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Friday, October 31, 2008

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

It's time for THE BIG GIVEAWAY! Put on your masks, kids, and watch the scary pumpkin!
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31 Days of Horror Music Part 5: Revival of Screaming Jay Zombie Boys in the Robot Land

I received a lot of mail in response to last week's 31 Days of Horror Music, and none of it was positive. In a representative comment, one Mr. Lancelot Jacob Hawthorne Nickerbocker Madeup Handjob, III had this to say: "OMG WTF, Bindi Irwin?" Another internet commenter insisted I include "Witches Invitation," his favorite Carman song, in this week's list. Well, rest assured, intertube haxors from cyberspace and other web-associated commenters, there will be no Bindi Irwin in this week's final compendium of totally l33t horror, horror friendly, and horrible music (sorry, Matt), and, if you were paying attention, you saw "Witches Invitation" 3 weeks ago. That being said, I agree that I probably lost the plot with last week's list, so this week I've uncovered a foolproof plan to keep my eyes on the prize and my hands on the wheel: I've got a theme. And that theme is Zombies.

Zombies! Organize!! - "Robotacus"

Zombies are my favorite Halloween-friendly creature, and bands that are named after Zombies (the Zombies…uh, and others) traditionally have been amongst my favorites. So it is with great excitement that I introduce to you (unless you've heard of them already) the adorable kids in Zombies! Organize!!, one of my new favorite bands. But it's not just the band name that makes these kids special. They sing songs about Zombies. And did I mention they're adorable? Also, their songs are adorable. Whether they're using Zombies to make political commentary or they're just singing 'bout 'em 'cuz they're cool, they always keep it cute, and I appreciate that.

Take the above track for instance. I know, it's not about zombies--it's about a killer robot (who may also be a robot zombie--I can't make out the words)--but it's adorable as hell in that MC Chris mixed with Peaches kind of way, and with lines like "lick my robot clitorous" and references to Short Circuit, Nintendo, Small Wonder, and Greek mythology, what's not to like--or at least be amused by? And who knew that even a robot needs to use a vocoder tube?

Special bonus prize: See if you can find the ALF puppet!

The Magnetic Fields - "Zombie Boy"

In July I had this to say: "Not every song on the Magnetic Field's newest album benefits from the distort now, ask questions later approach, but 'Zombie Boy,' Distortion's penultimate track, is a sheer delight. It's humorous and menacing all at the same time, just like zombies."

What he said. This is still my favorite song from Distortion, and I still don't know WTF is happening in the Torchwood footage.

BTW, this is my favorite zombie boy:


Screaming Jay Hawkins - "I Put a Spell on You"

This is one of my favorite songs ever, but man, there are so many horrifying things about this video. First, dude puts a spell on a woman, zombifying her essentially, and that's no way to treat a woman. Second…um, is this racist? It certainly plays on some uncomfortable stereotypes, and I have trouble letting myself enjoy it. That being said, I'm pretty sure he performed this song in this way from its release in 1956 until his death, and he certainly didn't see it as racist. Third, that voice! Who can deny it?

As a counterpoint I'm including a clip of Nina Simone performing the same song from a female perspective. Much classier, but not quite as horrifying.


The Creepshow - "Zombies Ate Her Brain"

There were several schlock rock and psychobilly songs up for this spot, but I chose this one on the strength of its doo-wop opening and catchy tune. And it's short, so you can watch all of it and not feel too bad about not working. Hey, it's Halloween, y'all!

Carman - "Revival in the Land"

Ok, this isn't a song, and it isn't about zombies, but it is the ultimate manifestation of Carman's sick fascination with the dark side. In this video, using his trademark flowery language ("a scaly creature disrupts Satan's ghastly existence"), Carman takes us right into the heart of Satan's lair where one of Satan's minions warns him of the coming revival in the land. Saints of God, man your battle stations. Read the rest of this article.

31 Days of Horror: Day 31-Uzumaki

Uzumaki is the story of Kirie and Shuichi, kids in a small coastal Japanese town of Kurouzu who witness their town’s domination by uzumaki, or the spiral. First, it’s Shuichi’s father’s fascination with snail shells, swirling soup, and pottery. Then, students at the local school start growing spirals on their backs. Things come to a head when Shuchi’s pops offs himself by cramming his body into a washing machine so he can realize the “ultimate expression of uzumaki.” At the funeral, Shuichi’s mom goes bugeye crazy when the smoke at the crematorium takes the form of a spiral and descends into a nearby pond. Kirie’s dad starts making strange spiral pottery out of mud from this pond, and things get weirder from there until, well, you’ll have to see.

Uzumaki is stylish and creepy, but it’s rarely really scary. It seems to be aimed squarely at teens who may be able to relate to Kirie and Shuichi’s sense of alienation and who may be more likely to be fascinated with strange deaths. I don’t want to make too much of this comparison, but it’s the same fascination that allows there to be five Saw movies or encourages people to make a Final Destination 4. But where Saw is simply sadistic and Final Destination is, well, big, loud and dumb, Uzumaki is stylish and makes the most of it’s obviously small budget with effective editing and camera tricks. Some of this flash can be a bit annoying, but for the most part it adds a psychedelic noir sensibility to a story that might have otherwise come off as a bit too silly for the big screen. Examples of this include the use of color filters (that mimic the color plates of the manga) during key scenes and the occasional shot of the actors’ ghost-like reflections to emphasize the otherworldliness of the proceedings as well as the self-referential nature of the spiral-induced sickness. (An obsession with the spiral seems to culminate in a desire to incorporate the perfection of the spiral into one’s own body. Thus Shuichi’s dad stuffs himself into a washing machine, but carefully places a mirror so he can see himself die.)

