November 2013

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WTFW: T’was the night before Thanksgiving

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is a 2006 musical-comedy horror exploitation film from Troma Entertainment, directed by Lloyd Kaufman from a screenplay by Gabriel Friedman and Daniel Bova.

Written as a satire of the American fast food industry, Poultrygeist follows a group of people trapped inside a New Jersey fried chicken fast food restaurant – the American Chicken Bunker – which is being attacked by chicken-possessed zombie demons after building an establishment on top of sacred Indian burial ground.  At the center of the film is Arbie, an ACB employee trying to win back the heart of his ex-girlfriend Wendy, an activist protesting against the restaurant who has left Arbie for another woman.  BTW, every character name in this film is a blatant reference to a fast food chain.

Taking six years from script to screen, Poultrygeist was officially released on DVD in 2008 following a limited theatrical run, meeting with the highest critical acclaim of any film in Troma's thirty-five year history.  In contrast to Kaufman's previous films, “Terror Firmer” and “Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV”, which heavily referenced and relied on the audience's familiarity of Troma films, Poultrygeist is only loosely connected with the "Tromaverse" yet makes numerous background references to their previous films.  Arbie can be seen wearing an "I Love the Monster Hero" shirt from “The Toxic Avenger” in an early scene, posters of “Tromeo and Juliet” and “When Nature Calls” adorn the walls of Wendy's bedroom, and DVD copies of “Tales from the Crapper” can be seen stuffed in a dumpster.  Most notably, Poultrygeist features the infamous car flip stunt that was originally filmed in 1991 for “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” and has been recycled for comic effect in every Kaufman-directed film since.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

  • Genre: Comedy – Horror – Musical
  • Directed: Lloyd Kaufman
  • Produced:
    • Andrew Deemer 
    • Michael Herz 
    • Lloyd Kaufman 
    • Pat Swinney Kaufman 
    • Kiel Walker 
    • Benjamin Cord 
    • Jason Foulke 
    • Gabriel Friedman 
    • Nick Koenig
  • Written:
    • Daniel Bova 
    • Gabriel Friedman 
    • Lloyd Kaufman
  • Starring: Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham, Allyson Sereboff, Robin L. Watkins, Joshua Olatunde, Caleb Emerson, Rose Ghavami, Khalid Rivera, Joe Fleishaker, Lloyd Kaufman, Ron Jeremy
  • Music: Duggie Banas
  • Cinematography:
    • Brendan C. Flynt 
    • Lloyd Kaufman
  • Editing: Gabriel Friedman
  • Studio:
    • Poultry Productions LLC 
    • Troma Entertainment
  • Distributed: Troma Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: December 26, 2006
  • Running Time: 103 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

High school sweethearts Arbie and Wendy meet the day before Wendy's departure to college to consummate their relationship in the Tromahawk Indian burial ground, promising to each other that no matter what happens, they will always stay faithful to each other.  She is grossed out from Arbie after finding a man jacking off to their love making.  The man is later killed by zombie hands spouting from the ground.  One college semester later, when Arbie returns to the spot of his one (and only) sexual encounter, he is shocked to discover two unsettling realities: not only has the burial ground been bulldozed and replaced by an American Chicken Bunker, a mega-conglomerate fast food franchise, but that college has turned his dear Wendy into a "leftist, lipstick lesbo liberal", protesting the construction of the fried chicken menace with her activist girlfriend Micki.

Disillusioned and out for revenge, Arbie decides to get a job at the American Chicken Bunker.  Under the supervision of paranoid manager Denny, Arbie is thrust into the monotony of minimum wage with a variety of colorful co-workers: the effeminate Mexican Paco Bell, the animal-loving redneck Carl Jr., the burqa-clad Muslim Hummus and a mysterious 60 year-old man in the restaurant's basement who has worked as the restaurant's costumed mascot all his life and has a virtually identical back story to Arbie.

However, strange things are afoot at the American Chicken Bunker.  Paco while grinding meat near the meat grinder is pushed in by an uncooked chicken.  General Lee Roy decides not to do anything, and lets Paco be turned into Sloppy Joses (sic).  Arbie begins to unravel a sinister plot involving the spirits of disenfranchised Native Americans and the billions of slaughtered chickens sent to the "concentration coops" who plan on extracting their revenge in the most gruesome ways possible after being told so by Paco (who is reanimated as a Sloppy Jose).

Carl. Jr who is having sex with an uncooked chicken in the storage room fights the uncooked chicken when it starts biting his penis.  Hummus kills the uncooked chicken by shoving a broom up through his buttocks.  Carl Jr. is injured but stills survives.  General Lee Roy tells them not to take him to a hospital.  He instead tells them to give chicken (which has been spayed with blood green slime) to the protester outside.  Carl Jr. is killed when Arbie gives him alcohol to drink.  After Micki tells the protester that the chicken tastes good, the protester go inside the restaurant to eat chicken.  Wendy finds out that Micki has been paid by General Lee Roy to say that the chicken tastes good she breaks up with Micki and returns to Arbie.  General Lee Roy is given diarrhea after eating a forced upon piece of chicken.  General Lee Roy lays an egg in the bathroom and is attacked by the chicken that comes out the eggs.  He rips of the chickens head with his teeth but is sprayed with green blood.  He becomes a giant egg and hatches into a chicken zombie.  He then decapitate Denny (who telling a story about the first time he encountered a chicken).  The customers, workers, and protesters turns into zombie chickens.

