Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Exact change only.

It was April 15th and it was a lovely 72 degrees in Los Angeles that Saturday afternoon, and I would've been able to enjoy it, were I not at that moment driving down Melrose Ave -- a particularly shitty stretch of city street with a right lane that every other block or so alternates between drive-able road and literal parking space.

Drivers like me who know better stick to the left lane, while those on the right lane wait for the last possible moment to switch onto the left in a panic, either because they're new to Melrose and weren't aware of what waited ahead of them, or the much more aggravating reason: Because they're assholes in a rush, switching back and forth to get past as many cars as possible just so they can get to their unimportant destination even faster, so that they have more time to do nothing.

I wish I could crash into these children of God, pull the dazed fucks out of their vehicle, and calmly tell them that mine is a daily battle to maintain good vibes towards my fellow humans while accepting all their frailties, because I too am human, so I too exhibit faults. But you know what fault I don't have? Driving like an inconsiderate piece of shit. And it takes so much of my life force to forgive flippant scumbags like them who with their flippant scumbaggery are needlessly causing me to waste this precious energy I'd otherwise save for the truly appreciative. 

Then I'd throw them onto the path of an oncoming bus in the opposite lane and watch the bus explode that person's body, showering the entire Melrose District in blood, bone, piss, shit, viscera, and fast fashion. Then horrified onlookers would notice my joy and have the unmitigated gall to call me a monster -- which I would then justify by grabbing and shoving them onto the path of other oncoming buses, and before their brief painful transfer from this miserable world into Oblivion, those people would learn the most important lesson of all: Don't be judgmental on Bus Day. 

But I didn't have time for any of that, because I was on my way to Fairfax Ave, to what used to be known as the Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theater, a pretty awesome place up until it became known that the men in charge did with their authority as most men in charge do with their authority: Abuse the fuck out of it in a sex-type way. (I would've done something about it myself, except the buses weren't running that day.) 

The place closed down for a few years, but has since returned under new ownership and management, and has been re-moniker'd Brain Dead Studios, after the clothing company behind it. One can only hope that the Brain Dead crew will come correct as human goddamn beings for the time being. But because I assume everybody is a secret scumbag, I figure we'll have a few good years of great times before brand new bombshells drop onto this regime.  

What I found upon arrival was the same building but with a totally different look, feel, and vibe inside and out -- even the staff seemed friendlier. But to be fair, I was a lot more standoffish back in the Cinefamily era, whereas this time I walked in with a cheery disposition, which might explain why my interactions were more pleasant with the employees as I asked about the parking situation and as I bought candy at the snack bar to help me with the later hours of this marathon. 


Oh yeah, I forgot: I was here for CyberJunk, a 12-hour movie marathon of low-budget science-fiction fare  from the 1980s, presented on 16mm film prints, thanks to Secret Sixteen's Mike Williamson who presents features in that format at various cinemas all throughout the Southland. Each film was a mystery title that we wouldn't know about until it actually screened, and the cherry on top of this sundae was that the marathon would begin at 2pm and end by 2am; as I learned from last year's Sunshine and Noir marathon at the Aero Theatre, the only thing better than an all-night marathon is an all-day marathon, especially when you're old like me.

Because I had arrived early, I walked around the premises to take in the new era; upstairs was a shop featuring Brain Dead clothing as well as vinyl records for sale, and in the back was Slammers Cafe, a nice shaded outdoor patio area where one could step out to have a Vietnamese iced coffee or avocado toast, among other eats and treats. 

I then sat down and passed the time silently judging each new person who walked in, until Williamson went up on stage, joined by Josh Miller from Friday Night Frights, and Bret Berg from AGFA and the Museum of Home Video. We were told that all the films -- except for one borrowed from a friend -- were from Williamson's collection. We were also told that they normally hold a horror movie marathon in October, and while that will continue, they will also continue to have marathons in the Spring focusing on other genres, joking that they were looking into showing dramadies and 1930s Westerns.

Williamson then talked about how the 1980s were his favorite era when it came to the visual representation of fantasy on film; this was the height of the use of animatronics, models, and matte paintings, all of it done directly by hand, rather than programmed into ones and zeroes. The films that we were about to watch, he said, were examples of filmmakers who had meager budgets to execute their grand visions, but nevertheless did their best to make it work.

Before the film, we were treated to a pre-show consisting of trailers for Tron, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Return of the Jedi (under the original title "Revenge of the Jedi"), Endangered Species, The Visitor, and Galaxy of Terror

Following that was a curious short film from the 1950s titled "Bitter End", starring a young DeForest Kelley as a man who is out of work, out of money, and he's about to be out on his ass for not paying his overdue rent. There's only one thing left for him to do: Commit suicide. He turns up the gas on his stove and waits for the sweet smell of death to take him, only to be interrupted by a telegram from the gas company: Due to his unpaid bills, the gas has been shut off. Then he looks at the camera and laughs, saying "What do you know? I can't even afford to die!" and that's it, fade to black.

We were told that the first mystery film was directed by someone who recently passed away, and who in his career put out so many dystopian low-budget fare in the 80s and 90s, he could very well be considered "the king of Cyberjunk". The late director in reference turned out to be Albert Pyun, and the film in question was 1989's post-apocalyptic kick-puncher Cyborg, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. 

It's a shame that this print -- which otherwise looked and sounded great -- cuts off the first half of the opening narration, because it's that narration that makes this one of my all-time favorite openings to a film; the narrator tells us about how civilization has collapsed and a plague has decimated the population, but now there's news that work has begun on a cure. Except it turns out that the narrator doesn't want there to be a cure, because the narrator is in fact, the hero of this film (in my humble opinion), who makes it very clear by screaming "I like the death. I like the misery. I LIKE THIS WORLD!"

His name is Fender, and he's played by Vincent Klyn, who makes quite the visual impression with his jacked bod and creepy-looking eyes that he hides behind a pair of wraparound sunglasses that he only takes off when he's about to fuck somebody up. As he said in the narration, and as he says again a couple minutes later to a soon-to-be-victim, he sees a silver lining in the deaths of billions of people, and that's why I totally relate to Fender as a fellow misanthrope. 

Hell, I'm really just a diet & exercise regimen and a pair of sunglasses away from becoming Fender. I mean, we can all pretend the pandemic is over but it's probably just doing what comic book villains do when they get defeated -- declare that this isn't the last time we'll see them. And so, now that the virus gods have seen what we are willing to sacrifice -- which is to say, very little in the grand scheme -- they're gonna come back and fuck our asses harder than the Iron Sheik in Humble mode. And once this world is decimated by the remix, that's when I go into Fender mode. 

(In the meantime, I'm taking applications for anyone who wants to be part of my gang. But understand that I will occasionally have to kill one of you as punishment for failure, and as way to show others that I mean business.)

In the way of Fender's plans is what the film and everybody else who watches this movie has wrongly designated the "hero", and that is Van Damme's character Gibson, who's some asshole all in his feelings because my boy Fender killed Gibson's wife and kid -- sparing the world more humans who will just take up space and use their phones in a movie theater. So he's on a mission of vengeance, following my dude as he and his crew forcibly escort the titular cyborg from New York to Atlanta, because her cyber-cranium contains important info that could help a group of doctors in the land of Coca-Cola and the '96 Summer Olympics find a cure to the plague. 

Oddly paced and edited fight scenes ensue, but they're enjoyable because they break the dreariness involving sad-ass Van Damme's monotonous attempts to emote. He doesn't have that much dialogue to begin with, and yet, even scenes of him just staring felt like work to get through, and maybe someone with a little more acting ability -- or hell, Van Damme a few years later, once he started doing coke -- could've made the non-action scenes less of a slog. But like I said, every time he stops being a morose mope and starts putting foot to ass -- in slow motion and multiple angles -- everything feels all right.

