Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

POPCEREAL REVIEW: Home for the Holiday (1972 TV)

I've got your present for you. It's a pitchfork!! In your back!!!
The four Morgan sisters reunite, after nine years, as they visit their ailing father.  There is the youngest, Christine (played by a young Sally Fields, fresh off her run as The Flying Nun), an naive innocent college girl, who still depends on her big sisters; Jo (Jill Haworth) the feisty socialite, Fred (Jessica Walter, who was killer in Play Misty for Me, just a year earlier) along with her bottles of vodka, and Alex (Eleanor Parker) the older, mother-hen spinster.
Don't look at him, whatever you do

They've been summoned to their childhood ranch estate by their father (the ever enjoyable Walter Brennan), who is convinced that his new wife (the creepy Julie Harris) is trying to poison him.  Her first husband died under mysterious circumstances, and now the sisters are worried that she is targeting their father's money.  To make matters more difficult, there is a terrible December thunderstorm a-brewing.  Trapped in their secluded childhood home, the sisters keep an eye open for their suspicious stepmother, and open some scabbed over wounds from their own dysfunctional past.
Killer Graphic Tee

Oh... and let's not forget the maniacal killer, dressed in a yellow rain slicker and boots, and red rubber gloves, carrying a pitchfork!

Produced by the dream team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, this TV Movie is already a must see. But then you throw in John Llewellyn Moxey -- the best TV Movie of the Week director ever(!), well, then you just have a hit on your hands.

Oh yeah, Michael Myers.  I got your number.

I can still remember the first time I watched this Yuletide creeper.  It's probably the first slasher flick I ever watched.  Sadly, though, in the pantheon on modern horror, there is no mention of this small screen gem.  Halloween has already been established as the original slasher flick, and has been widely credited for setting the standards and motifs.  Horror buffs will also look back a couple years previous to Black Christmas, and credit that film for establishing the guidelines for all others.  But, no one ever talks about Home for the Holidays.  Clearly, HFTH is well set in the Made for Television vein, with the old fashioned "ladies in distress" theme, and Gothic thriller overtones.  It doesn't compare to the youthful. angsty and lusty predecessors, with their shocks and sex.  But, check out the killer donned in the slasher style garb!

If we all know one thing about slasher flicks, it's that the killer is always masked, his/her identity hidden from the viewer.  HFTH has that motif down pat, and it predates Halloween by a half dozen years (Black Christmas by two years).

Actually, this argument is somewhat of a moot point, seeing that the Italian Giallo pictures had killers running around in rain slickers and gloves long before Spelling and Goldberg decided to make this film

Thursday, December 9, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: And Soon the Darkness (2010)

Odette Yustman fulfills her contractual agreement -- that of having her butt cheeks featured prominently in a bad movie.
Which way outa this movie?
Comparing this Hollywood remake to its original British predecessor would be like placing Dolly Parton next to a 5th Grader and asking the little school girl not to have a complex.  It's just plain not fair!  Not that the remake would fare any better, being critiqued on its own merits.  The original was brought to the screen by the creative team who behind the incredibly imaginative and unique 60s British TV spy series The Avengers.  the remake was brought to the screen by the creative team of... a pile of short films.

The two perky mod British girls, of the original, are replaced by two perky American college girls (played by Amber Heard and Odette Yustman), and the rural countryside that thy bicycle through has moved from France to Argentina (golly gee, tourists terrorized in the wilds of South America -- how original).  Like a cookie cutout, the remake follows the original plot lines:  the girls find themselves in a small village where other female travelers have gone missing, they run into a handsome stranger who appears to be following them, the girls have a tiff and separate. and help is found from the local law officer.  But, the comparisons stop there.  Clever character twists, nuanced direction and imaginative storytelling have all been traded in, like an American girl for white slavery, for standard college buddy horror fare. 
"Seriously, I am the poor man's Megan Fox.:
Heard and Yustman are asked to not much more than look good in their summer minis and bikini.  Their performances are about as standard as can be -- Heard is the "nice" girl who shyly bats her eyes at the cute American stranger, and Yustman is the flirty bad" girl, who plays up the frat boy hi-jinks with an embarrassingly modicum talent for humor.  Ironically, Heard is tagged as a producer on this movie, which makes me wonder why she didn't demand some better development for these characters. Why, upon hearing about the strange disappearances of other college age tourists, would these young ladies then strut into the local watering hole, inhabited by all locals, wearing their sexiest dresses, and then grind on the male patrons, while singing along to The Divinyls' "I Touch Myself?"  After this act of idiocy, it's hard to care what happens next to these brainless kids.

