Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pumpkinhead: Fine I Won't Talk About the Holocaust. But I'm Still Upset.

Even though I was afraid of most things horrific as a child, I do recall an incident of catching Pumpkinhead on TV one night when my sister and I were home alone. I remember laughing quite a bit although after re-watching it just now, I realized that I must have been secretly crying. Of course I'm assuming that only my sister was laughing and I was crying, prompting her to change the channel and resulting in the reason that I can recall very little about the actual movie...hmmm. As it turns out, Pumpkinhead is both funny and a little bit scary. But perhaps the most alarming aspect is that Pumpkinhead reminds us all of a time when teenagers were good human beings.

I hadn't expected the plot summary to be as it was. I just assumed Pumpkinhead was an evil monster with a pumpkin for a head who liked killing people and maybe on Halloween, sure why not? Pumpkinhead however, is a hellish beast that comes to life when awakened by an evil hag for the purpose of acting out other's revenge. Case in point, Ed Harley whose son is killed in a dirt bike accident by some teenagers. Desperate, he turns to the witch who awakens Pumpkinhead. Pumpkinhead wastes no time and starts killing the kids in no time flat. Ed, horrified at what he's done, sets off to put an end to the beast.

While watching Pumpkinhead this evening something quite unpleasant began to happen. I realized that I didn't want to see all those kids die because I didn't feel that they had done anything truly wrong. I felt like I was being forced to watch videos of...puppies dying. Except for the brother who actually was a dick--everyone else was kind hearted and capable of making the right decision. Suddenly they are killed rather quickly and in a terrible order I might add (Really? The nice brother is the first to go?)--and we start feeling very.....unsettled. Perhaps it's just me and my sensitivity, but I had a real problem with the fact that they weren't even given a chance.

You might be thinking, well yeah but isn't that how all horror movies work? Aren't the "teenagers" just being killed for no good reason? Yes. But how many of those teenagers perform outwardly benevolent acts before the killings? Typically we get teenagers who throw raucous parties, do drugs, drink beer and have sex while a child is drowning in the lake. Here, we get teenagers who stick up for the cute little hick with glasses, and try to save his life WHICH I might add, they probably COULD have done had Hickville USA had a working telephone nearby. But If you go over their actions prior to the accident, you find that they made the best judgment call available to them. They couldn't move the kid, didn't know where help was and left to find a phone--but left someone there with him. What would you have done?
Yes I suppose it all fits into the larger scheme of things in that revenge taken in the moment of loss is a bad idea and that the child was also killed for no apparent reason other than the fact that he was just too darn cute. But STILL. I really felt like I was watching a rated G version of Cannibal Holocaust. It just felt unpleasant to me. I like to see people get killed because they deserve it and this just felt all wrong to me. I'm sure it's very much intentional, and that the film from the get go is full of unpleasantness but there's still something oddly wrong about it.

It does however make me think about how back then, it was much more likely to have a group of teenagers that you did like. Nowadays it's pretty common to have an entire cast of teenagers that are worthless scum. But back then they were who we rooted for. Isn't it sad how times have changed?

If this film had to be remade which I don't think is a necessarily horrible idea, I would have to demand that they remedy the situation. Make the teenagers actually do something questionable. Having only the dick head brother do the unthinkable is interesting but the problem is that the other teenagers remain behind and do try to help. Sure, maybe Ed's eventual awakening about how wrong what he is doing is would be less obvious---but it's still possible! Make him flashback to how he felt as a little boy and seeing Pumpkinhead through his window. Make him realize that people do make mistakes. I feel like he still never even realizes that the kids did nothing wrong and that bothers me. I'm also continually bothered that we know nothing about Ed. Was he even the kid in the beginning? Who knows? What happened to him in his life? His wife died? Weird! It's all very glossed over.

I'm not saying that Pumpkinhead is a bad movie by the way. I quite enjoyed it, maybe even a little more than I thought I should. But I liked the idea of it and Pumpkinhead's face but not the unpleasantness of the situation. I loved that things were so apparently cliched and stereotyped. Dirty dirty hick kids, hags who really look like hags!
I loved how Pumpkinhead could easily pass for an alien
and how at first he was kind of cute.

