Children of the Corn (1984)

children_of_the_corn_poster_01 About:

A road-tripping couple winds up in a town populated by creepy kids with sinister biblical names who worship corn demons.

Review:

I bought this movie at a yard sale for a buck when I was a kid, and I’ve held on to it all this time so that one day I could review it in a blog entry no one would read.  As far as film adaptations of Stephen King stories go this one is high up on the list.  That could be just an indictment of movies based on Stephen King stories (it is), but Children of the Corn is actually a pretty good movie in its own right. The movie begins 3 years before the present day.  Church is getting out and the townspeople are off to brunch at the local diner for a lazy Sunday brunch.  The eggs are barely poached before a group of surly kids pull out their cleavers and start hacking up the grown-ups!

School’s out forever!!!

Fast-forward to the present day.  A couple – the lady who plays Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies and her henpecked husband – are hopelessly attempting to navigate the Nebraska outlands when they run over an Amish kid.  Shit!  Better drop this little guy off on the doorstep of the nearest constable.  Luckily they are a couple miles outside a town called Gatlin.

joseph We’re definitely not making it to Omaha before dinner.

The town is abandoned of course, save for a religious cult of children brandishing sharp and pointy farm tools.  They don’t take too kindly to outsiders, especially those who are well-past the sacrificing age of 19.  Note: avoid Nebraska at all costs.

Children of the Corn is based on a short story of the same title by Stephen King.  There aren’t a lot of differences between the two except the story is much more gruesome and in the end the bad guys win.  The Shining notwithstanding, it has been my experience that movies based off of Stephen King stories are more often misses than they are hits.  Despite the horrible child acting and cringe-worthy special effects, Children of the Corn is one of the hits, mostly because the subject itself is just so darn eerie.  And the movie itself is pretty much just the short story on screen; it did not take a whole lot of creative vision to transform an already very spooky and well-articulated tale into the film.  But let’s instead talk more about the stuff that sucked.

outlandurr“OUTLANDURRR!”

By 1984 the Star Wars movies had raised the bar for what we’d come to accept as convincing movie magic.  There is really no excuse for the special effects in this movie looking like a high-school audio-visual project.  The makeup and fake blood is fine, but some of the post-production editing really falls flat.  The scene where Isaac is sacrificed to ‘He Who Walks Behind the [Corn]Rows,’ should have been a cinch; at the very least it’s a death scene that could have been implied and left out all-together.  Instead we are treated to an awkward and confusing glimpse of him getting enveloped in a swarm of cartoon lava bugs.

lava Not the face! Anywhere but the face!

Anytime you cast a kid, you run the likely risk that they will ham it up worse than a cold-cut platter.  Professional actors spend their entire lives perfecting their craft.  When you film a child who’s only acting experience was in a K-Mart clothing commercial, bad things tend to follow.  Now multiply that ineffectiveness by the dozens of kids who appear in Children of the Corn and you’re in danger of a Phantom Menace-esque type of meltdown.

That’s actually too harsh – most of the “children” with speaking roles were actually adults when this was filmed, so it’s really not that bad.  The guy playing the leader of the children, Isaac, actually looks a lot like Mickey Rooney and even sounds like an old lady with emphysema.   Still, there are a few rug rats who’s delivery is so bad you’ll wish the protagonists had also run over them on their way into town.

Again, it seems unfair to pile on all the shit that was bad about this movie when overall I really like it a lot.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention the last scene, one which is so bad it truly boggles the mind as to how it ever made the final cut.  With Issac and the corn demon dead, leaving behind a town full of confused and emotionally traumatized children,  the adult couple decides that now is a good time to split.  Since their car has been turned into a giant planter for corn stalks, they decide to hoof it to the next town over – the one they should have gone to from the get-go.  Just before one final lame scare, they decide to take with them two of the cuter kids for a couple days…make that a couple weeks.  A month?  Ah fuck it, if a near death experience won’t save our marriage, maybe adopting a couple of kids will!

Overall: 7.5

homer
Boom!

I’ve seen this movie several times and I still love it.  Yes, there are some lame child actors and horrible special effects.  But since the story itself is so chilling and original those just seem like minor imperfections that don’t actually detract from the final product.  It is God’s will that you watch Children of the Corn this fall.

