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Savoir-faire

This lovely lady has decided that until I step forward and introduce myself to people, I will be referred to as "Princess Sparkle", which the other tweeps have picked up on. So when I heard Phil Blankenship asking if Princess Sparkle was in the audience at the end of his intro to the 3rd annual All Night Horror Show at the New Beverly Cinema this past Saturday, boy-oh-boy was I amused/mortified. A brave man in the front row jokingly claimed to be Sparkle and while I was disappointed about Phil not believing him, I was happy to see that Mr. Blankenship seemed to be in better spirits (as usual). Last year, it seemed like he knew ahead of time the reception Tales from the Crypt was going to get and that's why he seemed down that night.

Following trailers and a Woody Woodpecker "cartune", was the first film, Dario Argento's Tenebrae (or Tenebre, if you want to be that way) which opens with a black gloved hand tossing a book into a firepit like it was a Qur'an in Florida, then we're introduced to the character of murder-mystery writer Peter Neal. He's the kind of guy who will ride his bike (as in bicycle) to the airport, happily riding along in the middle of the road, keeping hard-working truckers behind him. What an asshole; these guys are blue collar men trying to put food on the table for their families and this fuckin' rich cunt is slowing them down in the name of...Fitness? Nope, there's treadmills and stationary bikes for that. The environment? Nope, because this MOTHERFUCKER had someone drive his luggage to the airport behind him. That means he rode his bike to the airport simply to fuck shit up for people who drive for a living and/or who are trying to make it to the airport in time. There's your protagonist, people.

In a rare departure for Argento, this film features scenes of people dying harsh deaths at the hands of a killer wearing black leather gloves; someone is killing people in Italy and sending letters to Neal (who's there promoting his new book), informing him that he will be the last to go, because they're all filthy slimy perverts and he's the corruptor or some shit like that. But never mind that, let's talk about the best character in the entire movie -- let's talk about that awesome fuckin' Doberman.

There's a scene where this cute jailbait chick (I can say that because I'm sure the actress was above legal age -- I hope, otherwise Chris Hansen's gonna walk in and ask me to take a seat over there) is walking home and she gets a little too close to a fence. RAWR RAWR RAWR goes the guard dog Doberman, and rather than keep walking, Cute Jailbait Girl picks up a stick and starts banging it against the fence. What the fuck, Lolita? That dog is just telling you to stay away, fool ('cause love rules, at the do-oo-og shack) and you gotta get all indignant on homedog? He's just doing the job he was hired to do; he's a blue collar dog trying to put Alpo on his litter's table. Oh, you sure showed him.

Well, this dog, he's not having it, he jumps the fence and runs after her -- what's up now, bitch? At one point, she climbs over a tall fence and you figure that's the end of the line for the Doberman. Nah man, this dog, he walks up to the fence, looks it over, does the calculations in his dog brain, backs up a couple yards, runs and fuckin' parkours that goddamn fence. This dog rules. Even when she hides inside the killer's Underground Room of Murder Planning, that dog still manages to find a way to get to a window(!) to show her that he hasn't given up. The Doberman can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, remorse, or fear and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are bitten numerous times. That's what he does, that's all he does!

The actor who plays Peter Neal had this slightly George Takei-esque way of pronunciation that I'm going to probably mimic for the next few days in everyday life. What else, oh yeah, pretty much all the women in this film are attractive in a They Probably Don't Shave kinda way, even this flashback sequence chick who's pretty hot for having a dick and balls in real life. The title more or less translates as Darkness, so naturally Argento had his cinematographer blast everything with bright light, thinking he was trying out some daring shit but ultimately giving the proceedings a look reminiscent of low-budget Mexican genre films.

The camerawork is still aces, though, especially that There's-No-Reason-To-Do-It-This-Way-Except-That-It's-So-Fucking-Cool shot where the camera starts at one end of a house, goes over the roof, then ends up on the other side; Johnny La Rue would've killed for that kind of crane shot. This is one of my favorite Argento flicks, the print looked great (it came from Australia) and I'm pretty sure nothing was missing since this wasn't the U.S. Unsane edit of the movie.

