Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hideous Linky

These are a few of my favorite things around the blogosphere:

Party Down: Billy Loves Stu reminds us of the horrors of Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Surprisingly not mentioned or shown is the loveliness that is Tom Berenger circa 1977 . This I rectify below. Even in coked up drag-queen mode you know you would would so hit that.

Nice Piece of Kick-Ass: Jason over at My New Plaid pants continues to speak my secret thoughts with his spot-on review of Kick Ass (summation: Calm down nerds, not so great). Because he is a giver and never misses the chance to exploit the flesh of the residents of the Pretty-sphere, he also points out that the supposedly geeky actor who plays Kick-Ass is actually a hot piece in disguise.

Are You My Mother? Reminding us why we should have sympathy for those who ship their adopted brats back to Mother Russia, Scare Sarah explores the delights of last year's wonderfully campy Orphan.

Celluloid Saviors: Arbogast rounds up all the contributors (myself included) to his "One I Would Have Saved" blog challenge. Some worthy choices.

Bad Luck: Friday the 13th Part 2 is shelved. I have mixed feelings about it. After initially loving up on the much hated 2009 remake, I recently re-watched and realized that it was pretty much a turd with hateable characters doing non-sensical things and deserving whatever punishment Jason had to dish out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The One(s) I Might Have Saved

Arbogast over at Arbogast on Film has asked fellow bloggers to identify "those doomed characters from horror movies whose plight or personality so moved the writer that he or she wished they had the power to breach the fourth wall of cinema and save that person from his or her tragic fate."

Though, my tragic character flaw is an almost pathological inability to choose, luckily we are talking about horror movies! Horror movies are so often (and frustratingly) filled with thinly drawn douchebags that I easily narrowed down my candidates to three.

These three characters evoke such a sense of pathos that no matter how many times I watch these movies, my magical thinking is engaged and I cringe and yell at the screen hoping that somehow, maybe this time (abracadabra, presto-chango), they'll live.

(Since all these characters die, do I really need to have a SPOILER ALERT?)

1) Carrie White from Carrie (1976)
Carrie White, as played by Sissy Spacek in 1976's Carrie, is a potent extract of teen fear, shame, and self-loathing. Her wide downward-cast eyes, chalk-white skin, and hushed voice are a powerful magnet for both our sympathy and disgust.

You know the story. Looney mom. Cruel kids. Telekinesis. Ends up at prom getting crowned Prom Queen as a joke. Things don't end well.

But, no matter how many times I watch this movie, I want to pause it right here:
Look at her. Carrie is happy. She has rejected the violent dogma of her religious mother. She has dolled herself up and is standing next to the curly-haired Greatest American Hero William Katt in his powder blue tux. She is on top of the world. Pretty girl happy at last.

It is at this moment, despite repeated viewings and attempts at psychic distancing, that I can't help but engage in an irrational list of maybes: Maybe the bucket of blood will miss her. Maybe she won't have a telekinetic freak out that results in the mass murder of her classmates. Maybe she'll get away, get a good therapist and learn to use her powers for good and not eeeevil. Maybe she won't kill herself.

But no such luck. Once I unpause the film, I am forced to watch my beloved Carrie White hop on the express ride from the top of the world straight down to hell.
2) Brenda from Friday the 13th (1980)
What's not to like about Brenda? She likes to smoke pot and play strip monopoly. She has that deep party girl voice that only girls named Brenda can pull off. You would so totally be her friend. And because she is Brenda the Goodhearted, she would totally be yours.
And true to Brenda's good nature, she tries to save a child -- a child, damnit. Not just some cat in a tree (which would make her pretty damn likable), but a child crying out for help in the rainy woods which makes her a superhero of likability. Armed only with a flashlight and her Little House on the Prarie nightgown, Brenda heads out in the pouring rain with the sole purpose of saving this poor child.
Unfortunately for likable Brenda, this poor child is Jason Voorhees and Jason Voorhees is long dead and now just a sub-personality of his murderous psycho-mommy Pamela Voorhees.

We don't see Brenda die, but we do see her corpse -- looking surprisingly broad-shouldered and hairy -- crash through a window towards the end of the film.

Laurie tried to save a little boy and all she got for her trouble was defenestration. Life is not fair.

(Sadly, Laurie Bertram -- the actress who played Brenda -- died of cancer in 2oo7 at the age of 47. Life is truly not fair.)

