It felt like only yesterday when I decided to ramble about the 10th Annual Dusk-to-Dawn Horrorthon at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica last Saturday night -- because it was yesterday when I decided to do that. But yeah -- wow, ten years. Can you believe it?
As with the other Horrorthons and hopefully more to come, around 7:30pm Grant Moninger ran out and hosted in his inimitably high-energy maximum volume style. I have to give it up to him; I sit through these 12-14 hour nights and feel worn out by the end of them while he is out there pacing and screaming and doing voices and being funny and tossing candy (from Randy!) and DVDs and dealing with whatever behind-the-scenes bullshit and he doesn't look as bad as he should by the end of it. Does he take naps in between films? Meditation? Caffeine? B-12? Bolivian flake? I should've just asked him, huh?
Grant let us know that the Living God Corn Gorn, mascot/godhead of all things Horrorthon was running late because of that good ol' Los Angeles traffic. He led the entire audience in a prayer that Corn Gorn overcome this problem and arrive soon, and by the next film, he had and he did. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. There were the usual nutty and out-there interstitials and music videos that I've mentioned in my ramblings of previous Horrorthons including old favorites like Red Roof Inn; Stop Using Dirty Catheters!; the Energizer/Aerogizer commercial; a series of Corn Gorn related clips; the goofy musical sequence from Creating Rem Lezar; a religious hymn singalong about the Living God where the lyrics don't quite match the vocals (and remixed with cameos by the Corn Gorn); a remix of Alan Alan Alan; and my personal fave, the 1970s disco cocaine porno white man's experience that is Dennis Parker's Like An Eagle.
And we can't forget the "TJ Hooker" clips where the cast credits playing over them included names of audience members playing roles such as "General Stonewall Jackson", "Spencer Hickman teenage prostitute", and "Bill Cosby" (which brought out some groans). This particular TJ Hooker episode starts with a young fresh-faced Everydaughter in a light pink 1980s sweater and tangerine 1980s jeans who clearly doesn't belong on these mean city streets. And yet, there she was, running for her teenaged life. She makes it to an alley, but alas, she doesn't make it out. Surrounded by two sleazy/scary dudes, she lets out a terrified scream beseeching an uncaring God who doesn't have time for that shit. He's too busy blessing football players and county clerks.
CUT TO: Sgt. TJ Hooker and that hot piece of ass Romano patrolling the suburban neighborhoods, and Hooker talks about how back in his rookie days the old vets would call him a "flaming liberal" but now he's closer to a conservative. His definition of a conservative? "A liberal who got mugged." They eventually make it to the Alley of Death where the body of the poor girl is found. Cause of death? Shot up with heroin and then thrown off a building. Tough break, kid.
Every movie had an old ABC Saturday Night Movie intro for it, with a new voiceover telling us the film about the begin, which in the case of the first one was Halloween III: Season of the Witch, co-producer/co-composer John Carpenter's attempt to turn the Halloween franchise into an anthology series unrelated to the Michael Myers saga. Growing up, I was under the impression that this was not only the worst of the series, but a terrible film in general. I don't know where I got that impression, because I can't think of specific sources other than the occasional word-of-mouther telling me how Michael Myers isn't even IN this piece of this shit! and all that.
But after finally seeing it last October at a midnight screening at the Nuart, and catching it again last Saturday, I can safely say that this is a not bad horror/mystery/science fiction-y mix. You got Tom The Fuckin' Man Atkins playing a real Man's Man of a doctor; he neglects his kids and ex-wife because he's got better things occupying his time like the Three B's: beer, booze, and bagina. But then one of these asshole patients interrupts his cool nurse-flirting lifestyle by getting himself brutally dead, and to make things worse, the killer went Buddhist protester on himself with a gas can and a lighter, so no answers from that guy.
To find out just what in the fuck is going on, Atkins starts doing the detective thing with the dead patient's daughter. She's played by Stacey Nelkin, the chick Muriel Hemingway's character in Manhattan was based on. And much like her relationship with Woody Allen, the very young Nelkin eventually Gets It Awwwnnn with the much older Atkins but thankfully for Atkins, she's in her early twenties, so don't mark him down for being a criminal, chalk it up to being a stud!
