The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Bleed (dir by Tripp Rahme)


What happens when you take a little Paranormal Activity and mix it in with a little Rosemary’s Baby and then toss in Devil’s Due and then top it all off with a sprinkle of Deliverance and The Chernobyl Diaries and just a hint of the remake of I Spit On Your Grave?

You end up with a big ol’ mess of a movie.  I just watched Bleed on Netflix and the plot is so convoluted that I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I just watched.

But, before I try to figure this all out, let’s take a look at the trailer:

Sarah (Chelsey Crisp) is a newlywed who appears to have it all.  She’s got a wonderful husband, Matt (Michael Steger), they’ve got a beautiful house out in the country, and even more importantly, they’ve got a baby on the way!  So what if the nearby town seems to be a little bit creepy and is full of country-accented men with beards?  And so what if there’s a deserted prison nearby, one that is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a preacher-turned-serial killer who died when a fire broke out at the prison?  And what about that mysterious woman who keeps showing up in the nearby field and screaming like a banshee?  That’s just local color!  Anyone who thinks that’s unusual has obviously never lived in Oklahoma or visited Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In order to celebrate their new home, Sarah and Matt decide to invite their best friends out to the house.  Dave (Elimu Nelson) and Bree (Brittany Ishibashi) are a likable couple, especially now that Bree is regularly taking her medication.  Bree is schizophrenic and hears voices when she doesn’t take her meds.  To the film’s credit, it portrays Bree as a positive character and never goes down the path that I feared it would follow.

Suddenly, Sarah’s good-for-nothing brother, Eric (Riley Smith) shows up.  His girlfriend, Skye (Lyndon Smith) is with him.  The first thing that Eric does is ask for money.  The second thing that Eric does is get high.  The third thing that Eric does is talk about how he and Skye have spent the past few months driving across America and searching for ghosts.  And hey, isn’t there a haunted prison somewhere nearby?

Meanwhile, Skye takes a bath.  While she’s in the bathtub, she suddenly see an evil-looking apparition standing over her.  She screams for help and Matt responds.  The apparition has vanished.  Sarah glares at Matt and the towel-clad Skye.  “I didn’t know she’d be half-naked!”  Matt protests.  Of course not!  Why would someone get undressed before taking a bath?

Anyway, Eric convinces everyone but Sarah to search for ghosts with them.  Sarah drops them off at the ruins of the prison, promises to come back for them in a few hours, and then starts back home.  Unfortunately, she has an accident on the way back and ends up getting a ride with a creepy deputy.  And it quickly becomes clear that the deputy isn’t in any hurry to get her back home…

Meanwhile, at the prison, all Hell breaks loose.  Skye sees another evil spirit.  Eric’s throat gets slashed but oddly, it stops bleeding after a few seconds.  Voices are heard.  Objects move.  So many Paranormal Activity-type things occur that I’m actually surprised (and relieved) that Bleed wasn’t a found footage film…

One thing that Bleed does is that it keeps you guessing.  At first, I assumed it would be another city folk vs. hillbillies type of film but then it turned into a ghost story.  And, for a long while, I thought it was just another ghost story but then it turned out to be something different all together.  Admittedly, the film sometimes struggles to handle the constant shift in tone but, oddly, that kinda works.  It definitely keeps the viewer off-balance.

As you might expect from a film that’s constantly changing tone, Bleed is a bit uneven but it’s definitely a watchable and intriguing horror film and the film makes good use of that atmospheric prison.  For a lot of viewers, Bleed will probably be a love-it-or-hate-it type of film.  It’s well-directed but the story is just almost unnecessarily complicated.  My recommendation is that you watch it and judge for yourself.

 

 

Horror on TV: Thriller 2.17 “La Strega” (dir by Ida Lupino)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we have an episode of Thriller!

This episode is called T and it deals with an artist (Alejandro Rey) who saves a young woman (Ursula Andress) from drowning.  It turns out that the local villagers believe that the woman is a witch.  The artist has no time for superstition and takes the woman back to his home.  She starts as his model and then becomes his lover.  She may not be a witch but her mother (Jeanette Nolan) definitely is…

And, of course, this episode is introduced by the one and only Boris Karloff!

