Wicked Wendesday

Wicked Wednesday: Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

I have been in a BIG vampire mood as of late. Perhaps it’s because we can’t stop talking about Twilight at work for some reason. So when picking this week’s movie to watch, choosing one with a vampire theme was a no-brainer.

After reading through several lists, I landed on Vampire’s Kiss. It sounded great. 80s-era Nicolas Cage in a black comedy? Yes please!

Only I’ve been gravely misled.

Vampire’s Kiss is one of the most unsettling movies I’ve watched in a long time. Black comedy? Not really. Unless I’ve missed the punchline.

Cage plays Peter Loew. He’s a womaniser, an asshole, and a bit unwell. Peter spends his nights in bars and clubs, picking up women. One night he brings home a girl where they’re attacked by a bat.

At a therapy session, Peter describes that he felt somehow turned on by the experience. Not necessarily in a sexual way, but more of an awakening. Soon after, he takes another woman, Rachel, home. She seemingly bites his neck, turning him into a vampire.

As Peter believes Rachel continues visiting him for feeding, strange things begin to happen. He loses his memory and becomes increasingly more volatile. On the receiving end of this violence is Alva, a secretary at the literary agency he works at.

He continually hounds poor Alva for a old, missing contract. She’s tortured by his increasing obsession. But it’s clear that the obsession is not with the document, but torturing her.

One day Alva calls in sick. Peter stalks her by showing up at her address. He convinces her to go back into work by claiming he no longer cares about the contract. But when they return to the office, he forces her to continue the search until she finds it.

And Alva does find it. Peter, though, is less than pleased. He begins to chase her and later assaults her (and presumably rapes her).

Peter’s behaviour becomes even more erratic. He buys a pair of plastic fangs, which he uses to kill a girl at a club by “sucking her blood”. After killing the girl, he comes face-to-face with Rachel. Only Rachel isn’t a vampire. She’s very much a regular woman who has only met Peter once.

At this point, he begins to spiral even more. He begins seeing more hallucinations. He meets his dream girl, thanks to his therapist’s help (in his mind). But that soon disintegrates.

Meanwhile, Alva opens up to her brother about the assault. Rightly furious, Alva’s brother takes her into the city to take on Peter. The man, though, is very much gone. So when his death happens, it almost acts like it’s a blessing to him.

Vampire’s Kiss is incredibly heavy. In many ways, it reminds me of American Psycho. We can’t really be sure what is real and what isn’t. But we are certain by the end of the film that we cannot believe anything from Peter’s point of view.

I’m very confused by this movie. I wouldn’t recommend it. But I certainly want someone else to watch it just so I can vent.

Cage is very good here. Some people have complained that the character of Peter isn’t very sympathetic, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t want to sympathise with him. While he clearly has mental health issues, we don’t need to feel sorry for him. Peter comes off as fundamentally a terrible person, with or without any conditions. Also he’s a rapist. I’ll pass on wanting to sympathise.

If you’re interested in this one, I’d go into this one with an open mind. Certainly don’t go into it expecting a comedy. But who knows, maybe it is very funny. Though it’s much more likely it will make you feel very uncomfortable and uneasy. If that’s what you like in horror, you’ll definitely find that here.

On a different note… Can I please get the vampire movie I deserve?

Wicked Wednesday: The Clown at Midnight (1998)

Let it be known: I hate clowns. There are very few clown movies I can sit through. I don’t even like when there’s just a random clown in the shot. That creepy make-up and the stupid costumes send chills down my spine. The intro of Killer Klowns from Outer Space stresses me out massively.

So I’m living in a sort of mini-hell these days. It’s clown mania everywhere. People are flocking to see It: Chapter 2. The rest are obsessed with that Terrifier guy… you know the one.

NO. THANKS.

Which, of course explains why I watched a clown slasher movie this week, right?

But it’s a 90s Canadian slasher film, which is “safe” territory as far as clowns go. Thankfully “90s Canadian clown slasher movies” is a pretty niche subgenre, so here we are with The Clown at Midnight. This 1998 gem has a cast of “oh I know them from somewhere!”s and Christopher Plummer and Margot Kidder. And yes it’s as weird as it sounds.

Sometime in the past, a young opera singer is murdered by a man in a clown costume. Years later, her death is still a mystery. It’s presumed that a man named Osini is at fault after she resisted his advances. But the man apparently vanished to Europe after the murder.

