Friday the 13th, Part 2

bag-head’s revenge

Friday the 13th, Part II
Director: Steve Miner
Released: 1981
Starring: Amy Steel, Jon Furey, Adrienne King, Warrington Gillette, Stu Charno, Betsy Palmer
Running time: 87 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

Friday a deux: Alice, sole survivor of the murders at Camp Crystal Lake, lies dreaming of the horrors she went through at the hands of Mrs Voorhees. Awakened by her nightmare, she showers, chats on the phone, and then, before the very eyes of her adorable cat, is brutally slain. The killer is considerate enough to remove her boiling kettle from the hot burner. What a well brought up killer!

Fast forward five years, and a fresh crop of counselors-to-be arrive at a training center on Crystal Lake, not far from the infamous “Camp Blood.” The chief trainer, Paul, advises the n00bs of the seriousness of being a camp counselor, mostly bears, and that night around the campfire, the underlines said seriousness by telling them the story of Camp Blood, Mrs Voorhees, and of course, Jason, who reportedly still lurks in the woods around Crystal Lake. Dismissing the tale as an inflated urban legend, the would-be counselors kick back with some teambuilding exercises like swimming, grilling weenies, and cockteasing. Two of the more intrepid CITs (that’s counselors in training, for those who’ve never read the seminal summer camp classics like There’s a Bat in Bunk Five), Sandra and Jeff sneak over to Camp Blood to check things and or possibly do it, but are caught by a local yokel just as they discover the mangled remains of some animal, possibly Muffin. (Fisty: At this point, Eli declared he no longer liked Jason.) That night, most of the CITs head into town for some partying before their training begins in earnest, but a select few stay behind for shenanigans. And of course, Jason is happy to keep them company. STABBY COMPANY.

Increasing returns: F13P2 is a stalwart entry in the franchise, even compared the the same year’s The Burning. It’s a respectable flick that could stand on its own, and is the last sequel to truly capture the feel and groove of the original–so much so that they could almost be one movie. Unfortunately, the kills (several thieved straight from Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve) are censored out of awesome and into mediocre.

Fisty: Good goddamn, I am so glad Steve Miner spent like, six minutes recapping all of F13 in Alice’s dream, because god knows the plot is hard to follow. OH WAIT, NO I’M NOT.

Bill: It had only been a year since the release of the first movie.  No one had forgotten any of that!  Still, you get the recap followed by five minutes of dickteasing with no nudie payout, then a prank call because Jason loves the Jerky Boys, and, finally he shows up (apparently having taken the Crystal Lake Ferry into Manhattan) and kills a girl that has nothing at all to do with this movie, since it all takes place five years after her disappearance!  Then, at last, 15 minutes into an 86 minute movie, we see some of the main cast.  But that’s followed by 10 more minutes of nothing, making the movie practically a third of the way finished before we get the campfire scene that explains everything we just watched and should have been the beginning of the movie!

Fisty:And then even after the campfire reveal of Jason’s story to the CiTs it’s still another six minutes of not a whole lot to the next kill, which is just Crazy Ralph being his crazy self and getting garotted. Next to go is the cop, who wanders off into the woods to investigate that strange man he just saw, and then stumbles across Jason’s Little Shack of Horrors where he bites it approximately eleven minutes later. God, these guys really were following their “a kill every ten minutes” rule.

terry’s abbreviated morning jog

There’s a lot of teaser stuff here, in that we’ve got a lot of mysterious boot-clad feet standing around, and killer POV peeping out at folks from the bushes. And then there’s First Girl Terry, who is never more than half-dressed at any give time, and sometimes much less. Either her ass is hanging out of her shortshorts, or her boobs are hanging out of her skimpy halfshirts–occasionally both! (We won’t go into the vaguely hippie Sandra’s awful attire, as she is otherwise quite likeable.) For all these teases with Terry, F13P2 is sorely lacking in titties, and there’s only a nanosecond of bush shadow. I know it’s par for the course with F13, but still, I was stunned when Terry, after her skinnydip, bothered putting a shirt back on when the towel draped around her neck actually covered more than any of her shirts thus far. HIGHLY DISAPPOINTING. And thanks to heavy censorship, half the kills are off camera, too.

Bill: That brief scene is the only nudity in the movie.  The flick teases you with Mark’s little fan girl, showing her panties slide down her legs, but never makes good on the promise.  And the speared couple have sex without ever even showing a single nipple.  Ugh.  Appalling.

Fisty:But I like Vicky! Her death is, to my mind, the worst in the movie (except for the maybe-Muffin death), because our Bava fan took some notes from the Italians, and her death is very Italian, very Fulci: Long, slow, and excruciatingly drawn out. She just goes tharn in abject terror as the knife slowly approaches. It’s so awful, and I liked her so much. She’s a good girl being naughty! I like her throwing herself at Mark (aka Wheelchair Dude), and I love how she runs off to prep for their hooking up. It’s all so natural, right down to the lipgloss and panties that match her sweater. Despite the amateurish and sometimes hammy acting, I like the look of all our campers/counselors; they all look very real, very natural, like they just wandered out of a Judy Blume or Norma Klein novel and into a nightmare. It’s one of the significant aspects of these movies, that the victims are so very ordinary, that they try to realistically place teenagers in an adult-free setting. Verisimilitude, baby. Right down to Ginny’s halfbaked drunken child psych maunderings.

