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Friday, December 15, 2017

Ten Rambling Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

1. Destiny. I happened to have the day off and wasn't planning on seeing it today. The plan was to wait a week or two and then go on some random Tuesday when the kids were out of school on break. Just ease in, no pressure. I'm a grown up. I can wait. I've been through some lean years and some mean years. Just being off is great, I can sit and think and finish off the last 5000 pages of 'It'.

2. Got the kids on the bus and made some eggs for Stephanie and me. We were sitting and drinking coffee. She asked me what I planned on doing with the day. I shrugged, "Absolutely nothing. Why ruin a perfectly good day off by doing something?" She was going to record a hypnosis session, so needed the house quiet. "Why don't you go see the new Star Wars movie?"

3. All that sober maturity flew out of me. With shaking hands, I fumbled my phone and checked the showtimes.  Why am I sweating? There! There was an 8:30 AM show! 2D IMAX! Assigned seating, there would be no way I was going to get a good seat. But! I was going alone. Right in the middle of the theater, a single chair remained. You believe in fate, boy? Drove to the theater in a frenzy. A Star Wars soundtrack mix playing on the car speakers. What if the car breaks down? What if I get a call that a kid is sick and needs to be picked up from school? My head spun with all the possibilities that could go wrong that would keep me from making this screening.

4. But I made it. Sat right between two couples in my black hoody, the creepy Star Wars loner. The waves of geek radiating off me blistered their skin. I was in nuclear meltdown mode. It happens every Star Wars opening day. I think I'm going to be cool, but I never am. There is this hope that you are going to be transported, but even if it ends up being terrible, this movie will go on to generate hours upon hours of conversation. Complaining about The Phantom Menace has bridged generations and peoples from every continent. Whatever the outcome of The Last Jedi, it will merge into the shared consciousness that all fans are a part of. It's sick and sad, and I know I'm being pandered to by big business, but Star Wars movies are my Pavlov's bell. That first trilogy ruined me and I keep going in the hope of feeling a little awe again.

5. Did I like it? Gut reaction? I loved it. Loved it! Rogue One left me cold. It was better on rewatch, but I left that screening feeling gross and used. Force Awakens? I liked it a lot, and it was better than the prequels, but I've had no interest in watching it again after that first time. I don't own it. It was fine, but it told you everything you wanted to hear and didn't break any new ground. A beat for beat remake of  A New Hope wasn't what I was looking for. But it wasn't as bad as the prequels, so that seemed like a miracle. The Last Jedi is on par with Return of the Jedi, maybe better. Nah, nothing is the original trilogy. Those are burnt into my DNA. But for post-1983 Star Wars, this is the best.

6. The characters are so likable and charismatic. Just the type of people you would see in a Pepsi commercial. I like being around well adjusted charismatic people, even if they are make-believe. They seem so freakish to me. It's like I'm watching a freak show. How are these people so cute and lovable. What happened to them to make them so amiable? Yeesh. Darkness. They look like JC Penny back to school catalog models playing spaceman. My mind boggles that they grow people like this. Actors are like unicorns.

7. Thanks to the internet, filmmakers are now directly bombarded by vicious nerds who fill their Twitter feeds with anger and bile and nitpicky criticism. And like an end of year performance review, the producers tabulate this data and form a plan to improve before the next evaluation. Some of the dialog in The Last Jedi sounds like transcripts of disgruntled fans bashing The Force Awakens. Characters mention Kylo Ren being an annoying angsty brat and his goofy helmet. They complain that Ray had never held a lightsaber but was able to defeat him in battle. All the internet jabs at The Force Awakens are given lip service here. It is odd. It's like getting an apology letter from a restaurant that you wrote a bad comment card on. "Sorry you had a bad experience, please come back for some free Jalapeno Poppers."

8. It doesn't sound like I liked it. But I did. I loved it. It is so well paced. Some Star Wars movies have this middle bulge where they plod along and it takes forever to get the story back into the groove before the final battle. None of that here. It has a great beat and rhythm and tells an interesting story filled with failure and hardship, and it was new enough where I wasn't sure how it was all going to work out at the end. And when it gets to the climax, I was terrified they were going to pull the rug out from under me and not give me an ending, to save it for the next one, but nope, they wrapped it up enough so you don't feel that end of Empire TO BE CONTINUED moment. I was in Star Wars heaven for 95 percent of the movie. It has the best opening of them all. One person against impossible odds. And Rose, a new character, is fantastic.

