Halloween, Happy

Well, another October is in the books.  I never know how I should feel on November 1st.  If this year is typical, I will slide deeper into a sinkhole of depression.  It doesn't have to be that way, but what can you really do to preclude it and intercept those signals?  I'm already on antidepressants, and there is nothing I can do to change my environment or living situation.  I am writing far more than I thought I would on this subject.  For that, I apologize.  It's funny how "that was Halloween" can turn into "my brain is slowly skidding down a pathway of onyx nothingness" so quickly.  Talk about a tangent.

No, seriously.  I meant to discuss the second season of Stranger Things.  I'm glad that I watched it early, as it took several months to emplane the first season.  I don't have to worry about spoiling shit for myself, which I did with Gerald's Game (I might check it out anyway because holy fuck).

My terse, spoiler-free opinion of Season 2?  It's fantastic, though I give the slight edge to Season 1.  Maybe it was just more noticeable this time around, but I was chafed by a character quirk.  These kids are way too smart.  Mike, in particular, is mature and sophisticated beyond MY years, much less his own.  It's true that certain children are similarly advanced, but c'mon.  That's my only real grumble.  Everything that made the first season so habit-forming is still present, and I absolutely loved the additions to the cast.

This is where spoiler-free territory ends.  Please watch this show if you haven't.  It deserves success, and if you're the type of nerd - as I am - who laments the fact that mediocrity seems to be in clover, you owe it to yourself to overdose on Stranger Things.  Forget binge-watching; just fucking watch it, dude.

Fans are already clamoring for a third season.  Okay, I could get behind further adventures with The Party, but isn't the story told?  There has to be a reason for a fresh installment, an impetus for even stranger things.  If the Duffer brothers aren't careful, a third season could feel perfunctory.  I did have an idea (that will never happen in a million years).  Discard the sci-fi/horror elements.  The only "unfinished business" involves character drama.  Mike won't let Max become an official member of The Party, Eleven resents the hell out of Max, Jim and Joyce need to fuck already and Eleven's sister...Christ kicking a can, that's a whole series right there.

If it sounds like I'm suggesting that the third season of Stranger Things be a full-fledged drama, your observation skills are on point.  This show is so good, you don't even need the monsters.  And that's coming from me, the "humans are boring" guy!  Granted, the monsters pulled me in, but now that I'm in, I'm open to anything.  Speaking of monsters, The Mind Flayer is a creepy, badass chunk of Lovecraftian psychomancy (that's an actual word, but I definitely misused it).

I'm in lust with the world that the Duffer brothers have engendered.  I dig that you can raise a Demogorgon from birth and train it.  I dig that The Mind Flayer can infect you by transmutating a limb into a goddamn tornado.  I dig The Mind Flayer!  And I dig that we don't know much about it.  That's another concern I have regarding extra "sequels."  It would be easy to piss on heretofore stainless storytelling, so if we do receive a third season of Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers must be in charge.  Period.

PS ~ I caught 1922 out of curiosity.  It's sluggish.


Nosferatu a Venezia

Yes, it's true.  There was a sequel to Werner Herzog's Nosferatu.  But is it a sequel, really?  The story goes, Klaus Kinski was set to reprise his role as everyone's favorite bald, milky shapeshifter, but because he was Klaus Kinski, he arrived on set with long hair and leather pantaloons.  And that was that!  Who was going to logomachize with a master thespian?  NOTE TO SELF: Just say "argue" instead of "logomachize."  It didn't matter that the part called for a glabrous rodent of a man.  NOTE TO SELF: Just say "hairless" instead of "glabrous."  Right, so in theory, 1988's Nosferatu a Venezia is about the same fiend, but they can be viewed as separate films without much effort.

If you're up on your Kinski trivia, you know that he was a piece of shit.  Maybe I shouldn't be impudent, but then again, maybe I should.  In addition to being a director's worst nightmare, he used his post as a license to sexually assault actresses.  It was easy to get away with it in those days, especially if you were a name talent who happened to be adroit and genuinely gifted.  Let's face it; there was no #MeToo movement.  I'd be lying if I said that Kinski's behavior as it pertains to Venezia didn't hamper my viewing experience.  Still, this is a curiosity that eluded my eyeballs for, Christ, fifteen years?  I had to see it.  I am but a weak horror fan.

