Horror On TV: Baywatch Nights 2.6 “Cabin” (dir by Reza Badiyi)


On tonight’s episode of Baywatch Nights, Mitch and Ryan discover a cabin that transports them through time!  Suddenly, they’re no longer on the beaches of California.  Now, they’re in a New York brothel in the 1890s and there’s a serial killer on the loose….

Okay, here’s the thing with Baywatch Nights.  And yes, I know I’ve mentioned this before but now seems like a good time to mention it again.  How exactly can anyone go from traveling through time at night to working as a lifeguard during the day?  I mean, we’re 6 episodes into the 2nd season of this show and already Mitch has discovered that sea monsters, aliens, and now time travel are all real things.  It just amazes me how calmly he’s able to accept all of that.  Me, if I traveled through time, I doubt I would ever be able to just go back to my normal life.  I would honestly be spending too much time obsessing on the fact that time travel is real.

Anyway, tonight’s episode is a bit ludicrous but kind of fun.  So, enjoy!

The TSL’S Horror Grindhouse: Death Bed, The Bed That Eats (dir by George Barry)


Perhaps one of the most brilliant films ever, the 1977’s Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is a film about a bed that eats people.  Yes, just like the title says.

Seriously, that’s almost the entire film.  The bed sits in an abandoned, dilapidated mansion that appears to be located out in the middle of nowhere.  People break into the mansion.  People find the bed, which is surprisingly well-cared for considering the fact that it’s sitting in the middle of a dusty, abandoned house.  Some people make love.  Some people try to get some sleep.  Some people just sit down so they can take off their shoes.  But in the end, all of them get eaten.

The bed is vaguely alive, which is to say that, if you listen carefully, you can hear it breathing and chewing.  Many years ago, the bed was conjured up by a demon who needed a place to make love to his girlfriend.  Unfortunately, his girlfriend died while they were having sex which caused the demon to cry.  The demon’s tears brought the bed to life and now, every ten years or so, it has to feed.

We know all of this because the painter Aubrey Beardsley tells us so.  Much like Paganini Horror, Death Bed is unique in that it features an actual historical figure as a key part of the story.  Aubrey Beardsley was an English illustrator who specialized in pictures of the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic.  Beardsley was only 25 years when he lost his life to tuberculosis, dying in France in 1898.  However, Death Bed suggests that Beardlsey did not actually die but was instead imprisoned for eternity inside one of his paintings, forced to helplessly watch as Death Bed feasted.  Though Beardsley knows how to destroy the Death Bed, no one can hear his words.

One of the more interesting things about Death Bed is that we actually get to see the inside of the bed while it’s digesting it’s victims.  The bed literally eats everything that’s dropped on it, except for one woman who reminds the bed of the woman whom the demon loved.  Whenever the bed sees this particular woman, it cries out in pain and we get a shot of red blood shooting through the inside of the bed.

The woman is Sharon (Rosa Luxemburg), a runaway who has come to the mansion with two of her friends.  Why they’re at the mansion is never really quite clear, beyond the fact that they want to take care of the place for some reason.  Suzan (Julie Ritter) brings flowers, just for Diane (Demene Hall) to point out that the mansion is in the middle of the wilderness and is therefore already surrounded by flowers! The bed eats Suzan and half of Diane.

Meanwhile, Sharon’s brother shows up and, believe it or not, he’s played by a vaguely recognizable actor, William Russ.  (Russ is probably best known for playing Cory’s father on Boy Meets World.)  Sharon’s brother — who doesn’t get a name beyond that — gets his hands eaten down to the bone by the bed but it doesn’t seem to bother him that much.  He just sits there and stares down at his skeletal fingers.  Can Sharon and her brother end the bed’s reign of terror?  Will Aubrey Beardsley ever find peace?

