Times New Keeferton Keef shows no signs of lethality or psychosis

15Dec/170

THE MAN WHO COULDN’T STOP TALKING

When his alarm rang on a Tuesday morning, Andrew Vandergriff groggily turned it off, rolled over, and stretched his arms toward the ceiling. When he opened his eyes, he was startled to see a small mouth on the back of his left hand, mid-yawn. The mouth hadn't been there when he went to sleep, and yet here it was: about an inch and a half wide, with full, fleshy lips and perfect small teeth.

"Good morning," said the mouth, and smiled.

"Good morning," said Andrew, but the mouth didn't respond again.

"Hello?" Still nothing. "Did I imagine that?" asked Andrew. The mouth maybe smirked, but remained silent. Andrew probed the lips and teeth with his finger, and then called his primary care physician. "It's... well, it's a small... wound on my hand," he said, and made an appointment for the following Monday.

Andrew had a toaster waffle for breakfast, covered the mouth with a gauze bandage, and went to work. On the way, he stopped at Starbucks. When the barista handed him his latte, the mouth on his hand chewed off the gauze and spit it out. "You should smile!" it hollered at the barista. "You'd look really pretty if you smiled!"

a hand reaching for a coffee. the hand has a grotesque mouth with puckered lips on it.

Andrew clapped his right hand over the mouth, sloshing coffee on the counter. "Oh god I'm so sorry," he said. The barista stared after him with disgust as he ran out.

At the office, he tamped a paper towel gag into the tiny mouth and wrapped his hand in duct tape. It took him a half hour to calm down, but he was relaxed when he went into the morning meeting. A consulting expert was visiting the company to demonstrate and explain their new filing system. While she was explaining the benefits of the switch, a new tiny mouth sprouted in the crook of Andrew's right elbow. "Well, actually," it bellowed, "our old system was better at--"

"Aaaa!" said Andrew, and clapped his left hand over the new mouth.

"Please don't interrupt me," said the visiting expert.

The tiny mouth bit Andrew's fingers, and he yelped and pulled his hand away. "Calm down!" yelled the tiny mouth.

"Oh my gosh I'm sorry!" said Andrew, and ran out of the conference room. Back at his desk, he tamped another paper towel gag into the new mouth and wrapped duct tape around his elbow. Once that was done, he closed his door and decided to try to stay in his office for the rest of the day.

As he sat at his desk and ate his lunch salad, his boss knocked on his door. "No eating at your desk," he said. "You know that. Take it to the employee lounge." Andrew sighed and gathered his food.

In the lounge, Andrew sat alone at a table and tried to eat as quickly as possible. At the next table, two women were having a conversation. One of them had just had a bad date, and was describing it to her coworker. As Andrew crunched down on a crouton, a new mouth sprouted on his neck. "Not all men!" it said. "Not all men!"

"Oh, shit!" screamed Andrew, and crammed a forkful of lettuce into the tiny mouth while bolting out of the room.

Back at his desk, Andrew applied another paper towel gag and wrapped duct tape around his neck. He called his doctor, demanded an emergency appointment, and left work early.

On the way to the train stop, Andrew found himself in the middle of a crowded protest outside City Hall. All around him, people waved signs, chanted slogans, and marched through the streets. As he walked through the crowd, one of the protesters smiled at him and handed him some reading material. As he took it, another mouth sprouted on his belly, beneath his buttondown shirt. "You know," it shouted, "I'm of Irish descent, and I don't know if you know this, but--"

Andrew punched himself in the gut and tried to walk faster through the crowd, which was starting to turn and stare at him. He started to run.

A new mouth sprouted on his forehead. "If I could just play devil's advocate here for a second..."

Another one, on his knee: "Please, consider both sides."

Andrew ran as fast as he could, screaming at his new mouths. "Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

The illustration for this fable was provided by the delightful and talented Mike Edrington.

31Oct/170

31 DAYS OF HORROR: 2017 WRAP-UP

Well, October has come to an end.

I didn't watch 31 movies (EDIT BELOW: YES I DID), but I came close, and I'm happy about that. Here's the final list of horror movies I watched this month, with links to blogs / reviews where I wrote them.

