Saturday, February 27, 2010

In The Helicopter Bay 2-27-10

Just a few quick notes today while the helicopter gets some tuning-up and I take a break from looking for a misplaced wrench:

--With all that happens when you get a large group of people with a common interest together - the good and the sometimes not-so-good - it's always refreshing when someone does something for the right reasons. Carl over at I Like Horror Movies created a nice, respectful environment for horror bloggers of all stripes over at the online equivalent of a comfortable tavern (surrounded by all our favorite monsters, of course): The Horror Blogger Alliance. It's a fantastic place for some healthy debate, rightful bragging about our sites, news, reviews, and all-around friendliness. Go take a peek and if you're got a horror blog, take the time to join and get to know your peers.

--And check out the new official poster for George A. Romero's newest installment of his "...Of The Dead" series, Survival of the Dead. The undead will be unleashed on multiple platforms on April 30th, when it hits VOD, Amazon, Xbox Live, and Playstation. The final assault will take place in theaters on May 28th. For more information, check out the official website at Magnet Releasing.

--Next week, Thursday to be exact, marks the one-year anniversary of The WGON Helicopter. I plan on writing a little note about it, and it has been a fun ride so far. I hope Year Two will be even more of a good time.

--I haven't yet seen the remake of The Crazies, but I did do an extensive write-up on it last year, so please enjoy it here, maybe compare it to the new one. Once I see the remake, I'll say a little something about it.

That's about it for now. If I don't say it enough, I'll say it again: thank you all for reading!

Now, back to trying to find that wrench...

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jeremiah Kipp's Contact (2009) Drugs Can Be Somewhat Bad

So you want a quick, intense high? You think maybe that weird guy in the abandoned building isn’t really all that creepy and his “product” will give you just what you need? You’re thinking maybe doing the mysterious drug with your lover will bring you closer together?

Watch Jeremiah Kipp’s short film Contact and think again.

The film begins with an older couple solemnly setting a table. They’re exacting in how they perform this action, and I have to tell you, meticulous people sometimes make me nervous. Filmed in moody black-and-white, the lack of dialogue and nervously sad expressions on the pair added to the tense atmsophere. We’re then introduced to a young couple in love, played with real chemistry by Zoe Daelman Chlanda and Robb Leigh Davis. They buy a mysterious, unnamed hallucinogen from a strange drug dealer who has the only real clearly-spoken dialogue in the entire short. From there, the young couple descends into a trip that begins with an erotic atmosphere, but quickly turns disturbing and hellish enough to make David Cronenberg say "whoa."

It’s an effective anti-drug piece that presents you with some questions to ask yourself after viewing, ways in which the story could go according to your perception of the film. Personally, I like to be challenged in that way, to allow my own fevered brain to come up with answers as to what came before, what the drug could be, why it affected them the way it did, and why the story was bookended with the older couple. At the center of it all was this couple who seemed innocent and curious in their own way, and how this strange drug changed everything about them. Maybe it only changed them, as people and only physically. Maybe there’s something deeper, more – dare I say – supernatural about what happens. All I know is this: I’m not taking that drug.

Kipp’s direction leads your eyes to where they should be and it never felt disjointed. The calm portions were calm with a sense of foreboding and danger, and the drug-fevered sections were appropriately chaotic. Cult film figure and producer Alan Rowe Kelly has a memorable turn as the drug dealer, portraying him with sinister androgyny. Both Chlanda and Davis work well together onscreen, but I was especially struck by Chlanda’s performance – her terror, affection, and curiosity were conveyed stunningly through her eyes. With no dialogue, those eyes had to show everything. And show they did.

I asked Kipp a few quick questions about Contact and here’s what he said:

Regarding what inspired the subject matter: “A dozen filmmakers were asked to contribute to a Halloween film festival in downtown New York entitled Sinister Six -- and my contribution was Contact. A few years ago, I made a film about an underground drug entitled The Pod, but wanted to push the material further. I wanted something graphic, iconic, where each scene relied on visual elements to create tension, and my starting point was a body horror image of faces melted together. But I was also inspired by the rehearsal process involving my lead actress Zoe Daelman Chlanda. She has a unique charisma I wanted to tap into; I wondered what would happen if I used her as an iconic presence in the movie, immersing her in a nightmare world of romance and mystery."

Regarding the thought of a feature film along the same lines: “Perhaps, but I have other feature length narratives I would like to share that are closer to the front burner, such as a monster movie that I'm very keen on putting together. I would love to revisit the material of The Pod and Contact again, but to make it even more abstract, visually provocative and only 60 seconds long, in hyper-saturated colors with distorted images and a camera that is non-stop in its relentlessness.”