Her daughter, Kate, learns that she was adopted. Her birth mother’s fate becomes known to her only after her adopted parents tell her the truth. She becomes plagued with nightmares of the theatre and her mother’s murder. She also sees a clown – presumably from her mother’s last opera, Pagliacci.

Which is why, of course, that she agrees to help clean up the theatre where ol’ Mom popped her clogs! She and a cast of colourful characters are brought together to help renovate the old theatre for their school’s theatre programme.

Each child is a walking stereotype on steroids. Their dialogue proves it as so:

“You’re such a psycho!” (In response to someone owning a snake…)
“I’d rather be a psycho than a prom queen!” (Take that!)

The kids soon meet the owner of the theatre, Mr Caruthers (Plummer). But don’t worry. He’s totally not suspicious! He’s definitely not the killer! Just look the other way. Ignore the heavily pointed dialogue about selling your soul to the devil… And it’s not weird that he wants to talk about the night Kate’s mother was murdered. In detail. Not at all!

Kate meanwhile is suffering. Go figure. She sees ghosts, has more nightmares, and gets generally freaked out. The other kids aren’t exactly helpful at making her more at ease. They go to the scene of the murder and find fresh blood under a carpet.

In the room, Kate discovers letters to her mother from Osini. It’s clear that he didn’t murder her mother, but was actually her mother’s lover…and Kate’s father. So gee – does that mean there’s a possibility that Osini wasn’t the murderer? If only the police had done a casual search of the room to find these letters!

And after enough plot, it’s time to kill everyone off. It’s a pretty hit-and-miss series of killings. Some are rather quick and forgettable. While others are actually really fun and inventive. Its when this movie uses its setting to its advantage that it really begins to shine.

After a few kids are killed off, including Kate’s best friend, the ultimate face-off happens against the killer. Really, you can guess where everything is headed from Caruthers’ first speech. But I don’t know, just pretend to be surprised.

The Clown at Midnight is truly, wonderfully cheesy. It’s a joy to watch. Maybe not for the reasons it intended, but I think that’s okay. It isn’t helped by the fact that it plays like a made-for-TV movie. Though that’s not really surprising considering it was partially produced by Hallmark.

The dialogue is truly diabolical. But that aspect is weirdly enjoyable. (Again…I think I’m enjoying this for the wrong reasons.) Throw some atrocious 90s fashions on top of it, and you’ve got a potential cult film in the making.

But this movie isn’t perfect. Even in its imperfections. It’s weird in the sense that it both expects too much of its audience and thinks its audience is a group of idiots. It assumes the audience knows what the hell Pagliacci is (maybe I’m the only one out of the loop here). Then the movie just reiterates the same information about the murders or Kate’s parentage nearly EVER. DAMN. SCENE.

It does become a bit tedious when the movie refuses to treat its audience like it has half-a-brain. But indulge anyway. It’s ridiculous and it made me laugh, which I guess is the whole point of clowns any way.

Wicked Wednesday: It was the year 2009…

I had a bit of an existential crisis last week. There was a moment when I had a horrible epiphany: It has been a decade since I first went to university.

A decade. Ten years.

TEN!

YEARS!

Sure, I knew my high school reunion was this summer. That was fine. High school was an absolute age ago, and I fully accept my own mortality. But for some reason, I never fully connected that fact to the fact that my university days followed right after. Unlike all four years of high school, moving away to college was actually a significant turning point in my life.

It was difficult to put myself into the mind-frame of 18-year-old me. But this is the universal truth: I was a baby. I mean, Baby Me basically boiled down to these things (and trust me, it was all she cared about):

Favourite bands: The Smiths, The Adicts, New Order
Favourite horror movies: Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Exorcist (1973)
Favourite novels: A Clockwork OrangeCatcher in the Rye

Sure. She was a bit basic and angst-y, but she was also a country girl meeting the “Big World” for the first time. So cut her some slack

Never fear! She was on her way up. This year was also one of the most formative for my love of horror. For one, this was still the height of zombie-mania. Zombieland was released. Seth Graham Smith published Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (thanks for that one, dude). My sister made my friends and I pose for zombie-related photos for her graphic arts project… (see low-res picture above).

One of the first things I did by myself at school was see Max Brooks speak. It was the first time I realised you could be a massive horror fan AND be articulate. Somehow, I had always been taught that the two couldn’t go hand-in-hand. Thanks, Mom!

For this week’s post, I had wanted to watch a horror movie made in 2009. You know, celebrate the culture! But to be completely honest, I watched the first 20 minutes of literally four different movies. Absolutely nothing was really interesting enough to carry on with. So…here we are?

