Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 28: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968)

A friend recommended the short film Whistle and I'll Come to You, which I had actually never even heard of before. It was produced for a BBC television documentary series called Omnibus, and is not a documentary, so don't ask me to explain that, and is instead based on a short story by M.R. James. 

Centered on a middle-aged professor vacationing on the English coast, the film is absolutely worth watching for the performance of Michael Hordern as Professor Parkin, as he putters around his room, the coast, and local graveyards, muttering to himself and arguing against the existence of ghosts with a fellow traveler.

Ghosts! Preposterous. 

It's available to view on YouTube, and embedded below.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 27: Coherence

Coherence would make a good double feature with The Invitation. Both deal with dinner parties that turn weird and deadly to the good looking Los Angelinos in attendance, though Coherence is more of a mind fuck than The Invitation was, and veers more into science fiction than horror. (Ultimately, I think The Invitation is the better movie)

The cast is largely unknown, save for Nicholas Brendon, if anyone was wondering what he had been up to since the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (aside from, uh, getting arrested and stuff). He plays a character that's basically himself, which adds an even extra level of meta-comedy to the whole thing, once the premise of the film reveals itself...let's just say, will the real Nicholas Brendon please stand up?

Also, if you plan on watching this one, I'd wait until after the Election.

 Coherence is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 26: Black Box

Black Box is another Blumhouse Production which premiered on Amazon this month, and I liked it a fair bit more than I did the previously reviewed Evil Eye, even if it feels a bit like a Black Mirror episode you might criticize for being too long.

The main draw for me was lead actor Mamoudou Athie, whose performances I've enjoyed in every film I've seen him in, (particularly Patti Cakes and Uncorked), and this one was no exception. Here he plays a young husband and father who survives a car crash that kills his wife, and leaves him with amnesia and short term memory loss that is making it hard to work, and parent. When he's offered experimental treatment to restore his memory, he reluctantly accepts, and...well. This is a Blumhouse picture. Things don't go so well.

The parts centered on identity are better than the parts with the "scary monster," which I won't give away, but if you've seen any horror movie in the past 20 years, particularly anything from Japan, it's far from novel...

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 25: The Burning

Shudder is currently streaming a four hour documentary on 1980's horror films called In Search of Darkness, and really, it's less of a documentary than it is a horror movie version of those VH-1 I Love the [Pop Culture Era/Thing] shows that ran in the early aughts. 

In the "doc," each year is represented, with horror fans and creators talking about key horror films released in that given year, and for the year 1981, The Burning is one of the films talked about fondly as a precursor to Friday the 13th, with effects make-up by Tom Savini, and a cast that includes Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and the guy who played "Ratner" in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

And sure, it's a hoot seeing George Costanza as a "teenager," but in all, the movie is just OK. I didn't think it did anything better than many of the slasher movies that came after it, but I guess it deserves props for doing some things first.

Strangely, it's not readily available to stream or rent, even on DVD, but there is a pretty good print available on YouTube, which is how I watched it. It's embedded below.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 24: The Seventh Victim

The Seventh Victim, another Val Lewton production, doesn't deal with the supernatural as many of his films did. Instead, nihilism--in the form of a group of upper crust satanists--is the monster.

Needless to say, its New York setting, and satanists who are not what you would consider an exciting group of people, immediately made me think of Rosemary's Baby. I've no doubt a young Roman Castevet and Abe Sapirstein are lingering in the background of that party scene. There's also a moment in a shower that is a clear predecessor to another famous horror movie shower scene you may be familiar with.

The movie is a bit if a slow burn, and at times narratively confusing. But it builds up to an ending that is quiet, and yet immensely shocking for its time.

 The Seventh Victim is available to rent on Vudu.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 23: Dolls

After the trauma of Martyrs I needed a return to silly horror, and Dolls was just the ticket. Made in 1987, it's a much more straight-forward comedy than director Stuart Gordon's previous two films, From Beyond and Re-Animator, due in large part to the performance of Stephen Lee as Ralph. (Sadly he died in 2014 at age 58 of a heart attack.)

Several years ago a friend and I came up with a concept for a killer doll movie that's so good I don't want to even share the premise here lest someone STEAL IT. Thankfully, Dolls, aside from the, you know, killer doll aspect, doesn't have much in common with our idea, just like Chucky, which came out a few years after Dolls, can't be accused of stealing from Dolls. I'm sure.

