The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) movie poster

director Amy Holden Jones
viewed: 09/19/2017

Wow, The Slumber Party Massacre is such a remarkable slasher film.

It has frequently been noted that the film’s script was originally crafted as a satire by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, and that it is one of the few classic era slashers directed by a woman, Amy Holden Jones. The Slumber Party Massacre has been read (and fairly so) as feminist and/or a genre critique specifically one the issue of “the male gaze”.

My reading, though, focused not so much feminism or the female gaze, but more the female experience and to a smaller extent feminine desire. That it is a female dominated story, in which women are all the main characters (the killer, despite showing his face, is much more symbolic than a real entity). Bechdel test the heck out of this one.

Even when the camera lingers over the gratuitous nudity or the blatant phallic nature of the killer’s weapon, this film’s perspective is novel and unique in genre so typically focused on female victimization.

I found the creepy older neighbor guy a fascinating trope on its own. This film is so ripe for analysis, Freudian, feminist, whatever. There is so much text to work with, and also to enjoy.

This is where my star rating really fails me. I might give it 3 1/2 stars but I would give it five full hearts.  The movie is only so good quality wise, but off the charts in lovability. Maybe I need an equivalent heart rating to accompany my star rating.

The Zero Boys (1986)

The Zero Boys (1986) VHS cover

director Nico Mastorakis
viewed: 09/18/2017

Kelli Maroney really nails it on the head when she tells Joe Estevez that his crew The Zero Boys are “all soon to be yuppies”. It’s not often a character in a movie speaks the mind of the audience so concretely.

Our heroes are automatic weapon-lugging paintballers, who went from worst (thus “The Zero Boys”) to first in their little play action weekend warrior fun. Not exactly the types of protagonists that I particularly identify with. Luckily Maroney joins the gang for their celebratory outing in the woods. I always liked Maroney.

Nico Mastorakis does put this together pretty well, though it’s nowhere as interesting our out-there are his Island of Death (1974).

The hillbilly snuff film crew thing, if that really was what was going on, was a little hard to decipher. For a while I thought maybe it’s a good ol’ slasher guy or even that this would turn out to be pranks played by the team that they had beaten with Maroney in on the gags.

A decent effort.

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964)

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964) movie poster

director Giacomo Gentilomo
viewed: 09/17/2017

“Under the evil influence of Uranus,” Hercules Against the Moon Men is goofy peplum fun. Peplum is a new term to me for “sword and sandal” movies.  I like it.

It totally channels old movie serials (maybe because as a genre it dates back to silent films and old genre tropes. That and more contemporary of television’s Batman.

Totally agree that Alan Steel is a very good Hercules.

The moon men are silly as fuck but awesome. Sadly they get hardly any screen time. This film needs more moon men.

Evil queen, Samara (Jany Clair), looks vaguely like a brunette Nancy Grace but without her harpy voice. She’s somehow worked a deal with the moon men to do evil.

Needs more moon men.

It (2017)

It (2017) movie poster

director Andy Muschietti
viewed: 09/17/2017 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

How do you like your 80’s? Drenched in wistful retro pinings for a Spielbergian past? It (2017) channels the 80’s so hard, it’s not surprising that you’ve even got one of the kids from Stranger Things in this gang. Only Stranger Things is a better pastiche.

I never read Stephen King’s book and somehow managed to never see the Tim Curry TV series of It. 2017’s It is my first first-hand dealing with this story. My daughter has a friend who is reading the book right now, and made note of the whole second half of the book that is apparently going to be this film’s sequel.

It did not work for me. Much at all.

The CGI horrors of Pennywise the Clown’s morphing were extremely uninspired. I get it that he’s “all horrors” embodied but when everything is scary, nothing is scary. The point of the story was never made, for me.

Does my lack of connection to the novel or even the original adaptation make me immune to finding this interesting? Is it a necessity to feel the pull of sentimentality and nostalgia to enjoy this?

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) movie poster

director Colm McCarthy
viewed: 09/16/2017

The zombiepocalypse over-saturation probably hasn’t peaked yet, so it’s harder than ever to make something new in this genre. The Girl with All the Gifts does try to push the zombiepocalypse a little and its efforts are not for naught.

The film opens on a young girl in a jail cell who has to be strapped down in a wheelchair and rolled by armed guards into a classroom of other young people. Right off the bat it’s a bit interesting. What is going on? Why are the kids in wheelchairs? Strapped down? Why are they being educated?

Really, most films try to tell you what’s going on from the get-go so the audience doesn’t have to figure anything out. So right there, it’s already kind of interesting.

It doesn’t totally stay with that. We find out pretty quickly that these kids are infected with a zombie fungus on the brain, but that they are different from freshly infected adults in that some sort of symbiosis exists that allows them to maintain a form of normality when they’re not hungry.

