Hellnotes Review of Shades

Shades

There’s a fantastic review of my collection SHADES up at Hellnotes.com. I’m tickled pink by all the nice things the reviewer had to say. If I knew what he drinks, I’d buy him a round.

 

“This is an excellent book by an author who surprised me in a positive way. Joseph Rubas’ writing reads like that of an older, more seasoned professional even though he is pretty young guy. It feels a little like he is channeling the writers of the old horror pulps in the 22 stories that make up Shades. Think of a young Richard Matheson and early episodes of The Twilight Zone and you’ll have the vibe. Good stuff!

Things kick off with the, it-could-happen-to-you horror of “Passing the Buck.” A pleasant young woman is waiting for a friend at the mall when her life changes horribly and very finally. All because she tried to help. Anybody asks you to help them put a box in their car, you tell ’em to take a hike! Another cool and classic story is “The Warlock.” Some teenagers think they’re smart when they intentionally burn down the house of the local warlock, Kenyard Mays. “Ha-ha! We’ll show that creepy old man who’s boss in this town!” is what these stupid lads think, but they just screwed with the wrong guy. See, even though the burned up body of Mays is found in the leveled home, he’s not in it, thanks to his book of evil magic spells that allow him to shapeshift and switch bodies at will. Soon all the kids who “killed” Mays die horrible deaths, as do their parents and siblings. A local sheriff tries to shut the warlock down by destroying his spell book, but it’s way too late for that. As the story ends, we see that Keynard Mays’ reign of terror is just beginning.

Unlike many collections, Shades is really a different experience and a different kind of horror with each tale. Some people prefer to read books that are just zombie stories, or just vampires, or serial killers. That’s cool, everyone should read what they like. I like variety and the feeling that you’re not even reading the same book by the same author anymore. Joseph Rubas gives us that. From “AOKIGAHARA,” which is about a ghost forest in Tokyo, Japan that is full of the corpses of people who committed suicide, to “The Lake House,” a house rented by a writer in the New England area of the good old U.S.A. What is supposed to be a peaceful retreat turns into a nightmare! Well, the two locations do share one thing. They both want you dead so that they can consume you and absorb you into their very structure.

A few of the pieces are only a page long. “CHOMO” is one of these short shorts, but it still packs a punch. I sure hope that all child molesters DO go to the kind of Hell that Rubas shows us!

All in all, this is a cool read that is available in both trade paperback or as an e-book, and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy today! Shades – Dark Tales of Supernatural Horror can be read in short bites or you can binge out and read it cover to cover, just don’t miss out!”

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Ten: Home Sweet Home (1981)

hsh

Though it might hurt my intellectual street cred, I have to say: I love slasher movies. You know, the ones where a (usually masked) killer stalks half naked teenagers. Sometimes they use a power tool, sometimes they use a knife, sometimes they use a gun (GARBAGE DAY!!!). Though the Friday the 13th series has a stranglehold on the cultural consciousness when it comes to slasher movies, there are literally hundreds, maybe thousands of them. In the early eighties, slasher movies were big business. They were cheap, easy to make, and found a ready audience in the form of teenagers who had yet to discover the joys of Atari.

 

That means, of course, that more than a few stinkers slipped out, like turds from a hairy butt.

 

Home Sweet Home is one of them.

 

Set at Thanksgiving (I’m reviewing these movies from memory, and honestly can’t remember a single direct reference to Turkey Day anywhere), Home Sweet Home has either the coolest or stupidest killer ever, depending on how you feel about Lou Ferigno. No, the killer isn’t Big Lou himself, but, damn, he looks just like him. Flaring nostrils. Tight shirt. Pecks so big they look like dirty pillows.

 

As heard in a radio report at the beginning of the movie, Wannabe Lou is an escaped mental patient high on PCP (he’s shown shooting up in the post-coital afterglow of murder…I thought you smoked that shit?).

 

Meanwhile, a bunch of assholes are gathering for Thanksgiving dinner at a house in the hills. Their king is an annoying teenaged mime who runs around shredding his guitar like a merry nave in the days of yore.

 

Something, something, something, Lou shows up and starts killing people. The most satisfying scene of the whole movie is Lou being gunned down by the police like a dog. I have to say: I can’t say I remember a slasher movie ending with the assailant being shot by the cops (which is why I ended my short story Group Home Massacre with the cops shooting the killer).

