Sunday, October 30, 2022

Right over there



It was a dark and stormy night in Santa Ana, California. No, really, by the time I arrived at The Frida Cinema, on the night of October 15th, what started as a drizzle had become a full-on cats & dogs shower with thunder and lightning. Which was all right with me, because warm weather in October bums me out, we shouldn't be sweating during this time of year, we should be in sweaters, and besides, rain is horror-friendly weather.

I carefully walked down the soaked sidewalk to join the small crowd of fellow VIP ticket holders for tonight's event: Camp Frida 6: Holiday Horrors all-night horror movie marathon, with films that took place on or around days of leisure and/or celebration.
 
In exchange for paying a little extra for our VIP tickets, we were allowed early entry, giving us ample opportunity to find and claim a seat, and more time to get to know our fellow attendees. Or, if you're an antisocial loner with a blog, it allows you time to mill about the theater, silently judging everybody else for not being as big a loser as you.

At the check-in table, we had our tickets scanned, and we were given a wristband to identify us as VIPs, and those who intended to drink alcohol during the night were given a second wristband. We were then given a Camp Frida t-shirt, along with a goodie bag filled with, uh, goodies. Mine had some candy, a couple stickers, and a couple pins, one of which was a glow-in-the-dark Camp Frida logo. There was also a blank Christmas ornament inside, which one could decorate at the table containing markers, stickers, and strings.

 

The Frida is a two-screen theater, and the tradition during Camp Frida is to different films in each of them, allowing attendees to choose their own movie-watching adventure throughout the night. The screens are each given a name that goes with the whole summer camp motif, and so for that night, screens One and Two became the Fire Lodge and Mess Hall.

We were directed to the Fire Lodge, where the stage had been decorated with cobwebs, balloons and jack-o-lanterns, while music by Goblin, John Carpenter, and Jerry Goldsmith, among others, played on the sound system. A volunteer went around offering to tape off seats in the Mess Hall for us, that way, should we decide to watch a movie over there, we'd already have a reserved spot.

I wanted to hug this volunteer, but I figured if I was going to hug anybody, it was going to be the pretty blonde volunteer who was done up like Florence Pugh's May Queen from Midsommar (minus all those flowers). Alas, I never did work up the courage to step up and spit mad hugging game to her. Not because I was afraid of being turned down, but because I was afraid of her saying Yes, and next thing you know, I'm wearing a bear's skin -- and all that that entails.

Some time after that, we were joined by the rest of the attendees, including a large group of friends with at least two married couples in the rotation. They were all very chipper and I sensed they were longtime pals, and it was nice to see that there were a couple of single men among them, because that meant that the wives in the group didn't force their husbands to only fraternize with other married friends. But upon seeing the two single men in the group turn to give each other an intimate smooch, I realized, nope, they’re all married.

One of the straight husbands excused himself, and his wife looked over to the others, as he walked away, and casually declared "He has a very small bladder!", to which another wife responded with "Oh really? I have the best bladder in the world" and I almost piped in with "...for a woman, maybe", but I didn't want to ruin their fun. Because I actually enjoyed watching them, it reminded me of my younger days when I was the third wheel to my married friends, interrupting them every time they were about to kiss.

There was an intro by the Frida's projectionist -- whose name I didn't get, I’m sorry to say, I believe it was Don, but don’t hold me to that -- and he brought down the Frida Cinema's founder, Logan Crow, the director of programming Trevor Dillon, and various volunteers, giving each of them their time to shine as we applauded them all.

Then he handed the mics over to the two ladies who would be our camp counselors for the evening: Becca and Isa, who are the social media director and volunteer coordinator for the Frida. They broke down the details of the evening, in regards to the schedule and the breaks between films, as well as a polite request for us to be considerate with our trash. 

Then, it was on to the marathon proper -- which started off a little too scary for us, as the first film appeared very yellow on screen, forcing the projectionist to stop the movie and fix the situation. One quick bathroom break later, all was well again, and from that point forward, it was smooth sailing all night.

 

Now you kids might want to sit up close and listen to this oldhead tell you about a period in the late 90s when Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson brought back the teen slasher with their surprise hit Scream. Hollywood wanted in on that sweet, sweet money, so along came a bunch of horror films starring a bunch of pretty faces, rather than the more relatable, attainable types that starred in these kinds of movies back in the 80s.

Among these cash-ins was the 1997 slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer, directed by Jim Gillespie, and also written by Williamson, who adapted the novel by Lois Duncan. This was the first film of the evening, which takes place in a seaside North Carolina town, where we’re introduced to four friends celebrating the 4th of July, all of them recent high school grads with plans for the future.

By the way, for any designated drivers reading to this: Tie up your drunks. Tie them up or knock them out, because there is still the possibility that one of these intoxicated assholes is going to do something that will take your attention off the road for one second, and that's all the time needed for some sad-assed fisherman to stumble onto your speeding vehicle's path. That's what happens to our quartet, and rather than do the hard but correct thing in calling the cops, they instead dump the body in the ocean, swearing to take this secret to their graves.

A year later, one of them, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) comes home from college and it's clear that the weight of that man's death weighs heavily on her soul, as it does on the souls of her ex-boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), and her friend Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar). As for the fourth of their guilty party, Barry (Ryan Phillippe), he's an overly pumped-up, rage-filled jock, and therefore has no soul, so he just continues to be his usual aggro self, and all of us in the audience found his very extra behavior very entertaining to watch.

Soon, our group begins to receive anonymous notes with the title of the film written on them, which brings out major scared & paranoid vibes in the entire gang. They want to know who is the I in question. Is it the goofy-ass nerd from The Big Bang Theory? Or maybe it’s creepy-ass Anne Heche. There’s also a strong possibility that it’s one of them. But my money is on the scary hook-wielding figure in a rain slicker, and I have to give this dude some serious props for his excellent handwriting and his top-notch hook skills, he probably uses the same hand for both.

The audience seemed to appreciate Julie's use of a very 90s Internet to search for clues, as well as her very 90s hair bangs, while I also got a kick out of the killer's very supernatural ability to show up and disappear anywhere, as well as his ability to transport dead bodies in record time -- in broad daylight, no less.

My apologies for what might have come off as an insensitive comment regarding Anne Heche's character, and to be real with you, due to her recent passing, her tragic and unsettling role carried with it a tragic and unsettling air that obviously wasn't there in my previous viewing.

But rather than dwell on that sad truth, I will dwell on a possibly sadder one. This viewing took me back to when my friends and I saw this at the cinema back in '97; we had a good time and then went to grab a bite at In-N-Out Burger where we had a serious discussion about which of the actresses in the film we'd most want to bang. One friend was all about Hewitt, having been into her since Party of Five, while my other friend was a big Buffy fan, and so that's where his penile loyalties lay.



As for me, I was the outlier who preferred the actress who played Helen's sister, Elsa (Bridgette Wilson), because it was my understanding that dat Veronica Vaughn is one piece of ass, and on top of that, her character wore glasses, and as some of you might already know, the only thing hotter to me than one pair of tits are two pairs of eyes. Of course, each of us would then accuse each other of lying about wanting to fuck any of the ladies, because clearly he was gay -- except we used a different word, because the 90s were a more innocent time for hate speech.

An even sadder post-script to that anecdote: Ten years later, I met up with one of those high school friends. It had been a while, so we caught up, reminisced about the old days, then went to see Transformers. At the end of the night, as I drove him back home, he tried to get nostalgic by making those humorous assumptions about my sexuality again. As per usual, I told him, Yeah sure, I'm totally gay, and you're all I want, you big hunk, you. Except, this time, he kept going, and so again I jokingly said Yes. But he would continue, and eventually it got very uncomfortable because it didn't sound like he was joking anymore. It sounded like he was seriously trying to get me to admit that I was gay. So I seriously answered him No. 



But that wasn't enough. He still wouldn't let up. This went on for way longer than it should've gone. I told him this wasn’t funny anymore, and frankly it was getting annoying. And so he asked again.



I had enough. I slammed hard on the brakes and pulled the car off to the side, nearly colliding with a parked PT Cruiser. It got real quiet, and you could smell burnt rubber in the air. I looked over at my friend and saw fear in his eyes as I began to roll up my sleeves. Then I reached over, angrily unzipped his fly, furiously pulled out his cock, and violently sucked him off. After we both finished, I wiped my mouth and told him "Listen, you son-of-a-bitch, a gay man wouldn't have given you such a bad blow job, and a straight man wouldn't have stayed hard -- let alone gotten hard in the first place!" That shut him up. Then I took him home, wished him well, and dropped him off. I never heard from him again, although I did get an anonymous text the following year that read "I know what you did last summer”, but I ignored it.



Anyway, it held up for me, the movie, I mean. It's a solid slasher, and it's a lot more beautifully shot than I remembered — props to cinematographer Denis Crossan — this is definitely from a time when movies used to look like movies. I enjoyed it just as much as I did the last time, even if all the scares weren’t as strong the second time around. But it was fun to watch others jump up and scream every once in a while. It also warmed my heart to hear the entire audience burst into a rapturous cacophony of applause, cheers, and laughs after Hewitt delivered quite possibly the most iconic line of dialogue of her entire career. 

That's not the only moment where the audience reacted as such; during the intro, we were asked to cheer any time the holiday of the film was said out loud. In this film's case, we cheered every time someone mentioned the Fourth of July. 



But what I thought to be the worst part of the movie back then, remains the worst part today; there's a scene where Helen comes back home after a long day, and she goes into the kitchen to grab a soda, and it's so awkward and unnatural the way she stands over her kitchen table, pouring her drink into a glass in the most assholish way -- with the glass standing straight up, so that she gets 90 percent foam and 10 percent soda -- taking a couple sips from the glass in a manner more befitting someone with a gun to her back. Then she takes off for her bedroom, with both the half soda can and the half empty glass still on the table. I guess she figured the killer who just crept into her house might be thirsty as well.


After a break, we returned to the Fire Lodge, where the hosts announced that both theaters were opened. Then they invited Mikey Aguirre, the gentleman behind See It on 16mm, on stage; normally he tours to various cinemas to screen films on 16mm, but that night he was there to pitch his selection for the night, the 1989 Spring Break/Easter slasher, Nightmare Beach, which would play over at the Mess Hall. The hosts then told us that those who were going to see Aguirre's choice would also have the bonus of participating in an Easter Egg hunt before the film, where we could find eggs containing movie passes and various other goodies.



The hosts then tried something new for Camp Frida; a wheel appeared on screen, divided into sections, each section representing a different film. The wheel was spun, and whichever film the arrow settled on would be the one that would play right there in the Fire Lodge. Among the films were New Year's Evil, the 2006 remake of Black Christmas, and 1995's Day of the Beast (also a Christmas film). Unfortunately, it landed on 2001's Valentine, which I saw back then and never wanted to see again. So it was an easy choice for me -- and apparently most of the audience, as many of us ventured next door, some of us going to our saved seats.

I was so busy settling into my new seat, that I forgot about the Easter Egg hunt until an overzealous gentleman swooped over to my lonely section and grabbed all the eggs surrounding my oblivious ass, and all I could do was laugh.

Nightmare Beach starts off in true 1980s Spring Break style: With a serial killer being executed by electric chair. Diablo is his -- was his name, and he was the leader of a particularly crime-happy biker gang, but he continued to swear his innocence in the murders almost up until the moment of his execution, where he then swore that he would return to exact his revenge. One crispy convict later, we're treated to a credit sequence montage of college beach bodies having fun up and down the Florida burg of Manatee Beach, before settling in to introduce the various potential victims and killers.

Our main doofus is Skip, a college football player who recently fucked it up for his team during the Orange Bowl and is understandably forlorn about it, despite attempts by his horndog teammate Ronny to cheer him up by reminding him that they are indeed there for Spring Break! and all which that entails.

While Ronny employs the "Ask a hundred women to sleep with you, and one will say Yes" technique of scoring, Skip prefers the company of Gail, a local bartender who is almost as much an Eeyore as Skip -- but she has a much better reason for her down syndrome. You see, Gail's sister was one of Diablo's victims, and she was there for his execution, so there's both fear and uncertainty over what she witnessed, and what she was told -- feelings that grow even stronger once it's revealed that Diablo's body has disappeared from its grave.

