Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Help me meet the sunshine in the mourning

Jesus Christ.

This year. This goddamn year.

God. Damn. Maybe the Mayans were off by a digit.

OK, maybe that's too much, but this certainly wasn't one of the better years, that's for sure.

Anyway, fuck that shit. Lady and gentleman, instead let me ramble about the latest film the North Koreans didn't want you to see, Big Eyes, starring The Adorable Amy Adams and some other people. Those Commie motherfuckers, they see someone as talented and brimming with non-actress sincerity as Ms. Adams and it drives them nuts because only Dear Leader can be so awesome. But that is their problem.

Here in the United Muthafuckin' States of Muthafuckin' America (UMSMA), where one can go buy as many tickets to Big Eyes as they want -- provided they don't, like, run into the cops and make the mistake of not automatically bending over -- we don't go for that stupid bullshit. Here we worship celebrity and wealth, not some asshole in power. We are better than that.

Big Eyes is Ed Wood director Tim Burton getting together with Ed Wood writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski again and telling another strange-but-true story about some interesting individuals. In this case, the I.I.'s are Margaret and Walter Keane, an artist couple who became famous in the 60s because of these paintings of children featuring -- wait for it -- their big eyes. Except it was really only Walter Keane who got famous because he took all the credit even though it was his wife who painted those giant-eyed waifs. Her fame was more of a secondary kind, the residual fame-by-association.

This poor Margaret, she already left one bad marriage with daughter in tow, looking for greener pastures in the city by the bay, San Francisco. She then met up with Walter, who I have to admit is a real charmer; I like how Burton and company set up the first act of the film as a damn-near storybook romance, with Margaret being swept off her feet by this guy. He ends up proposing to her, and in response she gives out that wonderfully peculiar bow-tie smile of hers. That's our Amy, folks.

It turns out that Walter is a very successful realtor and it doesn't surprise me because this Austrian-accented dude from Nebraska has the gift of gab. I can see why Margaret first agrees to his idea of letting him take the credit because he is very convincing as a business partner and as a salesman. She, on the other hand, isn't as verbally adept; there's one scene where Margaret tries to talk to some dude checking out her artwork in a gallery and it's so fuckin' awkward because she's rambling on about numerology and it becomes clear he's more interested in banging-ology and it's just...oh man, poor Amy -- I mean, poor Margaret.

This Walter Keane turned out to be a real son-of-a-bitch, at least based on this film. The paintings become more and more popular and the Keanes make tons of dough off of them (you have to give it up to Walter for his idea of selling copies of the paintings), but he's the only one who gets to enjoy the success. Meanwhile, Margaret gets to stay cooped up in a locked room turning out painting after painting, like so many hotcakes -- which is exactly how these paintings are selling. Like muthafuckin' hotcakes. Slathered in butter. Drizzled with maple syrup. Oh man, I can go for some right now -- Keane paintings, I mean.

These paintings were popular but the critical consensus was one of Good God These Are Terrible, and leading this hate brigade was John Canaday, art critic for the New York Times. He's played by Terence Stamp, and he can't stand how successful these paintings are getting. At one point, he throws down a Time Magazine issue featuring a story on Keane, declaring that it's "absurd", while apparently not noticing that the front page is about the Watts Riots -- because there's also real life & death shit going on out there but fuck that, it's all about art, you know?

There's a tense moment between him and Walter that ends in an action that I don't believe happened in real life, but hey, when you have General Zod the Limey in a film, you have to have him do something kinda badass. There's also a line in that scene where Walter says something to the effect of "Critics have to criticize because they don't know how to create" and Canaday just about yawns it off with "Oh, that moldy chestnut." TAKE THAT, BIRDMAN!

Big Eyes opens with a quote by Andy Warhol, giving Keane props and basically saying that if the paintings were no good they wouldn't be selling so many of them. I mean it's cool that Warhol wasn't a snob about this shit, but I mean that shit could also be said about assholes like Thomas Kinkade -- or if you want to move it to movies, you can say the same about Michael Bay and his Transformers series. Millions of motherfuckers ponied up the dough for all of that shit (myself included). But I guess we each have a breaking point as to what we'll consider art and what we'll consider cynically-made garbage directed with contempt towards the people who would pay to see Optimus Prime be an asshole for almost three hours. I reached mine halfway through the second Transformers flick.

What am I talking about here? Oh yeah, OK, I'm back on track; while the film is pretty evenhanded about the quality of her work, clearly Burton is on the side of Keane's paintings being genuine Art. They just seem like something he would be into, know what I mean? I'm not sure about the writers, I would guess that maybe Alexander and Karaszewski aren't fans of the paintings but they are definitely behind the artist -- much like with Ed Wood, a film about a filmmaker whose films were godawful but goddammit you have to admire the man for what he was trying to do and for having the balls/gumption/spirit to pull it off.

And in the case of Margaret Keane, regardless of what you might feel about her work, it's hard to deny that she is putting her soul into them. I don't think she's pulling a Kinkade/Bay with any of her paintings, she's sincere, and that's probably one of many reasons that those ten years of marriage to Walter were hell (he was also a mean asshole drunk): she was in this fucked up situation of being forced to paint paint paint and it didn't matter whether she was inspired or not. At one point, Walter tries to compare her situation to Michelangelo taking that Sistine Chapel gig and she's all like "Yeah, and it took him four years" because she certainly doesn't have that luxury of time.

Now, for the real question -- how is our Amy here? Well, the fact that you would ask that question automatically makes you suspect in my eyes. Your faith is lacking and you should know better. But that's OK. Anyway, she's really good here; her Keane is someone who is quick to smile but does not outwardly express her negativity, but that's not to say that she completely hides those kinds of feelings. She just doesn't put up much of a fight during her weak attempts at standing up for herself. Every once in a while, she'll let out a smart remark or sarcastic comment and I think that's her way of letting out a little pressure from the boiler, but that's as far as she'll go. I suspect this way of Dealing With Shit was something she developed during her last marriage so her kid wouldn't be a witness to her misery.

But that's the problem -- as far as Oscar gold is concerned. Because Adams is playing someone who tends to stay in Internal Mode, that means we don't get that all-out showstopper (preferably right before the third act) where she finally decides that Enough Is Enough and starts throwing vases and stabbing holes into her paintings (to the protestations of her husband) while screaming out loud some bullshit like "I'M TIRED OF BEING FORCED TO SELL MY SOUL IN 12x16 FRAMES! YOU CAN HAVE MY MONEY AND MY FREEDOM, BUT THESE WILL ALWAYS BE MY BIG EYES! I'VE ABANDONED MY CHILD!!!" and that's too bad because stuff like that is what gets the Academy hard.

That's too bad, because if you can judge good acting with something else other than the Pacino Scale, you'd see that she's doing a great job here. For the record -- had Reese Witherspoon played this role and given the same performance, I'd have the same opinion. Because I am not viewing this film through Amy Adams glasses (which would present the film in AWWW-D).

But you know what? Fuck Oscar. If I were to meet The Adorable Amy Adams, I would tell her that. I would tell her that she doesn't need an Oscar, she has something better than that -- she gets to be Amy Adams. Then she would smile at me and hold out a ticket stub and tell me that hers is the red Volvo.

I'd sooner believe two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz getting a nomination for his role as Walter Keane, because his is the kind of really good performance that also has plenty of vocal/physical flourishes that the Academy licks up the way I lick up the rest of a chili bowl. It also helps his chances that the film more or less becomes his for the majority of the running time, or at least it felt that way to me.

It's an interesting format for this film; the first act is Margaret's, then the second act is really more about Walter with the occasional moment of cigarette-smoking Margaret intensely painting those big eyes, then in the third act Margaret realizes she has to take a stand and take the movie (and her paintings) back. Honestly, she probably has a better chance at Oscar attention if her performance is submitted to the Academy under Best Supporting Actress.

Overall, I liked the film. It's an interesting story told in an entertaining manner -- which I guess is my nicest way of saying that it was good-but-not-great and I was a tad underwhelmed. And I'll be honest with you, man, I wouldn't have been able to pick this out of a lineup as a Tim Burton joint, let alone one written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The writers don't really use the same style that they used in their biopics like The People vs. Larry Flynt or Man on the Moon -- which I understand, I mean, most artists abhor the idea of repeating themselves, right? Even Margaret Keane wanted to try some new shit that didn't involve some big eyed kiddies.

But goddamn, I really liked what they did in the past. I liked the scope of those screenplays, those motherfuckers were rife with detail and dense and all-out overflowing with interesting characters and situations. Not so much with this one; it really is only the Margaret and Walter show, with occasional appearances by a critic, a gallery owner, or a friend who may be a wee bit jealous. There's also a reporter/narrator played by Danny Huston who I found absolutely useless in this film, except for the amusing fact that Huston now sounds a little like his dad and will probably sound more like his dad as he gets older.

Compared to their previous screenplays, this has more of a slow burn approach; in their other works, the absurdity of the situation presented itself front and center and never went away. These dudes are nothing if not masters at telling tales that are so strange, they can only come from Real Life. But their script for Big Eyes is stingy with its No Fuckin' Way Did That Happen points and waits for the last third of the film to finally redeem those motherfuckers. At least that's how it felt for me, because I didn't know the whole Keane story until I watched this film. If you already know how this all played out, then maybe none of this will raise your Give A Shit level past a two, maybe three.

It also doesn't really look or feel like a Burton movie either, except for maybe the use of overly bright colors for the suburban neighborhood scenes at the beginning of the film (not too far off from the neighborhood in Edward Scissorhands). Also, Krysten Ritter is in this film as Margaret's only friend, and she looks like a Tim Burton creation come to life -- more specific, she looks like the real life person they based Winona Ryder's character in Beetlejuice on, had she existed in real life.

Speaking of which, if they ever make a Beetlejuice sequel, I can see Burton pull some coldblooded shit and recast Ryder's role with this chick. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it turns out that Ritter and Burton become an item -- it wouldn't be the first time he fell in love/lust with an actress on one of his films and dumped his former lady as a result. Lisa Marie, meet Helena Bonham Carter. Helena Bonham Carter, meet Krysten Ritter. And so on, and so forth -- until Burton drops dead or is shot dead by one of his former friends of the female persuasion. Which is what he deserves for calling each and every one of them his muse (based on nothing whatsoever but my own imagination).