As interesting as the film Uzumaki is, the manga Uzumaki by Junji Ito that it’s based on is a lot more satisfying. Where Uzumaki the movie is moody and surreal, Uzumaki the manga is gorgeously illustrated and, well, sick. In the manga, the residents of Kurouzu are subjected to all kinds of nauseating spiral-y deaths, and we’re treated to strikingly realistic illustrations. The storytelling is also much tighter, especially in the episodic second volume where the townspeople turn to snails and munch on magical placenta, and where babies, with the help of mosquitoes (the spiral connection), hatch an evil plan to be reinserted into their mother’s wombs. I assure you, it’s all a lot more gruesome than it sounds.


Another point of comparison is the ending. After the first volume creates the world and the second volume let’s us live in it for a bit, the third volume of the manga draws everything to a savage but appropriate conclusion. The movie ends abruptly before we really get a sense of what’s going on, and by comparison seems kind of slight. That being said, Uzumaki is certainly a worthwhile and interesting horror film and is a fitting way to round out Giant Electric Penguin’s 31 Days of Horror. Now go eat some candy. Read the rest of this article.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 30-Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory/Lycanthropus/I Married a Werewolf/Monster Among the Girls/The Ghoul in School

Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory may sound like the name of a campy horror-themed porno, but I can assure you that it is not. Besides, there will never be a better horror-porn than 1997's Invasion of the Panty Raiders. In it, Space Vampires travel to Earth to pilfer the lacy underthings of several sexually promiscuous women in hopes of using the DNA left behind in their "vaginal residue" (not my words) to create an intergalactic army of half-naked, platinum-blond sex soldiers able to literally hump every last man on the planet to death. There is also a side story about the President of the United States, Dewey Needspoon (again, not my fault), who is having relations with various White House interns, suffering from uncontrollable flatulence, and debating whether or not to drop the atomic bomb on the Space Vampires' mothership.

But this is not the 31 Days of Made-Up Horror-Themed Pornography, this is the 31 Days of Horror, or in the case of Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory, 1 Afternoon of Trying to Stay Awake During a Poorly Dubbed Italian Film that May or May Not be About an Actual Werewolf.

I will admit that I did sleep through the middle portion of today's film, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't check it out.

I'm sorry. I'm still a bit groggy. What I meant to write was that you should definitely NOT check this movie out. I know it's got 9 intriguing titles and, yes, the main character does resemble a young Kim Cattrall, but that's how crap-fests like this suck you in! If you're looking for sweet werewolf action, you're not going to get it here. If naked female shower scenes are more up your alley, prepare for disappointment. C'mon! The film takes place at a school for wayward girls! You mean we can't get one post-gym class group shower or, at least, an awkward, exploratory lesbian make-out session?

Of course, either one of those things could've happened while I was asleep, but I'll never know. This isn't the kind of movie you want to revisit. It's more like the kind of movie you watch, reflect upon, and question if purity and goodness exists in this world.

None of this, however, is going to stop me from wasting your time with a detailed description of the plot. Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory takes place in a multi-gated school/halfway house for troubled young women. One night, Mary, a skank, is murdered by a snarling man-beast in the forest and tossed, dead, into the river. A medical examiner deems Mary's death a result of a vicious wolf attack, although it's clear she's been strangled. In fact, we watch her get strangled two minutes before the good doctor makes his final analysis. Either this is the most inept medical examiner in film history or somehow wolves have learned how to strangle people. How is that even possible? Doesn't matter because everybody buys this ridiculous explanation. Everyone, that is, but Priscilla, our plucky, doe-eyed heroine. She believes Mary was killed by whoever she was blackmailing (oh, there's a whole thing going on between Mary and the school's benefactor, the lecherous Sir Alfred). Priscilla does some detective work and it is around this point that I fell asleep.

I was awakened by my wife asking what I wanted as a side dish for dinner. I went with the mini-perogies. And lucky me I was just in time to find out that the werewolf was Director Swift and not the mentally-challenged groundskeeper, like I originally thought, or Dr. Julian, the hip new science teacher with a sinister secret, like the filmmakers wanted you to think. Anyway, Director Swift was chained to a wall and his girlfriend, Leonor, was being torn to shreds by an actual wolf. Leonor was able to hand over the key to Swift's shackles just before she expired, allowing Swift to free himself and beat the wolf to death with a pipe. Forlorn and splattered with wolf brains (probably), Swift once again becomes a werewolf.

Oh, and this is NOT a werewolf:He looks more like a burn victim or like a teenage actor made-up to look like an old man in a high school play. He's not really a werewolf at all. He's more like an ugly, strangly, crazy guy. Dr. Julian shoots Were-Swift with a cap-gun several times and the day is saved.

Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory is not a good movie, though I do recommend a viewing if you ever find yourself out of Tylenol PM. I don't suggest you sit through it unless you have mini-perogies waiting for you at the end like I did. Yum!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 29-House of Wax

There are some mysteries in this world that will never be solved: Why does the sun shine? Why is the sky blue? Why do I love 2005's House of Wax so much?

Actually, there are simple answers to all three of those questions: nuclear reactions, air molecules, and because it's totally awesome!

Perhaps one of the reasons House of Wax doesn't receive the props it deserves is the Paris Hilton Factor. Yes, Paris Hilton is in this movie. The quicker you can accept that, the quicker you can get to enjoying the film. Don't get me wrong, I understand your trepidation, after all, Ms. Hilton hasn't yet participated in a movie that has any hope of ever appearing in an AFI television special someday, The Hottie and The Nottie was an epic failure on the part of everyone involved, and I haven't seen it, but I'm certain whatever cinematic abortion from the National Lampoon factory she made a cameo in recently is about as much fun as having your testicles clamped in the jaw of a genetically-altered Tibetan mastiff. But, c'mon!

