Terror Tuesday Report: Troll


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The Film

In the canon of modern horror films, Troll has become something of a footnote, overshadowed by its infamous pseudo-sequel Troll 2, an eternal member of the Great Bad Movie Pantheon. When Troll enters conversation, it’s usually to set up the joke that Troll 2 has no connection to its successor and was titled as such by greedy Italian filmmakers to cash in on a property with some, albeit limited, audience recognition. Typical Italian filmmaker behavior, in other words.

If that previous paragraph sounds slightly bitter and casually racist, well, that’s because it is. Troll being relegated to a gloomy existence in the shadow of its hilariously awful follow-up is sixteen pounds of frothing, swirling bullshit crammed into a twelve pound sack. As much fun as Troll 2 is (and it’s about as fun as a movie about goblins turning people into vegetables can be), Troll is easily the more entertaining film, a delicious hour and a half of non-sequitor weirdness that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a moderately well made film  from a technical standpoint with adequate production values and creature effects that actually hold up to scrutiny, but it’s saddled with a seriously wacky screenplay that feels like the culmination of a narcotic-laced brainstorming session with an ADD-addled six year old and a cast that feels like they were plucked straight from a community theater production of King Lear: they’re  acting their hearts out –just badly– and playing to the back row instead of the camera across the room.

The Terror Tuesday Report: Rabid


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The Film

On a remote stretch of Canadian road, Rose (porn megastar Marilyn Chambers) and her boyfriend are involved in a terrible motorcycle accident that leaves her pinned under the vehicle when it explodes. Fortunately, the incident occurs very close to a boutique hospital specializing in plastic surgery. The head of the facility, Dr. Keloid, determines that only an experimental new skin grafting technique can save Rose’s life. It turns out he is correct but the procedure has unintended consequences, mainly in the form of a sharp phallus that protrudes from Rose’s armpit and her newfound thirst for human blood. As Rose reluctantly feeds her new hunger at opportune moments, the men she has already attacked begin displaying rabies-like tendencies towards violence and their victims, in turn, become infected. Soon, the virus reaches Montreal.

Rabid, Canadian director David Cronenberg’s follow up to They Came from Within aka Shivers, explores similar themes as that previous film (and would explore in many other films to come) but manages to make it more personal (by focusing on a beautiful and sweetly innocent protagonist) and far more widespread (instead of They Came from Within‘s contained apartment set, Rabid takes the horror to the streets). The layers of subtext are rich and Rabid could be used as a handy guidebook to the Cronenbergian ideas found in the rest of his filmography- there is the perversion of expected sexual politics, violent consequences of experimentation, body horror, epidemics – all while it touches on some unique themes such as the pitfalls of socialist medicine.

Terror Tuesday Report: Superstition (AKA The Witch)


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The Film

A young priest helps prepare a long-abandoned house on church property to be rented by a family. A series of terrible accidents, and the ravings of a mad old woman who also resides on the property leads the priest to believe something from the property’s ancient past may to blame. As it turns out, in the 17th Century, a woman was condemned as a witch and drowned in a nearby pond. So guess who’s been holding a 200 year grudge? Can our young priest cast the spirit of this devil’s mistress back into the confines of the consecrated pond? Will the evil witch claim yet another victim? How hard would it have been to conjure up the spirit of a goddamn editor?

Terror Tuesday Report: The Manitou


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The Film

So you’re a piss-poor psychic operating out of your bachelor pad, conning old women out of their fixed incomes, when you learn that your old flame has an immortal Native American medicine man reincarnating himself in her neck and that this ancient being reborn has the power to bring about the end of the world as we know it.

Fuck. I hate it when that happens.

The Terror Tuesday Report: Invasion of the Bee Girls


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The Film

Notorious biker badass William “Big Bill” Smith plays Neil Agar, a security agent working for the State Department sent to investigate the death of a scientist who was working at the Brandt Research facility. While Agar is busy flirting with laboratory librarian, Julie Zorn (1968 Playboy Playmate of the Year, Victoria Vetri), and searching ineffectually for clues, more researchers (who we learn enjoy frequent sexual escapades inside their elite community) turn up dead. Autopsy results indicate that each of the men died from sexual exhaustion. Meanwhile, the women of Brandt Research facility are wearing sunglasses indoors and are generally more horny than usual. Agar begins to suspect there’s a link between the bodies and the bee research being conducted by the gorgeous entomologist, Dr. Susan Harris (Anitra Ford, a former member of Barker’s Beauties on “The Price is Right”).

Invasion of the Bee Girls’ main focus is not quite in line with the title of the series under which it was presented. Terror is the last thing on its mind. Instead, it seeks to titillate by teasing the audience with beautiful women for the first half and then keeping them in constant, clothes-less rotation for the second. Scenes of bee women attacking men during coitus consist of buzzing sounds, some rolling around, black eyes and then sudden death. On a procedural level, the audience is way ahead of Agar at all times, his style of investigation is mostly wandering around making completely unexplained (and inexplicably correct) leaps in logic and going about his day with a complete lack of charisma that could be mistaken as him being “cool”. Basically he’s the David Caruso of sexploitation.