Casting note: the creepy lady in the mansion is played by Hilary Mason, and she also played the creepy blind lady in Don't Look Now.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 22: Martyrs (2008)

I went into Martyrs not knowing too much about it aside from it being on some "Best Horror Movies of the 2000s" lists, and hearing it was extremely intense.

That last part is putting in mildly.

What I didn't really know is that Martyrs is basically my least favorite horror genre, torture porn, but with a better accent, and some high-falutin justifications for that torture. The thing is, it starts out terrific, with a young girl escaping a torture chamber, finding what she thinks is refuge in a girls home, only to find some evil entity has followed her there.

Then it jumps ahead several years, and becomes, for a bit, a home invasion horror film. And then the last quarter or so is just straight up torture that I kind of wish I had never exposed my brain to. There are some images you just can't ever forget.

I will give it this: at least there is no rape or sexual torture in it. I had also planned on watching High Tension, another of the "New French Extremity" films, but I think with Martyrs, I've had enough of that movement to last me a few years. At least.

Note: it was remade in the U.S. in 2015, and it sounds like that version is to be avoided at all costs, so if this is something you feel like you have to see, watch the original.

 Martys is available to rent via several streaming services. I watched it on Apple TV+.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 21: Ganja & Hess

The only thing I new about Ganja & Hess going into it is that it was the only other movie Night of the Living Dead star Duane Jones had a lead role in, and that it was also known as Double Possession, because the above ad for it is in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film

But what really blew my mind was finding out Spike Lee remade the film as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus just five years ago, and I had NEVER HEARD of that movie! How is it possible Spike Lee made a Kickstarter-funded remake of a low-budget art house/black exploitation/vampire movie, and I had never, ever heard about it?

Well, I ended up watching both, and I think it's a worthy double feature. Ganja & Hess is very low budget, and very arty, and at times, it's kind of hard to completely follow what's going on. Spike Lee's version has some almost shot-by-shot replications, and uses much of the original dialogue (Bill Gunn, writer and director of Ganja & Hess, even gets a co-writing credit), but it's much more straight forward in its storytelling. In some ways. Lee's version is an improvement. But there are some moments in Ganja & Hess that are just so original and odd (I'm thinking of a moment in a tree), that the original version just can't be beat.

Ganja & Hess is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is available on Amazon Prime.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 20: Blood and Lace

I stumbled upon Blood and Lace while looking up a film I talked about last week, Blood and Black Lace, and what convinced me to watch it were two things: Gloria Grahame stars in it; and The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film called it "one of the sickest PG-rated films every made." Sold!

It's not that sick, actually, but, made in 1971, it was a definite precursor to slasher movies of the 1970's and 80's with an opening that I have to believe John Carpenter "borrowed" seven years later for Hallowen: a POV shot of a killer reaching into a kitchen drawer, pulling out a hammer, walking up some stairs, and then murdering people in a bedroom.

The majority of the film is set in a home for wayward teens, in which most of the "teens" are clearly in their mid-twenties. Grahame is the evil headmistress; Melody Patterson is the lead teen, in hiding from the hammer-wielding killer; Dennis Christopher is a fellow resident; Vic Tayback is a detective on the case; and Len "Uncle Leo!" Lesser is the evil handyman.

I watched a crappy copy of it on Amazon Prime, and it looks like that same crappy copy is available on YouTube as well. Enjoy?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 19: Posession

Andrzej Żuławski's 1981 film Possession was for many years the stuff of legend. Filmed in 1981, it won lead actress Isabelle Adjani as Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, and then was barely released before being banned, edited down from 120 minutes to 80 minutes, and then barely released again.

When putting together the list of films I would watch for this countdown, I was afraid Possession would be the one I wouldn't actually be able to see. It isn't available to stream, and DVDs are hard to come by, especially for rental. Luckily a friend in So Cal came through, lending me his DVD copy of the Mondo special edition of the original two-hour cut of the film.

How to describe this film without sounding like Stefan describing the hottest club in New York? It has everything: Cold War spies; doppelgangers; murder; a child named BOB. And just when you think the fun is all over, the tentacles come out.

And maybe that's making it sound kookier than it is; it's not a silly movie. It's very serious, sometimes too much so. The acting is often so overwrought you assume it's going for parody, but it most definitely isn't. It's like taking Cronenberg's The Brood, another body-horror movie that deals with divorce, translating it into German/Polish culture, and then back into an English language film. 

