Friday, October 30, 2015

But I forgot to buy a shirt



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.

(UPDATE 11/1/15)

Just to make it clear where my friend and I stand on the movies of this Horrorthon, from most to least favorite:

FRIEND
1. Pieces
2. Death Spa
3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
4. Dead & Buried
5. Anguish
(refused to put Spookies on the list because it doesn't deserve it)

ME
1. Anguish
2. Dead & Buried
3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
4. Pieces
5. Death Spa
(likewise on my friend's opinion of Spookies placement)


Thursday, October 22, 2015

When you can't sleep and decide to ramble about something you barely remember

Later this month, every seat in the New Beverly Cinema will be warmed by asses male-female-trans-liberal-conservative-anarchist-fat-skinny-nice-pleasant-douchebag-asshole-etc. because tickets to the All Night Horror Show marathon are now sold out. That wasn't the case for the From Dusk Till Dawn marathon I attended on October 9th at midnight; about 30, maybe 35 people total were in attendance that night.

Why so few when it felt like there should've been so many? Who knows? The ticket sales to these things are like the twisters in Twister: you can't explain 'em, you can't predict 'em. And killing yourself sure as hell won't bring Helen Hunt's father back.

So yes, the first From Dusk Till Dawn followed by a direct-to-video sequel and a direct-to-video prequel, and after that, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. All four films were presented in 35mm, which I guess is obvious considering that owner Quentin Tarantino laid down the law last year when he found out they were showing films in digital and to him digital is like a woman born without feet -- Fuck Dat Chit Mang it's 35mm or nada up in this bitch. But yeah, these were all his personal prints, so that was cool.

There were a couple of vampire trailer reels during the night and the first one included the fun Fright Night (ramblings for it somewhere here); The Lost Boys starring saxy/sexy man-god Tim Cappello and some other actors; and the criminally slept-on Innocent Blood, directed by everybody's favorite irresponsible filmmaker/decapitator, John Landis.

I hadn't seen the first FDTD for about 16 or 17 years when I listened to the audio commentary on laserdisc, and so much had happened between now and then; back then I thought Rodriguez/Tarantino were the beginning and end of Film and I was filled with a seemingly eternal optimism for the future of me and my fellow Earthlings. Those were the days. Remember those days? I think about those days a lot, bros. A LOT.

Today, I haven't 100-percent enjoyed one of Rodriguez's joints without defense since Planet Terror, which makes me wonder if it's a coincidence that his decline began after leaving his wife Elizabeth Avellan for Rose "Hey, I can be Lexi Alexander too!" McGowan, kinda like the way shit started going downhill for Peter Bogdanovich after he left Polly Platt for Cybill Shepherd? Maybe just maybe there's something to that whole Behind Every Great Man line. All da single ladies say YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

Hey kids, in case you don't know who Peter Bogdanovich is, he was like the Quentin Tarantino of the 1970s in that he made a fuckin' masterpiece and everybody loved him for it, which he then misunderstood as meaning everybody wanted to see HIM: in movies, talk shows, magazines, all that shit. He thought people gave a shit about the man who made the movies and his thoughts on everything when all they gave a shit about was the movies themselves. But unlike Tarantino, he stopped hitting home runs and could only occasionally score a double at sparsely attended games.

I feel that Mr. Bogdanovich was born in the wrong time -- he should've made his bones nowadays when he could've been on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram where hundreds, thousands, even millions of people would've given a shit about literally his latest shit. I mean, he could've taken a pic of his bowel movement and it would have likes, favorites, retweets. Oh man, all the love he could've gotten from the loveless, people don't give a shit about their fellow men and women but give a shit about every passing thought of a celebrity who doesn't know them and honestly couldn't give a shit about them except in the departments of How Many Tickets Will You Buy?, Don't You Agree With Me?, and How Awesome Is My Life? (but with the occasional I'm Just Like You thrown in to keep the waters from boiling).