The trail leads to a sleepy Northern California small town, not to be confused with every other sleepy Northern California small town because this one is home to the Silver Shamrock Novelties factory run by The Old Man from Robocop, but I'm sure everything is on the up and up. Surely there can't be any suspicious going-ons going on in this town, right? It's standard operating procedure to have a sundown curfew in an American town every day with cameras all over the place like it was post-9/11 in this bitch. It's normal to have Carpenter-style silent creepy Men In Suits patrolling the area, and I'm sure by now everybody's used to The Old Man getting around town in a limo cruising down the street so slow, the motherfucker might as well have come installed with hydraulics with "I'm Your Puppet" blasting from the speakers.
I honestly don't get the hate this film received over the years (if it did, because it sure feels like it did); I'm guessing it comes from there being no William Shatner-looking motherfuckers stabbing up a fool or two. But I think writer-director Tommy Lee Wallace did a good job playing out this story on a slow-burn tip with the occasional nasty shock thrown in; I still feel this film features the most evil scene in the entire series, when the true purpose of those Silver Shamrock masks is revealed via a Bond villain-esque demonstration. And can I just toss in yet more praise to master cinematographer Dean Cundey? I'm particularly a fan of the way he shoots in anamorphic scope and the DCP print we saw at the Aero (and Nuart) did a great job reminding us how good he was and still is -- it's just the movies that got worse over the years.
Anyway, this was an even better crowd to watch it with than at the Nuart; we'd clap along to the Silver Shamrock jingle every time it came on, and cheer/applauded whenever the date or location came up on-screen or when someone clapped on-screen. The occasional person in need of validation would yell something at the screen, but otherwise it was good times. My favorite moment was Dan O'Herlihy as Shamrock big boss Conal Cochran telling sex-god Tom Atkins to "enjoy the Horrorthon" which of course brought on some cheers from those of us in the audience who appreciate stuff in the unintentional meta-hood.
Before the second film of the night, Grant ran up on stage to do some more of his thing, only this time he was joined by the Corn Gorn, who was wearing his trenchcoat and chomping on a stogie (his wife Bride of Corn Gorn was having another kid). During this, Grant managed to stay in scream-y weirdo character while telling the audience that while going nuts during the interstitials is fine and even encouraged, screaming sentence-long attempts at being MST3K during the films should be kept to a Never. I agree; it's one thing to make a quick little quip or whatever, but if your comment goes for more than three seconds then you're just being an arse.
Oh man, what a wacky series of events the next film turned out to be! We start out with a pretty cool long take which begins with a view of the Hollywood skyline and then we crane down to the exterior of the hot new gym called the Starbody Health Spa, which thanks to lightning striking the neon sign causes most of the letters to go out and change its name to Death Spa, and then the camera continues moving in through the entrance until we're inside following Brenda Bakke around. She almost gets Death Spa'd when the steam room starts letting out chlorine gas, leaving her with burns and bandages over her eyes for the majority of the film.
Why did this happen? And why is it happening again and again throughout the film in the form of fucked-up violent "accidents" like tiles shooting out at the ladies in the shower room, or the pec deck machine causing some dudes chest to crack open a little to let some air in/blood out, or fucking acid coming down from the fire sprinklers? Speaking of that last one, oh man, I felt bad for the girl who got that treatment. She was barely in the movie and she didn't seem like a bad person, just some chick who wanted to get it on with the owner of the gym. Her punishment for this crime is she gets melted down to something vaguely resembling the remnants of a human body. When someone else finds her remains later on, we see that her exposed heart is still beating! And we can hear her faintly whimper! Because this is the world of the Horrorthon -- a world where both horny exercising chicks and young pink sweater & tangerine jean clad daughters can get the shit end of the death stick. No one is safe, no flesh shall be spared.
Anyway, who is responsible for all of this Death Spa-ing? Could it be the guy in charge of the computer system, played to an asshole T by Admiral Kirk's son? He's clearly still messed up over his late sister, who the previous year did her impression of the guy who killed Stacey Nelkin's father in Halloween III: Season of the Witch by dumping gasoline all over herself and getting all Flame On with it, so maybe that has something to do with the accidents and the constant mysterious messages the gym owner (and former husband of Burnt Girl) is getting on his computer.
