Monday, July 15, 2013

Wine, Worms, Witches, & Killer Boobs

Hey! Hey YOU! Did you know that in 2006 (or some time before), Ken The Devils Russell, Joe Gremlins Dante, Sean S. Friday the 13th Cunningham, Monte Silent Night Deadly Night III Hellman, and John I Did a Lot of Visual Effects on The Matrix Series Gaeta got together and made a horror anthology? A horror anthology that involves carnivorous breasts, Japanese monks, and dislocated French vintners? 

Thanks to blogger supremo Joe Blevins of Dead 2 Rights, I did. Is that a good thing? 

I’m not sure.

Story 1/Wraparound
Because Dick Miller pops up for a cameo, we instantly know that the framing device is directed by Joe Dante. The premise is simple: a lovably kooky old man leads a starlet and her boyfriend, architect and his wife, screenwriter and the scowl of John Saxon, and mildly Goth girl with an attitude on a tour of a Hollywood studio, stopping in a famed haunted house to lock the doors and force the tourists to tell scary stories about their lives. 

Story 1 is notable for being the only one that does not involve copious female nudity and /or women being sexually pleasured/assaulted by things they assume are male body parts, but are in fact supernatural entities that want to eat them in a non-sexy way.

Moving on.

The Girl With Golden Breasts
Before synopsizing, I need to get something off my chest (har har): why no ‘the?’

Normally, I’m all for cutting unnecessary words and articles in titles. But in this case, you have a perfectly cheesy joke of a title that is, I assume, clearly meant to call to mind The Man With the Golden Gun. So why lose the ‘the?’ “The Girl With Golden Breasts” misses the easy joke, and ultimately sounds messy. 

Now onto the story, which involves a wannabe Hollywood starlet getting experimental breast implants that naturally have fangs and drink blood.

That is that.

Did I mention Ken Russell directed this one? And appears in it in drag?

Indeed, that's that.

No, not Jigoku, a far superior Japanese horror film that helped to usher in a new style in genre cinema. This is about JiBAKU, and no, I have no idea what that means, mostly because it wasn't easy to stay awake for this one.

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham, one of Jason Voorhees' fairy godfathers, Jibaku follows the aforementioned husband and wife on a trip to Japan, where the Mrs. becomes intrigued by a handsome stranger who ends up being a suicidal monk, easily leading us to the film's winning line:

"I was sexually molested by a dead monk and dragged into Japanese Buddhist hell!"

I can't think of any response to that, other than, perhaps, "How was the weather there?"

Stanley's Girlfriend
In 1950s Hollywood, Stanley is a great director with a skanky girlfriend who seduces his screenwriter friend Leo. 

Leo grows up to become John Saxon. 

Skanky girlfriend might be a witch. 

Monte Hellman also made the third (and dullest) Silent Night Deadly Night movie. Stanley's Girlfriend is one fifth of a movie. 

Movies are composed of scenes. Scene It is a game involving trivia. 

Jeopardy! is my favorite game show. It involves a variety of trivia, usually being delivered by a snooty Canadian, sometimes derailed by a hideous invention called The Clue Crew who travel the world doing fun things like petting wild animals in the Galapagos Islands or touring German chocolate factories. 

One of them is named Sarah. 

She sort of resembles Hatchet Face from John Waters' Crybaby, which includes a lot of scenes that are far more enjoyable than anything that transpires in the 10 minutes or so of Stanley's Girlfriend.

Apologies for the derailment, but I would rather watch Alex Trebek stand in line at the DMV than Stanley's Girlfriend. I think that was the point I was getting at.

My Twin, The Worm
Perhaps it's one of the lesser known Twilight Zone: The Movie curses that calls for anthologies helmed by multiple directors to generally have the better segments made by lesser known names. Such is the case with visual effects designer (and first time director) John Gaeta's My Twin, The Worm, a messy but entertaining tale about French immigrants/extras from Les Miserables who come to the U.S. in the 1970s to make wine, wear provincial garb, and consume undercooked meat that leads to a parasite growing beside our narrator inside the womb. 

Surprisingly enough, growing up for 9 months next to a parasitic worm (but not in the lair of a white one) can do some damage on your psyche. Add in a mildly wicked stepmother--who, guess what? also gets a scene wherein she thinks she's being pleasured in bed by her husband but is actually being mangled by a parasitic worm--and you have what might be the most interesting story of the bunch. 

That's not saying a WHOLE lot, although overall, I found Trapped Ashes enjoyable in a 'huh?' kind of way. Written by Dennis Bartok, none of the stories are actually scary, but Russell's and Gaeta's segments are at least amusing and the other two, while rather bland, are still better made than what you generally find in the worst of horror anthologies made in the 21st century.

Make of that ringing endorsement what you will.

High Points
Between Dante's wraparound and Hellman's period-set tale, the affection for old Hollywood is a nice touch

Low Points
Aside from the fact that the whole project feels as though it was either filmed in a week or while cooking a big dinner and killing time as the ingredients hardened or baked, there is indeed a strange attitude towards the female sex that feels a tad exploitative. The fact that all four stories seem very concerned with a) showing female nudity (and male only in the animated form) and b) having turning points always happen while a woman is naked in bed feels seedy when not handled with any real sense of wink

Lessons Learned
Actresses don’t mind the spotlight

Marriage can be defined as wishing death upon each other

A Heather Graham type is cute and likable

Like Scary or Die, Trapped Ashes is a mixed bag anthology with some fun (Golden Breasts and Worm) and some clunk (Stanley's Zzzzzz, Jibaku). The mere fact that luminaries Dante and Russell are involved certainly makes it worth an Instant Watch gander, but then again, any film that involves a woman's breasts drinking blood through crazy straws attached to martini glasses generally does that on its own.



  1. Wow, Em, I had no idea you'd ever actually cover this movie on your blog. You are fearless. One theme I found running through the movie was an especially virulent strain of misogyny. They might as well have called this movie Girls Are Icky.

  2. Oh come now, you dangle Ken Russell, Joe Dante, and anthology in front of me and expect me to NOT watch something streaming? Fear isn't even part of it!

    And oh yes on the misogyny. It's VERY there. Or maybe all women are just sluts?

  3. Oh this goddamned movie. What was Joe Dante thinking? Maybe he only read the script for his part. Poor old Ken Russell, ending his career with this. I would dump Trapped Ashes in the same trash can as that other misogynist POS anthology V/H/S - at least Trapped Ashes is obscure, people actually know about (and liked) V/H/S, damn them!

  4. The female characters are slutty, sure, but at least two of the stories portray women as succubi, draining the lifeforce of men. A few of the other stories seemed pretty rapey, too. Not too many positive women to balance it out, either.

  5. Pearce, I still haven't been able to get through V/H/S. I've tried twice now, and I lose interest/get annoyed so quickly that I doubt I'll ever finish it. What is it about the anthology format that brings out the misogyny in filmmakers?

    Russell's segment was tongue-in-cheek enough for me that I won't hold it against him. Felt like he just wanted to work on something quick.

    Yup Joe, there's a lot of rapiness afoot here. And yup, Breasts and Stanley's GF featured succubi, the Japanese story featured a woman easily seduced/raped, and the worm story had the token 'woman being pleasured only to be killed.' Charming indeed!