9. Seeing the story of what happened to Luke after Return and to have Mark Hamill own the screen again, it all felt so good. No longer the blond-haired pretty boy, to see Luke as a grizzled old has been, who has seen all that he fought for fall apart. To have that millstone of regret hanging on him, like Kenobi did in A New Hope, that is the best. It is Mark Hamill's movie. I wish he was in it more. Possible Spoiler!!!!.....

DON'T READ...(Yoda is in this, and it's a puppet, and the scene with him and Luke is movie gold, best part of the movie)....  DON'T READ 

End of spoilers.

10. The funniest thing that happened was after the movie I walked to the next door sandwich shop for lunch. I placed my order and scanned the store and saw two other members of the black t-shirt gang also waiting. One wore a Force Awakens shirt. These two other's were not together, but as we waited for our food, I asked if t-shirt guy had just seen the movie, and he had, and I asked if he was okay. The other guy jumped in and we all had lunch together and unpacked the movie. It was random and funny. We didn't give names or facebook pages, we just shared our geeky enthusiasm as we ate and then went our separate ways. A perfect thirty minute impromptu Star Wars fanclub meeting. That is what's so cool about Star Wars. It is a common language. If you and that perfect stranger are both down with the force, you can talk for hours. For fans, a person's politics or religion or what they do for a living is irrelevant. A common love for Yoda bridges all gaps.  Star Wars, bringing maladjusted introverts together since 1977.

Just because it's the internet, here are a few angry nerd nitpicks. Possible coded spoilers.

- How fast can a fleet of star destroyers go?

- They don't have scanners on the bottom of their ships?

- Carpenter did that in Escape from L.A.

- Did going to that rich planet advance the plot at all?

- How many AT-ATs does it take to blow up a half dozen land speeders?

- Hey, something just like this happened in the original trilogy! And this! And this!

But seriously folks, the movie is awesome. See dat movie!

Sam Drog

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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ten Things I Noticed Rewatching The Terminator (1984)

I went to Wallyworld tonight and saw The Terminator Blu-Ray for 5 bucks which is my kind of cheap. The first one is my favorite. It is scrappy and doesn't waste a second. The movie is perfection when it comes to pace and editing, and it spawned one million rip offs and sequels, none of which are this good. It's 80's animated lighting in a bottle, and everything that can be said, has been said, but here are a few things I noticed for the first time on this rewatch.

1. Brian Thompson is one of the street punks in the beginning that is killed by Arnold. Never noticed that. I knew Bill Paxton was the ""couple cans short of a six pack" guy, but Brian Thompson? Looking pretty normal before roiding out in Cobra two years later.

Known for his "less is more" performance style.
2. Never noticed that there are kids playing in the yard when Arnold kills the wrong Sarah Conner. Makes the scene that much more brutal.

Pretty sick, bro.

3. Michael Biehn is hysterical in this movie. He's terrible, but awesome. His interrogation by the shrink is his best moment, but his confession of love to Sarah Conner is creepy stalker cinema. I get it, John Conner was working over time in the future to get Kyle to fall in love with his mom, which is also creepy. "You think my mom is hot in this picture? I bet my mom would totally dig you." Using time travel to hook your mom up with your dad was its own sub-genre in the 80s.

4. Was Kyle shoving the pipe bombs into the duffel bag supposed to be subtle foreshadowing for the love scene coming up? That Cameron really knows how to set the mood.

Hinty McHint Hint
5. Was the Terminator's skin rotting and stinking up the already filthy hotel he was hiding in? Was Cameron justifying that the rubber Terminator head was looking pretty rubbery by turning it into a plot point? In the shot below, flies are crawling on his skin, and then the greasy janitor asks if he has a dead cat in there. If they are implying that the damaged flesh was diseased and putrid, what a cool little detail that was never developed in the sequels! Another reason I love the original the most.

6. When Sarah tells Paul Winfield that she is at the bar Tech Noir, the frumpy Lieutenant totally knows where she's talking about. Images of him decked out on a Saturday night, dancing roboticly to new wave hits will forever be in my head now.

7. The back and forth between Paul Winfield and Lance Henrickson is great. Lance keeps trying to tell a disturbing cop story and Paul keeps interrupting him. It's really funny. Never noticed it.

8. Who could have predicted that this guy would become such a linchpin of the series. He's in three of the five movies!?!?