And what does happen next is straight out of every other Tourists Beware!! movie that's come out in the past few years.
What's my motivation?
I don't understand how some people can defend remakes, when movies like this are the common result.  The took the skeleton of a great, nuanced, witty and terrifying movie, and then boil off all the meat.  What many producers fail to realize is that it's not the story that makes a good film good, but the storytelling. The original 1970 production was a perfect gem of quiet suspense, built on good pacing and characters.  And Soon the Darkness 2010 is merely a pointless regurgitation of Saw and Hostel gimmicks.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A NEIGHBORHOOD REVIEW: Shank

I little bit ago, I dished out some free copies of Revolver's release of Shank.  I asked the winners if they would give a review of the flick, just for funtime sakes.  Here's Michal Zombie's review, from over at his My Zombie Life blog.

"So in the not too distant past I won a online contest run by I.m. BadRonald for a copy of the movie Shank. Its a British movie about a post apocalyptic London in the year 2015 where gangs run the streets and its a fight for survival. Cool, sounds like The Warriors or A Clockwork Orange so far. . . and that's about the only nice thing I'm going to say about the movie....:

That was a small taste.  Go read the rest here...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lancelot LINKS: snubdom's review of classic TV movie Bad Ronald

I came across a link to Rick Tremble's website of wild, trippy illustrated movie reviews -- and other stuff -- snubdom. It's a funhouse full of subversive movie reviews, music, comix and other shit.  I parked myself down in the review archives for a couple few, I was having such a blast!  And, while reading my way through, I came across this review -- Bad Ronald! 

Undoubtedly, one of my all-time favorite TV Movies of the Week.  Scared the cripes outa me as a kid, and still puts the willies in me when I see it now.  It's not your traditional horror fare -- more a suspense thriller -- so it's not full of big frights or leaping cats.  What got to me was the brilliant perforance by Scott Jacoby as Ronald.  When he finally takes that turn into insanity, he is simply a big creepy creepster.

So sacred this movie is, to me, that I have not yet done a review of it, myself.  I figured I'd ask Rick if I could post his unique review here.  He said I could.  And I thank him greatly.  Enjoy!

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Damned by Dawn (2010)

Damned if You Do...
Come on, come on... Take a!  Take another little piece of my heart, now ba-bay!!
It's interesting, the title of this flick.  It's so close to the alternate title  of The Evil Dead (Dead by Dawn), a movie that the filmmakers and distributors just love to compare it to.  Content wise, it has the same high energy visuals blasting throughout, just as Sam Raimi's movie did.  The filmmakers of DBD certainly get an A for effort.  They put in a lot of work to try and make this film LOOK foreboding.

The problem is... they overdid the doom and gloom, and unwittingly overburdened the audience (while at the same time, underwhelming them with lack of plot).
If I find that damn fog machine, I'm gonna trash it!
From the opening fog-enshrouded title sequence through to the very end of the movie, the screen is so filled with a deathly blue/gray pallor that we're sapped of any pleasurable feelings.  Every exterior sequence is absolutely drenched in fog, fog from a fog machine AND computer generated (computer generated fog is up there on my annoyance list, along with CG blood splatter and CG frost breath). Yes, building a foreboding feeling is a helluva tool for horror, but too much of it works against the emotional hinge of the story.

Claire and Paul (Renee Willner and Danny Alder) head to the country to visit Claire's sick grandmother (helluva good time to introduce the family to your new beau!).  Claire is entrusted with an funeral urn, by her grandmother (who already looks like she's been dead for weeks), with the eerie and vague notice that she'll "know what to do with it, when the time comes."  Well, the time comes when a wailing Banshee comes to take grandma away to the hereafter.  Apparently, grandma knew that her grandchild would screw up and kill the banshee, and then have to use the urn to fix up the entire mess.  Grandma -- always knows everything, she does.
Do you think I should sue those nincompoops down at the spa?
This may have been an interesting film, had the filmmakers put as much effort into the story and the performances, as they did the effects.  Director/Writer Brett Anstey expresses his love of the great Hammer Studio horror films (the footage of his old Super8/videos from his youth demonstrate his love of horror), and how he wanted his film to deliver the same feel. But he misses the mark.  The Hammer films were filled with vibrant colors and vibrant performances.  They were gruesome, but also sophisticated.  The performances were earnest, and the stories and direction innovative.  With Damned by Dawn there is an utter lack of any of these qualities.  The characters move through their environments with no aim or goal.  Claire enters the bedroom of her grandmother frequently, but for no other reason than to just happen upon another clue to the plot.  It's very much like watching someone play a video game.  The player walks the character to a room, they find a clue, they leave, they go find another clue... on and on, until you come to the confrontation with the adversary.  And then the clues and whatever else is found, is used in battle.

the plus side is some of the creature effects.  They are quite old school and clunky computer generated goblins, but the effect of them all flying after Claire, as she tries to escape in the climax, is really pretty creepy.  If I had only an inkling of worry about the character's well-being, I might've had more of a connection.

