Evil Eye

nothing to do with anything?

nothing to do with anything?

Malocchio
aka Eroticofollia
aka Más allá del exorcismo
aka Blutige Magie
Director: Mario Siciliano
Released: 1975
Starring: Anthony Steffen, Jorge Rivero, Pilar Velasquez, Pia Giancaro, Eduardo Fajardo, Richard Conte
Running time: 93 min
Genre: giallo, fantastique

Men like him are certainly in no need of psychiatry. American playboy Peter Crane is living the life of Riley in Rome as King of the Expats, partying by day and orgying by night. One morning he awakens in his nude partygoer-strewn pad to the sound of the telephone ringing. When he answers, it’s his girlfriend Tanya, wondering where the hell he was last night when he stood her up. Oddly, all Peter can remember is the bizarre dream he was having, a dream of a Black Mass and screaming demonic suppliants. Putting that aside, he resolves to get up and face the day, so he puts a funky Stelvio Cipriani record and summons his butler houseboy majordomo Walter (Boris Karloff Walter Vernon Eduardo Farjado) to kick out the jams guests. This is the last coherent scene in the film.

From the opening orgy we follow Peter as jet sets (in a tiny car, natch) off to the fuggest fashion show in all of history. As his girlfriend Tania (Taga? Tarda?) MCs the event, Peter retires to the VIP lounge, where he proceeds to mack the first woman he meets, the piercingly-gazed Yvonne. Quicker than you can say, “Peter Crane will murder you,” he’s hitting on the widowed Yvonne and they meet up for a midnight tête-à-tête at his fly bachelor pad. Mid-grope, however, Peter goes bananas–the statues start moving, doors blow open, things fall apart, the center cannot hold, and he starts throttling Yvonne … and wakes up the next morning as if nothing has happened. Has it?

From this point on, Peter dashes through Rome, trying to figure out just what is going on, and sexing up every woman he meets–and then killing them! Possibly. At least, they end up dead. We think. Statues and other inanimate objects wiggle, ghosts appear, and Peter phlegmatically freaks out. Can the Doctors Stone and Turner help him? Is Dr Turner really Salieri? Will Dr Turner commit a gross ethical violation by sleeping with Peter? (Duh.) As the bodies pile up, can Inspector Ranieri uncover the murderer? Can Peter wear a shirt AND jacket? What does the Black Mass signify? Who was under that pile of bricks? Or on the train tracks? Where did that frog come from? Is it Tania or Taga? Or Tarda?

Tom Jones or Beethoven? Malocchio is Mario Siciliano’s surrealist canoe trip through the nightmare rapids of the mind of a man who is potentially insane, possibly possessed, just maybe haunted, definitely infected with the clap, and … oh, fuck it. We have no idea what’s going on with this movie. Can’t even fake it.

i'm too sexy for your party

i’m too sexy for your party

romper bomper stomper boo

romper bomper stomper boo

peter crane will look through your shirt

i’m too sexy for my shirt

Bill: Fisty got me all excited for this movie. She was talking about ghosts and Pigozzi and likening it to All the Colors of the Dark. She only called it Eroticofollia at first, instead of the much more boring Evil Eye [Fisty: Lies!], and she  showed me posters with red-hooded cult figures and red-eyed wizards throwing up triangle gang signs and she was talking about Guillermo del Toro.  So I was all hyped when I started the movie. I was initially disappointed when the ringing church bells turned out to not be the beginnings of an AC/DC song. Then, later, I was disappointed by almost everything else. Fisty is a dick.

It starts off well enough, with the aforementioned red-hooded Klan figures and red-eyed wizards throwing up triangle gang signs and there’s a bunch of naked people screaming, which is always nice. But this is all a dream? It may not have even happened. It’s the image on the fucking poster and it’s seemingly completely unrelated to anything else in the movie. The red-eyed gangster wizard…? I HAVE NO IDEA WHO HE WAS! The Klan guy in the red hood…? BEATS ME! What does this have to do with Peter other than possibly being a bad reaction to something he ate before passing out? How do I shrug with text? But maybe I’m focusing too much on THE FUCKING POSTER OF THE MOVIE. I mean, at least it was actually a scene in the movie. So it’s not quite as misleading as, say, the They’re Coming to Get You poster for All the Colors of the Dark. But, really, why does the most dominant image in the movie (other than Peter’s bare chest) have nothing to do with anything else?

Wait. Is that a spoiler, revealing that the dream is completely pointless? I’ll tell you: No, it isn’t. I’ll tell you  why it isn’t:  Because I could go minute by minute explaining everything that happens in the entire movie and if you sit down to watch it, you still will have no clue what is happening. To paraphrase the cat from Pet Semetary, “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, basted in confusion and roasted for 93 minutes at FUCK YOU degrees!” Fisty, you are a dick. And I’m pretty sure this movie had no influence on Pan’s Labyrinth.

i'm with the band

i’m with the band

peter crane is my mouth and i must scream

peter crane is my mouth and i must scream

you're tearing me apart!

so sexy it hurts!

Fisty: I didn’t actually say it did! [Bill: You did, too!]

I think we came away from Malocchio with two divergent experiences, because despite the insanity, I enjoyed myself. Yes, it is the kind of movie where, if you nod off unexpectedly for a few minutes, you can’t be entirely sure what was dream and what was film. It’s often brought up that there is a certain amount of incomprehensibility expected of gialli, that their plots are unusually convoluted or even nonsensical. (I’m not going into this in any depth, but there are definitely reasons for that in many cases, beyond the simplistic accusations of shitty film-making, such as the emphasis on character, mood, or sensation above America’s almighty Plot.) But anyone who has ever complained about the impenetrable, labyrinthine plots of gialli should watch Malocchio to really drive it home how easy they’ve had it. It’s really not so much convoluted as it is enigmatically BATSHIT INSANE. Or in less evocative terms, it seems made up of bizarre set pieces, rather than plotted.

