RIP Wes Craven 8/30/2015

Wes Craven, 76, has passed on.

Wes Craven, 76, has passed on.

It is with extreme sadness that I am writing this. I finished the newest Fear the Walking Dead with an emptiness that they yet again missed a major opportunity for social commentary as a friend text me the news: Wes Craven has passed away at the age of 76. I thought it was a joke, some oblique reference I didn’t understand. Immediately I googled the name, “Wes Craven”. There it was. He had passed a way. In real life. It wasn’t a joke.

Immediately I lost control, sobbing violently. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of loss I have never felt from a “celebrity death”. I felt foolish, but why should I? Craven was a genuine master of horror. He was the ultimate reason I pursue horror films as a director.

I was young when I first saw Scream. It was playing at a second run theater and my brother took me to see it. We were the only ones in the auditorium minus one woman sitting by herself in the front row. The opening scene was electric. I’d never seen anything like it on the big screen. The woman in the front couldn’t contain her fear as she yelled “Look behind you!” and “Run, girl, run!” throughout the entire film. It was a magical experience and I knew from that moment on that I wanted to be a director. I wanted to create the films that elicited that reaction from people.

I can barely stop myself from crying as I write this. Craven created some of the most iconic images in the horror genre. From Scream to A Nightmare on Elm Street. Sure, you can say that not every film he made was a classic (Deadly Friend, My Soul to Take). But I’ll be damned if those “stinkers” don’t stand out in my mind more than the next generic horror film released by Hollywood.

Wes Craven was in touch with his nightmares, his imagination and he didn’t hesitate to bring that vision to screen. His most recent directorial effort, My Soul to Take, came out of left field. I sat in the theater unsure of what I was watching. It seemed so slap-dash and messy yet I couldn’t shake the feeling I was watching something truly unique. It wasn’t a carbon copy of Scream as every film since had been. It was something new, something different.

Love his films or hate em’ – that’s what Craven did. He brought imagination to the table. Look no further than his reinvention of his own creation, New Nightmare, to see a real master at work. That film weaves the extreme passion of a horror fan with the real life grief and turmoil one would feel from such extreme loss into a truly horrific collage of film meets reality. That was Craven at his best.

Going back to the original “Nightmare”, Craven presented us with a “what if” that kept us awake at night. It’s not just a boogeyman stalking you in the night, it’s a boogeyman of your own creation. That was Craven’s magical view point. You can’t escape your fear because it’s already inside you.

Even his lesser acknowledged films touch on this subject. The People Under the Stairs deals with urban decay and the idea that the white man, the one we trust, can not be trusted. Everything in a Craven film is never as simple as it seems. This idea is what’s lacking in modern horror. There is no imagination, no commentary, no double meaning.

Finishing another entertaining yet hollow episode of Fear the Walking Dead and hearing this news was too much for me. Wes Craven is THE reason I want to be a horror director. He was a master in every sense of the word. The horror landscape is filled with too much hollow product devoid of any imagination and the creative touch of a master such as Craven, and his loss will be felt infinitely.

I could go on forever about his impact in my life and that of horror cinema, but I will leave it with this: I have and will continue to be truly inspired by Craven’s work. He might be gone from this plane of existence, but we will always have the nightmares Craven gave us.

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Above Board #1: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987)

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2” (1987)/Directed By: Bruce Pittman

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I struggled whether or not to include this film as a feature in “Through the Cracks”. While I realize it’s not a well regarded horror film, I don’t think it’s unknown. As “Through the Cracks” is all about unearthing horror films that have been forgotten and disregarded by the horror masses, I decided to create a new feature here on Fearphile. “Above Board” will discuss films that might not be unknown but are truly underrated and unheralded for whatever reason. The original “Prom Night” is extremely popular, though for the life of me I’m not sure why(feel free to comment below if you’re a fan…I’d like to hear some rationale), but I want to shed light on films that haven’t gotten a fair shake. Enter Mary Lou…

I have to confess, I think “Prom Night” is one of the most dreary, boring, and overrated dead teenager flicks of the 80’s slasher boom (perhaps I should revisit it). Yes, it has Jamie Lee Curtis. Yes, it feature the epic disco prom, but when it comes to Curtis (outside of “Halloween”) I’ll take the fun-tastic “Terror Train” from 1980 any day. Suffice to say that “Prom Night 2” was never up there on my must watch list.

