Today, we have a little indie film from 1980. This film was released under several names, including Monster. However, I prefer the title under which it has been included in several Mill Creek box sets: Monstroid: It Came From The Lake!
Monstroid tells the story of what happens when a monster emerges from a lake and starts killing people in Columbia. Superstitious villagers blame a local woman whom they believe to be a witch. Even though the town priest (and no horror fan should be surprised to discover that the priest is played by John Carradine) claims that he can exorcise the evil spirits that have possessed her, the villagers would rather burn her at the stake. Meanwhile, the local Big Evil Corporation has sent in Travis (James Mitchum) to take care of the monster!
And what a monster! Listen, there’s a lot of negative things that I could say about this low-budget film but the monster is simply adorable and must be seen by anyone who appreciates the rubber monsters that populated horror films in the days before CGI.
Plus, how can you resist a film that features not only Robert Mitchum’s son but John Carradine as well?
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.
So, the 2003 film, The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting, is a sequel to the original Hitcher. That’s the film where C. Thomas Howell plays a dumbass who picks up a hitchhiker played by Rutger Hauer and then kicks him out after a few miles because Hauer’s like totally insane. So, Hauer responds by murdering random people and framing Howell. The Hitcher‘s a pretty good film, largely because of the terrifying performance of Rutger Hauer as the title character.
The Hitcher came out in 1986. It got terrible reviews and didn’t do well at the box office but it found an audience when it was released on video. In fact, The Hitcher became a bit of a cult favorite, which is what it deserved to be. Then, 23 years later, a direct-to-video sequel was released and….
Seriously, this movie is so bad.
C. Thomas Howell returns, playing Jim, the same character that he played in the first movie. Jim is still haunted by what happened in the first movie. He’s a cop now but he fears that his encounter with the original Hitcher may have contributed to him using excessive force on a kidnapping suspect. Seeking some time away from the stress of it all, Jim decides to visit a friend in Texas. He and his girlfriend, Maggie (Kari Wuhrer) hit the road and, as they drive through the desert, they see a hitchhiker standing by the side of the road….
Now, I know what you’re saying. “Oh, come on!” you’re yelling. “There’s no way Jim would be make the same stupid decision twice!”
Well, you’re right. Jim doesn’t stop to pick the guy up. Instead, Maggie is the one who decides to pull over. Apparently, Jim has never bothered to tell Maggie about any of the terrible stuff that happened during the first film. Considering that Jim is apparently waking up constantly with nightmares and he’s on the verge of having a mental breakdown, you would think that all of this would be something that he would share with Maggie but no. Maggie is totally shocked when Jim later tells her that he had a bad experience picking up a hitchhiker.
Anyway, in this case, the hitchhiker is named Jack (Jake Busey) and …. wow, shock of shocks! He’s totally fucking crazy! That’s right — it’s happening again! So, Jack is chasing Jim and Maggie across the desert, murdering people and framing Jim and Maggie for the crimes. Does this sound familiar? Jim is eventually killed, giving C. Thomas Howell an excuse to never have to appear in another direct-to-video sequel. Can Maggie beat the new Hitcher at his own game?
Oh, who cares? This version of The Hitcher basically has none of the weird subtext of the first film. Unlike Rutger Hauer’s Hitcher, who seemed to be almost erotically obsessed with Jim, Jake Busey’s Hitcher doesn’t have much on his mind beyond killing people. If Rutger Hauer was all about quiet menace and charismatic intensity, Jake Busey is loud and in your face and so obviously crazy that it’s hard to have much sympathy for anyone stupid enough to pick him up.
The main problem with The Hitcher II is that it gets so damn repetitive. I lost count of the number of times that a cop showed up, refused to listen as Maggie shouted, “STOP! HE’S A KILLER,” and then got gunned down. Seriously, this film featured the stupidest cops that I’ve ever seen. The same thing keeps happening for 90 minutes or so, at which point we get a pithy one liner and then big explosion. And then the movie’s over!