I don't mean this as an insult, because more often than not you have quality shit coming from this place, but the end result really felt to me less like a film made for the big screen and more like an HBO movie -- some lower budgeted project Tim Burton took to remind people that before he became the aging gothic hipster schmuck who makes overly expensive/critically trashed Johnny Depp movies, he was once the young gothic hipster schmuck who made a not-very-expensive/critically acclaimed Johnny Depp film. Well, Big Eyes doesn't measure up to that 20-year-old film, but it is better than Ed Wood in only one respect -- Amy Adams is in it.

Oh, also there's a judge in the film and he's played by The Shredder from the 1990 film adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which Ed Wood sorely lacked.

In conclusion: Fuck you and die, 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dark weekend.

I am going to ramble about a film from way, way back -- 2000, to be exact -- called Highlander: Endgame. This was requested by a very nice individual from Scotland named Kris, who was far too kind in his e-mail to me. Thank you very much, Kris -- you are now my number one favorite person from that far off land who isn't Sean Connery. (Number two would be Karen Gillan, and were she to request a movie rambling from me, well, I'm sorry Kris, but that would knock you down to the second slot because CHICKS OVER DICKS, BRO.)

Endgame is the fourth installment of the Highlander films, and if by some small chance you are unfamiliar with this series, then I'll just give you the quick synopsis:

Highlander is about one film that should've stayed as one film, but for some reason they made five films, a TV series, an animated series, various DVD/Blu-ray releases, a video game, and I'm sure comic books and cereals figure into it as well.

I'm being unfair. It's about these people who are immortal and can only die by decapitation and they're all gathering together to kill each other with swords because There Can Be Only One to win The Prize. Why am I explaining this? If you're not familiar with Highlander, that's what Wikipedia is for. OK, fuck this -- you know what, I'll be honest, I'm gonna take the snark mask off and confess to you that if you were to ask 11-Year-Old Me what my favorite movie was, I'd answer "HIGHLANDER!!!" and then you'd ask me to stop shouting.

Yeah man, for a while I was a fuckin' fiend for that flashy film and its followups. It was my intro to Christophe(r) Muthafuckin' Lambert and I've been a fan of that oddly-accented gentleman ever since. No -- wait -- I'm lying, but it's an unintentional lie. My intro to Lambert was Highlander II: The Quickening. For real. No lie. I saw the fuckin' sequel first.

See, my cable provider was having a special 99-cent pay-per-view weekend and my dad was like "Son, I've made peace with the fact that you'll never play a sport or lift a weight or kiss a girl because you're all about the movies, so here's twenty bucks -- buy some blank tapes, order up all the movies this bill will get ya and record them, that way we have some movies for you to watch while I get drunk in order to kill the pain of having a fairy for a son!" and so I did, and The Quickening was among those films. It interested me enough to search out the first film, which proceeded to blow my mind on account of lopped off heads, lightning, and Queen. I watched both films many times, and I even watched the first couple seasons of the television show, I was so into it. I loved me some fuckin' Highlander -- even if the timeline and continuity of the whole franchise became more and more confusing over time.

Let's see -- Part Two takes place in the future and the Immortals are aliens, Part Three goes back to the present day and more or less pretends Part Two never happened, then a television series followed that appeared to take place in the same universe of Parts One and Three, then alternate cuts of all three films were released that changed stuff again. It's a mess. All I know is that I eventually lost interest in all things Highlander as soon as the end credits began to roll for 
Highlander III: The Final Dimension aka Highlander III: The Sorcerer aka Highlander III: The Magician aka Highlander III: The Pajama Jam aka PICK A FUCKING TITLE AND STAY WITH IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

As for the previous films and the series, it makes more sense to see each one taking place in alternate universes, like some JJ Abrams' Star Trek craziness. For example: In the prime universe, the main character Connor MacLeod becomes the last Immortal standing and is awarded the "prize" of mortality and full knowledge of the universe or something, and he's going to use this to help the world come together and buy the world a Coke and kumbaya no more wars no more pollution all the babies all the kitties all the doggies what's an Israel? what's a Palestine? imagine there's no countries it isn't hard to do we're all just humans super happy time I don't know. Also, he's no longer shooting blanks (immortality giveth and taketh away), so he can have kids now.

But in the Endgame universe, Connor is just but one of the many Immortals still around for this Gathering and he's sick of all this shit, because, really man, really -- being immortal fucking sucks a dick. In the first Highlander, there's a pretty sad sequence where Connor is living life with his wife Heather, watching her grow old and eventually die, because that's the endgame of Love.

Endgame is almost like a feature-length version of that sequence. Connor MacLeod is so fuckin' beat by life and loss and guilt and death and the fact that his fellow immortal/kinda-relative Duncan just asked for ketchup on a hot dog, he ends up seeking sanctuary at a place called Sanctuary, where Immortals voluntarily put themselves into sort-of-comas in order to sit out life without having to take part in the Gathering. Sanctuary is run by The Watchers, a worldwide network of mortals who keep tabs on the Immortals, and might have some shady motives of their own (you think?).

He gets about ten good years of nothing before something comes blasting through his door in the form of a multi-racial gang of Immortals in ridiculous outfits, because the bad guys in Highlander always wear ridiculous outfits. One of these dudes is played by my man, Donnie Yen; he's here long enough to kick some ass in his usual awesome way but not long enough to satisfy my awesome ass-kicking quota. Another one is played by rap dude Damon Dash, who is barely in this but he does have a funny part where his decapitated head manages to stay alive long enough to give a OMG I Can't Believe He Fuckin' Did That Shit! face. (You had 14 years to see this fucking movie, and even then you weren't going to see it anyway.)

They are led by an Immortal named Jacob Kell, played by the main bad guy from Passenger 57, Bruce Payne, but this time he's replaced his long locks with more of an early 2000s Corbin Bernsen hairstyle. Kell and Connor used to be cool with each other back in the ol' Highland days, but all it takes is a charbroiled mother to change that relationship. Kell's dad was a priest who accused Connor's mom of witchcraft and then had her burned at the the stake. Connor, of course, didn't take highly to this, so he arranged a meeting between the priest and God with the help of his trusty sword.

Now to me, that sounds like they're even: Your dad killed my mom, I killed your dad. But try telling Kell that. Nope, this smug overacting motherfucker turns out to be an Immortal himself who dedicates his neverending life to shadowing Connor, looking for any opportunities to fuck up his life -- like blowing up his adopted daughter. It doesn't help that Connor is basically enabling this jerk-off by feeling genuinely guilty about this and everything else, leading his own pity party where the theme is "Everything Meaningful In My Life Gets Destroyed Because Of Me".

I couldn't stand this motherfucker Kell, killing everything and being OK with it because Boo-hoo, you killed my stupid asshole priest father. No excuse for that shit, son. Among his many crimes, Kell is always wearing these boots with crosses on the back, and it would make for a decent drinking game if you took a shot every time the film cut to a close-up of said crosses. Like, if you went with a good tequila, you'd get nice and properly fucked up halfway through your viewing. Later in the film, Duncan looks this guy up on the Internet Immortal Database and finds out that Kell has killed way more Immortals than him and Connor put together, making him a bona-fide scary force to reckon with.

As far as bad guys in the Highlander film universe go, he's nowhere near as fun as Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, or Mario Van Peebles (all playing variations of the same theme), but at least his character has a little bit more running his engine than "I'M EVIL AND I LOVE IT". He does share with his fellow baddies a fondness for jokes and one-liners though; they are either in the Lame ("I call this decap with a twist. No sugar.") or Huh?/What? categories ("What's wrong? Don't you want to be inside me?"). Payne is clearly having fun here; his is the kind of performance given by an actor who knows that whatever he does is going to be OK with the director.

By his side is this chick named Faith, formerly named Kate, who I feel is way more interesting than Kell. I'd say she's probably my favorite character in the movie. See, she used to be married to Duncan way back when, and she was unaware that she was immortal as well. But Duncan sure as hell knew, because immortals can sense each other out. He also understood that an immortal doesn't actually become immortal until they go through a sudden violent death, otherwise I guess that offer just expires like a forgotten coupon and he or she dies of old age instead. So Duncan figures that rather than lose her that way, he decides to give her one final bang (just in case) and then stabs her dead. Poor girl, first she gets romanced into a room filled with candles (which in that time period actually makes sense), then she makes the O-face, followed by the Y-face, as in Why Oh Why Did You Just Stab Me, I Thought You Loved Me?!

Homegirl is righteously pissed at Duncan, and why not? She didn't ask for this shit, he just gave it to her. Great. Now she gets to outlive everyone else in her life, and even worse, she can't have kids. It doesn't matter that she makes lots of bank in the fashion industry, she is clearly not happy with her life, this life that can suddenly end at any time should some Immortal show up with a sword and decide to make her give head the hard way.

At least Duncan feels pretty shitty about what he did to Kate/Faith, so that gives him one more thing to talk about with fellow guilty-conscious-having immortal Connor. Man, these MacLeod boys have shit luck in creating fellow immortals (Connor killed Kell back in the old days during his burning-mom-induced rage), but if these guys were real and I happened to have the Immortal gene in me, I wouldn't mind going through a sudden violent death in exchange for a lifetime of forever. The people in my life are dying anyway and shit is way too interesting in the real world for me to eventually have to walk out of this movie, know what I mean?

The rest of the film consists of Duncan looking for Connor while trying to steer clear of Kell, his crew, Angry Kate/Faith, the Watchers, and people with good taste in hot dog condiments. We also get flashbacks to earlier times in Scotland, Italy, and I forget where else; we see Connor and Duncan living life, training with swords, foiling robberies, stabbing immortal loved ones after banging them. Characters from the television series also show up here, as do a couple of characters from the first film. And where does this film fit in with the chronology? I already told you dude, these are all alternate universes, and this story is yet another strand in God's spaghetti dish.

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that this Highlander film -- like every other Highlander film -- has more than one version out there; the theatrical version clocked in at 87 minutes. The version I watched was the longer "producer's cut" running at about 100 minutes. There's also a rough cut workprint available, but fuck that shit, I think I made the right choice. According to the producers, the 87-minute version was the result of distributor Dimension Films laying down the law in the name of a faster pace and more showings -- personally I thought the 100-minute cut had a good pace already, but you know these fuckin' Weinstein Brothers are never happy unless they get to re-edit everything, and I do mean everything. They just re-edited me. Tomorrow, they re-edit your mom. Six editors are credited in the film, which made me think of Street Fighter and the last couple Terrence Malick joints -- but alas, unlike those multi-editor films, this one ain't no masterpiece.