Vamp (1986)

poster About A group of fraternity pledges take a trip to the other side of the tracks in hopes of coercing an erotic dancer to perform at their big party.  Turns out the strip club they choose is actually a vampire den.  What a boner crusher :(

Review

This movie has been floating around Netflix for a while.  I’d always avoided it because of the androgynous Ronald McDonald in the poster art, but then someone told me it was actually pretty good so I watched it.  And hey, it was actually pretty good! DeDee Pheiffer plays an ingenuous cocktail waitress with a secret: where does she know one of our leading men from, and why doesn’t he remember her?  (Spoiler: they met at a party last summer).  The film also stars Gedde Watanabe, that guy the studio calls in any time they need an actor to stereotype Asians.

gedde It’s cool – he just wants to party

The movie starts off with some weird fraternity ritual, where some pledges are being led up to a belltower to be hung from a noose, or to be led to believe they’d be hung from one.  I was never in a fraternity so I don’t know how this stuff really works.  Anyways, two of the pledges declare the whole process really stupid, which it is, and say the only reason they want to join their frat is because it’s supposed to be the tits.  In lieu of participating in their fantasy ritual, they tell the frat masters that they’ll supply them with booze for their big party tonight AND throw in a stripper, because, yeah – these guys know all the right people in all the right places.  Oh, the things boys do to get into their frat.

Already I’m having trouble with whats going on: 1. What kind of frat plans to throw a party without booze in the first place? 2. Why do the elder fratsmen need these pledges to supply them with the booze? 3. Why do these ultra too-cool-for-school freshman want to join a frat that neither plans a party with booze nor has the means to acquire it themselves?

frat Cons: major dorks.  Pros: frequent cloak-wearing opportunties 

In any case, a deal is struck and our cocky fresh fish are granted preferred access to this sacred institution provided they come through with the booze and boobs.  But wait – these guys have access to liquor and strippers but it is apparently beyond their reach to know anyone with a car.  I don’t suppose this is the kind of errand you can ask your parents to drive you on.  It’s ok though, because the rich kid on campus with no friends is willing to let them use his Cadillac so long as they agree to be his friend for the week! Man, these guys pull some serious weight.

usa True American badasses

In the days before GPS or google maps, people just started driving and hoped they’d eventually run into what they were looking for.  After casually crashing into a semi truck and then running afoul of the local gang of albino miscreants, the fellahs finally find a strip club haven.  After a few so-so warm-up acts, the surly troupe of barflies is mesmerized by Katrina, the aforementioned stripper with scary Ronald McDonald for a head and an Australian aborigine cave painting for a body.  One of our frosh studs goes back to smooth talk her into doing a little private show for the brothers back on campus, but she’s more interested in swallowing his throat.

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Right after she’s through giving this zebra chair the ride of its life

The vampires in this movie are pretty badass. Like the undead from Fright Night, their whole faces go into beast mode when its time to devour, instead of the boring and subtle lengthening of the incisors.  Sooner or later the act is over and the vampires decide to stop playing nice and turn their out of town admirers into a midnight snack.  At least they got to see boobs before they die. fangs

Overall: 7

Vamp bills itself as a horror-comedy, and while there are no laugh out loud moments (not that I was expecting any), it’s light and funny enough to be really enjoyable without losing it’s spooky edge or becoming too stupid.  Sure, you’ve got the same script inconsistencies that seem to plague every low-budget horror movie, but they aren’t integral to the plot.  By the time this story gets rolling it stays on the rails.gif2
flaming vampire skull approved

The Gate (1987)

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About:

A couple of kids unwittingly perform a rite which opens a gate to a demonic underworld in their backyard.  The freed demons are now attempting to create Hell on Earth, and it’s up to the boys to stop them.

Review:

I had pretty high hopes for this movie.  Any film that casts kids as the main characters probably can’t be taken too seriously, but the preview made it look like a fun little spinoff of The Goonies with a horror twist.  Such was not the case.