Perhaps not too coincidentally, a mysterious leather-clad biker -- identity hidden by helmet -- is driving around town in his souped-up motorcycle, complete with electrified passenger seat for unlucky hitchhikers. But since hitchhiking was becoming less of a thing by '89, he supplements his murder-cycle by going on foot, killing people by electrocuting them or burning them with exposed live wires or big furnaces that shoot out flames at lengths that defy logic.

But you know how it is with these Italians, logic has about as much place in a horror movie as a Negro in their sister's bedroom. Oh, yeah, about the filmmakers; during his intro, Aguirre credited the direction of this eye-tie production to Umberto Lenzi, who among various gialli and Euro-crime films, is probably most infamously known for the grindhouse fave Cannibal Ferox -- aka The One Where A Chick Gets Hooks Through Her Breasts. But Lenzi claimed to have quit the production before shooting began, only sticking around at the request of replacement director James Justice (who co-wrote the screenplay), in a position that I can only speculate as being the Obi-Wan to Justice's Luke Skywalker.

Either way, this ultra-goofy, terribly-acted movie was so much fun to watch with a crowd. When not being entertained watching the killer turning people into crispy critters, we were equally entertained by the scenes featuring the most Floridian of men and women. There is so much WOOOO! going on, most of it coming from this random dude who keeps popping up to scream "Go gators!", he always popped up when you least expected it, and it never failed to make many of us in the audience crack up. There are also plenty of scenes involving wet t-shirts and oiled up bodies, and it's all equal opportunity as we watch both sexes get reduced to eye candy, because that's the America that I believe in.

Speaking of America, this movie features quite possibly the most realistic cinematic portrayal of high ranking officials and civil servants -- at any level -- that I've seen. They are all so incompetent and self-serving; as the body count rises, the mayor and the chief of police decide to cover it up by burying the bodies in a salt mine, and they have a doctor to help them falsify the records. The mayor doesn't want to look bad, and the chief is just a power-tripping asshole, and it's heavily implied that the doctor uses Bill Cosby tactics to satisfy his Kevin Spacey tastes.

I'd hate on the chief and the doctor, except they're played by John Saxon and Michael Parks, and they were never not awesome, regardless of who they played. And while you never see Parks do any of the abhorrent things he's accused of, you do see him hilariously pull out a flask every single time he gets or gives bad news, and the audience always cheered whenever that flask come out.



Also included in this assortment of assholes is a pervy hotel manager who goes into a supply closet that also happens to have a hole drilled into it, allowing him to spy on a hooker in the next room who has a great racket going. She hooks her johns by giving them a sob story about being a student short of cash. I think this is a very smart ploy, because it allows dudes who are too proud to pay for it to sleep with a woman who is totally out of their league. As far as they're concerned, this hot chick was totally into them, and so, sure, here's a couple hundred bucks to help her with that other thing.



There's also a prankster, who among his heee-larious pranks, goes around pretending to be a shark on the beach, freaking everybody out. Man oh man, do I fucking hate pranksters. Do you wanna know why? Because these motherfuckers -- you know what? For your eyes sake, and for the sake of my high blood pressure, I'm gonna move on. Suffice it to say, motherfuck a prankster.


After the break, we all returned to the Fire Lodge, where someone came out to to give us the bad news -- it was last call for alcohol -- and the good news -- they would be serving pizza after the film. Then the hosts returned to announce the next film playing in that theater: The first of two Jamie Lee Curtis movies that take place on a train during New Year's Eve, Terror Train. Then they spun the wheel to reveal the alternate feature: the 2009 zombie flick Dead Snow

Having already watched Terror Train during the Camp Frida live-stream in 2020, I decided to go with the other film, which I had never seen. So off I went, back to the Mess Hall, with my large cup of Cherry Coke that I didn't finish during Nightmare Beach.

Easter is this Norwegian film's holiday, and so we watch how kids over there do Spring Break: Somewhere in some snowy hinterland, up in some mountain cabin. So we're going to not going to see a bunch of exposed skin, which is for the best, because we're not talking beach bods for most of this crew. But I get it, in the cold you're gonna want some extra layers of warmth.

So anyway, we've got seven of them; four dudes and three chicks, and you'd think the tubby movie geek of this funky bunch would be the odd man out. Wrong. He actually ends up being the first -- the only one! -- to score, with a rather attractive woman, despite their being nothing particularly alluring about him, visually or personality-wise. 

Again, let me remind you, he's a movie geek, and as you, me, and the rest of the movie geeks know, movie geeks are the absolute fucking worst, that's why we have to find another movie geek if we wanna fuck, and that just makes two of the fucking worst, who are also the worst at fucking, getting together to fuck, and if two of the fucking worst who are the fucking worst at fucking end up fucking, that means some of the fucking worst end up having fucking kids -- and their kids are the fucking worst.

They usually grow up to be pranksters.

So back to this fat fuck and his hot chick. He leaves the cabin to go take a shit in the outhouse, and after dropping a deuce and wiping his ass, this lady just steps right into the outhouse with him, and it's like, if being in a small space that reeks of shit isn't going to cool her jets, then I suppose she'd be turned on by the piece of shit sitting before her. He doesn't even have to make the first move, instead, she picks up his hand -- the same hand he used to wipe his shitty Norwegian ass with -- and begins to suck his fingers. 

Lady and gentleman, it was at this point, that the jaded black-hearted cynic who has watched real death videos and who found A Serbian Film kinda dull, this garbage human whose words you are reading, began to feel something approaching the temptation to faint. 

But instead I took a deep breath, picked up my cup of Cherry Coke and sucked on the straw as if it were my old friend's cock -- strengthening my resolve. My eyes rolled back down from my head, and I was able to continue watching as this poor damaged woman rode this chunky cowboy into an orgasmic state of fecal-scented bliss. 

It was here that I felt I was truly watching a horror film. And so I was relieved when the zombies finally arrived.

And who are these zombies? Nazis. You see, back during World War II, a bunch of these SS scumbags had occupied this part of Norway, and they did their thing, raping, pillaging, murdering the villagers, because that's what one does for their country. But eventually the villagers fought back and killed most of them, but some of them escaped and froze to death. 

Well, here they are, back from the dead, and ready to reich and roll. The survivors are left to fend these zombies off, using their wits and what little weaponry they have at their disposal. I enjoyed this absurd splatter flick featuring creative kills, and filled with blood, entrails, severed body parts, and various viscera, even though this is definitely more of a movie geek joint that takes stuff from fondly remembered genre films and gives them its own spin. It's less about reinventing the wheel and more about redecorating it.

The movie openly references its cinematic inspirations, particularly the works of Sam Raimi, specifically Evil Dead II, and so, it has that same kind of horror-comedy blend, albeit a much darker form of comedy. I also appreciated some of the nasty turns and surprises it takes along the way, and it plays no favorites when it comes to its characters, regardless of what you'd expect based on their types.

This was directed by Tommy Wirkola, who also co-wrote the screenplay, and he went on to direct Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which I'm now interested in checking out because I'd like to see what he turned out on a big Hollywood scale. But I'm also left thinking that if this guy, an obvious movie geek himself, intended on painting such an unflattering portrait of one, as he did in this film, or was this in fact, some kind of wish fulfillment.

Like, I can imagine some super nerd who jizzes over movies and comic book properties and movies about comic book properties, working up the kind of fear and resentment towards the opposite sex, and so that ends up mixing in with his passion to just be able to, you know, actually kiss a girl. And the larger that fear and resentment grows, the more toxic that mix becomes, until eventually that nerd goes from thinking "Man, I wish a nice girl would let me take her out for a chocolate malt" to "Man, that sexy slut should hunger for my four inches so bad, she's willing to smell my shit to get it." 


It was during the following break that the pizza arrived, and me being overly assumptive, assumed that it was as complimentary as the coffee for VIPs. Two slices and seven dollars later, I returned to the Fire Lodge, where trailers for holiday-themed films played in the background, including Thankskilling, Bloody New Year, Gremlins, Eyes Wide Shut, Jack Frost, and Uncle Sam

Then the hosts returned to announce the next film playing in the Fire Lodge: the 1987 Thanksgiving body-counter Blood Rage, which was introduced by a gentleman whose name I can't recall, but he's from the website HorrorBuzz. He talked about how this movie was a favorite with everyone from HorrorBuzz, and that they've screened it twice for their Horror Movie Nights at the Frida. He talked about what a wild film it was, and I agree, as it is an annual viewing for me every November.

But as much as I would have loved to experience a nutty flick like Blood Rage with a rowdy sleep-deprived crowd, I made the difficult decision to instead go with the wheel's choice for the Mess Hall: 1986's April Fool's Day, a film I always meant to watch. So off I went, but not before stopping for a cup of my free VIP coffee, of which I took two sips before tossing it in the trash, where it belonged, then I silently wept for those who had to pay for that disgusting brew. 

Only a handful of people chose to watch this film, and the projectionist stuck his head out from the booth to thank us for giving this movie a chance, because he felt it was a pretty good movie worth a watch. He also warned us that the movie would begin in a strange aspect ratio, but not to worry, that's intentional on the film's part. Then someone in the crowd douche-ily ordered the projectionist to "roll film!" and the projectionist mumble-responded some appropriately snarky comment about how he was going to get the film print ready, as if this entire evening's slate wasn't being presented digitally.

So yeah, the film opens with a narrower aspect ratio, because we are watching footage from someone's video camera, introducing our cast of college cutups, as they travel by ferry to visit their friend Muffy at her island residence for the weekend during Spring Break. The most recognizable of the group is Kit, played by Amy Steel, who is best known as final girl Ginny from Friday the 13th Part II, and Arch, played by Thomas F. Wilson, who is best known as one of cinema's greatest bullies, Biff Tannen, from the Back to the Future trilogy. 

As for Muffy, she's played by the Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman, who gives a very interesting performance as someone who comes off both very friendly while also vaguely creepy. It's like she's not quite all there, and despite her sweet face and lovely smile, there's something possibly sinister brewing underneath -- and that's when the film connected the dots for me, when she is shown setting up various pranks all throughout her property. 

I knew it -- a prankster! And on the weekend of April Fool's Day, no less! Oh, she's having herself a blast messing with her guests, placing whoopie cushions on their chairs, or setting the same chairs up to fall apart, she's screwing with the light switches, jacking up the water faucets, and worst of all, she serves them franks & beans for dinner. Not that I dislike franks & beans, but c'mon, that house screams Chateaubriand, man, you gotta class up the cuisine for your guests.

But on the other hand, they deserve it. They really are all a bunch of assholes, when you get right down to it, the best kind of privileged White people that Reagan's America had to offer. All they do is goof around, make gay jokes, work out, kick soccer balls, try to fuck each other, and wear sunglasses because their future is so bright. And so I couldn't get too upset once they start disappearing, only to reappear at room temperature, in various states of Dead.

So it leaves a viewer wondering if this is all Muffy's doing as well. As mentioned before, she carries a faint air of psycho killer, and the opening credits even show us a flashback of Muffy's childhood, where she receives a jack-in-the-box but a scary monster doll pops out instead. You hear her scream, and it's the kind of prank that might seem minor in retrospect, but come on, man, the only thing kids have in common is that they are all little shits, otherwise they are each unique and different in every way, and so some kids handle scary stuff better than others. And while some might give a quick yelp and move on, and some might go crying for their mommies, others end up becoming Psycho Freaky Jasons. You just never know.

It's like this one time that I saw a friend put on a monster mask and hide behind a couch as his two-year-old toddler came stumbling into the living room. His mother and I protested against this, but he was dead set on having his fun. As so out he popped, going "Rraawwgh!" at his baby boy -- who then gave out the most ear-piercing scream, dropped to his knees, and I'm sure tears weren't the only liquid he excreted that moment. His mother then started yelling at my friend, practically beating on him, while their son fell onto his back, crying for some kind of comfort. I immediately bid farewell and walked home, choking back the lump that was growing in my throat, wiping away the pesky moisture forming in my eyes, because that's the kind of pussy I am. 

The last time I saw that child, he was a preteen, wearing a shirt featuring a drawing of a farting dog with the words "Blame the Dog" under it, but I couldn't tell you if that was a sign of trauma or not. But his mother is no longer in the picture, and the father is a big Trump supporter, so clearly there was some damage done. Anyway, I think the important lesson to be learned here is don't get a girl pregnant at 15 years old.