This was an OK movie; it starts out strong and I liked the choice made in giving this more of a downbeat tone, which at least makes it feel different from the other Highlanders. The characters of Connor, Duncan, and Kate/Faith aren't the bounciest buskers on the block, because they've all lost something (many things, actually -- I mean they've been AROUND) and I think both the one-two punch of The Gathering and the beginning of a new millennium have weighed their souls down and boy oh boy have I made this movie sound like fun, haven't I? Shit, I don't even remember Lambert doing that awesome laugh of his here, like even he knew this was a rather frown-y affair.

It kinda goes off track quality-wise during the last third where I wasn't feeling it as much as the previous hour or so, which is weird because a pretty major event in the Highlander universe occurs late in the film and it didn't have quite the impact that I was expecting it to have. Perhaps if I remained All About Highlander like back in the day, I'd care more. Also the ending was kinda lame; I found out online that this was a new ending added to the producer's cut, whereas the theatrical cut ended in the previous (better) scene.

Despite that bullshit, I thought that this was a decent viewing for a lazy Sunday afternoon -- and maybe if I waited a few hours rather than watch it early this Sunday morning, I'd have gotten more out of it. But there's enough going on to keep things interesting, and the swordplay is cool to watch as always, plus you have the occasional Hong Kong-flavored kick-punching (thanks Donnie Yen!).

Lambert is the fuckin' man as always, Adrian Paul is actually better here than I remember him in the series (granted, I barely remember the series), and the both of them are introduced here coming out of a New York subway speaking French even though they're both supposed to be from Scotland -- because why shouldn't they? You live long enough and learn enough languages, you'd probably start switching tongues whenever just to keep from getting bored. Anyway, I'd say this is the second best/fourth worst Highlander film (the fifth film, The Source, went straight to the SyFy network and is by all accounts a terrible waste of everything).

In conclusion, Duncan MacLeod's Quickening face (or Q-face) is awesome.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Late night, and there's a Tom Snyder-sized hole in my soul

So I can't sleep. So I blog. So I'll be (relatively) brief here.

I think.

Last Saturday, I went to the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica for the 9th Annual Dusk-to-Dawn Horrorthon. It had been a while since I last attended; the Horrorthon was always an on-and-off thing for me. Part, if not all, of my not-so-commitment stems from the fact that it's a different environment over there. The All Night Horror Show at the New Bev and Cinefamily was/is more about going to enjoy the films, while the Aero is more about going to enjoy yourself enjoying the films. It's more of a party atmosphere. I never really was much for parties; even my past usual states of inebriation were preferred in gatherings of one.

This is something that I discussed with my friend who went to the Aero with me; whereas the All Night Horror Show has brief intros and plays trailer reels between films, the Horrorthon is as much about what happens between the films, as it is about the films themselves -- maybe even more than the films. And what does happen between films there? Insanity, mainly.

As I've "written" before, the Horrorthons are hosted by Grant Moninger, film programmer at the American Cinematheque, who in the few screenings I've seen him at comes off pretty normal -- but during the Horrorthon he lets his freak flag fly and becomes some sort of wild coked-out preacherman with an internal volume control setting of Infinite. He aims to keep everyone awake and in the proper mood for the night. Dude works himself up into a red-shaded face that goes "beyond tomato", to quote my friend. He also has a cannon for an arm, with the way he launches various candies and DVDs to people in the audience. Damn near everyone left with a Blu-ray of National Treasure (from the "treasure chest"); I didn't, but I did end up with three copies of Boys on the Side and some breath spray. I can only imagine how much more I'd walk away with had I actually tried.

Over the years, he's introduced various characters and gags to the Horrorthon; among them, the Corn Gorn, who is a guy in a Gorn (from Star Trek) costume that gives away cans or ears of corn. This year, the Corn Gorn and his Bride welcomed their first child, a chair. He also pops up during the lengthy interstitials that play between films and come from the Tim & Eric school of odd/random/wrong. Some are ads from television, some are clips of films or music videos or public access, and their presentation in the context of the Horrorthon either lends them a surreal aspect or flaunts the weirdness they always had.

The old faves like the Red Roof Inn commercial ("Muuuuulti-tasking!") and the Stop Using Dirty Catheters clip showed up, as well as some new (to me) ones like a back-and-forth between a helicopter and a washing machine which left me hating both. My personal fave is probably the music video to Dennis Parker's ode to cocaine-fueled self-confidence and delusion titled "Like an Eagle", which is so evocative of the late 1970s, particularly the dark specter of The Party's Over slowly creeping in, hovering ominously in the night sky. I can practically taste the paranoia and desperation that a porn star would feel while recording this song.

There were also the usual TJ Hooker clips with added credits including the names of audience members; my favorite from this year is some dude credited as "Gamer-Gator: The alligator that hates feminism". There was also one that credited Heavy Midnites' Phil Blankenship as "the man who hates Horrorthon"; that as well as Grant even referring to one of his on-stage characters as hating the Horrorthon "more than Phil Blankenship" made me wonder whether this was a friendly jibe between programmers or a legit Fuck You. I don't know and I don't care.

You cared enough to write about it, though.

I've talked about all this stuff before, and maybe I'm just getting older, but while I understand that it's part of the have-a-good-time party atmosphere, it's gotten to the point that frankly, they tire me. So once I sit through the first couple of breaks, I usually use that time the rest of the night to get some fresh cold night air mixed with cigarette smoke. Outside, I got treated to nice sights like one of the Aero volunteers bringing out popcorn to the people in the stand-by line.

I am not a people-watcher, even though I'm sure my ramblings might draw you the opposite conclusion; I was born/cursed with a gravitational pull that pulls such precious humans into my orbit and so I feel I must mention them because they seemed to make it obvious that they wanted to be noticed. This time, I had a group of three in the row ahead of me, consisting of two guys and a girl. I immediately assumed the guy furthest away from the girl was the third wheel (takes one to know one), but later I concluded that it was the girl.

She was the girlfriend or wife or whatever of the guy in the middle, and he averaged about one kiss to her cheek or forehead every four minutes. Usually he would lean in and whisper something to her, and then SMOOCH SMOOCHITY SMOOCH SMOOCH. Never did she lean in or even give off the air that she wanted a kiss; she gave off the air that she wasn't necessarily hyped up to be there. She ended up falling asleep by the second film; before the third film -- a masterpiece -- both guys told her that she was going to/had to stay awake for it, because it was that good. She fell asleep for that one as well. The boyfriend would occasionally hold up his stubby beer bottle for him and the douchebag sitting behind him to see in the glowing light of the cinema screen. My favorite moment was when he started getting into the Like an Eagle video, and in the middle of doing the White Guy Sitting Down dance he looked over to his lady, who could not be any less amused or enthused. She gave him nothing. This only made him dance harder. They all left after the third film. I am single.

Then there were the two ladies who were in the row behind; they arrived shortly before the first film began. They saw that there were three available seats but they were reserved; no problem there, just tear two of the Reserved signs right off and sit down! One of them said something to the effect of "Well, I paid $19 for a seat" and then she kissed her friend on the forehead. They then proceeded to do their best impression of two assholes who think they're in the funniest episode of MST3k never made.

I, obviously, am a perfect human being of no flaws, who judges and scorns everyone else for not being perfect me.  Realizing this, I forced myself to join in the fun and make comments a couple times but it was just that, forced. It gave me no fun either way to listen or be part of it. I just...I just can't, man. I like to actually watch the movie and save my comments for afterward, preferably over a meal -- preferably a meal that you're paying for. Even then, I'd rather just eat. The lesson here kids is: Don't ever hang out with me, don't ever watch a movie with me, I am an old man.

So, the films. The first one was Creepshow, written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero. This is one of those movies that I hadn't seen in so long (decades, really), that it was like watching it for the first time. I forgot that Ed Harris and Ted Danson were in it. I forgot how disgusting the roach story was; I can handle damn near everything in a movie, I mean, I can eat pasta during a zombie movie, but the roach story (starring E.G. Marshall) actually made me lose my appetite once the free sandwiches were given out in the lobby, following the film. Even the smell of those sandwiches made me sick. (I regained my appetite for the free pizza following the second film.)

But I enjoyed it, this anthology joint inspired by the old horror comics, like Tales from the Crypt. My favorite of the five stories is "The Crate", starring Hal Holbrook and Adrianne Barbeau. I think that one had the best mix of humor and horror, the two H's -- four H's if you count Hal Holbrook. What I didn't remember from my last viewing (when I was still in grade school) was how most of the characters in this film were painted with many shades of Unlikable. But I guess that's how those old EC comics rolled, and it didn't matter if they were unlikable or stupid or even innocent, they're gonna get theirs one way or another.

The second film was Gargoyles, a TV-movie from 1972, starring the lovely Jennifer Salt and muthafuckin' Cornel Wilde. It's about this doctor, I guess he's like a demon doctor or something -- basically something about anthropology -- and his daughter going to Arizona because they heard that those dirty Mexicans have no rights there, making it Nirvana for the Whites. Actually, that's not why they went, because those rules hadn't become a reality yet and I'm projecting. No, they go there to talk to some old dude out in the middle of nowhere, and he shows them this odd-looking skeleton while telling them about the "nakatakachinko" or however the fuck it's spelled. All I know is every time this old dude said the name, the audience burst into hysterics and I bet I looked like fuckin' Daria in the movie theater.

Why do you hate fun?

Wilde doesn't believe this shit, and it's around that time that the naka-naka-not-gonna-work-here-anymore attack his shack and it ends with the old man unconscious and on fire. I hope he didn't wake up in the middle of being cooked, that would suck. Anyway, these attackers are real life gargoyles, played by real life actors in real life rubber suits. They skulk around the desert in stuttery post-production slow-motion, which I guess is a way to make them look less lame. Somewhere along the way, young Scott Glenn and his gang of slacker dirt bikers get involved, and the head Gargoyle is an asshole played by Bernie Casey. He's an asshole because even as a gargoyle, he treats women like objects and even smacks his lady Gargoyle friend on the ass like some secretary during the good ol' days. I was born way too late. Anyway, it's a dull TV-movie presented with fade-to-blacks where I guess the commercial breaks were supposed to come in. Everyone else thought the film was hilarious though, and my friend liked it even more than one of the other films, so I'm just hating on fun again.

