It’s difficult to try and celebrate Halloween without at least remembering the classic John Carpenter film of the same name which help give birth to the slasher horror genre. Halloween has become a staple in my horror watching lists. It joins such other classic horror as the Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Craven’s The Serpent and The Rainbow.
Filmed on a tiny budget of $325,000 and released in 1978, Halloween would introduce to the film world one of it’s most iconic horror figures in the Michale Myers. The film’s opening would become famous in it’s own right as it didn’t just give us a look into Michael Myers backstory, but make the film audience become almost active participant in the murder that introduced us to our killer.
This extended introduction scene let’s the audience see through Michael Myers’ eyes as he stalks through the house towards his sister’s room where he commits his first murder. This point of view through the eye holes of Michael’s mask would be repeated several times throughout the film.
As Halloween comes to a close, so does both horror month here at the Shattered Lens and our series of televised horrors. What better way to finish out this feature than with one of the best known and most popular episodes of The Twilight Zone?
There’s a lot I could say about The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street but really, all that needs to be acknowledged is that it’s a classic and it features one of the best endings ever. As well, it also contains an important message about paranoia and conformity that remains as relevant today as when the episode was first broadcast.
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street was written by Rod Serling and directed by Ron Winston. The episode was originally broadcast on March 4th, 1960.
Do you want to see a strange horror film?
Just check out The Visitor, a 1979 Italian film that has recently been re-released by Drafthouse Films and occasionally shows up on TCM. In many ways, The Visitor is a total and complete mess. But, as is so often the case with Italian horror films, that very messiness — combined with some genuinely imaginative narrative and directorial choices — serves to make The Visitor into one of the most memorable films that you (possibly) have never heard of.
Like many of the Italian exploitation films released in the 70s and 80s, The Visitor is a rather blatant rip-off of a successful American film. What makes The Visitor unique is the amount of different movies that it rips off. The Visitor takes films that you would assume had no connection and mixes them together to create something wonderfully odd.
Much like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Visitor opens with the idea that intergalactic beings have been visiting Earth for centuries and are subtly influencing the development of humanity. The Visitor literally opens with Jesus Christ (played by Franco Nero!) sitting on a satellite and telling a version of the creation story to a bunch of bald children. He explains that, long ago, he battled an evil intergalactic demon known as Sateen. Sateen (who, the film implies, is better known on Earth as Satan) was eventually blown up but his genes were spread throughout humanity. The bald children surrounding him are the descendants of Sateen. Whenever one of them is born, Jesus sends an old man named Jerzy Colsowicz (played by director John Huston) to Earth so that Jerzy can bring the child to the satellite. Of course, whenever Jerzy isn’t kidnapping kids for Jesus, he spends his time hanging out in a psychedelic dimension.
Yes, you did read that correctly.
Once you get past the intergalactic part of the story, The Visitor is a pretty obvious rip-off of both The Omen and Damien: Omen II, with the main difference being that the demon child here is not a cherubic little boy but instead is a rather bratty 8 year-old little girl named Katy (Paige Collins). However, Katy is not the Antichrist. Instead, her job is to mate with a male child who also has Sateen’s genes and then her baby will be the Antichrist. In order to get this male child, Katy is pressuring her mother (Joanne Nail) to have sex with businessman Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen, who was also in Damien II: The Omen) so that Katy can have a half-brother to mate with. (Ewwwwwwww!) Raymond is a follower of Sateen and, adding to the film’s already odd feel, he also happens to own a basketball team.
(So, along with everything else going on, The Visitor also features a lot of basketball footage, which I guess would be exciting if I knew anything about basketball.)
Despite being a pretty powerful figure in the Sateenist hierarchy Raymond is not the head Sateenist. No, the head Sateenist is played by Mel Ferrer, an actor who was once married to Audrey Hepburn and who will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched an Italian horror film. (You can spot Ferrer in Zombie Holocaust, for example.) Ferrer and the other Sateenists are all old, distinguished looking white men who spend all of their time meeting in an ornate corporate boardroom.
So, Jerzy comes down to Earth to, with the help of a nanny played Shelley Winters, try to kidnap Katy but, for some reason, he doesn’t just do that. Instead, he spends most of his time just watching Katy do destructive things.
Much as in The Omen, anyone who gets too close to discovering the truth about Katy ends up dying an elaborate and bloody way. Often times, their death involves black crows, who the film suggests might actually be all of those little bald kids in animal disguise. So is Jesus sending those crows to kill people? Seriously, this movie is weird.
Meanwhile, Katy’s mom is having doubts about both Raymond and her daughter. She even goes and talks to her ex-husband, an abortionist who is played by yet another film director, in this case Sam Peckinpah. Katy gets annoyed with her mom and, after happening to come across a gun hidden away inside of a birthday presents, shoots her in the back and leaves her paralyzed.
