MERRY CHRISTMAS-FOR-HALLOWEEN EVE!
December 24, 2014
The day is almost upon us. A day of murder and mayhem, monsters and madness. And goodwill among men. To celebrate, here is PART TWO of my Halloween Movie Marathon Journal/Blog, depicting the second half of my journey through the art of darkness, this past October. Yes, I watched 100 monster movies at Halloweentime, and I invited my friends to join me. It wasn’t pretty. The rabbit hole ran deep this year, with many films and books depicting the deepest depths of humanity/monstrosity. Not to mention the life and times of Jason Voorhees, explored in great and often painful detail—BACKWARDS.
Our reverse-engineered FRIDAY THE 13th marathon was inspired by the weird internet “prank” played by some random wag at Facebook, who actually got a lot of people to believe that Halloween fell this year on a “Friday the 13th for the first time in 666 years.” Obviously, that’s impossible. But, obviously, there’s a genius to it as well. Meaning that if you say the impossible like you mean it—and say it LOUD on an internet social network—well, chances are, someone will buy it. Almost everyone I said this to during the month of October bought it in some form or another. It was kind of amazing. And any excuse to bust out the Jason flicks is a good one. (Um, such as Halloween falling on a Friday for the first time in seven years?) So the plan was to start with the most “recent” film in the series, FREDDY Vs. JASON, and deal with each consecutive movie in reverse, counting backwards to Friday October 31, when the original 1980 film would be screened. (The 2009 remake was not included. And good riddance.) My excellent friend and constant movie chat amigo Joe Fay was with me through each and every film in this epic backasswards Jason countdown, and we were joined periodically By Teighlor Darr, another chat regular, for a few of the key films. She is also an excellent friend. Because we are psycho-fans (Joe particularly), we would theoretically be able to keep track of where we were in continuity at any given moment in the series, even though we’d be moving backwards in time. But time travel is tricky business. It’s unpredictable. Anything can happen.
Also . . . Godzilla.
He is this year’s Crown Prince Of All Halloweens. He ended our holiday jam with style and radioactive napalm. Believe me, no flesh was spared.
But that’s for later.
So let’s continue this thing, folks. Starting with . . .
Sunday October 12: ALIEN, KILL BABY KILL and FREDDY VS. JASON
ALIEN, I watch alone, in the afternoon, in honor of the very first time I ever saw the film in its entirety. That was in 1980, in Fayetteville Arkansas, at my friend Ace Richter’s house, on a tiny little black and white TV with the sound turned way down. And it still scared the holy living shit out of me. It was a gloomy overcast afternoon, just like today. I’m reminded of being 10 years old again, and how special movies-at-home were back then. To have cable TV or a video tape player was to own the universe, man. Ace owned the universe. So I hung out at his house a lot. I think it might have screwed me up for life. Beyond that, I shouldn’t have to explain why ALIEN is so special. But for the sake of historical perspective, I will offer that it’s one of the 50 Greatest Movies Of All Time, an outer space horror film of such incredible power and originality that, along with STAR WARS, it changed the face of science fiction forever in film. It’s about a group of intergalactic truck drivers who fight an alien on board their ship. Simple. Classic. But done in a way never seen before. The feeling that lived in me after seeing that film for the first time was unlike anything I could describe in simple words. I’ll try a few, though.
You see, I’d already ventured out to a theatre in the previous year’s summer of 1979 to see this ALIEN thing when it was first in release, and it had creeped me out so badly upon introduction to the very first frame, that I’d been unable to keep my eyes open for much of any of it. It was a packed auditorium, a sold-out old-school movie palace (with a balcony!) filled with people who had never seen anything like that before. I remember the electricity in the room, the sheer, high-strung fear-and-panic that wound through the entire crowd, forcing them all to cover their eyes and scream in terror. It was a moment in history, people. I’m not sure a motion picture will ever again come along with such raw power and complete horrific control over an audience.
We were still babes in the woods back then. ALIEN was our gateway drug to all that would come next, in a complex future full of interchangeable horror and push-button irony. As a child of 9 in a very different world, it was just plain impossible for me to take.
So I walked out of the theatre and went home before the film was even half-done.
I then became obsessed with what I had not seen.