It was a mixed bag for horror, 2009. For one, you had ALL the remakes: Black Christmas, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Friday the 13th, My Blood Valentine 3D. Yes, kids. We’ve been putting up with this for over a decade…

There were countless sequels as well. Saw VIThe Final Destination, Cabin Fever 2, The Descent 2 (which I didn’t even know existed until three days ago…).

But there was a lot of originality sprouting up too. Both for better and for worse (I’m looking at you Human Centipede).

Personally, I look back fondly on this year because there were a lot of movies release that are still favourites. It was one of the first years that I could drive myself to the cinema with my friends and go to horror movies by ourselves. Absolute grown ups! I killed my car battery during a screening of Zombieland after I forgot to turn off the headlights. Then my friends and I got fried cheese curds.

I was particularly obsessed with some movie called Paranormal Activity. You could “demand” a screening in your state, and I was absolutely passionate that Wisconsin partake. I shared a link on Facebook and everything. The marketing was not quite Blair Witch Project-level, but the fact that makes me smile fondly counts for something.

Favourite 2009 horror movies:

  1. Paranormal Activity (US limited and wide release)
  2. The House of the Devil
  3. Zombieland 
  4. Drag Me to Hell
  5. Orphan

It’s kind of fun to look back, even if it is a bit scary to think about how long ago that all was now. I can barely remember what I was even like then. Probably really annoying, but then again – have things changes that much?

Moving to Milwaukee really forced me to grow up. And thankfully that gave me the confidence to be an out-and-out horror geek. The following year, I would discover this website called Netflix. You could order DVDs, and they’d send them to your house. And that was the straw that broke the camels back. I haven’t looked back since.

But there seems to be a lot of gaps in my 2009 movie knowledge. Think I’ve missed anything important? Want to berate me for my basic movie choice? Go ahead! I rarely approve comments anyway. And what were you doing in 2009? Hopefully it was a good one, and hopefully this one is too.

(Yeah the hair was a choice, but she still cute.)

Wicked Wednesday: The Woods (2006)

Boy I’ve been lucky with films lately. First a fantastic weekend at FrightFest, and now another new favourite.

Sometimes when you see a synopsis on paper, it sounds right up your alley, but doesn’t follow through when you get to watching the movie itself.

I had been meaning to watch The Woods for a few months now. It was originally on my schedule for May…but you know, better late than never? (This must be my new motto.) This Lucky McKee-directed film has many things I love: witches, boarding schools, a period setting, and Bruce Campbell. Little did I know this had all the Down a Dark Hall vibes I was hoping for.

In 1965, teenage delinquent Heather is sent to Falburn Academy by her parents. She’s offered financial aid after passing one of the “tests” that the headmistress, Ms Traverse, sets her. She’s allowed in, but under the condition that she must take extra lessons with Ms Traverse.

Heather immediately butt heads with resident mean girl Samantha. The girl constantly knocks over Heather’s milk or throws the milk at other students to taunt her. But Heather has a thick skin (clearly a contemporary attitude), and often fights back to her bully.

Despite being intimidating, Heather makes friends with the quiet and talents Marcy. She begins to settle in, though is wary of the school. She begins to dream of bloody girls running through the woods and a girl with an ax. She also sees ghostly visions in the woods while trying to run away one night. Though when she hears the legend of witches and murder at Falburn Academy, her dreams begin to seem more real.

Things begin to get stranger as she has her one-on-one meetings with Ms Traverse. It becomes clear that Heather has powers of some sort, a magic. Then a student, who had supposedly tried to kill herself, returns to the school. Ann is meek, and barely speaks to any of the other students.

But one night, Ann disappears from her bed, only to be replaced by a pile of Ann-shaped leaves. It becomes apparent that Marcy is the next target, followed by Heather herself.

After Marcy also disappears in a fashion similar to Ann, Samantha confronts Heather again. Only this time, she reveals she’s been protecting Heather all along. Protecting her from The Milk (capitalisation necessary). She also tells Heather she she called Heather’s parents to pick her up. Samantha’s body is found shortly after.

When Heather’s parents retrieve her, she’s seemingly safe. Only the family are in a strange car accident on their way home. Heather and her father are the only two to survive.

Heather is returned to Falburn Academy after a short recovery. And it’s only then that the dark magic begin to come to a head.

And… It’s a slightly disappointing ending, and it’s a bit unclear what or why things are happening. But it’s often difficult to stick a landing when a movie is this good at building its suspense.

