Goodnight Mommy (2014, Fiala & Franz)

Surprisingly violent mother-son(s) horror, like The Babadook meets Fight Club, since early on we guess (correctly) that one of the twin brothers is in the imagination of the other. There’s even a proper Fight Club moment where they take turns hitting each other, but no postscript flashback showing an objective view of one kid hitting himself. It all seemed well-made but not interesting – besides the shock moments, wondering how the kid was going to continue tormenting his mom, and the slow creeping sense that the family has long been seriously disturbed (the kid sinks a dead cat in a fishtank full of water – or is it gasoline? – and mom lets it remain in the living room), I would’ve considered turning it off if I’d been watching at home. Ultimately not bad, giving viewers nasty nightmares of dental torture, superglue-as-weapon, and burns both small and large.

So the twin brother died in a car crash, and I think mom was injured (she starts out the movie with her face bandaged). Dad’s out of the picture. They’re wealthy in a secluded house even though it seems like her job (now on hiatus) was calling out lotto numbers on local TV. Movie was actually called I See, I See in its native Austria, where one of the two directors, Veronika Franz, is an Ulrich Seidl collaborator.

Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (1993, Charles Band)

“Full Moon Entertainment Presents”

1993 was the year of Puppet Master 4, Remote (IMDB: “my best advice is to skip it”), Mandroid (from the writer of Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain), Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (sequel to Mandroid), Arcade (with Seth Green, “a virtual reality game begins taking over the minds of teenagers”), dinosaur flick Prehysteria, Robot Wars (Robot Jox sequel starring Barbara Crampton) and Subspecies 2.

Dollman and the nurse… can you tell how tiny they are?

Another guy is breaking into the toy warehouse from Demonic Toys? New security guard (Phil Fondacaro, the troll in Troll) doesn’t notice this guy just wandering in and dying on the floor, then the toys are back in town – plus an army guy and minus the teddy bear I think, taking the Puppet Master approach of adding and removing evil toys on a whim.

I like the new PTSD-GI-Joe doll:

Weirdly power-hungry dwarf security guard:

Elsewhere, tiny Dollman finds a hot tiny girl who “got shrunk by aliens” – I don’t remember this happening. Turns out this is a crossover between Dollman, Demonic Toys, and something called Bad Channels (“in space, no one is safe from rock ‘n’ roll”). How do I know? Because Dollman vs. Demonic Toys – only a one-hour movie – spends as much time as possible running flashbacks from its three predecessors.

Can Dollman, shrunken Nurse Jude and Demonic Toys survivor Tracy Scoggins keep the Toys from taking over? Yes, easily. Dollman shoots them with his little gun and they explode. Sorry for the total lack of suspense. Before that, the Toys are warping prostitutes into another dimension in order to summon their master (the Puppet Master?), and the final showdown involves the Baby toy trying to rape the shrunken nurse. Directed by madman Charles Band himself and written by Tarantino friend Craig Hamann, both of whom should stay away from children.

The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

More consistently great than part one, with higher high points (Robert Morgan!). I’m tempted to make a playlist of ABCs highlights and edit myself a super-anthology but I’ll wait until part three comes out next year.

Imagined scenario of cool, efficient sniper in the air vents taking out his target, then reality of tight insect-infested ducts full of nails. Great ending. Director EL Katz also made Cheap Thrills.

Directed by and starring Julian “Howard Moon” Barratt. Asshole nature-doc spokesman (Barratt) is abusive to his crew, gets eaten by badgers.

Capital Punishment
Local gang of vigilantes take a dude suspected of killing a girl out to the woods and clumsily behead him. Meanwhile the girl turns out to have run away, is fine. Director Julian Gilbey made A Lonely Place To Die, which is probably better than Wingard’s A Horrible Way To Die.

I probably would’ve skipped ABCs of Death 2 had I not heard that Robert Morgan was involved. This was… inexplicable… and amazing, and ultimately makes the entire anthology worthwhile. Involves insects and beheadings and knife-arms.

Funny and well put-together, with single long takes simulating time passing. Couple of idiots stranded on a beach are unexpectedly joined by a pretty girl. Jealousy ensues, then they return to bliss by killing the girl. Alejandro Brugués made the Cuban Juan of the Dead.

