Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Deliverance (dir by John Boorman)


1973’s The Exorcist is often cited as the first horror film to ever be nominated for best picture and technically, I guess that’s correct.  It was definitely the first best picture nominee to ever deal with a battle between humans and a malevolent supernatural force and no one can deny that The Exorcist has influenced a countless number of horror films.

That said, I think you could make the argument that Deliverance, which was nominated for best picture the year before The Exorcist, was in its own way, a horror film.  Certainly, every crazed hick slasher film that has come out since 1972 owes a debt to Deliverance.  Deliverance‘s ending has been imitated by so many other horror films that it’s become a bit of cliche.  Though there might not be any supernatural creatures in Deliverance, the film still features its own set of horrifying monsters.  The toothless redneck rapists (played by character actor Bill McKinney and rodeo performer Herbert “Cowboy” Coward) seem as if they’ve jumped straight out of a nightmare and into the movie.  Of course, they aren’t the only monsters in this film.  There’s also the (fictional) Cahulawassee River, which is due to be dammed up and seems to be determined to take out its anger on anyone foolish enough to try to navigate it.

Much as with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which came out just two years after Deliverance), the main theme here seem to be that you should be careful about going off the main road.  Just as the unfortunate hippies and college students in Texas Chainsaw Massacre proved to be no match for a clan of backwoods cannibal, the four middle-aged men at the center of Deliverance discover that they’re no match for either nature or its inhabitants.  At the start of the film, we watch as three of the men deal with the locals in a condescending and rather smirky manner.  Only one of them actually tries to be nice to the locals, engaging in a banjo duel with a young boy who clearly loves his banjo but who still refuses to smile or shake hands.  The boy knows what the men are getting themselves into them.  The boy knows what awaits them.

If you grew up in the South, as I did, you’ll recognize all four of the men.  It’s not just that they’re played by recognizable actors.  It’s that each one of them is a common archetype of the type of men you find down here.

For instance, there’s Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the self-styled alpha male with his leather vest and his bow-and-arrow and his constant talk about how society is eventually going to collapse and only the strong are going to survive.  You know that Lewis is full of it from the minute you see him but he’s so charismatic that you can also understand why the other three men have fallen under his control.

And then there’s Bobby (Ned Beatty).  Bobby is quick to laugh and quick to talk and quick to make a bad joke.  When he says that he’s a salesman, you’re not surprised.  From the start of the film, Lewis complains that Bobby isn’t strong enough or serious enough and, when the mountain men attack, Bobby is the one they target.  And yet, towards the end of the film, Bobby is the one who sells the hastily concocted story about what happened on the river.

Drew (Ronny Cox) is the nicest of the men.  With his glasses and his guitar and his rather touching belief that everything will be okay if everyone just tells the truth, Drew’s the prototype of the Southern liberal.  One can imagine him teaching in a community college and vainly trying to convince his relatives that segregation and nostalgia for the Confederacy is holding the South back.

And finally, there’s Ed (Jon Voight).  Ed smokes a pipe and it’s obvious that he’s someone who has a very secure life.  Ed is the one who is everyone’s friend.  He’s the one who sticks up for Bobby.  He’s the one who reminds Drew to wear his life jacket.  He’s the only one who can get away with (gently) mocking Lewis.  Ed seems like a nice guy but, at the start of the film, there’s a strange emptiness to Ed.  You get the feeling that the reason Ed is friends with everyone is because he doesn’t have any firm beliefs.  Instead, he just adapts to each situation and says whatever everyone wants to hear.  You can’t help but wonder what Ed believes.  By the end of the movie, of course, both Ed and the viewer have learned what Ed is capable of doing.

Cox, Voight, and especially poor Ned Beatty are all perfectly cast in their roles.  Burt Reynolds reportedly felt that this film was his best performance and he was probably right.  Director John Boorman captures both the beauty and the menace of nature, leaving you both in awe of the the river and fearful of what it can do those foolish enough to try to conquer it.  Interestingly enough, while Boorman was directing Deliverance, he was offered The Exorcist.  He turned it down, feeling that the script was too exploitive of the possessed child.  Boorman would, however, direct The Exorcist II: The Heretic (co-starring Deliverance‘s Ned Beatty).

(At the same time, Jon Voight was offered the role of Father Karras in The Exorcist but, like Boorman, turned the film down so he could work on Deliverance.)

While the film is best known for its sequences on the river, one should not overlook the haunting scenes of the survivors once they make their way back to civilization.  After having spent the previous 80 minutes or so presenting everyone in the backwoods as a threat, the final third of Deliverance actually emphasizes the decency of the townspeople.  When one of the men breaks down and starts to cry in the middle of dinner, everyone is quietly respectful of his emotions.  Towards the end of the film, as the survivors are driven out of town, they find themselves stuck behind the old country church, which is being moved upriver.  “Just got to wait for the church to get out of the way,” their driver says while the church’s bell mournfully rings for both the death of the town and the death of innocence.

(Of course, even with all the kind townspeople around, there’s still a somewhat menacing sheriff.  It’s just not a Southern film without a scary sheriff, is it?  “Don’t you boys ever do nothing like this again,” he says at one point.  The sheriff is played by James Dickey, the author of both the novel and the screenplay on which the film is based.)

Deliverance was nominated for three academy awards.  In the directing and the editing categories, it lost to Cabaret.  For best picture, it lost to The Godfather.  Deliverance, The Godfather, and Cabaret, all competing against each other?  1972 was a very good year.

Guilty Pleasure No. 41: The Dead Are After Me (Raiders of the Living Dead), performed by George Edward Ott


If you watched Raiders of the Living Dead earlier today, you heard this theme song:

The dead are after me….

We are the Raiders of the Living Dead….

Seriously, how can you not love that!?  Yes, the song is totally mid-80s and it’s kind of silly but it’s also kind of perfect.  Certainly, it’s the best thing about the film and the song has even gone on to achieve a life outside of the movie that it was written for.  There are bands that regularly cover this song.  It’s a permanent part of my Halloween playlist.

Seriously, you can ask my friends and they’ll tell you that, every October, they’re forced to listen to me sing this song in my off-key way.  The deeeeeeeead are afterrrrrr meeeeee….

Many sites incorrectly refer to this song as being called, like the movie in which it appeared, “Raiders of the Living Dead.”  The actual title is The Dead Are After Me.  It was written and performed by a musician named George Edward Ott.  I did some research and I came across some comments that Ott left on another site, in which he discussed how this song came into existence.  From Morgan on Media:

In 1986, after viewing early outtakes of the film with Sam Sherman and Tim Ferrante, I went home and wrote the song in about 15 minutes. Cheesy song for a cheesy movie! 

Yes, it is a cheesy song but it’s also rather brilliant in a cheerful, no apologies sort of way.  Just try to get out of your head.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars

 

SyFy Film Review: Zombie Tidal Wave (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


“Fire up the wood chipper!  It’s feeding time!”

So announces Hunter Shaw (Ian Ziering) towards the end of Zombie Tidal Wave, proving once again that any film, regardless of genre or tone, is automatically made a hundred times better by stuffing someone in a wood chipper.  Or, in this case, several zombies.  Needless to say, there’s soon blood and chunks of blue skin flying everywhere.  It’s messy but, when you’re being attacked by zombies, you do what you have to do.

SyFy advertised Zombie Tidal Wave as being from “some of the people behind Sharknado” and this film definitely shares the same sensibility as the first Sharknado film.  What’s often forgotten is that the first Sharknado film was not quite the all-out parody that the later films in the series eventually became.  It was definitely a comedy but, at the same time, there weren’t any celebrity cameos and David Hasselhoff didn’t end up in space.  Instead, it took a ludicrous idea — sharks in a tornado — and then presented it with just a hint of self-awareness.

Zombie Tidal Wave does the same thing.  As a result, you do get Ian Ziering delivering one-liners, like the one at the start of this review.  And the entire film is full of references to other zombie films.  For instance, there’s a band called The Fulcis and the first zombie to appears bears a distinct resemblance to the boat zombie from Zombi 2.  The many scenes of zombies rising from the ocean will remind veteran zombie fans of Shock Waves.  When the zombies invade a hospital, I was reminded of the infamous Hell of the Living Dead.  But, at the same time, Zombie Tidal Wave plays things relatively straight.  Zombies invade.  People get bitten.  Some people sacrifice themselves for the good of the other survivors.  Zombie Tidal Wave has its moments of humor but it never becomes an out-and-out parody.

Why are zombies washing up on the shores of an island community?  Well, it’s because of an earthquake, one that’s unleashed a horde of the undead.  Hunter Shaw is a fisherman and perhaps the most respected citizen of the besieged community.  Naturally, it falls upon him to not only bring everyone together but also to figure out how to defeat the zombies.  To be honest, it really is a typical SyFy movie, which a handful of characters spending most of the film looking for each other while trying to stay alive and then eventually banding together to battle the threat.  Some people, like Hunter and his wife (Cheree Cassidy) rise to the challenge.  Others, like the rich white guy in the pink shirt, don’t.  Personally, my favorite character was Taani (Angie Teodora Dick) because she grabbed a pointed stick as soon as the invasion began and spent the entire movie kicking zombie ass.  GO TAANI!

Anyway, as a lifelong fan of zombie movies, I enjoyed Zombie Tidal Wave.  It didn’t waste any time getting to the zombie action and really, that’s the important thing isn’t it?  The pace was quick and, as he did in Sharknado, Ian Ziering played the grim hero with the right mix of sincerity and horror.  I don’t know if Zombie Tidal Wave is going to launch a Sharknado-style franchise or not but it was still an entertaining SyFy film.

Horror On TV: Degrassi High 4.14 “It Creeps!!” (dir by Kit Hood)


During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

However, there is some good news!  Twilight Zone may be gone but every episode of Degrassi is currently available on YouTube!

Yay!

Now, I know what you’re saying.  “But Lisa, I thought you said there were classic episodes of horror-themed television?”

Degrassi is a classic!

“No, Lisa, the horror part….”

Believe it or not, Degrassi wasn’t always about kids going to school in Toronto.  Quite a few episodes of Degrassi actually touched on the horror genre.

For instance, there’s this episode of Degrassi High, which originally aired on February 6th, 1990.  (Degrassi High was one of the forerunners to the Degrassi that we all know and love.)  In this episode, aspiring filmmaker Lucy Fernandez (played by Anais Granofsky) uses the school and her classmates to shoot a “feminist horror film” called It Creeps!!  And while her fellow students may have been dismissive of Lucy’s goal to make a slasher film in which only boys are slashed, modern audiences will immediately see that Lucy was ahead of her time.

Of course, while Lucy is making her movie, Spike (Amanda Stepto) is having to deal with her former boyfriend and the father of her child, Shane (Billy Parrott).  Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Shane went to a concert, dropped acid, and then literally dropped off a bridge.  Of course, if you’ve seen Degrassi: The Next Generation, you know that Shane and Spike’s daughter grew up to be Emma Nelson, the lead character for that show’s first few seasons.  You also know that Spike ended up marrying Snake, one of the co-stars of Lucy’s movie.

(Of course, Lucy herself ended up getting blinded and crippled in an auto accident that was the fault of Wheels, yet another costar in It Creeps!!)

Anyway, enjoy It Creeps!!

AMV Of The Day: Shut Me Up (Soul Eater)


It’s been a while since we did an AMV of the day here at the Shattered Lens, which is unfortunate because an appreciation anime was one of the main reasons why this site was started.  What better time to restart this site’s AMV tradition than during our other great tradition, the annual October Horrorthon.

So, without any further ado….

Anime: Soul Eater

Song: Shut Me Up by Mindless Self-Indulgence

Creator: Cami owo

Past AMVs of the Day

6 Paranormal Beings Who Deserve Their Own Film


Bigfoot’s such an attention hog.

Don’t get me wrong.  Whether we call him a Sasquatch or a Yeti, we all love Bigfoot.  For a few centuries now, people have been spotting him and yet, to the best of my knowledge, he’s never actually attacked anyone.  He seems to have a good attitude towards his place in the world.  There may be multiple Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) or maybe there’s just one extremely old missing link wandering around out there.  But regardless, they seem to be harmless.

That said, there’s been so many movies about Bigfoot that it’s easy to forget that there are other cryptids out there.  Here are 6 paranormal beings who may (or may not) exist and who, in my humble opinion, all deserve to star in a film of their own.

1. The Goatman of Maryland

Who is the Goatman of Maryland?  He used to be a scientist at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltstville, Maryland.  He did experiments on goats until, one day, karma intervened and he was transformed into a being that was half-man and half-goat.  Grabbing an axe, the Goatman disappeared into the woods and now haunts the backroads of Beltsville.  He’s been described as being a hermit but he apparently has a strong hatred of the teenagers who foolishly hang out in the woods.  Seriously, how has Goatman not starred in a major film yet?  Get on it, horror filmmakers!  I want to review a Goatman movie next October.

2. Champ

Champ is America’s very own version of Nessie.  It ia said to live in Lake Champlain, a body of water that’s shared by New York, Vermont, and Quebec.  Since at least 1819, people have wrote about spotting a giant sea serpent swimming around Lake Champlain.  In 1873, the famous showman P.T. Barnum offered a monetary reward to anyone who could capture Champ and bring the creature to me.  To me, that’s the plot of your movie right there.  Get on it, all of you aspiring screenwriters!  Champ needs a film worthy of a champion.

3, Ludwig the Bloodsucker

Ludwig was an urban legend in New York City back in the 1860s.  He was said to be an undead creature from Eastern Europe who haunted the back alleys and the bars of the Bowery district.  As you might guess from his name, he had a taste for blood.  (In all probability, Ludwig’s legend was probably the result of a combination of Know Nothing and Anti-Saloon League propaganda.)  Ludwig has been described as being “America’s first vampire” and that right there is why he needs to start in a movie of his very own.  I think Christoph Waltz would make a great vampire.

4.  Dark Watchers

Who are the Dark Watchers?  Reportedly, they hang out in the Santa Lucia Mountains in California.  They wear wide-brimmed hats and carry walking sticks and they’re described as being giants.  They never emerge from the shadows but many people have reported spotting their silhouettes while hiking through the mountains.  What are they watching for and where do they live?  Are they dangerous or are they merely observers?  You know what would answer those questions?  A movie!

5. Jackalope

One of the biggest disappointments of my life was when I learned that jackalopes apparently don’t actually exist.  How can you not love a rabbit with antlers!?  Seriously, if any creature has earned the right to star in a PIXAR film of its very own, it’s the mighty jackalope.

6. Wicked Wanda

Wicked Wanda was the ghost who supposedly lived on the top floor of my dorm during my first semester of college.  I never found her, though I did go searching a few times.  There really wasn’t much to her legend, beyond the fact that she was supposedly up there and she was wicked.  Still, if they can make a thousand movies about Annabelle, how about one movie about Wanda?

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Fiend (dir by Don Dohler)


The 1980 film, Fiend, is a movie that should be viewed by every aspiring indie filmmaker.  I’m going to tell you why in a few paragraphs but first, allow me to tell you what Fiend is.

Fiend opens with ominous music and a shot of a seemingly deserted cemetery.  While the camera tracks it’s way from headstone to headstone, we become aware of a red light that seems to be floating above the ground, as if it’s searching for something.  The light suddenly plunges into a grave.  A few seconds later, the man who was in the grave claws his way to the surface.  Just one look at him reveals that he’s been dead for quite some time.  However, you might be distracted from the facial decay by the fact that the man is glowing.

The man staggers about, eventually coming across a young woman who has been abandoned in the cemetery by her jerk of a boyfriend.  The man grabs her from behind and wraps his hands around her neck.  Briefly, the man’s glow seems to pulse and then it fades away.  The man is no longer a decaying corpse.  Now, he’s just a middle-aged guy with a huge mustache.  He looks like he should be teaching a remedial math class.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Don Leifert, the actor playing our living corpse, actually was a teacher.)

Now calling himself Eric Longfellow, the man moves into a nice house in the suburbs and establishes himself as a music instructor.  Longfellow tends to keep to himself, which certainly makes the neighbors a bit curious about him.  Longfellow would probably be more sociable if not for the fact that, every few days or so, he starts to decay.  For that reason, he has to have a constant supply of victims so that he can suck out their life force and renew himself.  Helping him out with this issue is Dennis Frye (played by George Stover, who was apparently a civil servant when he wasn’t acting), who is kind of squirmy and owns some of the ugliest suits ever tailored.  (I assume that Dennis Frye’s name is an homage to Dwight Frye, who played Renfield in the Bela Lugosi-version of Dracula.)

Now, of course, you can only suck the life force out of so many people before people start to notice that something strange is going on.  Longfellow is unfortunate enough to live next door to Gary Kender (Richard Nelson), who is a plain-spoken, beer-drinking guy who just happens to have a mustache that’s almost as huge as Longfellow’s.  Gary doesn’t trust Longfellow so he starts to do some research on his mysterious new neighbor….

Now, here’s the thing to remember about Fiend.  It was made foe $6,000.  That would translate to about $18,000 today.  Either way, it’s a tiny budget.  And yet, it’s an effective (if occasionally goofy) little film and, more often that not, it’s effective precisely because it was shot for next to nothing.  The grainy images give the film a feeling of immediacy.  Though the majority of the murders may have happened in broad daylight because day is easier to light than night, all those daytime murders contribute to the sense of unease, the feeling that no one’s safe at any time.  Even the amateur quality of the performances contribute to the film’s overall dream-like feel.  Director Don Dohler may not have been able to afford expensive special effects or realistic gore but, as a result of that, his direction emphasizes atmosphere over jump scares.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  This is definitely an amateur film, full of clunky dialogue and the occasional slow scene.  But so what?  Even those flaws add to the film’s nicely surreal atmosphere.

I mean, consider this.  Don Dohler made this film nearly 40 years ago and he spent less money on the entire production than most films spend during one day of shooting.  It was released in only a handful of theaters and I imagine it probably didn’t get rave reviews from the mainstream critics.  And yet, here we are, decades later, and Fiend still has a growing cult of admirers.  It’s available on YouTube and, if you do watch it, I encourage you to read the comments posted underneath the video.  Several of them are from people who either worked on the film or who knew Don Dohler and Don Leifert.  For the most part, everyone seems to have fond memories of both this film and the filmmakers.

Fiend works because, instead of surrendering to the film’s low budget, Don Dohler used it to his advantage.  There’s a lesson there for us all.