Home Sweet Home is, perhaps, the most generic slasher film ever made. It’s got no heart, no soul, nothing new to say, nothing remotely interesting happens, it’s poorly shot, poorly acted. I get the feeling that a group of film students whipped this up for a class and got a failing grade. They must have been students, because a more seasoned purveyor of shit at least knows he’s peddling crap, and tries to make up for it by adding cool gore effects and lots of boobies. Home Sweet Home lacks even those. If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is hot, steamy sex with a beautiful stranger in a semi lit room, Home Sweet Home is a half-hearted handjob in the boy’s bathroom at junior prom.

 

Unless you want to see a Lou Ferigno lookalike shot to death by the police, don’t bother. I wish I hadn’t.

Durrrr.

Durrrr.

 

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Nine: The House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

 

 

 

house

Hey, kids, have you ever seen a movie that started out strong, but then fell apart half way through? You have? So have I. In fact, I saw a movie just like that this past Saturday night. It was called “The House on the Edge of the Park.” I knew nothing about it going in (save that I had heard the title before) and didn’t know what to expect. What I found was sheer exploitative goodness: Two psychopaths hold a group of New Wave yuppie types hostage at an upscale home that, as the title suggests, is on the edge of a park (though that fact was never mentioned or alluded to in the movie itself. Then again, no one ever said, “Boy, howdy, this sure was a Texas chainsaw massacre here”).

 

The movie opens with some ugly dude with Brill-O pad hair forcing a female motorist off the road, then raping and murdering her (another review I read used the term “strangle-fuck.” I elect to think of it as a “choke-‘n’-poke). Sometime later, Brill-O pad (his name is Alex) and his friend Ricky (who is “special”) are closing up their Manhattan garage for the night when a car pulls. There’s a meme making the rounds on Facebook lately of Mulder and Scully, from the X-Files, face-swapped, the caption saying something about how they look like a sick synth pop band. Yeah. That’s what steps out of the car: A dude named Tom and a chick named Lisa. They’re having car trouble and can’t be late. There’s a party in Jersey.

 

Tom and Lisa

Tom and Lisa

Ricky fixes the car, and Alex invites him and his buddy along.

 

The party is at the home of this Steve Stiffler looking motherfucker named Howard. It’s him, his girlfriend G-L-O-R-I-A Glorrrria, and a bald, heavily-made up black woman named Glenda (avant-garde, baby). When Alex and the other losers arrive, Ricky makes himself right at home, treating Howard’s living room like it’s Studio 54 or something. Alex goes upside his head and tells him to stop making an ass of himself (and suggesting that the “rich assholes” are making fun of him), but gets distracted by Lisa, who seems DTF, if ya know what I mean. She invites him to take a shower with her, but ditches him halfway through.

 

Already mad, Alex comes downstairs to find the yuppies taking Ricky for all he’s worth in a rigged card game. Having had enough, Alex whips out a straight razor and forces everyone to let Ricky laughingly “win” and take their money. Something-something-something, Alex beats the shit out of Howard while Ricky attempts to rape Gloria. The fact that she “looks scared” turns him off, and he seems to come to his senses…as much as he is able.

 

Meanwhile, Alex ties Howard up, cuts Glenda’s dress so that her tig ole biddies plop out, and generally makes a bigger ass of himself than Ricky ever had. Eventually, the lights go out (how I can’t remember) and Lisa dashes upstairs, because that’s where you go when a killer’s after you. Alex corners her, rapes her, and then mocks Tom about it, calling him a “faggot” and all kinds of other shit. Being weak and effete, Tom just stands there and takes it.

 

Around this time, another party guest shows up, a young girl named Cindi. Alex takes her hostage but Gloria manages to slip out the front door and makes a break for it. Ricky gives chase, eventually finding her hiding in some bushes, or under a lattice, I don’t know, it was dark. He tells her that he doesn’t want to hurt her, and the next thing you know, they’re giving each other the bidness in what one can only assume was Gloria’s way of buttering Ricky up so he’d let her go. He doesn’t, though he promises to talk to Alex.

 

Back inside, Alex strips Cindi nude and eventually begins cutting her supple young body with the razor. Ricky attempts to stop him, but gets slashed for his trouble. While Alex is busy attending to his friend, whom he genuinely seems to care for, Tom goes for a gun and shoots Alex through a sliding glass door overlooking the patio. Tommy Boy then reveals that the girl Alex killed in the beginning was his (Tom’s) sister and that everything was a “set up.” Tom figured he’d get Alex in the house, let him run wild, then shoot him in self-defense.

 

Alex takes a bullet to the balls and flops into the pool, where Lisa and Howard both take turns taking potshots at him. When he’s dead, Howard goes for Ricky, but Gloria stops him. Guess there was more to that grindage under the stars than I thought.