I spent the next year completely consumed with the mythology of ALIEN. I read the novelization by Alan Dean Foster, bought the “Photobook” which contained over a thousand still images from the film, depicting each and every scene in detail. I even ravenously devoured the comic book adaptation by Walt Simonson and Archie Goodwin from Heavy Metal magazine—which remains, to this day, one of the finest works of its kind—and by the time old Ace called to tell me the film was ready to be seen in the safety of his living room on that tiny black and white TV, I was certain I was ready. I knew every downbeat. I knew every character. I knew what the monster looked like, killed like, slimed like. The comic book was particularly graphic about all that, in fact—a real bloodbath that was at least ten times more audacious than the film itself.
(Um. It ain’t NEARLY as gory as this. You knew that, right?)
And, yet. Even though I KNEW ALL THIS GOING IN . . .
Scared shitless, say I.
And there was something else there, too. A real lesson about what plays on paper, what plays in the mind, and what plays before our eyes and ears, interpreted by the intrinsic shuck-and-jive of motion pictures. Ridley Scott, it turns out, had directed ALIEN in a verite style which allowed the actors to improvise lines and run with their characters. It was one of the first post-modern genre films to do this, really—an approach which dropped you right into a day in the life of these remarkable, ordinary space truckers, allowing you to truly know them, not through exposition in dialogue, but exposition in acting. This had been attempted before, in films such as FORBIDDEN PLANET, but never with such immersive realism and performance philosophy. As a result, what I saw and heard that afternoon was almost a complete surprise. Though I knew the words and the images, I did not know these people. Nor did I know the unbearable suspense and sheer terror contained in the film’s many masterfully constructed horror sequences. Not until right at that moment. A year of obsession turned into a magic bullet that blasted into my heart and exploded the mystery and the magic of film in a magnum whoosh of sheer holy-shit cosmic thunder. In the stunning wake of this experience, with the calm, soothing refrains of Howard Hansen’s Romantic Symphony still wafting in my head (that was the source music that played over the film’s final moments and end credits), I basked in the afterglow of a real twilight in my life, sitting on a jungle gym in a park near Ace’s house, the sky overcast, mist in the air, my innocence long gone. I’ll never forget that mist, that sky, that music. Standing at that event horizon is a terrifying, exhilarating, soothing experience for a child. But you take it with you. And, hopefully, you never look back.
CHRISTMAS EVE UPDATE: Moving forward in time to December 23, 2014 . . . Because I am not the only child who’s life was irrevocably altered by the characters in ALIEN, you tend to see a lot of amazing post-modern products like the ones pictured above. This an entire series of retro-styled action figures based on the film and made available online by dedicated fanboys with waaaaaay to much time on their hands. (CLICK ABOVE to link to their website, which explains this madness way better than I ever could.) My best friend Scott comes over tonight and gives me two packages, containing these incredible toys, which I would have killed and eaten a real human being to possess in 1980. Owning them now, I kinda feel like the luckiest kid on Halloween-for-Christmas Morning. Scott is someone I’ve known most of my life, though we were never kids together. He lost his mother and father this year, which is a burden I cannot imagine. But he makes my life worth living every day. Tonight he is Santa Claus. And there are stars in my eyes and tears on my face. Thank you, Scott. This blog is for you. And for all my best friends. We are each other’s new twilight, each and every day.
Back to October 12 . . . KILL BABY KILL is my favorite Mario Bava film, and I also watch it alone, stunned for the ten zillionth time at how moody and stark and succinct it is. The title is kind of ridiculous for such a traditional gothic horror picture, but it delivers many goods. And, yes, you’ve seen a lot of this before—ghosts and witches, creepy castles and period costumes and nightmare visions. But only a master filmmaker sees things like this for us with such style and elegance. I’ve seen this film almost a hundred times. I fall asleep with it playing. It never gets old. Oozes with dreamlike vision and familiar comforts, like an old friend who happens to be really, really creepy. And speaking of vision . . .
FREDDY VS. JASON, the final film to feature the character of Jason Voorhees before the series was “rebooted,” is our first FRIDAY THE 13th film of the month. It turns out to be bit of a hate-fuck screening. Joe has never liked this film but I still think the kills are nifty to watch. I’ll probably never understand how a great director like Ronny Wu ended up in this particular ghetto. And what does the award-winning helmer of THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR have to say about his work on FREDDY VS. JASON? I seem to remember he said this: “Cut off your leg, stab your eye, damage your kidney!” A man after my own heart. Or, um, my kidney . . .
Some chat highlights include the following pearls of wisdom:
(Stephen, on exterior night scenes in horror films) “WHERE IS ALL THAT GODDAMN LIGHT COMING FROM???? Oh, yeah, she’s like dreaming or something.”
