Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday

Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday Pt. 30: Laserdisc

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Laserdisc makes this two weeks in a row with anthology horror films. This was not planned. In fact today I got home and thought “huh, it’s Wednesday” and I had shit planned for today. Somehow this little buddy was knocking around in my notes and I decided to take it out for a spin. I was even more pleased to see the short running time. Any film that is under 20 minutes is always fine by me.

This selection of films couldn’t be any more different than Hole in the Wall, but both contain the same strain of humor mixed in with the story. It’s all a bit surreal. On one hand it’s quite funny for a laugh, but most of this feels light-years away from the days of Bill Rebane. It seems to now be the goal to make something that’s intentionally bad instead of trying so hard and falling flat. Perhaps it’s an homage to the strange cult films that came before them. All I know is that films like Laserdisc just don’t have the same charm, even if it is still pretty entertaining to watch.

Laserdisc opens with a pair of friends going trick-or-treating together. The first house they arrive at only has candy in the basement, according to the resident. So the friends willingly enter the basement before being invited to watch a laserdisc together. On this laserdisc are the short films that they watch throughout the night.

Since this has a running time of a sweet 17 minutes, you can expect that all the segments are pretty damn short. “The Mutation” follows a man and his unwillingness to listen to others (mostly be looking in the freezer). “Sweetest Kill” is a diabetic’s nightmare. “The Horror Roll” is about a man without loo roll and his quest for a clean bum. The following segment, “The Sale That Keeps Selling”,  gives a bit of gore when one man tries to take out a vacuum cleaner salesman.

The final segment, “Warm Jellybeans”, contains a plot about two brothers just wanting to complete a drug deal before their dance class. They even have enough time to throw in a twist at the end of this one.  Nice Melons Films (who present the film and made the two segments – “Warm Jellybeans” and “Laserdisc”) took first place at the 48-hour Film Project for Milwaukee for a different short film they made. They have a string of short films up on their YouTube page and each has the same feeling as the one that carries through Laserdisc. 

 

It’s clear that none of these segments don’t want to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t believe anyone for a second if they said I was supposed to get something out of this other than a little chuckle. Not even a shudder. I guess calling Laserdisc a series of horror shorts is using the term as loosely as possible. Dare I even say it, but I almost miss the days of Rebane and that lot. Even if they are horrible. I really don’t think anthology films and I are meant to be.

Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday Pt. 29: Hole in the Wall

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I think it’s pretty safe to say that I didn’t think where would be a week 29. There’s a week 30 after that too. Every once in a while I get to a point where I think “Well, that’s just about it” and I discover that there is always something else lurking around the corner. Although I do have to say that this horror anthology might have escaped my notice if it wasn’t thanks to John Pata, who directed the fantastic Dead Weight.

Hole in the Wall is an anthology containing several different short films.

The first bit opens along with the opening credits as a man drags a sheet-wrapped body through a field. A boy, Eli, is watching the man through, well, a hole in the wall. Since Eli’s clearly a pretty indiscreet farm boy, he’s pulling into the upstairs room by the man to watch what happens with the body. This segment is interspersed with the others as a sort of linking feature.

In, what I guess in the next short film, a hitchhiker is picked up, knocked out and put in a cage. The hitchiker wakes up in a run-down apartment to see his surroundings with his dog in the cage above him (which at this point I can only care about the dog because I just know it’s going to die). Uh then I guess the kidnapper starts pissing blood? This is clearly the start of the film’s grim and gory reputation. He’s clearly not a friendly sort of fellow and continues keep the two in their separate cages despite the fact that he probably needs to go to hospital to get it dick looked at.

I’m really going to try not to give too much away, but I will say there is some pretty gross stuff going on in that little apartment. There were plenty of “OH GOD” and “FUCKING HELLS” going on as I got throughout this segment. The kidnapper is a man who clearly needs to sort his shit out.

The third segment clearly was more interested in a comical tone. It opens in 1944 where a pre-grave-digger Ed Gein is sitting with his Mama, learning about the dangers of the world. In present day, a man is meeting with three women. He has a chair that apparnetly Ed Gein sat in himself. The three witches (?) raise Ed Gein from the dead, but he’s back – as a killer dentist. Watch Gein take people’s teeth out! Watch Gein pick up girls at a bar! It’s fucking weird, but hey! It’s not the worst Ed Gein film I’ve seen.

