Horror on TV: Thriller 1.8 “The Watcher” (dir by John Brahm)


For tonight’s televised horror, we have another episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

In this episode, a religious fanatic in a named Freitag (Martin Gabel) lives in a resort community and targets young people who he believes have failed to live up to his standards.  His latest targets are played by Olive Sturgess and Richard Chamberlain.  This is actually a rather grisly little episode.  With its theme of religious hypocrisy, I can only imagine how people reacted when it was first aired on November 1st, 1960.

Enjoy!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Scream Blacula Scream (dir by Bob Kelljan)


Am I correct in assuming that everyone knows who Blacula was?

Blacula is often described as being the black Dracula but actually, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.  In life, he was an African prince named Mamuwalde who, in 1780, went to Dracula’s castle and asked for the count’s help in suppressing the slave trade.  Dracula turned him into a vampire instead and, after declaring that Mamuwalde would forever be known as Blacula, he proceeded to lock Mamuwalde in a coffin.  That’s where Mamuwalde remained for 290 years, until he managed to escape.  By that point, his coffin had been relocated from Transylvania to Los Angeles.

All of that was revealed in the 1972 film, BlaculaBlacula, which starred a distinguished Shakespearean actor named William Marshall in the lead role, was a surprise hit so, of course, Mamuwalde (played again by Marshall) returned the following year in a sequel.  It didn’t matter that the first Blacula ended with Mamuwalde deliberately ending his existence by walking out into the sunlight.  Blacula would return!

It also didn’t matter if anyone in the audience for Scream, Blacula, Scream had somehow missed seeing the first movie.  Scream, Blacula, Scream features lengthy flashbacks to the first film.  It makes sense, really.  Why waste money on all new footage when you can just pad the sequel with scenes from its predecessor?

I’m disappointed to say that Scream, Blacula, Scream did not feature any disco action.  When I saw that this movie would be airing on TCM Underground, I decided to watch it specifically because I figured there would be at least one scene of Blacula dancing underneath a spinning disco ball.  I mean, it was a movie from the 70s, right?  Honestly, I think that if Scream, Blacula, Scream had been made later in the decade, it would have featured at least one disco dance scene.

What the film did have was a lot of voodoo.  Judging from this movie, Live and Let Die, and the House on Skull Mountain, it would appear that people in the early 70s were really obsessed with voodoo.  When the movie opens, a voodoo priestess named Mama Loa is dying and she’s just named her apprentice, Lisa (Pam Grier), as the new head of the cult.  Mama Loa’s son, Willis (Richard Lawson), isn’t happy about this decision so, for some reason, he decides that it would be a good idea to bring Blacula back to life.

Willis apparently thought that the revived Blacula would be his servant but it doesn’t work out like that.  First off, Blacula was perfectly happy being dead.  Secondly, he is no one’s servant.  Blacula promptly bites Willis on the neck and then proceeds to vampirize nearly everyone that he comes across.  Soon, Blacula has an army of vampires but all he wants is to be human again.

And who can help him reach that goal?

How about the city’s newest voodoo priestess, Lisa?

Now, I will say this about Scream, Blacula, Blacula.  The main character is named Lisa and that automatically makes it an above average movie.  The entire movie features people saying, “Lisa” over and over again and you know I loved listening to that.

Other than that, though, the movie was kind of a mess.  It was obviously written and filmed in a hurry and, as a result, a lot of the action felt like padding.  For a subplot that wasn’t that interesting to begin with, the voodoo cult power struggle got way too much screen time.  On the plus side, William Marshall and Pam Grier were both a hundred times better than the material that they had to work with.  Regardless of how ludicrous the dialogue was, Marshall delivered it with dignity and just the right hint of ennui.

Scream, Blacula, Scream is not a particularly good film but it’s worth seeing for Marshall and Grier.

 

A Horror Insomnia File #29: Day of the Animals (dir by William Girdler)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were having trouble sleeping around 2:30 in the morning, you could have turned on your television, changed the station to Movies TV, and watched the 1977 nature-goes-crazy horror film, Day of the Animals!

Now, I should admit that I was not suffering from insomnia last night.  Jeff and I are currently up at beautiful Lake Texoma and we just happened to be up late last night and flipping through the stations.  I should also admit that, unlike most of the other movies reviewed for this feature, Day of the Animals was not one of “those insomnia-inspired discoveries.”

No, we had both seen Day of the Animals before.  The thing with Day of the Animals is that it’s one of those films that, if you see that it’s on TV, you simply have to stop what you’re doing and watch it.  Considering that the man had a long career in the movies and I haven’t seen every film that he made, I could be wrong on this but I am fairly certain that Day of the Animals is your only opportunity to see Leslie Nielsen wrestle a grizzly bear.