I will admit I harbored a certain fascination for Paris Hilton around the time House of Wax was released. She was like a slutty water nymph or an alien hooker from a planet where there were no pants. Through overexposure and her new reality show (Paris Hilton Humiliated Me on Basic Cable), she's lost much of her luster in my tired eyes, but in 2005, Paris was all right with me. And, hell, she's not so bad in House of Wax, in fact, I would go as far to say her performance here is 'sufficiently adequate.' I mean, she's playing the role of Frightened Slut. That's right up her alley! And at least she has a sense of humor about herself, displayed in a night-vision scene reminiscent of her first starring role of note. Paris haters will also be happy to know that Ms. Hilton's death scene is a gory tour-de-force.

I've been reading Roger Ebert's book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, a collection of the popular critic's favorite 2-, 1 and 1/2-, 1-, and no star reviews. A lot of the reviews included are for B-grade horror tripe from the 70's and early 80's. It is safe to say that Mr. Ebert is not a fan of bloody gore and senseless mayhem. He also expresses a certain amount of digust for the laughs and cheers he hears from the young people he often encounters at these movies. He seems to think that teenage glee during scenes of death and dismemberment are symptoms of a deeper sickness that is (or was) festering in the youth culture. And while I am also horrified that the man sitting next to Ebert at I Spit on Your Grave was cheering on the violent rapist character, for the most part I think Ebert just doesn't get it. Or he didn't get it. These days he mourns the state of a horror industry that cranks out brain-dead slaughterfests, devoid of humor and presenting a bleak worldview of endless hopelessness. I agree with him wholeheartedly. The best horror has always had a sense of humor about it. I like my horror films menacing, but I don't like to leave a theater or return a Netflix feeling depressed and despondent.

The fact is, House of Wax is a return to those horror movies of yesteryear, where you don't feel bad for cheering when Paris Hilton gets a pipe through the brain. House of Wax is a glowing example of the Teenagers in Peril genre of horror film, a genre that invites you to revel in the demise of the heroes because the heroes are either super dumb or super douchey. It's the same reason I love Hostel and despise Hostel 2.

House of Wax is an entertaining B-movie with some genuine scares, cringe-worthy gore, and exciting set pieces (the finale set in a melting house, literally made of wax, is particularly fun). It's got extremely attractive people doing extremely stupid things and paying for it in extremely gruesome ways. What more could you ask for? 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 28-Evil (or The Power of Fear)

No, this isn't the 2003 Swedish film about violence in a boarding school in 1959 (though I wish it was), this is a 2006 Russian movie that is "based" on Nikolai Gogol's "Viy." It's promoted by Faith Films as a Christian horror film, but, except for one instance of a hearing a character say "chicken" when he's clearly saying "chicken shit" (did I mention it's poorly dubbed into English from the original English?) and the fact that *spoiler alert!* Jesus wins in the end, there's nothing to really tie this movie to American Evangelicalism (maybe it could be linked to Russian Orthodox Evangelicalism…maybe). My theory is that the producers of this movie latched onto some Christian-friendly aspects of the movie to help find a distributor, and that's fine. Whatever. They want their movie to be seen. But this movie is more than just bad; it's boring, and that's a sin I'm not sure I'm prepared to forgive.



The movie begins with Ivan Berghoff being awoken by a phone call from his boss. Ivan's a successful journalist, a fact that is revealed to us in three framed photographs hanging on his wall. The first declares "Our Correspondent Ivan Berghoff's Found a UFO" and includes a comical picture of Ivan excitedly pointing to a fuzzy lens flare-like blob. The second is a sepia tone picture of a laurelled Ivan with a banner that exclaims, "He Is on His Way to the Pulitzer Prize." Each of these look more like the kind of joke Time magazine cover you might purchase for your dad at a third-rate theme park. The third photo is of someone who kind of looks like Ivan wearing a mortarboard and holding a piece of paper that says something indecipherable. The paper looks a lot like the certificate I imagine they give you when you complete the film development training seminar at CVS. I didn't realize they made you rent gowns for that. It's a racket y'all.

Seems Ivan's boss, a stock newspaper man straight out of, well, other bad movies, wants our Ivan to visit a town called Castleville to investigate a ghost story. He's reminded not to write about "witches with brooms." Newspaper dude wants something that "pops." In only 3 days. Mercy.

On the way to Castleville, Ivan's car breaks down. It predictably starts to rain. He's allowed to stay in the spare room of an old lady who doesn't speak to him. While taking his nightly bubble bath, a strange a beautiful woman brings him some wine. He invites her into the tub before he even asks her for her name. Bastard. He deserves what happens next.

She does get in the tub with him, but as he's making his move, she starts making a weird noise. So he kills her by drowning her in the tub. It doesn't make sense to me ether. The tub retaliates by filling the room with water. Ivan runs from the house, menaced by images of the girl he just killed and the old lady. He steals a truck, crashes the truck, and finds the body of a priest and a chicken in a cage in the truck. As he's walking down the road, a police officer finds her and mistakes him for the dead priest. He pretends he's the priest, and, when the cop admires the cock he's carrying with him, he say "a great guy" gave it to him. Mocking the dead priest you just stole clothes from by calling him "a great guy?" Yeah, I don't know. Something bad's going to happen to this dude.

But nothing really bad happens. What does happen next is so excruciatingly boring that I refuse to recount it here, except to say that Ivan finds himself in the unenviable position of having to rid the town of the Evil (or is it The Power of Fear?) that resides in the local church. Sure, he seems really scared of this demon thing, and his hair does turn gray for some reason, but it's not like he's in any real danger here. He's a damn priest and this is (maybe) a Christian movie. What could happen to him? All he really needs to do is incant some Latin, do some praying, and maybe sing a little song, right? Needless to say, through prayer, some degree of inner struggle (Ivan didn't change from a cynical journalist into a devout priest overnight--well, he did, but you know what I mean), and some surprisingly nifty special effects, he defeats the demon lady who haunts the town and the movie, mercifully, ends. Read the rest of this article.