9. The Terminator totally flinches when firing his weapon early in the movie. "Eek, that's so loud and flashy!"

10. When Kyle hot wires a car, he picks the absolute worst time to crank it up and tear out. After giving Sarah Conner his whole backstory and keeping cover for 20 minutes,  he doesn't make his move until the Terminator is 10 feet away! Unlucky bastard!

Wait for it... and NOW!

BONUS! I remember Dick Smith's murder being really graphic, but if you frame by frame it, this is all it is...

This and the meat hook scene in Texas Chainsaw. Best Editing Ever.

Sam Drog

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ten Rambling Reasons to See JIGSAW (2017)

Not in the movie.

Ten whole reasons?!? This may be tough, but here we go.

1. No better or worse then the rest of the Saw movies. If you liked the others, you'll like this one. If you are like me, and are baffled by the fact that you keep paying to go see them, even though you never walk out thinking that they are any good, this movie will give you that old Saw feeling.

2. Such a lost opportunity. The last Saw was seven years ago. Before that, the Saw machine cranked one out every year, year after year, from 2004 to 2010. It was a juggernaut, but by cranking them out so fast they never stopped to catch their breath to figure out what was working or not. They became the same four scenes played at random, for 90 minutes, repeated once a year. The four scenes are.

- Police Procedural (Look Scoob, I found a clue!)
- 10 Angry Men in a Factory (Let's stop fighting and start working together!)
- Jigsaw sulking in his lab (Uhhhh, metal shop rules)
- The Traps (why you bought the ticket)

This movie does nothing to change that formula.

3. Because it is so familiar, it felt like putting on some nice old shoes. Or getting hash browns at Waffle House. I got what I paid for. It had been a while, so it was nostalgic. Being let down by a Saw movie is part of the experience.

4. Lost opportunity, because by taking a break, they could have deconstructed these movies and figured out a way to give us something that hit the Saw notes, but subverted our expectations. We all know how these things work by now. By throwing us some curve balls, they could have given us, the constant viewers, something fun. But they made just another Saw movie.

5. I was happy to see Costas Mandylor gone, but they found the most Mandylorian(?) guy they could to fill the spot.

6. Evil morgue girl was great.

7. Unintentional Funny Moment One: Jigsaw, "A young man died because you sold him a motorcycle with no breaks. That young man was my nephew."

8.   Unintentional Funny Moment Two: In a room with cement walls, a character bumps into the wall and it visibly shakes. It's an Ed Wood moment.

9. Unintentional Funny Moment Three: The lady with postpartum depression is played in the most hamfisted after school special manner possible.

10. The acting in the "10 Angry Men in a Factory" scenes are "Unsolved Mysteries" reenactment level awesomeness. Some of the greatest reenacting I have seen all year. Worth watching, very powerful. Bulging Eyeballs, furrowed brows, yelling and spitting, acting like a rabid baboons. Fantastic.

Bottom Line. You waited 7 years. You hired the Spierig Brothers. You could have done something to freshen up before inviting us over. Cooked us something new instead of reheating last weeks leftovers. I don't blame the directors on this one. They consistently give us strong movies, but if you have seen any of the behind the feature docs on the other Saw movies, you know they crank these out in a way not conducive the creative thinking. The train is rolling, you have two weeks to get this thing shot. No time to think. Shoot as fast as you can and just survive it.

Bottom Line Two: All my complaints are the same that my parents said about Friday the 13th movies. So I fully accept that this is generational thing, and that it is now my time to be the angry guy. The only difference is that F13 movies are awesome, and Saw movies are stupid.

Bottom Line Three: Glad I went. It feels like Halloween when you go see a Saw movie. It's traditional. Never as good as it could be, but that's all part of it.

One more funny moment! These movies are known for their crazy kills. Drowning in corn may be the scariest thing ever put in a movie. Nothing ups the suspense like corn.


Sam Drog

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ten Rambling Thoughts on Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

1. Do we need a Blade Runner sequel? Oh God, no. After all these years, can't us fans have this little bit of perfection. Do they have to go whoring out our lone shining star to squeeze some last drops of profit from her old bones? Of course they do. That's what the machine does, takes what you love, and ruins it. When I heard they were going ahead with a Blade Runner 2, and Harrison Ford signed on, with Ridley Scott (at the time) directing, my reaction was...

... but they didn't listen to my Facebook cover photo, and they went about their filthy business.

2. I'm so glad they did! Mostly. I am mostly, like 70% glad they did. In fact, I was so giddy during the first 30 minutes that all my angst was forgotten and I was swimming in sci-fi heaven. I'll try to keep this all spoiler free and focus on the positive.