It's just wonderfully and unforgettably weird, OK? See it if you can.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 18: Evil Eye

Evil Eye is one of four Blumhouse Productions debuting on Amazon Prime this month, and if this one is any indication, these films will not be up to the standards of the best Blumhouses, but if you have Prime and want to watch a brand new horror movie, you could do worse.

What's best about Evil Eye is its cultural representation, focused on an Indian family. Pallavi (played by Sunita Mani of Glow), is a young woman living in New Orleans. Usha (Sarita Choudhury) is her protective mother, who has moved back to India with Pallavi's father (Bernard White). As Pallavi is nearing 30 and not yet married, Usha's main concern is finding her a husband--and making sure Pallavi avoids the curse Usha is convinced is Pallavi's fate.

It's all a little melodramatic, but I appreciated the use of the horror genre to examine some truths about abusive relationships, and how such patterns can run in families, even if it isn't always chalked up to reincarnation.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 17: Slither

Before James Gunn's was the master of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, he made his directorial debut with the 2006 horror comedy Slither, a movie that tries to do lot, and a lot of it is pretty disgusting. It's an alien invasion, creature, body horror, and zombie movie all rolled into one.

The cast is pretty stellar: Henry the serial killer himself, Michael Rooker is the first victim of the slithering aliens, and his wife is played by Elizabeth Banks. Nathan Fillion is the police chief, and "Hey it's that guy!" Gregg Henry is the town mayor. Much of it is funny. A lot of it is gross. And yet...I didn't like it as much as I assumed I would.

Can't really figure out why! It's in the same realm as Lake Placid and Tremors, two movies I enjoyed a lot more, so maybe I just didn't find is as funny as those? Those two films are also narrower in scope, concentrating on their creatures, so maybe Slither doing too much is its ultimate downfall.

Still, I'll give it this much: the boss monster at the end is a...memorable creation.

  Slither is available to rent on various streaming platforms.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 16: The Ghost Ship

Made in the 1943, The Ghost Ship is a Val Lewton production, although it's considerably lesser known than the rest of his horror output (which of course includes Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie). I'd also say it's less of a "horror" movie than those others, and more of a straight up thriller, although it does include one memorable death scene (involving a young Lawrence Tierney). 

That scene, combined with a a creepy performance from craggy faced actor Skelton Knaggs, whose character is both mute, and the film's narrator, and some calypso songs from Sir Lancelot, make it worth a watch, though I'd be sure to seek out the other films in Lewton's oeurve first.

And if you simply can't be bothered, at least watch that death scene!

 The Ghost Ship is available to stream free on...Betamax TV?!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 15: Relic

Relic, which was released earlier this year, is one of those horror movies that creeps up on you, and then kind of throws you for a loop. From the start, you know there's some creepy stuff going on, as an aging mother goes missing, and her adult daughter and granddaughter come to her house to figure out what happened to her.

It reminded me a bit of Hereditary, which also deals with family, heredity (duh), and things that may or may not be supernatural, all supported by stellar performances (Bella Heathcote, Emily Mortimer, and Kay Robyn Nevin are the three generations of women). But I actually liked Relic more. I felt Hereditary kind of whiffed its ending, while Relic sees what it sets up straight through (although I can definitely see some reacting to that ending with a big "WTF?!" as well).

But ultimately I think what makes both films work is how it works real life horrible situations everyone in this world must face, specifically, the pain of watching those we love age, and having those we love die, into conventional horror movie stories. It's a kind of horror that lingers with you a lot longer than watching a maniac cut someone up with a knife...

  Relic is available to rent from several streaming sources, including Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Halloween Countdown - Day 14: Brain Damage

I can't really figure out why I never saw Brain Damage back in the day. Director Frank Henenlotter's 1982 Basket Case has long been a fave, although I'm less fond of his 1990 film, Frankenhooker, so maybe that's why...

Brain Damage, released in 1988, is much closer in spirit and execution to the comedy horror of Basket Case than Frankenhooker complete with monster effects that utilize both puppetry and stop motion, which, combined with the...disgusting nature of the creature, results in something that's both stomach churning and kind of adorable.

And unlike the creature in Basket Case, the phallic alien that takes control of our hero is quite verbal, brilliantly so, and voiced by none other than horror movie host John Zacherle. His/its introduction is one of the funniest monster reveals ever.