01. The Uninvited (1944)
02. The Cat People (1942)
03. Torture Garden (1967)
04. Craze (1974)
05. Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
06. Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)
07. Pin (1988)
08. The Spider Labyrinth (1988)
09. From Hell It Came (1957)
10. Train to Busan (2016)
11. Flatliners (1990)
12. The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
13. Stagefright: Aquarius (1987)
14. The Corridor (2010)
15. Horror of Dracula (1958)
16. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
17. Madhouse (1981)
18. Class Reunion (1983)
19. 1922 (2017)
20. Vampyr (1932)
21. Magic (1978)
22. Sugar Hill (1974)
23. The Pit (1981)
24. Daughters of Darkness (1971)
25. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
26. Slaughter High (1986)
27. Body Melt (1993)
28. Witch's Cradle (1944)
29. Viy (1967)

EDIT: Hey, wait! I watched a bunch of Halloween movies with the kiddo. Thanks, kiddo!

30. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
31. Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985)
32. Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (2013)

23Oct/170

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017: THE SPIDER LABYRINTH

The Spider Labyrinth (1988)

This is a strange one. If you've followed my blogs about horror movies, you know that I'm a sucker for Italian horror movies. I'm always on the lookout for good ones I've never seen. Spider Labyrinth is a movie that I kept hearing about, but could never track down-- it's notoriously difficult to find, and never got a proper DVD release-- it's available through Amazon, but even that version is a bootleg.

So: yes, I got this from dubious sources on the internet. You can probably tell, from the channel logo in the lower-right of all my screenshots.

Totally worth it.

There are so many Italian directors that are masters of the craft-- Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and so on. Gianfranco Giagni belongs on that list, even though-- as far as I can tell-- this is the only horror movie he ever directed.

It's pretty bonkers.

It's about ancient Lovecraftian spider cultists.

A professor specializing in ancient languages gets hired by a private firm to go to Italy to pick up the work of a professor who's gone off the rails. He flies to Hungary to find the professor and continue his translation efforts.

As soon as he lands, it becomes apparent that much of the town-- and the entirety of the hotel in which he's staying-- has something weird going on. There's a lot of subtly off-putting behavior on the part of the residents, and it's all beautifully shot, paced, and edited.

He finds the professor and his creepy-ass wife, and receives a stone tablet and a warning to keep it hidden, along with what sound like the ravings of a lunatic, full of terrified discussions of spiders and cults.

The professor then turns up dead (of course).

If you're familiar with the slow unfolding of macabre Lovecraftian dread and conspiracy theories, or even the bureaucratic nightmares of Kafka, this is fairly well-trodden territory-- the professor gets new leads to follow, tracks them down, finds the sources dead or insane.

In this case, it's a journey well-worth taking.

The special effects, I must add, are fantastic. The special effects for this movie were done by Sergio Stivaletti, who has worked with Dario Argento, Michele Soavi, Lamberto Bava, as well as directing in his own right. These effects are fantastic, even on the crappy VHS transfer I watched. There's a few stop-motion effects in particular that are just beautiful to see, and genuinely creepy-- one of them is a bit spoiler-tastic, so I'll hide it behind this link here, but it's amazing.

Here's another one that's pretty great:

I really enjoyed this movie, and I'd be first in line, if one of the houses that's been snatching up obscure horror wanted to put out a really nice DVD / Blu-Ray. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this weird-ass movie.

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11Oct/170

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017: I KILLED THEM ALL, OF COURSE

Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

I've been a fan of Lucio Fulci since seeing Zombie in high school. Watching a zombie fight a shark underwater was such a mind-blowing and hilarious thrill that I knew I was watching something really special. I've seen his best-known supernatural films, primarily post-Zombie output, and there are some real gems: The Beyond, House By the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead. But I haven't seen much of his non-supernatural movies. He's done some gialli that are very well-regarded, including Lizard in a Woman's Skin and New York Ripper (which is also on my list this year).

And this one, Don't Torture a Duckling.

This movie's pretty dang weird. I should've been better prepared for its bizarro nature, given that 1) it's Fulci; 2) it's a giallo; 3) it's about a series of child murders; but I went into it imagining that it'd be a fairly standard giallo thriller. It gets way stranger than that.

We meet three adolescent boys in a small Italian city. They get up to various mischief-- slingshots, trespassing, harassing a dude who's spying on a couple getting it on.

We meet some other villagers. A priest. The town simpleton (the aforementioned peeping tom). The childrens' parents. A celebrity woman staying in the village to live down a drug scandal (and who has some really weird ideas about what's appropriate around the boys).

A witch, who creates some voodoo dolls.

One of the reasons I chose this movie from all the choices in Fulci's oeuvre is that it's generally considered the first time he went full-on SFX crazy, splashing blood every which way and murdering folks in interesting ways.