3. So great to be back in Blade Runner land, and to see that world opened up and moved around in, seen from new angles and expanded. Who makes the memories for the replicants? What do other parts outside of Los Angeles look like? This movie digs in and gives you primo, fully licensed, authentic Blade Runner, crafted with care, love, and attention. The details are all here: the rain streaks on the windshields, the back lit misty miniatures, Off World Advertisements, big empty abandoned  buildings. You are back in that world, and it feels so good. 

4. The sound track. Been listening to it since I left the theater. Moody and synthy. In the theater, hearing those synths bounce around in 5.1 full dynamic perfection, with those amazing visuals, worth the price of admission.

5. Harrison Ford in his 70s and finally used as he should be. He's not dressing up like his 20 year old self. He reminded me of a Frank Miller creation. Old Bruce Wayne. He was right in this. Got to hold the old blade runner gun and be grumpy old man. Throw some punches. Finish up some unfinished business.

6. Ryan Gosling was really good in this too. His character goes on a crazy ride, and lots of twists and turns. When he finally looses it, and flips out, I was totally on his side.

7. This movie is like Prometheus in that it gives you the stuff that you wanted, but not in the exact way you were expecting it. A lot of Blade Runner is revisited in this, but flipped, so your expectations are being met and diverted.  We have Pris images, but it is not just Pris done over. It's just the same world, so there are echos of the first one. We have a zoom in, enhance scene, but it's not the SAME scene done again with better effects. It's not Tron Legacy. There is a different story being told here.

8.  I love these late sequels. Kinda like Psycho 2. It makes them special. Give a movie 20 - 30 years to rumble around in your head and then give me something new to chew on. Like Fury Road, did I think Fury Road was needed, no. But Miller killed it. Denis Villeneuve killed it here. Blade Runner has been in our heads so long. The years give weight and connection to these movies. Your relationship becomes more complicated, and then to go back and visit them, to see what they've been up to, it's more of a life event then just another movie. It's like a reunion. But do I want Fury Road 2? NO! Do I want Blade Runner 3? NO! You guys got lucky. Do I want a new Blade Runner movie every year now, and a tv series, and 20 podcasts rambling on and on about it until I die. No I do not. Can't somethings be special, as in rare. 

9. So here is the big problem with Blade Runner 2049. With all it's world building, it is trying to set up a story that is too big for one movie. We can't just have one self contained thing now. it has to be part of a bigger monster. It's the dark side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It makes for great movies moments, but bad stories. This lays the ground work for a bigger sequel, but in doing so leaves out the ending, the point, the feeling that I saw not a movie, but an ad for the main event. Give me some feeling of closure. Ryan G's story is great, and I felt a good wrap up with him, but the fact that good and evil never really come to clash. That the big villain is never challenged in any real way. Is never given his comeuppance, or even humiliated or cut down an inch was very frustrating. Don't worry, he'll get his in the sequel. The sequel!?! I want to see him slapped around now! I want some catharsis! Leto is so creepy in this, and has a sick scene of cruel evil, but nothing comes of it. We are planting seeds here for a 3 picture cycle, one every three years, I guess. And the whole question of is Deckard a replicant himself, still ambivalent. Wait for the sequel, maybe we'll get around to that. 

10. So this was like watching a pro gymnast perform an amazing three bar routine, with spins and flips and everything you could want, and then, at the last minute, the gymnast lands funny and snaps their legs with two terrible compound fractures. They scream in pain and the audience winces and the medics rush them off the stage. This movie, so awesome, and then in the last 15 minutes, I got really antsy, about the time when Harrison Ford is tied to a chair and rendered helpless. Did I wait 30 years to see Harrison Ford tied to a chair!?! How are they going to end this? How does this story payoff. It doesn't really. No, it isn't No Country For Old Men frustrating, but the same ballpark. There isn't a "To Be Continued" card, but I felt they pulled some punches to save the conclusion for some future movie that may or may not happen. Boo!!! But up to that point, a great time.

Sam Drog

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Saturday, October 07, 2017

Ten Rambling Reasons to Watch ... CULT OF CHUCKY (2017)

This fan poster rules!