The mascot (Lloyd Kaufman) shoots all the chicken zombies insides with M-16 Machine Gun.  The General Lee Roy zombie returns, but is shot by the mascot.  The mascot then gets his nose ripped by a now zombie chicken Denny.  Then Arbie shoots and kills the zombie chicken Denny.  Wendy turns the open/closed sign to closed which keeps the chicken zombies at bay.  The mascot who is still alive turn tells Arbie that he is his future self.  He then turns into a chicken zombie.  Micki who attempts to escape is turned into a zombie chicken.  Her and the Mascot chicken zombie attack Arbie and Wendy.  Hummus who drinks meat steroid to save the day accidentally kills herself in the process.

Arbie and Wendy realize that beer kills the chicken zombies which they use to kill the Micki and mascot zombie. They run out of beer and is saved by Hummus (who is still alive even though she exploded a few minutes earlier). They find a child hiding in the storage room and are attacked once again by the General Lee Roy chicken.  It is then killed by the Paco sandwich.  Hummus is then shown to have C-4 strapped to her body and tells them that she will sacrifice herself.  Wendy, Arbie, and the little girl escapes as the building explodes.  While driving home in a car the child lays an egg which cause them to crash, exploding the car killing them all.


According to Poultry in Motion, Poultrygeist received the most critical praise of any film in Troma's 30+ year history.  The film has a certified "fresh" rating of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the general critical consensus being that it "may be relentlessly tasteless and juvenile, but it's also a lively slice of schlocky fun".

Professional critics were generally positive towards the film.  Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly awarded the film a B+ rating, calling it "an exploitation movie with soul" and noting "it's genuine sick fun, and there isn't a boring moment in it".  Nathan Lee of The New York Times spoke of the film as being "as perfect as a film predicated on the joys of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea can be", describing it as "liberating" in a "lowbrow way".  Both New York magazine and Salon.com selected Poultrygeist as a Critic's Pick, the latter calling it "disgusting, deranged and thoroughly brilliant".  Reading into the film's subtext, The Guardian noted the film as "a wonderfully bold satirical comment on the chemical-industrial food complex that poisons us all", summarizing Poultrygeist as "the movie Fast Food Nation could have been if it hadn't sucked".  The Calgary Herald wrote "dismissing Poultrygeist as sheer stupidity – which most will undoubtedly do – is the wrong call...Kaufman has created a rather sharp, if demented, work of political and social satire."  PETA called the film "a vegetarian-manifesto masterpiece", ranking it #1 on their list of "Top 10 Movies That Make You Go Meatless".

On the negative end of the critical spectrum, Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel felt the film "wears out its joke, like all Troma films, long before that last 50-gallon keg of fake blood is tapped...it's a 40-minute short struggling to escape a 103-minute feature", giving it a rating of two out of five stars.  Time Out New York gave the film two out of six stars, claiming its "half-funny" "trashiness" only appeals to horror fans, while Slant Magazine was considerably harsher, rating the film half a star out of four, calling it "superficially turgid" and that its "strangely impressive originality doesn't even close to compensating for its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink midnight-movie awfulness".   The New York Post, however, while criticizing the film's poor taste, acting and pacing, described the satire as "wicked" and predicted that its flaws wouldn't stop it from becoming an "underground cult hit".

Poultrygeist made national news on January 7, 2011, when Sidney Klawitter, an eccentric from Orland, California, purchased a DVD cleaning kit from a local retailer, only to later discover the cleaner disc was a disguised copy of Poultrygeist.  Klawitter was deeply offended by the film's content, noting "it was horrifying", calling it "a Triple-X rated movie".  According to the owner of the store the cleaner kit was purchased from, the item had come pre-packaged from a warehouse distributor in Oakland, California.  No charges were filed.

Notes:

Lloyd Kaufman (born December 30, 1945) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and occasional actor.  With producer Michael Herz, he is the co-founder of Troma Entertainment film studio, and the director of many of their feature films, including The Toxic Avenger and Tromeo and Juliet.  Kaufman also serves on the board of the Independent Film & Television Alliance of which he is the former President.

Troma films are B-movies known for their surrealistic or automatistic nature, along with their use of shocking imagery; some would categorize them as "shock exploitation films".  They typically contain overt sexuality, nudity, and intentionally sadistic, gory, and blatant graphic violence, so much that the term "Troma film" has become synonymous with these characteristics.  Troma's slogan is "Movies of the Future".  Troma reuses the same props, actors, and scenes repeatedly, sometimes to save money.  At a certain point, however, this became another hallmark of Troma.  Examples include a severed leg, a penis monster, and the flipping and exploding car filmed for the movie Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD, which is used in place of any other car that needs to crash and explode.

Troma produced or acquired early films featuring several rising talents, such as Carmen Electra (The Chosen One), Billy Bob Thornton (Chopper Chicks in Zombietown), Vanna White (Graduation Day), Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.), J. J. Abrams (Nightbeast), Samuel L. Jackson (Def by Temptation), Marisa Tomei (The Toxic Avenger), Vincent D'Onofrio (The First Turn-On!), David Boreanaz (Macabre Pair of Shorts), Paul Sorvino (Cry Uncle!), James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Cannibal! The Musical), before they were discovered. Another Academy Award winning director, Oliver Stone, made his debut as an actor in The Battle of Love's Return.

 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ICFIFC: It’s Alive (1974)(2008)

Lawrence G. "Larry" Cohen (born July 15, 1941 is an American film producer, director, and screenwriter.  He is best known as a B-Movie auteur of horror and science fiction films – often containing a police procedural element – during 1970s and 1980s.  He has since concentrated mainly on screenwriting including the Joel Schumacher thriller Phone Booth (2002), Cellular (2004) and Captivity(2007).  In 2006 Cohen returned to the directing chair for the Mick Garris-created Masters of Horror TV series (2006); he directed the episode Pick Me Up.

