Monday, October 6, 2008

Silly Slasher Motives #1

Boo Hoo Hoo! 'The coach pushed sweetheart too hard during the big track meet and was solely responsible for the heart attack that lead to her sudden death. She fell limp right on the track, but the coach was just screaming at her to run faster just a second before her death. The only logical thing to do is don a fencing outfit and kill the whole track team, the coach, or whoever else steps in my way.. All his yelling at her by the coach.... all his screaming...she just couldn't catch a break...and now, look at her. She's dead. My trusty stopwatch will keep the correct time as I hold it in one hand and kill with the other. I'll set up some good murder scenes so the audience won't get too bored in between all the bullshit. I'll replace the mat under the pole vaulter with sharp spikes. I'll tweak a football, placing a sharp steel rod on one end, and throw it at my victim in a glorious Dan Marino-like pass, piercing the receiver's poor chest. He should keep his eye on the ball, that's for sure.'

The above could very well have been the diary of poor distraught 'Kevin' ( E. Danny Murphy) From Graduation Day.(1981). The overbearing coach (Chris George) likes to be on top. He hates losing. He pushes his star track runner Laura (Ruth Llorens) a little harder than the rest which ends up in Laura having a heart attack after pushing herself too hard. In the final reveal, Kevin gives that glorious final speech involving the reason why he chose to do what he did. He places the blame on an overbearing coach and clamoring fans.The final girl (which is a tough bitch from the Navy- Laura's sister Anne) stands there and listens attentively, waiting for that moment to escape.

Graduation Day. What to make of it? To be totally honest, it's not one of my favorites, but I do like it a little better with each viewing. During the skating rink scene, the band (Felony) seem to play the same song for at least five or six minutes. The lead singer's voice got more irritating than Ozzy Osbourne's after listening to his vocals for hours at a time, but only Felony can make you feel this way after five minutes. That's a feat all in itself. I can usually give any song the benefit of a doubt, but I doubt Felony will care either way.

While an all out revenge slasher in the same ball park as The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Friday the 13th, Blood Hook, and Class Reunion Massacre, Graduation Day can incidentally fall into the 'desperation murder' scenario as well. Kevin is one distraught mofo. In his demented mind, everyone had to die. Someone had to be punished for the death of his high school sweetheart. It's made clear that they were even going to become married after the graduation. Since everyone was going unpunished, Kevin brought it upon himself to play judge, jury, and executioner. I'd say he did a pretty good job of it. Nevertheless, this little revenge slasher flick has a lot of fans, but I'm just not in that category. The motive wasn't a legitimate reason to murder six or eight people when you think about it. Sure, the coach pushed the kids a little too hard. He certainly didn't anticipate his star runner keeling over from a heart attack during her senior year in high school. What coach doesn't push his players to the limit? Graduation Day is basically a haven for showing off creative death sequences. There's certainly a few odd-ball death's, but it's nothing that hasn't been outdone by other low-budget horror films.

Kevin: He's an odd duck.He's a teenager who resembles a forty year old street bum-alcoholic - Kevin Badger, the cause for so many creative kills and much murderous mayhem, but was it worth it just because your girlfriend had a heart attack? So, this is your silly motive #1.: Boyfriend kills the whole track team (including the coach) because his girlfriend had a heart attack.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Don't Go Down To The Woods Today....

There are spoilers in the woods...''in every sense of the word...''

As is probably known to anyone who knows my cinematic tastes, they know full well that the snowbound and back woods slasher film are my personal favorite sub-genres. What I've come to realize is that most backwoods slashers are basically the same: You have the same basic structure - the formulaic teens in the woods trying to overcome a night of terror as some unknown (usually deformed when it comes to backwoods slashers) maniac slashes his way through friends a'many. There's basically two types of woods goers in the modern day slasher film. There's your true outdoors-men ala the characters from the 1983 second tier slasher The Final Terror - The whole crew basically makes a living from working in the woods. It's not necessarily clear what their job duties entail, but it's obvious that most of the crew are right at home in the woods. There's also your campers from 1981's Just Before Dawn that deal with an excited group of mountain hikers and rock climbers who enjoy nothing more than flaunting through nature on a natural high.There's definitely a buzz kill when a large grizzly man cuts through our happy woods goers like a hot knife through warm butter.

On the other hand, you have your naive, sometimes reluctant venture's into the woods who had obviously rather be somewhere else. The character Alfred from 1981's The Burning comes to mind. Here's a kid ( a strange kid at that) who can't swim, sucks at outdoors type functions and simply dislikes his woody surroundings. Gail from 1984's Mutual of Omaha production The Prey, also rings a bell. Although all of her friends are quite comfortable in the woods, she must be afraid there's going to be a horny chipmunk who's going to see her in her 'caked-on-rouge glory' in the dead of night... Your basic city dweller who's very un-at-home in the woods, especially at night. There's usually at least one prissy type along for the camping trip.

