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...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Peephole Review: BadRonald Takes a Punk Vacation

There's one aspect of 80s cinema that I always enjoyed (well, maybe not at first) -- theater majors playing bad guys, especially punk rock bad guys.  In Vinegar Syndrome's DVD/Blu ray combo release, I got my full dosage of punk rock thugs in all their theatrical glory.  There were swashbuckling sword play, maniacal laughter, Tonto impersonations... huzzah!

Punk Vacation (1987) is the snappy title of this rape/revenge chestnut, about a small town under attack by some gallivanting punk rock motorcycle gang.  After her father is murdered by the gang, his daughter decides she's going to take down the spiked haired nasties, with her own brand of brutal vengeance.

This direct to video shocker has lost some of the edge it probably had, now that we all know that punk rockers are all really people, just like you and me... but with flaming red and blue hair and beautiful theatrical make up on.  The action is fun and energetic, with a great sense that it was all choreographed by a dancer.  There are also some good bits of horror violence, to satiate the bloodhound in the crowds.  The topper is the over the top performances by the punkers.  Like I said, very theatrical, with high-emotions.  It gets good when the punks aim to exact revenge on the girl who is getting revenge on them, and the head punk chick tones herself down to look like the ex-cheerleader beauty who they now hold captive.  There are some killer lines and plenty of synth-punk melodies to bang your head to (composed by the team who would move on to score Snowboard Academy and Sexting in Suburbia). 

Pack up the cooler and head out for some acid bleached fun with the gang.  Punk Vacation is 80s fun on a disc.

Check out the bonus biker flick on the DVD disc, Nomad Riders (1984).  It's fairly laughable, but very fun.  Especially the scene where they, ummm... mess up(?) an old lady's living room.  Oh the horror!

Bonus extras in the combo pack include interviews with the stunt coordinator and producer.
Check out the link for other great Vinegar Syndrome releases.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Goodbye to My Horror Hero: James Herbert

Back in 1976, my cousin gave me the paperback novel that would change my life.  It was titled The Survivor.  On the cover was an illustration of a broken doll's head with glaring eyes.  The picture alone creeped me out.  I read the book in a matter of a few days (yeah, slow reader), and I was blown away.  I'd never read anything like it.  I was only 14 years old, but I'd already read a number of "grown up" novels.  I had skipped over the YA book scene (I didn't get into them until I was an adult), virtually jumping from chapter books to the novels that stuffed my Dad's upstairs bookshelf.  I would find a corner in the library, with a pile of books off the paperback racks, mostly TV or movie tie-ins, or anything with a cool cover. But Survivor was different.  Herbert's smooth speech and masterful storytelling spoke to me.  I was drawn in by how he, not only, told the story of the protagonist, but also made the victims of the ghastly killings come to life, with a full chapter dedicated to their (sometimes cruel, sometimes heartbreaking) backstory... and death.

I wasn't in to authors, yet -- except for Charles Dickens, of whom I was keenly aware.  But after I put down The Survivor, I noted the name of the author: James Herbert, and immediately sought out more of his books. Lucky for me,  I found one at my middle school library book sale.  A copy of The Rats, with the cover torn off.  I devoured that one right up.  Finding no Herbert books on the local library shelves, I took to the back pages of the paperback, where they had an order form for his other books at Signet.  I scraped up some of my snow shoveling money and sent off for a copy of The Fog.

Holy shit!  I was hooked.  The Survivor and The Rats were both eloquent and frightening, and they made me an instant fan of Herbert's.  But, The Fog...  truly disturbing and profound, and as creepy as anything I have ever read.  Hands down my favorite of all his books.

I became a regular at the mall bookstore, heading straight to the Horror section, looking for, and awaiting the next of his books.  The first "new" paperback I was treated to was Fluke, a definite change of pace from the mind bending horror of flesh eating rats, killer fog and torturous ghosts.  Fluke, instead, was a murder mystery involving a man who reincarnates in to a dog.  I was undaunted by the change.  This was Jame Herbert, afterall, so it's got to be good.  And it was.  Just as page turning as the previous books.

Every year after that, like clockwork, I was treated to another of Herbert's mind-whirling horror novels.  Some were mildly tedious (The Dark, Moon), others brilliant (the continuing Rat series), but all were welcomed.  And not only was I on the lookout for Herbert novels, I quickly became a fan of his (American) publisher, Signet.  When there wasn't a new Herbert paperback to chew on, I found that most of the other Signet horror novels would do to fill in the gaps.  Books like The Cats, New Blood, Rooftops, Phone Call, Savage Snow.  And authors like, David Lippencott, Nick Sharman, and Guy N. Smith.

The late 70s and early 80s were really such a great time to be a horror reader.  This is when King ruled, and he did good by it.  But, I've always been a James Herbert fan.  He drew me in before I'd even heard of Stephen King -- and he soon became known as the British Stephen King -- but, my heart goes to Herbert... My pulsating, bloody, quivering, lusty heart.

Goodbye James. Thanks for the wonderful nightmares.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bad Ronald Peephole Review: Deer Crossing

There are a lot of movies that can be just dismissed as eh, didn't float my boat.  Which doesn't necessarily mean they're bad, just that they weren't that great, either. You know... kinda okay.  But, sometimes, within that neutral category, there's the occasional film that, although it wasn't so great itself, gives a hint that whomever made the movie just may be onto something greater. This is where I would place Deer Crossing, or rather its director Christian Grillo.

Grillo's got a pretty twisted sensibility.  Wicked, actually.  Deer Crossing is full of subversive behavior and nefarious characters. There's an eloquent speaking backwoods killer, a tormented father/husband who neglects his selfish past, an eye-patch wearing creep, and a naked lady chained to a railroad tie. There's incest, sodomy, drugs and rape. And what's impressive is that Grillo shows great restraint, keeping Deer Crossing from delving too deeply into these exploitative cliches, separating his film from the pack of other low budget indie horror.

There are some terrific action sequences, as well.  Grillo has an eye for good action pacing, getting plenty of fast moving coverage to keep the action scenes alive and running. Some of these sequences easily could stand up to Hollywood standards.

The downside is the slower parts of the story.  I love one take dialogue scenes.  They're great moments for the audience to be a fly on the wall, watching some real moments between characters. But, like a good photograph that fills the picture with negative space or peripheral information, a one take filmed scene needs to engage the audience with equal information, or non-information.  Unfortunately, some of the dialogue scenes in Deer Crossing demonstrated a need to edit, to throw out the uncomfortable actor's pauses, as much as some of the superfluous dialogue.

It also suffered some from too much going on. Christopher Mann (The Wire) does well, but his troubled detective character ultimately takes away from what should be the focus of the film -- Michael Chancelor (Warren Hemaway), the father, whose self indulgent ways lead to crippling guilt, after the kidnapping of his son and wife.  Both Mann and Hamaway play characters who deal with terrible losses, but their stories split the emotional cache of the audience.  The story of a father of a kidnapped boy seems, to me, to create more impact.

Speaking of Christopher Mann, you have to appreciate the casting in Deer Crossing.  Besides Mann, they brought in other notable names, like Ghost Buster Ernie Hudson as a frustrated police captain. And the big casting coup is nailing down Pinhead himself, Douglas Bradley as, of all things, the small town Sheriff!  It's an unexpected choice, but it works despite the unlikeliness.  The casting of the backwoods killer worked well, too. The intellectually sounding killer is an old thriller staple, and an overripe one at most times.  But, with K.J. Linhein as the Santa bearded redneck with a baritone voice, the role of the backwoods killer became uniquely memorable. Another seeming bit of odd casting was the role of the highly regarded child specialist, called in to work with the kidnapped boy.  By standard ways, you'd expect a person of such importance, as to be helicoptered in, to be this eloquent Harvard influenced stuffed suit.  What we get is Olivia Brice (played by Carmela Hayslett), an auburn-haired, tough talking girl, who isn't there to play nice.  Like with Linhein sounding more intellectual than hillbilly, Hayslett keeps (what seems to be) her strong Philly accent, sounding more street than high society.  It works, because it shakes off what we were expecting.

Overall, I really dig Christian Grillo's vision, and willingness to go there, more than I wholly appreciated this film.  He made some good directional choices, but I would like to have seen the film streamlined, rattling off at about 90 minutes of face paced thrills.  Regardless, see this movie.  It's subversive and twisted.  And, more importantly, you need to watch Grillo.  He's got danger in his mind.  If'n he keeps it up, he might become something of a Ketchum or a Laymon of the genre movies.