How wrong I was to have avoided this film for as long as I did. I remember the VHS cover on the shelf of my local Video Xpress, and I passed it up time after time. “Hello Mary Lou” opens as Mary Lou (natch) is being crowned prom queen. Unfortunately she just turned her super sweet boyfriend into a cuckold. He doesn’t tuck his dick between his legs and limp away. Oh, no. He has the bright idea of throwing a stink bomb at Mary Lou during her crowning ceremony in a scene very reminiscent of De Palma’s “Carrie”. This doesn’t end well as Mary Lou goes up in a blaze of glory…quite literally.

No, this isn't a shot from 1986's

No, this isn’t a shot from 1986’s “Trick or Treat”.

Flash forward to modern day, 1987 modern day that is, and Vicki Carpenter is getting ready for her own prom. Vicki, played with bizarre doe-eyed perfection by Wendy Lyon (who went on to provide voice-over work for the original English version of “Sailor Moon”), is dealing with her own Carrie White issues as her Pentecostal mother forbids her to go out and buy a sexy dress for the dance and disapproves of her rebellious boyfriend.

It isn’t long before Vicki unwittingly unleashes the vengeful spirit of Mary Lou by opening a chest in the high school’s prop room and removing the dead queens crown. It doesn’t really make sense as it happens, but anyway….Mary Lou is not a nice ghost. She wasn’t really a nice person either, so I suppose that is to be expected. Mary Lou sets about knocking off Vicki’s friends in extremely elaborate fashion. More interesting is that she begins to infiltrate Vicki’s mind and and slowly possess her. All Mary Lou wants is a second chance at the prom queen title. Hell, I’d be pissed too if my crowning moment was deboed by a putz with anger management issues. How can you blame a girl?

Shades of Argento...Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Shades of Argento…Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Once Mary Lou begins taking over our virginal heroine the movie really takes off. Wendy Lyon starts the film giving a pretty laughable performance, bulging her eyes as wide as possible to almost everything someone says to her and is just all around a wet blanket sopping up the scenery. Once she takes on the more sinister good girl gone bad role, Lyon truly sets the film ablaze. It’s a batshit performance that really does take the movie to the next level and calls into question the questionable intention of the earlier scenes by the actress. Bad acting or brilliant choice? Eh, it works. Who cares? Other than Lyons, there isn’t much to write home about in regards to the thespians on display here. We do get Michael Ironside (“Scanners”, duh) in a somewhat restrained role as the guilt ridden principal who sent Mary Lou to her demise so many years ago.

"Say whaaaat?" See what I mean?

“Say whaaaat?” See what I mean?

The best way to describe the experience of watching “Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2” is this is what would happen if Carrie and Freddy Krueger had a baby and named it Regan. It’s a wackadoo film that toes the line of good taste for what I assume was a studio picture. There is an outlandishly inaprops moment between father/daughter, a sexually aggressive rocking horse brought to life by some wicked effects, enough blasphemy to call this “Prom Night 2: The Heretic”, and on top of it all – it spits in the face of one of the biggest slasher movie safe zone codes; Killing a child is brutal but killing a pregnant girl is a twofer. Some scenes actually play out with a sense of dread and suspense that Pied Piper you to the edge of your seat. One of the best “got ya” moments involves a character hiding in a gym locker that ends way out of left field from what one would expect.

There's this too, if you're in to that kind of thing, pervs.

There’s this too, if you’re in to that kind of thing, pervs.