Another formula involved in the early 80's backwoods slasher is the motive. When I say motive I've learned that the motive can be a number of things, so I use the term loosely. The deformed killer simply may not have any morals that could or would detour him from committing murderous and depraved acts. Maybe he/she grew up in the woods all alone and was forced to live off the land without parental supervision. This can be classified under 'desperation murder'. Most backwoods slasher films deal with 'desperation murder', which on it's own, is almost another whole sub-genre. A series of 'desperation murders' can be seen in 1982's, Humongous - A groub of Scooby Doo-esque youths get trapped on an island with a deformed hulk who's incidentally starving. The killer is in desperate need of food and the youths are easy access. One thing I've learned involving the backwoods slasher flick is that the killers are non-discriminatory when it comes to meat.

Maybe the killer(s) fear their way of life may become influenced by outsiders as is made evident by Pa in 1987's Canadian backwoods crazy-family-in-the-woods flick American Gothic. A strange religious family lives on an island without modern amenities. No running water. No electricity. They feel as if modern day technology would only contaminate their family which consists of Ma and Pa and their forty year old 'children' - and anyone threatening their way of life - or who simply do not agree with their lifestyle - are fair game in the murder realm. This could also be classified under 'desperation murder' as in the killer(s) feel they have to eliminate a threat. This can also be seen in 1981's The Final Terror. A deranged mental facility escapee is living in the woods and has adapted quite well to her woodsy surroundings. Her son sees after her and keeps hid the fact that his mother is a deranged psycho who'll kill anyone who threatens her exposure. The pair do everything they can to detour people away from Mill Creek where the son's mother makes her home. The murders committed by the deranged mother is also a 'desperation murder' scenario.

The motive can be way out there, I'm telling ya! In 1984's obscurity entitled Satan's Blade we start off with a bank robbery gone awry when greed steps in the way. Not only this, but the end motive is quite simple, yet effective considering how low budget the film was. Anyone who finds a possessed knife becomes possessed themselves by the supposed fictitious mountain man who roams the hills in search of a victim. This snowbound backwoods slasher was shot in 1980 in Big Bear, California during Winter. The snowy landscape adds a load of atmosphere that coincides with the score to rank it from pure and utter trash, to watchable trash. There's the possession motive that's not used very much in the backwoods slasher department (although used a little in other sub-genre slasher) unless you consider the very obscure Ghost Dance from 1983- a very obscure title that deals with Indian possession - or - Killer Party and the aforementioned Satan's Blade. You could maybe throw The Forest from 1982 in the trash heap as well.

Of course, we all know Mama Vorhees' motive in the original Friday the 13th. She's a psycho-depressed schizo who takes her vengeance against teenagers who she subconsciously blames for her son (Jason's) death. One group of teenagers were making love while that young boy drowned and now, every teenager making their way to Camp Crystal Lake either don't make it there, or the ones who are already there never leave alive. As mentioned earlier in the post, a majority of backwoods slasher flicks consists of a crazy family in the woods - sometimes cannibals - sometimes just immorally sadistic.

Conclusion: Most backwoods slashers consists basically of the same things. You've got your killer(s) in the woods. You've got your trespassers in the same woods. You have a few defined reasons for the killers doing what they do, although, they really don't need a reason. All backwoods slasher films revolve around the same plot. With all the murder in the woods, I guess staring at trees and shrubbery eventually drives one insane. Evidently, the symptoms include unconventional murder weapons, or some deranged reason behind the murdering of innocent hikers or forestry rangers. Whatever the motive, the backwoods slasher turned summer camps and the good old forest into death traps, distorting everyday ventures into a day of blood and death. In retrospect, after 1980's Friday the 13th (not the first, but did kick start the backwoods slasher craze) the mountains were never the same again. One would actually walk straight ahead without looking over their shoulder every five hundred feet or so.

The good old Backwoods slasher film sure helped shape horror altogether - being the cornerstone for many sub-par slasher films to come. I should actually refer to 'films' to the word 'movies', as a few shot-on-video backwoods slashers infiltrated the video market - a few even making a memory into the charred minds of horror fans. Cannibal Camp Out comes to mind - Young people in the woods+cannibal+camp out - I'm assuming a group of kids go into the woods to camp out and get cannibalized. Good premise, I guess. In closing, don't go down to the woods today or you're sure of....

In the near future, I'll post my theory on how the little film Deliverance is the forefather of the backwoods slasher movie. I'll refer to what could very well be one of the absolute first 'formulaic' backwoods slasher flicks. The title is Blood Stalkers from 1978. I'll also be discussing the snowbound slasher flick and how it relates the world of horror cinema. Stay tuned and keep the dorm clean!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Dorm That Dripped Blood ( 1982 )

The film responsible for the namesake of this blog attempt.

Morgan Meadows Hall, an isolated seven story dormitory stands empty. Corridors that were once filled with the vibrant sound of co-eds having sex and puking all over the place is now vacant - on the verge of being torn down. No more wild parties. No more keg stands and such. Five college students volunteer to close the dorm during the Christmas season. Soon, however, out of the dark recesses of the quiet building emerges a haunting and lethal menace. Mysteriously, all phone lines are cut and the students are plunged into the darkness of a powerless and increasingly frenzied gloom. In a series of grizzly murders by and unknown specter, the students begin to disappear. Did David Copperfield kidnap them and throw them off a train?

