wasn’t he at the heart of the chemical leak the other day? I noticed that his disappearance coincides with the rash of killings breaking out around here. Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?!

Is that a crazy-ass melting face mutant killing everyone? Is he horny? Why does he kill so many nice ladies who are nude or nude-ish? Why-Why is there such a long, boring chase in the sewers near the end? And, where the heck did they find those two guys in the plane?

I don’t like when the army sets up roadblocks and shoots at me! Why are they doing that? “Army maneuvers”? Do you think I am a stupid man? I may be panicking but I’m not a jerk. You are!

And your mama!

Why are we all dubbed so funny? Are we Italian? What is that plane doing spiraling down towards us filled with nerve gas? Who is ordering all this? I keep going up the line of government to get to the person in charge but everyone has a “superior”? What is happening?

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Why are some shots completely dark? Why is everything so hazy? Am I infected? Why do we all sound like we’re talking in a large closet even when we’re outside in a crowd?

EXTRAS
Answer my questions!

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the end, I didn’t Panic as much as I thought I would. But, the suspense gripped me for 91 minutes. They are Italians! Professor Adams is a mutant! The government wants to kill me! And, these 91 minutes got better as they went along but got a little dull near the end.

Do you like Italians? Then, you should try to go buck-ass nuts for the duration of this movie. It’s not bad.
01/31/08

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

DIDN'T YOU HEAR...

Directed by Skip Sherwood
A.N.E Home Video VHS

THE FILM
When I reviewed The Force On Thunder Mountain, I wondered who the film was made for. Well, the same company “presents” Didn’t You Hear… (American National Enterprises) and I would like to ask the same question. I’ve watched it four times and every time I watch with fascination but steadily failing interest as I approach the inevitable (in some ways) end and then think “Who is this for?” (Of course, it doesn’t need to be “for” anyone but it’s fun to think about. For example, who is The Last Slumber Party for? Answer: Me.)

Kevin is a college freshman. He’s got a beefy Gary Busey-like friend named James (played by Gary Busey). Kevin seems like a regular college kid to me. He’s a bit overwhelmed, a bit awkward with the ladies and not quite sure what place his parents now hold in his life. He is also loaded with “philosophical thoughts” about the world around him. So, in essence, from the little we see of his actual life, he’s like almost every college kid around, discounting those who are there on athletic scholarships. In college, I was pretty good around the ladies. Apart from that, I was very much like Kevin.

Kevin keeps disappearing into his daydreams. A very complex world, ish. In this place, he and his friends travel in a boat called The Queen of Sheba, of which Kevin is the Captain. They play “games”, they question the System, they spout various philosophies and burn their possessions. When Kevin gets mixed up in a real life sorority prank, the gal in the prank, Paige, becomes part of the dreamland. We spend a lot of time in this waking dream, most of it actually. Eventually, because the Sheba crew is young and doing their own thing, a group of square “Islanders”, led by Paige’s military man dad, come after them with guns to bring them down and/or harsh their buzz.

It’s a very interesting movie, filled with psychedelic effects and wonderful synths and a lot of chatter about life and death. Some of it doesn’t quite make sense. But, it’s all pretty fascinating. The filmmakers were clearly up to something. It seems that they are saying “Young people have their own way of doing things. The squares shouldn’t get in their way.” A good way to think of the Sheba crew is as variations of a biker gang but without as much facial hair.

The film has one flaw that I think gets in the way of what it’s up to. Now, it started as a feeling that nagged me but I couldn’t pin down. It’s not the slightly embarrassing “Happy Birthday World Day” bit. It’s not the moments when the film seems to be going somewhere and then slows way down. It’s not the over explained “symbolic” moments. As far as I’m concerned, if this is all in the mind of a young man, than there will be pretentious and awkward bits. That’s just how we are. Love us or leave us, baby.

Out of that last thought springs the problem: Even the trailer describes this as a “symbolic” film…but I’m not sure it is. Yes, the filmmakers may have planned it that way but something shanghais it. The bulk of the film is the daydream of an awkward college kid. It’s not a Bergman-esque journey through the Symbols of Mankind. It’s the brain wanderings of a slightly goofy young adult. Daydreams are daydreams. They are extended fantasies in your head that you keep control over, unlike dreams. Now, he may be actually dreaming some of this but whenever we enter the other world…he is awake and thinking. So, this isn’t a Series of Universal Symbols being laid out for all mankind. It’s an awkward kid passing time in his mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin was a writer who was just thinking up this idea for a script or a novel. The filmmakers didn’t seem to have the courage of their convictions. They should have done a full on “Symbolic Film”. As it stands, we don’t see enough of Kevin’s real world to be able to draw all the parallels we need between it and the Land of the Queen of Sheba. I think that would have made for a richer experience. As it stands, the sum of the parts make up a weak whole. Luckily, the parts are pretty darn interesting. If it doesn’t completely hang together in the end, you can, at least, enjoy the journey. Maybe that’s the point.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
The synths sound fine. The picture is horrible. But, this is the only way we can see it, so take it all in.