After a break, we had more trailers and commercials; there was an old one for Schlitz beer that was pretty awesome, even more so when you consider it was about to make a choice product placement in the next movie, The Gates of Hell aka City of the Living Dead aka The One Where The Chick Pukes Her Intestines Out. This was a Lucio Fulci joint which means that if you came for logic, Fulci would grab his balls and tell you that he's got your logic right here, only it would be in heavily-accented English because he's from Italy, plus he's dead now, he's not grabbing anything, let alone his balls. Anyway, Fulci also makes a cameo here (which was greeted by some applause), playing the same role he played in The Beyond and Zombie: a man who speaks perfect English because he's being dubbed by somebody else.

Catriona MacColl aka Katherine MacColl aka The Chick From The Unofficial Fulci Trilogy plays a psychic who, during a seance, sees not only a priest in the small town of Dunwich hang himself, but a large tombstone that's written in English yet makes no sense whatsoever. This overly baffling one-two combo of confusion literally scares her to death, which is quite a feat because she lives with this Crypt Keeper-looking old woman, so you'd think she'd be past getting scared by anything. Meanwhile, in Dunwich, shit's starting to get scary; teleporting zombies (How About That, I ask the running zombie haters) show up out of nowhere, grab people by the back of the head and yank out a piece of brain; Zombie Priest stares at this woman (played by that chick who always dies gruesomely in Fulci movies) and she literally pukes her guts out; fat old white guys sit around, drinking beer. Also, the town pervert is running around and acting a stupid asshole and doing stupid asshole things like getting a poor nonjudgmental girl killed by Zombie Priest.

If you're lucky, the teleporting zombies just scare you to death, but if it's not one thing, it's another, because then you end up in this funeral home under the care and supervision of this super-creepy-looking mortician. I look at this creep with his creepy eyes and his creepy smile as he applies lipstick to the Poor Nonjudgmental Girl's lips and all I could think about was that this creep is soooo going to have sex with this dead girl, you can just tell by looking at a motherfucker like that. In the next scene, her parents and little brother (named John-John) are grieving over her and I'm like "Why is her mouth open? Is this acceptable? Am I missing something here? HER FUCKING MOUTH IS WIDE OPEN!"

The recently-deceased psychic chick wakes up in a coffin -- she was dead...but she got better -- and freaks out because, really man, there's no reason to be in a coffin if you're not really dead, not unless you're Bela Lugosi giving it a test-run or something. Lucky for her, her family paid for the Silver package, not the Gold package, which means you don't get embalmed. Even luckier for her, Christopher George was hanging around, probably coming home from working on another Italian horror film, and breaks her out (using an ill-advised method similarly employed in The House by the Cemetery).  So off they go to Dunwich to stop the end of the world, joined by a psychologist (Carlo, you always play psychologist with us!) and his loony patient who has Men issues and Why Didn't Daddy Fuck Me issues and she paints fuckin' awesome paintings of giant rhino heads hovering over landscapes. She also wears pantsuits, so you know what's up.

Fulci's a specialist in setting up a gag, then prolonging the fuck out of the buildup, before he finally sucker-punches you with the punchline. Some guy is about to get drilled through the head, so we get a slow zoom-in shot of the drill, shot of the guy, shot of the drill, shot of the guy, shot of the drill, shot of the guy, back & forth, back & forth. Just when you're about to throw your hands up and scream Get On With It -- BOOM -- motherfucker gets a drill through the head. Goddamn Fulci KNEW what he was doing, he was purposely fucking with us, the sadist. He's also great at creating atmosphere; I loved those shots of Dunwich at night with its empty spooky streets and neighborhoods shrouded in mist. There's also these odd bird calls on the soundtrack that would suggest Dunwich is a town located somewhere in the Amazon, not Massachusetts. Or maybe that was Fulci's way of telling the characters (and the audience) "You know where you are? You're in the jungle, baby! You're gonna DIIIIEEEE!"

