Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's like doing extra credit homework for a teacher who didn't ask for it, but if it makes you feel better, fine, go ahead

At first, it was looking kinda iffy whether or not there was going to be another one of these deals; I'm talking about the all-night horror movie marathon held every October at the coated-with-awesome New Beverly Cinema for the past three years; the fruits of the laborious Mr. Phil Blankenship, who is no longer with the New Beverly. Because of this, there was a very good chance there wouldn't be another all-nighter. But according to Brian J. Quinn, he of the Grindhouse Film Festival, one particular New Bev'r championed the idea of continuing this shindig, and of course, I can't remember the name of the guy, but he was serving popcorn for most of the night and not looking particularly happy about it -- and neither would you, if you had the long line of munchies-seeking cinephiles who wanted their layered-butter popcorn and wanted it NOW. But hey, them's the breaks, kid -- and besides, I need my butter in the middle and top of the popcorn, unbuttered popcorn's for squids.

So it came down at the last minute; Quinn and company took the reins and went to work booking flicks for the all-nighter. Then Saturday night came, and there they were, and there I was, at the New Beverly Cinema for the 4th annual All Night Horror Show (which everyone still insists on calling Horrorthon, probably because Twitter only gives you 140 characters). As usual, many showed up with pillows & blankets, ensuring them hours of movie-missing sleep, and if that doesn't work, the cooler full of Beck's beer would surely do the job (those guys were gone by movie #4).

Quinn hosted the evening, and he gave props to Mr. Blankenship and Stressed Popcorn Guy Who's Name I Forgot. He also told us about how the trailers were provided by yet another person whose name I can't remember and Quentin Tarantino. He asked that we silence our cell phones and try to refrain from sharing our various bodily functions and odors with the rest of the audience. He then talked about how all the movies we were going to watch were picked because they were Good Times in different respects and that we shouldn't get into MST3k mode and act all superior to them from the very first frame and to that I say A-Fuckin-Men, brother. Not every movie has to be viewed through Everything Is Terrible! lenses, man, you gotta give 'em a chance.

After the trailer reel, the first film of the evening began; Beyond the Door, about some sweaty hobo in a suit (it's the scraggly beard and oily hair that leads me to that judgment) who kept some chick from giving birth in a room full of candles, and I guess that pissed off the narrator who also happens to be Satan, but to make things worse, Satan is some piece-of-shit Ashton Kutcher type who takes pleasure in punking Hobo In A Suit by making him and his car take a flying leap off a fuckin' cliff and then freeze-framing the motherfucker in mid-air, like I Own You Bitch. Also, a woman gets possessed.

Yeah man, Hayley Mills' sister gets possessed by the same punk-ass Satan that is punking Hobo's punk-ass. Because she lives in such a fucked-up little household, it takes a while for the family to notice something is up; the daughter is obsessed with the novelization of Love Story, carrying fuckin' bags and suitcases filled with them and she also swears a lot, like me (I was a sailor once). The young son, he's all right; he's cute but it looks like he's addicted to Campbell's Green Pea soup because he's got cans of it everywhere, he even sips that shit through a straw. As for the dad, he's kind of a dim motherfucker with an Arkansas-garage-worker mustache who is totally disrespectful to his kids, calling them "idiot" and leaving them alone in the apartment with a Devil-possessed woman even though Hobo Without A Shotgun just fuckin' told him not to.

Here's a flick filled with scenes involving Moms spewing out various chunky/viscous liquids from her mouth, doing 360's with her head, and having her face end up looking more and more possessed-looking -- and yet the most disturbing moment involved her giving her son a way-too-long kiss on the mouth. Jesus Christ, woman; if you're gonna go Full Predator and rob the cradle, at least pick a cradle outside your own house.