The Terror Tuesday Report: The Howling III: The Marsupials


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The Film

Werewolves exist, and they’re Australian! A pack of half-human-half-Tasmanian-wolves are discovered in the land down under. How are these hybrids connected to a number of savage killings in Russia? Biologist (Sociologist? I can’t remember) Harry Breckmeyer has been called in, by the President of the United States(?) to investigate. What he discovers is fraught with danger, magic, evil, and romance. There aren’t enough question marks in the world to adequately serve this article…and I haven’t even graduated past the plot synopsis yet.

The Howling III is, in every sense of the word, a spoof. But it’s less a spoof of any singular werewolf movie or horror movies in general as it is a spoof of the idea that you have to abide by the constraints of cohesive narratives in order to make a film. Very little of this film makes any damn sense at all. As such, this won’t be an elaborate review. The first five or six scenes are edited with such breakneck attention deficit disorder that the shift from one to the next is accompanied by a sound cue that can only be described as an exaggerated channel change on a remote control. By the time you get to the end, you realize you’ve lost track of how long your mouth has been agape in befuddlement.

What’s most perplexing about the story structure of The Howling III, besides the fact that I am actually using the words story structure, is how long it continues after the plot is finished. It, for all intents and purposes, wraps up all the important details and conflicts of the film and begins the longest denouement in cinema history. We are treated to 3-5 year chunks of the lives of our characters in an elaborate post-script that ends up playing almost as a followup film. It’s as if The Howling III perpetuates its own sequel. It is not only intensely bizarre but also boring as all hell. It is especially unsatisfying when you realize that the whole of this gimmick is but a long-winded setup for one last gag.

Beyond this misstep, I thoroughly enjoyed the strange experiment that is Phillipe Moira’s The Howling III. Philipe Mora is a man who has proven his salt as a director with films like Mad Dog Morgan and The Beast Within; lending credence to the idea that The Howling III‘s faults are all intentional in-jokes. I love the pompous horror director character and the increasingly absurd werewolf gags, but what I love most about this film is its rocking 80s soundtrack. It’s the kind of pitch-perfect syntho rock that encapsulates the decade. Cross another Not Quite Hollywood film off my must-see list!

The Reaction

As seemingly sacrilegious as it is to werewolf cinema, taking several potshots and making a mockery of lycanthropes, it turns out The Howling III is perfect for Terror Tuesday. The audience howled with laughter throughout the entire film and even remained engaged during the lull just before the credits. The room was absolutely electric and that definitely improved the experience of seeing the film; The Howling III certainly necessitates a crowd for proper enjoyment. After the film, when I stepped out into the night, I found quiet satisfaction in the fact that the moon was full.

Terror Tuesday Report: Sole Survivor


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The Film

A terrible plane crash ferries almost a hundred people to the great beyond, but one woman manages to survive unscathed. While she initially sees the event as a mere coincidence, strange occurrences after the crash force her to wonder if she was worthy enough to be the sole survivor. These events turn even more sinister when she becomes convinced that death itself is out to collect the soul he was cheated by her survival. With the help of a very washed-up, evidently psychic actress, Denise struggles to stay one step ahead of death and its ghoulish minions.

If the central conceit of this film sounds eerily familiar to you, it’s no surprise. Sole Survivor later found itself remade as Final Destination, and of course by remade I obviously mean shamelessly ripped off. Now granted, Sole Survivor is itself a remake of Australia’s The Survivor (1981) so I’m not asserting its originality by any means. But at least Sole Survivor openly admits to being a remake where Final Destination makes no such concession. In terms of expression of concept, I much prefer Sole Survivor to Final Destination. The idea that death travels through the bodies of the recently deceased to try and reclaim Denise is far more interesting than death as a mean kid constantly setting up obnoxious Rube Goldberg devices that end in sensational, but ultimately empty, deaths. That being said, Sole Survivor is pretty empty in the middle.

Terror Tuesday Report: Brain Damage


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Brian is a terribly average guy. He lives in a passable New York City apartment with his brother and spends most of his free time with his loving girlfriend. Unfortunately for Brian, the neighbors in the apartment above him are neither average nor are they passable human beings. For years, they have been harboring an ancient parasitic brain worm named Aylmer who injects a highly potent narcotic directly into the cerebral cortex of those who in turn offer him delicious brains as tithes. Aylmer derives his strength from human brains but the neighbors have been feeding him animal brains to keep him weak enough to control but strong enough to get their fix from his venom. Unfortunately, for everyone, Aylmer escapes and finds his way onto the brain stem of poor Brian who instantly gets addicted to the venom. Will his craving drive him to commit murder to satisfy Aylmer’s hunger for human flesh?

Brain Damage was among the first cult films I sought out upon moving to Austin. During Fantastic Fest 2008, I attended the 100 Greatest Kills Party and someone submitted a rather raunchy, but wholly amazing, demise from this film. To be completely honest, I did not enjoy Brain Damage at all upon my initial viewing shortly thereafter. I found it to be dull and overly goofy. It is incredible how ceaseless exposure to obscure cinema can alter a viewpoint in less than three years.




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