 

The movie ends on Alex floating face-down in the pool.

 

The first act of this movie was…it was amazing. Simply amazing. The basic set-up, two balls-to-the-wall sociopaths holding a group of people captive really intrigued me. It’s not original, but madness, crime, and human depravity have always fascinated me, and David Hess played Alex fucking beautifully. I could write myself in circles about why I liked the first half of The House on the Edge of the Park so much, but I’d wind up saying nothing and sounding stupid doing it, so I’ll leave it at that. I liked it.

 

But the final stretch just didn’t do it for me. First of all, Gloria jumping Ricky’s boner seemed inappropriate. Not “dirty” just not right. I assumed she was vying for her life, but if it was all a set-up, then there was no need. Everything was going according to plan (more or less…pretty sure Tom didn’t expect to get his face slammed repeatedly into a table). I think that scene may be where this movie began to stumble.

 

Then the twist…oh God. It’s not terrible. I mean, I guess it’s something that makes a movie, you know, like Norman Bates being his mother and Soylent Green being people, but I felt it was a little far out. And not in a good way. I guess I was hoping for a simple, straight forward movie: Two crazy pieces of shit take a bunch of people hostage, and the people must fight for their survival. I was expecting Tom to snap and have a moment…you know, where he overcomes being weak, gets all manly (like the dude in The Hills Have Eyes) and beats the fuck out of Alex. The whole set-up thing was a curve, and not one I was expecting or wanted. It raises a lot of questions. Howard and Gloria were in on it, right? They seem to have been. What about Cindi? I don’t think she was, but she was explicitly invited. That suggests to me that those assholes wanted her to get roughed up…or at least didn’t care if she did. Maybe Tom thought he’d have it all squared away by then (he mentions that the gun, which was in a drawer, was “harder to get to” than he anticipated). Still, they took a huge gamble, and it wound up getting a girl cut multiple times and probably traumatized.

 

And then…why do it at all? Why not track Alex down and blow his head off in a dark alley? Or why not have the gun on you? Why take this suicidal gamble that hinges on you maybe being able to get to a gun in a drawer?

 

I don’t know. I do know that even before the twist, the wheels were starting to come off this train. What could have saved it? I don’t know. I’ve asked myself that a thousand times since Saturday night, and I’ve yet to come up with an answer. Everything I think of feels just as flat and lame as the ending I actually got. I do think focusing on Tom finding his balls would have ultimately made a better climax. The way I see it is this: While Alex is bent over Ricky, Tom attacks. He and Alex scuffle. Everyone (or maybe only one or two) flee into the night for help. Alex gets the upper hand, but Tom takes it from him and takes off on his ass, beating, pounding, breaking teeth, nasal cavities, just going to work. Then, when Alex is a bloody, bruised, and swollen (and possibly dead) mess, Tom rolls off, breaks down, and cries. The final scene is the camera panning away from the house as sirens rise in the night.

 

If I were remaking this movie, that’s what I’d consider. It might not be what I’d ultimately end up doing, but it’s a start, you know?

 

And speaking of remakes…I’m available, Hollywood. Call me.

 

 

 

 

 

That awkward moment when you take a .45 slug to the nuts.

That awkward moment when you take a .45 slug to the nuts.

 

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Eight: Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone (1981)

dgit

 

 

Remember when you got sick off cheap wine that one time when you were in high school, and splattered your friend’s toilet with funky orange vomit? When you flushed, you thought it was gone. Didn’t you?

 

But somewhere in the bowels of the city, deep in some sewer, that vomit met a used condom and nine months later Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone was born. Alone, it grew, festering in the darkness like some Lovecraftian horror, until one day, it rose up.

 

DGITW…A is the basic bitch of eighties slashers. A group of college aged kids go into the woods (they aren’t technically alone, so…) and run afoul of the local serial killer (every town had one in the seventies and eighties). You probably know what happens from here: They (and a few other unfortunates) are picked off one-by-one. A boy and a girl escape, but return for their friend. The local sheriff (a big, fat son of a bitch…really, this guy shouldn’t have been allowed to get that big) goes after them, stumbling into the killer’s lair and finding bodies. The boy and the girl eventually get the drop on the killer and waste his ass while the sheriff and a search party look on in horror. How dare someone actually get something done around here!

 

When I called Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone the basic bitch of slasher movies, I meant it. It’s plain and generic and largely uninteresting. It’s an ultra low-budget affair with poor production values, poor acting, and poor writing. I can overlook that. I can’t overlook how dull it is. It’s a snooze cruise to nowhere. A lame train to Yuckville. And the killer…ugh. Picture this: A big, bearde

d mountain man in fur fucking pelts. Sounds kind of scary in theory, but in practice it’s blah. I like the woodland setting, as it’s one that’s not overdone in these types of movies (not like summer camps, college campuses, small towns, and suburbia), but that’s pretty much all I like.

