Wicked Wednesdays

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 36: Pity

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Some weeks I really hate that I’ve subjected myself to this little project. Those weeks are the Fever Lake weeks. But then sometimes I get graced with a gift: something genuinely worth watching, and with this week’s short film – a film actually worth recommending.

Pity is a 2014 short film directed by John Pata, the director of the fabulous Dead Weight. At this point in WWW, I’ve certainly watched a lot of short films and anthologies, all with varied amounts of success. Pity is head and shoulders above them all in both story and overall quality.

The story comes from the liner notes of a Pig Destroyer album titled Prowler in the Yard, it’s a sinister tale of a man’s obsession with a woman. The opening shot shows a lone car parked in the rain. A man sits waiting in an elementary school parking lot across from a white house. The voice-over explains that he took a car from work in order to remain anonymous. The house belongs to the mother of the man’s presumably ex-girlfriend. The sinister voice-over delivers an unsettling look into the prowler’s mind, and bit by bit the story grips you like a narrator in an Edgar Allan Poe story.

Jake Martin, who plays the anonymous man, is like Mickey Rourke’s Marv from Sin City. You know, if Marv had decided to seek revenge in a touch more sinister manner. He switches between calmly watching the woman in the window to losing his grasp on his own reality. He’s does everything with his right hand: picking up a cigarette and lighting it. When the camera pans over to a bloody mess of flesh he says to us (or himself), “Seven digits: one for each day we’ve been apart.”

It’s the thrill of the vague details given in the story that makes what is unfolding so compelling. But the simplicity of the story is only complimented by the beauty of what’s on the screen. Everything happens within the constraints of the car, and when the film ends – it leaves you with absolutely no answers. And that’s fantastic.

This is seven-minutes of incredibly built-up suspenseful hell. And I mean this in every good way possible. I’ve become a solid believer in Pata’s skills as a filmmaker. Dead Weight still remains a highlight in these long-dark weeks of Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday. Though, I’m not sure how much of a compliment that is when the competition includes Black Cadillac. But Pity truly delivers a short film that puts a panic in your stomach, filling the viewer with a fantastic dread of not knowing answer to the question “what happens next?”

Pity is available to watch on Vimeo, but if you’re really interested in independent filmmaking,  the DVD is full of extras and available from Head Trauma’s website.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 27: Billy Club

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I don’t know about you, but I’m finding looking for a new place in London to be the largest pain in my ass. Many of you dear readers probably don’t have a clue what it’s like to look for a flat in London (neither did I until about a week ago), but it’s super intense. Gearing up for this big move meant that I’ve been insanely busy with that and various other projects and, well, my job that actually pays my bills. My husband and I have been so busy we forgot to watch the World Series. We watched a few of the play-off games, but everything else seemed to have slipped past us. And believe me, we are big baseball fans here and watched Brewer lose more games than is good for the soul.

So it seems only fitting that this week’s movie is rather baseball themed. Billy Club is a film that doesn’t beat around the bush.

Billy Club is set in the small town of Two Rivers in Eastern Wisconsin in the year 1996. Bobby Spooner comes into the local bar where he runs into some former classmates like the barmaid, Alison. The movie takes no time in introducing two utterly obnoxious characters (Kyle and Danny), both of whom used to play little league ball with Bobby. The weekend the gang all meet up to play ball is “the 15th anniversary” of the gruesome deaths of a former coach and teammates. The deaths were all pinned to another one of their teammates, Billy.

Meanwhile, there is a killer on the loose. He’s a bat-wielding catcher taking out kids in an old photo one-by-one. It seems inevitable that our four main characters are up to bat at some point (yes I know, but it’s not any worse than the actual dialogue). They make matters worse for themselves by taking a trip up to a cabin in the woods, but Billy ruins everything by getting pulled over for drunken driving.

Kyle and Alison decide to go into the cemetery where the fallen teammates reside while Danny returns to the cabin alone. Kyle accidentally falls into grave that has been dug up, and he immediately blames Billy and his supposed release from the mental hospital for it. And suddenly things take an interesting turn. Kyle and Alison begin to have an argument about guilt over what happened all those years ago. Of course they’re vague on details, which makes it pretty heavy on intrigue.

Come morning, Danny is still alone and eats all of Alison’s “boomers” – mushroom laced chocolate. There really isn’t any point to this whole subplot, but it does begin to trigger some memories of guilt that he still has over neglecting to stop Billy from being bullied when they were on the team together. Local Crazy Jo arrives to harass Danny (mentally?) about how he “didn’t do anything.” It doesn’t take long until Danny becomes the next easy target.

In a flashback, the little ones are shown harassing Billy, who is tied up and sitting in a dunk tank. Each member of the team takes a turn trying to hit the ball on the target (and man do the suck), but Alison is the only one who refuses to throw. Hopefully her life is spared in the end.