our sweetheart, vicki

Bill: One of the strengths of the slasher genre was always that it took away all the gothic trappings and scary old houses full of characters that a kid growing up in the 70s, 80s, or even today, could barely relate to.  In their place, we get suburban neighborhoods and camps and sorority houses, the places we find ourselves, filled with kids that could be us or our friends.  The F13 franchise, up until the second half of the series, was particularly good at this.  People like to rag on the characters in movies like these, saying they’re unbelievable, because they do stupid things, go where they shouldn’t, do things they’d be better off not doing, but when I think of my friends or myself as a kid or,  hell, even think of myself now, I know I’m not far off from a Mark or a Paul or a Ginny or Vicky.  I’ve heard your drunken meanderings, Fisty.  Aside from all  the crying and screaming about Laura Ingalls Wilder, they aren’t far off from Ginny’s.  Vicky’s little spritz of perfume on her panties, the way she skips around, oblivious to danger, lost in her hormones and glee…  That could be any of us.  It could certainly be me.   I have sprayed cologne in my pants and skipped around.  I have even worn panties that matched my sweater.

Speaking of Paul…  Fisty, do you know what happened to him?

Fisty: I wasn’t aware that we were, but NOBODY KNOWS. What the fuck happens to Paul? And to Muffin, for that matter? The last we saw, crazed hillbilly mutant Jason crashed through a window just after Paul opened the door to discover the missing Muffin there, purple ribbon and all (and that moment, when the music gets all Benji sentimental and Muffin looks up at them, is totally heartwrenching and pleasing). The music rises to a sudden crescendo, everything goes slow-mo, and then … fade to Ginny being taken away by EMTs, calling, “Where’s Paul?” (Who called them, anyways?) We never see or hear of hide nor hair of either Paul or Muffin again, not even in F13P3. THAT JUST ISN’T RIGHT.

Bill: Maybe he met up with Terry, whose body I don’t recall ever seeing (could she have called the emergency services?!) and they went to hang out with Ted at the bar he never came back from.  Man, you can really tell Jason doesn’t have the hang of this psycho killer thing yet.  He just lets half of the cast wander off and disappear.  As much as I’m enjoying tearing it apart, the very fact that this is Jason’s first go around as the killer and, thus, important to the development of the character and the series, I can’t hate this movie.  I can’t help it.  I’m an unrepentant, Friday the 13th fanboy and even Sack-head Jason has a place in my heart.

Fisty:Awww, Jason the Bag-head! Him and Muffin, togetha 4eva!

muffin the hunted

Bill: You mentioned earlier that the kills were mostly fushing feefed (trans.: stolen) from Twitch of the Death Nerve and they totally are, but I don’t think I’d have minded that so much, if they’d tried to one up Bava’s film.  Instead the kills are totally weak and there’s barely a trickle of blood in the whole movie.

The weak kills, almost total lack of T&A, and Jason’s unprofessional inefficiency force me to place this sequel low on the scale of best Fridays.  I’d still rate this one ahead of parts 8 and 9, but that’s it.  Every other installment in the series is better than Part 2.

Fisty: Hells no. You are a total idiot. P2 is probably my favorite, even in light of later fun with the Dead Fuck Dance or in space(!). It’s got character! Style! The characters are developed, it FEELS like the first movie, and the story works–but for the incomprehensible ending. Plus, Ginny is a totally kick ass Final Girl. Suck it, Bill.

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Hell Week of the Shrieking Cannibal Dead

Halloween is on its way.  This is my favorite time of year and I wanted to kick off the season right.   What better way to do that then with hordes of the shambling undead?  I decided that I’d spend a week watching nothing but zombie movies, beginning on September 18th and leading up to Old School Sinema’s 6th Cleveland Charity Zombie Walk, which I knew was coming up on September 25th.   If I managed to survive 30 hours of gutmunchers and the company of hundreds of brain-ivores, this week of extreme carnage would serve as my official beginning to this years Halloween season.

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supernatural voodoo woman

1.  Sugar Hill (1974)

Blaxspoitation voodoo zombies in the funkified seventies, killing organized crime thugs.

It’s a low rent Foxy Brown with zombies by the people who brought you Blackula.  It’s all very cheesy.  Also very fun.  The zombies have bulging eyes devoid of pupils or irises, discolored skin and cobwebs on them.  They look slightly moldered more than straight out rotted.  It’s a look that is, at once, really corny and still pretty cool.  Nothing to see in terms of gore or nudity, sadly, but plenty to laugh at.  Noisiest jungle ever.  And Baron Samedi is hilarious.

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orgy of the dammed

2.  Beneath Still Waters (2005)

Aquatic, grimoire-raised, zombies in a reservoir over a submerged town, killing anyone that goes near the water.  (Great idea!)

Brian Yuzna always makes good with bucketfuls of awesome gore and make up and some nice, healthy titties and, really, that is usually enough.  He doesn’t disappoint here, bringing both in good supply.  With Beneath Still Waters, however, he really goes out of his way and also gives you some creepy atmosphere and it’s a great concept.  Based on a novel, I believe.  Thank you, Brian Yuzna, for Melinda Clarke in Return of the Living Dead 3 and thank you for Beneath Still Waters, a movie that lets me have my cake (smooshed all over a woman’s breasts at an orgy) and see people get eaten, too.

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hong kong gooey

3. Bio Zombie

Chemical weapon, soft drink zombies inside a mall, killing the people locked in with them. How’s that for a twist?