And did I mention that Katy is telekinetic, much like Carrie? That’s right! During my favorite scene, Katy goes skating at the local mall’s ice rink and, after a group of boys bully her, she uses her powers to send those bullies flying all over the mall. Oddly enough, nobody seems to notice this chaos. Except, of course, for Jerzy who just stands off in the corner and watches without doing anything…
Seriously, I love The Visitor. Along with being surprisingly well-acted and visually inventive, the film is just so weird! In many ways, it epitomizes everything that I love about the old Italian exploitation films. While it is rather shameless about ripping off other movies, the film still brings its own unique spin to everything.
Normally, I’d say that The Visitor is a good film for Halloween but you know what? Anytime is a good time for an Italian horror film!
Black cat. Halloween. Coincidence?
But you shouldn’t have been looking at that. You should have been looking at the two words surrounding it, because it suggests something we haven’t heard much of in quite a while. Beginning with Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vol. 1, Atsuo Mizuno, Takeshi Ohtani, and Wata have spent a lot of time playing at pop stars. Their really quality works of late have mostly been pop oriented, and in the world of metal they’ve been mostly playing around. Heavy Rocks 2011 felt like a joke–a quick fun studio session to take some of the stress off of recording New Album and Attention Please. Präparat offered us the total mindfuck known as “Elegy”, but “Method of Error” and “Bataille Suere” could hardly be taken seriously. We got the long-overdue Boris performing “flood” and a rerelease of The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked, but that wasn’t new material.
Boris deserved a break from their old traditions. Christ, they have 78 releases to their name, and like 95% of that has been beyond fabulous. But as good as their pop and chillout sounds of late have been, we’ve all been itching for some good old Boris noise. Not Absolutego drone. I mean I want to hear some “Heavy Friends”, some “Akuma No Uta”, some “Farewell”, some “My Neighbor Satan”, something to make my brain turn inside out and hug itself. Well, Boris did deliver. They did it last year, in the easily overlooked The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked Extra. In fact, it was so easily overlooked that I am only just now skimming through its tracks for the first time! I can already tell it is awesome, but that will have to wait. Tonight I spin Noise for the first time.
Boris – Melody, from Noise
If you are a Boris fan, this opening track needs no commentary. I suppose no track on the album does, really. But if you are not a Boris fan, picture yourself in our shoes for a minute: You have ridiculous, irrationally high expectations for this album. You can justify it, because the band has never let you down before. But you don’t have a clue what’s in store for you. The graceful drone in the opening 40 seconds could go on for the entire track, and it would not be out of character. Suddenly we’ve got a pretty, shoegaze guitar, and for a brief six or seven seconds your mind wonders whether they might be trying something akin to Alcest. At 47 seconds, a techno beat comes in, and we are on pace for something totally novel. Is it going to be some weird psychedelic technogaze? I wouldn’t put it past them, and I just might like it. But things are picking up… something is about to give….. and bam, at the 1 minute mark Boris unleashes everything I could have ever hoped for and more.
Takeshi slamming out a crushing stoner metal groove under Wata’s wailing blur of blissful noise, and in five seconds we find that techno beat wasn’t just an intro. What IS this amalgamation of mutually exclusive genre standards into an inexplicably majestic whole? This is Boris, doing what Boris always do: taking everything they’ve done before and making it even better. This is a band that remains totally aware of everything going on in music at large and has had twenty three years playing together to master their class. Wata has one of the most beatiful guitar sounds in the world. She slides around the neck with a grace that puts Billy Corgan to shame and rocks the effect pedals so keenly that “Paranoid Android” sounds amateur. Atsuo drums with a persistent intensity that rivals Jimmy Chamberlin (I’ve always felt a bizarre connection between Boris and The Smashing Pumpkins–two bands that defy all categorization.) Takeshi’s mastery of bass and distortion is as good as any stoner band on the market, and his vocal control has come miles from Smile and earlier works.
Stonergaze techno pop? Yeah, we can do that.
Boris – Vanilla, from Noise
The next track, “Vanilla”, is just as fascinating. For the first 40 seconds (55 in the official video) we get a vocal melody and beat that wouldn’t have been out of place in a mid-90s up-tempo rock track–it bizarrely made me think of the Foo Fighters–layered of course with Wata and Takeshi’s constant motion. Then we hit a deep, brooding pause with haunting synth, doomy bass crunch, and a spooky arpeggio loop that says this song is going nowhere near where we expected. The song quickly move back into rock mode, but now we’re expecting something. The guitars embrace a rhythmic metal crunch, and the hard shift to a bassy stoner/doom beatdown for six notes at 1:20 (1:35) makes your brain jitter. No other band would even THINK to do something like that. We’re back into the opening motion, then another break and… is Takeshi playing a death metal riff? Mmhmm. And it’s not like the trashy games they were playing on Heavy Rocks 2011 and a few Präparat tracks. It’s fully immersed and totally appropriate. Wata goes wild, and I am in bliss.