Yeah, this Burnt Girl had the double whammy of Suck released upon her when she tried to give birth and only succeeded in a miscarriage and spinal cord damage, and the despair took her to making that unfortunate final life decision. To her credit, she burned up beautifully, I mean, that was a pretty damn good full body burn there -- so good that her husband still has dreams about it. I'd call them "nightmares" but he doesn't do the Hollywood shorthand of sitting up in his sleep all sweaty and shit, maybe a little scream or gasp for flavor.
The gym is pretty impressive in a 1980s kinda way; everything is electronic and members use their ID cards to activate the equipment and open the locker doors, but all I could think about was how often these people probably lose their cards. Not only that, but can you imagine how often that system messes up, and no matter how many times you slide the card it doesn't do shit? But aside from that, I liked that this big place has damn near everything you need, and it's all done up in that Day Glo-ish, multi-colored Memphis style that was big back then.
The gym is also pretty impressive in that no one seems to really give too much of a shit when the bodies start dropping. Or are they dropping at all? Maybe the guy with the cracked chest survived? You don't actually see him die and they never mention him again but people are still working out there. I know the owner's lawyer keeps insisting that they shouldn't deactivate the computer system and go manual or close the place down entirely until after the gym's annual party, but Jesus Christ, didn't the clientele notice the guy with blood shooting out of the new orifice in his chest?! That was in full public view. Shit, even if you weren't there, I'm sure you would've gotten word-of-mouth on something like that. Sure, there were other killings that were hidden from the other members but it only takes one to freak them out, and Cracked Open Chest Dude was most definitely that one.
It's a low budget flick but ain't THAT low budget. It has decent production design, a little flash & pizazz to the filmmaking (thanks to director Michael Fischa, who also directed the equally wacky flick Crack House starring Jim Brown), lots of tits, and there are plenty of recognizable names in the cast like Brenda Bakke, Admiral Kirk's Son, Lisa from The Omega Man, the principal from Summer School, Lyles from On Deadly Ground, the poor girl who was raised her whole life to marry Eddie Murphy in Coming to America and become his queen but his punk ass flew to Queens instead, Joe Hallenbeck's wife from The Last Boy Scout, Hilary from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air", and my man, Mr. Ken "When There's No More Room in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth" Foree.
It's kind of a bummer that these movies don't really get made anymore, these horror joints with low-but-not-that-low budgets that had small theatrical releases but were really more about the video market. Now they either play in theaters as the latest found footage sensation, or they're way too cheap and play on SyFy without any sense of shame. I hate that shit, the Asylum-a-nation of horror and sci-fi, but there you have it.
It's the talent both in front and behind the camera that boosts this film up to a level that resembles "Respectable Horror Entry", or it would were it not for the script veering back and forth between "Competently Written" and "Dictated From A Whacked Head". Sometimes the movie feels like your standard 80s horror flick and sometimes it feels like John S. Rad or Richard Park or Claudio Fragasso stepped in to take over for a scene or two. Some scenes feel like they can be picked up and dropped into another part of the movie and it would make about the same amount of sense.
But it's never boring and always entertaining, featuring plenty of gore and goofiness, and there are lots of shots of L.A. in the 80s that definitely give you a strong sense of How It Used To Be. That makes me wonder: I was barely alive during that period but I do have memories of that time, however vague and fleeting. But these kids today, they look at stuff from the 80s, a decade they weren't even alive for and it might as well be what the 50s were/are to me -- a long gone time when things were simpler. Holy shit...my lawn...it needs tending to. It's bad enough to go on YouTube to look up some junior high jams and read comments like "I was born in 1999 but I love oldies like this!" and I'm like "Wait! 'Tell Me' by Groove Theory is considered a fuckin' oldie now?!" MY LAAAAAAAWWWNNNN!!!!!
At this point, I missed most of Grant's shenanigans -- no offense to him but the scream-yell coming through the speakers was making my ears feel unwelcome, so I mostly hung out outside between films and contemplated the world in my head while talking to my friend. While we were outside, I noticed some people outside were wearing special Aero Horrorthon shirts that had a big X in front (as in Malcolm Ten) and behind the shirt was a list of all the films from Horrorthons past. I made a note to get one during the night.