Earlier, I called Death Bed brilliant and I was not joking.  Death Bed plays out like a dream, full of weird images and off-kilter dialogue and strangely subdued performances.  As odd as the story may be, the film delivers exactly what it promises.  This is a film the promises a bed that eats people and that’s exactly what this bed does.  The film plays out in a collection of strange, vaguely-connected images, mixed in with odd moments of humor.  There’s a random shot of an elderly woman reading hardcore pornography.  The bed drinks pepto bismol after having too much to eat.  William Russ explains why his bony hands are falling apart.  Death Bed is a dream of dark and disturbing things, a film that creates its own reality and dares you to stop watching.  Much like An American Hippie In Israel, there’s no other film like it and therefore, it’s important that it be watched and appreciated.  Death Bed is a unique spectacle, one that exists in a universe of its very own.

The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990, directed by Bill Bixby)


David Banner (Bill Bixby), still hoping to find a cure for the condition that causes him to turn into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) whenever he gets injured or stressed out, heads up to Portland.  Pretending to be a simple-minded janitor named David Bellamy, Banner gets a job working in the lab of Dr. Ronald Pratt (Philip Sterling).  Banner hopes that Dr. Pratt’s research holds the secret that can release him from being the Hulk.  When Dr. Pratt learns Banner’s secret, he and his wife (Barbara Tarbock) work with Banner to try to cure him and to understand the Hulk.

David Banner is not the only person who has infiltrated the lab.  KGB agent Jasmin (Elizabeth Gracen) has also been sent to the lab with orders to steal Pratt’s research.  Jasmin hates working for the KGB but she’s been told that her sister will be killed unless she complete one final mission.  When Jasmin meets and falls in love with David, she starts to reconsider her loyalties.  When the KGB finally makes their movies, Jasmin is going to have to decide who to help and the Hulk is going to have to come through and save the day one final time.

David Banner’s saga finally comes to a close in The Death of the Incredible Hulk, the third and last of the Incredible Hulk television movies.  It’s also the best of the three, though that might not by saying much when you consider the quality of the first two.  While the other two movies both served as backdoor pilots for other heroes and the Hulk was barely even present in the 2nd movie, The Death of the Incredible Hulk keeps the focus squarely on David Banner and the Hulk.  (Though Jasmin does seem like she could be a version of the Black Widow, I think the similarities between the two characters are a coincidence.  Beautiful and conflicted KGB agents were a popular trope in the 80s and early 90s.)  Both Bixby and Ferrigno get to show off what they can do in their signature roles.  Bixby is especially good at capturing Banner’s tortured and lonely existence and his performance helps to make The Death of the Incredible Hulk something more than just another cheap sci-fi TV movie.

Though the film stays true to its title and ends with a mortally wounded Banner saying that he’s finally free, it was not intended to be the final Hulk film.  There were plans to bring David Banner back to life and presumably, the Hulk would have come back with him.  Unfortunately, Bill Bixby himself died in 1993, before shooting could begin on The Return of the Incredible Hulk.

 

Game Review: Alone (2020, Paul Michael Winters)


You’re alone.

You want to be alone.

Surviving what has happened to the world requires you to be alone.

But if you want to keep driving down the hallway, you’re going to have to find the closest garage and get some gas.  And when the gas pumps turn out to be locked, you’re going to have to figure out how to get them unlocked and you might not be able to do it alone.

Alone is a post-apocalyptic Interactive Fiction game.  While you try to solve the puzzle of how to unlock the gas pumps, you also find journals and other notes that reveal what has happened to the world and why it’s so important to stay isolated from other people.  It’s not a bad text game.  The descriptions are sparse but effective and the puzzles are not that difficult to solve as long as you pay attention.  As befits its story, it’s a straight forward game without any unnecessary padding.  In the game, you don’t have any time to waste and neither does Alone.

Not surprisingly, Alone is one of many IF games that I’ve played this year that deals with people having to isolate themselves because of an apocalyptic events.  This is the year of the quarantine so, of course, it’s going to be reflected in our games, books, and movies.  I think that’s one reason why Alone sticks with you.  Right now, a lot of people are feeling alone.  Depending on the choices you make and how you play the game, Alone can end on a note of either hope or uncertainty.  It’s up to you.

