Horror film

Wicked Wednesday: Christmas Evil/You Better Watch Out (1980)

christmasevil

Ah this is a bit of a different week. One, I’m about to leave for Texas tomorrow to visit my sister’s family – so life is going to be a notch more hectic than usual. Two, I watched this film a couple weeks ago in a cinema and not in the comfort of home with my notebook and pen at the ready.

Arrow Films (the distributor) have had a number of film showings at the Prince Charles Cinema in the past few months. Somehow, I managed to be busy during every single one of those events. When I saw Christmas Evil was showing on a night I could venture out, I was determined to not miss it for anything.

Now, I went with my husband and a couple of our friends. To say something like Christmas Evil isn’t to their tastes is probably an understatement, but I was pretty chuffed that all of them admitted they rather enjoyed the experience (my husband stopped short of saying he liked the film, but I’m working on him).

Christmas Evil (also sometimes titled as You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland) is about  a young boy who grows up to like Christmas a little too much. Harry (Brandon Maggart) works at the town’s toy factor. He counts down the days until Christmas every day of the year and likes to watch the local neighbourhood kids to see if they’ve been naughty or nice.

Like similar Santa-gone-mad movies, a young Harry spies his mom getting a bit frisky with “Santa” on Christmas Eve night. It’s pretty heavily implied that Santa is just his father dressed up, but young Harry can’t seem to figure out his own reality.

He’s well loved by the children of the neighbourhood, who shout hellos at him and tell him what they’d like for Christmas, but Harry has it out for one particular naughty boy who doesn’t listen to his mother and cuts pictures out of naughty magazines. To scare the boy, Harry hides in the bushes and spooks him, and leaves a sack of coal outside on the boy’s doorstep.

And well, Harry isn’t completely hinged in other places of his life. While he loves working at the toy factor, he’s been promoted to a desk job and moved off the production line, but it doesn’t stop him from getting tricked into working a shift for his asshole co-worker, Frank, who calls in but whom Harry spots in the pub later than night.

At the factory’s Christmas party, Harry becomes wound up when he watches a video of the factory owner. The owner promises to donate toys to the local hospital for disadvantaged children, but only if the workers increase production.

As the countdown to the big day gets closer, things for Harry start to become stranger. Noticing all of these changes is Harry’s younger brother, Phil. Harry doesn’t go to Thanksgiving (he’s waiting to see Santa at the Macy’s parade). Then Harry says he isn’t going to be at Phil’s house for Christmas.

Though it wouldn’t be Christmas without a rampage, and it certainly isn’t Christmas without a fabulous fur-trimmed Santa suit. Harry’s outing is rather a back and forth. You root for him as he delivers toys to the children at the children’s home. You gape as he stabs a man in the eye with a toy soldier. Should you like him? Well, he mostly targets toffs in suits and liars. But, you know, killing on Christmas.

It’s painful watching Harry on his Christmas mission. No one likes him, and no amount of justice seeking will help that. Which in a way, is rather like the holiday itself: nice sometimes, but it’s also cringe-worthy.

What really works for Christmas Evil is the performance given by Maggart. He’s manages to be both unsettling to watch and likable. It’s what separates it from many crazy Santa films. There is (underneath all the silliness) an actual heart to the film that makes it so endearing.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!'”

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 17: The Pit

thepit

The movie begins at a Halloween party. You know when you hear children playing it’s some times difficult to tell if they’re screaming because they’re having fun or because they’re being brutally murdered? This would be the perfect example. Kids run amok in costume, oblivious to what the others are doing. In a flashback a boy, Jamie (played by Sammy Snyders), approaches cool-boy Freddy. Poor Jamie is not accepted in Freddy’s club because Jamie is a loser. Back to the party, Jamie leads Freddy away from the party saying he has something to show him.

If you were worried that there might be exposition or suspense in this film? Never fear! In one of the most literal movie openings ever, a boy is literally pushed into a pit within the first three minutes. Eat your heart out, Hitchcock.

Switch back to present day (past day? any day) where randy pre-teen Jamie is writing lines on the chalkboard for being dumb enough to bring an “adult book” to school. No one can enjoy their literature in peace when you’re twelve.

Jamie is one of those kids that everyone seems to enjoy hating. Even little old ladies. Why? Because he’s a creep. He hangs outside naked, has imaginary friends and has a terrarium to round out his list of hobbies. To curb the strange happenings, Jamie’s parents decide to hire a psychology student, Sandy, to help Jamie out while they’re away.

Now Jamie does have one friend named Teddy – a teddy bear who talks to him. Jamie and Teddy are certain that Sandy is “perfect” for them. They make little plots to see at much of Sandy as possible. Yes it is as creepy and perverted as you’d think. But Jamie is head-over-heels for the girl and decides she is the right person to tell his secrets to.

And what is his big secret? He knows where there is a hole in the ground. But this isn’t any old hole in the ground (IT’S A PIT!), there are things that live in the bottom of the hole. They are called Tra-la-logs (I shit you not) and have little yellow eyes and are hunched over. He claims to be friends with them, but would even something called a ‘tra-la-log’ even like this kid?

teddu

Teddy and Jamie: friends for life

Things increasingly get worse with Jamie. He begins to go even further with his obsession with women and pulls off some really comfortable pranks. But it also begins to be become apparent that Jamie and his mother have a bit of an “unusual” relationship – something that’s probably not all that wholesome. Though it becomes difficult to tell when he’s being honest and when he’s simply trying to manipulate someone. But it’s quite apparent that he didn’t end up woman-obsessed by chance.

