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.

FrightFest 2019: Living my best prairie girl life, seeing the giallo master, and the joy of watching good films

So FrightFest ended on Monday the 26th. Am I late with this wrap-up? Yes. Very. But it doesn’t matter. These films are good, and are definitely worth writing about still.

Last year was my first-ever time at FrightFest. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so I bought tickets to what were two (essentially) random films. This year I came prepared. I watched a trailer for every film possible and read up on them.

So what I ended up with was a pretty fine selection of movies. They were all different aspects of what I love about horror/genre films.

And next year I’ll hopefully be able to attend more screenings. My budget is small, but my ambitions are large. Either way, it’s the quality, not the quantity that matters, right? (Thought it is very hard not to have film envy after reading everyone’s Tweets about films I couldn’t see…)

All of these are quality, and I highly recommend each and every one of them.

The Wind (2018) directed by Emma Tammi, written by Teresa Sutherland

Growing up, I was obsessed with stories of pioneers in the frontier. Being from Wisconsin, we had to study Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. Butter churning and sweeping dirty floors sounded awesome. I wanted to wear bonnets and ride covered wagons, and never die from dysentery! But as I got older and fully realised the harsh truths of the frontier, it began to fascinate me in different ways.

So when I first saw dusty and desolate imagery in The Wind’s trailer, I knew this film was exactly what I wanted to see. It’s another chapter in what is hopefully a new era of American “historical horror” (see The Witch).

The Wind follows a young couple, Lizzie and Issac, who live a rather isolated life in the West (filmed new New Mexico). The story switches between three plot lines: the aftermath of the death of their young neighbour, the time leading up to their neighbour’s pregnancy, and when Lizzie herself was pregnant.

It’s a story of isolation and jealousy, certainly. But it really about the unfair expectations of women, and how those expectations can manifest themselves into something horrifying.  The movie is filled with beautiful shots of the Rockies, which serves as a beautiful juxtaposition to the terrors Lizzie faces in the lonely cabins.

As the credits rolled, I was absolutely chuffed to see that it was written and directed by women. Tammi and Sutherland together made a powerfully female film. I’ve seen many not-so-glowing reviews, especially from people who hate this genre of slow-burn horror. But to be honest, it’s everything I wanted and more.

Tenebrae (1982) written and directed by Dario Argento

One of highlights of this year’s festival wasn’t even a movie. It was the appearance of Italian maestro Dario Argento.

Argento was in London to promote his new autobiography, Fear (FAB Press). The man did a brief Q&A before a book signing, but he also made the introduction for the showing of his 1982 giallo Tenebrae.

Tenebrae is one of Argento’s later giallo’s, and not really one of my favourites. But trust me, that’s not really saying anything. I love this era of Argento. This story follows an author as he tries to solve a series of murders, seemingly inspired by one of his own books.

It’s a fun bit of cinema, with lots of twists, and lots of blood. It’s stunning, as always, and has one of my favourite movie soundtracks to boot. Seeing and hearing it in the theatre was just another experience all together.

I attended the screening with my husband (a growing giallo fan) and my friend, who had never seen an Argento film in his life. It was fun to revisit Tenebrae with my husband. But it was even better to see someone experience greatness for the first time. The three of us have already planned future Italian nights.

Hearing from Argento himself was particularly interesting. His reflections on his life were very thoughtful, and it was quite clear that he took writing his autobiography very seriously. It was also announced that he’s working on directing another film in the near future.

I’m staring at my signed copy of Fear right now. And I honestly can’t wait to dive into this icon’s life story.

Ready or Not (2019) directed by  directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, written by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy

If you haven’t heard of this movie by now, you’ve probably been living in with your head in the sand. Ready or Not was an absolute blast, and it sure to be a crowd pleaser. I know that it certainly pleased the people in my screening.

The plot of Ready or Not is very much in the vein of films like Clue. You know, if Clue was a gory horror film about selling your soul to a demon.

On her wedding day, Grace (played by the delightful Samara Weaving) learns that she must play a game. Having been married into a family that is also a board game empire, she’s bemused, but agrees. She quickly realises that when she pulls a card for “hide and seek” it isn’t going to be such a simple game.

It’s best not to know too much about this one before heading into it. The twists are half the fun with this one.

But I will say the cast are pretty damn good. Particularly Weaving. Though my favourite Kristian Brunn had impeccable comedic delivery as always.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1985) written and directed by Macoto Tezuka

Get ready for you new favourite cult film, everyone. The Stardust Brothers are here.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (Hoshikuzu kyôdai no densetsu) is as if The Rocky Horror Picture Show decided to go on a trip to Japan and try out a new drug. It’s surreal, wacky, and so much fun.

This little film has only just been shown outside of Japan for the first time very recently. Even within its home country it’s a cult film.

Though the plot will be familiar to everyone. Two young, ambitious musicians sign away their artistic freedom to sign a contract with a record company. They quickly rise to fame and fall even faster.

But to call this a typical music film would be a great injustice to The Stardust Brothers. For one, it’s not really a straight-forward movie. It’s more like a series of music videos strung together with a slightly-incoherent storyline. The subject is approached with a great whimsy that only Japanese filmmakers seem to ever pull off.

My friend and I are completely obsessed. It’s definitely for fans of films like Rocky Horror and The Phantom of the Paradise. This movie is even dedicated to Winslow Leach.

Needless to say, I’m pretty desperate for Third Window Films’ Blu-Ray release. I’d like it now, please. And yes, I’ll also be buying the LP because the songs are absolute classics.

L-O-N-D-O-N…BOOTS!

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.