But those set pieces are fun! I love orgies (really, who doesn’t?) and Siciliano gives us several. Jorge Rivero isn’t my kind of studmuffin, but I appreciated the devotion Siciliano had to showcashing his chesthair AT ALL TIMES. And though the technique is imperfect, I still enjoyed the Dance of the Inanimate Objects that would occur to signify Strange Happenings. Though often ludicrous, those bits often gave me a little thrill. They were just SO WEIRD. Of course, then it’d get to be a little much and end up looking like the “I Got My Mind Set On You” video. But still!  Admit that that stuff was fun.

stop staring at me as if i were some kind of manimal!

stop staring at me as if i were some kind of manimal!

orgy hijinx

orgy hijinx

peter crane WILL murder you

no way i’m disco dancing!

Bill: I admit nothing!

Okay, I did laugh a bunch of times, because the movie is just totally nuts, but also because of your live-tweeting as you watched it and the texts we were sending back and forth. So maybe I’m exaggerating my annoyance a bit. I like French Sex Murders and really enjoy The Visitor (with Franco Nero as Jesus!) and Malocchio is the same kind of nuts that they are. Those movies, however, seem to have something that Malocchio doesn’t. Charm? Malocchio maybe has some. Stars? Pigozzi does not count as a star. Competence? Oh, there is none of that here. At one point, I thought the guy filming was going to fall down and take the camera with him. A single thread of coherence? Th0se other movies at least try to tie all their crazy together. This movie doesn’t. You might as well just watch a series of bizarre YouTube videos all edited together. They have WTF elements, some WTF setpieces, but this is an entire WTF movie. It never even tries to make sense of anything going on in it. I mistakenly thought it was going to, right up to the end. I was wrong. I was SO wrong. even something like The Beyond, which is meant as a series of nightmare images strung together with minimal to no plot, has more of a cohesive narrative than Malocchio. I don’t need a linear narrative. I don’t need everything to make sense. But it would be nice to have at least one thing in the movie that I understand.

Another problem with Malocchio is that it lacks a decent editor’s sense of time. I didn’t even notice this when I was first watching it, because I was sitting with phone in hand, on Twitter. Later, in trying to explain the movie to someone, I was going through different scenes and, oh god, do they drag! Even the stuff I like, like the crazy dream scene just go on and on. That guy at the very beginning, arms outstretched, listening to the bells, is standing there doing that for, like, three minutes! Peter’s murder scenes cut back and forth from the victim’s face to Peter’s clenching and unclenching hands and staring eyes over and over. Maybe that was Siciliano’s way of trying to build suspense, but it really didn’t work. If you’re not texting and tweeting through these slow, slogging scenes, they are interminable. You can’t dispute that either, because I’m pretty sure you did fall asleep at one point. And I know that there were cultural differences in how the Italians and Americans watched their movies; I know lulls were often intentional, meant to be talked through until the good parts were on screen by people that may come and go without even staying for the entire movie. But when even the good parts drag, you can’t point to that and claim that as an excuse.

fashion by the house of sophia petrillo

fashion by the house of sophia petrillo

i'm too sexy for my shirt

i’m too sexy for my car

will the real inspector ranieri please stand up?

will the real inspector ranieri please stand up?

Fisty: On my second viewing when preparing to write, it actually seemed to go a bit faster. Granted, most people won’t want to wait for the second or third movie for a movie to be intelligible–or entertaining. And well, it was still weirdly interminable.

I agree with it not being the prettiest picture, either. The print on the Grindhouse DVD is pretty awful, but it’s likely the best around. But beyond that, though there are some cool shots and compositions, so much of the movie is just not attractive. The actors were fine, but the clothes and surroundings were unabashedly hideous. Even the giallo stand-by of the fashion house was shockingly unattractive–not outre or unconventional, but actually grotesque. My appreciation for Sixties and Seventies fashion is only lightly flavored with irony, so this was a particular affront to me, though I doubt anyone could even ironically think the red brocade bathrobe gown stylish. The characters’ outfits were usually on the blander end of the offensiveness scale. And other than the fur bedspread (a must for any really swinging bachelor), the interior design was also of the Inelegantly Dull School.

Peter was pretty much the most visually interesting object in the movie (is there a gay subtext we missed?). His were always divinely tasteless; I found his bizarrely-dyed Canadian tuxedo and his shiny tan suit especially enticing. His lustrous hair appeared to move of its own accord, while his chest hair was resplendently luxuriant. I don’t think there are enough adjectives for his chest hair. Body hair, really.

Everyone but Peter kind of blended into the tastelessly beige background. Anthony Steffen’s expression was so masklike that it took me a few scenes to recognize him; I know “wooden” is the usual descriptor for him, but I’ve enjoyed his work in Westerns and thought he was great in An Angel for Satan. Richard Conte looks distractingly like Fred MacMurray’s turn as Salieri. Aside from Lone Fleming (Tombs of the Blind Dead) and her piercing green gaze, hardly any of the actresses stood out to me. They were pretty, sure, but the bad print does them no favors ; also, I could hardly tell them apart, especially Doctor Sarah Turner (Pilar Velázquez) and Tanya (Pia Giancaro). Elizabeth (Daniela Giordano) probably stood out the most to me, not just because she’s lovely and was also in Bava’s Four Times That Night, but she was hilarious as Luciano Pigozzi’s shamelessly amorous wife.

i wish he were too sexy for that phone call

i wish he were too sexy for that phone call

tresemme, tresemme, ooh la la!

tresemme, tresemme, ooh la la!

so, you drive a smartcar?

so, you drive a smartcar?

Bill: I told you! Interminable! If it weren’t for your tweeting and texting, I’d have killed myself.

Some of the women stood out for me more than they did you. I really liked Tanya. She kind of has a ’70s era Daisy Fuentes look that I was very into. And she has no problem with Peter spitting toothpaste spit into her face, which is a good sign. I was also (maybe strangely or surprisingly?) struck by Eva Vanicek, who plays Sonia, though she is only credited on IMDB as, “Not sure.” She had a very atypical, but sexy look and she was just so nice and caring at Robert’s orgy. Maybe they’d have been more memorable for you if they’d had more screen time, but Peter (and Robert) go through the ladies so fast that none of them get to stick around long enough to matter. Most of them are in a couple of scenes, then they’re dead or forgotten and never mentioned again. Tanya just disappears when Peter starts sticking it to the lady doc, despite her supposedly being his “favorite chick.” Actually that happens with the men, too. I still want to know what happens to the cop after his car breaks down. And what’s up with the doctor? Could he perhaps be … Satan? I’ll never know, because they just drop his storyline at the end, too, without fully explaining it. So many loose ends!