(Joe, on the final battle between Freddy and Jason, in which nobody wins.) “It’s like perpetually getting stuck in the fifth round of a Rocky Balboa fight. Sure, we’ll hit each other, but we’re both made of screenwriting and special effects.”
But what a bloodbath. It was unprecedented in 1993.
It is tonight, actually, that Joe and I make our pact to screen all the remaining ten FRIDAY films in reverse. And I decide to write this blog, too. I also decide that I will fill the blog with a ton of highly personal mini-essays and oodles of historical information on both the Godzilla AND Jason films. For my primer on the Big G, CLICK HERE or refer to PART ONE. For my introduction to the FRIDAY THE 13th slasher cycle, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW. It’s more information than you need, but you know you need it anyway. Go read the thing. We’ll wait.
Okay, done? Good. I bet you feel lots smarter now.
Now, before we move on, one last note ON “SLASHERS” AND “FRANCHISES.”
A weird placeholder term that gets thrown around a lot to describe any series of motion pictures that goes on for more than two or three entries is the word ‘Franchise.’ I’m not sure who started this, but it seems to have originated somewhere in the mid-90s. It’s one of those many instances where a word is misused once in an odd metaphorical way and then becomes a widely-accepted norm, probably just because it sounded clever or something at the time. It might seem like I’m splitting hairs as some sort of anal retentive writing creature to point this out, but when you really think about it for a second, there are intrinsic dangers here.
First of all, by the definition of the word, a franchise is when a government or other organization grants the right to do certain things on their behalf, in separated cels, as in starting a chain of fried chicken joints or whatever. Thinking along those lines, it’s always struck me as kind of cheap and weird to refer to any sort of movie cycle as a franchise. Or is it just that films such as the FRIDAY THE 13th series are so cheap and weird anyway that the term should rightly apply to them? Do the Jason films have to be offered up on the cross to redeem all serialized movies everywhere? That’s probably an extreme metaphor, but it also exposes a pretty unfair judgment. If we are being truly fair, wouldn’t the same franchise definition also apply to the THIN MAN series, or the THREE COLORS trilogy? Does the word franchise sound clean coming out of your mouth in reference to a French art film? Probably not. In relative terms, a lot of people misunderstand the concept of slasher movies and lump them into an artistic underclass reserved for Grindhouse cannon fodder and Just Bad Movies. But the thing is, it’s all important art, people. Even if you don’t agree that it’s good art. And while it IS true that many of these are pretty cheap hamburgers, I’m almost sure we’re losing something fairly valuable when we start referring to any kind of art as a franchise. And so I treat all this stuff reverently, with respect. Even slasher films. Besides, it can be fun. Also, I should point out that, in the past, I’ve been nothing more than a standard-issue sinner in this regard. I’ve used the word franchise many times to describe movies. But I shall no longer. For Jason. And all the other important art he stands crucified for.
And SPEAKING OF WORDS . . .
Don’t forget I’m also reading lots of monster books during this years scream-fest. Tonight, after Jason treats, well into the hours of dawn, I devour something called DEATH SPORE by Harry Adam Knight, a guy who also wrote fine novels called THE FUNGUS, SLIMER, TENDRILS, WORM and HAVE DEMON, WILL TRAVEL. Harry died ten years ago. I never knew him, but I effing loved his books. He had an amazing run, running under many different pen names. His horror stuff is trashy, adequately written, over-the-top, non-preachy and even thoughtful—just the thing for Halloween, and a fitting tribute to a guy who’s career many would envy. DEATH SPORE is actually THE FUNGUS under a different name. But it smells just as sweet. As it takes over the world. And people go crazy, all covered with fungus. And the government shows up with flame throwers. Everyone dies. Rock on.
Monday October 13: JASON X, SHIVERS, COUNT YORGA 1 and 2
SHIVERS is really THEY CAME FROM WITHIN, which is really David Cronenberg’s first film, which is really an incredibly hard pill to swallow this afternoon. Though I admire its intentions and applaud this director’s body of work—he happens to be one of my favorite filmmakers—I’ve always found this particular movie to be disgusting, depressing and unhappy. (I have a similar problem with his next film, RABID.) It’s about an outbreak of venereal disease in an apartment complex that manifests itself as face-raping slugs, who, after raping everyone’s face, cause them to freak out and do weird psycho-sexual shit. This has the disquieting effect of turning the whole film into a wild, nightmare-like downward spiral that you have a really hard time shaking off, long after the experience is over. My friend Hobart makes the following observation while we’re watching: “This Cronenberg guy has all KINDS of issues, doesn’t he?” Well, duhhh. Even the Netflix copy says that. What amazes me, really, upon reflection, is how a story this deeply personal in its sickness somehow appealed to any sane group of movie producers as a commercial horror film product. Knowing how much time and effort and persuasion goes into just getting a script green-lit, it’s probably a bona fide miracle that Cronenberg ever had a career at all. Like Ken Russell, he’s showing us his deepest hang-ups, and dressing up the crime as science fiction. Which is admirable, really. Even though it makes me want to take a shower afterwards. The COUNT YORGA films—the original and it’s one sequel—are silly Romper Room nonsense by comparison, and I breeze through them fast. In fact, I hardly remember what they are about later on. Some vampire and a castle and some girls in the castle? Sure, yeah, whatever. Brrr. Still creeped out by all that face-raping.