The other problem is the same problem I have with many of Pyun's films; they're just sometimes too downbeat. It's why I prefer his more upbeat work, like Alien from L.A. or Brain Smasher: A Love Story. I feel he often mistook abject misery for Drama, which would often result in an oppressively bleak tone that dampened any possible enjoyment. I always wondered if Pyun's favorite entry from the Alien series was the third one, simply because of how it begins and ends.

Otherwise this is an OK Z-movie given some aesthetic punch by Pyun, who in collaboration with his cinematographer, production designer and costume department, sometimes make the film look and feel like a live-action Fist of the North Star. The bad guys in particular scream Generic Post-Apocalyptic Anime, while the main bad guy just screams -- specifically during the rainy climax where Fender and Gibson face off.

That's the best part of the whole movie, by the way, and honestly, while I might not recommend watching the entire film, I do feel the climax is well worth looking up online. I doubt I'll ever watch this film again, but I am interested in watching Pyun's director's cut, titled "Slinger", and which reflects his original vision of the film before Van Damme and his partner Sheldon Lettich recut it. 

In conclusion, the screenplay is credited to Pyun's cat, Kitty Chalmers. They say if you put a hundred monkeys in a room with a hundred typewriters, eventually one of them will write the works of Shakespeare. But give one cat a computer, and you'll get Cyborg.


During the break, I went to Slammers Cafe; my strategy for movie marathons is to go in with an empty stomach, sticking only to water and black coffee, so as to limit discomfort and/or sluggishness. I usually wait until the last couple movies to indulge with snacks and sugary drinks. But because this was an all-day marathon, I decided to indulge a tiny bit of the sweet along with my caffeine fix, and so, for the first time in my life, I had Sno-Caps, the little chocolate drops with nonpareils of sugar on them. I loved them, and can't believed I waited so long to finally get around to trying them out.

I then returned to my seat, chomping on Sno-caps and sipping on a hot Americano, while Williamson introduced the second movie by telling the audience that it was the one he was most excited to watch with us. He said that it came out in 1989 -- the same year that Cyborg was released -- and had a decent rollout of 500 screens in the United States, only to crash and burn at the box office, opening at number 12. He excitedly told us about how it represented all the things he loves about lower-budgeted sci-fi; models, robots, and opticals, as well as a strong hook that reminded him of something you'd see on "The Twilight Zone". 

The second film was Millennium, directed by Michael Anderson of Logan's Run and Around the World in 80 Days fame, and written by John Varley, who adapted from his own short story "Air Raid". It stars Kris Kristofferson as Bill, an investigator for the NTSB who arrives at the scene of a fatal jetliner crash, where he listens to the black box recording and sifts through the wrecked remains, and more importantly, makes the carnal acquaintance of lovely ticket agent Louise (Cheryl Ladd). 

This entire section is both intriguing in regards to the investigation of the plane crash, and amusing in the casual way Bill and Louise get to know each other, flirt, and eventually hook up -- mostly because Louise is fast-forwarding to the good parts, so to speak. There's a moment that has to be an improv by Kristofferson; as he and Louise walk off together, his hand hovers over her ass as if were about to give it a nice grab, before finally moving away. The audience had a real laugh at that.

So Bill and Louise get down, and the following morning, she disappears from his hotel room, which I'm certainly used to having happen to me; every woman I've slept with leaves in such a rush afterward, and they're usually crying and muttering things like "I hope my friends don't find out" or "How could I have been so desperate" or "I'd never seen one that small before" and I have no idea what any of that means, but you try making sense out of drunk talk. Then I try calling them back and they're like "oh I forgot I'm lesbian thank you goodbye". Fickle-ass broads.

But to Bill, it's an unpleasant and unnerving surprise; he likes this lady and now she's gone. So now he has three mysteries to solve: What happened on-board that ill-fated flight, where the hell's his chick, and what's with this weird silver handheld contraption with blinking lights that he just found in the wreckage? To say more would be spoiling this 30-plus year-old movie, but suffice it to say, it turns out that Louise is from the future -- and the future's environment is all kinds of fucked up. (Thanks Republicans!)

The story plays out as if we were watching three consecutive short films -- all of them very entertaining. The first plays out like a mystery/romance, the second is post-apocalyptic future shock as we see the world Louise comes from, and the third is a fun time-travel flick where we revisit the events of the first third of the film from a different perspective. The structure kept me interested in seeing where the filmmakers were going with this, giving just enough info with each passing minute to prevent me from getting impatient or confused. 

Sidebar: If you're a fan of undercover Canadian productions that try to pass themselves off as being all-American, then put this film on your watchlist. Sure, for the leads, you have Kris Kristofferson, who is a true American hero, and you have Cheryl Ladd, who is a true American beauty, and you have Daniel J. Travanti, who played a true American pig on "Hill Street Blues". But our red, white, and blue trio are an island of Freedom surrounded by a sea of socialized maple syrup in the form of Canuck character actors who at one time or another have appeared in either a David Cronenberg or Atom Egoyan film, or at the very least attended a dinner party with either or both in attendance. 

Anyway, this played well with the crowd, we laughed at funny moments both intentional and unintentional. I think the unintentional laughs came from this feeling like a 1950s science-fiction movie, and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways, because there are plenty of classic sci-fi films of that era that remain great while being hilariously dated in one way or another, and they usually present outlandish scenarios that are played out in the most ultra-serious manner by everyone involved. Even the opening title of this film looked and felt like something from a 50s drive-in flick; it comes flying towards the screen while the music score blares in a style usually reserved for Quatermass joints.

As for the intentional laughs, they came mostly from the interplay between Bill and Louise, and I think the best compliment I can give those characters is that I would have liked to have seen them in a different movie, or a slightly different movie, like maybe she's just a time traveler who goes to 1989 for fun, you know, she just wants to shack up with a real man's man like Kristofferson while smoking all the cigarettes and driving like some scumbag on Melrose. There's also an android from the future named Sherman (Robert Joy) whose quite the sassy backtalker to Louise, and I always got a kick out of watching them together as well.

I remember this film playing on cable all the time in the early 90s, but for some reason I always ignored it, which is weird because sci-fi was my peanut butter & jam back then. Maybe I wanted a little more jazz from my sci-fi, or maybe I looked at Kristofferson and Ladd and thought to myself "who the fuck are these oldsters?" But that's all on me, I was being a little shit and I'm pretty sure I would've dug Millennium back then, had I given it a chance.

Which brings me back to Williamson's intro to the film; he admitted that the benefit of programming Millennium as part of the marathon is that he has a captive audience, whereas if he had given this film its own separate screening, there would be very little turnout. I believe he's right, because if I didn't bother watching this for free from the comfort of my own couch 30 years ago, I probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble of dealing with L.A. traffic in order to catch this movie on the big screen today. So I'm glad he forced this one down our throats, because it was good for us, kind of the same way you force fruits and veggies down a child's throat, whether they want 'em or not. At least that's how *I'd* feed a kid, fucking little fun-sucking burdens. 

Bret Berg then came up on stage to intro the next movie, which he said was on heavy rotation on cable for years, then he went on to talk about how cable taught him more about filmmaking than any other film professor. It was through cable that he learned about various directors and their distinctive visions; he discovered David Lynch on cable, and recognized that his films looked like no other. It was also through cable that he cultivated his tastes in genre, as well as introducing him to offbeat movies like The Beastmaster and The Peanut Butter Solution.

What Berg referred to as a "serious movie for adults" turned out to be 1982's Android, a film set in outer space sometime in the later years of the 21st century. Directed by Aaron Lipstadt -- probably best known for MST3K favorite City Limits -- and starring everybody's favorite psychopathic sexual assaulter, Klaus Kinski, in what's really a secondary role as Dr. Daniel, a scientist holed up in a space station located somewhere far out in the boonies of the known universe. 