It's part horror movie, part treatise on the dangers of drug use (I'm only kind of kidding about that), and completely wild. There's only one time where I think it goes too far, but Henenlotter's an exploitation director through and through, and it's the rare exploitation movie that doesn't include at least one moment like it. The rest is so memorable, I think I can just try and forget that one bit.

 Brain Damage is currently streaming on Shudder.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 13: The Legend of Hell House

For years I had assumed I had seen The Legend of Hell House, because in my mind I conflated it with The Haunting (based of course on the book The Haunting of Hill House), and The House on Haunted Hill. And, in a way, I was right! Because its similarities to both of those films can't be denied.

It probably most resembles The Haunting, with a set-up that includes two psychics...picked to live in a haunted house...where they stop being polite...and start getting real. In this case the two psychics are played by Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin, with Franklin really going full force into the part. She ain't afraid of no ghosts! Even if they sexually assault her and leave her bruised and beaten! (OK. I'll admit that bit was a little off-putting.)

The house is spooky, there's a cat (always a bonus), and the ending is really kind of wild. It's definitely a good addition to any haunted house movie marathon, (although it doesn't knock The Haunting off the top of that list for me).

  The Legend of Hell House is available to rent via several streaming services.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 12: Blood and Black Lace

OMG this movie, you guys! Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace is not what you'd call a horror classic, but man alive is it beautiful. I mean, come on. Just look at this.


That seals it: all mannequins should be red now, and I don't want any arguments about it!

I have no idea why I haven't watched more of Mario Bava's movies, especially his color ones, since I'm a big fan of Dario Argento's giallo horror, and he basically learned all his tricks from Bava. I've got some catching up to do!

As for Blood and Black Lace, plot wise, it's your basic slasher flick (although it does have some tricks up its sleeve), but the setting, at an Italian fashion house before and after a fashion show, is just ::chef's kiss:: perfect. It's the perfect film to have playing in the background at a dive bar, or your next cocktail party. You know...ten years from now.


Blood and Black Lace is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Coundown - Day 11: Hour of the Wolf

I decided to watch Ingmar Bergman's Hour of the Wolf  because it has been called Bergman's only horror movie. But after watching it, I'm not sure entirely sure any of that is accurate. I don't think it can really be called a horror movie, and I don't think it's any more surreal or dreamlike than many of Bergman's films. I'd wager his most famous film, The Seventh Seal is, if not scary (neither movie is scary), at least as equally creepy as Hour of the Wolf

But I will also admit I'm not that well versed in Bergman. Of all the auteurs I studied in film school, I found Bergman's movies to be...the least engaging, let me just put it that way. And that's a failure on my part, I'm sure. I was just more easily taken with the liveliness of a director like Fellini than the slow dreamlike dramas of Bergman.

And speaking of Fellini, Hour of the Wolf brought him to mind more than once, as there are a series of parties the tormented artist (Max Von Sydow) and his wife (Liv Ullmann) attend in the film that are filled with guests straight out of a Fellini movie. And it's the surreal moments with those guests, like the one pictured above, that are the film's highlight. It may not be peak Bergman, but at only 90 minutes long, Hour of the Wolf is...easily digestible Bergman.

Hour of the Wolf is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 10: Host

I'm not sure my reaction to Host would be the same in any other year, but it being 2020, and 2020 being...what it is, I thought it was just great.

It's really kind of ingenious, a meta bit of horror set in the now, centered on something so many of us have gotten used to - the Zoom party - filmed the only way a horror movie really could safely be filmed right now - using Zoom (or at least, the appearance of Zoom).

It's a movie that is about this year, that is also a result of this year.

In my post about Lake Mungo I mention my general disappointment in the majority of "mock doc" and found footage sub-genre of horror movies, post The Blair Witch Project, and I think one of the things a lot of those movies do wrong is repetition. Show something fishy happening on a blurry video for two hours and it loses its shock value. Host avoids this curse because, for one thing, it is barely an hour long. And for another, its multi-screen viewpoint is basically built in variety.

It's not perfect. It relies a little too heavily on jump scares instead of creepiness, and some characters do the same dumb things horror movie characters always seem to do. (Who in their right mind would go look in the attic --any attic!-- to find out what that noise is?!) But that said, I definitely jumped a few times, and found myself yelling at the screen, which is much less embarrassing when you're alone at home. Ironic, isn't it?