Regarding if we’ll see more from these characters: “I think artists wind up repeating the same stories over and over and over again. The character Zoe plays in Contact is not too far removed from the curious 10-year-old boy who was the hero of a movie I made a few years ago called The Christmas Party, where a child is dropped off at a holiday party run by Christians, and he finds himself within a conversion process that is both enlightening and brutal and mysterious. I'd like to believe we have not seen the last of these characters, since the actor playing Zoe's boyfriend (Robb Leigh Davis) said that after the movie is over, he will never stop searching for her. Maybe someday he will find her.”

A big thank-you to Jeremiah Kipp for taking the time to answer! You can view Contact at this link and watch, judge, and interpret for yourself.

And remember, fellow survivors, getting high during a zombie apocalypse might be fun in the short run, but one bad trip can make you a delicious entrée.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

5 Things That Give Me The Rage

I'm not bragging when I say I'm an easy-going guy. I laugh a lot and I like to make others laugh or feel at ease. I like puppies and cotton candy and sunny days at the beach.

But there are certain things that can set me off on even my most serene days. Then, it's like I'm an extra in 28 Days Later: my vision goes red, I spout off obscenities in multiple languages, and I twitch like a jonesing junkie. What follows is a list of five particular things that stir something stupidly primal in me, some instant and some a slower burn, but all with the same result: Me. Pissed. Brimming with The Rage.

1. Tailgaters

When I'm driving, it's like an office away from the office. I do a lot of thinking, talking to myself, and singing when I'm on the road. I like it to be relaxing. I'm trying to get from point A to point B safely and quickly. I look in my rearview mirror and all I see is bug-encrusted grill. Worse, headlights piercing my eyes like two vengeful suns. It's the dreaded tailgater - someone so "entitled" to the highway world that other cars just appear as hazy blobs to them. They're just things to intimidate or dominate. Maybe their car is bigger, or maybe it's more expensive. I don't care. I'm not easily intimidated, but I am easily angered by the folly of the tailgater. It's arrogance personified, and that's what sets me off.

I have my own solutions to tailgaters. The usual is to jack the brakes a little, get them to back off. Most of the time, that works. Another favorite is to start throwing papers and random objects around in my car while I argue with an invisible person...or at least appear to. I might be singing along to the CD, but my physical actions are those of a nutjob. The piece of work in the car behind me doesn't know, and hey, there is a success rate with it.

2. Stuck-up people

I know. They're everywhere. They're made fun of in movies, they haunted our childhoods, they aggravate us on a daily basis. But they really are everywhere. Some time in their lives, they got the idea that they were better than others. Maybe they want to be better than others - popular, if you will - so they associate only with those they think will elevate them to that point of "I'm better than you." Maybe they were conditioned that way through their family life. Money, status, material wealth, upbringing, college choice...all things that contribute. Maybe they've been given so many accolades, they forget where they started. To psychoanalyze the stuck-up person would take weeks, and frankly, I'd rather just headbutt them. Remember, stuck-up people (who probably aren't reading this anyway): you meet the same people going down the ladder you met going up.

3. Hitting my head unexpectedly

Actually, I have a really high threshold to pain. I feel it, but I grew up with the "tough it out" mentality. My brother and I were rough-and-tumble as kids. I've been hit by baseballs in the face. I started tae kwon do when I was eight, so I have experienced being kicked in the junk. But those are somewhat expected. You sort of see them coming.

Now let's say I'm hunched over a desk, trying to reach for a pen or stapler, whatever. I straighten back up, forgetting there's the corner of a bookshelf right above my head. That sharp corner stabs bluntly into my skull and I instantly feel the anger boiling so quickly, it makes me glad I wasn't irradiated with gamma rays. I would be The Hulk so fast, the property damage would be astounding. This is usually the incident in which I can actually create a new language consisting entirely of obscenities, screamed through clenched teeth.

4. Being talked down to

Look, I have an education. Two degrees, one in English-Creative Writing and one in Elementary Education. I've had my share of life experiences, and there's no way I'm done yet. I've been around the block a few times.

That said, I can feel my blood heat up when someone lectures me. It's barely okay for my own parents to do it, but a total stranger? Someone who doesn't know me? "Well, you really need to..." That's one way it starts. I know this is similar to the stuck-up entry earlier on the list, but there are differences. There's a smugness that goes along with someone trying to force their political, religious, moral, or everyday agendas on me that really makes me feel like doing this to them:

And I'll wear that costume if I have to.