  1. Don Mancini! This guy has chops! Directing chops, story chops. For a non theatrical horror release, the seventh in a series, you will be amazed at the sure hand he brings to this. This guy knows Chucky, and knows how to push the series in new directions, but still give the audience what they want from a Child's Play movie. He wrote every film, and it is one of the too rare instances where the show runner actually understands what makes his movies tick with an audience. What if Ridley Scott actually had a clue why people liked Alien? What if Lucas knew why everyone adored the original trilogy? Mancini gets it. 
  2. So, I admit I got lost on the series around Bride of Chucky. I was hyped, but let down by the jokey tone of that one. Seed of Chucky? I sort of dug that one because it was so different then what the original was. The difference in style between Child's Play and Seed of Chucky is so black to white that it is fascinating to chart how a series evolves and changes. Mancini started to direct with Seed, and what I like about him is he is very clear on the kind of movie he is making. He goes for it, full speed. Seed isn't my favorite, but resurrecting the series after a 9 year hiatus, and getting the tone back on track with Curse of Chucky, was genius. Good move Universal. Good move Mancini, staying involved to steer the ship. These movies could be garbage, like the Wrong Turn sequels, but instead they are made by a real filmmaker who respects the material and the fans!
  3. So Seed was pure silliness, and Curse was a chamber drama, and now we have a psycho sexual thriller. By changing the setting, and the sub-genre, you get so many fun opportunities and situations for Chucky to react to. How does Chucky fair in a situation where he is just one of a dozed unbalanced individuals? Setting this in an asylum makes this very fun. If you are a schizophrenic, and you are used to seeing weirdness everyday, a doll walking around is just a typical Tuesday. Mancini doesn't throw away all this potential and actually milks it for all it's worth. Again, bravo sir.
  4. Fiona Dourif makes this work. Her character is fascinating, and she has the talent to anchor the story in real emotion, and confusion. She is a broken person, full of self loathing and angst, trying to make peace with the now. Whatever she has to do to live with herself, to navigate these rapids she is tossed into, she will. She's a survivor, and a great protagonist, and you root for her because she wants to do the right thing, but is against a system that sees her as scum of the earth, and has been so convincing of it that she now believes it herself. Even though she knows it was that little plastic doll, she has put that aside, and submitted to their opinion of her. The world has beat her down. When the killings start again, she is vindicated, but not how you would want to be, she is cursed. To keep it vague and spoiler free, her next chapter is both hopeful and nightmarish at the same time.
  5. There are a lot of ideas in this. Why did they bother to make it this good. I am sort of amazed how much I liked this. Sure, I am a fan of the series, but let's face it, horror fans are a beaten down lot. We take in so much terribleness, are taken advantage of again and again, so to see a Part 7 that actually is happy to be there, happy you showed up, and is excited to show you a good time, to continue a story you have invested 29 years into with some unexpected TLC... I'm just not used to being treated so nice, I suppose.
  6. The acting in this is pretty great, especially the sympathetic doctor played by Michael Theriault and the always angry patient Grace Lynn Kung. Grace's change from skeptic to believer is very entertaining! And the doctor, no matter how off the rails he goes, you get the feeling that he never thinks of himself as anything but a great guy. By making everyone emotionally fragile, we get great character interactions and tension. What we don't get are stupid cliche asylum images were people are acting cartoonish and banging their heads against the wall or chasing invisible butterflies. Who isn't sick of that? It's insulting to mental patients to use them like horror props. So, I appreciated that they treated them like real people, kinda like the teens in Dream Warriors.
  7. Tony Gardner handled the Chucky duties in this, and Chucky's look is a step up from the last one. I really liked how he moved, the puppetry was top notch. Some really great characterization going on here. Old school puppets. They could have CGd the hell out of Chucky, but instead they brought in a master to make it work, some of the shots look like they maybe removed guys in green leotards out of the shot, but that's how it should be used, as tech removal.  Thank you, movie.
  8. The story opens up Chucky's powers, but! don't worry, it's really cool. If you are a fan, you are really going to like where this goes. It's not a Resident Evil situation where, oh, now Alice can do anything, and there are 50 of her, so who cares. Cult of Chucky knows how far to push it.
  9. THE GORE! SO GOOD! There is a drill to the head that is up there with the great slasher kills. All practical and nasty! Horror movies need to pay attention, to keep it real, to keep it rubber.
  10. I didn't even mention the return of Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay! You got a little tease at the end of Curse that he may be back, and lo and behold, here he is! All grown up and actually really good. You know, this is fan service, but it feels good! Continuity feels good! Like all those Fango obsessed years were not a waste! Vindicated! He is cool. What they did with his character is so cool. What happens to one of these slasher movie survivors in a world where you can google their name and get the whole slanted story. Hard to make friends, ya know. He's a recluse, and like Ripley, his life has been so dominated by this unstoppable antagonist, his relationship to Chucky has ripened into a sick love/hate affection.
The Brass Tack: Best Chucky Since The Original.