Segment #4 is uh… well, more different yet. I’m not really sure how to describe it other than Blood Harvest with Tiny Tim’s character on acid. Um, if I’m trying to take anything about it, men in drag/clown make-up are not always trusty-worthy sex partners. So. Moving on to part 5? Actually, the two are quite similar. As the next bit is about as trippy as it’s predecessor. Mostly because the actress drops acid.

Really, I’m writing this as I’m watching this and I still can’t say what the fuck is going on. Though, wonder if my problem is trying to look for meaning when perhaps there isn’t supposed to be anything other than “this is a total trip and it’s gruesome.” But I know that can’t possibly be true. And I kind of hate not understanding what’s going on.

After, the backstory is filled in with the main story. The memory begins with a man, who is covered in blood, dragging his handy axe. He’s shot and killed where the woman possessing his mind takes over the man who murdered him. “It and I… are one.”

But I’m still not really sure if any of this means anything at all. It’s been a really demented ride, but some of the segments are so far-out I feel like I need to be watching them in a classroom. I can’t say which segments are better than the other because it’s clear that some were more conventional that others while some tried some really interesting and different techniques in their story telling. This is not trying to be diplomatic, but each piece really delivered something drastically different than the last. Certainly some are utterly unforgettable, but I think there was quite a strong sense of feeling throughout the movie that I can watch these and feel “Well, this is Wisconsin horror.”

In the politest terms possible, Hole in the Wall is fucking disgusting, but it offers some brutal imagery that could only be offered by an indie production. It will make you uncomfortable and squeamish. Half-way through watching this movie, I had to run down to our local pub. It’s safe to say that this movie affected me because even though I live in one of the largest cities in the world, I felt that eerie loneliness and vulnerability that these Wisconsin-based movies made me feel, which I think speaks volumes of its content.


 

If you’re reading this on the published date, you might be thinking, “Bitch, it’s a Tuesday.” And it is. But this is a pretty busy week for me as Wednesday and Friday I will be at the Prince Charles Cinema to see Zach Galligan present Gremlins and Grelmins 2: New Batch. All exciting things on top of Thanksgiving on Thursday (which I still have to celebrate every year, even in dreary England).

And yes. If you’re wondering if that stop to the pub made me a little drunk while writing this? The answer would be yes.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 28: The Beast of Bray Road Gabel films

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Now this is truly the most unusual “film” I’ve watched so far. This is technically not even a movie, but the video intrigued me enough to talk about it. And of course, it had to be about a monster. When I was young, there was a brief but violent phase where I wanted to grow up to be a cryptozoologist. You know, single-handedly proving these stories were true or false. A modern day Scooby Gang for one.

There were unusual stories like the sirrush of Babylon that made my imagination absolutely wild. And I guess to this day, I still love the idea of something horrible lurking out there. And there are still so many things in the world left for us to discover, who knows? The Beast of Bray Road might be real.

I have to admit, I’m pretty bad at my local folk lore. But the Beast of Bray Road is a pretty “southern” story as far as Wisconsin goes (although apparently also seen in Illinois and parts of Canada). Not really my neck of the woods. From what I’ve gathered from the grand ol’ Internet, the Beast is a large bear-like creature with dog features/big foot. Which, to me, is solid evidence that Wisconsinites have always been too drunk. But I suppose it was meant to be something a werewolf like creature.

In 2002, two films were “discovered” that were reportedly made in the 70’s. And, man, are these things strange. The first played out like a home video. Someone riding on a snowmobile in the middle of a woods, a bearded man chopping wood, long shots of the still woods, the world’s CUTEST dog. And for a video only 3 and a half minutes long, nothing really happens. But it pulls you in much like a Paranormal Activity movie would. There’s nothing happening, but it causes you to be on edge, searching.

