NUART – reopens!

Places are starting to reopen here in California. I have no idea how long that will last, or if we will ever close down again at all. With the vaccines getting around, and after a year of “we’re turning a corner” only to see the numbers rise it’s tough to be positive about much at the moment.

That said, the Nuart opened it’s doors up last Friday, March 19, 2021. No idea when the midnight movies will return, but I’m looking forward to that moment when I can sit in my seat, finish my soda and candy before the trailers finish, and watch whatever classic horror is projected onto the big screen. It will be epic. (MA)

THE BROOD (1979) / SCALPEL (1977)

The Brood : Scalpel
The Brood / Scalpel double bill at the New Beverly, March 10, 2020. Photo: Matt Average

THE BROOD (1979)

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle

SCALPEL (1977)

Director: John Grissmer

Starring: Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman, Arlen Dean Snyder, Sandy Martin

Before the world went down the toilet, and all the movie theaters were temporarily closed,  I was able to catch the double bill of The Brood, and Scalpel at the New Beverly. This was part of their month long series of double bills as they originally played in Los Angeles. The Brood print was pretty good, despite how old it is. Scalpel was the surprise of the night for me. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s entertaining, and one I would watch again. 

I look forward to the time when the theaters reopen and we can all sit in the dark and escape from daily life, with a soda at hand, and a couple of vegan hotdogs. (MA)

 

 

 

 

 

MANIAC (1980)

MANIAC (1980)

Director: William Lustig

Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Tom Savini

maniac review

Maniac is the gold standard of slashers. I’ll go as far to say that Maniac is better than the original Halloween (Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the original Halloween, it’s a personal long time favorite. In my top three, to be somewhat exact), and easily the first two Friday the 13th movies, or, really, any of the Friday the 13th movies, to be honest. Friday the 13th may have had more imaginative kills, but with Maniac there’s more of a story here, and there’s more of a character as opposed to a faceless killer with minimal backstory. It’s a movie you can watch over the the years and not grow bored with. Characters aren’t essentially marched in front of the camera and killed off.  Something else that elevates Maniac above all the others, and  what makes it the most disturbing is that this killer could actually exist. He’s not some super villain endowed with insane powers of bouncing back to life from every attempt on his life.

Joe Spinell’s performance is excellent. He’s absolutely believable as the tortured Frank Zito who lives a sad and mundane life vacillating between cold ruthless murderer to an emotionally destroyed soul who spends most of his time in isolation. He’s not someone who stands out. You would pass by him on the street without a second thought. He’s a Norman Bates type, but fully aware of what he’s doing. After some kills we see him reading about it in the morning paper, or watching the news, and you can see hints of shame and remorse in his reactions.

As the story progresses we learn he was physically and emotionally abused by his mother who died while he was still young, which did his head in for good. He sees her in the women he kills, which is confirmed when he murders Rita, as he keeps asking, “Why did you leave me? I was scared. Now we are together again, and I will never let you go. I’m just going to keep you so you won’t go away ever again.”

The kills in this movie are brutal, and Tom Savini’s effects are in top form. A woman sees herself ran through with a sword as she looks into a mirror. One woman is forced to agonize in terror before she’s finally snuffed out, and that one shot gun blast scene still stuns to this very day. Even the most jaded, and most modern of audiences will be visually shushed into silence.

Maniac isn’t the sort of movie one would, could, or should love, but I do. It’s sleazy, violent, and grim as hell, but it lures you into the the filth and it’s hard to resist. Even the soundtrack by Jay Chattaway with it’s downer mood anchors you down solid into the muck.  There’s nothing pretty about this film and you should see it.  (MA)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

 

 

BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (aka Night Warning) (1981)

BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (aka Night Warning)

1981, USA

Starring:  Susan Tyrrell (Cheryl Roberts), Jimmy McNichol (Billy Lynch), Bo Svenson (Detective Joe Carlson), Julia Duffy (Julie Linden), Bill Paxton (Eddie)

Director: William Asher (Michael Miller, uncredited)

Music: Bruce Langhorne

Viewed:  35mm / Aero Theatre Horrorthon

Print Quality: Not great, but watchable

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I remember the chills that ran down my spine the first time I dropped the needle on Mercyful Fate’s first EP and was totally blindsided by that blistering guitar solo that opens “Corpse Without a Soul.” I mean the song opens with the fucking solo! Thirty years later, my experience watching the opening scene of Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker was almost exactly the same. The first 3-minutes of this film are just so intense that it leaves you wondering where can it possibly go from here.