Closing Thought: Tom Holland went on record that he came up with everything that was cool about the original. If Don Mancini was a hack, he would not have been able to keep these wheels turning for 29 years, and keep reinventing the story and keeping it fresh. His skills as a storyteller has me excited for Part 8! Streets of Chucky? 

Sam Drog

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

RIP Tobe Hooper: Ten Rambling Thoughts on Eggshells (1969)

1943 - 2017

So less than a month ago we lost Romero, now Man God Tobe Hooper has passed on. He was 74.  No details yet on the cause. Back in June he put a restraining order on his 38 year old girlfriend after she beat him up. There are pics online, but that is sleazy underbelly stuff. Give it a few days, we'll know more.  Right now, let's take a second to remember this guy who is known for making THE scariest movie ever made, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The first horror movie I remember ever seeing was Salem's Lot. Don't remember being able to stay in the room, but I would peek in every now and then before running back out. This would have been 1980, I was 5. It is the shot where Geoffrey Lewis is in the foreground and we see that he has a vampire bite on his neck, unseen by the rest of the characters. I think that's what it was. I may be mixed up. That shot was scary enough, I fled.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre I saw after Chainsaw 2, and on first viewing I didn't get the fuss. I thought it was slow, and it looked cheap, especially on the Goodtimes Home Video VHS I watched it on. I was expecting the lunacy of Part 2, one of my all time favorites. It wasn't until later, that I saw a decent DVD that the original really started to dig into me, and I have seen it repeatedly, as all horror freaks have. What used to bug me, the slow build, I now love, as it is a march to annihilation that the characters are unknowing participants in. It feels like fate, like the astrological predictions warn in the movie. They are doomed, sacrifices to the Gods. As the movie progresses, and the hero's devices are stripped from them one by one, the lunacy increases, and we devolve into an absolute worse case scenario that is hard to watch. Civilization disappears the moment you pull off the road. Also, every family is a nation onto itself, with it's own laws and customs. You have no providence in another's home. You are at their mercy.

What sets TCM, and all his movies apart is the pure visual mastery he had. He is so confident and inventive, and not afraid to let the pictures tell the story. Even on this first movie, which I will try to describe below, shows that Tobe Hooper was working on another level.

Pack your bags kids, we going on a trip.

1. Austin, TX. As in the The People's Republic of Austin. Alamo Draft House. South by Southwest. Ain't It Cool. Before all that, there was a weirdo name Tobe Hooper who made a counter culture head film called Eggshells. You can not tell me that Richard Linklater did not see this movie and say, "I could remake this movie for the rest of my life and be happy." Maybe it is an Austin sensibility. but Hooper's lost movie is evident in Slacker and Waking Life, even Boyhood. Long scenes of people talking about crazy deep existential musings. If that is your thing, then this is your thing.

2. Linklater did miss one element in revisioning this movie time and again. Bathtubs. A lot of the dialog in Eggshells happens while hippie couples take baths. They take a lot of baths, and we see them all. Maybe the acoustics were good. The movie follows a pattern of abstract psychedelic freakouts intercut with hippies taking a bath. So if that is your thing, then this is your thing.

I don't want to do anything with myself.

That's so cool. I love you.
3. But it is not just hippies in baths! As I said, after a scene of dialog, we get some crazy stuff. This is where the movie comes alive and we see young wild man Tobe Hooper experimenting with light and camera and a kazoo heavy soundtrack. You can feel he was busting out to make a movie and realize all these ideas he wanted to try out. It is a 2001 light show done on a thrift store budget.

This doesn't really capture it.
The shot above is from a prolonged acid trip that takes place in the hippie house basement. It's really Hooper running around with a strobe light and gels and a fog machine. At one point he animates a toilet lid flapping up and down. It's really cool, and like experimental movies, you can tell he's excited to show you all this, and he's trying stuff out. There is no real connection to the plot, because there really isn't a plot. This is the kind of self indulgent madness that you have to get out of you before you decide to make something people might want to watch, like a chainsaw massacre. But I liked all this stuff. You can see that he is a visual guy and he was making a movie back when this type of experimental stuff was common. Now, sigh, we have unboxing videos on You Tube getting 3 million views.