Billy Club is a better movie than I probably deserve right now, but unfortunately it takes too many random turns in subplots for this to be as enjoyable as it could have been.  As we find out, Kyle has a little crush on Bobby. After trying and failing to make a move, it’s Kyle’s turn to run out into the woods alone. He falls into a murky pond that actaully feels like a throwback to Bog, which I really hope is what the creators were going for here. But it appears as though Bobby is first.

And then there’s still a half hour left of the movie. It seems strange that the “Final Girl” is, well, final so early on. But there are so many unexpected bits here at the end that I hardly want to give it away when Billy Club is well worth watching yourself.

There really is nothing better than enjoying a movie a lot more than you expected to. I would gladly recommend Billy Club to any fan of the slasher would be pleased to watch. It’s gory, fun and pretty clever minus it’s brief lapses in judgement, but I really think the writers and directors (Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer, who plays Kyle) really had fun with this. It all feels like a love letter to Friday the 13th without treading on the story’s toes.

One added bonus is that this movie has some really excellent poster artwork. Check out the movie’s website to take a peak. They really are wonderous.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 26: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

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“A disaster is different things to different people at different times. And for us, at this time, this was a disaster.”

There was a stretch of a few months that I think I was watching a movie about either Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer, every other week. All of them made to different amounts of success. The first time I saw The Jeffrey Dahmer Files was nearly two years ago. Trying to explain your state’s most notorious serial killers can be a bit difficult without sounding deranged or absolutely horrible. You want to grasp the full problem without sounding sickofantic. The best, most “educational” way I informed my own husband about Dahmer was by watching this documentary with him.

What this 2012 documentary shows is not some in-depth horror show, but rather assumes that the audience already knows the basics about the crimes. Jeff mostly covers the days leading up and following Dahmer’s arrest.  A detective, a former neighbour, and a medical examiner are three people who were all wrapped up in Dahmer’s case.

Some serial killer movies can be almost a fantasy version of facts. They are what we want them to be without any consideration for victims or reality. Some documentaries even get it wrong by ignoring the world that the very criminals had to live in. Thankfully this documentary opens up that world in a interesting, informative way.

I really liked Pamela Bass the best out of all the interviewees. She brings a tall-tale aspect to the documentary. She helps to illustrate how much the Dahmer has been ingrained into the modern American myths. He’s more of a character out of story now than feeling like the true horror he was.

But really, each interviewee offers such a different aspect to the story. It does help give a scope of how far-reaching these crimes were. Pat Kennedy, head detective of the case, acts as a sort of tragic hero of the story. He’s a man whose city let down its community. Kennedy faced backlash over his close relationship with Dahmer over the course of the trial. The case ended Kennedy’s first marriage.

Jeffrey Lentzen, the medical examiner, adds a solid base of fact with his story. He keeps a stoic face throughout. But while he was perhaps the most emotionally detached from the case, his words often left the most unsettling feeling with me. His delivery about how he never sees horror films really got to me. He doesn’t say “because what I see is much worse” but you can just fill in the blanks how horrible the things he sees are every day.

The reenactments are often what divides audiences, but I think they’re done fairly well. They often leave much up to the imagination. For many viewers, this might not be the right sort of film for them. Are you looking for intense amount of details on the deaths of the victims? It’s not here. It’s almost even danced around instead of leading you by the hand the entire way, but like the people interviewed in the documentary, you are mostly informed of what only people looking from the outside would know.

The Jeffrey Dahmer case is a fantastic documentary and I still enjoyed it upon second viewing. If you’re interested in a subtle true-crime documentaries, then this is a smartly made film that is definitely worth a watch.

Bonus fun: one of the reenactment scenes in the optometrist features Mark Borchardt (of American Movie fame and director of Coven). American Movie director Chris Smith works as the executive producer.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 23: Invasion From Inner Earth

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Yes. I know the title card above says They and not Invasion From Inner Earth but this is one of those movies that inexplicably has several different names. It even has a third – Hell Fire. But They sounds like ‘they’ forgot what this movie about and the only thing on fire in this movie is in a fireplace. So Invasion From Inner Earth is what I shall be referring to this Bill Rebane movie from now forward.

Invasion From Inner Earth was released in 1974, sandwiched between Rebane’s more popular two films: Monster a Go-Go and Giant Spider InvasionAfter Monsters A Go-Go’s bizarre release in 1965, Rebane worked for a German production company. When he returned, he moved his family to Gleason, Wisconsin where he started The Shooting Ranch. This is where this week’s movie was born. There’s plenty here that signals what many later Rebane movies would include. Unfortunately, this one is not one of the more spectacular or interesting.