Cohen began his career as a writer for well-known television series, concentrating his efforts on – but not limiting them to – the crime and detective genres.  He penned several episodes of The Defenders (1964) – which starred E.G. Marshall – and episodes of The Fugitive (1964–65).  Other writing credits during the 1960s included the fantasy-suspense anthologies Kraft Television Theatre (1958) and Kraft Suspense Theatre (1965), the espionage TV series Coronet Blue (1967) starring Frank Converse, and the science fiction TV series, The Invaders (1967–68). In 1966 he wrote the screenplay to the western film Return of the Seven aka Return of the Magnificent Seven, a sequel to the original film, which saw the return of Yul Brynner as gunslinger Chris Adams.  He also created the western TV series Branded (1965–1966).

Although Cohen continued to write TV and film scripts during the 1970s – such as Columbo – he further turned his hand to directing.  His directorial debut was the comedy film Bone starring Yaphet Kotto, aka Beverly Hills Nightmare, Dial Rat for Terror and Housewife.  In 1974 he directed the horror film It's Alive, about a mutant monster baby that embarks on a killing spree.  The film – an initial commercial failure – was re-released with a new and sharper advertisement campaign; it went onto earn over $7 million for Warner Bros. and spawn two sequels.  Cohen followed-up It's Alive with the science fiction-serial killer film God Told Me To (1976), in which a New York detective investigates a spate of killings by apparently random people who say that God told them to commit the crimes.  He would concentrate his work – predominantly – within the horror genre throughout the 1970s and 1980s, although often incorporating elements of crime, police procedural, and science fiction.

During the 1980s, Cohen directed, produced, and scripted a number of low-budget horror films, many of which featured actor Michael Moriarty.  The first was Q – aka Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)—about an Aztec god—Quetzalcoatl or the Winged Serpent—resurrected and nesting atop the Chrysler Building.  The film is set in New York City, as was typical for Cohen, and sees two police detectives investigating a spate of killings in the city.  The cast is headed by Moriarty and co-stars David Carradine, Candy Clark, Richard Roundtree, and James Dixon (another Cohen regular).  Cohen's next project with Moriarty was The Stuff (1985) in which an alien substance of sorts is found bubbling out of the ground.  The Stuff is marketed to the general public, which rapidly becomes addicted to it.  David "Mo" Rutheford—an industrial saboteur— played by Michael Moriarty, is hired to investigate the origins of the Stuff and to then destroy the product.  The film co-stars Danny Aiello, Brian Bloom, Scott Bloom, Andrea Marcovicci, Patrick O'Neal, and Paul Sorvino.  Saturday Night Live regular Garrett Morris plays Charlie W. Hobbs aka Chocolate Chip Charlie, a junk food mogul who assists Mo with his investigation.  Cohen cast Moriarty in It's Alive 3: Island of the Alive (1987)—the third part of the Alive Trilogy—and again in A Return to Salem's Lot (1987), the unofficial sequel of Stephen King's novel and TV miniseries Salem's Lot.  Cohen finished the 1980s with Wicked Stepmother (1989), in which the late Bette Davis made her last appearance.

It's Alive is a 1974 American horror film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen.  In the movie, a couple's infant child turns out to be a vicious mutant monster that kills when frightened.  Notable talents involved in the movie were Bernard Herrmann who composed the score (noted for his work on many films of Alfred Hitchcock) and Rick Baker for makeup and puppet effects.

It's Alive (1974)

  • Genre: Horror 
  • Directed: Larry Cohen
  • Produced:
    • Larry Cohen 
    • Peter Sabiston 
    • Janelle Webb
  • Written: Larry Cohen
  • Starring: John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr., Shamus Locke, Andrew Duggan, Guy Stockwell, Michael Ansara
  • Music: Bernard Herrmann
  • Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton
  • Editing: Peter Honess
  • Studio:
    • Warner Bros.  
    • Larco Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Warner Bros.  
    • Columbia Broadcasting System  
    • Dabara Films  
    • Warner Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: October 1974
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

In Los Angeles, Frank Davis and his wife Lenore are expecting their second child.  Frank is a successful public relations consultant and his wife is a stay-at-home mom for their first child, Chris.  The couple had avoided having a child for several years while Lenore took contraceptive pills.  When the child is ready to be born, they leave Chris with a family friend, Charley and head to the hospital.  Their second child is born monstrously deformed, with fangs and claws.  Immediately after birth, one of the doctors attempts to suffocate the child.  The child kills the doctors and nurses, and flees through a skylight.  Lenore is left alive, screaming for her child as a horrified Frank discovers the carnage.

Frank and Lenore are allowed to leave the hospital while the police investigate the killings.  Unknown to anyone, the child is making its way to the Davis  home, killing people it comes across, including a musician and a milkman. As the killings continue, the press and the police hound Frank and Lenore.  When talking with medical researchers investigating the case, Frank is reminded of watching Frankenstein and Karloff's portrayal of the monster.  He looks at the child as related to the monster and comes to see himself as Dr. Frankenstein, the true monster as he created the original creature.  Frank denies the child is his son, and joins the hunt for the murderous infant.