Vampire in Venice was helmed by five or six auteurs (!), the most popular of which was Luigi Cozzi.  Kinski himself took the reigns for a few scenes.  It's impossible to know who directed what, but it's clear as a bell that this quilt was stitched by disparate seamstresses, so to speak.  Some shots are void of color.  Others are deluged in the kind of pale blue you only find on swatches.  Despite the inconsistency, Venezia works as a cohesive unit.  Don't ask me how, but it goes down with the velvety airiness of an October sunset.

Stars Donald Pleasance and Christopher Plummer are incredible.  They're too good for the film, if we're being honest.  Plummer's Professor Catalano is allegedly the main character, yet the script drops him in the third act.  Mind you, this is going to be a spoiler, so avert your eyes if you give a shit.  Catalano fails to rout Klausferatu, so...he gives up.  Hand to Satan, he gives up.  He evacuates Venice having admitted defeat.  There is something I dig about that, but it speaks to lazy screenwriting.  Pleasance's pious cleric is entertaining in his over-the-top fidelity.  Here again, he isn't used very well, and that applies to the entire cast.

There are no real characters.  The men are authoritative, while the women are curvaceous as fuck, ready and willing to shed their feathers.  Barbara De Rossi's knockers are scientifically perfect.  I am crude to point them out, but in my defense, I wasn't excited by the sight of them when Kinski was also in the frame.  His portrayal of Nosferatu is supposed to be erotic, but it's fucking odious.  All in all, Nosferatu a Venezia delivers the grim goods for those craving simple genre delights.  The gore is spiffy, the atmosphere is Italian-Gothic and the photography shimmers.  Alas, I'm not enthused.  It doesn't compare to Herzog's original.  And yeah, the more I learn about Klaus Kinski, the less I dote on his work.

Robert Z'Dar says, "My chin was uncomfortable around Klaus."


Blood Capsule #84

THE FURY (1978)

This film could have been called Carrie II.  In fact, the role of Gillian nearly went to Sissy Spacek, but instead, it was offered to Amy Irving.  Gillian is a "parapsychic" with telekinetic powers.  So is Robin, a boy around the same age who believes his father was killed by terrorists on a beach.  It's all very 70's.  The father - a hardy, furrowed Kirk Douglas - was not assassinated, as it turns out.  He spends the generality of The Fury trying to track his son down.  All the while, he's being scoured after by the agency looking to employ these young oracles as weapons of war.  Again, it's simply 70's, and it's simply engrossing.

Aside from the obvious touchstone, I've seen The Omen and The Exorcist mentioned as cinematic barometers.  Fair enough, but I was reminded of Scanners.  You've got your convex veins, your spontaneous bleeding and your climactic bodily explosion.  I won't say who or what explodes, but it's a nice touch.  Mainstream horror was just starting to experiment with the boundaries of bloodletting, but that brings me to my next point.  If The Fury had chosen to embrace one genre, I think it would have been stronger for it.  Alternatively, it wants to be a staid drama with a sprinkling of action scenes.  Not every story can pull off the many-sided approach.

On the whole, this is filling stuff.  Do I really need to append a note on the acting?  It's good!  Go badger some other horror addict.


Ming Attacks the Earth

Slow day.  Watched a little bit of a Flash Gordon serial from 1936.  Hey, you ever catch wind of a Tornado Warning in your area and seek shelter in your closet, which just so happens to contain a piss load of genre movies on all formats?  You have???  That's a weird coincidence.  Anyhow, I spotted Ming Attacks the Earth on VHS while holed up in my closet.  I was like, "What the fuck is this?  I own this?"  As it turns out, I do own this.  It's...eh, something to watch.  I understand that serials were not prioritized by studios, but I was sorely disappointed in the ratfink budget.  BUT THEN!

That was supposed to be a cliffhanger.  I found out that Universal poured reams of chicken feed into the project, three times as much as the average serial.  So where did the money go?  I concede, they shot four hours of footage all told, and there are a couple of creature suits in the production (I didn't get to scope the gockos!).  I don't know.  I guess I was just expecting more lunacy.  You don't have to tell me; I know that I need to watch the 1980 theatrical version.  I did see incredible slices of it at the supple age of 14.  Gonzo pie, am I still typing?  This was supposed to be fluff.  Marshmallow cream!  Surf spray!

