Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dark Shadows the Original Series (1966-1971)

[Knock, knock,knock]
Maid: [answering door] Yes?
Man in top hat: I'd like to see Mrs. Stoddard,if you'd be so kind.
Maid: Mrs. Stoddard?
Man in top hat: This is Collinwood, isn't it?
Maid: Yes.
Man in top hat: And the mistress here is Mrs. Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard, is she not?
Maid: Yes.
Man in top hat: Then perhaps you'd do me the courtesy to inform Mrs. Stoddard that her cousin is calling and wishes to pay his respects.
Maid: Her cousin?
Man in top hat: Yes. Her cousin from England.
Maid: From England? [clutches chest] Oh! Um, please come in.

And so was the entrance of one of the most interesting modern vampires, Barnabas Collins (played by the dark and regal Jonathan Frid). The word modern being relative. There have been a slew of shows with a vampire theme in recent years. But I don’t think many are as interesting as the original “vampire with a conscience”.

Dark Shadows was a soap opera that ran on ABC from 1966-1971. Its audience was housewives and eventually, as the series gained steam, school-aged children. Those kids included Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.  Eventually Depp and Burton created a mediocre movie adaption. The gen-x goths really couldn't bottle the magic of the original series.

My experience with Dark Shadows began in the mid 90s  while watching reruns on the Sci-fi channel. I didn't watch them in order and I mainly put it on as background noise, while studying for my undergraduate degree. Rubber bats hung in the air with visible fishing wire; camera guys were walking into the shots. The show was painfully low- budget and taped live. The DVDs note where the only available footage is damaged. The series didn't expect more than a one time run.  Dan Curtis, the creator, had no idea that the show would have a life of its own many years later.

If you have never seen the show, I recommend starting at story arc episode # 209 where cousin Barnabas (the recently departed Jonathan Frid) comes knocking.

He bites the wrist of groundskeeper Willie Loomis (a young John Karlen Daughters of Darkness) in order to gain vitality.  It was deemed less "gay" than a man to man neck bite (which wouldn’t pass by censors at the time).

Sci-fi enthusiasts will enjoy the story lines involving parallel time. It's pure camp when Barnabas goes back in time to rescue a family member (in 1969) by invoking the "I-Ching".

The show includes some great actors. Joan Bennett, who was the most famous actor in the series, was a film actress dating back to the silent film era. She plays the role of matriarch of this crazy family with a straight face. She is always pouring some kind of drink. And with the things that are going on in the house, she needs it.  Bennett must have had a heart for horror films, as her final role was Madame Blanc in Suspiria. Actress Grayson Hall, who plays Dr. Julia Hoffman, is great fun as the psychiatrist, who sympathizes with Barnabas and helps him by medically treating his vampirism.

The character Angelique (played by Lara Parker, also in the film Race with the Devil) is a witch from French Barbados who will not leave Barnabas alone. She is one nightmare of a one-night-stand. I love Parker's evil stare. Her acting is all in her eyes. They really creep you out!  Revenge is sought after Angelique is humped and dumped in the 1700s, while Barnabas is vacationing. He wasn't aware that she is a voodoo practicing witch on the island. She follows Barnabas in his time travels, always taunting and destroying lives of the ones he loves. The dynamic is the most interesting element of the show. You know when she gets out her voodoo doll, someone is gonna catch some serious shit. Each time Angelique is killed or cast back to Hell, she reincarnates and takes possession of another body; usually entailing Parker sporting a different colored wig. It's hilarious and intriguing at the same time. I’ve always been a sucker for doppelganger stories.

As you progress in the series, it goes from black and white to color. It's so neat to see the opening credits read: Dark Shadows, in color! You imagine what an event it must have been to see blood in color on a television screen!

There are a few great comic book series that have been made, based on the show.  Dynamite Entertainment currently has a series out that takes a darker view of Barnabas than daytime TV would allow. I prefer it to the Tim Burton remake.

Netflix, at this time, has one set of the show, starting with the arrival of cousin Barnabas (episode #209) viewable through streaming. The entire series is available on DVD.

