Night of Fear (1972)

Night of Fear (1972) movie poster

director Terry Bourke
viewed: 06/17/2018

Can you imagine this showing up on prime time television in 1972? Apparently neither could Australian Broadcasting Commission. Shot as a pilot for telly, Night of Fear was rejected, then quickly banned before getting a brief theatrical release. 

And then came obscurity.

And now, it’s considered the forefather of Ozploitation.

In Night of Fear sex is ruthlessly suggestive, using still nudes cut together to impress much more lurid than what is really shown. It’s still pretty gruesome and racy for the boob tube.

Director Terry Bourke’s inventive style plays like a student film but though much more well-produced. It includes modernist editing styles, juxtaposing images for effect. And it is effective.

On top of all that the film runs dialogue-free. 

It’s 54 minute run time and the title sequence’s repetition of images from pieces of the film confirm that this was meant for broadcast.

Aenigma (1987)

Aenigma (1987) movie poster

director Lucio Fulci
viewed: 06/16/2018

“How does a young girl who is brain dead experience a violent emotion?”

Well, she’s brain dead but controlling a human avatar and seeking vengeance on schoolmates who pranked her into a coma in Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma.

Revenge is a dish best served … weird … and is meted out in dollops of reflections, snails, and living statuary.

Aenigma is derivative of a number of films and directors, coming in what would become the autumn of Fulci’s career. But it’s not not fun. It’s still Fulci.

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary (2018) movie poster

director  Ari Aster
viewed: 06/16/2018 at Century 20 Daly City and XD, Daly City, CA

The hot horror movie of the moment, Hereditary, is a break-out first feature from writer-director Ari Aster. An original and intriguing concept, Hereditary is shaped like the more artsy classics of the horror genre, ranging away from the pulpier fare.

As well-crafted and inventive as it is, the film’s true power comes from its cast. Headlined certainly by Toni Collette, a lot of credit should also go to Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, who play her son and daughter, respectively. It’s familial terror, tinged with personal tragedy, mysterious histories, grief, loss, and something ultimately evil.

Definitely, the less you know going in, the better. Because the unknown is a dark place for the film. And significantly a component of its success.

All that said, its ambitions possibly outstretch its means. Some plot elements are blurted out in dialogue/monologue, successfully enough, but this drew my attention to plot holes or other flaws.

That said, I definitely think it’s a successful horror film and a promising start for Ari Aster.

Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse (1981) movie poster

director Ovidio G. Assonitis
viewed: 06/15/2018

I’m forever telling people that in any pair of twins, there is always one that is good and always another that is evil. That’s just science.

Madhouse is an Italian-American production directed by an Egyptian-born Greco-Italian and filmed in Savannah, GA. It’s another sort of slasher-giallo hybrid, with some nice cinematography and production values (except for the dog puppet, let’s say).

Savannah could be an interesting location but the film stays indoors a lot, shot at the historic Kehoe House, which seemed to be under some restoration at the time. The house is pretty cool and makes for some of the interesting shots and atmosphere.

But yeah, evil twins, a blood-thirsty Rottweiler, and a kooky priest who digs on children’s rhymes.

It’s not half bad. But then there’s the other half. Or slightly more than half.

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Don't Go in the Woods (1981) movie poster

director James Bryan
viewed: 06/13/2018

I’m just going with my random notes for my Don’t Go in the Woods write-up.

Despite the cheapness, the folks seem like genuine annoying regular people stuck in each other’s miserable company.

Dick and Cherry and the love van.

The comedy is a sight scarier than the scares.

Even without the killings, could be a good “why to never go camping“ movie.

Quite misanthropic and critical societal constructs – terrible law enforcement.

The color pink.

The comedy at the expense of the wheelchair guy is really odd.

Surprisingly prototypical for backwoods horror redneck stuff.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) movie poster

director Russell Mulcahy
viewed: 06/12/2018

Ranked among worst films of all time, Highlander II: The Quickening has been long calling me for a re-watch. I saw it circa the time it first hit video and recalled it being bad, but epic-bad?  

More aptly it might rank as one of the weirdest sequels of all time, taking such liberty with its original concept. Because Highlander II is downright Baroque in its expanding Highlander universe, something that apparently sent its fan culture into paroxysms, and general audiences wondering what the fuck was going on.

One parallel between the films is the opening sequence in a major public arena, packed with people, watching a dramatic event. In the first film, it’s a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden, and here, it’s an opera house, viewing Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. And maybe here is the clue: wrestling suggested mano-y-mano fighting, and Wagner’s opera suggests heightened epic. 

Of course, this heightened epic is a kitchen sink of ideas and story tropes, including this shield that protects the Earth from the depleted ozone layer, the immortals are aliens from another dimension? and time?

Interestingly, Highlander II is rather trailblazing in 90’s design and aesthetics. In many ways, the film’s design looks like much science fiction/superhero films that would follow it.

It’s a red hot mess for sure. It takes Highlander‘s innate silliness to operatic levels. But it’s still pretty fun.