The Gate wasn’t horrible.  It started out ok, with these two bozo kids just screwing around in the back yard and unknowingly performing a step-by-step ritual that opens up the gate to Hell.  Hey, it could happen to anybody.  But after a while the story plateaus when one of the kids just sort of freaks out in a quasi-reality mindfuck for a while before the plot finally gets back on the rails and everything is wrapped up.

eye gif
Mind = fucked

The movie stars a young Stephen Dorff, before his acting career devolved into playing bit parts in Aerosmith music videos.  One night lightning knocks down the tree in his backyard, blowing his tree fort to shit and leaving a giant hole in the ground.  He and his buddy snoop around the crater and pull out a big ol’ geode.  Incidentally, his buddy looks exactly like John Clayton.

clayton gif

So these kids bust open the geode, which happens to be the first step in some mystical ritual to open up the gate to Demonland.  They then go on to do some other shit – bleed all over the hole, speak aloud the sacred text written on the back of a heavy metal record, and toss a dead dog in the hole – and the next thing you know they’ve got little demons running all over the place.  Nice going, twerps!

So metal!

A large portion of screen time is dedicated to the boys and Dorff’s sister running and hiding from the demons.  However, these little guys are each about the size of a football.  At one point one of the kids even falls in the hole in the back yard and is attacked by a group of them, but he comes out no worse for wear.  And yet it never occurs to the group to try and fight these little fuckers.

demons
Come get some!

Dorff’s buddy and his sister get captured by the demons and are supposedly sacrificed in order to complete the ritual.  Now that all the little peon demons did their job, it’s time for the head demon to come out and post up as the figure head of demonic intimidation.  This guy is a giant axolotl who comes crashing up through the floor of the house and is one demon you do not want to mess with.

axolotl
Raaaawwwrrr!!!

(SPOILERS AHEAD!) 

At this point things seem pretty hopeless for Dorff and the rest of humanity.  His dog is dead, his best friend and sister have being carried off by demons to be sacrificed, and there is a gigantic salamander coming up through his living room floor.  But if he’s going down, he’s going down swinging.  Our hero faces this menacing force and shoots a toy rocket literally into the belly of the beast.  And, wouldn’t you know, that was the chink in the armor all along.

Where are the neighbors during all of this?

Yayy! The demons are gone!  And guess what – Dorff’s buddy and his sister are back!  And not only that – that dead dog is back too!  Everything’s back to normal!  Well, not quite – they’ll still need to explain to their parents why there’s a giant hole in the living room floor.

Overall: 6

mallows

After writing about The Gate I’m going to change my tune.  At first I said it wasn’t the great. And while it is pretty stupid, it still is a lot of fun.  Thus I compare this movie to an innocuous marshmallow roast: it may not be anything close to an all-out bonfire, but it is fun, sweet, and at times gooey.  I also have to tip my hat to the special effects – there was a lot of stop-motion animation which I love, especially when compared to all the CGI pollution we see today.

The Lost Boys (1987)

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About:

Brothers Michael and Sam have just moved to Santa Carla to live with their grandpa.  Sure, the girls are hot and the beach jams are tasty, but something seems a little off.  For one thing, Michael begins to stay out all night with his new biker gang friends, then sleeps all day.  Sam’s new buddies at the comic store seem convinced that his brother has fallen in with a group of vampires, and set out to prevent his full transformation to a blood sucking creature of the night.

Review:

What can one say about The Lost Boys that hasn’t already been said?  It showcases two of the worst things to ever come out of the 80’s in Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, is chalked full of some of the most horrendous dialogue ever written, and, the coup de grace, this oiled up rock n’ roll sax guy:

So this movie sucks, right? NO! In fact all these things that would normally sink a movie combine together in a way that actually makes it really good!  I guess it is so dumb and cheesy that it transcends any normal expectations you would have and right away you realize you’re watching something a little different.  Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t get to pick on all the goofy things that stick out in this movie.  For instance, what’s up with Corey Haim?

haimster
Aside from the erupting sex appeal, of course

Not really sure what’s going on with this guy.  He has an interesting wardrobe choice, even for an 80’s teenager.  He splits his time between pestering his taxidermist grandpa, cuddling with his pet husky, and flexing his brain muscles at the local comic shop.  In the clip above of the beach concert, his brother Michael is clearly into the hot gypsy chick, while Sam can’t take his eyes of the sexy sax man.  Ok, so maybe he’s just really into those kicking jams.  Can’t argue with that.  But what about that scene where he’s looking for a place to stash gandpa’s taxidermy owl and there’s a poster of an ab-bearing Rob Lowe closet door?

lowe
In your dreams, Haimster

And last but not least, what the hell is up with the scene where this teenaged kid taking a bubble bath and singing into a brush?

