29 September 2016

DON’T OPEN THE DOOR/aka DON’T HANG UP/1975

DON’T OPEN THE DOOR/aka DON’T HANG UP/1975
DIRECTOR: S.F. BROWNRIGG  
WRITER: FRANK SCHAEFER, KERRY NEWCOMBE
CAST: SUSAN BRACKEN, LARRY O’DWYER, GENE ROSS, JAMES N. HARRELL, HUGH FEAGIN

With this post I shift my reviews or posts back to including more older style movies. In particular films form the late 50’ on into the glorious 60’s and 70’s. I actually enjoy the experience of watching some of these films even if they lean towards the pretty bad side of things. They tend to be shorter in duration (often no longer than 90 minutes and as short as 70 or so) and the colors are a bit brighter than newer films - to the point of being lurid-  or they are shot in a type of b/w style I usually like. All that positive stuff being said, they also tend to have horrid music scores, sloppy editing and direction, poor writing and bad over acting. Strangely however, all of that can be fun. This film by S.F. Brownrigg ( Don’t Look in the Basement, Keep My Grave Open and poor white Trash 2) is a fine example of the goods and bads involved with viewing these old films. While I try to be nice and merciful with these older films compared to the newer ones I have to admit in the end it can be an ordeal really to sit all the way through one, and the 70 minute length of a film like this can seem like hours. If you’re able to do a sort of MST3K routine with yourself you will find the experience more enjoyable or at least less grueling. 

We first meet Amanda Post (Susan Bracken who pouts and snarls her way through the entire film) in a flash back to 1962 where her mother is murdered by an intruder who had earlier made some intimidating anonymous phone calls. Amanda sees her dead mother but not the assailant. We zoom forward to the 70’s where Amanda returns to the town and house to care for her ailing grandmother (who looks a lot like Buddy Epsen to me) after receiving some anonymous phone calls. See, like her mom did? There are not that many characters in the film and almost all the action takes place in the house. The only times the camera really ventures out f the house is to a local doll museum and old train car (both actual local landmarks of Jefferson Texas where the film was shot) where we are treated to riveting acting by the mayor and curator who have conflicting interests in acquiring the old house, for reasons I must have missed when fast-forwarding the slow parts. Of which there are many. Added to the dynamic ensemble is a totally chauvinistic 70’s doctor and an old school house calling type town doctor who do not see eye to eye on the treatment for the old lady who lies in bed muttering “museum” all day. 

There are some attempts at genuine creepy and sleazy moments when a phone calling perv taunts and peeps on Amanda while hidden in the walls of the house. He gets her to perform a naughty sex act on herself while he strangles a doll and breathes all predator like into the phone. There is no doubt as to which of the characters the sleaze ball is and the film tries to be some sort of study, I guess, into psycho-sexual stalking freaks with exaggerated sissy southern accents. As the pace of the film “quickens” towards the end we are treated to weird druggy style camera work and voices with lots of echo and reverb. As some other reviewers noted some of the camera work appears to have some influence by the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, but those moments are few and far between and the connection may be projections of a flustered viewer trying hard to gild the lily whenever possible. There are lots of slow stair case climbing sequences trying to take advantage of the beautiful interior of the house (know as The House of Seasons by locals). At the end are treated to a sure sign of insanity in the form of Amanda rocking in a rocking chair and doing baby faces to herself. The music is of the standard 70's style jazzy improv stuff with walking bass lines that do not fit in with the 'action" on the screen at all. It all sounds like it could have worked in a TV detective show or porn movie of the period just as effectively. And when all and said done I have no clue as to what door it is one supposed to not open. The movie is of the old drive-in theater variety that played the southern drive-in circuit on some sort of triple bill most likely. Not the worst movie in the world - better than Teenage Tramp which I am trying to finish now- but it took me two settings and some fast-forwarding to get through. 