Then a long-haired gentleman on a Skywalker (NOT a Hoverboard) rolled up to us and asked my buddy for a cigarette. In a show of appreciation, the gentleman reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette pack of his own -- and before I could say "Hey but you already have cigarettes!" he opened it revealing that the pack was packed with buds. Weed buds, not ear buds. He pulled one out and handed it to my friend who does not smoke weed. He then told us there was more where that came from, giving us his address and telling us that there was plenty of that, plenty of *makes the international gesture for snorting a line*, and plenty of women, and that they would be up all night.
We considered ditching the Horrorthon to see what this guy was all about, this salesman, or at least stop by for a bump to make sure I get through the night, but I'm such a fuckin' nerd that I'll choose Movie Time over Party Time. Plus, the paranoia got the best of me and I started wondering if maybe I was living in an Eli Roth film and I'm one of his many douchebag characters and going to this party would lead to torture and mutilation and somehow this is some kind of statement about Slacktivism and Social Justice Warriors and Giving A Fuck About Other People and just stop talking, Mr. Roth, just fucking stop.
It was past midnight at this point and the third film of the night was 1987's Anguish, written and directed by the late Bigas Luna. I'm gonna have to be that guy who doesn't want to spoil a 28-year-old movie by telling you as little as possible about it because it's that kind of movie! I'll give you this much, though: Michael Lerner plays a mild-mannered ophthalmologist's assistant, and when he's not dealing with annoying yelling patients who won't give enough time to get used to their new contact lenses, he's slurping up sliced bananas in a bowl of milk. At least that's what it looked like to me, I didn't see any cereal in that bowl or anything, but I'm pretty sure those were bananas.
Lerner lives with his mother (played by Zelda Rubenstein) in this big old dark apartment with birds in cages and snails in fishbowls. When they're not petting snails with their fingers or pulling birds out of tight spaces, they get into some serious hypnosis sessions. I'm talking hardcore with spinning spirals and lights and echoes and it's all very overwhelming and kinda scary despite the film's opening disclaimer telling you that it's all perfectly harmless but if you're gonna be a pussy about it, then leave.
But seriously, don't leave. You would be cheating yourself out of an experience, like some Real Cinema type shit going on here. Again, I can't go on any further because I feel you should go into this as unspoiled as possible. Anguish is one of them there foreign films shot in English and it kinda has that Argento in the 80s vibe to it, in that it's visually stunning but gives fuck-all about logic or sense -- sometimes maddingly so. And aside from Lerner and Rubenstein and a couple others, the movie suffers from that foreign-film-shot-in-English problem where they cast actors who speak English but aren't necessarily the best actors.
And this where I make it worse: this film really needs to be seen in a movie theater. I know that it's kind of a asshole thing to say because again, this is an old movie and it's not the most popular film either, so there's less of a chance of that happening. I mean, if this movie gets screened at all it would be at repertory houses and other similar cool theaters. Shit, I just looked it up and you can't even stream the motherfucker. You gotta go DVD (or Region 2 Blu-ray) if you want to see it. Speaking of "see", there's a lot of attention paid to eyeballs in this movie, so if you're sensitive to that sort of thing (like me), tread lightly.
OK fine. You most likely won't be able to see it an theater anytime soon, but if the opportunity arises JUMP ON IT. I'm not saying you'll like it, because I overheard a few people say exactly that after the film, but that's there problem. Maybe you'll have a better shot. If you watch it at home, you need to watch it at night with ALL of the lights off and the blinds closed and shut off your cell phone and your tablet and tell your fucking stupid kids to go for a fucking walk for 90 fuckin' minutes. If you have a baby, put that baby outside, it's good for the baby, it'll toughen the baby up.
From Anguish on, a young woman sitting nearby decided to register anything remotely cute or touching with a loud "Awww" or "Ohhh" in the Awww manner. To be more specific, it was more like "Awww-oh-aww". It began to unnerve me, little by little, and a couple times when something really disturbing happened, I was tempted (but fought it off) to go AWWW or OHHH in a similar manner towards her. Speaking of audience members I wanted to icepick in the medulla, there was a guy in the row in front of me who had a habit of sneezing (lots of sneezers and coughers in this crowd) and then rubbing his nose with his hand. You. Piece. Of. Shit. This is why when it all goes Alpha/Omega in this world, it'll be because of dickheads like him spreading the fuckin' Ebola-Hiv without consideration to his fellow human.