Here are some fuckin' dinosaurs.


Blood Capsule #83


I may have only reviewed the fourth film in the series, but I do consider myself a Hellraiser fan.  Ironically, I didn't become invested in the mythos until recently.  Is that ironic?  Probably not.  Anyway, my favorite "chapter" has morphed over the years.  It used to be the recklessly reproved Hellraiser: Inferno.  As I sit before you now, it is Hellbound: Hellraiser II.  While I dig the original, it seems smoggy and shapeless, a picture more concerned with its keynote leitmotifs than its characters.  Hellbound is still mildly smoggy, but that smog translates to atmosphere.  There is a defined structure, a charred skeleton under a cloak of surreal soot.

Well, I'll be a five-striped snub-nosed macaque!  That's not a real monkey, and I'm beginning to suspect that half of the first paragraph is amphigory bunk.  I think what I'm trying to say is that I like Hellbound more than its predecessor.  It's slightly more accessible, and it's easier to sympathize with Kirsty Cotton.  We get a heftier dose of the Cenobites, swankier set designs and the villains, irgh.  There might be too many villains.  Drop Frank and Julia.  You don't need them with Dr. Channard floating through windows and fucking shit up.  Hats off to director Tony Randel for inoculating Hellbound: Hellraiser II with dread and the willies.  Yep, the willies!  Those camera angles are legit.

I bet you're glad you pointed your browser to Random Reviews Incorporated.  And to think, you hesitated.


Blood Capsule #82


I'm missing Game 6 of the ALCS (go Astros!) to write this pocket-sized review just for you, so you better appreciate it.  You did request this specific title, after all.  Didn't you?  Anyway, The Borrower is a quirky sci-fi/horror d'oeuvre.  John McNaughton directed the piece only a couple of years removed from 1986's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (man, I love that flick), but his distribution folded up its tent.  As a result, The Borrower was placed on the dreaded shelf for close to three years.  I have to give McNaughton credit for dipping his toes into completely different waters coming off of the success of Henry.  He could have mailed in a tepid "thriller" in the same vein, but instead, he took a SHARP fucking left turn.

An alien did something bad.  His punishment?  Earth!  I feel like that should be punishment for criminals already on Earth.  In a not-so-sly obeisance to The Hidden, our alien wears a human skin disguise.  When it's time to switch veneers, his head explodes.  So it isn't quite borrowing per se, but "the borrower" isn't exactly evil.  He's more of an asshole.  This is a funny, enterprising b-dish with a sleazy Frank Henenlotter vibe.  Rae Dawn Chong and Don Gordon play honest-to-Satan good cops (!), but we never see them do meaningful detective work.  They don't get close to catching He Who Borrows.  They almost feel as though they exist in a separate movie.  In the end, nothing is resolved, and the final frames are needlessly confusing.

The Borrower is as flawed as the Electoral College, but it's worth watching.  Don't buy or rent; borrow.


Album Cover of the Whatever

Ooh, a black-and-white cover!  Have I ever featured one of those?  This one belongs to Erebos, a Polish black metal band.  Their stuff is quite atmospheric.  It's 100% instrumental.  Faded into the Shadows is their latest release, and I fancy it, though I admit it can be hard to listen to straight through.  I don't think I was built to digest instrumental music, but I can still promote it.  Hail Satan!


Blood Capsule #81


2013's Curse of Chucky was welcomed with open doll parts (hey now), as it brought a morose tone back to the series.  From a cursory skim of IMDb, I glean that Cult of Chucky - the fresh, piping hot installment - is also popular amongst fans.  Maybe a little less, but still, a sprightly consensus.  The film relishes in keeping the viewer guessing.  Can you guess if I dug Cult?  I did, actually.  I like the fact that the plot picks up right where Curse left off.  Nica (the still-sexy, still-infirm Fiona Dourif) has been adjudicated and sentenced to a stay at a mental institution by way of her "insanity" plea.  After a few years, she has convinced doctors and orderlies that she has come to grips with reality, accepting the verity of her involvement with the murder of her entire family.