Alone is one of the entrants in the 26th annual Interactive Fiction Competition, which is currently ongoing and accepting entries until November 29th.  You can play it (and all the other entries) by visiting the Interactive Fiction Comp’s home page.

Horror Scenes That I Love: Anthony Sends Dan To The Cornfield in The Twilight Zone


“You’re a very bad man!”

Today’s horror scene that I love comes not from film but from television.  In this episode of The Twilight Zone (entitled “It’s A Good Life”), the citizens of a rural community have to go out of their not to upset a rather unpredictable six year-old.

What happens when you upset little Anthony Fremont?

Take a look:

Written by Rod Serling and directed by James Sheldon, this episode originally aired on November 3, 1961.

Horror Book Review: Amok by George Fox


First published in 1978, Amok tells the story of a gigantic Japanese soldier who, during the final days of World War II, was ordered to stay in The Philippines and not stop fighting until he got word that the war had ended.  Unfortunately, the soldier never found out about Hiroshima and Nagasaki so, decades after Japan’s surrender, he’s still living in the jungle, sneaking around at night with his sword and killing anyone who he comes across.

When he kills the brother of Mike Braden, Braden returns to his estranged family’s tobacco plantation, determined to get revenge.  Braden’s a Vietnam vet, a soldier much like the predator who killed his brother.  Mike is obsessed with ending the soldier’s reign of terror but no one else believes him when he claims that there’s a rampaging monster — The Amok, as the local villagers call it — in the jungle.  To the other Americans in The Philippines, the Amok is just a legend.  To Mike and its victims, the Amok is all too real.

Amok is one of those paperback that I always used to see in my aunt’s collection.  (She had a huge stack of paperbacks in her bedroom closet and I used to go through them whenever we were visiting, mostly so I could “borrow” the racier ones.)  I always found myself fascinated by the cover of Amok, which featured an unseen figure holding up a bloody sword. It looked really scary!

Having now finally read the novel, I can say that it is effectively scary.  Amok is a relentlessly-paced story, one that doesn’t take its time getting to the blood and the guts and which does a great job of leaving you to wonder when the Amok is going to strike next.  It touches on a lot of important themes — colonialism, war, racism — but it doesn’t really explore any of them in depth.  And that’s fine!  Ultimately, the job of a book like Amok is to generate suspense and to frighten the reader and Amok does a very good job of doing that!

It’s interesting to note that, when the book was first published, the cover announced that it was the scariest thing since Jaws.  To be honest, Amok has a lot in common with Jaws.  Like the giant shark, the Amok is a force of nature and one that many people refuse to believe exists despite the fact that he obviously does.  It’s easy to imagine Amok being adapted into a Jaws-like film but, strangely enough, it doesn’t appear that it ever happened.  Somehow, with the hundreds of slasher films that were made in the late 70s and 80s, no one ever got around to making a movie out of Amok, a book that seems like it was practically written so that someone would pick up the film rights.

Even if it never was turned into a movie, it’s still an effective page turner.  Those of you looking for a mix of blood, guts, sex, and manly man talk will enjoy it.

 

International Horror Film: The Paramedic (dir by Carles Torras)


Eh, who cares?

“Really, Lisa Marie?  That’s going to be your entire review of this film?  Three words?”

Listen, I’ve been wanting to use those three words for a while.  Do you think it’s easy to come up with 500 words about every stupid movie that you see, especially when it’s not exactly a movie that really holds your attention?  Considering the importance that entertainment plays in our lives and the fact that there actually are good and interesting films being made, dismissing a forgettable film with “Eh, who cares?” is not only justifiable but it’s also perhaps the most honest review that one can give.

“Haven’t you always said that every film deserves a review?”