While this is lumped in with other slashers of the era, April Fool's Day is more in the spirit of an Agatha Christie mystery; we watch these characters hang out, and on occasion, a body will pop up. And on the rare occasion that we are shown a victim's final moments, the film cuts away before things get bloody.  The violence is pretty tame, and the film's R rating is more about the language and sexual situations. Because of that, I can easily recommend this to people who otherwise stay away from these kinds of movies.

I can also easily recommend this to people in general, because I felt this was a pretty good movie. It's a good mystery featuring well-executed scenes of suspense, which shouldn't surprise me, considering this is from Fred Walton, the director of the original When a Stranger Calls. But despite these guys not really being my kind of guys, I actually enjoyed watching them. Some of it feels improvised, rather than scripted, and it all feels natural. I not only believe that these characters were friends, but it wouldn't surprise me if the actors themselves already were friends, or became friends during the shoot.

Even though this movie is over 30 years old, and is probably most known for its ending, I'm still going to keep mum on the conclusion, for the sake of anybody out there who hasn't seen it. But I really liked the bold choice that this film made, and I can imagine many who saw this back in the day found this film to be a breath of fresh air, and I can imagine many others being pissed off by it.

But it's greatest accomplishment is that it's a film featuring people playing pranks on each other, and somehow I was left smiling by the end of it! Because I fucking hate pranksters!

I'm sorry, I held back while talking about Nightmare Beach, but forget it, I'm going both barrels right here and now. You wanna know why I hate pranksters? In my experience, pranksters love to prank but absolutely hate it when they get pranked, which proves to me that pranks are really just some screwed-up and cowardly way to be hostile to others, while laying all the responsibility on the victim. Because if you get pranked, and don't find it funny, then you are the asshole. wHaT's WrOnG? dOn'T hAve A sEnSe oF hUmOr? is the defense these absolutely worthless cunts pull out like badges from the Twat Police, after assaulting you. 

Tell a prankster that you do not like pranks, and they'll accept it as a challenge that was never given, and so they will proceed to prank you. There's a word for that kind of person, who will insist himself on you, despite your request that he doesn't -- and pranks are just another way to insist.

I swear to god, if I become King Dictator of the World, I'm having all pranksters executed; put 'em on their knees, give 'em two to the back of the head, and bill the bullets to their families, China-style. The bodies of the executed will be cremated, and the ashes will be sent to their loved ones, and when they open the urn to scatter the ashes, a wacky spring-loaded snake will jump out at them. What's wrong? Don't have a sense of humor?


Back at the Fire Lodge, we were told that instead of the wheel, they would name films and the two that got the most applause from the audience would play next; the winners were The Return of the Living Dead from 1985, and Night of the Demons from 1988, which I had already seen at a previous Camp Frida, and thought was OK, so I instead stayed put for the zombie flick, which I've seen on the big screen a couple times already, and wouldn't mind watching again.

The 4th of July is mentioned at the very beginning, but never mind that, we're not here for fireworks, we're here for zombie mayhem, and that's what we get during this film which mostly takes on the 3rd. Still, I'm surprised that throughout this entire film, not one early firework is seen or heard in the background. I don't know about the film's setting of Louisville, Kentucky, but over here in Southern California, you can't stop someone from lighting fireworks before the 4th. They usually start as early as April, and they don't stop until late September, if we're lucky.

I don't think you even have to be from SoCal to recognize that this supposedly Southeast location is obviously Los Angeles. So we should be catching glimpses of the occasional errant firework set off by some overzealous cholo, because it's always a cholo flaunting the off-season fireworks. I don’t know why, maybe it’s a requirement of the lifestyle.

Anyway, everyone knows that George A. Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead is a work of fiction. What this film presupposes is, maybe it's not?  That's what Frank, a senior employee at a medical supply warehouse tells the new hire Freddy, that the film was based on a real incident and that the zombies were sealed into airtight containers by the Army, and that one of those very same containers is stored in the warehouse's basement. 

Of course, curiosity gets the better of the two, and off they go to check out the formerly living corpse, which results in them getting sprayed with zombie gas -- while bringing back the dead, for good measure. The two call in their boss, Burt, to help them deal with the walking corpses that just won't stay dead. Even worse, these things all have a hankering for human brains.

Meanwhile, Freddy's punk friends are killing time at the neighboring cemetery, waiting for him to clock out from work. They're unaware of what's going on, and so when one of them, a pink-haired chick named Trash, openly admits to fantasizing about being eaten alive, she has no idea how soon that fantasy will become terrifying reality.

The rest of the film is just one long chain of fuck-ups, ranging from colossal to monumental to apocalyptic. Written and directed by Dan O'Bannon, who up until this point was known for writing Alien, Blue Thunder, and my favorite Tobe Hooper film, Lifeforce, his directorial debut is a top-notch entry in what I like to call the "Everybody's Fucked" sub-genre. Because no matter what these characters try to do to contain the situation, they're all fucked. It is a nihilistic work, but it's also good times, because O'Bannon is able to balance out the doom with an overall sense of fun -- and it never stops being tense and exciting. He knows the right tone for any given scene; when to make things funny, when to make them scary, when to make them disturbing, and when to make them tragic.

O'Bannon is strongly supported by a pitch-perfect cast, including the late great trio of Clu Gulager as Burt, James Karen as Frank, and Don Calfa as Ernie, the undertaker from the mortuary next door (and who might also be a secret Nazi, but I already talked about those assholes two movies ago). Then on the punker side, you have a bunch of those assholes, so I'm just going to point out Thom Matthews as Freddy, Beverly Randolph as Freddy's girlfriend Tina, and Linnea Quigley as the aforementioned Trash, who despite her limited screen time, arguably leaves the biggest impression on a viewer, at least she did on me.

There's also Spider, played by Miguel A. Nuñez Jr., whose previous film was Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, where he played a victim taking a shit in an outhouse, but unlike those filthy Scandinavians in Dead Snow, he and his paramour don't fuck on the toilet. Instead they sing to each other while she waits for him outside the shitter, like a normal human being.

Overall, I really enjoy this movie, despite half of the soundtrack being comprised of non-stop screaming. It doesn't matter if it's comedic screaming or screams of genuine terror, screaming's screaming, man, and it can get grating. Most of it comes from Frank and Freddy, who scream at how badly they fucked things up, at the sights of melty reanimated bodies clamoring for braaaaains, and from the agonizing pain as they slowly die from exposure to the gas, becoming zombies themselves.

But the other half of the soundtrack is a mix of cheesy 80s synth score and a bunch of boss tunes by bands like 45 Grave, T.S.O.L., and The Damned, sounds that never get old -- unless you're young, then that stuff is old by default. But they're bad jams, nonetheless.

While I prefer Romero's original Dead trilogy over this one, as far as zombies go, I have to give it to O'Bannon, because I find his version of the undead to be horrifying. It has nothing to do with Romero's zombies being slow and O'Bannon's being fast, because they're both equally scary for their own reasons. No, it's because Romero's zombies can be killed; one shot to the brain will do 'em dead. But it doesn't work that way with O'Bannon's zombies; you can brain 'em, decapitate 'em, dismember them, and they’re still moving.

To add pain to injury, it hurts to be a zombie in O'Bannon's world. They need to consume human brains to take away from the pain, they’re like junkies desperately fiending for a fix. So you gotta look at it like this: If you die and become a zombie in Romero’s world, well, your non-life involves slowly walking the earth, chowing down on the occasional human, and stopping at the neighborhood mall every once in a while. It doesn't seem like a bad existence, I mean, I don't hear them complaining. And once someone separates your brain from your spinal cord, its lights out, and any possible suffering you might have had as a zombie, is finally over.

But become a zombie in O'Bannon's world, and you're fucked forever. You are in everlasting pain, save for those brief moments of relief that come from cracking open a skull and diving in for some delicious brains. But that won’t last, and there you are, running in search for more relief. And if someone shoots you in the head, it does nothing. Hell, it might actually hurt more. And if someone machetes your head off your body, you are now burdened with yourself, having to carry your head around with you -- provided you can find it. And if you get chopped up into pieces, there will never be relief.

Should you decide to suicide, well, that's one way to solve your problem in Romero’s world. But suicide is not an option in O'Bannon's world, not unless you want to throw yourself into an incinerator, but if you also happen to be infected with zombie cooties when you burn, well, congratulations, you've just infected the air with your self-made zombie gas, further spreading the pain, you inconsiderate asshole.

Anyway, I really dig it: gory, funny, scary. The ending’s a bit odd, it feels like they ran out of money and scrounged something up in editing, but that's a very minor complaint towards a major accomplishment. I also forgot that the movie begins with a disclaimer informing the viewer that what they are about to see is all true, using real names and real places. So take that, Fargo.

 
Everybody was happy to find donuts waiting in the lobby, while I was happy they were free; I grabbed a glazed twist and stepped outside to enjoy my sugar rush with some fresh air. Then, we all gathered at the Fire Lodge for a final spiel from Trevor Dillon about the history of Camp Frida, and then the various volunteers were shouted-out for their hard work in putting this night together and working this night together, and we all gave them a round of applause. Then Becca and Isa came back out to reveal the final film of the night: 1988's Maniac Cop, which features a climax that takes place during St. Patrick's Day.

Somebody is killing innocent people on the streets of New York City — somebody with a badge — and perhaps if you’ve never heard of the Maniac Cop series, you might have actually been surprised when it was revealed not to be Bruce Campbell’s brief red herring of a character, but instead a bigger man with a bigger chin, played by Robert Z’Dar. And perhaps if you've never heard of the Maniac Cop series until now, my apologies for spoiling it for you.

But that's part of life. The way I see it, everybody takes a beating sometimes, and everybody gets at least one movie spoiled for them; back in 2019, I was walking towards the Vista Theater to watch Avengers: Endgame, and two kids from the previous showing were walking the opposite direction, loudly recounting who died in the end. I wanted to push the little bastards into oncoming traffic, but nobody was driving at that moment.

Back to the movie, in which I can only guess writer/producer Larry Cohen wanted Whitey to understand the fear that Blacks and minorities feel in the presence of our local Officer Friendlies — and make a profit while he’s at it — and so here’s another example of why I feel genre films were the best and remain the best at social commentary, compared to, say, your usual Oscar bait claptrap that prefers to ladle it all over until every crevice is coated in Message.

For the especially thick-headed types in the audience, there’s a man-on-the-street interview where a Black guy mentions three of his friends having been shot by cops -- and you know he’s not talking about our Maniac. That's just common behavior by the pigs in blue, who know a paid vacation is worth the risk of being that one in a million who gets made to be an example. Hell, that's better odds than your average criminals gets when they commit murder.

William Lustig was the perfect guy to tell Cohen’s story; his B-movie action/horror chops are on full display here. When I first saw this on cable, my 4th grade mind was blown when the identity of the Maniac Cop was revealed, and our leads found out how much of a scary indestructible force they were up against. Speaking of which, I love how the movie switches protagonists on us with only a half hour left to go. I really wish more movies would continue to surprise us this way.

I forgot Tom Atkins starred in this, as the lieutenant investigating these murders. He's the one who introduces the idea that the killer is a police officer, and so, the fact that we have a policeman who wants to hold another policeman accountable for violent acts against helpless, unarmed, law-abiding citizens means that if you have trouble finding this movie in either the Horror or Action category of your preferred streaming service, well, you'll probably locate this under Fantasy.

Or perhaps you'd find this under Documentary, if one were to go by the shitheel captain, played by William Smith, and the shitbird commissioner, played by Richard Roundtree, the latter having broken my heart. I mean, look at you, Shaft, your ass used to be beautiful, you used to be the man who would risk his neck for his brother man, and now here you are, standing up on behalf of The Man. 

Going back to Atkins, he’s been in plenty of films over the years, but I kinda wish he would have a Robert Forster-esque resurgence, where you’d see him pop up in bigger movies more often. Maybe if we can take Tarantino’s attention away from some wannabe starlet’s feet for two seconds, we can tell him to hook Atkins up with a role in his next project.

Also, I don’t know if this is a hot take or whatever the kids call it these days, but I’m not a fan of 80s-era Bruce Campbell. No no no, I don't mean as an actor, I mean his look. I think he started looking more manly in the 90s, when he started gaining some age on his face and some meat on his bones. Or maybe I’m projecting, as the years creep up, the doughnuts take their toll, my hair loses volume, and I begin waking up sore for no reason -- and I'm no Bruce Campbell to begin with. Either way, I like my Bruce the way I like my beef: aged and thick.