Monday, October 27, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 27-Night of the Demons

(Today's film was a favorite of our very own List Lady when she was in seventh grade (that actually explains a lot). Rather than exploring the myriad themes or describing the plot of Night of the Demons, List Lady has provided us with 15 of her favorite quotes from the film, quotes that are sure to chill your blood. Proceed with caution, dear readers!)

LIST LADY presents
15 MEMORABLE QUOTES from NIGHT OF THE DEMONS

1. Happy Halloween, asshole! -Stooge, to an old man who hates children

2. Bodacious boobies, sis! -Judy's little brother

3. You look like you dropped a load, junior. -Sal, the lovable Italian-American stereotype

4. They look like sun dried poodle turds. -Judy's brother on his mom's homemade fudge logs

5. Count Dingleberry, the flaming asshole of Transylvania! -Stooge, prolly

6. Festering fuckwads! Grrrrrr! -Stooge again (whatta card!)

7. The noise, the stink, and the chill--they're all signs of demonic infestation. -Angela

8. Eat a bowl of fuck! I am here to party! -Stooge

9. Maybe I'm in the mood for pork tonight. Oink, oink. -Suzanne, about Stooge

10. I'm fixing my face. -Suzanne, with lipstick all over her face and breasts exposed

11. I live in a nice house with plastic slipcovers on the furniture. -Sal, being all Italian-American

12. I know that's you, Stooge. Only a fat slob like you could shake this car so much. -Roger, the pussy

13. Hey, how 'bout an orgy? I'm sure if we try we can get Jay hard again. -Demon Suzanne

14. My daddy--he taught me how to pray real good. -Roger

15. It's an oven, Rog. This is a crematorium. -Judy

Editor's note: This list is pretty thorough, but List Lady left out my favorite exchange from early in the film:

Suzanne: (to perverted convenience store clerk) Do you guys have sour balls?
Perverted Convenience Stork Clerk: Why sure we do.
Suzanne: Too bad. I bet you don't get many blow jobs.

Classic!
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 26-Haunts

On this the Lord's day, we turn our attention to 1977's Haunts, the story of one religious woman's battle with her own inner demons and the various men who ignore her mental instability. Because this movie is such a convoluted mess and the recording I viewed was taken from a supremely shitty print, it's easier to discuss its high and low points in list form. This should make for a more appealing post than if I simply described the moronic plot, pathetic cast of characters, piss poor editing, and uneven score. Shall we?

1. What's up with everybody in town having a jelly shed? Seriously, why can't these people keep their various jams, jellies, and fruit preserves in the kitchen cabinet like normal people. Something tells me that these are the kind of people that inhabit the "Real America" that Sarah Palin keeps talking about. If real Americans keep their fruit spread in outdoor jelly sheds, sheds that can be used as hiding places and dumping grounds for dangerous psychopaths, consider me un-American.

2. Horror movies from the 1970's and rape go together like cheese and crackers. What's up with that?

3. The synopsis provided by Mill Creek Entertainment, the masterminds behind the Chilling Classics 5o Movie Pack from which I obtained this movie (as well as A Bucket of Blood, Snowbeast, Funeral Home, and Slashed Dreams), promises "shocking twists and turns [that] bring you to a surprise ending." I'm a fan of shocking twists and turns! The promise of shocking twists and turns are what made me choose Haunts over its DVD mate Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory (which I hope to get to before October is over)! Let me tell you about these shocking twists and turns, my friends. Oh, they're definitely shocking--shockingly awful! And once we get the first shocking twist (or was that the turn?), we get another, and another, and yet another. The movie finally collapses in on itself. What starts as a by-the-numbers slasher film becomes a dopey, badly-lit, poorly acted psychological thriller only a moron could love...
4. ...or this guy. During the process of watching and reviewing scary movies for this month long feature, I've greatly enjoyed visiting the Internet Movie Database to find what other people think. This is especially amusing when it's a movie I despise, like Haunts. IMDBer Scott LeBrun has a decidedly different take on the film, a point of view I'd like to quickly examine.

"Writers Anne Marisse and Herb Freed (Freed also co-produced and directed) certainly have the right name for their movie."

Really? Haunts? Why? LeBrun goes on to write that Haunting would be an even betterer name because he apparently found the movie spooky and unsettling. I found it hackneyed and stupid. I think a better name would have been Rape Trauma Momma or Scissors and Psychos or, if you want to stick with the one word title thing, Crap. What does Haunts even mean in the context of this film?

"...the rather murky photography simply adds to the gloomy feeling throughout."

I think the murky photography can be attributed to the low budget. I don't know what print Mr. LeBrun saw, but in my copy, whenever it was night, I couldn't see anything. I could hear noises that may have been people, but my television screen was nothing but an empty void. I wouldn't describe the feeling provoked by this murkiness as "gloomy." Boring is probably more accurate.

"While I have to wonder if the plot would hold up to close scrutiny, it still did a great job of reeling me in and maintaining my interest. Overall, this is a well realized, genuinely spooky low-budget horror film that's worth checking out. I'm certainly glad that I did."

It maintained your interest, eh? I fell asleep. I had to watch this film in two installments. Maybe that's why I'm so pissed off. No one should have to spend more than the 98 minute running time with Haunts. I'd venture to say that the film is not well-realized, in fact, it's very clear the screenwriters had no idea how to end this piece of shit, and if Haunts is considered "spooky" by Mr. LeBrun, I'd love to hear his thoughts on The Exorcist. He'd probably shit his pants or die of a panic-induced heart attack. If you are genuinely spooked by anything in Haunts, your day-to-day life has got to be almost unbearable. I mean, if the events of Haunts are scary to you, I wouldn't suggest reading your daily newspaper.

Actually, I lied. There is one genuinely creepy moment in Haunts. The scene in which our hero, Ingrid, sensually milks a goat is extremely disturbing. Don't watch that part with the lights out. Yikes.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

31 Days of Horror Music Part 4: Bindi Irwin's Lazarus Monster in the Halloween Mirror

Each Friday (or Saturday I suppose) in October, Giant Electric Penguin will bring you a selection of Horror, Horror-friendly, and Horrible music fit for listening to during this, the 31 Days of Horror.