17 September 2016

NEW ORIGINAL AMBIENT MUSIC



WAITING FOR A MESSAGE


THE CHALDEAN VAMPIRE


FROZEN COFFEE

Some new ambient style music done mostly with a couple Brian Eno co-designed iPad Apps and some of my esoteric synth software. 

BILL'S BULLPEN: SCREW IT, I’M BLOGGING


I have really been struggling with this for over a year or more. While I have actually done a lot of posting over the last year as well I have to admit my mind and heart were often elsewhere. And not to say that one’s blog is were one’s soul and ultimate passion should reside. But in the end I find myself not able to just give up the blog as many seem to have done, sometimes to point of even deleting their blogs entirely from the Internet. In the end the struggle revolves around a simple little factor: I enjoy writing. I am not a good writer. But I enjoy it nonetheless. I play guitar and compose my own music. I am not really good at it, but I do it. I draw and sketch. I am not good at it but I do it. I study the Chinese language on my own. I am not good at it and yet I still study a little each day. I am a creative person. A mediocre creative person but nonetheless if I am not doing something, even something no one else will see or hear or read, I feel anxious and empty. 

I have narrowed my blogging issues down to a few factors and wish to state them succinctly and then lay them to rest, the way one lays an impaled vampire to rest.

1) I live in China and the Internet here sucks. I have to use a VPN to connect to 90% or more of sites outside China and my VPN service sucks as well. It can simply wear you out. I get the occasional window of opportunity, like today, and need to take of advantage of it. Of course, it does not mean I will feel like writing but there are solutions to that problem as well, such as having articles stored in a draft folder and ready to upload when the gods show fleeting mercy upon me.

2) I began to feel awkward about the blog. I am 57 and I felt it was almost childish to do a blog like this. My wife has become less supportive of the blog than she once was and sees it as pretty weird. She is Chinese and Buddhist, so that is a large part of it. She actually does not like horror movies though she has sat through a few with me. She does not like b/w movies and I guess I felt odd. Well, so be it. I am odd.

3) Facebook. Yes, Facebook has had something to do with all of this. The site is blocked in China, as is this blog for that matter since Blogger is part of Google, and again it can be a challenge to just access it and make some sort of update. Seems many old time bloggers from the days I began (about 2005 or so) have stopped blogging and moved onto running pages on Facebook or just adding stuff to their wall. I sort of have been doing that too but I found some things out. Some people can wipe their asses and then post the soiled toilet paper on Facebook and get a hundred likes and smiley faces, while some one else can share their cover version of Mozart’s 40th Symphony and get one thumbs up from the same guy who gives a thumbs up to everyone on his wall. Including the shitty toilet paper guy. Or more likely gal.

Facebook is not blogging or writing. I do not know what it is but it can be a painful place for some people. I am fucking fed up with it and really want to drop it. I think I have my posts here linked by RSS feeds (is it still called that) and I will keep that up. I do get traffic to here from Facebook (mostly on MOBILE DEVICES!) and I will take visits from anywhere, even the Ukraine. (Spambot humor there.) When a person I cared for (loved actually) told me to “fuck off” and then unfriended me (oh the woe) because I felt that posts on 9-11 should be pro-American and not pro-Islam (radical or not) and I had no stomach for the anti-American tripe there on that day then I guess that is it. I have nothing left to offer. Pearls before swine I guess.

4) I am expecting less and less from the blog now in terms of how I feel. I used to seek some sort of approbation and approval from the blog and Internet. It is not healthy and may be fermenting s future generation (or current) of mass murderers and serial killers. I almost wanted to “make friends” here and that did not work out too well. People on the net are fickle fucks. Me too. One old blog “buddy” who I connected with on FB blocked me there because I made fun of an ugly transsexual - it is okay to laugh at the bad plastic surgery of straight celebrities of course - and announced how I hated Wes Craven films and he sent me a rude, condescending comment and then blocked me. He had a great blog but he is a pompous sack of shit with no sense of humor so why waste my time.