It is unfortunate how many Gen-Y girls must have discovered their sexuality to this scene

The special features are a must see…sort of.  The special edition DVD release has an additional disc which is entirely special features, and contains a section titled, I shit you not, “Haimster and Feldog.”  It features the two Coreys – Feldman in his gothic, smug, completely delusional “I’m a Hollywood star” attitude we’re all too familiar with, and a pudgy, frosty-tipped Haim – basically chronicling their bromance and the artistic gift to the world their collaboration inspired.  In fact, the entire special features disc is pretty much just commentary from Haimster and Feldog, presumably because everyone else involved in the movie can still find work.  The only other people on there are director Joel Schumacher, who is practically wetting himself over his idea for a sequel titled The Lost Girls, and the guy who played Max wondering aloud how his character could be written into it, despite dying in the first one.

I gotta say, I really have a lot of disdain for modern Feldman.  Yes, he was a lot of fun as a child actor in the 1980s.  And sure, he’s still relevant in a ‘laughing at you, not with you’ sort of way.  But as an adult this chowderhead just refuses to exit the limelight, instead continuing to try and milk the success of his childhood self, even though that shriveled teet dried up a long time ago.  And the fact that Feldog blocked me on Twitter and told his followers to do the same after one harmless quip at his expense has absolutely nothing to do with my disdain for him.

So lets talk about these vampires.  It seems like in every vampire movie these undead drinkers of blood are always beautiful, noble, and just all around cool kids who you want to become.  But in The Lost Boys, Kiefer Sutherland and his bros are a bunch of dirty, unruly biker punks who spend their nights terrorizing the boardwalk.  “Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old.”  It’s a cool little twist on the typical vampire archetype.  And Kiefer really brings it in Lost Boys.  Watching the movie, he is clearly leaps and bounds above the next best actor in terms of ability and general bad-assery.  I also loved seeing Alex Winter of Bill and Ted fame in this.  The guy has played like two characters in his short acting career and they are both classics.

winter
Excellent! (air guitar riff)

The last thing I want to mention about this film is that, given the title, this is obviously a Peter Pan reference, where the lost boys in Neverland never grow old and are looking for a mother.  And yes, that comes into play in the movie, but only at the very end, and only for a a short moment. It’s during the climax of the movie and the reference comes out of left field and you’re like “oh yea, that makes sense,” but then the movie is over before you really had a chance to reflect on it.  The deleted scenes reveal this subplot in depth, where the main vampire Max attempt to turn Sam and Michael’s mother into a maternal figure for the vampire gang.  It is kind of goofy, and the scenes are terrible and were mercifully cut for that reason.  But it seems like this theme should have been explored a little more in the final cut, if for no other reason than to further justify the use of such a bitchin’ title.

Overall: 8

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This movie is as hot as, um…a burning vampire skull (that’s pretty hot, but not, like, the hottest possible)

The Lost Boys will always have a special place in my heart for giving me one of my favorite movie quotes of all time in, “Maggots, Michael; you’re eating maggots, how do they taste?”

It’s a great horror-comedy that is both fun and really refreshing in its simplicity.  You will laugh at the absurdity of some of the dialogue, but also enjoy the fast pace and general likability of the movie as a whole.  Chances are you’ve seen The Lost Boys.  If you haven’t, do yourself a solid and see it now.  If you have, treat yourself and watch it again!

 

From Beyond (1986)

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About:

Dr. Edward Pretorius has invented a machine that stimulates the human pineal gland, allowing anyone within range the ability to see the horrifying inter-dimensional creatures existing around us at all times.  When Pretorius loses his head to one of the monsters his assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, is presumed to be his killer.  Only by restoring the machine, and potentially opening a rift into a sinister world, can he prove his innocence.

