The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Fifteen: The Last House on the Left (1972)

last house

Wes Craven. The man responsible for A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and Scream, arguably three of the greatest horror films ever made.

 

Then there’s The Last House on the Left.

 

TLHOTL (that’s an ugly acronym, I’m sorry) was Craven’s first film, so I’ll give him a pass. Still…I can’t really say I liked it.

 

I know, it’s a classic, and no, I’m not some shit for brains millennial talking out of his ass. As you can clearly see from my prior posts here, I’ve seen a butt ton of old school horror movies. I cut my teeth on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Fulci’s Zombie, and others. Hell, I was watching shit when I was seven years old. Seventies and eighties horror movies are…they’re home, you know?

 

I say that because anytime someone rips a classic, there’s libel to be some push back, and being twenty-five, I’m a prime target for the “You don’t get it, you grew up on crap” lecture. Or something.

 

The Last House on the Left feels like someone’s first movie. It feels like something a young, callow director would do. When I close my eyes and think of Craven doing this movie, I see a teenager fumbling to take off his girlfriend’s bra. And the poor bastard just can’t get it.

 

The movie starts with Mari, a pretty seventeen year old, and her friend Phyllis going to a concert in the city. Mari’s parents don’t approve of Phyllis or the neighborhood where the concert is being hosted, but allow their daughter to go with a warning to be careful.

 

On their way to the city, Mari and Phyllis hear a radio report of two violent convicts escaping from a prison with the help of “an animal-like woman” and one of the convict’s sons. Next we meet the gang. There’s Krug (David Hess, who would later play the same exact character in The House on the Edge of the Park – they even dressed him the same, lol!), Weasel, Sadie, and Krug’s kid, Junior (AKA Junkie, because Krug got him hooked on brown as a power play). Krug was in the slammer for killing a preist and two nuns (Craven was really trying to make him a bad dude), and Weasel was in for molesting kids, “peeping tomism,” and assaults. Sadie’s a psycho and Junior looks a lot like Hess…I wonder if they were actually related.

 

Anyway, Mari and Phyllis meet Junkie on the street and try to score some sweet grass off of him. He leads them into the apartment the gang is holed up in and hands them over to Krug in exchange for some H. Krug, Sadie, and Weasel strip Phyllis and rape her while Mari looks on.

 

The next morning, the gang hits the road, while Mari’s parents worry over her not coming home; they call the local police, and are rewarded with two dumbasses who couldn’t find their own assholes with a both hands, a flashlight, and Google Earth.

 

As fate would have it, the gang breaks down literally in front of Mari’s house. They take the girls into the woods and brutalize them. In a bid to escape, Mari gives Junior her peace sign necklace and promises to be his friend. Krug shuts that shit down real quick, raping Mari and shooting her.

 

Later, they seek refuge with Mari’s parents, claiming to be on a business trip. They quickly discover that their most recent victim lived there.

 

Junior goes into withdraws and winds up bent over the toilet. Mari’s mom helps him to bed, noticing the necklace. She then overhears Junior asking Krug for a fix and saying that they had to get out of there. “If they find out we killed their kid…”

 

Smooth move, Ex-lax.

 

Mari’s parents find their daughter’s body and bring her home, resolving to get revenge. The first to go is Weasel, who wakes up and finds Mari’s mom having a drink (presumably to calm her nerves). He comes onto her, and she takes him outside for a bout of middle-aged sex. Weasel claims that he can make love to her with his hands tied behind his back. Mari’s mom ties his hands with his tie and sucks his dick. Only instead of a happy ending, Weasel got a sad ending. A very sad ending.

 

She bit it off, is what I’m saying.

 

While all this is happening, Mari’s dad grabs a shotgun and sets up some Home Alone style traps. Krug and Sadie wake to the sound of Weasel’s shrieking, and find Mari’s dad aiming the gun at them. Krug cuts the lights, but Mari’s dad fires, catching him in the arm. Krug and Pops proceed to work each other over. Junior comes out with Krug’s pistol and threatens to shoot him, but takes his father’s advice and shoots himself instead (Jesus). Mari’s dad slips away and returns with a chainsaw.