5. Movie talkers who think they're auditioning for a trivia show

Movies, specifically horror movies, are what brought me into the horror blogging world, and they are what bring the others in the horror blogosphere together. So, I know this might speak to many of you who do blog about film. Sometimes seeing a movie in a crowded theater can be fun. But like many, I like cathedral silence when I'm watching a film, especially one that I've been dying to see or requires a good bit of attention.

I can't stand when people don't have a whisper switch. It's not that hard, people. Just breathe the words. But there's one breed of talkers that get me feeling all stabby. They're the ones that know they're talking loud, and not only don't care, but think they're the most clever person to set foot inside the place. They loudly proclaim trivia about the movie, the actor, the director, the craft services, whatever nugget they read on IMDB. They add their little opinions or remarks as if there's a trivia show casting agent in the theater with them. Or, in a worse affront to me, they're acting as if they're on "Mystery Science Theater 3000." That's my favorite American comedy, numbnuts, don't sully the memory of that fine show by thinking you have the grace of that cast.

Well, there you go, my dear friends. Just thinking about those things is making me seethe, so to balance out this list, I give you this, a picture of a baby rhino running:

Until next time, remember that one good thing about the zombie apocalypse is no more tailgaters and money doesn't mean a thing.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Carriers (2009) *cough* Uh-Oh

Oh, just the perfect movie to watch when you have a sore throat. A cough comes along and you think, "aw, hell..."

Carriers is a fine little film that sported one of 2009's breakout stars in Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk in Star Trek) and a familiar face that makes me sigh, Piper Perabo (witness my sighs in my review of The Cave), and it's directed by brothers Alex and David Pastor. Most people who know me know that I - for some macabre reason - loves me my infection horror. The antagonist is usually an unseen enemy - microbe or virus - that turns regular folk into antagonists themselves. That's what lies at the heart of Carriers: the notion that paranoia and mistrust elevate to insane levels when the instinct for survival meets a superflu epidemic.

When the film begins, the country, and possibly the world, is deep in the throes of some kind of virulent superflu. We're introduced to four college-age kids tooling along the back roads of the near-southwest: brash Brian (Pine), his girlfriend Bobby (Perabo), Brian's brother Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci), and Danny's friend Kate (Emily Van Camp of "Brothers And Sisters"). They're on their way to Turtle Beach on the west coast, specifically a place where Brian and Danny spent their summers. As evident in the choppy home movie clips that start the film, it's place that holds a special place in their hearts. There, they plan to wait out the epidemic.

The back roads are smooth until they come across a desperate father, Frank (Christopher Meloni) and his sick daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on "Mad Men"). Frank just wants some gas to get his daughter to a school in a nearby town where it's rumored a cure has been found. Brian doesn't trust him, citing his "survival rules," and tries to gun it past him, only to smash up the oil pan. Hanging their surgically-masked heads in shame, the quartet is forced to march back to Frank and Jodie to ask for their help. A compromise is reached by sealing off the very back of the SUV with plastic, keeping Jodie's sickness contained.

They reach the school and discover to their horror that no cure has been found. The serum staved off the sickness for three days, but that was about it. The doctor (Mark Moses, Duck on "Mad Men") is providing euthanasia punch to the children there, saying one of the heaviest lines of dialogue in the movie: "Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful death." Despite Frank's pleas, the doctor slowly goes about his grim duty.

Meanwhile, outside in the SUV, Bobby has been babysitting the weak Jodie. When Jodie begins choking, Bobby goes against the rules and opens the plastic to help her. Good motive, bad move. Jodie coughs a spatter of blood into Bobby's face and the realization is instant. The look on Bobby's face tells it all: infected. Her basic survival instinct kicking in, Bobby tries to cover it up, hiding all evidence of what just happened.

In one of the saddest scenes of the movie, I thought, a defeated Frank escorts his daughter to a bathroom, knowing full well that they will be left behind by the others. He expects it and even accepts it. He engages Jodie in a rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" as the others leave them to their fate.

Trying to find a place to sleep and maybe relax, the four find a golf resort and, after a close call with a haz-mat-suited corpse in the pool, decide to have a little fun on the course. Smashing windows with long drives, it's revealed to the viewer that the resort is already spoken for, as one of the rooms is prepped for paranoid living. Could this just be the room of the corpse in the pool? Not if the radio calling for him is any indication. Outside, Bobby remains distant, but panics when Brian forces a kiss on her.

And now a picture of Piper Perabo, because I said so.