JASON X continues the back-in-time FRIDAY marathon, by going into the future. Yeah, this is the one that’s set in outer space, because eventually that’s where every horror “franchise” goes to die. We have a few laughs here, which is fun for me but hard for my buddy Joe to stomach. He’s a purist, you see. The FRIDAY THE 13th films mean a lot to him, in their original form. He finds them nostalgic and primal and important cinema in that they mark an age that is long gone and a philosophy of survival that speaks to the basest instincts in the human animal. Horror in it’s purest form. JASON X shits on that in his view, because it’s basically a “meta” film, in which the very subject is mocked openly by the filmmakers. I agree with him mostly, but I still think it’s kind of a fun movie with some truly horrific gore. Also, when I was a lot younger and dumber, I overdosed on some really weird designer drug—and watching this movie basically saved my life, so I kinda owe it one. This is not a gritty ALIEN future, it’s a kind of glitter-and-sequins disco future. So we have a bunch of incredibly beautiful actors getting killed a lot on the set of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY. It also has one of the best kills in the entire series, in which Jason shoves a woman’s head into a cryo-freeze vat, ices her solid, then bashes the crystalized remains of her brain into a sink basin in gruesome close-up.
I honestly think the director is trying hard here. Joe hates it even more by the time we’re done. But a cool thing is that, even though this was the legendary Kane Hodder’s final film as Jason, it’s really his first to us, since we’re watching these films in reverse. We still have three more to go with Kane! Oh, and one other thing. I get some hate-fuck revenge on David Cronenberg for ruining my afternoon with his depressing face-raping parasites. See, he’s the one of the first assholes who gets wasted in this movie.
Some chat highlights which I find amusing enough to write down for later include the following:
“So she said they tried everything to execute Jason, right? Well, my first idea would have been to dismember the guy, then mail each piece to a different state, where they would be set on fire, and then you’d seal the ashes in concrete and bury them ten miles deep. AND DON’T LEAVE THE BODY NEAR THE SCI FI REANIMATION MACHINE, YOU GODDAMN MORONS!”
“Okay, so why this guy never had sex with his robot before is just BEYOND ME.”
Don’t ask, people. Just don’t ask.
Tonight, I start reading something I’ve had on my paperback shelf for years called IN SEARCH OF DRACULA. My paperback shelf looks like this, by the way:
I buy books by the pound sometimes. I fall in love with women who do the same thing. Needless to say there is much heartbreak and misery in my life.
But anyway, IN SEARCH OF DRACULA . . .
It’s one of those shameless doco-book things that mixes historical fact with literary and cinematic legend, bending over backwards in a very academic tone—complete with footnotes, glossaries and an appendix section that comprises almost a third of the entire length of this very thin paperback—and all this to explain that, yes, Dracula was a real guy, and YES, the Bram Stoker book was based on REAL FACTS and, YES, you should be REAL SCARED because HE MAY STILL BE OUT THERE, MAN . . .
I kind of love books like this. You can tell can’t you?
Tuesday October 14: THE DOUBLE, JEKYLL AND HYDE TOGETHER AGAIN and STUDENT BODIES
Today is Jekyll and Hyde Day, and nobody else shows up for it. Fine. Screw nobody else. First up is a fairly recent offering, THE DOUBLE, starring Jesse Eisenberg as a nerdy weirdo in Terry Gilliameque fantasy future world who gets set up for murder by his doppelganger, who is also played by Jesse Eisenberg. It’s a pretty slick flick and I end up liking it lots. So I wash the class out of my mouth by running a Jekyll and Hyde adaptation so universally reviled that the filmmakers even show Robert Louis Stephenson turning in his grave at the end of it. The elastic and utterly insane Mark Blankfield plays Jekyll, the nebbish scientist/surgeon with a mission to save humanity. He also plays Mister Hyde, the hairy, gold-toothed, mustachioed, cocaine-snorting abomination who describes himself to a slack-jawed nurse (played by the immortal Lin Shaye) as, “A drug crazed beast with a giant erection that won’t go away, no matter how many times I do it.” Um. And then Lin drops to her knees and tries to blow him. Yeah. It’s that kind of party. I reaaaaaaly loved this film as a child. And guess what. I still do. As an adult, I also realize that it was produced by Joel Silver, who later gave us THE MATRIX, LETHAL WEAPON and was also that guy who tried to buy the suitcase full of coke in TRUE ROMANCE. Believe it.