EXTRAS
Five trailers for films put out by A.N.E. The Invincible Barbarian, Didn’t You Hear, Hooch, and two others.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I think the film needs to be watched. We can blab about it when everyone has seen it. It is a flawed film with a story that’s a little vaguer than it should be. But, it is a one-of-a-kind film. It’s rather fascinating and full of ideas, some better than others. Enjoy it.
03/18/10

Sunday, June 2, 2019

CATHY'S CURSE

Directed by Eddy Matalon
Continental Video VHS

THE FILM
“You and I both know that I’ve had a nervous breakdown.”

Cathy’s Curse is all about a little girl and her dad dying in a car crash during some very slippery synth-filled opening credits. The girl’s brother (now grown and working for someone-or-other doing some-such-thing) returns, years later, to the family home with his wife and daughter, Cathy. Cathy finds a doll belonging to the little girl and becomes possessed. Havoc is wrecked and dirty language stays well within the barriers of good taste.

My favorite Exorcist-homage (as it were) is The Possessed. The best! Where is the DVD uncut and letterboxed? I don’t know. I’ll ask my man on the street.

Well, I asked him. He yelled something about snakes in the garbage cans and tried to run me over with his shopping cart. Target is not getting that cart back anytime soon.

Why mention The Possessed in a review for Cathy’s Curse? Frankly, I don’t remember. I like it though. And, I like Cathy’s Curse. Most of it. At least, I remember liking it. I could be thinking of something else. This film is very Canadian. If you’ve seen Ghostkeeper or Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare, you’ve been wrapped up in the Canadian thing. They feel a bit like other horror films you might have seen, but do their own thing. Cathy’s Curse feels a bit like The Exorcist but it feels more like The Exorcist if, before you watch it, someone says, “Oh, this is an Exorcist knock-off.” Little girl swearing. Yep. Killing people. Sure. Strange make-up on her face. Eventually. Odd voices. Why not? But, somewhere in the mix things went a little goofy. The film brews its own rhythm, atmosphere and structure.*

Unfortunately, “goofy” is a two-way street. “You whore! You big, fat whore!” That’s awesome. The amusement on the faces of the little girl yelling it and the old, drunk guy with the big beard makes for a good time. On the other hand, the lack of any kind of pacing, well…It just means that the viewer relies on set pieces rather than momentum and story. And, some of the set pieces are a little on the bland side. Especially when I started to think, “How come the dad can’t piece together the fact that his daughter’s acting goofy, his wife is going mental and people keep dying?” It’s as odd as the house in Pet Sematary with the busy road in front of it. Oh, it worked in the book. In the movie, I can’t imagine why a sane person would move there with a child. And the thing here is that I rarely think of this kind of stuff during a movie. Usually, I let the movie carry me along. If I am thinking it, it’s really blatantly coming across.

I like Canada. I grew up near Niagara Falls. There’s a picture of me being menaced by the Frankenstein’s Monster while in a backpack on my Dad’s back that is awesome. (I was a baby. This wasn’t last year.) Things go kind of odd when they go north or south of the U.S. border. The Canadian oddness is subtler than the Mexican oddness but don’t let the lack of wrestlers put you off. Again, I was making a point about the movie and my mind drifted away. Suffice it to say, Cathy’s Curse is not something I’ll go back to, most likely. But, I might. The setting and some of the individual moments are nice. It’s a movie that was more fun to watch than to think about.**

So, maybe that means you should watch it once and go from there.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Cathy’s Curse works best on video. The Continental tape looks all muddy and worn, just as a VHS should.

Boy, that Chilling Classics 50 DVD Pack really craps out with this one. The film has all sorts of digital video hoohah going on. People keep breaking up into their constituent digital parts. It’s a touch distracting. I think, at one moment, Dad became a series of ambulatory ones and zeroes. The VHS would be a better choice.

(By the way, the Blu-Ray is brilliant.)

EXTRAS
An upgrade from “whore” to “big fat whore” is an extra in my book.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Cathy’s possessed. And, it ain’t half bad. A double feature with Ruby would be ideal.

*I have seen one review that said this was an “Omen rip-off”. I don’t think it’s apocalyptic enough. Audrey Rose rip-off, maybe. But, then that sort of ties back to The Exorcist anyway so I’m standing my ground.

**Here’s something I noticed on a proof read: The opening quote about the breakdown is a bit of blatant exposition from the mother to the father. I had been planning on mentioning it in the review. But, my mind just strolled away and I left the quote up there. Why? I think it’s there to amuse me as I wrote. The movie will not stick to my ribs, as it were.
05/11/06

CARNIVAL OF BLOOD

Directed by Leonard Kirtman
Something Weird DVD

THE FILMS
Nothing feels like those “First Half of the 70s” American Horror films. With no formula in place, they did whatever they thought would scare people. And, that involved actual scare tactics, lots of gore, sleaziness, downbeat endings and anything else they could think of. Oh, throw big sloppy synths in there, too.