And hoo boy, does he ever.

This guy, for example, topples off a cliff. His face bangs and scrapes against every craggy outcropping on the way down. Sometimes there are sparks. It's great.

It's taut, suspenseful, utterly trashy, morally questionable, and gory. I enjoyed it quite a bit, although I felt queasy more than once, and for multiple different reasons.

Pin (1988)

I'd heard about Pin for years. A potentially-possessed anatomical medical training mannequin? A couple of nutty kids who are up to no good? Terry O'Quinn as a weirdo domineering dad? Count me in.

It was substantially more subtle than I'd anticipated, given those facts, and the performances are very good, especially the kid who plays li'l Leon, an actor named David Hewlett. Dude apparently had some big roles in the Stargate TV Universe, but I never got into that.

Also, the doll is creepy as hell.

Recommended. Solid and spooky.

From Hell It Came (1957)

When it gets late at night, I have to work in the morning, and I still need to watch a movie, I browse my collection by duration. Then I pick the shortest one. This one was an hour and ten minutes long. Perfect! Also, it's about a guy who gets murdered and returns to life as a giant tree stump to take his revenge.

Sounds great, right?

NOPE.

Here's the rest of the story. The entire movie takes place on some unnamed South Seas island. The dude who gets murdered is a native of the island, and he's murdered because he's dared to talk to the white folks, and give his plague-ridden father some medicine the thoughtful Americans gave him. The tribe's witch doctor gets mad about it, feeling like he's being usurped, and therefore the prince must die.

There's also something about nuclear fallout from the atolls falling directly into the young man's grave, which causes him to return as a "Tabanga," which is what the natives call the alive tree stump that wants to throw everyone into quicksand.

Every single native is a horrible racist caricature. Every single native with lines is a white dude with tanner on their face. They're so backward! They don't understand that the white scientists just want to make their lives better! They try to murder a woman just because she peeped the ritual ceremony of unjustified murder!

This is literally what she says about that.

The white scientists constantly talk about what a dungheap the island is, how backward and savage the natives are, and how they can't wait to get back to civilization. There's a moment where they criticize the almost-murdered woman because she runs the "trading post," where she gives the natives worthless junk in exchange for copper and pearls, where it seems like the filmmakers caught a glimpse of the way this film might be seen, and then they go back to swilling back booze and complaining about those pesky natives.

A few of the natives join forces with them to defeat the murder-stump, but it's accompanied by clumsy acknowledgement that the Americans are bringing them such good things, and they need to adapt and improve and acknowledge the superiority of the helpful colonialists. The Americans eventually obliterate the stump by shooting the hell out of it.

The rubber suit for the stump monster looked okay. This movie is terrible.

6Oct/170

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017: BLOOD FOR THE GREAT GOD CHUKU

So this is a round-up post! If I watch a movie that for some reason doesn't warrant a full-on review, I'll write a brief encapsulation and opinion, and post it in a round-up. The first movie I watched was The Uninvited.

02. The Cat People (1942)

I was certain I'd seen this before, but I hadn't. I'm not sure what I was confusing it with-- The Leopard Man, maybe? Val Lewton is held up as a master of the noir suspense genre, and this movie is consistently ranked high in the canon, but it largely fell flat for me. There are some beautiful scenes, don't get me wrong. There's a taut sequence where a character is followed down a dimly lit street that's shot marvelously, and a scene in a swimming pool that's magnificent.

Despite the direction and cinematography, this movie is not very good. The core idea is fine, but the plotting is baffling and the characterization leaves something to be desired.

Here's a brief encapsulation of the plot. Oliver Reed falls in love (on the second date) with Irena Dubrova, a Serbian immigrant. They get married immediately, and then Irena reveals that she believes she's descended from a line of evil, wicked, devil-worshipping cat people, who turn into panthers when they get sexually aroused or very angry. She got some issues. Oliver eventually gets frustrated and falls in love with his co-worker Alice, and then Irena gets mad. They all make some pretty bad decisions, and then it comes to a boil in the way you'd imagine it would.

It all falls down for me in its own estimation of its characters and their importance. Oliver's an asshole and an idiot, with all of the weird entitlement issues that came with being a straight white dude in the 1940s, and which are seemingly endorsed by the film. Alice is a total jerk and also an idiot. Irena's a pretty good person working through some issues.

I was complaining about a choice some characters made, and Barb nailed it. She said, "I think it's well-established that the people in this movie are dumbshits."