As for visually interesting Peter’s awesome, non-chest-covering wardrobe, my favorite piece was his bright yellow Hai Karate pajamas with the kanji on the breast. Even Eduardo Fajado looked spiffy in them. Fact: Inspired by Peter, I almost went to work this week with no undershirt and showing off my chest hair. He really is the sort of guy you want to emulate, you know? Like when he measures time by chain smoking in a hospital. Or when he finds the silver lining in the death of a woman’s husband by telling her that her beloved hubby died so that he could inherit her. That’s sensitivity. Or when a wanton housewife comes onto him, telling him how he was the greatest sensual adventure of her life and he doesn’t even remember her at all. Who doesn’t want to be that guy?!  But none of Peter’s fashionable clothing or entertainingly tactless existence, nor a few pretty girls, and not even the whole mess of crazy WTF-ery in Malocchio was enough to keep it from being a movie that’s funner to talk through and talk about than it is to watch. While not as offensively bad as, say, Don’t Answer the Phone!, I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this one, unless I have someone to watch it with as a goof.

stay close a little longer

stay close a little longer

my hai karate jammies smell too sexy, walter!

my hai karate jammies smell too sexy, walter!

i just washed them, sir!

i just washed them, sir!

Fisty: It was aliens! Maybe? And Stelvio Cipriani’s score wasn’t bad at all, either; I’d even call it pretty good. Not the best–and sadly, it seems to peak in the opening orgy scene (still love it), but it’s usually pretty enjoyable.

Malocchio is really a case of the parts being greater than their whole. Describing any–or several– of the aspects of it (Cipriani score! Peter’s chest hair! Moving statues! Orgies! Tom Jones or Beethoven!) make it sound really, really, REALLY awesome. But all together they end up a mystifying mishmash; instead of a glorious trifle, you’ve got a bowl of salmon, blueberries, chocolate pudding, and rye crackers.

Pure WTFery, Malocchio is no lost gem, but it’s also not without a peculiar charm. Recommended with reservations for the most conscientious of Eurosleaze devotees–or those who want to understand just how good they’ve got it with di Leo, Martino, and Lenzi. 

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The Screaming Minis: V/H/S

The Screaming Minis is an experiment in short (well, shorter) individual reviews, as way for us to talk a little more about the other movies of note we’re watching but without the involved, in-depth discussion delivered as a duo. The name comes from The Screaming Mimi, the 1949 pulp novel by Frederic Brown that inspired Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

do not adjust the tracking

V/H/S
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Chad Villella & Justin Martinez)
Released:
2012
Starring: Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Joe Swanberg, Kate Lyn Sheil, Jason Yachanin, John Walcutt, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Chad Villella
Running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Horror

As a fan of found footage, anthologies, and Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) I’d been looking forward to this movie. With its recent release to VOD and a few other outlets, I had to check it out.

A group of hipster thugs that spend most of their time doing crimes, being dicks, and making a buck with sharking videos are hired to steal a VHS tape. They burgle their way into the home of the man in possession of the tape, only to find him dead in front of a mass of screens and a mountain of cassettes. As they split up to search the rest of the house, one member of the group begins reviewing the tapes. In the first, some brosephs try to pick up some drunk girls and secretly record their own personal porn. They’re moderately successful, but probably wish they hadn’t been. The second tape is a travelogue of a young couple second-honeymooning in the American Southwest who picked precisely the wrong motel to stay in. In the third segment, a girl takes a group of new friends on a camping trip. Always a bad idea. Tape number four contains the webcam conversations of a man and his troubled friend who believes her house is haunted. And the final tape shows a group of guys heading out to a Halloween party. They may’ve gotten the address wrong.

I wasn’t sure whether I liked V/H/S or not after first watching it. I knew there were scenes I enjoyed and I liked the overall concept, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about its execution as a whole. It’s flawed: Some of the tapes work better than others. The third segment, “Tuesday the 17th,”  isn’t quite as good as the rest, though it does have its moments. Some of the characters (especially the dudes in the framing sequence and the first tape, “Succubus”) are EXTREMELY annoying. I think “10/31/98” went a little too crazy toward the end. It features a haunted house and with hauntings, subtle is usually better. Think The Haunting (1963) versus The Haunting (1999).  And the second and fourth tapes don’t provide much of explanation and can be a little disorienting.

The day after seeing it, I tried to describe the movie to, shockingly, someone who wasn’t Fisty. (I still feel guilty.) I found that there was a lot that I wanted to mention. There are plenty of freaky little details as well as big payoffs from each segment. That’s when I started to feel that there was more about the movie that affected me than I was immediately aware. Just hearing about the stories from the movie secondhand had that someone interested. She wasn’t just listening to the scenes I was describing, she was reacting.

Fulci said his film The Beyond was “[An] absolute film, with all the horrors of our world. It’s a plotless film: a house, people, and dead men coming from The Beyond. There’s no logic to it, just a succession of images.” I think V/H/S works in the same way. (Not as well as The Beyond. Don’t think I’m praising it THAT highly.) It’s a collection of nightmare clips not designed to flesh out every detail, make perfect sense, or just go from story point A to story point B, but rather to tap into our fears and freakouts. It’s a handful of video equivalencies of the urban legend about the mad man under the bed, pretending to be the family dog, licking the little girl’s hand. This is why just hearing my spoken account of the movie could affect someone. That’s the level V/H/S works on, that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark level. It does it well and that’s why I’m still thinking about the movie days after watching it. It affected me. It was freaky. It was scary. Bravo.

Also, there was A LOT of nudity … male and female!