 

Sadie attempts to flee, but Mari’s mom tackles her and they fight. Sadie eventually falls into a pool and Mari’s mom cuts her throat as, inside, Pops pulls a Leatherface on Krug just as the police arrive.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention. Those two dumbasses saw the gang’s car stalled on the side of the road as they pulled away earlier, but ignored it. A call came across the wire describing that car to a T, and they rush back to Mari’s house, only to run out of gas on the way. They literally spend the rest of the movie trying to get to the house. First a carload of hippies fake-offer them a ride and then flip them off, then an old black woman in a pick-up truck loaded down with chickens offers them a lift – but they have to sit on the roof, and the truck won’t go with their added weight.

 

My main complaint with this movie is those cops. Their scenes are totally inappropriate and just kill whatever tension Craven managed to build up before cutting back to them. Not only are these scenes inherently silly, they’re fucking scored with, like, slapstick music. It’s like if every time we see Leatherface chasing someone in TCM, we get the Benny Hill theme. It’s the dumbest shit. I also feel like Craven should have spent more time on Mari’s parents exacting their revenge. It was over so quickly. The whole movie builds up to it, and it’s, like, five minutes long, and is basically Krug getting chainsawed to death.

 

Speaking of Krug, I’m going to single David Hess out (just like I did with The House at the Edge of the Park). That man was a fucking genius at playing scumbag psychopaths. He really was. The dude who played Weasel wasn’t half bad, either. Now, he looks like the bastard love child of Christopher Walken and Mr. McMahon, but he’s a good actor. And boy can he scream.

 

Look, The Last House on the Left isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s amateurish. It reminds me of all the stupid-ass stories I wrote ten years ago and have locked in a drawer. Those things were the work of a young, inexperienced writer, just like The Last House on the Left is the work of a young, inexperienced director. Craven got better, though.

 

There’s hope for me yet.

 

Three and a half middle fingers.

 

PS. Having seen this movie now, it’s clear to me just how much they ripped it off in The House on the Edge of the Park. Like I said, David Hess was basically the same dude in both movies, right down to his black shirt. Was he the same character in every movie he was in?

 

I didn't screw Brett...Brett screwed Brett.

I didn’t screw Brett…Brett screwed Brett.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Fourteen: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I Drink Your Blood

In the summer of 1969, a group of hippie cultists embarked on a grizzly murder spree in Los Angeles, claiming roughly a dozen victims, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Symbols and words were written in blood at the scene of two murders. RISE. A black power fist. HEALTER SKELTER.

By the end of the year, former convict and drifter Charles Manson and several of his nomadic “Family” were in custody, and the world reeled at the lurid details of the case: Sex, LSD, politics. A typical day in the late sixties, really, save for all the murders.

 

Meanwhile, a remote village in the mountains of Iran was beset by rabid wolves, with several people being bitten and turning homicidal. Two unrelated cases, yeah, but as a creative type myself, I can safely say: Two unrelated ideas colliding on the freeway of the mind are how some of the best art is made. In this case, the two cases merged to inspire I Drink Your Blood, a nasty little gem from 1970 that is perhaps best remembered for being the first movie to receive an X rating for violence alone.

 

I Drink Your Blood was the brainchild of David Durston, who had been contacted by the CEO of a production company to make a movie. Durston wanted to make the most violent horror movie eveah, and he didn’t want no punk ass vampires or anything. The Manson Family trials were much in the news at the time, and Durston somehow heard of the rabies outbreak in Iran. Well, those two ideas came together and BAM, a movie is born.

