Entries Tagged 'cuckoo nutso' ↓

Film Club: Spider Baby

You know what people love? People love Jack Hill's Spider Baby. It's got a certain something something that appeals to the monster kid in all of us (yes, I'm speaking for all of us). It's not just a movie one admires, hates, or feels decidedly "meh" about; no, Spider Baby (1968) is a movie you want to hug. What can I say? I do so love a family of homicidal cuckoo nutsos.

The cuckoo nutsos are the Merrye clan, consisting of siblings Ralph (Sid Haig), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), and Virginia (Jill Banner). The Merrye "kids" suffer from a genetic disorder that causes mental deterioration over the course of a lifetime. They're adults but they act like children; well, children who are into rape and murder and stuff. Their exaggerated innocence belies their violent tendencies- they'll smile sweetly one moment and stab you viciously the next. Those Merryes, they're so unpredictable!

Their chauffeur and guardian Bruno (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is well aware of their condition, how it's eventually going to render the siblings feral. He keeps them tucked away from society, up in the Merrye mansion on the hill. It's not unlike the Bates residence in Psycho; it would be a nice enough home in most circumstances, but here- untended and isolated- it simply looms menacingly over everything below. It's the kind of place that haunts neighborhood kids, the kind that makes them dare one another to go knock on the door. Adults know to stay away.

Unfortunately, deliverymen must do their jobs. When one (Mantan Moreland) comes a-knockin' and "Uncle Bruno" isn't home, the Merryes are left to their own devious devices. Virginia plays her "spider game" (it involves a lot of poking with knives) and ends up with one of the delivery man's ears to keep and call her own.

Distant relatives Peter (Quinn Redeker) and Emily (Carol Ohmart) show up at the Merrye manse with a lawyer in tow, hoping to prove the children mentally unstable and seize the family residence and money. It would certainly not be a difficult task for Peter and Emily to prove their case, but unfortunately Bruno loses control of the children. Overnight, events quickly spiral out of control and the Merryes' visitors end up traumatized and/or dead. Realizing that their isolated life on the hill is no longer a possibility, Bruno does what anyone would do: he blows 'em all up, ending the Merrye Syndrome once and for all. But is it really over? Mua ha ha.

So just what is it about Spider Baby that everyone loves so much? Perhaps it's that Spider Baby is a film that's truly the sum of its parts. It works as a gothic nightmare movie- from the cobwebs in the basement to the dead daddy kept upstairs to the feral relatives living below the basement to the idiot man-child lurking in the dumb waiter, Spider Baby is downright creepy at times. There's no denying its obvious influence on films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses, and even Hell Night. The loving family of killers who mind their own business until you intrude on their turf have become a horror movie staple (too much so, in fact: if I never see another modern "crazed cannibal family" movie again, I'll be happy), but in the late-60s they were still a frightening novelty.

Then there's the undercurrent of eroticism running through the film. As Emily, Carol Ohmart turns in a performance that screams "broad"- and believe me, I mean that in the best possible way. Maybe it's her hair, peroxided within an inch of its life, or maybe it's her random dance in black lingerie...whatever it is, Emily is all no-nonsense, worldly-wise sex appeal.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is young Virginia, the girl who emulates and consumes bugs, captivating her victims with both a sexuality that's more deliberate than she'd have you believe, and some good old-fashioned rope. Everybody who watches Spider Baby comes away from it in love with Virginia. Yes, I'm once again speaking for everybody.

Of course, you can't talk about this film without talking about the humor. Well, you can, but you'd be neglecting a large part of its charm. The opening credits, featuring a "Monster Mash"-style theme song sung by Chaney himself, clue us in that we're going to have fun with these kooky cannibals. And we do: they crack jokes and even bizarrely mug at the camera. It all works so well thanks to the performances. Everyone dives into his or her role with complete abandon and glee; the Merryes are hilariously over-the-top, while Chaney turns in a surprisingly heartfelt performance as their kindly, long-suffering caretaker. There's an Addams Family vibe to the entire affair, and in the end we're left to wonder who's more horrifying: the sadistic, murderous family on the hill, or their greedy, square, city-dwelling relatives.