Boris – Heavy Rain, from Noise
I could narrate every track on this album and never be at a loss for commentary. “Ghost of Romance” might offer the fewest surprises–a traditional Boris chillout song with a pensive undercurrent brought to life with haunting guitar tones and a breath effect that suit the title. It offers a modest post-rock build-up to louder levels of chill, but never at the expensive of a full break from the main vibe of the song. “Heavy Rain”, my personal favorite on first listen, virtually demands you crank the speakers up to 11. Despite the tempo never changing and Takeshi’s heaviest tones coming out within the first minute, this song accomplishes a mindblowing progression. They manage to accomplish the build-up in reverse, putting forth a bunch of sound at once and increasing the suspense by slowly peeling it back. The moment we reach the point of dead silence, the explosion hits, and the rest is all driven by Wata’s ever-growing layers of noise and Atsuo’s knack for making every single percussion count.
“Taiyo No Baka” is a bizarre, sugary, initially minimalistic pop ditty that should confound anyone unfamiliar with the band. But far from filler, it’s quite delightful and has a lot of really interesting effects going on throughout. If I am going to keep the Pumpkins comparisons rolling, this might equate to Mellon Collie‘s move from “X.Y.U.” to “We Only Come Out at Night”. “Angel” is the traditional post-rock track of the album, with six minutes of minimalistic build-up to a crushing guitar plod spiced with Atsuo’s hyper-intense slow drumming and a crooning Wata solo. This in turn serves as build-up to a spirited, meaty rock-out at 9:30 peppered by a highly mobile bass line and some good old post-rock tremolo. We’ve still got over 7 minutes to go as this part winds down, and the rest of the track plays out with a lot of eclectic, melodic experimentation that has to stand among Boris’s best. I’ll be surprised if “Angel” doesn’t grow into my favorite track on the album once I’ve given it a good dozen listens.
Boris – Quicksilver, from Noise
“Quicksilver”, the second to last track, might be where Noise gets its name. Dirty, wild crust with classic tremolo solos encase a sad and pleasing heavy punk chorus. Takeshi’s sung vocals run totally counter to what you might expect in this style of music, and Atsuo’s accompanying screams are out of this world. This is only the beginning. The song is ten minutes long, and while I’ll humor the possibility that it does drag on without much variation at times–it could go on for an hour and I wouldn’t complain–this is the most punk song Boris has pumped out in years. I would die if I saw them play it live–possibly literally. At 6:20, the main thrust of the song climaxes with a monotone tremolo wail, a crusty three chord repeat from Takeshi, and a total Atsuo explosion that for all its collective simplicity doesn’t sound quite like anything I’ve ever heard in metal before. The last 3 minutes of the song are weird to the point of being a little creepy–totally out of character with the seven minutes preceding them and featuring a bubbling static sound that makes your hair stand on end.
The closing track is “Siesta”, and I have to think it was inspired by Atsuo and Michio Kurihara’s recent collaboration with Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))) and Bill Herzog: Ensemble Pearl. It’s a slow, echoed, jazzy chill-out that wraps Noise up nicely. I would feature it here, but I couldn’t find a version on youtube.
So what do I think of this album? Do you even need to ask? It’s everything I could hope for. Sure, it doesn’t offer a killer stand-alone track like “Elegy” from Präparat or “Farewell” from Pink, but it just feels so complete. There is absolutely zero twiddling around, zero wasted time, just 58 action-packed minutes of every technique and style Boris has incorporated into their sound across their illustrious 23 year history. It is a really mature work–perhaps their most mature album to date–and I think it’s the most start-to-finish shear brilliance they have offered on a full-length cd since at least Akuma No Uta–maybe even since Flood. It doesn’t get much more original and imaginative than this.
Welcome to the last part of this special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers! The Trailer Kitties have been out and busy and they’ve returned with 6 trailers that celebrate the undead!
1) White Zombie (1932)
2) I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
3) The Astro-Zombies (1968)
4) Deathdream (1972)
5) Shock Waves (1977)
6) The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980)
What do you think, Trailer Kitties?
There’s not a lot of information available on the artist Richard Tennant Cooper. It’s known from 1910 to 1912 that he painted several paintings that were meant to show the effects of disease on the human body. In his paintings, disease was represented by skeletons and evil ghosts, which are often seen hovering above the sick. Cooper also served in the British Army during World War I and painted several pictures based on his experiences. The first five pictures below are examples of Cooper’s medical work while the final four were inspired by World War I.