  Host is currently streaming on Shudder.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 9: The Spiral Staircase

Robert Siodmak's 1946 thriller The Spiral Staircase is a clear precursor to the slasher films of the 1970's and '80's, for anyone who thinks that genre somehow spontaneously erupted in that era. It's got a serial killer who preys on vulnerable women, in this case, those with some kind of disability, and in several scenes, the camera takes the killer's point of view, as he stalks his victims. And as in most slasher films (and really, as in any murder mystery, of which slasher movies are just a gorier sub-genre), the killer is not identified until the very end.

Of course, this being a movie shot in the mid-1940's, it's very tame, but does contain some memorable imagery, (see the above gif!) and a great performance by Ethel Barrymore as the old woman our mute heroine Helen (Dorothy Maguire) must care for. RKO regular Kent Smith is also good as the requisite love interest.

The one thing that puzzled me is why the story was set in 1906, and yet nothing in the storyline, aside from a scene involving a silent movie, requires it be set at that time. Normally I wouldn't really care, but the costuming, as is so often the case with period pieces shot way back when, is just way off, particularly for the men in the film, who look like they'd be able to just walk off the set and hail a cab home.

I watched the film on DVD, but it appears to be available on YouTube, and is embedded below!

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 8: Frenzy

You'd think a horror fan like me would have seen all of Hitchcock's movies--twice!--but there are actually a few I never got around to, and Frenzy is one of them.

Released in 1972, Frenzy marked two milestones: It was filmed in England, which Hitch had not done since 1950's Stage Fright. And it was the first and only R-rated movie he ever made.

Which brings me back to the reason I had never gotten around to seeing it, because actually, it was less a "never getting around to" than a conscious avoidance. Centered on a London serial killer who likes to rape and then strangle his victims with a necktie, I had read multiple times that the rape scenes are very disturbing to watch. And they are. They really, really are. But it's not just because rape is disturbing. It's because while watching, you can feel Hitchcock's prurient gaze throughout. There's a lascivious feeling to the scenes, particularly the first rape and murder that happens on screen, like Hitchcock was pleased as punch that he could finally show a rape and nudity, after only being able to allude to it for decades.

Yep, Hitchcock finally gets to show naked women in a movie, and he shows them every chance he can get. No matter that the majority of those naked women are also corpses. That he's also treading a bit of water, thematically, with a central "wrong man" story, and a villain I think he hopes you to root for every now and then, ala Norman Bates, just adds to the disappointment that is his penultimate movie.

Hitchcock liked to appear in some of his trailers, including this one for Frenzy. Gotta say, it's more enjoyable than the actual film...

If you subscribe to Peacock, Frenzy and several other Universal Hitchcock movies are included in the subscription. I rented it from Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 7: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

 

 

Last month, I watch the original 1980 Prom Night for the first time, and I'll tell ya what, the scariest thing in that movie is Jamie Lee Curtis's disco dancing. The sequel, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, which has nothing to do with the first film, aside from taking place in the same high school, isn't exactly a better movie, but it is a more entertaining one. Let's count some of the ways:

  1. It opens in 1957, with a teenage high school student confessing how many times she's sinned in the past week, and how she loved every minute of it.
  2. Said teenager, Mary Lou, looks to be in at least her mid-twenties, but her prom date, Billy, with his receding hairline, looks like he's about ready to celebrate his tenth year at the insurance company.
  3. What happens at that prom night becomes the stuff of legend, as we jump ahead to 1987, and speaking of hair, there's a LOT of it.
  4. Horror movie legend Michael Ironside plays the now adult Billy. 
  5. Our heroine Vicki spends one scene stalking her best friend while totally naked, just because. (She's played by Wendy Lyon, who is still acting, and recently had a bit part in The Shape of Water.)
  6. The sure sign that there might be something wrong with Vicki is when she comes to school dressed like a 1950's bobby soxer. No sane person would wear such outdated clothing! (😉)
  7. An amazing practical special effect involving a black board that turns to water.
  8. And a 1980's prom with more neon than the Vegas strip.