 

Ooooh, I'm shaking.

Ooooh, I’m shaking.

Well, there is one other thing, but it’s so bad it’s good, you know?

About half way through, we see a random guy in a wheelchair moving along a dirt road and then entering the forest. We cut back to him several times struggling along a rutted path, falling out of his chair and clawing his way back in, generally doing things that an evil bastard like me couldn’t help but laugh at. Like, why? Who is this guy, and why is he so determined? By the end of his story, the woods are dark. He reaches a hill, seems satisfied…and then gets his head chopped off. It’s totally irrelevant to the story and sticks out like a sore thumb. From what I read on IMDb, the guy who played wheelchair dude was watching DGITW…A and laughing his ass off at his scenes. A woman in front of him, disgusted, turned around and said, “Imagine it was you in that wheelchair…” which made him laugh harder. Lol.

 

This is by no means a must see. You could skip it and not miss out on any personal enrichment. If you’re a completist like me, however, you should probably see it. Like I said, it’s dull, but, hey, I didn’t die, and neither will you.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Seven: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)

silent night 2

 

I wasn’t going to do this so soon after Silent Night, Deadly Night, but I reaaaally want to talk about this movie.

 

Set some years after the first, it finds an adult Ricky (Billy’s brother) being interviewed by a prison psychiatrist. Ricky, apparently, wanted to be just like his big brother, so he killed a bunch of people too. Monkey see, monkey do!

 

Part 2 staggers right out of the gate by treating its audience to about thirty minutes of clips from the first movie. Before talking about himself, Ricky sees fit to talk about Billy, telling the shrink the whole sad story from the night their parents were murdered to the day Billy, dressed as Santa, whacked a whole bunch of people with an ax. It’s very frustrating, especially if you watch it soon after the first. Like, yeah, I just saw this. I know what happened. Get to the point.

 

Finally, after 20,000 years, it does: After the events of the first movie, Ricky is adopted by a nice Jewish couple (at least I think they were Jewish) and has a pretty decent life. After his foster father dies, Ricky, who’s, like, eighteen or something, is out walking in the woods when he comes across a man attempting to rape a woman. Ricky kills him, and decides he likes the figurative taste of blood. He kills a loan shark and this asshole who kept talking while Ricky and his date (Jennifer) were at the cinema trying to watch a movie (if I remember correctly, it was Silent Night, Deadly Night. What the fuck?).

 

Ricky and his GF get pretty serious. Ricky’s happy and doesn’t want to kill anymore. Awww. Then, while on a leisurely stroll through a suburban neighborhood, Ricky and his gurl come across her blonde yuppie ex, Chip (of course his name’s Chip…Brad was already taken) working on his car. Chip pisses Ricky off by insinuating he’s the better lover or something, and Ricky electrocutes Chip with a pair of jumper cables (it’s a pretty sick death). Jennifer calls Ricky some mean names and tries to run, but Ricky, sick of her shit, kills her and then a cop. Now armed with a pistol, Ricky aimlessly roams this subdivision shooting random people. It’s really cool.

 

One of Ricky’s victims is some dude taking out his trash. Wild-eyed and wearing a stupid eighties sweater, Ricky takes aim, shouts “Garbage Day!” and opens fire, blasting the dude practically out of his socks. It’s funny.

 

Coming upon a police roadblock, Ricky puts the gun to his head, laughs manaically, and pulls the trigger.

 

Click-click.

 

Shit.

 

Now in the present, Ricky kills the shrink and escapes. His goal: Finish what Billy started and kill Mother Superior.

 

And you know what? He actually does it.

 

But like his brother, he gets shot by the cops and dies.

 

Look…this movie is bad. Okay? From the forty-five minute flashback in the beginning to the actor who played Ricky…oh my God. Eric Freeman is his name. He hasn’t been in much, per Wikipedia, and I can see why. Dude’s a fucking ham. And that thing he does with his eyebrows throughout. He’s bad…but in a good way, like the guy who played Officer Joe Vickers in Psycho Cop. He certainly stands out, and provides a few lols. Other than that, why does it exist? There’s really nothing here. It’s like a boat without a rudder. In my opinion, all the flashbacks should have been ditched, and it should have focused on Ricky, firmly in the here and now, on a quest to kill Mother Superior. MS was old as shit in SNDN2. Maybe it could have been set in a Catholic nursing home or a hospital or something, with Ricky killing his way through doctors, nurses, orderlies, and patients to get to his ultimate prize. Sure, it may have resembled Halloween II, but it would have been far and away better than the stinker we got. Of course, the funds weren’t there. From what I hear, the director was given shit for budget, and was in fact told to reedit SNDN and pass it off as a new movie (wtf?). So, I guess we got the best possible outcome, all things considered.

