Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Screaming is Free.

While John was away last week collecting topless stripper cards on the Vegas Strip, I indulged in a bit of cinematic randomness, including one of my favorite Hammer horror flicks, Countess Dracula (1971). Ingrid Pitt, in my opinion, was just as integral to the beloved British studio's storied mythos as my other Hammer heroes, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. She was Hammer's answer to Barbara Steele, her gaze just as enchanting, her eyes just as feline.


Hammer Horror Countess Dracula Masterpiece Collection Bust
Ingrid Pitt as Countess Dracula. What a bust.

And she did nudity, which was far from gratuitous; rather, her body was an extension of her craft, a messenger for her natural ability to lend gothic credibility to any film she was in. When Ms. Pitt passed away last year, I was shocked before I was sad; didn't it seem as if she were eternal? Immortal? Like Christopher Lee, who I feel, at this point, should officially be given a free pass from ever dying. The man had to wait until 2009 to be knighted, for crying out loud.

But back to Ingrid Pitt. Like Barbara Steele, Pitt belongs to that genre category of women who evoked screams rather than emitted them. These are the scream queens I love, strong, sexy, iconic women who filled their victims with intoxicating desire and then dread, bringing them to their knees, trembling. Sybil Danning also belongs in this group, as does Elvira, prototypically speaking.


I'd love to play the eternal temptress, mostly in my mind and not on celluloid. I've had my time in front of the camera; I won't even try to call it acting—more like my husband was making a short film and needed a girl to torture for a summer. Who better than his wife? For weeks last year, John held me underwater in my parents' pool, covered me in buckets of blood, ran me through take after take and made me stand naked and wet in our shower for hours on end until my skin chaffed and my feet hurt. And I loved it. The process was delightfully sadomasochistic and Argento-nian.


Hey, this wasn't in the vows.
Would I ever do another horror film for my husband? Maybe, if he were to make a Hammer-style homage in which I could play a bewitching villainess.

I don't want to be the ingenue. I want to be the engineer. Marki Bey in Sugar Hill (1974), if you will. Anyone can scream, run, trip and feign surprise at the sight of the devil, but not anyone can play the devil in a blue dress the way Ingrid Pitt did.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Intensive Scare.

Hey-la, hey-la, my hubby's back. From Vegas, that is. I know that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or comes back as crabs, or worse—returns in the form of a teenager in search of his biological father and 18 years of back child support—but as I was unable to tag along this time, I asked The Amazing Jonathan to shoot some footage of his mini-holiday, and this is what he brought back:



LAS VEGAS BLOODBATH from joe lando on Vimeo.


Incredible, huh? I think he said he filmed it in the law offices of Jacoby & Meyers.

Anyway, while John was running all over the Strip in search of enlightenment and a good buffet, I parked it on the couch at home and did what any woman would do left alone for a week to combat the scorching summer heat by leaving the windows wide open—I watched Michael Ironside go against type and play a homicidal maniac in Visiting Hours (1982).

Oh my goth, I love that film. That's a subgenre unto itself, isn't it? Hospital slashers. First the franchises scrubbed up, with Halloween II (1981), and later, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). The former featuring hot nurses who were literally scorching. No, really—that jacuzzi scene? Of course, my horror-loving heart is cross-sectioned for other equally enjoyable slasher subgenres, all putting the woman in indefinite, unimaginable peril from high school to college, even from her gym (Killer Workout, aka Aerobicide [1987]) to her career as a sexy real estate agent (Open House [1987]).

But hospital slashers are remarkable because we're supposed to be safe in hospitals. Especially if they hand out free samples and accept patients on a sliding scale. Schools? Forget it. I think my generation was the last to experience academic life without the fear of getting shot sometime between homeroom and the crappy cafeteria cornbread. As for work? Two words: going and postal. And scratch the gym; people kill themselves at the gym every day to look good for other people who kill themselves at the gym every day to look good for other people. They don't call it a meat market for nothing.