The one thing that kept me entertained is that Val Lewton is a master of the lewd implication.

In 1942, you couldn't just have a character outright say, "Hey, I'm afraid I'll turn into a panther and maul you if we get our bone on," so he had to dance around it, and this is the one place where the writing really shines. Lewton's frustration with the edicts of the Hays Code actually led him to some beautiful exposition through subtle implication. It's worth seeing for his deft navigation of the censorship, and those two tense "somebody's about to get murdered" scenes. Plus, it clocks in at a nice tight 70 minutes, so you could, for example, start it at nine o'clock when you have to be at work early the next morning.

03. Craze (1974)

This movie is some deliciously hot garbage.

Jack Palance, replete with 70s porno-style pencil-thin moustache, plays an antique shop owner. By day, he peddles his wares, but by night, he runs a coven in his crappy basement-- a coven devoted to worshiping "the great African love god Chuku."

It's exactly as bonkers, over-the-top, and racist (in that 'oh those mysterious magical primitives' way) as you'd expect.

His antique shop isn't doing very well, but when he gets into an argument with a woman who's left the coven-- she wants to take the Chuku idol, claiming that it was hers in the first place (a gift from Aleister Crowley)-- they struggle, and she gets impaled on the idol's spikes, spraying technicolor tempera everywhere.

Suddenly, Palance finds a cache of gold coins, and figures that Chuku is rewarding him for his sacrifice.

Well, heck, what's a guy to do but to keep murdering people in the name of the great god Chuku?

The rest of the movie is basically an excuse to let Palance run wild, killing people and chewing scenery. Nobody chews scenery like Jack Palance. I watched Alone in the Dark a few years ago, and gained an appreciation for the man that hasn't yet waned. Listening to him say stuff like, "It's all for you, great god Chuku," is utterly hilarious and beautiful.

There's a subplot about Palance's elderly great-aunt and his desire to get his inheritance a little bit early. It gets a little convoluted when he manufactures an elaborate alibi and the movie loses its way, but doesn't stray too far. There are, after all, still ridiculous set-piece murders.

The supporting cast is very good. Diana Dors plays a blowsy ex-girlfriend, Martin Potter plays Palance's antique-store assistant, and one of the cops is played as straight as can be by Trevor Howard, an actor I didn't expect to crop up in this kind of movie.

The whole thing comes to a head as expected, and Palance chows down on everything in his path. This entire movie was a delightful surprise.

04. Torture Garden (1967)

Man, people love these Amicus anthology horror films. I can understand why-- the casts were uniformly good and interesting, they had that 60s/70s technicolor garishness about them, and if one story sucked, you could simply wait a few minutes for the next one. I watched their Tales From the Crypt anthology when I did this back in 2014, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I've seen a handful of others. The House That Dripped Blood is still on my list for this year, but... after watching this one, I don't know if I can handle another one. This one was boring as fuck.

The framing device is great. Burgess Meredith plays "Doctor Diabolo," and he runs a sort of budget circus-sideshow grand guignol, inviting people into a tent for a couple pounds. Once they're inside, they see beheadings, medieval torture devices, and an electric chair, held up as an example of the barbarity of American culture.

Burgess Meredith is fantastic, as always.

The problem comes during the parts of the movie that aren't the framing device. This shouldn't be the case-- this entire thing was written by Robert Bloch, for god's sake, and based on his own short stories-- but hoo boy, this thing is packed with stinkers.

The first story is an excruciatingly long segment about a young man who murders his uncle, searches for his hidden riches, and then gets mind-controlled by a possessed, murderous cat he digs out of a coffin in the basement.

It is awful and mind-numbingly protracted.

The second is about a wannabe Hollywood starlet, who finds that maybe screen and stage immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be. It has its moments, but it's jam-packed with dull filler.

In the third, a... grand piano... defenestrates a woman? I was losing interest hard by this point.

Thankfully, the fourth story brought it all home for me. Jack Palance (again, with the pencil-thin creepstache again) plays a guy who's obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe. Peter Cushing plays another collector, who has a magnificent Poe collection, much envied by Palance.

It gets pretty spooky, and watching these two masters play off each other is deeply satisfying and engaging for the entire running time.

Then the framing device brings the whole thing home by revealing what we've suspected all along-- Burgess Meredith is a giant creep!

I can't recommend this movie in good conscience, because it is brain-bendingly stultifying overall, but the framing device and final story are worth watching. Just fast-forward through the rest of that junk (okay, maybe watch the grand piano defenestration scene, too).