Fangoria

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 34: Severed Ties (1992)

severedties

Severed Ties is a horror comedy by Fangoria Films. It’s one part Re-Animator, two parts Basket Case with a dash of film noir and the motherly love of Augusta Gein. Boy trapped in lab by mom. Boy grows mutant, evil arm. Sound like your thing? Probably not, but this little film isn’t as bad as it may seem.

Garrett Morris makes an apperance again (he has a supporting role in Fangoria’s other movie, Children of the Night) reprising his role as the homeless man…? But Severed Ties managed to pull even bigger names with Oliver Reed and Elke Sommer. Like all of Fangoria’s movies, this 1992 film was mostly shot in Wisconsin. It’s not the strongest of those made by Fangoria, but Severed Ties still delivers a strange and sometimes funny film.

Young scientist Harrison Harrison is being monitored in the lab by his mother, Helena, and her Oliver Reed, err… Doctor Hans Vaughan. He’s researching regeneration and trying to create a serum, a task his father had before him. His father believe in allowing his serum to be available to everyone. His son agrees. But unfortunately, mommie dearest is more interest in turning a profit from the product.

The news is broken to him when Doctor Vaughan takes the serum from him. But things get considerably worse when his arm is ripped off. Like any real trooper, though, he runs out of the house and injects the serum to grow his arm back. Not just any arm, though, a reptilian one like the poor creatures he was working on. It eventually takes on a more human appearance, but it definitely grew a mind of its own. Harrison realises that the arm is part him, part reptile and part serial killer (the corpse the scientist was working on).

Garrett Morris’ character “Stripes” appears and takes Harrison’s plasmid. He lost his leg during some war and he determined to grow it back. But he takes Harrison under his wing and introduces him to local crazy, Preach, who must have been excellent inspiration for Andy Serkis’s Gollum. Preach takes it pretty personally when Harrison’s uncontrolled hand slaps him.

Harrison runs away but is quickly chased down by Preach. The arm is ripped off, but remains animated. It proceeds to rip Preach’s face off. The rest of the homeless community seems to find this as good news, at least. Harrison is then attacked by his arm (somewhere some pun about “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” has to fit in here somewhere) until the two come to a mutual understanding.

Meanwhile, there’s trouble in paradise for Doctor Vaughan and Helena. The good doctor can’t replicate the product Harrison made. The arm is caught stealing products for Harrison, which then spurs on a sort of an “arms race” between the two parties of good and evil. In one really excellent scene, an trial of Harrison’s serum goes wrong and gives Stripes a demon leg with teeth. Though the new serum does end up working.

Harrison and his crew have a short-lived success party when they are overheard by the police, leading Doctor Vaughan and Helena straight to them. Harrison’s new girlfriend is kidnapped to have tests run on her.

Things get only worse for the poor scientist as his arm of mutant hands ends up killing all of his news friends. But Stripes survives and rallies the scientist into carrying on with his work.

“It’s time to make an army.”

But the ending is simultaneously hilarious and grim. It’s nothing you couldn’t have called from the beginning, but at least there are plenty of deaths and gore.

I never thought I would say this, but I actually enjoyed Children of the Night more. But still, Severed Ties has its strengths. It can be funny and it is pretty wacky. It’s just not any better than the films it was inspired by. There are at least some fun performances by the main cast. But the real star of the movie has to be the practical effects, which are actually pretty good for a film of this caliber. This is a film probably worth watching if you really feel like murderous reptilian arms are your thing.

arm

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 21: Children of the Night

Children

Back in the day, the fantastic Fangoria magazine had a subsidiary company, Fangoria Films. Before it folded, the company released three films, including the 1990 movie Mindwarp, which starred the groovy Bruce Campbell. Unfortunately, I was stuck watching their second film, 1991’s Children of the Night. It’s one of the most lazy, stupid and boring films that I had to sit through yet. Thankfully the production company folded after their third film because no one should be forced to watch anything like this.