My only real issue with the film is more of a budgetary one, in that I can easily tell the scenes that were shot in Los Angeles and the ones that were shot in New York. I recognized quite a few downtown L.A. locations here and there, plus a palm tree or two where there should be zero.

But hey, at least they could afford to film in both cities! If you were to make this movie today, I bet you would have the leads mixing it up with actors who have Eastern European faces and who speak East Coast slang with vaguely Borat-esque accents, driving on cobblestone streets around 19th century architecture lined with creepy dry-branched trees, with everything looking blue and severe. Welcome to New York, everybody!

Props to Sam Raimi, by the way, for appearing in a cameo as a news reporter, and for saying "St. Patrick's Day" a bunch of times during his brief scene, causing us in the audience to break out into cheers and applause every few seconds. It was pretty funny; in my sleep-deprived state-of-mind I imagined that Raimi was performing his scene live, and he knew that saying the name of the holiday would induce this Pavlovian response from the crowd, and so he toyed with us, the way he toys with his actors, particularly his favorite punching bag, Campbell.

Anyway, I don't have as much to say about this one as I would if we were talking about the sequel, which I remember being even better. But this first film will always be remembered as the one where Larry Cohen and William Lustig displayed their courage, by speaking up to declare that All Zombies Are Bastards. 

 

After the film, the hosts came out to wrap up, and we all gave each other a round of applause, before going onstage to take a photo together. I took part in posing with everybody else, while making sure to stand in a place that would keep me hidden -- the best of both worlds for someone like me. And so, a little before 8:00am, Camp Frida 6: Holiday Horrors ended with those of us who made it through the night stumbling out bleary-eyed onto the wet streets. 

 


 

I ended up stopping in Fullerton to grab some thematically related breakfast at Zombee Donuts, where all their delicious pastries were decorated like coffins, eyeballs, snakes, spiders, monsters, and of course, zombies. They weren't making them look legitimately scary, they were made up to look cute and cartoonish, and that's probably why there were plenty of little kids there. They tasted just as lovely as they looked. The donuts were pretty good too.

 




Friday, September 30, 2022

These are the tragedies, folks.





I don't know what it is about me, maybe I just have “Suckafied’ written on my increasingly large forehead, and only those with plenty of baggage to unload can read it.

My coworker -- we'll call her Leena -- asked me to lock her office door after I stepped in to drop off a contract. Then, in tremulous voice, she recounted a side-business deal that she had formed with who she believed to be her partners. Of course, that day she found out that they had cut her out of the deal right before the getting was green. After her confession, followed the inevitable -- her eyes brimmed with tears, bordering on overflow, which was my cue to hug her. 



As she began to ruin my nice shirt with her blend of tears and makeup, I told her that she was right to feel how she felt, and if she had to cry, then cry. While she sobbed, I acknowledged the betrayal she suffered, but told her that it would soon become the past, and she would come out of the experience wiser. 

I then asked her to do me a favor: For god’s sake, Leena, please don’t go dark on me. 



That’s exactly what I asked her, “please don’t go dark”, because I didn’t want her terrible experience to justify being meaner and crueler to others in future ventures, screwing over others the way she was screwed over by her “partners”.

Be wary? Yes.

Act stronger? Sure.

Avoid being so overly trusting? Absolutely.

But you can still be kind. You can always be kind. Just don't expect kindness in return, that’s for the other person to decide, that’s the other person’s problem. But every once in a while, you'll run into the occasional foolish idealist, and I swear to you, Leena — I swear to you — that your kind manner in a world full of motherless fucks will be appreciated. And if we’re all lucky, that fool will show kindness to others.

It was then that I caressed the back of her head, in a "there, there" fashion, as her sobs began to subside. Then, I gradually moved my hand to the top of her head, where I began to apply subtle pressure in a crotchward direction, hoping she'd get the hint.

Upon feeling her kneecap make brutal contact with my magnificent testicles, I realized she might’ve gotten the wrong idea.



With tears in my eyes, I asked “Lesbian?"

With rage in her eyes, she asked "Pig?”

Ugh, I should've known -- a feminist. Had I known she was one of those, I'd have approached her differently.



You see, fellas, the way to handle one of these fuckin' feminists is to play nice, invite her to your place, give her a glass from the Cosby Vineyard selection, and once she's out for the count, you sneak her over to your home in the country and subject her to bondage, torture, and mind games.

At least that's what the absolute based chad of the 1969 film The Laughing Woman does. His name is Sayer (Philippe Leroy) and his latest lady to be taught this important lesson is Maria (Dagmar Lassander), an employee at the philanthropic organization he runs. While discussing an assignment, Maria makes the mistake of telling Sayer that she is in favor of male sterilization, and I guess it's not enough that he responds with a "Well, actually" for the ages. Because he then invites her to his apartment for a couple of friendly drinks between employees, which as mentioned earlier, is really just a prelude to Sayer breaking the poor girl’s spirit.

For a long time, I only knew of this film because I was a fan of the music score by the late, great Stelvio Cipriani, but it wasn't until the Here and Now that I actually watched the film it was made for. But unless you're into this sort of thing, the stuff Sayer subjects Maria to can be tough to watch. He ties her up, he ties her down. He tapes her mouth shut and forces her to watch him enjoy breakfast. He turns a goddamn firehose on the woman. Worst of all, he forces Maria to rub oil on his disgusting bare man-feet. That alone would be enough for me to wish for death.

Which is in fact, what Sayer wants of his guest, by the way, as he later casually confesses to Maria that he kills his female guests to achieve sexual climax. Look, I'm not gonna kink-shame the man. I mean, whatever floats your boat, right? Some guys can't cum unless they have a finger in their ass, others need to be asphyxiated, and then you have the real weirdos who can't cum unless they insert their penis into an orifice. Either way, I don’t judge.

Now, normally, as a coward with a tiny d— ahem — normally as a real man with a fast car, I don't mind watching women in movies learn their place, but the problem is that Lassander's character resembles none other than The Adorable Amy Adams (specifically during her Lois Lane days), and since Superman wasn't coming to save this damsel-in-distress, I wanted this fuckin' asshole Sayer to die a thousand penis and/or anus-related deaths.

Written and directed by Piero Schivazappa, and also known under the titles Femina Ridens and The Frightened Woman, I can see some calling this film yet another misogynistic portrayal of attractive women in dangerous situations, and I can see some calling this a feminist critique on what overly sensitive and destructive man-babies we males are. I think both parties are right, because this is one of those deals that has it both ways, and depending on your point of view, the ending works either as a justification, or an excuse for what preceded it.

The film's refusal to make its stance explicit for the average viewer, kinda reminded me of an S. Craig Zahler joint, in that it's super-fucking-questionable as far as the filmmaker's personal politics, but goddamn if it ain't an excellent film all the same. But I also feel that maybe there wouldn't be so much doubt about the film's intentions, had this been written and directed by a woman, rather than a dude -- an Italian dude, no less — in the late 60s.

Actually, I take that back. Had a chick made this flick back then, it would be seen as misandrist.



Nevertheless, I really liked this movie! It has a pretty whacked-out sense-of-humor that only makes everything more unsettling. And somewhere along the way, just as I figured out where this film was headed, it instead takes a welcome detour that was less disturbing, more wacky, but just as entertaining.

Visually, it's a real treat; a nicely photographed assortment of snazzy late 60s outfits and super-stylish set design, everything looking very Pop Art and Mod. Most of the film is set in Sayer's country getaway house that is full of furniture that looks aesthetically pleasing but uncomfortable to actually use. There's also a dream sequence involving a giant art installation that looks like a woman's spread legs, with a razor-lined door placed exactly where you’d expect it to be.

Leroy and Lassander are both great in their roles. Sayer comes off cold and calculating -- that is, whenever he is in total control. But as the film continues, it becomes more clear that it is indeed, all just an attempt at appearing strong while holding in his emotions -- because as we all know, emotions are for women. He meets his match with Maria, who despite being held against her will, despite being knocked down both figuratively and literally, gives as good as she gets. Because a strong-willed woman can only do so much when you have some proto-Red Pill-taking motherfucker standing in her way.

And c'mon, dude, just because Lassander kinda looks like Amy Adams doesn't mean I'm actually watching Amy Adams, and so, when Maria danced while slowly taking off what looked like a swimsuit made of white gauze, I felt no shame, no need to tell the precious star of Arrival and Enchanted to stop debasing herself for our perverted carnal pleasure.

Because it wasn’t Amy Adams. It was someone else.

No, instead, I said "Take that shit off, ya fuckin' hoo-er!" OHHHHH!


Of the current new releases at the local cinema, Pearl (the prequel to Ti West's film X) stood out. Unlike it's successor, which was a dark and gritty throwback to grindhouse flicks, and brought to mind the early works of Tobe Hooper, Pearl takes a different approach that brings to mind the works of Douglas Sirk; an overly-bright and polished Technicolor widescreen melodrama, with a lush music score reminiscent of Frank Skinner and Dimitri Tiomkin.

Set in 1918, the film follows the murderous psycho freaky oldster from X -- the titular Pearl -- back when she was just a young adult with zero human kills under her belt. Pearl (Mia Goth) lives on a farm in Texas with her parents, while her husband Howard is overseas fighting in the First World War.

With one man out of the country, and her father infirm, it is up to Pearl and her mother to share in the everyday chores, upkeep, and various household responsibilities. Any spare moment she has, she uses to unwind; for example, she's fond of dancing in the barn to a rapt audience of cows and chickens, which reminded me of something Oprah Winfrey said in an interview about how when she was a little kid, she would entertain herself by playing to an audience of chickens in a coop. I forgot exactly what this playing comprised of, so I couldn't tell you whether she sang to them, or interviewed them, or gave them free cars.

But unlike Oprah -- god, at least let's hope so -- Pearl is shown to be wearing a mask of sanity which has a tendency to slip every once in a while. We witness such slippage during the opening scene, when Pearl indulges the psychopathic murderer underneath by casually picking up a pitchfork and using it to stab a goose who was not invited to her barnyard show. She then feeds the goose to an alligator at the lake, and we're left with the sense this isn't the first time something like this has happened. I reckon that alligator's been eating good for quite a while.

I thought it was pretty clever for West and Goth (who also co-wrote the screenplay) to set this film during the Spanish Flu pandemic; we watch Pearl ride her bike into town to pick up medicine for her father, and upon arrival, she puts on her face mask, because that's what people did back then, they didn't have the Internet, so the only place the crazies had to share their wackadoo conspiracies was on the street corners, where they'd shout their thoughts or picket with signs, all the while being justly ignored. Unfortunately, today, similar lunatics have millions of online followers, and some even hold political office. 



In the interest of retaining any readers from the other side of the argument, I offer this alternate version of the previous paragraph: 



I thought it was pretty clever for West and Goth (who also co-wrote the screenplay) to set this film during the Spanish Flu pandemic; we watch Pearl ride her bike into town to pick up medicine for her father, and upon arrival, she puts on her face mask, because that's what people did back then, they didn't have the Internet, people were easily-led sheep who questioned nothing and accepted what the government told them, and those who knew the truth were unfairly ignored. Fortunately, today, similar truth-tellers share their knowledge with millions of online followers, and some even hold political office!

During one scene, Pearl goes to the movie theater, and while watching the chorus girls on-screen, she briefly pulls up her mask in order to take a sip from her father's bottle of morphine. At the same time, I briefly pulled up my mask in order to take a pull of bourbon from my flask. Realizing this moment of synchronicity between film character, film viewer, and time periods — back then, there was a global pandemic, there were countries at war, and an increasing worldwide partiality to fascist regimes; today, we’re in a global pandemic, we have countries at war, and there’s an increasing worldwide partiality to fascist regimes -- I thought Wow, next verse, same as the first!



I felt a kinship with Pearl at that point, and to be painfully honest, I even identified with her a few times in ways that I will keep disconcertingly private. And as far as murderous tendencies go, I am possibly worse than Pearl, because while she goes around stabbing geese, I prefer to choke the chicken. While she takes out people standing in the way of her dreams, I enjoy distracting my loneliness by extinguishing millions of potential doctors, astronauts, and school shooters.