 

I Drink Your Blood finds a group of roaming Satanist hippies (including Lynn Lowry…she’s always in some wild shit) crash landing in a small, dying town and taking up residence in an abandoned hotel. While worshipping naked in the woods, they are discovered by a local girl, who runs away. The leader of the cult, Horace Bones, orders the girl stopped. Now, to a normal person like me or you, that means “Kill her so she can’t tell the squares how fucked up we are.” To a few of the tripping cultists, it means “Beat her and up and rape her for good measure. Then leave her alive so she can tell on us.”

 

The girl survives her ordeal and stumbles home, finally telling her grandfather what happened. I forget his name, but he wore his pants up to his chest, so we’ll call him Highwater. Highwater grabs a shotgun and goes to confront the cultists. They get the drop on him, pump him full of LSD, and make sport of him. Highwater’s ten-year-old grandson Chubs shows up and takes grandpa home. Having heard about rabies, Chubs kills a rabid dog in the woods, draws some of its blood, and injects it into some meat pies for the cultists to eat, because fuck what they did to Highwater, yo.

 

Anyway, the cultists eat the pies and get sick.

 

Then the fun begin.

 

After Horace wigs out and starts killing people, the cultists scatter to the wind. One of them, a chick, winds up in the camp of some construction workers. Drunk and apparently not caring about the far out shit that happened back at the hotel, she lets the construction workers run the train on her, and they all catch teh rabids. Pretty soon, rabid, homicidal maniacs are everywhere, and Chubs and his sister team up with a local shop owner and her boyfriend to survive. In the end, the state police show up and the day is saved. Woot woot!

 

I Drink Your Blood is, if you ask me, the definitive exploitation, drive-in horror movie. It’s bloody, it’s got boobs, it’s interesting, it’s unique, and it’s pretty well written and put together. There’s even a nod to that Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in Vietnam, so, it’s like, history class. Technically, all the infected people multiplying counts as math class too. This movie’s virtually a high school!

 

If only my high school had been this dope…

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Thirteen: Sleepaway Camp 2: UnHappy Campers (1988)

sc2 p

She’s baaaack!

 

1983’s Sleepaway Camp, in case you’ve forgotten, featured a transgendered serial killer named Angela Baker who was raised as a girl by her nutcase of an aunt. Her circumstances led to a psychotic break and a wicked rampage that claimed the lives of, like, eight people. Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers finds an adult, post-op Angela working happily as a camp counselor. This chick is serious about camp. Roasting marshmallows, going on nature walks, singing dopy campfire songs (C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song!). Unfortunately, most of the campers are more interested in drinking, fucking, and doing drugs. This offends Angela’s puritanical sensibilities, and she begins “sending” people “home.” Not home to their parents, but, like, home to Jesus. Her continually shipping people back home without permission pisses off the camp director, who cans her ass, leading her to run wild like Hulkamania. She whacks everyone she can get her hands on save for this girl named Molly, who Angela likes because she’s a goody two shoes, and Molly’s little boyfriend, Sean: She holds them hostage in a cabin and eventually chops Sean’s head off. Molly escapes, but Angela follows. After a chaotic chase, Molly trips and smacks her head. Beleiving she is dead, Angela sadly leaves her and walks out, eventually getting a ride with a crude old lady in a truck. Molly wakes and stumbles to a dirt road, where she flags down a passing truck. Angela, wearing the old lady’s stupid little cowboy hat, pokes her head out and gives Molly a big Texas “Howdy!” Roll credits.

 

The first thing you have to know about Sleepaway Camp 2 is this: It’s not as serious as the first movie. Some might even call it “campy,” and not just because it’s set at a summer camp. There’s definitely an air of dark humor, but I wouldn’t say it’s “campy.” Then again, I have a hard time calling the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels “campy,” even though some of them totally are. Freddy Krueger was so much of a wiseguy in a few of those movies, he made Joe Pesci’s character from Goodfellas look like a fucking priest. Angela cracks wise a little too, but what really makes her for me is her unfailingly perky attitude. She’s always so upbeat. You can tell she’s doing what she loves. She’s never annoyingly perky, though, which is pretty impressive: There’s a very thin line between what kind of perky is acceptable and what kind of perky is not, and Angela manages to walk that line like a circus acrobat.

