October Positivity: Senior Year (dir by Bruce Lood)

First released in 1978 and undoubtedly played at dozens of church youth group retreats for years afterwards, Senior Year tells the story of Steve and Angie.

Steve and Angie are both high school seniors.  (Hence, the name….) They’re also both Christians.  Steve used to be a jock who enjoyed drinking and having a good time.  However, over the summer, he decided to give all that up and dedicate his life to Christ.  The rest of his classmates aren’t sure how to deal with this.  They all wonder what happened to the Steve that they used to know.  They’re all worried that this new Steve is going to constantly try to preach to them.  Steve confirms their suspicions by constantly trying to preach at them.  As he quickly discovers, it can be awkward forcing your beliefs on people, especially when they’re just trying to make it from class to class.  Still, the local young minister encourages Steve to keep trying.

Joe has no interest in what Steve is saying.  Joe is a jock who doesn’t get all of that Christian stuff and kind of takes it personally the Steve is now religious.  Joe decides that he’s going to date a Christian girl, just to upset Steve!  Joe’s a real jerk.  However, Joe starts to develop real feelings for her.  He even trades in his van for a sports car, all in an effort to seem more respectable.  Anyway, as things often go in these type of movies, it all leads to a tragedy that leaves one person in wheelchair but which also inspires everyone in the high school to start reading their bible.  Steve finally manages to successfully witness to one of his coworkers.  At no point does it seem to occur to anyone that maybe there was another way that message could have been spread that didn’t involve paralyzing someone for life.

Senior Year is a pretty typical faith-based high school film.  One thing that I’ve noticed about these films is that they always take place in these upper middle class suburban high schools where nearly the entire student body is vehemently anti-Christian.  I went to an upper middle class suburban high school and my experience was markedly different.  That could just be because I’m from Texas but still, there was an element of paranoia to this film that felt more than a bit forced.  It wasn’t enough for Joe to just not be interested in reading the Bible or going to church.  No, Joe had to be a full-on sociopath who specifically tried to ruin a girl’s reputation just because she was a Christian.  It’s all a bit melodramatic.  It also doesn’t help that Steve comes across as everything that Joe claims he is.  Despite the film’s intentions, Steve does come across as being preachy and a bit self-righteous.  The actor playing him is believably awkward but also kind of creepy.  Anyone who has ever had the experience of having a complete stranger start grilling you about your religious beliefs will empathize with those who don’t want to get trapped in a conversation with Steve.

After watching this film, I checked out its imdb page.  I found two pieces of trivia.  I have no idea if either of these are correct but, for the record, imdb claims that John Travolta was offered the role of the youth minister.  That’s possible, I suppose.  Though the film was released in 1978, it features a theater marquee advertising Marathon Man and Two-Minute Warning, which both came out in 1976.  If the film was shot in 1976 than it was probably in pre-production in 1975.  If the film was in pre-production in 1975, it’s totally possible that a relatively unknown John Travolta may have been offered the part.  The other piece of trivia is that Kevin Costner appears as an extra during a high school basketball game.  Costner was 21 in 1976 and was studying acting in college so, again, its possible.  I certainly didn’t see him but, then again, I wasn’t looking.

Anyway, regardless of whether Costner is lurking in the background or not, Senior Year is forgettable.  Today, it’s best viewed as being a time capsule of the era in which it was made.  I mean, selling a van is a major plot point!  This film couldn’t be more 70s if it tried.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 10/9/22 — 10/15/22

I spent most of this week watching movies but I did catch a few shows.  Here’s some thoughts on them:

Abbott Elementary (Wednesday Night, ABC)

Ava is such a cool principal!  This week’s episode wasn’t as strong as the previous three episodes but the scenes in which we saw how Ava dealt with disciplinary problems were entertaining.  “I want to go to the principal’s office!”

The Amazing Race (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I reviewed the latest episode of The Amazing Race here!

Atlanta (Thursday Night, FX)

Another crazy day at the mall.  I’m glad Al survived.  Earn and Darius got their shoes.  The Crank Dat Killer was taken off the streets.  Some Guy Named Doug finally got to collaborate with Al.  Another day in Atlanta.

Bachelor in Paradise (Monday and Tuesday Night, ABC)

Eh.  This season is too complicated for me.  The scenery’s nice.

Baywatch (Weekday Morning, H&I)

I watched an episode of Baywatch on Wednesday morning.  After an accident left him paralyzed, Manny had a crisis of confidence.  Meanwhile, Neely and Mitch continued to argue on the beach.  This was an episode from Baywatch’s final season.  It was all a bit silly but the scenery was nice.