3) Liz in Wolf Creek (2005)
Greg McClean is a sick fuck. The Australian writer-director (who also happens to be hot) begat Wolf Creek which begat Liz, Kristy and Ben -- three very likeable backpackers who seem to genuinely like each other.
Of the three likable leads, Liz is clearly the most likable. She is our classic Final Girl. She is sex-shy and plucky enough to save Kristy from psycho Mick Taylor (Crocodile-Dundee meets Leatherface) and get her away from his outback torture den.
While Kristy cracks psychologically and Ben is M.I.A., it is Liz who soldiers on and keeps bringing the fight to the killer. So she should be the one who lives, right?

Er ... audience expectation FAIL. Not only is Liz the first to go, but she is first paralyzed by Mick with a nasty looking hunting blade to the spinal column, turning her into what Mick calls a "head on a stick."
Then, she is subjected to some off-screen torture to extract information on her friend Kristy.

Like I said, Greg McLean is a sick fuck. Liz deserved to live and yet she was subjected to the worst of the dark fates assigned to the three likable leads.

If these three girls lived in the world of the romantic-comedy, not only would they have lived, but they would have triumphed: Sexually liberated Carrie would have ripped off William Katt's powder-blue tux with her telekinesis and ridden him like an urban cowgirl; Fun-girl Brenda would have taught uptight Alice the secret technique of finger-banging a guy while performing oral sex to give him the maximum pleasure; and Liz, Ben and Kristy would have had a rocking three-way on the beach and never gone near nasty old Wolf Creek.

But they don't live in that world. They live in the world of horror. And, despite my wish to save them, the world of horror should be an unfair place. Because it is when bad things happen to good people that we truly experience the dread that is the mark of the best horror movies.

And it is a testament to the three actresses (Sissy Spacek, Laurie Betram, and Cassandra Magrath respectively) that after having viewed these movies over and over again, I still want to smash the glass of my television and pull them to safety.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Cradle Will Rock...

Mother's Day (1980) was a grindhouse rip-off of grindhouse classic Last House on the Left starring the whacked out Rose Ross as Mother - a woman who liked to direct her deranged inbred sons to do bad things to girls she met at Est-like meetings.

I gave my two cents on it back in the day.

Now they are remaking the movie. Will it turn out to be largely an improvement over the flawed source material (like Last House on the Left) or will it be a complete abortion (like Prom Night)?

New pictures of Rebecca de Mornay as Mother have surfaced over at Bloody Disgusting.

It looks to me like Mother has been transformed from a whacked out tea-bagger paranoid redneck of 1980 into an anal-retentive, TMJ-afflicted GOP pundit of 2010.

I love me some DeMornay, but excited about these pictures, I am not. What do you think?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Psycho-Babble: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) introduced us to the burnt-faced, razor-fingered killer Freddy Krueger. Freddy was a terrifying new type of horror villain who could kill you in your dreams. Your only defense was daylight and a fistful of No-Doz.

But after multiple sequels, a TV show, and countless media interviews, Freddy quickly became as familiar a ghoul as Count Chocula or Herman Munster – and about as scary. As with most shadow dwellers, the more Freddy stayed in the spotlight, the more his essential evil was worn down, dulled by the coarse stone of over-exposure.

More importantly, the mainstream embrace of Freddy as “the killer you love to hate” squeezed out the single most chilling aspect about him, the thing that was most psychologically resonant and disturbing:

Freddy Krueger fucked kids and then killed them.

All child rape is evil, but even such an unspeakable evil must be graded on a scale. On one end of the scale, you have the pathetic groping lechers (see “Molester, Chester The”) and on the other end are the vile psychopaths who so defile and torture the innocent that they are compelled to murder them afterwards (See “Fish, Albert”).

Freddy is that latter kind of evil. The worst kind.

Child rape and murder was all too familiar to those of us around in the early 80s. Between 1972 and 1978, John Wayne Gacy raped and murdered 33 boys. From 1979 to 1981, the Atlanta Child Murderer killed at least 28 children. In 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Hollywood, Florida Sears in 1981. Only his head was found.

The 80s was the decade when children started appearing on milk cartons.

We all knew a Freddy Krueger or two. There was that guy who lingered at the school playground in gray sweat pants pulled up over his gut offering you Starbursts. There was your Dad’s co-worker with the sandwich crumbs in his porn-stache who smelled of Whisky Sours and French Onion Soup dip.

While our caretakers numbed out on dry martinis, valium, McDonald’s cheeseburgers, Pall Mall cigarettes, or episodes of Barnaby Jones, we kids of the 80s were left to navigate the perv gauntlet with only an ABC Afterschool Special on “Stranger Danger” to guide us.