Turns out that one of the things that make that opening sequence so distinct is that it was born of a different director and cinematographer. Apparently, Michael Miller (Jackson County Jail) shot that bit with Jan Du Bont (Private LessonsDie Hard) but both were fired and replaced by veteran TV show director William Asher and Robbie Greenberg (Lucifer’s WomenSwamp Thing) to finish it out. Somehow the final product works, though…and then some!

But then again, how could it go wrong with the brilliant casting of Susan Tyrrell (Forbidden ZoneAngel, Open All Night) and Jimmy McNichol (those fabulous McNichol’s) in the leads and Bo Svensen (The Inglorious BastardsInglourious Basterds) as the pathologically overconfident homophobic detective thrown into the mix.

It’s difficult to summarize much of the story without ruining half the fun, but I assure you Tyrell delivers and absolutely crushing, must-see performance as Aunt Cheryl, whose incestuous lust for her nephew Billy (McNichol) leads to some delightfully insane and ever-escalating consequences. William Asher deserves equal respect for his perfectly paced slow burn of Aunt Cheryl’s unraveling that builds to psychotic crescendo that is purely unforgettable cinema. Kudos, too, to the anachronistically positive portrayal of homosexuality embodied in Billy’s basketball coach Tom Landers played by perennial TV actor Steve Eastin. This film was truly ahead of its time.

For me this was the real standout in the Aero Theatre’s Horrorthon line-up this year and immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list of must-see movies to recommend.

It’s just nuts that this film still flies somewhat under the radar almost 40 years after its release.

(DC)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

THE BOOGENS (1981); SLITHIS (1978) ; THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983)

 

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The Boogens, Slithis, and The Deadly Spawn at the New Beverly, October 29, 2019.                   Photo: Matt Average

THE BOOGENS (1981)

Director: James L. Conway

Starring: Rebecca Balding, Fred McCarren, Anne-Marie Martin, Jeff Harlan

SLITHIS (1978)

Director: Stephen Traxler

Starring: Alan Blanchard, Judy Motulsky, J.C. Claire, Hy Pyke, Win Condict, Rocky Fumarelli, John Hatfield, 

THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983)

Director: Douglas McKeown

Starring: Charles George Hildebrandt, Tom DeFranco, Jean Tafler, Karen Tighe, James L. Brewster

DEAD PIT (1989)

DEAD PIT (1989)

Director: Brett Leonard

Written By Brett Leonard & Gimel Everett

Starring: Cheryl “underwear” Lawson, Jeremy “the drunk” Slate, Stephen “the creep” Foster

Viewed On Prime: Great transfer

dead pit_1

This film is a complete masterpiece.  I can not wait until my daughter is old enough to be able to sit through films like this with her old man.  Pizza and snuggles!   

I don’t even know where to begin with this.  The film is Brett Leonards first film as a director and he hits it out of the park.  The story is actually great, and has everything in it…a demented maniac dead doctor, zombies, sexy nurses, crazy people in a mental asylum, explosions, a flood, great music, cool effects, holy water, religion, boobs, blood, and lots of gore.  

The story is that of a demented doctor who is doing experiments on mental patients.  One of the other doctors catches him in the act, kills him, and basically seals him in a tomb.  Twenty years later and all hell breaks loose.  The Demented Doc comes back to life and brings all kinds of wrath and revenge with him.  There are so many twists in this story that it blows my mind that everything actually gets resolved or makes some sort of sense. 

dead pit_2

The most noticeable thing about this film to me is how cool the lighting is.  Its super obvious, but looks so cool and works great along with the cool music.  I’d give this one 9 stars out of 10.  This is a real beauty if you’ve never seen it before.  Throw it on… for Christ’s sake, it’s almost Halloween! (NW)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

CHILD’S PLAY (1988)

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Child’s Play, the one that started it all, in 35mm at the Aero. Photo: Matt Average

CHILD’S PLAY (1988)

Director: Tom Holland

Starring: Brad Dourif, Chris Sarandon, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent

Friday Night Frights kicked off the beginning of midnight movies at the Aero on August 2, 2, 2019 with a screening of Child’s Play (1988) in 35mm. Don Mancini, writer and producer, was there for the Q&A, and announced there’s a Chucky series in the works. See you next Friday, back at the Aero, when Cinematic Void screens David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

THE CHILD (1977)

THE CHILD (1977)

Director: Robert Voskanian

Starring: Laurel Barnett, Rosalie Cole, Frank Janson, Ruth Ballen, Richard Hanners

DVD (released by Something Weird) 

TheChild cover

The Child is a movie I like, but it also bores me out of my skull at the same time. Maybe I like it for what it could be?