Bio Zombie is a fucking awesome zomcom.   Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee are my new heroes.   They are like the Shaun and Ed of zombie movies. Well, the Shaun and Ed of Hong Kong zombie movies, I guess.  Or maybe I should call them the Brody and T. S. of zombie movies.  Or if Shaun and Ed were the Brody and T.S., then Crazy and Woody could be the Jay and Bob of zombie movies.  Regardless of what I call them or if any of this jabber makes any sense to you, they fucking rule.  The make up is shit and the movie is weird as all hell, like most Asian comedies I’ve seen, but the flick has heart.  And, while Jelly isn’t that hot, her friend, Rolls, is sexy as hell.

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the opposite of good

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4. Zombi 3

Chemical, or possibly viral, zombies (and zombirds!) on a tropical island with one radio station, killing a lot of lousy actors.

So, so very bad.  It steals outright (not pays homage to) Return of the Living Dead, The Crazies and Day of the Dead.  The head scientist over acts so hard I started to sweat just watching him.  He yells every line and throws his arms about wildly and pauses in very odd places.  If Jeff Goldblum and William Shatner had a baby that developed some nervous condition that caused uncontrollable muscle spasms and was always screamingly angry, that child would have given a subtler performance than this guy.  Throughout the whole movie there are zombies throwing themselves off of roofs at people.  Why and how did they got up there in the first place?  Beats me.  Oh!  There’s a helicopter escape, too!   Two of the three remaining survivors get to da choppa and begin taking off, hovering and calling for the third survivor to jump up and grab on.  They do this instead of just waiting for him to get in, which they could have done, since there were no zombies anywhere near them.  Or were there?!  As he’s hanging off of the skid of the helicopter, zombies leap up out of the hay beneath him.  They were hiding there all along!  BASTAAAAARDS!

So bad.  I didn’t even mention the deejay, the zombie deejay.

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you don't have to see to love boobies

5.  Night of the Seagulls (1975)

Evil, blind, Templar Knight zombies in a village of assholes that beat retards with sticks, killing beautiful young maidens.

Ah, I do love the Blind Dead series, of which this is the fourth and final film.  How can anyone not love them?  Gorgeous women, great concepts, creepy atmospheres, awesome sets and those wicked, eyeless, sword-wielding, zombie horse-riding, skeletal knights are some of the coolest risen dead in all of film history.  Even though they’re blind, they’re always nice enough to rip open a young maiden’s dress before killing her.  They do this for us, you know, since they can’t see ’em.  What a considerate bunch of corpses.

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you'll shoot your eye out, kid

6.  Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

Grimoire-raised, criminal zombies on a misty island with a graveyard for undesirables, killing a local theater group and their slimeball director.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is amateurish in every way.  Still, some of the one-liners are clever and the movie can be fairly funny at times. I especially liked one character’s repeated confession to having pissed in his pants.  It isn’t something that I can bring myself to watch often, but I do like it for a couple of reasons.  One of those being the bitchin’ title.  Seriously, one of the coolest titles ever.  The other being that the entire movie has the feel of the kind of local station-produced tv segments that would be hosted by some Elvira-type character.  I can’t watch this movie without getting nostalgic for my days as a youngster, watching all sorts of horror flicks with my local, Cleveland area, horror hosts like Super-Host, Big Chuck and Lil’ John, and The Ghoul.  Ah, good times…  Call me old, but I think TV was better before we all had cable and knew what an infomercial was.

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no boats, no lights, no motor cars

7.  Shock Waves (1977)

Aquatic, Nazi zombies on, and in the water around, The Isle of Peter Cushing, killing a boat-load of stranded tourists.  Hmmm…  That’s three different zombie infested islands already.

Come on…  It’s underwater Nazi zombies in cool goggles and Peter-fucking-Cushing!  Like I have to say anything more about that?

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reich of the living dead


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8.  Outpost (2008)

Philadelphia Experiment, Nazi zombie, masters of time and space in an old, abandoned bunker, killing an international bunch of badass mercenaries .

Here, we have something new!  Some kind of electromagnetic, unified field theory, universal vibration gobbledygook machine has created a breed of Nazi zombie that can blink in and out of existence at will.  I’m not even sure if they would qualify as zombies, since they seem awful ghost-like, but they look like Nazi zombies and they’re solid enough when they’re there.  Bullets hit them, but don’t stop them.  They sure as hell can kill in some pretty nasty, physical ways.  AND I LIKE THEM!  The mercenaries in the flick, lead by DC (Ray Stevenson, who made an even better cinematic Punisher than Dolph Lundgren, if you can believe that) are some badass guys, but don’t stand a chance against these inviso-vibro-zombies.

I love weird war tales.   Outpost fits that genre well and would make a great double feature with Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers, which, itself, is one of the better action-horror, weird war movies from recent years.

My only real complaint about Outpost is the lack of color.  The damn movie is practically in black and white.  I understand that this is a stylistic choice and that sometimes it even works for a movie, but I’m getting really tired of it.  Still, it is a spiffy addition to the zombie Nazi sub-subgenre.

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"they're us. we're them and they're-" YES, BARBARA, WE FUCKING GET IT!

9.  Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Classic, Romero zombies outside of a farmhouse trying to eat the people inside and a few animals outside, because meat is meat and a zombie’s gotta eat.

