My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Hi, readers! It’s been awhile since my last post. I try to write at least once a week. Things have been a little busy for me, since I was invited to be a vendor at Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ 2014, a fan convention for The Walking Dead and lovers of zombies. I was happy and excited, then I realized that vendors need something to vend. So I’ve increased my production of my sketch cards which, as always, are available at my Etsy shop, plus I’ve started working on some larger paintings. I’ve been doing this while working on my job hunt, so things have gotten pretty busy for someone who’s unemployed. So, my updating schedule may be affected but I’ll try to maintain my posting.
Today’s movie is the 1981 Canadian slasher, My Bloody Valentine.


You know how everyone talks about a movie and how great it is? Then you watch it and think it was a whole lot of “meh.” I wouldn’t call My Bloody Valentine “meh” but I didn’t like it as much as other people do and now I feel guilty, I guess.
titlecard
The town of Valentine Bluffs hasn’t celebrated Valentine’s Day for twenty years. Not since…the accident. Twenty years ago, there was a mining accident. The supervisors failed to check the methane levels and then left the miners underground, eager to get to the Valentine’s Day dance. There was an explosion, trapping five miners. Four of them died except for Harry Warden (Peter Cowper), who survived by cannibalizing his fellow miners. A year later, Harry had his revenge on the supervisors. He killed them and put their hearts in candy boxes. He told the town never to celebrate Valentine’s Day again but, twenty years later, the town is no longer afraid of Warden.
Everyone is super excited, especially the “young people” who work in the mine. I put young people in quotes because they look like they’re thirty but everyone treats them like they’re teenagers. I’m not really sure how old they’re supposed to be. The men all work in the mines and they’re all old enough to drink Moosehead Beer (Is that any good?) at a bar but the older people in town call them kids. Anyway, they’re all pretty excited for the dance.
Until people start turning up dead again. A woman is impaled on a pickax during the opening credits. Police chief Jake Newby (Don Francks) and Mayor Hanniger (Larry Reynolds) receive an anonymous Valentine that contains a human heart. Then Mabel (Patricia Hamilton), the woman organizing the dance, is stalked and killed by a man in a mining outfit.
killer
Newby finds Mabel’s scorched body in a dryer. Enough carnage is enough, so he and Hanniger declare the party over. The “young people” are so disappointed that they go to the bar where Happy (Jack Van Evera) recounts the story of Harry Warden and warns them all of their impending doom.
Doom...Dooom...Doooom.

Doom…Dooom…Doooom.


Do they listen? Hell no! They decide to have a party in the mine. Where they are picked off one by one.
This movie was a mixed bag. The kills are all really well-done and hold up, even thirty-three years later. This is especially impressive considering that the movie cost two-million dollars to make. Especially memorable are Mabel’s death and Sylvia’s (Helene Udy) death. Sylvia sneaked out during the party with her boyfriend, John (Rob Stein). He leaves her alone to get some beer when the miner catches her and impales her on the shower nozzle.

The mine is a great setting for a slasher. It’s claustrophobic and creepy. You get the sense that if you get lost there that you’ll never find your way out. The miner is a formidable killer.
What I really liked was the blue-collar setting. That’s pretty unusual for a slasher, especially when so many deal with people who are clearly well-to-do (The Initiation) or in college (Hell Night and Black Christmas).
What I didn’t like were the people. They were the weak link and that’s kind of a big deal in making a really good slasher. The characters were pretty thin. The main characters are T.J. (Paul Kelman), Axel (Neil Affleck), and Sarah (Lori Hallier). T.J. is the mayor’s son. The mayor also happens to own the mine. T.J. was dating Sarah until he went west to make his fortune and then came back because he failed. When he came back, T.J. found that Axel was dating Sarah. This is interesting! Why did T.J. leave? How did he fail and what was he trying to do? If he’s the mayor’s son, why is he working in the mine? These are interesting ideas that could have been explored but they’re never really discussed. There are so many people in their group that they blur together and none of them really stand out. I wish they could be cut out and we could focus more on the T.J., Axel, and Sarah triangle.
The movie has the special effects and the creepy atmosphere but it lacks characters that we care about that would make it a really great slasher. Which makes me wonder why so many people love it so much.