Comments are not a thing I seek anymore in the sense that I must have them in order to continue writing. People these days are on mobile devices and sampling tidbits of data. I promise to get back to comments when I can and appreciate anyone who takes the time to leave one. I love you. Not just platonically either. But if I get none that is okay too. I also do not publish weird comments okay? I mean rude or perverted shit. And I block the sender. Still happens. Go troll on Facebook.

5) I just want to write. Even if I do not have a movie to review I want to write. It is my blog. I can share my music here and I can write about the struggles with not writing. I can share my cartoons here. I can review old horror movies, new horror movies, mainstream movies or LGBT themed Broadway musicals if I wish. No one has to read it if they do not want to. There are a zillion things on the Internet I will never read. I can post gratuitous pictures of girls in bikinis or comic book covers or review all the Frank Zappa albums I think are musically brilliant. In fact, I already have. None. It is my blog and I’ll do want I guess, within the bounds of reason and ability. And I truly hope some people enjoy it. I am not really wanting to do this for only myself, but in the end I will if I have to. 

I may make some decisions on some of the blog design and features. I changed the background to something brighter and culty. I used to do all those dark backgrounds but decided, um, I would do a brighter one. Exciting, right? I may remove my long non-updated A to Z page. Shit. That is too much work but I like the little Jane Fonda graphic I made. I'll see. I may remove some stuff on my side bar (I have already removed my Facebook and Twitter widgets as well as all RSS feed thingys except for my Feedburner stuff. we can just wait for Google to drop that the why they did their awesome Google Reader. ).  I took off that Blogger follower widget and the Google+ follwer one as well. People do not do that anymore. In the past two years my followers went from 150 to 152. People do not follow blogs and add to RSS readers anymore really. So let that crap go. I did flip the sidebar from the right side to the left side. I am sill adjusting to that. But when it is all settled the fact is I just want to write things. And see, I just did. I feel less empty already. 

14 September 2016

13 July 2016

05 July 2016

SOMEONE OUTSIDE/ORIGINAL MUSIC


Another recent, sort of, original music piece done under my Arctic Transmissions electronic music project. 

JAMES BOND THEME/THE BENT EIGHTS

IN THE PROCESS OF BEING RE-RECORDED. WILL HAVE A NEW AND BETTER VERSION BACK HERE SOON.



My version of the 007 opening theme song composed by Monty Norman. I play under the title of my fictitious rock band The Bent Eights.  Been a while since I shared anything like this. 

04 July 2016

STARRY EYES/2014

STARRY EYES/2014
DIRECTOR: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
WRITER: Keving Kolsch, Dennis Windmyer
CAST: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Nick Simmons, Louis Dezsaran

Here is a sign of a film I tend to like. I live in China and have to download most of the films I watch, unless I can find them online here with one of the streaming apps on my iPad (I tend to watch all movies on my iPad these days) and then they always have Chinese subtitles hard coded into the image, which bums me out. But I tend to have a folder with my recently downloaded films. I may not even watch a lot of them. If I test out a flick for quality and it is looks poorly filmed or acted or is (the worst) a found footage movie it gets deleted before being seen. I may then watch a film and then delete it. But I know I liked a movie a lot if I do not delete it and save for a rewatch in the future, and such was the case with Starry Eyes, a well made Faustian/Satanic themed movie about how far we sometimes go to get the fame and power we crave. 

Sarah (Alex Essoe in a simply great performance and hopefully we will see more of her) is just another pretty face struggling to be an actress in LA. She pays the rent the way all aspiring actresses do by working at as a waitress, in this case at the “classy” Hooters styled eatery known as Big Taters. Sarah struggles with having what it really takes to be a Big Taters girl and her job is now standing in the way of her rise to overnight night stardom as the lad in the movie The Silver Scream. Sarah seemed to get through the auditions, but not because of her acting chops, but because of her high strung emotional peculiarities. Quickly the job requirements from the old and powerful, yet obscure, production company Astraeus Pictures become more demanding than her Big Taters gig. Sarah is soon having conflicts with her circle of friends who are all also aspiring actors or directors. The group are basically stoned slackers who do more dreaming and planning than doing and Sarah feels held down by their small visions and party life styles. But just as things begin to look up for Sarah she begins to fall apart. Emotionally and physically. The producer and staff of Astraeus Pictures are not letting Sarah have her stardom all that easily and there is a huge price to paid fro being offered the lead role in this new production. Does Sarah have what it takes to stop serving burgers and grace the big screen. Well, I felt she did. 