The episode premiered on January 15th, 1962.

Even Ant-Man Had To Start Somewhere: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, directed by Joe Chappelle)


halloween6coverLong before he was either Ant-Man or Judd Apatow’s favorite leading man, Paul Rudd was just another young actor looking for his first break.  He got it in 1995 when he was cast in the latest entry in the Halloween franchise.  Though Clueless was released first, the man who would be Brian Fantana got his introducing credit for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.  (He’s credited as Paul Stephen Rudd.)

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was Miramax’s attempt to reboot the franchise by ignoring everything that made the first Halloween such a success in the first place.  John Carpenter’s Halloween was the epitome of simplicity, with Michael Myers portrayed as being an almost entirely motiveless killing machine.  One reason why Michael was scary was because he didn’t have any reason for killing other than he was evil.  (It was not until Halloween II that Laurie was discovered to be Michael’s sister and Samhain came into play.)

In Halloween 6, Michael (played by stuntman George P. Wilbur) is suddenly revealed to be afflicted with the Curse of the Thorn.  Because of the curse, he is required to serve as some sort of indestructible hit man for a cult of Druids (!) who are operating out of the basement of Smith Grove’s Sanitarium (!!), the same mental hospital that Michael escaped from at the start of the first film.  The head of the cult is Dr. Wynn (Mitchell Ryan), who was Sam Loomis’s boss in the first movie.

963589_032Donald Pleasence is back as Dr. Sam Loomis but it is not a happy return.  This was Pleasence’s final film and, in his few scenes, it is obvious that he was not in good health and his famous voice had been reduced to a hoarse rasp.  Pleasence died shortly after filming his scenes, which meant that he wasn’t available for the reshoots that Miramax demanded after the first cut of the film tested badly.  Add that to the fact that director Joe Chapelle reportedly had not seen any of the previous Halloweens, did not find the Loomis character to be interesting, and cut him out of several scenes and Dr. Loomis is barely in The Curse of Michael Myers.

Instead, most of the film is centered around Tommy Doyle (Rudd).  Yes, the same Tommy Doyle for whom Laurie babysat in the first Halloween.  Tommy has figured out that, because of the curse, Michael has to kill his next of kin every Halloween.  How did Tommy figure that out?  I don’t know and the film doesn’t know.  It’s like trying to figure out how Sean Connery knew where the Holy Grail was in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.

Michael’s next of kin was Jamie Lloyd but, at the end of Halloween 5, she was kidnapped by the Cult of Thorn and held prisoner for six years.  For some reason, Michael did not kill her while she was being held captive.  Instead, Jamie was impregnated, gave birth to a baby boy named Stephen, and then escaped.  Though she was eventually killed by Michael, Tommy found the baby and has to protect the baby from Michael and the Cult.

list12Why does the Cult want the baby?  Why do birds suddenly appear whenever you are near?  There is no explanation, it’s just something that happens.

 

Michael comes back to Haddonfield to track down his grandnephew.  He also finds time to kill more members of the dysfunctional Strode family.  Luckily, Kara Stroe (Marianne Hagan) and her son, Danny, survive.  Danny is having dreams about killing people which would seem to suggest that he has inherited the Curse of the Thorn, except that the Strodes are not actually related to the Myers family so it doesn’t make any damn sense.

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After six films, it not always easy to keep track of how everyone is related.  Let’s see if I can do it:

Laurie Myers is the younger sister of Michael Myers and Judith Myers.  In 1963, when Michael is 6 and Laurie is 2, Michael murders Judith.  Michael goes to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, where he is treated by Dr. Loomis and secretly raised by the Cult of the Thorn.  Mr. and Mrs. Myers die in 1965 and Laurie is adopted by the Strodes.  Laurie has no memory of being a Myers.

jamie-lee-curtis-mar-5-2011-2-600In 1978, Michael “escapes” from Smith’s Grove and tries to kill Laurie.  Both he and Dr. Loomis get blown up at the hospital.