Grover "Monster in the Mirror"



I know this song isn't supposed to be scary or nothing--I guess it's supposed to be empowering--but hearing a gaggle of celebrities, including Kadeem Hardison, Robin Williams in a silly hat, Bo Jackson, Woopie Goldberg, Tracey Ullman, the Simpsons, that chef guy from PBS, Siskel and Ebert--is that Kid 'n Play?-- threaten, "Every time you wubba us, we'll wubba you" is kind of scary, right? Am I right? Oh, who am I kidding? It's adorable. Doesn't hearing cuddly Grover waxing existential about the origin and nature of evil ("that monster in the mirror, he just might be you") make you feel all warm and Halloweeny inside?

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen "Halloween Song"



Before the fashion, the eating disorders, and The Wackness, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were just a couple of incredibly lucky little kids on TV who also occasionally released ridiculously annoying and obscenely successful videos for other maybe not so incredibly lucky little kids. They also couldn't sing for shit. I honestly can't understand much of what they're saying (It's about spiders, vampires, nuns? That's what I'm hearing), but this song is indeed "very very very unbelievable scary." I mean it's got kids in makeup and weird hair, the camera moves around crazily, there's slow motion blinking. It's scary.

But not as scary as meeting an "orchestra of orcas… shrieking and blabbing….as we go swimming through space." Now that's fucking scary.



Tiny Toons "The Time Warp"



In continuing with today's early '90s nostalgia trip, here's the Tiny Toon, um, kids with "The Time Warp." All right, it's not the Tiny Toons singing (I have no idea which version of the song this is), but it kind of actually looks like it could possibly be the Tiny Toons singing, right? Anyway, I'm not a big fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I have always liked the 1950s fun-time sing-along style mixed with sexualized sci-fi lyrics. I should like it more than I do, but I can't get over all the creepy freaks in costumes who eat this shit up. It's like the stoners who stole Pink Floyd from us decent music lovers got together with the Grateful Deadheads (who didn't steal nuthin') and had overly-dramatic babies. And now I can't say I like Pink Floyd or Rocky Horror without associating myself with all these weirdos and losers. Not to get off on a tangent, but it's not like I hate these people. In fact, I build my whole political and social belief system around allowing people to be whoever they want to be without censure. But what do people do when they get that freedom? They choose to make themselves into obnoxious freaks. Why can't more people just be open-minded and boring like me?

Hey, you know what I just realized? I'm that monster in the mirror. I've become everything that I hate: a judgmental elitist. Now the question is, should I embrace the monster as a friend like Grover does in the video, or, uh, "wubba" him as he's so obviously "wubbad" me? Whatever I choose to do, please enjoy this super cool song.

Bindi Irwin "Save Me"



These aren't orcas, but they're just as mystical, magical, and prone to inspire irrational attachment in young girls. I like giant sea mammals as much as the next completely heterosexual male slob (my self-identified urban tribe), maybe even more, but I don't see how this song does anyone any good. I don't know what's scarier, "the man with the harpoon gun" or the idea of little Bindi Irwin channeling a "giant of the sea." Something inside me has to wonder whether the whale wouldn't rather just beach his or her own ass than have all this fuss made over him by someone so young, chipper, and prone to harass wildlife. I know, I know. Suggesting that a whale might commit suicide is a horrible thought, but it is Halloween after all.

Carman "Lazarus"



You didn't think I forgot about Carman, did you? In this "classic story song from 1984," Carman tells the first zombie story ever: the story of Lazarus. Through this song Carman gives us a glimpse into a heavenly meeting attended by Bible characters of yore (complete with ridiculous voices that sound like they're straight out of a Joe Piscopo routine [I have no idea what I'm talking about]). Seems Moses and Soloman and all those folks are sitting around in heaven talking about their relationship with God. When they get to Lazarus, he gets raised from the dead or something, proving he's the best of the bunch.

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31 Days of Horror: Day 25-One Missed Call

Before One Missed Call's opening credits begin, we watch a hospital burn to the ground and a cat drown in a backyard koi pond. Oh, boy! Fun times ahead!

The opening credits are accompanied by several shots of various people talking on cellphones which may lead one to believe that the movie he or she is about to watch will be a cautionary tale about what happens when we rely on phones and text messages to communicate rather than good old fashioned quality face time, a story about how we've become disconnected from each other by the ear pieces we cram in our head holes.  But, no, we just get another derivative J-horror knock-off about creepy little girl ghosts using the latest technology to murder a whole bunch of innocent people.

If The Ring went out to a bar one night, got really wasted, and hooked up with The Grudge, then proceeded to sleep with The Grudge, who totally swore it was wearing a condom when it really wasn't, and then The Ring got pregnant, but didn't know right away so it kept drinking booze and smoking the occasional ounce of crack, and then one night, after a particularly rough night of binge drinking and free-basing, gave premature birth in a back alley and abandoned its baby in a dumpster so it could get back to the party and flirt with, I don't know, The Eye or The Grudge 2, One Missed Call would be that baby!

One Missed Call creates an appropriate mood of creepiness, but who gives a shit?  There are plenty of spooky ghosts floating around, but they serve no purpose other than to creep us out.  The ghost with mouths for eyes and the smirking devil-baby have absolutely nothing to do with the plot as far as I could tell.  It's like the director went, "Heck, I know they don't add to the plot in any significant way, but ghosts with mouths where their eyes should be are scary as balls!  Let's put one in.  And an evil dead baby!  People will totally piss their pants!  What?  Edit out the ghost with mouth-eyes?  No way, man!  That ghost with eye mouths is my masterpiece!  Hell, I'm putting it on the poster!  You hear me, Mr. Hollywood producer man?"