This was my 3rd viewing and my opinion remains the same; I like it but always felt it kind of petered out about 2/3 of the way in, not keeping up with the cool gory/tense/WTF set-pieces that preceded it. As the credits rolled, some dude turned to me and my buddy to share his WTF feeling about the WTF ending. I once had a dream that involved me at a family reunion and it was a good dream, yet I woke up completely freaked out. I don't know why that happened, I don't remember it ending badly, maybe it did and I immediately forgot the shock ending upon waking up. All I know is I didn't want to go back to sleep. So personally, the ending works because it reminded me of that dream -- the on-screen events suggest a happy ending, yet with the help of a cheap, lame-ass optical and a couple sound effects, that fuckin' diabetic eye-tie managed to turn it into a negative one with his last-minute idea. There's also a cute kitty cat in the movie, so yeah.

What snobby filmgoers choose to call Hell, a geek calls home, and that's the snob's loss because the 3rd film of the night, The Evil was a solid haunted house movie. Richard Crenna shows up playing a psychologist (Richard, you're always playing psychologist with us!) who decides to take his wife, some former junkies, a grad student with awesome button jeans, the grad student's student girlfriend, a German Shepherd named Kaiser (probably a former Nazi) to this old abandoned mansion (as they tend to be in these movies) so they can spruce it up like that montage scene in Revenge of the Nerds when the nerds find that house and fix it up while that One Foot In Front Of The Other song plays in the background. Except in this movie, they face something far more evil than Ogre and Jefferson D'Arcy, they face *the* evil.

Crenna wants to turn this place into a rehab clinic, because he's a decent dude, he's not some asshole who thinks these sick people should be thrown into jail (that's me projecting), but the spirit of the man who built this house long ago wants them to get the fuck out. Emilio Vargas is the name of the spirit, and he had this huge beautiful mansion built by the time he was 30 years old, proving George Lopez's point that if you want quality construction done fast and cheap, you hire raza. What is it with being a spirit/ghost/spook that takes away your ability to just be straight out about shit? The guy wants them to leave for their own safety, but he's gotta be so fuckin' vague, leaving clues and shit. Motherfucker, this ain't Midnight Madness, just Beetlejuice these assholes out of your fucking crib! The only time he does something serious (barbecuing a handyman) nobody's around to see it. As it is, he can only communicate with the help of Crenna's wife, who's a believer (she's got the big cross around her neck to prove it) while everyone else is a bunch of Godless liberals who probably hate America and love paying taxes and want to take my guns away.

This movie was written by the guy who also wrote Superstition, which in retrospect, makes sense because there are similarities like the Super Cross (except this one doesn't have that awesome ability to open the fuck out of locked doors), the haunted house setting, and relatively likable characters getting killed off with extreme prejudice. I don't remember an Asian-looking student (or maybe he's just a Jimmy Kimmel type) lovingly gaze at his grad student teacher with his finger in his mouth in Superstition, though, so I guess that's where the similarities end. I dug The Evil, it's a good haunted house flick for the most part (the climax was a little too goofy for me) with the occasional nasty surprise popping up. According to Phil, this is the only print in existence, acquired from Uruguay (probably in some dead Nazi's closet) and while it was a little red/pink at times and one slightly bloody moment appeared to be trimmed, it was in pretty good shape.

The secret mystery movie was up next, and Phil asked the audience that if they liked what they saw, go up and tell him, but if they don't like it, shut the fuck up. He was referencing a little moment during last year's All Night Horror Show, when one audience member voiced his disapproval in a rather douchey way. There was a cartoon about this little girl witch ("Lil' Hermione", my buddy called it) and it was called "Trick or Cheat" and that was Phil's sneaky way of telling you what movie we were about to watch.