Hello Mary Lou” feels like a stand alone film that got slapped with a “2” for marketing purposes only, but it manages to exceed all lack of expectation. There’s some truly great effects that would be at home in any “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel, a few moments of genuine suspense, and a climax that leaves you begging for a direct sequel. Apparently “Prom Night 3: The Last Kiss” continues the saga of Mary Lou. I’ll be adding that to my queue soon, fingers crossed it lives up to this outing. For those who thought, like me, that a sequel to “Prom Night” was about as warranted as a remake to “Prom Night” (I’m not sure which is worse, wait…yes I am. Jamie for the win!), I implore you to take the time and buy tickets to the prom. It’s a bloody good time.

“Sometimes bad girls have all the fun. Say hello, Mary Lou. It’s Prom Night 2.”

The Appointment”/Directed By: Lindsey C. Vickers

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By no means do I think that I’m a taste-maker. I fully realize my appetite for scuzzy B movies from the 80’s might not be shared by the majority of the film seeking public. Most of the movies I will be reviewing and “unearthing” here on Fearphile might be of questionable quality that will only be enjoyed thoroughly by genre fanatics. There will be some films that are genuinely well made and severely underrated. “The Appointment” is one of those productions.

A British film shot in 1981, “The Appointment” was directed by Lindsey B. Vickers. Searching her credits on IMDB it appears this is her first and only feature though she was credited as assistant director on a number of Amicus and Hammer horror from the 70’s. It’s a shame as Vickers shows tremendous promise for a first time effort and one can only imagine the nightmares she could of conjured up if she had continued down this career path.

Domestic drama has nothing on an evil force.

Domestic drama has nothing on an evil force.

This is a hard film to categorize as it’s a film about a haunting but it doesn’t play out in any way we’ve come to expect from the subgenre. There are no billowy specters, creaking doors, or Priests or mediums brought in on the third act to cleanse the house. “The Appointment” is a small tale about a family besieged by something unseen. The film slowly reveals its hand one card at a time, and once you see where everything is headed it becomes agonizing to watch as you know the outcome is inevitable and you just can’t look away.

I was hooked immediately by the opening scene. We’re introduced to a little girl walking home from school who takes a shortcut through the woods. The scene is narrated by a deep voiced man who relays details of “the case” as if he’s Fox Mulder agonizing over an unsolved X-File (wait..was there ever an actual solved X File). The narrator is never heard from again, much like the opening of “Suspiria” (there I go with my Italian references) but it sets the dry tone for the rest of the film. This is a case study in spooky.

A girl walks home at noon.

A girl walks home at noon.

After the quick jolt of an opening not much really happens for the next third of the film. We’re introduced to a seemingly normal family. Ian, Edward Woodard (The Wicker Man, Hot Fuzz) is dreading breaking the news to his overly sensitive daughter, Joanne, that he won’t be able to make it to her band recital the following day. There was a last minute shuffle at work that will have him making an out of town trip first thing the next morning. Joanne doesn’t take it well. Ian’s wife, Dianna, feels they need to have a firmer hand with their daughter as her reliance upon her father’s affection is a bit much. While this is by no means an exploitation film and doesn’t go there as far as implying any incestuous intentions between father/daughter, their relationship still feels kind of icky in its closeness. It’s a testament to Vickers, as well as the score by Trevor Jones who went on to quite a successful career composing for films such as “The Labyrinth” and “Dark City”, that these mundane slice of life moments are still perpetrated by an overwhelming sense of dread. As a viewer you have no idea where it’s all headed at first, but you know it can’t be good.

The film certainly rewards the patient viewer for outside of the opening scene there are two more major shockers to be found. I wouldn’t dare spoil these surprises, but the first few genuinely “horror” moments are like quick shotgun blasts. They go bang and then left my mouth agape in the silence that followed. The climax of the film breaks this mold in a truly hair-raising display of tension that left me holding my breath, eyes glued to the screen.

