Thursday, August 28, 2014

YouTube Presents: B-Movie Sundays, part 2 of 2: Clownhouse (1989)

Oof, Clownhouse.
Where to begin? It should be noted that I watched this back-to-back with Mausoleum because the internet is addictive and I need more hobbies. I would describe it first and foremost as not nearly as fun as Mausoleum and significantly more disturbing. Like Mausoleum, it is available on YouTube (link).

The film revolves around a trio of preteen to teenage brothers who could really benefit from increased parental supervision—this definitely feels like an indictment of the late 80’s latchkey kid-ism. The first few shots of the movie depict these young boys in tightie whities and eventually shows one of their bare butts. It’s pretty uncomfortable; I turned to Rob and said, “this is really pedophilic and also not a movie you could ever make today.” As it turns out, the director Victor Salvo was molesting the youngest of the actors on set and would eventually go to jail for it. So, that’s pretty much as horrible as it gets. Salvo would go on to direct Powder and the Jeepers Creepers franchise after his release from prison, so it’s nice that he didn’t let being an awful human get in the way of his career. Guh.

Anyway…Clownhouse. The movie itself is kind of madness. The premise is that this kid Casey is afraid of clowns and pretty much everything else, and his oldest brother Randy (played by an actor* whom Rob recognized as a character with one line from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which made me a little sad) is basically a dickhole, and the middle brother Geoffrey is overly protective of Casey. Their dad, much like the husband in Mausoleum, seems to be a busy important businessman who is never seen but is spoken to on the phone. Is this an accepted horror movie trope? The unavailable business patriarch? If not, it should be. About 15 minutes into this movie, their mom straight up disappears. They keep referencing the fact that she won’t be home but we are never told why.
*Editor’s note: I had written most of the draft for this post before I told my very knowledgeable and hilarious friend Amanda (who writes an excellent blog at The Film Stage) about this movie, and she was like, “isn’t that Sam Rockwell?” and I was like, “yeah, I didn’t really know who he was,” and she was like “SAM ROCKWELL HAS BEEN IN EVERYTHING!” which a cursory IMDB search proves that to be true. You guys, this is why I write this blog: because I am a goddamn expert.

Meanwhile at the local asylum for the criminally insane, which is conveniently located a few blocks from the teens’ home—their house is giant, maybe it was purchased really cheaply because of this proximity?—three inmates have escaped. We are to learn nothing about them—not their names, not why they were incarcerated, not their motivations, nothing. In fact, I could be wrong but I don’t believe that any of the three of them utters a single line and they are on screen for a good 70% of this movie.

 After breaking out, the lunatics head to the local circus where Casey had earlier been frightened by a clown, causing him to run out of the circus tent and thus humiliate himself in front of THE WHOLE TOWN. I love how in horror movies, this kind of shit always happens in front of THE WHOLE TOWN. So effective in terms of shame. Anyway, you can see where this is going: the lunatics kill the real clowns, who are innocently just trying to slam some whiskey after the show, and take their clown gear.

(true story: it took me an extra day to finish this post because I was like “WHAT DOES A CIRCUS TENT LOOK LIKE?" Answer: NOT THAT.)

Why would they kill the clowns and take their identities, you ask? They don’t try to assimilate anywhere in the circus or the town as clowns so really, it doesn’t matter why! In fact, I sort of feel like that should be the tagline of this movie: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHY.

Speaking of things that have no actual cause, the three lunatic-fringe clowns then cruise over to the enormous home where the three boys are alone and seemingly just decide to kill them. Why? IT DOESN’T MATTER WHY. The clowns are actually pretty scary, though—I don't normally do this but I wanted to include an actual still from the film so you can see for yourself. This is the leader of the lunatic clowns, impersonating local folk hero clown Cheezo.

Why is the image of a clown waving so horrifying?

The clowns chase these kids pretty much up and down the block and around their house. These kids, I swear—I know that I have never been chased by a bad guy in my own home so it’s hard for me to say what exactly I’d do, but recently one of my cats caught a bird (in my house! it broke in by pecking a hole in an upstairs window screen) and when I went to see what all the commotion was, I guess I surprised the cat and he opened his mouth, releasing a terrifying flying creature that came RIGHT AT ME. I thought it was a bat and I turned heel and ran right out the front door. NOT UP THE STAIRS.