Meanwhile, the doctor who prescribed the prescription drugs to Lenore is contacted by a pharmaceutical executive. The executive acknowledges that the child is a genetic monstrosity that may have been created due to the prescription drugs.  He tells the doctor that the child needed to be destroyed to prevent research that might point to its origin.  After Frank is called to a local school where a break-in has been reported and a police officer is found killed, the infant makes it way to the Davis home where Lenore accepts the child as her son and hides him in the basement.  Missing his family, Chris runs away from Charley's house to go back home, and Charley follows him. Frank discovers that Lenore is hiding the infant, and Lenore pleads with him, saying the child is just scared and frightened and would not hurt the family.  Frank takes a gun into the basement, still intent on killing the deformed infant where he finds Chris talking to his little brother, saying he will protect him.  Frank yells for Chris to move and shoots at the child, hitting it.  The infant runs out of the basement and leaps at the just-arrived Charley and bites his neck, killing him.  The child flees as Frank shoots again.  Lenore runs into the basement screaming at Frank, who yells that her son just killed Charley.  He slaps his wife, telling her to take his son back upstairs while he hunts the murderous infant.

The police contact Frank and inform him that the child has been tracked to the sewers.  Frank takes a rifle into the sewer to hunt the infant.  While in the sewer, Frank catches sight of the child and leaves as the cops continue searching.  As Frank nears the child, he realizes that the child is simply frightened and will not hurt him.  He apologizes  for hurting the child, and picks up the crying infant.  Wrapping the baby in his coat, Frank tries to escape the police, but is confronted as he exits the sewers by a mob of armed cops intent on killing the child.  He pleads for the cops to take the child away and study him, but to let him live.  As the fertility doctor screams for the police to just open fire and kill them, the child leaps from Frank's arms and attacks the doctor.  The cops open fire, killing both the infant and the doctor.  As the Davises are taken home by the police, a call comes in from HQ, telling the detective that another deformed baby has been born in Seattle.


And of course when you have something as amazing well made and successful as 1974’s cinematic masterpiece that is It’s Alive you have to have the obligatory remake because…I have no idea why you would even want to remake It’s Alive.  Don’t get me wrong, the original is actually one of my guilty pleasures but when it was made the phantom of Thalidomide was still fresh in everyone’s mind.  Horrible medical disasters don’t happen like that anymore so the point is kind of lost both on the filmmakers and the audience they are aiming for.  Some things just don’t need to be remade or updated.

 

It's Alive (2008)

  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Josef Rusnak
  • Produced:
    • Mark Brooke 
    • Mark Damon 
    • Boaz Davidson 
    • Moshe Diamant 
    • Danny Dimbort 
    • Simon Fawcett 
    • J. Todd Harris 
    • Robert Katz 
    • Avi Lerner 
    • Marc Marcum 
    • Julie G. Moldo 
    • James Portolese 
    • Bobby Ranghelov 
    • Trevor Short 
    • Tamara Stuparich de la Barra 
    • Marc Toberoff
  • Written:
    • Larry Cohen 
    • Paul Sopocy 
    • James Portolese
  • Starring: Bijou Phillips, James Murray, Raphaël Coleman, Owen Teale, Ty Glaser, Oliver Coopersmith, Ioan Karamfilov, Jack Ellis, Skye Bennett, Arkie Reece, Todd Jensen
  • Music: Nicholas Pike
  • Cinematography: Wedigo von Schultzendorff
  • Editing:
    • James Herbert 
    • Patrick McMahon
  • Studio:
    • Millennium Films  
    • Foresight Unlimited  
    • Signature Pictures 
    • Amicus Entertainment 
    • IPW Productions  
    • Aramid Entertainment Fund  
    • Alive Productions
  • Distributed: First Look Pictures
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: October 6, 2009
  • Running Time: 80 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Just before the end of her semester at college, Lenore Harker leaves to have a baby with her architect boyfriend, Frank at his remote log cabin.  After discovering the baby has doubled in size in just a month, doctors decide to extract the baby by caesarian section, although Frank is not present.  As the doctor cuts the umbilical cord, the newborn goes on a rampage, killing every doctor and nurse in the operating room.  When the film cuts back to the new mother, the baby is asleep on her stomach and the room is covered with blood.

After questioning by the police, Lenore is allowed to take the baby home.  Authorities arrange for a psychologist to help her regain her memory of the delivery.  Soon, baby Daniel bites Lenore when she’s feeding him, revealing his taste for blood.

Daniel begins to attack small animals and progressed to killing adult humans.  Lenore refuses to accept that her baby is a cannibalistic killer.  One day, Frank comes home from work to find Lenore sitting in the baby's room, but Daniel is not in his crib.  Frank asks Lenore where Daniel is and finds a dead bird in the crib.  Frank then goes in search of Daniel and winds up getting locked in the basement.  The police find Frank, who witnesses Daniel kill a police officer.  Frank then manages to capture Daniel, but is unable to bring himself to kill the baby.  He is then attacked by his son.

Lenore comes out to find Daniel and sees Frank is injured.  She brings the baby back to the house, and it is implied she kills herself and the baby in a fire.  Frank and his brother watch the house burn.

Larry Cohen, the director of the 1974 original, was interviewed on December 21, 2009 regarding the remake and gave it a negative review, saying "It's a terrible picture. It's just beyond awful" and "I would advise anybody who likes my film to cross the street and avoid seeing the new enchilada."