Pearl’s dream is to become a dancer in the big city, and it's something that absolutely has to happen for her, there is no other option. She has to leave her stifling existence on that farm, with its laborious obligations set upon her by her overly stern (aka German) mother. Upon making the acquaintance of a kind and handsome projectionist, she sees not just temporary company sans hubby, but a possible ticket to Dreamland, population: Pearl.

But knowing what we know about this character -- at least those of us who've seen X -- we might not be aware of what will happen, or how, but we do know what the final outcome is going to be. And so, we watch the set up as things begin to look promising for Pearl, awaiting the inevitable heartbreak -- and the aftermath that will surely follow.

Those expecting a slasher-horror film may be disappointed; this is more of an off-kilter character study that eventually results in some bloodshed. Come to think of it, I think this qualifies as an entry in the God's Lonely Man sub-genre, alongside recent examples like Joker and Saint Maud. The tone of the film straddles the line between Sincere and Winking, which can put some people off as well. But I really dug this, and I think this works better as a film than X

A huge part of why this film worked for me is Mia Goth's performance as Pearl, who I found having lots of sympathy for, despite her violent inclinations. She's a sicko, all right, but she's also very earnest! The climax of the film hinges on the strength of the actor at the center of it, rather than gore or suspense, and that's because the climax of the film isn't a kill spree, but a monologue. But holy shit, what a monologue -- and what a delivery!


Hers is the kind of performance that leaves me of two beliefs:

1) Mia Goth is a great actress
2) Mia Goth is a broken human being

And I'm thinking, ¿por que no los dos? I mean, most great actors are both of those things, hence their ability to pull such effective expression of genuine emotion. Plus, she's hooked up with Shia LeBeouf and has a kid with him, so you fuckin' know that's some extra pain to pull from. Some people are talking Oscar buzz for Goth, which I doubt will happen, not because I think she's undeserving of such accolades, but because the Academy treats horror movies the way they treat the troubling past histories of some of their award recipients: They ignore them.



And don't give me this "What about Get Out?" bullshit. At most, that was an anomaly, and I think the large assortment of old White people who voted for it probably gave Jordan Peele his Best Original Screenplay not because he wrote an excellent film and deserved the award — which he did — but because he put the idea in their rapidly aging Caucasian brains that maybe there's a chance that science will create a brain-swapping procedure that will allow them to switch places with younger Black people. They awarded him for giving them hope, and this was their way of saying "Thank you kindly Black filmmaker. You're one of the good ones.”

Anyway, Pearl's not only a good movie, it also features one of my favorite end credits to a film, a sort of unholy blend of the closing credits to both Call Me By Your Name and the television comedy series "Police Squad!”. I was about to say Pearl has the most unnerving end credits I've seen in a film, but I'm going to give the edge to Call Me By Your Name because those credits involved a child crying over his pedo-cannibal first love. Whatever, Elio, boo-fucking-hoo, why don't you go eat a dick -- that is, if the fuckin' Lone Ranger hasn't already eaten it first.


I’ve been trying to watch all the unopened Blu-rays on my shelf (thanks Criterion Barnes & Noble sales!) and the latest one to rid of its shrink-wrap is the five-hour director's cut of Wim Wenders' 1991 epic Until the End of the World.

This ultra-ambitious sprawl of ideas takes place in the near future of 1999, where a nuclear satellite has gone haywire (thanks India!), and will soon crash-land somewhere on Earth, bringing its final resting place the mother of all kabooms.

Sure, there are some people who are really freaked out, such as one man who Debbie Downers a  bar full of people about how he can't believe anyone is still able to drink/hang out/try to get laid, when Imminent Nuclear Death is hovering above us. Otherwise, the majority appear to be as worried about the situation as one can be about something that is absolutely beyond one's control, which is to say, the state of worry that allows one to continue living their lives, because you know, there are bills to pay and babies to raise, there’s life to live.

It's not unlike how the world's been living ever since we got two sneak peeks of Armageddon back in 1945 -- and I'm not talking about the Michael Bay movie. Every so often, some tribal chief tries to establish dominance by threatening the unthinkable, flashing those nukes as if they were Glocks in a rap video. There's certainly some of that going around right now with the whole Ukraine situation occurring during this foul year of Our Lord, 2022.

I blame Rocky Balboa, myself; I thought he patched things up between the Russkies and the rest of the world, back in 1985, but evidently he didn’t, and now the fate of humanity depends on not pissing off this ex-KGB fuck, this over-compensating tyrant who poses bare chested on top of horses like some ultra closet-case trying to convince everyone he’s fiercely hetero, but only succeeds in making himself look even gayer.

At best, if this asshole ends up pushing the Big Red Button of Win, he will come off as omnisexual, because he will have fucked everyone in the ass — men, women, animal, vegetable, and mineral. Eh, but at least you’re not gay, right, tovarish?

Back to the movie. So yeah, people are living their lives despite potential apocalypse, and we focus on one of them, this lady named Claire (Solveig Dommartin), who is currently getting her lost weekend on by partying it up in Venice, Italy, drowning her sorrows after finding her husband Eugene (Sam Neill) getting super-cozy with her best friend back home in Paris.

Once she gets that out of her system, she decides to return, but not necessarily back to her husband, it's more like, you know how it is, your bed at home is always going to be more comfortable than a bed elsewhere. Sometimes there's a cheating schmuck sharing that bed with you, but what can you do? So yeah, she's driving back, and on the way, she takes a detour in order to avoid a traffic jam, thus beginning the chain of events that lead to Claire going on a globetrotting adventure with a man named Sam (William Hurt), involving a bag of stolen money and a special device that records images that blind people will be able to see.

Along the way, we see the differences and similarities between Claire and Sam. Both of them have a habit of pretending to be someone else; Claire does this by wearing a wig, and Sam does this by using aliases. But while Sam does this to avoid capture by the government agency searching for him (and the special device), Claire does this, well, just to take the edge off the ennui.

One gets the sense that Claire feels unfulfilled, but that even she doesn't really know what to do to fill that void. Sure, she has a habit recording things on her little video camera, but even then, it's all very aimless, purposeless, it's recording just for the sake of recording. For all the cutting edge technology used in this film's version of 1999 -- talking car navigation systems, widespread use of HDTV --  it was still too bright and early a time for something as evil as social media, or TikTok. I'm sure if those were available, Claire would do all right with her time posting numerous videos of herself dancing while singing Elvis Presley songs.

Instead, she keeps herself busy by meeting Sam, losing him, finding him, losing him again, and then finding him again, in a journey through France, Germany, Portugal, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States aka The Greatest Country in all of God's Kingdom and Don't You Forget You Godless Socialist Commie Foreign Fucks. The entire journey is narrated by Eugene, who along with a private detective are on Claire and Sam's trail, for reasons of love and money.

At best, I can only describe the first half of this film as a rambling flirtation with the idea of the possibility of an international chase flick/romantic movie, but really all just an excuse for Wenders to hang his ideas and thoughts of both the current state of humanity and where he sees it heading. The second half then dials it down with one final hop to South Australia, switching gears to something more cerebral, but also more emotional. It’s here that we are introduced to Sam's parents, played by Max von Sydow and Jeanne Moreau, and where we discover that Sam's father is the inventor of the device for the blind. But we also discover that as brilliant as Sam's father is, well, as a father to Sam, he's less than adequate.

I can give away plenty more and still leave a lot for you to discover, but I'll only go as far as to say that there's another future tech invention that features in the film, and it allows one to record a person's dreams, which one can then view. Now that sounds problematic enough for me, but it gets worse when a couple characters find themselves addicted to watching their own dreams, they're glued to their little portable monitors and lose their shit if they run out of battery. So let’s give Wenders the Nostradamus award, because the people in this film don't look much different from you and me on our phones and tablets nowadays. Only difference is that most of us are watching other people live their dreams.

But at least the people my age still know what it's like to step outside and do things without the need of something that requires an energy source, I fear we might be the last generation to have that ability. God forbid an EMP knocks out the entire grid; while some of us can always find entertainment in partaking in various sports of kings such as football, and while others can indulge in various sports of the poor & foreign such as soccer, any kid born after Kim Kardashian fucked Ray J is going to be lost without the Internet. Some might get so despondent over not knowing what to do with their time, they might take their own lives -- once again proving that every cloud has a silver lining. Fuck them kids.

Wenders has gone on record saying that he set out to make "the ultimate road movie", which makes perfect sense; if anyone knew about making movies about interesting characters traveling cross country, it was the director of Paris, Texas and Kings of the Road. The difference was that for this film, Wenders didn't stick to one part of the country, or hell, one country.

Instead, he somehow managed to finagle over $20 million dollars -- which today would be in the neighborhood of $50 million -- to make an art-house film about the dangers of falling into "the deep well of narcissism”, which would take place in nine countries and four continents, which would be distributed by Warner Brothers, and not even give the motherfuckers a single decent action scene in the entire picture. (At most, there's a really brief shootout where they don't even use muzzle flashes, just sound effects and goofy pratfall music.) It's pretty wild to think about, especially today. People talk about how they don't make movies like this anymore, but I feel they're mistaken. They still make movies like this, just for much, much, much less money.

While I loved the ambition behind it, overall I only liked the film. The problem for me is that despite the introduction of more emotional elements in the second half, it still fell short in getting me to actually care for any of the characters -- to say nothing of even liking them -- and so I always felt detached. I was only able to observe with little to no sympathy, and only a smidge of empathy in the most extreme cases.

(Yes, I know that earlier in this post/episode, I declared having sympathy and empathy for a psychotic ax-murderer, yet I had little to none for a bored woman and a man trying to help blind people see. Yes, I understand I need help, but before I do, may I introduce you to my pet alligator?)

Despite its flaws, this is still very much a film by Wim Wenders, and so it works as a film to which one can just simply vibe. The whole thing left me feeling as if I had witnessed the last magnificent and desperate gasp of the kind of offbeat indie/arthouse movies that were everywhere in the 1980s. It's as if Wenders' knew that these kinds of movies were going to be an endangered species in the 90s, and so he figured that while the getting was good, why not take the bastards for all the money he could get from them? 

A wise move, in retrospect. As I said before, they don't really make these kinds of movies anymore, and in my opinion, Wenders' narrative work from the 90s onward has not matched his previous films like Wings of Desire. But that can be said about many of his contemporaries; of the quirky filmmakers from the 1970s and 80s I group along with him, I think only Jim Jarmusch has managed to keep his pimp hand strong and firm through the decades.

Anyway, it's a great-looking film, shot by the late, great cinematographer Robby Müller, who can make even the most dull settings look like they came from another universe, and I got a kick out of the mix of matte paintings blended with the real locations.

It's also a great sounding film because Wenders got a very impressive roster of artists to contribute songs; U2, Talking Heads, R.E.M, Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello, Jane Siberry, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and many more. I know it's an overused cliche of a line, but the soundtrack is just as much a character in this film. It's no surprise to find out that while the movie bombed at the box office, the soundtrack did quite well.

In conclusion, I feel Wenders' vision of the future in Until the End of the World is a positive one, and I base that simply on the fact that there's a scene where a boy uses the Power Glove to make phone calls on his video phone. Because only an unabashed optimist could see any kind of a future for that piece of shit.



Those were just but a few of the movies I watched while nursing the pain in my balls. I still can’t believe Leena did that. It’s like, some women just don't get it, man. I’m just an old-school gentleman, that’s all. That’s what I keep telling my coworker, my boss, Human Resources, the cops, my lawyer. But they don't want to hear about it, because that’s the goddamn woke liberal feminist agenda for you LET'S GO BRANDON

Saturday, May 28, 2022

All Chili Burgers Are Bastards






"Because I'm a pussy" is one answer, I suppose.

Another answer could be "Because I'm afraid of catching COVID”.

But the one that feels the most true to me would have to be: Because I'm afraid of catching and then giving COVID to somebody else, specifically someone with an immune system best described as "lower-tiered".

See, I do have faith that being vaxxed and boosted will keep my symptoms to a passable level of unpleasantness, were I -- excuse me -- when I catch Da Rona.

(By the way, it's nice to know that I still have faith in something, right?)

Anyway, the question to the answer I gave at the top of this tirade is this: Why do I feel hesitant about attending -- let alone buying a ticket to -- the American Cinematheque's Sunshine and Noir movie marathon at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, which at that moment -- Saturday, May 14th, 10:19 am -- was to begin in T-minus 1 hour and 41 minutes?