How about that cast!  Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Tom Towels, Tom Savini!  And, man, is that Patricia Tallman a looker or what?  Savini does almost everything right with this remake.  My only issues with it are some of the more melodramatic moments, like Ben looking to the sky and screaming, “Damn you!  Damn you all!”  I was waiting for him to say, “Get your rotting paws off me, you damned dirty zombie,” all Chuck Heston-like.  Or Barbara’s, “They’re us. We’re them and they’re us.”  Just seeing the look on Tallman’s face was enough, we didn’t need the sledgehammer to drive the point in.

One awesome moment:  When Ben first steps out of his truck, all you see are his boots, then the hooked end of his crow bar comes down into the shot.  I would swear on my life that this was a nod to Tony Todd as Candyman, except I know that Candyman didn’t come out until 2 years after NotLD’90.  Savini is a horror prophet!

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fuckin' nursery school

10.  Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Red Bull-infused, athletic, viral zombies, outside of a mall, killing the people hiding inside, but dogs are safe.

I like this movie, I do, but, while I mostly love the script, the more I watch this, the more I have to roll my eyes at Snyder’s direction.  How about we turn this into a drinking game?  Whenever you see a slow-mo explosion from far away with muted sound, drink.  Whenever someone is about to be shot and the movie cuts to another shot before you hear the bang, drink.  Whenever the camera gets all up close on a gun barrel with a whoosh sound and hints of slow motion, drink.  Whenever a digital gore effect is shown in slow motion, drink.  Whenever you see shell casings fall and clink and clack to the floor in slow motion, don’t drink.  That would be way too much alcohol and you would die.  If I seem like I’m being extra harsh on this flick, while being very forgiving to others, that’s because I am.  It bugs me that this is just an ok movie.  It really could have been great, but it’s held back by one man’s obsession with quick edits and slow motion and zombies that consume as much Gatorade as they do flesh.

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a mouthful of greek salad

11.  Day of the Dead (2008)

Viral zombies (with the proportionate speed, strength and agility of a spider) in a small town, killing everything.

You know, when you get over the fact that they’re using the name Day of the Dead and realize that it has so little in common with Romero’s movie that it is really a remake in name only, it’s not any better or worse than a lot of other shitty movies, which can be enjoyed as such.  Hell, it’s really more like the Zombi 2 of Dawn of the Dead ’04 than a remake of Day of the Dead ’85.  Sure, Mena Suvari is completely unbelievable in her role, but she has a shapely enough ass that it shows through, even under her army duds, so that’s ok.  Yes, Nick Cannon is the Jar Jar of zombie movies, but legless zombie Ving Rhames is cool enough that I think he should be a legless zombie in every movie he’s in, so that almost balances out.   Also, Cannon’s P. Diddy line made me laugh.  And, ok, zombies with 6-foot vertical leaps and the ability to crawl on ceilings is pretty dumb, but the airborne transmission of the virus and flu-like symptoms are kind of neat.  And, I mean, this movie begins with four teenagers making out in an abandoned building.  That’s a clear sign that they weren’t aiming to boggle your mind with their brilliance. If they had named it anything other than what they did, you could probably watch it just as dumb movie that’s easy to laugh at and make fun of.

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lol wut

12.  Zombie 4: After Death (1988)

I don’t know!  Some kind of zombie, voodoo, I guess, on another island, killing whoever happens to be around, including bisexual porn stars, really ugly mercenaries and a girl who may have been able to run across the ocean as a child.

JEFF STRYKER!  I totally used to sell the Jeff Stryker Cock and Balls dildo at work!  This movie rules!  Except it sucks!  As bad as Zombi 3 is, Zombie 4: After Death is on a whole ‘nother level of bad.  It is AMAZINGLY bad!  Nothing in this movie makes any sense whatsoever!  NONE!

The credits will tell you that this was directed by Clyde Anderson, but that’s a damn lie.  The man behind this pile is Claudio Fragasso.  He is the man who wrote and directed Troll 2, a movie so bad they had to make a documentary about it.  This guy is the Sultan of Suck.  He is the Pope of Putrescence.  And Z4: After Death is worthy of him in every way.

The zombies!  They all seem to be just a little over five feet tall.  This is never really explained, but I think they were probably all jockeys.  They may have also been ballerinas, which would explain their graceful leaping abilities.  Seriously, it’s like watching Ice Dancing of the Living Dead Jockeys, only without the skates.  They’re also really good at synchronized window and wall smashing and masters of leaping out of nowhere in small rooms where they could not have possibly been hiding.

Oh, and the song!  Al Festa’s song, Living After Death, epitomizes every cheesy metal song in every movie from the late ’80s.  Not only does it play over the opening credits, but when you first meet the mercenaries, they’re listening to it on the radio.  It rocks so hard that I started getting excited near the end of the movie, because I knew they would play it again.

The end!  This a spoiler, but I really don’t think that matters with a movie like this.  JEFF STRYKER GETS FIST FUCKED IN THE TORSO BY A ZOMBIE!  Really.  That fist just keeps pumping in and out, with an occasional little twist, through a hole punched into his back and out of his belly.  And this just goes on and on while he makes an O-face and the girl who ran across the ocean plucks out her own eye and peels the skin off of her zombifying face.  None of this makes any sense at all, but who cares, because as soon as it’s done, YOU WILL BE ROCKED RIGHT DOWN TO YOUR CORE BY AL FESTA!  Not only do they play Living After Death over the end credits, as I knew they would, but the song rocks so hard that they let it keep playing over an empty black screen after the credits have finished.  FUCK YEAH!

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bill just farted

13.  Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Trioxin zombies in a small town, eating braaaains!