 

Notes:

Just wanted to throw in that this story was inspired by a real world drug related incident:

Thalidomide was released into the market in 1957 in West Germany under the label of Contergan.  The German drug company Grünenthal developed and sold the drug Thalidomide.  Primarily prescribed as a sedative or hypnotic, thalidomide also claimed to cure “anxiety, insomnia, gastritis, and tension".  Afterwards it was used against nausea and to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women.  Thalidomide became an over the counter drug in Germany around 1960, and could be bought without a prescription.  Shortly after the drug was sold, in Germany, between 5,000 and 7,000 infants were born with malformation of the limbs (phocomelia).  Only 40% of these children survived.

The statistic was given that “50 percent of the mothers with deformed children had taken thalidomide during the first trimester of pregnancy.”  Throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States, 10,000 cases were reported of infants with phocomelia; only 50% of the 10,000 survived.  Those subjected to thalidomide while in the womb experienced limb deficiencies in a way that the long limbs either were not developed or presented themselves as stumps.  Other effects included: deformed eyes, hearts, alimentary, and urinary tracts, and blindness and deafness.

The negative effects of thalidomide led to the development of more structured drug regulations and control over drug use and development.  Pomalidomide, a derivative of thalidomide marketed by Celgene was approved in February 2013 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma also known as plasma cell myeloma or Kahler's disease (after Otto Kahler), is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell normally responsible for producing antibodies.  In multiple myeloma, collections of abnormal plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow, where they interfere with the production of normal blood cells.  Most cases of myeloma also feature the production of a paraprotein—an abnormal antibody which can cause kidney problems.  Bone lesions and hypercalcemia (high calcium levels) are also often encountered.

 

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

CC: The Dark Sleep (2012)

"The Dreams in the Witch House" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, part of the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror fiction.  Written in January/February 1932, it was first published in the July 1933 issue of Weird Tales.

Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore at Miskatonic University, takes a room in the Witch House, a house in Arkham thought to be accursed.  The first part of the story is an account of the history of the house, which has once harbored Keziah Mason, an accused witch who disappeared mysteriously from a Salem jail in 1692.  Gilman discovers that for the better part of two centuries many if not most of its occupants have died prematurely.

The dimensions of Gilman's room in the house are unusual, and seem to conform to a kind of unearthly geometry that Gilman theorizes can enable travel from one plane or dimension to another.  In his dreams Gilman is taken to a city of Lovecraft's "Elder Things", and even brings back tangible evidence that he's actually been there.  Several times his dreaming self encounters a bizarre "congeries of iridescent, prolately spheroidal bubbles", as well as a trapezoidal figure, both of which seem sapient.  It is hinted that these may be the extra-dimensional forms of Keziah and her familiar.

Of much more direct concern, however, are Gilman's nightly dream sojourns with the old hag Keziah Mason and her rat-bodied, human-faced familiar Brown Jenkin, sojourns which he increasingly believes are actually happening in the real world.  One night, Gilman dreams Keziah, Brown Jenkin1, and the infamous "Black Man2" force him to be an accomplice in the kidnapping of an infant.  He awakes to find mud on his feet and news of the kidnapping in the newspaper.

On May Eve (Walpurgis Night), Gilman dreams that he thwarts Keziah from sacrificing the baby, only to have it killed by Brown Jenkin.  Coming back to wakefulness in this plane, Gilman hears an unearthly cosmic sound that leaves him deaf.  The next morning, Gilman is found dead in his room in the Witch House, a hole burrowed through his chest and his heart eaten out.

The landlord then abandons the house completely, and when it is finally demolished years later, a space between the walls is found filled with children's bones, a sacrificial knife, and a bowl made of some metal that scientists are unable to identify.  A strange stone statuette of a star-headed "Elder Thing" is also found, and these items go on display in the Miskatonic University museum, where they continue to mystify scholars.

The Dark Sleep (2012)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Brett Piper
  • Produced: Mark Polonia
  • Written:
    • H. P. Lovecraft (Story “Dreams In The Witch House”)  
    • Brett Piper (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Taylor Nicole Adams, Bob Dennis, Steve Diasparra, Ashley Galloway, Ken Van Sant
  • Music: Jon Greathouse
  • Cinematography: Matthew S. Smith
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: Bayview Entertainment
  • Distributed: Bayview Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 16 April 2013
  • Running Time: 80 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Literary adaptations can be a tricky thing.  If a movie sticks too closely to the written word, it can be accused of being unimaginative.  If it strays too far, purists will accuse it of losing sight of the source material.  Things really get thorny when an older story is updated to modern times.  Even if it retains the core material, it may lose some of the charm or the symbolism which applied to the time period in the original story.  Or it may just completely go off the rails.  The latter is the case with The Dark Sleep.

Nancy Peterson is an author who is looking for a quite place in the country so that she can work on her new book. She obtains a fairly secluded house from her ex-husband, Pete.  She's happy with the property, but she's confused by the odd mural in the basement.  Pete states that one of the conditions of taking the house is that she can't disturb the mural.  As she's getting a house for free (something she forces Pete to do), Nancy doesn't worry about the mural.  During her first night in the house, Nancy has terrible dreams and is convinced that she sees a giant rat.  These odd dreams continue -- sometimes Nancy is on what appears to be an alien planet and sometimes she's in the forest near the house.  Bothered by this, Nancy convinces her sister, Kelly, to come and stay with her. Kelly also brings along Walter, a man who knows a little something about the mural.  Nancy is about to learn that her nightmares are more real than she thinks and that they can have life or death consequences.

The Dark Sleep is very, very loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Dreams in the Witch House".  The story concerns a college student who moves into an old house and encounters dark forces there.  There are some similarities between Lovecraft's story and The Dark Sleep, and it's clear that Writer/Director Brett Piper chose a few things at random.  Both stories have the rat-like creature named Brown Jenkin.  Both have the main character leaving their bedroom and traveling to another dimension.  And both have a stone with one of Lovecraft's creatures on it.  But, that's where the concrete similarities end.  For the rest of the movie, Piper brings in elements which would be more at home in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, such as having to rescue someone from a dream dimension.