The movie takes place in the fictional town of Allsburg, USA a “peaceful and unassuming township nestled in the quiet woods”, but was filmed in various locations around Wisconsin including Three Lakes (also seen in The Cold/The Game) and . Though, with the opening scenes I could have sworn it was on the UW-Milwaukee campus. There is a man, much like seen in Children, who drives around in a uber-Christ car and shouts out scripture to people who can’t really understand what he’s even saying over the loudspeaker. This atmosphere is about as cliched as you can imagine for an early 90’s horror movie. It’s like made-for-TV schlock with super wholesome people who are, of course, very stupid or probably really evil.

In Allsburg there is a “rule” where every kid who leaves the town needs to swim in the crypt so they can rinse the dirt of the town off them. I feel like swimming in filthy, old crypt water to get clean is a bit of irony, but exposition. Two friends, Cindy and Karen, decide to take a dip, but it wouldn’t be a horror movie if there wasn’t something weird in the water.

A priest and his former classmate (a failed priest), Mark, start to think that there are vampires in town. The priest shows Mark the two vampires, Cindy and her mom, locked up in an upstairs bedroom. Apparently at some point in his past, the priest had sex with Cindy’s mom when she was married to his brother. What’s the consequence of all of this? Nothing. But the priest needs help and asks Mark to check on Lucy and her grandmother. When Mark arrives at the house, he is attacked by Granny after not believing that she’s really vampire. Of course he doesn’t actually kill her properly. But eventually Mark and Lucy run off after finishing Granny off anyway, but not before the local policewoman is taken.

But the boring priest still thinks God can cure vampirism with prayer and is, for some reason, is left to babysit the vampire mother/daughter pair by himself. I guess in this film the church is over plain-old exorcisms, and prefers the vibrant life of vampires, of which I believe show up in the book of Malachi or whatever. All of this is a bad idea, of course. But this movie is so chock-full of every horror movie cliches you can imagine that it hardly matters. Yes the priest dies. Sorry.

Long story short (because I really can’t bare to write about this movie any more than I can stand to think about it), the town is full of vampires. Shock! Ooh ahh. I guess they turn at sunset but can live in sunlight? About twenty minutes in I started dozing off, but I’m sure the backstory doesn’t matter anyway. Lucy and Mark are caught by bingo-playing vampires (I shit you not) while trying to save the policewoman, but the two are rescued by the local alcoholic. They learn that the vampires are after Lucy because she’s been a “good girl”, which means she is still a virgin. Cindy, who has stabbed her mother because I guess she’s not a full-vampire yet, tells Lucy that she has the ability to save the town if she returns to the crypt.

You’re not stupid. You can guess the last third of the film without even watching it. Spirits are in the flooded crypt because of some “tragedy” and only the blah blah blah will release them and the people in the town. The script makes so little sense that I hardly care to describe it to you, dear reader.

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This movie was pretty lame. Another review described Children of the Night as “Goosebumps’ interpretation of Salem’s Lot“, which couldn’t be more accurate. I’m pretty sure 10-year-olds wrote this script because it has zero-depth. But the strange thing about this movie is that I can’t tell if it meant to be bad or if it just got lost somewhere along the production line? Considering the minds behind the project, I’m assuming it is the former. This movie has the fabulous Garrett Morris (an original SNL cast member) and Karen Black. Somehow they ended up in this film and I feel so sorry for them both.

Thanks to the really thin script, you care about absolutely no one. Not one single character is enjoyable because you’ve simply not been introduced to them at all. Just a dash of backstory is not enough to make a character interesting or likable. What I hate about horror movies like these is that they assume that their audience will be dumb. Unfortunately, we aren’t (not really, anyway). This just becomes a really painful movie to sit though while you beg for God to end it.

Oh and the priest from earlier? Yeah. He doesn’t matter. Sorry, plot-line.