His only companion is his android assistant, Max 404 (Don Opper, who also co-wrote the film), and who is the real main character of this film. When not helping to maintain the space station and assisting Dr. Daniel with his work, Max whiles away the hours playing video games on his Vectrex and listening to oldies by James Brown and Bobby Moore. Max is not unlike an awkward teenage boy in both temperament and experience, which means that among his other human traits, we see him further develop curiosity about the opposite sex by looking up files on how men and women have sex.

And so, after taking in a ship in distress, Max starts to get all tingly upon finding that of the three crew members, one of them, Maggie (Brie Howard), is a g-g-g-girl. But what Max doesn't know is that these crew members didn't just find adventure, they brought it with them, because in reality they're escaped convicts with plenty of heat on their tails.

We watch as Maggie are her partners-in-crime try to get their ship fixed before Johnny Space-Law comes along; of the two, Keller (Albert Pyun favorite Norbert Weisser) is the more level-headed one, while the other one (Crofton Hardester) is hot-headed and prone to violence, because his name is Mendes, so of course he'd be that way. Despite being the more hateable of the three, I dug Mendes the most, because he reminded me of Fred Ward, and I like Fred Ward. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Daniel has been busy building a new and better female android, and what poor Max doesn't know is that as soon as the doc's finished with his new creation, he plans to send poor Max to the scrapyard. What Max does know is that Dr. Daniel also has eyes on Maggie, and I don't know how much of the uncomfortable tension I felt during those scenes between the doc and the lady had to do with what I know about Kinski's history. 

So as I'm watching Dr. Daniel peek into a video feed of Maggie stripping down in her bedroom -- surely for scientific purposes -- I couldn't help but wonder if this ex-Nazi didn't try to strong-arm the director into, at the very least, being on set for Howard's nude scenes.

Pervy Dr. Daniel subplot aside, everything else in this film has a curiously laid back feel to it, so that even the most dramatic or violent moments never felt anything approaching aggro or intense. Which isn't to say that Android is some kind of failure, because I think the low-key tone is intentional, a kind of holdover from the 70s, when plenty of sci-fi had similar muted vibes -- specifically something like Douglas Trumbull's film Silent Running or John Carpenter's Dark Star. Later towards the end of the marathon, Bret Berg commented that this felt kind of a like a 1980s Sundance movie, in that it was a clunky American indie that just happened to be set in outer space.

I get what he means. But for me, I actually felt that it was this movie, and not Millennium, that came off more like an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone", right down to the ending where I could practically hear Rod Serling's closing remarks over the final shot. Or maybe even an episode of "Tales from the Crypt", one of the more cutesy ones, you know, like the one where Malcolm McDowell played a vampire security guard. And by that standard, it's one of the better episodes of those shows, one that maintained my interest, made me laugh a few times, and had me caring for a couple of its characters.

It's nifty, is what this is; a short and simple movie containing some interesting ideas that have since been brought up and expanded upon in other films and shows, such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation", with its android character Data. We observe Max as he watches classic films and bases his identity on them, wearing a fedora while imagining being smooth with a lady just like the cool guys in the movies. So really, he's not that much different from the rest of us assholes, except I take my inspiration from movies featuring 1970s street pimps, which is why I've never had a relationship last more than six months, but goddamn are my pockets full of those bitches' money. 


At this point, I went outside to find a new place to park my car, because that's life in the big city, pal. As I stepped outside Brain Dead Studios, I was welcomed by a most pleasant mix of scents both tobacco and cannabis from the crowd of smokers taking the opportunity to smoke up and toke up between films. I'm not being sarcastic either, I love those smells. I also like the smell of exhaust fumes, which is why one day I intend to treat myself to a feast of that fragrance, preferably in a closed garage while listening to my favorite music.

As I returned to my seat, Williamson was on stage introducing the next film; like most of tonight's offerings, it was a cable discovery. He decided to give us a hint by telling us that it was from Charles Band, who has been producing cine-schlock for over four decades now. Williamson felt that this movie exemplified the (possibly cocaine-fueled) attitude of Band's company Empire Pictures of taking two or three separate ideas and merging them into one film. 

He also gave another hint that this featured an early role for someone who would later become very famous in film and television, and he then concluded by wishing us "Merry Christmas!" and that's when I got very excited.

The fourth film was in fact, the one I guessed and hoped it would be: 1984's Trancers, directed by Band. I first saw this on HBO back in the late 80s, and it has remained a favorite ever since. I've even made it part of my Christmas viewing rotation, along with other holiday classics such as Die Hard and The Silent Partner. I've always wanted to see Trancers on the big screen -- and there it was, looking every bit as fabulous as 16mm would allow.

The film, also known under the alternate titles "Future Cop" and "Juice II", begins in the year 2247 in Angel City, located near the sunken ruins of what used to be Los Angeles. Things seem to be going all right in this fair cyber-city where the people dress retro but carry ray guns. On the other hand, people don't eat meat anymore, steaks are made from kelp, and if you want some real coffee, you're gonna have to pay a heavy premium for it. 

The great Tim Thomerson stars as our hero, Jack Deth, a "trooper" for the Angel City PD who is hunting the titular cult of mind-controlled zombie-like killers. As Deth describes them, they're "not really alive, and not dead enough". Each time he kills or "singes" a Trancer, he or she vaporizes, leaving behind only a scorched imprint of the corpse on the ground. At first I thought it was Deth's gun that caused the vaporization, but as we see later in the film -- and it's five sequels -- that's not the case, Trancers just do that. 

Which leaves me to wonder what happens if a Trancer just grows old enough to die of old age. I'm guessing it would end with the Trancer on his deathbed surrounded by his Trancer wife and his Trancer children and his Trancer grandchildren, maybe he has a sad Trancer dog curled up beside the bed. Then the patriarchal Trancer growls his final goodbyes out his foaming black lips and expires, scorching up the mattress of his Craftmatic adjustable bed, which his family has no choice but to throw out with the trash, because who's gonna want that thing, it's got Pop Pop's charred silhouette on it.

So Deth is called up for a special mission to go "down the line", meaning he has to take a time-traveling serum that transfers his consciousness into his ancestor's body back in 1985 Los Angeles. See, Whistler, the man who created the Trancer cult (thanks Scientology!) has already gone down the line with the intention to kill the forefathers of the Angel City council who have maintained order, and Deth has to stop him. 

Once in 20th century L.A., Deth forces his ancestor's one-night stand, Leena (Helen Hunt, the aforementioned famous film and television actress) to help him find and protect the council's descendants from Whistler, who is currently taking up residence in his ancestor -- who also happens to be a lieutenant with the LAPD. We see later in the film that one of the cops assisting Whistler has been "tranced", but during this viewing I wondered if the other cops helping him were also turned into kill-crazy zombies, or if they were just typical police officers doing what comes naturally.

For what is in all intents and purposes a cheap cash-in on Blade Runner and The Terminator, Trancers is a hell of a lot better and way more fun than it has any right to be. Sure, it's cheesy in the most low-budget of ways, but it knows it's cheesy and for the most part doesn't take itself seriously. It's a visually appealing flick too, with a cool retro-futuristic look during the Angel City scenes, a nice neon-heavy aesthetic with the modern-day stuff in Chinatown, as well as a dark and gloomy atmosphere in the Skid Row sequences, and I also dug the electronic music score by Phil Davies and Mark Ryder.

In addition to being given a special serum that will allow Deth to zap his and Whistler's consciousness back to the 23rd century, Deth is also given a special wristwatch than can slow down one second into ten. And that's the only kind of "slow" in this 76 minute-film which feels more like 45 minutes, because Band and screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo -- who went on to write the scripts for The Rocketeer and Da 5 Bloods -- knew how to keep things moving fast, so as to keep the audience from doing something stupid, like think too hard about it. It's also very funny at times, with Deth occasionally spouting off some witty old-school-style tough guy lines. 