When I see modern vampire tales today (think Twilight, True Blood, the list goes on) I think about what the cast and crew of Dark Shadows were able to do with so little, in regard to special effects , to make a compelling story. According to the actors, in interview, there were no retakes. Rubber bats, fumbled lines, and plastic vampire teeth add to this kooky marvel of a show!

Vampire Josette
Victoria Winters and the cast of crazy kooks!

Maggie Evans's vampire induced reality blur becomes Josette Du Pres

Dynamite Comic's dark adaption of the series

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I don't wanna live in the creepy old house 
in the woods with the Boggles and Ogres!
I love to look for recurring themes, motifs or plain old fashioned gimmicks in any sort of movie genre. Horror movies are so full of these type of recurring characters and situations that the theme themselves often become mere parodies in movies anymore. An example might be the jumping, squealing cat (usually that appears to be in a state of being tossed by a stagehand) or the closing of the medicine cabinet and revealing, or not revealing though creating the anticipation, of someone in the background being reflected back in the mirror. Maybe it will be the killer or the gal's boyfriend, or nothing at all. Who knows. What we do know that is almost every other horror movie being made these days employs some sort of trick like this to either jolt the audience with a cheap shot or to make the filmmakers appear clever. In this little series I will explore some of these little themes and characters I have come to notice over and over  as they are  repeated ad nauseam in horror and thriller type films. Is it always a bad thing? No, not really. In fact I would go so far as to say these little tricks are necessary to move the story along, and to veer too far from the formula can make a movie unwatchable. That is why pop songs are popular. They follow a formula that usually works. Music that tries totally different ways to structure a song may be better in some higher artistic sense, but no body for the most part listens to that stuff. Except weirdos like myself maybe. But that is why when people talk of pop music you will hear them talk abut The Beatles and Elton John more than King Crimson or Steve Vai. And so, after that vague analogy,  onto the film aspect of this post.

I don't wanna live in the house in the country 
with the spooky people in the basement!

In this first post I will talk about a character we have all come to recognize -though hopefully not identify with- in  modern horror films, and that is the brooding, bitter teen in the backseat of the car. This character is usually introduced at the very beginning of the film and often has tuned out the rest of the family and world with their MP3 player. They are usually pissed off about something like the fact they have to leave the big city and relocate to the country, thereby leaving their friends and familiar surroundings, like cool pizza parlors, music stores and coffee shops. The reasons for this are usually something like the parents have gotten divorced and -typically- the mother has to find a new job and live in a decrepit old mansion that is located next to a cemetery, funeral parlor or crop circle.  No wonder the teenager is pissed off. I would be too. The teen is often dealing with issues, like the screen capture I gave from the film The Spiderwick Chronicles, where the boy Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) is coping with the split up of his parents and subsequent relocation to a dark old mansion in the woods.

I guess I can live in the house in 
the country with the psycho.
The theme is all the over the place these days but I only have this film on my hard-drive to make a screen capture of a teen actually in the state of brooding in the backseat. It is a really good movie I think and I am not meaning to pick on it. More I am just saying that this character is as common in modern horror movies as the young gun in an old western who wants to make a reputation for himself and so challenges a character played by John Wayne or Gregory Peck to a gunfight. Again not to say that that character can't be developed more, as is Jared in Spiderwick. But more often they can get a bit stuck in the mud early on and stay there, sinking, as did the Kristen Stewart character in Messengers, who is also begrudgingly leaving the city for the a new life in the sticks. This time there is no divorce and the whole family is trying to start over  and their last make-or-break chance in life seems to be by becoming sunflower seed farmers. Again, who wouldn't sit in the backseat and brood over this. The way Stewart's character is introduced is similar to the girl in the slasher film Bereavement, who is (as I recall) suddenly orphaned and has to leave the big city to go live with uncle Micheal Biehn and sort out things in life while local folks are being butchered by a freaky serial killer. Of course all these characters wind up confronting the evil force in the film eventually. In some of these films I mentioned they conquer evil and in at least one other evil defeats them in the "surprise twist ending" (another gimmick/motif to be explored later, along with the "written out of the script adults" who pay the room and board for these melancholy teens while they are fighting the forces of hell but who seem to vanish from the storyline suddenly).

