Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Day Is This? Why, It's Halloween Day Of Course!

Here's to a happy, safe, and not at all healthy October 31st, courtesy of my 2013 Halloween alter ego.


And if the Bluths don't float your Seawards, I'll let the cast of Season 3 of Beverly Hills, 90210 say it best.

Whether it's a toilet papered trail or candy corn coma, I wish you all the best on this always special day. Just don't let it go to your head!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Modest Proposal

We interrupt your somewhat steady dose of movie coverage to bring you breaking news:

I got a shiny ring.

Yup, it's time for me to start volumizing my hair to the height of Elsa Manchester, juice fasting to get the waist of Elvira, and campaigning to bring back Bridezillas for one last stomping.

Atop a beautifully scenic mountain in the western end of Massachusetts, my fella asked me to marry him. I said yes. We then celebrated with a classy dinner.

Don't worry: I don't plan on changing much around these here blogging parts, other than maybe, I don't know, switching the theme to something floral and only covering Lifetime movies from here on in. That's cool, right?

How I kid. I'll be back shortly with some non-nuptial-based writing. In the meantime, you can hear a pre-engaged me discuss The Faculty and Jennifer's Body on the latest Feminine Critique episode, read my defense of The Exorcist III over at Cinespect's 31 Days of Horror, or enjoy this picture of me telling Scott Wilson that The Ninth Configuration is the bee's knees.

With that said, let's get nuptialy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Remake Without Soul

"Wes Craven Presents" have never been three words I’ve looked forward to hearing. The product it generally implies is, well...

Sometimes starring Marc Blucas.

In other words, it’s rarely a good thing for even the catchiest of titles (you know, like, um...They) to be produced by horror’s most famous former college professor. With that in mind, I headed into 1998’s Carnival of Souls with a bar lower than the required height for the kiddie coaster.

Let’s see if it helped.

Quick Plot: Young Alex walks into her kitchen to the pleasant sight of Larry Miller raping her mother. Before you can say Final Destination 5, he snaps her neck and snaps us into the present, where Alex (Bobbie Philips) has grown into a pretty but world weary bar owner co-managing a seaside dive with her younger sister, played by an oddly stable Shawnee Smith. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Saw's first lady, but there's something very off about seeing her playing normal.

Alex has bigger problems than a dull little sister, primarily the fact that mom-killer (and apparently, child molester) Larry Miller has been released from his lifetime prison sentence. So, apparently, have a bunch of demons and a lot of very menacing water, be it in a Final Destination 4-esque car wash-gone-wrong sequence or an aggressive bathtub. Are these simple daydreams haunting an emotionally scarred Alex, or is there evil afoot in comically oversized floppy red shoes?

Wes Craven Presents: Carnival of Souls is one of the titles that often shows up on Worst Remakes of All Time lists. While it’s no It’s Alive 2009, it’s easy to see why some viewers would be so offended by this film. The original is a verifiable cult classic, an eerie little tale panned in its time and rediscovered in the public domain as one of the era’s very best ghost stories. This version, directed by Adam Grossman and Ian Kressner, is far from the worst horror output of the ‘90s, but in comparison to the rich imagery of Herk Harvey’s film, it suffers quite fiercely.

The movie’s largest issue is the hardest to conquer: it’s boring. Yes, we get Shawnee Smith warbling through a tune. Indeed, we get a character actor generally known for comedy going all out as a pedophile carnival clown with a pageboy wig. Sure, these things are special in their own odd way. But that doesn’t a not dull film make.

Running at just 90 minutes, Carnival of Souls simply takes forever. The beats are repetitive, and sadly there are only so many ‘water! Bad! It’s a dream! Water! Bad!’ cycles a viewer can suffer through before calling it a day.

Or just a bad movie.

High Points
Well, this happens a lot:

Low Points
There’s a very specific moment where Carnival of Souls lost whatever mild interest it had generated. In one of her umpteenth fantasy/dream/water sequences, Alex is haunted by a red balloon that appears out of nowhere. She carefully walks toward it, clearly leading us to a jump of some moment. And she jumps. And THEN Larry Miller’s face appears on the balloon to do some taunting.

Notice a problem?

It’s easy enough to set up a jump scare. Lower the music. Have a character walk slowly. Focus on an object/door/box/noun of some sort that will reveal a minor menace. REVEAL the menace, and we and said character will presumably jump. Have character jump and THEN reveal menace, well, that’s something you only get when Wes Craven is presenting.