STUDENT BODIES is one of my favorite films. It’s a slasher comedy that is neither bloody nor funny. But it seems to figure this little problem out about halfway through and then cuts to:
I kneel before the superior intellect.
Still working on the DRACULA book tonight. It gets funnier with each page . . .
Wednesday October 15: ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE, CHARIOTS OF THE GODS and I SAW THE DEVIL
I do the first film alone. Nobody else likes cheerleaders either, I guess. But the cheerleader movie turns out to be better than I expected. Goofy horror with deeper intentions. I like some of Lucky McKee’s work. (This is akin to his episode of MASTERS OF HORROR, which was series I also worked on.) CHARIOTS OF THE GODS, the notorious UFO “documentary” of the 1970s, is watched while I’m cleaning up my house for the big crowd that arrives later for I SAW THE DEVIL. Which is awesome beyond belief. Um. I mean the DEVIL movie, not the CHARIOTS movie. (Ahem. Fuck the CHARIOTS movie.) There isn’t a jaw in the room that does not hit the floor during the best scene in this thing: where the main devil killer guy takes out two assholes in a moving car, using a knife to stab them both about a billion times in gruesome, bloody relief, while the camera does laps around the action in a delirious 180-degree dolly spin. It manages to make the batshit-giddy style of early Sam Raimi films like EVIL DEAD 2 look like paint drying. Utterly astonishing filmmaking in any language. Me, I’ve seen this thing ten times and my jaw is still dislocated.
I finish up IN SEARCH OF DRACULA tonight, by reading the entire glossary of terms and the appendix sections, which are dry and boring and make me want to throw things at random people. Still, the book is quantum mechanically awesome. In another life, I might have actually believed some of what is written here. In this life, I just wish that Dracula really was real, so I could show him this book, mostly because I got it for a quarter and it still has the CLEARANCE price tag on there. “Your life story is worth one fourth of an American dollar, baby. Oh, and they made you into a cartoon called DUCKULA, too. It was totally awesome.”
Thursday October 16: THE BLOB 1988, THE THING 2, A FACE IN THE CROWD and JASON GOES TO HELL
Teighlor shows up for lunch today and we watch the super-cool 1988 remake of THE BLOB, written by Frank Darabont and directed by Chuck Russell. And it’s still great, almost 30 years later. Teighlor is genuinely amazed by how smart and well made it is.
This was back in the day when films that needed to be remade got remade. THE BLOB needed to be remade, folks. John Carpenter’s THE THING—in itself, a much-needed remake of a vintage horror classic—did not. So they made the 2012 update a “prequel” instead. Think about that for a second. A prequel to a remake. Seems kind of . . . is wrong the word? I don’t know, but the equation hurts my brain to think about for too long. When the gang watches it later, I call the film THING 2 all night and people laugh a lot. Other titles get suggested such as ONE MORE THING, ANOTHER THING, THAT THING YOU 2, THE THING ALSO and, my personal favorite THE THING WE DIDN’T NEED. It’s true. We didn’t need it. THE BLOB ’88 we needed.
A FACE IN THE CROWD still freaks me out. It freaks everyone else out, too. Andy Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes, a sociopathic megalomaniacal country hick-turned-multi-media tycoon, is just plain disturbing, man. He sort of makes Orson Welles in TOUCH OF EVIL look like a nice guy. No small feat, baby. This one is a true monster. The legend has it that Andy himself became an insufferable jerk during the making of this film, and I believe it. His performance here is chilling, heartbreaking and note-perfect. As is Patricia Neal’s. She may be the real reason to watch this film. My favorite moment belongs to her, near the climax. You truly see the desperation of this woman’s lovelorn plight scrawled on her face as she outs Lonesome as the spoiled-child monster he truly is, exposing him in front of the world. We’ve all felt like this, I think. We’ve all wanted to do something terrible to save someone we love. We don’t often follow through. This film follows through. And the results are some of the best art in motion pictures I’ve ever seen. Oh. And Walter Matthau. My main man. If a movie has him in it, it’s probably pretty damn good anyway.