The movie has the feel in places of something the likes Roman Polanski or David Lynch may have thought up. While not near that level of filmmaking the movie works well enough in evoking a dark and oppressive atmosphere that does not let up until the end. The violence is held in check until the last part of the movie and when it happens it is intense and shockingly over the top. One death by barbell is so unnerving and disgusting I had to replay it at least three or four times. The acting is good but Alex Essoe is both fabulous and disturbing, as the determined to get what she wants at any cost Sarah. She struggles with herself but the darkness prevails in the end. Worth a mention is the effective electronic music score Jonathan Snipes and excellent cinematography by Adam Bricker. The practical effects are gory and ultra-violent. You have to wait for them but it is no problem since the film is not about those scenes and they are just a necessary part of a bigger and better and darker mythology the film creates. I will be checking it out again in a couple weeks. 










29 June 2016

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III/1993/BRIAN YUZNA

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III/1993
DIRECTOR: Brian Yuzna
WRITER: John Penny
CAST: Kent McCord, Melinda Clarke, J. Trevor Edmund, James T. Callahan, Sarah Douglas

There was a time I was a real zombie movie fan but that fascination has longed waned in the face of the utter drek that is churned out in the name of the flesh eating living dead. I tend to like the bigger budget stuff now and the couple TV shows, The Walking Dead and fear the Walking Dead. The last real zombie movie I got into before my but out began was The Return of the Living Dead III, directed by Brian Yuzna way back in 1993. It and the original 1988 ROTLD are the only two of the series I have ever cared for and I do not think I have even bothered with most of the newer ones. I got depressed seeing Peter Coyote (this guy worked with Spielberg and Polanski for the love of God) degrade himself to pay the rent in the later sequels. The second one was just not entertaining while the original is the classic horror/comedy film it has earned the reputation of being. But the third film seems to have slipped off the radar for most people and that si too bad. It is a well made little film by the often capable Yuzna from back when he was still producing and directing films in America (for all I know he is still making movies in Spain or some place). 

The basic storyline diverges from most zombies films in that it 1) does not focus on some sort of zombie holocaust and a few humans battling hysterically against the apocalypse and each other and 2) it weaves a pretty believable love story, of a Romeo and Juliet variety, into the plot. Young teenager Curt Reynolds (James T. Callahan) and his military father Col. Reynolds (Adam 12’s Kent McCord in a good performance) are struggling with father/son issues and the stress of moving from base to base where the Col. is overseeing the latest experiments with trioxin, the chemical in that reanimates the dead and brings them back as brain hungry zombies. The film makes a departure from the first tow in this department in that bites can now transform people, whereas in the first films only exposure to the trioxin gas made you a zombie. 

Curt is in love with Julie (Melinda Clarke) and after a motorcycle accident kills her he revives her with the trioxin gas, out of love of course, but things start to get a little freaky for Curt and Julie after she starts getting hungry. Snowballs and Twinkies at the local convenient store aren’t going to satisfy her. The film become a series of chases from local pachuko gang members and the military that leads the pair into the infamous underground sewers of LA. If you Google the film and look at the images it is hard to find anything other than the now iconic images of Julie with all manner of pins, and scrap metal and chains and broken glass impaled through her body. The make up for those scenes took no less than six hours to do. The images are impressive and Julie ranks as the sexiest zombie girl in horror history I suppose. If there were a contest for the one zombie chick you’d want to do if you had the chance I would bet Julie would win.

