Wicked Wednesday

Wicked Wednesday: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a film with a pretty abysmal reputation. What’s a Halloween film without Michael Myres, eh? Well, it turns out, it’s all okay, folks. This is a movie that can stand on its own two legs.

As someone who is not personally attached the masked man, it doesn’t bother me that the great oaf doesn’t make an appearance. Though, in my mind, it’s a film that should be approached as a separate entity. It certainly can’t even touch the glory of John Carpenter’s original (but then again, not much can).

Eight days before Halloween, a man trying to run away and hide from a car. He manages to escape from the men pursuing him and ends up in a gas station, where he seeks help. While waiting inside, a Silver Shamrock commercial begins to play. The man begins to shout “they’re coming” and collapses to the floor.

That night, Doctor Dan Challis visits his ex-wife and his two children. He gives them the gift of two plastic masks, but they tell him that their mom already bought them Silver Shamrock masks, which they show off to him. Before he can feel too bad, he gets a call that brings him back to the hospital.

The patient awaiting his care is Harry Grimbridge, the man who fainted in the gas station. Dan examines the patient when Harry grabs him and says, “They’re going to kill us.” After the little episode, Dan has Harry moved to a private room.

Later in the night, a man goes into the hospital and presses his thumbs into Harry’s eyes. The nurse catches the murderer before he can leave the room. But the murderer manages to escape. Dan chases after him, but the man gets into the car and blows himself up before anyone can get near to him.

The next day, Harry’s daughter Ellie arrives to identify the body. She later follows Dan into a bar to question him about her father’s last moments. He finally tells her the truth about the vague “going to kill us” statements. He also tells her that Harry was holding onto a Silver Shamrock pumpkin mask.

Ellie drags Dan into the investigation of her father’s death. Together they go to Harry’s shop, where she tells Dan that her father had gone to a town called Santa Mira to pick up an order of Silver Shamrock masks.

Together, the pair head off to the Californian town. When they arrive, they find that the locals are super strange (they like to stare) and they’re all gushing with praise of Conal Cochran – the founder of Silver Shamrock.

While checking into their hotel, Dan sneaks away and looks at the log book, quickly discovering that it is the same hotel where Harry had stayed. As they finish their check-in, another shop owner and a family arrive, all having with business with Cochran.

The shop owner, Marge, finds a silver button that has fallen off the back of one of the Silver Shamrock masks. While examining it at night, a beam of light from the button strikes her, and her face begins to peel open.

Dan and Ellie (who apparently are having sex now because romance) hear something outside their room. Outside, a group of men in white coats are gathered around. Marge’s body, covered in a sheet and on a gurney, is removed from her room and put into a van. Ellie begins to become distressed, but a man, introduced as Cochran, says that Marge will be receiving good care.

The following morning, Dan, Ellie and the other family in the hotel all go to the Silver Shamrock factory where the popular masks are produced. Cochran hints that there is a “final process” that happens behind closed doors, but no one is allowed to see it due to the volatile chemicals involved.

When the group leaves their tour, Ellie spots her father’s car. She eventually leaves it alone, but not before catching the attention of the supremely-stoic black-suited men hanging about. It’s no surprise that the girl goes missing that night.

After realising that Ellie is gone and that he cannot connect any calls, Dan goes back to the factory. He’s obviously never seen the never-been-made classic Don’t Go in the Factory… Alone! This is clearly a bad idea, and he gets caught by Cochran and his robot lackeys.

Dan’s taken to the “final process” room where a stone from ancient sacrificial site Stonehenge sits. Men are slowly chipping away at the rock. Cochran explains that they use the stone in their masks.

Dan’s attention is then drawn to a video of the family from earlier. They’re all dragged into a testing room where the Silver Shamrock commercial begins to play on the television. The little boy tugs on a pumpkin mask, but struggles to take it off once it begins to hurt him. The boy collapses and his head turns to bugs, worms and snakes. His parents are then killed by the creepy crawlies emerging from their son.

Children all over America are waiting to wear their Silver Shamrock masks. As it’s Halloween, they’ll be everywhere. The twisted company plan a giveaway at 9 that night. Cochran’s plan is for all the children to gather around to watch the commercial, and then die. In his mind, it is merely celebrating Halloween in the old, pagan fashion: with lots of scarifies! Oh and to bring back the age of the witches.

He’s an ambitious fellow.

Dan is then tied up and left in a room wearing a mask. He’s placed in front of a television where the countdown to his death begins. But when he’s left alone, the doctor manages to smash the TV in. He uses a shard of the broken glass to cut himself free. When he manages to escape through a air duct, he calls his ex-wife to warn her about the masks. She refuses to believe him, and thinks he’s drunk.