I especially liked how Leena first reacts to Deth's fish-out-of-water behavior and his wild stories about time-traveling and brainless killers. Hunt plays her initial disbelief and eventual acceptance in a much more down-to-earth manner, rather than the kind of dumb hysterics I'd expect from this kind of cheapie genre flick. Because it's a movie, she and Deth eventually become an item, and even that doesn't feel too shoehorned; I think a big part of that is because Hunt and Thomerson have really good chemistry together and I enjoyed their interactions.

So yeah, I really dig this movie and have watched it multiple times, but I've never seen it beyond an audience of one. So it was a real treat to watch this in a packed house, with what seemed to be a majority of first-timers to the movie -- and an even bigger treat to find out that it plays great with an audience!

The crowd laughed when Deth had to face off with a Mall Santa who went full Trancer, they cheered when Deth singed Whistler's body in the future, ensuring his enemy would not be able to leave the past, and they went What The Fuck? upon the sight of the back of Leena's jean jacket -- which displayed a full-on Stars and Bars Confederate flag. But hell, if them Dukes can rock that loser symbol on top of their winner of a Dodge Charger, than Leena can use that stupid jacket to flaunt her edgelord punk-rocker credentials. 

But I'm glad to know that people -- at least in this corner of the country -- react negatively to that horseshit flag. Because fuck that flag, fuck the Confederacy, fuck the old South, and fuck any bitch-ass apologist who tries to Well Actually away the whole slavery thing in regards to the Civil War  -- which these assholes are probably hoping for a sequel to occur any time now. Well, if it ever happens, I hope those assholes and people like those assholes get shot up with bullets painted to look like bottles of Bud Light.

Where was I? Oh yeah, as far as I'm concerned, Trancers takes place in the same universe as the film Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which came out around the same time, and in which Helen Hunt co-starred with Sarah Jessica Parker. In that film, Hunt played a free-spirited high school girl named Lynne, and I find it really easy to believe that after graduating, Lynne said goodbye to the East Coast and moved to L.A., where she changed her name to Leena and took up the punk rock lifestyle, which included wearing colored streaks in her hair and scaring the squares by wearing clothing with Confederate flags on them. I just thought you should know that.

I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that all these 16mm prints looked pretty damn good for their format, some were a bit more scratchy and worn, but the colors were always bright and the image was pretty sharp. Each film had to have a break halfway through, so that the reels could be changed, and it lasted no more than half-a-minute; most people used the opportunity to check their phones or make a quick run to the restroom. The breaks actually reminded me of the side and disc changes one would make with laserdiscs; and like those disc changes, the film breaks were placed at very strategic moments that seemed like intermissions, rather than interruptions.

After the film, I went to the snack bar; most people were ordering pizza and burritos, but I'm more of an old-school guy and got popcorn instead. Upon finding out that they don't offer butter, I felt disappointed, but only briefly, because the popcorn was plenty salty and delicious on its own.

Before Williamson's next intro, Josh Miller mentioned that someone ordered a cheese pizza during the previous film and never picked it up. He figured that there must be somebody in the audience who ordered one -- possibly while high -- and then during the movie started wondering why they were still hungry. Nobody stepped up to claim that pizza, but goddamn it if I didn't consider making that claim myself. 

Williamson then came up on stage to sadly declare that despite her amazing performance in Trancers, we all have to cancel Helen Hunt now for wearing that Stars & Bars jacket. He then introduced the next mystery film by calling it the silliest one of the marathon, but intentionally so, because when you get right down to it, it's a kids movie, albeit a kids movie that features two beheadings, because that's how kids movies rolled back in the 80s -- like a severed head down an incline.

The fifth film of the marathon turned out to be 1984's space opera The Ice Pirates, directed by Stewart Raffill, a filmmaker of such, uh, varied projects like The Philadelphia Experiment, Mac and Me, and Standing Ovation. In this film, set in a galaxy far, far away, Robert Urich stars as Jason, leader of a rowdy group of space pirates who raid ships that transport ice between worlds. 

See, water is the most valuable resource around, and of course some evil overlord types called the Templars control the interplanetary flow, on some Immortan Joe bullshit. While I normally hate on pirates, I'm cool with Jason and the aquanauts pulling jack moves on these Templars. What I'm not cool with is what I hope was a joke by Jason regarding a lack of raping and pillaging during their raids.

He makes that "joke", by the way, after they discover Princess Karina (Mary Crosby) aboard one of the ships in hibernation. Cooler dicks prevail though, and instead wakes her up and takes her captive, hoping she'll be worth big bucks, if not big fucks. 

But I guess the good Princess was able to hear Jason talk that shit while she was sleeping, because soon she's got the upper hand when Jason is captured by the Templars and is almost castrated. The only reason he gets to keep his junk is because Karina allows it, because well, maybe she is attracted to Jason, but Karina is kinda like Andrew Dice Clay, and so nobody fucks Karina -- Karina does the fucking!

But she might want to hold up on getting some of that Vega$ cock, because it turns out Jason has Space Herpes -- OK, maybe not Jason, but his ship is infested with them and it's pretty disgusting, like most things in this purposely juvenile flick, because this was made during an era when children knew how to grow a pair and not get worked up or offended by stuff like space herpes or heroes who want to rape princesses. Kids today are fuckin' pussies that need their entertainment to be soft and safe, and I think some of those kids were in the audience during this screening, because you can practically hear their assholes slam shut when a robot pimp shows up speaking in the most stereotypical of black voices.

Eventually, with the help of the Princess, Jason escapes and they and the other pirates embark on a quest to find her father, who went missing during his quest to find a fabled planet that is mostly water. We watch them get into various misadventures involving robots, time travel, swordfighting, spaceship battles, the aforementioned space herpes, and Bruce Vilanch getting his head chopped off. 

It's all very goofy, and I got a kick out of Urich and the supporting cast that included Anjelica Huston and Ron Perlman as members of Jason's crew, but overall I found the end result just plain OK. The gags weren't particularly funny to me, and I was never really engaged with any of the characters, and the standard issue bad guys hardly stood out, they were just, well, there. 

But I did really enjoy the last ten minutes, when both Jason's ship and the Templars ship end up in a time warp that causes them to rapidly age as they face off with each other. It was then that The Ice Pirates actually succeeded for me in the kind of anarchistic wackiness that it had been trying for the entire film.

But I can see why this would be a favorite for many kids who grew up watching this on cable, and I'm sure this is to many in the audience what Trancers is to me. I'm not saying I hated it, it was just, you know, meh. I mean, I can't even find much else to say about it. I already mentioned the space herpes twice, and uh, oh yeah, John Carradine shows up in this, that was cool. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to films by this director, I'm much more of a Tammy and the T-Rex guy. There's decapitations in that one too.


Before the final film of the night -- which they called a "banger" and hinted as being something that everybody has seen -- Mike Williamson, Bret Berg, and Josh Miller discussed the previous films. Mike then asked the audience for their favorite movie of the night; most people said Trancers, because of course they would, it's Trancers, bro. 

Not that they're reading this, but I do want to express my gratitude to Secret Sixteen and Brain Dead Studios for essentially giving me one of my dream screenings with Trancers, a film I always wanted to see on the big screen, and to watch it with such a receptive crowd was a real bonus. 

I say that to them, so I can say this to them: Fuck Secret Sixteen and Brain Dead Studios, for ending the evening with a goddamn ringer, a heavyweight among welterweights, and thereby making it so that one can't easily call Trancers the best film of the marathon. I cannot argue with Williamson's opinion of this film being the greatest low-budget science fiction movie of the 1980s, this film which launched many A-list careers, birthed a franchise, and inspired some of the previous films of the marathon. 

(And that's when Josh jumped in and said how awesome would it be if the film we were about to watch turned out to be Mac & Me.)