This was my first time watching the flick and I dug it. It's got that weird, dreamy style to it that some of the better Italian ripoffs feature (in addition to the usual staples of porno-ish music and WTF moments); it's like the director knew that just because he was making an Exorcist ripoff, doesn't mean he has to go through the motions, so why not have some fun with it? He uses freeze frames, repeated loops of certain moments, and then there's that unnerving deal where the soundtrack drops the background ambience and all you can hear is the characters' near-whispering their dialogue with what I swear sounded like a slight echo-y effect to it. Anyway, this flick is like Skynet in that it's self-aware; like that whole deal with the green pea soup cans, that's both genuine eye-tie weirdness AND a wink to the audience, acknowledging the inspiration for this joint. Also, on occasion there are these weird bronchial fart-noises that I assume is the Devil breathing, and that's scary, because I don't even know what the fuck a bronchial fart is.

A raffle was held afterwards and a couple lucky ducks wound up taking home VHS tapes from Johnny Ramone's personal collection, then we watched Bugs Bunny own that furry monster, then we watched one of these fake-ass interviews between this chick named Dorothy and Bela Muthafuckin' Lugosi; it takes place in his backyard and this was back when you can fool a person into thinking that this interview was done all in one real-time take, even though there are cuts and various setups involved. I don't know how much of Lugosi's stuff was scripted, or if his answers were actually off-the-cuff, but he comes off like a pretty decent dude.

Keep in mind that he was flying high off his success from Dracula -- he hadn't reached his Ed Wood nadir yet -- so maybe that's why he seems rather pleasant and charming here. He talks about becoming an American, and keeping up with modern slang -- "the cat's whiskers" was a new one to me -- and how he rarely attends Hollywood parties, leaving more booze for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nathanael West as a result, I bet. He's got this awesome mix of Distant and Interest towards his female interviewer, and I bet you that was his game, and this stud probably got his share of flapper tang back in his day as a result of said game. Or maybe not, because it ends with him scaring the shit of poor Dorothy, and what does he do as a result of her running away all Keystone Kops/Benny Hill-style from him? He laughs. Bela Lugosi rules.

We then put on our 3D glasses for the second film of the evening, Creature from the Black Lagoon, about a creature from the black lagoon that goes around killing South Americans in the Amazon, so it's not like anyone gives a shit, but once he gets the hots for a White chick, it's fuckin' on, because it's 1954 and you're sure as shit not getting away with interspecies dating, let alone interracial. Do you see this, Creature? It means Not Welcome!

The main dude is named David and he's like a marine biologist or something; his raza friend Dr. Maia shows up with a Black Lagoon Creature fossil, the sight of which causes David to get a Major Discovery Hard-on, so he, Dr. Raza, David's hot White girl, and the douchebag money-man financing this endeavor are off to the Amazon in search of ways to get themselves killed in the name of Science.

I'm looking at David's chick Kay and thinking Wow, what a dish! I mean, she's very pretty and her body is very nice to look at, because it's obvious that she eats real food -- in moderation, of course -- but I'm sure she'll occasionally splurge on an extra helping or a dessert, because we only live once, right? Good for her, I say. Actresses today, they gotta look like they dig on the heroin, leaving impressionable girls with little-to-no self-esteem to starve themselves because they think they're fat. Man, I want to know who to blame: Hollywood? The media? Us? I don't know, but whoever it is, they're getting a punch in the fuckin' throat when I find the fuck out.

So yeah, this Creature; I guess back in the day, the sight of this scaly motherfucker was browning many an audience member's seat, but now it's different. Now we look at it and go Oh How Quaint. Maybe back then, this guy was considered an evil murderous monster, but 2011 Me watches this and feels bad for the dude. He's just living his life in the Amazon, and I don't think he's a man-eater, he probably munches on the occasional piranha or two -- good, they deserve it, the jerks -- and he's lonely out there, real lonely. He can be shy too, only popping his hand out of the water very slowly every once in a while, before letting his reticent nature win over and down goes his hand, back into the murky deep.