All mood and atmosphere, gore and goblins.  The only ghost here is the plot.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spit Take

They're coming in February, 2011!!  Both... simultaneously. 
"They do respect her but(t)...
"...They love to watch her strut..."  Bob Seger

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gone (2007)

Another bad day for the outback backpackers.
For reasons that I can't quite comprehend, the Australian horror scene got a real bad knock after the controversial Wolf Creek ripped through the horror headlines.  So many people said it was a disgusting, all-for-the-thrill-of-gore movie.  Many unjustly threw it on the torture-porn funeral pyre, along with Hostel and Saw and their cousins (Wolf Creek was miles better than those pieces of mule shit).  Others -- the Aussie locals who recalled the tragedy it was loosely based on -- were outraged that filmmakers would so quickly capitalize on a brutal true-life crime.  Me?  I thought it a fantastically built upon suspense yarn that explodes into unrelenting, and horrific terror.  I was disturbed and unsettled... and I like that.  Gone didn't deserve to be shoved aside because of the other film's controversy.  In fact, outside of some similarities in their storytelling maneuvers, the films are quite different.


Hmm... you think this cage this guy has behind us is some kinda foreboding omen?
Brit boy Alex (Shaun Evens from the gawdawful After Dark Horrorfest IV entry Dread) arrives in Australia with nothing but a backpack and a tourist guide. Looking lost, a charismatic American traveler Taylor (Scott Melchlowicz from Mean Creek) invites him along to party Aussie style with a couple local gals he's hooked up with.  It isn't until after Alex crawls out of a sleeping bag with one of the girls that he fesses up that he's in town to meet up with his girlfriend.  Oops!  What to do with the incriminating Polaroids that Taylor snapped of all of them last night?  Not a problem.  Taylor is such a cool dude, he tosses the pics in the trash at the gas station, before delivering Alex to his rendezvous with his girl Sophie (Amelia Warner, who did a number of period pieces before tagging onto some genre flicks) -- except that he's not gonna exit the scene that easily.
They didn't sign their postcards
After an initial day of fun and frolic on the Aussie beaches, Taylor drops the news that after a one night fling, Sophie's gal pal Ingrid (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith) grabbed the earliest bus outa town, leaving the two lovebirds with a third wheel on their romantic getaway.  Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Alex, seeing that Taylor has the scoop on his infidelities AND is being very obvious towards his girlfriend.  The pot starts to boil over when the lovebirds run into another fellow traveler who is a link to Taylor's sordid, maybe violent past. Envy, paranoia, distrust... all items on the menu on this vacation from hell.
He's attracted to me?  Oh please.
I don't understand why this flick didn't get more attention.  I guess that by the time Gone had entered the horrorspehere, people were already leary of the tourists-meet-tragedy flicks, like Touristas, Donkey Punch, and the Hostel twins, so they didn't bother.  It's a shame, because fans were all abuzz about Lake Eden (another romantic excursion gone wrong) but no one seemed to notice that Gone was written by James Watkins, the fellow who directed, and also wrote, that fine flick.

Much like Wolf Lake, the film takes its time to let the characters breath, to interact and react to each other. The performances are pretty much solid, with Scott Melchlowicz pulling off the double-edged task of being both charismatic and slimy.  And the direction by Ringan Ledwidge is so wonderfully subtle. Nothing is obvious, and that's exactly why this flick works as a suspense thriller.  The character of Sophie could've easily been the usual pissy, underappreciated hot girlfriend, but Ledwidge steers Amelia Warner towards a performance that is more genuine.  She's a girl who wants to enjoy her time with her boyfriend and gets effected by the change she sees in him.  She's definitely a cute girl, but her looks and fashion sense are downplayed, so as not to be just some body for the camera to focus onto.
Yeah, she's mine.  Can't you tell?
 Taylor is certainly dubious and has ulterior motives towards Alex's girlfriend. And Alex is a guilt-ridden freak who knows he doesn't deserve a girl as sweet and genuine as Sophie.  These personality conflicts are what build the suspense.  There's no body in the trunk that we're waiting for the unsuspecting lovebirds to discover, no detective knocking at doors to get us all riled up, no big shows of violence (until the 3rd act!).  It's all character driven thrills.  But, unlike Wolf Creek, the gruesomeness is not so much slash-'em-up kind, but more pulse pounding (with a white knuckle "chase" scene climax that is absolutely maddening), cat-and-dangermouse kind.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2010)