V/H/S, while not being great, is still a good found footage anthology whose successes outnumber my nitpicks. Shockingly violent, disturbing, scary, and bizarre, it revels in its own freakiness and the disreputable nature of the genre.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

the faux jason cometh

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
aka Friday the 13th, Part 5: A New Beginning
Director: Danny Steinmann
Released: 1985
Starring: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr
Running time: 88 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

When we said “final,” we didn’t mean “FINAL.”Little Tommy Jarvis ain’t so little any more. It’s been five years since his showdown with Jason Voorhees, and they haven’t been good years; Tommy’s been bounced from one psych facility to another, and all he’s gotten out of it are some freaky hallucinations, a hair-trigger temper, and a bad case of hormones that make him look twenty-five. At seventeen he’s on his own at Pinehurst, a bizarre halfway house that seems to run on the no-rules-at-all system. Even Trish is MIA, bummers. Upon moving into Pinehurst, Tommy makes a good impression on his new peers by going kung fu krazy on Eddie, and also meets Reggie, the coolest sassy little black dude since Webster. Neighboring deranged hillbillies Ethel and Junior show up to complain about teenagers sexing on their property (this is a problem?), and the day is capped by another resident, Vic, going apeshit and taking an axe to fat, laundry-hampered Joey. Arriving on the scene to clean up the forty whacks are paramedics, one of whom channels Rowdy Roddy Piper by chewing bubblegum and calling everyone “pussies,” but the other seems a mite … distraught.

vic gets ready for his forty whacks of fame

That same night, the killings begin, first with residents, and then hospital personnel. The next day, Tina and Eddie sneak away for some good ol’ sex in the bushes clean fun, and are horribly murdered for their pains. Though residents are disappearing right and left, Pam pshaws Dr Matt’s worries and takes Reggie and Tommy off to visit with Reggie’s totally cool brother Demon. (Who the hell is Pam, anyways, and what does she do at Pinehurst? Is she a counselor? Who knows?) Mental hillbilly Junior shows up again, freaking Tommy out and provoking another kung fu frenzy, and Tommy runs off while Junior tears ass on his ATV, for what reason I do not know. When Demon, his girl Anita, Ethel, and Junior all end up dead, it starts to seem like perhaps Tommy’s become what he fears: his nemesis Jason Voorhees. When Pam and Reggie return to Pinehurst, they find the remaining residents all butchered, and there’s a dude in a hockey mask who seems real happy to see them …

a high-toned sonofabitch

“Buncha pussies.” Vilified by the fanbase, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning continues Tommy Jarvis’ story–he being the first Final Kid to make it past the first few minutes of the next sequel without either dying or disappearing from the chronology forever. But that’s not what upset fans, the ones who came looking for a Jason Voorhees killing spree. The flashpoint for F13P5 was the shocking twist ending, which left many fans feeling betrayed and/or ripped off. Now, we’re going to discuss that twist ending, because it’s impossible not to, so if you don’t know what it is and don’t want it spoilered, get out now. Now, let’s see what all the hate is about, shall we?

Bill: Hey! Where’s my 6-minute recap/murder montage? How am I supposed to know what happened in the previous four movies? Was I supposed to remember all that? Who are these two guys and who are they digging up and why? Who is this kid and why is he watching? Why does he seem scared? OMG! That man isn’t dead and … He killed those men! Who are these people and WHAT IS GOING ON?!

This is the first of the Friday sequels that doesn’t start with a “Last week, on Friday the 13th” montage and I kind of miss it. Though, I guess, this being a New Beginning and all, I can understand the need to start fresh, to look forward instead of back. That’s why they begin with Tommy’s prescient dream of the beginning of Part 6! Seriously.  Two guys digging Jason up in the rain, the worms on his face, his resurrection … was this kid seeing the future or what? He foresaw the complete change in Jason’s MO!

they're playing pinochle in his snout

In the previous three movies, Jason was a sneak-and-stab guy, not an all-out hack-with-machete cat. He learned from watching his mama how to stalk and sneak and surprise and kill. Most of his murders had some of that to them. In Tommy’s dream, Jason comes out of the grave with that damn machete and just annihilates, then walks straight toward Tommy. No more sneaking, no surprise, just stare you down and cut you up. Apparently resurrected corpses have no need for stealth or cunning. In the next movie, that is exactly what he becomes! And he stays that way for the rest of the franchise.

Makes it kind of ironic, then, that A New Beginning gets shit on so much for having a faux Jason, considering the killer in this movie is far closer to the Jason of 2-4 than the post-death Jason of the latter films in the franchise, the very unstealthy, annihilating, murder-machine Jason of Tommy’s dreams.

Fisty: That is an interesting point, mon frere. Jason Lives is often singled out for its use of parody and comedy, but A New Beginning is really where that starts. Even to the twist ending, the unmasking of not-Jason, Steinmann et alia seem to be taking the piss out of the franchise, using the F13 tropes with abandon. It’s not surprising that with not only Steinmann at the helm, but also writing the script in the company of Martin Kitrosser and Danny Cohen (the former was responsible for the fiasco that is F13P3), the story often meanders in bizarre and meaningless ways. Characters traipse in and out of scenes, being introduced for the sole purpose of feeding the kill machine as ANB homes in on an astonishing twenty-two deaths. Sadly, thanks to a revamp of the R rating, most of those kills are quick-cut to death leaving only a few of the trademark highlight death scenes.

For the most part, those kills are in Jason’s traditional stalk-and-slash style; we get a lot of the POV lurking in the woods shots (thank goodness the producers didn’t do something silly like completely take Jason out of his wooded and isolated setting … can you imagine?) and cunning murders using items at hand. Canonically, could there be some connexion between Tommy’s dream and the later unstoppable force Jason? Is this some kind of Dark Halfscenario?

jason or george stark?

Bill: Like, an undead Jason powered by Tommy’s unrealized psychokinetic power and forced to behave according to Tommy’s subconscious mental image of Jason? Neat idea.

As for the kills in ANB, while, yes, they are cut to shit, at least they do give you a ton of variety. You get a melding of the under-the-raft murder and the through the bed murders from previous films. There’re two nice axings, slit throats, stabbings, a beheading and, more interestingly and memorably, a railroad spike to the head, road flare in the mouth (awesome!), and my two favorites in the film and two of my favs from the whole franchise. I am, of course, talking about the naked shears-though-the-eyes followed by sickening crunch as the shears are closed and the very inventive leather strap-around -the-head! That’s the good shit!