As the murder mounts and the high-pitched staccato of slaying continues, the remaining students realize their up against a killer who'll eventually kill them with a spoon or something. The dark halls of the dorm now hide the killers identity. Once the object of nostalgic affection, Morgan Meadows Hall has been hideously transformed into the most suffocating nightmare imaginable. Well, not to unimaginable. Is that a paradox? Right off the bat, bad news prevails as I this little 'hider-in-the-cranny' is directed by two people. Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter are the biggest attention cravers on the face of the earth. Everything was evidently construed from the wonderful and articulate minds of these two people as their names are all over the back of the box, as well as the opening and closing credits. By God they wanted us to know they were a part of this film and was going to make damn sure we knew it.
The Dorm That Dripped Blood was an attempt by two guys who thought they could make a few bucks off the slasher craze started by 'Halloween' and 'Friday the 13th'. Did they succeed? Well, if you like terrible movies you'll love it. TDTDB delivers in many departments even tho some things are hard to see because of bad lighting. I'm sure either Carpenter or Obrow was responsible for being the DP, but decided to actually not use their name for a credit, pawning off the horrendous lighting job on some other poor soul. How generous of them.

Nevertheless, we start off with a guy who's running away from someone or something. He hides behind some bushes and thinks he's home free. Wrong. Someone jumps from out of nowhere and slices his hand in two. This scene has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie, but it's very welcomed, nevertheless.We are soon taken to an old dormitory (Morgan Meadows Hall) where Joanne, Craig, Patty, and Brian are doing their best to take inventory of everything in the dorm and sell it. Debbie (A young Daphne Zuniga) eventually gives the crew the news that she's not going to be able to stay for the whole two weeks and that her parents were on the way to pick her up.

Debbie's parents soon get murdered - Her mother choked to death by a wire from the backseat of the car - Her father whacked repeatedly in the head with a baseball bat with barbed-wire wrapped around it. Debbie comes to the parking lot to meet them, finds their bodies, faints, and eventually gets ran over repeatedly by this unknown specter. Anyway, there's the usual crap dialog - Patty likes Brian, but Joanne likes him too. But Joanne also has a boyfriend. Is he the murderous -jealous type? There's a small hint of a love triangle in the making, but it never takes shape.

A couple days down the road, Joanne is out back at the dump checking on 'inventory items' and meets up with a 'junkster' named Bobby Lee Tremble. He takes a liking to Joanne and talks her into taking a check for his junk purchases. Somehow, Bobby Lee acquires Joannes dorm number and gives her a call late one night. He wants the two of them to get together for a beer, but she turns him down. He and his hard dick decide to take a drive. If this isn't enough, we have a homeless balding, fuzzy-headed freak running around using the dormitory as shelter. After a few encounters with 'Hemmitt the Hermit', weird things start to happen. A buffet table gets smashed - Food gets stolen - The lights go out - The phone lines get cut - Is HE responsible? We do have SOME decent acting, even though the lead, Laura Lapinski, looks like a piece of cardboard taped to a stick that a puppeteer from the rafters was controlling. We also have some good slasher action going on in the form of drills, Groen pressure cookers, cars, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, the good old-fashioned butchers knife and even an incinerator. There's also a very good score that adds a little bit of eeriness to the film that it normally wouldn't have had. There's a couple good point of view shots, but nothing to write home about.

Spoiler Below

There's a GREAT down beat ending that I really didn't see coming. I'll admit, I love the ending - even tho the main lead also dies. It definitely gave room for a sequel, but it never happened. I would loved to have seen a sequel to this movie. The alternate title to this film is called 'PRANKS' - Even tho I don't think there was one prank throughout the whole film - Unless you count Craig throwing a fake spider into someone's eggs. Nevertheless, aside from all the bad things this film contains, it's worth the view. It's not particularly rare, but you'll probably have to snatch a copy from eBay or Amazon. Is it worth the seven eight bucks you'll have to shell out for it? If you're a true blue slasher fan, the answer is yes. If you're just a general horror fan who dislikes cheap grainy flicks, don't waste your time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Special Occasion Slasher

