Monday, September 29, 2014

Midnight Offerings for the Weekend of October 3, 2014

THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS.WARDH (a.k.a. BLADE OF THE RIPPER, 1971) at the Spectacle Theater (Friday, 10/3 only)

THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TALE (1971) at the Spectacle Theater (Saturday, 10/4 only)

EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987) at the Landmark Sunshine

INNER DEMONS (2014...NY premiere) at the IFC Center (10/3 only)

HORNS (2014) at the IFC Center (10/3 only)

THE CANAL (2014) at the IFC Center (10/4 only)

DEAD SNOW 2 (2014) at the IFC Center (10/4 only...special preview screening)

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) at the IFC Center

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) at the IFC Center

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at the Chelsea / Bow Tie Cinemas

REANIMATOR (1985) at the Nitehawk Cinema (35mm)

SCREAM (1996) at the Nitehawk Cinema (Digital Projection)

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I missed last year's debut DEAD TIL DAWN DRIVE IN festival, so I made a point to attend at least one of the two nights this year. I arrived with my wife around 6:15PM on Friday the 26th, and after a nearly 150 mile drive up from NYC, was greeted by this beautiful marquee:

The Hi-Way Drive In sits on a huge lot featuring 4 big screens. Each one had a triple feature of current films, but the "Classic Horror Fest" we came to see featured 5 films, all in glorious 35mm prints. 6 films were featured Saturday night (including Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND), but I was not able to attend both days.

After parking in the front row near the right hand side of the screen, my wife and I visited the snack bar, which has a variety of classic theater snacks and drinks, and even sells mini 35mm reels for a benefit cause. Other viewers already had tents set up on the large grass area under the screen in section 1, and the weather was absolutely perfect as we set up our lawn chairs and took the cooler out of the trunk. ANY theater that lets you bring your own beverages is OK in my book!

Shortly after the first film began, a couple of my friends from the area arrived and we dove right into one of my all time favorite slasher films, Romano Scavolini's NIGHTMARE (1981), which was better known on video as NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN. I've written much about this film over the years (in my regular film column over at Cinema Knife Fight as well as in the epic slasher film book Butcher Knives & Body Counts). This was the second time I've seen the film on the big screen (the first being in 1982 on a double bill with the equally as notorious MOTHER'S DAY) and it hasn't lost it's ability to shock and disturb viewers. Of course, at a Drive In the sound is so-so, but the film print was wonderfully scratchy and added to the overall grimness of the feature.

(George Tatum (Baird Stafford) about to be released from the nuthouse)

(NIGHTMARE's finale: possibly the craziest ever to grace a slasher film)

Next up was a film I had not seen but have been hearing a lot about lately for some reason:

THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1976) is a Spanish production featuring the great Paul Naschy as one of a handful of survivors of a nuclear holocaust. It seems the rest of the population was blinded by the blast, and have become homicidal. It's an interesting blend of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE OMEGA MAN, and was a satisfying second feature. I'd definitely like to see this one again.

Next up was a 1977 giallo thriller from Italy titled WHAT HAVE THE DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS?, although the print screened tonight had the title of THE COED MURDERS. After a girl hangs herself, cops uncover a teenage prostitution ring being run out of a local high school. While I couldn't follow much more than that (hey, between a few beers and the low sound on my hand held radio, I was lucky to take that much from it). If anyone can tell me who the killer was I'd appreciate it! When he was unmasked, I didn't even recognize him from the rest of the film! This was also another feature I saw for the first time at this fun festival.


The fourth feature was one I had seen in the 80s during the VHS horror boom. THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976, but it looks older to me) features an incredible poster ad campaign, but that's about it. Molly gets off murdering pro football stars and TV actors (and how she is able to get to them is one of the countless head-scratching things about this flick) and we discover she's insane after years of abuse from her father. WITCH does contain a very disturbing sequence of Molly being raped by her dad when she was about 10 years old. The film tries too hard to be psychological but comes off as plain goofy, due in large part to the atrocious acting and dialogue. As much as I hate this film, it was a blast listening to a packed drive in audience crack up laughing over the silliness. 

(Fantastic poster, but sadly, it's the best part of the film)

(Two pro football players about to meet their fates at the hands of Molly ... the title "witch" of the 4th feature)

It was around 2:20AM by the time the final feature, 1973's WONDER WOMEN, hit the big screen.

Starring Sid Haig and an army of beautiful women bent on taking over the world, this was apparently influenced by 1967's IN LIKE FLINT. Shot in the Philippines, it was great to see 70s exploitation film star Vic Diaz in action, and Ross Hagen does a fine job battling the crazed females as Sid Haig looks on, looking as dapper as ever, as seen below on the Hi-Way Drive In's mammoth screen:

The whole shindig ended around 4:00AM, and while my wife and I hit a local hotel, plenty of viewers camped out in tents and in their cars and are probably getting ready for the second night of celluloid mayhem as I write this article.