But then...

Bleck! He fooled us all!

Even some of the kills were pretty accomplishing
but unfortunately, I was still upset over "the incident". There are a lot of flaws in the film but that I think may be the worst. There's also the burning question of how that accident could have possibly killed him. And also--why does he suddenly turn into a horrible looking doll?
Was he really too heavy for Lance to carry? While we're on the subject of questions, if there are only like 3 houses in the entire town. Why would the witch's house go unnoticed for so long? And could that hag be any uglier?
Oooh Pumpkinhead, you're a semi decent film but I'm just too damn perturbed at the decision to make these kids likable! You may have been trying to do something provocative but it just came off as messy and yucky.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Do You Know About the Cremaster Cycle?

Yes, that was a trick question because in reality no one knows anything about the Cremaster Cycle. You may come across people who consider themselves highly attuned to the deeper meanings and themes explored within this massive and highly provocative art exhibit--but they are liars. They may appear to know everything by the way they twiddle their thumbs and talk about balls—sorry I mean testicles and how the cycle is devoted to the maturation of the sexual organs and more importantly creation. Don’t believe them, because they probably just read Wikipedia like I did. The point here is that when someone asks you “What do you know about the Cremaster Cycle?” the answer should always be; nothing.

In 10th grade my English class went on a class trip to the luxurious stomping grounds of New York City. Here we toured several art museums and pretended to know what was going on (it was an Honor’s English course after all). Our most exciting endeavor took us to the prestigious Guggenheim Museum (the place in the beginning of Men in Black? Sweet!) where we were told that we were very lucky—because Matthew Barney’s, The Cremaster Cycle was on display. Somewhere in our studies of Paradise Lost, and a Tale of Two Cities, The Cremaster Cycle became relevant. I’m still not sure if it was or not because like I said no one knows anything about the Cremaster Cycle. What I did know intrigued me; the display consisted of 5 feature length movies, including a segment filmed within the museum. As you walked along the spiral design of the museum you saw sculptures that were in the movies themselves. It was something of anomaly. An entire project designed with the layout of the Guggenheim in mind.

Arriving that day however my eyes were bombarded with some of the most interesting and yet, terrifying things I had ever seen. Films that went on for hours and showed the most bizarre things. A woman controlling two Goodyear blimps, and eating grapes, while women danced in a chorus line. A Satyr and his….penis and a lot of balls everywhere. A woman with no legs who has prosthetic glass attachments, and in one scene was painted like a cheetah or a leopard—her vagina in full view although spotted. These were the things we were subjected to on that particularly dreary day and for some reason, I was entranced.

I knew there was something extremely intelligent going on- but I was too distracted by the fact that there were real penis’s and vaginas to notice. We stood as a small group and looked at the picture of “the Apprentice” with his teeth knocked out and a bloody scarf stuffed in his mouth (the description said it was supposed to represent the hymen. “WHATS A HYMEN!?”).

We knew very little that day and while the majority of my classmates brushed it off as just some weird artwork- I came to secretly love it.

All I knew was that I dug the Cremaster Cycle. Ever since then I’ve been on a mad search to understand more but failing miserably every time. On Saturday, I finally remembered my passion for uncovering the secrets and read the Wikipedia entry countless times. Then I went to the Cremaster website, Googled images, searched YouTube and still I found that something was unsettling me. Was it because it was something I still failed to understand? Or was it the journey of trying to find the meaning that enticed me? I’m guessing a combination. And hopefully I’ve piqued some of your interests too. And maybe MAYBE someone knows about the Cremaster Cycle—but of course I can’t believe what you tell me because you’re a liar.

But for real. Take a look at these images and videos and tell me it’s the not the weirdest/coolest thing you’ve ever seen. And then take a step further and get immersed in the entire project. It’s fascinating, it’s over my head and (hopefully yours) and I’m obsessed with it. It’s like LOST but with a lot of testicles.