Having found an answer to that, another question followed: Should I stay or should I go?

A couple quick clicks, a shave, and a shower later, I became the answer, and I was on my way to the freeway. I slowed to a stop at the left turn lane of the intersection, with only a Honda Civic ahead of me. The arrow turned green, but the driver was too busy looking down at his cell phone. As a believer in honking the horn only as a last resort — for example, to tell someone “We're about to crash!" or "I'm about to run you over!” — I flashed my lights. No dice.

He must've really been into whatever was on that phone, that must’ve been a really funny TikTok. After another polite Euro-style flash of the high beams, the light turned yellow, leaving me no choice but to give the inattentive driver a good ol’ ring from the Armenian Doorbell. Sure enough, that did the trick, and the man jolted up in his seat and made the turn. I followed, and as the arrow turned red, I stepped down on the gas, so as not to find myself blocking traffic.

As I entered the straightway, I was surprised by how fast I passed the Honda Civic. See, with the exception of an on-ramp or two, I haven't really opened up and let loose with my now eight-month-old vehicle. Not that I was looking for that. While my car is known for having some extra pep in its step, it was ultimately more of an aesthetic choice for me. I'm a cruiser, not a racer, I just wanted a daily driver that made it clear to everybody else on the road that I have a mid-life crisis and a tiny penis.

But there I was, having placed a wee too much weight on the gas pedal, and I was zooming. It was a safe run, though, because other than the Honda that I just gapped, no other vehicles occupied this four-lane road, just mine. And it was then that I heard someone whisper from the reptilian, little-dicked part of my soul, and it whispered ”Go faster".

I never fully understood Stephen King's novel "Christine" until that moment. But it possesses you, causes you to think differently, act differently. At that moment, I gave in and upgraded from a standard-level douchebag to a Douchebag First Class. I became what I formerly detested -- and I didn't give a fuck. With even more weight on the pedal, I was now going 65 in a 35. I was overwhelmed by the sudden speed, but in a good way, and for the second time in my life, I felt like I was in a Fast & Furious movie.

(The first time, by the way, was about 20 years ago, when I was at a store in Echo Park ordering a tuna fish sandwich with no crust, and an aggravated gentleman strongly recommended that I take my business to Fatburger, which I thought was helpful, but then he called me a “faggot”, which I did not think was helpful.)

Yes, my brother and sister, I was definitely living my life during this quarter mile stretch, and I found myself growing more and more excited, more and more confident, more and more happy. Oddly enough, my penis was turtling itself within my crotch, but what am I gonna do, buy another car?

No, of course not. Instead, I was about to let out a most feminine yelp after glancing over to my rearview mirror. Because that’s when I noticed a small black & white dot that rapidly grew bigger and bigger until it became the form of a police cruiser.

I took my foot off the pedal, but I didn't hit the brake; I felt that would've been too obvious. No, dummy, just slow down naturally and hope for the best. 65 went to 55, which was still much too fast here. But no lights yet, even though the cruiser got even closer.

And that's when I saw it: A dialysis clinic up ahead. Just as I could make out the driver's mirrored sunglasses and salt & pepper mustache in my rearview mirror, I made a hard left into the parking lot of the clinic and screeched into an empty spot -- with the cruiser still behind me. I grabbed my N95 and my phone, got out of my car, and made a brisk fast-walk for the entrance of the clinic. I fumbled my mask over my face while pretending to talk on the phone, mumbling something about my poor mother or my poor sister or maybe the both of them, sprinkling in the word "dialysis" here and there, loud enough for the cop in the cruiser to hear me as he slowly passed by.

I stepped into the lobby, which thankfully was empty, thereby saving me the absolute guilt that would come with seeing the faces of the genuinely ill -- people whose difficult situations I was effectively making a mockery of in order to save my stupid ass -- and I looked back to see the cruiser exiting the parking lot, and getting back to prowling the streets, in search of something darker and more innocent to asphyxiate.

A few minutes later, I went back to my car and proceeded to drive to Santa Monica in a matter more befitting a safe Saturn owner, instead of a douchebag in a Dodge.


After finally finding a parking spot in this Permit Only neighborhood, I strolled down Montana Ave, enjoying the beautiful sunny day while overhearing such sidewalk cafe exchanges as "You need matcha"/"I don't do matcha" before arriving at the Aero, where I showed proof of vaccination, my I.D., and my ticket. 

This was my first time back at the Aero since October 2019; the place looked the same except for some sanitizer dispensers here and there. All of the volunteers and staff were masked, while it was more of a 50/50 thing with the attendees.

It was a very good turnout, but it wasn't a sold-out show either, and so there were plenty of options for me to sit. Before the show started, I took the opportunity to go outside and snap a couple shots of the marquee and the posters, because if you don't take a picture of something, did it ever really happen? I snapped a few shots while overhearing a volunteer telling a curious passerby about today's marathon: Six horror films from the 1980s that take place in and around Los Angeles. 

Unlike the annual Dusk-to-Dawn Horrorthon held at this establishment, "Sunshine and Noir", which was co-presented by the film screening group Cinematic Void and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was not an all-nighter. Instead, this would begin at noon and end by midnight.

(By the way, the name "Sunshine and Noir", is a reference to author Mike Davis, who has written about Los Angeles in various books, articles, and essays. In his book "City of Quartz", Davis describes how depending on who you ask, the city is either beautiful or ugly, sunshine or noir.)

The show began with a short film consisting of clips from various L.A.-set horror films from the totally radical 80s, with Missing Persons' "Walking in L.A." on the soundtrack. Then, James Branscome from Cinematic Void stepped onto the stage and asked us how we were. We gave a polite round of applause, and then he accused us of not having had our coffee yet and made us give him a louder reaction. He must've thought it was Grant Moninger day. It ain't Grant Moninger day is it? Nah man, it ain't Grant Moninger day. So while everybody else cheered louder, I pretended he was Elia Kazan receiving his honorary Oscar and I was Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

Branscome then introduced a lady by the name of Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh, who was the curator for this event; she talked about growing up in Los Angeles during the 80s, and being entertained by the many horror films she watched on VHS during that period, while being more or less traumatized by the Night Stalker killings that occurred around that time. This combo of fictional and non-fictional slashing in the City of Angels created a "culture of fear" that set the tone for the rest of her life.

She's not alone. I mean, I'm sure I'm around the same age as her, and I feel I had a similar personal upbringing with movies and the world around me -- and I think she's right in that many horror films of that era that took place in our grand metropolis, were also reflections of what all of us in L.A. -- even the very young -- were seeing, feeling, and more importantly, fearing.

I think the first and last movie of the marathon are more like accurate reflections, while the films in the middle were more like funhouse distortions, which is to say, they might be skewed but they're working from something real. And that's why I also agree with Mitchell-Rohrbaugh's belief that "Los Angeles has never been more Los Angeles than in these films".

She then talked about how horror is her favorite genre, and that watching a horror movie every day helped her get through this pandemic -- not that it's over, of course -- and then she thanked us all for coming out to enjoy these films together, before calling out to the projectionist to "roll it".


The first film was John Carpenter's They Live, the 1988 action/sci-fi/documentary starring Roddy Piper as Nada, a drifter who arrives in Downtown Los Angeles, looking for work, only to discover that aliens are the reason why the gap between the haves and have-nots has become wider. It turns out E.T. is the CEO of a multi-galaxy conglomerate that is exploiting our planet and turning it into a third-world, uh, world.

With the help of technology that disguises their formaldehyde faces and allows subliminal messages everywhere, They not only live while we humans sleep, but they also make sure that we remain divided with distractions and disinformation. Some humans in power are well aware of this -- because they were bought off -- and the police are no help because, well, they're the police, they've always been the jackboots on the side of the elite, ready to deploy at a moment's notice, regardless whether the elite get around in Rolls Royces or UFOs.

(Besides, it was never the cops' job to protect people anyway, just to hold them back while some monster goes around shooting their kids for 45 minutes.)

Keith David co-stars as a fellow prole named Frank who's just trying to make a living for his family in Detroit, and his character starts off trying to school Nada on how -- to quote a character David played in another movie -- "the poor are always being fucked over by the rich, always have, always will". Nada, on the other hand, is neither cynic nor defeatist, he's a believer in the American Dream and the concept of working hard in hopes of a better life.

Yet later in the film, after Nada has discovered the truth and is trying to share this info with Frank via a pair of sunglasses that allows the wearer to see the aliens hiding among us, Frank wants none of it. So badly does he not want to know, he actually puts up a fight with Nada that lasts so long that we in the audience couldn't help but laugh each time it seemed as if the dustup had been settled, only to start up again. By the end, we broke out into applause after witnessing what I can confidently call one of the greatest fight scenes in all of cinema, not just because it's an impressive bout of old school street fighting, but because it says so much about the two characters.

It's like, despite all the shit we talk about how fucked everything is, most of us in this life want -- no, we need -- the blissful ignorance that comes with plausible deniability because it will make getting through this life less of a fucking chore, man. To threaten us with the truth is also a threat to said deniability, and we'll be damned if we have to Actually Do Something About It, because that's a road that leads to, well, I don't know what it leads to but it sure as hell has no steady paycheck, no 4K television, no Netflix, no goose down pillow, no medical, no dental, no food on the table, no roof over our heads. Face me with the potential loss of all of that, and, well…I might have to beat your ass.

Look man, I lived half my life with Nada's idealism but have gradually turned into Frank. I wouldn't want to put on the glasses either. But you know what, if any of you fuckin you-foes are listening out there, I will allow you aliens to recruit me for some of that sweet sweet good life, now that I know — more than ever — how stacked the deck is against the rest of us. Like homeboy said, "might as well be on the winning team", right?

I say: Fuck the losing team. They never say "Thank you" whenever I hold open the door for them, and they don't know how to raise their fuckin' mewling hellspawn, letting them run all over public places, screaming their fucking heads off. Yeah, fuck them, fuck them kids, and just me give my fuckin’ fancy teleportation watch.

Anyway, this is my favorite John Carpenter film, and if aliens ever came to our planet, and they were kind aliens, and they wanted to know all about humanity, I'd sit them down to a triple feature of this and Carpenter's remake of The Thing, and George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and that'll bring them up to speed as to why our species is so fucked, and so rather than trying to get all kumbaya with us, they should instead just nuke us from orbit. Because it's the only way to be sure.




The second film was Brian Yuzna's 1989 dark comedy Society, which focuses on Beverly Hills high school rich boy asshole Bill, who despite having it all thanks to mommy & daddy's money, feels uneasy amongst his family and friends. He attends regular sessions with his therapist, but that doesn't seem to help, because for every piece of advice the doc gives him to take it easy, there's a super-awkward encounter where he walks into his parent's bedroom and finds mom, dad, and sis all on the bed, dressed a tad too scantily and sitting a little too close to each other.

On the other hand, there are nice perks to this life, such as having sexy classmates gleefully spread their legs and exposing their crotch at him. Never mind that's he trying to win a debate over the school's dress code during this, it's the thought that counts, really. 

As Bill is told later in the film, it's really more about what you're born into, rather than being brought into it -- "it" being high society. You're either part of it, and you're living a privileged life with a bright future already planned out for you, or you're one of the have-nots, and you'll most likely be slowly devoured. I might mean that literally or figuratively, I don't know.

OK fine, I do know. If you've ever heard about this movie, it's because of its memorable "shunting" climax -- and for very good reason. It's a wonderfully grotesque orgy of sex, gluttony, and body horror, a kind of mix of Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali come to nightmarish life by way of Luis Buñuel. Thanks to the excellent effects work by Screaming Mad George, bodies writhe and merge into each other, blending into each other, appendages going in and out of orifices, coated in so much icky gooey slime -- or at least I hope it's slime.

But the truth is, take away those final 20 minutes, and Society is just a bad movie. It has hints of being a genuinely satirical look at wealth and privilege, but only skirts the surface level. And maybe that was the intention of the screenplay, to just be a fun little nasty gross-out flick with just a wee mite of socio-economic commentary -- which is why I'm laying the blame squarely on director Yuzna. Mostly everything is captured in a flat and listless — and frankly cheap looking — way. There's a strange alien quality to the performances and the presentation, but only half of it feels intentional.