So the man moves on to saving Ellie, who has been tied up inside the factory. The two manage to dump a box of the Silver Shamrock’s computer chip/Stonehenge bits around the computers, which end up killing the workers when the commercial is triggered. Even Cochran himself is killed by the power of the stone.

Ellie and Dan seemingly escape together, but Ellie attacks him while they’re driving away. The two crash into a tree when Dan discovers that Ellie has been replaced by a robot. He manages to fight her off and go to the gas station from the beginning of the film. He calls the television channels and manages to convince channels one and two to take the commercial off. But he watches in horror as channel three goes away with airing the commercial – seemingly to kill all the children.

It’s a wonderfully chilling ending. Sure the robots don’t make any sense (why wasn’t a coven written into this?), but Halloween III is a deliciously wicked movie. I mean, the evil plot revolves around sacrificing children to a television commercial!

I can’t really see why this film is slatted so much. It’s certainly a flawed film. The soundtrack is abysmal, and the plot is a bit convoluted, but the imagery is great, it’s pretty sick, and it stars Tom Atkins! I recently watched the excellent Profondo Rosso, and if there’s one thing I can swear by, it’s that a creepy children’s song will always make me uncomfortable in a horror movie.

Halloween III should be regarded as a separate entity from its predecessors. Judge it on its own merits. Hate it or love it for the right reasons.

 

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Wicked Wednesday: Digging up the Marrow (2014)

I am a sucker for a good mockumentary. Blame it on years at journalism school, whatever. I love them. Any I couldn’t have asked for a better one than with Digging up the Marrow.

Digging Up the Marrow opens with a selection of inteviews with icons like Lloyd Kaufman, Tony Todd and Don Coscarelli talking about monsters. Where do monsters come from? Are they real? Do we with they were real? Maybe monsters aren’t just in the fictional Tromaville, but are lurking somewhere in our own world – somewhere hidden.

Director/writer Adam Green is also a man obsessed with monsters, so he’s filled with glee when he shares the notebook he was sent to his camera crew. The notebook, sent from a man named William Dekker, contains notes and illustrations about a world where monsters really exist.

The former police detective allows Adam and his crew to go to his house and make a documentary about him. In the first interview, he explains that there is a world beneath ours containing monsters. The world, which Dekker calls the Marrow, is filled with the “reject” children that had disappeared.

Dekker explains that when he was a child, he saw a man with a forked tongue and other reptilian features. And since then, he has kept an eye out for other monsters in various entrances to the Marrow.

After the interview, Adam sees a door with a large lock attached. Dekker explains that it’s his storage room, and that no one can enter. Which is entirely not shady OR creepy!

Dekker allows Adam and his cameraman to join him in a wooded cemetery where one of the gates to the Marrow exists. They’re told to leave before sunset, but the men ignore the policeman and set up camp for the night. While waiting, they shoot the shit about their married lives and children. Dekker seems particularly interested in the stories about the cameraman’s sons.

But before they can get really cozy, William says he sees something. But without night vision or a camera light, the camera doesn’t pick up on anything.

In the following interview, Dekker tells Adam about some of the monsters. He explains that there are different species of monster, and he has named them. He has many illustrations of the monster, saying that an illustrator did them for him. But when he pulls out one of a different style, he briefly mentions that his son drew it. But when Adam presses for more details, Dekker avoids answering them.

Their next excursion into the woods is significantly more successful. William tells Adam and the cameraman that the monster is right in front of them, and becomes incredibly angry when the camera light is turned on to get a good glimpse of it.

Adam and his team finally have the footage that they want. The monster defies all creature make-up effects. But when Adam shows it around, no one seems as convinced as he is.

After angering Dekker with the camera light incident, they tell him that they plan to set up cameras around the woods with a fake street light. The camera will be unobtrusive, so not to disturb the monsters (Dekker’s greatest fear). The new rigs allow them to get more footage of the monsters.

But it’s still not enough to convince anyone else, especially Adam’s own production team. He eventually has to leave for a month to go on a convention tour where he learns that he’s the absolute last director that Dekker has attempted to work with. The man had apparently gone to everyone with his story about the Marrow, and was turned down by every single one of them.

Angered that he had been lied to, Adam tests Dekker’s honesty by asking him why Dekker chose to work with him. The answers are both evasive and in conflict with what other directors and writers told Adam at the cons.

