pinterest-858fa Sinful Celluloid: May 2011

Because you were home: The Strangers (2008)

“Because you were home”

Home invasions scare the hell out of me. I’m not talking about the “Desperate Hours” type home invasion, though that would be unsettling, I’m talking about the Charles Manson type home invasion. When the invasion is not simply a means to an end, but a premeditated plan of psychological and physical torture, followed by a ritualistic bloodbath, that’s what scares me.

Very few people in the grand scheme of things are taken hostage in their home as a plan of action. However, the chances of your house being targeted at random are much greater and more terrifying. You can reason with someone who wants something material, you can’t reason with someone that only wants blood. The Strangers tells a story of randomness that chills to the bone.

The film opens with the aftermath of a brutal home invasion. Blood on the walls, bloody kitchen knives, and a shotgun lay about.  After a frantic 911 call by a couple of young Mormon boys, we cut to Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman who play Kristin McKay and James Hoyt, sitting in a car. They are dressed formally and Liv is in tears. James grabs a stack of mail from the box and drives to the dark house lit only by porch light. Questions questions questions. We soon learn that James has proposed to Kristin at their friends wedding reception and dressed the parent’s vacation home for a romantic celebration, one problem, she said no.

The first teen slasher: Tower Of Evil (1972)

“Snape Island never brought anything but unhappiness and tragedy for anyone”

Lighthouses are creepy, I’ve always felt that. Maybe it’s the loneliness of it all, or maybe it’s the towering above the angry sea, guiding the way of passersby but never knowing if one of them is going to crash into you and bring death with them. Lighthouses are the haunted mansions of the sea side community.

I don’t know. What I do know is that Tower of Evil only feeds that fear. Released in 1972 by Grenadier Films, I find it a remarkable little film that deserves some mainstream notice. Written by George Baxt and directed by Jim O’connolly, It follows the horror film formula to a tee, before there was a formula. It’s a teen slasher/have sex and die film six years before Halloween “created” the genre.
The film opens on fog shrouded waters. A small fisher boat, “Sea Ghost”, is sailing to Snape Island. The ship is manned by two sailors, a middle aged man, Hamp, who wants to wait till the fog lifts before setting foot on the island, and his Elder sea dog father, John, who insists that there are things to do and it’s been too long already. Foreshadowing or a bit of throw away dialogue…you decide.
On the beach, they come across a naked man lying face first in a puddle, his severed hand nearby. They enter the decrepit lighthouse and climb its old cobwebbed stairs. At the top of the stairs, they find a second naked body, female, her head, apparently, completely turned around. As they go to move her hair so they can see her face, the head falls off and rolls down the spiral staircase.

They split up, to search. The third victim found is a fully dressed young man impaled by a golden spear. The older man continues to explore until a crazed naked brunette attacks, screaming from the darkness, knife in hand. She stabs the old man repeatedly and runs screaming out into the fog. She runs straight for a younger fisherman who knocks her out with a club.

 We soon find the young woman in an examination. Penny Read is her name, played with damaged innocence by Candace Glenenning. She is put under hypnosis and she recounts the story of what happened to her and her friends. Four kids went to the island to hang out and party.  Penny, her boyfriend Gary, Des and Mae. For a while they have a good time until late that night when things get bloody, someone else is on Snape Island!

Soon the movie switches gears as an expedition is on course to the island. Apparently the golden spear that poor Des was impaled with is a Phoenecian artifact. Enter the new kids or adults rather, led by Dan Winthrop (Derek Fowlds ) and Adam Martin (Mark Edwards ) along with their women archeologists Nora Winthrop (sex bomb Anna Palk )and Rose Mason (stunning Jill Haworth) . The four have a sorted history that I won’t spoil but let’s just say that everyone has been naked with everyone and when it comes to Nora I mean everyone in Britain! They are joined by a privet investigator hired by the Read family to prove her innocence, who seems to have his own agenda.

They are taken to Snape Island by surprise, surprise, the Sea Ghost, now Captained by Hamp. Along as Hamp’s first mate is his nephew Brom, a swinging twenty something who proves that, while 70’s women’s Mod fashion is ultra hot, 70’s men’s Mod fashion just looks like a bad superhero outfit every time (and to think my mother used to dress me like that)! He wastes no time hitting on Nora, who lets him know that she may be “open” to the idea (like I said, Nora is SLUTASTIC)! He also tries his bad moves on Rose but she keeps her adultery focused. One out of two isn’t bad.

So that’s the set up. What follows is the best Island horror film I have ever seen. There are family secrets, lost treasure, drug laced sexcounters, stabbings, red herrings and a fiery and explosive climax! The atmosphere is a mix of gothic horror and Ghost and Mrs. Muir esthetics with a 70’s slant. Every woman is hot and the ladies will probably enjoy Brom (if they can get passed his outfit).

11 total deaths, three characters are attacked and bloodied while naked. Two sex scenes, two naked crumpets (Nora is not one of them but plays every scene as if she is about to be and it is strangely satisfying), some dismemberment and a sprinkle of out and out sleaze. This film has a little of everything and adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I highly recommend picking up the out of print Elite DVD on Amazon. It’s a rollercoaster ride to the extreme which hits all the right buttons and touches on many different genres without ever forgetting it is a horror film and that is a rare and difficult thing.


The Aquaman of Horror : Why we should love the Mummy!

I like Mummy films. They area fun, if not repetitive sub genre of horror that I don’t feel gets the respect it deserves. To me, it seems that the mummy is treated kinda like the Aquaman of monsters. Always included but not necessarily respected. There have been horror films, Soft-core adult films, cartoon and toy lines, and comics, what does a mummy have to do to get some respect?
The first mummy film was The Mummy of King Ramses, a French film made in 1909, followed by several others including Vengeance of Egypt (1912), The Eyes of the Mummy (1918) and FOX’s The Mummy (1923 considered lost).  In 1932, he was born again for good in Universal’s The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff, who set the standard for Mummy’s to come. Interestingly, the classic image of the bandaged living mummy only appears on screen for less than one minute. The often seen photo of the mummy reaching for the scroll is not even seen in the film...WOW!

Straight to video horror

I remember when I would go to the video store and spend hours browsing the horror section looking for something to cause me trauma. My hands were so full of possibilities that I had to leave them at the counter so I could keep looking for more. I wasn’t alone either; many people would browse the video store looking for the perfect triple feature.
Then that went away. Straight to video became a dirty word that was code for “piece of shit film”. This is partly due to the fact that between camcorders and the internet, anyone with a camera and a girl willing to get naked (yes, this seemed to be a prerequisite) could make a movie and get it out there. We were stuck with Witchcraft 1-10, the Slumber Party Massacre series and pretty much anything by Camp Video, in other words, nothing good.
But it seems that things are changing. On the downside, we are losing video stores at an alarming rate, as I have previously discussed. However, the home video market is reborn; we just have to do our browsing a little differently.

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