Israel/Palestine, woman whose parachute is stuck in a tree convinces a rifle-toting kid to cut her down, he accidentally shoots himself in the head. Nicely shot, anyway. Directors Keshales and Papushado made Israeli horrors Rabies and Big Bad Wolves (a Tarantino fave).

Grandad is tired of his disrespectful grandson living with him. Jim Hosking is working on something called The Greasy Strangler next. Grandad Nicholas Amer has been around, worked with Peter Greenaway, Jacques Demy and Terence Davies.

Head Games
During a makeout session, a couple’s facial features go to war with each other in classic Plympton style. One of two Bill Plympton anthology segments from this year – we missed The Prophet.

Old woman will not die, siblings want her inheritance and try everything to kill her. Stylishly shot (as are most of these, so it’s maybe not worth writing that anymore). Erik Matti (Philippines) got awards for crime flick On The Job last year.

I think it’s supposed to be payback on a couple of dudes who torture and murder homosexuals, but when the kidnapped gay guy displays his demonic powers I’m not sure what’s going on anymore. Dennison Ramalho wrote latter-day Coffin Joe sequel Embodiment of Evil and actor Francisco Barreiro is showing up everywhere this month.

Initial scene where girl witnesses supernatural globe over the building across the street followed by people in every apartment turning violent was like Rear Window meets The Screwfly Solution, then it continues in the direction of total doom. Directors Buozyte and Samper are apparently Lithuanian, also made a surreal sci-fi thing called Vanishing Waves.

Guy to be sacrificed is being set free and is arguing with this decision, and I lose the plot after that, but there are groovy, cheap Metalocalypse-looking gore effects. Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen is Nigerian, has made a million movies so far since 2003.

Drugged-out flesh-eating fat man goes on rampage before he’s killed by cop, all in slow-motion and set to a jangly pop song. Robert Boocheck made a short that apparently played in an anthology called Seven Hells.

Cleverly timed and editing, goes for tension instead of twist ending since we figure out early on that the distracted cabbie is gonna hit the guy dressed as Frankenstein. Larry Fessenden made Habit and Wendigo and The Last Winter, all of which have been on my to-watch list forever and just came out on blu-ray.

Ohlocracy (mob rule)
After the cure for zombiesm is found, human zombie-killers are sentenced to death by a kangaroo court. Hajime Ohata made the non-Kafka movie called Metamorphosis.

P-P-P-P Scary!
Poppy, Kirby and Bart look like escaped convicts, have big noses, meet a face-morphing guy who does a jig, blows out their candles and murders them inexplicably. Todd Rohal made The Catechism Cataclysm, and I might’ve guessed this was him.

While a guy correctly answers questions on an intelligence test, we see flash-forwards to the “career opportunities” the interviewer has in mind for him (brain transplant with gorilla). I watched Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare just last week.

German game of Russian Roulette ends with the sixth-chamber guy shooting his beloved instead of himself, as some unknown evil approaches. Marvin Kren made Rammbock and Blood Glacier.

Like a remake of Suspense but with more baby murdering. Hammer-wielding intruder destroys family of cheating husband(s) during a phone call.
Juan Martinez Moreno made horror-comedy Game of Werewolves.

Torture Porn
Girl in porn audition turns out to be Cthulhu, I guess. Jen and Sylvia Soska are identical twins who made American Mary and Dead Hooker in a Trunk.

Self-driving incineration machines deal with non-beautiful people. Vincenzo Natali made Cube and Splice.

Dude is on phone with girlfriend when dude’s friend reveals they’ve been doing drugs and prostitutes while on vacation. The friend is disrespectful, and one prostitute stabs him many times with a screwdriver. Jerome Sable made last year’s Meat Loaf-starring Stage Fright.

Kids go inside their off-brand Masters of the Universe playset, discover it’s horrible in there. Steven Kostanski made Manborg, which looks similarly wonderful.