Between 1978 and 1988, Laurie marries someone named Lloyd and they have a daughter named Jamie.  But then Laurie and her husband die in a traffic accident and Jamie is raised by her foster family, the Carruthers.  Except Laurie didn’t really die but instead faked her death and abandoned her daughter which seems like a shitty thing to do.

In 1988, it turns out that both Michael and Dr. Loomis survived being blown up and consumed by a raging inferno.  Michael again escapes from custody and goes to Haddonfield.  He tries to kill Jamie but instead ends up falling down a mine shaft.  Jamie goes home and tries to kill her foster mother.

In 1989, Michael turns out to be alive again and tries to kill Jamie for a second time.  The Man In Black, who is somehow connected to the the Cult of Thorn, shows up and breaks Michael out of jail and kidnaps Jamie.

Then, six years later, Jamie has a son named Stephen and is finally killed by Michael.  Meanwhile, Laurie’s uncle, John Strode (Bradford English), has moved into the old Myers house because why not live in the house formerly inhabited by a serial killer who tried to murder your family?  Living with them is Laurie’s cousins, Kara and Tim (Kieth Bogart) and Kara’s son, Danny.

Meanwhile, Laurie is in the witness protection program and teaching school but you don’t have to worry about that until Halloween: H20.

Got all that?

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I haven’t even gotten to the sleazy radio DJ who wants to do a live Halloween broadcast from inside the old Myers House.  There’s not much to say about him beyond noting that the role was originally offered to Howard Stern.

There are two versions of The Curse of Michael Myers floating around.  There’s the producer’s cut, which goes into more detail about the druids and attempts to fill some of the continuity gaps in the franchise.  Then there’s the theatrical edition, which was what Miramax released into theaters.  I have only seen the theatrical cut, which is a confusing mess.

While the producer’s cut features Michael being defeated by Celtic magic (which sounds stupid but would actually go with what’s already been established in the movie), the theatrical cut ends with Michael, who has previously survived being shot six times by Dr. Loomis, falling down a mine shaft, and literally blowing up, somehow being beaten into submission by Paul Rudd and a lead pipe.  Is there nothing that Paul Rudd cannot do?

Mr. Rudd, the town of Haddonfield owes you a debt of gratitude.

You stay classy, Haddonfield.

You stay classy, Haddonfield.

 

Halloween Havoc!: DONOVAN’S BRAIN (United Artists 1953)


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No, this is not a movie about the mind of the 60’s Scottish folk singer responsible for “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow”. DONOVAN’S BRAIN is a sci-fi/horror hybrid based on the 1942 novel by Curt Siodmak, responsible for THE WOLF MAN and other Universal monster hits. It was first made as a 1944  Republic Pictures effort titled THE LADY AND THE MONSTER with Erich Von Stroheim (why Universal didn’t buy the rights is a mystery to me). This is one of those rare cases where the remake is better than the original!

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The story concerns Dr. Pat Cory, a scientist experimenting with keeping the brain of a monkey alive without a body. After several failures, Cory and his assistant, alcoholic Dr. Frank Schratt, have finally succeeded. A nearby plane crash leaves three dead, and multi-millionaire Warren H. Donovan in critical condition. Donovan dies on the table, but his brain is still registering…

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4 Shots From Horror History: Shaun of the Dead, The Devil’s Rejects, Land of the Dead, The Woods


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue to the aughts!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Shaun of the Dead (2004, dir by Edgar Wright)

Shaun of the Dead (2004, dir by Edgar Wright)

The Devil's Rejects (2005, dir by Rob Zombie)

The Devil’s Rejects (2005, dir by Rob Zombie)

Land of the Dead (2005, dir by George Romero)

Land of the Dead (2005, dir by George Romero)

The Woods (2006, dir by Lucky McKee)

The Woods (2006, dir by Lucky McKee)

Horror on the Lens: The House That Would Not Die (dir by John Llewellyn Moxey)


Today’s horror on the lens is a 1970 made-for-TV movie called The House That Would Not Die!

In this film, Barbara Stanwyck and Kitty Winn move into a colonial house that is rumored to be haunted!  Seances, possession, and scandal follows!  There’s time travel, slow mo, an exaggerated wind effects!  It’s all kinda silly but kinda fun too.

Enjoy!