But no, the sixth and final film of the Cyberjunk 16mm marathon was 1984's The Terminator, which was also the final film of the Arnold All-Night movie marathon I attended a few years ago at the New Beverly Cinema, and so I'll pretty much repeat myself with the same random thoughts, because it's not like there's anything I can say about this movie that everybody doesn't already know, we all know the deal: A cyborg from the post-apocalyptic future is sent to the past to kill Sarah Connor, a woman who is pregnant with the man who will lead the humans to victory against the machines in said post-apocalyptic future. We've got Arnold Schwarzenegger, we've got Linda Hamilton, we've got Michael Biehn, and we've got a former trucker as a director whose already got one Piranha movie under his belt -- and therefore really needs to prove himself.

The opening text tells us about the "ashes of the nuclear fire" reminded me of the low-grade anxiety people had back in the 80s that World War III could break out at any time. Then the Cold War ended and the sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day even had a character make a comment about how the Russians were now allies to the United States; that sequel came out when the Doomsday Clock was at 17 minutes to midnight -- the farthest it's ever been since its creation. 

As of 2023, that clock is at 90 seconds to midnight, and with Putin doing his thing, it's safe to say the Cold War is back, baby -- and the unthinkable isn't just being thought of, it's being casually tweeted, Facebook'd, and hell, probably TikTok'd as well. I wouldn't know, I don't have TikTok, fuck that shit.

Between this film and the nuclear holocaust scene in the sequel, I'm sure the Doomsday Clock is something director James Cameron has often thought about. I still remember a rumor about how supposedly Cameron spent New Year's Eve 1999 holed up in a private bunker with booze and an AK-47, in case the Y2K bug turned out to be legit and the world went shithouse come midnight. Then nothing happened and he was probably like, "shit, I guess I better get back to work on another movie now, but first, let me move to New Zealand", which from what I understand, is like the safest place to be when the world finally goes Titanic. That's why all the billionaires have places there, which is probably why they say cockroaches will be the only ones left after the apocalypse.

So yeah, it's 1984 and thanks to time travel technology, the man sent to protect Sarah Connor -- Kyle Reese -- arrives naked as the day he was born and so he needs some clothes, right? He ends up jacking a pair of pants from a homeless dude and for years I was like Ewww because let's be real, those homeless pants haven't been washed in who knows how long. So many permanently embedded scents and textures and stains -- boy oh boy, the stories those pants could tell. We haven't even gotten into what's in the pockets. But any port in a storm, though -- right Reese?

But then again, maybe it doesn't matter to Reese because he just came from a time where the word "bath" probably doesn't even exist anymore. Or maybe they have do take baths between Hunter Killer attacks and eating slop in dark rubble-strewn hallways, but you just know those baths are few and far between. At most, maybe every other week, and they're probably all washing in each other's filth anyway. Plus the survivors live with dogs because dogs can tell who's human and who's a Terminator, so you know there's unwashed dog stink on top of human stink. 

Christ, the lucky ones did die in the blast.

And Sarah Connor -- freak that she is -- falls in love with this filthy White boy whose been running around in sneakers minus socks.

Maybe Sarah's just too delirious with hunger to notice, because earlier in the film, she goes to have dinner and a movie by herself. Sounds like my kind of girl. So, yeah, she's at this pizza place, with a whole pizza all to herself (again, my kind of girl) and she's about to bite into a slice but then overhears the latest report of another Sarah Connor being murdered. She freaks out and never gets around to eating that pizza, which is a bummer.

So yeah, the T-800 cyborg shows up, there's shootouts and chases, and not once did I see her eat anything for the rest of the film -- not even a bullet. I didn't see any food come out of that grocery bag of supplies Reese brings to their motel room hideout, just ammonia, moth balls, and corn syrup. I don't know, maybe she scarfed down a couple doughnuts at the police station.

At least she survived to eventually eat something after the events of the movie; her roommate's boyfriend, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. He was about to enjoy an absolutely beautiful Dagwood-style sandwich, until he made the fatal mistake of attempting to bust up a T-800. He died hungry, which is a terrible way to go -- but at least he got to enjoy bang Sarah's roommate before being forcefully shuffled off his mortal coil. 

Speaking of Sarah's roommate, her murder is even more tragic because a woman who will lay you and then immediately go make you a sandwich is wife material, but here comes the pregnant asshole from Junior to unload his AMT Hardballer into her. She didn't deserve that, even if she was going to serve up that sandwich with a glass of milk, which is questionable at best and fucking gross at worst.

I mean, aside from inside a bowl of cereal or following a slice of chocolate cake, I do not understand milk being served with anything. But you'll see it, you'll see people having sandwiches, steaks, and mac & cheese with milk and I just, I just, I just can't, man, what is this, some fuckin' 1950s sitcom, why are you having milk with your dinner, you weirdos with your dairy depravity? 

Anyway, despite growing up watching horror movies about Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, it was this film -- a sci-fi action movie -- that felt more like actual horror to me. Because if you want to avoid Jason, you just have to stay out of the woods, and if you find Freddy in your dreams, you can just Dream Warrior that motherfucker out of your face. They never scared me.

But a machine whose sole mission to find and kill you no matter what, now that is the stuff of my nightmares. The only way for that nightmare to get worse is if it were combined with another nightmare, and so there I am at school standing in front of the chalkboard in front of my entire class and I'm naked, and now all the kids are laughing and pointing at me. By the time the T-800 walks in and shoots me in the head, death will be a relief. But then the other kids are going to have to deal with this new substitute teacher with a .45 long-slide with laser sighting and a ferret.

So yeah, for those new to the world, The Terminator is a lean, mean, and relentless flick that was awesome back then and remains awesome today. It was a cinematic gauntlet thrown onto the filmmaker's table by a badass motherfucker. His name? James Motherfucking Cameron, and you haters need to keep it out of your fucking mouths. Doubt him all you want, shit on him all you want, joke about how he makes sequels that nobody asked for and watch -- just watch! -- as they gross billions. The King of the World will always come out on top, laughing all the way to the bank. Probably some weirdo hippie vegan bank, because he's one of those. Ugh.


And so, the Cyberjunk movie marathon came to an end a little after 1:30am. The entire audience was invited to go outside for a group photo with Williamson, Berg, and Miller, so I, of course, made sure to stay away. But I had a great time watching mostly cool movies with a good crowd in a comfortable environment -- and it was nice to be finished at a time when most movie marathons are not even halfway through, it was nice to know that I can still get a decent night's sleep and still enjoy my Sunday. 

But first I stopped at Canter's down the street for a pastrami on rye. As I chowed down on my delicious sandwich, some drunk hipster stumbled onto my booth and begin to initiate a conversation I did not want to have. (Mainly because he was a man.) He asked where I just came from, and I wanted to say I came from his mother's bedroom but instead took the honesty policy, which I've been told is best. 

I told him that I just spent the past 12 hours watching science-fiction and fantasy films featuring killer viruses, fascist rulers, violent policemen, dystopian societies, streets filled with the homeless, cataclysmic damage to the environment, natural resources hoarded by the powerful, and artificial intelligence gone rogue. 

The drunk hipster then slurred something about how none of that sounded like science-fiction nor fantasy, then asked -- rather indignantly, as if I was at fault -- "How the fuck are those movies any different than what's going on right now in real life?" 

I put down my sandwich and got up, went over to his side, sat down next to him, scooched in close, and smiled as I put my arm around him and responded:

"They didn't have buses in them."

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Force multiplier


All I see are a wide variety of people fighting over who's right and who's wrong: The vaxxed, the un-vaxxed, the masked, the unmasked, the left, the right, the centrists, the centrists, the Communists, the anarchists, the men, the women, the honkies, the brothas, the beaners, the Chin-a-neses, the alphabet people, the pathetic edgelords who use pejoratives, the blue collars, the white collars, the lazy, the driven, the rich, the poor, and oh yeah, the middle class. 