The DEG logo came up, which tells you straight off the bat that this shit is from the 80's and was most likely shot in North Carolina. The movie was Trick or Treat, which I'd never seen, but is at the very least, much-loved by one individual, based on the incredibly loud reaction from the guy on the other side of the theater ("YEEEEEEEAHHHHHHH! THANK YOU!" or something like that, and I think he proclaimed his love for Phil as well). Skippy from Family Ties plays this high school metalhead and it really sucks for him because it's 1986 and he's attending the one high school where apparently there are no other metalheads to hang with, because he has only one friend and that guy doesn't look so much like a metalhead but a guy who merely appreciates metal. There is a difference, you know. Poor guy gets picked on by the guy from Melrose Place and that Desperate Old Whores & Felicity Huffman show or whatever it's called, but at least there's a pretty girl who seems to have a thing for him.

Anyway, this metal god that Skippy's all gay for dies in a fire and he's all bummed out about it. He goes to his radio DJ friend (played by Gene Simmons) to cry about it and Simmons gives him the last song the guy ever recorded. I'm sure there were people in the audience who looked at that 12-inch vinyl platter and had no idea what it was or how it worked. Turns out that the metal dude's soul or something is in that record, and playing it backwards allows Skippy to talk to the dude and get advice on stuff like getting back at the bullies. It's all good at first, but soon Skippy finds out that his hero has ulterior motives, and like most awesome musicians, is really just an evil selfish asshole. You know who isn't an evil selfish asshole? Ozzy Osbourne. If you disagree with me, then you're wrong. That guy rules and will always rule and his cameo as a preacher was pretty damn funny as well.

I didn't expect Trick or Trick to have a relatively light tone, I don't know why I always assumed this was a straight-up horror film. It's actually kinda funny at times and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Maybe it played a little scarier and darker back in '86, back when people still thought these metal dudes were in league with Satan and back when shirtless long-haired guys in leather pants were actually considered cool-looking motherfuckers. I don't know, I'm pretty sure director Charles Martin Smith saw through that shit and made it kinda goofy on purpose, he seemed more intent on having you walk out with a smile on your face, not shivering from having the shit scared outta you. I enjoyed the movie, and I'm glad Phil picked it and I'm glad I finally saw it; this was easily the best secret movie of the past 3 All Night Horror Shows.

I think at this point the breaks ended and the movies were going to play straight through, back-to-back. The Giant Claw was next; a black-and-white movie from the 50's about the fakest-looking giant bird creature ever. It goes around doing awesome shit, attacking planes and turning them into shitty models on fire, then swooping on the parachuting survivors and nom-nom-nom-ing them with a satisfying CHOMP sound. You hear that super-squawk and you better hope you're not in the sky, otherwise that's your ass. Some French-Canadian motherfucker calls it La Carcagne, after some old myth; it's a harbinger of doom because those who see it, die soon after. In that case, that fuckin' Schlitz beer sign in The Gates of Hell was a harbinger of doom as well.

In between those mercilessly brief Giant Claw attacks, we get these long dialogue sequences that don't feel as long they could've been because some of the lines are slightly tinged with awesome; I remember something like "Keep your shirt on and I'll put my pants on". You can also play a drinking game for every time someone says the word "battleship", holy shit, they don't stop about this fuckin' battleship -- it's a flying battleship, good luck with your flying battleship, I didn't say it was a battleship, is that your battleship, a bird as big as a battleship, you sunk my battleship -- BATTLESHIP BATTLESHIP BATTLESHIP BATTLESHIP. I have had it with these motherfucking battleships on this motherfucking battleship!

The hero of the movie -- who looks like what you'd get if you picked up Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy by the ankles and swung them at each other until their heads connected in a violent KER-SMOOSH-- he's an electronics expert and he's always engaging in flirty 50's-speak with the mathematician broad. I don't think the General in the movie appreciates that, he might have a thing for Cary Tracy because he's always touching up on the dude, grabbing his shoulders, putting his hands on the back of his neck, staying in contact a little too long. Don't ask, don't tell, I guess.