 

The actress who plays Angela (Pamela Springsteen, the Boss’s little sis) makes this movie. Like I think I’ve said before, a slasher movie (or any movie, for that matter) has to have one thing that sets it apart from everything else. Maybe a unique setting, or a highly original premise, or a cool villain. It can be hackeneyed everywhere else, but as long as it has that One Thing, it’ll pass. Pamela Springsteen in Sleepaway Camp 2’s One Thing.
Of course, that’s not to say there’s nothing else to SC2. There’s a pretty cool scene where Angela makes this stuck-up bitch crawl into the business end of an outhouse and literally drowns her in poop. She also throws battery acid in this dude’s face. That was pretty satisfying, because dude looked just like Joey from Full House, and I fucking hate Full House.

 

SC2’s strong suit, I think (aside from the tremendously talented Pam Springsteen) was it’s glossing over of Angela’s gender. After the first film, you’d expect it to be central to the story, but the movie skips over it and gets right to the campy fun. It is mentioned twice (once by Angela herself) that she “had an operation.” Move along. Nothing to see here. Hey, look at this set of tits instead!

 

Whether you’re of the opinion that the trans aspect was revolutionary or insulting, it’s nice to put away heady sociopolitical subjects and watch teenagers be gruesomely murdered. That’s something we can all enjoy.

 

After finishing this movie, I decided that Angela Baker was one of my favorite slasher villains. Behind Freddy, but ahead of Jason and Michael Myers. Why she didn’t appear in thirty movies like Jason’s dumb, silent ass, I’ll never know.

 

At least there’s part three…

 

I see you fornicating...

I see you fornicating…

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Twelve: Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)

Summer

This movie catfished me.

 

See, I mistakenly believed that a movie with the title “Summer Camp Nightmare” would be about some asshole in a mask killing people. I know, what a maroon, right?

 

Actually, Summer Camp Nightmare was adapted from a 1961 novel by William Butler called The Butterfly Revolution. In it, a sociopathic but charismatic teenager orchestrates an uprising at a summer camp; the lame ass counselors and the uptight owner are locked in a cabin and the kids run wild. The leader of the “revolution” (Franklin Riley) creates his own little East Germany on American soil, Party this, revolution that, minister of propaganda blah blah blah.

 

I haven’t read the book, but I have read a summary, and the movie’s fairly faithful, so here’s what happens.

 

Riley establishes a virtual dictatorship of the proletariat after the uber-religious and no fun admin (Chuck Conners, of Tourist Trap fame) shuts down all the fun. Riley and his cohorts liberate the nearby girls camp, and the fun begins. Partying, dancing, doing whatever the hell you want. A couple of Riley’s henchmen grab Chucky C. from the brig and take him to the rec hall, where a wild party is in session. Feast thine eyes, gramps!

 

While being escorted back, the Chuckmiester makes a break for it, and winds up getting accidentally stabbed to death.

 

As days pass, Riley becomes increasingly tyrannical. A boy rapes a girl, and Riley, to quell the anger among the girls, makes him shimmy across a broken down bridge, saying that if he makes it, he’ll survive. He makes it, but the girls carrying him off and lynch him in the woods.

 

Meanwhile, one of Reilly’s underlings, this nerdy little fuck named Donald, has second thoughts, and teams with this kid named Chris to overthrow Reilly. Donald is captured and made to walk the plank, arrr, but an anti-Reilly counterrevolution breaks out. Chris arrives with the police, and the movie ends with Reilly cooling his heels in the back of a cop car. Take that, you commie bastard.

 

I honestly did not expect something like this when I started watching. I saw the title, a tiny little version of the VHS cover (is that dude holding a gun? Sweet!). Suffice it to say, I was surprised…mostly in a good way. Though most of the cast had to be, like, seventeen or so, they did well, especially the dude who played Riley. He was able to convey his character’s sociopathy just by fucking existing. That’s a good actor.