Mr. Pool Corpse's buddies return and track down the four, and there's a standoff. Tensions flare when one of the survivalists tells the girls to strip and that they're staying while they'll let the guys leave. Kind of like in 28 Days Later, this isn't looking good. Suddenly, everyone panics. Bobby, her shirt off now, shows signs of infection with rashes and bruises on her left side. The survivalists demand they all leave now, so the quartet hurries into the SUV and they're gone.

It's not a happy escape, though, as you might guess. No one wants to talk about the fart in the car, so to speak. Hell, they're even hanging their heads out the window. At an abandoned gas station, the situation is finally addressed. Danny and Kate talk about it, but Brian is the one who goes through with it, pulling Bobby from the vehicle and leaving her behind. The sight of Bobby weeping hysterically in the middle of the road as she shrinks from view is utterly heartbreaking.

The whole experience sets Brian off the deep end. He's withdrawn and morose, and really, who can blame him? But he really takes the crazy cake when he cuts off another survivor's car, practically causing an accident. Danny tries the peaceful route, pleading with them to help him "and his pregnant wife." Brian coldly shoots the driver and engages the passenger in a short gun battle, killing her after being wounded in the leg. Remember, dear readers: no hospitals.

Stopping at a boarded-up farmhouse, Danny slips inside for medical supplies and is greeted by two corpses, one of which is being dined upon by the family German shepherd. Danny is forced to kill the dog when it lunges for him, but he manages to pick up some pain pills for Brian. When he asks Brian to see the wound so he can assess the damage, the real damage is evident: Brian is infected. Rashes run up and down his legs.

Later, during a rest stop, Kate convinces Danny that they should leave the delirious and dying Brian behind. Brian isn't going down without a fight, though. He reveals he has been doing all the dirty work - starting with abandoning the sick parents Danny thought were already dead. And now, he holds the keys - literally - to Danny and Kate's escape. His sad duty finally clear, Danny shoots and kills his own brother.

Danny and Kate silently drive the rest of the way to Turtle Beach, but it's not a cheery drive full of show tunes and games of Punch Bug. The beach hotel that held so many memories and symbolized hope is now just an old motel, abandoned by the disease. You'd think maybe Danny and Kate would grow closer, but there's no indication of this. In fact, Danny muses on facing his future "truly alone," as we're treated to old home movies of he and Brian during happier times.

It's a well-acted, grim movie, the darker mirror image of the same year's comedic apocalypse film Zombieland. There's traveling and a set of rules to live by, but there aren't any laughs in Carriers. It's the dark side of what we are, animals just trying to survive. Look at the German shepherd in the movie. Probably a devoted pet at one time, but forced by hunger and desperation to feed on its own owner, lying long dead in the bed. So that begs the big question:

What would you do to survive?

Seriously, what would you do? Would you be peaceful negotiator or violent taker? Would you be loyal to your friends, or would you drop them in a second to save yourself? What would you really do?

Therein lies the real mystery. And the real horror.

But remember, my dear fellow survivors, there's always a party in my shelter...just don't get so drunk you wander outside the gate. You know what's out there.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead (1980) Dunwich Seems Like A Happenin' Town

After watching The Beyond, I fell into a Lucio Fulci kind of mood, so I moved City Of The Living Dead up on the ol' Netflix queue. I expected gore, surreal imagery, and bleakness. Yes, yes, and yes. Fulci never disappoints in that. While I didn't enjoy it as much as The Beyond, it was still a trippy, blood-and-guts-filled ride. Fulci crafted dark, forboding horror films that were part David Lynch, part Herschell Gordon Lewis. The plots aren't hard to follow, no matter how non-linear he gets with them, but they are filled with images and events that cause me to say "What the what?" And sometimes, I like being a little puzzled.

City of the Living Dead was part of a loose trilogy of movies (along with The Beyond and The House By The Cemetery) that dealt with supernatural death and the gates of Hell being manifested on Earth. Where The Beyond featured the gate in one house, City of the Living Dead is just that: a city. Or town, really, as in the town of Dunwich.

Do NOT steal from his collection plate.

The prologue sets up by introducing the wonderfully creepy (if not slightly derivative) music of Fabio Frizzi. I'm really going to have to find some of his soundtracks - I absolutely enjoy the atmospheric, John Carpenter-meets-Goblin of his music. We're privy to a seance at the beginning, where a few psychics, including Mary (Catronia MacColl), have visions of a morose priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) methodically hanging himself. Mary goes into screaming fits and apparently dies of fright. At the graveyard, she suddenly awakens inside the coffin and engages in the appropriate response: blood-curdling screams and frantic pounding. Lucky for her, newspaper reporter Peter (Christopher George) hears her and uses a pick axe to open up the casket.