Beware of dog!

Beware of dog!

It’s a shame this film isn’t more well known to warrant a modern day release, because a proper remastering could only help to enhance the experience. I tend to love the lo-fi grunge of a video nasty but this film warrants better. The version I saw was poor VHS quality with night scenes I could hardly make out. I feel certain clues are given to shed light on the true nature of the haunting; the camera slowly zooms in on framed photos, certificates, and notes but they were are all ineligible on the version I saw. While nothing is spelled out, I certainly have my own theory and those reviewers on IMDB stating the opening scene had nothing to do with the rest of the film probably missed a few of the hints that Vickers subtly drops throughout the runtime. Connect the dots, people.

The Appointment” is a rare film that has not had a proper release since VHS, but those fans who truly want to see a hidden gem would do well to do a bit of digging online to find a copy. This is a slow burn haunting film that doesn’t settle for cheap “got ya” moments. There are no cats lurking in this family’s cabinets just a really frustrated spirit intent on getting its way. Follow this one through the cracks.

Unfortunately there is no trailer for this film…so, I give you the opening scene. Enjoy!

Through the Cracks #3: Dial: Help (1988)

Dial: Help” (1988)/Directed By: Ruggero Deodato

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Dial: Help” is a film that I put off watching for quite a while. It’s directed by Ruggero Deodato (“Cannibal Holocaust”, “Bodycount” from just a couple weeks ago here on Fearphile) and I kept seeing it mentioned as a giallo film from the 80’s which certainly isn’t the subgenre’s peak, though I’ve seen quite a few that warrant mention (“Nothing Underneath”, “Delirium”, and “Phantom of Death”). Despite some lukewarm reviews, I finally settled down to watch “Dial: Help” not really knowing anything about it or what to expect.

What I got really isn’t giallo at all. This is Deodato’s take on supernatural horror a la Argento’s “Suspiria” or “Inferno”. At his best, Deodato’s style has always been based on realism. “Cannibal Holocaust”, the original found footage film, is one of the most visceral “holy shit is this really happening right now” films I’ve ever experienced. That movie made me feel physically ill, and “Dial: Help” also made me say “holy shit is this really happening right now” because it’s about A KILLER PHONE! Yes, just like the aforementioned Argento films, “Dial: Help” plays fast and loose with the realm of possibility. It took me a minute to get into the groove as I was expecting a traditional giallo with a black gloved killer, fedora, and loads of pent up sexual frustration…ok, we do get plenty sexual frustration but none of the other tropes.

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Death by telephone…it’s exactly what you think it is.

Jenny is a struggling model in Rome who is currently dealing with the heartbreak brought on by some guy who refuses to call her back. Jenny doesn’t take it well. In her attempts to reach this faceless Lothario, she accidentally dials the wrong number which belongs to a vacant help line office. This awakens “the energy” of the spirits trapped within the recordings from all the depressed, lovelorn, suicidal souls (this isn’t actually explained – this is merely my take away). This energy begins to stalk Jenny through the phone and knock off anyone who might get in its way. The ghost(s?) in this film are hard up for love and it only has eyes for Jenny. Her dorky but cute neighbor, Riccardo, is the only one who believes her wild stories and is all too eager to help out in hopes she winds up in his arms by the time the credits roll. Of course, I won’t spoil whether or not Riccardo gets his wish.