If you missed One Missed Call at your local multiplex that weekend it was out, let me clue you in on the plot.  People start receiving calls from their dead friends' cellphones.  Nobody ever picks up because the ring tone is unfamiliar.  Wait a minute.  If some weird new ring tone started playing on my cellphone, I'd pick up immediately and figure out what the WTF was going on.  "I didn't download this ring tone!  I better not be charged!"  

Anyway, the call goes to voicemail, the person who received the mysterious call checks the voicemail, the voicemail is from themselves, and two days later they die.  Get it?  

As her friends drop dead around her, Beth Raymond attempts to solve the Mystery of the Spooky Phone Calls.  She teams up with hunky detective Jack Andrews of the Special Cellphone Squad (I made that up) and together they track down answers, apparently using the script for The Ring as their guide.  As you may have already guessed, even though I have not provided a detailed description of the film's plot, the mastermind behind the killer phone calls is a creepy little dead girl.  Why is she targeting Beth's friends?  Why is it important that we know Beth's mother burned her with cigarettes when she was little?  Doesn't Shannyn Sossamon sort of look like Angelina Jolie?  Why did Sossamon's parents spell her first name that way?  What am I going to have for lunch tomorrow?  Oh, yeah, the wife gave me a coupon for a free sandwich at Chik-fil-a. Awesome!  I'm getting waffle fries too!

I didn't hate One Missed Call, I just didn't like it very much.  Hey, Hollywood, I think you've drained the Japanese horror industry dry.  Let's find another country's horror library to rape.  I hear Iceland is doing some wonderful things.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 24-Videodrome

Remember when your mom used to warn you that too much television was bad for your eyes? Well, according to 1983's Videodrome, too much TV could drive you insane or possibly kill you, and that sure as hell isn't good for your eyesight.

Max Renn (played by James Woods) is the head of Civic TV, a sleazy little UHF station in Toronto that shows soft-core pornography and other less than family-friendly programs. Renn is always looking for the next big thing in trash TV and he discovers it in a twisted little program called Videodrome.

In Videodrome, regular people are tortured, abused, and eventually murdered in a bright orange room by two hulking brutes in blue smocks and masks. Renn's associate, Harlan, finds the program one evening while scanning the airwaves with a pirate sattelite dish. Max, convinced that Videodrome will be a hit for Civic TV, instructs Harlan to tape as much of the show as possible so he can watch more. You see, Max is under the impression that Videodrome is fake, staged snuff TV created to appeal to mankind's basest instincts. But is it fake? Is it simply a Pittsburgh-based reality show in which willing contestants suffer pretend agony for cash and prizes or is it something more sinister?

Barry Convex, one of Videodrome's creators, calls Videodrome "a giant hallucination machine." Max is certainly hallucinating when his television becomes a fleshy, breathing sexpot, but he also seems to be developing a non-hallucinated vaginal opening on his stomach. Media prophet, Brian O' Blivion, who will only communicate with the public on a television screen, believes that Videodrome is responsible for the tumor growing in his brain, though he seems to think it less a tumor than a "new, developing organ." So, Videodrome makes you see shit that isn't there and causes vaginas to grow on you where vaginas don't belong. Wow! That has Emmy written all over it!

Max, of course, gets in too deep, and soon Convex and Harlan, who is revealed to be in on the plot to expose the world (or at least Canada) to Videodrome, are using him to push their sinister agenda. His instructions are delivered via videotapes that are shoved deep into his stomach vagina. Essentially, Max has become a human VCR.

Max is first instructed to murder his co-horts at Civic TV, so that Convex can take over and start showing Videodrome around the clock. Max does this and proceeds to his next target, Bianca O' Blivion, Brian's daughter and head of the Cathode Ray Mission, a shelter where homeless people can watch television in their own private cubicles. Bianca O' Blivion effectively re-programs Max, calling him "the video word made flesh," and encourages him to use the power Videodrome has given him to destroy Vidoedrome itself.

"Death to Videodrome," she says. "Long live the new flesh."

Max goes after Harlan first, allowing his VCR/vagina-thing to chew off Harlan's hand as he attempts to load the latest fleshy, undulatig videotape into Renn's body. Harlan also explodes. Next, Max heads down to an eyeglasses convention where Barry Convex is putting on some kind of demonstration. Following a rather fruity dance number, Max walks on stage, shoots Convex several times with his weird bulbous gun-hand, repeats the film's iconic line to a bewildered audience, and walks away. Meanwhile, Convex's body splits in half and spews bloody tumors everywhere.

(Note: Before watching Videodrome, I did some research and found out that the slimy, tumory things spilling out of Barry Convex's convulsing body in the above describe scene were created using an order of General Tso's Chicken. Knowing this beforehand made the scene slightly more delicious than Cronenberg meant it to be, I'm sure. But, yeah, don't let this scene scare you away from the movie. Now that you know his insides are filled with Chinese take-out, it should make things easier to handle)

In the end, Deborah Harry (who I failed to mention before now--sorry--she plays Max's masochistic girlfriend who is killed and used by Videodrome to pull Max deeper and deeper) informs Max, who has taken refuge in a condemned boat for some reason, that he has done well so far, but that there are many miles to go before Videodrome is completely eradicated. To proceed though Max needs to forsake the flesh and become a purely video image like Harry and Mr. O' Blivion. So, Max shoots himself in the head.

Did I mention that Videodrome is awesome?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 23-The Wasp Woman

Corman-palooza continues today with 1959's The Wasp Woman, a creature feature set at a floundering cosmetics company. Wasp Woman is the kind of movie where every character is constantly smoking--in board meetings, during job interviews, in laboratories where scientific research is being performed. Cigarettes, pipes, cigars--you name it, somebody's smoking it. It's also the kind of film in which a scene of a man taking an eventless stroll through the forest is accompannied by a foreboding orchestral score.