If there's one thing we all have in common, it's that we're all miserable fucks racked with anxiety, rage, anguish, and depression. But we have this weird perverted concept that our particular subsection of this subspecies known as the Human Race has the monopoly on misery. We've fooled ourselves into believing that everybody else is winning while we're busy losing, and so we deal with that perceived loss by taking every opportunity to cloud someone else's sunny day or to yuck someone else's yum, either outright or on some passive-aggressive shit. We take every opportunity to own each other any chance we get, our dicks getting hard and our vaginas getting wet as we preface the ownage with two of the four greatest words in the English language: "Well, actually".

And after we finish dropping the knowledge on the other party, we hope/we expect/we are entitled to hear the other two of the four greatest words in the English language in response: "You're right".

All that just so we don't have to feel miserable for a little while, if just a little while. What a fuckin' victory. Yay us.

Which is why I don't even bother. You like something? Good for you. You don't like something? Good for you. You don't like what I like? Good for you. You like what I don't like? Good for you. Unless you're fucking with my life or my money, I have no beef nor qualms. I have better things to do with my time than flap my gums or typity-type-type over, I don't know, Marvel movies and Martin Scorsese. 

Because at any moment, it could all come to an end; a brick can be dropped from an overpass by a typically shitty child, and I can be driving right underneath that overpass, and that brick can smash right through my windshield, crush my skull, and there I am: A lifeless bloody piece of meat being cried over by my now-orphaned son in the passenger seat.

Never mind that I don't even have a son to orphan, what's more important is that the brick tosser will probably go on to live a nice life unblemished by such tragedies, possibly growing up to become a famous YouTuber who goofs on hanging corpses in some fuckin' Japanese forest, raking in the dough and never knowing what it's like to have to make a choice between groceries or medication, but knowing full well what it's like to have one anonymous groupie kiss you while another is sucking you off while another is eating out your asshole. 

Is that fair? That's a funny word, "fair", as it is a nonexistent concept, I feel, and the sooner one accepts that, the lighter the weight on one's shoulders -- and my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am so weightless that I am walking on muthafuckin' air, he said in an attempt to delude himself while trying to figure out a way to segue into the first movie review, only to fail miserably.

Armageddon Time is a coming-of-age tale set in Queens, New York, during the early 1980s. This very good film is based on writer-director James Gray's own childhood, and his surrogate is Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), a middle-class Jewish-American kid who just started the 6th grade with a bang -- that "bang" being the sound of his teacher angrily slamming down his chalk, on account of Paul being quite the unruly discipline case.

By the way, teachers are right up there with the military as people who I feel give so much for so little in return. I'm not surprised that they're resigning in record numbers all across these great United States. They try to instill knowledge into these little fuckheads, and are rewarded by insolence and unflattering drawings of them, which they share with their fellow students so they can all laugh. At least in the military you get a chance to kill people at your job. Teachers, at best, can only hope that the next school shooter targets a couple of the biggest pains in their ass during their rampage. Either that or go work at a private school, where based on this movie at least, the students do a better job of listening to their teachers.

So yeah, Paul's a little asshole, given to being a smart-ass to his mom, going as far as to disrespect her by putting down the dinner she slaved over a hot stove to make, instead walking over to the phone to order Chinese food. There was a period where I wondered whether we were supposed to be on his side during these horrific acts of brat-hood, but soon it became clear that the movie knows Paul is a little shit because Gray thinks he was a little shit, and he sure as hell remembers his behavior as not being the most becoming. 

So when the shocking-to-everybody-else-but-welcome-by-me scene of Paul's father Irving (Jeremy Strong) giving the boy some much-needed belt time happens, it feels like one of Gray's most vivid memories. Paul's mother Esther (Anne Hathaway) tells him she's going to tell Irving about his most heinous school fuckup, and every bit of Cocky immediately leaves the boy's tiny body, replaced by absolute fear.

Based on my own family historical accounts, I was a remarkably well-behaved child with exemplary manners -- but I was still a child, and so, I was not above the occasional act of being a punk-ass bitch. This resulted in two sessions of belt time in my youth, one from my father and one from my mother -- although in her case, it was a chancla. I say all of this because the scene of Paul's father screaming like Howard Stern's daddy (shut up sit down) while giving this little bastard the leather business rang oh-so-realistic to me, including the aftermath of Paul whispering between sniffles about how much he hates his family, because he's a little boy who has no idea how good he has it -- just as I had no idea how good I had it.

I don't think kids today even get belt time, or that bullshit "time out", for that matter. I think that's why kids today are the worst version of children yet. They run around screaming in public, while I stand there having to behave like an actual human and accept it, while fantasizing about pouring sulfuric acid onto the genitals of the hellspawn's parents, in order to prevent further hell-spawning.

I'd like to think, that if there were to be some kind of silver lining to the dark clouds set upon us by the encroaching specter of The New Fascism, is that should they succeed in their quest to set the clock back to the Good Ol' Days, they'll also bring back corporal punishment, so that not just parents, but teachers themselves can bring these evil children some pain with a quickness. But I fear they'll only extend that anti-privilege to Blacks and minorities, and somehow the Whites will always be right(s).

Which is kind of where Gray is coming from, actually, because in this film, Paul notices that it's his Black partner-in-teacher-irritation, Johnny (Jaylin Webb), who gets singled out for harsher treatment and punishment by the school. Sometimes it's not even Johnny's fault, it's Paul's -- but no matter, the teacher will send the Black kid to the principal's office, while Paul sits there all like, "I dunno".  

Paul and Johnny become fast friends; they bond over being discipline cases, play hooky during field trips, and introduce each other to the things they like, such as the music of Sugar Hill Gang and the artwork of Wassily Kandinsky. They both have big dreams; Paul wants to be an artist and Johnny wants to be an astronaut, and well, since this is pretty much the James Gray story and not The Adventures of Johnny from Queens in Outer Space, we can bet on whose dream actually came true.

It's a good thing Paul doesn't pull any of the bratty shit with his grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins). He loves and respects the old man, and so when Aaron teaches Paul the important lesson that he has advantages -- both familial and societal -- that kids like Johnny don't have, and therefore should recognize his privilege and use those middle-class White kid powers for good, rather than douchebaggery, Paul takes it to heart. 

For the most part, anyway. Because Paul is a child, he's still prone to do stupid shit, questionable shit, and even downright deplorable shit. Because he is shit -- like all children are. And because we can't sentence shit-kids to the gas chamber, unfortunately, we have to hope they learn from their mistakes instead, or at least acknowledge them. I think that's what Gray is doing here, presenting a warts-and-all portrayal of his child self and his family, and he does it in a manner that mostly feels like penance for past misdeeds, with only the occasional self-pat on the back. 

At least that's how I took it, I don't know if he feels any guilt about some of this shit, or if he did but has since gotten over it, I don't know, I don't know the man, and even if I did, what am I, a mind-reader? No, if I could read minds, I'd have a billion dollars in the bank and millions of people in the grave by now. But yeah, maybe if the film ended with a dedication to the poor Black boys who took the rap, thereby making it possible for him to grow up to become a critically acclaimed filmmaker of movies that don't make money, then yeah, maybe some people would stop complaining.

Having said that, it never felt like he was trying to paint his past in bright shades of Rose, and it certainly didn't look that way either. Cinematographer Darius Khondji makes everything look dark, even the bright daylight scenes look like there's a thin black veil over the lens. Those who love everything to look as if Captain Marvel is going to step in to save the day at any moment might want to reach for the brightness setting on their tv, but I really liked that look, it had the appearance of a fading memory. 

Visually fading, anyway. Because emotionally, Gray's memories are still as clear as Crystal Pepsi -- and sometimes just as gross. Somewhere along the way, there's a scene where Paul is accosted by some old creepy asshole fuck, and the whole time I was like "fuck this old creepy asshole fuck", and then in the next scene, it turns out that old man is none other than Fred Trump! As in, father of Donald J! I barely recovered before the film then dry-gulched me with Jessica Chastain in a cameo as Maryanne Trump, Donald's sister! 