Fisty: Those were solid. And, lest we forget, this was a fairly boob-heavy entry in the series, even with the sex scene being cut down to ten seconds. No other sequel has as many, except maybe F13P4, despite the MPAA’s meddling.

as pretty a pile of victims as you'll ever see

Bill: Oh, yes! There’s really only three characters that show anything in this installment of the series: Tina, Robin, and Lana. Tina and Robin’s scenes are pretty great, from my POV, and Lana gives a nice little flash, perfect for her tiny role. I just wish Violet would’ve shown some flesh. Tiffany Helm is adorable. Easily, the third most fuckable female character in the entire series (1 & 2 being the twins from The Final Chapter) but sadly, she keeps her kit on until the end. There’s another nail in the coffin of that “No naughtiness = safe” myth.

Fisty: Much like F13P3, ANB’s storyline often makes no sense (I’m looking at you, Kitrosser). The halfway house idea, and the treatment/rehabilitation of Tommy, while it could have had some interesting subtext, is under-utilized, and when it is in use, it is often ridiculous. (“Let’s hand troubled teens an axe and see what happens!”) The whole concept seems to go right out the window about a half hour in, rarely to be mentioned again. Pinehurst’s residents are also less than compelling, with the exception of  Shavar Ross as Reggie, who fulfills the sequel’s need for a spunky little kid a la Tommy Jarvis of F13P4, and Melanie Kinnaman, who is largely memorable for her ability to frolic run from Jason in the rain in a sheer white top. Neither of them are actual residents/patients, however; the teens themselves are prosaic, although Tiffany Helm’s Violet has her fans. (Bill:ME!)

getting oedipal?

As for the non-residents, they can be reduced to simple Jason fodder. They wander onscreen, do something ridiculous, then die. The waitress Lana looks at her boobs in the mirror because I guess she likes them (and we like seeing them) and gets it, Nurse Billy the cokehead rambles to himself and bites it, Joey fetishizes chocolate bars and dies … and that’s how the entire movie goes. The installment is metronomic in structure, alternating jokes with jumps or kills with jokes with jumps or kills, contributing to the illogical structure. It’s hard to maintain a storyline under that sort of pressure. Combined with the editing done to appease the MPAA, the results are extremely disjointed, another reason for fan hate.

Bill: I think you’re being a little harsh. Yes, Pinehurst seems to be a whole string of accidents getting shoved into happening, but they did explain that it was an honor system and, up to Vic snapping, the worst problems they seemed to have had was some kids running off to fuck in the bushes. So, stupid as it seems to us, as viewers, I could see how a sudden murder was the last thing they’d expect. (It did happen after  Tommy showed up, too. More of his psychic influence?) As for the looney kids, I liked most of  ’em! I liked the scene with Jake admitting his attraction to Robin, then, snubbed, turning to Vi for solace, only to be brushed off again. Poor guy. Robin’s guilt, after, when she’s kicking herself for hurting his feelings is nice too. It’s endearing. And I really like the touch of Vi setting too many places at dinner after Joey and Vic are gone.

get away from her, you bitch!

The non-residents aren’t that bad either. Sure, they’re Jason fodder, but there’s fodder in all of these movies. There kind of has to be. At least they are mostly entertaining. Demon and his damn enchiladas are awesome.  Ethel and Junior are maybe a little crazy, but someone had to stand in for Crazy Ralph and God’s Eyeball Man as the town weirdos (and perhaps family members? Could Ethel be a widow?) Then there’s Billy, sweet Cokehead Billy. He’s like Nurse Axel from The Final Chapter, only much cooler. And all of those guys have scenes prior to or are mention prior to their murders. I will give you Pete and Vinnie  and The Hungry Handyman. They really were just pop-in roles and had no business even being in the movie. But, considering Steinmann was supposedly told to have a scare, shock or kill every seven to eight minutes, and he had to do this while setting up a new killer and peppering the movie with red herrings, I think he did an ok job. He does, at least, milk these mandatory add-ins for whatever he can get. With the exception of a couple wrong place/wrong time witnesses, he always either has the characters say something about the Pinehurst kids or having had some connection to them, or sticking in a clue, true or false, to the killer’s identity, making you question if Vic could be back or if it could be another Pinehurst resident.  Then, after each murder, he goes immediately to Tommy having visions of Jason, implicating him as the psycho.

which witch is which?

John Shepherd was fine as Tommy, but, you know, I really wish Thom Matthews had been Tommy in ANB, as well as Jason Lives. As a huge Return of the Living Dead fan, I would’ve loved to have Matthews in the same F13 with Mark ‘Suicide’ Venturini and Miguel ‘Spyder’ Núñez.

Fisty: I jizzed just thinking about that. I loves me some Miguel A. Núñez, Jr! And I’m not being harsh, I’m just being real. Let’s acknowledge the weaknesses while celebrating the umm, well, can we say it has strengths?

damn, enchiladas--you so fine!

The production values, for one, are MUCH better, especially in night scenes. This was a DREAM to screencap, just gorgeous and easy. Roy definitely had a way better Jason costume than Tommy did in The Final Chapter. (Notice how that blue marked mask is less menacing than the red, though?) And Steinman, though he was laboring under the joke/jump requirements, handles it well, Undoubtedly, his background in hardcore porn, which has a similar style, benefited him in this case. Though it is sometimes incoherent and the storyline weak, it is still par for the course of a standard F13 sequel. What do else do viewers expect? The problem is, they expected Jason, and instead they got everything else F13 is supposed to deliver–except that it wasn’t actually Jason acting all Jason-esque.

AND THAT’S OKAY. Repeat after me, kids: THAT IS OKAY.

Why wouldn’t it be? One can argue that a Jason who isn’t really Jason is a cheat, but it’s just as easily argued that the Jason of the later sequels is hardly Jason at all. He lacks the personality, the pizzazz of our beloved cunning Baghead Wild Child. He’s Jason, but he’s also not-Jason, if you catch my drift.

what is he, the fucking candyman?

There are really two eras of F13, and A New Beginning straddles them, as does Jason Lives. You have your early sequels, 2-4 which are a (somewhat) coherent narrative, mostly spanning a very short time period. The Tommy Jarvis trilogy awkwardly spans 4-6, and everything after 6 bears little relation to the earlier sequels. (There’s a nod in 7, but we’ll discuss that in its own time.) You could remove A New Beginning from the narrative entirely, and it really would not affect the clarity whatsoever, but there’s no reason to. It is a more than adequate entry in the franchise, hitting all of the tropes like clockwork, and there’s no reason for a fan to be offended.