Eventually the movie goes pretty The Walking Dead, except these are speedy zombies, infecting at zero-to-sixty in a second and running fast at their food.

The film turns again toward the ending with more of its inventive qualities about these second generation zombie kids and the fungal apocalypse. I’ve always liked Gemma Arterton, who plays the good-hearted teacher. Sennia Nanua is Melanie, the girl with all the gifts, and she’s very good too.

Just sort this list of zombie films by date and you tell me when you think we’ve reached max saturation in the zombiepocalypse market.

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974)

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974) movie poster

director Manuel Caño
viewed: 09/15/2017

“In infinite time, what happens happens.”

Just last week, I watched American Mummy (2014) which was a bit of a misnomer since there was no re-animated mummy in it. And now Voodoo Black Exorcist, which despite its title, is actually a mummy movie! Go figure. Marketing moves in mysterious ways.

Voodoo Black Exorcist is indeed stupefying, as the poster suggests, though terrifying, not so much. It’s a Spanish production that starts out with some seriously chocolaty black-face before we get our Caribbean mummy story. Why is it every mummy story hews to the trope of awakening and looking for a doppelganger or reborn version of a lost love? Don’t mummies have other motivations?

The camerawork is kinda bizarro, in a good way, but this is cheap, bad cinema, which you have to like in order to appreciate. It’s terrible but terribly fun too if you like trash like I do.

Some of the action takes place in some really cool caves.

And the quote that kept resounding: “The best hamburgers in the world.”

Dark Future (1994)

Dark Future (1994) DVD cover

director Greydon Clark
viewed: 09/13/2017

Dark Future starts bad, quite hilariously bad, stays pretty bad, and then somewhere takes a turn and gets a little better. I don’t know that it actually achieves “good” or quality by the end, but it decent’s itself up enough to not be merely and completely derided.

Of all its many shortcomings the fight sequences are remarkably crap. Director/co-writer Greydon Clark is clearly working without a budget (it might be the first film I’ve seen in which a medium-sized plasma ball is the film’s most high-tech element).

This is a world where humans have been decimated by disease and are trapped underground by cyborgs who use them for pleasure(?). They rise up and rebel finally, or at least one guy does. Humans are wonderfully apathetic save Kendall (Darby Hinton), the mustachioed one.

Somewhere towards the ending with the weird multimedia propaganda/indoctrination videos that the cyborgs are fed that I somehow warmed to this often ridiculous sci-fi yarn. A yarn from which you should definitely not pull any threads for fear of loosing its whackadoo plot holes and notice its goofy dialogue.

The Incubus (1982)

The Incubus (1982) movie poster

director  John Hough
viewed: 09/11/2017

Rapist, murderer, destroyer of uteri, and spewer of insane amounts of red semen, the incubus of The Incubus is a pretty serious masculine sexual demon. It’s some pretty outrageous stuff, even if in cinematic reality it’s more described than seen.

Director John Hough pushes the envelope in this horror thriller starring John Cassavetes. The small community of Galen is home to covens and witchhunters, demons and their prey, a whole history of such stuff (and lots of bizarre artwork on the walls in case you were missing the hints).

It actually made me quite curious about the works of writer Ray Russell, from whose novel of the same name the film was adapted.

This is an interesting one.

The Forgotten Pistolero (1969)

The Forgotten Pistolero (1969) movie poster

director Ferdinando Baldi
viewed: 09/10/2017

Sebastian (Leonard Mann) must return to “Oh-ah-saka” in “Meh-hee-ko” (varying degrees of proper pronunciation — actually thought they said “Osaka” at first) to avenge his father at the bidding of his long lost friend Rafael (Peter Martell).

The Forgotten Pistolero is a Spaghetti Western take on the tale of Orestes. Ferdinando Baldi’s tale of rightful revenge makes lists of the finest Spaghetti Westerns and features an iconic score by Roberto Pregadio, yet seemingly isn’t as well known as many others.

I was reminded again of the Spaghetti Western’s influence on the American revisionist Western (such as Peckinpah), depicting class disparities, outsiders and antiheroes, as well as it’s visual style and editing.

The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick (2017) movie poster

director  Michael Showalter
viewed: 09/10/2017 at Ua Stonestown Twin, SF, CA

I have this thing about comedies. They make me feel like I don’t have a sense of humor because I think most of them suck. And romantic comedies? That’s a genre I bypass largely as a rule.

But I do like Kumail Nanjiani (first experienced as Prismo from Adventure Time) and so does my son and so we went and caught The Big Sick.

Perhaps because it’s adapted from Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon’s real life experiences, The Big Sick isn’t quite as formulaic as many romantic comedies. The humor is more lowkey and turns on the development of their relationship in more quiet and naturalistic ways.

And Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are very good, making the most of their characters, probably the better written and best performed in the film. Zoe Kazan is good too.

We both enjoyed it.