It starts out with promise, as we are introduced to Rosalie Nordon (Rosalie Cole) in a fog enshrouded cemetery handing over a kitten for food to a ghoul hiding behind a tombstone. It’s obvious Rosalie is not a well adjusted child. In fact, she’s quite terrible on all levels. Shitty personality, hanging out in the graveyard, and vindictive over the slightest transgressions. From this point on the movie chugs and sputters along at varying levels of success.

Alicianne Del Mar (Laurel Barnett) is hired on to be Rosalie’s nanny, and doesn’t seem to question why a blue oil drum came rolling down the hill forcing her off the road. She eventually meets Mrs. Whitfield (Ruth Ballen) in the woods as she finds her way to the Nordon house. Whitfield invites Alicianne back to her place, a boarding house in better times, but they all left over time because “the woods made them nervous.” When pressed by Alicianne, Whitfield reveals just a little more, “They said something was out there,” which she believes is Rosalie Nordon playing tricks on them to scare them away. Whitfield ominously tells Alicianne, “Consider my home a safe port when the Nordon seas get too stormy.”

In the woods between Whitfield and the Nordon house the Alicianne sees claw marks on trees, and the carcass of a mutilated animal, but doesn’t seem terribly alarmed by any of this. Upon arriving at the Nordon house, she meets Joshua Nordon (Frank Janson), Rosalie’s father, as well as a bitter curmudgeon. The son, Len (Richard Hanners), has a defeated personality, and seems like his mind is a million miles away. His interactions with his fractured family portray him as trying to keep the uneasy peace in place. Then there’s Rosalie, the strange child that we were introduced to in the beginning, who reveals how much more strange she is with every scene. 

We learn that Rosalie has psychic powers allowing her to communicate with the dead, and either her, or her mother from the grave, are able to raise them to do her bidding and kill anyone she feels stands in her way. As she warns her father, “They’re going to hurt you! Hurt you bad!”

Eventually Rosalie and her “friends” wreak terror, though it’s nothing that will have you on the edge of your seat.

The final few minutes are brutal with tedium, as well as the screeching of Alicianne as the ghouls, or maybe they’re zombies, come out and amble and stumble over to attack her and Len in an oil field. I found myself wanting the ghouls to do us all a favor and eat her just so I don’t have to hear the overwrought screaming, screeching, and blubbering. It was a performance too pathetic to elicit any sympathy. There’s one point where Len is hammering the windows in the tin shack they take shelter in and it seems to go on a little longer than it should, and all Alicianne can think to do is lean against a wall and pathetically cry.

This movie suffers from glacial pacing, and some terrible acting. Interactions are awkward with stilted dialogue, strange pauses, and no real sense of fear from the actors when the moment calls for it. Ideas like strange sounds in the woods, animal mutilation, Rosalie’s world of interacting with the dead in the cemetery, and the mentioned in passing revelation that her mother liked to read “books on the mind” should have been built upon, instead of long scenes of people walking through the woods, gardening, nor wasting time on the non starter relationship developing between Alicanne and Len.

One aspect of this film that gives it an even more strange edge is the voices were dubbed in, which made me feel like I was never in the film as a viewer, and more of someone standing outside peeking in. It’s sort of like a nightmare in slow motion. This is a movie I would probably love if it were in the line up of an all night horrorthon, scheduled to run around 3 or 4 in the morning when the mind is on autopilot and logic and rational thought are nodding off behind your eyes.

Though I’m no fan or remakes, this is one I would love to see what Rob Zombie could with. Imagine Sid Haig, or Bill Mosely as Frank Nordon! They could do wonders for the character. Sheri Moon Zombie as Rosalie Nordon would be awesome! Yes, she is past her teenage years, but I think why not? She was great as Baby in The Devil’s Rejects, and House of 1,000 Corpses. Make her Rosalie a full grown woman who is so mentally fucked up she’s forever mentally frozen in her teen years, and the rest of the family encourages it. They would ratchet up the psychotic personalities in the red, making this what The Child should be. (MA)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Heath Row: HR  Matt Average: MA

NEAR DARK (1987) / JENNIFER’S BODY (2009)

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Near Dark, and Jennifer’s Body double feature at the New Beverly. Photo: Matt Average

NEAR DARK (1987) 

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Starring: Adrian Pasadar, Jenny Wright, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen 

JENNIFER’S BODY (2009)

Director: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Adam Brody, Amy Sedaris, J.K. Simmons

Played to a sold out crowd at the New Beverly on May 4, 2019. 

