Wicked Wendesday

Wicked Wednesday: Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989)

Last week I got to see Phantom of the Paradise at the Prince Charles Cinema. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen the movie on the big screen, and it’s always magnificent – one of my absolute favourite films. So why not, I thought, wash that good feeling of a good film out of my mouth with a horrible Phantom adaption?

Now. I should have been warned going in, having watched Lindsay Ellis’ two-part series on the characterisation of the phantom (watch parts one and two here). This movie is pretty much universally hated. But I cannot resist one thing…shopping malls.

I have a thing for horror movies set in shopping malls: Chopping Mall, Dawn of the Dead, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama, The Initiation (which I seem to remember more fondly than what I’d written). It’s the lure of neon lights, shopping montages and creepy, dark-lit shops.

It’s been difficult to resist the lure of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, despite all warnings that I should have otherwise. Should I have listened? I really should have.

Phantom of the Mall follows the rough phantom set-up: scarred man watches beautiful girl from the distance and wants to protect and possess her. He kills off people who hurt her or have harmed him in some way.

Instead of a grand opera house, though, we are entered into the world of the Midwood Mall. Melody and her pal Suzie both get jobs at the brand new shopping centre, a beacon of a new era for the town.

Of course, a year earlier the land was marred by a fire. One that killed Melody’s boyfriend, Eric. Something about the night doesn’t sit well with Melody, and she’s convinced that Eric’s house was burned down as murder (you know, in order to get land for the mall!).

The Phantom begins killing people off short after the mall’s opening. None of the deaths are particularly noteworthy. But they exist nevertheless.

Meanwhile, Melody befriends the hot journalist, Peter. He’s kind to her and begins to help her investigate the fire. He soon discovers that the man she saw the night of the fire (a white man with a religious-symbol earring), is a security guard at the mall.

But the security guard quickly realises that Melody and Peter are on to him. He alerts his boss, mall-owner Harv, and is told to deal with them. The young couple get away from the perusing guards, though, and afterwards dig up Eric’s grave – suspicious that he is the one behind the killings. Surely this is the only way to confirm that Eric is alive and the phantom!

Things quickly come to a head when Eric saves Melody from the security guard and reveals himself to her. She rejects his advances, having fallen in love with Peter. Plus Eric has a burned face and that’s like, totally ew.

Angered with the mall and Melody, Eric becomes violent. He begins his movements to BLOW UP THE MALL. But as with all things phantom, Eric meets his tragic demise while also getting his revenge.

I don’t think Phantom of the Mall is quite as bad as most people make it out to be. Sure it’s very run-of-the-mill, but it isn’t flat-out horrible. For some people it’s better to feel something than nothing at all. So if that’s what you’re measuring by, it will probably fail the test.

All of the deaths are sort of dark and indistinguishable. Though the acting is passable and the characters are…okay. There’s nothing horribly wrong here, just nothing particularly entertaining.

Weirdly one highlight was Pauly Shore, whose personality out-shined almost everyone on the cast. I’m also kind of in love with the way the film looked – a sort of dreamy, R-rated soap opera. It’s very soft and the very dictionary definition of late-80s style. Honestly, though, the best part about the entire movie was Ken Foree (who should be in everything).

If this movie had turned the cheese and camp level up to 11, this could have been a much better movie. The music put it halfway there (a weird combination of The Vandals and some really over-the-top sex scene romance music). Otherwise, this is very much your uneventful, typical 80s slasher.

Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Cryptkeeper s1e1 “While the Cat’s Away” (1993)

Can you believe I lived to this ripe-old age without knowing there was a Tales From the Crypt cartoon? I love almost anything horror-related that’s targeted towards children.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that statement extends to the first episode of this show.

Tales from the Cryptkeeper pretty much runs exactly like it’s live-action counterpart: the Cryptkeeper welcomes with several puns before introducing us to the week’s story. This week, the Cryptkeeper is off on holiday. Not-so-incidentally, the boys in his story are the sons of a travel agent. A unsuccessful one at that.