This film lingered in limbo from 1964 (its production year) 'til it was finally released in 1968. By that time, black and white films were becoming a thing of the past, as if from an era that was quickly being left behind. Spider Baby withered on the vine (or web, or what have you), a flop during its initial run. As often happens, though, it was resurrected decades later and is now one of those "cult" movies the kids go on and on about these days. I'm going to speak for everybody one last time: Spider Baby is all sorts of awesome.
From Midnight, With Love
The Verdant Dude
Dark Romance
United Monkee
Less Than 3 Film
The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense
The Trunk that Dripped Blood
Hey! Look Behind You!
The Hallucenogenic Toreador
Acidemic Film
The Horror Section
emma blackwood
Kill Everybody in the Whole World
Eve Tushnet
Things That Don't Suck
In the Garden of the Death Orchid
Good Old Fashioned Nightmare Fuel
Pussy Goes Grrr
Catalogue of Curiosities

Day 27: “Nothing’s going to hurt you now.”

Wowee, what to luck to happen upon yet another film that begins with a gang rape! First it was Nail Gun Massacre, and now the 1973 Curtis Harrington film The Killing Kind; boy oh boy, I've practically got a theme week here. While Nail Gun Massacre veered off into sub-sub-sub-par slasher territory, however, The Killing Kind veers off into a Psycho-on-steroids kind of squidginess that's bound to leave you in need of a shower when all is said and done.

Terry (John Savage) was forced by his friends to partake in the gang rape of young Tina (Sue Bernard) under the boardwalk on that fateful day. It's questionable whether he could actually "perform", but regardless he ended up doing a 2-year term in the clink. Once he's out, he heads to the boarding house run by his mother Thelma (Ann Sothern) where he's treated to gallons of chocolate milk and sexually-tinged oppression.

Thelma's constant deriding of anyone else on the planet with a vagina (they're not good enough for Terry, they're all whores, blah blah blah) coupled with "affection" that's a bit too...affectionate for a mother and son have clearly rendered Terry with a muddled idea of sexuality.

He's plagued by visions of Tina under the boardwalk, and anytime he's confronted by a woman- whether a magazine photo staring back at him as he tries to masturbate or a repressed, older neighbor coming on to him, Terry flips out and loses control. Before too long, he takes revenge on those who put him behind bars, including his defense lawyer as well as Tina herself.

Terry's homicidal ways begin to worm their way into his home life once Lori (Cindy Williams) moves into mom's boarding house. Events escalate until there's a dead Shirley Feeney-to-be in the bathtub, and Thelma must finally face up to the fact that her beloved son is a certifiable cuckoo nutso.

The Killing Kind features the most inappropriate familial relationship I've had the "pleasure" of watching since I popped in Night Warning some time back. While the Terry - Thelma dynamic is going to send you running for your toothbrush the moment the credits start rolling, it's thanks to veterans Savage and Sothern that their relationship isn't just a sideshow. Each actor gives a performance hinting at the pain and loneliness that are part and parcel of what results in such antisocial behavior. It's almost impossible to like either one of them, but they're also hard to hate.

All in all, it's an expectedly solid effort from the underappreciated Curtis Harrington. The Killing Kind has the feel of an especially lurid TV movie- and that's certainly not a bad thing.

Day 7: “I call it ‘the sucker'”

I've let it be known far and wide for a long, long time: I loves me some anthology movies. Just a couple of days ago, I introduced some friends to Creepshow- yes, horror movie fans who've never seen it. It's just. So. Good. I manage to appreciate it more and more as the years wear on, and I can't imagine there'll be a day when I don't love Creepshow. Even if "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" finally wears on my nerves (if any segment is ever going to, it's gonna be that one), I'll just have to watch 30 seconds of Adrienne Barbeau as Wilma Billie in "The Crate" to fall in love with the movie all over again. After all, she knows all the best stores.