Once she's calmed down and recovered a little, Mary explains that something horrible is happening in a small town named Dunwich. The Night of the Dead is coming on All Saint's Day, and the gates of Hell that have been opened by the priest's suicide, and that will lead to the dead rising from their graves possessing demonic powers.

And some towns just have a fair.

Back in Dunwich, the townsfolk are noticing some strange things. Bob, the local ne'er-do-well who's mostly harmless, discovers the rotting corpse of an infant in an old house, just as he was about to deflower a random blow-up doll. I'm not joking. Three local yokels are spooked by a mysteriously shattering mirror at the town watering hole. While treating his patient Sandra (Janet Agren), psychiatrist Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) witnesses Sandra's pet cat go a little bonkers and scratch her out of fear of something. Yeah, there's a bit of a stink of evil in Dunwich. That happens when you're sitting on top of a gate of Hell.

Emily, Gerry's young girlfriend and assistant, heads out to meet Bob, who she sees as a lost soul in need of some help instead of the constant persecution he gets in Dunwich. When she finds him in a rundown garage, he's spooked by some weird noises and dashes off. Emily is attacked by the late Father Thomas, who shoves a handful of wormy, maggoty dirt in her face.

Oh, but Father Thomas isn't done yet. Making out in a car is fun. Making out in a car in a town that's burping up undead priests with superpowers is just asking for trouble. Father Thomas harasses two lovers in a car first by appearing to them as his hanged self - which is brilliantly spooky on its own - then by showing off his new ill-obtained telekinetic magic powers. While he stares at the girl, she begins bleeding from the eyes and then - in the most infamous scene of the movie - literally puking up her guts. Keep in mind, Fulci didn't care if you were offended, so he's not going to turn that camera away. It's easily one of the most disgusting scenes you might see, but if you rented his movie, then you know what to expect. Father Thomas apparently then has a pressing appointment elsewhere, so he just squeezes the brains out of the back of the hapless guy's head and bounces.

Emily's body is later found, apparently dead of fright. The townspeople are quick to blame poor Bob, who's really just been running scared from place to place. Meanwhile, Mary and Peter travel to Dunwich, hoping to stop the infestation of undead before Dunwich becomes...that's right, a city of the living dead. It's getting down to the wire, though, as more strange things happen: Bob sees an apparition of Father Thomas, an undead Emily appears in her little brother's window, bodies blink in and out of rooms, a mortician is bitten by the corpse of an old lady. Well, he was trying to steal her necklace, so that one was fair.

And poor Bob. He hides in a garage but is discovered by the daughter of the family there. As he tries to explain his fears, the father rushes in and brutally attacks Bob. The handy dad then starts up a drill press and - you guessed it - runs it through Bob's head in a fit of rage. It isn't quick and clean, I'll tell you that.

Finally, Mary and Peter arrive in Dunwich, and while searching for Father Thomas' grave, they meet Dr. Gerry and Sandra. After exchanging information, they settle for a good old-fashioned team-up to remedy the pesky undead problem. They even endure a blast of maggots through a window.

That problem is getting worse, though. Emily's little brother reveals his parents have been killed. There's been a slaughter at the local bar. Sandra has her brains squeezed out of the back of her head by a now-evil undead Emily. Wow, even in death, she didn't like anyone messing around with her man.

With the undead now roaming the streets, Peter, Mary, and Gerry find Father Thomas' tomb and discover a ladder leading into deep caverns. Things are getting hairy as it's noted that All Saint's Day has begun. Time may be running short, and evil isn't known for playing fair. Sandra returns to the party, but now she's evil, too. Instead of a friendly greeting, she plays Squeeze The Brain with Peter's head before getting impaled by a distraught Gerry.

Now the last line of defense, Gerry and Mary meet the elusive Father Thomas in his hellish hideaway. Father Thomas tries the Jedi Eye Bleed Gut Puking Trick on Mary, but Gerry's not taking any more of these shenanigans, and rams an old wooden cross through the priest's midsection. The advancing undead burst into flames as Gerry and Mary escape back to the surface.

Now, the ending's a little sketchy to me. They emerge from the tomb to see the little kid, John-John, running happily towards them from the protective arms of the police. As the kid runs closer, Gerry and Mary's smiles turn to grimaces of terror. Mary screams and...that's it. There is no indication as to what may have happened. It could be said that the horror wasn't over, but we were given more of an indication that it had. Maybe something grabbed the kid, but an establishing shot would've made all the difference there.