It’s funny to me that despite this film, the franchise begat two more films with Christopher Lambert, cartoon shows, the TV show, and an eventual canon well beyond me. This was as far as I ever got with the franchise. I’ll probably keep it that way.


Highlander (1986)

Highlander (1986) movie poster

director Russell Mulcahy
viewed: 06/11/2018

I recall seeing Highlander in the theater back in ’86. I don’t recollect what I knew about it beforehand, but I believe I liked it and may have gone back to see it again. 

That said, I hadn’t seen it in decades. I’d totally forgotten the Queen music.

Much like I thought back in the day, Highlander is absurd but absurdly entertaining, with some top notch cinematography to boot.  The story, much like Highlander itself, came out of left field. This whole concept of immortal (except in cases of decapitation) warriors was wildly inventive, if also super silly.

The cast is fun, if bizarrely representing countries and cultures native to the actors.

I actually think the opening ½ hour is really strange and surprising. The narrative strategy doesn’t tell you much of why some guy at a wrestling match suddenly goes down to a parking garage to pull a sword and battle some other dude. Just when you think there doesn’t need to be exposition, you get it in the middle in which the it comes gets hammy and silly.

I’d argue that silliness is a big part of its charm.

Barbarian Queen (1985)

Barbarian Queen (1985) movie poster

director Héctor Olivera
viewed: 06/10/2018

“Barbarian Queen
Now we’re sharing the same dream
Boobs boobs boobs boobs boobs”

Way more entertaining than you’d imagine, Barbarian Queen is most notable for its star, Lana Clarkson, and sadly that is due to the fact of her murder in 2003 at age 40 by Phil Spector. 

And that’s a shame. Clarkson isn’t necessarily star material but she does have that je ne sais quoi. She’s tall (6’0″), gorgeous,  as well as very spry and athletic in her fight scenes (Wikipedia says she did all her own stunts.)

This 70 minute action/adventure fantasy Exploitation flick may be her best cinematic legacy. I speculate.

Those 70 minutes are pretty packed with fights and rapes and boobs and blood and killing. Barbarian Queen would have made a good time at the drive-in in 1985.

Probably the most notable scene is when Amathea (Clarkson) is tortured. She kegels clamps her rapist torturer’s penis until he submits to releasing her. Impressive.

Doppelgänger (1993)

Doppelgänger (1993) movie poster

director Avi Nesher
viewed: 06/09/2018

Drew Barrymore published an autobiography in 1991 at age 16, Little Girl Lost. Her transition into adulthood and into acceptance as an adult actress pitched her career by playing bad girls, or girls with a dark side. From Poison Ivy and Gun Crazy in 1992 to The Amy Fisher Story and Doppelgänger in 1993, her redemption trip in pulpy movies was complete.

It’s a little sad that it didn’t last longer, but I’ve always been happy that she was able to make it in Hollywood after a troubled childhood.

Doppelgänger may not be the best of this period, but it’s probably the weirdest. It’s a low budget thriller about a gal (Barrymore) with multiple personalities, one of which is evil.

But then there is the ending, where the whole thing goes off the rails and becomes a bizarre horror film with some intense and creative creature effects that may have made more of an impression than Barrymore herself.

I have a soft spot for this brief period of dark material, though Barrymore is much better suited to her eventual sweet spot of an actress in light romantic comedies.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990) movie poster

director  Jim Abrahams
viewed: 06/09/2018

Welcome Home, Roxy Charmichael is not as iconic a film as Edward Scissorhands ( also 1990), but it’s a more pleasing prime Winona movie, non-blonde and outside the social cliques.

It’s also a flawed though well-meaning portrayal of someone with not just awkward but maybe mentally ill. Winona is at her best playing contemporary young women out of step with the center of culture, though not really that far from it. At first Dinky (Ryder)  seems like she might be a homeless girl, by the edge of the lake with her menagerie of cast off creatures. She’s unkempt and generally disliked by her home town, virtually disowned by her adoptive parents.

But we come to find out that she’s a misunderstood smart girl (almost straight A’s), who doesn’t identify with her family, school, or town. And even though she develops an obsession over the town’s favorite daughter, Roxy Carmichael, this isn’t further insanity, but a wish-fulfillment escapism of a sound mind.

It’s kinda sweet, seriously. Though also a bit pat and winds up with a rather typical “happy ending” in which boy and girl are united, everything is happy, and everything upholds the social norms.

Roxy Charmichael also features a good, less notable but solid B character cast beside the principals.

The Jeff Daniels aspect of the film is interesting in ways, too. He’s Roxy’s ex-boyfriend, father of a baby she left behind. Though supposedly happily married, the promise of Roxy’s return throws him for a loop, and his wife walks out on him. He can’t come to terms with his obsession. Roxy Carmichael, though never “seen” and vaguely mysterious for what she is famous, is a feminine ideal, swathed in pink, Daniels’ ardor and Winona’s aspiration.

I’m not sure how I never got around to seeing this before.