 

Sigh.

 

Life isn’t fair.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Six: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

silent night

 

 

Summary: Santa Claus loses his mind and goes on a sick killing spree in this heartwarming holiday classic scored by Slayer, Anthrax, and Public Enemy.

 

Okay, that’s not what happens. SNDN opens on Christmas Eve 1971. 5-year-old Billy watches as a piece of shit dressed like Santa brutally murders his parents (I know, it sounds stupid, but it kind of makes sense: The killer needed a disguise for his big night of knocking over gas stations for pennies, and, hey, a guy dressed like Santa at Christmas? Draws less attention than a flak jacket and a fucking ski mask, right?).

 

Billy and his infant brother Ricky are shipped off to an orphanage ruled by an asshole nun calling herself Mother Superior (more like Motherfucker!). All through his youth, Billy is tormented by this wheeled bitch. At one point, he freaks out at Christmas and decks a guy dressed like Santa (for which Mother Dick whipped his ass).

 

At eighteen, Billy’s a strapping (though shy) lad, and the one good nun (I forget her name, but she was chill) gets him a job at a toy store. Billy excels, and it looks like all that Santa bullshit is behind him.

 

Wrong.

 

Christmas time rolls around, and Billy gets kind of ansty. Okay. Understandable. Just lie back and think of England.

 

Oh, the toy store Santa is sick, and the boss wants Billy to fill in? Capital idea. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

 

Yeah. Something went wrong. Billy flips his lid and turns into his intepetation of Santa…a force for vengeance. Dressed as the jolly red elf, Billy runs around and hacks at least a dozen people to death with an ax (including Linnea Quigley, who, of course, bares her weird, misshapen chest) all the while yelling “Punish!” It’s pretty funny.

 

Billy caps off his Christmas with a visit to the orphanage, where he confronts Mother Superior and calls her “naughty” a bunch of times (it’s like how the villain always pauses to tell James Bond his evil plan instead of just killing him).

 

Before he can hack off that asshole nun’s head, Billy is gunned down by a cop and drifts off to death, leaving Christmas safe once more.

 

Just kidding. Ricky jumps up and starts calling Mother Superior naughty too. Gasp? Sequel? You bet your ass! Silent Night, Deadly Night 2…coming this Garbage Day!

 

I was actually surprised by the psychological aspect of this movie. I expected a quick info dump at the beginning, but the first half of the film is dedicated to Billy’s tortured childhood, which really made him someone you could at least emptheize with. We know in the Friday the 13th franchise that Jason was an ugly kid who drowned, but we didn’t really get to see what he went through. With Billy, we do. We see him having nightmares about the night his parents were murdered; we see the terror and anzity that came upon him every Christmas; we see an emotionally disturbed young boy who needs help, love, and tenderness instead get the shit kicked out of him. Maybe the scenes focusing on his backstory could have been trimmed a bit, but by the time Billy starts work at that toy store, we feel like we know him, and maybe even care for him. He’s not just a faceless slasher hiding in a bush, he’s Billy, he had a rough start, but he’s a good kid…

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night caused quite a stir when it was released. Parents protested the depiction of a killer dressed as Santa Claus (though it had been done before, most notably in the Tales From the Crypt movie (1972) and in Christmas Evil (1980). Ebert and his sanctimonious gal pal Siskel weighed in. Of course they didn’t like it. They like NPR and community theater where everyone pretends to be oh-so-fancy like Squidward on his day off, but in reality flip burgers and pick their noses just like everyone else. It was pulled from theaters after a week or so, and, if I recall, didn’t do too well financially because of it. Shame. This movie is well-produced and well-written with believable characters and a strong overarching narrative.

 

The second one, however…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Five: Where Have All the People Gone? (1974)

Where

 

This movie gives me an erection.

 

Really, I’m all warm and tingly just thinking about it. WHATPG? (okay, that doesn’t work) is like a summer fling: Hot and heart-pounding but over too soon.

 

It starts with some science dude (Peter Graves) and his teenage kids exploring a cave in the California mountains, looking for…science, I guess. Anywhere, there’s an earthquake, and they narrowly escape. Back topside, they find their buddy (who wasn’t sciencey enough for the science club) all messed up and blind. He talks some wild shit about a bright flash or something (you could say he was…blinded by science) and eventually dies before they can get him down the mountain, turning into a fine red powder (Tang, anyone?).