Folks, can't I talk about Creepshow today instead of the movie I watched to fulfill my SHOCKTOBER obligation? Wouldn't you rather I go on about Creepshow rather than Creeptales? No? Well, damn you! Damn you all to hell I say! Siiiiigh...fine.

Yes, I said Creeptales. Surprisingly, it's also an anthology movie. It's available in the same multi-pack as Slash Dance and Knight Chills...and if you've read my reviews of those movies, then you can surmise that Creeptales pretty much stinks. But does it stink in a delightful fashion? That's the real question here.

The wraparound story is one of the most irritating I've ever witnessed: some doofus hunchback ghoul-types set about trying to find a copy of Creeptales, but unfortunately for them the video store is closed. Then they remember that their Uncle Munger was buried with a copy, so they dig it up, then invite all their doofus monster friends over to watch it.

I know- it doesn't sound so bad...a little corny-cute, even. But it dragged on for so long and was so full of irritating doofus chatter, I almost couldn't take it. My finger was even on the STOP button, but then at last the first segment began...in hindsight, I wish I'd pressed the button.

Story #1: Warped

Elizabeth goes to stay with her much-older cousin Viola and crippled Aunt after a lengthy hospital stay. Viola has a secret: after she was raped by Elizabeth's father (yes, her own brother) she gave birth to a still born baby, and later went a bit cuckoo nutso. She kills a nosy cop and Elizabeth, then cradles her skelebaby. See? Cuckoo nutso. The end.

It did, however, feature this line, which I'm going to use with regularity whenever anyone starts bitchng at me: "You're making my gallbladder act up!"

Story #2: Snatcher

A purse snatcher steals the handbag of a "helpless old lady"...but it turns out that the purse is a monster, and it eats him. Brief and sort of cute, but mostly notable because the snatcher is played by Tom "SpongeBob" Kenny.

Story #3: The Closet

A little boy is afraid of the monster in his closet. His older brother tries to convince him that there's nothing in the closet, but the monster is real and it attacks the older brother...the end. It took me longer to type this than it took the segment to play out.

Story #4: Groovie Ghoulie Garage

Two guys are on their way pick up the sister of one of them, when their car breaks down in Tower Springs. Everyone is a little weird, but nice enough- they invite the boys to a Halloween party, blah blah blah. Their car gets fixed and they split, but on the way out of town they pass a sign informing them that everyone in Tower Springs died due to a horrible chemical spill in 1969. Egahhhhhh!

Though this segment was fairly pointless, the garb of the two guys (as seen above) made me a bit nostalgic for my junior high days. You know, being "punk" but not at all punk, and wearing lots of buttons on a tweed trench coat. Also, when they got in their car, one of them said "Come on, let's rap some more!" and then they rapped...and I don't mean they talked. I mean they rapped.

Story #5: Howling Nightmare

A bunch of hunters are chasing what one assumes is a werewolf- finally, one of them shoots it with a silver bullet, killing it...but it was all a dream! A man wakes up from this nightmare, all sweaty, and he promptly begins turning into a werewolf. The hunters show up and kill him before the transformation is complete.


Story #6: Sucker

"Sucker" began with this shot...

...and so I thought I was in for a a music video from the long-lost love child of Bonnie Tyler, Stevie Nicks, and Stockard Channing...but no, it was just a dream wherein a woman shoots her husband with a bow and arrow.

She's awakened by a ringing doorbell, and we see that the woman is not all flowy and ethereal like her dream-persona; actually, she's a big slob. The man at the door is a traveling salesman who gives her a magic dustbuster that she can use for one day to rid her life of all the filth, which she blames on her husband. The only caveat is that she can't point the vacuum at people, and she can't use it for more than 30 seconds at a time, lest there be eeeevil consequences. In the course of cleaning her entire house, however...well, I guess she uses it longer-than-30-second intervals or something, because all of a sudden she's gained 500 pounds. By the time her husband (who's not at all the jerk she's made him out to be, by the way) gets home, she looks like this:

Then she sucks herself into the magic dustbuster, the end.