There is no way I could list all the movies that come to mind and that I have forgotten about with this character. Or maybe more with how this character is introduced into the story. It is a plot gimmick and not really a bad one but a little worn. If readers can think of some more such characters I will compile a little list and share it. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Taliesin Meets: Jesus of Montreal

It struck me that having looked at the entire Omen pentology I really needed to flip the coin of Christian mythology (and before anyone comments, to me it is mythology, my opinion, live with it). Also I am all too aware that everything I have looked at here at the Cult Cinema Club is horror and I do watch more than horror films.

Jesus of Montreal was a 1989 film directed by Denys Arcand and is, without a doubt, one of my favourite films. However, before I look at the film itself I wish to moan about the DVD, Arrow films are normally marvellous and they have released a special edition of this now (which might prove superior), but this was their first effort.

The box says it is a 16:9 anamorphic print, but actually it is 4:3 full screen. The print is a straight video lift with no enhancement for digital media and thus looks muddy and the English subtitles (the film is primarily French language) are hardcoded and difficult to read at times. Poor, poor, poor… but even so it cannot truly distract from the genius of the film.

Lothaire Bluteau as Daniel
The film begins with the final scenes of a play, which ends with a suicide and rapturous applause. An advertising executive in the crowd suggests she wants the lead actor’s head… for her new campaign. The actor is surrounded backstage by sycophantic critics but excuses himself when he sees an old friend, Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau), whom he describes as a real actor. He and Daniel embrace and he asks Daniel what his next role is… Jesus is the reply. The actor, of course, is the equivalent of John the Baptist.

Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Constance
Daniel meets Fr. Leclerc (Gilles Pelletier). Leclerc is in charge of the Passion Play in the Montreal basilica but knows that the script (in place for 35 years) has become stale. He wants Daniel to modernise it and direct the new Passion Play. Daniel watches a video of the old script being performed and recognises Constance (Johanne-Marie Tremblay). He finds her working in a soup kitchen and later discovers that Leclerc is sleeping with her. The other members of the new troupe are Martin (Rémy Girard) who does porn voice over, Mireille (Catherine Wilkening) who is an advert model known for a fine ass and René (Robert Lepage) a more conventional voice over actor who only joins if they can squeeze in the Hamlet soliloquy for him.

walk on water
The play they develop is controversial, to say the least. It points out that there is little to no contemporary evidence for Christ, that the gospels were written 100 years after his death, that there is a chance that he was the bastard son of a Roman soldier and Mary was an unmarried mother. Yet throughout all this they maintain the essence of Christianity at the core of the play. This is, of course, of no consequence to the Catholic hierarchy – whose representatives are berated by Daniel via a biblical reference during the second performance. This underlines the true satire of the film, whilst many might see it is anti-Christian, due to the ‘heretical’ concepts it espouses, actually it is anti-establishment but pro-message.

stabbed with the spear
The play itself is marvellous, you would pay to go and see it if performed as portrayed on screen. However the role and the actor begin to merge. There is a scene that is Christ and the moneylenders in the temple but is actually ad-men in a theatre. There is another scene that sees Satan (this time a lawyer) offering Christ (Daniel of course) Montreal. The film, like the Passion Play itself, is a tragedy but in his own way Daniel does bring sight to the blind, life to the dead and it is the established religious orders that condemn him.

This is a fine, fine film and one that I cannot recommend highly enough – I am going to link below to the Koch Lorber Films version in the hope that it is a better print. The imdb page is here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Taliesin Meets: The Omen (2006)

Remakes… I am torn over the concept generally as there are good and bad examples. I may be alone but I prefer the US remake Let Me In over the original (and still damn fine) Let the Right One In. For every remake that is worthwhile (Dawn of the Dead is brilliant both as the original and the remake, for very different reasons, for instance) there is a rubbish one – I’ve been trying to expel the memory of the Haunting remake since I saw it and the least said about the Wicker Man the better.