All the comments on Twitter that he can look at and refuse to respond to even when the comment merits a response! All the occasional commenters who don't want to be seen as an ass-kisser so he or she makes some insult in order to get attention and when he or she does, he or she says IMA JUSS KIDDIN-UH! And then somewhere along the way in all this Twitter/Facebook/Instagram ego knobswalloing, Bogdanovich would make a very human mistake and say something stupid like we all do and then AND ONLY THEN can the backlash begin! And then! Then he'll discover the Block button! Cuz haters gonna hate, right Boggy?

Where was I? Oh yes, Mr. Rodriguez long ago directed a film from a Mr. Tarantino's screenplay and it was titled From Dusk Till Dawn. I liked it then. And guess what? Do you give a shit? Of course not, but here I go anyway: I still like it! Not only that, I like it a little more now! If anything has kinda changed over the years between viewings, it's that I now prefer the first half over the second half. And for those who -- believe it or not! -- haven't seen this film yet, the first half is about two asshole criminal brothers on the lam (Quentin Clooney plays one, Tarantino plays/wishes he were the other) who kidnap a broken family (former pastor Harvey Keitel, his daughter Juliette Lewis, and an Asian dude) and make a run for the Texas/Mexico border. The second half has them all in Mexico, hanging out at a distant desert biker/trucker bar called the Titty Twister, where they end up having to fight off various strippers, bartenders, barkers, and bouncers because the aforementioned staff also happen to be vampiric motherfuckers. They should've known something was up when they saw my man Danny Trejo working behind the bar (Hi Danny!)

You know bros, I've been so used to the newer Rodriguez joints that I forgot how his older stuff used to feel a bit more chill. That is to say, filmmaking-wise homeboy was nice until it was time not to be nice, know what I mean? No? OK. What I'm saying is that his style in this movie is to keep shit kinda restrained with the camera moves and cutty cuts cuts if the scene doesn't call for it. I mean, shit man, that entire first half is mostly one long slow burn -- with the exception of the opening liquor store shootout, but sheeeeeiiiit that shootout was preceeded with a hell of a monologue by Michael Parks that is done with a minimum of cuts and a nice slow & steady zoom at one point. A-PLUS, mi amigo.

And goddamn, I said goddamn what a performance by Clooney! No joke, this guy, he's not going crazy or chewing up the scenary or anything like that, he just plays a good badass asshole. I can't compare his work here to his work as Dr. Ross on "ER" because I only watched two episodes of that show: the East Coast feed of "ER Live" and the West Coast feed of "ER Live" (We had an old-school giant satellite dish back then). But I watch him here and I totally buy him as a deadly & dangerous dude who will deal out death and assbeatings if need be, but has limits to his evilness. When he gives his word to Keitel that no harm will come to his family if they don't fuck around, I always felt that he meant it. You'd be scared of this guy, but you can trust him to adhere to his flimsy-as-fuck moral compass.

You can't say the same about Seth's brother, though. Quentin Tarantino gives his best performance ever/so far as Richie Gecko, who is kinda like Lennie from "Of Mice & Men" only instead of petting rabbits this motherfucker rapes and kills women. (Yeah, I know: to-may-to, to-mah-to.) He's a scary motherfucker here too in that he's one of these creepos who can go from speaking in a fakey soft-spoken manner to flipping out angry/agitated in a second. In other words, he acts like Tarantino probably does when he runs out of coke or Cristal or feet. That was me trying to be funny right there, I have no proof he does any or all of that shit. So, I take that back. See, I kid the coke-snorting, Cristal-swilling, foot-sucker.

My favorite Richie Gecko moment is when he goes to the soon-to-be-kidnapped family's motel room door; Keitel answers the door and it's our boy Q.T. pretending that he needs to borrow their ice bucket for him and his "lady friend". After he delivers his request, Seth does this thing with his mouth where his lips are -- shit, my vocab is fucked and I don't know if there's a correct word for this but the best way to describe it is that he purses his lips inward. It's like some shit you'd see a little kid do when he knows he's being bad.
(Reason #10,402,901 why I can't stand children.)