I may believe that but I’ve never been stupid enough to paint myself into a corner by saying it.

“Well, why don’t you at least tell everyone what the movie is about?”

Goddammit.

“Lisa Marie….”

Okay, okay.  It’s a Spanish film about this paramedic named Angel Hernandez (Mario Casas).  He’s a jerk, a total believer in all of that machismo bullshit.  He spends all of his time talking about how smarter he is than everyone else and he has a girlfriend named Vane (Déborah François).  They’re trying to have a baby but Angel has a low sperm count.  Angel refuses to tell Vane this because, to him, that would make him less of a man.

“So, it’s a film about toxic masculinity.”

Eh.  Kinda.  Anyway, as a result of an accident, Angel is confined to a wheelchair.  He doesn’t take it well.  He expects Vane to wait on him hand-and-foot while he does stuff like spy on her and hack her laptop.  Eventually, Vane leaves him for Ricardo (Guillermo Pfening) so Angel starts stalking her and, after he discovers that Ricardo has gotten her pregnant, Angel kidnaps her and holds her prisoner in his apartment.  He gives her an engagement ring that he stole from a patient and starts talking about how they’re going to get married and how they’re going to raise the child.

“It sounds like a Lifetime movie.”

It is kind of but …. eh.  A Lifetime movie would be more fun.  This is just another boring movie where a loser kidnaps a woman and holds her prisoner in his apartment while killing anyone who comes close to discovering her.  You would think that the villain being in a wheelchair would at least add some sort of curiosity value to the film but it’s all so predictable that it’s hard to care.  Hence, my original review.

“Were the actors at least any good?”

I guess.  I’ll give Mario Casas all the credit in the world.  He did a good job of bringing a really loathsome character to life.  I mean, everyone has had to deal with someone like Angel Hernandez at some point in their life.  Anyone who has ever been told that they don’t really understand what they need or what they want will be able to relate to what Vane goes through.

“So, the film wasn’t all bad.”

No, it wasn’t all bad but at the same time, there was nothing particularly surprising about it either.  I was never surprised by anything that happened.  It’s just kind of there.  You watch it and you shrug and you say….

“….eh, who cares?”

You got it.

4 Shots From 4 Jean Rollin Films: The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, Fiancée of Dracula, The Mask of Medusa


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’ve been using 4 Shots From 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite horror directors!  Today, we take a look at the brilliant French director, Jean Rollin!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Iron Rose (1973, dir by Jean Rollin)

Lips of Blood (1975, dir by Jean Rollin)

Fiancée of Dracula (2002, dir by Jean Rollin)

The Mask of Medusa (2010, dir by Jean Rollin)

Horror Film Review: Twilight Zone: The Movie (dir by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller)


1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie is meant to be a tribute to the classic original anthology series.  It features four “episodes” and two wrap-around segments, with Burgess Meredith providing opening and closing narration.  Each segment is directed by a different director, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a bit of a mess.  One of the episodes is brilliant.  Another one is good up until the final few minutes.  Another one is forgettable.  And then finally, one of them is next too impossible to objectively watch because of a real-life tragedy.

With a film that varies as wildly in tone and quality as Twilight Zone: The Movie, the only way to really review it is to take a segment at a time:

Something Scary (dir by John Landis)

Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd drive through the desert and discuss the old Twilight Zone TV series.  Brooks claims that the show was scary.  Aykoyd asks if Brooks wants to see something really scary.  This is short but fun.  It’s tone doesn’t really go along with the rest of the movie but …. oh well.  It made me jump.

Time Out (dir by John Landis)

Vic Morrow plays a racist named Bill Connor who, upon leaving his local bar, finds himself transported to Nazi-occupied France, the deep South, and eventually Vietnam.

How you react to this story will probably depend on how much you know about its backstory.  If you don’t know anything about the filming of this sequence, you’ll probably just think it’s a bit heavy-handed and, at times, unintentionally offensive.  Twilight Zone often explored themes of prejudice but Time Out just seems to be using racism as a gimmick.

If you do know the story of what happened while this segment was being filmed, it’s difficult to watch.  Actor Vic Morrow was killed during filming.  His death was the result of a preventable accident that occurred during a scene that was to involve Morrow saving two Vietnamese children from a helicopter attack.  The helicopter crashed, killing not only Morrow but the children as well.  It was later determined that not only were safety protocols ignored but that Landis had hired the children illegally and was paying them under the table so that he could get around the regulations governing how many hours child actors could work.  It’s a tragic story and one that will not leave you as a fan of John Landis’s, regardless of how much you like An American Werewolf in London and Animal House.

Nothing about the segment feels as if it was worth anyone dying for and, to be honest, I’m kind of amazed that it was even included in the finished film.

Kick The Can (dir by Steven Spielberg)

An old man named Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers) shows up at Sunnyvale Retirement Home and encourages the residents to play a game of kick the can.  Everyone except for Mr. Conroy (Bill Quinn) eventually agrees to take part and, just as in the episode of the Twilight Zone that this segment is based on, everyone becomes young.

However, while the television show ended with the newly young residents all running off and leaving behind the one person who refused to play the game, the movie ends with everyone, with the exception of one man who apparently became a teenager istead of a kid, deciding that they would rather be old and just think young.  That really doesn’t make any damn sense but okay.

This segment is unabashedly sentimental and clearly calculated to brings tears to the eyes to the viewers.  The problem is that it’s so calculated that you end up resenting both Mr. Bloom and all the old people.  One gets the feeling that this segment is more about how we wish old people than how they actually are.  It’s very earnest and very Spielbergian but it doesn’t feel much like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

It’s A Good Life (dir by Joe Dante)

A teacher (Kathleen Quinlan) meets a young boy (Jeremy Licht) who has tremendous and frightening powers.

This is a remake of the classic Twilight Zone episode, It’s A Good Life, with the difference being that young Anthony is not holding an entire town hostage but instead just his family.  This segment was directed by Joe Dante, who turns the segment into a cartoon, both figuratively and, at one point, literally.  That’s not necessarily a complaint.  It’s certainly improvement over Spielberg’s sentimental approach to the material.  Dante also finds roles for genre vets like Kevin McCarthy, William Schallert, and Dick Miller and he provides some memorably over-the-top visuals.

The main problem with this segment is the ending, in which Anthony suddenly reveals that he’s not really that bad and just wants to be treated normally, which doesn’t make much sense.  I mean, if you want to be treated normally, maybe don’t zap your sister in a cartoon.  The teacher agrees to teach Anthony how to be a normal boy and again, what the Hell?  The original It’s A Good Life worked because, like any child, Anthony had no conception of how adults felt about him.  In the movie version, he’s suddenly wracked with guilt and it’s far less effective.  It feels like a cop out.

Still, up until that ending, It’s A Good Life worked well as a satire of the perfect American family.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (dir by George Miller)

In this remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, John Lithgow steps into the role that was originally played by William Shatner.  He plays a man who, while attempting to conquer his fear of flying, sees a gremlin on the wing of his airplane.  Unfortunately, he can’t get anyone else on the plane to believe him.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet is the best of the four main segments.  It’s also the one that sticks closest to its source material.  Director George Miller (yes, of Mad Max fame) doesn’t try to improve on the material because he seems to understand that it works perfectly the way it is.  John Lithgow is also perfectly cast in the lead role, perfectly capturing his increasing desperation.  The one change that Miller does make is that, as opposed in the TV show, the gremlin actually seems to be taunting John Lithgow at time and it works wonderfully.  Not only is Lithgow trying to save the plane, he’s also trying to defeat a bully.

Something Scarier (dir by John Landis)

Dan Aykroyd’s back as an ambulance driver, still asking his passenger if he wants to see something really scary.  It’s an okay ending but it does kind of lessen the impact of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.