Even with a short-story to fall back on, The Dark Sleep seems very devoid of a cohesive story.  The movie is made up of vignettes involving Nancy's dreams and her daytime conversations with others.  There's no narrative flow to the story.  And we have to question many of Nancy's actions.  She clearly hates Pete and it's made clear that getting the house from him is something she feels that she is owed.  But, when wacky things start happening, she blames him.  Don't take a house from someone you hate!  Nancy's reactions to the odd occurrences is hard to swallow and we wonder why she simply doesn't leave.  The finale sees the story really come unhinged and the coda (again) feels like something from A Nightmare on Elm Street or Phantasm.

Piper isn't the first to take a stab at adapting Lovecraft, but few have turned in such an oddly low-rent effort.  Most everything about The Dark Sleep smacks of a shoe-string budget.  The acting is amateurish and one can't help but wonder why a second take wasn't done at times so that we don't have to watch the actors tripping over their lines. And then we have the special effects.  Let's just assume that Piper and his crew were going for a throwback look with their use of green-screen and stop-motion effects.  There's nothing wrong with these techniques, it's just that they look especially bad here.  The scenes where Nancy visit the other dimension look like something from a Sid & Marty Krofft show from the 70s.  Even for something taking place in a dream, it all looks fake and it will pull you right out of the movie.

The oddest thing about The Dark Sleep is that Lovecraft devotee Stuart Gordon made a much more faithful adaptation of "The Dreams in the Witch House" for the Masters of Horror TV series.  This doesn't mean that Piper couldn't take a stab at it, but when someone whose name is synonymous with Lovecraft has already done the story, maybe you should look elsewhere for inspiration.  As it stands, there is no reason to recommend The Dark Sleep.  The story is a mess, the acting and special effects are embarrassing, and it's never scary or sleepy.  Avoid The Dark Sleep and simply take a nap. It will be more entertaining.

 

Notes:

1.  “Brown Jenkin”, Mason's familiar, is "a small white-fanged furry thing", "no larger than a good-sized rat", which for years haunts the witch house and Arkham in general, "nuzzl[ing] people curiously in the black hours before dawn".  The creature is described:

Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human while its paws were like tiny human hands. It took messages betwixt old Keziah and the devil, and was nursed on the witch's blood, which it sucked like a vampire. Its voice was a kind of loathsome titter, and it could speak all languages.


2.  “Black Man” - Appears as a hooved, hairless, man with pitch black skin and Caucasian features. - Nyarlathotep is worshipped by witch covens in this form.

Nyarlathotep is a name used for various characters in the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other writers.  The character is commonly known in association with its role as a malign deity in the Cthulhu Mythos fictional universe, where it is known as the Crawling Chaos.  First appearing in Lovecraft's 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was later mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers and in the tabletop role-playing games making use of the Cthulhu Mythos.  Later writers describe him as one of the Outer Gods.

Nyarlathotep differs from the other beings in a number of ways.  Most of them are exiled to stars, like Yog-Sothoth and Hastur, or sleeping and dreaming like Cthulhu; Nyarlathotep, however, is active and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being, usually a tall, slim, joyous man.  He has "a thousand" other forms, most of these reputed to be maddeningly horrific.  Most of the Outer Gods have their own cults serving them; Nyarlathotep seems to serve these cults and take care of their affairs in their absence.  Most of them use strange alien languages, while Nyarlathotep uses human languages and can be mistaken for a human being.  Most importantly, while the other Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are often described as mindless or unfathomable, rather than truly malevolent, Nyarlathotep delights in cruelty, is deceptive and manipulative, and even cultivates followers and uses propaganda to achieve his goals.  In this regard, he is probably the most human-like among them.

Nyarlathotep enacts the will of the Outer Gods, and is their messenger, heart and soul; he is also a servant of Azathoth, his father, whose wishes he immediately fulfills.  Unlike the other Outer Gods, causing madness is more important and enjoyable than death and destruction to Nyarlathotep.  It is suggested by some that he will destroy the human race and possibly the earth as well.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WTFW: Sole Survivor

Sole Survivor (1970) was a ABC Movie of the Week written by Guerdon Trueblood and directed by Paul Stanley.  It starred Richard Basehart, William Shatner and Vince Edwards.  The film is loosely based on a 1958 discovery of the remains of a B-24 Liberator bomber, "Lady Be Good" in the Libyan desert, which crashed following a bombing raid on Naples in 1943.  The plane missed the African coast and flew on into the desert.  Although the craft had broken into two pieces upon impact it remained well-preserved in the desert environment with food and water still aboard.  The bodies of the crew were not with the wreckage as it was later learned that they had bailed out of the aircraft prior to its crash; their remains were eventually found the following year some 80 to 100 miles north of the wreckage site.

The Twilight Zone TV series episode entitled "King Nine Will Not Return" had a similar storyline, and was also based on the discovery of the "Lady Be Good".