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY is another hate-fest with Joe. We really don’t like this one. A lot. And it’s even the R-rated version, which is the only version available on Blu Ray or HD. So we don’t get to see the best kill in the film, in which a woman is impaled and ripped in half by a steel signpost. This was a motion picture released back in the Dark Age of Horror, in which gore was routinely scrubbed from motion pictures like this at the insistence of the MPAA. Then America went to war. With everyone. And someone told the MPAA that it was okay to rip people apart with as much on-camera blood as we could fit on the screen. (At least that’s my theory. How else do you explain movies like 300?) The biggest casualties of the Dark Age were the FRIDAY THE 13th films, one of which was butchered so badly that a reviewer actually referred to the final product as “a near subliminal montage of cutaways.” But, well, that’s all history, ain’t it? So is JASON GOES TO HELL, which tries in some way to re-invent the entire series, while simultaneously ending it with a big bang. But it all just plays goofy. In this film, Jason becomes some kind of supernatural monster with the ability to change bodies pretty much at will. Which is just too damn complicated for a slasher film, man. Shit. We are irritated right from frame one, as in the following:
“Okay, when a movie starts by showing someone CHANGE A LIGHT BULB, you’re in deep shit.”
“Okay, what? So is this whole body-hopping thing some magical super power Jason just picked up, or did he have this ability all along and that’s the reason he’s always played by a different stunt guy?”
“What, you don’t find this all taut and well executed?”
“No, it’s more like tits and execution.”
Tonight I start reading Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE. It is a sort of textbook about horror, rather than a textbook horror story, which is what King tends to be better at. When I was younger, I only got hallway through this because I was angry with some of King’s views—particularly his stance on the films of Roger Corman. He claimed they were not even accidental art, but rather trash art. That didn’t really make any sense to me (you can’t make accidental trash?), but I want to try King’s book again anyway, because his ON WRITING became truly inspirational to me later in my life. Even if you do not agree with everything he says, King is a great essayist, and he loves to gab in a Jes’ Folks style that is accessible, educated and friendly. In fact, it actually feels like an old friend has joined me tonight, on my quest to understand the borders of art in entrainment and literature through the monster film. Based on the opening chapters, I am almost positive old Stevie would find the Jason movies beyond contempt, as most “serious” fans of horror probably do. But we need those other opinions, don’t we? It helps if you listen to both sides.
Friday October 17: UNDER SEGAL 1 and 2, FROGS and FRIDAY the 13th parts 8 and 7
One of my favorite monsters is Steven Segal. Referred to as “the greasy haired mumbler” by Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, he is perhaps the least charismatic action hero in history and exudes a demonic presence not unlike one of those spoiled brats you used to play “war” with in grade school who refused to ever lie down and die when you shot him. Big Stevie is never at anyone’s mercy EVER in his films. He doesn’t even let Machete kill him in MACHETE. And he’s a jerk about it. UNDER SIEGE is my favorite of his films, because he is particularly unappealing and outclassed by far superior actors in better-written bad guy roles. Segal is so powerless in the presence of the insane Tommy Lee Jones that it’s like watching a rubber Halloween mask trying to come to life in front of Bugs Bunny. But in the end, everyone bows to Steven. Which is why I always refer to this movie as UNDER SEGAL. In the second film, which is creatively titled UNDER SEGAL 2, the hot blonde chick from KNOCKED UP, who is also a notoriously unpleasant person in real life, plays his granddaughter or his niece or something and she manages to outclass him with her boobs alone. Eric Boogsian inexplicably plays the bad guy and seems sexually frustrated a lot. It’s pretty amazing cinema. Nobody shows up to watch these with me. I have no idea why.
FROGS!!!! That’s what Teighlor and I yell out loud to each other while chatting a movie called FROGS. Which is filled with FROGS. And they’re all FROGGY AS HELL! This one is just great fun. It’s about a family of total dickheads who have a vacation at grumpy grampa’s mansion in the swamp, surrounded by FROGS! And then the FROGS decide to sort of supervise an attack on the dickeads. Because FROGS are neither scary nor dangerous, it falls on lots of other buggy, snakey, spidery creatures to lead the charge. The FROGS just lay back and check the whole thing out, probably laughing a lot. And Sam Elliot shows up without a mustache to explain the dangers of man against nature. And Ray Milland yells at him. He won an Oscar, too, you know—just like Tommy lee Jones. But I’m pretty sure old Tommy was never outclassed by FROGS later in his career. There’s may be a lesson here, kids. I think.
