Monday, October 18, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 18: Daniel Isn't Real (2019)

Daniel Isn't Real is the second film in this countdown to include an imaginary childhood friend who turns out to be a malevolent monster (the first one was Malignant). I'd say of the two, Malignant is definitely more "fun," just because it ends up being pretty nuts. Daniel Isn't Real takes a little more serious route, as its hero Luke (Miles Robbins) has to figure out if Daniel is in fact, not real, and merely a result of his inherited mental illness.

Daniel is played by Patrick Schwarzenegger (three guesses whose son he is!) and he's pretty good as the nightmare friend, an alpha male fashion victim who would either be best friends with Patrick Bateman, or murder him the moment they met. I also appreciated seeing Mary Stuart Masterson pop up as Luke's schizophrenic mother.

But ultimately this isn't a film that really stuck with me, and despite only watching it about a week ago, I still had to read a synopsis to remind myself exactly what happens in it. There are some good visuals, and performances, but as far as imaginary friend horror goes, I'll take Malignant.

Daniel Isn't Real is available to stream on several platforms including Amazon Prime and Shudder.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 17: The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

I had always assumed The House That Dripped Blood was a Hammer production, being that it's a British horror movie, and Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are both featured players. How dare I! But no, it's in fact an Amicus Production, another British studio that made a series of "portmanteau" horror films, a fancier term for horror anthologies.

Robert Bloch wrote the script, based on several of his own short stories. The story that wraps the film concerns a missing actor, and the cursed house he was last seen in. And of course, many terrible things happened in that house (although, dripping blood was not one of them), and those terrible things make up the film's four central stories.

The best story is the third, starring Christopher Lee as a cruel father who hires a private tutor for his young daughter, whom he is convinced would be a danger were he to send her to a real school. My least favorite was the second one, starring Peter Cushing as a retiree who visits a creepy wax museum. 

It's the rare anthology film where all the stories are winners (can you even think of one?), so three out of four ain't so bad!

The House Dripped Blood is available to rent from Amazon Prime. I watched it free via Kanopy.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 16: The Broken (2008)

I have no idea how The Broken ended up on my radar, but I do know at some point a long time ago I added it to my Netflix DVD queue and then forgot about it. When I was picking films for this countdown, one of my methods was culling that insanely long Netflix queue (I think it was over 200 long!) deleting movies that are now available to watch online, and adding some of those that were horror films to this countdown. (I've got that DVD queue down to a more manageable 56 now.)

The Broken has a very intriguing set-up, with Lena Headley's character seeing what looks to be her double driving her car down the street, a set-up that reminded me a bit of Robert Altman's 1972 psychological horror film Images. After a car accident she tries to figure out who her double is, and then things start to delve into possible Invasion of the Body Snatchers territory. And then...

Well, that's the ultimate problem with this film, and this is going to be spoiler, but I don't care because I don't think it's worth anyone's time to watch this. There is no resolution. None. There is absolutely no explanation, or anything even resembling an explanation, as to why the things that happen in the film happen. I mean, I would have even been happy with some kind of bullshit ambiguous "Is she crazy or did this stuff really happen?" ending, but The Broken doesn't give us that. What happens in the movie happens. And we never find out why. It's a textbook example of a film being ruined by its ending.

But if you really feel like you need to see this one, it's available to stream or rent on several platforms. I watched it for free on Peacock.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 15: Night of the Creeps (1986)

For some reason I never got around to seeing Night of the Creeps back in the 80's which is weird because it's actually pretty good. Did I hear some bad review of it somewhere so skipped it at the theater? Was it always checked out at the video store? I may never know!

And right from the start it's promising, with an opening featuring giant naked baby aliens, and a prologue filmed in black and white that takes place in the 1950's, mashing up an alien invasion story with an urban legend-esque mad slasher on the loose on lovers' lane.

The rest of the movie is very firmly 1980's, with two nerdy college boys trying to get dates with popular sorority girls who are seemingly beholden to frat boys. It's very clearly a comedic film from the very beginning, but it's when I started to hear the characters' last names--Cronenberg, Carpenter, Hooper, Romero, Raimi, Bava--that I knew this film was coming from a place of reverence, and not just send up. Horror movie veteran Tom Atkins is just the icing on the cake, and a cameo from Dick Miller as, yes, Walter Paisley, is the birthday candle on that cake. Lit with a flame thrower.