In 1983 President Ronald Regan proclaimed May 25 National Missing Children’s Day. By 1984, the child-killing Freddy archetype was seared into our individual and collective subconscious … just waiting for a sick fuck like Wes Craven to exploit it.

And exploit it he did. A Nightmare on Elm Street tapped into that archetype and milked it for all it was worth.

But what makes A Nightmare of Elm Street so powerful is that it isn’t about Freddy Krueger. It’s about Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp) and her slow realization that Freddy is living in her subconscious and trying to kill her. The power of the film comes in the subtext. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an allegory about a teenage girl dealing with traumatic memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Everything about Nancy, from her sleepy depressed demeanor, to her fear of sex with Johnny Depp (c’mon it’s Johnny Depp!), to the self-inflicted burn marks on her arms, to intruding subconscious images of a violent, molesting demon are all symptomatic of a survivor of sexual abuse.

The movie revels in images that reveal the feelings of violence and disgust that Nancy has about sex and her body – from Freddy’s serpentine tongue kiss through the phone to his finger knives in the bathtub, dangerously close to her vageen.
Nancy’s checked-out alcoholic mother naively thinks that killing Freddy would save her daughter, but revenge is worthless because the damage is done. The subconscious is where the trauma is buried and where Freddy wields all of his demonic powers. It is only in the subconscious where Nancy can face down and triumph over her demon.

Freud would totally love this movie.

I got a chance, several years back to ask Wes Craven a question at a screening of Nightmare. I wrote my question on a card and handed it to the moderator. It said:

“Is Nightmare an allegory of a sexual abuse survivor having memories of her abuse?”

The moderator read my card, paused, then actually announced that he was going to paraphrase it. (I know, right? Crazy rude.)

What he said wasn’t a paraphrase, but an entirely different and totally lame question along the lines of: “We have a lot of fears from childhood. Does Nightmare tap into those fears?”

It should have pissed me off. I really wanted to know the answer to my question. I’m a sucker for subtext.

But I was more fascinated than angry. It just made sense.

The whole theme of A Nightmare on Elm Street is that child molestation is disturbing and, therefore, the collective chooses to push the entire subject into the shadows, even though doing so creates disastrous results (see “Church, Catholic”).

So even in a discussion of Freddy Krueger with the creator of Freddy Krueger about the true meaning of Freddy Krueger, Freddy’s true horror was once again pushed back into the darkness.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Homo Horror Hall of Fame: Coach Schneider from Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2

Many horror movies have gay subtexts. What I love about 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge" is that the subtext bursts right out of the screen and sprays the viewer with it's gooey gay love juice.

Take for instance, the scene where fey Final Boy Jesse wanders the suburban streets of Springwood (even the name of the town has a gay subtext) and inexplicably stumbles into a hopping gay leather bar.

And wouldn't you know it (and darn all the luck), mean old Coach Schneider is there. And Coach is not some "sipping a cosmo and catching up on some episodes of Golden Girls at the video bar" queer. No, sir. He is bitched up like an extra from "Cruisin'" and ready for action.

Sir Schneider grabs frightened Jesse by the scruff and commands him to "Hit the Shower!" and before you can say "Get your balls on my tumbling mat!" Jesse is stripped down and soaped up.

Unfortunately for Coach Schneider, Jesse is possessed by Freddy Krueger and, well, Freddy is a bit of a control bottom.

Freddy takes over Jesse's body, opts for a little (finger) knife play and turns hunky-pervy Coach Schneider from a butch top to a bleeding bitch bottom in no time flat.

Congratulations, Coach Schneider on being the first inductee to Post-Mortem Depression's Homo Horror Hall of Fame.

Feel free to hang around as long as you like.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hideous Linky: April 1st, 2010

- You'd Be a Fool Not to See It: Apparently, lots of horror bloggers are buzzing about a new horror movie called "Manic Monday" that pan-seared their collective brains. (Vault of Horror, Billy Loves Stu, Heart in a Jar, Drunken Severed Head, Chuck Norris Ate My Baby, Horror Digest and Day of the Woman)

- It'll Sucker You In: Bloody Disgusting has the good manners to give Tentacles (1977) the proper respect it deserves. It's a Jaws rip-off about a killer octopus starring Shelley Winters and Henry Fonda where the final battle is between two orcas and said killer Octopus. Need I say More? (Bloody Disgusting)

- It's Gonna Herzegovina: An interview with the filmmakers behind A Serbian Film, which apparently made iron-stomached Tim Anderson at Bloody Disgusting curl up in a fetal position. Not sure I will want to subject myself to it. (Bloody Disgusting)