Review:

Jeffrey Combs, who played Herbert West in Re-Animator, reprises his role as a budding mad scientist, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, experimenting with taboo and wholly sinister subject matter.  How type-cast can you get?  Indeed, From Beyond, released a year after Re-Animator, is the second effort from the trio of Combs, Director Stuart Gordon, and screenplay writer Dennis Paoli to adapt a Lovecraft tale into a feature length movie.  Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, the assistant to a scientist, Dr. Pretorius, who has invented a machine that would allow a person to fully experience each of their 5 senses to the extreme, as well as awaken a 6th sense that had become dormant in humans.  Specifically, the Pretorius Resonator establishes a series of mathematically precise vibrations to stimulate the human pineal gland.  This hyper-sensitivity allows the pineal gland to act as sort of a third eye, making it possible for humans to see all the creatures that inhabit the interdimensional space around us at all times.  Got it?

monster
So this guy is standing behind you right now – you just can’t see him

Tillinghast is actually the less-nutty of the two, and after getting bitten in the face by an interdimensional eel, tries to warn his mentor of the dangers his Resonator poses.  But of course Pretorius isn’t going to listen to his little bitch of an assistant, so he cranks the machine up to full blast and, well, gets his head bitten of by some unseen otherworldly monster.

head
It grows back…sort of

Ok so all that stuff above takes place before the title card.  So now we have Tillinghast in a mental hospital as the presumed schizophrenic killer of Pretorius, babbling on about interdimensional monsters running around biting off people’s heads.  Enter Barbara Crampton (also of Re-Animator fame) as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, the District Attorney’s appointed psychologist sent to determine the mental state of Tillinghast.  When she remains unconvinced of his schizophrenia, the DA releases him into her care and they return to the lab to recreate the experiment in hopes of proving his innocence.

From-Beyond3
Also to have one crazy-ass slumber party!

This is right about where the climax of the movie came for me, the point at which I was most excited to be watching it and convinced it was going to be a good one.  Alas, as these films are wont to do, the whole thing began unraveling shortly thereafter.  Frequent readers (hi, Dad) know that my main bugaboo is glaring plot holes.  The little inconsistencies don’t bother me – if someone is wearing a blue shirt in one cut and a red one in the next, I really don’t mind that because it doesn’t detract from the actual story.  What drives me crazy and ultimately ruins a movie for me is when the story comes to a screeching halt because we are supposed to jump over a giant gap in logic and just accept it for what it is.  I can’t do that.  I will become disengaged in what is currently going on in the story because I am still so hung up on that thing that didn’t make any sense that happened thirty minutes ago.  From Beyond did not have one such egregious plot hole, but several.  I was practically squirming in my seat as soon as the opening credits finished up.

combs
Although to be fair several factors contributed to my squeamishness

My favorite character in the film is the policeman, Bubba, who had been sent to accompany Tillinghast and McMichaels for security.  When everyone hauls their gear into the Pretorious house, he casually brings along a giant fucking ninja sword.  This is a small detail – no one even mentions it.  So the whole movie I’m waiting for this thing to come into play, and it never does!  What a tease!

bubba
Get back here, you tease!

Bubba is also the only voice of reason throughout this whole thing, so naturally he’s the first to die.  I had to watch his death scene a few times because it made zero sense and even now I have no idea what went down.  While Tillinghast and McMichaels are getting swarmed by interdimensional bugs, Bubba discovers that shining a flashlight on them makes the bugs disperse.  He then looks like he has an idea, probs involving the ninja sword, but accidentally drops the flashlight like a total bozo.  It lands in such a way that the beam is now focused on him, and the bugs swarm all over his body.  But wait, I thought they didn’t like the light?  Yea, well, now they do.  Deal with it.  By the time the bugs are done with him  he is reduced to a justifiably confused head atop a completely skeletonized body.


musical emphasis added by YouTube user ‘CannibalCuisine27′

Definitely coming from out of left field is the spare bedroom / sex dungeon in Dr. Pretorius’s house.  I guess this has something to do with the good doctor’s mortal quest to stimulate the senses.  In the movie they find this room full of whips and chains and gimp suits, as well as some video of Dr. P doing some real nefarious acts with an unknown mistress.  The characters keep coming back to this room just to, y’know, convene and shit.  Only after Tillinghast gets all his body hair ripped out by a laundry room monster and is passed out in the sex dungeon’s guest bed does Dr. McMichaels find him desirable enough to strap one of said gimpsuits onto herself and straddle him.  I wasn’t really sure what this had to do with anything, but we do get to see some extra beefy ass cheeks in the scene, so I let it slide.