Night of the Creeps is available to rent from several online platforms including Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 14: Mother of Tears (2007)

Mother of Tears, the final entry in Dario Argento's "Three Mothers" trilogy, has one thing going for it, and that's an evil monkey who's a total asshole. Aside from that, it's a disappointing finale for a trilogy that, while not perfect, at least included some of the most striking imagery ever seen in horror. Mother of Tears fails in that respect too. (Although, if naked witch boobs is all you really want in the way of "striking imagery," I supposed you could deem the movie a success.)

Truth be told, I never really paid much attention to the mythology behind the trilogy, and just what's up with those Three Mothers, because like I said, I was too busy being awed by the look of those first two films, Suspiria and Inferno, to pay much attention to any explanations there may have been. So maybe Mother of Tears actually does make some sense to people who are less distracted by pretty pictures than I am. And maybe it would have benefited from a viewing immediately following the first two. But as it was, I pretty much gave up trying to figure everything out at about the time Udo Kier shows up as a priest.

Mother of Tears is available to rent from Amazon Prime and Vudu.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 13: Isle of the Dead (1945)

I've seen most of Val Lewton's RKO horror movies, but there are still a few holdouts, and Isle of the Dead was one of them. It was an interesting movie to be watching right now, as it's about a group of people who have to quarantine on a Greek island because of a breakout of septicemic plague. But aside from a general recommendation to "not gather in groups," they don't actually do much to prevent the spread. I kept thinking, "Put a mask on! Don't talk so close to each other! WHY ARE YOU TWO MAKING OUT?!"

There's a reason it's not as well known or loved as other Lewton films like Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie - it's pretty slow. But it does have Boris Karloff, and a final act that includes some really cool and creepy imagery. Turns out there's a lot you can do in a black and white movie with a spooky woman in a flowing white dress.

Isle of the Dead is available to rent on most streaming platforms.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 12: The Deeper You Dig (2019)

The Deeper You Dig is a memorable little indie horror film, written, directed, and starring the Adams family (yep, really). They're husband John Adams, who co-wrote, co-directs, and co-stars, wife Toby Poser, who also does all of the above, and daughter Zelda, who co-stars. (They also have another daughter, Lulu, who has appeared in previous films from their production company Wonder Wheel Productions but is not in this one.)

The story centers on mom Ivy (Toby Poser) who is a psychic who may or may not be completely fleecing her customers, her gothy teenager daughter, Echo (Zelda Poser), who goes missing after a night of sledding, and Kurt (John Adams), the neighbor up the road who definitely had something to do with it.

It's a slow burn of a movie. There's no real mystery as to what happened to Echo, both to the audience, and to her mother. Ivy's pretty sure Echo is dead, but she has a desperate need to find out just how it happened. Towards the end, there are some very surreal scenes that don't always hit the way I think they're intended to. It's like they're going for something Lynchian, but can't quite fully commit to the tone. But aside from that, it really lingered with me, and I will be seeking out the rest of this family's films. (Their latest, Hellbender, will stream on Shudder in 2022.)

The Deeper You Dig is currently streaming on several platforms, including Amazon Prime, Shudder, and Vudu.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown- Day 11: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Yep, prior to this month, I had never seen the Elvira movie. And here's why: Elvira was never my favorite horror movie host (that would be Bob Wilkins), and I'm not even sure her show was syndicated in the Bay Area when I was a teenager. If it was, I never watched it. Of course, she was kind of culturally pervasive, so I knew of her and her shtick, and I appreciated it. I was just never a mega-fan, and never felt the need to watch her movie.

And yet, I still felt compelled to read her memoir when it was released earlier this month, and it wonderfully illustrates that Cassandra Peterson is much, much more than Elvira, and if you ever doubted it, I suggest you read the book too. It's filled with enough crazy stories to fill up ten memoirs. 

But back to Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. It's quintessentially Elvira, filled with corny puns and plenty of boob jokes. It's also got a casserole creature, a punk rock poodle, and Edie McClugh, and that's enough to recommend it right there.

Now tell me, is it worth watching the sequel, Elvira's Haunted Hills?

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is available to stream on several platforms including Amazon Prime and Shudder.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 10: The Funeral Home (La Funeraria) (2020)

The Funeral Home is an interesting little horror film from Argentina, released online earlier this year. 

A funeral home isn't actually the main setting of the film; it's the house behind the funeral home, where the owner lives with his wife, his stepdaughter, and a few ghosts. What makes the premise immediately interesting is how casually the family seems to take the presence of ghosts in their home, kind of how you'd take living with giant insects you can't kill. You hate them, you want to get the hell out of there if they won't, but until then, you deal with it as best you can.

I will admit it took me watching the ending twice to really understand what was happening, which was a bit of a bummer. And there is also one plot point so subtle that it is literally "blink and you'll miss it." (I know this to be true, because some reviews I've read did indeed completely miss it.) But, even if it was a bit confusing at times, it still managed to put me on edge with its consistently odd tone.