Even more, Dekker’s answers and stories begin to become more unbelievable. He tells Adam that monsters love pancakes (because everyone loves pancakes), that he’d seen a monster “pick up” a college boy who was later found mutilated beyond recognition. Adam even flies to Boston to check up on Dekker’s police background, only to discover that no one at the Boston PD has even heard of Dekker.

Later, one of the cameramen show Adam footage from the camera in the woods of Dekker turning the camera off. He forgets (or does he do it on purpose?) to turn off the final camera. In the footage, he’s seen to be taking a spoon and doing something in the entrance of the Marrow. Whether it’s digging something or feeding something, the grainy footage doesn’t show much. But it does show Dekker crying alone afterwards.

Enraged that Dekker has been hiding things from him, Adam decides to go out to the Marrow without Dekker. He begins to form an idea that Dekker’s son plays a role in the going-ons.

Adam and his cameraman go to the hole alone and seemingly find nothing. Adam shouts at the entrance, and his boot is grabbed off his foot. While trying to get the boot back, they’re surprised by the arrival of a furious Dekker. He tells them off for being so invasive and loud, but suddenly they are attacked by a horde of monsters.

Adam attempts to get footage by himself, but he reluctantly leaves when more monsters are heard. They all climb into the car, but their exit is blocked by one of Dekker’s monsters, a sort of Jack-o-lantern, hooded creature who unveils his many appendages when his hood is removed.

They eventually are allowed to leave the cemetery. Back at Dekker’s house, the man in nearly hysterical. He tells them that he needs to go into the Marrow. Adam and the cameraman agree to leave only after he agrees to meet them again at sunrise.

But when they show up at his house that morning, he doesn’t answer the door. When Adam talks to his neighbour, he learns that no one has lived there in over a year. They then go inside the house and find it empty of all of Dekker’s evidence and drawings.

They enter his “storage closet” and find newspapers laid out on the floor, and a pile of shit…and chains hanging from the walls. When they reach the Marrow entrance, they find that it’s been closed.

The next footage doesn’t come until over a month later, a exhausted-looking Adam says that he never heard from Dekker again. He says that the camera 2, which was stolen soon after it was installed in the woods, had been returned to him. He then plays the footage, which is of the inside of the marrow.

Dekker is seen naked inside a cage, repeating that monsters are not real and that the Marrow doesn’t exist. The camera then cuts to someone walking into a house and into a bedroom, which is revealed to be Adam’s. The camera is set down on his bedside, then Adam and his wife wake to a loud, monstrous screech.

It’s an ambitious mockumentary, Digging up the Marrow. And most of the time, it works. Adam Green was a director I never gravitated towards, but this man has won my full attention after watching this. And all the stars for Ray Wise, who is a goddamn national treasure.

Our obsession and fascination with horror has to raise ethical questions. What are monsters, really? Are they the creatures with multiple-appendages and deformed bodies? Or is it the parents who reject their own children? Or it might even be us. Those of us who revel in other people’s displeasure.

I appreciate Digging up the Marrow for both having a lot of fun with the audience while actually trying to pose questions to its audience. It’s one film I’ll easily recommend.

Wicked Wednesday: Mad Monster Party? (1967)

In our family, the Rankin/Bass holiday specials were a big deal.  My parents had tapped them onto VHSes for me and my sisters to watch during the holidays. The Easter Bunny is Comin’ to TownRudolph, and Santa Claus is  Comin’ to Town were the holy trinity, but they were all on at some point.

And boy do their songs get stuck in my head like an endless train of earworms. So when this song was stuck in my head yet again, I decided to take a trip down memory lane. And lo and behold, turns out the old boys did a Halloween movie! It’s certainly darker and more stylish than the traditional holiday TV specials, but this one is pretty worth exploring.

Mad Monster Party? is wacky and nonsensical like many of the Rankin/Bass movies. But where films like Rudolph and The Little Drummer Boy exist to warm the cockles, Mad Monster Party? exists the revel in its kitsch.

Baron Boris von Frankenstein (voiced by Boris Karloff) is a mad scientist living on an island in the Caribbean. His latest discovery is his life’s ambition: the formula to destroy matter.  To both gloat and celebrate, Boris invites his gang of monster pals to his island.

His delivery bats reach familiar Universal monsters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the werewolf and of course, Dracula. But also invited it the human “pharmacist” Felix Flankin, Boris’s nephew.

Young Felix, who is a dead-ringer for that asshole Brad Majors, is a bit of a dope. He’s clumsy and always about in his bowtie. He also works in a shop with a boss who is more than happy to get rid of him. So an invitation to a resort on a Caribbean island seems too good to be true.