Leslie Nielsen plays Paul, a businessman who is part of a group of hikers.  Shortly before he wrestles with the bear, Paul stands, bare-chested, in the middle of a rainstorm and attempts to taunt God.  “Melville’s God, that’s the God I believe in!” Paul shouts, “You want something!?  YOU TAKE IT!”  Then he turns to one of the hikers and says, “I know what I want and I’m taking it!  I killed a man for you!”

Now, at this point, I should probably make it clear that Day of the Animals is not a comedy, though it’s always inspired a lot of laughter whenever I’ve watched it.  Day of the Animals attempts to be a very serious horror movie.  It even has an environmental message.  Because of the hole in the ozone layer, solar radiation is driving all of the mountain animals crazy.  Mountain lions attack campers.  A grizzly bear wrestles Leslie Nielsen.  A group of rats attempt to kill a policeman.  German shepherds tear a man apart.  And it’s not just the wild animals that are being affected.  Leslie Nielsen goes crazy too.

Of course, Leslie Nielsen isn’t the only hiker.  Genre vet Christopher George plays the leader of the tour and Lynda Day George is along for the ride as well.  If you’ve seen the movie Pieces, you’ll remember Christopher George as the tough cop and Lynda Day George as the tennis pro who, at one point, dramatically screams “BASTARD!” into the wind.  Susan Backlinie, who was the first victim in Jaws, also has a role in this film and that seems appropriate.  Director William Girdler found quite a bit of success in ripping off Jaws.  Before Day of the Animals, he directed Grizzly.

But good ole Leslie Nielsen is pretty much the entire show here.  He tries really, really hard to give an intense and frightening performance.  In fact, he tries so hard that you almost feel guilty for laughing at times.  But then you see that head of perfect silver hair and you hear that deadpan voice saying, “Come here, you little punk!” and you just can’t help yourself.

Anyway, Day of the Animals may be bad but I defy anyone not to watch it.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement

A Movie A Day #282: Jack’s Back (1988, directed by Rowdy Herrington)


When med student Rick Westford (James Spader) is found hung at the free clinic where he worked, the police say that he committed suicide.  Rick’s estranged twin brother, John (James Spader), does not agree and launches an investigation of his own.  With the help of Rick’s co-worker, Chris (Cynthia Gibb), John discovers that Rick may have learned the identity of a serial killer who has been copying the crimes of Jack the Ripper and murdering prostitutes in Los Angeles.  However, the killer knows that John is getting close to discovering his identity so the killer sets out to frame John not only for the prostitute murders but for the murder of his brother as well.

Jack’s Back is a movie that deserves to be better known than it is.  James Spader gives two great performances, as both Rick and John.  He and Cynthia Gibb make a good team and Jack’s Back actually does some unexpected things with their relationship.  Jack’s Back was directed by Rowdy Herrington, who is best known for Roadhouse and Gladiator.  Jack’s Back is part murder mystery, part action thriller, and part horror movie and Herrington does a good job of switching back and forth through Jack’s Back constantly shifting tone.  Because this is a low-budget movie with a small cast, there really are not enough suspects to make the murderer’s identity a surprise but Spader, Herrington, and Gibb always keep things interesting.

This is a film that really does deserve to be better known.

Halloween Havoc!: Joan Crawford in STRAIT-JACKET! (Columbia 1964)


cracked rear viewer

It’s time once again to revisit Joan Crawford’s later-day career as a horror star, and this one’s a pretty good shocker. STRAIT-JACKET! was Joan’s follow-up to WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, the first in the “Older Women Do Horror” genre (better known by the detestable moniker “Psycho-Biddy Movies”). Here she teams for the first time with veteran producer/director William Castle , starring as an axe murderess released after twenty years in an insane asylum, becoming the prime suspect when people begin to get hacked to bits again.

The film itself begins with a 1940’s prolog depicting the gruesome events that occurred when Lucy Harbin (Joan) catches her husband (Lee Majors in his uncredited film debut) in bed with another woman. Joan, all dolled up to resemble her MILDRED PIERCE-era self, grabs the nearest axe and CHOP! CHOP! CHOP! goes hubby and his squeeze into itsy-bitsy pieces. The act is witnessed…

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Horror Scenes That I Love: The Chase Sequence from Jean Rollin’s La Vampire Nue


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1970’s La Vampire Nue.  This film was directed by the brilliant French surrealist, Jean Rollin.

What is this scene about?  To be honest, what it’s about is less important than how it looks and how it makes you feel.  As a director, Jean Rollin specialized in bringing dreams and nightmare to cinematic life.  (That said, as surreal as this scene may be, it’s actually one of the more straight forward moments to be found in Rollin’s filmography.)

Lisa’s Editorial Corner: What Does It Feel Like To Be A Ghost a.k.a. A Few Thoughts On Being #Shadowbanned


Last week, on Twitter, I was shadowbanned.

In my case, it only lasted three days.  Since that experience, I’ve talked to several people who have been shadowbanned on Twitter for far longer.  I’ve also discovered that there are a lot of people who think that they have been shadowbanned but who aren’t sure.  Since I’ve had a lot of people ask me a lot of questions about the experience, I’ve decided to answer all of them here.

What Is Shadowbanning?

For the longest time, Twitter’s official position was that shadowbanning was a myth.  Only recently has Twitter admitted to putting “restrictions” on certain users.  As far as I know, Twitter has never made official use of the term “shadowban.”

However, that’s exactly what these “restrictions” are.

Basically, being shadowbanned means that you’ve been secretly restricted on twitter.  A lot of people on Twitter are shadowbanned but they don’t even realize it.  Unlike when an account is suspended, Twitter does not send a message to let you know that you’ve been shadowbanned.  Nor will Twitter let you know when your shadowban has been lifted.  These are things that you have to discover for yourself.

What Happens When You’re Shadowbanned?

I was shadowbanned for three days and I can only tell you about my own experience.  During the first 24 hours of being shadowbanned, I could not reply to anyone.  I could send out tweets to people but they wouldn’t show up in anyone’s notifications.  Therefore, I had to hope that, when I tweeted people, they would see my tweet on the main timeline.  Anyone who follows more than a 1,000 people can tell you just how unlikely that would be.

Even after I regained the ability to reply to people, my name and tweets still didn’t show up in twitter searches.  Nor did they appear under any hashtags.  This lasted for three days.  For me, as a film blogger, this was a huge issue.  A good deal of the traffic on this site comes from people going on twitter and searching for film reviews.  As well, since 2009, I’ve been a prolific live tweeter.  Not only do I enjoy live tweeting films and TV show but also it’s also helped to bring attention to both this site and several other sites that I write for.

How Did You Know That You Were Shadowbanned?

I found out through pure chance.  Every Saturday, I host #LateNightMovie in the SyFyDesigns.com chatroom.  Every Saturday, two hours before the movie, I tweet out the link to the members of the Late Night Movie Gang.  On October 7th, when I tweeted out the links, I had already been shadowbanned but I didn’t know it.  An hour after sending out the links, I received a tweet from my friend, Steve.

Of course, neither Steve nor Janeen were able to read my reply because it never showed up in their notifications.

Suspecting that my replies were not showing up, I then sent a tweet to Jeff while he was standing right next to me and looking down at his phone.

The tweet did not show up in his notifications.

Jeff then proceeded to do a twitter search for my tweets, under his account.  None of them showed up.  When he looked up my profile, he got a message warning him that my profile might contain “sensitive material.”

(When you’re shadowbanned, your tweets will only show up if you do a search under your account.  The only way to know for sure is to either log out of twitter and do a search or have someone you know do a search under their account.)

So, When Twitter Shadowbans You, They Go Out Of Their Way To Keep You From Knowing That You’ve Been Shadowbanned?  That Sounds Pretty Freaking Cowardly.

No shit.

What Did You Do To Get Shadowbanned?

I have no idea.

This is why shadowbanning is so frustrating.  As opposed to a suspension, in which case you’re told why your account has been suspended and what you can do to prevent your account from getting suspended a second time, a shadowban comes with no warning or explanation.

My suspicion is this: Because I’m a prolific reviewer, I post a lot of links on Twitter.  My guess is that the Twitter Algorithm decided that I had posted too many links so it decided to shadowban me as a “warning.”  I’ve also read that some people have been shadowbanned after posting too many tweets under one hashtag.  It’s meant to combat “hashtag abuse,” which is when bots will post a hundred spam tweets under one hashtag.  I’m all for combatting bots but all shadowbanning is doing is making it more difficult to host a good live tweet.

If The People Who Ran Twitter Actually Understood What People Use It For, Why Would They Ruin Live Tweeting With Random Shadowbans?

For the most part, the people who run Twitter have nothing to do with handing down a shadowban.  That’s all handled by the Twitter Algorithm.

What Is This Twitter Algorithm That People Keep Mentioning?

One of the biggest misconceptions that users seem to have about twitter is this belief that there’s a group of people reading and judging every single tweet.  With the amount of people who use twitter every single day, that’s just not possible.  For the most part, Twitter is an automated service and suspensions and shadowbans are, with a few possible exceptions, automated as well.

The Twitter Algorithm does not take into consideration how long you’ve been a member of twitter or the content of what you’re tweeting.  Instead, it is simply designed to react to certain triggers — like tweeting a certain amount of links or using a hashtag a certain amount of times.  Unfortunately, no where is it specifically explained how many links are too many or how many times you can use a hashtag before the Algorithm decides that you need to be put on time out.

In short, Shadowbanning is a victory of automation over humanity.  And, since it’s an algorithm, it doesn’t have to worry about whether or not it’s inconvenienced you or treated you unfairly.

But You Were Only Shadowbanned For Three Days.  This Seems Rather Dramatic For Just Three Days…

Yeah, kiss my ass.

But Seriously…

Yes, it was only three days.  However, if I get shadowbanned again, it’ll be five days.  I’ve spoken to people who have been shadowbanned for months on twitter.  Several of them eventually had to create a new account and start over again from scratch.

For me, it comes down to this.  I was only shadowbanned for three days but I still don’t know why I was shadowbanned and, as a result, I don’t know what I should specifically do to prevent it from happening again.  Every time I send out a link to a review that I’ve written, I now find myself wondering if my tweets are about to once again vanish from twitter search.  As much as I love live tweeting Lifetime and SyFy films, I will now spend all of my time on twitter looking over my shoulder and wondering if the Algorithm is about to get me again.

What Can You Do If You’re Shadowbanned?

Nothing.

Oh Come On…

Okay, there are things you can do.  You can still send out DMs, which is what I did to let people know that I was shadowbanned.  I was shadowbanned on Saturday.  By Sunday afternoon, over a hundred people had sent tweets to @twitter and @twittersupport, letting them know that I was not a spammer:

By the end of the day, people were once again able to read my replies, though my name and tweets still didn’t show up in any searches.  Did all the tweets make a difference?  I don’t know but it was still a wonderful feeling to see the amount of support that I received.

I also reached out to twitter support myself.  Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever had to use it can tell you, the Twitter Help Center is a mess and deliberately useless.  They literally have a form for everything, except for what you actually need.  You can file an appeal if you feel that you have been unfairly or incorrectly suspended.  However, you cannot file an appeal if you’ve been shadowbanned.

(Of course, Twitter’s official position is that shadowbanning doesn’t happen.)

I sent Twitter Support an email every day that I was suspended.  I also tweeted @TwitterSupport several times.  I have yet to hear back from Support or receive any sort of acknowledgement that my complaints were ever received.

I’ve Heard That You Can Get A Shadowban Lifted By Offering To Spend Money on Twitter Ads…

I’ve heard that, too.  I don’t know if it’s true or not but it wouldn’t surprise me.  Money talks.

That said, I’m not going to spend money when I haven’t done anything wrong.

Why Is It Easier To Get Shadowbanned For Tweeting Too Much Under A Hashtag Than For Tweeting Out Hate Speech?

That’s a good question.  When, after two days, I was still not showing up in any search results, Jeff did an experiment.  He did a twitter search for Richard Spencer, the infamous alt-right Nazi.  Spencer and his tweets showed right up.

I mean, imagine that.  My tweets — which, for the most part, deal with movies and cats — were hidden.  But Spencer’s tweets were right there for the world to see.

So, You Support Censoring The People You Disagree With?

Actually, I don’t.  I think that banning racists on twitter would be a mistake because banning them would not make them any less racist.  It was just make it more difficult to spot and expose them.  If twitter banned Richard Spencer tomorrow, it wouldn’t make him any less dangerous.  Instead, it would make him a martyr to the idiots who follow him.  Sometimes, it’s best to let people speak and expose themselves for being who they truly are.

(If you need evidence of this, I suggest checking out the 1957 film, A Face In The Crowd.)

So, no, I don’t support censorship.  But I do support fairness.  Because right now, it’s apparently easier to get shadowbanned for live tweeting a TV show than for promoting hate.

Right now, twitter has plenty of rules but they’re randomly and arbitrarily enforced.  My personal solution would be to have less rules but that’s not going to happen.  We live in authoritarian society.  Those who aren’t getting off on enforcing the rules secretly crave someone to tell them what to do.  (The Twitter Algorithm is itself the latest attempt to control people without having to actually deal with them as individuals.)  Since the rules aren’t going away, twitter needs to actually figure out how to enforce them without unfairly penalizing people like me.

Again, What Can I Do If I’m Shadowbanned?

My advice: go outside and enjoy the sunshine for three days.  If your ban isn’t lifted after three days, go outside and enjoy the sunshine for two more days.  If the ban isn’t lifted after five days, you’re in trouble.

Sadly, just as Twitter refuses to provide a reason for a shadowban, it also refuses to provide information on how to get them lifted.  As I mentioned earlier, several people, after being shadowbanned for months (even over a year in a few cases) have resorted to creating new accounts but that, in itself, is a pain.  I have close to 10,000 followers right now.  If I ever had to start a new account, I’d have to start from scratch.  I’m sure many of my followers would follow me over but that’s assuming they knew I had created a new account.

Hopefully, Twitter will get its head out of its ass and figure out that punishing innocent users for arbitrary reasons is bad for business.  Otherwise, a few years from now, Twitter might be as relevant as MySpace.