Later that night, Joe and I begin the FRIDAY THE 13th “Canon films” with PART 8: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN and PART 7: THE NEW BLOOD. The NYC offering was the final film released by Paramount Pictures and the most “lavishly” produced, but don’t you believe a word of the title. He only gets to New York in the last two reels and it turns out to be mostly Vancouver and nothing much happens there. Joe has a lot of strong personal feelings for this movie, because he was a child when it came out and he actually went back to see it six times in the movie theatre. That actually blows my mind. (Said the imbecile who sat through ALIENS thirty-seven times in 1986.) Knowing this, I really watch FRIDAY 8 this time and pick up on something quite amazing. Kane Hodder’s second turn as Jason strikes me as thoughtful. His body language and performance quirks shade the character in a way not previously seen. I kind of understand Jason in this film. You begin to feel his rage and relentlessness as a pure force of psychotic evil. Which is good, because the rest of the film is pretty bad.
PART 7 is even worse. I have no idea where Jason is coming from in this one. In fact, the director doesn’t seem to know either—literally. Jason just shows up in disparate places in the woods and whacks people. You never get the impression that this version of the character is anything but a prop, being inserted into scenes at random. Here, the “twist” is that Jason confronts a telekinetic teenage girl, who engages him in hand-to-mind combat at the film’s climax. It’s supposed to be Carrie Vs. Jason. But it’s all just dumb, really. (There’s a great shot of someone’s house blowing up, though.) An interesting footnote is that this is one of the best looking Jasons ever put in the series—because the film is directed by a special effects guy. And yet, there is a marked difference between what this film never gets near and what the next one achieves. There are levels to this stuff, even this far down in the basement. It matters if you look.
Some chat highlights from tonight:
“So . . . the Muppets took Manhattan in the first scene. Think they’ll let Jason kill some Muppets when he FINALLY GETS THERE!???”
“Okay, now they’ve finally arrived in NYC. But where IS everyone? It’s like two people live in New York. And one of them is Willie Vannili.”
“GUY WITH A BIG DANGEROUS THING!!!!”
“You really start to wonder how many times the words “stop screwing around” have been uttered in this series.”
“I just want to know—-WHERE IS ALL THIS LIGHT COMING FROM????”
Still working on DANSE MACABRE. It’s a long book and King loves his gab. Early on, he talks about the definition of monsters, which is thoughtful and fascinating stuff, very much tying into my quest this year. I find it more than a little telling that in addition to the many literary names King drops, he leans quite heavily on horror film to make his point. (I’ve even worked with book editors who seemed to be more film literate than book literate.) This was a book originally written in 1981, then updated in 1983 for the paperback version I am reading, so a few of the views may be dated. I mean this thing is over 30 years old. But there is no denying the importance and influence of film in relation to monsters and horror in general. It’s a fascinating post-modern paradox that well-read authors such as Stephen King, whose novels are often butchered for the silver screen, are so influenced by the art form. I think I’ll hang in there with DANSE MACABRE this time. Some good stuff here . . .
Saturday October 18: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, MAUSOLEUM, HORNS and H.P. Lovecraft’s FROM BEYOND
WOLF is a terrific monster film. I watched it with my dad last Christmas Day when it came out and we laughed so hard we both nearly had heart attacks. This year, I watch it my myself for Halloween and laugh just as hard. I’ll not bore you with what this movie is about or why you should see it if you haven’t already because that would be just silly.
But I will tell you a little bit about MAUSOLEUM.
It’s another film I saw with my dad when it was first released. In 1984. It was a pretty sleazebag affair, and was one of the first motion pictures of its kind I was ever exposed to. You know, the really grungy kind. The plot or whatever concerns a hot chick whose boobs come to life and eat her husband. The hot chick was played by a flash-in-the-pan scream queen named Bobbie Bresee (see above) with a wicked smile and a body from hell. Because my image of Bobbie had been completely colored by the sleazy film I’d seen her in, and because my 14-year-old hormones were pretty much out of control back then, she became my dirtiest, most secret crush for years. I imagined every pleasure you can name with that woman, and a few that kinda scare me, even to this day. (As for my dad, well, he really used to hate having to sit through these crappy horror films because his son was so obsessed with them in the wake of having his mind blown by ALIEN and getting his teenage glands hijacked by raunchy green-eyed ladies of the night. But my father sat through them anyway. What other son did he have?) Years later, I got to experience what Bobbie was really like in person. She was so kind, funny and charming, so incredibly sharp, educated and brilliant, that I felt utterly ashamed of my childish younger self and all his smutty fantasies. These are the object lessons we can only hope to receive one day, out of the mists of our past lives. This lesson was not eclipsed until years later, when the glorious Kathleen Kinmont from HARDBODIES and BRIDE OF REANIMATOR allowed me to kiss her at a Fangoria Convention. I actually have a picture of that one. But it is, as they say, another story, kids . . .
HORNS is a pay-per-view sneak preview thingie, a brand new film based on a book by Joe Hill and directed by the PIRANHA remake guy. Because this involves a fellow writer in dark fiction, I will refrain from any negative commentary. But I really didn’t like it. Scott didn’t either. So we do H.P. LOVECRAFT’S FROM BEYOND, which is an easy favorite among the die-hards. I’ll not bore you with what this movie is about or why you should see it, if you haven’t already. Because that would just be silly.
Sunday October 19: THE DEVIL’S RAIN and “THE PROPHECY OF MECHAGODZILLA”
THE DEVIL’S RAIN I watch by myself. It’s amazing. Old school horror directed by the DOCTOR PHIBES guy and starring Ernest Borgine as the devil or something. And then they all melt at the end. Awesome. I follow this up later in the evening with a rare screening of “THE PROPHECY OF MECHAGODZILLA” for a few friends.
Ahh, Godzilla . . . my old pal . . .
Let me end this blog by explaining “THE PROPHECY OF MECHAGODZILLA” to you. I will also explain why the title is in quotes. It’s kind of a funny story. One might even call it shocking.
Trust me, I’m a professional.
When I was a kid, about 16 years old, I was obsessed with three things: Heavy metal music, ALIENS and Godzilla movies. This was back in 1986, in the days before every damn thing came out on HD streaming the second after it was released. So if you liked a movie you had to either A.) go see it a billion times in the theatre and memorize the motherfucker (see above) or B.) wait a year or longer for it to come out on tape and/or TV. When GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA came on TV, I taped it off the air, using a Betamax player my dad had bought me. Gone were the days when someone else owned the universe in a video machine. NOW I WAS THE MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE, BABY. And in just six short years—which are also the longest years ever when you are a kid that young—it had all become quick-and-easy magic. I was actually used to owning the universe. How does that happen? How is that even done? I can still remember being an eight year old kid in 1977 and wishing for “a machine that would play STAR WARS on my TV all day long.” Now I had that machine. And it was boring.
So I made my own entertainment, baby.
Starting with The Big G.
I took the crappy copy of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA I’d swiped off cable and proceeded to re-edit the entire film, wipe out all the sound and replace it with my own, including most of Metallica’s MASTER OF PUPPETS album for the background score, and I re-dubbed all the voices too. This was a months-long process that involved gathering up whoever was handy—usually my father and my stepmom—and having them stand in front of my TV and act out all this weird shit. Oh, and we changed all the lines, too. Some of it was so funny that it was all we could do to keep a straight face through the whole sordid process. We were also getting stoned a lot during all this. I mean that I was literally smoking weed with my own dad while we redubbed a fuckin’ Godzilla movie in my room. Hippie parents. Go figure. In one particularly amazing episode, Rock (my father) replaced a bad guy’s voice with a spitting Sylvester the Cat accent, screaming into the mike: “FFFRREZZZE, DICKFHHHACCCE!” He actually started crying on the first take because he was laughing so hard. I have that tape still. It keeps my heart warm on Halloween for Christmas Eve. My favorite highlight of this awesome production, which I finally re-titled “THE PROPHECY OF MECHAGODZILLA” for its world premiere in my living room, was the following dialogue exchange:
“You are an alien asshole, and you have mustard on your trousers.”
“HAH! You don’t expect me to fall for that one do you?”
“My my my, professor. You are an asshole among assholes. Yes, and besides that, there is mustard on your trousers.”
Kinda had to be there, I guess. But we did laugh ‘till we cried.
I have shared this weird bootleg heavy metal remix of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA with my close friends for almost 30 years. If you ever get to know me, one day I may share “THE PROPHECY OF MECHAGODZILLA” with you. For now, there is this fun little bit of writing. I hope it has amused you, this fine Christmas Eve, which is really Halloween Eve. Or whenever you’ve chosen to read it.
Tomorrow, we will finish this thing.
I promise more Godzilla.