All the guys in this movie must spend half of their income on Brylcreem because these are some buttered-toast-hair having motherfuckers. God, I wonder how their pillows looked -- white man's Soul Glo. During the dialogue scenes, I would just stare at Ms. Mathematician Broad, not just because she was a dish (to use the parlance of the times), but because it meant I wouldn't have to look at all that greased-up hair and go GODDAMN how much do you use?! At least when Jack Deth slicks his shit up, he has a great justification -- dry hair's for squids -- but God forbid one of these guys has to scratch an itch on his head, because then he wouldn't be able to have a firm grip for at least a week. I wish there were more Giant Claw attacks, those were cool to watch, but I still thought this was a fun cheesy 50's monster movie. The print for this one was beautiful, by the way, the best looking one of the entire night.

Breeders is not a movie about how heterosexuals are assholes who have lots of kids, it's about how aliens are fuckin' asshole rapists who go around knocking up our women -- and by "aliens", I mean in the extra-terrestrial sense of the word, not the Glenn Beck definition. There are a lot of virgins in Manhattan, according to this movie, and that's good for the alien because he needs virgin women to do his thing. He's like Telly from Kids, this asshole, he thinks he's the muthafuckin' virgin surgeon. I watched the fuckin' thing and I'm still not sure how he does it, but I think what he does (I'm calling it a He) is somehow parasite his way into a human host (like a kindly old man) and then when he finds a proper fit virgin girl, he tears himself out of the flesh (sucks to be you, human host) and attacks. Someone says as much, but all I could understand was "RARARAARARARRGHUUUUAAAAHFFREEE---PAAAARRRAAASIIIITESS---ARRRAGHHH!"

This movie does a shit job on practically everything; it's not until the midway point that the movie appears to pick a main character, until then, it cuts between different characters and yet manages somehow to fuck it up so it doesn't feel like an ensemble piece. The heroine is this doctor who works at Manhattan General Hospital but might as well be called St. Hottie's Hospital or better yet, Our Lady of the Hot Chick Who Can't Act For Shit because it seems to be populated and staffed with attractive women who are all graduates of the Chuck Norris School of Acting. The main doctor chick, in particular, is either very bad or very good and it was the director who told her to play it like a hostage being forced to read a prepared statement on video about how she's being treated well by her terrorist captors and that the Western evil will be demolished by Ammala Bulla Bulla or something. That's me being sensitive.

I'm trying to be positive here, so I'll just assume that the writer/director of Breeders is working from the Andy Kaufman playbook and purposely trying to get the audience to ask What In The Holy Name Of Fuck. There's a nurse who reminded me of Anne Carlisle from Liquid Sky and when she comes home from work, she takes a huge pot out of a refrigerator, like she was gonna have some leftover bouillabaisse from Casey Ryback and sets it on the stove while she undresses. This is even weirder to see on-screen, my words can't do it justice.

Quentin Tarantino loves feet, so he always finds ways to put a girl's tootsies up on that screen, but I have to give him credit for finding justifications for those shots; Uma Thurman had to un-atrophy those atrophied muscles and Christoph Waltz had to confirm that the shoe did indeed fit a particular lady's foot. But the guy who made this movie was like, "You know what? I want to see a chick paw herself" and he didn't even wonder if it would make sense for the model chick to suddenly do that after a photo session. I guess the justification was that she just did two lines of blow and that got her in the mood. I'm not complaining, I was grateful that he gave me something to get off on laugh at, but still.