 

Sole Survivor (1970)

  • Genre: Drama – Fantasy 
  • Directed: Paul Stanley
  • Produced:
    • Wally Burr 
    • Steve Shagan
  • Written: Guerdon Trueblood
  • Starring: Vince Edwards, Richard Basehart, William Shatner, Lou Antonio, Lawrence P. Casey, Dennis Cooney, Brad David, Patrick Wayne
  • Music: Paul Glass
  • Cinematography: James Crabe
  • Editing: Renn Reynolds
  • Studio: Cinema Center 100 Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Columbia Broadcasting System  
    • Warner Bros.
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 9 January 1970
  • Running Time: 100 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Back Story:

While returning from a World War II bombing mission, a United States Army Air Forces B-25 Mitchell bomber sustains damage from action with German fighters.  Without any order to abandon the aircraft, the navigator, Hamner (Basehart), panics and bails out.  The aircraft, now lost due to having no navigator, and the remaining crew overfly their base and continue on for another 700 miles before eventually crash landing in the Libyan desert.

The five remaining crewmen survive the landing and, believing they are close to their base, strike out across the desert only to die of exposure after several days beneath the relentless African sun.

 

Main Plot:

The ghosts have made their way back to the wreckage of the aircraft where they have spent the next seventeen years in a type of limbo state, playing baseball and longing for repatriation back to their home country, which can occur only if their bodies are recovered.

The plane is finally spotted by an oil surveying aircraft, which reports the discovery back to the United States Air Force.  Seeing the survey plane and realizing that they are soon about to "have visitors", the five remaining crew members' ghosts begin returning the plane to its state at the time of the crash, putting objects and artifacts in their original positions in hopes of convincing their visitors they had stayed with the plane and hopefully inducing them to search for their bodies.

Having survived the crash, Hamner, who had remained in the military after the war and is now an Air Force brigadier general, accompanies the team sent to investigate the remains of the B-25.  Fearing disciplinary action and the end of his military career should the truth of his cowardice be found out, he tries to convince his fellow investigators that the entire crew bailed out over the Mediterranean with him and that the pilotless plane somehow flew on by itself.  Although the discovery of Gant's harmonica indicates that the crew did not bail out over the sea, the bodies are nowhere to be seen.

Unable to find evidence to the contrary, the team has no choice but to accept Hamner's explanation and is about to leave when the ghosts of the crew make their appearance to an inebriated Hamner, leading him to flee in panic across the desert in a jeep.  Followed by his colleagues who are intent on preventing the man from injuring himself, the chase ends with them arriving at the scene of an abandoned life raft (the crew having abandoned the plane in the darkness and convinced they were still over open water) and the bodies of most of the dead crew, making it clear the truth behind Hamner's bailout of the aircraft and his apparent cowardice obvious.

In the end, the ghost of each crewman suddenly vanishes as their bodies are recovered, their spirits apparently forced to accompany their remains back to the United States - the exception being Tony, who had returned to the plane only to die when the tail section dropped on him.  Hamner is the sole survivor from the crew and Tony is the sole survivor of the ghosts.  The film ends with a solitary Tony at the plane, but also a glimmer of hope as the pilot's log is found, mentioning Tony's return to the plane.  One final visit to the crash site is decided upon.

The film was produced as a Made-for-TV movie for the ABC television Anthology series "ABC Movie of the Week". It was broadcast on 9 January 1970. It has never been released on home video.


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Monday, November 18, 2013

ICFIFC: It’s Alive! (1969)

Larry Buchanan (January 31, 1923 − December 2, 2004), born Marcus Larry Seale Jr., was a film director, producer and writer, who proclaimed himself a "schlockmeister".  Many of his titles have landed on "worst movie" lists or in the public domain, but all at least broke even and many made a profit.  He is perhaps most famous for the films In the Year 2889, The Eye Creatures, Mars Needs Women, and, tonight’s film, It's Alive!.

Buchanan was born in Mexia, Texas.  He was orphaned as a baby, and was raised in Dallas in an orphanage.  It was while growing up there that he became fascinated with the movies which were shown in the orphanage's theater.  He considered becoming a minister early in life, but got into the movie industry instead.  Buchanan visited Hollywood and landed a job in the props department at 20th Century Fox.  It was while working here where his film career got off the ground.  He enlisted in the United States Army Signal Corps in order to learn how to direct.  He was based in New York, which allowed him to act on stage in the evenings. 

In the early 1950s, Buchanan began producing, writing, editing and acting in his own movies.  The first was a one-reeler, The Cowboy in 1949, shot back in Dallas for $900.  His first feature was Grubsteak (1952); he knew Stanley Kubrick from working around New York at this time and Kubrick offered to be cinematographer but wanted more money than Buchanan was willing to pay.  Buchanan worked as an assistant on The Marrying Kind (1952).

Buchanan is perhaps best known for exploitation, science fiction, and other genre films, including Free, White and 21, High Yellow, The Naked Witch (made for $8,000), The Loch Ness Horror, and Mistress of the Apes.  Among Buchanan's work, eight direct-to-television films he wrote, produced, and directed under his own Azalea Films production entity in the mid- and late-1960s, for American International Pictures, still generate a good degree of fan adoration.  The titles − The Eye Creatures, Zontar: The Thing from Venus, Creature of Destruction, Mars Needs Women, In the Year 2889, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Hell Raiders, and It's Alive! − were largely remakes of AIP films from a decade earlier.  Buchanan's instructions from AIP were: "We want cheap color pictures, we want half-assed names in them, we want them eighty minutes long and we want them now". 

In 1964, Buchanan created The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, which presented an alternate history in which John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald both survived Kennedy's assassination.  In 1984 he produced Down on Us, which charged that the United States government was responsible for the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.

Among the notable features of Buchanan movies were:

  • Monsters with eyes made out of ping pong balls;
  • Day for night footage "with a blue gel slapped across the camera lens with the noonday sun clearly visible on surfaces of water, car bumpers, etc.";
  • Low production values;
  • One reasonably well known lead actor.