Fantasy Island (Tubi)

You can read my review of what I watched by clicking here!

Full House (Sunday Evening, MeTV)

In the first episode, Aunt Becky went back to work and Danny panicked because it meant his new girlfriend would be leaving Wake Up, San Francisco.  Fortunately, she got hired to do weather so I guess that all worked out.  Becky going back to work reminded me of how little Jesse actually does.

In the second episode, a singer was hired to perform at Stephanie’s birthday party.  Stephanie had a crush on him but he had a crush on DJ.  The singer was like 30 so he really shouldn’t have had a crush on either of them.

Ghosts (Thursday Night, CBS)

Poor Jay!  He just wants some friends, like his wife has with the ghosts.  Unfortunately, he always seems to end up finding the worst possible friends around.  This week, he nearly got sucked into a cult.  Perhaps Jay should follow the ghost’s advice and become a snake oil salesman.

Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday Night, FOX)

O’Shay being eliminated was not a huge surprise.  It really should have happened last week, when he tried to send out raw chicken.  The episode ended with Chef Ramsay announcing that the 20s vs. 40s competition was over and the show was reverting back to its usual women vs men format.  Again, this wasn’t a huge surprise.  Hell’s Kitchen, unlike several other reality shows, has pretty much stuck with its original format and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

Interview With A Vampire (Sunday Night, AMC)

I’m still struggling to get into this one, for whatever reason.  I’ll give it another try next week and maybe rewatch the first two episodes as well.

Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)

This week, the criminal was a serial killer who was also a famous actor.  The episode wasn’t anything special but at least it wasn’t obnoxiously political.

Law & Order: Organized Crime (Thursday Night, NBC)

I watched it but I’d be lying if I said I remembered a thing about it, beyond Stabler looking like he was about to give himself a heart attack with all of his pent-up rage.

Law & Order: SVU (Thursday Night, NBC)

Again, I watched it but I don’t remember much about it.  By broadcasting all of these Law & Order shows on the same night, NBC is causing them to blend together in my mind.

The Love Boat (Paramount Plus)

I reviewed what I watched here!

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head (Paramount Plus)

I honestly thought last week’s episode was the season finale but it turns out I was wrong!  A new episode dropped on Thursday.  Beavis and Butt-Head building their own dinosaur was hilarious and also sad.  “Why did we do this?”

The Real Love Boat (Wednesday Night, CBS)

Who cares?  The old Love Boat is more fun.

Survivor (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I reviewed the latest episode of Survivor here!

Talking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I didn’t pay much attention.  Chris Hardwicke seemed kind of bored with it all.

The Walking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I hate to admit it but I have yet to find the time to write out full length reviews of the past two episodes of The Walking Dead.  Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do it next week.  As for last week’s episode, it was an improvement on the episode that came before it.  I’m kind of bored with the downfall of the Commonwealth, though.  I think the show made an excuse taking that long break before starting the final half of season 11.  I was really into the show before that break but now I’m struggling to get reinvested.

AMV of the Day: Sarcasm (Corpse Party)

Another week of horrorthon is nearly in the books.  How about celebrating with an AMV of the Day?

Anime: Corpse Party

Song: Sarcasm (by Get Scared)

Creator: SeshiriaxChan (please subscribe to this creator’s channel)

Past AMVs of the Day

Horror on TV: Circle of Fear 1.15 “Dark Vengeance”

In today’s episode of Circle of Fear, Martin Sheen plays a construction worker who finds a box at a site.  He brings it home to show his wife, Kim Darby.  When they open the box, they discover only a mirror and a toy horse.  Hey, that doesn’t seem too bad, right?  But then Darby starts to have nightmares that indicate that the horse might be cursed!

This episode aired on January 12th, 1973.  It’s always a little bit jarring to see Martin Sheen playing a regular guy, back before The West Wing brought out his pompous side.  Young Martin Sheen was quite a good actor.  His resemblance to Emilio Estevez is uncanny.  I wonder if they’re related.

(That’s a joke, everyone.  Calm down.)


The Astros Advance!

It may have taken 18 innings to get there but the Astros are going to the American League Championship Series for the sixth consecutive season!  Congratulations to the Astros and a big thank you to Jeremy Pena, whose 18th inning home run gave the Astros a 1-0 victory over the Mariners!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Killer Shrews (dir by Ray Kellogg)

Genetic modification.  Sure, it sounds like a good idea.  But are the results ever worth it?

Dr. Marlowe Cragus (Baruch Lumet) thought it was a good idea.  That why he and his daughter, Anne (Ingrid Goude), and Anne’s boyfriend, Jerry (Ken Curtis), all moved to an isolated island.  Dr. Cragis though he could perform some experiments on some shrews and that he would unlock the secret of how to …. well, who knows what Dr. Cragis thought he was actually doing.  (I mean, to be honest, who is really sure what a shrew really is?)  Cragis claims that he was trying to end world hunger but that sounds like a convenient excuse.  To be honest, it seems like Dr. Cragis was just experimenting for the sake of experimenting.

Unfortunately, Cragis’s experiments somehow led to the shrews turning into giant and carnivorous beasts.  At first, the doctor kept them locked up.  But then Anne broke up with Jerry and Jerry got drunk and he let all the shrews go free.  Yep, it’s a mess.  Now, the shrews are running around the island and the doctor and everyone else is trapped in the lab.  Boat captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) has arrived to take everyone back to the mainland but, unfortunately, there’s a hurricane approaching.  The humans will have to survive one more night on the island of …. THE KILLER SHREWS!

Directed by Ray Kellogg, The Killer Shrews was filmed in 1959.  It was a regional production, filmed just outside of my hometown of Dallas and released to local drive-ins.  It did well enough to get national distribution and it continues to be popular among aficionados of bad cinema.  The main problem with The Killer Shrews is that the shrews themselves are obviously just dogs that are wearing shrew masks.  For the most part, the dogs seem to be happy to be there.  I’m pretty sure that I saw a few of them wagging their tails shortly before launching their attack on the humans.  We’re told that the shrews are killers but they don’t look like they’ve ever killed anything.  Instead, they look like very good boys.  One gets the feeling that they were a lot of fun to play with between filming.

That said, The Killer Shrews is entertaining if you’re looking for a short movie that will inspire a good laugh or two.  James Best and Ken Curtis play romantic rivals and the fact that they both attempt to give serious performances only serves to highlight the absurdity of a group of people being held prisoner by a pack of shrews.  Baruch Lumet, the father of director Sidney Lumet, acts up a storm in the role of Dr. Cragis, yelling all of his dialogue like the stage veteran that he was.  And, of course, the dogs playing the shrews appear to be having the time of their lives. Hopefully, someone tossed around a tennis ball with them after they finished their scenes because they definitely earned the reward.

The Killer Shrews is not exactly a killer movie but at least the dogs are cute!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 1.13 “Where’s Dennis?” and 2.1 “Jake’s Song”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, season one comes to an end and season two begins.  And with season two, an important new character is introduced.  With the start of the second season, we also get new opening credits.

But first, let’s get the end of season one out of the way.

Episode 1.13 “Where’s Dennis?”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on December 5th, 1992)

With their parents out of town, Matt and Jenny throw a big party at the Garrison house and, naturally, the Dreams perform.  A promoter comes by the party and tells the Dreams that they’re “sick.”  (“That means good,” he adds as the Dreams breathe a sigh of 90s relief.)  However, younger brother Dennis feels that his old siblings are neglecting him and he runs away.  Can Matt and Jenny find Dennis before their parents come home?

Eh, who cares?  The worst episodes of the first season of California Dreams were the ones that focused on the Garrison family.

Episode 2.1 “Jake’s Song”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 11th, 1993)

In between the end of the first season and the start of the second season of California Dreams, NBC delivered an ultimatum to the show’s producers.  If the show was going to continue, it would need to lose the adults and focus on the band.  It would also need to add some more Saved By The Bell-style hijinks.

As such, the Garrison adults were largely dropped, as was younger brother Dennis.  Whereas the first season didn’t feature a single scene that actually took place in a high school, the new California Dreams would feature clueless teachers, sputtering principles, and the same high school interiors that would later show up in Hang Time.

Most importantly, the first episode of the second season introduced viewers to Jake Summers (played by Jay Anthony Franke).  Jake was a tough guy who rode a motorcycle, wore a leather jacket, and who never lost a fight.  Jake was a rocking rebel with the soul of a poet and he was obviously added to the show to try to give the California Dreams some sort of edge.  Of course, California Dreams was still a TNBC show so “edgy” really just meant that Jake looked like he might have smoked a cigarette at some point in his life.  Jake wore a leather jacket and got a serious look on his face whenever it was time to play guitar but the music was still Disney-level pop.  Jake was the toughest California Dream in the way that Joey Fatone used to be the toughest member of NSYNC.

Jake makes his first appearance in California Dreams when he walks into the high school, wearing a leather jacket and followed by several adoring girls.  “Woooooooooo!” the audience yells, showing that they already know that the new star of the show has arrived.