The writing for Heather’s character is a bit distracting, if only because it is so clearly written with a modern girl in mind. Also, and I hate to say it, the addition of Campbell was also distracting. We didn’t really need his character, especially when Heather was written to be such a resourceful girl.

That being said, I adored The Woods. It’s loose on its mythology, sure, but that (for me) adds all the more mystery. It’s a terribly atmospheric movie, full of autumn leaves and beautiful shots (my fave). There are subtleties in the set design and costuming that I was rather fond of as well. Deliveries from the likes of Rachel Nichols and the great Patricia Clarkson help also sell the movie.

I always find it more difficult to discuss exactly why I like something. I really, really like The Woods, even for its faults. I’m surprised there aren’t more of us gushing about it. Perhaps it isn’t for everyone, but this was sure as hell a good one for me.

Wicked Wednesday: My Mom’s a Werewolf (1989)

The 80s must have been a weird time. And I mean that in the most affectionate of ways. Sure the music and fashions were eccentric (and amazing), but it’s never more plainly clear how distinct the 80s were than through its movies.

Movies like My Mom’s a Werewolf.

This 1989 comedy horror is pretty much a check list of 80s cliche must-haves:

  • Eccentric best friend
  • Beautiful mother with lazy father
  • Party scene with bizarre happenings montage
  • Monkey suit werewolf costumes
  • Cheap pop songs with bizarre, yet catchy lyrics
  • Needless cover of classic song (though this will always be Hollywood’s eternal vice)
  • A cute, hairy dog

My Mom’s a Werewolf is essnetially a film that has everything written right on the tin. Leslie Shaber is an underappreciated woman. Her daughter doesn’t bother, and her husband prefers football games with the boys over spending time with her.

One day, while shopping for a flea collar, Leslie meets a mysterious shop owner. He helps her get her stolen bag back and immediately catches her attention. He follows her to the restaurant where she goes for dinner, wooing her despite her generally sensible behaviour.

But while Leslie is falling for a man named “Harry Thropen” (to be fair, played by the ever-gorgeous John Saxon), she’s spotted by her daughter, Jennifer.

Jennifer leaves the restaurant with her friend Stacey. The two follow Leslie as she returns to Harry’s store. They catch them in the bedroom together, but her forced to leave by a policeman.

As Harry and Leslie become aquainted, Harry bites Leslie’s toe. She immediately comes to her senses and leaves. But Jennifer is already suspicious of her mother’s infidenlity. Though she will have a lot more to be concerned about.

After being bitten, Leslie’s sex drive returns, she begins to grow long canines, and she has continuous dreams about Harry.

At Jennifer’s Halloween party, she finally realises that there’s something not quite right with Mom. While she asks Stacey (who’s obsessed with everything monsters) for help, her friend doesn’t offer any. So Jennifer goes to see a local fortune teller.

The fortune teller warns that Leslie can return to her werewolf form at any time. So Stacey and Jennifer begin following Leslie everywhere. Leslie, who know knows she’s destined to be Harry’s hairy wife, becomes a werewolf again and hides out in her house.

Harry arrives to take his bride, but thankfully the girls are there to help Leslie. Stacey manages to take down Harry by poking him with a silver fork. The policemen, who had arrived during the scuffle, see Leslie’s transformation as she turns from a werewolf back into a woman.

The Shabers become famous in their town. And Jennifer’s fortune teller friend begins to rake it in after her talents are revealed.

And that’s seemingly it. That is until Stacey learns more about how a curse can pass on after a werewolf is killed…

My Mom’s a Werewolf is pretty daft. It’s bizzare. It’s also pretty amusing.

This is one of the many films to follow in the wake of the success of Teen Wolf. But it doesn’t really become as iconic. It’s pretty one note, to be honest. Once the mother-is-a-werewolf gag is played, it’s pretty much the only thing that happens throughout.

If anything, this is a nice (if forgettable) piece of 80s schlock. Might be fun for some of the younger ones in the family.

Wicked Wednesday: The Addams Family S1E1 “Happyester Fester” (1992)

So the official trailer for the new The Addams Family movie was released last week. And, well, it’s about exactly what you’d expect. It doesn’t look particularly great, plus there’s that on-going choice to include a rap/pop version of old theme tunes. It’s an “updating” that we don’t really need, but we’re getting anyway.