But when the boys overhear their father speaking to a wealthy man (who wants to go to Transylvania – money is no object!), the eldest realises they have an opportunity to rob the man. Why rob him, well, to get money for new bikes!

The youngest, Dwight, is much more nervous than the elder Stu. But he agrees to go along with the plan.

The boys arrive at the home only to realise that it’s more of a haunted mansion. They march in anyway and come face-to-face with a series of traps while trying to make their way around the house. First there’s a ghost in the painting, followed by tentacled monster, Frankenstein’s monster, vampires and zombies!

The boys quickly learn their lesson that it isn’t very nice to steal.

It’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. Considering this is the first episode, though, there’s very much a chance that it does improve. I’m probably not interested enough to continue on.

The show lacks the twisted humour that the original has. It’s been stripped down to be “horror lite” children, but it goes too far. I think incredibly young children would enjoy it – say 5 or 6. I’m not sure what the original intended audience was, but it’s not very sophisticated or scary in any way.

But my biggest gripe with this show is the animation. It’s truly some of the worst I’ve seen, especially considering this was made in 1993. It’s very uninspired character design with boxy movements. All very low-budget looking. Certainly not half as good as its contemporaries like Beetlejuice (incidentally produced by the same company) or Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

I’m sure if you have nostalgia attached to the show, it will remain charming upon review. I could listen to John Kassir as the Cryptkeeper anyway! He’s easily the highlight here.

If you do think I should carry on watching. Let me know what episode I should move on to next! Otherwise, I might try to hunt down episodes of New Tales From the Cryptkeeper. You can’t keep a woman away from a Lite Ghoulish Tale (TM).

Wicked Wednesday: Krampus (2015)

It’s Christmaaaaaas!

I’m sure plenty of people are feeling jaded at this time of year. I had to go into Brixton’s M&S to get stollen – I get it! (Their stollen was covered in almonds. ALMONDS!) But occasionally we need to take a step back and assess our own negativity. Is it really worth holding onto? Is that long-held grudge with that one cousin really worth it? Should you have hugged your aunt, even if she’s a bit racist?

I had to take a bit of my own advice here. After watching several weeks of average horror Christmas movies. I wasn’t really looking forward to watching another one. But I decided to take a chance on Krampus. It’s a different than the norm for a few reasons: it has a budget, the cast is amazing, and it was successful.

Sure, Krampus treads very familiar ground, but it’s (successful) twisted and fun approach sets it apart.

The Engel family are less-than-jovial at Christmas. They’re either bickering or ignoring one another. They’re not the family most in the Christmas spirit. Everyone, that is, besides little Max, who still believes in Santa Claus. He writes a letter to jolly ol’ Saint Nick in hopes that the gift he receives is his family’s unity.

But when the extended family arrive, everyone just becomes more irritable. At the dinner table, Max’s letter is read aloud by one of his cousins. He snatches the letter away after an fight, tears it up and throws the remains into the sky.

The boy’s anger calls upon the Krampus, who arrives the next day with a giant blizzard as fanfare. The family and the surrounding neighbours lose power. Max’s sister leaves to look for her boyfriend, but is killed off before she can make her return home.

The family get picked off one-by-one as they fend off the Krampus’s henchmen (in the form of demonic toys). With the help of Omi, the Engel paternal grandmother, they learn the story of the Krampus and why he’s arrived to claim them.

Will the family unite and defeat the beast? Well, the ending is certainly a twisted enough to be both horrible and satisfying. Just like Christmas, right?

The ending is easily one of my favourite parts of the movie, but I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone. But what will satisfy most people is the performance the cast gives. Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Krista Stadler as Omi and, my personal highlight, Conchata Ferrell as the alcoholic aunt. They’re all parts of what is a treat ensemble cast.

And the movie looks good, too. It’s full of warm Christmas lights juxtaposed with the cold, winter hues of the outside world. I do love a Christmas movie that looks like it’s set at Christmas. Obvious as that is, most Christmas horror movies miss the mark on the details.