The third film was John Carpenter's The Thing -- the masterpiece I referred to earlier. If you don't know about this film, then you just don't fuckin' know and you have to fix that ASAP. I'm not going to try to convince you by writing more about it. There are better pieces on this film elsewhere. Unlike the previous films, this was presented on DCP. It's give and take with these formats; you lose the magic (yes, I said magic) of watching a 35mm film print, but you also get a great looking picture. Look, I prefer 35mm, but in the end, I just want to enjoy these movies with a crowd -- provided the crowd's coming correct.

Thankfully, everybody turned off their Make Fun Of switch and took in this film for the classic that it is. I mean, Wilford Brimley's in the film and nobody even made a Diabeetus joke! He doesn't have his mustache in this, though, so maybe they just couldn't recognize him. Like Samson and his hair, Brimley needs his walrus stache to conjure up the winds of Beetus. Also, he's credited as "A. Wilford Brimley" here, so maybe people thought he was merely A Wilford and not The Wilford.

My friend had never seen the film before, so it was a real treat after to hear him talk about how much he liked it. We discussed the ending and then some dude stepped up and told us about the short story titled "The Things" and how it is told from the Thing's point-of-view. I haven't checked it out, but I've heard good things about The Things.

The fourth film was a reddish-but-clean 35mm print of The Night of a Thousand Cats, a 70s joint shot in Mexico by Mexicans, and unfortunately I have to say that mi gente have made much much better films than this ordeal. It stars Hugo Stiglitz (nice to see he made it out of that German bar OK) as this rich bearded playboy type who likes to chopper around Mexico City in his helicopter, scoping out for hot chicks and then getting as close to them as his 'copter will allow, staring at them through his sunglasses. Rather than flip him off or call the cops, the ladies find this intriguing and/or romantic and he usually drops down a ladder so they can climb up and be taken away to his sprawling castle estate. There, he wines and dines them, introduces them to his creepy mute man-servant, and serves them brandy (or is it cognac) in a giant snifter.

Then he kills them, puts their heads in glass cases, and feeds the remains to his "thousand" cats in a pit.

I'm sure to your average reader of Fifty Shades of Grey, this is fucking hot, but to me, a man who prefers to abuse women with words, that whole deal sounds fucked up and horrible. By the way, I put "thousand" in quotes because I'd say it's more like a hundred cats that he has. Still, it's an alarming number of kitties. I mean, even cat ladies would be a bit unnerved by this number. And don't get it twisted, that whole premise might sound like it would make an interesting film, except the filmmakers didn't make that film. Instead, they made a boring slog that would be better titled The Night of a Thousand Helicopter Shots. Most of the film consists of shots of the helicopter, close-ups of Stiglitz's blank face (probably some Kuleshov-style directing going on here), shots of the city, inserts of his hand on the cyclic, shots of attractive women. Aside from the shots of the women, I was fuckin' done with this movie by the 20-minute mark -- and there were still about 40 minutes of movie left. Yup, this is flick is barely over an hour and it still felt like three. The original cut is an hour-and-a-half, but no thanks, I gave at the office.

I tried to find things to enjoy, like looking at 1970s Mexico City, the fashions, the interior decorating, and of course, the ladies. On occasion, there would be something to jolt me awake, like Stiglitz grabbing a cat and throwing it up in the air so hard and fast, you'd think Grant Moninger threw that cat. Oh yeah, there's some good ol' fashioned cinematic animal cruelty going on here, but that is to be expected. At least none of the cats appear to get killed, they only get thrown around -- or thrown at people. What else can I say? Oh, there was one part where Stiglitz helps himself to one of the raw pieces of meat that used to be a beautiful woman, and then his man-servant takes a piece and holds it up to a flame, slightly cooking it before handing it to him. It shows that he was looking out for his boss. Aside from that, don't watch this film. Watch this instead.

It was about 5 in the morning by the time the fifth film (out of seven) came on; a wonderfully beat-up/scratched-up 35mm print of Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (the on-screen title, anyway -- it's actually just The Deadly Spawn, for brevity's sake) from 1983. I've seen bits and pieces of this over the years, but never in its entirety, so it was cool to see it for the first time on the big screen. It's a fun little low-budget alien flick; obviously made for $2 and a dream, but it does the job and the alien effects are impressive. The main Deadly Spawn itself is pretty cool and scary looking, just a giant penis with hundreds of razor sharp teeth.

Like most films of its ilk, this opens with a meteorite coming down to Earth, and of course, the contents of this fallen star include Bad News. They are the titular Spawn, and they're all about the OM NOM. They mostly hang out in the basement of a house, waiting for the hapless and expendable to come downstairs and face the chomping. Eventually, they get bored and decide to venture upstairs and out into the open. One of the characters is this kid who loves him some horror movies; he's got posters and creature masks all over his room (he even has a Gorn head on his shelf). Meanwhile, his older brother is the more responsible one; he wants to borrow his parents' car and take his friends out that night after their study session -- and I got the feeling he actually would get his studies out of the way first before going out. Good for him. Work hard, play hard, brother.

Speaking of playing hard, for a film that doesn't take itself seriously, it still managed to surprise me when it came down to Who Gets Got. I think if this was a studio film -- or at least, a higher-budgeted film with more investors -- I think the filmmakers would've faced some opposition on certain characters being killed off, insisting that things play out in more of a "safe" (and boring) manner. I mean -- SPOILERS YOU SENSITIVE SOULS -- by the end of the movie, the two brothers survive but goddamn, the older one is shell-shocked and the younger one became a Man way too fuckin' early in his life. Neither is gonna be happy or content for quite a while. Their parents died horrible deaths, and the awesome girl who was clearly supposed to end up as the older brother's girlfriend is currently on the front lawn without a head (that particular death bummed me out while simultaneously making me applaud the filmmakers). Early on, this movie takes it sweet time in between feedings, but once it gets going full speed, it does not fuck around. END SPOILERS SWEETIE

The sixth movie ended up being the last movie for me and my friend, which I'll explain later: a DCP or Blu-ray of the 1982 exploitation/horror-ish film Basket Case, from Frank Henenlotter, who has gotten a good amount of representation at these marathons for the past few years. The film's about this dude Duane who shows up at a seedy hotel in New York City with a big basket and a fat wad of cash. What is this seemingly nice guy about? Revenge, my man, revenge.

This guy Duane, he's actually carrying his Siamese twin bro Belial in the basket, and things didn't turn out so well for the other bro. Because, uh, he's living in a basket. Yeah, he's all small and deformed, but don't fuckin' judge Belial because of his handicap. Judge him because he's a murderous fuck and kind of a player hater too. Both he and Duane are looking to take out the doctors responsible for separating them, and while things seem to work out on that end, Duane also hooks up with this chick Sharon or Susan because there's always something, right?

Let me get what I didn't like about this movie out of the way. Henenlotter loves screaming. There's evidently never enough screaming in his films -- and the longer, the better, the louder, the better. It doesn't help that the sound mix and/or the theater's sound system had a love affair with the high-end and the unholy consummation resulted in a child by the name of Audience's Bleeding Ears. Like nails on a goddamn chalkboard, it was.

Aside from that, I dug this movie (which I last watched a couple years ago). My friend liked Gargoyles better, proving that he can get it wrong when it comes to movies and friends. Anyway, Basket Case has that awesomely grimy feel and look that cannot be duplicated unless you took a film crew with you into a time/location machine and went to 42nd Street in the early 80s. I always felt the movie had an interesting mix of humorous and slight melancholy -- I can't explain the latter because I'm just a sad fuck in general, but when I say humorous, I don't mean laugh-out-loud, I mean it's just got this goofy sense to most of it. I don't remember any actual jokes or punchlines, most of the humor just comes from casting the most interesting looking/sounding people in the roles. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to take away from Henenlotter's writing and directing, if anything this just shows good he is at getting the tone he is clearly going for. The actors are not only playing characters, they seem like they're genuine characters themselves.

It's hard to pick a favorite performance, but it just might be the actress who plays Dr. Kutter. She's one of the 3 doctors marked for gruesome death-by-Belial and she's a real trip to watch. Her character is introduced having dinner with a younger man and plying him with more alcohol than he probably needs or wants at the moment. Poor guy already has a few buttons open on his shirt, and she's got this slightly creepy way about her while she calls him "Cuddles". I think the creepiness might have to do with her apparent trance-like state while saying the lines, her eyes just a tad too wide and not quite looking at the person she's talking to (or she's looking at his forehead). It's almost like she's reading from a cue card. Except when she gets into bitch mode, the trance ends and suddenly she's fully engaged with the other person. Was that a choice that the actress made? Like it's only natural for Kutter to be unlikeable, but being nice is such an alien concept to her that she can only "act" nice, and even then she's terrible at it?

Whatever the case, it's a suitably weird performance for such a film.

It was about 8 in the morning and at that point, my friend and I were both more excited about breakfast than in watching the final film, Zombie Holocaust (aka Dr. Butcher, M.D.). I had seen it before in both the Euro and U.S. cuts, and honestly, I didn't feel they were great shakes in either form. It starts out pretty promising, with some gory moments in a hospital that culminate in some dude jumping off a building, and becoming a mannequin upon hitting the ground -- which results in the mannequin's arm coming off. Cut to the next shot and the mannequin is now an actor again, arm magically reattached.

Then the film travels over to some godforsaken island somewhere and becomes a cannibal flick with zombies sprinkled throughout the boredom. I watched the Euro cut on DVD and was disappointed. I saw the US "Butcher" cut at the New Bev during one of their Grindhouse nights and was pretty fuckin' drunk, so I enjoyed it a little more. I wasn't necessarily amped up to see it again at the Horrorthon, except for marathon completion's sake.

But, as mentioned earlier, we were both hungry + my friend had a particular place in mind where he really wanted to go eat and where it pays to show up early + I had the movie on DVD if he was truly curious about seeing it = Let's Go. And so we did.

The food was kick ass.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Someone needs to give anti-depressants to the depressed drama queen dog in my neighborhood who always lets out a fuckin' three-minute lament every time a siren is heard. And I live in a shitty neighborhood, so it's sirens, like, every 10 minutes.

Yeah, I'm sure you know what's going on over New Beverly Way, some crazy shit that either you don't care about or you've gotten yourself worked into a Cujo-like frenzy of foamy mouth. As for me, times have proven time and time again to be too interesting to get worked up about it, or anything, for that matter. Par for the course on this island Earth, my fellow castaways. All I can say is pack plenty of lube and condoms, 'cause before it all ends, you're getting fucked or you're doing the fucking. And once/if you realize that you can also observe the whole ride as some kind of fucked-up cinematic masterpiece playing out in real time (directed by an aloof/petulant asshole tyrant) you'll be able to derive pleasure, regardless of position. And me, dear reader, I like to feel good ALL the goddamn time. Those tears in my eyes? Shit, bro, that happens whenever I yawn.

Anyway, the marathon that I know and love -- the All Night Horror Show -- is now at the Silent Movie Theatre/Cinefamily a couple miles away, where the seats have it in for your ass. Now, I've done all-nighters at Cinefamily before, but I was as drunk as Mariah Carey on a good day during those, so it wasn't like I gave a shit and plus they had pillows back then. Now, in my sober state I've learned that apparently your ass raped and killed the Cinefamily seats' family some time ago and now the seats wanna go Paul Kersey, introducing your cheeks to Jesus Christ via .357 caliber bullets. Speaking of Jesus Christ, that's who your ass is. Playing the part of the Romans -- the Cinefamily seats. What I'm trying to say here, people, is that the seats -- specifically the folding chairs placed along the aisle -- are uncomfortable.

But no one is forcing you to go to this theater, sir. You coulda stayed home on your comfortable hipster bean bag and watch all the fuckin' films you wanted with no buttock pain. You wanted to go. You needed to go. So why you don't just shut your fucking mouth and continue rambling about the marathon?

OK, fine. But just give me one more seat digression: Before the show started, I overheard some guy standing in the aisle (waiting to use the Juan) complain to his friend that he bought a ticket for a couch seat (Cinefamily's first two rows consisting of couches that cost extra) and that his assigned comfy couch seat was located in the far left. He said something like "I paid $25 for the worst fucking seat in the house" and strangely enough it wasn't followed by him saying "Wow, I sound like an asshole saying this near people sitting on folding chairs put out on the aisle a few inches from me".

And you sound like an asshole typing this to people who didn't attend. But such is your custom, so sail on, sailor.

It was nice to see Heavy Midnites' Phil Blankenship and Grindhouse Film Festival's Brian Quinn join forces in programming this motherfucker. It felt good to see them stand together on stage, it was not unlike watching Michael Dudikoff and David Bradley get together to kick ass in American Ninja 4: The Annihilation. During their intro, Phil and Brian brought up how they chose films that hadn't been screened in quite some time, rather than go for more obvious choices. They thanked not only the various archives and personal print collectors that made these films available (all in 35mm), but the studios themselves for hooking them up.

They talked about how one helped the other out in setting this up; I want to say it was Phil who offered his help to Brian, but I'm not too sure because my hearing frequency was picking up signals from the other station, where the DJ's were helping latecomers find seats and telling them that they would have to split up their group and have two sit in one section and one could sit in another a few rows down. This group seemed slightly perturbed, this group that showed up late.

Anyway, Phil and Brian were doing things a little different this time. Past All Night Horror Shows always had one Secret Film that would keep the audience excited and guessing, but this entire night was going to be all Secret Films. Aside from Phil, Brian, and the projectionist, no one else knew what would screen that night. So that was pretty cool, thought the blogger.

After a trailer reel, the first film turned out to be Bad Taste, the world's introduction to Peter Jackson. This was his first movie, shot on 16mm with his mates on weekends over a four-year period. It's a funny gross-out joint about aliens coming down to a small New Zealand burg to harvest humans for their fast food chain. Based on what the head alien tells his minions, with this new addition to the menu, the "Crumb's Crunchy Delights" chain is going to smash the competition -- which made me wonder about the other fast food establishments there must be in outer space.

I mean, if Crumb's is going to dole out human flesh like they were Big Macs, that would make them McDonalds, right? Well then, if I was a space alien I'd invest in creating the extraterrestrial version of Chick-fil-a, and I can come up with cute/lame advertising of aliens in human costumes defacing billboards with cutesy misspelled scrawls like "EAT MOR BOGHOGZ" or whatever the fuck other choices are out there for aliens to eat.

Anyway, to figure out what the fuck is going on, the government sends down "The Boys", who I guess are supposed to be a badass investigation/disinfestation squad, but look more like a group of regular dudes with day jobs at the local newspaper -- which is what they are, being Jackson's buddies and all. Various gags ensue, with plenty of jokes, gore, and EWWW. It's entertaining in an El Mariachi sort-of-way, watching what Jackson was able to do with very little money and a whole lot of passion.

I remember watching the behind-the-scenes doc on the DVD and tripping out on how Jackson had to build most of what he worked with; he created his own Steadicam, his own camera jib, he created the alien masks using his mum's oven, he even built his own (fake) guns. The effects were homemade & handmade, whereas if this movie were made today, he'd do all that shit on his computer, and no one would give a shit about his film because those days are over. He'd have to go to Kickstarter and promise to fellate his investors just to work up the same exact budget for his follow-up. Fuck that shit.

Phil told us that nachos, pizza, and various snacks were made available outside at the patio, and beer was available for purchase as well. Some people brought their own, though; the group in the row in front of me had stubby bottles and pillows and sure enough, they later took turns nodding off.

The next trailer reel came courtesy of Quentin Tarantino, who is either the savior or Antichrist right now, because there is no such thing as in-between. They were mostly for giant monster films like Gamera the Invincible and Varan the Unbelievable, as well as one of those beach flicks starring Frankie and Annette.

The second film, according to Brian, hadn't been screened in L.A. for about 30-40 years. It was a beautiful print of The Monster of Piedras Blancas from 1959, a Creature from the Black Lagoon knockoff that was pretty silly but good times nonetheless. This would've been great on MST3k, but I guess I'll accept a Rifftrax version, if that's what it takes.

It's about a lighthouse keeper who's kind of a grumpy dick of an asshole but he has a soft spot for the scaly fuck who feeds on the meat scraps the old man leaves behind for him. Everything seems OK until one fateful day, when the lighthouse dude shows up to see the local butcher/storekeeper/insurance agent named Kochek and finds out this man with the indeterminate accent sold his meat scraps to some other dude. Because of this, the impatient creature ends up going out into town to get his own food, which means he ends up decapitating motherfuckers and drinking all their blood because that's where the flavor is.

The Monster, he does not discriminate, he will kill male and female, old and young. Speaking of young, that was one of my favorite parts of the movie, where this catatonic father is carrying his little girl's body with a sheet draped over her, with only her tiny Mary Jane-clad feet dangling out. This was an image I found both tragic and fucking hilarious, for some reason. All that was missing was the girl's limp bloody hand dropping into view, still clutching onto a giant lollipop. Sorry for your loss, though, pops.

At one point, there's a close-up of a severed head in the Monster's hand, which I'm sure freaked many a moviegoer out back in '59, that shit was probably as scary as Communism. But there isn't that much monster action in this movie, because back then, you were able to pace yourself with that shit, plus, it's cheaper to film people talking about the monster than to actually show it (I don't think you even see it until the last half hour or so). But the people in it are interesting to watch, like the sheriff with the fucked up ears, or the doctor who will quickly prescribe sedatives in zero seconds flat. He hands them out like candy to some scared lady. Those were the days. Nowadays, you need to tell these motherfuckers a whole sob story about the despair that comes with being in your thirties and having accomplished nothing, just for a couple pills to help keep you calm on an airplane.

One scene involving the doctor has a pretty awesome punchline, although I'm not sure if it was supposed to play that way (the audience thought it was great); one of the townspeople barely manages to survive a scrape with the Monster and is face up on a table, all fucked up, face all bloody. Dude is damn near motionless as the doctor looks him over, and you're wondering what's going to happen to the guy. In the same room, the hunky former Marine/current marine biologist and the sheriff are trying to figure out who/what is this Creature of the White Rocks and what to do with him. When the scene ends, the doc sits the wounded man up and then damn near pushes him out the room, telling him he's good to go. The American health care system at work, folks.

Another part I really liked in the film is when a kid discovers the body of yet another monster victim; he ends up running to a funeral currently in progress (cause of death: MONSTER) and interrupts it. Almost immediately, everyone there is getting ready to take off because I guess it's cooler to actually look at a corpse at the scene of the crime, rather than look at a box with a corpse inside. The fuckin' minister actually has to tell them to stop because he's not finished yet. You can damn near hear the disappointment in the crowd, even from the victim's family.

If there was another intro before the third film, I missed it because I was using the facilities; this French-Canadian attempt at supernatural horror is called Cathy's Curse, from 1977. This movie -- holy shit, this fuckin' movie, man. It's hilarious. Were I the kind of dude who used a grading/rating system, I'd give it zero stars for what it tried to do, but for unintentional results, I'd give it all the stars in the heavens above.

The movie starts out with a title card explaining what's going on, and not in a Star Wars "the story so far" sort-of-way, but in a "we fucked up and don't know how to tell a story, so here's some help after the fact" way. It's 1947 and some father comes home to find that his daughter Laura has been left alone; she tells him that mommy ran off with the son and his response is "Your mother's a bitch!" And I guess God must be a woman, because a few minutes later, homeboy and his daughter accidentally drive their car off the road and become human barbecue.

The word "bitch" is used a lot in this film to the point that I kept waiting for Queen Latifah to eventually burst through the wall like some kind of Kool-Aid Man of Feminism, booming out "WHO YOU CALLIN' A BITCH?!" There is an actual female dog in the film (named Sneakers), so maybe that's what all the bitch talk was referring to.

So yeah, this movie, right? It's about this family that moves into the same house that we saw at the beginning, only now it's the 70s, and the father (looking like a cross between Will Forte and Kelsey Grammer) happens to be Laura's brother, now grown up and with a wife and daughter (the titular Cathy). Faster than you can say "cliched phrase", the evil spirit of Laura possesses the daughter (via a doll found in the attic -- everyone refers to it as a "rag") and the rest of the film consists of various examples of what a Sneakers this Cathy/Laura is. She does such naughty things like driving an old handyman to drink or an old nanny to throw herself out the window. Come on, that's what non-possessed children do to adults all the time!