I enjoyed The Beyond more simply because of its wackiness, and it just seemed like a movie with ...if you'll excuse the term...more life. City of the Living Dead didn't have many characters I could really feel for - instead, I saw them as somewhat likable characters waltzing their way through ultra-creepy scenes of undead brain squeezing. Still, it was pretty fun. Any scene with Father Thomas is worth the price of admission. Creepy dude, especially when he's shown hanging from random places.

To balance out the gore, here's a picture of a sorry puppy.

Well, until next time, fellow shelter residents, be careful out there and be thankful the living dead we deal with don't have superpowers.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981) This Movie Just Hates Eyes

In honor of the city of New Orleans and their NFL championship team The Saints, I bring you this tale of gory wackiness from famed Italian director Lucio Fulci. Actually, it was just a coincidence since I had watched this the Saturday before the Super Bowl and would have reviewed it anyway.

You've got to love Lucio Fulci. The late director is still considered one of the forerunners of gory filmmaking and he never shied away from thrusting bloody images into your eye-space. Speaking of eyes, everyone, no matter how tough, is vulnerable in the organs through which we see. They're squishy, usually moist, and absolutely vital to the senses. A gore master is always going to go straight for the eyes, and Fulci doesn't disappoint in The Beyond. In fact, seriously, this movie hates eyes.

The movie's prologue starts in 1927 as a lynch mob closes in on Schweik, an artist accused of being a warlock. They smack him up with chains, crucify him against a wall with spikes, and douse him with limestone acid. A young lady elsewhere in the hotel reads from The Book of Eibon, then bursts into flame. Seems it might be possible this hotel was built on one of the seven gates of Hell. know things might not end well, and Fulci will make sure you know the hell out of that fact.

Jump ahead to 1981, and we're introduced to Liza, a young lady who has inherited the hotel, and Martin, her architect friend. It doesn't take long for strange things to start happening. One of the handymen sees a white-eyed figure through a window and falls off a scaffold. Joe the Plumber (no, not that one) arrives, meets creepy caretaker Martha, and sets about his work. Doesn't take long before something emerges from the wall, grabbing Joe by the face and squeezing his eyes out. I mean, literally squeezing his eyes out. Later, Martha finds the poor guy along with what turns out the be the corpse of Schweik.

Meanwhile, Liza meets an unusual woman named Emily, who seems to be the woman who burst into flames in the prologue. Emily sports mysterious cataracts in her eyes and depends on a sweet German shepherd to get around. She seems to know Liza and after taking her back to her New Orleans home, tells her to get out while she can.

Cut to the hospital and Dr. John McCabe, who treated the handyman earlier, is performing the autopsy on poor old Joe. After he and his excitable assistant Harris leave, a machine in the morgue picks up possible signs of life coming from Schweik's corpse. Right about this time, Joe's wife and daughter, Jill, show up to see Joe's body. Mrs. the Plumber goes inside, leaving skittish Jill in the hallway. While tending to her husband's body, Mrs. Joe is spooked by something off-screen and somehow ends up under a gentle drip of powerful acid, which eats away her face in unwavering, bloody detail. It's like Fulci grabbed the back of our collective heads and said, "look at it, damn you, look at it! her head is melting!" Jill investigates but is reasonably freaked out by the sight of not only her dead mutilated father, but her dead acid-soaked mother and the advancing puddle of blood and goo. She tries to get away, only to run into a room full of dead bodies. Well, it is a morgue, after all.

When the funeral for Joe and Mrs. Joe occurs a few scenes later, we are privy to the fact that Jill now has those milky eyes. Eyes! See?

Emily tries to tell the story of Schweik to Liza, but the self-professed city girl doesn't buy it. Emily runs out after finding out that touching a Schweik painting causes hand bleeding. Despite the warnings, Liza goes to room 36 anyway just to see if Emily was telling the truth. Liza finds her opinion shifting when she not only finds the Book of Eidon, but sees a vision of the crucified artist hanging on the wall. She runs out into the arms of our rugged Dr. John, who helps her investigate. Sure, the spikes are still in the wall, but no body. Oh, and the book is gone.

Later, in New Orleans, Liza and Martin walk the streets, discussing how to renovate the hotel. Liza spies the Book of Eidon in an antique book store and rushes in to snag it, only to find it's somehow changed in those few seconds into another book. According to the creepy, giggling store owner, it was always the book she picked up and not what she thought.