Sure, every once in a while some native passes by, but those are usually dudes and he's not down with that kind of loving -- it's Creature & Eve, not Creature & Steve. But then here comes this hot White girl with a Black girl's ass, merrily swimming in those savage waters, and I bet you the Creature probably didn't even know he had genitals until they started taking over his brains at that moment. And like most men, the possibility of pussy made the guy lose anything resembling Rational Thought and now it's Killing Time -- and why not, I mean, all those other dudes are potential competition, so off he goes to take them out, as the shutter falls, and we see it all in 3D.

I caught this flick before at the Nuart and thought it was cool; my opinion remained the same during this viewing. The 3D was nice, nicer than you'd expect from a film from that period; I've seen shittier 3D in today's movies. It was pretty impressive; the Creature looks like he's coming out of the screen, it looks like the diver is pointing his spear gun at us, and the audience members look like they're blocking our view as they keep going back and forth between their seats and the lobby. The only problem I had with this overall fun time at the movies is that the pacing is also very 1950's, but I guess back then people were fine with what felt like endless swimming footage, because it's in three dimensions, daddy-o! This and Anaconda would make a pretty cool double-bill. Either that or digitally insert Jon Voight into this flick.

The third film of the evening was Hell Night, starring Linda Blair and one of the Van Pattens, the one who isn't an Emmy-award winning television director or the father from Eight Is Enough. This slasher joint's about your average 80's-era drunk college students, and a group of them have to go into this old abandoned mansion and stay the night in order to get into one of those fraternities/sororities. Of course, this isn't just some regular mansion, there had to have been something fucked up that happened there, and sure enough, the owner was some guy with the worst sperm in the world who eventually snapped and retroactively aborted his four Special Needs children, before doing the same to this wife and himself. Supposedly, no one's been inside the estate ever since, which I guess would explain the hundreds of lit candles all around the house.

It's two chicks and two dudes; one couple is likable (she's a decent girl who worked as a mechanic in father's garage all through high school; he's only pledging this fraternity because of his father) and the other couple represents everything about your standard 80's teen dead meat (she's easy and carries booze & drugs on her person; he's a happy-go-lucky surfer who's probably this dude's uncle). Meanwhile, the main frat asshole and his asshole friends have set up various pranky douchebaggeries like speakers and projectors all around the estate in order to scare the shit out of the pledges. Ah, but what they don't know is that there is Something Out There, and sure enough, heads are getting chopped or 180'd, and various stabbing weapons are being used to weapon stab through much alcohol-pickled flesh.

I guess I can call this a re-see; back in the good ol' days, my sister and cousin (two separate people) brought this movie home on VHS, so I remember vague glimpses and flashes of moments from this movie, but I might as well have been watching this for the first time at the New Bev. Anyway, this was one of the better 80's slasher films, with some creepy moments that I'd rather not spoil, but fuck it, I'll let one go: there's a scene where British Druggy Whore is in bed, sleeping the sleep of the heavily Quaalude'd, and the camera slowly approaches her, closer and closer until her body almost fills the frame -- suddenly, the movie cuts to a wide shot of the bedroom, revealing the fuckin' killer standing right over her. That was pretty tight, yo.

The first half was better than the second half, because it was tighter (there are some scenes involving characters walking through the dark estate that crosses the line from Deliberately Paced to All Right Already, Get To The Fuckin' Point) and because the characters start pulling stupid Because It Was Written That Way In The Script bullshit during the second half. There's a scene in a police station that was just frustrating the fuck out of me, and not in a good way; I wasn't buying anything that was happening there, and while I get the idea of The Horror Of Nobody Helping You, I wasn't buying the way that shit was being presented. That shit felt too fuckin' convenient, which might have worked in the writer's next produced screenplay, muthafuckin' Tango & Cash, but not with this joint.

Mr. Quinn had mentioned how the fourth film -- the secret film -- was a secret because even he didn't know what movie he was going to get. The last minute planning of this caper led to him requesting various prints of movies and hoping that they were available on such short notice, and this one didn't come through until about two or three days before the event. Nevertheless, it was a film he dug and it had a minor theatrical release at the time: Frank Henenlotter's Brain Damage.