The deaths are also pretty good, but as Krampus is only rated PG-13, a lot of the gore is missing. So while it won’t be among the most bloody or graphic you can see, it will be suitable to watch with younger ones. Perhaps perfect for inducting your younger family members into the twisted family of horror? It certainly won over a lot of my non-horror-friends. I think there’s something to be said for that.

As the decade nears its end, it’s easy to look back on the Christmas horror offerings and find most of them forgettable. Krampus, on the other hand, is sure to be a holiday classic in the future joining the ranks of Black Christmas, Gremlins, and Christmas Evil. I saw one review that likened it to the dark gleefulness of Joe Dante. As a Dante fan, I’d have to heartily agree.

It’s definitely a good one. I recommend cosying up with your family on this Christmas night and watching some horror goodness. You’ve survived the holidays with each other, you at least deserve a treat.

Wicked Wednesday: My favourite Christmas tradition

An unintentionally Christmas-y-looking selection.

What is Christmas really without traditions? Emigrating to a new country meant that I gain a whole new set of them. There’s horrible Christmas cake instead of stollen. A new holiday with Boxing Day (though I still don’t get the point). I now enjoy bucks fizz while opening presents! It’s very novel.

About three or four years ago, I stopped going to my office Christmas parties. They’re a bit “too much” with someone with an anxiety disorder. But sitting by yourself all day feels a touch pathetic while everyone else is out partying.

So my first year at home, I started my very first only-for-me tradition: baking while watching cheesy Christmas romance movies followed by the most graphic or fun slashers I can find on my shelves. It started off by accident, but has quickly progressed to a day of the year I really look forward to.

Now, I’m not the type to be attracted to romance films. And I’m certainly not the type to condone enjoying things ironically. But the last few years I’ve started really getting into these Hallmark-esque Christmas fares. They’re not too bad at getting you in the mood for Christmas. And I’m someone who consistently lacks Christmas Spirit.

After all the drama surrounding Hallmark this year, I can sufficiently say with confidence: Hallmark – get stuffed. But thankfully, Netflix seems to have filled the holiday-film void with some of their own. Top ranked: Christmas Prince, The Knight Before Christmas and the ultimate wild and crazy shit show: Christmas Wedding Planner.

On the surface, it might appear as though holiday romances have nothing in common with horror movies. But it’s like grilled cheesy and jam: it shouldn’t work, but it really fucking does.

I present to you the following similarities:

  • They’re both formulaic. Slashers = people die. Holiday romances = people fall in love.
  • They have unrealistic situations. Average American woman becomes queen just in time to save the kingdom! Family of inbreds blow up their house for kicks!
  • The genres each focus more on plot than they do character-building. Sure, these people have jobs, but they’re really just shells to move along the story.

Um, maybe that’s it? But you get me – they’re genre films for a specific type of person.

This year, I indulged in maybe too many Christmas movies. Thankfully my friend was around to go out for drinks and pizza to break up the potentially mind-melting experience. We watched quite a few of them together. Could I tell you the plots of any of them? No. Do I remember what the differences were between them? Definitely not. I’m certain they’re all just one film.

Thankfully I watched quite a few gems at night after coming home with a bellyful of pizza. I like to mix my horror choices between a couple of giallos (early enough in the night while I can still read) and American slashers – great for the hour when your brain shuts off.

AND I got to enjoy this all while eating gingerbread scones. Who’s to say I’m not living the dream?

So I enjoy a wholesome, silly movies from time-to-time. And it might just be one day a year, but it’s a moment to savour…before ruining it with switchblades, bloody mysteries and ominous shadows. If you get a bit sick of the holiday spirit, I recommend you start a similar tradition of your own.

Wicked Wednesday: Jack Frost (1997)

Tis the season for “it was really just okay but mostly forgettable” holiday films! Apparently, I guess.

I don’t set out to watch average films, but the heavy hitters of Christmas horror movies are far and few between. Jack Frost is certainly an average fare.