Shades of

Shades of “Opera” as well

This is a bizarre tale that moves from one odd setpiece to the next as Jenny and Riccardo attempt to solve the mystery and stop the maniacal dial tone stalker. There’s some moments of genuine tension, some nice moments of gooey red stuff, and those who like a slab of sexy female flesh with their horror will be pleased by a couple moments of lunacy when the sexy Charlotte Lewis is practically possessed by the evil energy into using the telephone receiver as her personal vibrator and is hoodwinked into putting on quite the burlesque number for an audience of one rotary dial. To top it all off, the film looks beautiful which is to be expected of an Italian film of this era. There are some scenes during a heavy downpour of rain that equal anything in a flashy Hollywood production. No, the palette isn’t of the candy coated variety like an Argento film and there’s no otherworldly Fuci fog, but “Dial: Help” makes up for all of this with sheer what the fuckery. It might not look like a nightmare come to life but it plays out like one. Surprisingly enough there’s also some interesting subtext here in regards to the negative energy we waste at the end of a relationshion and how it can leave us feeling stuck. We watch the character of Jenny move from a desperate girl clinging to a dead end romance to someone who’s more in charge of her life and sexuality. It’s subtle and never on the nose but it’s there…ya know, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

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Who doesn’t put on a private show for their telephone every once in a while?

An elongated scene in the subway truly wracks up the tension as our heroine rushes to find a friend of hers working on the telephone lines while being stalked by a truly rapey-looking creeper is a standout that ends in one of the best bonkers moments in the film. This is where I was truly hooked by the film. I realized what I was watching was completely off the wall ridiculous and I just went with it. Much like the scene in “Inferno” when Argento sends a hot dog cart careening towards one of our characters as a means to their death, you either go along with it or you probably tune out. If you saw that scene and didn’t bat an eye (or if you did bat an eye but said “what the hell, why not?”) then I implore you to seek out Dial: Help. I can’t give this a general recommendation because a lot of viewers are just going to see it as silly and dumb. Personally, it’s a truly underrated film that might not be enjoyed by everyone, but those who like trippy and gonzo Italian horror should certainly seek it out.

“In case of emergency…don’t touch that dial!”

What a terrible trailer.

Through the Cracks #2: Sole Survivor (1983)

“Sole Survivor” (1983)/Directed By: Thom Eberhardt

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“Sole Survivor” is actually a remake of an Australian film that came out two years earlier in 1981 entitled “The Survivor”. What’s surprising is this American version is a smaller, more intimate film. It is dumbed down in a sense that the plot is simplified and a lot of the absurd plot turns from the original are excised. For once, the Americanization is a vast improvement. “Sole Survivor” is a minor film that plays on our fears of death and the possibility that we can never truly know when it’s our time to go.

Karla Davis, a washed up actress barely remembered for a string of beach bunny movies from the 60’s, wakes up in a panic. She has visions of wreckage from a plane crash, scattered body parts, and one woman who has walked away unscathed. We quickly learn that survivor is Denise, a producer for an ad agency who is preparing to work with Karla on a spot for Taster’s Choice coffee. It’s an odd backdrop to tell the story but it does lend itself to some humorous moments as the aging starlet botches the commercial shoot due to her overwhelming concern for Denise’s safety. Karla’s warnings fall on deaf ears as she’s pretty well regarded as a lush and loony-toon who fancies herself a psychic.

You see, Denise wasn’t meant to survive. Much like “The Final Destination” films, death has a plan and he doesn’t take kindly to anyone trying to cock-block his advances. Which, lucky for us, also means anyone who might come between the unseen entity’s attempts to circle back for Denise could easily find themselves getting bumped up on Death’s bucket list in a heartbeat. This idea is summed up perfectly by an exchange between Denise and her very own McDreamy, Dr. Brian Richardson, as she relays a story about an expensive dress she bought on credit but wasn’t billed for right away.

Brian: “Think about the dress you bought. They never charged you for it.”

Denise: “Yes, they did. It’s those damn computers. They made a mistake, but sooner or later, they’ll find you.”

Denise is contemplating a different meaning for

Denise is contemplating a different meaning for “bedside manner”

Aside from the basic premise, this remake has very little in common with the original. The characters and ultimately Death’s MO are completely different. The epic plane crash depicted at the beginning of “The Survivor” is nowhere to be seen in this remake, but it plays well as a more contained narrative focusing almost entirely on Denise and her burgeoning romance with Brian. Of course, this is no romantic comedy and it doesn’t take long for Denise to start seeing strangers glaring at her from across the park. These moments are eerie and are very reminiscent of the current indie horror sensation “It Follows”. We come to find these silent stalkers are the recently deceased who’ve come to bring Denise back to where she belongs, among the dead.