 

Now, if you want to be anal, Summer Camp Nightmare is a pretty obvious ripoff of Lord of the Flies; I picked that vibe up just as soon as I saw which way the wind was blowing. I don’t mind that, just so long as the end result can stand on its own, and I think this movie does. It’s certainly not your typical eighties slasher fare. It’s nowhere near as profound as LOTF, to be sure, but it makes you think, if not about sociology, then about the basic premise: People forging their own, alien society in a familiar world; Americans cutoff from the rest of the world, left to themselves, living under their own rules. Fascinating, no? There’s a long history of that in this country, and it never fails to interest me, the idea of a society within a society. The mob, outlaw bikers, the Amish, hippie communes…all groups famous for going it alone, for building their own world with their own values, culture, and customs. And these groups aren’t out in some far-flung corner of the globe, they are here, in the good ole U.S of A, ostensibly governed by the same laws as us and apart of the same mooy-gooy melting pot. But they aren’t. They exist outside of our society. Here but not.

 

Or maybe I’m full of shit. That’s possible too.

The Great Horror Movie Marathon Day Eleven: The Crazies (1973)

cray

George A. Romero is at his (commercial) best when he’s directing zombie movies. Maybe not Diary of the Dead, or Survival of the Dead, or…wasn’t there another one? I forget. I saw Diary of the Dead and pretty much bailed on Romero’s Dead Series. Though GAR is an icon in the horror community…he needs to hang it up. I mean, you can’t hit homeruns forever. Eventually you have to step down and rest on your lurals (unless you’re The Rolling Stones…those dudes will never retire).

 

Anyway, like I said, Romero’s most commercially successful movies have been about zombies. He may have done great movies not featuring zombies (Martin comes to mind), but zombies pay the bills, ya know?

 

Maybe Romero had that in mind when he did The Crazies. It’s not a zombie movie per se, but it is. It starts with an army cargo plane crashing in the hills surrounding a small town and releasing a biological agent that turns people…crazy, hence the title (it’s a horror movie, people, not rocket science). The army quickly moves in and quarantines the town while a small group of people led by a sheriff’s deputy attempt to escape. Romero is a master of building tension and exploring the human side of horror. While the military elements conduct themselves like full-fledged Blackshirts (and lesser minds simply see that and go “har har har, r-me bad!”), you quickly find out where they’re coming from: This bug could end life as we know it. It might be distasteful to round up and in some cases summarily execute American citizens, but you have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet, and in this case, the omelet is called “NOT LETTING THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE FUCKING DIE.” Same thing happened in Stephen King’s The Stand. A government engineered superflu is released from a facility and spreads across the globe. In the earlier acts, the military goes full fascist, but it’s either that or everyone dies and end of story (their efforts were in vain).

 

Romero is deft at human conflict. He’s also great at creating characters that seem like total wastes of human space on the surface, but who, on further inspection, have a point. Think Harry Cooper in Night of the Living Dead. Cooper was abrasive and something of a bully, but he was right: The basement was the safest place to hide. Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead was the same way. He seemed like a tyrannical fascist at first glance, but when you look a little more closely, you find that if he is a fascist, he’s the weakest, most limp-wristed fascist ever….and more reasonable than he’s given credit for. He’s an asshole, but he’s not 1D cartoon villain twirling his mustache and laughing about how dastardly he is.

 

But I digress. The Crazies is fascinating as both a horror film and a human drama. For me, the most memorable scene includes Richard Liberty (before he became Frankenstine) and onscreen daughter Lynn Lowry (who’s always in some funky shit)…getting a little too friendly, if you catch my drift. They were both infected and one thing led to another…you know how it is. I’ve read a few essays on the film that say he “attempted” to have sex with his daughter. Oh no. He totally did. Unless the blood on her thigh meant something else than a popped cherry…

 

The Crazies is, in my opinion, Romero’s third best zombie movie, behind Night, Dawn, and Day.

 

 

A movie the whole family can enjoy.

A movie the whole family can enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.