Hospital slashers (not to be confused with mental hospital horror films, e.g., Bad Dreams [1988]—I'm talking Hospital Massacre [1982]) are great for many reasons. Bitchy head nurses we love to hate; the beautiful, virginal nurse; the patient in danger, usually confined to her hospital bed; sexy, busty nurses who are either getting it on or discussing their failed relationships when they should be checking their patients; the security guard comic relief; his foil, Deputy Serious, who thinks it's all bullshit until he bites it in the end; and dark, empty hospital corridors—as if to suggest that every patient but the film's star has suddenly recovered and been discharged to the safety of their cozy, psychopath-free lives. I'll take it all, and more, please.

There seems to be an old Grindhouse revival of late, but I'd love to see someone bring back the good old hospital slasher. Filmed on 35mm, with unknowns, a Tangerine Dream score and an Ironside-y villain or Rollercoaster (1977)-era Timothy Bottoms-type? That would be killer.

Bad Dreams/Visiting Hours

Friday, August 12, 2011

To the Suits at AMC ...

I'm just one of millions of random "The Walking Dead" fans out there in the world, so my bark will seem but a yelp in the scope of things; particularly, in this basement-level blog. But honestly, who the hell do you think you are, getting rid of Frank Darabont? You remember him, he's the man whose name you were happy to drop way back when you were trying to sell a TV show about zombies to the Bristol Farms set:



Oh honey, it's from the director of The Shawshank Redemption. Maybe we should watch. Pass the hummus?

Alrighty. And then you moved on to the genre fans. Well, me, at least. You used Darabont, "The Walking Dead" and a marathon of F13 films through Manhattan (sorry, still can't get with Jason Goes to Hell) to sucker me into another year of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and Pet Sematary on AMC's annual Fear Fest. Darabont hosting the former Monsterfest injected new life into a tired AMC October institution. You brought in films that I thought you had never previously heard of, like the first three Halloweens. And those crazy bumpers; would you still have gotten Alexandre Aja had you not gotten Darabont? James Wan? Wes Craven? Gregory Nicotero? That great convo between Kane Hodder and Tyler Mane? I'll bet that a marquee name attached to the 2010 Fear Fest gave you great entree into meetings with genre people who had probably never even heard of your rinky-dinky channel before "Mad Men," if at all.

And if deciding to fire the man who practically gift-wrapped you a hit before it even aired wasn't bad enough, you waited until after his appearance (below, with one of my heroes, Nicotero) at the industry luvvie SD Comic-Con to do it:



Shameful.

The story follows that you gave Darabont his "Walking" papers because he didn't embrace your greed, but I'm guessing that he didn't know that he would become but a bit player in your AMC money-printing scheme:

  • Increase the number of episodes by seven
  • Cut "The Walking Dead" budget by $650,000
  • Push Darabont as the face of the second series
  • Up advertising and raise rates per spot
  • Fire Darabont, quickly and quietly

AMC. Money Matters Here.

Well, you can do what you want, but here are the facts: we the genre fans are the 5.3 million viewers who made "The Walking Dead's" Halloween 2010 debut your strongest-ever showing for an AMC original program. "The Walking Dead" is also the only show you own, outright. You fired the guy who made that show a runaway success. You think that by making us wait a year for the second series, we'll be chomping at the bit to see it, no matter what? Okay, I'll concede to that one, if only because people will be people at the end of the day, and everyone's been waiting. But what are you going to do after the first episode, AMC? According to The Hollywood Reporter, when you fired Darabont, he was working to fix unusable footage left by another director. Great, well  I made brownies one time and took them out of the oven too soon, and I still ate them because the box said they were brownies, but they were shit.

We will only tolerate so much, and so far, so bad with Darabont gone and you thinking that we're just this side of dumbass to fall in line and do our part as the viewing public. I was already pissed at you for making me miss the final minutes of many recorded episodes in the first season due to all the advertising, which was always louder than the actual show. You don't care about us, you care about the bottom line, and I can accept that but I don't have to take it. I can always re-watch the first series, or pop in "Dead Set" and watch that instead.