The only other time I've seen someone do this in a movie -- that I can remember at this moment -- is Pauly Shore in AFI's #101 pick for Top 100 Army Comedies Starring Former MTV VJ'S, In the Army Now; Lynn Whitfield is Shore's drill sergeant and she's giving him shit because he can't maintain a straight "gig line" (keeping the line of your shirt even with the edge of your belt buckle and seam of your zipper) during routine inspection and he's like "I guess my gig line needs straightening, huh?" and that's when he gives her the Richie Gecko rape-mouth. And it's kinda like rape right there because he did that shit on purpose so now she has to adjust his shirt and pants for him while he's making "UHHH!" and "OHHHH" noises. She should've full-force clutched his fuckin' trouser weasel and forced him to weez a little juu-uuice.

Anyway, it's good times and if you haven't seen it, then that's most likely because you've never gotten around to it. It's full of blood and gross-out gags and yet the grossest thing in the movie is knowing Quentin Tarantino probably had a stubby chubby going on while they were shooting the scene where Satanico Pandemonium (well hello, Salma Hayek) sticks her foot in his mouth. Even grosser is knowing that despite judging Tarantino for that shit, I know that if I had Tommy Wiseau money I'd cast myself in a movie where every other scene is me banging chicks. And the scenes in between those would be about chicks raving about having banged me or crying because they haven't. Yet. (Working title: The Chick Banger)

There might have been one or two more trailer reels between movies, but I can't remember because my lazy ass took too long to get around to writing this shit, but I remember some of the vampire flicks in the reels included Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (which I remember catching in the theater and not digging at all); The Fearless Vampire Killers (which I still haven't seen but based on the trailer looks like unfunny ass, but hey, Leonard Maltin gave it three-and-a-half stars AND it was directed by famed child rapist Roman Polanski, so it deserves a shot); Blade (from Stephen Norrington, a talented visualist who I wish would make another movie even though I'm sure he was instrumental in Sean Connery's retirement from cinema, which is a mortal sin that cannot be forgiven); and Near Dark (yay Kathryn Bigelow!).

Somewhere between the breaks, Matt (from Matt and Cat Have Back Issues) the dude who was conducting the all-night festivities gave away prizes to lucky audience members that included prizes like Grindhouse on Blu-ray, the From Dusk Till Dawn box set, and something else I can't remember. I didn't win any of them, so fuck 'em.

Anyway, the second movie was From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. Yeeesh. I remember catching this movie back in '99 on good ol' VHS from an establishment called Blockbuster Video. Now gather around, kiddies, as I tell you about this Blockbuster Video. Back in the day the world used to be filled with buildings that were stocked with "video cassettes" of films and you would go to the building, and inside you would look at the cover art of the video cassette and based on that and/or word-of-mouth and/or the plot description on the back of the box, you would then "rent" (or "hire" for our non-Murican friends) it for a day or two. Then you would take the movie home and hope it lived up to your expectations or surpassed them.

See, back then we didn't have Netflix or Amazon Prime or YouTube or Hulu or Vudu or Dudu or Tubby and Little Lulu, any of that shit. Back then, if the movie sucked five minutes into it, you couldn't just stop playing it and move on to the next cine-stream, you continued watching because you made a commitment, goddammit! You kept watching and hoped it got better. If it didn't, shit, that's life in the big city. If it did, then you felt good about keeping the faith. Besides, it's not like you were going to waste gas money and drive back to the video store and get another one. And if you did, God help you.

Anyway, soon another set of buildings known as Blockbuster Video stores started popping up everywhere. They specialized in Top 20 films, and you would think that plus higher rental prices would've doomed them, but no, they were making money hand over fist and soon it made it harder for the other video stores to stay in business. This sucked because then it became harder to find lesser known films or films that were unrated or NC-17 because Blockbuster didn't stock those. Eventually when it came time for Blockbuster to also meet Jesus, we actually shed tears for those fuckers because at that point that was all we had left. Today, people looking to rent movies now stand in long lines in front of a Redbox like commies waiting for toilet paper.