With little to no grasp of tone, he instead chose to set everything to a Weirdo setting of 11, which eliminates any potential for dread or mystery. It's like, how can I give a shit about Bill's quest to discover the truth about his family, when I'm too busy wondering what in the fuck is up with that lady who likes to eat hair? By the time the twist comes along, it's merely the nuttiest of the nutty things. Yuzna did get much better at the job with his next film, Bride of Re-Animator, so I suppose it's better that he swung and missed with this one rather than that one.

I feel that in stronger directorial hands, this could've been a cult classic worth its reputation. Instead, I can only recommend it if you're gonna skip to those final 20 minutes, or watch the whole thing with an audience, like I did, because the crowd really did seem to dig it a hell of a lot more than I did, based on their audible reactions that grew louder and wilder as the film went on.


The third film was The Slumber Party Massacre, a 1982 slasher directed by Amy Holden Jones, working from a screenplay by acclaimed feminist author Rita Mae Brown. Set in and around the Venice neighborhood of L.A., the film opens with Trish, a high-schooler whose parents are going out for the weekend, and you know what that's like, right? You get the house to yourself, and it's party time, right?

That is, if you're everybody but me. I don't know what the fuck was wrong with me, I was a goody-two-shoes as a kid. My parents knew there was nothing to worry about whenever they left me home for the weekend, all I was gonna do was watch movies and eat pizza by myself. Granted, I didn't have friends, but still. But even if I did, I would prefer, at most, to just have a small intimate get-together, like Trish does here. But unlike Trish's slumber party, mine would not include beer and weed because I was still on some D.A.R.E. bullshit, I really believed in that Hugs Not Drugs bullshit.

Of course, as much as I would be totally fine watching a group of attractive women portraying teenagers giggle and goof around in their underwear for 76 minutes, the film has to live up to the "massacre" part of the title, and so we are then introduced to escaped psycho killer Russ Thorn. This dude is the real deal, he lives to kill; almost immediately he's back at it, snatching an overly-attractive phone repairwoman into her van and using her power drill to metaphorically have sex with her. It's a pretty effective sequence because it happens during the day, while there are people around, but apparently her van is one of those super special soundproofed models, because the guys outside sure as hell can't hear her very loud screams.

I think this movie takes place in an alternate universe version of Venice where the drinking water is contaminated, causing severe hearing loss to the residents. There are many instances where you'd think someone would hear the loud drill, or the screams that follow, and yet, no they don't.

By the way, while there is blood, this isn't one of the gorier films of its type. You'd expect plenty of shots of drills penetrating flesh, but that's not the case here. Jones instead takes the "what is imagined is worse than what is seen" approach, and what little gore there is, is used judiciously. This would be a problem if the movie sucked, but it doesn't.

I think it's because even with the brisk runtime, you get to know enough about these characters that they make an impression on you, and it's mostly a positive one. No one is really a specific archetype in this film, save the killer and a couple of horny dudes who crash the slumber party. They're a little more complicated than you'd expect for the usual Dead Meat types in these movies. Among them is Trish's neighbor from across the street, Valerie, who declines an invitation to the party and stays to babysit her little sister Courtney instead. I liked watching the interactions between Valerie and Courtney, they felt genuine.

There's also a nice sense of humor to the film, coming in at the right moments; my favorite involves a character being so hungry, she's willing to take the pizza from a dead delivery guy. It's over the top, and yet, I can see doing something like that, I mean, I'm probably gonna die anyway, and so long that there's no blood or guts or anchovies on the pizza, I might as well enjoy a last meal.

A lot of it is fake scare city, and yeah, sometimes the characters do dumb things, but it felt like Jones knew that, she knew she wasn't fooling anybody, and so she did the best job possible while working within the tropes and trappings of the genre. But the characters helped carry this a long way, and it is fairly suspenseful at times, I mean, it says a lot that I didn't want any of the characters to die, and when they did, I was like a denied Swiper from "Dora the Explorer": Oh man! And you bet your ass when it came time for the killer to get his, Jones doesn't disappoint. It's a good one, and in conclusion, I still watch movies and eat pizza by myself, it keeps me strong and feeling young.


Following the film, Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh returned to the stage to introduce her guests for a mid-marathon panel discussion: Slumber Party Massacre director Amy Holden Jones and They Live producer Sandy King Carpenter.

Jones talked about how she moved early in her career from editing to directing, even going so far as to film the first ten pages of the screenplay for Slumber Party Massacre on her own dime in order to convince Roger Corman that she was the right gal for the gig. Things got complicated when she was offered to edit E.T. The Extra Terrestrial at the same time; Jones felt that editing a film for Steven Spielberg made the most financial sense, especially since she recently had a baby. But to be given the opportunity to direct was one she always wanted, and it was an opportunity that was almost never given to a woman. So Jones made what she admitted to be an "insane decision", and took the very risky chance at directing what very well could’ve been forgotten drive-in fodder.

Jones felt the original script needed work, and so she gave herself the extra task of rewriting it; despite that, she and almost everyone involved in the film didn't have the highest hopes for what they would end up with. But upon viewing the film for the first time, the cast & crew were elated that the final outcome was pretty good!

She was surprised by some of the negative critical reaction, particularly from those who clutched their pearls that a woman could direct something that was perceived to be misogynistic. Jones disputed that by saying that the violence in the film was much harsher against the male victims, and tamer against the women, and besides, "...that's the friggin' genre, man."


Like Jones, Sandy King Carpenter made her bones working for Roger Corman; she started in animation, then moved on to live-action because she felt it wasn't good to sit in a dark room all day talking to herself. She and Jones then talked about how despite being cheap, Corman fostered a healthy collaborative attitude that resulted in all the people who’ve worked for him to still have fond memories to this day -- something that, King added, cannot be said by people working at Blumhouse. Met with nervous laughter from the crowd, King casually responded "Trust me."

At this point, third guest, actress Kelli Maroney had arrived — traffic was a bitch — and so Mitchell asked for her opinion on how the horror genre compares between the 80s and today; Maroney felt that it has gotten better and more respected, despite some self-conscious attempts at what is known as "elevated horror", a term Maroney hates. She felt that back in the day, horror films were considered disreputable and they were what people worked on to pay their rent, but today, actors and filmmakers genuinely want to be involved in horror, because there's a love for the genre.

Mitchell then asked the panel if there was ever a time in the business when any of them were scared to make a stand and "push back" but went ahead and did it anyway; Jones brought up being vocal about her disapproval of the casting of Woody Harrelson during pre-production on the 1993 film Indecent Proposal, for which she wrote the screenplay. She felt he wasn't a strong enough lead to stand up against Robert Redford's character. Later, she sat in and observed a focus group following a test screening of the film, along with Paramount studio head Sherry Lansing; when the moderator asked the group for things they didn't like about the film, one of them responded by saying they didn’t know why Harrelson was in this movie. Upon seeing Jones' chuffed reaction, Lansing replied "Grow the fuck up."

King's response to Mitchell's question was that she wasn't raised to be afraid of anything, and that she believes that a combination of being married to a feminist and simply not giving a fuck about what people think, makes it very easy for her to share her opinions. She also shared an anecdote about how once on the set of John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, someone asked "Who exactly are you?" and she responded: "I fuck the director". Upon seeing the man’s aghast reaction, she added "You're gonna say it when I walk out of the room, so let's just get past that."

Maroney's answer was that because she was lucky to have her first three projects directed by openly collaborative women, and so, the rude awakening came later when she found that her input wasn't nearly as welcomed as it had been before. But she found that the best way to register any concerns or complaints was to bring them up in the form of a non-threatening question, asking the other party to explain something to her, and then taking it from there. Somewhere along the way, she felt it easier to make these stands once it became clear to her that as a lead actress, she felt a responsibility to make sure that others in the cast & crew felt safe and taken care of.

Maroney also brought up that she had very little problems in regards to more sleazy types trying to get fresh with her, and she feels that it was because of her wise-guy personality that made it not worth the effort. The way she saw it, they figured she would say something loud and embarrass them. King agreed, saying that her own take-no-shit attitude -- plus not-so-veiled threats of bodily injury towards the aggressor -- made it easy to dismiss such unwelcome advances. She also added that based on talking with younger women working in the business today, it seems like that this happens more often now than it did back then, because the guys doing this kind of shit nowadays are mostly entitled rich kids, whereas in her day, they were just morons.


The question about the future of the horror genre was brought up to the panel, and Jones felt that there was indeed a very bright future for horror, on account of there always being something out there to be afraid of, coupled with the fact that horror remains one of two very profitable types of movies that Hollywood will easily greenlight -- the other being comic book movies.

She also brought up that more serious fare, such as dramas and character-oriented pieces, can be equally enjoyed in the cinema or at home, but watching a horror film in a theater with a crowd is an even more enjoyable and rewarding experience. King added that horror will always be around, because it is a genre that is most capable of telling universal and uncomfortable truths, whereas "important" films are mostly just preaching to the converted.

Maroney added that the cathartic benefits that come from watching a horror film more than guarantees that this is a genre that will always be popular, especially if the world we live in continues to give us reasons to be afraid, and considering what’s going on around us, society is probably more afraid than ever.

Mitchell-Rohrbaugh then opened it up for questions from the audience, which was my cue to get the fuck out of there, and I wasn't alone, as I can hear the unmistakable chorus of CLUNKA CLUNKA CLUNKACLUNKACLUNKA from the suddenly unoccupied seats flapping back into place as those of us with no appetite for extreme cringe made a beeline for the exits to use the restrooms, get more snacks, fresh air, etc.

But I did come back in time to see the ladies get a nice and well deserved round of applause. These ladies were very entertaining, so open were they with their honest opinions and thoughts on the business, as well as particular movies (both Gandhi and The Power of the Dog were thrown some very amusing shade along the way). I really liked them, they all had a healthy amount of Don't Give A Fuck flowing through their veins.


After a half-hour break for dinner — I just had coffee — the marathon continued with the fourth film, 1986's Chopping Mall, a very tongue-in-cheek horror/sci-fi/slasher, directed by Jim Wynorski and starring none other than Ms. Kelli Maroney from the panel discussion. This one is about a group of teens and young adults or maybe they're all teens who look like young adults or they're young adults who look like teens, but c'mon, it's the 80s, these actors are all probably mid-to-late 30s.

Anyway, they have the worst timing in the world, because decided to stay overnight at the shopping mall for a little fuck party, which also coincides with an electrical storm that causes the 3 robot security guards on the premises to malfunction and go full ED-209 on anybody still inside. Now these youngsters have to survive the night, as they're locked in with these killbots until dawn.

The entire movie takes place in a shopping mall, and was shot at both the Sherman Oaks Galleria and the Beverly Center. The opening credits sequence is a montage of various mall activities, and it's all very nostalgic for a kid like me who remembers when shopping malls were, you know, a thing; at one point, there's a shot of a Licorice Pizza record store, which was greeted by applause from the audience, as was Barbara Crampton's name in the credits, because she is the bee’s knees wearing the cat’s pajamas.

It's interesting seeing Crampton play a Valley Girl type given to say stuff like "totally", and to be honest, she's a tad miscast. I know that sounds like sacrilege to say that about genre royalty, but I'm not saying she's bad. She just seems too smart for the role, if that makes sense, she comes off too intelligent for what I felt was supposed to be more of a Dumb Wild Friend role. Of course, her IQ points drop dramatically once the robots start doing their thing, so maybe it was intentional, maybe the filmmakers were going for someone who was pretty With It until things get serious.

Maroney, on the other hand, plays a nice girl-next-door type who is later revealed to be like an ultra-capable chick whose talents get to shine because of this situation. She turns out to be a crack shot with a revolver, because her father was in the Marines -- not unlike her MAC-10-wielding character in Night of the Comet, who also learned to shoot from her military father. Why the armed men in the film don’t give her a gun after this is revealed, I don’t know. Oh, wait I do know: Because they’re men. (Of course the answer was in the question, sorry about that.)

Maroney's character is definitely who I would want to be paired with in a situation like this, whether we're running from robots, zombies, multi-racial gang members. Because she can take care of herself, she can also take care of me, and she has zero problem making the first move in an intimate situation, and that's something a scared and lazy fuck like me absolutely appreciates. But yeah, she's awesome, she doesn't let her emotions get the best of her, the way they get the best of half of these assholes who either run screaming towards their death or run screaming away from it, but either way they're screaming and that just helps a robot get a better laser aim to explode their heads.