I watched the film on Shudder, and unfortunately the print was terrible. Very clearly just a copy of a VHS taped version of the movie. IMDb's copy isn't any better. There is a version available on DVD, so if you want to watch Prom Night II, I'd encourage seeking that out.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 6: Lake Mungo

 

I had never heard of the 2008 movie Lake Mungo until this year, when I saw it on a "scariest horror movies" list on some random website, although its presence on that list is perhaps a little questionable. It's not a particularly scary movie, but it does do things with the "horror mockumentary" sub-genre that I hadn't seen before, and definitely surprised me more than once.

As with most mock doc and found footage horror, The Blair Witch Project is a clear influence, and I'd say it's one of the more successful successors. Watching it, I was a few times reminded of the first Paranormal Activity, but mainly I was reminded what a colossal disappointment that movie was when I saw it. That one kind of soured me on the whole subgenre for years. But Lake Mungo takes the genre, and doesn't really try to convince the audience it's "real." Instead it uses the genre tropes to craft a clever story about a teenage girl's disappearance, and possible paranormal reappearance, with several twists, and a satisfying ending. Be sure to watch through the credits!

  Lake Mungo is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 5: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

 

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer is another disturbing movie I was sure I hadn't seen, but when I started watching it, began to question that assessment. Again, I wasn't sure if that's because I'd watched clips, and remembered those, or because I actually did see it, and blocked it out of my memory.

When I was 12, I started writing down and rating all the movies I watched in an old ledger. So I looked in that old ledger at all the films I'd seen between 1990 (the year it was released) and 1995 (the span of years when I would have been likely to rent it), and I didn't see it listed. So...I guess I really hadn't seen it?

And I kind of wish I still hadn't! Now, I can understand why it got some acclaim, especially compared to the usual slasher fare that permeated the 1980s. It takes its subject matter very seriously, and is unflinching in its depiction of violence, and Michael Rooker is very good in the lead role. In fact, it was another instance where Siskel and Ebert used it as the centerpiece on an episode of their show that was focused on films that were getting labeled with an X rating, before the creation of the NC-17 rating (which, history has proven, never really stuck).

But, like Last House on the Left, its low-budget adds a level of sleaze that makes its subject matter all the more unpalatable. And sure, maybe something like this shouldn't be palatable. Maybe it should be upsetting. That's fine. It's just not an experience I'd willingly seek out.

On an amusing related note: About ten years after the movie was released, I sat behind Michael Rooker at an outdoor theater in Disneyland, and I couldn't get over the fact that Henry the Serial Killer was sitting in front of me, nuzzling the top of his daughter's head.

  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is currently streaming on Shudder

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Musty TV's Manical Halloween Countdown - Day 4: Chopping Mall

 

I'm pretty sure I never saw Chopping Mall in the 80's because I was convinced it would be super dumb. And guess what. It is! But that doesn't mean it's not also lots of fun.

For one thing, I had no idea Dick Miller is in it (see above) in one of his many screen appearances as a character named Walter Paisley. I also didn't know Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are in it, also reprising some characters, Paul and Mary Bland from Eating Raoul.

Scream queen Barbara Crampton is also in it, it was filmed in the same mall as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a film that also features Chopping Mall final girl Kelli Maroney, and it has your requisite amount of 1980's horror movie nudity and stupidity. In short, it's an excellent addition to any "1980's movies set in a mall" film festival that I can't believe hasn't happened yet. Someone get on that!

Chopping Mall is currently streaming on Shudder.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Coundown - Day 3: Train to Busan

I went into Train to Busan thinking, "Do I really need another zombie anything in my life?" but was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely entertained. Turns out, it's not the mere concept of zombies that's become boring. It's the way those stories are told that has.

And Train to Busan's story is simple enough: it's Zombies on a Train! How do you deal with zombies in an enclosed space? How do you get from one car to the next when zombies are in the way? How do you get rid of the narcissistic rich businessman who only cares about his own survival? I mean, it's a movie just made for our times!

It's so entertaining that I didn't even mind that it was over 90 minutes long, in another language, and features an almost irritatingly cute child. That it also includes some pointed commentary about class difference and societal indifference that are not unique to Korea, are just added bonuses.

By the way, a sequel was released this year, but reviews are pretty negative. Stick with the original.

 Train to Busan is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 2: Last House on the Left

When I started to watch Last House on the Left (the original, 1972 Wes Craven version), I got the distinct impression I actually had seen it before. Watching the whole thing, some scenes definitely resulted in some disturbing deja vu, but I really don't know if it's because I had seen it before, or because I had merely watched some scenes before.