Here is the trailer.

And here is the segment filmed in the Guggenheim. There are parts where the Apprentice is say, doing a puzzle--and then the puzzle would be just how it was left in the film,in the exact same place at the museum!! It was hard wrapping even my sophomore brain around that concept.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: Ooh the Days When Tomatoes Were Still Vegetables...Sigh.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not but there's been a lot of good movie watching at The Horror Digest. Not that there's anything wrong with that but personally I think it's getting a little out of hand. If you only subject yourself or your blog to good movies then one day when you're feeling saucy and want to talk about something like say I don't know...Wild Things--then people will start to get upset. But if you balance it with both good and bad no one is thrown for a loop and no one will get upset. Everyone's happy when you keep a balanced level of absurdness and delight. So in order to purge my blog of that dastardly disease, I went for the big guns. One of the most notoriously bad movies out there. But is it so bad that it's good? Let's find out.

Beginning with a small anecdote of when people first saw Hitchcock's The Birds--

I found myself wondering; should I be concerned about the tomato I had recently purchased? Or because Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is supposed to be funny and the Birds was not- are we all safe? Unfortunately for all you deep, movie trivia and fact snobs out there the first rule of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is don't ask questions. There will be no rhetorical questions today. In addition you also should be careful not to think too hard, or try to make sense of what you see before you. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is what it is, a parody of a B-movie that becomes one in the process. This of course leaves little to talk about. Which is fine by me.

Within a few seconds into Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and witnessing a rolling tomato appear out of a garbage disposal and start making "angry noises" you start to understand that 1 out of every 50 people you meet will find the film enjoyable. Sure there are jokes--but how many people these days can appreciate full fledged silliness? I'm sure all those girls in their high heels and undoubtedly stylish rompers that I met last night would be rolling their eyes and switching to The Real Housewives of insert city here had they been in my shoes--but lucky for you all I love me some silly.

I was also very surprised, although I'm not entirely sure why, that the tomatoes didn't have any teeth, they were just tomatoes.
This is fabulous. Instead of trying to understand how anyone was killed by a savage tomato with no teeth I found joy and excitement in the fact that money was spent on explosions instead. Good move I think because after all how many people can make a savage tomato look convincing? Oh shoot! A rhetorical question...blasts!
Sure, half my time was spent being terrified that the film would suddenly turn into a porn--I think most of us expect that with films made in the 70s, but the other half was spent smirking and admiring the shiny luster of those gigantic tomatoes.
I'm not sure who looks at this movie expecting to find greatness, but I sure as heck don't know who looks at this movie and isn't impressed by the effects of the moving tomatoes. It's pretty impressive if you think about it. And how can you really go wrong with a giant tomato wearing headphones?
While there may be no outstanding message or social commentary other than the fact that wearing a bra is essential and that a black Hitler is GREAT, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is really just silly. If you can't appreciate the silly and don't find that a board room the size of a cupboard is funny then get out! Go back to your intelligent comedies (whatever that is) and find a new friend. No, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is not that funny--but if you can't appreciate it, even for a second then I still feel like you're missing out on a little piece of life. Most likely laughter and the joys of silliness but who am I to judge?

Here is some silliness:

Yes, I suppose going back to the film's opening message we are supposed to draw a conclusion after all. Take nothing seriously---and you'll get out alive.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black Sabbath: Nightmares Ahead

When we last left off in my quest for more Bava in my life, I had just watched Blood and Black Lace and fallen in love. I concluded that Bava was the perfect man for me, although Dario Argento was the right man. And Lucio Fulci was just some guy on the side. So you see. I prefer beauty in my horror films, beauty before anything else and Bava completely encompasses this fact. Argento mixes beauty with blood and gore and Fulci is just gore. It would make a nice Venn diagram. So on this night, while feeling particularly in the mood for some beauty and stylized beauty at that, I decided to put in a movie that has been recommended to me countless times. I had no idea that this was a trilogy of three "chilling tales" hosted by none other than Boris Karloff.
This only escalated my excitement and to make things easier I've broken down all three tales in three very wonderful mini reviews. Don't thank me, thank Mario Bava.