There are also remakes that are fairly pointless and I have to say that this John Moore directed remake of the Omen is just that. Why? Because there is nothing about it that improves over the original and the original still stands the test of time.

There is a modernisation – clearly it was set in contemporary times. We get involvement of the Vatican that was conspicuously missing from the first film. In this case the Vatican discuss the impending birth of the antichrist – known because they are aware of the prophecies and have spotted a comet in the night skies – but actually do bugger all to prevent the antichrist’s coming so their presence at prologue and epilogue is pointless.

There are slight changes to the story, Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) is a diplomat, rather than Ambassador, in Rome and godson of the President. Again Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is swapped for his dead baby without his wife Kathy (Julia Stiles) knowing. He is named deputy ambassador to England and gets the full Ambassadorial role due to a bizarre (and infernally manufactured) accident that kills the Ambassador (Marshall Cupp) and leaves thorn the US’s youngest ever Ambassador. But it is window dressing to explain why such a young man becomes ambassador.

aesthetic change
The changes thus are minor; when the Nanny (Amy Huck) kills herself the hell hound is a black German Shepherd rather than a Rottweiler but then the motif is switched back to Rottweilers for the rest of the film, she hangs herself but doesn’t smash through a window and it is Robert not Kathy who clutches Damien. It is all aesthetic changes.

Similarly the impalement of Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite) sees the rains already pouring when he meets Thorn, it is a railing not a lightning conductor that falls and impales him, and said railing passes through a strangely positioned piece of stained glass that then peppers the corpse. Window dressing once again and no more effective for it. Indeed the scene is slightly weaker than the original. A zoo scene replaced the safari park but the gorilla cracking glass was not as powerful an image as the baboons attacking the car in the original.

suicide fantasy
There is the addition of bad dreams haunting the protagonists. Kathy dreams of killing herself and a demonic presence. There are also presences that seem to flit pass Brennan, indicating a demonic presence. This ignores the “less is more” concept that made the first film so powerful. Part of the problem was the acting. I am not suggesting that either Liev Schreiber or Julia Stiles performances were necessarily bad but they lacked the obvious chemistry that underpinned the characters when portrayed by Gregory Peck and Lee Remick.

just not as creepy
The ending itself made a little more sense as police put there to guard people such as Thorn would be armed, however that would only account for the police at his gate that follow him. The armed police who actually kill Thorn would not have had chance to be scrambled in the timeframe suggested by the ending.

All in all, however, this is not a bad film. It is just pretty darn pointless. If you want the Omen then I think you’re better off watching the original. The imdb page is here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Taliesin Meets: Omen IV: The Awakening

Okay… so I’ve seen it now and will never be able to scrub the memory of this facile piece of junk from my mind. The fourth Omen film was a TV movie (that managed to get a theatrical release in the UK and Australia, somehow) made in 1991. It tied itself into the other films with the name Damien Thorn but it also missed a lot out. It was directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard who walked out during production to be replaced by Jorge Montesi.

Now I had heard a lot about this being about the return of the antichrist (Damien having been killed at the end of the third film) in the form of a girl – named Delia (Asia Vieira) – in actual fact this is most definitely not the case. Delia is not the antichrist… what she is, is… well that would be a huge spoiler and I do intend to spoil it, but not just yet. After all, if you haven’t seen it and I do spoil it, I may save you the pain of watching it.

So we start with the adoption of a baby by the Yorks, Karen (Faye Grant) and Gene (Michael Woods). She is a successful attorney (he may be as well but he is about to turn to politics) and whilst they are both fertile they haven’t been able to have kids. The nuns at the orphanage tell them that the baby’s parents were at college together (this of course is a lie that we will unravel later). Once the new parents have left the younger nun (Megan Leitch) goes bonkers, whilst the older one has a heart attack. During this we discover that the older one thought it more of a sin to kill a child, despite knowing whence it came from.