The Wasp Woman explores the obsession American society has with appearing young and beautiful no matter the cost. It is also a damning exposé of the advertising industry, an industry that repeatedly tells women they need to look a certain way to remain successful and/or desired.

Or maybe it's just a movie about a woman who overdoses on wasp enzymes and turns into a hideous, buzzing wasp woman.

Janice Starlin is the founder and CEO of Starlin Cosmetics, a company that has seen it's profits drop in the last few months. During a staff meeting at which reasons for the decline are discussed, a particularly cruel asshole named Bill Lane suggests that Starlin herself is the problem. He tells her that because she is the face of Starlin Cosmetics and because she is committing the unpardonable sin of aging, she is the reason the company is losing money. Basically, "you're totally old and gross, so people aren't buying your shit." First of all, Lane's explanation suggests that the buying public is comprised of nothing but blithering idiots and mouth-breathing dum-dums. So, people see that the founder of a large corporation that specializes in selling make-up is getting older and decide that her eyeshadow doesn't work? I think Lane is just pissed that his boss is a woman. Secondly, I'm glad to see that the whole Ugly-Character-Is-Just-A-Pretty-Actress-Wearing-Glasses thing isn't a modern phenomenon. Janice Starlin, played by B-movie beauty Susan Cabot, is a knock-out that a simple pair of oversized glasses cannot obscure. She's a fox.

Starlin receives a visit from a scientist named Eric Zinthrop who claims he can reverse the aging process. His secret: queen wasp royal jelly. He demonstrates by injecting a elderly guinea pig with his experimental serum. In a matter of seconds, the guinea pig becomes young again. It actually becomes a mouse, but who cares, Starlin is sold. She offers Zinthrop a job on one condition: he must test the experimental enzyme on her.

Starlin takes to the wasp serum like a whore to crack and pretty soon she's secretly injecting herself after everyone's gone home. The results are amazing. Her skin becomes brighter, as if under a permanent spotlight, and her glasses magically disappear. Finally, beauty, and all she had to do was become a junkie!

Meanwhile, Zinthrop discovers a horrible side effect to the wasp jelly treatments: it causes cats to go crazy. He is attack in his lab and instead of going to Starlin immeadiately, he takes a dazed walk outside and is run over by a car.

Pretty soon people are turning up dead: Arthur Cooper, pipe-smoking second in command; Chubbsy, the sloppy night watchman (whose appearance is accomapanied by goofy, "dumb-guy" music). They are both killed by a lady with a wasp's head, not, I'm afraid, by the super cool gargantuan wasp lady that appears on the film's poster above.

Regardless of what Zinthrop's serum is doing to her, Starlin continues to inject herself, obsessed now with the rapid age loss she is experiencing. There is a final showdown between Wasp Woman and corporate butthole, Bill Lane, in Zinthrop's lab which results in Starlin being thrown through a window to the streets below.

Another low budget tour de force from Roger Corman. Can you do no wrong, sir?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 22-A Bucket of Blood

Last May I wrote a glowing review of Roger Corman's killer plant masterpiece The Little Shop of Horrors. I knew I wanted to revisit the twisted world of Mr. Corman during the 31 Days of Horror, so today GEP presents A Bucket of Blood, Hollywood's first beatnik horror movie.

The incredible Dick Miller plays Walter Paisley, a timid, socially retarded busboy at The Yellow Door, a beatnik coffee house frequented by bearded blowhards and perpetually toasted dirtballs, as well as the women who love them (in spite of all the pretension, I assume.). Nobody pays much attention to Walter except for the beautiful Carla, an art-groupie. Walter realizes that the only way he's ever going to be taken seriously by the cadre of filthy beatniks that hang around the coffee shop smoking cigarettes all day and night is to become something of an artist himself. His chosen medium: clay. His artistic ability: non-existent.

One evening, hungry and frustrated, he accidentally stabs a cat to death and covers it in clay. The next morning he presents the cat statue to Carla and Leonard, his boss.

"What do you call it?" Carla asks. "Dead Cat," Walter smiles.

Dead Cat is a rousing success. Walter is encouraged by his newfound peers to create more pieces and being the lonely, eager-to-please guy he is, he decides to do just that, quickly dispatching an undercover cop with a frying pan to the skull. The result is a creepy, towering sculpture he calls Murdered Man.

While sweeping up one that evening, Leonard knocks Dead Cat onto the ground and discovers a tuft of fur beneath the thin layer of modeling clay. Leonard faces an ethical dilemma until an art collector offers him $500 for the statue. Leonard takes the money, but also suggests to Walter that he experiment with free form sculpture or maybe give up art altogether.

But Walter's on a roll and, heck, Leonard promised him a whole art exhibition to himself if he creates more statues and Carla is starting to pay more and more attention to him. Plus, the pretentious bearded bastard who holds court nightly upon The Yellow Door's main stage has written a poem about his glorious arrival. So, Walter strangles a woman who treats him poorly (Nude Sitting in a Chair) and slices off some poor schmuck's head (Dude's Head, I guess).

On the way to his big art show, Walter asks Carla to marry him and when she refuses he offers to make a sculpture of her after the party. She happily agrees. Once at the event, Carla discovers the secret behind Walter's art and runs screaming from the coffee shop with Walter, an undercover cop, and a couple of lazy beatniks in hot pursuit.

In the end, driven insane by the voices of those he has murdered and encased in clay, Walter hangs himself and the bearded guy says something pretentious about it.