The Funeral Home (La Funeraria) is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Shudder.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 9: The Beyond (1981)

After watching Malignant and seeing it compared in many reviews to classic giallo horror films, it made me realize I need to watch more giallo, as the main thing I think of when the term is brought up is Dario Argento and his lurid use of color and gore. Of course, there's a lot more to it.

Another director who has delved into the giallo genre is Lucio Fulci, and while I'm not sure The Beyond is technically giallo, it's definitely...Italian. Which is ironic as it was set and filmed in Louisiana, and seeing 1980's New Orleans in some scenes may be the highlight of the film, as the rest of it doesn't make hell of a lot of sense. There's a curse, and a hotel, and...zombies? I mean I think they're zombies? But why they're zombies is a little confusing.

Also, even though most of the cast speaks English, most of the dialogue is still dubbed, as tended to be the case with almost all Italian horror movies, and that can be a little disorienting. Still, as with any giallo (which, maybe this is one??), there are some beautiful moments, and some insanely gory moments. Who cares if half the time you don't know what the hell is going on? (Although I think it may literally be hell going on.)

The Beyond is available to stream on Shudder.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 8: The Boy Behind the Door (2020)

The Boy Behind the Door
is a tough movie to recommend because it's a tough movie to watch. I mean, how can you in good conscience recommend something that features more than one scene of a kid being tortured?

I think you can as long as it doesn't feel exploitative, and as long as it's well done, and The Boy Behind the Door succeeds on both those fronts. This is definitely one of most intense suspense stories I've seen in a long time, even if some of the characters do exactly the things in horror movies that make you want to yell at the screen, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! DON'T DO THAT!"

There's nothing supernatural here, just the real life horror of the kidnapping of two boys, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis from TV's This Is Us), and Kevin (Ezra Dewey, who impressed me earlier this year in his role as mute boy in the indie horror film The Djinn). One boy is able to break free but doesn't escape. Instead he stays behind, trying to rescue his friend from the kidnappers, resulting in a nail-biting 90 minutes of creeping, fleeing, fighting, and, yes, some gouging.

This isn't a "fun" horror movie, but it's a very effective and often surprising one; I'm glad I watched it. But I'll probably never watch it again...

The Boy Next Door is currently streaming on Shudder.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 7: Alligator (1980)

I think it's officially become a tradition that every year for this countdown I pick a film that is annoyingly difficult to find. Last year it was Possession. This year it was Alligator.

Which was surprising to learn since it did get a DVD release in 2007 with extras that included a commentary track from director Lewis Teague and star Robert Forster. Alas, that DVD is now out of print, and the bootleg copy I bought off of eBay (I know! I know!) was a pan and scan version. The horror!

It's not streaming on any service either, so I resorted to watching a version that is available on YouTube which is at least in the correct aspect ratio, and during brightly lit scenes, looks pretty good. It's too bad roughly half of the movie takes place in dark sewers!

On the surface, Alligator seems like your run of the mill Jaws ripoff, this time one inspired by the urban legend that pet baby alligators that were flushed down the toilet when they lost their cuteness eventually grew up in the sewers to be man-eating monsters. (Turns out, some of that is not entirely legend, and this awesome NYT article delves into the truth.)

But this one was written by John Sayles, who also wrote another above par Jaws ripoff, 1978's Piranha. And similar to that one, what sets this one apart are the performances (Robert Forster is great); a good sense of humor; and some moments that do nothing to further the plot, but are just fun to watch. (My favorite is a scene involving an old guy in a tuxedo talking about how to grill meat.) 

If you can get your hands on the DVD release, that's how to see this, otherwise the only streaming option is the above linked-to YouTube option.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 6: Kindred (2020)

Rosemary's Baby is one of my favorite films of all time, horror or not, and though it has influenced countless films, it's a rare film that can even come close to its brilliance.

Kindred is not one of those films. 

I'd also say it's just barely a horror film at all, although the situation Tamara Lawrence's character Charlotte finds herself in is pretty horrible: When her partner dies just after she learns she is pregnant, his family takes an unhealthy interest in her and her coming child.

Fiona Shaw stars as the overbearing and cruel grandmother to be, and per usual whenever she's required to play evil, she does it quite well. But throughout the whole thing I felt like the movie was trying to straddle the line between drama and horror, with the horrific flourishes feeling tacked on and not fleshed out. It also builds up to an ending that should pack a punch, but falls oddly flat.

So, can't entirely recommend, despite excellent performances all around...