Twisted Sisters Wanna Rock!
Finding a slaughterd hooker in your trunk -- Oh, but that could ruin a day, huh?  But not for the Soska Sisters.  No sir, these hot little doppelgangers turn such a sordid occasion into one helluva gut-busting action gore flick.  After seeing these sweet twins in action (they write, direct AND star) you'll be wondering why some of the boys are even bothering to pick up a camera.
Grrl-icious Badass (Sylvia) and her twin sister, the those-glasses-can't-hide-the-sexy Geek (Jen) set out to run a few simple errands with their pals Junkie (Rikki Gange) and the Jesus loving Goody Two Shoes (CJ Wallis), but instead wind up on the wrong side of trouble when they discover the body of a dead hooker left in their trunk. While they try to get their shit squared away and figure out what to do with the corpse, they face off against persistent police, a sleazy motel manager, chainsaw wielding triads, and a brutal serial killer. And, the mysterious Cowboy Pimp.
Move out the way, boys
Jen and Sylvia Soska have presented themselves as a force to be reckoned with.  They wrote, produced, directed and starred in this debut flick, and not only do they display an obvious love of the genre, but they had the, um... balls to tackle the task with a surprisingly intuitive eye for storytelling.  There's none of the usual fanboy worship you find so prevalent in these low budget eye-poppers.  There's no mindless odes to their favorite movies, no dry humping the same old cliches.  Instead, the Soska girls came to the game with their own ideas, and their own brand of fun. Seeing the Soska Sisters in action will answer that age old question of what would happen if Quentin Tarrantino were to mate with the Suicide Girls?  Dead Hooker in a Trunk is a gut busting grrl power trip.  And the Soska Sisters are on fire.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Meadowoods(2009)

The Kids Aren't Alright
Another band of merry filmmakers has, once again, leaped headlong onto the "found footage" bandwagon that got rolling after the success of The Blair Witch Project. This flick features an interesting enough premise  --  three bored kids who decide to kill a random person -- that touches on the exceedingly disturbing trend amongst middle class kids, who are bored with their stable suburban lifestyle.  With a huge sense of entitlement, these kinds of kids believe that they deserve to be able to act out as they wish -- probably because some pop culture idol told them it was okay -- and their bloated egos lead them to believe that they'll be superstars when the world finds out that they are really just good kids who needed to be heard.
Do you think the audience understands how bored we are?
Meadowoods had the opportunity to demonstrate just how idle and misguided these kids are, but trashes any sense of sensibility by seemingly giving these deluded fools a credible voice (the similarly themed The Final made the same mistake).  The filmmakers, while demonstrating just how creepy kids like this could be, seemed also to be empathetic to them.  I don't begrudge a filmmaker who attempts to humanize the monsters who walk among us.  Actually, I admire the movies that can make us pause.  Some of the best horror movies can make the common person come to an understanding of why a killer is what he is.  But, Meadowoods ain't nearly in that league. 

To start with, the story is nonexistent.  What we have here is really just the kids sitting around trying to convince themselves, and each other (and us), that what they're doing has some real merit.  The dialogue is amazingly laughable, as these kids try and sound creepy and oh-so-unaffected.  And the action, if you can call it action, is so underplayed, as to not have the actors remove themselves from the set frame of the camera (remember, when he pulls the gun on you, don't scramble out past your spot).  What we end up with is just another bunch of fanboys who have convinced themselves that their ripoff is somehow original.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Winners Are...



Here are 5 names picked at random from the free DVD giveaway:
Jerry Perzanowski
Patrick Zartman
Michal Janusz Zombee
Jen Soska
Ron Oliver

Congrats kids!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BAD RONALD REVIEW: Fangoria Frightfest - GRIMM LOVE (2006)

A Grim Tale of a Grim Feast
In 2002 Armin Meiwes (known popularly as the Rotenburg Cannibal), was convicted of the manslaughter of fellow a fellow German named Bernd J├╝rgen Brandes. Meiwes was looking to have a cannibalistic experience, and Brandes was looking to, well... get eaten.  This was shocking in and of itself, but what most captivated the world was that the two had met on an Internet chat room for wannabe  cannibals.  The darn Internets!  Wouldn't the world be a safer place without it!!

In this fictional account of the story, Keri Russell plays Katie Armstrong, an American student studying criminal psychology in Germany. For her thesis, she chooses the notorious case of Oliver Hartwin , a man fixated on the idea of eating another human being. Via an internet chat board he found a willing volunteer, a young man Simon Grombeck.  Katie, herself, soon becomes obsessed with the case and immerses herself in it at all expenses of her own well being.  But why, we don't really learn. 
Oh crap... IMDB won't let me erase this movie from my resume.
Through a series of flashbacks -- done partly with an annoying old worn 8mm film look (even though none of their childhood was captured on film) -- we learn of how nasty parenting and sadness shaped these two men into the desperate, pathetic and degraded men they grew up to be.  It's almost like a love story, that these two lost souls came together, almost cosmically, as if they were meant to.  I mean, how often have you thought Gee, I wish I could find someone who would let me eat them.  I mean seriously let me have, not just a nibbly, but a whole meal! And then, poof! There he is.  Like fate, baby.