Bill: The … (Fisty tells me “liminal” is the word I’m looking for)  nature of A New Beginningisn’t really through any fault of the movie itself. The original idea of ANB was to set up Tommy as the new Jason, which, if they’d have stuck with that idea, would’ve made this movie integral to the evolution of the franchise. The marginalization of Part 5 can be laid at the feet of the fans. It was the fan outcry against a new Jason that forced the producers to abandon their plans and bring Jason back in Part 6 (which I am pretty thankful for, honestly.) I just don’t understand why everyone hates Faux Jason. When ANB was made, Jason had only been the killer for 75% of the series of films and Roy/Jason’s motives for killing were way more in line with Pamela Voorhees’ original motive from the first movie. I have never even seen a Neo Jason/Roy action figure. They have figures for Mrs. Voorhees and Baghead Jason, but no love for Roy. Yeah, sure, the mask with the blue slashes isn’t as threatening or iconic, but surely SOMEONE would buy it.

i'd buy that for a dollar

And, yes, Fisty, I may tend to gloss over some of the faults of this sequel. I’m just so used to defending it against haters that it’s hard to turn around and be critical of it. I mean, I love Tommy Jarvis. I like this movie. I like that the killer’s motive hearkens back to the original movie. I love goofy Cokehead Billy. I like that there’s some mystery in the series again. I like all the titties and the inflated body count. I like the chainsaw vs. machete duel. There is a lot here to enjoy! However, I suppose it does have its issues.

One thing that really irks me in this flick is the repetition of certain bits of sound and dialog, especially during the final battle scene. Having a character repeat something is fine, but not having some different audio of it is not. It makes me think of automated operators repeating recurring digits in a phone number AND I HATE THAT! And Steinmann’s (I’m assuming, but it could’ve all been in the script) apparent ignorance of contemporary music and hatred of anything musical is not nearly as charming and entertaining as Joseph Zito’s hatred of glass. It seems like half of the victims in this meet their end either singing or listening to some usually woefully out of place music. There’re at least two ski-bop-a-loo-bopping characters in this movie, including a teenager. I can see this coming from Billy the Cokehead (though even he seems like he would be into something a little more modern) but Pete and Vinnie? They seemed straight out of the ’50s, out of The Outsiders. It’s 1985! I think they’d have been into slightly more contemporary music. Oh, and Lana with her sing-songy, “Iiiiiiiiiit’s SHOWTIME!” Then there’s Demon and his woman with their, “Hey baby. Oooh baby. Oooh baby. Hey baby. Hey baby. Oooh baby, etc…” ARGH! Even Violet, at one point, is listening to some bit of music that IN NO WAY MATCHES ANYTHING SHE SHOULD BE LISTENING TO. We’re not talking Lion in place of AC/DC either. It’s just the wrong fucking music for the character and scene. I think His Eyes by Pseudo Echo is the only bit of non-Manfredini musical-anything that actually fits with the film.

Fisty: A) You just asked for a word without telling me what exactly you were saying, and secondly, you stole my line. But like we said about ANB, it’s okay. Essentially, the experience with ANB can be summed up in Steinmann’s own words: “When you guys pick and choose that stuff, it demeans the work. What’s important was, there were people getting killed, and you saw some breasts.” F13 in a nutshell, kids. Roy is not undeserving of his own action figure!

Bill: Totally.

see ya, wouldn't want to be ya!

Important movie-related communique from Fisty:

“WHY

DO YOU HAVE TO ARGUE WITH ME OVER EVERYTHING?

ASS”

The Toolbox Murders

there isn't a single thing wrong with this poster

The Toolbox Murders
aka Der Bohrmaschinenkiller
aka La masacre de toolbox
aka Lo squartatore di Los Angeles
Director:
Dennis Donnelly
Released: 1978
Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure, Tim Donnelly, Aneta Corsaut, Kelly Nichols (as Marianne Walter)
Running time: 93 minutes
Genre: exploitation, slasher, thriller, psychodrama, video nasty

“If I had a hammer…”: Toolbox Murders shows its giallo roots in an extended opening credit sequence of a black-gloved killer driving though darkened city streets. Only, instead of a pimptastic score by the likes of Riz Ortolani, we hear a more generic thriller/psychodrama piano score, overlaid with the sounds of a hellfire n’ brimstone preacher on the car radio. The vehicle cruises smoothly along, but then FREEZEFRAME! The sound of screeching tires! Illuminated by arc-sodium lights, a car has crashed on the side of the road. A young girl tumbles out of the passenger side door. A crowd gathers as paramedics place her on a stretcher. She’s young, blonde, with a bloodied face and staring eyes. Her hand falls limply off the stretcher as they cover her face. Something Significant has happened. Cruising resumes, and the Mercedes pulls up outside El Patio del Sequoia apartments, and a man with a toolbox gets out and enters the complex. Once inside, he cuts a gruesome swath through the apartment’s female residents, beginning with faded beauty and lush Mrs Andrews. Though surprised by the killer’s appearance, she clearly knows him … . Finishing her off with his powerdrill, our skimasked killer hums a little tune and contemplates his work.

the toolbox murders - killer

ineffective mask wearing 101

Meanwhile young divorcée Debbie arrives home and–in one of the least logical sequences in movie history–prepares to take a shower fully dressed, for the sole reason of creating a wet shirt effect and leading to a lengthy change of clothes. Fortunately, boobage redeems the scene. Debbie evidences poor decision-making skills when she pops into the apartment hallway in her underclothes to pick up some … debris left outside the door? Fortunately, our killer happens upon her and, popping her on the chin in a singularly goony moment, renders her unconscious and bears her off to the firestairs, where she is summarily dispatched with the claw end of a hammer. He then removes her corpse from the stairwell and carries it BACK to her apartment (and we thought only Debbie was crazy!), where he lays her out on the floor only to be interrupted by roommate Maria. Pissed at Debbie for leaving trash in the hallway, Maria is both shocked and saddened by her grisly discovery, then surprised by our killer. The shock renders the poor sap apparently speechless, and when the slayer slaughters her with a screwdriver, it’s all Maria can do to sum up a sorry little scream. (That was excessive, and I am sincerely sorry!) The killer then takes a moment to spy upon the neighboring Camelot Apartments, where a temptress gyrates in her underwear before a wide open window, while one floor below an innocent schoolgirl chats on the phone. His bloodlust not yet sated, the killer ventures back into the hallway, where he opens a door and glimpses a couple discussing the merits of drugstore wine. Discouraged by the presence of a man, the killer leaves and the killing stops … for the evening.