Kindred is currently streaming on Hulu.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 5: C.H.U.D. (1984)


I had always thought I had seen C.H.U.D. mainly because without any hints I can immediately tell you that "C.H.U.D." stands for "Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers." But turns out, I was wrong!  

If I had seen it, I would have remembered that the cast is kind of amazing. John Heard is the lead, Daniel Stern is also one of the film's heroes, and John Goodman and Jay Thomas have small rolls as a couple of cops who sexually harass a diner waitress before getting ripped to shreds by some C.H.U.D.s.

The movie tries to toss in some commentary on homelessness, government corruption, and toxic waste, but doesn't quuuiiiiiitttte work as political satire. It does however nicely capture early 1980's NYC grittiness, a time in the city's history when it wouldn't have been that unbelievable to learn that there were cannibals living in the sewers.

C.H.U.D. is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 4: Malignant (2021)

You guys, Malignant. This movie!

I watched it the night it premiered on HBO Max knowing little about it aside from the fact that it was directed by James Wan, who is no stranger to horror movies, having co-created the Saw franchise (blech), the Insidious franchise (meh), and the Conjuring franchise (his only series I've actually partially enjoyed).

And while Malignant gets off to promising start, once the prologue ended, I wasn't too hopeful about what I was seeing, as the villain, or monster, or whatever you want to call it, just looked like so many malevolent beings have looked ever since the Ring movies came out.

But I was wrong. What the movie turns into is some crazy shit, and reminded of some particularly favorite 1980's grindhouse fare, but to say which ones would be to spoil the film's surprises. So, if you haven't been spoiled yet, and still haven't watched Malignant, get to it, as you only have a few more days. It leaves HBO Max on October 10th.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 3: Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

The only reason I decided to watch Eyes of a Stranger is because it was Jennifer Jason Leigh's motion picture debut, after she appeared in a number of TV shows and one TV movie. (That TV movie was The Best Little Girl in the World, a film about anorexia in which she dropped her weight to under 90 pounds, thus turning a story that was supposed to be about the dangers of anorexia into something girls with eating disorders would watch for inspiration. But that's a story for another post.) 

Here she plays a deaf, blind, and mute teenager who lives with her newscaster sister, played by Your Cruise Director herself, Lauren Tewes. They are both surprisingly good in a movie that never rises past mediocre. It's a hodgepodge mix of slasher movie, rape revenge drama, and Rear Window ripoff, where there's no mystery as to who the killer is: it's the neighbor across the way who looks like Meatloaf in a business suit. 

Tom Savini did the splatter effects, though most of them were cut out of the original release of the film. I believe they have since been added back and that cut is what was released by Shout Factory earlier this year on Blu-ray. (I watched a crappy version available to rent on Amazon Prime.)

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 2: A Classic Horror Story (2021)

A Classic Horror Story is classic in the sense that it incorporates many classic American horror movie conventions into its Italian production, while also blending in some European folklore, ala Midsommar. I'm sure horror fans will recognize plenty of references, from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to Blair Witch, to an explicit shout-out to Sam Raimi and the Evil Dead films. It's fun to spot the influences.

But the movie is not just a pastiche of classic horror movie tropes. It's also a meta commentary on the genre, and I'll say no more than that. It's that aspect of the movie that may turn off many, and I'm not sure its entirely successful (the final few minutes add absolutely nothing to the point the movie hopes to make, for instance), but in all I'd say it's not a wasted watch. It just may be a divisive one.

A Classic Horror Story is currently streaming on Netflix.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 1: The Fury (1978)

Welcome the first day of the countdown! Let's ease into this month-long marathon with something...ridiculous.

I think Brian DePalma has only made one movie I can say I genuinely love, and that's Carrie. Still, the fact that I have not seen all of DePalma's earlier works itched at the completist part of my brain. Can you really say a director is terrible if you don't see the majority of his work?

Yeah, you probably can. But I still decided to watch The Fury.

And It's bad. Like, maybe one of his worst? DePalma uses everything in his usual arsenal: slo-mo; a Bernard Herrmann-esque score; awkward attempts at humor; acting that is just The more I see of his other films the more I wonder if Carrie is only saved by the presence of Sissy Spacek who, for whatever reason, managed to give a purely human performance in a film surrounded by scenery chewers. She balances it out, so it all works.

But every performance in The Fury is just...nuts

It's almost saved by the most insane ending ever, a 'splosion caused by telekinesis, something David Cronenberg would do a few years later in Scanners. Wow, for once DePalma did something first!

 I rented The Fury on disc, but it's also available to rent online from several platforms.