BLOOD AND LACE (1971)

BLOOD AND LACE (1971)

Director: Philip S. Gilbert

Starring: Gloria Grahame, Melody Patterson, Len Lesser, Milton Selzer, Vic Tayback

Shout! Factory DVD/Blu-Ray

bloodandlace

Do not confuse this movie with the stylish slasher Blood and Black Lace from Mario Bava (reviewed elsewhere by Nate Wilson). There is nothing stylish about Blood and Lace at all. It’s very straight forward in being a movie that’s not afraid of getting down and wallowing in the muck with child abuse, lecherous men, and murder. Broken adults lording power over damaged young people, and reveling in destroying any potential of a future all for a paycheck.

The movie begins with a POV shot of the killer holding a claw hammer walking through a suburban home at night. Upon entering the bedroom of a sleeping middle aged couple the claw end of that hammer is put to use bashing their heads in before setting fire to the place. We then hear a scream, and we’re now in the hospital with Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson, F Troop, The Cycle Savages) waking from a nightmare. The murdered woman was her mother with a lover. She tells Harold Mullins (Milton Selzer), the social worker who’s getting her ready for placement in the Deere Home that she’s wanting to find her real father. In the course of the conversation it’s revealed that her mother was the town floozie, before turing professional, and “every drifter, traveling salesman and school boy over 16 knew my mother.” An interesting note about this scene is that Ellie is voiced by June Foray, the voice of Rocky from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series which adds another somewhat creepy level to this movie. She feels she has no need to go to the Deere Home, but Harold points out that whoever murdered her mother is still free and may be coming after her.

In the heat of the moment, and against court orders, Ellie leaves the hospital with suit case in hand and heads out, walking along the train tracks in hopes of finding her father. Not even a mile into the journey she meets Calvin Caruthers (Vic Tayback – Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and Mel Sharples of Alice fame), former employee of the Bijou Theater, and now a detective for the county sheriff. His deep interest in Ellie is a bit strange and borders on creepy. It’s during a conversation with Harold Mullins in a bar, he’s asked why he has such an intense interest in Ellie, he says when men get to be his age “you start sniffing around for some good breeding stock.”

Harold delivers Ellie to the Deere Youth Home where it’s obvious it’s not a place safe for anyone, no matter their age. Our first introduction to the home is when a teen attempts escape and is chased by the alcoholic handyman Tom Kredge (Len Lesser, Shack Out on 101, Truck Stop Women, and best known as Uncle Leo from Seinfeld). The frightened teen foolishly attempts to hide behind a tree when one of his hands is chopped off by the meat cleaver thrown by Tom. This is also the most graphic scene in the film, and sets us up for the insanity that lays in store.

The Deere Youth Home is run by Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Todd Killings, Mama’s Dirty Girls), who is cold hearted and manipulative to the core. She runs the home like a prison camp, reminding the kids that if they don’t work they won’t be around much longer, and she’s always ready to slap any of them for the slightest of what she sees as transgressions towards her authoritarian rule. She’s someone you want to see get her comeuppannce. With the help of Tom she keeps the corpses of all the dead children in a meat locker in the basement to later be placed in the infirmary when county officials drop in for headcount. Harold, the world’s sleaziest social worker, is well aware that Mrs. Deere runs a crooked operation, but looks the other way with the promise of sex as part of the unspoken agreement.

There’s some great dialog throughout the movie, such as when Ellie is looking to escape, and lecherous Tom says he will show her how only if she does something for him. He pulls a bottle out of his back pocket, leans into her face and growls, “The way to escape? Whisky!” and begins groping her. There’s also the the conversation between Ellie and Walter (Ron Taft) the orphanage heart throb (read that back, yes, such a thing exists in a movie like this), when he tells her to give up on trying to find her real father, “The only thing she ever said was the first man that ever made love to her got her pregnant and ruined her figure. The only feelings she ever had for me was blame!”. You have to love the exchange between her and Bunch (Terri Messina) as they fight on the bed:

Bunch: Tell us about your mother!

Ellie: We don’t know anything about yours, except that she has four legs and barks!

A disfigured man with a claw hammer finally shows up at the orphanage for the final act and brings this to a close with some light violence. But none of that is as good as what happens at the very end. While not tilting into full on sleaze due to the lack of nudity, sex and excessive graphic violence, Blood and Lace does deliver on the shocks promised in the poster art. This is worth repeated viewing, especially the second or third time where the movie becomes even more interesting and slimy when you know how this all ends up. (MA)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Heath Row: HR  Matt Average: MA