Kid won’t stop playing her damned toy xylophone while babysitter Beatrice Dalle (of Inside, the first actor I’ve recognized since Julian Barratt in letter B) is trying to listen to opera records. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo made Inside, of course. Credits say Beatrice is the grandmother not the babysitter, which makes sense since babysitters should leave antique record players alone.

Miyuki hates her mom and stepdad, imagines them dying in tremendous ways. Soichi Umezawa is a longtime makeup artist who worked on Bright Future and Dr. Akagi.

Dad abandons pregnant mom with a 13-year supply of a root that delays labor. Horribleness ensues. Chris Nash has made a bunch of shorts.

The Uninvited (1944, Lewis Allen)

Apparently-wealthy London music critic Ray Milland (with The X-Ray Eyes) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey, photographer in The Philadelphia Story) spontaneously buy a haunted house on the cliffs of Ireland from Commander Donald Crisp (a DW Griffith silent actor). The commander’s granddaughter Stella (Gail Russell, who’d drink herself to death at age 36) has a ghostly obsession with the house, keeps wanting to visit and then almost committing suicide on the cliffs. Ray’s got a thing for the girl, who is way too young for him (he even mentions this once) so they keep allowing her to come over, and Pamela tries to figure out the ghostly presence in the house, but the commander is unhelpful with family history.

Stella and Ray – lot of nice candlelight in this movie:

Turns out he had reason to be unhelpful, since Stella’s real mom isn’t his dead daughter but a model named Carmel hired by Stella’s philandering dad. Ghost-mom is trying to murder the girl, while ghost-bio-mom Carmel wants her protected. The ghosts are mostly conveyed by Pamela looking intense and commenting on some odor or sound in the room, but we get some light visuals at the end when Ray sees them with his x-ray eyes.

The whole mystery gang:

A seance is faked with the help of old doctor Scott (Alan Napier, also appearing with Ray in Ministry of Fear), who I suspect isn’t the best doctor, in order to convince Stella to stay away from the house (or something). This doesn’t work, and Stella keeps running towards the cliff (maybe they should build a guard rail). The Commander takes drastic action, has the girl committed to a nuthouse run by ghost-mom’s nut friend Holloway (famed writer Cornelia Skinner, with Ray again in Girl in the Red Velvet Swing). Escapes and rescues ensue, Ray ends up with Stella, and Pamela with the doctor (I didn’t see that coming).

L-R: Stella, her dead mom, her dead mom’s obsessive girlfriend:

“From the Most Popular Mystery Romance since Rebecca” – the book must have been racier than the movie since there was hardly any romance to be found here. IMDB says it reused sets from I Married a Witch, and F.S. Nehme says the censorship boards and decency leagues of the time decried the implied romantic affair between evil-ghost-mom and her evil madhouse friend.

Thriller, part 2

Part one, featuring Richard Kiel, a Scooby-Doo mystery, a rooster-beast, Ida Lupino, Barré Lyndon (not Barry Lyndon), a mannequin museum, John Ireland and a voodoo cult can be found here. I watched those four years ago, so at this rate I’ll be through season one in the year 2054. Thriller paired well with Black Sabbath, which also had three episodes hosted by Boris Karloff.

The Twisted Image

First episode of the show started off with a bang. Leslie Nielsen (post-Forbidden Planet and Tammy and the Bachelor) plays bland but successful executive and family man Alan, and not one but two people are insanely obsessed with him. Secretary Lily (Natalie Trundy of the Planet of the Apes series) wants to marry him and Mailroom Merle (George Grizzard of Happy Birthday, Wanda June) wants to be him. Lily stalks Alan and writes letters to his wife (Dianne Foster of Drive a Crooked Road). Merle is more dangerous, steals Alan’s watch, wallet, car and daughter, and murders Lily when she says he’s no Alan.

Typical plot-contrivance follows. Alan goes to Lily’s apartment (because if your wife suspects you’re having an affair, you should definitely go to the girl’s apartment alone at night), finds her dead, is spotted at the scene, then goes looking for Merle alone.

Wife: “Why can’t you call the police?”
Alan: “Judy, you don’t understand. I can’t go into details now, just take it easy.”