"Sucker" was probably the strongest of the bunch- the best of the worst- and it felt like it probably could have been an episode of Tales from the Darkside when the show was hobbling along on its last leg. That should give you a clue about this whole affair; I realize I've skimped on the descriptions, but there wasn't much to describe in any of these. Creeptales is a low-budget anthology flick, and the stories are middle of the road at best. The framing narrative was excruciating, and when the film cut back to it between segments, I hit fast forward.

The late Forrest Ackerman was listed as a "Creative Consultant", but I have no idea what that means. As anthologies go, this isn't enjoyably bad like, say, House of the Dead, and it certainly can't hold a candle to Creepshow or the Amicus efforts.

There, now I've written about it, so leave me alone...you're making my gallbladder act up!

Alright, but can I go with someone else?

Oh. My. Crapping. Crap.

Once upon a recent time I bought a copy of the most perverse, most bestest Bigfoot movie ever, Night of the Demon, via yon Internette. The seller was so effing amazing that he/she/it included a free bonus DVD- the 1981 slasher Don't Go in the Woods...Alone!. Well, my friends, I watched that bonus DVD tonight and...again I say, oh my crapping crap. I think I'm in love.

Right away I had an inkling that I was gonna be in for a treat, as the film proclaimed itself "Spectacular Entertainment".

I don't want to keep you in suspense: they weren't lying.

As best as I could discern, the plot goes something like this: some tools go camping for some reason, a bunch of random people wander around the woods, most of them die, and then the killer gets killed. It sounds totally by the numbers, right? Well, fret not, friendos, for the true delights of Don't Go in the Woods are in the deets*.

Not only is DGitW entirely dubbed, it also boasts the worst acting in the history of ever. EVARRRR. I'm not kidding. Here's a simple math equation to help you grasp the depths of awfulness acheived: think of the worst acting you've ever seen in a movie. Now take out your science calculator and multiply that bad acting by a million. The result will still only be roughly two-thirds as atrocious as what you'll witness in DGitW. These actors defy all logic; I understand that acting is indeed an art and not everyone will excel at said art, but...it was as if these people had never spoken before. At all. Their inflections were off, they were stressing the wrong words, repeating words over and over...it's truly SPECTACULAR ENTERTAINMENT.

"Do you know? At this verrrrminnit. I am missing. As the World TURNS?"

"How do you tell. The rabid from the. UNRABID?"

Don't Go in the Woods is populated with countless random characters, most of whom don't have any lines, never mind a name or a reason for existing. Take, for example, this woman, who is hiking in the woods with her photographer son/friend/weirdo person, who is there to shoot photos of a train.

A train which makes a stop.

In the woods.

We don't see the train, but we hear a train whistle, so I'm sure it was really there.


Or this broad, who doesn't say a word but is clearly cooler than you or I will ever be.

See, she's out in the woods a-paintin'. Mind you, she's not exactly painting what she sees, but who am I to judge? Art is feeling, man, and it ain't safe.

Like most other hikers, Coolie Painter falls victim to...something. Or someone. Up until this point, the stalking sequences progressed like this:
  1. There is no ambient noise, but a character says "What was that??" and looks off-screen.
  2. Cut to a shot of a moving tree branch, while the character says "Aah!"
  3. Cut to a shot of the character, bloody and dead.
What was killing these poor nameless fools? Was it the branches themselves? Was it a bear? Suicide? The first real clue flashed before my eyeballs during Coolie Painter's death: as best as I could figure, it was a knife-wielding Sasquatch who was responsible for all the murdering!

I figured wrong. Much later, after many a sequence wherein we follow people walking through the woods and they're suddenly killed by something just out of frame, the culprit is revealed: it's a wackadoo mountain man, apparently the offspring of Captains Caveman and Lou Albano! He's a right filthy kookadook with a penchant for wearing Mardi Gras beads on his face and poking people- poking them TO DEATH- with sticks.