How many slasher films can we really think of that don't involve some kind of special occasion being completely ruined? Valentines Day was destroyed by that whacky Canadian, Harry Warden. Final Exams have been distorted from the taking of a simple test to the murdering and maiming of college co-eds by a van driving, army coat wearing, mad-man. Oh yeah, he carries a butchers knife. Graduation Day has been forever cast in the never ending worm hole of special occasion slashers. The good old birthday has been mired and trodden under foot by the mighty 80's money makers. Halloween was destroyed by a knife welding psycho wearing a bleached out William Shatner mask. Christmas was turned from a holiday of good tidings and joy, to a day of bloody missle toes and harrassing phone calls. The summer camp turned from a place where kids could feel safe, to a place where they could be considered prey by a machete carrying freak. Even the personal dreams of an individual were not safe. A man named Freddy Kruger could now pervade our dreams and turn them from a peaceful unconscious emmission of the garbage of every day life, to a struggle of wits and survival which usually ended in an exaggerated death for the person dreaming. The night when most teenagers just wind up drunk and pregnant was turned from just that, to a day that would be labeled by a greaser punk named Lou, and a boggin wearing hatchet-man stalking the school corridors on Prom Night. Nothing was safe. Not even the confines of a train amongst all your friends. At a party no less. A killer could now follow you on a train during a New Year's Eve party and kill all your friends one by one. Hollywood simply left no stone unturned. Can you really blame them? They moved on from one special occasion to the next, hoping to cash in on the flavor of the day. They'd wear us out with one gimmick and simply move on to the other. It was a game of 'who can outlast who'. As long as they made films like that, there would surely be an audience for it. In Hollywood numbers, that particular audience could result in the shutting down of a franchise, nevertheless, the special occasion slasher never went 'viewerless'. The slasher film helped turn memorable and traditional events into horror. The telephone (as I mention in my psychological phone murder posts) was among the first 'good timey' things to become exploited. Soon after, a simple Sunday afternoon drive became a nightmare. The special occasion slasher had been right in front of the producer's face all along, but they were either afraid to touch it, or just didn't think it would stick. The off-kilter date of Friday the 13th - a random time throughout a year or two in which the 13th of the month falls on a Friday. It's supposed to mean bad luck and the 1980 special occasion slasher mixed the camp setting and the ominous date to turn Friday the 13th post 1980 into a double ominous day. Something was gonna happen and that was all there was to it. I CAN remember going to the beach with my mother and her friend as a kid on Friday the 13th. Someone stole her purse (which had her keys in it) and we ended up having to walk five miles to have a spare made. I guess we dodged Jason on the freeway somewhere.

When you really think about cinema versus real life, there's not much difference. There may be a little exageration on the celluloid end, but there's something tangable in both realms. The slasher film was so successful because it turned the simple things in life - an outing with the family - one's birthday - one's graduation day ' Valentine's Day etc - into a day of dread and anxiety, not a day of good times and relaxation as it should have been. The comfort zone that previously came with these occasions was shattered. All the warm and fuzzy feelings had been driven away and exploited by the big hammering fists of Hollywood. The family aspect was sometimes used in the special occasion slasher, but not nearly as much as camping pals, or frat brothers and sorority sisters. Maybe one day, we'll have a slasher film that can exploit every single holiday in one film. Friday the Black Christmas After Halloween - Yeah, that sounds about right.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Psychological Phone Murder Part 2

A terrified young baby-sitter...and incessantly ringing phone...and whispered threats set the stage for one of the best twenty minutes in horror cinema history! Carol Kane stars as the baby-sitter who is tormented by a series of disturbing phone calls until a compulsive cop (Charles Durning) is brought on the scene to apprehend the psychotic killer. Seven years later, however, the nightmare begins all over again when the mad man returns to mercilessly haunt Kane, now a wife and a mother. No longer a naive girl - though still terrified, but prepared - she moves boldly to thwart the maniac's attack in scenes that culminate in a nerve-shattering conclusion.
When A Stranger Calls (1979) can definitely boast at having what some consider the most chilling opening in cinema history. The killer taunts and terrorizes the babysitter even though he's not even in the same room with her. The killer however, was in the same house all along, walking hand in hand with its older Canadian cousin Black Christmas. The telephone had slowly become a cliche' - starting off as a way to lure the victims somewhere else, or to simply cut them off from the outside world by cutting the phone lines. Having the killer in the same house as the victims was an early take on the internet stalking age which, in its own right, has spawned a few horror films from our current age of internet anonymity. The phone went from a simple tool in aiding and embedding, to an all out psychological weapon - to wilt and destroy the psyche of the victims until they were easier to manipulate and do away with.

WASC is somewhat of a character study on a sick man who harnesses rage and ultimately takes it out on two young children in the same house in which the babysitter is supposed to be watching the children. The killer relentlessly calls, speaking in a very clean and low toned voice that doesn't seem too threatening, if maybe a little eerie. "Have you checked the children?", the killer asks - The babysitter shifting her eyes towards upstairs where the children are safe and asleep. With every call, the killer becomes more aggressive, his voice becoming more shaky and unnerving with every second of manipulated conversation. In the first act's final reveal, we realize that the creepy caller is in the same house and that he has incidentally murdered the children he so nonchalantly kept inquiring about.

On down the road, the killer eventually escapes the mental facility and takes up residence alongside the homeless people of the city. The cop is hot on his trail, but the small Englishman seems to weave through every nook and cranny and goes virtually untouched. Finally, during the final climactic scene, the babysitter (now seven years down the road with her own children) is at a restaurant with her husband when she receives a phone call from the same man who terrorized her years earlier. Fearing for the life of her own children, she breaks down and takes the phone threats seriously, thinking the worst.