Telephone is one of those rare occurrences where our expectations are often turned on their head and in this case more than once. Here we have a story that we've seen several times, a story where the phone seems to act as the epicenter of fear. From the more modern Scream, to When a Stranger Calls, and even perhaps Sorry, Wrong Number--we have always been taught that although seemingly harmless, those pesky telephones always have the ability to suddenly become harbinger's of doom....all it takes is one phone call.

Our story begins as they typically do with a phone call. A beautiful lass Rosy picks up the phone and gets no response. The phone continues to ring, soon providing us with the menacing voice of her presumed future attacker.
One thing you should probably know about Rosy which is also something that I missed, most likely due to being distracted as I ate my delicious Popsicle... but Rosy is a frickin' hooker ya'll! I know I didn't believe it either and I'm still confused where they mentioned that but yes she is a high class hooker or "call girl". Anyways, the night wears on, Rosy changes into a nightgown and the phone calls relentlessly continue on. But things get serious when the killer threatens murder!
She soon discovers a piece of paper under the door that says her former Pimp has escaped from prison! Yes, apparently the caller is Frank.

Panicked, Rosy calls her friend Mary who agrees to come over and console her. SUDDENLY. The killer calls again and asks why she called her friend Mary when Mary cannot protect her. Yes, it would appear the killer is closer than she thought. The camera slowly pans out revealing DUN DUN DUN Mary to be the "killer".
But rest assured, she doesn't want to kill Rosy, she wants her to welcome her back into her life. Because yes, they were once lesbian lovers. After an awkward sleep over, and some real sassy music ( I really thought things were going to you know, heat up or something) Mary writes a letter of apology and then someone ELSE comes in and like kills people. Maybe I should stop there I think I'm ruining too much....

Anyways. This was a quick dose of good old fashioned story telling. No it's not particularly horrifying but it is rather intriguing. What seems at first to be a typical tale of an ex-lover's return for revenge gets flipped---and then flipped again. I loved witnessing what has to be an inspiration to Scream-the killer soon identifying that fact that he can actually see our victim. I also enjoyed seeing Rosy literally sweat when she is put into fearful situations-
BUT she still remains beautiful of course. I was possibly disappointed when Mary turned out just to be bluffing but then instantly redeemed by the true murderer's presence. No the climax doesn't contain a spot of blood but who needs it when Rosy's apartment fills us with enough visual stimulation to last a life time. Honestly, I'm in the wrong business. Apparently if you are an up class hooker you can live in a replica of an Ancient Greek or Roman museum display! AND have sleepovers in beautiful nightgowns AND get a telephone that is black and red. Wow. I'm really missing out.

I once said that Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had a really tough time of proving that they could get past their iconic roles. This little story however completely defies that notion as Boris Karloff is both fantastic and barely recognizable as the grandfather who pretends not to be a vampire. I barely recognized him! And he was great, creepy, and wore a cloak most likely lined with human hair.

Apparently Wurdalak means Vampire, or at least it better because then the story would make no sense. While horseback riding through the barren mountains of.....*Googles* RUSSIA, a strapping lad comes across....a stabbed and bloody sheet!
But that's no sheet, that's a person with their head cut off! He gallops off to a mysteriously foggy house where he enters uninvited and finds the outline of the same dagger found in the body residing on the wall.
He soon learns that this family has been anxiously awaiting for the arrival of their father, Gorcha, who has been gone 5 days fighting the evil criminal and apparently wurdalak, of the village. At midnight he returns looking....smelly and kind of like a vampire. But he talks and stuff so...they let him in.

Slowly but surely we start to notice something is wrong. Gorcha is hungry but not for meat. He demands that his favorite dog be killed. He also proves that he has slain the vampire.

And then uses this proof to make a lovely mailbox!