Meanwhile, Martin arrives at City Hall to inspect the records of the hotel. He uncovers the secret of the hotel, but a lightning flash startles him off the ladder and he crashes to the floor. Now, I know some of you get the heebie-jeebies from certain things, and Fulci introduces one common cause right here: an army of tarantulas. They converge on Martin...well, more like on his face...biting everywhere, even that little bit of skin that separates the nostrils. Face-eating spiders. Don't blame me for the nightmares.

Catching up with Dr. John, we find that he intends to confront Emily so he goes to her house, which as it happens is abandoned, and has been for a while. On the upside, he does find the Book of Eidon.

Back at the hotel, Martha tries to clean a tub in room 36, but finds that somehow, Joe's body is there. It rises and attacks her, shoving her head against one of the spikes in the wall. What part of the face do you think is the spike's exit wound? That's correct: the friggin' EYE!

What's happened to Emily? Well, she's visited by the corpses of everyone killed so far but she's not willing to meet her fate with any kind of resignation. She's been under Schweik's employ the whole time, but isn't quite ready to die again apparently. Commanding her dog to attack, she cowers until it's silent and the dog returns to one of the undead. The faithful canine rips her throat out in glorious Italian horror film color.

Liza tries to investigate the hotel basement, but is attacked by the corpse of the other handyman, Arthur. She runs into Dr. John again, who tells her that Emily was probably a figment of her imagination. Liza starts to doubt her own sanity, but the pair go into the basement to check it out again anyway.

I've said it before: never actually say anything about being in one of the seven gates of Hell while standing ass-deep in it. The hotel bugs out while the two escape, and if the shadows drifting by the windows are any indication, Hell is puking up the undead at an alarming rate.

To the hospital they go, only to find the dead have risen and are everywhere. In the ensuing melee, they get separated. Dr. John runs into good ol' Harris, who's alive and afraid. Liza finds Jill cowering in the morgue, but doesn't see her creepy, milky eyes. They rejoin and attempt an escape, but an exploding glass door sends shards of glass into Harris' face, killing him. Well, back to the morgue for the other three. From one flying pan into another frying pan.

Cornered in the morgue, a door opens and Schweik finally RSVP's his own party. Jill suddenly shows her true undead colors and attacks Liza, but Dr. John manages to ventilate the zombie girl's brainpan with a well-placed shot.

Nowhere else to go, Dr. John and Liza enter the door Schweik arrived through and find themselves suddenly back in the hotel basement. They shimmy through a portal and are transported to a desolate, corpse-filled world. Hell? Purgatory? Safe haven while the real world is decimated? Fulci leaves that your imagination. Dr. John and Liza could only stare while their eyes turn a milky white as the movie ends.

What a party.

The gore is unflinching. When Fulci dares you to look at something, he doesn't give you a chance to hide your eyes. And yes, hide your EYES! Like I said, this movie hates eyes. It's a creepy movie, to be sure. A couple flinch moments aside, it isn't really jump-start scary, but that's okay. The atmosphere is quite enough to satisfy. And you know, I laughed quite a bit, but not at it being silly or stupid. See the simile above: what a party. I could see this movie being a comfort horror film for someone in my horror fan family.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the outstanding, atmospheric soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi: creepy, delicate, choral, and forboding all at once. Perfect compliment for what was shown on the screen.

Have some fun with this one. Watch it late at night, or with another Fulci feature like you're in your own personal grindhouse cinema. If you take it too seriously, you'll miss the fun. Just kick back and enjoy the sickness.

Speaking of sickness, the undead outside my own walls are getting loud, so I'm going to turn up some music and get ready to turn in. Remember to think of happy places when you hear the groaning. It's been known to drive the steadiest person batty.

Until next time!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Demons (1985) Good Mindless Rock N Roll Fun

People supernaturally trapped in a theater face off with bloodthirsty demons.

That pretty much sums up the plot of Lamberto Bava's Demons from 1985, but really there's more to it. You've got Lamberto, the son of famed Italian director Mario Bava (who helmed the crazy 60's thief fantasy Danger: Diabolik, which has the distinction of being the final "Mystery Science Theater 3000" movie). You've got a script and a production credit by film great Dario Argento. You've got a soundtrack that includes not only Motley Crue, but tracks by kick-ass hard rockers Accept and Saxon, and also Rick Springfield. Wait, what?

That's not me in the shades but I scream like him when in pain.

It doesn't sound like much, but for me, it's one of those movies I've seen several times that has become a bit of a comfort film. If I was a bon-bon-eatin' guy, I'd chow down on bon-bons while watching this. As it is, I like cake so hey, to each his own.