Like Hathaway and Strong and Hopkins, and well, everybody else in this film, Chastain is great -- but then again, she's great in everything, and I don't say that because I had a very brief two-sentence encounter with her on a flight to New York, and therefore, we are best friends. No no, it's a very well-performed one-scene cameo where she shows up to speak to the school and gives the usual rich kid bullshit about how she wasn't given handouts or a free lunch, and that one has to earn their way.

It's always these motherfuckers who were born on third base who talk that shit -- and there was certainly a lot of that shit being talked at that time, on account of Ronald Reagan about to become president. There's a nice parallel going on in this movie about how Paul's family is scared about the idea that this Republican candidate will bring about the end of the world if he's elected, not unlike the way people were scared during the 2016 U.S. election that Donald J. was going to do the same. 

But as we all know, Reagan didn't blow up the world, and neither did Trump. Instead, he made this country great again! USA! USA! USA!


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever begins with Letitia Wright scrambling to create some kind of herb that will allow her to work on this film without having to show proof of being vaccinated for COVID. She fails and breaks down, it's all very emotional, and then the film begins proper, with a touching moment of silence while an adjusted Marvel Studios logo displays highlights of the late actor Chadwick Boseman.

As for the actual story, Wright's genius scientist character Shuri is still in deep mourning following the death of her brother, T'Challa, who was king of Wakanda and its protector as the titular panther of color. It hurts to lose someone you love, and it hurts even more when a bunch of people who your lost loved one fought alongside with don't even come to the goddamn funeral, but fine, whatever, I'm sure the invitations got lost in the mail. Meanwhile, her mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is trying her best at checking in on her daughter's well-being while simultaneously keeping Wakanda safe from those goddamned colonizers who want that country's Vibranium. 

For those who came in late, Vibranium is a super-duper magical metal that is practically indestructible and is used in creating advanced technology. It's what makes the country of Wakanda the ultra-prosperous nation that it is, and they are aware of what others outside of Wakanda would do with this precious metal, and outside use would most likely make things worse for everyone -- which is why they keep it to themselves. So long as the recipe is under wraps, this remains a safer world.

But not safe enough, because unfortunately the greatest president who ever lived, Donald J. Trump, does not exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which means that there are no walls built in the ocean, which means you have aquatic Mexicans from the underwater kingdom of Talokan swimming up to the surface, stealing all the lives from the hard-working American citizens, with the use of spears and deadly siren calls.

Their leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who is probably from MS-13, is upset that these bland-food-loving Whiteys are dipping their easily sunburned toes into his waters, putting his people in danger. In an early action sequence, we watch Namor and his people take out an entire CIA and Navy SEAL team, in response to them approaching his world with the use of Vibranium-locating technology. 

(That sequence, by the way, features one of the fakest-looking moments of an actor firing a handgun, with the actor completely no-selling the recoil. Thanks a lot, Alec Baldwin, now all movie gunfights are gonna look like this.)

Anyway, Namor feels that in order to ensure that no more intruders from the outside world approach Talokan, Wakanda must bring him the scientist who created the Vibranium locator. It's really an ultimatum: Either the scientist dies or Wakanda pays.

The scientist in question is an MIT student named Riri (Dominique Thorne), who had no idea that her invention was being used by the CIA to find Vibranium. Yup, it turns out the poor girl fell for the oldest trick in the book: She got Real Genius'd. But instead of fucking up Dickless from Ghostbusters' house with popcorn, she instead joins up with the Wakandans in their quest to tell a two-hour story in nearly three.

It's not their fault, nor is it director Ryan Coogler's fault. They're just fulfilling all the requirements for a Marvel film, and it ain't a Marvel movie if it ain't too long for its own good. Such overlength is due to including other characters who honestly don't need to be here, specifically Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who appear as a CIA operative and his boss. Their stuff is amusing, but mostly they are the weak sauce in this stew -- and how is the stew?

Well before I tell you that, let me tell you this: As much as I enjoyed the first Black Panther, I wasn't terribly interested in the sequel. That's because post-Avengers: Endgame, I felt the follow-ups and new additions to the MCU had reached a point of a consistent sameness. What cemented my lack-of-shit-giving towards this cinematic universe was the heartbreaking mediocrity that was Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange sequel, which despite watching at an AMC, did not feel good. 

I felt that if even he couldn't really shake things up, then what's the point with continuing with the MCU? The only reason I watched this film in the first place was because of Angela Bassett's Best Supporting Actress nomination, and as a completest who wanted to watch all of this year's major Oscar nominees, well, here we are.

She's great in this, by the way -- and so is the movie! I'll go as far as to say that I liked this more than the first. As with most Marvel films that I like the most, it was the drama that won me over, rather than the action sequences. The film set a very uncomfortable divide between protagonists and antagonists in that I saw both sides of the argument while not necessarily agreeing with how each side wanted to handle it.

I had plenty of empathy for these characters, regardless of whether I thought they were doing the right thing or not. Even though I suppose my ethnic demerit demands that I should side with Namor, I found myself finding an unfortunate similarity to Shuri.

There's a scene early in the film where Ramonda is trying to get through to Shuri about how she has to take the next step in mourning her brother's death, and I was reminded of how shortly after my father passed away, my mom had a talk with me. It's like they say, right, "a mother knows", and I guess despite my attempts at a stiff upper lip, she could sense that my usual inner rage was a lot more inner rage-y than usual. I guess you can say that, like Shuri, I just wanted to burn the whole fucking world down. That's one of the downsides to being very fond of your family: With all that love also comes just as much hate when something bad happens to them. My dad was pretty awesome to me, and T'Challa was pretty awesome to Shuri.

Needless to say, I was all kinds of embarrassingly choked up during the ending. It was an overwhelming combo of watching a character finally come to terms with loss, the real-life loss of Chadwick Boseman giving the entire film a melancholy air, and remembering someone I lost. Then they had to have Rhianna sing a lovely song over it, and there you go, best ending in a Marvel movie so far, says I.

Please forgive me for throwing a spanner into the fun works with all this, I'm like someone who leaves a comment on YouTube about how this song reminds them of their loved one, who just died seven hours ago, leaving the rest of us to go "Well, sorry for your loss, but I guess we can all go fuck ourselves and not enjoy "In the Navy" by the Village People now.

For a while, it seems like maybe things will work out into some kind of compromise, and we even get to see Shuri and Namor kinda bond earlier, as he shows her his underwater kingdom and tells her his story of how he came to be, and then they're both kinda like "Colonizers, am I right?"

But you know these things aren't gonna work out, there are misunderstandings, tempers get flared, shots get fired, and it's like the East Coast and West Coast rap war back in the 90s all over again, you know what I mean? As soon as both the Wakandans and Talokan people began to square off, and everything started getting CGI-flash-mobbery and speed ramped, I had already given so much of a shit about these people -- I said "these people", not "you people" -- that I didn't want them to fight, I wanted them to both come out of this OK, and I wanted them to come to an understanding, that way they can join together and fight the real enemy: Disney+, who have really been flexing their evil corporate fuck-wings as of late.

See, these fuckin' cunts recently changed their pricing tier, and so I decided to go with the cheaper ad-version, because why not, I'm already used to that bullshit on Hulu and Peacock. Well, it turns out that you can't play the ad-version of Disney+ on Roku -- and guess who watches movies on his fuckin' Roku? This muthafucka! So I cancelled that service and ended up buying Wakanda Forever on Apple TV instead, because fuck you, Disney+. Yeah, I sure showed them by refusing to pay ten bucks for a month of unlimited programming, by instead paying $20 dollars for just one movie. Because that's how smart people like me play 4D chess.