Why are people always running up the stairs? There is no escape from there! You are trapping yourselves! I don’t even care if you die at that point.

Another day, another horror movie where I have decided that people deserve to die. Am I a bad person for thinking that? I couldn’t tell you, but I guess I would actually recommend Clownhouse if only because clowns are the worst possible things on the planet and because stuff that's free is the best. You're welcome!

Monday, August 25, 2014

YouTube Presents: B-Movie Sundays, part 1 of 2*: Mausoleum (1983)

Sometimes I worry about the kind of person I am.

There’s something to be said about being someone who really enjoys horror in general—does it mean that you tend towards being a darker, more cynical person? Behavioral science has long looked at what makes some people gravitate towards horror, and it often has to do with the adrenaline rush of fear. I am certainly not a ‘thrillseeker’ by any means and I won’t set foot into a haunted house (let alone PAY for it, jesus) but I can really get down with the fear that comes from watching fictional people get messed up by some supernatural being. I want them to get messed up.

Maybe it’s aging that makes a person more cynical, though. I remember the first time I saw Scream at age 13, how I felt so desperately that I did not want to see Drew Barrymore’s character die.

Now I watch horror movies all the time and just kinda wait for the characters to die. Most of the time, I even feel like they deserve it. To me, there is no subgenre where this is truer than B-movies, specifically of the 70’s and 80’s.

Holy shit. You guys, holy shit. I want to talk about Mausoleum (1983) but I seriously cannot even figure out where to start. It was recommended to me by my friend Allen, who has made several appearances on this blog by virtue of being 1) a horror aficionado, 2) a wonderful human and 3) one of the only people to give a shit about the blog, and he extolled one of its greatest virtues: it is available in its entirety on YouTube (link). I Googled it to find the YouTube link (why not go to YouTube and search for it there? BECAUSE GOOGLE IS FOR EVERYTHING.) and just saw the first two lines of the Wikipedia result: “Mausoleum is a 1983 supernatural horror film directed by Michael Dugan and starring former Playboy Bunny Bobbie Bresee.” Oh. Oh good. Michael Dugan doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page but, according to IMDB, has something in development for 2015 called “Chubby Chasers.”  (This paragraph was brought to you by: websites of the internet!)

It is certainly apt that Wikipedia plugs our girl Bobbie as “former Playboy bunny” because she is straight up nude for at least 45% of this movie, which truly makes it kind of hard to illustrate. Her character is Susan, a housewife to a very busy important businessman who does a lot of important business involving “contracts” and “signatures”. Her biggest problems are that she’s pretty bored, and she’s like MEGA HOT so all dudes are pretty much always hitting on her. Oh, and she’s possessed by the devil because she went into her family’s mausoleum as a child and the only way she can be released from this possession is by placing a crown of thorns on her head (all in all, not that difficult of a task). So I mean, that does complicate matters. Susan is normally a very sweet, vacant girl but when the devil inside her rears its ugly head, her feathered bangs fall away from her forehead and she bares her Playboy bunny teeth and her eyes glow otherworldly green.

Susan’s husband Oliver is dumber than a sack of wet mice. At one point in the movie, he’s told by her psychiatrist that she’s possessed by the devil and, hey, maybe you might not want to get too close to her. He goes home, finds her in the bathtub (boobs) and in the course of their conversation asks her, “What’s gotten into you, anyway?” DUDE, IT’S THE DEVIL, THAT OTHER GUY JUST TOLD YOU.  Then he hugs her with intent to bone. At that point, you kind of deserve it, right? Also, I should make it clear that apparently this is a sexy devil (not the college girl Halloween costume) because this devil wants to bone down with and then kill every man in sight. How? Sometimes with a brutal face clawing, sometimes by dangling them over the balcony at the mall and sometimes with BOOB-DEMONS. This woman’s boobs turned into demons as she got out of the bathtub. BOOB. DEMONS. They moved and snarled and everything, god bless America.


 I should also take this opportunity to point out that Susan's family surname is Nemod and it took me literally half the movie to figure out why.

Mausoleum is really really fun and is absolutely worth your free on YouTube, even though it ends with the weirdest, most perplexing “twist” in the final scene. I cannot figure out what in the world they were trying to do there so if you’ve seen it and would like to offer an opinion, please post it in the comments. I just do not understand.