You aren't the first to dream up a TV series on zombies, AMC. You won't be the last. You show "The Three Stooges" every weekend. Get over yourselves.


The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [2 Discs] [Blu-ray]




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Station Identification.

Many studios in the past 40-some-odd years have been synonymous with horror films and/or franchises (Warner Bros. and The Exorcist come to mind), but the first that I can recall making an imprint in the soft spot of my big childhood head is Paramount Films and Friday the 13th. What an awesome pairing, huh? Even now, when I see the Paramount ident lead into an F13th film, I get incontinent:




Friday the 13th Uncut [Blu-ray]


Beauty, eh? A bit hard to see the Paramount ident as a child and not expect a Friday film, as much as I expected a 20th Century Fox ident to always lead into Star Wars. I was a strange child, what can I say?

But while the Paramount ident promised roughly 90 minutes of body count, courtesy of Jason and his dead mother, it excited me more than it scared me. That honor would go to another ident, which took hold of my short nine-year-old attention span and captivated it from the second it came on:



New Line Cinema. The House that Freddy Built. This is my all-time favorite ident, and I can't think of any other ident that could've introduced the ominous, seductively sinister Fred Kreuger better than New Line's raw, red laser-show logo against a stark black background. Pair it with a Media Home Entertainment ident, and you've got one badass VHS sitting atop your wood-paneled Panasonic:




A Nightmare on Elm Street [With Movie Money] [Blu-ray]


I go crazy when I see this stuff. I became friends with people over this stuff (looking at you, AussieRoadshow). Idents bring back all the wonderful parts of my childhood, watching scrambled Playboy and wandering the aisles of the local Mom and Pop in search of some great VHS.

I reluctantly began collecting DVDs in the mid-1990s, as VHS began to phase out into obscurity—taking Mom and Pop along with it. It wasn't until 1996 that I would get excited by another studio ident:



Scream not only revived my hopes for the state of American horror at the time (no worries, that hope would be short-lived as an assembly line of bad knockoffs quickly saturated the market), it got me excited about idents again. And then if that wasn't awesome enough, the 2000s ushered in one more dynamic duo:



and



Put them together, and I see Saw.


Saw [Blu-ray]


I wanted to work at Lionsgate because of that ident. I can rattle off five films that I love, that made me want to spend money at the cinema again, all down to Lionsgate. American Psycho. Saw. House of 1000 Corpses. High Tension. Undead. The Descent. Okay, that's six. My point is, Lionsgate brought back those feelings I had growing up, of getting psyched over films just from the studio ident. But a bigger question looms: who's next? I'm not really feeling all that great about what's out there right now. Remakes, 3D, remakes in 3D. I don't exactly get all ramped-up by the Platinum Dunes logo or its offerings, sorry.

As it goes, every decade has its crap horror moment. The Sixties was overwrought with bad teen alien flicks. The Seventies? Demonic possession and killer animals. The Eighties was about the only decade where bad was all good, e.g. slashers. And so on and so forth, all the way to now. The studios are just about all out of ideas, and even New Line has folded into Warner Bros. But we'll always have the old New Line, with its great Media lead-in. So I'm okay. Ident, therefore, Iam.

Friday, August 5, 2011

One Ring to Find Her.

For a womanchild who perpetually hesitates to categorize or assign order to anything, I find it interesting (well, amusing) that I've always divided the western world into two types: Beatles people, and Rolling Stones people.