For only about 20 seconds does something happen that’s remotely “beast” related. It’s like most found-footage movies where the camera is dropped (a la Blair Witch) after seeing something move towards it and nothing of the aftermath shown. The video is also silent, which I have no idea if that’s what the original was like or not, but it certainly was creepy.

The second video is shorter. Sort of a meta-film, I guess. It’s the aftermath of whatever happened in the first part. There’s a policeman and a half-eaten body. After showing the evidence, the camera pans away to look at the camera playing the film before shutting it off.

These two bits of footage were actually filmed by a man named Mike Agrusa. Since it was filmed with a vintage camera, it’s actually pretty fun to watch and sort of pretend like this was actually real. There is a movie called The Beast of Bray Road which I will watch once I find a real version of it (or someone donates a copy to me because I am NOT paying £22 for a DVD). I originally intended to watch that for this week, but I was pulled so much more by these strange little “home movies”.

Making a fake monster movie is nothing unusual. To this day the fake images of Big Foot and Nessie in Loch Ness still perk people’s curiosities. I think many of us just love the idea of there being something out there, whether it be out in space or on our own home planet.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 25: Silent Night (2012)

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Yesterday, I finally mustered the courage to watch the 2013 remake of Evil Dead. And while the movies in the original trilogy are some of my favourites, I was pleasantly surprised by it. So why not give another remake from the same time? And there’s nothing like a festive Christmas movie for the Halloween season, right? Hello, Silent Night.

I happened to stumble upon Silent Night and it’s Wisconsin location by pure accident. This weekend, I forced my husband to watch Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (which, even though he’s much more into film than I ever will be had never seen). He questioned me about Malcolm McDowell and what movies he had been in lately, so I checked out the actor’s IMDB page. When I saw Silent Night, I secretly hoped it would be a Christmas pageant movie staring McDowell as a mall Santa, but alas, this is a loose remake of the of 1984 cult classic Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Now that I’m in week 25 of this (it really does just keep going), I automatically looked at where this movie was set. It’s not a compulsion. Don’t get me wrong, I love campy, gory b-movies, but there was always something about Silent Night, Deadly Night that never quite sat right with me. It took me many years to finally sit through the entire film. And I’ve never watched any of the sequels either. But it’s Malcolm McDowell, so I had to give this a shot.

This 2012 movie begins with (of course) a “unsettling” version of the Christmas tune “Up on the House Top”. There’s a man shaving and a girl bound and gagged on a mattress, clearly in distress, but I already don’t care what happens to her because the camera then cuts to the man cutting his fingernails. This might be just a minor thing in the grand scheme of this 90-minute movie, but HOLY WOW does that fingernail clipping make my skin crawl. The man dresses in his full Santa gear before electrocuting a man to death who is covered in Christmas lights. Bonus points for colourful creativity.

Enter Deputy Aubrey Baltimore (Jaime King) who works with Sheriff McDowell Cooper. The Sheriff is requesting that Aubrey go in to work the Christmas Eve shift, despite this being her first Christmas without “John”. As with the original, there is plenty of Catholic undertones – creepy priests and the lot. Aubrey is sent to do all the crap work of the day. She first deals with a naughty Santa. But the next site she has to check out, offers something that will probably ruin her Christmas. She heads into the basement of an old house to find the fried man from earlier in the film. Oh and he just happens to be her fellow deputy.

Interspersed with the main plot are several gruesome deaths from dear old Santa. Each victim is pretty rotten: a spoiled girl, a cheating couple, a pornographer. He’s a serial killer who kills for the better of the world, right? But with the body count quickly rising, it doesn’t take too long before the police force is pulled in every direction.

Aubrey finds a Santa by the real-name of Karsson sitting alone in a pub. He tells her the legend of a man who dressed as Santa to kill his cheating wife. Karsson is their first lead, who they suspect is their “Mister Snow,” but he gets away. Aubrey and Cooper run about town chasing the wrong Santa time and time again. Neither very good at this whole police work thing. But the ending doesn’t deliver too many surprises. The last 20 or 30 minutes are mostly running around the town getting their Santas wrong or picking up on clues way too late. There are plenty of death scenes to wet your blood-appetite if that’s what you’re into. But it’s those last few minutes included that were entirely unnecessary. Maybe someone forgot to edit them in so they thought it would be a great summary?