*The reason this post is titled as part 1 of 2 is because when Mausoleum ended, YouTube suggested that I might also be interested in Clownhouse (1989). AND BOY, WAS I INTERESTED. I was going to put them together into one post but I feel like maybe Mausoleum is enough to chew on for right now. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Jug Face (2013)

After the last two movies which I basically raved about, I thought I should throw you a stinker from Netflix: Jug Face.
This movie clocks in at only an hour and twelve minutes and it still took me three sittings to get through. I would like to tell you that breaking it into chunks took away some of the tension but I feel pretty confident in saying that there’s truly no tension to speak of. It generally follows the horror movie trope of “throw a bunch of weird shit at the viewer and slowly reveal what it means”, which is fine! Except that none of the weird shit is particularly good shit.

Let me start with the Netflix short description: “A pregnant teen tries to flee her backwoods community when she learns she's to be sacrificed to a monstrous beast that lives in a pit near her town.” Okay, that actually sounds promising! A beast in a pit! Sacrificing children! These are things I can get right behind. I am wholeheartedly willing to suspend my disbelief at the fact that this rural insular community is worshipping a hole in the ground—and not even a massive gaping fissure in the earth, just a lil hole, about four feet across and six feet deep with some brown water in the bottom.


Okay, fine, disbelief suspended. So this community worships the pit, and sometimes the pit demands sacrifices. If the pit does not receive the sacrifice of the person it selects, it will then kill at will until it gets the specific person it has requested. How do the townspeople determine who to sacrifice? Well you see, the pit speaks to a mentally handicapped man whose name I believed to be Dwayne but according to the internet, it was actually Dawai. Everyone had terrible southern accents in this movie—or more accurately, they had them about 80% of the time except when they forgot and dropped them—so you can forgive my error. The pit tells Dawai who to sacrifice and then he (in a daze? I guess?) makes clay jugs with the sacrificial lamb’s face upon them. Hence Jug Face. I will admit it was difficult for me to keep a straight face when our protagonist, pregnant teen Ada, tells her grandfather, “I think I’m the next Jug Face!”

This seems to have been a problem for the props department on this film, because the jug does kind of look like Ada, but it also looks a lot like everyone else in the movie. In one scene, as part of an effort to protect Ada from being sacrificed, Dawai makes a jug of another member of the community: an overweight guy in his early-to-mid-twenties. That one looks like Ada too. When he reveals it to the community, they all gasped because it told them who would be sacrificed but I was like, “wait, who is that supposed to be?”

Whatever. I have written about 500 words on this movie so far and have yet to mention that Ada is pregnant courtesy of her brother Jessaby (JESSABY!) and that Netflix lied, there is no monstrous beast in the pit. When people are killed by the pit, we never actually see it—the camera just kind of twirls around and you hear shouting and then see their innards scattered about.

Oh! There’s also a boy that Ada calls “the shunned boy” and he seems to appear only to her, and might be dead? I think he’s dead. He may also be an agent of the pit, but I can’t be sure. He appears only to deliver scintillating dialogue like this.
                Ada: What if I don’t want to die, though?
                Boy: You must.

I wrote that in my notes with the word “lol” immediately underneath. In fact, rather than trying to piece together anything in this movie, I’m just going to transcribe portions of my notes below.

  •           I feel like it’s a bad sign when every person who worked on the movie is credited in the opening sequence.
  •           Why would you bone standing up in the woods? There’s…grass everywhere.
  •           This guy (Dawai) looks like he should be an extra in a movie about the founding of Apple, Inc.
  •           Apparently even weird religious zealot backwoodsers drink moonshine. They’re…just like us?
  •           Should I rewind this to figure out if this girl is boning her brother?
  •           Oh, yup, boning her brother.
  •           I actually hate everyone in this movie and don’t care if they die.