They Follow

They Follow

Director Thom Eberhardt (who also wrote the screenplay), who went on to direct the 80’s cult classic “Night of the Comet”, whips up a frenzy of suspense during certain moments. One scene in particular at a parking garage featuring one of the slow stalking undead and a faulty elevator hits all the seat-jumpy beats you crave in a film like this. The film drives the narrative forward without wasting too much time on answering the question of “Why?”. Denise survived. Denise needs to die.

This tight pacing helps keep this remake a lean, mean, and mostly satisfying supernatural shocker. Scenes where Denise spots one of the undead watching her in the distance and moments where they charge forward one slow step after another certainly bring to mind “It Follows” as is the story reminiscent of the “Final Destination” series. Interesting though as the “It Follows” vibe is only found here in “Sole Survivor” and not in the original “The Survivor”. For once an American remake takes a smaller budget and succeeds at crafting a far greater film. The Australian film is no slouch, but ultimately goes off the rails in it’s second half by introducing us to Death in physical form as he reveals his master plan. “Sole Survivor” keeps these details a mystery and is all the more spooky for it.

Eberhardt’s direction is of the workmen variety and he doesn’t attempt to outdo himself with any overwrought compositions, but it works. The cinematography is crisp and uses the film’s Christmas-time setting to litter scenes with the ghostly glow of white string lights. Of course, I’ve always found Christmas to be pretty creepy. Maybe that’s just a me thing? As far as the script goes, Eberhardt doesn’t pull any punches. There are several references to depression and suicide that help solidify the idea of us being our own harbingers of death without being too on the nose. No one is safe in this film and it all culminates with a gut punch of a climax followed by a lingering chill from the film’s final shot (again, quite a contrast to the original).

They're coming to get you, Denise

They’re coming to get you, Denise

As far as a film that has fallen through the cracks and needs to be rediscovered, “Sole Survivor” is definitely up there on the list. It’s not a film for gore-hounds. This is an eerie film that methodically reveals its hand as death creeps ever closer. I highly recommend it to those seeking horror with a bit of brains (figuratively and not of the literal zombie munching variety).

It will never rest...alone.

Through the Cracks #1: Bodycount (1986)

Bodycount AKA Camping del Terrore (1986)\Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

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Just a preface before we dive into the review. Bodycount is by no means an unearthed classic begging for rediscovery. It is however a hell of a lot of fun. It might seem an odd choice to start off with “Through the Cracks” here at fearphile, but I didn’t want to blow my load too soon by front loading with all the most amazing films you need to be watching RIGHT NOW. Plus, it happens to be the most recent film I watched so….there’s that too.

Bodycount is a bit of a strange bird. It’s a woodland set slasher about a bunch of teens on a camping trip who run afoul of a homicidal maniac who I’m sure has some reason for being a homicidal maniac. I may have missed that part. Annnnnyway…despite all the trappings of a run of the mill, generic, Friday the 13th clone (and it most certainly is all of those things), Bodycount stands out from the pack for a few important reasons.

  1. The film is directed by non other than mother friggin’ Ruggero Deodato. He might not be as famous an Italian horror meister as Argento or Bava, but the man has at least one bonafide classic under his belt, Cannibal Holocaust. While the rest of his oeuvre might not be as stellar, at no point did it ever feel like the man was scraping the bottom of the barrel (see his early 90’s effort Cut and Run for a somewhat classy take on the ole’ dem dangerous natives story). All the more odd to find the man behind the lens of what appears at first glance to be another American style dead teenager flick. Surely it would have seemed stale by the time of its release. In 1987 the slasher film was already limping its way to the VHS graveyard.