Felix eagerly leaves behind his humdrum life for an adventure elsewhere. He and the other monsters board a ship and begin their journey to Boris’s castle.

Meanwhile, Boris is preparing for his guests’ arrival. Yetch the zombie butler and his gang of zombie henchmen (who fly on old-fashioned Wright brothers-style airplanes) begin their patrol to make sure “It” doesn’t arrive onto the island.

Boris’s assistant, Francesca, tells him that every one has replied, though she admits she’s never heard of Felix. Boris then tells her that he plans on retiring from the monster organization that he leads and that he wants Felix to be his successor. And unsurprisingly, the intelligent assistant is more than a bit miffed at being passed over because of some idiotic nepotism.

On the boat, slapstick-style jokes ensue and Felix continues on his journey blissfully unaware that his ship is full of monsters.

The monsters manage to beat Felix to the island and sit down to dinner with their host, who informs them of both his planned retirement and his discovery. The monsters around the island delight in the news, as they all think they are the successor.

But scheming Francesca (who, is shaped like a cartoon-version of the love child of Jessica Rabbit and Christi

na Hendricks) pulls Dracula aside and informs him that it is Felix who is next in line. The two agree to work together to ensure that no human takes over the World Wide Organization of Monsters.

When Felix does arrive, Francesca and Drac’s are set in motion. Francesca invites the unsuspecting Felix with her on a picnic, but all of her plans go awry. Each time one of the monsters tries to scare him, he simply explains them away.

Back at the castle, Felix and his uncle explore Boris’s lab. Boris then announces to Felix that he plans on making him his successor. He then tells Felix that monsters exist. The boy, obviously overwhelmed, tells his uncle that he needs time to consider before he agrees to become head of the monsters.

And with Felix’s future uncertain, the monsters begin to move in. Francesca realises that Dracula has double-crossed her with the Monster of Frankenstein and his mate. She escapes and decides to send a message-bat out as a means of revenge. She begins to look for the formula for herself, but is caught by the rest of the monsters.

Francesca jumps into the surrounding lagoon to escape and finds Felix alone in a fishing boat. The woman becomes hysterical and begins to kiss Felix. I guess all that mumbling and dropping of the glasses really does it for some ladies.

But their win is short lived, as Francesca tells Felix that they need to escape the island – fast. Out of anger, the foolish woman sent a bat to It, Boris’s nemesis. The couple run into the jungle with the rest of the monsters in hot pursuit.

The couple nearly escape when Francesca is grabbed. Though in perfect timing, It arrives (It being King Kong). The beast begins to destroy the castle, grabs Franny, and the King Kong ending plays out.

Boris attempts to save Francesca, and succeeds, but is caught in the process. The baron then uncorks a vial of his formula and blows himself, It, and all other other monsters up while Felix and Francesca make their escape.

On their boat away from the island, Francesca admits that she was created by Boris. She runs on batteries, cogs and springs – a robot. And Felix takes it pretty well, implying that he too was created by his uncle.

Mad Monster Party? is, admittedly, a bit nutty. But then again, this was the production company that brought you this. It’s really a weird one. I don’t think I can recommend this for children, despite the fact that I think it was made for them. The in-jokes are pretty cute and the music really is good (despite the fact there were a lot of random fucking sons), certainly more enjoyable than the holiday specials. Plus the puppets (figurines, whatever) are just incredible.

But there is just one irritating problem…

I really feel for Francesca. You work hard, do good work and you’re still passed over for the job for some nut that doesn’t know what he’s doing. That appears to be the state of the world, ladies. Whether you be a politician, writer or evil scientist’s apprentice puppet, we’re all fighting an up-hill battle. Though I will take it with a pinch of salt, this was written by Mad Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman, so I guess the joke’s on me.

That being said, I really do recommend this one if you’re looking for something off-beat and kitsch. You’ll just have to take the cringe-y, dated sexism in stride.

Wicked Wednesday: The Scooby-Doo Show “A Menace in Venice” (1978)

As this post goes live, I’ll be lounging about somewhere in Italy. Lord help us all (especially you poor Italians) as my family traverses the country with the Italian-speakings skills equal to that of a Basterd. But I really do love Italy.

So why the hell not do something Italian themed this week? Write about a giallo film? Pass. Finally get around to watching that copy of The Beyond that has been sitting on the shelf since the summer sales? We’ll pass on that too.