But IS Gorcha a vampire? Well fine, I'll tell you....YES he is. And he miraculously and quickly turns the rest of the family into one. It's all very nicely done. Perhaps the creepiest being the little boy, whom is killed by Gorcha, and because his mother cannot bear for him to be stabbed (once he's already dead) he comes back in the night and cries out for his mother in a soft weepy voice, "Mama! Mama! Let me in. I'm cold", the brute. She, blinded by her adoration stabs her husband who tries to prevent her and goes out to let her dead son back in. I'm really sick of people doing that. When will they learn? When?!

The vampire mythos is treated here with a certain curious respect. Nothing outwardly cries trademark, except the biting on the neck--
and yet we understand where everything is going. It's in fact, an interesting depiction of a vampire's willingness to live off of those he loves. In more recent times this has meant who the vampire truly sexually desires, but here it is taken to be a more familial kind of love- and that's pretty touching man. Although one can argue that Gorcha's love for his grandson is a bit suspect....

This without a doubt is the best story of the three, and I so enjoyed the seemingly throwback to Black Sunday--where beautiful colors and beautiful women in their apartments are replaced with beautiful shadows and the haunting atmosphere of the environment. I'm also a sucker for people that carry other people's heads in their purses. I was so excited when I realized that Gorcha had a head in his purse that I dropped the piece of pizza I was holding! It was worth it to see him fling that head across the room. Yes, it was worth it.

You may have heard that ghosts stories are my favorite. The same goes for the ghosts and spooks genre of horror. There's something about that creaky house that gets me each and every time. And I'll tell you, The Drop of Water is a very mean, very cruel kind of story...because it is TERRIFYING. I'm almost positive I'm going to have a nightmare tonight about the Countess's face OR that I'm going to come into my bedroom and she'll be on my bed and ugh. That is the true power of this story and I challenge anyone to a scary faces contests and this one will win. Every single time.

Nurse Helen gets summoned to ready the dead body of an elderly psychic woman. A woman who lived in a derelict house with a lot of cats. Upon arrival, the maid is a bit spooked and pleads that Nurse Helen hurry up in her work. When entering the bedroom of the Countess, we are first presented with her ghastly face.
Need a closer look?

Is that not the scariest face you've ever seen? I still say it's a contender for the scariest face ever with maybe only the demon Exorcist face to come close. So Helen begins her preparations, but not before stealing the beautiful ring the Countess has on her finger. Almost immediately strange things start to happen. A fly repeatedly lands on the dead woman's fingers, a glass of water is knocked over and begins to drip, and perhaps the most startling---after closing the Countess's eyes,
Helen goes to put on the shoes looks up and and....oh it's too terrible to say!!

Her eyes have opened once more!!

Back at her own apartment, Helen begins experiencing more things. The same fly lands on her finger, she hears the same rhythm of dripping water all over her apartment. Doors creak, windows are open, the lights go off and worst of all...the dead woman is lying on her BED!
I seriously was peeing my pants by this point. I knew that face would come back and when we see her on the bed and then RISING from the bed.
I'm all like...

Ahhhhh what the fuck?!

And then it just keeps getting worse. This woman is everywhere! On the rocking chair petting a cat.
Stretching her fingers around the wall, walking towards Helen ready to strangle her.
I honestly don't know how I persevered through those ending moments. This is a classic ghost story with a trickling of the guilt concept found in The Tell-Tale Heart. The sound of the water dripping is almost maddening. But also curious is how Helen never seems to associate the happenings with the presence of the ring. If the lady is coming at you, take off the ring and throw it at her for Christ's sake! The ending was that nice little twist that we all love, but honestly I was so scarred from the old lady being in the bed that I'm not sure I was conscious. It filled me with the same kind of traumatic fear one finds in the scene where Zelda appears in the bed in Pet Sematary. It's the most unfair kind of fear! Bollocks, I'm scared to go to bed tonight!

I leave you with some parting words from our dear friend Boris.

Hmmm I can only hope.