But second things first—I actually made a video, my first in eons. I may plan to make it an annual event (a promise or a threat, depending on who's watching):



Anyway, I found that Beatles people, much like the Beatles themselves, started out neat and tidy, then ended up corrupted sometime between their twenties and thirties, only to level out somewhere around forty, when they started ordering Time-Life CDs and buying Activia. Rolling Stones fans like myself? Always a little bit off, due to a series of misadventures wrought from the cradle to depraved. Stones people could be found on the news, running from traffic copters. They brought knives to a fistfight at Altamont. They gave lotto scratchers to their kids as birthday gifts. As for myself, I wasn't yet at the Lizzie Borden onramp; even now, I'm still sort of stuck on the corner of Patty Hearst and 1974, minus the SLA, the machine gun and the beret. Exiled on Main Street, if you will.

And so it went, to know a person was to know if they were Beatles or Stones. Sure, a person could be a fan of both, but a Beatles person usually liked other Beatles-like things, voted a certain way, watched PG-13 horror films and loved them, and so on and so forth. Miike had to have been a Stones person.

Cardboard? No. Delicious? Yes.
This was my way of thinking for quite some time, until Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings rolled around in 2001. I was still a Stones person, but then I also became ... a Potter person. With reservations. The first two films reminded me of one of my favorite childhood films, The Worst Witch (1986). Too much.

Still, I enjoyed the Sorcerer's-slash-Philosopher's-slash-Pharmacist's Stone, only very mildly tolerated The Chamber of Secrets, and loved the hell out of Azkaban, and continued on to the rest of the series without ever having watched one Hobbit, one elf, one ring to rule them all.

Forget beyond the Goblin City, I want to move here.
Then, last night, it happened. My husband put on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and I actually watched it. My sweet, swaddled baby Jesus, that film is long. But damn, is it so, so good. Afterward, I wanted to renew my wedding vows in a recreated Lothl√≥rien, with a big-ass Bilbo birthday cake. I wanted to throw my wedding ring on the stove and see if I could read a secret message on it without branding my fingers. I wanted to speak Elven, be Elven. Actually, I really just wanted to be Liv Tyler, much in the same fashion as I wanted to be Jennifer Connelly as a child—dancing with David Bowie in Labyrinth, wearing the big ballroom gown. Except without all her whining. And Jareth wanted her to stay with him up in his castle beyond the Goblin City? "It's not fair" indeed.

I digress; back to LOTR. What a great movie. I foolishly assumed, all these years, that while I was a Potter person, LOTR was strictly for The Lords of the Rings people, Beatles types who enjoyed D&D, and WoW. And B&Bs. But these people are now the ones running the world, aren't they? And so it goes.

I absolutely loved The Lord of the Rings. I'm sorry I waited 10 years to see it. I plead guilty of ignorance, as only a Stones person would.



Official Shop of Warner Bros


LOTR Extended Blu-Ray Now Availalble! Shop Now!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hallowqueen.

Obviously, Elvira is the Queen of Halloween, in addition to being the Mistress of the Dark. That woman gets around (ba-dum-PAH!). So maybe I could be the 10th runner up? I love horror films, I think I know a bit about them, and being a good Southern California girl, I also know when the 2011 Knott's Halloween Haunt auditions are (woo hoo, see you there!). 

The point is (and there is one), I love Halloween. It's my favorite day of the year; I would've gotten married on Halloween had my then-fiance now-husband opted out for fear of starting off our marriage with bad jujubes. I love everything about Halloween—the candy, the film (do I even have to put the year?), the dressing up—all of it. Here's me last year, as a vampiress from 1973's Hammer classic Dracula A.D. (I know, but suspend disbelief for three minutes and four seconds):




Anyway, I have no idea what I'm going as for Halloween this year, but I do know what I'm going to do, which is everything. I'm making a Halloween bucket list, if you will, and here are two things I've put on it so far:



Visit Century House.

Most of the filming locations for John Carpenter's classic Halloween are in Pasadena, a city I love and—coincidentally—was just in with John a week ago for a film festival. I've always wanted to go to the Myers house, but haven't out of consideration for the inhabitants. However, number 34 on South Pasadena's list of local landmarks is now renovated and houses several businesses—so we're going. And afterward, we're stopping for lunch at the site of Nichol's Hardware Store, which is now Li'l Parlor Pizzeria—located just across the street from where the Myers house originally stood.