The wife is a real nutty broad who declares out loud that she had a nervous breakdown in the past, even though she's saying this to her husband who already knows, because the screenwriters love expositioning the fuck out of the dialogue for the stupid audience's sake. Anyway, the wife is a hoot because she's supposed to be in a better mental state since her breakdown, but you'd never know it by the way she acts -- or "acts", because the actress playing her is pretty terrible. For all I know, she's better in other projects, but in this flick, she is as bad at acting as I am in making something of myself. It is so fucking bad and laugh-inducing, I felt I was watching a lost SCTV sketch, featuring Count Floyd showing yet another lame horror film and trying to convince the viewers at home that it's very scary.

The biggest mistake made by the filmmakers -- besides making this film in the first place --  is never giving the viewer a chance to know Cathy before she gets Laura'd up. As a result, one never really can tell the difference between them. For all I know, Cathy was already kind of a troublemaker, and there are scenes where Cathy begs her parents to stay with her and I still don't know if that was genuinely Cathy or if that was Laura setting some shit up. But if the filmmakers were trying to pull some shit like "eh, perhaps there never was a difference, mon ami", well then that flew over my head.

Cathy's Curse is awful, mean-spirited, and as far away from scary as a horror film can be. It is very funny though, and highly recommended if you need about ninety minutes of WTF. A woman gets called a "female cow" in it, so there's that. Also, it's very Canadian in that even after a little girl nearly gets her eye poked out by Cathy/Laura during a play date/mother's coffee klatch, the mom still remembers to thank Cathy's mom for the coffee while carrying her crying/bleeding child away.

In Phil's opinion, the fourth film of the night is also the best horror film ever made, some real gauntlet-throwdown shit. As bold a statement as one could make, one that got the audience hyped up. He said it was a film from the 70s, and then he and Brian gave us a warning that this was a UK print, meaning it was censored in some parts. I guess in exchange for free health care and not having to worry about being gunned down at school, UK citizens have to give up the freedom of seeing some good gore. Phil and Brian felt that the best way to cushion that blow was to look at it from a positive angle: This is what UK audiences saw in movie theaters back in the 70s, and it still made Classic status over there. Immediately, I thought of myself in a UK cinema back then, probably watching this late at night and following it up with a few pints at the local pub before ending the night with an early morning English fry-up.

(Oh, how I love an English fry-up! It's tied with an old-fashioned American breakfast as my choice for a last meal, which I hope never comes to pass because I never want to die. Someone needs to find a cure for Death as soon as humanly possible.)

The trailer reel that followed consisted of horror sequels like Evil Dead II, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Phantasm II, and I'm sure a couple I forgot about. With each trailer, I grew more excited because my guess hadn't shown up as a trailer and I felt that the film they were going to show might actually be my 35mm holy grail. The one film I've always wanted to see for the past two decades projected on honest-to-goodness film in an honest-to-goodness movie theater with an honest-to-goodness crowd. And it turned out that my guess was correct and my hopes were actually met for once because the film turned out to be...


Sorry for that outburst. But I really like this film, easily one of my all-time favorites. You know, the first time I went to the New Beverly Cinema, I remember seeing a guestbook in the lobby where you could write down requests for future screenings. Immediately I wrote down Dawn of the Dead, and that was back in '99, but since then I've never heard of any 35mm screenings anywhere -- except for one in New York a few years ago as part of a weekend of films that Paul Giamatti hosted at some museum somewhere. And for all I know, that shit was actually on DVD.

But man oh man, what a wonderful treat to finally get to see it, even in a censored print (titled "Zombies", looked great too!) and even with some guy in the audience who occasionally snored super-loud like some asshole who should've just gone home or should've just taken a nap in his car or something. It took a while before someone managed to work up the strength to get up and not slowly decapitate this asshole with a plastic spatula, nudging him awake instead.

Some of the more memorable gory parts were missing, along with some choice headshots -- but thankfully, the Brit censors still retained their sense of humor when it came to the helicopter blade scene. Compared to shit on television today like The Walking Dead, this cut of Dawn would barely rate as a light R. And you know what? The film still worked. One could even argue that taking out the most extreme gory moments made it less over-the-top in a comic book way, and more disturbing in a real life situation sort-of-way. (Two could argue against it.)

It also helps that this movie isn't only about the gore and zombie make-up, which come on, let's be real, some of that shit does look downright quaint nowadays -- the situation, characters, and point-of-view is what really makes George A. Romero's film a bona-fide classic. Earlier in my life, this film was good times as far as watching people try to survive while shooting muthafuckin' zombies in the head. But as the years go by and I get older, I find myself more and more scared and disturbed and depressed beyond my goddamn wits with each viewing -- and it has fuck-all to do with the zombies.

"I think Foster's right. We're losing."

"We're blowing it ourselves." 

I could go on and on and on but I gotta keep this short. So before I move on, I'll say this: considering the thoughts and feelings and prayers -- holy shit, PRAYERS, can you fuckin' believe that shit -- this film stirs up within me, I'd have to disagree with Phil's statement about Dawn of the Dead being the best horror film ever made. It is the second best. Number one would be the film we're currently all starring in -- because this all has to be a movie, right? I mean, nobody would be this stupid and petty and bullheaded in real life, right? For God's sake, somebody fire the screenwriter and get someone talented to rewrite this shit!

Phil said that the fifth film was not only made in the 80s, it IS the 80s. After watching it, I would say it's most definitely the late 80s compressed into a 90-minute running time: Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge, starring some guy I don't know, some girl I don't know, the dude from "Silk Stalkings", Morgan Fairchild, the Most Interesting Man in the World from the Dos Equis ads, Mac's Dad from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", and the juice-weezer himself, Sir Pauly Shore.

Oh, and in a very welcome appearance (based on the audience's applause), one of the stars of the previous film, Ken Foree, as the main security guard of the mall. Poor guy just can't keep away from those shopping centers, I guess. Hey, by the way -- why didn't any of you tell me that Foree was in the film adaptation of Water for Elephants? What a pleasant surprise, right up there with Franco Nero showing up in Letters to Juliet DON'T JUDGE ME

A mall has recently opened up in town, giving many people many jobs for little money; among the new employees is this chick named Melody who can sure use the extra bucks, not to mention the distraction that keeping busy will provide. See, about a year ago, her boyfriend Eric died under mysterious circumstances, the kind of mysterious circumstances that involve burning to death along with his house that was not-at-all-coincidentally located where the mall stands today.

Eric, it turns out, is still alive (only he's very badly burned) and now resides somewhere in the dark, dirty recesses of the mall itself, using the transportation system that is Creeping Through The Air Ducts and having set himself up a living space bigger than my apartment. Fuck this guy, living rent free with his weight machine and multiple television setup complete with top-of-the-line double tape deck stereo system. As for how he eats, I can only assume he has his pick from the many fine eateries in the building after hours. As for how he showers, I'm pretty sure he doesn't, which means some of the stinkier members of the Cinefamily audience could sympathize. What did deodorant DO to these people for them to avoid it so much?!

But Eric ain't just a-squatting, he's a-killing -- introducing eternal darkness to anyone who fucks with his girl Melody. My favorite kill is probably the dude who sits down on the toilet and suddenly a cobra pops up and chomps on his package -- King Cobra? More like Queen Cobra, amirite bros? -- causing him to go out like Pavarotti, with the kind of scream he belts out. That's what he gets for being a pianist (plays for the mall) with a penis (tries to rape Melody).

The Most Interesting Man in the World plays The Most Douchey Guy in the Film, the owner of the mall who obviously had some hand in the mysterious fiery circumstances that led to Eric's current situation. I wouldn't have recognized this dude as the Dos Equis man except the lovely Erin from Seven Doors of Cinema pointed it out in her much better review of this film. His son is also a real douchey shoplifting/skateboarding asshole -- typical rich kid, if you ask me. Oh, I'm talking about the son in the film, not the son of the actor in real life; if he has a son, I'm sure he's a decent dude. Sorry, Dos Equis Man.

This Eric, he's a Freaky Psycho Jason and all that, but he's also very much a young man in that stage of his life between Teen and Adult, and is as susceptible to painfully awkward personal behavior that comes with not having really Lived Life. When he's not shoving some dude's face into a fan or crossbow-ing pervs, he spends his alone time watching videotaped footage of Melody while playing some love ballad on his tape deck for musical accompaniment. Bro, you need to get over it. Move on. Find a half-burned girl and have some half-burned kids. Get a half-burned dog. Name him "Lucky".

My favorite scene is when he has Melody over at his lair (she's passed out on his couch) and when she wakes up, she finds him a few feet away, slowly working on his lats with the pulldown bar. This sad fuck was probably staring at her for a while, waited until she started to stir, and then rushed over and began working out, probably counting out "one-hundred and five, one-hundred and six" even though he probably only did like 8 reps total.

Anyway, the movie's OK. I think the circa 1989 vibe helped keep things interesting in between the kills -- there's little to no gore, and the most horrific sight in the film is Pauly Shore's exposed ass -- and I can't hate on a film where Morgan Fairchild plays the mayor. Whenever she pops up in anything, she makes me smile, even when she's reminding me that death is coming to get us all. The most 80s thing about the entire film would have to be the end credits song, where the word "retard" is used because the mentally challenged didn't qualify as human beings back then. But hey man, it's The Vandals!

Following a trailer reel of sword, sorcery, and loincloth flicks, the final film of the night/early morning began: Lucio Fulci's Conquest, starring Mexican star of Mexican screen, Jorge Rivero -- or as he's credited here "George Rivero". Homeraza never really found success with the English speaking crowd, he's probably most famous over here for his role in the 1996 film Werewolf, which made for one of the better MST3k episodes.

Now, technically this film shouldn't qualify as horror; it has more in common with movies like The Beastmaster and the Ator series. But there is enough nightmarish imagery here (thanks Lucio, you sick fuck) that I can see why it was chosen. Also, the combination of the hazy soft-focus cinematography, the crispy-clear loud electronic score by Goblin's Claudio Simonetti, and the many strange moments that make you question whether or not you're truly awake or dreaming this shit up -- well, it made this film perfect for bleary-eyed early morning viewing after a long night.

Rivero plays Mace, your typical badass barbarian type who doesn't give a shit about anyone but himself -- and birds, he likes birds too. He fucks people up with these extra thick bone nunchucks and his relationships with the opposite sex are of the "love 'em and leave 'em" category, except he does return to them occasionally just to love 'em and leave 'em again. Until the next time.