It’s been an exhausting week so the list below may be a bit perfunctory. I apologize for that. Last week started with a tornado touching ground just two miles away from my house and it’s ending with me coming down with a cold as the temperatures plunge outside.
On tonight’s episode of One Step Beyond, Cloris Leachman plays Rita Wallace, an American photographer in France. She’s looking for a model whose face will serve as the ultimate symbol of the country. One day, a haunted-looking man (Marel Dalio) shows up at her apartment. She thinks he’s a model. The truth, needless to say, is something quite different….
This episode features good performances from both Leachman and Dalio. In real life, Dalio was an icon of French cinema and a favorite of Jean Renoir’s. When the Nazis invaded France, the Jewish Dalio fled Paris and, after a harrowing journey, eventually made it to America. In America, he played the croupier in Casablanca and appeared in several other films. Tragically, the rest of his family did not escape and were murdered by the Nazis. Dalio returned to France after the end of the war and remained an in-demand character actor for several more decades, making his final film appearance in 1980.
The Darkroom originally aired on February 10th, 1959.
Today’s horror on the lens is The Screaming Woman, a 1972 made-for-TV movie that’s based on a Ray Bradbury short story.
Olivia de Havilland plays Laura Wynant, who has just returned home from a stay at a mental institution. Soon after her arrival, Laura starts to hear a woman crying for help. Laura becomes convinced that the woman has been buried alive on her property but, because of her debilitating arthritis, she can’t dig the woman up on her own. And, because of her own mental history, no one believes her when she tries to tell them about what she’s hearing!
The Screaming Woman features screen legend Olivia De Havilland giving a sympathetic performance as Laura. It also features two other luminaries of the golden age of Hollywood — Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon — in supporting roles. It’s a good little thriller so watch and enjoy!
(And of course, I should mention that the great Olivia De Havilland is still with us, 103 years old and living in France.)
What if you’re not crazy? What if you’re finally seeing the truth that everyone else is too afraid to see? Is the revelation too much for your mind? Could your mind be both the doorway to hell and the gate keeping the evil old ones at bay? Most importantly, can a person’s mental illness infect another person? Stephen King’s “N” is a hybrid of Lovecraft and Modern Psychology where we are forced to learn the answers to these questions.
The story was both a novella and adapted as a comic book/olde-timey radio-show. Confused? Let me explain. N was first published as a novella, but instead of getting made into a comic book or as is typical of King’s work- a movie or miniseries, it became something else. Marc Guggenheim adapted the work as an all dialogue webseries similar to the serials of the 1930s and 40s and presented the story as a series of hyper-detailed comic illustrations. You can see it in its entirety below.
I have also read the novella several times. Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure why I like a particular Stephen King story more than another, but it seems to be when the characters are so real that they could be you or your neighbor. Yes, the monsters are spooky, but it’s the people, their story, their lives, who just happen to have to also deal with a monster or four.
The story begins with Sheila Bonsaint who is in mourning from her brother’s suicide. She is calling her friend who is reminiscent of Anderson Cooper to look into why her brother John killed himself. She believes it’s because of his contact with a patient named N. The story shifts to John’s perspective describing a patient N who suffers from extreme OCD. N believes his OCD rituals keep the portals between our world and the hell world closed.
N describes how he encountered a field with rocks similar to Stonehenge in Maine and that by viewing the structure, he caused the structure to activate and potentially release an ancient evil that will consume mankind. He begins to do OCD rituals to keep the portal closed, but realizes that he must sacrifice his life in order to shut the gate forever. Unfortunately, John becomes infected by N’s mental disorder and becomes overcome with the need to investigate the structure, which activates it again and causes him to spiral into the same OCD as N.
This story struck a very strong chord with me. Last year, I began to take a long road into facing my own PTSD experiences in the Army. When I would tell the medical professionals in the VA about what happened, one cried. My stories had infected them and left them different afterwards. The world was less clean, less safe, and much darker. Now, like N, if I have to tell a person the stories, I begin by saying that I am sorry because what I will tell you, will change you. I suppose that is what humanity does; we share our burdens and our curses. Maybe that’s how we keep the gate to hell closed?