By Teddy’s suggestion, Jamie begins to feed the tra-la-logs (who eventually get a real name but I could care less). He steals the money from Sandy. After she calls him out on it, he increasingly becomes more desperate. Attempting to steal meat doesn’t work. Attempting to steal a cow doesn’t work. So what are they going to eat? HUMANS! When are they going to eat them? NOW!

Yes Jamie begins feeding everyone he hates to the little demons in the pit, which I guess they deserve for being equally terrible people. Unfortunately, when Jamie runs out of victims, the movie runs out of steam. The last third of the movie is dull and slow, plus everyone’s favourite 12-year-old pervert is mostly absent. The story focuses on the hunt of the tra-la-logs (hooray) and not Jamie’s decent into further madness. Thankfully there is an absolutely hilarious ending as a pay off.

The Pit is a pretty over-the-top movie. Everything about this premise grantees a totally unique viewing pleasure. Though, it also dishes plenty of pervy weirdness that is less enjoyable, but Snyders does a pretty great performance as Jamie that is convincing enough to make your skin crawl. A weird little movie, but one to watch.

 

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 8: Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield

edgeinbutcher

Another week. Another Ed Gein. What is it about serial killer biopics that makes people produce so many shit movies. This week I was stuck watching yet another film based on Gein because apparently I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel now (not like I’ve been picking from the cream of the to begin with). This is not the 2000 Spanish film that also goes by the name In the Light of the Moon. Noooo. I don’t even get to watch THAT version. Instead I got the treat of watching this 2007 shitfest – Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield.

This film centers around a deputy a small town in Wisconsin. Ah yes, you must remember the deputy that was so involved in solving Gein’s case, right? No. Well, he’s the main character and Gein’s kidnapped his mother and girlfriend! The plot chugs along slowly with a version of Ed Gein that is so confounding it constantly distracts from the film. Actually, I have no idea what this movie was about. I think it takes place in a ghost town in the deep south because everyone has a funny accent and every set looks like it was abandoned decades ago.

Ed Gein has such an atrocious script it barely holds attention at any point. Despite the gore in places, it hardly seems horrifying because Gein’s motivations are never given. In fact, if the viewer knew nothing about the real story they might not have the faintest clue what is happening. I don’t think the point of a movie is to ever make the audience groan in pain or boredom. There are scenes that actually evoked a full-on eye roll from me. Yes, it turned me into a snobby 15-year-old.

What is so infuriating about this movie is that half of it isn’t even true. This is a film with Ed Gein’s name painted across the top and it isn’t even about the terrible things he did. Did this movie and Deranged get their titles mixed up? Kane Hodder (best known for his turn in several Friday the 13th films and the Hatchet trilogy) plays Gein and this was a totally perplexing casting choice. Hodder doesn’t look a thing like Gein. He’s big, tall and menacing – nothing like the thin 50-year-old Gein was when he committed his two murders. They even put Gein’s actual picture in the opening credits. Did they think the audience would be stupid to think this actor would be believable as the same man? Why give them the chance to compare?

There is definitely sorely lacking in this movie, and that’s a total misunderstanding of Gein’s psyche. He wasn’t some hard-ass who enjoyed beating people up. Getting the story this wrong… might as well just make it about something else completely, but you know. Movies. How do we make money? Usually I try not to be too hard on movies, but it is completely disrespectful to everyone involved in the real horrors of this story to have some sort of sick make-believe be written about it.

I usually don’t have ratings in my reviews, but I would like to give this shit show a total 0 out of 5. Or maybe 1/2 a star because it had a beginning, middle and end. This is this worst un-fun movie I have watched in a very long time. And that’s coming from someone who had to watch Black Cadillac.

Mega Python vs. Gatoroid: 80’s Popstar Bitch Fights

This week has snuck past rather quickly. Let’s blame it on Halloween: simultaneously the best holiday ever and busiest part of the season. It’s two days late, but Halloween lasts all 365 days of the year for me and I still feel the need to talk about one of my favorite “musicians lost in horror movie land.”

Mega Python vs. Gatoroid is a serious piece of shit, and yet it’s fucking amazing. There are giant animals, terrible acting, special effects a decade behind and 80’s popstars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany! As I was born in 1991, I can only assume what everyone born pre-1986 has been waiting with bated breath and a soft pretzel in hand for a good ol’ bitch fight between the two singers.

Middle-aged popstars aside, I suppose the real plot line is that Debbie (playing an activist) lets a bunch of pythons free into the Everglades where they become “mega pythons.” Then to combat the gigantic snakes, Tiffany (who plays a rather convincing park ranger) feeds the alligators hormone-injected chickens to increase their size so the gators can feed off the pythons.

Oh it’s mega.

SPOILER ALERT both die. It’s fantastic and strangely satisfying. I’m not quite sure if this was meant to be gratuitously terrible or actually tried to have some merit. Let’s go with the first option, that at least allows the viewer to have some fun. There’s not actually a showdown between the titular mega python and gatoroid but who cares when you get to watch to washed-up pop stars slap each other?

If all else fails and if you feel you’ve lost your sense in humanity, watch these videos of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany’s more happy days. Because, you know, going to the mall eases our pain.