Speaking of consideration, how about you be considerate to the fuckin' staff of the theater and clean up your fucking mess? Holy shit, throughout the night I'd look around my surroundings and find that I was surrounded by discarded half-eaten slices of Little Caesars (thanks Aero! I will show my appreciation to your floors!) and spilled popcorn and cups and wrappers and DVDs that Grant had tossed them and I'm like There is an invention called the fucking trash can, people! Use it! All I know is that if I were a volunteer for this theater and was part of the clean-up crew, I would come in the following year with the biggest chip on my shoulder, staring down every fucking audience member I come across and they'd be like "What's his problem?" while kicking over a slice of pizza to the next row like somehow that makes it OK.
The fourth film of the night was Spookies. Fuck that shit.
The fifth film of the night was Dead & Buried. And unlike the piece of shit that played before it -- fuck.
I guess I can't just skip one, huh? OK, so Spookies. Sigh. OK. Now I never heard of Spookies until I read an article about it last year in the now sadly defunct website The Dissolve; it's a really good piece where they interview some of the people who were involved with that film. I'm telling you, I would highly recommend reading that article and then immediately watch something else. You will save yourself lots of time and a different kind of anguish by skipping Spookies. On the other hand, there are people who love that movie and I wish I could be one of them, but I can't. I am the man who came out of that movie pissed off at how bad it was.
This is not "so bad, it's good", this is just bad. It's not incompetently made like Birdemic: Shock and Terror or all the way up its own wacko ass like The Room, this is just a movie that fails to be whatever the fuck it's supposed to be. And what is that? A haunted house movie? A monster movie? Horror? Comedy? It's all of that and succeeds at none of them.
In some mansion out in the middle of nowhere, some undead psychic-power-having oldster has been pining over some chick in a coffin who I'm guessing is dead but looks about as fresh as a daisy, so maybe she's just in suspended animation -- so basically he's like Lo Pan and she's his Miao Yin. I guess to complete whatever needs completing in order to bring her back, he needs fresh souls and whaddya know? Here come two carloads full of them! Time to unleash zombies, muck men, an Evil Dead-style possessed chick, Ghoulies, an adorable tyke with fangs who's dressed like a Jawa, something that looked like one of the Eye Creatures but with a tentacle tongue, among others. There's also a kind-of half-man, half-cat? that reminded me of Michael Jackson, particularly early on when he's chasing a little boy all over the place.
With a Monster Party scenario like that, it should've been awesome, but it didn't even reach half-decent. I was into it at first in a bad movie sorta way, tripping out on the victims who I'm guessing are supposed to be young adults but look more like they're in their thirties, and there's a couple who look more like they're in their forties and fifties. My favorites had to be The Guido and Stuck Up British Woman; I don't remember their names, I just remember what they played. The Guido in particular was funny with his all-leather or pleather or latex or whatever the fuck it was ensemble; I could see this dude stepping out of an IROC-Z headed to the local discotheque, or maybe he has a "Sin Bin" like those paisan Dog Brothers from MTV's "Sex in the 90s". Or if Eddie Murphy had made another stand up film in the 80s, he would've worn something like that Duke Guido wears here.
It just got so fuckin' tiresome, man. Literally tiresome. I was good to go for the rest of the night, but after Spookies, I was worn out and I on a film-to-film basis at that point. What else can I say. I can't find things to talk about because I'm so done with this flick. It has its moments, but even those moments didn't do that much for me. Oh Jesus, I just remembered the "comic relief" which I put in quote because that was his designation but he sure as fuck didn't live up to it. Really annoying dude with his hand puppet. It takes forever and a day before he finally gets his, courtesy of an Asian spider woman. Oh and the Grim Reaper shows up and that was kinda all right -- but it shouldn't be "kinda all right" it should be HOLY SHIT THE GRIM REAPER!!! AWESOME!!!!