With a friendly staff and plenty of cool film fans walking around (one guy introduced me to his long haired dachshund!), this is a great place for a film festival and I highly recommend making the pilgrimage next year.

-Nick Cato

Monday, September 22, 2014

Midnight Offerings for the Week of September 26, 2014

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) at the IFC Center (DCP projection)

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) at the IFC Center (DCP projection)

FRIDAY (1995) at the IFC Center (35mm print)

THE ROOM (2003) at the Landmark Sunshine (NOTE: Director Tommy Wiseau to introduce the film on the 26th and 27th)

YOU'RE NEXT (2013) at the Nitehawk Cinema (DCP projection)

THE ONE I LOVE (2014) at the Nitehawk Cinema (DCP Projection)

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at the Chelsea / Bow Tie Cinemas

THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972) at the Spectacle Theater (VHS) (NOTE: Friday, 9/26 only)

INVASION OF THE GIRL SNATCHERS (1973) at the Spectacle Theater (VHS) (NOTE: Saturday, 9/27 only)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Destined to Find a Home on the Midnight Circuit

While Kevin Smith’s TUSK (2014) is currently playing in wide release at regular hours, I left my local theater last night wondering how such a strange project wasn’t released specifically to midnight audiences. The film is receiving such mixed reviews (most on the negative side) that chances are, like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, this film just might find its way to midnight screenings before too long.

Those familiar with cult films might not find TUSK all too weird (it’s basically a re-telling of FRANKENSTEIN), but chances are most mainstream film goers just won’t get Kevin Smith’s incredibly dark sense of humor. And younger viewers might find some of this either too absurd or disturbing.

Justin Long stars as Los Angeles podcaster Wallace Bryton. After he and his co-host share a video of some kid accidentally cutting his own leg off on a YouTube video, Wallace decides to head up to Canada and get a live interview with the viral superstar. But when he arrives, he walks in on a funeral: the poor kid has killed himself as Wallace traveled north, leaving our snarky podcaster with a $550.00 plane ticket tab and nothing to show for it. That is, until he uses the men’s room at a local bar and finds a flier from a man looking to rent a room and seeking someone to share his life stories with. Thrilled, Wallace manages to find the secluded mansion of Howard Howe (played brilliantly by Michael Parks). Howe offers Wallace some tea and begins sharing his stories (one reminiscent of Quint’s shark-attack story from JAWS (1975)).

Wallace is taken aback by a walrus bone Howard has mounted on the wall. Howard explains how, after being lost at sea, he befriended a walrus who he swears saved his life and became a better friend than any human he has ever known.

(Wallace (Justin Long) sips tea as he listens to Howard Howe (Michael Parks) share tales from his illustrious life)

And during this story, Wallace passes out from the apparently tainted tea.

He wakes in a wheelchair and finds one of his legs missing. Howard then lets his plans be known (ala THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009)) and this is when TUSK’s horror element kicks into high gear. But like any good horror/comedy, Smith keeps the humor dark and just below the surface, sometimes buried a bit too deep, but nonetheless always present.

Wallace manages to make frantic cell phone calls to his girlfriend and podcast co-host before Howard takes it away from him. Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) and Teddy (THE SIXTH SENSE’s Haley Joel Osment) believe Wallace’s message of being captured by some psycho, so they travel up north to look for him. A policeman gives them the number of a man who has been investigating a local serial killer, and they meet him in a White Castle-like fast food joint. This is perhaps where TUSK becomes strangest. Guy Lapointe (played by an uncredited superstar…google it if you want spoilers) acts like a way over-the-top cross between Inspector Clouseau and Columbo (this character seems to be what has turned many off to the film). He’s goofy, silly, and at times will make you groan out loud, yet the character also works (at least to this filmgoer). The actor in question isn’t afraid of trying new things, and this here is the ultimate proof. Besides what becomes of Wallace, it’s Lapointe who gives TUSK is real weirdness factor. It’s as if a cartoon character managed to come to life, and the audience doesn’t know what he’ll do from one second to the next. A flashback sequence between Lapointe and Howard is one of the films’ highlights, as is a brief post-credit appearance.

I’m convinced some viewers who hated this didn’t realize it was a dark comedy. Anyone going in expecting a shock-fest horror film will most likely be disappointed. And while this is a hybrid of FRANKENSTEIN, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU and THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE with homage’s to JAWS and COLUMBO, Smith manages to keep things on a semi-fresh demented vibe and never bores the viewer, even during a few lengthy stretches of dialogue.

With fine performances all around and an idea that seems engineered for underground crowds, TUSK is a film that will eventually weed out the freaks and build its audience.

review by Nick Cato