Return of the Living Dead is one of my favorite movies ever, but I actually saw RotLD Part II first.  While now, I watch it and laugh at the humor, when I was watching it by myself one night, 12 or 13 years-old, it scared the hell out of me.  My house at the time had windows that would rattle whenever there was a strong wind.  As I was watching, the window began to rattle and I could almost swear that there was a silhouette of a person out there, beyond the blinds and I knew, it was a zombie trying to get in.  To this day, even as an adult, whenever a window rattles, I flash back to that moment and imagine rotting hands smacking against the panes of glass, trying to get in and eat me.

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reports that the virus was caused by rage infected monkeys have now been dismissed as complete bullshit


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14.  28 Days Later (2002)

Rage-infected zombies in an emptied-out Great Britain, killing anyone unfortunate enough to catch their attention.

This movie is so great.  Sometimes I forget how great it is, until I watch it again.  I could easily name off 50 zombie movies from memory and maybe as many as 100 or more, but I can only think of two that have made me cry.  28 Days Later is one of those.  Everything about the movie (except for the lame Rage explanation) is perfect.  Love the music and the way it slowly builds through the climax until it’s almost maddeningly intense.

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panic in the streets of london

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15.  28 Weeks Later (2007)

More rage zombies in infected Britain, killing the people resettling the island.  Yes, it’s an island.  That’s five different islands and six movies so far with zombie-plagued islands.  How many more are there?  Zombie, Zombie Island Massacre, Survival of the Dead, House of the Dead, etc…  Why does anyone ever think that going to an island would be a good way to escape zombies?

Jeremy Renner before he made it big!  Not as good as 28 Days Later, but still really good.  Great cast, great music.  Very depressing.  100% less Cillian Murphy penis.

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we're the only ones who've watched the damn thing anyways

16. The Signal (2007)

People infected with a madness, akin to 28 Days/Weeks Later infected, only with more mental ability, run all over a city killing the uninfected and each other.

Neat idea.  Three different men each direct one-third of the movie, with each segment labeled as Transmission #1, 2 and 3.  It makes for some strange tonal shifts in the flick.  The first third is somewhat disturbing and played very straight.  Scary stuff.  The second takes a more comedic angle and had me laughing pretty hard.  Then the final segment takes the movie back to the more serious, though not as suspenseful, territory of the first.

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nothing at the movie show when you're dead

17.  Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Trioxin zombies on the loose in Louisville, Kentucky, eating the brains out of punks and paramedics and anyone else they can get their teeth into.

One of my top 5 most watched movies ever.  Infinitely quotable.  Tarman and the “Pain of being dead” zombie are amazing!  Trash, I love you, codpiece and all.

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I was aiming for twenty movies, but I fell a little short.  I did watch the beginnings of Zombie Strippers, Don’t Wake the Dead and Burial Ground, but since I fell asleep during all three, it would be dishonest to include them and claim the full twenty. But, if you look at some of the movies I had no trouble staying awake for, that may tell you a little bit about how bad these three are.

The zombie walk, like the five previous walks, was a great success and a helluva good time.  A few hundred or so people turned out, massive amounts of food were gathered and the world was made a better place.  The streets were clogged with the rotting hordes and cars were attacked, civilians eaten and at least one dog was lightly sampled by the dead.  Mmmm… tasty!  I can’t wait to do it all again next year.  But for now, bring on the candy corn, because it’s Halloween time.  Silver Shamrock, bitches!

The Whip and the Body

it’s whipping time

La Frusta e il Corpo
aka What!?
aka Night is the Phantom
aka Son of Satan
aka The Body and the Whip
aka Der Dämon und die Jungfrau
aka The Whip and the Flesh
Director:
Mario Bava
Released:
1963
Starring:
Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee, Evelyn, Stewart, Tony Kendall, Ida Galli
Running time:
91 minutes
Genre:
Gothic horror, spaghetti gothic, Italian horror, erotic horror

What!?:Prodigal son Kurt Menliff returns to his family’s ancestral home, only no one is happy to see him. Kurt had previously left under terrible circumstances, banished and disinherited by his father the count for his infamous and cruel behavior, and the actions that caused a young woman to kill herself. Disgusted with the vagabond life of a pariah, Kurt seeks to wreak vengeance upon everyone from his past life: his father who cast him out, his brother Christian who has the inheritance that is rightfully his, beautiful Nevenka who was once his fiancée but who is now married to Christian, even the servant Georgia who festishistically prays to the dagger with which her daughter Tanya killed herself after Kurt’s desertion. Kurt begins his enterprise when he encounters Nevenka on an isolated strand below the Menliff castle, and the two are irresistibly drawn to one another, just as they were before his banishment. When Nevenka resists, Kurt savagely whips her, a beating that ends in abandoned seduction. Afterward, Kurt returns to the castle, where the family begins searching for the missing Nevenka. While alone in his rooms, he hears a voice calling and approaches the window. The wind blows the curtains around him, and when Kurt emerges from the swirling fabric, the same dagger that killed Tanya is buried in his throat. Though not grief-stricken, save for perhaps the too quiet Nevenka, the family is understandably disquieted by Kurt’s murder. Someone among them must have done it, but who? Lord Menliff, to punish his son for returning? Giorgia, in revenge for Tanya’s death? Christian, to secure his inheritance? Or even Tanya herself, from beyond the grave? Nothing is certain but that death and madness stalk the Menliff castle as the murders continue and Nevenka is haunted by Kurt’s memory–or perhaps his ghost. In solitude she revisits the ecstasy they shared while Cousin Katia seeks refuge in Christian’s arms from the evil and insanity permeating the House of Menliff.

fall of the house of menliff

fall of the house of menliff

Seriously, What?!: When The Whip and the Body was distributed in the US, censors went nuts, and the cuts they made rendered the movie totally incomprehensible. Fittingly, it was retitled What?! for the 1965 US distribution; shockingly, it was not well received. But Bava’s tale of terror and desire is a stunningly sensual and moving Italian Gothic–and it is Christopher’s Lee favorite of all his Italian work.