4. One tie to Chainsaw is a character named Toes played by TCM's and Eaten Alive's co-writer Kim Henkel. Here he plays a writer, with an epic handlebar and Lennon sunglasses that he wears even in the bathtub.  All the main characters take baths in this movie, I can't overstate it.

Leatherface works for the CIA. Brilliant!

One day he would go on to make Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation, and prove what a miracle the original was. How many movies have chainsaw welding maniacs in them? How many are still revered after 40 years? All I am saying is that any schmo can put a guy in a mask and make him run through a shot with a chainsaw, but it takes a Tobe Hooper to make you feel that the chainsaw is coming at YOU!

5. You know what is cool. Hallway floors in public buildings. The patterns in the linoleum.  This movie makes good use of it. There is a whole scene dedicated to it. Different colors. All sped up and tripadelic. Goes on for about 3 minutes. If that is your thing, then this is your thing.

This frame doesn't quite capture it. You have to watch it race by.

6. One cool scene has the camera locked down, and we see how a party escalates from just two people hanging out, to more and more people showing up. It doesn't serve a story, but this movie isn't about that. It's about cool visual ways to film a scene. I told you, he was excited!

From this...

... to this.

7.  The movie takes place during my favorite period, late 60s - early 70s, those film study classes at GA State did their job. The release date is 1969, though the plates show 1970. Who knows. The point, this is pure regional time capsule cinema, capturing amazing images.

Vietnam protests on campus.

This is my favorite shot in the movie.
8. Other than bathing and experimental asides, there is a third train of thought going on where a shaggy guy who never speaks is also in the house, but no one ever sees him. I think he's in a different dimension. The hippies talk about the house being haunted. At any rate, he hangs out in the haunted basement and messes around with a sword.

Later he leaves the house and goes to a park where he sees this pretty lady and follows her around. And there are all the balloons tied to them. Balloons everywhere. 

Maybe it's the balloons that you let go while you are alive that people say float off to heaven. Maybe when you die you get them all back. Welcome to heaven, here are your balloons. I don't know. All I know is ghost man gets a girlfriend. Hooper was real excited about how those balloons looked. Romero was also stuck on balloons in There's Always Vanilla. Obviously, they were all high.

9.  At one point in the movie Kim Henkel drives the hippie car our to the middle of nowhere, gets out and attacks it with an ax.

Then he takes off all his clothes and tosses them in the car, and then douses it with gasoline, lights it on fire and run away before...

BOOM! Take that materialism!!!

But a few minutes later we have an, oh 20 minute montage of the car driving around at super sonic speed. Maybe this is the car in car heaven?

Then he throws this effect on everything for another few hours. The car is defiantly not in this dimension any more. I have cracked the code.

10. So in the end, one couple gets married and moves on with their lives. The other couple we've been following ends up with the shaggy sword guy and his balloon loving girlfriend. I don't know how to describe this. They take this machine that was in the multi dimensional basement.

They set it up in the park.

They sit under these hair driers and pull bags over their bodies. Body bags?

They get sucked into the machine.

Gross water pours out of the machine into the ground. Circle of life?

Then the machine emits a blast of smoke.

And the smoke floats away. Is that their souls?
I know I shouldn't try to interpret this stuff, but my beaten into submission brain wants to make patterns and find meaning. It doesn't matter. It's all freaky and weird. I don't know what Hooper was getting at, but this is young crazy Hooper stretching his wings. I did enjoy the audacity of it all. I'm sure at the time he was a trip to know. Maybe on the spectrum.

To wrap this up, a cool movie and a must see for Hooper Heads. You can see from the haunted basement stuff how Poltergeist may have been in his future.

You can rent this restored print on VIMEO!

Maybe I'll review some more Hooper coming up. Someone should stick up for The Mangler. Turn the tide. It could happen. Do you remember when no one liked Lifeforce? I do.

Sam Drog

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Slasherama! Ten Ramblings on Graduation Day (1981)

Synopsis: Someone is killing the high school track team. But who?!?

1. I had the most amazing babysitter in 1981. While I tried to be cool with my best Fonzie impression, she would tell me about the latest horror film she saw. She would show me the add in the paper and my imagination created the "Most Amazing Movie" in my head. She told me about The Howling and Happy Birthday To Me, and became my prototypical cool girl. During this blood soaked slasher cycle of '81, on the weekend before Friday the 13th Part 2 was released, Graduation Day hit the screens.