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some serious USDA Prime beef

By the end of the movie these guys are just shooting for broke.  Tillinghast’s pineal gland becomes so stimulated that forehead balloons to Rihanna size, until finally the thing just pokes itself out of his head for some fresh air.

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Too…many…dick jokes!

Yea the weirdness doesn’t stop there.  For no reason whatsoever Tillinghast’s newly acute senses are giving him a craving for human brains.  His preferred method of dining, sucking it through a person’s eye socket like he’s taking down a jell-o shot, makes for some great cinematic special effects but unfortunately does nothing to save this movie from absolutely imploding.


as rendered by Trent Shy (@TrentShy)

Overall: 5

Explode-01-june

This movie is not unlike an explosion – starts out exciting enough, but quickly subsides into a lingering sulfur stink.

After I saw this I had to read the story it was based on, just to see where these guys went wrong in transitioning it to the big screen.  Turns out Lovecraft’s story is only 4 fucking pages long! – meaning most of the shit in the movie was completely made up from scratch.  In the actual story Tillinghast is actually the evil genius, the he invites some skeptical friend over so he can simultaneously prove to him he was right all along and enact his revenge by feeding him to an ephemeral monster.  I guess that’s not surprising that everything bad about this movie didn’t actually come from the grandfather of horror stories.  Good thing he made Re-Animator much longer, otherwise Gordon and Paoli, left to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations, would have probably turned that into a total stinker as well.

 

Eaten Alive (1977)

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About:

Judd is a crazy old man who owns a run down motel in rural Texas.  His hobbies include babbling incoherently to himself, murdering his guests without cause, and finding new and inventive ways to keep his pet Nile crocodile fed.  Probably a step up from a Motel 8, but not quite the Ritz.

Review:

Eaten Alive, not to be confused with this similarly named mess, also goes by the alternate titles Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter, and Le Crocodile de la Mort.  This is Tobe Hooper’s first film after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the similarities are pretty evident, so much so that he even cast the same damsel in distress for the two films in Marylin Burns.  It’s pretty incredible that she agreed to work with Hooper on their second go-round since it has been documented that she went through physical and emotional hell filming the former.

burns
A small price to pay for the promotion of one’s art 

The look and feel of Eaten Alive is very Hooper-esque: the scenes are dusty and dirty, and a lot of detail is put into things like sweat and grime on the actors (although it’s probable that was achieved naturally).  Also the sound track sounds like someone stomping on a Moog synthesizer while banging pots and pans together.  The entire film definitely had that same bizarre, unnerving undertone we all know so well from TCM.

The movie starts out with, guess who? – Robert Englund, playing the town miscreant Buck, in a whore house trying to convince some young and innocent hooker to let him play the back nine.  His quest for backdoor action is actually a recurring theme in the film.

A pretty terrifying proposition

It’s unclear what the relationship between Buck and Judd is, but a couple times in the film Buck rolls up to the motel just to start shit with the old man, who stomps up and down and yells something about being owed money.  Judd is certainly an odd bird, and at risk of beating the TCM comparison into the ground, acts almost exactly like the hitchhiker from the former.  This seems to be a staple of these early Hooper movies – the inclusion of some crazy character who is very edgy, talking to himself, and hopping up and down with gleeful curiosity at the sight of gruesome death.  It’s actually quite brilliant, I think, as method of revealing the uniquely demented and equally horrifying characteristics of someone who, if you saw walking around outside, would definitely cross the street to avoid.  The late Neville Brand, playing Judd, delivers an especially convincing performance as this troubled hermit who is clearly living in a world of his own, his grasp on reality hanging by a thread.