But our dear Addams have been through many cartoon and animated iterations since its birth as a comic strip in the 30’s. Inspired by the trailer for the new film, I wanted to watch an episode of the 1973 Hanna-Barbera cartoon. This, apparently, follows the Addams as they travel the country in a camper van. Turns out this show is difficult as all hell to track down. The more readily-available version is the 1992 one. And really, the one I’m more familiar with. Mostly because of that iconic main theme.

The show was developed in the wake of the 1991 Barry Sonnenfeld film. And it shares many traits with it’s other versions. Though I suppose it’s kind of difficult to really ‘branch out’ with these characters.

Episode one “Happyester Fester” gives very little background or introduction to the characters. I suppose at this point it assumes you’re just along for the ride.

Uncle Fester is in hiding after several failed inventions. It takes his first success to drag him from his dungeon. The invention, a new fabric, is cheap to make, making Gomez believe that they can generate a really profit from it.

Gomez takes Fester to see their neighbour Norman Normanmeyer, an underwear maker, to sell the fabric. He agrees to buy it, trying to underhand the Addams. But to insentivise them, he offers Fester the role of Vice President. Only Fester isn’t an easy VP to have. His list of unsual suggestions baffle Norman.

Norman and Fester are both targeted by a a rival underwear company. Though being Addamses, Fester escapes with the help of Wednesday and Pugsly. Fester, feeling he has betrayed Norman with all of his demands, decides to give up his formula. And, as a final twist, it’s revealed that Happyfester is incredibly itchy – just the way Fester wanted it.

It’s certinaly a wacky show. Perfect for the asthetic and style of 90s cartoons. The zany humour still remains. It’s a pretty cute show, even if it isn’t the best Addams there is.

And hopefully, despite what the trailer may be trying to tell us, the new movie will also be true to its predeccesors. If not, there are still 20 more episodes of this show to watch.

Wicked Wednesday: Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012)

As the world is seemingly getting smaller, the mysteries of the world seem a bit sillier. And yet, so many of us love the unknown.

This lingering obsession is seen in shows like Ancient Aliens. But increasingly, people are turning to true crime, the unknown more about what we know: ourselves.

In the found-footage movie Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes, a group of contemporary filmmakers head to Northern California where they plan on speaking to a man who claims to have found the body of a Sasquatch. Their leader, the unlikable Sean, believes that their new documentary will be network gold.

When the group arrive, they struggle to find the home of the man they seek. They find a path, but their van gets stuck in the mud. They eventually come face-to-face with Mr Drybeck (played by Frank Ashmore, who absolutely steals the show). The eccentric man takes the group to his cabin in the woods, which is only powered by a generator.

Some of the filmmakers are more excited than others. On one end of the spectrum is sound buy Kevin, who is as meek as a mouse and believes everything Drybeck tells them. Robin, the producer, is a bit more relaxed. She ‘greets the forest people’ with her shaman skills (or something).

That first night, things immediately go south. Something attacks the group from outside the cabin – much to Sea’s delight. And in the morning, Drybeck drives off in his jeep without the filmmakers. In a panic, Kevin goes off on his own to retrieve the van while wearing a body cam.

The remaining group look at the damage done to the cabin and find large scratch marks and urine on the walls. They later find footprints and a nest. Robin is attacked by an unseen something, but is saved by Drybeck, who has returned.

The attack injures Robin pretty severely, hindering her ability to walk. Sean and cameraman Darryl insist on getting her to a hospital, but when they try to leave, they find every road block by large trees.

Sean agrees to stay at the cabin. Drybeck promises to take the remaining men with him to a sea cave to look at the Sasquatch body he’d found. That leaves Robin all alone.

It’s unsurprising when everything goes south from there. But is it the Sasquatch that are really to blame? Or are they really trying to protect people from the spirit world? Since this is found-footage, you don’t really get a lick of an answer.

So…The Lost Coast Tapes isn’t…great. Though I guess it’s as much as you can hope for from a bigfoot movie. Awkwardly acted, but stronger at other points. Confusing camera use (as per usual with the lesser of this genre). Sometimes entertaining. And surprisingly, very few of those scenes where it’s just the shake-y cam pointed at the ground.

But is there really room in our modern world for this type of found-footage film anymore? I suppose there’s a small slice of the audience who care. We make found-footage movies to be convinced by what’s on (or not on) screen. Going into movies like this is strange because we’re already certain that these creatures don’t exist.

….right?

Scares are very difficult to come by here. And I think that’s more the subject’s fault than anything.

Though, if there is a good big foot movie. Please send it my way.