Oh yeah, there's a pretty hilarious and well done head explosion here. It got a great reaction from the crowd both times -- the second time being a very inspired replay during the closing credits.

This was actually the second time I watched this film with an audience; the last time was in 2010 at a Jim Wynorski triple feature at the New Beverly Cinema, which I covered in my blog. Maroney was there for a Q&A, and I got a kick out of her garrulous nature, even if I was kind of a dick about it in the blog, likening the contrast between her and fellow guest Wynorski to a slightly tipsy-but-talkative wife and her more buttoned-up husband at a dinner party.

Anyway, it's a fun and fast hide-and-seek thriller that does the job while not taking itself seriously. There are some cool cameos from awesome people like Dick Miller and Mary Woronov, and goofy references to other movies and filmmakers, because it's that kind of movie. Despite the title, nobody gets chopped, there's just that one head explosion as far as gore goes, but there's plenty of nice ownage from the robots, as they electrocute, immolate, drop people from heights, etc. The only thing I didn't like was an early scene of a fat man pigging out at a pizza place, because I never found watching someone shove plates of food in his face -- while getting it all over his face and clothes -- remotely in the vicinity of funny. It's just gross. But ooh, dear reader, if I only knew what was in store for me in the next film.


The fifth film was the very offbeat, off-the-wall, and off-putting 1987 comedy Blood Diner, directed by Jackie Kong. Talk about a movie that hits the ground running and never stops, and so I will: The story begins with two little boys being visited by their uncle, who happens to be an escaped mental patient responsible for a series of brutal cannibalistic slayings. He bids farewell to them, steps outside to get shot to death by police, and then the opening credits begin. After that, we flash forward 20 years to health obsessed L.A., where the two brothers, Mike and George, own and operate a popular vegetarian restaurant, and I'm guessing the reason why people like the food there so much is because occasionally some human flesh finds it way into the recipes.

Turns out, the two brothers have adopted their late uncle's wacky beliefs involving a blood cult and an ancient goddess named Sheetar. They have already successfully reanimated their uncle's brain and eyeballs and placed them into a jar, where he further instructs them as to what is required to bring Sheetar back to rule the world: The body parts of various promiscuous women.

By the way, I'm pro-cannibal. I've talked about this before on social media, and to the people who used to be my friends before I told them this, but I'd have no problem eating a person if it was served to me right. Now, I'm not saying I'd eat all of the person, but if you give me a nice prime cut of human steak, hot off the grill, I'm digging in. I wouldn't go in for, like, guts or entrails or brains, though. Just some butt roast or grilled breast would be enough. I'd be picky about the person, though; I wouldn't eat a really skinny person or a really fat person. Also, they'd have to be attractive, because having a pretty or handsome face goes a long way towards me wanting to eat you.

See, I'm definitely a meat eater, but not all kinds of meat. I mean, I'll eat pork, I'll eat chicken, I'll eat fish, and I can absolutely eat cows till the cows come home -- so then I can eat them too -- but I won't eat cats and I won't eat dogs. Because while I'm indifferent to cows, pigs, chicken, and fish, I love cats and I love dogs. But I sure as fuck hate people -- and I can see getting the most pleasure from eating you motherfuckers. Mmmm, your cruel, selfish, narcissism would melt in my mouth as I chew away your pettiness, and your lack of empathy would go down so smooth with some red wine. Great, now I'm hungry.

That's OK, I just have to think about this movie some more and my hunger will go away, because Blood Diner is one of those movies where everything in its universe is gross. Regardless of what a person is eating, human or vegetable, it's all filmed -- and eaten --in the most unflattering of ways. There's an even worse version of a fat guy eating messily compared to the dude from Chopping Mall, and the film revisits him from time to time. Oh Christ, you watch him get the slop all over himself, he burps nonstop, and at one point, he projectile vomits his meal all over everybody else. Dear reader, this was the only time in the entire marathon where I actually cringed and had to look away -- and remember, I watched Society earlier that day.

Speaking of which, I felt this movie had a much, much better handle at the kind of comedy it was trying to be, compared to Society. This is all-out, wacky-as-fuck, and offensive with its never-ending onslaught of gags, I mean, Jackie Kong is throwing out kitchen sink after kitchen sink, and if one doesn't hit you, the next one will. Sure, there are much better horror comedies out there, but this one wasn't bad, man, I actually laughed a few times.

The audience, on the other hand, laughed throughout, from beginning to end. There was one guy a couple rows ahead of me, he got so overwhelmed with laughter from a scene involving a potential victim defending herself with kung-fu, that even after the scene was over, he couldn't stop laughing, and then he started wheezing and coughing, and that's when my vision was blinded by the giant words COVIDCOVIDCOVIDCOVID and I had to close my eyes and will the words away, lest my night be ruined by unwelcome anxiety. The words did go away, I made sure that my mask remained snug over my nose and mouth, and continued watching the film.

I don't know if this is a good movie, but it plays great. The crowd got pretty rowdy with this, and I'd say half of the laughs were about the movie being funny and half were about the incredibly high levels of WTF-ery to the proceedings. I mean, it's the kind of movie where a ventriloquist and his dummy are being questioned by the authorities and it's all played straight, it's the kind of movie where a woman gets her head dunked into a deep fryer and comes out of it with an perfectly round fried ball where her head should be.

I’d probably like this even more had I seen this 20 years ago, because that’s when I was at the peak of my love for all things Troma, and this is possibly the best Troma movie that Troma never made. I do know I'd like this less if I had I seen it alone, and so I'm glad I saw it with a very appreciative crowd at the Aero.



The sixth and final film of the night was the 1984 thriller Angel, directed by Robert Vincent O'Neil. Set in and around Hollywood Boulevard, this story focuses on Molly, a teenage honor student with a most surprising after-school job; at night, Molly becomes "Angel", and she walks the streets selling her body to various johns. Thankfully, the movie spares us the dirty deeds, and instead focuses on the interactions between Angel and her fellow workers of the night. Among them is a crossdresser named Mae, an old cowboy street performer named Kit Carson, and Crystal, who is not long for this world.

See, there's also a real piece of damaged work prowling the streets, and he's already racked up a few kills, all of them hookers. No sooner are we introduced to Crystal when this nameless killer picks her up and takes her to a motel room for some post-mortem loving. Yup, this serial killer is also a necrophile, and the film does way too good of a job giving us glimpses into his cracked psyche; as we watch the killer get Crystal's body ready for sex, the soundtrack plays music that sounds more at home in a romantic story. So he's one of these sickos who probably thinks this is a way to express genuine affection to these unfortunate women -- whereas when I fuck a dead girl, there is no affection involved at all, it's just about getting laid. But at least I'm not a hypocrite. 

Before Crystal's demise, we are treated to a scene of her having a chat with a young street performer who clearly has a crush on her. It's kinda sweet, and I'm watching this, thinking, "oh, so I guess there's gonna be a subplot about these two becoming a couple?", and well, it clearly doesn't go that way. The next time you see the young man, he's at the crime scene the morning after, utterly heartbroken while being questioned by a cop.

It's these extended non-plot-related detours that result in Angel hitting harder than I expected, because it spends so much time with each of these characters, it feels like the filmmakers care about these people too, and so, I ended up caring about them as well. They don't judge these characters, and neither should we. It's not just Molly that I wanted to see make it out of this situation OK, it's everyone -- well, except for that fuckin' killer, I wanted to see that motherfucker get his big time. And yet, the filmmakers even manage to extend but some touch of pity to this beast that killed women.

Poor Molly's story isn't fully revealed outright, it's given to us piecemeal, as we watch Lieutenant Andrews of the LAPD get to know her more while investigating the murders. He's clearly seen it all, and he knows how girls like Angel end up: either locked up, strung out, or dead. In his gruff tough-love way, he tries to convince her to get off the streets, but Molly/Angel is afflicted by the hardheadedness that comes with being a young person who thinks they already know everything.

When not watching her ply her trade up and down the boulevard, we watch her at private school, and I have to give it up to Molly, for her abilities to burn both ends of this candle. She works late, and is still able to get up early and catch the bus to school. We never see her do any drugs, so it can't be that. We see her do her own homework and we see her study, so it's not like she's banging any teachers to help her pass like that chick from Malibu High did.

I guess she's just really focused, and she's really good with time management as well, because as we see in one scene, she turns down a nerd's request for a date at school, which I think is more about not wanting to toss an extra ball into her juggling act. Hell, she could've just blown him and I'm sure he would've done all of her homework, give her answers to all of the tests, and she could've probably gotten him to do her laundry — even if that would mean losing the occasional pair of socks and undies, and having a good idea why they’re missing. But Molly has her principles, she would never entertain any of that, and I respect the hell out of her for it.

There were a couple scenes involving some scumbag jock at Molly's school that left me just about ready to yell at the screen, because I hated this motherfucker soooo much, that flames...flames on the side of my face, anyway, I'm pretty sure if I had seen this at home, I would’ve yelled.

I’m on Team Molly. Not only am I on Team Molly, I’m on Team Molly's Friends. I'm on the side of Molly's friends, is what I'm saying, I liked her and I liked them too. I liked Mae, Kit, her landlady Solly. They're played by Dick Shawn, Rory Calhoun, and Susan Tyrell. What a difference that giving a fuck about characters makes for me.

It’s the “giving a fuck” part that changes this from a sleazy exploitation joint, to a very gripping drama about these characters just trying to get by. Some of them seem content with their lives, and I found myself wondering if they really did feel that way or if they were deluding themselves. Molly/Angel is clearly deluding herself, because she thinks she has it figured out, but it's more like she needs that delusion in order to have the strength to continue living this double life of hers.

Don't get me wrong, Angel does the job as an exploitation joint, it delivers the thrills, especially whenever that nameless killer gets in the mix. There are a couple of genuinely exciting and suspenseful sequences, including one at a police station that goes shockingly out of control. I wasn't alone in feeling this way, especially during the climax, which had people in the audience break out into applause a couple times.

Donna Wilkes gives a very sympathetic performance as Molly, Cliff Gorman does a very solid 70s/80s-era cop turn as Lt. Andrews, and John Diehl is both scary and pathetic as the killer. There's plenty of gritty early 80s Hollywood atmosphere, well shot by cinematographer Andrew Davis, who went on to direct 1993's The Fugitive, which was really good but could’ve used a teenage hooker or two.

This was a great fucking movie, man, it really took me by surprise. I liked it so much, I think I might just forget about watching the three sequels that followed, because let's be real, after this class act of a picture, there's no place to go but down -- not unlike Angel on a Friday night.


And so, the Sunshine and Noir 1980s L.A. Horror Marathon came to an end; I'm glad I went through with my last minute decision to attend, rather than let my anxiety get the better of me...this time, at least. I mean, here's hoping COVID and Monkeypox don’t get together, fuck, and have a baby, because who knows how I’ll feel then, or if I’ll be feeling anything by then, shit, I’ll probably be dead by MonkeyVid-69 or whatever the fuck that shit’s gonna be.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself at the Aero; it was fun to watch some movies for the first time, rewatch some old favorites, and hell, it was worth sitting through Society again just to experience the final 20 minutes with an audience. With the exception of that movie, which was presented in a crisp digital print, the films were projected in 35mm; They Live looked and sounded the best, while Slumber Party Massacre had a reddish/pinkish tint at times, but otherwise looked good.

By the time Angel ended, it was a little past 11pm, and for the first time in a very long time, I stepped out of a movie marathon feeling just as awake as I did when I went in. It felt nice to know that I could go to bed that night and still enjoy the following Sunday as a full complete day, rather than sleep through most of it, as I usually do after an all-nighter.

I mean, I get the appeal of watching movies till the wee hours of the morning, because that's pretty much all I've done most of my life. But as I get older, I'm also getting the appeal of having a good night's sleep. Which is not to say that I'm anti-all-nighter now, I'm just even more pro-all-dayer.

Anyway, having only subsisted on a couple cups of coffee the entire day, I was starving; I figured I'd follow up a Los Angeles-based movie marathon with a Los Angeles-based meal, so I drove responsibly to the original Tommy's burger stand on Beverly and Rampart near Downtown L.A. and ordered a triple chili cheeseburger, chili cheese fries, and a large Cherry Coke. It hit the spot, man. It was so good, and when I began to imagine the chili being made from people meat -- specifically ground pork from the police officer that followed me that morning -- it tasted even better.