Silent Night pretty much delivers what you’d expect. While it doesn’t have too much in common with the original other than a homicidal Santa and a few references to the first film, the movie still stands pretty well on its own. The only thing that really bothered me the entire time watching this film. It just doesn’t look like Christmas. Certainly not a Midwestern one anyway. This was even shot in Canada and they get plenty of snow. So I don’t know why this was filmed in what looked like April. But anyway, Silent Night is pretty grim, but there’s still a few things to like about this movie. For one, McDowell and King both give great performances. McDowell is clearly off his nut and having a blast with his role. And for the first half of the movie, the pacing is pretty good.

I don’t think this will replace the classic Black Christmas or even the original as anyone’s favourite festive horror movie, but it’s a pretty solid entry into that very small category.  I suppose mildly-enjoying two remakes in one week probably makes me a bad person now or something.

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Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 24: Blood Junkie

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Blood Junkie is a nostalgia-soaked movie from 2010 directed by Drew Rosas. It’s clear from right off that bat that this is a homage to the glory days of the slasher film. It even has that delicious aged-film crackle on the screen and some truly awful choices in eye-wear.

This slasher is set in “America’s Dairyland – 1989” – which can only be the most wondrous time in Wisconsin (back in the days where we Wisconsinites weren’t trying to kill off the “happy cows” from California, and we alone were sole rulers of the milk and cheese).  A lone drifter is making his way through the countryside before stopping at an abandoned factory. He’s quickly killed off by what looks like a lost miner from My Blood Valentine. After some pretty cool opening credits, we find out that this man only existed in a movie as a young boy is flipping through TV stations.

A high school girl, Laura, is left alone for the weekend with her younger brother. Their parents left them with $35 of “emergency cash” which, of course, is immediately spent on booze with her friend Rachel: “Pretty sure our current lack of booze for the weekend qualifies as a state of emergency.”

WISCONSIN!

The two friends get their underage alcohol at the local mini-mart where the meet two pretty 80’s dudes (short shorts, disgusting mustaches and all) who invite them to go with them on their camping trip. Blood Junkie shows all it’s cards early on when it comes to the inspiration. This is a straight slasher movie, and these two girls are pretty much carving their own epitaphs with the tropes they’re falling into.  It gets even worse when Laura bribes her little brother Andy to come along on the trip.

The group arrive to their site on the woods where they exchange ghost stories around the fire. One of the dudes shares a story his grandfather told him about a man who wanders the woods. He’s disfigured and chemically-altered. His body was damaged in a factory accident, and still was yet to be found. And after that fun bit, Laura immediately suggests Andy gets to sleep so that the sexy-bits can start.

In the morning, kid-brother Andy runs off into the woods to stab frogs with a stick before heading off on a hike with the girls. They come across the old factory from the beginning of the movie, which means my initial thoughts of this film being meta were stupid. But the factory creeps the glasses-twins out and they head out, leaving Rachel behind. Now I have never been forced into a horror movie before, but I do know that wandering aimlessly though an abandoned chemical factory alone is not ideal for anyone.

The boy decide to hunt Rachel down by going to the factory themselves. While they’re out, Laura is attacked by the chemical-dude. In an utterly bad-ass move by her little brother, he stabs the assailant in the back. But in a Michael Meyes-like way, he proceeds to carry on and drugs Laura. Get it? Blood junkie?? This will not be a surprise to anyone, but the ending is blissfully gory as everyone slowly gets picked off.

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Blood Junkie was obviously meant to contain as much cheese as possible. It’s now distributed by Troma, so it’s not a movie worth taking very seriously. Trying to do so only takes away the point. It’s blatantly clear that this was a laugh to make.

Sometimes the humor fell flat for me, mostly because it was a bit over-the-top, even for a movie that was clearly emulating the silliness of the movies it was pulling inspiration from. There’s a fine line between good and bad parody. Blood Junkie toes that line. There’s not too much more to say about this little movie as it pretty much follows the formula to a T. Though there is still plenty of fun to be had with this film, just don’t expect anything different or exciting once the gimmick has worn off.