 

In the nearest town, our intrepid heroes find that everyone has been turned to powder, and that the phones don’t work. Worried about mom back in L.A., they set off west, coming across several others survivors, including some asshole who jacks their ride, a rabid dog, and this snot nosed little kid. After a few additions to the team, they make it back to L.A. and, yep, everyone’s dead, including mom. It ends with them adjusting to their new lives. Awww.

 

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies, so maybe I’m biased, but I love this movie. I mean, it’s certainly better acted and written than I had any right to expect from an early seventies made-for-TV movie. My only complaint is this: It’s too short. Like, one hour and thirteen minutes short. There’s so much more that could have gone into it had it been given a good two or even three hours. So much conflict, so much drama, so much story. It’s like…it’s like an appetizer. You’re at Applebees, you’re hungry, the chicken sliders look good, so you order them…only to eat them and then spend an awkward ten minutes staring at your plate, still hungry but not brave enough to order something else like a fatass, so you go home and make a Hot Pocket, which you eat despite the middle still being cold because nihilism. I love this movie but it simply isn’t enough. I’m a big man, America; a big, big man. Where Have All the People Gone? should have been a miniseries. A long fucking miniseries.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Four: Dracula the Dirty Old Man (1969)

Drac Dirty

 

There’s a saying I heard once: If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.

 

See, it’s clever because, you know, hippies are all burned out from weed and LSD and shit. LOL.

 

But it’s just as well if you don’t remember the sixties, because nothing made any fucking sense. I have a theory. JFK’s head was Pandora’s Box, and that asshole Oswald opened it when he shot him. Things made sense up until 1963. Then BAM, middle class college kids railing against “The Man” (AKA their parents AKA the people paying for them to be in college and not in Vietnam playing tiddly-winks with the NVK), weird music, weird movies, Charles Manson, acid everywhere.

 

Then, at the tail end of it all, Dracula the Dirty Old Man.

 

Basically, it’s like this: Dracula turns a reporter into a werewolf-thing and sends him out to find hot young blood. This servant (his name was Jekyllman…or was it Jekyll Man?) snatchers women and takes them to Dracula’s desert lair, whereupon Dracula stripes them semi-nude (lots of titties in this one, boys) and bites them while stammering about how beautiful they are and how Jekyll Man is good, and next time he wants a redhead, and blah, blah, blah). In the end Jekyll Man comes to his senses and overthrows Dracula, saving one or more women. I don’t know. It’s been a while.

 

Now, that run down I gave makes DTDOM sound kind of cool. That’s because that paragraph up there has more narrative cohesion than DTDOM. It felt like a collection of scenes slapped together with no care to the overall story. It goes without saying that this was a low budget film, so the effects, acting, and production values aren’t the greatest. It’s charming, like it is with most old drive-in/B/grindhouse/exploitation movies, but it still doesn’t feel like a complete movie. Also, in Dracula’s lair, women are chained up passed out and half-naked, which isn’t politically correct. Not that I give a shit, but, hey, different times.

 

It has this trippy, far out late sixties softcore porn vibe that I really didn’t like. It’s…it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. Maybe I’m way off base here, but that’s just how I felt. I didn’t regret devoting the hour plus it took to watch it, so it’s not a total wash.

 

Man, dig those sixties. Like, wow.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Three: Cutting Class (1989)

Cutting Class

 

I fucking hate this movie.

 

You won’t hear me say that very often because, let’s be honest, I have very low standards when it comes to horror movies…just I like do with women. Give me something, anything, to work with, and even if I don’t particularly like what you did, I’ll nod in respect. But Cutting Class can go to hell.

 

Starring Brad Pitt as a douchy, piece of shit jerk-ass jock, Cutting Class is what I think of as a Hollywood picture. Most of my favorite movies came from starving filmmakers with a vision and an uncompromising drive to make a good movie. They’re like…the cool hippy kid, you know? Hollywood pictures are The Man. Uptight. Square. The establishment. As soon as I saw Brad Pitt’s fucking name in the opening credits, I knew I’d make a mistake. He’s a Hollywood guy, and Hollywood guys play in Hollywood pictures. Some might be in something cool when they’re starting out, but usually they’re in the glittery, glamory fucking stupid Big Hollywood productions.