Why indulge in something great when you can have The Scooby-Doo Show? Actually a pretty fun episode in a sort of overly-stereotypical sort of way, as most Scooby-Doo is. This episode from 1978 offers all the good stuff: wacky chases, inexplicable trap doors and (of course) pizza.

The gang are in Venice after an invitation from a friend, Antonio, who studies art AND owns a pizzeria! The gang arrive just as a figure steals a medallion from a statue in the opera house.

The medallion, one of four, belongs to Antonio’s family, and have they’ve been passed down for generations. When the gang arrive in the city, Scooby and Shaggy spot the medallion thief, a hooded figure on a gondola by the name of the Ghostly Gondolier.

Scooby and Shaggy and all the luggage end up in front of Antonio’s pizzeria where everyone else is waiting. Greeting them is Antonio, who has one of the triangular-shaped medallions around his neck. He explains to the gang that he had a famous ancestor, Doge Malvolio IV, who had a vast treasure. Only the fortune was lost and all that remained was the medallions.

After receiving the news about the stolen medallion, Antonio takes the group to look at the portraits of his ancestors. He tells them that the only painting missing is that of Malvolio. Velma notes that the people in the portrait all have something in common with Antonio – their green eyes. But Scoob and Shaggy see a painting on the wall and instantly recognise the subject as the figure on the gondola.

Professor Salari, Antonio and his friend Mario’s professor, tells the gang that the figure in the painting is that of the ghostly gondolier. The gondolier was sentenced to life imprisonment during Malvolio’s rule. He vowed to haunt the city forever. With the gondolier’s help, Malvolio’s enemies attacked the city and overthrew him, but the fortune vanished.

Daphne tries on the medallion after hearing the story, and is almost immediately attacked by the Ghostly Gondolier. She’s grabbed and locked in a dungeon.

The rest of the gang plus Antonio and his friend Mario decide to split up and look for Daphne. Velma then finds her first clue in the form of a small canister.

Back at the academy, they decide to look for the missing portrait of Malvolio, which they think will hold a clue to the medallions. During their search, Mario is grabbed, supposedly mistaken for Antonio. After Mario disappears, Antonio does as well, and Velma finds some red plastic on the ground – yet another clue for the only sleuth in the team.

They follow the phantom’s footprints into the basement and find a gondola. They chase after the Ghostly Gondolier in another gondola, but the ‘ghost’ takes his staff and creates a hole in the bottom of their boat. Scooby accidentally goes flying, and ends up through a trap in the wall. He hits the fireplace, turning it around. Scoob finds both Antoinio and Daphne, and portrait of Malvolio is revealed on the other side.

The portrait reveals that the four medallions actually connect to form one piece. The gang also notice that a symbol of the medallion is on a pillar in the painting, pointing the group to the Piazza San Marco.

When they arrive, they see the Ghostly Gondolier running down the steps revealed by the trap door. They gang slip in behind the ghost and see that he’s found the lost treasure, but they’re caught spying when Scooby sneezes.

The Ghostly Gondolier is eventually caught when he is trapped in a deflated inflatable gondola. The hood is removed to unveil Mario, who Velma says is also a descendant of Malvolio, but wanted the treasure all to himself. He hid the family’s signature green eyes with red contacts (for brown eyes), and used CO2 to inflate his inflatable gondola for a quick escape.

After another mystery solved, the gang sit down to eat. Scoob and Shaggy both end up in the canal chasing their food. Just like I probably will – because no one can let a good sandwich go.

I’ve only been to Italy once before and I’ll be in the Northern part, where I’ve never been before. I’ve long dreamed of a trip like this, but I can’t help but worry. Will there be large amounts of thieves and ghosts around? Does everyone in Italy own a pizzeria? As an American, am I only capable of eating cheese burgers and using bad language skills?

Thank goodness we have casual stereotypes to sort us out.

Wicked Wednesday: Child Eater (2012)

Child Eater is a misleading title, I think. I guess Man Eats the Eyes of Kids is a bit long, but it is memorable, right?

Well, at least something would be. Child Eater is a nicely-made 15-minute short film playing on very traditional horror themes.

Lucas is a young boy under the not-so-watchful eye of his babysitter, Helen. Each time Helen has to leave Lucas alone in his bedroom, she has to lock the door. The boy has begun to have nightmares and sleepwalk at night. Somehow locking the door is the kind thing to do?

After locking Lucas in for the night, Helen goes downstairs where her boyfriend Tom surprises her. She tells him about Lucas and the sleepwalking, then mentions that he’s afraid of Robert Bowery, a sort of local boogeyman that eats the eyes of children to help him see.