I will give the benefit of the doubt to the original filmmakers; according to the Dissolve piece, this was originally called Twisted Souls but the financier fired them and took the film away, then hired another team to step in and shoot new scenes without the original actors. The end result, Spookies, supposedly comprises of only half of the original footage and the other half is new shit. This would explain the disjointed feel throughout, not to mention a real messy mix-up of tone. There's a scene that pretty much is Spookies in a nutshell: two of the hapless victims-to-be are attacked by muck men who rise from the ground. These muck men slowly approach them while farting. According to the original filmmakers (and even the replacement director), this was insisted upon by the financier who was big on scatological humor and even pulled the ol' "pull my finger" gag on set often.
I'll also give Spookies points for fucking up a little boy and burying him alive. I say that because when he was introduced, Aww Girl was Aww-ing up a storm and when he got his, it took all my energy not to go AWWWWWWWWWW in her direction. And that made me tired.
Now, the fifth film of the night was similar to Spookies in that they were presented on 35mm. That's it. Dead & Buried, written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shussett and directed by Gary Sherman, is a creepy atmospheric horror/mystery film with the occasional slasher moment. Got that? It's good stuff, though, really good stuff. Like Halloween III, this one is a bit more of a slow-burner although I'd argue that the occasional harsh moment in this film comes off stronger, even though it's less graphic than Halloween.
The film begins with a photographer taking various photos with his Mamiya over at Potter's Bluff, a New England small town. In the middle of this, a pretty blonde (the late Lisa Blount) steps in to flirt and get pictures taken of herself. At one point she flashes her breasts at the camera and upon observing this topless composition I'm thinking "Why, that there is an incredibly nice and considerate young lady!" and then...it all goes so very wrong -- as it should, because we all know this Penthouse Forum shit never happens in real life, and when it occasionally does, it's because there's some terrible ulterior motive involved.
So now Sheriff James Farentino is on the scene, investigating that "accident" as well as an unrelated murder -- but of course, we know they're related, because we in the audience saw exactly what happened. But Farentino doesn't have the benefit of knowing that he's in a movie, he's busy trying to piece things together while wondering why his wife is acting a little off. And speaking of a little off, the people in this town have something off-kilter about them -- probably because it's a small town and small town folk make me a little nervous, the way they know all your business, flashing warm knowing smiles as a result of it. There's something claustrophobia-inducing about a small town for me and movies like this do not help.
On the other hand, this pretty blonde of this small town is also a nurse and to that I say Hello Nurse. I mean, she still made me nervous every time she came on screen but what a nice way to get that way. Competing for slots in my heart along with the blonde nurse we have the sheriff's wife and a cute hitchhiker. And hell, I'll throw a shot at the Sheriff too, why not?
The sheriff is all alone in his quest for Justice and all that jazz, I don't recall there being a deputy but I might have nodded off for a second there. The closest thing he has to help in Potter's Bluff: the town doc and the town coroner/undertaker. Now let's talk about this guy, this dead people guy; he is a little too in love with his work, calling himself an artist at one point -- or at least that's what I remember, back then I was fighting off sleep because of that bullshit Spookies and Aww Girl draining my will to stay up. By now I was downing my complimentary Monster Energy Drink. (Then I threw the can in the recycling bin -- like a gentleman!)
But you know what? He's right. He talks about how much work he does to make the dead look as good if not better than they looked while they were alive and he is totally right. Because it's one thing to make over someone who died in their sleep, but try having to reconstruct someone's face after Death By Being Bashed In The Face By Big Rock. That ain't no cake walk, pal. That's both skill and artistry at work. And yeah, you see him do that particular fix-it job and it is creepy as the Dickens, that creepy bastard. Anyway, he's played by Jack Albertson aka Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so it was nice to see him again in what turned out to be his last theatrical feature.
Now as I'm sure you've noticed, I'm kinda dancing around the details of this movie, particularly its plot. That's because, like Anguish, this joint is better smoked without knowing too much of what's inside it. But unlike Anguish, this doesn't demand a theatrical viewing, you can go right ahead and watch this at home, hell, watch it with the lights on, blinds open, shades drawn, in the middle of the day, with your stupid kids and baby beside you and it won't take away too much. So yeah, I dug the hell out of this movie. It's technically a horror film but it also had a bit of a, I don't know what you'd call it, like a horror/detective noir hybrid kind of feel, like Angel Heart or some shit like that -- where maybe it's best not to know the answers to your questions, if you get my drift.