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But boy does he wear that mop top well

As you might have guessed, at some point weary travelers set up shop in the motel looking a place to rest, only to receive the exact opposite of that.  A large portion of the movie is dedicated to Judd chasing around half naked girls with a scythe, and tumbling down his own flight of stairs.  I really couldn’t tell you why he’s so intent on killing his paying customers, but he seems to be pretty freaked out and offended by hot women in his presence.

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It’s just his special way of showing affection

Unfortunately the movie continues like this without much rhyme or reason.  After half way through a father and his daughter rent a room while looking for a family member who had run away from home, incidentally the same girl Judd sliced up and fed to the croc earlier that day.  This would have made for a good overarching plot line, but it was introduced so late that it didn’t have much impact on creating an actual story.  It’s disappointing that more time wasn’t spent into developing an actual story for this movie, because it certainly had the look and feel of a classic.

Along with well-known B actors Burns and Englund, the cast also includes William Finley from The Phantom of the Paradise, and Carolyn Jones, who played Morticia in the original Addams Family television series.

Overall: 5

fire

The is the kind of back yard fire you have to constantly feed with cardboard just to keep from going out completely; the kind you had such high hopes for only to die out too soon, leaving you disappointed and stinking like smoke

Again, Eaten Alive doesn’t really have much of a plot to it.  Like TCM, it seems to exist just to showcase some gore and scary scenes, without really trying to tell much of a story.  That worked out just fine for TCM, but Eaten Alive is neither shocking nor gory enough to get by on that dubious merit alone.  I liked it well enough, but it seems that, like its antagonist, the film is a few cards short of a full deck.

 

Basket Case (1982)

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About:

Duane Bradley has just moved to New York City with his brother to meet some old friends. Except his brother is a deformed malicious blob who he carries around in a whicker basket, and their old friends are the cruel doctors who cut them apart when they were kids.

Review:

I had actually never even heard of Basket Case until I saw it referenced in a Trent Shy claymation video at the Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival in Charleston, SC:

How have I never seen this?  Basket Case was really good.  It was super gory and campy as all hell.  When your monster is a foot-tall blob of deformed flesh the campiness sort of comes naturally, but it’s especially charming in this case.  From what I could tell the monster, little Bilal, was portrayed by rubber gloves, a mask, and a puppet.  These were all done really well.  However there were one or two scenes where he was shown through some truly horrible stop motion animation.  The only example I could find of this online is a hilarious mashup of ABBA’s Dancing Queen set to Bilal going full Rolling Stones mode on a hotel room:

Having the time of his liiiife…

It is revealed in a flashback scene that the boys’ asshole father blames Bilal for their mother’s death during birth.  No respectable physicians will agree to separate the two, so the dad brings in three quacks to perform the operation in their dining room.  Amazingly Bilal survives and years later the two set out to exact revenge on the doctors who cut them apart.

Perhaps the freakiest part of this movie was the noise track – Bilal is often shrieking like a banshee getting bludgeoned by an alley cat, and the kill scenes are to the tunes of atonal Moog sounds mixed with various animal noises and loud sirens.

Basket Case was bordering on greatness until the ending, which was so hilarious that it still makes this a must-see.  As it turns out, this whole movie really boils down to just a couple of horny bros looking for some action.  You can imagine having to bend to every whim of your psychopathic deformed twin might make having a love life a little difficult.  So when Duane meets a total babe from the city, Bilal gets jealous that he’s not getting any hanky-panky.  Being the man of action that he is, he sets out to show this girl that it’s he who is the more charming of the two. And while I’m reluctant to publish any adult content on this site, I did feel it was necessary to share a certain visual from the film, which I do so now without comment:

bilal humps

The craziness doesn’t end there.  The final 10 minutes of the movie are perhaps the best, if only because they are completely outrageous and totally out of character with everything that came before it.  As close as they are, the movie ends with yet another pair of victims who failed to adhere to that sacred adage, “bros before hoes.”

Overall: 9

Hell Fire!!!!

hellfire

Basket Case is a legitimately good movie.  It made sense (which always earns major bonus points for movies like these), was very campy, and also quite creepy.  The idea for this film was really original and has obviously been the inspiration of several works which have followed it.  And you know what? I’m not even going to bother with the physics of a little blob of flesh being able to manhandle full grown men.  Little Bilal is all upper-body strength and that’s just that.