I wasted all that time talking about that shit because I honestly don't have much to write about with Texas Blood Money, other than I didn't care much for it back in '99 and I liked it even less now. But I guess I should talk about it, huh? I should try. I can't quit now, I'm too far in to this waste of time. OK, so this was a direct-to-video movie directed by Scott Spiegel, who in his various duties as part of the Raimi crew also co-wrote films like Evil Dead II, Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except, and the Clint Eastwood/Charlie Sheen epic The Rookie. As a director, he had only done one complete feature (the supermarket slasher Intruder) and some uncredited work on The Nutt House. Based on Intruder and this movie, his specialty appears to be clever camera angles like a camera following a oscillating fan, camera following the up-and-down movements of Tuco from "Breaking Bad" doing push-ups, a neck bite shot from the inside of the vampire's mouth, and he even throws in a sex scene done Dolemite-style from the POVs of the banger and bangee.

The movie starts with Bruce Campbell and Tiffani Thiessen being attacked by bats in an elevator, then you realize that it's a film-within-a-film being watched on television by Robert Patrick. The weird thing is that both the film-within-a-film and the "real" film don't feel any different from each other at all. We interrupt this shitty low-budget horror/comedy to bring you another shitty low-budget horror/comedy now in progress. This movie is fucking corny, dude. The effects (particularly the bat effects) are like the late-90s version of the kind of effects from low-budget movies that would show late at night with some creature feature host interrupting it. Knowing how everyone in the Raimi crew rolls, I'm positive that shit was on purpose and that's the tone Spiegel wanted but I guess I wasn't in the mood for that shit both times I watched this fuckin' thing.

Patrick plays an ex-con who is still down for some crime time, so he rounds up the ol' gang to meet up with their escaped convict buddy Duane Whitaker for a job in Mexico. On the way there, Whitaker takes a unexpected detour that leads him to the direct-to-video version of the Titty Twister  (Hello again, Danny Trejo!). He gets bit, takes off, meets up with the boys, and it's like being a vamp is cutting into his bandit time because he still goes on with his plan to rob a bank. And at this point TBM feels like more of an Innocent Blood sequel than a FDTD sequel because much like Robert Loggia's character in the former, Whitaker decides that the more vamps in his crew, the stronger it'll get. And the stronger the crew gets, the easier it'll be to make money and eventually run shit. In comes a homie, and out comes his fangs.

The idea of the movie and the plot on paper sounds pretty cool, so why did it feel like such a slog to me? I think it comes down to a script filled with dialogue that has the intention of clever, funny, and occasionally badass -- but intention don't mean shit if you can't pull it off. I'll admit that maybe I'm just being a humorless asshole here, but I just wasn't getting into the jokey vibe of this one, or maybe the jokey vibe just plain sucked here. The execution is kinda off too, with so much (if not damn near the entire fucking film) emphasis on the "cool" shots over everything else that it quickly became tiresome, giving the proceedings a hotshot student film vibe. I bet you this movie plays better with the sound off, just some cheesy looking movie with weird shots that's kinda boring in the first half but then gets a little interesting when the bank robbery goes down with shootouts, flying bodies, broken glass, and vamp action.

Yeah, I think the best way to watch this movie is in the background of some hipster bar amid the din of clinking glasses, too many loud conversations about who knows what, and someone's iTunes playlist blaring through the speakers -- and even then, someone at the bar would turn to the screen and watch some of it before saying "This looks dumb." And I'll be watching from across the bar, judging that person and everyone else in that bar who isn't me, while secretly wanting to be a part of them.