Anyway, Jake says that he wants to talk to Matt.  Everyone’s terrified that Jake is going to kill Matt but instead, Jake just likes some music that Matt wrote and he wants to offer him some lyrics for the song.  Matt discovers that Jake can play guitar and he invites Jake to join the Dreams.  The rest of the Dreams are like, “Jake’s too tough and scary!”  Can’t they hear how crazy the live audience goes whenever Jake enters a scene?  The Dreams need Jake!  Of course, Jake isn’t even sure that he wants to join the Dreams but then they all play together at Sharkey’s.  Jake becomes a Dream and immediately  start to overshadow the star of the show.  The future is set.

Jake would eventually become a bit of a neutered character, especially after Matt was written out of the show and Jake took over the band.  But, in his first appearance, he actually has enough rebel charisma that it’s easy to understand why the show’s producers decided to build the new California Dreams around him.  His surly attitude actually provided a nice contrast to Matt’s more vanilla style.  In their first episode together, Jay Anthony Franke and Brent Gore brought out the best in each other.

Would Jake and Matt continue to bring out the best in each other?  We’ll find out next week!

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Pool Scene From Poltergeist

In this scene from 1982’s Poltergeist, JoBeth Williams not only falls in what was meant to be the family swimming pool but she also discovers that she’s not alone in that pool.

The skeletons were real.  I would have screamed too.

International Horror Film Review: The Night Digger (dir by Alistair Reid)

The 1971 British film, The Night Digger, revolves around three people.

Maura Prince (Patricia Neal) lives in a dilapidated mansion out of London. She has never married and spends almost all of her time taking care of her blind mother, Edith (Pamela Brown). Edith goes out of her way to make sure that Maura will never have the courage to leave her and find happiness on her own. However, with the mansion falling apart around them, it’s becoming obvious that Maura cannot take care of the entire place on her own. That’s when a mysterious but handsome man named Billy Jarvis (Nichols Clay) rides up on his motorcycle and asks if the women need a handyman.

Billy has a dramatic story about his past, claiming that he lost almost everything that he owned as the result of a fire in a barn, one which also led to the death of his mother. Billy is charming and handsome and he ride a really impressive motorcycle and he looks good in a leather jacket.  He represents youth but he’s also the epitome of the rebel without a cause, the sensitive but inarticulate Marlon Brando of The Wild One or the biker played by Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels.  Some may look at him and only see a somewhat seedy character on a motorcycle but others look at him and see someone who is running from something and needs someone to take care of him.  They see the soul of poet within the body of a drifter, someone who needs to escape from his past and who can also provide a better future.  He’s the rebel without a cause, the one that everyone dreams about, even if some of those dreams are dreamt in secret.  Though one may have rode a bicycle and the other was knight of the round table, there is much Nicholas Clay’s future performance as Lancelot in John Boorman’s Excalibur to be found in his performance in The Night Digger.  Much like a groundkeeper in a D.H. Lawrence novel, he represents the secret and potentially dangerous earthy sensuality of Britain.

As a result, You certainly can not blame Maura for starting to fall in love with him. Nor can you blame Edith for wanting to have an athletic young man around as there have been stories about a madman who stalks the night, killing women. The Traveling Maniac, some have taken to calling him. Complicating the matter, though, is the fact that Billy just happens to be The Traveling Maniac. With Maura falling in love with him, will she discover the truth or will she become his next victim?

The Night Digger took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting much from this film when I watched it last year but it turned out to be rather clever and suspenseful thriller, one that told its story with a good combination of black humor and emotional honesty. Atmospherically directed by Alistair Reid and featuring a trio of excellent lead performances, The Night Digger was compelling compelling thriller, a gothic horror story with a great ending. This is definitely one to keep an eye out for!

10 Shots From 10 Horror Films: 1981 — 1983

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

Today, we take a look at 1981, 1982, and 1983!

10 Shots From 10 Horror Films: 1981 — 1983

The Funhouse (1981, dir by Tobe Hooper. DP: Andrew Laszlo)

The Beyond (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci, DP: Sergio Salvati)

The House By The Cemetery (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci, DP: Sergio Salvati)

The Evil Dead (1981, dir by Sam Raimi, DP: Tim Philo)

Creepshow (1982, dir by George Romero, written by Stephen King, DP: Michael Gornick)

Tenebrae (1982, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luciano Tovoli)

Poltergeist (1982, dir by Tobe Hooper, DP: Matthew F. Leonetti)

The Dead Zone (1983, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

Christine (1983, dir. John Carpenter, DP: Donald M. Morgan)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (dir by Tommy Lee Wallace, DP: Dean Cundey)