The story of Oliver and Simon (played brilliantly by both Thomas Kretschmann and Thomas Huber), itself, is quite riveting.  So, it begs the question of why the movie needed the Keri Russell character.  As Katie runs here and there, investigating the lives of her subjects, and what drew them separately to perform such unspeakable acts together, we never get a glimpse into what drives Katie.

We see her often check herself in the mirror, examining the anguish the case has brought to her.  We hear the phone message from a friend who worry she has become unsafely drawn to her work.  But, Katie is never in any danger from anyone, not even from her own sanity.  The only obstacle she crosses are people who despise even the name of Oliver Hartwin, and won't provide any help.  Even as Katie enters the Internet world of the cannibal wannabes to discover there exists a videotaped account of the cannibal feast between Oliver and Simon, there is no cause for alarm, because one of the very helpful cannibal fans simply drops a copy off for her to watch.  Such nice peeps those man-eaters are.
Gonna have to tenderize this one
She watches the video.  She gasps at the moment Simon's penis is lopped off and shared (no Ciante or fave beans necessary).  She sobs when Oliver grants his friend's final wish to kill and cook him.  Katie becomes so upset, so disgusted by the final kill that she smashes the tape apart. But why?  She had delved headlong into the lives of these two people, learning every sordid detail about there lives, coming to know them quite candidly -- but then becomes so morally outraged when they inevitably consummate their bond. Her reaction should have been quite the opposite.  As a student of psychology, you'd think she would come to understand these two people more as human beings, as opposed to monsters. 

Like I'd mentioned earlier, this is almost like a love story.  It's the story of a bond between two people who fate has drawn together out of impossible odds.  Screenwriter T.S. Faull developed the relationship between Oliver and Simon with such pathos and humanity (even though director Martin Weisz flashy craftsmanship nearly ruined it all) that I think he may have worried he'd crossed some moral boundary.  This is the only explanation I can come up with for the Keri Russell character.  Katie is there as the viewers guide, so to speak.  She, like the viewer, becomes interested in the sensation of it all.  But then, when it gets deep, she makes sure to let everyone know that, even though she was knee deep in watching the whole mess, she (nor the viewer or filmmaker) will not stand for it. And thus, smashes the evidence of her own obsession.

What a better ending to this film had Katie spoken of her own obsession with the darker side of life, of how she is torn by the moral repugnance of the cannibal act between the two subjects and their almost transcendent bond.  I guess what has happened is the filmmakers couldn't come to terms with the notion that one can learn to understand human nature, while not condoning the cruelty that humans can inflict.

Either that, or they're vegans who despise flesh eaters.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Never Cry Werewolf (2008)

Fright Night with the Werewolves
Don't lose the hat, Hercules!
Nothing can ruin a day more than having a killer werewolf move next door.  So, if it ever happens to you, just ask yourself What would Hercules do?  Answer -- kick its ass.

Nina Dobrev (of Degrassi and Vampire Diaries fame) can't quite figure out her new studly next door neighbor with the 5:00 shadow on his palms.  But, with a couple clicks of the computer  mouse and a rocking montage soundtrack, she discovers her answer -- he's a werewolf!  Good investigative enthusiasm!!  But, what to do, what to do?  Well, try borrowing the plotline from Fright Night and go after that TV big game hunter (Kevin Sorbo) you just saw on the commercial. Maybe he can help you.
Wait... I've seen this plot before.
Never Cry Werewolf debuted on the SyFy Channel (back when it was the Sci-Fi Channel), but with all the bleeped out curses, they obviously had higher expectations for this flick. But, with the kid-centric characters and dialogue, it started looking more like a Nickelodeon entry.  High school gal gets into supernatural trouble, Mom is clueless, little brother is a smartass, music is hip.  But then things start getting a little weird.  Not plot wise, but questionable occurences that make you wonder just what the hell the filmmakers were thinking.
The big bad dirty old wolf wants a nibble
No doubt that high school kids get crushes on grown-ups, but the relationship between Dobrev's Loren and the nasty neighbor wolfman Jared (Peter Stebbings) gets a lot creepier than the usual monster movie creepiness.  For one thing, Stebbings the actor is nearly 20 years Dobrev's senior, and his character is some 200 years older, as well.  Kinda... wrong.

Makes you wonder just what writer John Sheppard and director Brenton Spenser were thinking.  Things ride along pretty calmly at first.  The moms get all frisky when they meet the new neighbor Jared, but the cougar attitude doesn't really wash, since they're all the same generation.  The school girls get all breathy after seeing Loren straddled on the back of Jared's hog, wishing they could hold on tight, as well.  And it even seems okay when Loren, who's been spying on her neighbor to keep a count of his victims, spies him in the shower (note: but not okay that he revels in it).  But then things get real dicey come the climax.  Jared comes a-knocking at Little Red's door the night of the full moon and rambles off something about a wolf marking its territory.  With his beer bottle tipped and dangling in his hand by his belt buckle, he pours the ale on the floor.  Holy phallic metaphor, Batman!  It gets, um...worse...  After pinning her to a chair, he orders her to take her top off!  Oh, but she's wearing a sports bra -- so that's all good.  And -- oh, he only asks this small favor because, he mentions, that he doesn't want anything to interfere when he chomps into her neck (funny how that didn't seem to matter when he dug into the other victims, some wearing fall jackets). Then comes the groping and nibbling.