Posted in 1980's, foreign, slasher | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Shout Factory has done it again with their Roger Corman Cult Classics imprint with their release of the infamous 1980 cult classic Humanoids from the Deep. I received Humanoids from the Deep as a birthday present from my best friend and was super excited to watch and write about it. On a side note, you know someone is your best friend when they look at the long list of movies that Netflix swears it doesn’t have and can pick the one that’s just right for a present.
The fishing town of Noyo, California is picturesque but is being torn apart from within. Noyo is known for its salmon and the canning company, Canco, wants to open a cannery. Most of the people want this but it’s opposed by the local Native American tribe. Tensions are running high. They increase when all the fishermen’s dogs are found mutilated except for that of Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya). When Johnny’s dog is mutilated, this prompts a fight with local bigot, cannery supporter, and righteous white-guy ‘fro sporter Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow).
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HumanoidsSlatteryFro
While this is happening, several groups of teens disappear. Creatures are coming from the sea, killing the men, and raping the women. Local Jim Hill’s (Doug McClure) brother is attacked, giving him a personal interest in what’s happening. Unlike Slattery, he’s willing to work with Johnny Eagle to figure out what’s happening. Canco scientist Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) admits that an experimental chemical to increase fish yields was released during a storm and that she was pressured by Canco to keep it quiet.
HumanoidsDrake
While hunting the creatures, Jim, Johnny, and Dr. Drake find Peggy (Lynn Schiller), the only victim who survives.
HumanoidsPeggy
They also manage to kill one of the creatures and it’s super gross. You’ll never want to eat butterscotch pudding again.
HumanoidsMonster
Now they just have to save everyone at the salmon festival where the monsters are running amok!
I have to admit, I normally hate rubber-suit creature movies. I don’t even like the Universal Creature from the Black Lagoon. Sorry. I’ve just never been interested in or scared by these movies. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies where the creatures are falling into their own eye-bags and have mouths full of hot dogs.


Director Barbara Peeters and humanoid creator Rob Bottin [We've seen his work in Piranha (1978), The Fog (1980), and The Thing (1982)] worked really hard to build an atmosphere of tension and the creatures are legitimately gross. I think the thing that was missing in a lot of creature features is the texture. These monsters look like they were dumped in a barrel of K-Y Jelly and they probably were. It’s not just the creatures, the mutilations hold up really well for a movie that is thirty-four years-old.
HumanoidsFace
The version released by Shout Factory is the uncut European edition, also known as Monster. They didn’t even change the title card.
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The big elephant in the room, right now, is the portrayal of rape in this movie. I’ve complained about the portrayal of rape in media in the past but my major complaint is when rape is used as a narrative tool to move along a character’s (Usually male) story-line without exploring the effects on the victim. It should be a corollary of women in refrigerators syndrome and it’s why I won’t watch some shows.
To be honest, this movie does engage in this. We don’t find out what happens to Peggy, the only surviving victim, until the last possible scene. This doesn’t bother me the way it does in other movies and shows because we don’t see the Vengeful Boyfriend’s Quest of Righteousness, either. The rape wasn’t used as a means to drive the boyfriend to character development, it was used because that’s what invaders do, somewhere between the genocide and smallpox blankets.
This movie in its original form, before it was released, had most of the gore but the rapes were portrayed by pulling the camera away and showing the shadows. Roger Corman wasn’t pleased with this and had second unit director James Sbardellati film the rape scenes. The changes were made without telling Barbara Peeters or any of the principles working on the movie. After it was released, Peeters and Turkel both asked to have their names removed from the movie but were denied.
I understand their reaction, to a degree. If I worked on a movie and the executive producer stepped in and added scenes that changed the tone, without my knowledge, I’d be angry. That being said, I don’t think the scenes hurt the movie. They don’t glorify rape or make it look fun or erotic. And it fits in with the racial tension in the town. What do you think happened when Johnny Eagle’s people made first contact with Europeans? It probably looked a lot like what the humanoids do to the town.
I actually liked this movie a lot. It was creepy and it didn’t shy away from what invaders would do. And it’s (hopefully) the only movie I’ve ever seen that used a ventriloquist dummy in foreplay.
HumanoidsDummy

Posted in 1980's, body horror, creatures, eco-horror, monsters | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