He ends up partnering with this young dude named Ilias, who's more of the idealistic type. It's like Mace is from the hood and had no parents and had to fend for himself, while Ilias is like a rich kid from a loving family. But Ilias ain't just some geek off the street, he can be handy with the steel too. He has this awesome bow-and-arrow set that not only uses real arrows but can also conjure up these glowing laser arrows with the use of magic or Jesus' love or some shit. It's awesome and he never runs out. Later in the film, he even upgrades that shit to fire multiple magic arrows. Fuck Hawkeye.

OK, maybe a bow & arrow doesn't qualify as "steel", but you know what I mean.

So these dudes end up traveling the fantastical fantasy lands where it's always foggy/windy and there's always a body of water close by and it's always dusk or it's always dawn. They do this because some evil chick named Ocron has a hard-on for them and is sending her army of Asshole Chewbaccas to take 'em out (to the movies? to a ballgame?). Why is she doing this? Shit, son, I've been trying to figure women out for most of my life, but alas, they are all a lovely mystery that even Hercule Poirot couldn't fuckin' solve.

Oh wait, I remember now -- Ocron had a vision of some faceless dude showing up with his bow & arrow and giving her a few shots. She didn't ask for that, she doesn't want that, so she's gonna stop that before it even comes close to becoming that. And if she has to slaughter a whole bunch of Mace's peeps, thereby actually beginning the process of Mace and Ilias going to look for her so they can bow & arrow her into the next world, then fuck it, a masked girl's gotta do what a masked girl's gotta do.

Yeah, I forgot that part. Ocron wears a golden mask covering her entire face but that's about it for modesty because she's pretty much naked the whole time. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess that she's probably hiding a world of hurt under that mask -- it takes a rocket scientist who has seen more than a few films in his or her lifetime.

You got yourself some beasts, an master-of-disguise assassin made of metal, typical Fulci zoom-in shots of blood spewing out of freshly created wounds, an evil chick getting off on snakes while petting her bewildered dog, evil killer Chewbaccas grabbing a poor girl by each leg and splitting her open, dirty people chanting, a couple of genuine surprises in the plot, and a whole bunch of nicely shot (if a little too hazy for my taste) scenes. In other words, freaky good times.

Most of it makes little to no sense, but this is a Fulci film, after all. I'll be honest, when this movie started I wasn't feeling it, and I wasn't looking forward to sitting through the rest of its bullshit, but by the final shot of Mace walking away (over to Kirk Douglas' house, I reckon), this wonderfully strange, borderline hallucinatory, and occasionally off-putting movie had succeeded in rocking my barely awake world.

Following the film, the National Anthem came on, followed by a Tom & Jerry cartoon that was basically Sorcerer with a cat and mouse. Then we were treated to free breakfast at the patio: Scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, cereal, and coffee. A couple dudes ahead of me in line tried working up the munchies with the help of some medication and a spoon pipe. Me, I need no help working up an appetite when it's free.

And so ended another All Night Horror Show. I'll be honest here: Would I have preferred the original venue? Yes. I like the Cinefamily but I guess I'm just more of a New Bev guy (to speak only of the Torgan era, I haven't been to the New-New Bev yet) as far as vibes go -- whatever the fuck that means. Then again, free breakfast! But make no mistake via my bitching -- I thank the Goddess for allowing both of them to exist in this universe.

Ultimately, it's the movies that matter, and since it was Phil and Brian picking 'em, we were in good hands. In the end, all one can do is Go or Not Go. I went -- and I had a good time. My ass, on the other hand, begs to differ.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kinda young, kinda wow

Hello lady and gentleman, thanks for stopping by. So a while back I rambled about watching the insane Night Train to Terror during the New Beverly Cinema's horror movie marathon. It's a horror anthology that consists of three stories that made little to no sense, because the stories were actually trimmed-down versions of feature-length films written and produced by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter named Philip Yordan, who ended up spending the 80s and early 90s writing/producing low-budget flicks that ended up getting shelved or barely released. One of the stories is titled Gretta, about a guy who gets mixed up with a girl who leads him into a secret club of wealthy assholes who get together every once in a while to play dangerous games that will end in death for the "winner".

I enjoyed that movie so much, I ended up purchasing it on Blu-ray (from the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome). As an added bonus, it came with a DVD featuring the full-length version of Gretta, which was previously made available on DVD and VHS under the titles Death Wish Club and Carnival of Fools. It has yet another title on the IMDB as The Dark Side to Love and the Vinegar Syndrome DVD version opens with the onscreen title of Erskine Caldwell's Gretta and I'm like make up your goddamn mind, movie -- WHOOOO ARRRRRRE YOOOOOU?!

But hey, let's hold up a second. Erskine Caldwell's "Gretta"? Yup, this is supposedly an adaptation of the 1955 book from the author of Tobacco Road. I actually own the book, but I never bothered reading it until I decided to ramble about this flick. So what's it about? It's about 144 pages *rimshot*, making Gretta one of the faster ways to feel sad. Now, if you want to read it, skip the following five paragraphs, otherwise shut your goddamn trap about SPOILERS and read on:

It's a three-part story about a young woman (Gretta) who has fucking had it with having her soul get the shit beat out of it by that cruel motherfucker Loneliness, so she ends up going to a bar, meets some random dude, they go to her place, and they bang. Then in part two, the story skips ahead about half-a-year or so and Gretta is now newly married to a doctor named Glenn and everything seems hunky-dory until they throw a party and one of the guests, a fellow doctor named Royd, gets drunk/belligerent and makes it very clear that he once knew Gretta in the biblical sense, back when she was as easy as pie. Hair pie. 

Turns out that pre-marriage Gretta used to take dude after dude from the bar to her place, where she'd bang them and then kindly request that they would leave money on the table as a "gift" to her. After Royd lets this cat out of the bag, Gretta gets really emotional and is afraid that Glenn wants nothing to do with her, but he insists that none of that shit matters because it's all in the past and now they have each other. Except it's not quite in the past yet; fuckin' Royd shows up to hassle Gretta while Glenn is at work, he gives her a hard time and demands that she run off with him. She refuses, so Royd does the right thing and puts a bullet into his stupid pig head, because really, fuck that guy.

Glenn continues to stand by his girl, until one day he comes home from work and Gretta confesses to him that she just slept with another man earlier that afternoon. Poor motherfucker didn't even have a chance to relax and watch some TV before she hit him with that bad news. So while he's trying to figure this shit out without losing his own shit, Gretta explains to him that when she was a little girl with recently deceased parents, she followed some predator to his house where he charmed her by way of food and games, before taking her to his bedroom where he did his evil thing and then gave her a nickel afterward as some kind of perverted gift of gratitude; this basically fucked Gretta up enough that now as an adult she needs to recreate that experience by bringing home random dudes and asking them to TREAT HER THE SAME WAY THE PEDOPHILE PIECE OF SHIT WHO RUINED HER DID. Ay Dios Mio.

This, of course, takes their marriage straight to Fuckedville; Gretta begs Glenn not to divorce her, but he becomes increasingly despondent knowing that no matter what he does and no matter how often Gretta begs him to stay, chances are that his wife will continue to make money the hard way. Not wanting to break his promise of never divorcing her, Glenn finds another way out of this stickiness -- he kills himself. That now makes two former Gretta lovers driven to suicide; meanwhile I bet you the guy who fucked her up as a kid is currently living a contented life with a family or something.

Part three takes Gretta back to the bar, newly widowed, still lonely, and back on the prowl. She ends up taking a dude to her place and the book ends with her doing the same routine she's done on other guys before making with the sexytime: she sits on the floor and takes her stockings off while the man stands in front of her, just like she did for the kid-diddler back in the day. For the first time in a long time, she smiles. The End (of book SPOILERS you big baby). 

The main thing the book and the film have in common is Nothing. Two of the film's characters share names with their literary counterparts; you have Gretta who likes to get it on, and you have Glen, who is not a doctor like in the book, but a pre-med student in college. And his name is spelled minus one N. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, let me talk about the third main character in the movie, some rich asshole named George Youngmeyer.

The film opens with middle-aged George wearing an ascot and smoking jacket and looking at himself in the mirror like he's the fuckin' man, and I guess he is because the dude is financially loaded. But he inherited it all from his rich mother, so he ain't that awesome. If George had been born much later, like in the late 80s/early 90s, he'd probably be one of those useless walking meatbags like the Rich Kids of Instagram that post photos of themselves living their awesome lifestyles because this is all part of God's plan somehow while some nice family somewhere starves. Mysterious ways and all that.

Deep in my heart, I know these kids aren't good people, the most I'll give them is that they're dumb unaware twats. One of these useless lambs actually said in an interview that by posting those pics of himself posing in his expensive sports car or yacht or house, he was doing a service to the younger kids by showing them what they can get if they work hard for it -- conveniently forgetting that he was born into this wealth and the only work this cunt probably did in his entire blessed life was filing papers one summer at one of the many businesses his father was fucking over the planet Earth with, before getting bored after a couple hours and taking off in his Lambo.

Shit, if I had that kind of money...I'd have that fuckin' money, man. It's not like I want to buy flashy cars or bling bling or any of that shit, I just want to buy a fuckin' island where I can live the rest of my life away from everyone else and not bother anybody again. Basically I want to live like Francisco Scaramanga -- minus Nick Nack trying to kill me.

Anyway, George is also the narrator of the film, which is pretty cool because you have an asshole narrating his point-of-view while the events unfold. George refers to Glen as the snake in the Garden of Eden even though Glen seems like an all right dude. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

George calls himself "the last of the great lovers", which I assume is a title he gave himself. The film begins with George going to a carnival in search of someone to love, provided she doesn't love him back. I still don't get it, but that's a big thing for him. The lucky lady turns out to be Gretta, a popcorn vendor at the carnival. She's a tough sell for about two seconds before George begins speaking the international language of Love by shoving multiple $100 bills into her cleavage. Cut to George's mansion, where our man is playing Nocturne no. 2 on his grand piano before being interrupted by Gretta as she slinks up to him while eating an ice cream cone. She then uses her free hand to play something more fast and upbeat before declaring "I'm glad Chopin's DEAD!"