2. So many good movies came out this year, check out the riches below:
  •  January - Scanners (the poster is on my phone case)
  •  March - The Funhouse
  •  April - The Howling, The Hand, Friday the 13th Part 2
  •  May - Happy Birthday To Me, Outland
  •  June - Clash of the Titans, Dragon Slayer
  •  July - Escape From New York (the greatest), Wolfen
  •  August - Student Bodies, Deadly Blessing, American Werewolf in London
  •  October - Halloween 2, Looker
  •  November - Time Bandits, Dead and Buried, Roadgames (Jamie Lee Curtis horror)
  •  December - Ghost Story, Neighbors, Sharky's Machine
I had this pic hanging in my cube for years.
2. Star Christopher George jumped from one low budget slasher to the next in the 70s and 80s until his death in 1983. Former western and Mission: Impossible star, he was THE face of adult authority in these movies. He played the same hard as nails asshole in all of them. There must have been some massive alimony agreement somewhere to inspire his muse. The man was not afraid of slashers, and not afraid to cash a check.

Graduation Day 1981
Pieces 1982
Mortuary 1983
3. This has an early appearance by Linnea Quigley. She already looks haunted to me. Here is how cheap this movie is. The actress who plays the feisty blonde on the team had shot some scenes before being fired for refusing to take off her clothes. Do they replace her and reshoot her scenes with a new actress? Almost. They fire her, replace her with Linnea (who is always naked), but do not reshoot the the scenes she was already in. So we get a Bewitched Darrin situation. When Linnea is decapitated in the movie, it is not her head we see later in the obligatory "all the dead bodies fall out of trees all at once" grande finale.

Blonde Girl 1.

Blonde Girl Switch Out, Linnea.

Back to Girl 1. We will reshoot NOTHING!

  4. The killer wears sweats in this. Maybe appropriate considering he's picking off members of the track team one by one, but obviously a sign of deep depression.

I wasn't going to get out of bed today, but whatever.
5.  Speaking of track, one cool thing about the movie is that all the victims are super athletic and lightning fast runners. Seems like they would be able to get away from the killer, or at least make him really have to work for it. Cardio. If they remake this, I say make the stalk scenes more like this.

Or like this...

In my remake, he would have to chase them down with some sort of bone grinder muscle car.


Put on the front of this...

The movie writes itself.

6.  I have to mention the crazy flash cuts in this that are super fun and would never be allowed in a movie today. I heard on the Hysteria Lives Podcast an interview with the editor who said the director hated them, but he had to use them because the director didn't know what he was doing and wasn't giving him the footage needed to construct the scenes. Sounds like a constructive collaboration! In the end, they give the movie a distinct character. The best example of this takes place during the...


At the roller disco we get to see awesome band "Felony" jam out some totally rad new wave tunes.

No shame

in my game.

The scene is amazing. So much feathered hair. So many nylon jackets. The remake demands that the meat grinder mobile busts in through the double exit doors and spin donuts in the rink, swallowing up skaters and creating so much gory havoc. That band needs to get eaten up.

8. This movie played on UHF 36 here in Atlanta ALOT. I needed to watch it again because certain scenes were etched in my head as being really gruesome. Now they are pretty silly. But that's what makes them cool.

The highlight is a sword in a football, tossed at the quarterback.

Acting, you're doing it right.
And the pole vaulter landing on a bed of spikes. In broad daylight. During school hours.

Zero Witnesses.

9. Most of the stalking takes place in the park on these long jogging trails. The killer just hangs out and waits for the track stars to come running by. There is a cool Minotaur angle in here somewhere. A labyrinth of trails, a beast stalking its prey. Maybe he wears a bull head for a mask. Maybe the school's mascot is a bull. It writes itself.

Concept Art by Patrick Tatopoulos
10.  What sucks is that now I'm a grown up and I feel bad when I see these kids taken out before they have experienced anything but systematic conditioning under a state ran institution. They are prisoners, being told what to think and do, and that is all they have known. I started thinking about how in the remake (I made my own movie up while watching this), the school should be this fascist totalitarian institution, and the track team is this nationalist symbol of genetic superiority. Like the Nazis and the '36 Olympics. Until the Minotaur driving a Muscle Car Meat Grinder shows up and dismantles the system. Maybe he is a Nazi experiment. The system created him, and now he's going to tear that system DOWN! Graduation Day 5000!!!

Bonus: Denise Cheshire...

This actress went on to play the title role in the best baseball monkey movie ever made...

She was destined for such greatness.

Sam Drog

Clown Versus Monkey! Check It Out Here!

Buy Satanic Killer Chicken Here!

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