The beginning of Demons introduces us to one of our main players, Cheryl. While in the subway station, she receives a free ticket to a movie at The Metropol from a bizarre man in a metal half-mask. Intrigued by the idea of a free movie - as many of us are - she snags another ticket for her friend, Kathy, who hopes it's not a horror movie. Yeah, hope all you want, lady.

Those lucky ticket holders later file into the Metropol, hoping for a glimpse of the hermit Willy Wonka...oh, wait, wrong movie. They'll later wish this was a friggin' chocolate factory, though. In the lobby, we're introduced to all manner of cannon fodder movie patrons including the older couple, the pimp and his two ladies of the evening, the blind man and his daughter, and two young, wild and crazy guys on the make, George and Ken. George and Ken, meet Cheryl and Kathy over a defective Coke machine. Meanwhile, one of pimp Tony's ladies goofs around with the demonic mask on display and gets a little cut on her face. This will not turn out good for this hooker's future cash flow.

Do NOT take a ticket from this guy. Trust me on this.

The movie begins and it appears to be about a group of young folk checking out a grave reported to be Nostradamus'. They find a mask eerily like the one in the lobby. And...hey, wait a minute, that strapping young actor looks like the dude passing out the free tickets. As the movie progresses, this same actor gets his face scratched and slowly turns into a murderous demon. The unlucky hooker excuses herself to go through the same transformation in the ladies' bathroom. When Tony gets impatient, he sends Hooker #2 after her. Not a good idea for that poor girl.

Raise your hand if you've ever felt like this after a night on the town.

Scratched, Hooker #2 stumbles into the theater and falls through the screen, causing the patrons to rush to her aid. But it's definitely too late for her as she transforms before their eyes, causing a panic to take over. Rushing to the front doors, everyone suddenly discovers that they are not only locked inside, they're bricked in. The building has magically bricked itself up, and the demon disease is spreading quickly through bites and scratches. The blind guy's daughter and her secret lover participate in what I would call a "death by making out." Still, worse ways to go. The poor blind guy gets insult upon injury and his eyes poked out. The filmgoers barricade themselves in up on the balcony, and even that's a risky proposition.

In what seems almost like an unrelated plot thread, we meet a bunch of new wave punks (as only 80's Europe could present) out for a joy ride in a stolen car. They run afoul of some cops and make their getaway in an alley behind The Metropol. They sneak inside when a door mysteriously opens, allowing a hunched figure to sneak out. The cops check on the figure, but it's the blind old man, now a demon. And he lunges...

Back inside, the demons rise and give chase. More and more fall to them, and it's carnage at the theater. Cheryl, Kathy, George, and Ken make it out of the actual theater but Kathy is acting weird. Her eyes change color and her voice changes faster than Peter Brady's. She attacks Ken, scratching him before he wails away on her with a vent cover. An actual demon climbs out of her spine and dances off into the dark in a lovely, surreal scene.

C'mon, give us a kiss.

Ken begs George to kill him with the prop sword in the lobby and just after he turns, he gets his wish. George and Cheryl hop on the motorcycle that's there and frantically tool around the ruined theater, dispatching demons at top speed while insane 80's metal plays...just the way life should be.

In college, we called this a Saturday night.

In a scene that screams WTF when first viewed, a helicopter falls through the ceiling. It makes sense later, but when one first sees it, you're already having so much fun with the guitar-riffing and demon-killing that you begin to wonder if you secretly desired it. George rigs the winch to carry them out to the roof, where they're attacked by the half-mask ticket actor guy. After impaling him eye first on a rusty piece of metal, it becomes clear what has happened: the demon virus has spread to the outside world. George and Cheryl run for a bit before they are picked up by a family on the run out of the city. Ah, rescue has come at last. Surely this will be a happy ending.

As the credits roll, the camera slowly zooms on Cheryl. She whips around to reveal that she has now turned, freezing poor, sad George. That future with the white picket fence and two-point-five kids? Blown to hell, quite literally. Cheryl is shot and left in a pile on the road as the family, with a dumbstruck George, drives off into the sunset.

Demons is a bit of a goof, but one that doesn't care, and therein lies the charm. The gore is explosive and in-your-face sadistic, the soundtrack is metal one second and Go West pop the next, and the plot is delightfully linear and simple. Many horror films that try - or any genre, really - can't pull off that kind of fun abandon. It's a party movie. Enjoy it with a heaping plate of nachos.

Great, I've got zombies to worry about and now a demon plague? It just doesn't end, so be careful out there, dear readers.