While Tom is taunting Helen, the couple hear a noise from up in Lucas’ room. Lucas is crying in his bed, insisting that Bowery is in his closet. Tom mocks the boy, but Helen checks the closet and gives Lucas the all clear.

When Tom and Helen return downstairs, Helen asks Tom if she would make a good mother. She then tells the story of the black stork, a bird that takes the eyes of children then devours them. Not sure if the two are relevant to each other, but babies? I guess?

Then him she’s been having cravings, and learned that she was three-months pregnant earlier that day. Tom immediately asks if it’s his (it is), but before the couple can celebrate, they hear another noise from Lucas’ room.

This time, though, Lucas is gone. They spot him in the distance walking away from the house.  They chase after the child and end up at the Bowery camp as feathers start to fall from the sky.

Inside the camp the couple find Lucas. He’s shaken up, but he’s a lot worse off when Tom is grabbed and his eyes are removed by a hidden figure. Helen and Lucas make a run for it back to the house and become separated.

In the house, Helen hears someone else and sees a flashlight. She locks herself in Lucas’ bedroom and hides in the closet. But Bowery is waiting for her and licks her cheek.

Lucas finds Helen and they go to hide in the basement. Lucas tells Helen that they just need to be quite because Bowery can’t see them. But of course they trick over some stupid toys in the room and Bowery is alerted to their presence.

Bowery throws Helen aside and kills the boy. Helen stabs Bowery, supposedly killing him. But when she leaves the house, she finds a feather from the black stork. Bowery pops up from behind the babysitter telling her, “They’re best when they’re fresh.”

I have to say, I know nothing about babies. I have two nephews, but I was not at all present for when my sister’s pregnancies or around when the boys were very little. It wasn’t until my good childhood friend became pregnant that I learned anything about babies.

But thanks to Child Killer, I now know that babies will have developed eyes by the time they are 9-weeks old. So that’s exciting. Helen’s baby would have had eyes. Bowery sure knows how to pick ’em. Eh? Eh?

Child Killer was an fairly enjoyable way to spend the time, but again, it’s not exactly mind bending. The acting, though, was quite good for a short film and I really was rooting for Helen. And to create that in less than 15 minutes is a pretty good job.

Wicked Wednesday: Curtains (1983)

Every now and then you need a vaguely-named horror movie to satisfy your hunger. Who’s Stanley? What is Sssssss really try to tell us? Certainly none of these are as telling as I was a Zombie for the FBI or I Eat Your Skin (both, I feel, are self-explanatory). So Curtains? Well, it’s a delightfully unsatisfying vague title.

Despite its best efforts with that title, Curtains is actually a bit of a smart slasherOne that pleasantly surprised me. To be honest, when you begin watching a movie named after a decorative item, the bar isn’t always very high.

Samantha Sherwood is a successful actress and muse of director Jonathan Stryker. Their next project together is Audra, a story of a mentally ill woman. Samantha and Stryker decide to get Samantha committed to an asylum as a form of extreme method-acting.

Though Samantha’s time in the asylum affects her maybe more than planned. During each of Stryker’s visits, she seems more and more detached. Finally, Stryker stops visiting, leaving Samantha all on her own.

The actress finally escapes from the asylum after learning the Stryker has decided to look for a different actress to play the role of Audra. The front page of Variety tells of Stryker’s plans to invite six actresses to his house for a casting call. Weird, yes, but apparently each of the girls fall for it.

But one girl, Amanda, never makes it to the house. She dreams of seeing her doll in the road, then getting run over by her car. When she awakes from her dream, she is stabbed to death.

The remaining five actresses arrive at Stryker’s home unharmed. Each of the girls offer something different: one is a veteran actress like Samantha, another an ice skater, one a dancer and another a comedian. The last is a musician.

While the girls are getting to know each other, Stryker enters the room and begins to aquatint himself with the girls. During their meeting, however, Samantha makes her uninvited entrance.

Intimidated by the other girls, ice skater Christie immediately begins to feel helpless. But she quickly finds comfort in the arms of Stryker. Though judging by her face after their encounter, she didn’t have a great time.

To clear her head the next day, Christie goes to the skate pond alone. Her tape stops while she’s skating, and while she investigates the problem, she finds Amanda’s doll disassembled and scattered in the snow. Christie looks up and spots another figure at the pond, wearing the mask of a old woman.

The figure pulls out a sickle and chases after Christie, who doesn’t get far into the woods with her skates on. Her throat is slit and is seemingly left out in the woods alone to die.