 

Cutting Class is centered around this fucked up weirdo named Brian who comes out of a mental hospital after killing his abusive father. He’s a real fucking creep. Long black coat like he’s a groupie for The Cure or something. He starts stalking Brad Pitt’s girlfriend, Paula, who’s home alone while her big shot attorney dad (Martin fucking Mull) is off on a fishing trip. Brad Pitt, who was once Brian’s best friend, starts being a total dick. Even though Brian’s creepy, Pitt’s such a meathead that you can’t help hate him.

 

Anyway, people start dying (Martin Mull gets an arrow in the opening scene; instead of dying, he’s cursed to spend the entire movie walking home through swamps, mountains, and flapping fields of flaccid penises) and Brian gets the blame. Brad Pitt and some of his friends break into the principal’s office, find Brian’s records from the hospital, and make copies to distribute to everyone in school. Everyone then makes fun of Brian’s shock treatments.

 

After a teacher is killed in school, Brad Pitt chases Brian off and the whole town turns on him. He comes to stupid Paula and asks for help, showing her a picture that incriminates Brad Pitt. The next day, a Saturday, they wind up at school, and for a while it seems like Brad Pitt might really be the killer, which would have been a nice twist, but no, it was actually Brian, and he and Brad Pitt fight to the death.

 

As a slasher, Cutting Class is watered down and plain. No breasts, no cool kills, hardly any gore, and Brad Pitt is a colossal asshole. It was hard not to sympathize with Brian, especially when it’s revealed that he killed his asshole father and not, like, a bunch of nuns who moonlighted as orphaned kittens.

 

It’s really the character dynamic that makes this movie so fucking stupid. See, Brad Pitt’s character was a total dick throughout the entire thing, and for over half the movie, Brian is painted as being wrongfully accused, which, if you ask me, makes the audience feel for him. When you’re making a slasher movie, and the killer is one of the characters we’ve met already and don’t suspect, you have to be careful not to go crazy making him likeable. Showing him laughing and smiling and being cool is fine. The audience is like, “This guy’s alright. I like him.” Make him out to be the victim of a witch hunt spearheaded by an ill-tempered bully who constantly pressures his girlfriend for sex and shows up at her house drunk off his ass in hopes of getting laid, and you make the audience really fucking like him. You make them root for him. Then when he’s revealed to be the killer, no one’s like, “Whoa! I never saw that coming!” They’re like, “Really? Fucking really?”

 

Our hero is Brad Pitt. A loud-mouth bully who does everything in his power to make us not like him. That’s the guy we’re supposed to be cheering for.

 

See, about half way through Cutting Class, I was beginning to think that Brian wouldn’t be the killer. I was thinking that instead of being a total waste of celluloid, it would have something profound to say about not judging people, about not jumping to conclusions, about not going full-on Joe McCarthy based on someone’s past. “Oh, you took Russian literature in high school? You must be a Red!”

 

But no, Cutting Class had nothing intelligent to say. The people behind it were simply cashing in on a cinematic trend established by people who actually did have something to say. Guys like Romero, Fulci, Carpenter, and Craven all produced beloved horror films, and you know why? You know why they’re so beloved? Because if they didn’t create nightmarish and surreal environments (Fulci), they had something to say. Maybe something social. Maybe something political. Maybe something about humanity, about human nature. Something. Anything. For a minute there, I honestly thought Cutting Class had something it wanted to say. Nope. It was just a stupid, overproduced piece of crap with moments of yuck inducing comedy (the movie begins with Martin fucking Mull telling his ugly daughter not to cut class while he’s gone, and when he staggers into the street and is nearly run down by her and her D-Bag bf Brad Pitt. He explains that Brian shot him with an arrow, blah, blah, blah. Then he looks at Paula and says with all the gravity of an 80s sitcom dad, “You’re not cutting class are you?” Paula simply shrugs and gives a face like, darn it, caught! Cue laugh track).

 

Fuck this movie. Fuck Martin fucking Mull, fuck Brad Pitt, fuck that ugly, bug-eyed asshole who played Brian, fuck that Penelope-Cruz-on-crack looking bitch who played Paula, and fuck Rospo Pallenberg, the director. His treatment of The Stand sucked too.

 

Just like Cutting Class.

 

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Two: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Sleepaway Camp

 

Sleepaway Camp: A gender bending good time.

 

With this movie, you’ll have a ball…maybe two.

 

A meaty story that cuts close to the bone.

 

Okay, okay, I’m done now.

 

For those of you who’ve seen 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, you probably get what I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t, let me set the stage.