Happy ending, family values are upheld, etc. Lot of good close-ups of Lily with confident, creepy eyes. Also featuring Constance Ford (the 1962 The Cabinet of Caligari) as Merle’s abusive sister and Virginia Christine (Becky’s cousin in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as his annoyed boss. Arthur Hiller later made See No Evil, Hear No Evil, which is not a horror movie, though quite horrible in its own way.

Pigeons From Hell

“Those were no ordinary pigeons – they were the pigeons from hell” says Karloff without even smiling. Maybe Thriller was trying to distance itself from the smartass introductions on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Too bad the intro proved to be the most amusing part of this talky, boring episode.

Two doofus college-age brothers get stuck in a swamp, immediately blame it on the South, then camp out in an abandoned house, where one brother appears from upstairs all bloody attempting to axe-murder the other. Survivor Tim (Brandon De Wilde of Hud and Shane) flees, interrupts a redneck sheriff (Crahan Denton, a huge racist in Bunuel’s The Young One) who was drinking with his buddies, tells the crazy story and is accused of killing his brother, the end.

But wait, it’s not the end! The most fantastic part of this episode isn’t the house full of haunted pigeons or the zombie remnants of the family that owned it, but the rural cop deciding to investigate this city kid’s story, consider the evidence and finally believe him and try to discover what really happened. From a story by Robert Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

Rose’s Last Summer

Drunken nuisance ex-movie star Rose French (played by actual movie star Mary Astor, princess in The Palm Beach Story) goes on a trip, is found dead in a random suburb. Her friend Frank and ex-husband Haley (Jack “brother of Roger” Livesey) are more suspicious than the cops were, investigate the family whose yard Rose died in.


Turns out Rose has been hired by the family to be their dying mother, who needs to stay alive a few more weeks to claim inheritance from eccentric relative (a genius doll inventor!), after which they’d planned to dispose of Rose to protect their secret before Frank rescued her.

Real mom, fake mom:

Willow Creek (2013, Bobcat Goldthwait)

Short, found-footage movie where Jim (Bryce Johnson, unsympathetic fiancee in Sleeping Dogs Lie) is a bigfoot obsessive visiting the site of some famous footage, and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore, Robin’s girlfriend in World’s Greatest Dad) is the girlfriend filming and humoring him. In the first half they interview locals and get warned away from the woods, but they forge ahead, and in the second half they’re tormented then killed (after laughably not bringing a map or compass or any way of finding their way out of the woods) by the very bigfoots they hoped to observe.

It sounds very bad, but wait, it’s by the great Bobcat, creator of some of my favorite recent comedies, so surely there’s more going on, some subversive genius to this seemingly dated and pointless movie, or at least a great comic twist? Nope, just the Blair Witch-meets-Grizzly Man premise described above. There’s a kinda great 15-minute shot where they wake up hearing approaching bigfoots (making me imagine the movie’s better with surround sound), and the actors are both committed, but overall it’s a bust.

We Are What We Are (2010, Jorge Michel Grau)

Oh whoops, I thought I heard this was really good, but now I see all C-ratings from criticwire. Maybe I heard that about the gender-reversed remake by the Cold In July guy. Anyway, when a remake is available it’s usually a sure bet to watch the original first, and I thought a Jorge Michael Grau horror would be a nice tie-in with the Jorge Grau horror (no apparent relation) I just watched – a GRAUsome double-feature to go with SCOTtober.

A man dies at the mall, and his family pretty much falls apart, immediately losing their watch-selling business, starting fights and calling attention to themselves. Older Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro, the dad from Here Comes The Devil) is supposed to be the new leader, which violent, impulsive brother Julian resents. Dad used to bring fresh bodies to his cannibal wife and kids, and he apparently never trained the rest of them in the art of not being noticed, so the two boys perform some blatant attacks and end up bringing home a prostitute, but mom doesn’t approve of prostitutes and brings the body back to her vindictive friends. The movie also follows Let Sleeping Corpses Lie‘s lesson that cops are absolutely the worst – corrupt and terrible at their jobs.