Some dude named Brian (ah, you clever Henenlotter, you) wakes up one night in his apartment and finds blood on his bedsheets. Unfortunately for him, the blood didn't come from a severed horse head but from his own body. Turns out this freaky penile creature named Aylmer has chosen Brian as his new host, but Aylmer's not a total leech, he's gonna hook up our boy with some sweet, sweet blue juice that causes the recipient to take a ride on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Yup, it's the greatest drug ever -- and the only cost for further trips down Euphoria Lane is human brains for Aylmer to eat. It's always something, isn't it?

At first, Brian is too fuckin' lifted to notice that during his nightly trip-out sessions on the streets of New York, Aylmer's attacking people and burrowing into their heads to eat their brains (and gain their knowledge?) -- although in one case, a poor hooker-type (it's never confirmed, but to quote Dave Chappelle, she's definitely wearing the uniform) gets hers sucked out while she's trying to suck off Brian. Now, the print we watched was the cut R-rated version, so those watching the DVD at home get a little more freaky gory goodness.

Keep in mind that I haven't seen Henenlotter's latest, Bad Biology, when I say this: Brain Damage is his fuckin' masterpiece. Yeah, I said that shit. As much as I dug his first film Basket Case, I think this one is even better. Sure, there's a slight deja-vu'ish feel to the proceedings -- both are about young men and the murderous creatures they carry with them, and how that shit is fucking up their lives -- but you know, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 are damn near the same fuckin' movie and that didn't keep the latter from straight-up owning the already damn-good former. So there.

But yeah, man, this flick is pretty awesome in that it's both gleefully nasty/trashy exploitation and About Something, kinda like old-school Romero; this is really a story about a man throwing his life away on drugs, because the results are the same: he misses out on work, alienates his loved ones, commits serious crime -- all in the name of getting another hit from his supplier. Except the drug isn't heroin or crack being pushed by Superfly, it's some Windex-looking shit that you inject through back of your neck and the supplier is a talking slimy phallus.

There's a great shot where Brian runs off to a back alley for some Aylmer Juice-taking privacy, and in the foreground, there's a homeless dude with a bottle of booze -- and the part that kills me is that Homeless Dude is crying, in between taking swigs of alcohol, like he knows he's in a world of shit and the bottle was probably what led him there, but goddammit, he needs it: the fuckin' bottle owns him. So in effect, you have Brian in the background, representing the beginning stages of addiction, and then you have the homeless guy in the foreground representing the final stage of addiction -- total absolute physical/emotional dependency.

This flick is like a Henenlotter best-of; gross-out gags, gore, comedy, drama, way-too-real seedy New York locations. But it also has a couple things that represent some of his not-so-best qualities, like wide-eyed motherfuckers screaming in only the worst, most shrill manner possible; the first five minutes or so were very tough to take, since they feature some old lady screaming and screaming and screaming in that horrific combo of anguish & annoying (if I only knew what was in store for me in about another couple of hours). So I'd probably watch the first five minutes on Mute, next time. Otherwise, damn good flick.

Our fifth flick was another joint that didn't get much theatrical play, aside from film festivals, but I think that was because this was mostly likely always intended for Straight-to-Video (the way-too-cropped top and bottom of the image in this print was a giveaway), since it's a Full Moon production: The Pit and the Pendulum, directed by Stuart Gordon, he of the angry face and friendly attitude. I believe this was producer Charles Band's personal print, but I could be mistaken.

Yeah, it's another adaptation of that underage-cousin-loving emo's short story, taking place in Spain during the Inquisition, only here it's obvious that everybody was expecting that shit, on account of these robed assholes being here for a while already. Man, it sucks to live in 1492 Spain, because Torquemada and his boys are in full effect, jacking up everybody they think is not down with the Pope; they're climbing in your windows, they're snatching your people up, trying to torture them, so ya'll need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband -- because they're torturing everybody out here. It's not as hilarious as when Mel Brooks was doing that shit, and if you're too sensitive to watch yet another witch-burning, kid-whipping auto-da-fe in the public square, you get accused of being in league with the Dark Arts. 