Kirlian photography
So we get the growing up of Delia, her father becoming an honest politician (really, he is painted whiter than white all the way through) and Karen becoming more and more distrustful of the child. During this we see them adopt a Rottweiler after it save Delia from being squished by a truck, her behaviour in school becomes more and more errant and the priest who baptised her manages to be killed by satanic powers. They get a new age nanny who sees her healing crystals turn black and a kirlian photo shows Delia to have a murky mess of an aura.

infernal choir
Eventually, when Delia reaches the age of eight, a suddenly pregnant Karen hires a private eye (Michael Lerner) to uncover the truth about her daughter… this he does, discovering that the listed parents were just names of two people who died in the thirties, that sister Yvonne (the younger nun) turned prostitute and then snake handling prophetess and he gets the father’s name (if he got the mothers then it wasn’t mentioned in film). Following posting his findings he sees a nativity scene turn evil, a Christmas choir become a demonic choir singing the omen theme (which was seriously one of the worst bits of the movie) and is killed by a possessed wrecking ball.

Delia... not the antichrist
So, who were Delia’s parents and is she the antichrist? We discover her father was Damien Thorn… we will ignore the roughly 9 year gap (there is nothing in this that offers a date and so, at a push, it might be 1983 rather than 1991). There is some conjecture online that Kate Reynolds was the mother but no reason to suppose this other than the fact that Reynolds and Thorn slept together in The Final Conflict. Delia, however, is not the antichrist. She does talk about being told things by her father (whether she referred to the devil or the antichrist is not established) but the antichrist is mostly referred to (in film) in the masculine. The question is asked once as to whether the antichrist could be female.

We discover also that Delia carried her twin in her body in such a way that the foetus was viable. During the film there is a horse accident and she is hospitalised. The satanic doctor (Madison Mason) admits that he extracted the foetus at this point and subsequently implanted it into Karen (how this occurred with no physical trace on her body is not gone into and we must suppose that her body accepting the foetus was supernaturally aided). The son, Alexander, is the antichrist – indeed when Delia suggests to Karen that she really see him there is the 666 birthmark in his palm.

dead nanny
Piffle… absolute piffle. Beyond in film issues and the dating problems perhaps inherent in the film, there is also the fact that the film overlooks the fact that there had been the second coming of Christ in the third film – something the world would have noticed, one feels. The acting is about what you’d expect from a TV movie, the character Delia is drawn as sociopathic and nasty – rather than charming and insinuating as one would expect. It is just a bad old way to end the series.

If I was you I’d pretend it never happened. I, however, will now turn my attention to the 2006 remake of the first film but, in the meantime, The Awakening’s imdb page is here.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Taliesin Meets: Omen III: The Final Conflict

In 1981 a third Omen film was directed by Graham Baker and starred the marvellous Sam Neill as Damien. Now, as a kid I enjoyed this film and it has been an awfully long time but… God it has suffered due to my growth into a more critical individual.

It seems that in 1981 scriptwriters lost all sense of calendar, both in terms of a series of films and within the film itself. What do I mean? Well, let us get to the beginning of the film.

The film starts with some sort of tunnel being dug. It seems this is under the ruins of the Thorn museum and a worker pockets the unearthed sacred daggers, previously lost to a blaze that consumed the museum at the end of the last film. So the reappearance of the only items that can kill the antichrist is addressed in film (rather than in the novelisation of the film).

ambassadorial suicide
Now the film is set in 1982… we know this because Damien tells the US President (Mason Adams) that he intends to run for senate in 1984 – 2 years away. This being the case then the first film should have been set in the 1950s (or maybe the later 40s) but it was clearly set in the 70s. Later in the film it is said that he had been in charge of the Thorn Empire for seven years and took over in 1971… not only wasn’t he born in 1971 but we have established the film to be set in 1982 not 1978… oh dear. Anyway Damien knows that the Nazarene (or Christ) will be reborn in England, due to biblical prophecy, and so has the UK ambassador kill himself and is subsequently asked to be the ambassador. He is also made president of the UN Youth council.