Fisty:This is one of the most sumptuously beautiful movies to look at that I have ever seen. Christopher Lee was once a Grade A, stone cold hottie, and Daliah Lavi is no slouch herself, eerily resembling Italo-Gothic stalwart Barbara Steele. The two and their dueling cheekbones drenched in Bava’s luscious colors and lights would be a delight to watch under any circumstances.

kurt versus nevenka: cheekbone battle royale

kurt versus nevenka: cheekbone battle royale

Bill: I’d say she’s no slouch!  In one scene, the camera slowly revolves around her as she plays piano, lit just perfectly to show off her beauty.  She’s stunning.  By that point, you’d already seen her getting off on a lashing she was given down on the beach, too.  So hott.  I have never wanted, so badly, to flog a European girl as I did watching this movie.  And don’t even get me started on her ecstatic, hand biting scene. As for those “luscious colors and lights,” I’ll put my geek hat on and say that, watching this, I was reminded of the Marvel superhero trading cards that the Brothers Hildebrandt painted back in the mid-’90s.  All the lasers and explosions and energy blasts that go along with superheroes made for plenty of  interesting light sources and contrasting colors for the Hildebrandts to play with in their art, which they did with gorgeous results.  The crew behind The Whip and the Body did the same thing (only without the superheroes), creating a movie where almost every frame is like a vibrantly-colored painting.  It’s especially refreshing to watch a movie like this after the last two decades full of films with muted and washed out colors.  I think some of today’s filmmakers need to give this flick a look and see how amazing movies can be when you add a little color to them.

Hey!  Wait a minute!  What’s all this Bava talk, Fisty?  I paid attention to the credits and it said this was directed by John M. Old.  You mean the movie lied?!

Fisty: Well no, not really, Bill. Bava used a pseudonym. You see, it was once fairly common practice to replace overtly “foreign”-sounding names with Anglicized ones to make them more palatable to overseas (American) audiences. Bava used “John M. Old” for TWatB, as well as the spaghetti Western I coltelli del vendicatore (The Road to Fort Alamo), and the similar sounding “John Hold” for a writing credit on I coltelli del vendicatore (Knives of the Avenger). Both actors and crew did this; in TWatB you will find Gustavo de Nardo and Luciano Pigozzi masquerading as “Dean Ardow” and “Alan Collins,” respectively. And then you will also sometimes find actors or directors using pseudonyms to differentiate certain genres of their work (Joe d’Amato is an excellent example of this practice).

Bill:Oh.  I suppose that makes sense.  Oh well.  At least Christopher Lee didn’t use an assumed name.  He was all Christopher Lee, all the time. You know, even though he was used as the main antagonist of the movie, I found him more relate-able than any of the other characters. I didn’t really even see him as a villain, in spite of his sadism.

is he a bad boy, or really just a sad boy?

is he a bad boy, or really just a sad boy?

Fisty: That’s because he’s totally not the villain, or even a sadist. It’s all about Nevenka. Nevenka, Nevenka, Nevenka! Now, Kurt IS a cad and a bounder, and he probably always was a bit of a jerk, but I am willing to bet good money that he’s hardly the monster the others make him out to be. He was the favorite before he left, which hardly would have been the case had he always been the “serpent” the Count refers to him as. The Count, now, he is all kinds of jerk–and he taught Kurt everything he knew. Kurt says to his father, “You showed me the way,” referring not to just literally the secret passages, but also the way to behave, to act. Kurt is maddened by his father’s hypocrisy, especially in light of the count’s relations with Nevenka.

Bill: And man, was Kurt’s brother living in his shadow or what.  Constantly talking about how he’s not afraid of him.

Fisty: I wouldn’t be surprised if even Tanya wasn’t the innocent victim Giorgia made her out to be. Perhaps she was scheming to compromise Kurt and force him to marry her, and when her plan failed, she killed herself because she had few options. And her mother might even know that, it could be part and parcel of her hatred for Kurt, that she resents how he didn’t fall into their trap!

Bill: Maybe so. Everyone in that place was fucked, even the servants: “Hello, lady, how about you clean your daughter’s blood off the dagger, you morbid old hag?”