The next morning briefly introduces us to the Ballard family: Matriarch and alcoholic B-girl Joanne, perky teenager Laurie (Pamela Ferdin, also the voice of Charlotte’s Web‘s Fern Arable and Charles Schultz’s Lucy van Pelt!), and older brother Joe.

Evening falls again, and we meet Dee Ann (played by Penthouse Pet and future porn star Kelly Nichols!), the window siren from the previous night. As she all unknowing draws herself a bath, the Toolbox Murderer approaches the Camelot Apartments, eponymous toolbox in tow. What follows is surely one of the most gratuitous nude/masturbation scenes in all slasherdom as Dee Ann soaps up an lets Calgon take her away to her special place to the dulcet tones of George Deaton & Terry Stubbs’ “Pretty Lady.” After she achieves orgasm, Dee Ann comes out of her stupor to the sound of the killer’s humming. As suits her more sexually forthright character, when faced with his nailgun Dee Ann not only actively tries to evade him, but also fights back, scrambling around her apartment naked and wet as a frog and tossing vases. She feigns submission, offering him “anything,” but tries to run again, finally catching a nail to the abdomen. The killer props her up beneath a nude poster of herself, then nails her right through the head. End “Pretty Lady.”

get out of the way, mr bubble!

Finished with the whores of the world–for now–the killer sneaks downstairs to the Ballard apartment, where Laurie is again demonstrating her virtue by refusing to sneak out (presumably with a boy). After all, she doesn’t want to end up like her mother said, “either divorced or with a bunch of kids and a crappy job like [hers].” Who knows how she’ll end up, however, since the killer kidnaps her. At least she isn’t dead yet! When Joe gets home late that night, he finds the security chain cut and Laurie missing. Jo Ann stumbles in moments later, and orders Joe to go looking for his sister–and that’s when we hear the shrieks from the discovery of Dee Ann.

Convinced that Laurie’s disappearance is related to the murders, Joe pleads for help from the police, who are content to dismiss her as a typical runaway teen. Total Dick in Charge of the case Sergeant Cameron scoffs at Joe’s concerns, mocking the poor guy, who departs in a huff, vowing to find his sister himself. Sgt Cameron is no Lt Fuller. Armed with earnestness, Joe goes to El Patio del Sequoia looking for clues, and meets up with the super’s nephew Kent. Kent enlists Joe’s help to clean up the bloodied apartments, and Joe in turn enlists Kent in the search for Laurie. With the murders largely over at thirty minutes in, and the murderer revealed to the audience at fifty minutes (for any halfwits who haven’t yet figured it out), The Toolbox Murders takes a sharp turn into psychodrama as the young men investigate Laurie’s disappearance, and scenes of their search alternate with Laurie’s plight as a captive, leading up to a truly bizarre dénouement.

fern shouldn't have tried to leave wilbur

Banned in the UK as a Video Nasty, The Toolbox Murders is preceded by a reputation for unmitigated sleaze–a reputation that’s not entirely undeserved. But the low budget, competing storylines, and pedestrian direction give it the feel of a made-for-TV movie.

Fisty: Holy shit. TTM exceeded my expectations in so many ways. It’s so very, very sleazy, and so very, very nasty, and so very, very bad. It’s a home run of fucking trashy-ass, exploitative cinema. It’s easy to see how it earned its spot on the Video Nasties list; the first thirty minutes is almost nothing but violent murder and nudity. But then after that bang up start the movie settles into a curious police procedural thriller format that, for all its smuttiness–and yes, it is still very sordid if you’ve got the eyes to see it–it very draggy and uninteresting but for the scenes of Cameron Mitchell’s (Blood and Back Lace) lunacy and Ferdin’s terror. Only in the final fifteen minutes does violence appear once more, and it’s of an entirely different breed. By then, many of even the most dedicated horror fans and gorehounds may have passed out from sheer boredom. It takes a certain amount of patience–and attention span–to appreciate TTM’s tacky charms.

sailing the good ship lollipop to crazyland

Speaking of tacky charms, I did love the look of the movie. I know it’s ugly in that special 70s Saturday Night Special Movie way, but it had a certain nostalgic charm for me. It looked like shitty movies I grew up watching in school (though I grew up in the 80s, it was in Hawai’i, where the 70s had a long reach–especially in the school system). The California setting was probably a big part of it: so sunny, so squalid, so semi-suburban. There are still tacky apartment open-air buildings like the Camelot and El Patio del Sequoia all over the West, and I’ve lived in a few of them.

Bill: It took me three tries to get through the whole movie.  Though, admittedly, I made the first two attempts when it was late and I was tired, so it probably had more to do with my condition than the drag in the middle of the flick.  I was even dozing a bit during the first thirty minutes and there is nothing sleep inducing in that bit of film.  Boner inducing, sure, but sleep? I think, maybe, I could’ve been lulled further into a restful state by that made-for-TV movie quality it has. Kind of like what happens when I watch Matlock, except Matlock is usually less bewildering.  There are whole segments in TTM that make no sense, like the coffee scene. The cop offers Laurie’s brother some coffee, the kid declines, then the cop goes to get some for himself, but the pot is empty, so he puts the glass down and that’s it. What the hell was the purpose of that? Then there’s the odd fruit-throwing bit that I suppose was meant to show the siblings as playfully close, but just seems awkward. And just why do the cops let all the neighbors stand around looking at all the naked corpses?

debbie's dead

Other parts are just painfully obvious and unnecessary. Like trying to establish the innocence of Laurie by having her do the exact opposite of gyrating DeeAnn? But I do appreciate the seminude dancing.