I looked the director up, and it appears he makes his living shooting porn now, which makes perfect sense because this looks, feels, and plays like porn with the porn cut out -- except for the climax of the film, where the alien's stable of bitches end up bathing in this giant organic pod filled with a sticky white substance. That's right, they are swimming in money shot. I was totally with him as far as the naked chick angle goes, but the whole raping-a-virgin angle combined with that alien bukkake madness, that's where I excuse myself from this particular cocktail party conversation and head over to Richard Crenna, where we'd tell each other religious jokes. I mean, there are so-bad-it's-good moments in the movie, but eventually I just wanted to kick Breeders in the balls and tell it to get the fuck outta my face.

The final movie of the night (morning, really) was called The Outing and it's kinda like Wishmaster, except I think the genie only grants like, one wish here; most of the time it's just killing people. The movie starts out with 3 redneck burglars breaking into a house and killing the old lady who lives there. One of the burglars finds a lamp, rubs it, the spout of the lamp begins puffing out smoke and somethi--JUMP CUT NEXT REEL-- suddenly it's the next day and the house looks all fucked up and there's cops and ambulances all over. One detective asks "What the hell happened here?" and the other responds "Your guess is as good as mine" and the whole audience laughed.

We then watch the tragic story of 2 high school (or college, I don't remember) bullies who are both closet cases; one of them looks like Freddy Lounds in Manhunter and he's all pissed off because the Final Girl used to date him, but not anymore. I think the movie is trying to say she dumped him because he's an asshole, but we can read between the lines, this chick was tired of being his beard and told him he should just come out of the closet and live his life. But this guy Freddy Lounds, he doesn't want to do that, he's too fake-macho to admit to that shit, especially here in Texas. He fears that she's going to tell her friends the truth, so he and his not-so-hetero lifemate follow the Final Girl and her friends around and try to start fights. Like somehow beating the shit out of them or running them off the road is going to change everything.

Each of his attempts end in Fail; he gets stopped by a cop during the car chase, and the fight he starts in the locker area turns into a goddamn Tsui Hark fight scene with everybody suddenly kung-fu fighting. Then the principal comes in to stop it, and fuckin' asshole Freddy Lounds calls him a "nigger". Jesus Christ, Lounds -- you of all people should understand the pain a derogatory word can cause. Please stop being so angry with others because you're ashamed of who you are. Dude, there's nothing wrong with how you were born, but there's plenty wrong with trying to deny it. I guess what I'm trying to say Lounds is, it gets better. It gets better.

The lamp ends up in a museum, where the curator also happens to be Final Girl's daddy. She sneaks her friends in after hours (they don't know she's under the genie's control at this point), while Freddy Lounds and his very close friend sneak in ostensibly to fuck with the group, but again, we all know what's going on here -- he thinks she's finally going to tell her friends the truth about him, hence his attempt to stop...The Outing. He goes about it the wrong way, attempting to prove that he and his lover are not gay by attempting to rape one of the girls. It's a good thing the detective from Breeders wasn't on the case, he'd see through that clever act. Did I mention the genie/jinn/djinn going around killing everyone? I just did.

This movie was half-decent, nothing that rocked my world (well, there was a cool dolly shot involving the curator and another dude, almost like a mini-Touch of Evil moment) but I didn't hate the goddamn movie. It was OK.

They played a Mr. Magoo cartoon, and another Woody Woodpecker cartoon where our bird is nice enough to make some stupid witch a broom, even though the factory wasn't open yet, and this cheap daughter-of-a-bitch tries to take off without paying the 50 cents. What an asshole. Finally, the All Night Horror Show ended with the National Anthem, which I am happy to report the audience (what was left of us) sang along to -- it helps that there were on-screen lyrics, I guess. The lights then came up, the projectionist stepped to the front and thanked us, and then we left. I told my friend about the running theme between some of these movies, and he backed away with a very serious look on his face and told me he didn't catch the same theme I caught, and maybe I was seeing what I really wanted to see in those movies. I laughed and told him that wasn't true. Then I kissed him.

Click here for Cathie's far more detailed -- yet far shorter -- recount of that night. She, and the Doberman from Tenebrae are, like, my heroes.

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