  2. The music for the film is composed by mother friggin’ Claudio Simonetti of GOBLIN fame. It’s a bit bizarre watching the mostly American cast being chased through the woods to a pulsing synth score complete with other worldly chanting and wah-wahs for days.

  3. Outside of the obnoxious “teenagers” (you know these heifers were like 30 at the time) there is a group of well established character actors at play. One of them is mother friggin’ David Hess (Last House on the Left, Deodato’s House at the Edge of the Park). While his role is fairly minor, Hess does a great job of gritting his lines through his teeth and just causing one to feel all sorts of generally uncomfortable when he’s on screen.

These three things alone should be enough for any fan of 80’s horror such as myself to find interest in the film. Despite its terribly unoriginal makeup, Bodycount manages to be a fun flick. Deodato pulls off some cool shots (see the awesome push-in/tracking shot in the trailer below) and everything looks better than this type of film has any right to. Best of all, the film moves at a great pace. Bodycount opens with a pretty cool set-piece and only slows down long enough to introduce our characters by name only.  One guy shows up in a military outfit. Obviously he’s coming home from the army. No need to mention it though. Duh. Of course, there’s the promiscuous girl, annoying fat guy, jugheaded jock, and Vanilla numbers 1, 2, 3, and you get the point. That’s about the extent of characterization in this film except for one great scene between Hess and his philandering wife played by Mimsy Farmer (Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Autopsy). This one scene alone stands out and seems to promise a different direction for the rest of the proceedings. It’s a promise that isn’t kept but it’s a fun side trip in the narrative that manages to call into question several of the main characters’ motives.

Eww...scary.
Eww…scary.

This brings us to another interesting aspect of the film. It’s a standard dead teenager flick but it just can’t seem to keep its giallo in its pants. There’s domestic drama, an abusive husband, childhood trauma that threatens to rear its ugly head, and several set-pieces that would fit nicely in any Agrento or Fulci film. One scene involving a girl fleeing into an abandoned cabin is genuinely suspenseful. The gore is a bit tepid, however. Unfortunately I saw an edited copy, but from my research it doesn’t appear I was missing too much in the way of grue. Again, this is shocking coming from Deodato.

It's not all dry county up in this bitch.
It’s not all dry county up in this bitch.

The plot to the film is also a bit on the weak side. Apparently there’s this evil Indian shaman who has been offing people in the woods for years. The shaman is a guy in a pretty flimsy hag mask who looks like he’s choked his chicken a bit too much and sprouted hairy palms. He’s not the most menacing on screen maniac. Thankfully Deodato keeps the creep hidden in the shadows for most of the film allowing for some sense of eeriness to pervade. Add to it a fun climax when the teens attempt to try and fight back sprinkled with some jump scares and a twist you may not see coming (but you probably should), and Bodycount turns out to be a pretty good trip to the woods. It might not be Friday the 13th but it’s certainly better time spent than suffering through Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone. Italian horror completists and slasher connoisseurs should certainly hunt it down.

PS- Is that not the best tag line ever: “The hills are alive…with the sounds of SCREAMING!” Because a Sound of Music reference makes so much sense.

DISCOVERING THE HORROR THAT HAS SLIPPED THROUGH THE CRACKS…

It was late, the middle of the night. I was young, too young to be doing what I was doing: watching a double feature of Friday the 13th Part 1 and 2 with my brother in his dark basement room. I knew my parents being Pentacostal Bible thumpers who thought twice about letting me see Home Alone due to the foul language would not have been pleased. I was sworn to secrecy by my brother, and during most of the duration of the first Friday I handled it like a champ. When one of the nubile teens met their maker, I viewed the carnage through the gaps in my fingers clasped over my eyes. My brother kept me in check by pointing out “how fake” everything was…nothing to be scared of. Then it happened. Friday the 13th Part 2 began and there was our lone survivor, Alice, minding her business in her own home far removed from the confines of Camp Blood. The moment Jason drove the ice pick into her cranium, I lost it. My brother’s mantra of “it’s fake” didn’t matter anymore. Jason wasn’t tied to Crystal Lake. Jason wasn’t his mother, and Jason could get you wherever and whenever he wanted. I ran from the room. I couldn’t handle it.