There's this chick Maria, she kinda resembles a Spanish Jessica Harper, and she's just trying to make some bread by selling bread with her husband. But once she steps in to stop some poor kid from getting whipped (apparently, he's being punished for crying at the sight of his mother being strangled to death, what a pussy), that's it, man; her beauty causes Torquemada to get all stiff under his robes, and because he has no game, he does the next best thing -- he accuses her of being a witch and has her arrested. Then the fun really begins.

Torquemada is played by national treasure Lance Henriksen, and goddamn, if there was such a thing as a Straight-to-Video acting category in the Oscars, then this motherfucker would've won in 1991 for his performance in this movie. He is that fucking good here. He's always working, but I wish Hollywood would hook him up with more big-budget work, because he's surely got the goods and they deserve to be flaunted to a wider audience. At first, his Torquemada comes off like he's totally hardcore about his beliefs, but once he sees this chick, goddamn. He figures it's nothing a little flogging from one of his boys can't fix, and perhaps that will beat the horniness out of him -- but the cock wants what the cock wants, I guess, and slowly he starts to lose his shit over her.

I liked how most of his crew only appear to be as true to the cause and are really just hypocrites enjoying the ability to torture-porn people with impunity; two of them are played by Gordon players Jeffrey Combs and Tom Towles, and right there you have both sides of the spectrum -- Combs is totally by the book about stuff, and while he's all for torture, that's just because that's what the rules say to do; Towles, on the other hand, is totally getting off on the perks of the job, such as being able to inspect every inch of a hot chick's naked body for Devil marks. There's also this asshole fat dude who would be completely hateable if he wasn't so goddamn hilarious at times.

Pretty much everyone here is tops in the acting department -- the guy from Dinner Rush and Scarface who's also in all of Darren Aronofsky's joints; Happy Gilmore's grandmother; the guy who plays Latin Jessica Harper's husband; Stuart Gordon's wife (once again dying a violent death); and my man, muthafuckin' Oliver Reed, playing a cardinal from Rome who talk-a like-a dis, like-a he's-a fuckin-a Mario from-a da video game. It's a real stretch for him, playing a guy who drinks a lot (sure enough, it's Amontillado he's quaffing on).

I rented this on VHS back when I was 13 years old, because it's not like my parents knew what the fuck I was renting with my allowance money, and I sure as fuck wasn't gonna watch in front of them, but aside from Absolute Nakedness, I didn't get much out of this flick at the time. But upon second viewing, old-ass Me thinks this flick was pretty goddamn awesome. It's just so tense and involving; you boo-hiss the villains, cheer the hero, and beat off to the damsel-in-distress -- Good Times, in other words. There's also a lot of humor that I missed out on the first time, because you know, I was 13 and just wanted to see tits and blood. Since then, I've matured and now expect much more from my cinema viewings -- tits, blood, AND humor.

The last film of the evening (well, morning at this point), was a British joint called Horror Planet -- although a better title for it would be Dumb Motherfuckers Planet, because Jesus Tapdancing Christ, these are the dumbest motherfuckers in the world, dumber than me, even. In fact, I think that's why they're on another planet -- they were too fuckin' stupid to live on Earth, so they got their asses kicked out of this planet and were told to go colonize another one and don't even think of writing back. This was originally titled Inseminoid, but that really just refers to one part of the movie -- a movie that is comprised of individuals succeeding in accomplishing clusterfuck after clusterfuck after clusterfuck.

Officially, they're on this strange planet to do the archeological dig thing, and they can't even fuckin' do that right; one poor woman gets her foot caught through an open floor panel of the airlock entrance while out in the deadly-freezing caves, and because her spacesuit is fucking up and she's only got limited time before freezing to death, she's told by one of the guys inside the base that she must perform some quick wire-patching shit to fix the fuckin' heater or defroster or whatever the fuck was gonna keep her alive. So what does she do? She ignores homeboy, takes her helmet off, exposing her face to the Killer Wind Chill, shoves an oxygen tube in her mouth, and takes what looks like Ramon the gardener's hedge trimmers and slowly slices through her leg like it was Thanksgiving up in this bitch. When her homies finally get to her, they find her dead with an embarrassed look on her frozen face -- as she should be.