If you like the original Child’s Play but want more Christmas spirit and a lower budget, this movie is really made for you.

Jack Frost is a serial killer. A particularly nasty one at that. While he’s being transported to his execution, the van he is in collides with a truck carrying chemicals.

Jack’s body combines with the genetic material and the snow, turning him into a snowman.

As a snowman, Jack is able to terrorise a small town. The small town, in fact, where he was caught by the sheriff, Sam Tiler.

So as the townspeople begin preparing for Christmas, Jack wrecks havoc by killing them. Two men from the FBI arriving, looking for Jack but refusing to admit to anyone that they still believe he’s alive.

But Tiler soon realised something is amiss, especially when his son’s bully is killed in a freak sled-related accident.

Eventually, the agents must admit the truth when the snowman Jack appears at the police station. Ruler and the others try to fend the killer snowman off repeatedly.

When blowing up the police station or sticking Jack in the incinerator doesn’t work, Tiler has the idea to use antifreeze instead. The townspeople all believe it’s done the trick. Only, it’s a horror movie that demands a sequel – so of course it’s not the end of things.

When I was younger (I was six when this movie was released), the VHS cover terrified me at the rental shop. I thought about it constantly. Because of that fear, I never was keen to watch it. But turns out there is nothing remotely scary. It’s very much a comedy with gore.

I actually chuckled a little, whereas I never felt any sense of tension. That’s not to say the film doesn’t try its best. Some of the deaths are rather gross and one actually pretty humorous. Only, a killer snowman is so ridiculous it is so very hard to take seriously.

The same could probably be said about a certain killer doll, but there’s plenty of evidence that says otherwise.

If you’re looking for something ridiculous, this certainly fits the bill. It just depends on how much late-90s tastelessness you can handle.

Wicked Wednesday: Sint (2010)

Growing up, my family always kind of celebrated Saint Nicholas in December. It was a strange sort of tradition, not something that was ever really explained to me. We’d just wake up and there would be gifts in our stockings on the 6th. I suppose it was just a leftover “thing we do” from my mother’s family (who were from Brannenborg and Zachodniopomorskie).

I never really “got it” but I really enjoyed it. Especially because a lot of my friends didn’t. It was some wacky thing my mom was obsessed with when we were kids.

So really, what better way to celebrate this, er, holiday I have a vague understanding of than watching a Dutch film about dear, jolly Saint Nicholas?

Much of the Sinterklass (the Dutch name for Saint Nic) lore is ripe for the horror movie treatment. Exhibit A: The endless amounts of Krampus movies that were churned out in the last decade. Many of Saint Nicholas’s “companions” are really rather terrifying or a bit offensive. And clearly, it was an well of inspiration for Dutch icon Dick Mass.

In 1492, the 5th of December, Niklas terrorises a town with his cronies in tow. Fed up with the attacks, a group of villagers seek retribution and set fire to Niklas’ large ship.

And for every 23 years later after, a full moon on the 5th, Niklas begins to rise from his watery grave to attack once again. In 1968, his team kill of an entire farm film except for one small boy, Goert.

In the present day (2010), Frank is a young boy stirring up his own sort of trouble. After being dumped publicly by his girlfriend Sophie, Frank and his friends get dressed as Sinterklass and two Zwarte Piets before heading out into the night before debauchery.

Only their fun is over before it even begins. On their way to the party, the boys stop and attacked by a group of ghouls. Frank’s friends are promptly torn to bits. Frank, on the other hand, manages to get away in the car. But he’s promptly stopped and arrested.

Frank later learns about the shenanigans going on in Amsterdam that night. Several people, including Sophie, have been brutally killed by someone dressed as Sinterklass. And Frank seems the most likely suspect?

He is later moved, where the police transporting him are stopped by the ghouls. They’re also promptly killed off, one is even crushed by Nic’s horse (!). Before Sinterklass can get to Frank, the Saint is attacked by a man wielding a flamethrower.

After the older gent fends of Sinterklass, he introduces himself to Frank as Goert.