Fisty:I know, right? But back to Nevenka, because after all, she’s the star of the whole show. Kurt only returns home because he is fascinated by her, and he wants his place–including her by his side–back. She is in control the whole time–he even refers to her as his master. In the beach scene, Nevenka strikes him first, spurring him into the games they once played together. When he whips her, he does it for her gratification, not just his own–most unlike your classical sadist. “You always loved violence,” he says, tipping us off that this isn’t something new, that their relationship was always founded on this dynamic. He is neither punishing her, nor revenging himself on her for remaining at Castle Menliff or for her marriage to Christian, instead he is giving her the pleasure she has been denied, both by her surroundings and herself. It is through this release that Nevenka achieves sexual fulfillment. (And notice how, when he first manifests to her, before whipping her and giving her that release, Kurt’s first instinct is tenderness.)

nevenka loving it

nevenka loving it

Bound tightly in her small, claustrophobic world, Nevenka is relegated to the position of a decoration, nothing more is required of her than to look lovely, dress prettily, sew, play piano, and then eventually provide an heir for the Menliff family. Whatever desires she may have are thwarted by her position, and by her innocent husband, whose boyish charms leave her cold. (And there’s the small matter of Christian’s longing for Cousin Katia; as a younger son, Christian could have married Katia, but once Kurt left and he became the heir instead, he could hardly marry a penniless relative, so it’s was Kurt’s bride he married.) As a woman in nineteenth century umm, wherever they are in Europe (somewhere with Orthodox Christianity and a seacoast, Romania? Croatia? Ukraine?), trapped in a crumbling castle with only a clueless husband, insane servingwoman, resentful poor relation, and a pervy father-in-law, Nevenka has few ways to exercise power or express her desires, and this imprisonment maddens her. Nevenka can sink into quiet passivity and let things unfold around her, or she can burst forth, like a phoenix–risking castigation and the condemnation of society. Though not a jaded libertine, Nevenka is so wrapped in passivity and boredom that she requires something more to stimulate her, and Kurt provides that for her–at her wish. But since she didn’t and can’t, she passionately hates this aspect of herself. She cannot be both Kurt’s lover and Christians’ wife, but neither can she be happy with the one knowing the other exists, and this is the central conflict of TWatB. If Nevenka had married Kurt, then perhaps she would have been able to fully express her desires. Perhaps–I HAVE GOT TO SHUT UP ABOUT THIS STUFF.

only the shadow knows

only the shadow knows

When Kurt seems to be haunting the castle–has he returned from beyond the grave? Or is he simply a manifestation of Nevenka’s desires? The further she sinks into a morass of hallucinatory terror, the more we doubt what we’ve seen. What is going on? So much crazy ass SUBTEXT! The Whip and the Body, despite some terrible dubbing (it is surely a crime to not have Christopher Lee dub his own voice in English?) is a masterpiece of color and shadow, a moody and atmospheric Gothic mystery absolutely worth seeing. Though it looks like one of Corman’s Poe thrillers, it is a psychologically compelling film that meditates on obsession and feminine desire. We didn’t even go into all the symbolism with the colors (watch for blue and then red)–not to mention the rose, the whip, and the dagger. We suck.

Bill: What?!  That wasn’t Christopher Lee’s voice?!

The Burning

chop chop!

The Burning
aka Cropsy
aka Carnage
Director: Tony Maylam
Released: 1981
Starring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter
Running time: 91 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher, Video Nasty

What’s Happening, Hot Stuff? Late one night, some campers play a prank on an unliked caretaker, Cropsy. The prank goes awry, however, and Cropsy ends up doused in gasoline and in flames (because normal people sleep next to cans of gas). Rather than like, help the poor human torch, the guilty campers run away, and Cropsy is hospitalized for five years. Unfortunately, even with 1981’s technology, skin grafts could only take him so far, and Cropsy is left a hideously scarred shell of a man. When he is released from care at the hospital, Cropsy immediately heads for Times Square (in the fun old days–who wouldn’t?) and murders a harlot. Seems like that revolting cicatrice may conceal a burning lust for revenge. Against hookers. Or whomever.

Meanwhile, at Camp Stonewater, summer proceeds as usual. Boys chasing girls, girls chasing boys, lots of wholesome outdoor activities, and lots of short shorts, tubesocks, and unfettered boobies. You’ve got your full complement of characters who manage to nearly transcend their roles as loathesome Lothario, hopeless dweeb, wiseacre, virginal Final Girl, and so on. Everything about the camp seems alternately idyllic and ordinary, until someone spots a hideous face in a window. Of course, no one believes him, the poor dweeb, and so a group of campers sets out on a canoe trip.

The first night downriver, the campers gather round a campfire, and the Ken Doll–I mean, Todd–tells a spooky story about a caretaker named Cropsy who lurks in the woods in the area … after the story, Demure Karen and Sleazy Eddy take a walk and a skinny dip, and well, one of them doesn’t come back. In the morning, all the canoes are missing, so our intrepid campers utilize their woodcraft and build a raft to get help … but Cropsy’s already there, and he’s got his shears. Let the stabbings and the slashings and the cuttings commence!

Tastes Like Burning! Tastes like AWESOME. Though often dismissed as merely a Friday the 13th wannabe, The Burning is a delightful and brutal addition to the slasher pantheon. Featuring a surprisingly solid cast (though not in light of their future endeavors), gory kills fashioned by Maestro Tom Savini, a classic story, and soundtrack by Rick “Eat Your Heart Out” Wakeman (I can’t help but think of DK whenever I hear his name), The Burning remains fresh long after other summer camp slaying clones went stale.

Fisty: OH. MY. GOD. The Burning is the ne plus ultra of summer camp slashers. Forget F13! For reals. At risk of being iconoclastic, I will state officially that I think The Burning is the superior of the two. That isn’t to say that it’s perfect, but it is surprisingly well-crafted and everything a slasher ought to be.