That was very nearly a run-on sentence.  If you see it happening again, stop me.  Before it's too late!  Anyhow, an unabridged synopsis would be a monotonous read.  All you need to know is that stuff happens at the loony bin.  Chucky stuff.  And man, Mr. Lee Ray has a ball this time around.  The kills are wicked.  I mean, Cult may not be as gruesome as American Guinea Pig, but as far as mainstream slashers are concerned, the barbarity peeled back is goddamn explicit.  How can you not love the "glass ceiling" bit, a lurid homage to Bride of Chucky?  Speaking of bitch--WHICH...speaking of which, the bride is accounted for.  Jennifer Tilly, man.  Jennifer fuckin' Tilly.

Performances are strong across the advisory board.  I wouldn't mind being a Dourif when I grow up.  Fiona is fine-tuned, Brad is just as sharp as ever and Nica's fellow convalescents are suited to their roles.  Objectively, I can't point to a specific thing as a defect or a failing, but for whatever reason, I prefer Curse of Chucky over Cult of Chucky.  Perhaps it's the ambiance.  Not all of the humor snaps into place, but as it stands, I'm cool with this factory-made movie.  The pace is swift and...aww, fuckity!  I want this to be a mini-review.  Keep it concise, cuckold!


Blood Capsule #80


The full title is American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore.  Yes, this is a western accrual of the legendary Japanese series of exploitative nightmares captured on film.  Others have been produced since, and the probability of you hunting them down is tied directly with your opinion of baseless violence.  It's fictional, sure, but this shit doesn't always feel fictional.  It would be more effective without the hokey dialogue ("I had to change my underwear.") and the substandard acting.  I did more laughing than I expected.  Maybe that's a good thing, as I came away with my sanity unscathed.

I don't mean to overstate American Guinea Pig's brutal nature, and yet, I really haven't.  The guts and gore of the subtitle are laid on thick, often within a sexual lexicon.  You're basically watching two girls being flayed, dismembered, disemboweled and worse for 70+ minutes, all while kept alive with drugs and tourniquets.  The practical effects are outstanding.  Seriously, there is no substitute for in-camera "movie magic."  American Guinea Pig has a narrow audience, but fans of the Japanese series should be pleased.  I'm not sure what drove me to view this dementia, but my curiosity is slaked.  Um, the gore is gory?  Yeah, that's my review.


Switchin' it up mid-stream, bitches!

It's fucking October.  Still!  Here in North Carolina, we wouldn't mind a few autumnal days.  Hey, summer...WHY WON'T YOU DIE?  I've been reviewing Frankenstein movies, but as with any restrictive theme, I'm feeling restless.  I want to talk about a vast assortment of horrors.  So I will!  Thing is, most (not all) of the reviews from here on out will be Blood Capsules.  They are easier to write, and I'll be able to get to more movies.  Don't worry; I plan on hitting a couple of Frankenflix.  I just wanted to hit other oddities along the way in time for Halloween.

Why Bigfoot?  I never need a reason.


Blood Capsule #79


"ALLLVIIIIIIN!  Come here, you little fistfuck!  I'm gonna chain you to the pole again!  That's right.  Where did I leave my handgun?  I'm gonna put it to your head, you piss rodent!  And I swear to God, if you don't suck my intestines out through my dick, I'm going to blow your fuckin' brains out!"  Sometimes, I wonder if I cross the line.  Naaah.  Apparently, this was the first Chipmunks movie since the 80's.  They met The Wolfman the following year, and if the general consensus is to be believed, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein is the inferior product.  Just my luck!  I swear to God, if you don't suck my--woah!  I'm worried.  About me.

There isn't much to say here, folks.  If you were a fan of the Chipmunks as a tiny human (as I was), you'll dig this flick-a-dee.  It's fun, and it seems to have been made by fans of the Universal monster mashes.  Why, it's even - I can't believe I'm admitting this - cute in spots.  Simon has his teddy bear, while Frankenstein('s creation) sleeps with a Frankie action figure.  Hey, that's adorable, and you know it!  Needless to type, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Hitler Youth isn't flawless.  Alvin is annoying (I never liked that son of a bitch) AND I'm tired of writing.  I wasn't cut out for this gig.