Then this other broad ends up getting raped by an alien -- what the fuck is it with these sci-fi movies that involve women getting fucked by monsters, man?! -- which is represented as a hallucination in what appears to be the same set from the opening of Beyond the Door (minus the candles), where she finds the team's doctor making some weird English pervy face as he injects her with his syringe, making me think that's why he became a doctor, to prick all the chicks with his phallic symbol. Then some big clear tube is shoved into her Christmas pudding and what appears to be tennis balls floating in Campbell's Green Pea soup is shot up in there. At that point, I wondered whether I should go to Norms or IHOP for breakfast after the show.

This results in our girl acting all wacky and doing goofball things like slicing up Steve Martin's ex-wife Jack the Ripper-style, because she's a hater, I guess. Maybe she's doing this because now she's down with the aliens -- because once you go xenomorph, you never go back. So our girl goes around, killing her former co-workers by stabbing 'em, slicing 'em, burning 'em -- then she'll rip open their innards and eat them because one good turn deserves another, I don't know. But I don't feel bad for any of the victims, because they're stupid, unlikable, and stupid. I know I used "stupid" twice, but I can't stress that shit enough.

Actually, death is a relief for these dumb assholes because it means they no longer have to hear Crazy Brit Chick scream anymore. Yeah man, didn't I tell you? She loves to scream. Absolutely lives for it. She screams for everything -- she screams when she's in pain, she screams when she's angry, she screams when she's losing, she screams when she's winning. Scream scream scream. The only thing I got from all that screaming -- aside from the urge to jump through the screen Last Action Hero/Purple Rose of Cairo-style and strangle her -- was a good look at her chompers, and based on all the fillings in her teeth, perhaps it's a good thing that she's chowing down on human meat, because she's certainly had enough sugar in her life, evidently.

What we have here is some symbolic/metaphor/whatever shit going on here; this chick got knocked up and now everybody has to pay. Everybody has to put up with her mood swings; one moment she's begging you to help her because she's in so much pain, and the next she's gleefully (and literally) tearing you a new one. Eventually she cannons those alien kids from her cooch -- yay, more screaming! -- and the terror doesn't stop because the dummy in charge of all the other dummies on this planet, Mark, also happens to be her man. And I guess the sight of her man hanging out with the two surviving dummy chicks makes this new mother feel all unattractive and unwanted, so now Jealousy has entered the picture. The last third of the film consists of her doing more of her Stalking Killer thing while constantly screaming MAAAAAAARRRRRRK! like the worst housewife in the world. Over and over and over she's screaming that shit.

I caught Horror Planet (aka Inseminoid) last year on Netflix Instant and didn't think much of it then, but the masochist in me decided to give it another day in court. Besides, the Netflix version was pan & scan and this was a nice-looking print on the big screen. By the way, the ending is longer on the Netflix version; there's an extra scene of some dudes showing up on the planet a few months later -- it was cut out of the theatrical print, yet whoever was in charge of that didn't bother cutting the dudes out of the end credits montage, leaving quite a few in the audience confused, like Who the fuck are the new guys? It's a lightning-paced film that is never boring, but goddamn, that screaming really puts a damper on the whole experience. Which is too bad, because the character of Crazy Brit Chick is otherwise lots of fun to watch; I loved how she'll suddenly make evil faces and wide-eyed expressions whenever going into Exterminate Mode, but I cannot stress it enough how those whiny-screams made that shit unbearable. Horror Planet, Inseminoid, Dumb Motherfuckers Planet -- whatever, it all sounded like Marriage to me.

So the film ended, Mr. Quinn thanked the remaining All Nighters, and off we went. In the end, I decided on Norms. Fin.

Check out Cathie's blog about the event. She says more with less, unlike me, who deserves to be visited by Crazy Brit Chick in his sleep.