Some of these were like horror movies of old. Some of these were mysteries. Some of them followed psycho killers around. Some of them went there own way, into odd, odd places where boredom rode tandem with insanity.

Hi, Leonard Kirtman. Hello, Carnival Of Blood.

Coney Island. We’re at one of those games that involve throwing darts at balloons and winning stuffed animals that, frankly, look crappy but seem to be the height of Carnival Prize Junk. I suppose it’s not the prize itself; it’s the excitement involved in winning it. The thrill of the darts being thrown, the water being sprayed, things being tossed or what have you.

I love carnivals. I love to ride the slightly-scary rides. For some reason, I prefer to watch others play the games. I think if I had an endless supply of cash there would be games played all night long. But, I could feel the scam rising off of some of the games. And, I couldn’t allow myself to spend my money on something like that. I’d rather buy a Fat Pack of Fried Dough and a watery soft drink of some sort.

Tom and Gimpy run the stand in this movie. And, the people flood by and some stop and play. Some lose, some win. Some die. Well, it can’t all be pizza and Fried Oreos. Gimpy has a hunchback and gets angry. He seems very suspicious. Tom seems like a regular guy. Unless you start to talk to him, then he ends up seeming a little odd too. A local attorney is roping in his artiste girlfriend to help out investigating the murders. The whole thing doesn’t need to be a mystery. It could have been some random fella coming in and killing everyone. But, there is a bit of mystery here, which is not much of a mystery in the end.

The movie has a glorious cyclic structure to it. A couple (or, in once case, a woman) show up and argue or stumble around the carnival. They play the dart throwing game. They incur the wrath of Tom & Gimpy. They go to the fortune teller. The woman is horribly mutilated. The attorney talks to his girlfriend. They argue. Repeat.

The actors wander through the place passing by endless crowds of people. Many of them stare directly at the camera. Sometimes the boom is in shot. But, it’s so obviously in shot most of the time that it took me ages to realize that it was the boom. It’s like the sun. You don’t pay attention to it unless someone points it out.

Folk-type songs float across the soundtrack, including one about carnivals. Synths flap all over the soundtrack. They don’t seem to make music. They just make odd noises and set weird, weird moods. It matches the strange, red, wet blood that seems to flow into everything.

There’s something about a horror film (or any film, really) set in a certain place at a certain time. I’m pretty sure Coney Island doesn’t look like this anymore. So, to see everyone meander around it is a joy. It’s the exact opposite of timeless but it’s not dated. It’s right of that time. “Dated”, I think, implies that whatever it was is trying to be of its time. Carnival Of Blood is not of its nothing. Kirtman just took the cameras down there and shot. It’s all so off-the-cuff that the proprietors may not have even known that this movie was occurring. Wouldn’t that make it even more exciting?

The quality of the film is what it is. It’s poorly made. Poorly written (if, indeed, it was). And, the structure can put you right to sleep. But, if you watch the movie purely to see a horror film that is as slick as anything else, well, I don’t know why you’re reading this. Maltin still publishes a yearly thing, I believe. He’ll help you. There was a remake of Prom Night a few years ago. Check It Out!

Carnival Of Blood is an experience. It’s 88 minutes of oddballery. A strange burp of a film that sits in my mind long after I watch it. When it ends, I want to watch it again. And, I want to watch it’s co-feature Curse Of The Headless Horseman, of which more shortly.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Very rough shape. The film is saturated with green emulsion lines, scratches, and general noise. In this case, the lower-than-normal quality of the print isn’t a big deal at all. The gritty aesthetic of Carnival seems tailor made for this kind of presentation.

EXTRAS
Not as many supplements as other Something Weird double features, but definitely some great stuff. Two TV spots for the features and several similarly-themed trailers are present, all of which make for a super fun watch. There’s also a gallery of horror poster and ad art, which carries over from several other SWV discs.

Aha, and the short subjects. Included here are The Hunchback Of Massapequa Park and Hands Of Justice, two teenaged Super 8 films from the 70s. This is the kind of stuff we love. Completely unknown and seemingly picked straight from an old attic somewhere, these two wonders flow with youthful good times. Hunchback runs six minutes and follows around a teenaged, fake-mustached hunchback as he terrorizes suburbia. In Hands Of Justice, our hero, Roy, daydreams about various gory revenge scenarios involving the thug that mugged him. If you enjoy this sort of thing, you must see them. Rounding out the shorts is an old soundie reel titled Carnival Show. It’s in great shape and contains a few singing and dancing bits with a carnival barker.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I don’t believe that Leonard Kirtman was a weird man. But, this film is sort of like, if you don’t, for example, cook and you sit down with a recipe or you’ve seen someone make something and you think “I can do that!”…And, you start to cook…maybe you follow the recipe or maybe you don’t. An hour later, you have created something that looks wrong, maybe tastes wrong or is so different from what you wanted to do that no one can figure out what the heck you’ve done.

This film is like that meal, with Burt Young as seasoning.
05/27/10