 

The movie opens with two kids and their dad boating on a lake. They’re knocked from the boat, which then runs them over, killing the dad and the son but sparing the daughter. The daughter, Angela, goes to live with her cousin Ricky and her weird aunt. Flash forward a bunch of years. Ricky and Angela are packed off to summer camp. Angela, quiet and shy, immediately earns the scorn of her cabin’s bitch clique, and just about everyone decides to make her time at camp very unpleasant. Ricky, who’s probably the best cousin in the world, constantly sticks up for her, even going so far as to attack some older boys who made fun of her.

 

Then the murders began.

 

First, a fat, sweaty cook who tried to molest Angela gets a giant cauldron of boiling water dumped on him. Then…I don’t know, more people die. Sleepaway Camp isn’t very creative in that respect. If you’ve seen literally any slasher movie, you’ve seen the first hour or so of Sleepaway Camp. The only death that really stands out to me was this: Jock dude’s taking a shit, right? There’s a window above the toilet, okay? While he’s taking care of business, someone cuts the screen and tosses in a bee’s nest. The bees sting him, he runs away, he later succumbs to his wounds. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before…but it was kind of dumb, so it all evens out.

 

Anyway, Ricky’s best friend (I forget his name) winds up like liking Angela and they kiss and stuff. Mean girl Judy, the biggest bitch at camp, tries to steal him away because fuck Angela. Angela sees them kissing in the woods and gets upset. Ricky’s BF runs after her, “Angela, wait!” Typical middle school bullshit.

 

One night, there’s this big dance, and a couple of people are killed, including Judy (now her death reaaaally stands out because…well…she’s killed with a curling iron…and it…you know…goes in “there.” The camp administrator dude, this sleazy, track suit wearing used car salesman looking piece of trash named Mel comes to the conclusion that Ricky is the killer. “That goddamn kid, always sticking up for his cousin…he’s doing it.” He attacks Ricky, but winds up taking an arrow to the face on the archery range.

 

Meanwhile, Angela meets RBF down by the lake for what one can only presume is a little sexy time. We cut back to some of the camp counselors realizing, shit, niggas be dyin, and heading off to round up Ricky, Angela, and RBF so they aren’t killed too. They find Ricky, who is alive, and then a naked Angela cradling RBF’s yucky severed head. When Angela stands up and facing them…dude, she has a penis!

 

In a flashback, we see that the daughter didn’t survive the boating accident, the son did, and when he went to live with his aunt, well, she already had a son but reaaaally wanted a daughter. Roll credits.

 

That twist is, if you ask me, the only reason Sleepaway Camp has any sort of lingering presence. If it weren’t for that, it would probably had sank to the bottom of the barrel thirty years ago, never to be heard from again. Back then (but certainly today), Angela’s transgendered state is a point of cultural contention. Some trans groups see her as a groundbreaking character, while others feel she was politically incorrect and cast trans people in a bad light. My opinion?

 

Look, I’m a true crime buff. I’ve forgotten the case histories of more serial killers than you’ve probably ever even fucking heard of. A lot of these guys (maybe not most, but more than just a coincidental amount) were dressed as girls in childhood. I don’t think that alone accounted for their nature, but it certainly didn’t help. If we can go on and on about how a trans child shouldn’t be forced to present as the gender they were born with because it might cause some kind of mental trauma or issues or what have you, then I’m certain we’re smart enough to realize that the reverse is also true: Being forced to present as a gender you don’t identify with could cause some sort of trauma. Yes, Angela’s gender was played for shock value, in a way, but was handled in a manner most neutral.

 

Hey, this boy watched his father and his sister die in front of him when he was very young. He suffered trauma to the head. His crazy aunt forced him to present as a girl while he was a normal cis-gender male type. This created conflict and confusion in a mind already traumatized. The final straw was summer camp. Not only was Angela picked on, she was around a butt load of “normal” boys and girls, who were not confused about who they were or what they were attracted to. Perhaps Angela was attracted to some of the girls in her cabin, but felt wrong about it, or was attracted to boys but felt wrong about it. Maybe she grew to resent how “easy” the other kids had it. Maybe she hated them because they were comfortable in their identity. Add to that the incessant bullying and the previous trauma, and viola, murder spree.

 

However you take it, Angela and her identity make this movie, and while it’s interesting to discuss and analyze, that’s…that’s not really a good thing. None of the characters are all that memorable, none of the deaths (besides Judy’s) are worth mentioning, and the story itself spends most of the time just not being interesting. I wouldn’t call Sleepaway Camp a “gem.” It’s more of an oddity. A roadside curio. Yes, I think it is significant enough that every horror buff should see it (even if you know the twist…which, going in, I didn’t), but if you do miss it, well…whatever. You can’t win ‘em all, right?