The telephone isn't the huge star in When a Stranger Calls as it was in its Canadian cousin Black Christmas, but it is the main antagonist in the film. The killer is almost secondary in his tangible/visible form. He's much more scary and creepy on the other end of the phone line. Not being able to see the killer, the victims (or viewer) could turn the caller into any archetype their 'fear of the day' coincided with. Not knowing that the killer is actually a 120 lb - 5ft2 Englishman is much more terrifying when placing the calm, almost soothing voice on the frame of some kind of demon. The phone was an amplification of his character. It was an outlet for him to condone what he had done - asking the babysitter to 'check the children'. In his demented mind, if she had checked the children, even if he had killed her also, he was somehow less responsible than her for their murder.

Just like in modern times, when we chat in chat rooms or post on message boards, we really have no idea who we're talking to. They may tell us that they're a dentist from Virginia, but in reality, they may be a meat slicer at the local grocery store. We can place any face we want to on the people in whom we digitally associate with, turning them from the average Joe Schmoe, into a monster , if indeed we mentally associated something awful with their screen name. Or, if they repeatedly harassed us with repeated IM's or sent us grizzly images or our own personal information via email. Psychological Phone Murder is basically a primitive form of the Internet Stalking phase set on by Hollywood in the waxing days of the internet. Just as a naive user of the web would become terrified of someone who seemed to know all about them, or constantly harassed them online, so would the naive babysitter of the 70's whose main purpose of the telephone was to chat about friends and school with their pals. The phone (to most teenagers) was/is a welcomed site, probably even more so in the 70's. Distort a popular, sophisticated tool of leisure into a demonic device for mental torture, and you're on to something. Too bad that other forms of Psychological Phone Murder are less elaborate than the menacing voice on the other end of the line.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mutual of Omaha Presents...

...The Prey 1984

I can remember watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom re-runs as a kid on my grandmother's old rabbit ears television set. The old gray haired narrator was always a soothing and welcomed sight for me. Grandmother could really add a lot of atmosphere with her sombre monotone. Seriously, there was a certain sense of honesty and humbleness in the narrators voice. It' was almost like he was an older member of the family...maybe my grandma's brother or someone. Before I was old enough to actually start enjoying horror films, Wild Kingdom was a staple in the home where I once lived. Wildlife was a big part of the family's life. Not until 1986 (on my mom and dad's new top loading Panasonic) did I realize that 1984, Mutual of Omaha had produced a slasher film called The Prey. They had incidentally gotten Jackie Coogan (Fester-The Addams Family) and the bearded Jackson Bostwick to star in the film - while getting a Waay pre-Friday 6 John Carl Beucheler to do the special effects. Not a bad combination, but the narration from the 'gray haired man' was sorely missed.

A group of campers who mostly add lib their lines start getting picked off one by one by a burnt and scarred gypsy who wants a female to mate with. (Refer to the last, but very haunting scene) Maybe he's lonely and just wants a family. Maybe he feels as if everybody has to die in order to fulfill his gruesome plan. Maybe it's just a cheap-ass slasher movie in which things like this is supposed to happen.

What I admire about the film is Wild Kingdom's willingness to insert some of their nature footage into the film that would eventually give it a full motion picture status. Props to the makers of Wild Kingdom. The padding of nature footage helped push along The Prey and all the fans appreciate you for it.

While the acting is really bad, there is a nice special effect or two. There's also a two minute banjo solo and a scene where Bostwick's Park Ranger character tells a joke to a fawn. For you non-woodsy types: A fawn is a baby deer. Weird, but maybe cute in it's own delusional way. Oh yeah, there's a very tense scene involving cucumbers and cream cheese on wheat bread sandwiches. Try it. You'll like it.

It' ain't easy being cheesy, but The Prey makes it quite enjoyable.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

That wheel-chair guy

It's not something I've ever sat down and thought about before, but the thought just crossed my mind and I've decided to include it in a post. How many horror films can you think of that's included a handicapped person? A person in a wheel-chair? The only two films that I can think of from the top of my head is Franklin from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the wheel-chair guy from Friday the 13th part 2.
Just where are all the paralyzed characters and disabled vidtims awaiting their gruseome deaths as they, well, just sit there? Is it some underlying form of racisim against the handicapped people of the world? Probably. What's the world coming to when a handicapped person is murdered on celluloid while his pal(s) (who incidentally stroll around on their onw two legs) are left to survive and carry on with life? C'mon handicapped character from the slasher flick, you're paralyzed. You can't feel anything anyway. It's not like your death was THAT bad when you actually sit down and think about it. Stop complaining.
Franklin and the wheel-chair guy from Friday the 13th part 2 are polar opposites. One is a tubby little whiner, while the other is an independent soul who still tries his best to compete in anything to do with athtletics. Franklin is fat and complains about how hot it is, while the wheelchair guy from Friday 2 is trying to score. And I don't mean soccer points. What they do have in common is that they both bite the dust in a grizzly way. Franklin is incidentally Texas Chainsaw Massacred to death and the weelchair-sports-guy is chopped in the face by the dull ued of a machete in that glorious Friday 2 fashion. Needless to say, both characters are memorable in their own way. Probably even more memorable as they've since become dismembered and had machetes buried in their face.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some Savini

In recent times, I've come to somewhat of a conclusion about a horror movie hero of mine. Of course, Tom Savini is everyone's hero, but for a lot of people, Savini is a prick. Sorry to be so blunt. I could have used some of the other words people who have visited him at conventions have used.
I understand Tom's been in the business for a long time - answering the same fifteen questions over and over and over and over, but I've got a few words for you Tom: "Suck it up, sucka!" The convention goers pay your ticket. They put food on your table and allow you to be a washed up f/x guy from the 80's. While the aforementioned insult isn't a polite way to describe Tom, let's try to stick to the truth as much as possible.