Go Haunted House Hunting. 


Afterlife Foam Filled PropOne of the many pleasures of Halloween is watching all sorts of goodies on TV. Of course, there's AMC's annual Fear Fest (last year's Fest with Frank Darabont was awesome!) —"The Walking Dead" returns October 16!!—and The Travel Channel has been showing those great haunted house specials for the past few years now. But this year, I'm going to peel my potato off the couch and actually go see some of these great houses for myself. I'm sure we'll hit the old reliables at the theme parks, but for true terror value, my money's on people like your good selves, who go all out each year to make homespun haunted houses extra special. I'm thinking Chevy Chase, if he made a Halloween Vacation. My goal is to hit at least five haunts between here and Los Angeles, and I can't wait. Open house!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bro Ham.

The Cure, baby. I raised him right.
I have a soft spot for guys who look like my 19-year-old brother, who looks like Phil Lynott—one of my guitar idols, may he rest in peace. I remember the day when PJ was born; I was 16, a junior in high school, and just about to sneak off campus to Del Taco with my stoner friends when I got a note from the office telling me that my dad was picking me up to go to the hospital for PJ's birth.When we arrived at St. Joseph's, he was all bundled up like a 79-cent burrito, and surrounded by nuns, who obviously had premonitions of my little brother's future as a wild child and were performing a ritual preemptive strike. Or they could've just been praying. Semantics.

Anyway, I bring this up because I've been seeing videos on Adult Swim of this band out of Brooklyn called Cerebral Ballzy, and the frontman totally reminds me of my little brother. A lot. I used to play all sorts of music for baby PJ as I rocked him in his detached car seat, and now, at nearly 20 (born in October, my favorite month), PJ is a talented guitarist and L.A. punk junkie in his own right.

Which makes for a nice segue into what is the coolest video I've seen in ages, Cerebral Ballzy's video for "Junky for Her," the second single off their self-titled debut album. I find that my attention span shortens with every year tacked onto my age, so a bit of horror in just a little over two minutes is perfect:





Cool, right?!! I love throwbacks, when done well. The House of the Devil. The Devil's Rejects. Deviled ham. Now, if only Adult Swim could turn those creepy clown-kid bumpers into a full-length feature (or 15-minute short?), the channel would be just about perfect.


Monday, August 1, 2011

FEARnut.

Happy Birthday to Me on FEARnet On Demand? Holy shish kebab!
Everyone has goals in life. I guess. I've had several throughout mine. As a child, I wanted to be Pam Grier, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Elvira, Miss America, a Solid Gold dancer, Linnea Quigley and a "Star Search" spokesmodel—in that order. When I was a teen, I wanted to work for Fangoria so I could get free horror VHS and write alongside my idol, Dr. Cyclops. Having obviously met all of those goals, it's now time to focus on one truly worth accomplishing.

That's right: We plan to watch every film on our FEARnet On Demand, start to finish, rinse and repeat, so we can win a trip to London. And we're starting at the top of the alphabet, with CHUD II: Bud the Chud (1989).



Okay, so we're starting with this one because John wanted to watch it, and so far so bad. But in the Eighties, bad was the new good, right? Michael Jackson was bad, sham on it. So CHUD deuce it is. Besides, everyone's in this. Mr. Roper. Robert Vaughn. Brian Robbins from "Head of the Class." Nicole Eggert's mom from "Charles in Charge." The mom from "Lost in Space." Priscilla Pointer—Amy Irving not included. It even has Bianca Jagger, for sobbing out loud. This film is actually quite fun. Reminds me of Night of the Creeps and The Return of the Living Dead, with a hint of Fido. Plus it's got every Eighties cliche in it; I've checked. Hey, is that Robert Englund in a cameo?! All this and synchronized undead dancing? This Bud's for me.