The third film of the night was From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, and man, comparing this film with the last one -- you wanna talk about apples and oranges? Fuck that, this was more like apples and fetuses. Part tres is pretty goddamn good, which ups my previous just plain "good" opinion when I saw it a few years ago on DVD (which I won along with a Stroker Ace DVD at a midnight screening of Grindhouse at the Nuart). I don't know if following up the last film helped it play better this time around or if it really did get better for me over time. But what I know for sure is that this one was much better made. This director P.J. Pesce, he handled this movie like he wanted to make an honest-to-goodness Movie and not a parody/approximation of a movie like fuckin' Spiegel over here.

I don't know if this one had a bigger or smaller budget than Texas Blood Money, but I'm sure it was low-budget all the same. The difference between these films is that in their 35mm presentations, TBM felt like a cheapie direct-to-video joint unnecessarily blown up for the big screen -- a child wearing grown-up clothes -- while The Hangman's Daughter did not, it looked expensive (even if it wasn't) and it felt like it had some scope to it and therefore it felt right at home projected in the New Bev.

There are clear Leone homages here and there (particularly the "here" part) but it's not all ripoff shit, this Pesce dude has a really cool style that employs great compositions, the occasional left field use of gore when you least expect it, gore when you totally expect it, slow-motion, and none of it feels gimmicky. It all left me wondering why this dude hasn't been given a bigger canvas to paint on since this flick. He made a TV-movie called The Desperate Trail for Turner a few years before this, and that was pretty damn good. He also made a direct-to-video sequel to Smokin' Aces which was better than it had any right to be. Looking at his CV, his wheelhouse nowadays is direct-to-video sequels; I haven't seen his Lost Boys sequel nor his Sniper 3, but shit, but based on what I've already seen of his work, I'll give 'em a look-see for sure.

The funny thing is that Part III has a less original story than part II, yet is the better film. Not dissing on part III's story, I only mean that it's less original because this is pretty much just FDTD's basic outline in a different time period (early 1900's Mexico -- yup, this is a prequel). Stepping in for the Gecko Brothers anti-hero slot you have a real Mexi-bastard named Johnny Madrid (played by Marco Leonardi from Cinema Paradiso and Like Water for Chocolate), who escapes public execution thanks to a rifle-wielding fan named Reece (Jordana Spiro, who's been in a lot of things but who I'll always remember from USA's "The Huntress" even if you don't -- but I sure as fuck do! USA was dead to me for a while when they cancelled that one) and to show his appreciation he nooses her to a cemetery cross and leaves her dangling.

But hey, that dirty girl was seriously damaged goods, so you can't feel too bad for her. She didn't help her situation either by asking Madrid to show her the outlaw ropes because she wanted to be a "monster" like him. Hey Reece, did you ever consider the possibility that this guy might be sensitive to being called names like that, even though damn near everything he does justify such names?

And see, that right there is one of the many improvements Tres has over Deuce in this series; the main character is a complicated fucker of a human being. There's no arguing Reece's scouting report on Madrid but of course he'll beg to differ via attempted murdering her ass. He's a bad dude but apparently harbors some kind of deep-seated belief that he has something resembling Honor, which he demonstrates when he decided to let Ambrose Bierce live after a violent stagecoach robbery (a stagecoach of which Bierce was a passenger and of which Madrid was jacking).

Oh yeah, didn't I tell you? The author of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" figures into this story, and he's played by Michael Parks and I dug how the filmmakers took the author's real life disappearance and made it part of this story. If The Hangman's Daughter is to be believed (seeing as this is clearly a reenactment of true events), when Bierce took off for Mexico to ride with muthafuckin' Pancho Villa, along the way ran into Madrid and his crew. (He also ran into Rebecca Gayheart's Jesus freak and her pussy-whipped husband, but fuck 'em.)

As for Madrid and his crew -- and the titular Hangman's Daughter with whom he ran off (played by the lovely Ara Celi), they are horse-powering their way through old-school Mexico doing the bandito thing with the Hangman on their tails until they make a stop at a bar/whorehouse (Danny Trejo! Dude, we keep running into each other!) that seems a lot like an old-fashioned version of the Titty Twister, complete with a Satanico Pandemonium-esque lady (played by Sonia Braga) running shit. Could it be?