Before the opening credits, some vaguely important-looking men learning about the destruction that is occurring in the town.There is some sort of plague killing people off, but since that’s not interesting enough the scene quickly changes to people running away/dead in the streets. Like many Rebane films, you start with all the build up and action straight away so you can take a nap later. Then in what I thought was the opening for a Universal Movie, is actually the Earth in a blue haze, followed by an excellent ‘UFO on a fishing pole’ scene.

A girl, Sarah, and her brother Jake are seeing chatting together in a cabin.  There’s really no point to this scene other than Jake explaining that he had been hunting and didn’t see a single animal all day. Oh and Sarah appears to be a loser with no social life other than her attraction for a researcher named Eric. But this anti-social nature makes Sarah stay home while her brother takes off with other researchers to head into town. The researcher’s plane takes off, but as they prepare for landing, the pilot and his passengers begin to get strange reports from the air-traffic controller. “It’s like the plague” says he tells them of the mysterious thing that is killing everyone else. The man tries to stop the researchers from landing by throwing  himself on to the runway to stop them.

The controller-man’s attempts at thwarting their arrival is unsuccessful, as they just land somewhere anyway. The group begins to look for more fuel in a shed that typically , but realise that all the fuel has gone. Jake and Andy decide to search the area around them. Other Dude and Bearded Man hang out at the lodge where shit begins to go down. Well, kind of.

Other Dude and Other Man #2 hear strange noises and see strange lights. The two can’t seem to make any sense out of what is going on and either can I.

Sarah (yes, she’s still in this) begins to receive strange radio messages. Being the grooviest hermit in Northern Wisconsin, I can’t blame them (who I assume were aliens)  for “testing out” their equipment on her. But obviously this is not of any interest or suspense because the scene just moves back to the researchers who have regrouped back in the cabin. Luckily there’s more thrilling radio conversations, and YES the boys are reconnected with Sarah, who scolds them for being out late. So, like the good children they are, the researchers fly back to Jake and Sarah’s cabin for more exciting scenes.

Thankfully a radio host fills in the information of what’s going on. There are various areas being targeted by the strange disease and over 5,000 have died. Many of the transmissions in these areas are down. The lack of communication apparently frustrates the kids, who begin discussing what is going on. Bearded Man is convinced it is UFOs, which is totally ridiculous. Right? RIGHT? But they keep this conversation going as Bearded Man hawks is crazy.

In another strange turn of events, the scene switches to a television show. The host (“Remember when the little green creature came to your door was probably a Girl Scout selling cookies?) interviews two idiots who have had run-ins with the UFOs. “Are you sure you didn’t have an early visit with Santa?” I still have no idea why they keep including this. Just to rub it into the main plot’s face that it doesn’t really matter? Anyway, there’s not really much of a point to these interviews. But it’s at least a more watchable part of the movie, so it keeps me happy.

As it is now half-way through a Rebane movie, things get pretty boring. In fact, I’m about as bored as everyone in the cabin appears to be. Bearded Man tries to get it on in Sarah. More attempts to get radio contact. Though they do find a station that keeps plays the same jazzy tune two times in a row. Some solid drama there.But at least there’s more evidence that red light = UFOs.

Oh and Other Dude blows up in a plane. Gee, I’ll miss him.

Finally, someone does something and Jake decides to head into town for food on the snowmobile. He goes on a sort of Western ride…in the snow. It’s all beautiful dramatic and utterly pointless. But this also means that Sarah is left with the two men pining for her affections (I think) which only means that there should be so juicy love-triangle business (there’s not). Then Jake is zapped off his snowmobile and…?

The kids finally leave the cabin where Bearded Man shares his lovely theory of UFOs: UFOs come from Inner Earth, not outer space. Something about Mars one being closer to the Earth than the Moon was. Apparently Martians were not interested in staying on Mars once is started to drift away and chose Earth. Specifically the interior. They found what was going on the surface of the Earth pretty lame and stayed away, but found the atmosphere of the inner earth much more similar to their home on Mars.

Yes. That’s the explanation and at no point does anyone pipe up with “You’re a fucking nutcase.” But that’s okay because… whatever. The group then split up for some unknown reason. This means the last ten minutes or so of the movie is just watching people walk/fall aimlessly in the woods and snow. Finally Sarah and Bearded Man meet FOR THE WORST ENDING EVER. I’m still screaming “WHAT?” So…if anyone understands what the fuck happened at the end there. Please fucking explain.

I don’t know. Invasion from Inner Earth is not one of Rebane’s more notable films. It’s pretty much The Alpha Incident in a log cabin. There’s hardly a plot and zero character to the characters. At this point, it’s what I’ve come to expect.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 7: Deranged or Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile

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“It is a human horror story of ghastly proportions and profound reverberations. But because it is human, perhaps we can learn something from it… something of ourselves, of our own fears and needs. But please, let me warn you… the events have been recreated in detail. Nothing has been left to the imagination. It is not a story for the squeamish or the fainthearted. Now that you stand warned, we can proceed with our story.”