Damien with Christ statue
Whilst over in jolly old England he seduces a TV Journalist, Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow), corrupts her son Peter (Barnaby Holm), whilst collecting daggers from inept monk assassins (I’m sorry but they are absolutely inept, surely the Vatican could have dug up some warrior priests). Unfortunately the return of Christ starts to drain his power (one would have thought that the Christ and antichrist should have been in perfect balance but that would be too logical) and so he has his aid Harvey (Don Gordon) send Damien’s apostles out to kill every boy child born on that special day.

revealing the Nazarene
Now I did like the apostles as they were ordinary people; a vicar, a nurse, boy scouts… Harvey’s son, unfortunately, was born on that day and Harvey tries to keep him from being killed but eventually the child is taken by Damien’s satanic powers. But this is just another example of ineptitude in the film because, whilst Damien knew from the bible that Christ would return to England, he clearly didn’t read the related passage that revealed he would return as a king (or grown man) and not a child.

when doggies go bad
That could be the story of the film. Ineptitude. Inept script writers who can’t calculate dates, inept priest assassins who keep dying, an inept aid who can’t save his son, an inept antichrist who doesn’t know his bible, an inept journalist who doesn’t notice all the dead babies were born on the same day until a priest points it out. Inept.

Sam Neill as Damien
Luckily the film has Sam Neill, which makes it watchable because critical faculties make the story hard to accept. Certainly not as good as I thought it was as a teenager. Next in my exploration of the Omen we get to the two films I haven’t watched before. A fourth in the series and a remake of the first film. In the meantime the imdb page is here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Taliesin Meets: Damien: Omen II

Some three years on in the real world, 7 in the actual movie timeline, and the cinema returned to the Omen – directed this time with Don Taylor directing.

Actually the film begins just a week after the failed attempt on Damien’s life and archaeologist/theologian Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) is trying to convince a colleague that Damien is the antichrist and a message should be taken, along with the daggers that can kill him, to his uncle and new guardian Richard Thorn (William Holden).

It should be noted that Holden turned down the lead in the first film but more importantly it should also be noted that the daggers were not mystically teleporting daggers. There was a novelisation of the film and it was stated, in the book, that the daggers were returned to Bugenhagen by a priest from the church at the end of the first film (why the police didn’t take them as evidence is unknown, I read the novelisation decades ago and really can’t remember if it addressed that point too.)

Yigael's Wall
Anyway Bugenhagen takes his colleague to a dig where Yigael's Wall has been revealed. It shows four faces of the antichrist (at 4 pinnacle points) and the first picture has Damien from film number 1. Two points come to mind here. Firstly that this film ignores that idea that everything might be explainable and is distinctly supernatural in timbre. Secondly we discover later that the devil appeared to Yigael and tormented him with visions – leading the man to paint these prophetic images. The forces of evil then spend a lot of time killing those who know the truth about Damien.

buried alive
It does beg the question, firstly, of why the devil would tip his hand and give a mad hermit visions that could be painted and subsequently point out the identity of the antichrist? Secondly it really does seem – through both these films – that God is impotent. All antagonists of the Devil are killed and not one is saved (even if they are carrying a cross) but often they live long enough to pass the message along. Not so much Bugenhagen, however, as he and his colleague are buried alive.

Jonathon Scott-Taylor as Damien
The film then jumps forward the 7 years mentioned earlier and we watch Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) who attends a military academy with his cousin (Lucas Donat) and is just beginning to learn what he is – in a moment of equal and opposite reaction he screams to the air “Why me?” The film has those who might stand in his way (or diminish the wealth he will inherit) die one by one. We discover that he has Jackal’s blood (inherited from his biological mother, no doubt). Whether it is this that makes him impervious to disease and immune to poisons or whether that came from his infernal father is not covered. Presumably if it is the former he is susceptible to kennel cough. Rather than a Rottweiler, his animal protector is a crow (indeed several crows) this time.

devil crow
It’s not a bad flick all told but it wasn’t as strong as the first film. I do remember, as a kid, watching the vhs of it over and over again, however.