Lessons Learned
It is possible to possess stunning green eyes up until the age of five or six, only to see them turn a pleasant if plain brown once you reach your mid-20s

Demon thingies rarely wear clothing, but they do enjoy a hearty dinner and hydration

Look, It’s…
John Sears! Fraternity president/casual date rapist/homophobic bigot/sworn nemesis of Steve Sanders John Sears! Um, he was on Beverly Hills 90210, and I tend to should “John Sears!” whenever he pops up in another late ‘90s horror movie (of which there are quite a few). Also, he apparently directed the much maligned Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, so make of all of these things whatever you will.

Carnival of Souls isn’t the worst thing streaming on Netflix right now, but there’s very little reason to test that theory. I suppose Larry Miller clown fetishists or remake completists will give it a go, but be aware that this is a slog. Not a They slog, but dull time nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Hear There's a She-Devil Within Her...

Canny Doll's House readers might remember a wonderful moment in history wherein I wrote about 1975's The Devil Within Her, a laughably amazing little movie that stars Joan Collins as a fully clothed former stripper who gives birth to a giant baby that might be possessed by the devil and/or the spirit of a dancing dwarf named Hercules who used to be her partner at a nudie revue.

Life rarely gets any better
In case you needed any more discussion of a movie about Joan Collins playing a former stripper-turned-mother-of-a-giant-maybe-possessed by dwarf-baby-delivered-by-gynecologist-Donald-Pleasance then allow me to point you toward our latest episode of The Feminine Critique, She-Devil Within Her.

On this very special installment, my cohostess Christine and I tackle the aforementioned dwarf/giant baby/possession movie, as well as 1990's black comedy She-Devil

That's the one that has A. Martinez doing things like this:

Go get it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Botox Is For Wimps

What are the odds that a low budget Canadian horror film can top a Law & Order: SVU episode? In one corner, we've got an undercover Ice T, one-legged surgeon, and evil sadist with mommy issues played by Miranda's husband from Sex & the City

In the other, arm transplants and heart-shaped nipples.

A battle for the ages.

Quick Plot: Mary is a poor med school student struggling to pay her mounting bills with every last resource, be it a flirty baby voice on the phone when trying to get cell charges reduced or an open call to perform at a strip joint. It's on that fateful job interview that Mary gets to use her real skills for some fast cash, healing a tortured thug and leaving an impression on the lovestruck club owner and a heavily plasticized stripper named Beatress.

With the build of Betty Boop and the vocal cutesiness of Ellen Greene's Audrey I, Beatress convinces Mary to explore a side career in the underground world of body modification. After successfully transforming an eccentric fashion designer into a life-size doll (i.e., sealed labia and nipple-less breasts), Mary's schoolwork improves to the point that she's invited to a faculty and hospital staff mixer. Living the dream!

Unfortunately, surgeons tend to party in the icky drug-and-rape-and-videotape-it variety, leaving poor Mary disgusted with the medical field. Like any bright young woman whose dreams have been demolished, she quickly ditches school, starts her own business, and practices her new techniques on the perverted doctor professor who raped her.

American Mary was made by Jen and Sylvia Soska, two young Canadians whose previous Dead Hooker In a Trunk caught a lot of attention amongst the genre community. The pair cameos as German twins with extremely unusual plastic surgery requests (arm trades, horns, standard stuff) and between that and a making-of featurette, I really, really wish they were my happy hour bar friends.

The same easily goes for star Katharine Isabelle, best known as the titular Ginger Snaps and P.J. Soles-channeling easy pickins in Freddy Vs. Jason. Mary is a tricky character, one defined primarily by her coldness and reluctance/inability to form any kind of deep relationship. Isabelle easily holds our focus (in virtually every scene) with her distant demeanor. We automatically feel for any struggling college student, and Mary has the added bonus of a cool factor that's hard to deny. We get a few small hints about Mary's human connections (and lack thereof) via a certain iPhone contact, but the writing and Isabelle's performance pull off an impressive feat in character.

I kind of loved this movie. I also kind of wanted to love it more.

See, there's so much potential in the characters and world the Soskas create that it's almost disappointing when the film seems to end prematurely. Mary's patient list alone could have spun off into its own Nip/Tuck alternative television series. I would easily watch a talk show hosted by the adorably odd Beatress (Tristan Risk) with her coke addicted daughter taking on the Andy Richter role. Put Mary front and center on The Bachelorette and BAM! ABC's got at least one new viewer.

The point is, I was completely on board for the ride that was American Mary. I just wish it wasn't over so quickly.