Seriously, what were you on when you wrote this Sheppard?  He must've just gotten out of a Larry Clark retrospective, or something.
His breath is soooooo chilly...
I'm not sure if I could even say this movie was enjoyable.  It seemed fairly innocuous, and fun for a night when nothing better was on.   That was until Woody Allen showed up to turn it all into a salacious dirty old man dream.  No, Nickelodeon it's not.... Definitely more for the Family Channel.

Monday, October 18, 2010

TV MOVIE MADNESS: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Can you see them, Sally...
TV Movies used to be a real blast.  And I'm not saying that just because I was present during the heyday of the MOW (Movie of the Week) era, and got to see most of the best on their original runs.  I'm saying it because it's gospel, folks!  These movies had to be good, because they were in direct competition with the theater down the street that was showing The Graduate, The Sting, The Godfather, Deliverance, Planet of the Apes, and a host of other future classics. It would be another decade or so before the TV movie became a joke -- thanks Lifetime! -- but, while it lasted, the golden age of TV movies spawned some real good treats.

One of my all time favorites was this gem Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

On the surface, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a very satisfying chiller.  You've got the anxious young wife, a big old house, a cantankerous caretaker who holds its dark secrets, and a trio of creepy creatures who hide in the fireplace.  What develops is a terrifying little Gothic horror tale that pits a young woman against her own unsettling destiny.

Kim Darby is perfect for the role of Sally, the young wife of a rising young exec (played equally as well by Jim Hutton), who is trying to come to grips with her role in life and in her marriage.  She wants to be the good wife and good homemaker, but she's a young gal in the age of the feminist movement.  Hubby Jim Hutton has his hands full, after reluctantly moving into the spooky old Victorian home his wife has inherited -- not just with the fix-it-up nightmares, but with his wife who is not looking forward to hosting a big dinner party for the partners at work, whom hubby is looking to join. 

There is no scripted discussion or overtones of feminism, and Sally never speaks negatively of her marriage role.  But this was the 70s, after all, and the public discussion of women's rights and equality had moved squarely from the back burner to the front burner.  Sally may not have had her bra hanging over the burner, nor was she checking the want ads for a job, but you could undoubtedly sense her unspoken inner struggle.  The fact that this was Kim Darby, the feisty ex-child star, who was cast as Sally, speaks volumes to this, as well.  Darby was precocious young actor who so easily took on the roles of girls who were strong and resourceful -- check her out opposite John Wayne in True Grit -- and she grew into an adult who took on similar strong female roles.  She didn't play the pretty wife or girlfriend, nor was she anyone's plaything.  Her female characters were not to be idled with.  And this is what makes Sally, and her predicament, so interesting.
Get that nutcracker away from me!

Well... that and those freaky little walnut headed critters who were after Sally.  I was never prone to nightmares, when I was a kid, but these monsters really flickered some anxious moments at bedtime, after the lights went out and the shadows were long and spooky.

Friday, October 15, 2010

FREE DVD GIVEAWAY!!

5 Free Copies of SHANK
Go to my ednz over at the I.m. Bad Ronald event FB page.

Don't be a wasteman. Bad Ronald is bare with Shank DVDs. It won't cost you no papers, so come on down to my endz and get you a copy a freebie.

The fabulous folks over at Revolver Entertainment have provided yours truly with 5 brand spankin' new DVD copies of their latest flick SHANK Extreme Edition, all to give to you. Yeah, you...

It's easy to win! Just stop by and "attend" the FB event. Make it fun and tell me or show me what you're gonna be for Halloween (yep, I'll go first!). No, you don't have to do it to win it, but hell, let's have some fun with it!!

Me in my costume... what a doll I am
 Don't be an eejet -- play along!!   Go Here!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

BAD RONALD REVIEW: The Slumber Party Massacre Collection

Get Drilled Baby!
So, you know the drill here.  We're all horror nerds and we've seen the Slumber Party flicks during our get-to-know-the-classics phase.  But now's your chance to experience all the blood shed and shredded nighties once again, all together in one deluxe package.

It's been a while since I visited TSPM.  I remember being somewhat underwhelmed the first time I watched it.  Being a horror nut, I enjoyed it, but it sure was no Halloween!  The feminist angle was above my head, too.  I was a kid wit h a Betamax machine, looking for blood and guts and girls. That's all.  Now, as an adult, I can look at these movies with a more experienced eye.  As a result, I had a lot more fun, mainly with the first and original Slumber Party Massacre.
I feel dirty
Had I been aware that TSPM was written by a renowned feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, I probably would've laughed it off.  Being young and naive, I would have surely found fault with the idea once I saw the girls in the shower.  The lingering shots of boobs and bums would've been just pure eye candy for me.  "Boob shots! This is feminism?  Give me a break!!"  Oh to be young and ignorant... and horny.

The obvious satire is present throughout: girls taking the male dominated roles of athlete, the boys who act more like prissy girls, the handy-lady who does all the manly repairs.  But, I wanna get back to that shower scene and take a closer look. (Yeah, no kidding?)  Watching it after twenty years, I had the same thought -- wow!  But then, the longer the camera lingered, I began to wonder Just how is this feminism?  And where can I see more feminist horror!  And then there comes that loooong, lingering pan up the backside of one of the female athletes.  And that's when I got it! The director Amy Jones is delivering just what the horndog doctor ordered, a full dose of female skin... and then some.  The camera lingers so long on the pretty derriere that it becomes obvious that I'm staring. It's not a comfort issue, but I certainly felt a little lecherous, and I think that's what Jones was going for.  It's as if she's demonstrating how silly it is to be wrapped up in the vision of all these naughty bits.  It's a nice little tongue in cheek moment.
Okay, where's the bologna?
This new package by Shout! Factory is worth it just to have the original Slumber Party, but also because of the terrific 3 part documentary Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacres. For fans of the series, it's a great look back at the films from the filmmakers and the players.

Go see more at Shout! Factory.

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: Psych 9

Psych 9 From Outer Space
I've grown a bit leary of horror flicks that take place in psych wards/mental hospitals/loony bins.  It's as if the idea that the story takes place where people have wicked hallucinations and massive brain farts, it means the filmmaker has free reign to mess with the reality of the world within the film.  Unfortunately, this is what freshman director Andrew Shortell does.
If I turn around, I bet that little girl will be gone

Roslyn (played by model turned actress Sara Foster) takes a night job in a near-abandoned hospital that has been plagued by a spate of serial killings, perpetrated by the very cliched named killer -- The Nighthawk. Almost immediately, Roslyn experiences a series of disturbing events, which she usually dismisses almost immediately.. You begin to wonder why she gets so frightened by jittery little girls who pop up on security monitors, or strange sounds and visions, but then just carries on.  Cary Elwes shows up to apparently be the guy to whom Roslyn can dump on about her troubles.  He adds no depth or conflict to the plot, so you can easily figure out that he's gonna be part of the twist at the climax.  I mean, why else is he there! What other reason would they have a name actor to play such a seemingly pivot-less role?  Michael Bieihn also shows up as the daunting sheriff who may or may not suspect Roslyn is somehow connected to the murders.
I hate bath time at the psych ward
There isn't a whole lot new going on in Psych 9, or anything that you didn't really suspect was going on already.  There are some convincing chills to be had, but the script is too scatter-shot to sufficiently build good suspense.  Characters aren't developed, but rather are placed as chess pieces, designed to distract the audience, or be played as red herrings.  Foster, in her first big outing, is an attractive lead, but without a good director, she's left to deliver a typical wide-eyed performance.

BAD RONALD REVIEW: Vidocracy

So, how does one man dominate a country?

Silvio Berlusconi is an interesting political character, no doubt.  He's seemingly the most powerful man in Italy. He's the Prime Minister, with heavy influences in politics. He even owns one of the country’s biggest football teams, AC Milan. He also controls 90 per cent of television, wielding authority and influence across the media.  And in America, we all know the power of the media, and how it can be abused or misused.


Director Erick Gandini creates an amusing and pointed look at Italian TV and politics with assembled clips of 70s TV quiz shows, in which a "housewife" must strip down for every wrong answer, and modern shows, where velina girls are chosen, based pretty much on how they look and how they shake those looks.  Being a velina girl means instant stardom, fame and fortune... and a pick of the latest bachelor footballer.  In comparison, Gandini looks at the struggles for males who are looking for a shot at fame. Ricardo, an ordinary guy, who lives with his mother, believes that men get an unfair shake at stardom.  He fancies himself a mash up of Ricky Martin and Jean-Claude Van Damme (picture high sweep kicks with saucy singing), but he bemoans the fact that he'll never reach the heights of a velina girl, because Berlusconi's media only fancies pretty young ladies. 
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Gandini also looks at Berlusconi's friends and enemies.  There's the neighbor lady who used to take candid shots of her powerful neighbor, and has now been hired as his personal photographer, capturing all his best moments on film.  There's TV agent Lele Mora and close personal friend is like a character out of a Blake Edwards comedy.  He lounges all day in opulence, surrounded by hunky young men in swim suits (they work for him in television).  Mora, a Mussolini admirer (he has the Italian leader's theme music as his ring tome), is the man in charge of creating the next big Italian TV star.  But most interesting is is Fabrizio Corona.  A paparazzi,born to a family of journalists, Corona seemingly despised celebrity, snapping candids of the stars who abused or squandered their power. Ironically, after serving a short prison sentence for extortion, Fabrizio Crona became a media sensation himself on the, via the "President's television" (you can imagine the same thing would happen if the hounds at TMZ were ever offered mega dollars to be in cahoots with their favorite celebrity target).
Was Mussolini a fan of white, too?
 Everything that Gandini presents is highly watchable and amusing.  But at the end of it all, it left me wondering about what it all means.  Are there threatening consequences for the Prime Minister's power over politics and media?  And, besides the careers of high kicking salsa singers, what is the effect upon the citizens of Italy?  Having never set foot in Italy, or having studied the social and political landscape of the country, I was befuddled as to what this all meant on the larger scale of things.  But, as a nice little expose on the hypocrisy of people in power, and of those who want it -- it's an amusing piece and works well.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

BAD RONALD REVIEW: Shank (2010)

The Gangs All Here.
It's the year 2015 and London is in a state of anarchy.  The police have given up, the government no longer cares, and the wealthy have moved away, leaving gangs of angry and disenfranchised kids to fight for their own lives.  Just as in 2002s City of God , poverty has driven even the nicest of kids to the extremes of violence and crime.  Only the kids of Shank aren't battling for drugs or guns.  They need food.  Everyone needs food.

The story centers around a young boy named Junior (Kedar Williams Stirling) who's part of a gang called the  Paper Chaserz. They're a fresh bunch of boys who avoid violence at any cost, and who stick to "hustlin" people out of money (or "paper") and stealing "munchies" to feed themselves or to sell for more money.  Of course, in this urban Lord of the Flies world, being the only non-violent gang in the tough streets of London is tough going.  It isn't long before they have a run in with one of the most notorious gangs around -- The SoulJahz -- and running away won't save them.  Junior's big brother and leader of the Paper Chaserz is murdered by the skull-mask wearing rivals, leaving the remaining Chaserz lost and defeated.  The death of his mentor and brother leaves Junior with a dilemma -- should he stick to his brother's philosophy of non-violence (he dies standing his ground) or seek vengeance for his brother's death.  
Even the dog is friendly
Breakout director Mo Ali does a wicked job bringing this story of hopelessness and misery alive. He's a veteran of over 60 music videos, and he utilizes the short, fast video age style to give his debut flick the energy to lift it out of the heavy, sometimes dull and dreary world of other films that depict a not so happy fuzzy future.  The world of Shank is dystopic, a bleak and impoverished landscape of grit and pain.  But with the colorful settings and upbeat music and vibrant performances, it all seems sorta fun.  It's more a fantasy world than a realistic one, like depicted in City of God.  The gangs, much like in The Warriors, are frightening but oh so cool, with names like The Slaughter Gurlz, The Strap Set and The Somalis. The Paper Chaserz, themselves. are much like Fagin's gang of orphans in Oliver Twist, all witty and jocular, and very hip. Each member has an ego that's too big to share a room, and they know how to push each others buttons to the point of kicking each others asses.  But when anyone else dares to step too close, they know they need to protect their "fam."
"Come out to plaaaa-aaay...."
Shank is a fun flick to watch.  It reminded me so much of the 70s coming-of-age movies I enjoyed, where an innocent kid gets caught up in a situation that seems overwhelming, threatening to consume them, until they find the strength to pull through.  There's always that simple lesson they learn -- the hard way -- that changes them from a innocent child into a wiser young adult.  This is the turmoil that Junior finds himself.  Life with big brother was good.  Even though the outside world was hard and bleak, Junior was protected and happy. He walks through the world with a youthful ignorance of the reality that surrounds him.  Rager may think he's preparing Junior to live in this world, or maybe move beyond it, but -- like in any decent After School Special -- kid brother's big lesson comes only after Rager is killed, and he is forced to learn to fend for himself.

It's a well worn story, for sure.  But, if it's played right, it works. And Shank works greatly. Scriptwriter Paul Van Carter draws characters that are rich and enjoyable (and frightening if they're the bad guys) and the plot is fairly solid.  It drags at points where Junior struggles with his loss of innocence, often buzz killing every pleasurable moment for his fellow gang members by constantly reminding them that they are on a quest for revenge. Mo Ali checks any slip up by ratcheting the pace up with high energy action, splashes of tee shirt style graphics and catchy tunes.
Didn't I wear this same outfit on Skins?
Shank is a car full of teen angst, barreling through the night time urban landscape with its headlights off and the radio blasting.  Think City of God played by the kids from Skins.  

Don't be a wasteman... Shank it here!