I continued one of my favorite family traditions, seeing a scary movie with my mom, by seeing Deliver Us from Evil yesterday. Like the last movie I reviewed, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I think that part of the problem is that the first possession movie I ever saw was The Exorcist and no possession movie is ever going to be as scary or as thoughtful as that one.
Like The Exorcist, Deliver Us from Evil opens in Iraq. A group of three soldiers enter a mysterious cave. It smells and has strange writing on the wall. You know situations like that never, ever end well. I like this scene because of the reference to The Exorcist and the use of multiple kinds of cameras to add a kind of realness. This is used a bit throughout the movie, with security footage interspersed with regular camerawork.
Three years later, Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a sergeant on the New York Police Department. He neglects his family and sees too much on the street, I think we hit all the cop movie tropes.
sarchie
Sarchie and his partner, Butler (Joel McHale, can he be in every movie?) go to a domestic dispute where the perp is an Iraq war vet. Then they’re called to the Bronx Zoo, where a woman tried to throw her baby into the lion pit.
sarchieandbutler
The mother of the child is absolutely crazy and is sent to the hospital
possessy
Sarchie meets Mendoza (Édgar Ramirez), an unconventional Jesuit priest, when the woman is released into his custody. Sarchie doesn’t consult Mendoza until weird things start happening in his own home. The people in these cases are all linked to the same Iraqi war vets from the beginning.
The movie is based on Ralph Sarchie’s book, Beware the Night. Yes, this is an actual case where “Based on true events” is true. Well, true-ish. More true than Fargo.
This movie had some ups and downs.
I definitely liked Joel McHale. I’ve only ever seen him on The Soup and Community so it was interesting seeing him in a movie. I’m not sure if he has it in him to be the lead but he was good as Butler. I didn’t recognize him at first. It’s worth seeing the movie if you’re a McHale fan because he brings the smart-assery.
I like that the movie was set in New York City. Not movie New York, where all you see is Manhattan. It’s set in the Bronx and where Sarchie lives has a very All in the Family feel, even though that was set in Queens.
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Most of the possession movies I’ve seen have been very self-contained. They rarely venture outside the home. In Deliver Us from Evil the city isn’t just a character, it’s a character that’s suffering.
The movie makes artful use of music by The Doors. Mendoza mentions the doors of perception so it’s pretty appropriate. If you listen to The Doors, you know how creepy their music can be so I appreciate their inclusion.
The closing credits were actually quite gorgeous, they were collages of animal parts added to human bodies and were much more interesting than the opening credits.
Now, the bad. The movie is just under two hours and I felt every minute of it. The exorcism scene felt too long and stopped being scary when the character being exorcised bit into his arm and started eating his own flesh. Subtler is always scarier, like the inexplicable coldness in Regan’s room.
The movie makes a big deal about Sarchie confessing his sins to Mendoza. He eventually confesses that he killed a man, Marvin the Molester, a child molester that moved on to murder. Mendoza describes Sarchie’s sin as wrath–Sarchie beat him to death–and then absolves him. I wish Sarchie’s victim had been less obviously evil. Few people are going to be sad about the death a child predator and a lot of people could justify killing one. The stakes would be higher and Sarchie’s character would be more interesting if he killed someone who was more ambiguous.
My final point started off in the good column but, upon reconsidering, I moved it to the bad column. I initially liked the movie as a metaphor for the baggage that veterans bring back with them from war. But then I decided that that reduces evil to something that’s pretty banal. PTSD is something inflicted on humans by other humans. Would the devil even deign to commit something like that? Mendoza describes the difference between primary and secondary evil. Secondary evil is the evil the humans commit against each other. Primary evil is diabolical. I keep going back to The Exorcist but it’s really useful to contrast the evil in The Exorcist versus evil in Deliver Us from Evil. In one of the extended scenes in The Exorcist, Father Karras asks, “Why her? Why this girl?” and Father Merrin responds, “I think the point is to make us despair. To see ourselves as… animal and ugly. To make us reject the possibility that God could love us.” THAT is how you explain primary evil and that is how you portray primary evil. Take an innocent girl and make her profane. But attributing the really horrible crimes committed by humans against each other cheapens the devil.
This movie was definitely gory but most of the scares were jump scares. I just really like a slow-burning movie when it comes to possession. It had lots of atmosphere but didn’t really deliver in the end. The movie was directed by Scott Derrickson, the director of Sinister, which makes this a little extra disappointing since I liked Sinister so much.