Goert is a policeman in Amsterdam, hellbent on ending the Sinterklass’s crime-spree after his family’s murders. He tells young Frank that he plans to set fire to the Sinterklass’s boat, ending his reign of terror.

Frank decides to go along with. I don’t know – seeing is believe, the spirit of the season, etc. The two men set off together to find the ship, hoping for the best and knowing they’ll get the worst.

Sint will appeal to a certain type of horror fan. Anyone who already enjoyed A Christmas Horror Story and the like will certainly enjoy this. The idea alone to twist jolly old Saint Nicholas into a brutal killer will delight many. There are a few fun deaths, though not very terrifying or imaginative.

I, personally, didn’t enjoy it even half as much as Maas’s De Lift. But I do always lean towards older, mouldier cheeses. If you’re looking for a film that you’ll talk about for years afterwards, watch that classic. Otherwise, Sint is fairly standard affair that you might just forget about later.

Wicked Wednesday: Blood Rage/Slasher (1987)

There are a number of films based on everyone’s third-favourite holiday. Each one is a treasure to be admired in its own right. While Blood Feast is bonkers and Poultrygeist is vomit-inducing, I think I like Blood Rage best.

After last week’s Final Exam, was 100% jaded with 80s slashers. Had been feeling it coming on for a while. But Blood Rage certainly perked me up a bit. It has everything a b-movie slasher should: great one-liners (“It’s not cranberry sauce…”), a memorable final girl and cast of zany characters, and great moments of gore with a fun killer to go with.

In 1974, twin brothers Terry and Todd are in the back of a station wagon ‘sleeping’ while their mom makes out with her date at the drive-in. The boys decide to exit the car quietly. Terry (somehow) finds an axe, which he promptly puts through the skull of a sex-having teen.

Terry quickly cleans the blood off himself and hands the axe over to Todd. Being in such a state of shock, Todd is unable to move. Ten years later, it’s Todd in the mental hospital, not Terry.

But as Todd grows older, his memories of that night begin to come back to him. Todd’s doctor is fairly certain that he is innocent, and that Terry was the killer. But the twins’ mother, Maddy, is much less convinced. She becomes hysterical after hearing the suggestion from the doctor.

Maddy decides to leave Todd behind in the asylum. She instead joins her family on Thanksgiving, as if nothing were wrong. And seemingly nothing is until she announces her engagement.

The announcement seems to upset Terry, who becomes sullen. But the news that his brother has broken out of the asylum cheers him up considerably.

Soon Todd’s doctor and her assistant arrive at the apartment complex that Maddy and Terry reside in. The two head out into the woods while Maddy’s fiance goes to his office. But he soon discovers that it’s Terry who is the true threat. And the deviant soon makes quick work of the rest of the search party.

In between his deadly shenanigans, Terry meets up with his friends. He slowly stalks and torments each one of them. The while his poor mother is losing her mind, cleaning the house and getting drunk off red wine. But when his wannabe-girlfriend Karen accidentally meets Todd, she begins to suspect something is not quite right.

And she definitely knows something isn’t right when Terry begins chasing her with a machete. But soon the brothers must come face-to-face and learn the reality of a mother’s true love.

So no. Blood Rage (also known as Slasher and Nightmare at Shadow Woods – none of which are any good) isn’t an out-an-out Thanksgiving him. Not quite like some others. But I would say it definitely is in the league of “most fun”. Is it cheesy? Oh fuck yeah.

I do have to say, this is one slasher there more than one character is memorable (a true rarity). Both Terry and Todd are incredibly different, played excellently by Mark Soper. Equally excellent is Louise Lasser, the quickly-losing-it Maddy. Each work very well with each other, delivering some fantastically silly and bizarre lines. Also, shout-out to my girl Karen, played by Julie Gordon.

Anyway. You’ve got nothing to do on Black Friday. You’re shopping from your sofa and binging on turkey leftovers. Check out the Arrow Film Blu-Ray release of Blood Rage, which includes several version of the movie. Watch it with your family, I’m sure they’ll love it.