Bill: Well, I don’t want to start a full-on debate here, but I have to disagree.  The Burning is damn fine fun and an excellent slasher, but Friday the 13th is still better.  But, please, go on and explain why The Burning is so fantastic.  Aside from the softball playin’, panty-clad, booty wiggle, I mean.  That was totally my favorite part.  It reminds me of my favorite part from Night of The Demons: Linnea’s bent over, pink panty, shopliftin’ ass shake.  When I was going through my early pubescent, manic jackin’ period, I would watch that scene, rewind it, rewatch it and repeat (the real three Rs, fuck recycling) until I was satisfied.  I really wish I’d have had a copy of The Burningon VHS back then.  It would’ve gotten a lot of use.  Probably for the tan line scenes, too.  Sadly, I didn’t see it for the first time until a few years ago.

panties of contention

panties of contention

Fisty: What the hell is up with that panty shot? Those are so clearly NOT bikini bottoms. I actually had a circa ’81 bikini I inherited from my older sister, and back then they were all about the crocheted, itty-bitty, low-rise, string bikini (not the thing to wear swimming with a bunch of evil-minded high school boys, let me tell you). But it was pretty hott, as these things go.

What I love about The Burning: What’s left unsaid. That’s right. There’s a lot of ambiguity in it, comparatively speaking. Cropsy, for instance. The only indicators we have that we was in fact a sadistic asshole is that the kids–and the legend–say so. Kids always say that about authority figures. (And they also say he’s dead and haunting the woods, when he was hospitalized. UNRELIABLE NARRATORS!) Oh, and that he goes on a murderous rampage, but after what he went through, who wouldn’t? Some might complain that the plot’s nonsensical–why does Cropsy go after this apparently random camper group? Or the hooker for that matter? (For reals, the hooker? Super authentic. She looked like someone who would have worked the lol-iday inn.) But it all makes perfect sense in Adolescent Logic, and it’s adolescents, both in the movie and in the audience, who tell the tale.

Then there’s the acting, which is head and shoulders above F13 (thanks in part to some fledgling actors who went on to make big[ish] names for themselves on both the big and small screens). Notice that the characters are better developed and more realistic; they don’t just wander off alone to become murder fodder, but instead try to stick together and act sensible.

Bill: It does have an awesome cast.  I mean, Fisher “The Plague” Fucking Stevens is in it.  (Hack the planet!)  And Brian Backer, an early prototype of David Krumholtz, is both believably creepy and sad, as the bullied weirdo.  Overall, all the characters and their portrayals are better than most of what you see in Friday the 13th, but Friday has a couple of standouts, like Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees and Walt Gorney as Crazy Ralph,  who, individually, are far more memorable and as well acted or better than anyone in The Burning. 

the boys of summer camp

the boys of summer camp

Fisty: I also appreciate the way the characters defy the genre conventions. I can’t just up and TELL you–at least, Bill won’t let me–but there are surprises in the bodycount. I honestly was not expecting the hero/ine scenario to play out the way it did; years of watching slashers had taught me particular rules, shall we say, about who lives and who dies and why and how. And The Burning disregards those cherished fundamentals, to excellent effect.

Bill: NO SPOILERS!  (Dumbledore dies.)

Fisty: And he’s gay. But like I said, it isn’t a perfect film, and I think the two are very close. I happen to think The Burning has a slight edge in most areas, but F13 does other things well. Tension and suspense are somewhat lacking in The Burning, since you know who the ostensible killer is from the outset. Notable exceptions include Tiger searching for the ball and Rhoda’s shower. It does make a nod to twisting the possibilities, but it’s poorly executed (though I will admit, I wondered till the end whether they might play it through). It’s nice that it doesn’t take literally the slasher rule of “A death every ten minutes!,” instead starting with a bang and then going into plot and character development for a long stretch before the kills begin in earnest. And when it comes to the kills, though Savini worked his usual magic, the ones in F13 (though often ludicrous) were much better directed. The deaths in The Burning had great potential–especially the much-vaunted and ban-worthy raft scene–but were so sloppily directed that they were often obscured, pulling the punches.

we're not showing what happens

we’re not showing what happens

Bill: I think Friday the 13th is a little better than The Burning, but I am a pretty hardcore F13 fanboy (even watched the fan-made Friday the 13th: Mothers Day).  Regardless of which flick either of us put first, they’re probably the two best Twitch of the Death Nerve imitators we’ll ever see.

Fisty: I think we can both agree that–regardless of your thoughts on F13The Burning is not just a worthwhile slasher for any fan to see, but a crowning moment in the genre.

SPOILER MOMENT—-LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

The ending is especially nifty, with a nice nod to meta fiction, in that it clearly acknowledges the power of storytelling and urban myth among teenagers by making Cropsy’s existence–and the entire movie–ambiguous. Was the whole thing a campfire story? Or was it a truth that became a legend? Who knows? The kids themselves are our storytellers, and as we have seen, they are highly unreliable narrators.

And since this is marked SPOILERS, how about how those characters generally contravene the laws of slasher folk as generally set down in 1980? Karen, who we assume is at least quasi-virginal and therefore a Final Girl contender, is the first camper to die! After denying Eddy the sex! And Rhoda and Glazer, who only engage in extremely unsatisfying sex, are lambs to the slaughter. While the insipid Michelle and Todd live to the see the end. And how about that weirdly buddy climax? Whoda thunk it?

END SPOILERS—YOU MAY LOOK NOW!!! LOOK NOW!!!

And I swear to god, this was filmed where my dad’s family is from. If he had succeeded in persuading my mom to stay on the Mainland, this could have been my fate!

oh SHI--!!!

oh SHI–!!!

The Burning is available on Netflix Watch Instantly right now!