Posted in 21st century, crime, demons, possession | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh

I love Rue Morgue magazine. It is my absolute favorite horror magazine. The stock it’s printed on is gorgeous and it gives a great view of international and independent horror while also honoring classics. So, I was honestly really apprehensive when I found out that Rue Morgue‘s founder, Rodrigo Gudiño had made a movie. What if I didn’t like it? So I watched Gudiño’s movie, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh and can say that it’s a mixed-bag but I still love Rue Morgue.
Aaron Poole stars as Leon Leigh.
leon
He’s been estranged from his mother, Rosalind Leigh (Vanessa Redgrave) for years, because of her involvement in this super creepy angel-worshiping cult. His father killed himself when Leon was young because of his involvement in the cult, although it’s never explained why. Leon inherits Rosalind’s house when she dies. He finds it full of angel statues, including one from his childhood that his mother used to play a sick game with. It’s also in very close proximity to the twin cult leaders, the Rahn brothers (both played by Julian Richings).
creepytwins
They’re deeply creepy and sound like Orin from Parks and Rec when he was dressed as April’s mother.

Leon immerses himself in his mother’s home, reading the church newsletters she used to read and watching worship videos. He also slowly becomes convinced that he’s not alone in the home or on the property. Something is stalking him in the house and tries to make him believe what his mother believed. He rejects that and turns his back on his mother fully, deciding to leave and sell the house and everything in it.
As I said, this movie is a mixed bag. The art direction is gorgeous. Every room is full of the creepiest angel statues. The music is also gorgeous and works well with the visuals. The whole thing comes together to create a very creepy atmosphere. But that’s all you get. There’s no real climax or catharsis, the ending is just too quiet and I felt cheated after all that buildup. I also wasn’t scared by the creature, also played by Julian Richings and billed as Neither Man Nor Woman. It felt too slick and CGI and didn’t mesh well with the environment.
I wouldn’t discount this movie. It was definitely fun watching it late at night. There’s a delightfully scary moment when Leon is watching a videotape labeled “Believe.”
The point of this movie is that we all make our own personal hells. Rosalind Leigh definitely does that for herself.
mom
The big news about this movie is that Vanessa Redgrave, a very distinguished actress, plays Rosalind Leigh. The audience knows her mostly through narration which is very well performed but feels obtrusive at times. Aaron Poole also does a fine job as someone who’s damaged and has to confront his past.
I just don’t think the supernatural elements and the human elements of the movie are blended very well. This movie is like a bad blend of subtle and unsubtle and that takes away from what has the potential to be very good.

Posted in 21st century, creatures, cults, psychological | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fly (1986)

Awhile back, crazy canuck called me out on my lack of Cronenberg movies. He was right, I am behind in seeing the works of David Cronenberg. I’ve seen Videodrome and actually own the really cool Criterion edition that looks like a Betamax tape. I reviewed Videodrome way back when I started this blog but I took it down because I didn’t feel like it was my best work or said anything useful about the movie. I’m actually pretty intimidated by Cronenberg, his films have so many layers. So many fleshy, bloody layers.
So I finally saw his 1986 movie, The Fly, which is actually a loose remake of the 1958 Vincent Price movie of the same name.
Jeff Goldblum stars as eccentric scientist Seth Brundle.
seth
He meets Ronnie (Geena Davis), a journalist for Particle magazine, a woman who sports the best pink-coat-black-beret combo ever.
ronnie
amazingpinkjacket
He awkwardly and creepily convinces Ronnie to come to his isolated lab to show her his invention, a device that can teleport matter.
telepod
Fun fact! The appearance of the telepods was inspired by the engine cylinder of Cronenberg’s Ducati 450 Desmo.