Buchanan's autobiography is entitled It Came from Hunger: Tales of a Cinema Schlockmeister.  After he died in 2004 in Tucson, Arizona, a long obituary in the New York Times summarized his work thus:

"One quality united Mr. Buchanan's diverse output: It was not so much that his films were bad; they were deeply, dazzlingly, unrepentantly bad.  His work called to mind a famous line from H. L. Mencken, who, describing President Warren G. Harding's prose, said, 'It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.'"

He left behind an entire career of poorly made films, many of which have become cult films for being "so-bad-they're-good".

'It's Alive!' (1969)

  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Larry Buchanan
  • Produced:
    • Larry Buchanan 
    • Edwin Tobolowsky
  • Written:
    • Richard Matheson (Short Story "Being") 
    • Larry Buchanan (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Tommy Kirk, Shirley Bonne, Bill Thurman, Annabelle Weenick, Corveth Ousterhouse, Larry Buchanan
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Robert B. Alcott
  • Editing: Larry Buchanan
  • Studio: Azalea Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Alpha Video Distributors  
    • American-International Television  
    • Loonic Video  
    • Masked Maniacs  
    • Mill Creek Entertainment  
    • Nostalgia Video  
    • Retromedia Entertainment  
    • Something Weird Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 1969
  • Running Time: 80 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

 

'It's Alive!' is a 1969 American film directed by Larry Buchanan about a mad farmer who tries to feed a stranded couple to a dinosaur he keeps in a cave.  It was filmed in the Ozark Mountain area of northern Arkansas and Tennessee over the course of seven days and its tagline is: "Trapped In a Cave of Terror!".  The monster suit that was used to portray the dinosaur was used in another one of Buchanan's older films, Creature of Destruction.

Norman and Leela Sterns are newlyweds who are driving from their home in New York to Los Angeles.  They become lost and are stranded in rural Ozark countryside because they are running out of gasoline.  They meet a friendly paleontologist named Wayne Thomas.  Wayne suggests that they visit the nearest farm that could give them some gasoline.  They find that the farm is run by a strange farmer named Greely, who tells them that the gasoline truck was supposed to arrive the previous day, but since it didn't, he expects it there any minute.  Greely suggests that they go inside to the parlor, where it's cooler.  On the way up to the house, he asks if they know anybody out here, in case they may be waiting for them.  They say no, and when they get inside, Greely goes off to tell his "housekeeper", Bella to make some iced tea.  She argues with him on what he will "do with them", but Greely smacks her, and threatens that she will "take their place" if she doesn't serve them some tea.

Wayne Thomas arrives and Greely goes outside.  He tells them that their car won't start.  Wayne decides to take a look at the engine and tells Greely to go back to his truck and get a tool.  Greely instead beats him on the back of the head with it and drags his body off.  Meanwhile, Leela appears to be worried about Greely, because he is acting strange and his eyes don't look right.  She then compares his eyes to a stuffed lizard across the room. Greely comes back inside and tells them that he had to do a chore.  Leela wants to go back outside, but Greely tells them that they could check out his "collection" while waiting for the truck.

He takes them out to the yard and shows them his "zoo", which includes ordinary animals like turtles, rattlesnakes, a bobcat, and some coyotes.  Greely then tells them that they should have a look at his "prize", which is located deep in a mountain cave system behind his home.  He puts them in a small room which he claims he had set up for tourists while he goes to turn on the rest of the power.  However, it was a trap, as Greely pulls a lever and drops some bars down, blocking their way out.  Greely leaves the cave, laughing as Leela discovers that Wayne Thomas is inside the cell as well, badly wounded but alive.  He tells them that Greely threw him into another cavern below them, and left him there, but he found a way out and crawled in the cell, right as they arrived.

Norman suggests that there may be a way out down there, and begins a descent into the cavern.  A reluctant Wayne and Leela follow and discover a 80-foot-tall (24 m) prehistoric, aquatic dinosaur coming out of a spring, which Greely apparently feeds live victims to.  Greely catches them in the enclosure and points a pistol at them, attempting to force them down in there to be eaten.  Norman attacks him and tries to overpower Greely, but the pistol falls into the enclosure.  Greely tells him that it won't do him any good, and leaves.  Norman rushes down to get the pistol, but the monster kills him before he gets the chance.  Bella arrives and reveals that she is not Greely's housekeeper; he kidnapped her and abused her until her will was broken and she agreed to do whatever he told her to do to avoid being killed.  Wayne convinces Bella to help them.

Wayne remembers that he has some dynamite in his car, and he asks Bella to sneak upstairs and bring back some of it.  Greely becomes suspicious of Bella, and he drugs the coffee that she brings to the prisoners.  Leela and Wayne are overcome by the drug, but not before Wayne hides the dynamite.  When Wayne comes to, he retrieves it, but Greely intervenes and threatens to feed Leela to the dinosaur if she will not willingly become his new servant.  Bella, having heard that he plans to dispose of her and gets down there.

Greely recovers his pistol and shoots Wayne, but Wayne overcomes Greely and knocks him unconscious. Bella ignites the dynamite and explains to Greely that she plans to blow up the cave to kill both the dinosaur and Greely. Greely grabs his pistol and kills her, right as the monster is about to kill Greely.  The dynamite explodes, collapsing the cavern and burying the dinosaur and Greely.  Wayne and Leela escape in Wayne's car to an unknown future.  The title screen ends with the words: The End?


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