Forces of the North Carolinan Night

This isn't a "real" review or anything.  I just wanted to talk about the DVD I watched through exceptionally legal means.  Right.  Anyhow, I jammed out to Dimmu Borgir's Forces of the Northern Night, a live recording from five years ago.  Why did it take so goddamn long to release this thing?  Currently, Dimmu Borgir's momentum is set to zilch.  Their last full-length - 2010's iffy Abrahadabra - is a distant memory in metal's collective mind.  You'd think that if they were going to put something out, it would be new music.  Nope!

The die-hards will want to know if the content is worthwhile.  Well, the die-hards have seen Northern Night by now.  How did I rate it?  Thank you for asking.  The concrete performances are astounding.  Shagrath's vocals are tirelessly thunderous (I've read that he uses backing tracks, which is disappointing, but he himself sounds magnificent), the drums are mixed smoothly and the orchestra...fuck, the orchestra kicks unholy ass.  It must have been a nightmare to engineer this monstrosity of noise.

The setlist is boring.  Half of the tunes appear on Abrahadabra (I do enjoy "Dimmu Borgir" and "Born Treacherous") and the other half are expected.  Y'know, "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" and "Mourning Palace."  I will never gripe about hearing "Kings of the Carnival Creation," as I believe it to be one of the best black metal compositions of all time.  Fight me.  At the end of the day, Forces of the Northern Night is an alloyed rucksack.  You might even say that it's a mixed bag.  Again, fight me.  Actually, I hate myself for that joke.  I deserve a proper thrashing.


The Horror of Frankenstein

It has been a couple of days since I watched 1970's The Horror of Frankenstein.  I will normally review a film one day later, so as to retain shade and nuance.  Believe it or not, those extra 24 hours do make a difference.  I was going to can the notion altogether, but no!  I shall power through.  In any case, this...uh, movie - yes, I'm reviewing a movie; I knew that - centers around a gynecologist?  Why am I asking?  I'm quite familiar with...could you give me just a second?  A-ha!  I'm sorry you had to wait for three months, but I was looking for...my child!  Yes!  My child went missing!  Jesus, who am I kidding?  Everyone knows that Dom Jr. died in The Great Strip Club Fire of 1989.  That I started.

You think that's bad?  He wasn't even born yet!  Alright, enough eyewash and horsefeathers.  This flick is the undesigned dissident of Hammer's Frankenstein franchise in that it doesn't follow the Peter Cushing Frankie features.  Literally.  It's a stand-alone picture, and if you want to get technical, it's a remake of 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein.  Maybe not "to the T," but that was the idea.  Jimmy Sangster signed on to direct because he saw that the project was going to suck the testicles out of a sevenstar flying squid.  He and fellow scribe Jeremy Burnham injected personality into a rigid script.  The result?  Well, it has a dodgy reputation.

Now that I've seen Horror, I can't help but feel that hardcore fans are being too fussy and captious.  Like me!  While I understand that it doesn't have the same deportment as "The Cushing Six," it's still an entertaining ride.  The added levity works.  I dig this interpretation of the doctor as a nearly amoral maverick.  He isn't the cuddliest lead character in the world, but that didn't bother me.  The constant shots of Kate O'Mara and Veronica Carlson in revealing provisions didn't bother me either.  Imagine that.  Still, there is no outright nudity, but we get a glimpse of irriguous gore whenever a limb is severed.  Lotsa severed limbs.

Sangster, my favorite Hammer-friendly writer, always had a knack for smart pacing.  Horror is almost too quick, but that's better than the alternative.  Remember Alternative Nation?  Nevermind, I'm deviating.  On the downer side, it takes awhile to get to the monster.  I realize that's the complaint of an 8-year-old, but newsflash!  I'm an eight-year-old!  What's more, I wasn't crazy about the look of Sir Creature, as portrayed by David Prowse.  He's just a guy with a few scars.  He has muscles, I guess.  Hammer was coveting a younger demographic with The Horror of Frankenstein and I presume that they succeeded.

The question is, did they succeed with ME?  Yes.  I already said that.