I'll admit I've long conflated Last House on the Left with I Spit on Your Grave in my mind. Both are low budget rape revenge flicks, and I have distinct memories of Siskel and Ebert, on their original show, singling out one of them. Turns out it was I Spit on Your Grave. (Roger Ebert actually gave Last House on the Left a positive review.) Below is the episode of Sneak Previews in which they talk about "Women in Danger" movies, better known as Slasher films.

Now, I find it a little hard to believe Roger Ebert could be against something like Friday the 13th and OK with Last House on the Left, but then again, he had about a decade between the two. Maybe by the time Friday the 13th came out he was just plum over these kinds of movies. 

And I kind of get it. I've had MORE than a few decades of viewing, and at this point in my life, watching something like Last House on the Left is just...depressing. I think it's the overall low-budget, and weird shifts in tone that do it. It feels like a 1970's porno at times (and in fact one of the actors had a career in porn) but instead of a happy ending you have castration. And after watching this one (perhaps again?!) I know for sure that I will never, ever watch I Spit on Your Grave

Assuming I haven't already, and simply erased it from my memory.

Last House on the Left is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 1: Eyes Without a Face

 

Let's kickoff this countdown with something classy. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting from Eyes Without a Face (aka Les Yeux sans visage in France). It's a movie I have definitely read about in critical works. And images from it, once you see them, are hard to forget, particularly, the sight of that porcelain white mask that looks both too real and not real enough.

As a result, I had basic notions of what the plot covers; the American title, The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, also clues one in that a mad doctor probably plays a part. But what I was surprised to find was how much it has in common with the much sleazier and sillier American film The Brain that Wouldn't Die.

The curious thing is both movies were filmed in 1959, so I'm not sure any accusations of plagiarism can be wielded against either production. That said, the similarities really are rather striking! (Spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen either!)

  • Both center on women who have been maimed in car accidents, and the doctors in their lives who are determined to return them to their former beauty. (In Eyes, it's the woman's father; in Brain it's her fiance.)
  • To reach these ends, young women are stalked for their bodies (in The Brain) or their faces (Eyes) as unwilling donors.
  • The maimed and trapped women are really none too happy about being the subject of the mad doctors and their plans, though the doctors refuse to see that.
  • Said doctors both have experiments they keep behind locked doors (a literal monster in Brain, and dogs used as lab animals in Eyes) that, thanks to the maimed woman, end up being the death of both doctors when they are set free.
  • And the doctors also both have lab assistants who suffer from their own respective afflictions.

That both films are in black and white, with soundtracks that sometimes belie the grimness of what's happening on screen is also worth noting, (in both cases, it's when women are being stalked).

All that said, Eyes Without a Face is of course the better movie, with some really beautiful cinematography, and moments of horror that even now are pretty shocking. But if you want to go from the sublime (Eyes) to the ridiculous (Brain) in a single evening, I highly recommend making it a double bill!

Eyes Without a Face is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel, and The Brain That Wouldn't Die is available via multiple services.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Maniacal Movie Countdown Is Back! And Better than Ever!

Come and knock on my door! I've been waiting for you!

Hello all you ghouls and ghosts, and welcome to my 13th year participating in the Countdown to Halloween!

If you've knocked on my door in the past, you may remember the theme of my countdown has always been recommendations. In the beginning, it was finding horror movies or specials you could watch that day or night on broadcast and cable TV, in the dark days before streaming. Eventually I cut the cord and joined the streaming revolution, but I still mainly recommended any favorites I could find online.

But this year, I thought I'd do something a little different because, well, 2020. I spend almost all of my free time at home these days, trying to avoid the Masque of the Red Death, as it were, so what better time than now to watch a bunch of horror movies I've actually never seen before?

So, every day I will be posting my reaction to a new-to-me movie I've watched, along with clips, trailers, and other treats. And while my list of 31 films is almost full, I do have a few slots open. So if you have a horror fave you think has been overlooked or is woefully unknown, let me know about it in the comments, and I may just give it a look.

Please also be sure to visit the many other blogs participating in the Countdown, for some virtual trick or treating (the real kind is much too scary this year!). You can find a complete list in the right sidebar of the Countdown site.

And because I won't be including The Night of the Living Dead in the countdown this year (though I will watch it; it is, after all, the It's a Wonderful Life of Halloween movies), I'll leave you with a treat: my favorite quote in the movie.