Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Random Bests...

Best: Death by Dorm Art
Aenigma (1987)

Shot down by Top Gun in the prime of her life...

Oh the enigma that is Aenigma. Part Carrie, part Phenomena, part Jennifer, part method for Lucio Fulci to pay off his gambling debts. The classic story of an all girl boarding school overrun by the mystical and macabre gets a slight reinvention to the tune of utter nonsense. I consider Fulci a "Maverick" in his own right, consistently adding new and embarrassing nuances to each scene of schoolgirl bitchery. The accidental assault of an outcast at the hands of her freewheeling nemeses has our telekinetic and comatose teen seeking all-out revenge. Don't ask questions. Aenigma is like a riddle wrapped in a bad screenplay, wrapped in barely-there lingerie.

Best: Death by Disinterest

Expendable indeed... One would think that death by snails is a rarity, and deserved if anyone's too lackadaisical to just put their top on and leave the room. Given their glacial pace, their complete lack of menace and general threat, a slow death seems appropriate to anyone willing to stay immobile for that long. The only thing slower than these snails is the naked girl they're trying to consume.

Best: Clothing Fight Climax

For every bit of mundane that exists in a murder by snails, there's a strange intensity to roommates throwing clothes at one another. Possession overtakes our prized pupil, causing her to unleash a wraith of soft cotton and denim at her soft-spoken cellmate. A flurry of outdated fashion builds to a literal climax, as our girl writhes and thrashes into demonic orgasm.

Time to switch rooms. Such is the confounding reality of boarding school life and Lucio Fulci's later career.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Something Rank (#8-7)

4 Fiends, 36 Films, Incessant Foul Play

Previous Entries:
(#36-33) (#32-29) (#28-25)
(#24-21) (#20-17) (#16-15)
(#14-13) (#12-11) (#10-9)

(#8) Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Poor headless Pamela and her water-logged, wonky-eyed son. Her vengeance against the horny teens of Camp Crystal Lake lies dormant, much like her head that now rests on ornate display in Jason's backwoods shanty town. But Jason still has an axe to grind over what went down last year, amongst other weaponry like spears and a machete.

It's Jason's first Crystal Lake outing and first foray into his mom's line of work -- that being bloodthirsty vengeance. A new batch of fresh-faced fodder arrives just in time for Jason to rise from the waters, fashion a presentable pillowcase, and sadistically slaughter with the efficiency of an icon in the making. If Pamela Voorhees was good at her job, Jason took to the family business with more gusto and a much higher rate of productivity.

Steve Miner's sequel graciously matches that legacy with considerable suspense. Taking cues from master Mario Bava, Jason's mutilations are among the most memorable -- certainly twitching a few death nerves along the way. Miner's film feels like it's fumbling with some sort of story, rather than mere expectation, making this a fan-favorite and one of the more standalone, essential entries. Jason makes for a villain to rival his own mother and other cinema stalkers, with a notable brute force behind that bag-faced blank stare. No one is spared his mama's boy rage: couples penetrated during penetration, a wheelchair-bound hunk takes the stairs.... Perhaps the only one to come away scar-free is the camp slut's cutesy dog, ironically named Muffin.

Jason Voorhees is only just beginning, but it's a proper start thanks to a soulful survivor, Ginny (Amy Steel). A Final Girl finally worth the runtime, Amy Steel continues to be one of the brightest, most naturalistic of horror heroines. Her fear actually translates, her brains and brawn a winning combination. With this and April Fool's Day, Amy Steel gets the joke and deserves the "Scream Queen" seal of approval. Donning that uncomfortably thick blue sweater, she knows that to get into the mind of a killer she first has to tap into his uncomfortably awkward mother issues. Finally a Crystal Lake camp counselor who actually knows how to counsel, while also wielding a mean pitchfork.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) She's just a girl, standing in front of a boy,
asking him not to kill her.

2) The bag helps soak up all that excess lake water.

3) An episode of Hoarders
or coffee table conversation piece?

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#7) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is like a pressure cooker. It leaves viewers tenderized, traumatized and hungry for more. Tobe Hooper's sequel, however, is an unusually offbeat recipe that won't be to everyone's taste. The original's touches of black comedy take over, subtle dread becomes excessive disgust, and frightening villains mutate into comical sideshows. Overcooked perhaps, it's a singular style that Hooper creates with manic frenzy and morbid fun.

Drayton Sawyer's taken his BBQ business into the big time. Catering and cook-offs have finally put the Sawyer family on the map. It's an interesting business plan: their consumers are freely consuming other consumers. If Hooper's first film touched upon the American family in the desolate wake of Vietnam, this sequel sees that family thriving and following the American dream to some unsavory success. Hooper's commentary is complimented by the bizarre comic relief, but his take on the horrors in America's heartland is definitely less horrifying this time around.

Dennis Hopper's less of an easy rider these days, traveling across Texas distraught by the death of his nephew, Franklin. Hopper's only ties to catching the chainsaw-clutching clan of cannibals is local disc jockey, Stretch (Caroline Williams), who gets a more disturbing on-air call than if she were Dr. Laura. Rebel vigilante justice is the order of the day, but it leads Stretch unknowingly into the warped world of the Sawyer family and Leatherface's burgeoning libido.

Leatherface longs for the tender loins of our soft-spoken DJ in a move that makes him less a figure of menace than of mockery. The tonal shift is a wise choice on Hooper's part. He'll never be able to reach the heights of Chain Saw's terror, but he can certainly reach the depths of depravity. Hooper has his bloodthirsty brood taking refuge fittingly in a dismantled amusement park. Funnel cakes and bumper cars give way to headcheese and face-flaying -- a dark, disturbed playground for the criminally insane. While building on a tried and true formula, TCM2 takes to its moonlit chase and devious dinner scene with a new mood for the macabre. It's over-the-top with the shoddy grandeur of a big-top circus.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) Leatherface:
Just a misunderstood manchild.

2) Drayton Sawyer:
The best man in barbecue.
Not counting the men used to make the barbecue.

3) Rowdy war vet, Chop Top.

4) Grandpa Sawyer:
The best of the slaughterhouse,
the worst of dinner guests.

5) Grandma Sawyer:
The hand that rocks the chainsaw
is the hand that rules the world.

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: #6-5

Laurie Strode and the terrible, horrible,
no good, very bad day.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"This House is Clean..."

...So clean in fact you wouldn't know that it was once the site of a grisly horror classic! In case you don't watch TV, or threw yours out after your daughter was abducted by it, this is the famed Freeling family abode as it stands in Simi Valley today. The setting for Tobe Hooper's infamous haunted house spectacle, and center for countless pissed off spirits who didn't care to relocate from the beautiful Cuesta Verde suburbs. The Freelings cancelled their cable and a new family moved in, but the Poltergeist home remains hauntingly the same. Indeed home is where the heart is, and take it from everyone's favorite pint-sized psychic, "This house has many hearts."

The iconic house still stands amongst countless others of the same dated detail, nearby those vast and tangled trees of menace featured so prominently in the movie. You can almost picture it all crumpling into a giant electrical ball of nostalgia.