In the Netflix good or garbage category, this one is solidly

Monday, August 18, 2014

You're Next (2011)

On the topic of growing pains (we weren’t talking about growing pains, I know. This is how you write an opening sentence; writing majors can feel free to take notes), I was talking to my friend Rob about my frustration with what I want to do with this blog. I’m not reviewing, or recapping, or even rating horror movies, so what am I doing? I feel like I’m basically just saying HEY CHECK IT OUT THIS HAPPENED AND I DREW IT IN A RUDIMENTARY MANNER USING FREE SOFTWARE THAT CAME WITH YOUR PC OKAY BYE! and that’s not really all that fulfilling for me, and I can’t imagine that it is that exciting to look at either. Rob said to me, “the thing with horror movies is discerning the good ones from the straight-to-DVD-or-Netflix shit ones” which I thought was a really great point. The world, particularly the Netflix world, is just teeming with terrible horror movies and I feel like I could be a valuable resource to you in sussing them out. That means, however, that this blog is just going to have to have spoilers from time to time, and you can just

(my GOD am I good at the internet!)

The other night, I had the pleasure of watching You’re Next with my excellent lady friends Tara and Kelly (and excellent lady friend dog, Penny). You’re Next is a slasher that falls a bit in the vein of The Strangers but with more deaths and more comedy that takes place in a family’s isolated mountain home. Tara had previously described the plot to me while we were staying at her family’s isolated mountain home—I  will never return there, thank you—and said that she basically had her fingers over her eyes for a large portion of the film. And for good reason! This movie has a number of really good jump scares that get you even though you know goddamn well they are going to get you, and they come as soon as the opening scene. They definitely got Kelly, anyway.

The setup is simple: really wealthy parents buy a vacation home and invite their three sons, one daughter and each of the kids’ significant others to spend a weekend there for the parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. This is ideal because with ten characters at its disposal, a movie can really get the body count up there quickly. The children have stereotypically bougie names (one of the—intentionally? I can’t be sure—funniest moments in the movie is at the very beginning, when our protagonist son accidentally frightens his father and the father exclaims, “Crispin!!” to reveal his name for the first time. CRISPIN. Actually, I just Googled it and it looks like his name is actually Crispian. I can’t abide by that weird extra A, so it’s gotta go. “Crispin!”) They are all dressed appropriately as “wealthy people”; I imagine that the working title of this film was Rich People Wear a lot of Collars.

One by one, we meet each of the couples and prepare to watch them die. I feel basically nothing towards them at this point so, you know, let the bloodshed begin. One death comes via crossbow, which I feel is a totally underutilized weapon in horror films. (At one point, a character refers to crossbow ammunition as an arrow and Tara audibly scoffed and said, "it's a BOLT." Ladies who play D&D...we know what we're talking about.)

 You are supposed to feel some kinship towards Crispin’s girlfriend Erin, but she’s a tall, thin, beautiful Australian woman so, no, we don't have a ton in common. Anyway, the killers roll up to the house dressed in animal masks, which I absolutely LOVE. This really got me in The Strangers, too—killers wearing blank-faced masks instantly increase the creepiness.

You see, that’s a lamb. I feel real, actual shame at the amount of time I spent on that compared to how it looks…maybe I should stick with drawing Glenn.

Incidentally, that same mask is totally worn by WWE wrestler Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family, whom I saw live at the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh this year. Pro wrestling, D&D, horror...with interests as cool and fascinating and feminine as mine, it’s a wonder the boys aren’t kicking down my door. Guys back off, I’m married, okay?

You’re Next is gross and jumpy and engaging, but on top of all that, it’s actually really funny. It has to be, since the characters are wildly unsympathetic and the premise itself is fairly unoriginal. I sometimes have a problem with the horror-comedy genre because I like to know whether something is supposed to be funny or if I’m actually just laughing at a filmmaker’s expense, and You’re Next kind of toes that line. The tall thin beautiful Australian woman, as it turns out, is an extremely capable killer and manages to fight back against the home invaders, beating one to death and concocting traps to maim others in a grotesque Home Alone-style scenario. When asked how she’s able to do all this, she tosses off a line about being raised on a survivalist compound in Australia and you’re supposed to be like, “oh yeah totally, it’s Australia…anything is possible…?” Things like that are so blatantly dumb that I have to assume that is intentional, right?

Anyway, to address the Netflix “good or garbage?” question, this one definitely falls under good. It’s fairly scary, fairly gory, fairly funny and all-around fun. Would watch again. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Halloween (1978)

Hi, remember me?? I used to write this blog where I watched horror movies and then reviewed them via crappy MS Paint drawings? Well, then winter happened and I warded off the crippling depression by mainlining episodes of both the hilarious bad movie podcast How Did This Get Made? and the hilarious bad movie television show Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I just felt like everyone was doing a better job with movie commentary than I was. Today I was listening to an old episode of another excellent podcast, Judge John Hodgman, in which a guy was attempting to compile a list of his top 100 horror films of all time and I thought to myself, “Hey, I should do some kind of project involving horror films! Maybe I can even put my rarely-used journalism degree to work,” then I remembered that I’m still paying for this URL.

So here we are, time to pick up this project again. I don’t want you to be alarmed but since I stopped drawing egotistical portraits of myself for this blog last fall, I grew my hair out and stopped flat-ironing it, so please accept this new egotistical portrait of myself.

Glenn still looks the same/is still a shithead.

Since this blog is obvs all about me, I wanted to do a movie that holds particular importance to me to revive it. I went with one of my all-time favorites: Halloween. I mentioned in the previous entry that I bought a VHS copy of Halloween at a Blockbuster sale and it really changed me. When I say that it changed me, I mean that it ruined me deep inside and made me unable to feel real love and real empathy. Michael Myers is that good.

 I recently watched a documentary about the making of Halloween that included a bit of trivia about how the movie was originally presented to studio execs without the iconic music and it really wasn’t terribly scary at all. John Carpenter composed and overlaid the chilling score (it’s in 5/4! Great time signature.) and the movie itself became the truly terrifying work it is. It’s perfect. In homage to this, I would like you to please hit play on the following video and listen to the score while you read this post. It’s only 2:36 though, so, you know… scroll quickly.

 Is this one of the scariest films of all time? My personal feeling is that it’s certainly in my top five, and you could argue that it really spawned the aesthetic of the stalking killers in the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises as well. If nothing else, it gave us the “virgins will live!” trope which I hold so near and dear to my heart. If you know me in real life, you know that despite the fact that I am happily married, I am abstaining from such lewd activities just in case I am ever forced to subvert a malevolent force of some kind. It’s just an investment in my future. I’m not trying to die.

Michael Myers’ now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t appearances as he stalks our protagonist (Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut) are just one of the ways Carpenter built fear and suspense and paranoia throughout the second act. My favorite of these moments is one of his first appearances in Haddonfield:

Okay, so this is weird. I drew that picture from my memory of the scene and then thought I should google it to see if I was anywhere near the likeness I was aiming for. This is a still from the original scene:

I know the first thing you noticed was my completely implausible perspective (I also have a degree in art history, which means that I can easily recognize my errors but feel no real compulsion to correct them) but otherwise, look how close that is! That’s a testament to the power of this movie—that image is completely stuck in my brain and probably will be forever. (It is close, right? Tell me it’s close. TELL ME I’M AN ARTIST.)

That’s not, however, my favorite moment of the movie. That comes in the third act, when Michael Myers has begun his assault on the misbehaving teens and (spoiler alert) kills Bob, the boyfriend of promiscuous Linda (spoiler alert 2: boobs in this scene) who wears those sort of creepy/molesty late 1970s tortoiseshell eyeglasses that were also worn by at least one of your weird uncles when you were a kid. Michael Myers appears in the doorway of the bedroom, dressed as a ghost in a sheet but wearing Bob’s glasses over the eye holes and of course, proceeds to brutally murder Linda. The point of Michael Myers is that he’s completely unrelatable—a psychotic and inhumane monster—and yet he does this thing that’s actually sort of funny for the audience, even though the end result is the death of a chesty protagonist.

I don’t want to say too much about this movie because 1) if you’ve never seen it, why are you even reading this blog? Go watch it immediately; and 2) if you have seen it, you probably love it and know it pretty damn well so why would I bother describing it to you? The third act continues in all its eerie glory and climaxes into one of my favorite endings in horror history—an ending that kept me up at night. It leads perfectly into the sequel, which starts off strong and then really kind of gets lost in the middle if my memory serves me correctly –but let’s not get too far into that now so I can review it later.

Hey guys! I wrote a recap! I drew some MS Paint pictures! Here’s to hoping I can keep it up. One thing that’s certainly motivating to me is that Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the namesake of this blog, is running at Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Melwood Screening Room from August 22-30 and I CANNOT WAIT to see it on the big screen. For more info, go here and please support your local arts organizations.