It's 1985 - Savini is at the pinnacle of his career. He's finished work on some of the most mind numbing prosthetic special f/x ever constructed - which are seen is George Romero's 'Day of the Dead. He just stepped out of the box with Romero's Dawn of the Dead and into the filthy 80's with Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th. There's a slew of other slasher films on the horizon - Maniac, The Prowler, The Burning - all this leading up to his reprisal as f/x man in Joseph Zito's supposed last installment in the Friday the 13th series -The Final Chapter.

Savini is on a roller coaster ride - Money, women and more gigs than he could shake his d/stick at. Rounding the corner from his last Friday the 13th job, he lands make up f/x guy on Day of the Dead (as I mentioned earlier) - rounding the corner and heading almost straight into Tobe Hooper's complete opposite sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Tom's burning the midnight oils. He's gaining gig after gig and keeping the partnership and friendship alive with George Romero. Even going into Romero's lackluster sleeper Monkey Shines, all is good in the world of Tom Savini. He's on top of the world. The computer generation has yet to burst into full bloom, but the slasher and gore craze WAS dying down, and so was Tom Savini's credits.

Over the past fifteen/twenty years, I'd be really hard pressed to find a worthy credit with Savini's name attached. Does Bloodsucking Pharaoh's in Pittsburgh really constitute a notable hand in the cookie jar? I'd hardly think so. Killing Zoe and From Dusk 'Til Dawn. - We'll let these two be his reprisal of sorts - living the life he lead in his 80's cloud of greatness, but only for a short time.

'Sex Machine', while hardly a big role, is nevertheless a character in one of the bigger and most popular movies of the nineties - From Dusk Til Dawn. Whether it gives room for greatness is another story, although, you have some fans who thinks 'Sex Machine' is pure and simply ''the shit''. They may be right. I'm not a big fan of Tarantino, so a biased judgment would probably hinder my thoughts on 'Sex Machine' and his fabled cult status just a bit.

For the most part, if Tom Savini wants to fornicate and have illegitimate children, thats fine by me. People have sex and one of the consequences of sex is children. Those pesky kids! Every time I visit Tom's page, there's a new addition to the family. Before you know it, Tom's going to have all the pint-sized Universal monsters running around in his home, with all the damsels of distress coming to pick them up on Sunday at six.

My main objective for this post isn't to dwell on Savini's faults. Lord knows I have mine. I sometimes do things that would make Tom cringe. If I were to tell him what's on my mind, he'd surely never bring himself to sit in front of a table with pictures of himself on it again. He'd call it quits for good. My main objective is to blurt about Tom's lack of interest when it comes to fans.

Tom is human. I understand this. He gets shit pains like everyone else. (I'm not going to mention child support payments) He gets sad, angry and even horny when he sees a barely 18 yr old girl swoon in his presence. Human, indeed.

All this aside, it's time for Tom to just call it quits if he can't tolerate the public. I know enough to know that if I don't like my job, it's not my customers fault.
If he's burned out on questions like 'How did you stick the arrow through Kevin Bacon's neck in 'Friday the 13th''? - or- ''How did you rip Rhodes in half in 'Day of the Dead?', it's just time to stop. Stop lowering yourself by appearing in movies such as Zombiegeddon. Can any good become of a film where one of the characters involved is a satire of Jesus Christ? People can say Savini's career is as good as it ever was. . . Let me correct you! "Wake up sucka!" - Anyone who appears in Zombiegeddon isn't living his/her dreams, I'll tell you that right now.
All this muck and mire still won't sway my opinion on Tom in regards to his cinematic work. Some of his work is and will always remain 'unbeatable'- although, there's many better works out there than Tom's 'mediocre' works - if that makes sense.

Bottom line: If you don't like kids running around in awe of you, give it up. If you can't take one last teenager in Manson make-up calling you God, give it up and find a different career. You're 60 now. It's time to take it easy and sip on Iced Tea and take your Xanax with the rest of the crew at Shady Pines.

Like I said, I love Tom, but he needs to become more tolerant of the public. I'm not saying he's an asshole at every convention, but in situations like this, when you agree to take the job, it's not your time anymore, it's the fans. Don't tread on the fans.

Does Tom deserve this kind of rhetoric? Rhetoric can be defined as what occurred throughout this post or - Rhetoric can be defined (in Tom's case) in one of his quotes: ''Are you going to buy the damn picture or not?"