Shit man, I don't know. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

I'll say this again, the story is basically the first FDTD all over again, particularly the second half where it all goes SPOILER Titty Twister on us with gore and gross-outs. It was a tad disappointing to see everything get resolved in such a routine manner though; the film does such a great job building everything up by having all the characters run into each other at this location, all of them with various beefs of various sizes. There was so much potential as far as what could happen between them while trying to fight off the vamps and survive, but most of it was left un-potentialized. So much tension and animosity and hatred and straight out I'MA KILL YO ASS between these people and you felt very little of it between them because it felt like the filmmakers were more interested wrapping things up. I get it, there are bigger things to worry about when you're surrounded by vampires, but they could've taken their time leading into that mode. I was hoping for some score settling, but I had to settle for keeping a survival tally.

But I honestly just spent more time and words on something that only bugged me a little. This is still very much a good little flick worth a watch, a true part of the FDTD saga. Because as far as I'm concerned, the DVD boxed set might include three films but there are only two From Dusk Till Dawns: the first one and The Hangman's Daughter. Maybe I wasn't the only one who felt that way; the applause that this film received at the end credits made a strong contrast with the silence that greeted the end of Texas Blood Money.

There was a very quick break between films, and my buddy and I used it as an opportunity to increase our chances of getting lung cancer. While doing so, I noticed a guy go up to the ticket booth to ask Matt about purchasing a ticket for the fourth and final film of the night, Planet Terror. It was around 5am at this point and I thought that was a geeky-cool thing to do, to be like "You know what? I'm up early (or up late) and I just want to catch this one film!". I overheard Matt telling him that the ticket was for the entire night, though, which would be about $20, and at that point my friend and I went inside. So I don't know if the guy ponied up the $20 for this one film or if a deal was worked out. But I swear I saw him in the theater, or maybe I was too bleary-eyed to distinguish the handful of remaining cinemagoers in the crowd.

Yup, I started getting sleepy and nodded off throughout Planet Terror, but c'mon you can't blame me for that. I refuse to take responsibility for that. This was a Friday night/Saturday morning and I had a long day at work that started early the previous day and I didn't have time for a nap before taking off to the New Bev. That doesn't change anything, people. I can roll with the big boys and girls from dusk till dawn, I'm the real thing when it comes to all-nighters, I'M BONA FIDE!!!

Anyway, this was the extended version of Planet Terror, which is about 15 minutes longer than the version that played in the Grindhouse double feature with Tarantino's Death Proof. It's also presented in Rodriguez's preferred 1.78:1 aspect ratio rather than the 2.35:1 used for Grindhouse. It's worth a watch, just to see what was taken out put back in, but I feel that the shorter cut is the better viewing experience. I've said this before in my previous ramblings (which is why I won't go on too long about this film) but the shorter Grindhouse cut of PT fuckin' moves, man! It's fast-paced without overwhelming you. The additional scenes and moments in this longer cut make some of the previously relentless sequences play out in stops and starts -- speed bumps in the Autobahn.

My favorite example of the longer version hurting the overall pace is when the character of Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) arrives at the hospital to save his girl Cherry Darling (Rose!), followed by the Sheriff and his Deputy (Michael Biehn and Tom Savini). In the Grindhouse cut, he rolls his Killdozer in front of the hospital, gets out, and heads straight inside and we cut to the interior of the hospital. Immediately Wray begins stabbing every zombie-like "sicko" who gets near him, only stopping or slowing down to kill as he makes his way to Cherry's room. It's a fucking awesome scene that is all pure propulsion made even more propulsion-ier by Rodriguez's pulsing electronic score on the soundtrack.