It's too bad Gary Sherman never really broke out the way I think he should have; he preceded this with Death Line which is pretty good and followed this with Vice Squad which is really goddamn good; Martin Scorsese called the latter the best film of '82 and Steven Spielberg dug it so much he recommended Sherman for the Poltergeist sequels -- unfortunately the one he got was part III, which is maybe why things didn't go as big as they should've for him. Whatever man, the dude had chops and probably still has chops and I'm gonna fuckin' chop you if chop Dead & Buried out of your life. What are you gonna do? Watch Pitch Perfect 2 again? Fuck that shit, get Dead & Buried or you'll be dead and buried when I get through with you.
Jeez. Sorry for getting like that at the end of the last paragraph. I was overwhelmed.
But seriously, I'll kill you.
The sixth movie of the night was Pieces, the infamous chainsaw slasher joint with the taglines "It's Exactly What You Think It Is!" and "You Don't Have To Go To Texas For A Chainsaw Massacre!" which is true in both cases. There is more chainsaw violence here than in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and it's not even implied like in that film, you straight up see flesh get torn through a few times. It's not anywhere as good as the Tobe Hooper joint, but it has its own thing going for it.
So the movie begins in 1942 Boston, where this little boy with no friends reciting "Humpty Dumpty" while putting together a naked chick jigsaw puzzle gets caught by his mother. She's only in this movie for about a minute but I already knew everything about her; she is way too fuckin' angry in the way that only the most hard-up and in serious need of a good or mediocre banging are. I guess her kid's father skipped out or something, the way she talks about him. And I guess she sees that with the nudie jigsaw her son is very much Daddy Jr. so she takes out her anger/sadness on him, smacking the little bastard and fucking up his puzzle. Then she orders him to go get a plastic bag to clean up the mess, but because plastic bags wouldn't be invented for another twenty years, the kid doesn't know what to do. Just trying to comprehend the idea of such a far-out concept as a BAG MADE OF PLASTIC is too much for the little boy. So he snaps and comes back with an axe and gives Mommy the Lizzie Borden treatment.
Flash forward to the totally awesome 80s where many a Bostonian youngster is attending this unnamed university and none of them sound like they're from Beantown but look like they're from Spain, because it was shot in Spain. Because of this, the whole movie is dubbed, mostly covering up Spanish accented English for some of the cast members, but I'm kinda disappointed they didn't give the new voices hardcore Pahk-the-cah accents: "Hey what's dis fahkin' hahd-on doin' wahkin' arahnd like he's da fahkin' Shadow ovah heah?! Hey you, Shadow! It's wicked hot, bro, and you're runnin' arahnd in a fahkin' coat? And get da fuck outta heah wit dat gay fahkin' chainsah, bro!" And so on.
What's this about The Shadow and a chainsaw? I'll get to that right now. So now in 1980s "Boston" some skateboarding coed is out enjoying life the way the very young tend to do, but she makes the mistake of not looking at what's ahead of her and next thing you know, there's a huge mirror in her way. She's got a good twenty feet or so to do something about it, but instead she stares and screams as she approaches and eventually makes contact with it, shattering the mirror and her dreams of going through life without ever running into a giant mirror. I guess that incident what sets off our now grown-up killer, bringing up memories of dismembered Mama, causing him to pull out box containing his late mother's red-stained dress and shoes (wouldn't the blood be brown by now?) and his old nudie jigsaw puzzle. Now he's out prowling the campus -- mostly in broad daylight -- dressed up like The Shadow and carrying the kind of huge professional-grade chainsaw you'd see modern-day Paul Bunyans use in the forest. But he ain't sawing down trees, he's sawing down Shes.
Yup, this is a grade-A example of the kind of horror film that gets decried in feminist cinema pieces and they're right. There's no defending this kind of movie against charges of misogyny because the women in this film are here to look pretty and then look dead and that's it. If you are an attractive lady in Pieces, you are not long for this world and when you leave it will be gruesome. Even the female lead (Lynda Day George) doesn't really do so much compared to the manly men cops (Christopher George and some other dude) of advanced age here, hell, even the youngblood skinny college dude (Ian Sera) is more active in pursuing The Shadow than she supposedly is.