When Yuzna wants to dish out the graphic violence he can and he does in ROTLD III. There aren’t many scenes here of attacking zombies being shot in the heads and most all of the violence has humans on the receiving end. I am sure zombie rights activists will be happy to hear that. The acting and story of star-crossed lovers Curt and Julie keep the narrative moving along, as well as the father and son dysfunction subplot, and even the rivalry between Col. Reynolds and Col. Sinclair (Sarah Douglas) for the best use of the trioxin animated zombies. Sinclair’s zombie driven exoskeleton innovation adds for some freakish effects towards the end of the film. 

I can honestly say this film is one of my guilty pleasures in life and I have seen it a half dozen or more times since I first saw it on VHS. It stands on its own in the series and while a part of the ROTLD franchise it cold have almost been a movie all on its own. In fact I understand Yuzna was not completely happy to have to use the ROTLD title as the film was getting completed. It felt it was too long and felt the film was a bit distinct from the first two films.  But he had in fact agreed to do a sequel in the beginning and so that was that. It is still way beyond all the low budget zombie shit that is being churned out these days in terms of story and atmosphere. If more zombie films had taken this direction I would still be an avid fan of the genre. 






13 June 2016

GIRL HOUSE/2014

GIRL HOUSE/2014
DIRECTOR: Trevor Matthews/Jon Knautz
WRITER: Nick Gordon
CAST: Ali Corbin, Slaine, Adam DiMarco

Girl House is a Canadian produced slasher film that is set in South Carolina. It stars TV actress Ali Corbin as a nice girl who figures it is a god idea to do live sex shows on the online porn site Girl House. Okay, she's paying her way through college, so that makes it okay. On Girl House the girls are followed by live cams all day and night long by their drooling and masturbating followers. This means cams watching them cooking, playing pool, sleeping and even spending time in the bathroom. The house is called the Fort Knox of websites because of its high degree of security. Well, that’s not enough to keep out a relentless psycho called Loverboy (played by white rapper Slaine) who works in the computer tech field. I guess since he has an IT job repairing motherboards and plugging in cables correctly it puts him on a level to hack into any place he wants at a moment’s whim. Those are a couple problems with Girl House –nice girls doing porn and IT guys smarter than security at the CIA or NSA- but they can be easily over looked  as necessary plot devices to just get the ball rolling, and the heads. Girl House is not a bad slasher style flick and while it follows the formulas –in this case the classic slumber party/sorority house massacre type formulas- it does so in a fairly bleak and uncompromising way. The film has a European feel to it really, and for some reason the version I got a hold of even has German text all over the credits and in the shots of the chat logs. I could not find out why it had German as there is, at this point, little about this film online. 

The direction and camera work are pretty good and the script does not get blogged down too much in creating petty squabbles and conflicts between the girls in the house. It moves things along at a steady pace and when the killing begins it is all pretty gruesome and explicit, all done with old school practical effects. Sure, there are plot holes you can drive a truck through but that will always be the case with these types of films. And the film never, in my opinion, becomes some sort of psycho-sexual case study or social, moral message film about the evils of the online porn community.  It is just a slasher film and does not try to be much else. And it succeeds.  Some background to the character Loverboy is given but not enough that the film becomes a story from the killer’s POV. And if you read my last review, Charlie’s Farm, you may recall I felt the Charley character was more comical than menacing because of the lack of a good psycho slasher mask. In Girl House we get the best/worst of both worlds in that we get to see Loverboy sans mask and later with. And it is pretty freaky mask too. It just really would not have worked had we had to see his face. The good direction, good enough dialog, atmosphere and brutality of the killings makes it a worthwhile watch for fans of the genre. And fans of pulsing pumping 80’s style synth will appreciate the effective score by tomandandy, the scoring duo from Texas and Canada. In the end I may have felt the final girl sequence between Loverboy and Kylie (Ali Corbin) was a bit rushed and Loverboy seemed tougher than that to me, but the film ultimately has more going for it than against it. Worth a look if you like porno slasher stalking mayhem. And who the hell doesn’t?