It sound as if I particularly believe all the rumors. To tell you the truth, all the rumors spread by women are probably false. Well, not all of them. He probably did hit and run, but it sure wasn't rape. I'm sure there were no special promises either - only promises these women conceived in their own demented minds. So, with a hint of siding with Tom, I'll do it. I'll step across the fence and say that there will certainly never be another one. Another Tom Savini, that is. I never said anything about another illegitimate child.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I feel sorry for the killer...part one

Has there ever been a character with less than desirable attributes that you find yourself rooting for even though you know you shouldn't? I would imagine all us cinephiles at one time or another have cheered when Jason Vorhees slams a helpless nude female against a tree in a sleeping bag - or, when we get a sudden rush every time we see Michael's Myer's mask appear from the shadows. It's a beautiful thing. This post is also a multi- parter. I'll be talking about horror/slasher films in which there have been sympathetic villains, or characters who are clad-killers who have gained iconic status among the youth of the 80's.
Take for instance the killer from the late 80's slasher effort Offerings. A young kid is ridiculed and tormented and eventually pushed down a well by neighborhood bullies. The kid eventually grows up and hunts down his tormentors and murders them in some unconventional ways. His only true friend was a little girl in which he sends body parts to her as some sort of thank you for her kindness to him as a child. Now, we shouldn't be feeling sorry for our little deformed murderer, but throughout the entire film, we really don't see the killer as a 'killer'. It's as if the vigilante in us steps out for a second and succumbs to the vengeful intentions that leads us to murder. I thought of going into some indepth-reviews, but I'm only going to cover the basics - the films from the top of my head that I can remember having a sympathetic streak, ever how subtle it might have been. Everything will be just one big old ramble, so deal with it. Seriously, just hang in there. You might find something interesting.

I'll touch base with such things as story lines, atmosphere, motives etc:.
There's two different types of film that deal with sympathetic villains. One form of the sympathetic villain is described in the cinema and literary world as the anti-hero.. This is basically the same thing as the 'sympathetic villain', the only difference being that the anti-hero is someone bad we shouldn't like, but for some reason we do. Off the top of my head, the Paul Kersey character (made famous by Charles Bronson from the Death Wish franchise) comes to mind. We have a middle aged man whose family was murdered by a bunch of street thugs. Paul takes it upon himself as being some form of avenging angel and guns his way through street crooks like a hot knife through butter. Even tho Kersey's actions are as immoral as the thugs who killed his family, we feel a sense of sympathy for him, rooting him on as he pumps thousands of rounds into a bands of stupid-shaved-headed- dummies. The series gets more over-the-top as it goes along. Rape is a huge theme in the Death Wish series and is probably one of the more immoral acts a person could commit besides murder. In that 'avenging angel' mentality, we feel that the thugs are getting what they deserve.

The true form of a sympathetic villain deals with someone who may have experienced some form of mental scarring, blurring their mind into thinking their murderous actions are right. He/She may be someone who was treated badly in the past and is looking for love or companionship. There may be a mother fixation in which the villain was molded by verbal and physical abuse from their mother, choosing victims who remind them of their mother. He may be someone who has a fixation with someone whom, in the stalkers mind, is their vision of love and happiness. (Refer to the previous sentence) Ezra Cobb (a character based off Wisconsin's butcher, Ed Gein) - from the 1972 Canadian horror, Deranged loves his mommy so much that he decides to dig her up and bring her back home. He also likes to trap women inside his home while wearing a wig and his mother's old clothes - Not to mention hunt them down like wild game and gut them in his barn. Aside from this, knowing what grizzly things Ezra Cobb had done, his character is so sympathetic, we begin to like Ezra. We see him as that old likable (but strange) man down the road who rides a lawn mower down the highway. What makes us (knowing that Ezra was an insane cold-blooded killer) become attached to such a character?

Some villains may play the blame game, blaming a certain group of people for a death of a loved one, or simply seek revenge for what someone did to them. They may reveal themselves in a climatic speech towards the final victim trying to condone their murderous actions. (Kevin - Graduation Day 1981) Maybe their peers in high school taunted and humiliated them. Ever remember seeing a scene in a slasher film where the killer maims an unlikable and annoying character? Just for an instant you find yourself rooting for the killer as he shoves the spoon of the victims nose. C'mon, you guys know you got a hard on when Jason picks up the spiteful blond in Friday the 13th The New Blood) and throws her behind a television set.

Marty Rantzen in his grotesque-mental state

(Marty Rantzen) being the victim of brutal humiliation by the bullies and 'cool kids' in school. (It's kind of funny because every person playing a high school student is over thirty if I'm a day over five) Marty is horribly disfigured during a prank gone awry when they give him a bad joint that leads to a chain of events involving school based chemicals. Let's just say that Marty is wearing a permanent Halloween mask for the rest of his life. He fakes a class reunion in which his tormentors are lead to the reunion like sheep to the slaughter. They are now gathered all in one place so Marty can take his aggression out on them. When the killing starts, it's really hard not to hear the words "He got what he deserved" ringing in the back of your mind. Even though Marty is now a raging murderous individual with a grotesque face, and even more grotesque intentions, one still feels a little bit of sympathy for him. After all, he was strung up naked in the locker room. Beaten and pushed around. The good old scripture verse 'an eye for an eye' springs about quickly..