Ed Gein has become almost a part of Wisconsin folklore. A man seemingly only ever alive in legend. His evil spirit seems to whisper through the trees at times. He haunts the subconscious of every small farming town. But his story is about a demented part of the human soul that still seems to fascinate people all these decades later.

There are a whole slew of films inspired by this notorious Wisconsin’s resident. Three of the most iconic killers in cinema (Leatherface, Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill) all take their inspiration from this twisted, sick man. Plainfield, Gein’s hometown, was about an hour from where I grew up as a kid. Both of my parents were quite young in 1957, but my dad still remembers that November. It is one of the few things that keeps this horror story based in reality.

Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile isn’t a fun one, you can probably assume that by the title, but it can sometimes be a bit of a funny film. Just watch the cheerful trailer for yourself:

What this trailer is sorely lacking is that AWFUL organ music. I don’t mean awful as in “songs by an organ player who has taken three lessons,” I mean the most disturbing organ music you will hear in a horror film. It sounds like you walked into a church where everyone has started to decompose, and that’s sort of what this movie feels like.

Ezra Cobbs (played by the compelling Roberts Blossom) lives on a farm with his mother Amanda, who has been paralysed by a stroke. This part of his story is much like Gein’s (in fact, the two are pretty much exactly the same, which begs the question as to why they decided to change his name anyway). Ez is dedicated to his mother, who has essentially manipulated him his entire life. This woman is terrible. Her life motto is, “the wages of sin is gonorrhea, syphilis and death.”

But after spewing her twisted idea of “religion” one more time, the old woman bites the big one. This was one of the first films Tom Savini ever worked on. This scene alone has his finger prints all over it. The bright colour of blood in the 70s mixed with pea soup is pretty appalling.

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It becomes obvious that the loss of Mama will take a toll on Ez. At her funeral, he has an exchange with his neighbours Harlan and Jenny Kootz. Harlan remarks that Amanda looks like she is sleeping. But of course to Ez, she really is just sleeping – waiting for him to wake her up and take care of her once more.

Life for Ez without Mama is not easy. It is to write him off as someone who is just nuts (which he is), but this is the mind of a many who was clearly mentally abused by his mother for his entire life. Despite how terrible of a woman she is, he can’t realise that because he worships her. He keeps her room nice and writes her letters every day, but Mama isn’t pleased.

She keeps tormenting Ez’s mind. He abandoned her… So a year after her passing, he digs up her grave and brings her home. All while feeling massive guilt for letting her be buried in the first place.

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With mother and son being reunited, Ez begins his work “restoring” his mama back to her former glory. He gets the idea to begin digging up graves and starts to take bits from the female corpses and create a new flesh for his mother. But it isn’t long before his bosses, the Kootzes, recommend he starts to take ladies out.

When Ez starts to ponder their advice, he remembers a name his mother mention to him on his deathbed: Maureen Selby. Why can Ez trust her? Because he’s a fat heifer. This was one of the funniest moments in the movie, for me. Perhaps it just brought me joy to hear someone be called a heifer. Life is strange like that. He agrees with the Kootzes and goes to meet Maureen.

Now these scenes with Maureen at terribly strange. Like with the Kootzes, Ez is super open about how crazy he is, but no one listens to him. When he tells Maureen he talks to his mama, she isn’t concerned because she talks to her ex-husband. The two begin to grow fond of each other, but that is until Ez remembers the advice his mother gave him: ” stay away from filthy, black-souled sluts with pus-filled sores.”

Only a mother’s love.

But Ez’s obsession with women only grows, and spoilers – this one doesn’t have a happy ending. If you know Gein’s story, Ez’s isn’t too different. There are some macabre scenes that occur – many horrific but many also treading that line between horror and comedy. The scenes with the Kootzes are full of suspense. This soft world that Ez lives in is never cruel to him, but no one (especially Ez) seems to understand how sick and twisted his mind is.

 

This movie is bloody disgusting. I’m glad I planned my meals around it because all the rotting flesh is enough to make you feel just a bit ill. Ezra Cobbs is a sick man, but you can’t help but feel something for a man that has been so disturbed by the only person he ever really loved. Deranged surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. There is a lot of style here for a horror film released in ’74 and it really tries. Roberts Blossom gives a haunting performance of a man totally unhinged but a victim to his own mind. It actually affected how I felt afterwards – which is a lot to be said about a cheap b-movie.

Initially, I was very hesitant to pick this one. The full title worried me immensely. But without ruining anything, there is no necrophilia here in the sexual sense. Demented stays true to the story it is trying to tell. There are many films based on Gein’s life, but I’m happy I chose this one. I can’t believe it but I actually was moved by this movie. I recommend it gladly to anyone willing to watch a b-movie with a taste for style, comedy and something truly horrible.

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