The music is as horrendous as the acting, a thunking and constantly repeating Casio soundtrack featuring swells that build to nothing and stings present for no reason. The less said about the end credits music (set to the tune of "The Teddy Bears Picnic", featuring lyrics such as "Don't go into the woods tonight, you probably will be killed..."), the better.

Were the last twenty minutes of Don't Go in the Woods...Alone! not so damn padded- and they really were- I'd probably be proclaiming this film to be the love of my life. It's gloriously, uproariously inept filmmaking at its finest...in other words, it's SPECTACULAR ENTERTAINMENT.

As further proof of my assertions, I'd like to provide you with some screencaps from the sequence where the cuckoo nutso cave dude decapitates the wheelchair-bound hiker, but my computer has had enough of this shitty movie and freezes up when I try to play it. My computer has such high standards, you see.

YES I SAID A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND HIKER. He made the mistake of wheeling into the woods...alone!

*That's young folk talk for "details"...once again, I strive to prove my youthful vigor, my "with it-ness", and my relevance.

Film Club: The Car

"We've got a crazy on our hands."

Why yes, officer...yes you do. Honk...honkhonkhonnnnnnnnnnk! That sound can only mean one thing- it's...THE CAR! What does it want? Why does it kill? Will it ever stop? Who's driving it? Who's Johnny? You'd might as well relax right now, Asky McGee, because none of your questions will be answered. All you need to know is that AutoJaws hates you and will run your ass over faster than you can yell "Cat poo!"

Don't worry, I'll explain that in a minute.

This 1977 awesome-piece of cinema opens with an All American-looking couple (the female half of which is Melody Thomas, who you may know as Melody Thomas Scott of television's The Young & the Restless- dazzle your friends with trivia!) giggling as they ride the roads of New Mexico in their short shorts. What could go wrong on such a beautiful blue day? Plenty, that's what, for here comes...The Car!

Director Elliot Silverstein only shows us fleeting images of the car- mostly he keeps it hidden or utilizes evil red car vision cam as it hurtles through Looney Toons-style tunnels towards the unsuspecting bikers. He treats the car like it's a monster and sets up some Friday the 13th style tension, which is the last thing I'd expect in a movie about a killer car.

The car wastes no time taking down the bikers by knocking them off bridges and cliffs, then speeding away with a puff of exhaust in search of more victims- at this point, I believe I turned to my friends and solemnly stated, "This has the potential to be the best movie ever made." Then the next five minutes happened, and I was no longer sure what to think.

Wade Parent (James Brolin) and his girl toy Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) flirt and wrestle and engage in weird accents and nut play and I suppose we're supposed to find it charming or something, but my thoughts only turned to "I can't fucking wait until Lauren gets run over." Wade heads off to his job at the police department, Lauren heads off to her job doing something that I hope will put her immediately in the path of an oncoming car, and we head off to an even weirder five minutes.

Some French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude is ostensibly hitchhiking when he breaks up a domestic violence situation. I applaud the French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude for helping out the abused wife, but then he has to go and be all annoying, almost more annoying than the wife beater. Once the French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude quips "Wouldn't that be fantastic? Farting music for a year!", I get the feeling that he spends a lot of time in the exclusive company of his French Horn...and I get pretty excited when I see the plume of dust down the road. The plume gets bigger- 'tis the car, natch, on a mission to run over the annoying French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude! This car is all right by me, even if I happen to agree with French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude's views on farting music.

The police force (which is fucking huge considering that the town only has one street) is baffled by all the dead bodies. Witnesses, including the wife beater and some old Indian broad, say all sorts of crazy things- the car has no license plate! The car has...honk honkhonkhonnnnnnnk...no driver! No matter, though- like all good animal attack movies (see: Jaws, The Swarm), the townsfolk in The Car refuse to cancel the...the...parade festival or whatever the hell it is just because some cuckoo nutso guy is on the loose mowing people down in his sedan.

Boy, will they rue that decision! At a parade festival rehearsal, a positively unearthly wind heralds the arrival of THE CAR, which tries to run over young and old alike.

