Friday, October 24, 2014

Ten Days of Terror!: Maniac Cop 2

Film: Maniac Cop 2
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on various players.

Robert Z’Dar has a lot of face. I don’t state this as a problem, but merely a fact to be taken in. Seriously—go Google the man’s name and look at the images page. It’s like someone made a face out of clay and then stretched it in all dimensions before kilning it. He looks sort of like Eric Stoltz in Mask after Clearasil and his IMDB trademark is, in part, “enormous face.” I say this only because when you have a face roughly the size of a frozen turkey, you don’t tend to end up with the girl at the end of the film. You end up with a career in B-movies, and often as the monster. So it’s no surprise that with the film Maniac Cop 2, Robert Z’Dar is the title villain.

The film picks up where the first film left off, presumably; I haven’t seen the first film, so I don’t know much about its plot or what happens in it. But we see what looks like the closing scenes of the first film here. It ends with our maniac cop, Matt Cordell (Z’Dar) being forced off a pier in a burning car by two other cops, presumably drowning. I can’t be sure, but what I gather from this film is that Cordell was once a good cop who was set up to take a fall for his superiors, then killed in prison, then came back as a sort of revenant who started killing indiscriminately to take revenge on the men who framed him.

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director 2001

The Contenders:
Ron Howard: A Beautiful Mind (winner)
Ridley Scott: Black Hawk Down
Robert Altman: Gosford Park
Peter Jackson: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
David Lynch: Mulholland Drive

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ten Days of Terror!: Deranged

Film: Deranged
Format: DVD fromNetFlix on laptop.

The NetFlix disc I watched yesterday with Motel Hell on it happened to be a double-sided disc. The flipside was a rare 1974 horror film called Deranged (sometimes called Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile) that just happens to be on one of my horror lists. Lucky break, right? Without going into too much detail at the start here, let me just say that this is one of the most disturbing 82 minutes I’ve spent in front of a screen in a long time. This film is memorable in the same way that a film like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is memorable. That’s fitting, too, since this was released in the same year and is based even more strongly on the same source material. I mean it—this is one fucked up movie. It gets twisted early, and when it gets really twisted, it’s still got a half an hour to go.

We start by being introduced to Tom Sims (Leslie Carlson) who claims to be a journalist who covered the story that we are about to see, a story we are told is the unvarnished truth. Tom, acting as a narrator who frequently stands in the frame and talks directly to us introduces us to the Cobbs. Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom) is the somewhat childlike son of Ma Cobb (Cosette Lee). Ezra’s father dies when Ezra is 10. Following this, he and his mother become increasingly dependent on each other. Eventually, Ma gets sick and Ezra takes care of her until she dies.

Ten Days of Terror!: Carnival of Souls

Film: Carnival of Souls
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on rockin’ flatscreen.

There are some stories that keep coming back. These iconic stories work when they are done well because they speak to something inside us or bring up the demons that we try to push back into the lizard part of our brain. Carnival of Souls is a film that taps into the same place as a story like “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” or a movie like Jacob’s Ladder. If you’re familiar with either of those stories, where Carnival of Souls goes won’t be a surprise. With this particular story, though, it’s not about the destination but the journey.

I figured I was in for a rough ride (no pun intended) at the start of the film when we begin with a drag race featuring one car of men and one car of women. To suggest that this sequence was poorly filmed and edited is to be very generous. In addition to the “drag race” happening at a sedate pace, there’s no cohesion between the shots. Regardless of this, the drag race ends with the car of women going over the side of a bridge and landing upside down in a river.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten Days of Terror!: Motel Hell

Film: Motel Hell
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I’d never seen Motel Hell before today, but I remember seeing trailers for this when I was a kid. It was one that never really interested me that much at the time except for the morbid fascination I always kind of have with horror movies. But 1980 was a couple of years before I was interested in horror films. I’m actually a little surprised I haven’t seen it before now. Movies like this were the stock and trade of mom and pop video stores back when video stores were a thing.

So, while I hadn’t seen this before, I knew the basic story. The high concept version is that a farmer/motel owner traps unsuspecting guests and passersby, buries them up to their neck in his backyard, cuts their vocal chords so they can’t scream, and fattens them up. When they are ready, he digs them up, butchers them, and turns them into a variety of smoked meat products he sells to his guests he decides not to turn into jerky. The original tagline for them film was “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters.” You can just feel the ‘80s horror vibe washing off of it, can’t you?

Ten Days of Terror!: Necronomicon:The Book of the Dead

Film: Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead
Format: Internet video on laptop.

One problem with one of my horror lists is that it goes for the obscure. Actually, that’s sort of the point of that list—it’s worthwhile horror movies that most people have managed to miss. What this means is that some of these are a bitch to find, so when I locate one online, it’s generally a good thing, because that’s the only way I get to see it. With Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead (sometimes known as just Necronomicon), finding a copy online was exciting; this is a film I’ve been looking for since I added that list to my site.

I didn’t realize, but should have based on the name, that Necronomicon is an anthology. There’s naturally a framing story and three other shorts that combine into a film just a touch longer than 90 minutes. The framing story consists of H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs, who is sporting a fake chin a la Bruce Campbell) entering an ancient library and sneaking off to a forbidden room to read through the Necronomicon. Each of the three stories all take place in more or less the present despite Lovecraft’s story being in the past. Evidently, this means that the stories in the book are either predestined or somehow prescient. Anyway, the framing story appears briefly between the stories as well and then comes up at the end to close the film.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bad Dog, No Biscuit

Film: Bulldog Drummond
Format: Internet video on rockin’ flatscreen.

I find that I can only watch the really old films on the Oscars list rarely. There’s a real necessity to, as much as possible, put oneself in the mindset of the time. This is particularly true in the case of early talkies. When the talkies started, silent films were already an established form and had grown and matured. The early talkies are in a real sense the very early childhood of the films we watch today. Because of this, the acting can be a real issue. Any drama in this early days is, more or less, melodrama even if that’s not intended. The over-the-top acting style makes that true. In the case of Bulldog Drummond, this is very true of everyone except the star.

Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond (Ronald Colman) is a retired British military officer, which has a whole series of connotations for the late 1920s. He tells his equally stereotypical friend Algy (Claud Allister) that he is bored. Wanting some excitement in his life, Bulldog takes out an ad in the newspaper asking anyone to send him something exciting and fun to do. Basically, he’s becoming a public, one-man version of the A-Team.