Stay tuned for me looking at Omen III: The Final Conflict, in the meantime the imdb page is here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Taliesin Meets: The Omen

You know it has been a long, long time since I sat and watched the Omen (1976) and its sequels. I actually haven’t seen the fourth film or the 2006 remake. Having spotted the boxset of all five films at a really cheap price, I decided to indulge, and to subsequently share that indulgence here at the Uranium Café Cult Cinema Club.

The Richard Donner directed film was made in 1976 and, due to being only a wee nipper at the time, I didn’t see it until the video boom of the 1980s. Bless him, I think my Grandad recorded all three films (as it was at the time) off the TV and probably hired them for me prior to that. I should probably explain that my granddad was quite happy to let me watch whatever video took my fancy (horror wise) and I managed to see many of the films subsequently banned by a knee jerking UK government as video nasties.

offering the child
I think, despite the fact that it wasn’t banned, this one left a more lasting impression on me than many of the later banned films. As I watched it again, for this article, I tried to think why and it is probably because there is potentially nothing supernatural in the film… Now, don’t get me wrong, it is a film about the birth and worldly positioning of the antichrist (supernatural enough) but we don’t see demons or occult circles, we see things we associate with the supernatural but many of those things could be explained away or offered up to coincidence.

the Thorns
For those who haven’t seen it – though I believe that will be few and far between – as I say the film is about the antichrist, born on the 6th June at 6 AM. The American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is rushing to the hospital to see his wife Katherine (Lee Remick). He has been told that their baby died just after being born – she is unaware of this – and Thorn is persuaded to allow the baby to be swapped for another, born at the same time, whose mother died in childbirth. They name him Damien (Harvey Stephens).

hanging herself
Things are idyllic for a while, they have their baby, Thorn is made ambassador to the UK and then things start going awry at Damien’s fifth birthday party. His nanny (Holly Palance) sees a dog (a Rottweiler to be precise) which – being a hell hound, one assumes – causes her to commit suicide shouting to Damien as she does it. This is what I mean about there being no supernatural element in the film… Yes she sees a dog, the camera lingering on its eyes and the accompanying “hypnotic” soundtrack makes us assume – rightly, as the cinematic technique is used to underline a standard supernatural trope – that the dog has used eye mojo on her but the film never actuals confirms or denies this. Later we meet the photographer Jennings (David Warner) and he had taken a picture of her and the print showed a ghostly line that might have been the rope used to hang herself – or it might have been a fault.

Three of the deaths in film are foreshadowed by pictures that depict the death. The priest Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) is killed when a freak storm blows a lightning conductor off a church and impales him and Jennings himself catches himself in a mirror and the photo foreshadows his beheading. The only ones who are not foreshadowed in any way are the Thorns themselves – except by prophecy it seems. Am I suggesting that it was all coincidence in plot – no, not at all. But this direction was deliberate and by pushing the film that way I believe Donner added a layer to the film in a 'less is more' sort of way.

iconic scene
One way in which the film did push the audience was through Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack, which is not only superb (mostly) but also won an Oscar. Note I said mostly… the dramatic, satanic sounding music is magnificent and iconic now. However there is a theme he uses through the happy scenes that feels way too saccharine to my ears now. I doubt I even noticed it back in the day.

plain creepy
All in all I enjoyed my re-visitation of the Omen, it stands the test of time and both Remick and Peck are superb in it. However the ending irked… It was something I didn’t notice way back when but watching now, with a critical eye, I had to wonder why a detective in the British Police had a gun… They don’t have them by rote now, never mind then… A little thing, but there nonetheless.

Stay tuned as I turn my sights to Damien: Omen 2 – in the meantime the imdb page is here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The crazy and useless movies of Zen Pictures

If you like movies with extremely cute Asian girls and women fighting awesomely ridiculous rubber monster for some incomprehensible reasons, I bet you are already used to crazy Japanese directors like Noboru Igushi or 'Gaira' Komizu.