the moment that terrified me senseless and solidified my love of all things horror

the moment that terrified me senseless and solidified my love of all things horror

That feeling lingered for weeks. As terrified as I was, I wanted to feel it again. I wanted the excitement of doing something I knew I shouldn’t do, the rush of adrenaline from the terrors on screen that were an easy escape from the not so great home-life I found myself in at the time. Horror became an obsession of mine. Once I’d discovered the fizzy, bubbly glee brought on by a good fright, I couldn’t get enough. The movie maniacs of the 80’s and satirical and sinister madmen of the 90’s were my gateway drug. The middle isle of my local Video Xpress/Movie Gallery became my dealer in all that was vile and demented. I lapped up every frame of poorly tracked VHS that I could. All the lurid, well designed cover art was a tempting promise of the insanity within that cassette tape. I watched all of them, starting with the Friday the 13th series and moving through to the Halloween films, Nightmare on Elm Street, and even the various incarnations of Texas Chainsaw. I’d seen all the heavy hitters, the classics. It wasn’t until I brought home a VHS copy of an Australian film, Paperhouse, that I truly realized how vast and amazing the genre of horror could truly be.

Paperhouse was like nothing I had seen before. It was intelligent, much like those fancy pants “indie” movies I would watch from time to time, yet it existed clearly in this genre of horror I had fallen head over hills for. It was a truly frightening film that had me jumping up and down in my bed, squirming, and rooting for the protagonist. I loved it because it was different from all the rest I had been consuming en’masse. Don’t get me wrong, I was (and still am) crazy for a mindless slice em’ up, but there was something special about Paperhouse. My brother didn’t get it. That made it even more special.

the exact VHS box that lured me in with its promise of

the exact VHS box that lured me in with its promise of “the thinking person’s NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET”.

As the years went on, my passion for the genre grew to all corners of the world. I’d seen all the classics from Argento, Bava, Carpenter, Del Toro, Craven, Hooper. As I grew older I began to feel like I had seen it all. I felt as if I’d seen every decent horror film there was. I looked up lists online of “Scariest Movies You’ve Never Seen”. They all included films like Dog Soldiers, Ginger Snaps, Suspiria, Black Christmas, and Slumber Party Massacre. I couldn’t believe it. I truly must have seen it all. Surely, any self-respecting horror fan has seen these films or at the least heard of them. I was searching for the holy grail, a list of films with titles I had never even laid eyes upon before.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon an article in Rue Morgue magazine from “It Came from the Basement”. It was an article about the film The Kindred. I immediately set about tracking it down. While sitting and watching the film it made me jump, giggle, and marvel at the gooey latex effects and buckets of Karo being thrown at the screen. This was a feeling I had been missing. I remembered seeing Paperhouse, or the first time I saw Argento’s Phenomena; it was a feeling of discovery. It brought me back to the fateful night in my brother’s room when the terror of our heroine Alice getting an ice pick to the head drove me running to bed to cower under the covers. The magical childhood fascination had been rekindled and I knew that there had to be other films out there that weren’t being heralded as horror classics but needed to be seen.

proof of the fantastic effects work featured in THE KINDRED

proof of the fantastic effects work featured in THE KINDRED

So here we are. I have started this blog for myself in search of that high I felt as preteen sitting before my television, jumping up to the edge of the bed and yelling “Look behind you!” at the screen. I hope that my journey for the horror that slipped through the cracks will benefit you as well. I hope that with each new review you will discover the stuff childhood nightmares are made of. They can’t all be winners. I realize that, but I hope to focus more on the positive than the stinky turkeys. So, hopefully you’ll find something as well to spark that childish flame inside.