A few interesting shots and good performances but mostly the movie is being purposely obscure and no fun, as if actng weird about its cannibal violence can turn it into Dogtooth. Played at Cannes alongside The Silent House, Sound of Noise and Bedevilled. Grau made Ingrown in the first ABCs of Death, has a new agoraphobia thriller called Big Sky.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974, Jorge Grau)

Or Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead, or The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue – all good titles, but I’m going with the name on the Anchor Bay box that used to stare at me from the shelves, unenticing with its generic cover art. Turns out it’s quite a good zombie movie, tense and well-photographed. It’s just like Night of the Living Dead but with a couple extra locations (incl. Manchester Morgue), but the hidden social message in this one is that cops are just the worst. They’re bad at their jobs, abusive, intolerant, and finally cold-blooded murderers.

Zombie Prime:

They stay at The Owl Hotel. Pet owl:

Shaky start as George (Ray Lovelock of Queens of Evil and Oh, Grandmother’s Dead) meets Edna (Cristina Galbo of The House That Screamed and The School That Couldn’t Scream) when she runs over his motorcycle, then they squabble over where she’s going to drive them. Good enough dubbing, better than any Italian movie. But these two aren’t very exciting. Fortunately, they agree to visit her sister Katie (Jeannine Mestre of Jesus Franco’s Dracula) and Katie’s husband Martin (Jose Lifante, a desk clerk in Dagon), who hate each other and live near the field where some jerk scientists are pumping radiation into the ground to keep pests away from crops, which also turns babies and the recently-deceased into violent killers.

Martin’s hobby is taking photographs of his naked, afraid, drugged-out wife and hanging them around the house:

Our heroes, trapped in the morgue with the only decent cop, PC Craig:

Martin is crushed to death by a wandering zombie, and enter Sgt. Aldo Massasso (of The Suspicious Death of a Minor), who immediately blames the wife because she’s a heroin addict and has her locked up in hospital. The movie’s zombie mythology gets weird, as we’re told zombies can’t be photographed, and “they transmit life to each other through the blood of the living.” Martin eventually resurrects and kills his wife, but the movie is mostly focused on biker George’s attempts to escape zombies and tell the damned scientists to turn off their machine, and the Sarge’s attempts to arrest George and Edna, who he’s now telling everyone are satanists. In the end George is screaming towards a zombie-infested hospital in a stolen police car pursued by bigot cops to rescue the woman who wrecked his motorcycle and ruined his weekend, and I’m wondering why he bothers. Then Katie is infected and set aflame, and George is shot by the cops (have I mentioned Night of the Living Dead lately?).

Things don’t end well for PC Craig:

Nor for Edna:

Jorge Grau previously made Violent Blood Bath and The Legend of Blood Castle. Cinematographer Francisco Sempere also shot Blind Man’s Bluff and Death Will Have Your Eyes. Cowritten by Sandro Continenza (Crimes of the Black Cat, Hercules and the Captive Women) and Marcello Coscia (Virgin Killer, Tex and the Lord of the Deep).

The Nightmare (2015, Rodney Ascher)

Self-reflexive documentary interviewing a few people who suffer from sleep paralysis, during which they feel like they’re awake but unable to move and being tormented by malevolent entities in their room. Ascher’s movies are always a pleasure to watch – the sound, editing, and reenactment footage are all great here. It includes occasional behind-the-scenes footage – slates, the camera resetting for a creepy move behind a wall, the “entity” actors prepping a shot – as if to remind us that they’re reenactments.

Arguably not a horror movie, but it’s the first movie since Candyman that I’ve been afraid would follow me out of the screen into the real world, since some people begin experiencing sleep paralysis after hearing stories about it. Therefore it is one of the most effective horror movies ever. Also disturbing in the way that it ends – one sufferer finds Jesus and quits having nightmares, the others have some ideas but it seems like their torment is still ongoing.

A. Nayman for Cinema Scope:

[Ascher] suggests that the sorts of visions common to sleep paralysis are actually deeply embedded in the collective subconscious. Exactly how they got there in the first place is a question that The Nightmare doesn’t really try to answer, but its entire M.O. is baldly provocative. Like the haunted TV broadcasts in Ascher’s beloved Halloween III: Season of the Witch or the cursed videotape in The Ring, it’s a film that means to infect its audience with its imagery.