However you might ignore a little company called "Zen Pictures"; a company that produce this kind of movies at an industrial rate - I am talking about 20 movies+ per years....

So what's the point of watching stupid plot less unsubtitled Japanese upskirt karate galore? well, upskirt karate galore, I guess... (The Japanese word for "entertainment" is "panchira")

Their website is http://, they sale their stuff not as DVD but as download - with heavy DRM and anti copy gizmos that sucks and make them complicated to watch if you are not a Microsoft Windows user - Yet this is rather a useless effort as the movies are all over the Internet movie download websites. Strangely - although Zen Pictures movies does not contain any nudity and often feature child actors - you will find them mostly on JAV porn website, mixed with stuff from "GIGA"; a twin company making the same kind of movies by same director and sometime with same actors and actresses but this time with a lot of jap-style porn thrown in. Jap-style porn can be quite gross so be aware of this - I personnaly avoid them and make sure what I download is really a "Zen", not a "Giga"

Call me crazy but I love to watch Zen Pictures movies. That doesn't means they are good. Actually they are rather crappy (not as crappy an American blockbuster by Roland Emmerich mind you) but they are made with some passion, they often star Asami (movies staring Asami are never completely bad) and the action scenes are - most of the time but not always  - well choregraphed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Trick or Treat---"No wimps, no false metal!"

My name is Juliet. I live in Texas. I stay up late. I watch a lot of weird movies.

 I'll tell you about the film I saw last night at a midnight movie called "Trick or Treat"(1986) not to be confused with the excellent Halloween film Trick 'R Treat (2007).

This film was made as a big "fuck you" to all the metal haters of the mid 1980s. I was in 5th grade at the time and I remember the panic surrounding "playing your records backwards" to hear satanic messages.  Satan was a real bad-ass and he was gonna get your soul if you didn't watch out. And that fucker really dug Metal.
Ozzy Osbourne was seen as a threat to all youth.  I remember urban legends about him eating bats and evil shit like that being told on the playground. He and Gene Simmons made minor guest appearances in this film to support the "nail 'em" vibe going on to all the wack christian moms crusading for censorship and fucking with people getting their metal groove on!

So this DJ (Simmons) gives an outcast teenage metalhead, Eddie, the final record of his metal hero Sammi Carr, who has recently died in a terrible fire. Sammi worshipped satan, so he is able to come back as an electrical powered ghost/zombie and he is really pissed off.

A bunch of jocks and a-holes at school taunt Eddie and he is able to summon Sammi to enact a "plan" to nail all the jerks. Of course love screws everything up, when Eddie fall in love with one of the preppy girls, who is attracted to the dark side (betrays her friends to become a rocker).

When Sammi starts really killing and maiming, Eddie freaks out and realizes Sammi will go after his true love.

One of the best lines of the film is when Eddie chickens out on the plan and Sammi says (as record is played backward) "No wimps! No false metal!!"

So the point of the movie is turned totally upside down and metal IS the enemy and Eddie and his nerd friend must stop Sammi at the big Halloween dance.

The movie goes a little Carrie from here.

There is a really cool rubber demon monster that appears in the film and Sammi's performance at the dance ROCKS!

The musical sequences were done by the band Fastway.

Tony Fields (Former Solid Gold dancer, appeared in Thriller and Captain Eo) plays dead rocker Sammi Curr. Gene Simmons was originally offered the role, but passed. Fields does a pretty good job as the crispy-faced rocker.

There is a hilarious moment where Eddie's girlfriend tries to flush the metal ghost down the toilet!! Pure cheeseball. But what were you expecting?

Doug "gay dude from Melrose Place" Savant plays Tim who gets zapped by ghost/zombie rocker Sammi Curr

Mark "Skippy from Family Ties" Price is metalhead Eddie
Ozzy, Fields, Simmons

Trick or Treat (1986, USA)
Trick or Treat poster 1986