The rest of the girls at the house seems worried by Christie’s disappearance, but Styker assures them that he received a letter from her, saying she had left. The excuse quickly falls apart, though, as everyone is snowed-in at the house and cannot leave.

Stryker encourages the women to continue working with him. Samantha crashes one of their acting sessions, but fails to impress Styker when she doesn’t even attempt to seduce him with an old-woman mask on (one identical to the Christine’s killer’s). Not wanting to be ignored, comedian Patti tries to have a one-on-one with Strkyer, but is immediately ignored by him when she fails to impress.

That night, veteran actress Brooke finds Christine’s head in the toilet. Rightfully upset, Brooke goes to get Stryker, but by the time he reaches the bathroom, the head is gone. Stryker decides to “comfort” Brooke in bed. Samantha finds them together afterwards, and sees that Stryker is looking rather pleased with himself.

While dancer Laurian is practicing her best Kate Bush moves by herself, her throat is slit. But at the same time, both Stryker and Brooke are shot in the bedroom. Stryker falls through a window and crashes into the downstairs lounge. So either the killer is incredibly efficient, or signs begin to appear that someone isn’t the only nut in the house.

Musician Tara sees Stryker’s body and begins to panic. She attempts to start a car, with no luck, then tries to hide in the costume/prop barn on Stryker’s property.

Tara is cornered by the person in the old-woman mask, and manages to escape several times before also succumbing to the same brutal end as her fellow wannabe-Audras.

That leaves only Samantha and the neglected Patti left. The find each other in the kitchen and share the news about the deaths with each other over a glass of champagne. Only Patti wasn’t planning on Stryker’s death, and certainly puts wrench in her plans to off all her competition. There can’t be any movie without a director, can there?

Writer Robert Guza Jr also wrote the classic Prom Night starring Jamie Lee Curtis. Both Canadian films are smart and above-average in quality. Though, I’d have to admit I think I enjoyed Curtains a bit more (it’s arguably a touch more original).

There are some really subtle things that make my skin crawl in this film. The deaths are standard, but the unease built when Samantha is in the asylum is incredible. It would have been great to get more of that. Samantha Eggar is really a scene-stealer. But each of the actresses manage to create their own space that it’s not at all hard to tell them apart. And really, that’s often an issue with slashers. There’s little to no defining personality in its victims.

The horror of Curtains is in many ways very subtle. It’s the way that some people grovel for attention and success, but it’s also about the dark and twisted manipulation of a man with great power. And I couldn’t possibly see how that is even related to anything today.

Curtains is a good film that I think would make Nadine proud.

Wicked Wednesday: The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

I try to like British films. I really do. But if you ever were to force me to choose between Hammer and Universal, it will almost always be Universal. Though why you’d be asking me in the first place would is odd anyway.

I’ve tried many times to enjoy Hammer Horror, but their films rarely connect with me. There are (English) people I’ve actually lied to about my taste just so I don’t seem rude. But I can’t pretend with The Man Who Could Cheat Death. This is certainly not a highlight of Hammer Films.

Or a highlight of anything, really. Unless you really enjoy endless, reiterating dialogue.

In Paris 1890, Doctor Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring)is a successful sculptor and doctor. At one of his parties, the guests admire his newest sculpture. Someone inquires about its purchase, but Bonnet tells him that his statues are never for sale.

The sculpture is of a young woman named Margo. Bonnet is particularly known for his great taste in models. During his party, one of his former models, Janine arrives with her beau Dr Pierre Gerard (Christopher Lee). She enquirers about the statue he was meant to do of her, which sits unfinished behind some of his other works.

Bonnet ends his party early when he’s told his guest has been delayed and won’t arrive until the following day. When he thinks his guests are gone, he turns to open a safe, but is interrupted by Margo, who has stayed behind.

The young model clearly noted the obvious attraction between Bonnet and Janine. She begs for him to love her, and he grows increasingly irritated. His eyes begin to bulge and his skin turns a sickly green colour. He then grabs Margo around the mouth and throat and throws her to her ground.

He turns back to his safe and takes a measure of the green potion that sits inside it.

The following day, Janine returns to Bonnet’s apartments and asks why she and Bonnet never stayed together. They had fallen in love while living in Italy, but the doctor had a sudden departure. Though he does admit that he still loves her, and continues his sculpture of her.

During their session, Bonnet’s guest Professor Ludwig Weiss arrives. Bonnet is clearly thrilled that his guest has finally arrived, but quickly loses his smile when the professor tells him of the stroke he suffered months before. Ludwig shows that he has lost the use of his right hand is now unable to do surgery, particularly the one he promised to do on Bonnet.