I gotta give it up to Miss Gretta; here's a girl who pretty much won the lottery by hooking up with a wealthy man, and she doesn't even have to fuck him or even like him, he just wants her company. But rather than rake in the dough for not being a ho, she keeps busy by playing piano at a nightclub he owns. And if that's not enough, George tells us that Gretta always wanted to be a movie star, so he made that happen by getting her into porno. Some fuckin' favor. Usually these rich dudes bankroll movies for their trophy chicks to ruin with their bad acting, while all George probably had to do was look up some ad in the back of a stroke mag.

The fucked up thing about these porno flicks Gretta acts in is that they're all about guys forcing themselves on her, doing her against her will until she eventually enjoys it. Not a single one of these joints is about her calling up some hot pizza delivery guy or cable guy with the ulterior motive of Gettin' It On, they all start with her struggling against some dude pawing her and ripping her clothes off or tying her up and all other various situations that I would never try to reenact on my private island with all my money.

Was that something Gretta specified in her request for porn work? Like some chicks do anal, some only do lesbian scenes, but Gretta was like "The more rapey, the better!"? I don't know, but Gretta's an odd duck. Sure, both Book Gretta and Movie Gretta both have holes in their souls and anatomy that require constant filling, but Movie Gretta likes it rough. The filmmakers seem to like it rough too, I think they find nothing wrong with a little forced entry; a couple times in the film, rape is brought up as a solution to a problem. As for what this problem is, I won't tell because this is the kind of movie you should just let surprise you, even though I'm giving away like the first 15-20 minutes of it here.

So now let's bring back our boy Glen. He's painted as the ideal young stud because he's good-looking, used to be in the Army, is currently studying for a medical career, plays on the football team, and most important of all, owns both a motorcycle AND a 70s van. He's introduced joining his frat buddies at a party that is in full douche-swing, and what stood out the most for me at this party was that most of them were gathered around a portable movie screen watching one of Gretta's porno films on honest-to-goodness projected film! Those were the days -- right, fellas? (This film was shot in 1983/84.)

Nah, I've never seen actual cinema porn in the way it was intended, and I can count all the times I watched porn with my friends on one hand (don't ask what I'm doing with the other hand), and the last time I watched porn in a group, I didn't even ask to take part. Years ago, when my future had promise, I was at a party at a friend's house and as I was stepping out of the bathroom, I noticed a small gathering of bros down the hall, so I walked up to them to see what the commotion was all about. They were peering into one of the bedrooms, where my friend's roommate -- absolutely shitfaced hammered -- was happily showing off his collection of clips involving various women's faces being messily introduced to millions upon millions of extinguished lives that never were.

Thankfully, Gretta's porn adventures are missing that endgame. Instead, she's being attacked and raped by someone who appears to be Davy Crockett, which makes me feel better about the Alamo. (But to be fair, I already feel pretty goddamn good about the Alamo, being a goddamn spic and all.) While Glen's buddies are all getting crotch-tight at this film, he actually falls in love at the sight of this violated lady. But why? Aside from her obvious visual qualities, I would guess that Glen senses some kind of unexplainable connection after looking into her eyes, when they're not being blocked by Porn Davy Crockett's head while he's humping her. Maybe he also thinks he can save her from this sweaty career, not knowing that she actually is cool with being a porn star in rapey stag films.

Glen gets so smitten with Gretta, he tracks down the filmmakers behind these opuses (opusi?) and finds out who/where she is. He then goes down to George's nightclub, gets himself acquainted with George (who warns him not to get involved because Gretta "is from the 4th dimension") and then goes backstage -- located downstairs in a kind of strange paradise of rejects from Fellini and John Waters films -- to finally meet the girl of his dreams. It's pretty funny to watch because you know he probably had this image of her as this damsel-in-distress in need of saving, but instead encounters a foul-mouthed sexual libertine with a taste for absinthe (which she drinks from a straw) who is more interested in fucking Glen while George watches, than in going out to dinner with him ("I only eat one meal a day, and it ain't dinner." Gretta is apparently into intermittent fasting.)

Plus, she's a fucking weirdo, in case I haven't made that clear in these ramblings. But I'll keep bringing it up anyway.

The rest of the film is a strange love story between Glen and Gretta; he isn't so cool with her job in the porn industry, but he puts up with it. He's also kind of annoyed by the relationship she continues to have with George, but he puts with that too. Glen in general is pretty low-key in his slightly baffled reactions to everything going on around him and dealing with the people that work for George, like a gay dude who calls himself Mary who at one points visits Glen in the morgue to relay a message to him while scoping out some dead dong ("What a waste!"), or getting himself sucked into George's underworld friends who together have formed the most exclusive and dangerous of secret clubs.

As mentioned earlier, this subplot about the secret club is what the Night Train to Terror version of Gretta was about. In Night Train to Terror, this story comes off like an episode of Tales from the Crypt or The Hitchhiker on crystal meth (with added gore to the otherwise clean deaths in the Gretta cut). But in the full-length Gretta, the "death club" is just another oddball fabric used in the crazy patchwork quilt of drama, romance, comedy, sex, and violence that is this film.

In addition to George and Gretta, the death club (which I don't recall being referred to by name in the full-length version) is comprised of bored wealthy assholes who get together to stage death games, like sitting in a closed room while a deadly poisonous beetle flies around, waiting to see if any of them will get the fatal sting that will send them to the next world. The way they talk about it (using terms like "exquisite ecstasy") and the way they act the closer they get to dying, they appear to get off on it in a sex-type way. Like I said -- assholes. Although to be fair to these assholes, they've all had a near-death experience in the past (it's required to be a member of the club), so at least they know what they're fucking with here: DEATH, MUTHAFUCKA!

Enough of that shit. Anyway, George isn't kidding about Gretta being from the 4th dimension, I mean that would explain a lot of her wacko behavior in this movie. The only backstory that could possibly explain her ways is that back in the day, she narrowly escaped being the latest victim of a serial killer. But the movie happily hops/skips/jumps past that point, which it does often with other details. Somewhere along the way,  Gretta undergoes a serious change in character that suggests -- without actually declaring -- that she suffers from some kind of Dissociative Personality Disorder. Man oh man, I'd love to tell you more about it but you really need to see it for yourself.

That's right, lady and gentleman, I am highly recommending this wonderfully strange film. It certainly has issues and is far from perfect. But shit man, no film is perfect. No film. Even that one that you love so much has a problem or two. If anyone tells you different, they are deluded liars. That's just how it is, cuz. I can see someone calling this a bad movie, or a so-bad-it's-good movie, but I genuinely like this very entertaining film, this film that would be in the Cult section of Hollywood Video if we were living in 1996.

But yeah it's got flaws like a muthafucka, the kind of flaws you'd have to be a kindhearted soul like this asshole rambling at you to not give a shit about. Like, of course, the couple times where rape is seen as a justified means to an end is disconcerting to say the least. And another problem with this movie is the way some characters just pop in and out of the proceedings without even a hint of a setup, or the giant narrative gaps that you'll have to fill in yourself with the power of your vast imagination.

According to the way-too-brief audio interview with assistant editor Wayne Schmidt on the DVD, there were reedits, additional scenes, and narration added after the original shoot, which would explain the occasional feeling that this shit's being made up as it goes along. I mean, even the Death Club stuff feels like it can be lifted out entirely and you can still tell the same story. But thank the movie gods for Philip Yordan's fascinating mind and his apparent inability to say "Uh, maybe we shouldn't do that". Yordan was more like "FUCK THAT SHIT LET'S MAKE FUN OF THE DRAG QUEEN, LET'S HAVE AN OLD JEWISH COUPLE LISTEN IN ON SEX, AND LET'S PUT A FIGHT SCENE HERE WITH BAD GUYS STRAIGHT OUT OF A RETRO ARCADE GAME".

And hey, you can't hate on a guy who casts himself as a creepy perv at a porn theater. Or who knows, maybe Yordan didn't think his character was creepy. What else? Oh yeah, I also really liked the music; there's a nice piano theme that plays through most of the movie, and then some scenes will go with some totally 80s synth tracks that sound like they come from some movie about fraternity bros playing sports or something. And then some of the other synth tracks sound like porn.

Some of the acting is a little ripe, but I guess Salt Lake City, Utah (where this film was shot) wasn't particularly fertile acting ground at the time. I don't care, man. Good times is good muthafuckin' times, and I certainly had them with this fuckin' flick. And the only acting you need to concern yourself with is the one-of-a-kind performance from the actress playing Gretta, one Ms. Merideth Haze.

I know some of this behavior is a result of Philip Yordan's crazy screenplay, but goddamn, I think a lot of it comes from Lady Haze herself. I kind of ended up like Glen in the movie, finding myself entranced by this sexy nutter with the very expressive face and the balls to go with the least safe acting choice in every scene. I wanted to know more about her, so I looked her up and unfortunately this is her only credit as an actress. She left on a high note, though. If you were to tell me that after this film, Ms. Haze got a sex change and changed her name to Nicolas Cage, I'd be hard-pressed not to believe you. I can totally see that happening because she shares that same fearless approach with Cage, where the results are either really good or really bad or both at the same time -- but never, ever boring.

I can't give short shrift to Rick Barnes, the dude who plays Glen. He's got the straight man role here and it works well in contrast to Haze's goes-to-11 performance. Part of me wonders how much of what he does here is an actual performance and how much of it is him being genuinely bemused at the kind of movie this is. And I'm surprised J. Martin Sellers didn't make a career out of playing assholes like George, but then again, this movie never got a proper release so maybe he would have had a shot at a movie career if people actually saw this movie.

According to a commenter on IMDB, Merideth Haze did not transform into Nicolas Cage. She got married and now runs a talent agency. As far as I'm concerned, Merideth Haze IS a walking talent agency. Ms. Haze, I salute you, wherever and whoever you are. "I'M A FISH!" indeed.

So yeah, man. Check this flick out. If you don't want to get the Night Train Blu-ray, you can get the Death Wish Club version on DVD which is a slightly different edit (the differences are very minor, I'm told). If you don't like the movie, then I don't know what to say, other than I didn't promise you shit. All I said is that I liked it. And I do, man. I liked this movie very much.

In conclusion, if you wanna eat popcorn at the porno theater, that's fine. But c'mon man, don't eat a fuckin' hot dog. There's people trying to covertly jerk off in here and you're eating tube steak. That's off-putting.

(There be major spoilers here, but honestly, this is definitely more about the journey and not the destination, so I'm cool sharing this video with you poor unsuspecting souls)