Another film that comes to mind in regards to a sympathetic character is the little made for television flick Hider in the House'. It was release on the USA network back in the late 80's. Tom Sykes was brutally abused as a child. He was beaten and bruised, verbaly abused and ultimately burned with cigarettes. When Tom became older, he couldn't take it anymore and burnt down the house along with his abusive parents. On down the road, Tom is now a grown man who is about to be released from a mental facility. Both Tom and his shrink are reluctant at the idea, but nonetheless, Tom Sykes is released. He scouts a beautiful neighborhood and captures somewhat of an opportunity. It's a newly built house in which the residents haven't moved in yet. Tom decides to secretly build a hidden room in the attic where he resides unbeknownst to the family. (This is another take on the 70's made for television film entitled Bad Ronald - where a boy lives inside the walls unknown to the family living in the house)

Tom learns the family's routine, even being brave enough to sneak down stairs at night and roam around the house. As time goes on, he becomes more obsessed with the mans wife who lives there and eventually sets it up where the husbands wife winds up catching him in bed with another woman in a hotel room. The husband is kicked out by the wife and it's the perfect opportunity for Tom to maneuver himself into the family's life somehow. Tom's pretty good with the plans as he sets up another concoction which places him at the scene of a school yard fight between the wife's kid and a school yard bully. Tom ends up breaking them up and is invited inside the wife's home. She offers him some water and a little ceramic bowl as a gift, but that's about as far as it gets. The wife finally realizes that Tom is a little off his rocker when he tries to teach her child some very violent fighting techniques in which she didn't agree with. Tom strolled by a few more times, the last time being when he refused to take no for an answer and almost busted in the door trying to get back into the house.

Aside from Tom's mis happenings and downsides - his scheming - his voyeuristic lifestyle - He emmits something in the form of semi-pity that allows you to feel just enough sympathy for him to find him a little bit likable. Tom, at heart, is really nothing but a big teddy bear. It all stems from our opening credits and how we hear how badly Tom is treated. This gives us a form of understanding on why Tom may do the things he does. Sure, he had to end up killing the family dog, killing the wife's best friend, and an exterminator - but it was only because the fumes were smothering him to death and with no choice, had to come running out of his hidden room, exposing himself to the exterminator. (No, I don't mean EXPOSING himself) The other incident happens with the wife's best friend when Tom strolls downstairs thinking no one is home.He gets caught in a weird situation, the woman screams, and Tom ends up killing her by breaking her neck. This little incident was truly an accident, as Tom didn't want her to scream and give him away. Stepping aside from all of Tom Syke's personal , um, flaws, lies a big fluffy stuffed animal. All he wants is a normal life and an all American family. His mind, being feeble from years of abuse, could not distinguish fantasy from reality and it ended up costing lives, as well as his own. Aside from all this, it's still hard not to feel some minuscule amount of compassion for Tom.

There once was a college student named Kenny who was trying to join a fraternity. Doc and Moe were the two main men - Doc being the more sarcastic and hard hearted medical student, with pranks a'many He surely never cared who he hurt during these pranks. Moe - He's the more sensible guy who's mainly Doc's little puppet. He doesn't agree with half the things Doc does, but he's still loyal to him. Maybe even more loyal to him than his own girl friend Alana, played by 70's and 80's scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. It's the big new years eve bash and . Doc has just so happened to have fixed up Kenny with Alana in which Kenny has the hots for already. Kenny's quite a little fellow and the whole idea was absurd to begin with.n It's all just a big joke. What Kenny doesn't know is that Doc has stolen a cadaver from the morgue and placed her decomposed dismembered body in a bed, which is supposed to be Alana waiting for him. When Kenny undresses and winds up seeing that it's a dead body, he loses it. He wraps himself in a satin Curtain and screams to his hearts content until we hit the slow mo and the distorted sound of Kenny's demonic voice as he screams in hysteria. We 'still' the shot and cut to five years later where the old Sorority co-eds are celebrating their last rounds of pre-med before heading off into different directions. Moe and doc plan a little three-four hour trip on a luxurious train filled with booze, party supplies, a cool magician and all the co-eds you can shake a stick at. It just so happens that someone is on board, changing costume disguises and using them to lure his victims to their death. Is it Kenny extracting revenge for the pain and humiliation the gang caused him five years ago?
Of course it is. Do we feel soory for Kenny? Do we try and fathom the reasons as to why he would decapitate someone over a prank? I guess it's somewhat of an open ended question and maybe it's meant to be. I certainly felt as if Doc (even tho I somehow enjoyed his character) deserved some harsh treatment, but did he deserve a horrible death? Maybe in Kenny;s mind, Doc caused him a mental death, therefore, retaliating in his physical death. Who knows? Nevertheless, there's a hint of soft hardheartedness to be felt for Kenny, if only for a split second. Terror Train, is a production from our wonderful slasher brothers in Canada and delivers loads of wonderful cinematography, good suspense, and wonderful gloom and doom atmosphere. It's a great revenge slasher flick that should be seen by all cult film fans.

As I end this post, just think about the horror films you've watched and try and remember if there ever was a time in which you rooted for the killer/villain. I bet there's more instances than you originally thought. PART 2, shortly!