The group takes refuge in a cemetery and stupid Lauren tries to act all tough. She starts taunting the car, calling it an "upside-down bathtub" and spouting other equally scathing put-downs. Again I think, "I can't fucking wait until Lauren gets run over", but the car can't seem to do anything but get mad and do donuts- the cemetery, you see, is hallowed ground, and the eeeeevil sedan cannot enter!

I'll tell you who can enter the graveyard, however- the most awesome lady I've seen in a movie since the Poole sisters, that's who! In a moment of pure cinematic glory, this woman shakes her fist at the car and yells...well, it sounds like "Cat poo!", although I've been told that in subtitles it's said she exclaims "Tadpole!" Neither makes much sense, and so I'm sticking with "cat poo". I love this woman- and when I get older, you can bet your ass that I'll be busting out some flip-top glasses and standing at bus stops, shaking my fists at people and calling them cat poo. Hitch your wagon to a star, I say!

The police continue to be baffled, although they're at least attempting to catch the car by setting up roadblocks and the such. James Brolin manages a face off, but soon discovers that bullets do no damage to the satanmobile. Windshields remain intact, tires remain inflated, and the car remains mysterious and evil. James Brolin approaches the driver's side, and the door suddenly opens and whacks him unconscious. Why the car doesn't run him over and finish the job, I have no idea. Another mystery of life, I suppose.

James Brolin wakes up in the hospital, and there he remains as Lauren heads home before spending the night taking care of his young daughters (played by Kyle and Kim Richards of Halloween and Escape to Witch Mountain respectively- how rad is that?). She stands in the kitchen whining to James Brolin- she can hear the engine of that damn car!- when finally- FINALLY- she gets taught a lesson about sassin' the devil's sedan. The car drives through the house to run that bitch over, and I believe I let out a cheer.

James Brolin, of course, does not cheer...and now, his battle with the car is personal. He comes home and finds the car in his garage, just sitting there. Eyaagh! The scene is absolutely reminiscent of vampire movies like 'Salem's Lot, when our intrepid heroes come across the eeeevil bloodsuckers slumbering in their coffins. Everything gets all tense, and we're just waiting for the bad guy to spring to life- and The Car doesn't disappoint...mostly.

Again, rather than simply running over James Brolin, the car just sits there, honking and revving its engine; apparently it either wants to kill him slowly via carbon monoxide poisoning, or it wants to annoy him to death with noise. Just as I was getting ready to shake my fist and yell "Cat poo!" "Enough with the fucking horn already!", the car busts out of the garage and speeds off.

The police have gotten their shit together and they've come up with a plan to lure the car into a canyon and explode it with explosives; after much car versus motorcycle chase action and men running with wires running action, their plan comes to fruition. There's a massive explosion and eeeevil devil faces appear in the fire as...I guess as the eeeevil devil spirits are released from the car!

One thing's for sure, though, the scene features overacting of a caliber I haven't seen since Silent Film Zombie! Awesome. Except, that is, for the dude on the upper left, who looks a bit bored with the devil fire clouds.

The Car ends rather ambiguously as we see tires barreling through city streets and hear the ominous honk...honkhonkhonnnnnk. Did the car survive? Does the devil have a massive fleet of evil sedans, a la Elvis and his Cadillacs? Isn't it funny when the devil has cars and dogs doing his bidding? It seems as if he's taking the really hard approach to world domination.

But no matter! The Car is awesome, surely the finest film of its kind. My only wish- and it makes me feel a bit funny to say it- is that there was more explicit carnage. I really wanted to see Lauren and Leo Sayer get run over but good.


Film Club Coolies, y'all!

The Blood Spattered Scribe
The Good, the Bad, and the Wonky
Awesomeness for Awesome's Sake
Dinner With Max Jenke
Evil on Two Legs
That Will Teach Them To Be Bad
The Horror Section
Film Experience
Acheter et entretenir sa tronconneuse (c'est French ca!)
Zombie Cupcake
Monstruos Calientes
Askewed Views
Overthinking It
House of 1000 Courses
Lazy Eye Theatre