I really liked A Bucket of Blood. In fact, it reminded me a lot of The Little Shop of Horrors. About halfway in I realized what about it exactly reminded me of Little Shop: everything. They are essentially the same movie. Take the talking plant out of Little Shop and you've got Bucket of Blood, baby. But who cares? Both films are delightfully silly (though Bucket is certainly the darker of the two) and packed with goofy, likable characters. In my opinion, of what I've seen so far, Roger Corman can do no wrong. Don't make me eat those words, Corman! I'm warning ya!
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

31 Days of Horror: Day 21-The Suckling

The following are situations in which viewing The Suckling could be deemed inappropriate:

*Grandma's 70th birthday party
*A youth group lock-in at the local Baptist church
*Christmas Eve at the Lawson house.
*Movie night with the Palins

If Evil Dead II was boring and about abortion, it would be The Suckling. I assume every effort on the part of the director and producers was spent perfecting the creature suit and not in casting, set design, cinematography, or film editing. From beginning to end The Suckling is an unmitigated failure, but a failure that intrigued me in a twisted sorta way.

How and why did this movie get made? Did writer/director Francis Teri wake up on morning, turn to his wife and say, "Honey, hand me my Idea Journal. I've got a classic brewin'?" And most importantly (or not), what position does The Suckling take on the abortion issue?

I pondered this question over the duration of the film and came to some stunning revelations. While The Suckling fails to work as entertainment, it could effectively be used to further the agendas of both the pro-life and pro-choice movements. Allow me to offer the following synopses as example:

PRO-LIFE:
The Suckling tells the tragic story of a young woman who decides to get an abortion. Her boyfriend takes her to a crumbling brothel on the edge of town which provides not only kinky sex to area perverts but also complimentary abortions to any- and everyone. The godless abortion doctor/madame rips the poor, defenseless fetus from the young mother's womb and flushes it down the toilet. In the sewer, the precious fetus finds itself covered in toxic ooze which causes it to grow and mutate into a demonic creature whose only joy in life comes from punishing those who consider abortion a viable option when dealing with unwanted pregnancy. The Suckling itself represents God's judgement upon the feminists and liberals who call for abortions on demand, day or night, 365 days a year! In the end, after all sinners have been properly judged, the baby returns to the womb of his mother, where he can finish the process of developing into a precious gift from God.

PRO-CHOICE:
If a woman's right to choose is taken from her, the events depicted in 1990's The Suckling could happen to your daughter and her feather-haired boyfriend. Forced to turn to a neighborhood madame named Big Mama for help, a young woman, drugged with tainted Kool-Aid, has her unborn baby ripped from the womb in an unprofessional manner. The fetus is then disposed of improperly and sent careening into a sewer system filled with toxic waste. Because of the ineptitude of Big Mama and her staff, the aborted fetus becomes a bloodthirsty beast who covers the bordello with a placenta-like substance and systematically kills everyone trapped inside. If only the young woman had had access to professional services or had been taught about condoms in her middle school's sex education program, perhaps all this bloodshed could have been avoided. This is the America pro-lifers want--an American swarming with killer mutant babies!

PRO-ABORTION:
Babies will turn into monsters and kill us all! We gotta abort them now!!!
Alternate post: The Suckling? More like The Sucks-ling! Read the rest of this article.

My Big Fat Reality Show Headache

What do you think it's like to be Tom Arnold? I imagine it's a life full of constant shame and self-loathing. How could it not be?

OK. Maybe I'm being to hard on the man. I mean, he still has a career, I guess. Who cares if its as the host of a basic cable reality show that would actually work better without a host. He's on TV and that should count for something!

Tom Arnold is the sort of host of CMT's original program My Big Redneck Wedding. It's sort of like TLC's A Bridal Story only for poor people. This is not your daddy's reality wedding show, unless your daddy is a drunken lout with four or five rusty pick-ups sitting in front of his double-wide. Like A Bridal Story, Redneck Wedding introduces us to young couples on the cusp of getting hitched, though on CMT's version there's no guarantee that the bride and groom to be aren't related. While a TLC-sanctioned wedding reception may include dinner, dancing, and an ice sculpture, these CMT-worthy backwoods affairs usually end in an orgy of trucks and mud.

The truth is people should celebrate the blessing of marriage however (and with whomever) they damn well please. If you want your 16 year old bride and your two illigetimate children dressed in camouflage, then you go right ahead and do it, bubba. If you and your wife want to drive off into the sunset on the back of tractor while your closest friends and relatives fire their sawed-off shotguns into the air, then you git r done! The only problem I have with My Big Redneck Wedding is Tom Arnold. The show would be tolerable, hell, even halfway amusing if Tom Arnold wasn't popping up every few seconds to spout an unfunny joke. You will literally be watching a scene and then, BAM, the action pauses and Tom Arnold rises from the bottom of your screen like a lumpy, unfunny puppet to make some hackneyed hillbilly pun or poke fun at the stupid country folk for which he apparently harbors a large amount of disdain.

Here is an example: During a wedding reception the camera pans over a crowd that includes a man with quite a prominent mullet. The action pauses, Tom Arnold steps into frame like an joyless weatherman and quips, "Mullet of the year." Cue the laughter.

Mullet of the year. MULLET OF THE YEAR? Is that the best the writers at My Big Redneck Wedding Inc can come up with?

And why are people agreeing to have their weddings filmed for this exploitative show? Don't they know we are laughing at them. The audience isn't compromised of other redneck couples looking for wedding ideas, but hip, snooty city-dwellers and bored suburbanites looking to poke fun and feel better about their own shortcomings. "At least were not dirty, illiterate hillbillies." Maybe years of Jerry Springer have conditioned the white trash population to believe that society as a whole thinks they have something important to say.

But I'm not here to belittle the redneck community, but to empower them to rise up against CMT and the pure evil that is Tom Arnold. Rise up and say "We are proud workers of the land--we grow your produce in our fields, fields in which we toil and sweat, as our fathers have before us and as our children will continue to do when we pass from this life--and we deserve the same level of respect given to D-level celebrities who participate in wrestling competitions for paltry cash prizes and dwarves who fly to war torn Iraq to bring crayons to other dwarves! We may not live in The Hills, but we are from the hills, and we have something to contribute to society, something important, something pure. Bring us Tom Arnold so that we may make him squeal like a pig. Y'all."

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