In the extended version of this scene, after Wray enters the hospital the film cuts to Savini keeping watch outside the place with his gun drawn. He's a nervous nelly, this Savini; his eyes dart in every direction as patients and medical staff and infected are running all around him then BLAM!!! He fires out at someone who only appeared to be a sicko but was unfortunately just a very sickly patient. Biehn witnesses this and calls Savini a dumbass. Then we get an additional moment of a character inside the hospital getting torn apart by sickos and THEN we finally get to Wray wrecking shit inside the hospital.

Maybe Rodriguez needs to make shorter Grindhouse cuts of his most recent work because I feel like Planet Terror was the last time he knew exactly the right pace for the moment. You know what, I kinda take that back because Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was clearly cut down to the bone in comparison to its source material. Even the first Sin City had an extended cut released somewhere along the line. Maybe a longer version would actually improve that one.

OK, I don't want to end up on another three paragraph rant about an unrelated topic, so I'll just wrap it up now. It was a good time at the New Bev, and I dug the shorter all-nighter format. Not because I'm becoming an old man who needs to sleep at night, but because I think it opens up the possibilities of future mini-all-nighters. Because I need shit to do on a weekend night, guys. I'm too lame for clubs and too cheap for bars, but fuck yeah I wouldn't mind paying to see a bunch of movies in the middle of the night. Get working on it, people!

Let's see, what haven't I mentioned yet OH YEAH -- at the ticket booth, we were each given a Japanese program for From Dusk Till Dawn. It was pretty cool and I'll put that right up there with my Che program from the roadshow screening at the Nuart. I don't speak/read Japanese so I miss out on what's written inside but maybe I can get one of those losers who learned Japanese so they can watch Anime without dubbing or subtitles to translate it for me. I'll say "What's up, loser who learned Japanese just to watch Anime better! How's it going?" and then he'll say "Not bad, I'm doing all right. So how are you doing, guy who watched Max Max: Fury Road 25 times at the movie theater?" and then the guy standing next to us who learned French so he could watch Luc Besson's early work without subtitles or dubbing will high-five the Anime guy and say "TouchĂ©!"






Friday, October 2, 2015

How I Spent My Summer Vacation


aka

"My review of Mad Max: Fury Road in pictures"

aka 

"A Sad Kind of Sickness"

aka

"Do not, my friends, become addicted to Mad Max: Fury Road. It will take hold of you and you will resent its absence." 
























**Not pictured: My third viewing on June 26th, in 3D, at the Edwards Cinema 18 in West Covina. Lost the ticket stub.**

25 viewings. Jesus Fucking Christ.

Believe it or not, I'm not sure I'd consider Mad Max: Fury Road one of my favorite films and I wouldn't call it a masterpiece yet. For me to consider it either would require at least five years or so. You know -- that whole Test of Time deal.

What I *can* do is categorize this film under A-1 Alpha Prime Good Times Like A Motherfucker aka Two Hours Weeeeellll Well Well Spent. Wherever I was, whenever I was, if I found myself idle in this interesting ugly/beautiful world for a couple hours or more I would go see it again (and again) because I knew I would get my money's worth and then some. (And boy did I spend money.) It just kinda happened, he said defensively and not too convincingly. Every other week, something new would come out that caught my attention and I'd almost go see it until word of mouth would confirm my worst suspicions about it (O HAI Jurassic World!) and I'd go FUCK THAT SHIT gimme one for Fury Road!

It's alarming even to me, someone who will rarely see a movie more than once during its initial theatrical run. But there it is, my most watched film (during its initial theatrical run).

Believe it or not (part two): I'm in no rush to see it at home on Blu-ray, except for maybe the black & white or silent versions that will probably come out a year later in a double-dip edition. But after that, who knows, it might end up as one of those Go Big Or Go Home films I will only watch on the big screen, like 2001: A Space Odyssey or one of David Lean's epics. Don't ask me, I don't know, I can't waste time wondering about what I might do, I'm too busy trying to make this money so I can feed my imaginary kids.

In conclusion, it's too bad I have a girlfriend taking up the rest of my time, otherwise I would've seen this film many more times.

I'm just kidding, I don't have a girlfriend.