But if you're willing to make peace with Pieces as being very much a film of its time, it's worth a watch because of its serious heaping servings of WTF -- no, not the Marc Maron podcast, otherwise you'd have to sit through 15 minutes of the killer disappearing up his own ass before getting to the good stuff -- and it makes for a very amusing watch. Paul Smith aka Bluto in Popeye is in this movie as Red Herring the maintenance man, and based on the look on his face, he found the whole thing amusing too.
And despite coming off as a classic example of He-Man Woman Hater Cinema, the ending can be interpreted as pro-Respect-The-Ladies, maybe? I was talking about it to my friend later over breakfast and I felt that's how it was supposed to come off, considering what happened and who it happened to. He felt the ending was the most horrific thing he witnessed the entire night. The audience whooped it the hell up. Your mileage may vary.
The tone of the film is dead serious (with the exception of one out-of-nowhere scene involving a kung fu master) and yet I was laughing/chuckling throughout for most of it. And yeah, once you get past the fact that the film's attitude towards the ladies seems to reflect the killer's POV of them, those kill scenes are pretty impressive and have kind of a nightmare vibe to them. For example, the first campus kill takes place outdoors in broad daylight on the campus grounds. The poor girl is laying down on a blanket reading a book and here comes Chainsaw Shadow to take away all her worries about graduating -- and her head. Most of these films have their killings take place at night but half of the deaths here happen with the sun still out, and they're not out in the middle of nowhere, they're in areas where people aren't too far away.
Also, you see a dude walk around with his dick out, and that's pretty nightmarish if you ask me.
The director of the film is Juan Piquer Simon aka the director of MST3K fave Pod People. He also directed a movie called Supersonic Man which I saw when I was about 10 or 11 and I had the chicken pox. It was late at night and I was covered in calamine lotion and up came this cheesy Superman knockoff on channel KDOC-56 and it was good times. Anyway, I thought you would give a shit about that, that's why I mentioned it.
Before the final film of the night (now morning), Grant came up and had a Horrorthon contest where volunteers were lined up on stage and each had to name a film that played in any of the Horrorthons, keep naming them, and those who couldn't were out. One guy couldn't name a single film, even though we just saw six movies that night. Grant couldn't believe it, he even asked him what the name of the movie we just saw was called. Nope, he couldn't do it. I'll chalk that up to sleep deprivation or getting stage fright or both. Shyness kept me from going to play, otherwise I think I'd have done all right. I'm not saying I would've won, but I definitely wouldn't have been out by the first round. It went pretty fast, this game, and the winners received trophies with the Corn Gorn on them. I think. Maybe I was getting sleep deprived myself at that point.
By now, the theater was an embarrassing mess that almost made me feel ashamed and guilty by association. Pizza, popcorn, cans, DVDs, bags, everything all over. You could've had a crying Native American to represent every aisle. Then you could take those Native Americans and form a war party out to scalp every one of those goddamn litterbugs. My friend saw a discarded DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean on the floor and took it. Waste not, want not, I guess. I ended up going home with DVDs of Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard and Benny & Joon (which I actually have been wanting to get for a while). We decided to leave instead of sticking around for the seventh and final film, the 1988 Roger Corman-produced gross-out fest The Nest. No offense to Mr. Nest, but we were hungry and the idea of watching a film filled with cockroaches before breakfast didn't sit well with our stomachs. That was cruel programming right there, on purpose I'm sure.
So for the second year in a row, I cannot claim to have survived the entire Horrorthon, because I didn't. The last time I did, it was in 2012 (didn't go to the 2013 one) and those of us who made it got a Corn Gorn certificate for a free popcorn. I couldn't tell you if that's what this year's survivors got, but I'm sure one of them can tell you. The only thing I can tell you is that the Breakfast Sampler I got at the IHOP next to the Best Western Hotel was good but the hash browns serving could've been bigger.
Just to make it clear where my friend and I stand on the movies of this Horrorthon, from most to least favorite:
2. Death Spa
3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
4. Dead & Buried
(refused to put Spookies on the list because it doesn't deserve it)
2. Dead & Buried
3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
5. Death Spa
(likewise on my friend's opinion of Spookies placement)