The machine works but only with inanimate objects. Seth hasn’t figured out how to successfully transport flesh. Ronnie starts to work with Seth, documenting his work, including his failed attempt to transport a baboon. They quickly become lovers.
monkey
Seth successfully figures out what his program needs to transport living flesh. He and Ronnie celebrate but then Ronnie is distracted by a mock-up sent by Particle editor (And her creepy ex) Stathis Borans (John Getz). Seth gets jealous, then gets drunk, and finally decides to teleport himself. He doesn’t notice the fly in the machine.
sethtelepod
He emerges unscathed and soon notices the beneficial effects. He’s stronger, more agile, and incredibly virile. You can tell because he starts walking around in his briefs way more than he used to.
buns
There are some downsides, though. These weird, coarse hairs start growing out of a wound he had prior to going through the teleporter. He becomes incredibly manic, aggressive, and starts craving nothing but sugar. He dumps Ronnie and starts acting on his urges. He gives a guy a compound fracture while arm-wrestling and picks up a bar skank.
Seth realizes something is wrong when he develops skin lesions and starts losing his fingernails and his teeth.
facesofmeth
He realizes that his computer programming was confused by the two separate organisms in the telepod and spliced his DNA with the fly’s DNA. Ronnie sees him after a month and is shocked by his physical deterioration.
datface
As he develops more fly-like characteristics, like vomiting digestive enzymes on food before eating it and the ability to walk on ceilings, Ronnie realizes she’s pregnant with his baby. But she doesn’t know if it was conceived before or after Seth went through the telepod. She’s horrified by the idea of delivering a maggot baby. Ronnie begs Stathis to get her an abortion but Seth kidnaps her because he thinks she might be carrying the last of his humanity in that baby.
deathface
He plans to have all three of them go through the telepods so they can be fused in a mega-family. Ew. Stathis shows up to rescue Ronnie and there’s this amazing scene where Seth vomits on Stathis’ arm and leg and he’s left with these dissolved little nubbins of flesh. The fight finishes Seth’s transformation into fly. There’s nothing recognizably human about him. Stathis saves Ronnie by shooting the connection between the telepods and Seth comes out, a human-fly now fused to a machine. Ronnie shoots him.
This movie is just so visceral. You watch it and get more and more disgusted with what’s happening to Seth. Cronenberg has stated that he meant the film to be a metaphor for aging and disease in general. It was released in 1986, only five years after AIDS was first recognized, so people viewed it as a metaphor for HIV and AIDS. I can see why people thought that, especially because Seth’s lesioned skin resembles that of people who have Karposi’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that’s associated with AIDS.
When I was watching it, I actually thought I saw a critique of masculinity. In the beginning, Seth is awkward, brilliant and nice (But not a Nice Guy). After going through the telepod, he becomes more traditionally masculine–he’s stronger, more aggressive, and sexually confident. The behavior is taken to the absolute extreme and is what drives Ronnie away. Although, in the end, he loses everything including his humanity.
The Fly is one of Cronenberg’s most successful films and won an Academy Award for makeup and hairstyling. I enjoyed it but you can tell why it was so successful, it just lacks that subversiveness that Videodrome has. I really enjoyed it but you can see why mainstream America was willing to accept it. In the end, I think I like Videodrome a little better, just because it feels so sleazy.
And I think my favorite Jeff Goldblum is when he’s Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park.
salaciousgrowling

Posted in 1980's, body horror, creatures | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Things that Go Bump–Short Film

I was recently contacted by R. Michael McWhorter of Tizzy Entertainment about his horror short film, Things that Go Bump.
The story follows Megan (Kate McBride) after a day of moving into a new apartment. She tries to go to sleep but discovers she’s not as alone as she thought she was.

The movie looks and sounds great. It does a good job of establishing creepiness, especially when Megan is waking up in a stupor.
confusion
Honestly, I stopped being scared when I saw the baddie. The makeup is really well-done. I just don’t think you should really show close-ups of the monsters. Something out of the corner of your eye or seen only in the shadows is going to be scarier than a demon that, for better or worse, looks like it came from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
demon
That being said, there is a twist at the end that I really didn’t see coming and really liked. I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you what it is. Now you have to watch it for yourself.

Posted in 21st century, demons, short film, supernatural | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Etsy Updates

It’s been awhile since I updated my Etsy shop. It’s still up and open for business! I just put up a new piece, inspired by Laura Palmer and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
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Laura3
You can buy this picture HERE!
I lost my job at the end of March and I’m frantically job hunting before my unemployment runs out. This blog is a labor of love but it does cost some money to run and I don’t make enough from my art (yet) to live. Netflix, VHS and DVD purchases, and art supplies add up. If you see something you like in my shop, please buy it and know that it’s going to a good cause.

Posted in 1990's, announcements, art, psychological, serial killers, supernatural, things involving me | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments