Horror On TV: One Step Beyond 3.5 “If You See Sally” (dir by John Newland)


On tonight’s epiosde of One Step Beyond, we visit the legend of the ghostly hitchhiker.

Will Sally ever make it home?

This episode originally aired on October 18th, 1960!

Creepshow, S1 Ep 4, The Companion & Lydia Lane’s Better Half


Creepshow

Happy horrorthon! This episode followed the trend of the second story being the better of the two, but really it showcases a two short films every week.  I never really watched short films before because they sounded impossible  You have twenty minutes or less to put a story together and give it some heft.  It’s interesting to see how it’s accomplished.  Short stories are one thing, but a film has establish shots and tension in short order…pun intended.

The stories tend to be very straight forward; you really can’t spoil them.  The Companion- a boy makes a Golem who kills his mean brother.  Lydia Lane’s Better Half- Lydia is trapped in an elevator with a woman she killed.  Yes, the second one is better. I like that elevator horror is slowly becoming a sub-genre, but does everyone have to be crushed between floors?

The Companion opens with a teenager who is repeatedly abused by his older brother.  This changes when he goes to a farm and finds a Golem-Scarecrow.  At first, the Golem wants to kill him because he isn’t holding a magical cane…really.  The deceased farmer in the story created the Golem because after his wife passed, he was lonely; so, he created a Golem-Scarecrow….as you do. Well, the Golem murders people if they aren’t holding his dead wife’s cane.  Whatevs.  As with most of the first stories, the acting was fine and the story was fine.  Not great, but it did allow me to pass the time during physical therapy exercises.

The second story starred one of my favorite actresses and people- Tricia Helfer.  I loved her in BSG, she’s great in Burn Notice and Lucifer, and she does the Tulip Ride for the Seattle Humane Society.  She has the drive and talent of a million people, which means that there are 999,999 very sad lazy people out there because of Tricia Helfer.  This short film was no different! She plays Lydia Lane, a high-powered CEO, who passes over her protege Celia for a CFO position.  Later, a struggle ensues and Celia gets accidentally impaled in the head with a glass award killing Celia and she needs to get the body out of the office building and hide it.  She seems to be getting close to an escape until an earthquake causes the elevator to stop.  UH OH.

After Celia’s death, there’s virtually no monologue or dialogue. Tricia Helfer has to deliver suspense and fear with movement and facial expressions alone- she does.  It becomes a one-woman show …. except for Celia who is a possible zombie, but it could also be that Lydia is losing her mind and it’s this ambiguity that makes the story really pop.  The direction by Roxanne Benjamin was excellent as well. She has a great future in both action and horror.

These stories are really important because they are great and they give opportunities to new directors with a lot of talent!

 

International Halloween Review: All Monsters Attack! (a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge) (dir by Ishiro Honda)


“Godzilla says that I have to learn to fight my own battles.”

Well, good for you, Minilla, son of Godzilla.  It’s good to see that Godzilla’s raising you well!  But can your monster advice possibly contain any useful life lessons for the human world?  Let’s watch 1969’s All Monsters Attack and find out!

You may have noticed that I’m specifically calling this a “Halloween review” as opposed to a “horror review.”  That’s because it’s just not Halloween without a Godzilla movie or two but, at the same time, it would be really stretching things to describe any of the Godzilla films of the 60s and 70s as being horror films.  Certainly, the original, black-and-white Gojira was a horror film, even if it no longer scares audiences.  But, by the time the 60s rolled around, Godzilla had gone from being the living equivalent of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to becoming a cuddly friend of children everywhere.

All Monsters Attack, for example, is clearly a film made for children and stock footage aficionados.  Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki) is a little kid who has no friends but he does have an active imagination.  Whenever he falls asleep, he goes to Monster Island where he watches as Godzilla beats up various monsters.  Why exactly does Godzilla stay on Monster Island, I wonder.  Like literally everyone else on the island seems to hate his guts and they’re constantly trying to kill him.  If I was advising Godzilla, I’d suggest he move to another island.

Anyway, it turns out that Godzilla’s son, Minilla, is being bullied by a red-headed lizard named Gabara.  Minilla is a monster who always seems to get a mixed reaction from Godzilla fans.  When I first saw him, I was like, “AGCK!  BURN IT!  KILL IT WITH FIRE!”  But actually, Minilla is kind of cute and he does this adorable thing where he breathes radioactive smoke rings at his enemies.  Godzilla could protect Minilla but instead, he tells Minilla that he has to fight his own battles.

OH MY GOD, JUST LIKE ICHIRO!  Ichiro is so moved by Godzilla’s advice that he decides to stand up to the bullies.  But first, he’s going to have to stand up to some bank robbers as well,  The bank robbers take Ichiro hostage so he promptly takes a nap so he can hang out on Monster Island with Godzilla and Minilla.  Good plan, kid!

Anyway, All Monsters Attack is considered by many to be the worst of the old Godzilla movies and, in many ways, it is.  While all of the later Godzilla movies were aimed at kids, most of them at least had a decent fight or two.  All Monsters Attack is basically just 69 minutes of the kid getting in trouble and then taking a nap.  In fact, Godzilla’s barely in the movie at all.  Minilla gets most of the monster screen time.  That said, the film’s heart is in the right place and if it made any bullied children feel better then it did some good.

(Listen, I’m always going to give any movie starring Godzilla the benefit of the doubt, okay?)

That said, it does kind of seem like the ultimate message of the film’s final scenes is that the best way to deal with a bully is to pull a mean prank on someone else and then join the bully’s gang.  So maybe All Monsters Attack! did more harm than good.  I don’t know.  As long as Godzilla’s okay, that’s all that really matters.

 

Snakes On A Vacation: Curse II: The Bite (1989, directed by Frederico Prosperi)


Clark (J. Eddie Peck) and his girlfriend, Lisa (Jill Schoelen), are vacationing in New Mexico.  It’s a romantic getaway, except for all of the snakes.  Clark manages to save Lisa from one snake through the use of his trusty rifle but then he himself gets bitten once they go to a motel.  Luckily, traveling salesman Harry Morton (Jamie Farr!) has a suitcase that’s full of anti-snake venom antidotes.  Unfortunately, the one that Harry gave to Clark doesn’t do much good because not only does the bite on Clark’s arm get worse but it starts to turn into a snake!  In fact, his entire body is full of snakes, just trying to slither out!  It’s a vacation from Hell as Lisa tries to find a cure for Clark, Clark tries to control his serpent-like instincts, and Harry tries to find the young couple so that they don’t sue him.

This is an unrelated sequel to a film called The Curse.  In fact, it’s probable that this film was just called The Bite until the first Curse did slightly better at the box office than anyone expected.  The two films share not a single character or plot point in common.  There’s not really even a curse in this so-called sequel!  Clark’s problems are all due to the snake being radioactive.  (Once again, science is to blame.)  It’s a typically cheesy, low-budget 80s horror film but it does have a few things to recommend it.  The special effects range between being enjoyably cheap and effectively gross.  Jamie Farr is entertaining as Harry Morton and seems to be happy to not be playing Klinger again.  The truckers that Harry enlists to help him search for Lisa and Clark are all colorful characters and they are a little more interesting than the usual horror movie canon fodder.  Bo Svenson also has a good cameo as the sheriff.

Best of all, the film features one the greatest scream queens of the late 80s and early 90s, Jill Schoelen.  Schoelen is best remembered for her role in The Stepfather but she actually appeared in several horror movies between 1987 and 1993.  As she was in almost all of her roles, Jill Schoelen is both sexy and believable in The Bite.  She had a talent for making even the worse dialogue sound natural and that was a talent that The Bite gave her many chances to display.

The Bite is hardly a great film but, by the standards of late 80s cable fare, it’s undeniably entertaining.

 

Silent Hill Memories


I was sixteen when Silent Hill first came out for the Playstation.

From the first minute I played it, I was hooked and Silent Hill would go on to become the first video game that I ever seriously got into.  I would study the game.  I would go online, in those early days of the world wide web, to read the theories of other players and visit the occasional Geocities-hosted fan page.  I actually got very upset when innocent nurse Lisa Garland was lost to the town’s curse.  I was also amazed to discover that the game’s storyline and ending could change depending on whether or not I saved Cybil Bennett.  A video game with multiple endings that went beyond just “good” and “bad?”  This was a big deal back in 1999!

Looking back after all these years, there are four main things that I remember about Silent Hill.

First off, and I know I’m not alone,I remembered the opening and especially the music that played during the scenes of Harry Mason driving down that foggy road:

Secondly, I remember the scenes that played after the game’s ending, which featured all of Silent Hill‘s characters blowing their lines, missing their cues, and laughing about it.  Today the animation may look primitive but back in 1999, seeing this at least provided some comfort if you got one of the bad endings, especially the “bad” ending where you defeated the monster but your daughter died (“Thank you, Daddy … goodbye.”) and then you ended up dead in your car.

I remember the nearly legendary fifth ending of the game, in which Harry Mason ended up getting abducted by aliens.  In the days before YouTube, when you had to trust word-of-mouth, there were some people who insisted that this ending was just an urban legend while there were others who couldn’t stop bragging about how they had gotten the alien ending while the rest of us just had to settle for the “saved the world and your daughter” ending.  When I finally managed to get the UFO ending, I was so happy that I felt like I was the one who had been abducted by aliens.

Finally, the main thing I remember about Silent Hill is that I was never very good at it.  I was the player who always ended up getting lost and walking around in a circle.  I can’t remember how many times I played before I managed to not die in the diner.  As soon as I heard the radio static that indicated that I was about to get attacked, I started to run because I know I wasn’t a good enough shot to fight off any of the game’s monsters.  Harry Mason was searching for his daughter and I was probably the worst possible person to lead him in that search because I somehow always managed to get Harry killed.  It didn’t matter how many times I played the game, I never really got good at it.  Even when I finally managed to get the best ending possible, it was only after saving and reloading the game a countless number of times.

I may have never been good at the game but I still enjoyed leading Harry to his death and occasionally to one of the good endings.  Silent Hill is what taught me that there was more to video games than just jumping and shooting and for that, I will be forever thankful.

Horror Scenes I Love: The Poltergeist Face Peeling Scene


This is from the original, 1982 version Poltergeist.

It’s just a ghost movie about a mother’s love, suburban conformity, and a guy’s face falling into the sink.  For whatever reasons, the ghosts just seemed to take a really intense dislike to this guy.

“The house is clean.”

Not bloody likely.

“You moved the headstone but you left the bodies!?  WHY!?  WHY!?”

Whoops, different scene.

Anyway, let’s watch Marty lose face:

4 Shots From 4 Films: Anaconda, The Devil’s Advocate, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1997 Horror Films

Anaconda (1997, dir by Luis Llosa)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997, dir by Taylor Hackford)

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, dir by Jim Gillepsie)

Scream 2 (1997, dir by Wes Craven)

The Things You Find On Netflix: The Laundromat (dir by Steven Soderbergh)


To say that Meryl Streep gives a bad performance in The Laundromat actually does a disservice to your average, run-of-the-mill bad performance.

Meryl Streep instead gives an absolutely terrible performance in The Laundromat, playing not one, not two, but three characters.  One of the characters is Ellen Martin, a middle-class widow from Michigan whose attempts to collect a fair settlement after the death of her husband provides a portal in the world of shady con men and corrupt financial institutions.  One of the characters is a secret, which means that Meryl wears a lot of make-up and frumpy clothes.  That said, from the minute the character appeared on screen, I went, “Oh, there’s Meryl again.”  Then, in her third role, Meryl plays herself, demanding campaign finance reform and striking a Statue of Liberty pose while holding a hairbrush instead of a torch.

Really, it’s the type of horrendous performance that could only be delivered by a truly great actress.  (If Meryl Streep is the modern Norma Shearer, this is her Romeo and Juliet.)  Watching Meryl Streep play the role of Ellen, It occurred to me that Meryl is one of those actresses who is incapable of being authentic but who can certainly act the Hell out of pretending to be authentic.  You never forget that Meryl Streep is acting and that’s one reason why her best performances are usually the ones where she’s playing theatrical characters, whether they’re politicians like Margaret Thatcher, celebrities like Julia Child, or the Witch in Into the Woods.  But when you cast Meryl as someone who is basically supposed to be a member of the “common people,” it just doesn’t work.  Laura Dern, Laurie Metcalf, Allison Janney, even Annette Bening probably could have done a decent job playing Ellen Martin but Meryl is just too Meryl.  As for her other two performances in The Laundromat, they don’t work because one is meant to be a joke on the audience and the other is just a retread of her standard “I’m just a middle class woman from New Jersey and I love the little people” awards show speech.

Of course, The Laundromat itself is a remarkably bad film.  Again, it takes a lot of talent to make a film this bad.  Watching the film, I found myself wondering why, at this point in his celebrated career, Steven Soderbergh would decide to become a second-rate Adam McKay, especially when McKay himself is just a third-rate Jean-Luc Godard?  The film is structured so that, while Ellen is obsessing on why she’s getting screwed over by the insurance companies, we’re also treated to scenes of Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas talking directly to the camera and explaining to use why the poor are always going to get screwed over by the rich.  That’s probably true but the film gets so heavy-handed in its execution that the resulting migraine is going to be due less to outrage and more due to the sledgehammer that Soderbergh takes to your head.

Along with Ellen’s story, we also get to see several other stories featuring people and their money.  Jeffrey Wright is a crooked accountant who has two families.  And then there’s an African businessman who bribes his wife and daughter with shares in a non-existent company and then we take a trip to China, where we learn about cyanide and organ harvesting. And yes, I get it.  It shows how a crime committed in China is ultimately felt by a widow living in Michigan.  But one can’t help but wish that Soderbergh had just focuses on one story, instead of trying to imitate the worst moments of The Big Short.

Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas are technically playing the film’s villains but they’re both so charming that The Laundromat at times seems like more of a recruiting film for aspiring money launderers than anything else.  (To continue the Adam McKay comparison, it’s a bit like how Vice actually left audiences feeling sympathy for Dick Cheney as opposed to writing petitions to send to The Hague.)  It desperately wants to leave us outraged but Soderbegh gets so caught up in his own cutesy storytelling techniques that it just leaves us feeling somewhat annoyed.  Watching the film, one gets the feeling that the perfect directors for The Laundromat would have been the Coen Brothers, who are capable of outrage but whose detached style would have kept them from bludgeoning the audience with it.  Soderbergh is too angry to be effective.

As I said, there’s a lot of talented people involved in The Laundromat.  It’s full of people who have done great work in the past and who will do great work in the future.  As for The Laundromat, it’s a legitimate contender for the biggest disappointment of the year.

Horror on the Lens: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman)


Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a movie where a youngish Jack Nicholson played a French soldier who, while searching for a mysterious woman, comes across a castle that’s inhabited by both Dick Miller and Boris Karloff?”

Of course you have!  Who hasn’t?

Well, fortunately, it’s YouTube to the rescue.  In Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Terror, Jack Nicholson is the least believable 19th century French soldier ever.  However, it’s still interesting to watch him before he became a cinematic icon.  (Judging from his performance here and in Cry Baby Killer, Jack was not a natural-born actor.)  Boris Karloff is, as usual, great and familiar Corman actor Dick Miller gets a much larger role than usual.  Pay attention to the actress playing the mysterious woman.  That’s Sandra Knight who, at the time of filming, was married to Jack Nicholson.

Reportedly, The Terror was one of those films that Corman made because he still had the sets from his much more acclaimed film version of The Raven.  The script was never finished, the story was made up as filming moved alone, and no less than five directors shot different parts of this 81 minute movie.  Among the directors: Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson himself!  Perhaps not surprisingly, the final film is a total mess but it does have some historical value.

(In typical Corman fashion, scenes from The Terror were later used in the 1968 film, Targets.)

Check out The Terror below!

Get In The Loop On “Alay-Oop”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Long before there was Jerry Springer, there was William Gropper.

Which isn’t, believe it or not, to say that the two men have much of anything in common : Gropper was a masterfully skilled cartoonist and fine artist, Springer a cheap carnival barker who profited on the exploitation of his guests’ misery, but they both milked the notion of the so-called “love triangle” for all it’s worth — it just so happens that the premise is worth a whole lot more in the hands of a sympathetic and smart illustrator than it is a sleazy talk show host.

I’m guessing that this assertion requires little by way of concrete evidence, but just in case, New York Review Comics has recently issued a handsome hardcover edition of Gropper’s largely-forgotten 1930 sequential story Alay-Oop, a book that may just be able to stake a legitimate claim to being the first so-called…

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