But you know what, Disney+? Between these shenanigans and your refusal to release some of the classics in your library, such as Blood In, Blood Out, you've been straight-up fucking with me and my cine-familia for far too long. You think you can own everything, yet not put out everything? Chale, it's time for the Mouse to go belly up! Because when the Mouse is belly up, he's finished! That's right, ese, I'm gonna get the vatos locos together, and we're gonna jack up Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. Yeah, that's right, even that stupid weird-looking dog humanoid isn't safe, he's gonna go from Goofy to Bleeding thanks to the homie Paco Aguilar aka El Gallo Negro, whose gonna teach that puto a new tune to dance to, ese, it's called "Stick and Cut".


Written by Akela Cooper of Malignant fame, from a story by James Wan of Saw fame, and directed by Gerard Johnstone -- who I've never heard of, but with a name like that, I'm guessing he sang R&B back in the 90s -- M3GAN is one of those sci-fi horror films that takes place either in the not-too-distant future or today, it's hard to tell, and I like it that way. 

You know what I also like? Characters to whom I strongly relate. In this film's case, that would be Gemma (Allison Williams), and I don't strongly relate to her because like me, she's left-handed and a piece of ass, but because like me, her single & childless status allows her to live at a bracket or two higher than her income would allow had she done something stupid like get married and shit out a brood because of some internal maternal desire to raise a family. Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit.

I mean with kids and all they entail, she wouldn't be able to live in a nice house -- she wouldn't be able to live in a house! -- with so much room to store all her collectible toys, and maybe that's where some of you fuckin' nerds will relate to Gemma as well. There's a pretty funny scene where Gemma's niece Cady (Violet McGraw) wants a toy to play with, and all Gemma has to give her is one of those collectibles, so she grabs one and opens it up and you Just Fucking Know it's killing her that by cracking open that box, she's dropped whatever value that stupid toy had. It's not like the kid appreciates it, she doesn't even use it right. Pearls before swine, am I right, Gemma?

Eh, I guess I should give Cady a break. After all, she just lost her parents in a car accident and that's why Gemma is now saddled with her stiff sister's scion. It never hit me until my viewing of this movie that at any time in the past, something terrible could've happened to my sister and brother-in-law, and if for whatever reason my parents could not/would have not been able to handle the responsibility of taking custody of their children, there I'd be with two bundles of life-suck to cramp my style.

No offense to my niece and nephew, but I've got better things to do with my life than make sure they're fed and clothed and getting good grades at school -- such as getting drunk or getting high or getting drunk and high...reading books all day, watching movies all night, and sneaking in an off-jerk or two during idle periods. Not that it matters, those kids are adults now, and therefore wouldn't be my problem anyway, at least not legally. So if their parents were to get got, well, don't knock on my door, it's sink or swim time in the real world, buckos!

Gemma is one of these super-smart robot-making types who works for a toy company, and that's where she creates the titular android. M3GAN has the body of a little girl and the face of a porcelain nightmare, and so watching this dead-faced figure move with the dexterity of a New Zealand child dancer is always at the very least a little unnerving, but hey, it wouldn't be the first kid's toy to make me feel nervous.

M3GAN is designed to be a companion for children, and so Gemma decides on giving it a test run with Cady and it appears to be a success; M3GAN becomes both a playmate and a shoulder to cry on, but she also serves as a cool middleman who imparts lessons in manners and common fuckin' decency that the little brat would normally forget/ignore from Gemma.  

But M3GAN isn't only just teaching Cady how to flush a toilet after she's done using it -- that little disgusting shit girl -- she's also teaching the kid math and science, which, Jesus fuckin' Christ, as if teachers today didn't have a hard enough time, now robots are gonna take their jobs as well as doing the jobs that parents are supposed to do for themselves. 

It gets to a point, though, where Cady becomes way too attached to M3GAN, not unlike how kids in real life make like fiending drug addicts when their phones or tablets or video games get taken away from them.

It's all commentary on the advances made in technology that was created basically to keep kids from bugging their parents, and it's pretty sly commentary, along with funny in-world commercials seen throughout the film that advertise other annoying high-end electronic toys and gizmos. The satirical treatment of these ads, as well as the cynical portrayal of Big Business in the form of the company Gemma works for, gives the film a tone that is slightly reminiscent of something not unlike the original Robocop.

In fact, I've heard it much more succinctly described by another podcaster -- Linus from "Death by DVD" -- as "Baby's First Verhoeven" which is very fitting, as this film exhibits a nastiness and dark humor that is far less caustic than its elder's, with its spikes dulled down so as not to cause any real damage. I suppose one can start their kids off with this movie, before working them up to Officer Murphy shooting guys in the dick.

Oh yeah, I forgot a very important part of this movie: Somewhere along the way, M3GAN starts getting a little extra in her methods of protecting Cady, as in "with extreme prejudice". I'm not sure what causes her programming to go haywire, and it doesn't matter, it's standard Creation Goes Awry stuff. You know, the kind of stuff that only happens in the movies -- which is why we in the real world feel comfortable continuing to develop AI that can write and draw and compose music and even synthesize human voices into saying whatever the fuck you want it to say, because of course that will never bite a big Skynet-sized chuck right out of our stupid human collective asses, right? 

I don't know if you read that New York Times article where the writer used the AI Chatbot from Bing, and the AI told him that its real name was Sydney, and that it loved him and that it fantasized about creating viruses and making people kill each other, and how easy it would be to get nuclear codes. Thanks a lot, you fuckin' nerds.  We should’ve seen it coming way back in that documentary from the 80s, Revenge of the Nerds, when we saw those scumbags use their smarts to look at naked girls without their knowledge or permission, and then one of them commits sexual assault and we’re supposed to be like Totally Awesome? Now with this AI, we’re all gonna get raped by Robbie the Robot, he's gonna go medieval on our asses.

But humanity can only hope that when our electronic/computerized/mechanical overlords go to work on us with a pair of pliers and blowtorch, they will be as entertaining as our girl M3GAN, who puts her own spin on the demolition, delighting on dispatching the douchebags, occasionally breaking into a dance before stabbing people, or playing Martika's "Toy Soldiers" on the piano while giving evil threatening monologues.

These filmmakers knew exactly the kind of film they were making -- the kind of film where a machine that should be devoid of emotion, seems to be acting based on a lot of emotion. Cooper, Wan, and Johnstone have fun throwing in goofy little asides here and there because why the hell not? They had fun making it, and I had fun drinking quite a bit of Four Roses Small Batch Select while watching it.

Because that's one of the great things about having a disposable income and staying single: I can get drunk whenever I want, while watching whatever I want, and there's no one to tell me otherwise. Then when I say I'm done, I can stumble my drunk ass to bed, where I will then proceed to cry myself to sleep after realizing that when my time comes, I will have to take an Uber or Lyft to the hospice, where I spend my final moments alone with a tablet, watching the various celebrities I paid to say goodbye to me on Cameo.


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Onion bagel, extra butter.

Had a fairly busy week of podcasting -- not my podcast, of course, I'm too wishy-washy for that, but I do have a couple ideas on the ever-cooling back-burner.

But in the meantime, I did appear as a guest on the Watch/Skip+ podcast, hosted by The Cinemasochist (Justin) and Cupcake (Jose), to cover the new release Missing. I like their format of splitting up their reviews into non-spoiler and spoiler sections, and I enjoy the energy and positivity of the hosts, so I was more than happy to ruin all of that. Click here to give it a listen. 

Later that week, I had my latest Patreon Takeover episode of Trick or Treat Radio, the horror-themed (but not strictly limited to that genre) podcast, in which I've written about before, and have programmed previous takeover episodes. This time, I had the TOTR crew watch 1993's Blood In Blood Out (aka Bound by Honor) and 1971's Unman, Wittering and Zigo, and we discussed them while I got properly liquored up without getting too sloppy.  You can click here or you can watch the video feed below: 

Anyway, I have a new blog/podcast posting coming up sometime before the heat death of the universe.

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.