Ludwig tells Bonnet that if they are to go through with “the surgery,” they will need the help of another surgeon. Thinking on his feet, Bonnet asks Janine to bring Pierre with her to their dinner the following night.

After Janine leaves, the two men discuss their experiment. It’s revealed that Bonnet is actually 104 years old, actually older than the 89-year-old Ludwig. Bonnet has retained his looks and health from when he was in his thirties. In order to maintain his life as is, he needs a surgery in which his parathyroid gland is replaced.

Ludwig is all for helping Bonnet, though he expresses his concern that Bonnet is losing his humanity and perspective on their project. He agrees to rope Pierre into their plan by asking him to be the surgeon. At dinner the following night, Pierre eventually agrees to Ludwig’s request based only on Ludwig’s reputation as a doctor.

As the guests prepare to leave for the night, Inspector LeGris arrives looking to speak with Bonnet. The inspector inquires after Margo, who was last seen at Bonnet’s party for his sculpture of her. Bonnet tells the inspector he has no idea where the girl is. And when the inspector asks to see the statue of Margo, Bonnet tells him that it was accidentally smashed that morning.

But Pierre knows better, as he had seen the statue in Bonnet’s study earlier in the evening. He almost tells the inspector this, but stops himself. Once the LeGris is satisfied, the party leaves for the night.

Ludwig immediately knows that Bonnet has had a hand in Margo’s disappearance as every time they moved to a new location, one of Bonnet’s models went missing. He then sees the parathyroid that Bonnet has collected and realises that it was taken from someone alive, not a corpse as they previous had done.

Then poor Ludwig has Bonnet turn on him. Bonnet is late to take his green potion, the one thing that keeps him normal until he will be able to have his surgery again. Bonnet then tells his colleague that he loves Janine and wants her to be with him forever by giving her the surgery. This disgusts Ludwig, who no longer sees their experiment as a good thing.

Bonnet tries to get to his potion in the safe but is constantly thwarted by Ludwig. He finally kills the man, managing to take his potion just in time.

The next morning, when Pierre arrives at Bonnet’s home, the man refuses to do the surgery he’s told Ludwig had left early that morning. Bonnet is then in a rush to discover where he can find a surgeon to work on him. The surgery must be done every 10 years, or he will become old and die. But when he ends up with no real help, he decides to blackmail Pierre.

Bonnet lures Janine into his workshop basement where she admires his statues. He hands her the one of a dog that he did as a child, marked with the year 1798 – the year he claims he was 12. Janine then realises that Bonnet is over 100 years old, but before she can speak to him, he locks her away.

Meanwhile, the inspector enlists Pierre to help him with his case. He tells Pierre about the unusual circumstances surrounding Bonnet. LeGris also tells Pierre that at least three disappearances have been linked to Bonnet, as they were all his models at some point. But each disappearance spans 60 years, much longer than the 30-ish look that Bonnet sports.

Pierre arrives at Bonnet’s home to speak to him and is told the truth about Bonnet and Ludwig’s work. Bonnet was the volunteer to be a the experiment for perpetual life. Without his surgery, he will die. All of the age and disease he has avoided will come upon him all at once.

While Pierre initially resists, Bonnet tells him about Janine, who is still locked up. Pierre had no choice but to agree to the surgery, but before he can begin, he sees that Bonnet has gone missing.

Bonnet rushes to the workshop to speak to Janine, who has found a mutilated, insane Margo in a prison cell. Bonnet tells Janine his story, and asks if she truly wants to be with him forever. She agrees, but their plans are cut short when Margo throws a lantern, causing the basement to catch fire.

Pierre arrives with the inspector just in time to save Janine. But for Bonnet, it is too late. Without his surgery, all of the age and disease begins to wear on him and he ends up looking like someone who went face-first into some wet clay. He and Margo burn together – Bonnet no longer able to cheat death.

I actually took a lot of notes for this film. But really I could have just scratched out large swathes of it. Little did I notice that the long-winded dialogue just loved reiterating itself. Maybe the writers assumed that their audience was especially dim. Though I do love both Christopher Lee and Diffring, I don’t think either could have saved this one.

The pacing is fine, but it constantly feels like it’s running around in circles. Perhaps it wasn’t quite enough for a feature-length film. The mad scientist shtick has been done much better than this. The Man Who Could Cheat Death is both flat and boring.

In the coming months, I do think I’m going to force myself to watch more Hammer films, and hopefully I’ll find the ones I enjoy. But for now, I sort of feel like Izzard got it really right: