Finally! Friday: Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (1957)

Why Finally? I’ve known for a while that Dana Andrews, an excellent actor who played the guy standing next to Vincent Price hero in the classic noir Laura, starred in an adaptation of M.R. James’s story “Casting the Runes.” While it isn’t my favorite James story , it’s pretty close.

Curse of the Demon and Night of the Demon, which I believe are the UK and US versions respectively, are available on one DVD.

The Premise (original story): When Mr. Dunning gives Mr. Karswell’s alchemy book a bad review, he has no idea the author already tried out all the spells; he soon finds himself under a death curse. Dunning must join forces with the bereaved brother of a previous scathing reviewer, Harrington, in order to return Karswell’s all-too-practical magic to sender.

The Premise (movie version): American John Holden (Andrews in an updated version of the Dunning role) arrives at a convention in time to learn of the death of Harrington, who played a part in bringing down sorcerer Karswell’s notorious cult. When he crosses paths with Karswell and begins to feel strangely hunted, Holden teams up with Harrington’s niece to defeat this oddly jolly evil wizard who lives with his mother.

Also, if anybody saw Laura and wanted a shower scene, this movie has you covered.

What kind of convention is this, anyway?

Night/Curse of the Demon was directed by master of film mood Jacques Tourneur, and it shows in the spooky landscapes and shadows that seem alive as Karswell’s curse draws closer to fruition. The real treat, as far as I’m concerned, is the character of Karswell: he lurks on the fringes of the James story, but here he’s front and center, with a tantalizing library and an engaging habit of doing magic shows for the children of the village while in clown makeup, all while plotting your death.

Like most older horror films, Night/Curse of the Demon does suffer a bit in the effects department, in a way I found very rewarding. (SPOILER: the titular monster appears in the second shot below, so if you don’t want to see it, scroll quickly after the leopard attack.)

 

Until I saw this, I’d never realized how remiss James was in not putting a magic leopard attack in the source material.
It’s sort of a bat/cat/Muppet hybrid.

The Verdict: From the portentous prologue against a shot of Stonehenge to the final demon action, I really enjoyed Night of the Demon. Though it’s by no means a slavish adaptation. Night/Curse of the Demon uses a more nuanced, pervasive Karswell and his cult (which is not in the James story) to create a tense, updated variation on “Casting the Runes.” Very worth watching.

(The trailer gives too much away, as usual.)

 

Might go well with: Comfort food, a glass of port, and the double episode of A Podcast to the Curious dedicated to the original story, which is where I first found out about Night of the Demon.

 

Next time: We finish up “The Dreadful Doll” so the Quest family can move on to something with an even more embarrassing title.

 

 

 

Very, Very Late Finally! Friday Halloween: The Conjuring

Why Finally? My attraction to spooky stuff has existed as long as I have; that’s why, at the age of eight or nine, I was already familiar with the work of psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, on whose real-life adventures The Conjuring movies are based. (A bigger mystery is how I made it through seven years of Baptist school pursuing this stuff without being burned as a witch or, more prosaically, getting booted for Satanism.) Perhaps that seems too scary for a kid, but it was comforting, as I lay in bed at night playing the popular game “Dad Snoring? Or Bloodthirsty Demon-Thing Growling?” to know the boogeymen had opponents and the living had defenders.

On the other hand, I am also a big fat coward, so I suspected The Conjuring might be something of an endurance test.

Hey, look, an opening shot of the fractured eyeball of Annabelle, The Possessed Doll Of Evil! Maybe I’m clairvoyant too!

[shudders]
No: I mean “why,” when you said it would be done for Halloween, are we “finally” getting The Conjuring sometime after Thanksgiving Christmas Valentine’s Day St. Patrick’s Day Easter Memorial Day the NEXT Halloween?

Among other, more personal reasons, I didn’t want to screenshot the damned doll. Happy?

The Premise: Famed psychic investigators/demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called upon to help the Perron family with their newly acquired haunted house.

I’m more cynical about the Warrens as an adult, but must admit I enjoyed seeing two of my childhood heroes depicted in a movie.

Annabelle, the most horrific thing in the film by a large margin, is a mere side plot as she breaks out of the Warrens’ Friday the 13th: The Series-like storeroom and menaces their daughter. The outline of the main story will be familiar to anyone who ever caught The Amityville Horror on cable: the fixer-upper that turns into the fixer of little red wagons. And like those other movies, it’s easy to see how, given a sufficiently large space and a large family, communication breakdown can delay seeking assistance for even the most aggressive haunting.

Kids can be creepy even without haunted sleepwalking, but it certainly helps.

Eventually, the family’s matriarch Carolyn becomes the focus of the activity, and as you might imagine, things get worse before they get better.

The Verdict: Mixed. As a haunted-house movie, The Conjuring is effective to the point of creeping dread, even when characters are just walking between rooms. The casting is also superb: in addition to great performances by Wilson and Farmiga, Lili Taylor is perfect as Carolyn, the terrorized wife and mother who eventually takes on the darkness. My only objection is to the ultimate source of the haunting, which struck me as a tad goofy. Given that the movie is (depending how one feels about the Warrens) based on a true story/”based” on a “true” “story,” that may have been unavoidable. Certainly it’s not enough to stop me from checking out the sequel, and maybe even the Annabelle movies. No later than 3 p.m. and in strong daylight, of course.

Might go well with: Anything you can nibble without taking your eyes off the screen, House Hunters, NO DOLLS.

 

Next time: The recent second season of  a Netflix series. Nope, not that one.

Finally! Friday: Streets Of Fire (1984)

Honestly, this one’s pretty hard to write up.

Why Finally? “You’ve never seen this movie?!” someone with a wide-ranging Apple movie collection said—and off we went.

People, I had barely heard of Streets of Fire. Movie-wise, I spent 1984 watching The Secret of NIMH repeatedly on cable (while begging to be allowed to watch Flashdance), getting the bejeezus scared out of me at Gremlins, laughing at Ghostbusters and, sadly, not watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.
(In that last case, as the man in a later movie said, I chose… poorly.)

Here is what I knew about Streets of Fire before last weekend:

This video. That’s it.

The Premise: When hometown girl turned rock star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is kidnapped from the stage by weird bikers (led by Willem Dafoe as “Raven”), old flame/current mercenary Tom Cody (Michael Paré) is called upon to rescue her. Which he does in spectacular fashion—for the ’80s, that is,  back when less stuff exploded—thanks to the help of a fellow ex-soldier (Amy Madigan in what may be my favorite role in the film).  Also along for the ride is Ellen’s current squeeze, music manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis).

Streets of Fire calls itself a “rock ‘n’ roll fable,” which is a nice clue that things aren’t always going to make sense. The setting, for example, seems to be simultaneously the 1950s and the 1980s, with spandex pants and punky makeup for performers, but greasers all over the place like it’s set in a Stephen King town. I recall a lot of people in the ’80s complaining that TV and movies were becoming like music videos, and I bet this was held up (down?) as an early example. The story itself is about an inch deep, but evokes so many of the Classic Plots that it has the appeal of a fairy tale.

The Verdict: On one hand, I used the word “delightful” about five times during viewing, and I really enjoyed Streets of Fire. That may be less about the movie itself, though, and more about its resemblance to other works of its time. It has an underdog-mercenary plot like Extreme Prejudice or The A-Team, the random serendipity of the Buckaroo Banzai movie, a neo-retro underbelly like Blue Velvet (and two years before Blue Velvet came out, too), and, heaven help me, the good-will-prevail attitude that is the only thing I like about classic clunker Megaforce.

It also has, at most, 1.5 actual streets of fire.

Even though I found it delightful, I can imagine the film having a lot of haters: the loner-with-a-heart-of-gold hero, for one thing,  is a trope that should be using a rollator to get around by now. Had Streets of Fire been one whit more realistic, I think it would have sunk like a stone.

Might go well with:  I mentioned so many movies above that I’ve got nothing but popcorn for this one.

 

Next time: In the Quest For Monday, Race tours the facilities.

 

F…Just Friday: Rise of the Gargoyles (2009)

Why… well, just why? I never found it until this week, and it’s sure not “finally!” watched, but this one made it into my Netflix queue for three reasons:

  1. I like gargoyles.
  2. Eric Balfour, who plays this movie’s hero,  was one of my favorite things about Haven.
  3.  I have a very high tolerance for bad effects. (I own The Shining miniseries: enough said.)
Unbelievably, that blazer survives unscathed through the entire movie.

The Premise: Scholar Jack Randall (Balfour, with a very good adventure-hero moniker) once wrote a book about cryptids at the instigation of his girlfriend Carol, and it almost destroyed him professionally. After another rejection for Jack’s latest manuscript, Carol talks him into exploring an old church scheduled for demolition. While in the catacombs, she pockets a strange rock—which is so obviously a gargoyle egg that you’ll be yelling at your TV—and loses her life as a result. Slowly Jack begins to put the pieces together (no pun intended), and with the help of a pair of tabloid TV reporters and an insane priest (Nick Mancuso!), Jack sets out to exterminate the murderous creature.

I sometimes feel as though movies I’m ambivalent about are trying to win me over, like when the Carpenters’ “Superstar” kept turning up in 2007’s Ghost Rider. That’s the case here, too. Rise of the Gargoyles  is uniquely suited to my interests, with Balfour in a tweed jacket as an amalgam of Indiana Jones, Rupert Giles and Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon. There’s mention of that other, more NSFW stone creature, the sheela-na-gig—pretty impressive folklore knowledge for a monster movie. And just like in Belphegor, we have a creature terrorizing Paris, albeit with a lot more blood. This movie should be awesome, for that value of awesome that is “puts a manic grin on my face at the prospect of maybe seeing a baby gargoyle.” (Spoiler alert: there’s a reason the phrase isn’t “Chekhov’s Baby Gargoyle.” Maybe the budget wasn’t there.)

The Verdict: For the second week in a row, what should have been a really enjoyable monster flick fails to fully deliver. Rise of the Gargoyles never quite clicks: the characters don’t seem to relate to each other, the idea that Jack is suspected of Carol’s murder—with one swipe of his pointed academic bona fides, presumably—is ridiculous, and even a few horror moments reminiscent of Preston and Child’s excellent The Relic couldn’t get the movie where it needed to go. It’s not bad (and Mancuso declaiming about the devil is not to be missed), but it is kind of a long 94 minutes.

Even So: There’s something endearing about a movie where people in trouble call the police, bring extra flashlight batteries on their trip to the old crypt, and so on. Rise of the Gargoyles has a practical-minded streak that I appreciated.

Fun Trivia Fact: If a gargoyle stops acting as a waterspout—say, by coming to life and decapitating a bunch of people—it is technically a grotesque in every possible sense.

Might go well with: Croissants, as long as they aren’t actually monster eggs; The Relic; Haven.

 

Next time: Dr. Quest’s Mini-Me.

 

Found-Again Friday: Dracula A.D. 1972

“Dig the music, kids!” —Johnny Alucard

Why Found-Again? At the end of my last post, I mentioned the Five Film Fang Fest, a Hammer Dracula mini-marathon that aired on TBS in October in the late ’80s. That’s where I first saw my favorite (Taste the Blood of Dracula) and least favorite (The Satanic Rites of Dracula, or as I like to call it, Dracula vs. the Shrubbery, With Surprising Results) of Christopher Lee’s outings as the titular count. It’s also where I watched Dracula A.D. 1972, but other than the kind of “hip” counterculture stuff the Austin Powers movies mined for laughs, I don’t remember much about it.

The Premise: After his demise in the 19th century (impaled on a wagon wheel! must’ve been made of hawthorn), Dracula’s signet ring and ashes are stolen away by some young spark.

….in other words.

Later, in swingin’ 1972 London, we see a very familiar young-sparky face at a party/orgy. Johnny Alucard (I don’t write it, I just report it) convinces a bunch of hippies to do a black mass, resurrecting You-Know-Who. Sadly for Dracula, one of the hippies (Stephanie “Sister Kate” Beacham) is a van Helsing, with a grandfather played by Peter Cushing. This has predictable results.

Alucard.
The other one.

In some ways, this is a rehash of Taste the Blood of Dracula, in which Dracula is raised by a young nihilist who forms an ad hoc Hellfire Club. Cults were back in the news in the ’70s, and it shows in the police investigation that leads the cops to the vampire hunter who can help them. The attempt to drag Dracula into modernity—hiding vampires at a Chelsea nightclub, pairing him with a guy who strongly recalls Alex from A Clockwork Orange—is imperfectly executed but interesting, and the movie seems to sense this, since it regularly returns to the traditional creaky old church setting. There also seem to be a few scattered visual jokes: a shot of empty milk bottles on a sidewalk after Dracula attacks a victim, Peter Cushing racing to save his granddaughter through a service entrance marked “Goods.”

The Verdict: I wish I could say that Dracula A.D. 1972 won me over, but it’s just not quite…right. It has a lot going for it in its relatively balanced portrayal of the hippie kids, and Christopher Lee does a great job as always, but the old and new portions of the narrative never truly gel. (Honestly, the fact that there was a character named “Johnny Alucard”—and that van Helsing had to draw a diagram to work that one out—may have stuck a stake in this film as far as I’m concerned.) Given the goofy ways they kill off vampires in these Hammer movies, though, I am happy to report that Dracula ends up doused in holy water and speared on punji sticks. Van Helsing circa 1972 is not messing around.

Other random observations:

  • If you like ’70s music, this is kind of fun. The party that kicks off the 1972 timeline resembles some of the Incredible String Band’s album covers, and some of the incidental music sounds like long-lost James Bond.
  • Whoever gave Stephanie Beacham that haircut should be prosecuted.
  • Imagine those old houses where there always seems to be a print of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, only instead of the blue boy, it’s a scary woodcut of Christopher Lee.

Might go well with: Tomato juice, the music of Donovan.

Next time: Doing that voodoo that…that bald guy on Jonny Quest…does so well.

Found-Again Friday: Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)

It’s been a while since I rewatched a Jeff Goldblum movie for this site—well, he’s in The Sentinel for about a minute, like everyone else—and this was one of the first I ever saw.  It was 1986, and I was attempting to gear up for The Fly by watching everything the guy had ever done, including Death Wish and that disco movie.

Can you blame me?

Why Found-Again? That said, I’ve been putting this one off. I’ve seen a lot of Found-Again films at this point, and only a few have really disappointed me. I thought Transylvania 6-5000  was goofy fun when I was 12… but will a comedy broader than the ocean, and sporting an aesthetic best described as Monty Hall meets The Munsters meets Benny Hill meets Love Boat, really stand up to grown-up scrutiny?

The Premise: Instead of making things up like a normal tabloid, the paper Jack and Gil* (Goldblum and Ed Begley, Jr.) work for sends them to Transylvania after a tourist video seems to show the Frankenstein monster. They arrive to find a town bent on increasing tourism and showcasing its normalcy despite being populated by (among others) a goofy bellhop, a sort of Igor family, a shy but horny vampire, a werewolf, a mad scientist, and, yes, the F-Monster himself. Jack, who has an amazingly low tolerance for bullshit for a hero in a comedy, just wants to give up and romance a beautiful blonde; Gil, who makes up in go-getter spirit what he lacks in brains, stays on the case. And that’s how they stumble onto the real secret of the Transylvanian monsters.

It’s also how this happens. Ordinarily I wouldn’t include a groin-grab screenshot, but when I talk to other people who’ve seen the movie, this is invariably the thing they remember.

Like a lot of these goofy movies from the ’70s and ’80s, this has a pretty good cast; if you ever watch it, remember that only a few years later, Geena Davis took home the Oscar. John Byner and Carol Kane steal every scene they’re in, and Jeffrey Jones does well as, essentially, the Principal Rooney of a small town in the Carpathians. It also has a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards, if you’re into that. As for the plot, you know me–any mystery in a storm.

The Verdict: I don’t think I’d go so far as to recommend it for a movie night, but being trapped in a room with T-6-5000 could certainly be worse. And  I won’t lie: the “heartwarming” denouement, especially Lupi and Radu, at the end of this movie gets me every time, as stupid as that is. Transylvania 6-5000 is still best enjoyed by 12-year-olds, but what I’ve lost in tolerance for its obvious gags is made up for by… well, by a lot of the other movies I’ve watched for this site. It’s an Abbott and Costello flick for a new(er) age, made with obvious affection for the old monster movies that inspired it.

That said, it was a pretty long 94 minutes, and you can see why.

 

 

*Oh, hell. Is that a pun?

 

Next time: The Quest For Monday becomes The Quest For Voodoo! And for next Friday, by default, we have Dracula AD 1972.

BECAUSE TIME IS OUT OF WHACK—Found-Again… Tuesday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christm… Valentine’s Day With Fright Night (1985)

Mom’s treatment is done! and I am finally back at the helm of the Omelet. I see somebody somewhere was actually reading the Highlander posts in my absence, which is thrilling for at least one of us!

But we have unfinished business: I promised you Sarandon. I promised you vampire(s). I promised you an outpouring of praise for what may be my all-time favorite horror film—and if I didn’t, brace yourselves. I wrote the first part of this before rewatching and before my schedule got rearranged, so with a few corrections, this should do just fine for a heart-based holiday:

And here we are. I can’t think of any better way to ring out this year celebrate Valentine’s Day than with Fright Night—one of my favorite vampire movies, one of my favorite horror movies, and one of my favorite movies full stop. I won’t pretend this one is really “found again.” It’s not even an every-other-year creepy pleasure like CandymanFright Night is, not to put too fine a pointy fang on it, The Good Stuff.

The Premise: Angsty, amiable teen doofus Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale, who like one of last week the last review’s stars was in Herman’s Head) likes making out with his girlfriend Amy while the late-night horror show Fright Night plays in the background. His sexual frustration is the least of his troubles when he starts to suspect his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, perfectly cast), might be a vampire.

When his weird friend Ed can’t provide enough protective vampire lore, Charlie seeks out the Fright Night show’s host, Peter Vincent. Instead of Van Helsing, however, Vincent is more Peter Cushing by way of Elvira, a washed-up actor annoyed by Charlie’s request for help and terrified when he realizes there really is a vampire. Once Jerry discovers they’re on to him, he begins to prey on Charlie’s friends, and Charlie and Peter must fight the vampire and save Amy from the extremely sexy clutches of a fiend.

I’m going to blow the “Verdict” section on this one. If you for some reason haven’t seen Fright Night, recently or ever, you should do that. Don’t even finish reading this. It’s that good. (And if you’re squeamish like me, it’s not even particularly gory until the end; I suspect a lot of the R rating was for boobs and swears.)

There is so much to like about this movie:

  • Fright Night is a crucial link between subgenres of vampire film, in that Jerry  is both a suave fanged seducer in the Christopher Lee mold and a gnarly* bat-monster in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other screen vamps who came after Fright Night’s 1985 release. (That the plot involves a Hammer-horror-style actor coming up against gritty reality indicates that this duality is intentional, making the whole thing even better.)
  • Similarly, the mortal characters are all recognizable ’80s stock movie people, but so well-realized they rise above it. Stereotypical “horny teen” Charlie ends up worrying more about his math grade—and, you know, the vampire—than he does about getting laid. Charlie’s mother is to some extent written as a typical checked-out working parent, but it’s not ennui: it’s that this single mother has just started working nights and isn’t at her best for the duration of the film. And the quirky friend, “Evil” Ed, gets the most wrenching scenes in the movie. Fright Night is a little like Pumpkinhead, I think; if you go a while between viewings, the genre starts to blot out how nuanced and generally good the characters are. (It’s also nice that they look and dress like real people—looking at you, enjoyable-but-not-at-this-level remake.)

  • The characters often act the way you’d expect real people to act in such a situation. One of the first things Charlie does when people start disappearing is what so many protagonists should do… call the cops. They (quite realistically) think Charlie is nuts–as do his friends, who stage an intervention when they’re afraid he might endanger someone. All of this gives the movie a nice grounding when the monsters really get going.
  • The vampire. I imagine it’s hard to be an iconic bloodsucker with a name like “Jerry Dandridge,” but my goodness does Chris Sarandon make it look easy. Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes on this site knows I’m susceptible to what you might call “villain cute,” and you may never find a better example than some of the scenes in Fright Night.  Even so, Jerry is by no means a one-note baddie: by turns amused and frustrated by Charlie’s campaign against him, he also shows a certain amount of weariness with his immortality and need to prey on others that makes him almost a tragic figure. (Me being me, I sat in front of my screen thinking “Oh, yeah. This is what I’m supposed to feel about Connor’s situation in Highlander. ….Yep, still don’t.”)
Wears red, flies around, makes holes in people…what’s Cupid got that this guy doesn’t?

To sum up: Fright Night is a literally great movie that is also very entertaining. (If you want more on this, there’s a documentary I haven’t seen yet, and the Faculty of Horror podcast did a very good episode on the film. That’s where I learned that Chris Sarandon actually researched bats for his role as Dandridge; I thought I couldn’t love Fright Night more, but that tidbit proved me wrong.

 

*It is my belief that there are actors you simply cannot make ugly (readers here can probably name most of them by now), but the filmmakers certainly have a good go at it near the end of this movie—which is only a spoiler if you’ve never seen a vampire movie before.

 

Next time: Music post for Friday because we haven’t had one in a very long time; Jonny Quest posting resumes on Monday. Against steep odds, let’s get normal!

 

 

Belated Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With The Resurrected (1991)

Why Found-Again? It’s only been a year or so since I watched this one, so it really never left. One thing about the fictional character Charles Dexter Ward: he gets portrayed by some very good-looking guys.

The Premise:  Wealthy, slightly dorky chemist Charles Dexter Ward (Sarandon) gets progressively weirder about his secret experiments, eventually leaving his wife Claire (Jane Sibbett) in the middle of a party. With the help of a mysterious associate, Charles takes his studies to a rural cottage, but things take a dark turn after a neighbor complains and human remains are discovered. More confused than ever, Claire hires private investigator John March, who soon realizes Charles has been replaced by his wizard ancestor and that people and things are being—surprise!—resurrected.

They’re pretty bloody and sticky about it, too.

The cast is very good: I’m both old enough and weird enough to geek out seeing Jane Sibbett in this movie because I loved her in an old Fox Network show called Herman’s Headof which I may have been the only loyal viewer.

She more than holds her own in a role original to the movie, as does John Terry as the PI who would really like not to believe in necromancy. But of course, it’s Sarandon who steals the show in his dual role as Ward and his revivified ancestor Joseph Curwen. (Curwen subsists on red meat and scenery, and I’m not complaining at all.)

A decidedly non-chronological before…
…and ancestor after.

The Verdict: The Resurrected is a modernized, noir-ified version of the classic Lovecraft story, but the bones of the plot are largely the same: man dabbles in genealogy, discovers lookalike ancestor, dabbles in the occult, recovers lookalike ancestor, and lives to regret it but not much longer. The movie suffers from some of the common complaints of horror films—the effects can be a little goofy, the detective plot sometimes sits awkwardly over the source material, and I personally despise the set design for the PI’s office to an incredible degree—but it does a very good job as an adaptation, especially in the last half.

The mystery is compelling (assuming you haven’t read the story…or indeed this review), the villain is scary, and the creatures are downright chilling. This is probably the goriest thing in my DVD collection, and I regret nothing except the few seconds of eyeball violence.

Might go well with: The Haunted Palace, any of the other movies I’ve covered this month, and any vegetarian recipes you might have lying around.

 

Next time: We go from doubles to dubloons.

 

Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With Child’s Play (1988)

Why Found-Again? The *mumblety* years since my last viewing of Child’s Play are a rare example of self-control. I find creepy dolls disturbing (especially Annabelle from The Conjuring and the horrible revenge doll from that Night Gallery episode), and for once this didn’t lead me to watch every Chucky movie in existence in an attempt to compensate for my wimpiness.

The Premise: Fatally wounded by the police who are hunting him, killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif, who deserves a theme month of his own sometime) sends his spirit into a Good Guy doll, which is a fictionalized one of these:

The possessed doll is purchased by a hapless mother and son, and the evil “Chucky” snarls, bashes and slashes his way to horror-icon status.

This is about as happy as it’s going to get, and we’ve already had one murder.

As for the subject of our December celebration, Sarandon plays Det. Mike Norris, who bookends the movie by shooting Charles Lee Ray in his various forms.

Sort of looks like he taught Dennis Miller that look from Bordello of Blood, doesn’t it?

A few assorted thoughts:

  • Instead of a gritty New York movie, we have a gritty Chicago movie this time! In fact, a case could be made that Child’s Play functions as a dark counterpart to that least gritty of Chicago movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: a child running loose and being tempted into bad ideas while harried parents are off working. Norris’s partner even looks a tiny bit like Principal Rooney!
  • The murals in Charles Lee Ray’s apartment make me wonder if Child’s Play wasn’t also inspiration for some of the visuals in Candyman, my favorite movie I can barely stand to watch, also set in the Windy City.
  • Catherine Hicks, who went on to play the mother on Seventh Heaven, is one of the most put-upon screen moms of all time.
  • Perhaps I’ve just watched too much Criminal Minds—check that, I have definitely watched too much Criminal Minds—but I’m really at a loss why a strangling serial killer with voodoo murals and sorcerous abilities has a getaway driver in the first place. Why was the Eddie character even there?

The Verdict: Mixed, but in a good way. It turned out I remembered very little from my first viewing, and since “person is framed by own evil doppelganger” is a plot peeve of mine, the first half verged on excruciating. What saved it for me was my love of movie voodoo and the Law & Order: Demon Doll vibe of the second half, as well as the fact that Chucky really is simultaneously terrifying and entertaining. This one is definitely worth rewatching, especially for the scene in which Andy’s mom realizes the doll is alive.

Might go well with: Some of the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies; Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

 

Next time: “What Jonny and Hadji do to these turtles will shock you!” How’s that for clickbait?

Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With Tales From The Crypt: Bordello Of Blood (1996)

Why Found-Again? As a kid, I’d occasionally get overwhelmed by horror. My first Stephen King novel ended up in a faroff closet, only to be pulled out every other weekend. I did the same thing with the first two books of Anne Rice’s vampire series. And when I saw my very first Tales from the Crypt episode, “Lover Come Hack To Me,” I was both thoroughly freaked out and ready to watch some more. In fact, a creature from a Tales episode ranks with Pinhead and Samara Morgan among the few horror-movie things that have given me nightmares.

That’s one reason I ended up in the theater when Bordello of Blood came out. Others include an ill-advised crush on Dennis Miller and a thoroughly understandable crush on the subject of our theme month.

chrismas2016-week-2

The Premise:  Some leftover explorers from an unmade Indiana Jones movie find the mummified vampire Lilith (Angie Everhart) and restore her to bloodthirsty life, significantly shortening theirs.

Back in the US, the chaste Katherine (Erika Eleniak) has a fight with her loser brother (Corey Feldman), and he storms out of the house. When he doesn’t return, Katherine hires detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) to find him. The trail leads to a secret vampire brothel hidden beneath a mortuary. Lilith is an entrepreneur now! And brother Caleb has been good and chomped.

Like Dennis Miller, I made this face a lot during this movie.
Like Dennis Miller, I made this face a lot during this movie.

Rafe, Katherine, and Katherine’s boss JC (Sarandon as a televangelist with a guitar!) must band together to rout the fanged legions… with Super-Soakers full of holy water, among other things.

This picture may the the best thing about... well, this picture.
This picture may the the best thing about… well, this picture.

I’ve been watching a lot of Jason Statham movies this year–I didn’t write them up for the Omelet; you’re welcome–and the comparison that kept coming to mind was Crank and its sequel, the weird action movies that got so much easier to enjoy when I realized they were a kind of live-action Roadrunner cartoon. The kills and the big fight in Bordello of Blood have the same manic, unreal, goofy quality. And yet…

The Verdict: I tend to be optimistic about my Friday rewatches. Usually I rediscover what I liked about a film; at the least, I’ll make peace with not liking it or find something interesting there. Rarely does a movie I watch of my own free will seem worse with every viewing, but Bordello of Blood is that rare case. It has its moments, but the tone of the whole thing seems more like a Cryptkeeper monologue than a fully fleshed-out (sorry) episode of Tales from the Crypt.

To put it bluntly, I could not get over the stupid.

Unless you are a hitherto untapped Dennis Miller enthusiast, you’d be better off with the first Tales movie, Demon Knight.

Might go well with: Cherry Jell-O salad.

 

Next time: Jonny Quest isn’t Aquaman. Maybe that’s a good thing.