High Points
A movie about body modification and rape revenge doesn't seem to call for subtlety, but the Soska Sisters show a wonderfully restrained approach that works well when needed, including a stark lack of music following Mary's abuse and the clever way we get hints but never all-out visual confirmation of just how weird some of the surgeries could be

Low Points
It's not a bad thing when a movie ends and you're disappointed because you wanted more. Between Mary's eccentric patients and her own carefully calculated fury, there seems to be so much unique territory that could have been explored had the film not ended so abruptly

Okay, but I will take issue with Mary's "I'm poor" apartment, which included an awesomely modern spiral staircase and retro countertop that most hipsters WISH they could afford

Lessons Learned
Good surgeons don't make mistakes (because, presumably, killing patients would render them 'not good')

People just don't bring resumes to stripper job interviews anymore

Torturing and/or genetically modifying the human body is an act best done while wearing 6" heels

I made the mistake of splitting my viewing of American Mary (45 minutes before work, one hour a workday later) which hurt the flow of the film in a very specific way. Because I had broken up the running time, I had no idea where/when the climax would happen, meaning when it hit (no spoilers) I felt slightly empty, as if there should have been something far bigger. It's hard to tell whether that's a fault of the film or just a side effect of breaking a watch into two parts, but that aside, I heartily enjoyed this film. Katharine Isabelle gives an intriguing and unique performance aided by some fun supporting characters. The script provides a healthy balance of chuckles and gasps, and the topic of body modification is handled with respect and humor. I for one am looking forward to the Soska sisters' next venture, even if/especially since it's apparently a sequel to that Kane kal-assic, See No Evil.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


We’re 7 days into the most wonderful time of the year, and I’ve barely addressed the fact that, you know, WE’RE SEVEN DAYS INTO THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR.
Here at the Doll’s House, I have nothing overly exciting planned save for the usual weekly dose of genre (or awful, but this month, strictly genre) film reviews. While some exciting pumpkin-related shenanigans could still sprout up, I figured it was far more useful to share some links to a few of my rather talented pals’ far more interesting October projects.

Hitch up your haunted hayride and let’s roll!

-Over at The Lightning Bug’s Lair, good pal Zach (and guest host for our latest Single White Female/Obsessed episode of The Feminine Critique) is don’ting away with 31 days of covering movies with titles that include horror’s favorite contraction. Zach always makes October a truly delightningbugful time of year, and I’m sure this round will be no different.

-This being October, it’s the perfect time for you savvy e-reading bookworms (or e-worms? Is that more or less gross?) to check out a few great picks. First up is R. k. Kombrinck’s short story collection, These Lonely Places. Some of you might know the author as a barrel of laughs and Burger King hatred heard on Night of the Living Podcast, but his fiction is a far more serious matter. From giant spiders to horrifically twisted old people, Kombrinck’s writing is truly creepy, filled with surprising twists and plenty of scares.

-For those of you in need of some quality nonfiction, check out Bryce Wilson’s Son of Danse Macabre. Wilson is also the keeper of the fine blog Things That Don’t Suck (and thankfully, his writing doesn’t) and Son of Danse Macabre reads like a worthy sequel and followup to Stephen King’s 1981 book. Picking up where King left off, Wilson provides superb analysis of the genre (including video games and comics) of the last 30 years. For just $2.99, it’s a journey well worth taking.

-Get Rocked. Get Shocked. Get n’ed. All these things at Worcester’s annual horror (and music, whatever that is) convention. I’ll be taking a ride up there for the weekend of the 19th, so if any of you New Englanders are dropping in, be sure to let me know so we can say hi while wondering if Jordan Ladd would be honored or embarrassed if we asked her about her villainous role in Lifetime’s Murder on the 13th Floor.

-Gear up your ears for ShowShow, one of the Internet’s oldest and still most entertaining podcasts. Every year, the crew assembles for the Spooktacular, where they release one episode a day for the month of October. It’s a hard show to describe until you hear it, but with a bizarre collection of films on this year’s docket (George Kennedy vs. An Alf puppet supercat in The Uninvited, anybody?) and what I’ve been assured is a bottomless supply of alcohol, you can guarantee yourself a good time.

-More entertainment courtesy of the podcasting world: Outside the Cinema’s annual Halloween Throwdown, aka 16 hours of random and rare horror movies streaming live online. It's a surprisingly enjoyable way to kill a Saturday, so if you've long wanted to see films like Fade To Black and Mr. Boogedy, be sure to check it out.

-Plus, plenty of blogs over yonder on my right side blogroll will be doing truly seasonal coverage, from Chuck Norris Ate My Baby’s annual Chucktoberfest to Fascination With Fear’s Guilty Pleasures and Final Girl’s own version of SHOCKtober

Good things everywhere. GO GET THEM!