Fisty: Yeah, the director, Dennis Donnelly pretty much just did TV; this was his sole feature film–and it shows. Too much exposition, weird experimental editing, problems with pacing …

Bill: Who the fuck was in the car that wrecked?

Fisty: Oh my god, Bill. It was Cathy. Dude’s daughter/other dude’s lover.

Bill: But it seemed like she died way before then. Didn’t it seem like he started killing the women right after the girl in the car died? Like, the same night?

Fisty: How could there be flashback shots from her funeral interposed with shots of him entering the building to START the killing spree if she died that night?

Bill: I know the funeral shots were flashbacks, but there’s no break between driving and killing, it all looks the same. Donnelly could have made that a lot clearer. But my framerate was stuttering a bit at the start, so …

Fisty: And you’re abominably literal sometimes … but I suppose if one were drunk, it could be confusing. The editing is mostly shit.

Bill: Debbie’s shower scene is the most bizarre that I have ever seen.  She puts on a shower cap while fully dressed, turns on the water, sees her dress hanging in the shower, steps in still fully dressed, presumably to get her little black dress before it’s soaked, but then doesn’t even touch the dress, steps out and takes her shower cap off!  I am fully convinced that this was originally meant to be a normal, typical shower scene, but they rewrote it into absurdity, just for that wet shirt yumminess, after seeing how hott Debbie the braless wonder looked in her sheer white top.

Fisty: That’s one of my favorite parts–teeth-gnashingly aggravating (as I shriek, “Why? Why are you getting in the shower fully dressed? Why aren’t you even bathing and just putting on a succession of shirts and then removing your pants? WHY?!?” at the television screen) and unintentionally hilarious as it is. I also love the way she goes down like a ton of bricks from the most ineffectual right hook I’ve ever seen. Pretty much all the victims except Dee Ann are ineffective wimps.

not the best place to hide from someone with a drill

Purists will declare that TTM isn’t a slasher, and I’m with them on that. Like Don’t Go in the House, it’s a curious blend of genres, teetering as it does on the edge of sleazy 70s psycho-thrillers and gleefully self-aware by-the-numbers 80s slashers, and coming down straight in the exploitation zone. After the gialli-inspired opening and kills that seem to promise an endless parade of titties and blood, TTM downshifts into an amateur detective psychodrama, a confusing change for many viewers. Though one might argue that amateurs investigating crimes in the face of an inept police force is a clear marker of a giallo, it seems just as likely that Joey and Kent’s sleuthing owes as much to Donnelly’s directing credits in TV–including an episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. (And many episodes of Adam-12, Emergency!, Hart to Hart, Charlie’s Angels, The A-Team, Simon & Simon … is a pattern developing? To be fair, most of those were post-TTM, but I think it shows a decided slant.) Knocking any confusion about the killer’s identity out of the way lets the film settle in on the bewilderment of the bereaved on one side, and the suffering of the victim and the lunatic on the other.

Bill: I think the movie may’ve benefited from being more slasher-like.  As much as I’d hate to see a dilution of the concentrated sleaze at the start of the flick, it would’ve been nice to have some tits & murder interludes tossed in somewhere during the Hardy Boys episode in the middle.  That really is the weakest part of the movie.  I mean, you can only get so much entertainment from watching skeevy cops hit on the mother of a missing girl. He really was kind of sleazy. “Look, your daughter is missing and maybe we’ll find her but, in the meantime, can I give you another?”

Fisty: Damn it, I LOVE that singles bar scene! That fucking cop is a real piece of work. And the way Joanne shuts him down? Masterful!

dude, no

Speaking of which, Aneta Corsaut (The Blob) is magnificent as Joanne.  The rest of the casting is pretty spot-on, too: Ferdin evokes pathos as the victimized Laurie, Mitchell–though no longer the hottie of the How to Marry a Millionaire days–chews up the scenery like it’s Red Man.

Its greatest strength is its greatest weakness: The Toolbox Murders makes for a primo exploitation experience because that’s all it was ever meant to be. Tony DiDio reportedly saw a reissue of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre four years after its initial release and said to himself (and his team), “I want to cash in on that.” (My paraphrase.) Don’t go into it looking for subtext on the alienation of the American family in the juxtaposition of an affectionate but struggling family with a highly dysfunctional yet loving one. Don’t look beneath the sleaze for something less sleazy, because it’s sleaze all the way down.

Bill: I think there is one area where it under-sleazes:  The climax of the film.  There’s some real frying pan/fire jumping at the end, but, while you know Laurie goes through a wicked nasty ordeal, they don’t show any of it.  It’s a big change from the beginning of the movie, where everything was very in-your-face.  I guess Donnelly felt he had to be respectful when it comes to letting us know what happened to this sweet, virginal character, but the other victims were just dirty sluts, so their pain doesn’t matter.  Damn it, I want to see the nice girl’s pain and degradation, too!  Eh, it was a true story, according to the bit of text that flashes on the screen at the end, so maybe he was just trying to protect the real Laurie, in case she ever watched the movie.  (My eyes are rolling so hard that I just got dizzy.)

true story, fer sher

Fisty: Can we recommend The Toolbox Murders? Though it at times reminded me of bad 70s afterschool specials in which someone ruined their life by sniffing goofballs in a ditch, I’m going to go ahead and say yes. Though it doesn’t live up to its reputation of relentless blood n’ smut, it has some solid splatter moments, oodles of titties n’ bush, and pure insanity–and all in the first half hour. (Bill: And you really don’t want to be the only one of your friends to have missed seeing that beginning.) Plus, there are tons of familiar TV faces from shows like Emergency!, Land of the Lost, and The Andy Griffith Show–and fucking FERN from CHARLOTTE’S WEB!!! Even the dreck is worth sitting through for Mitchell’s scenery-gnawing performance and Ferdin’s understated terror, a few genuinely chilling moments, as well as an ending that will not only surprise the hell out of most viewers, but will also have them running for the shower. Just remember to take your clothes off before getting in the tub.

Did anyone else notice that the victims in the trailer in no way match up with those in the movie?

PROTIP: Order a pizza just before pressing play.  Your pie will arrive just as the movie slows down, giving you something extra to chew on while you sit through the downtime in the middle of the flick.

The Toolbox Murders is available to Watch Instantly on Netflix!