Archive for the Nightmares Category

THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

Posted in 2013, Demons, Devil Movies, Indie Horror, Intense Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Monster Babies, Nightmares, Rob Zombie Films, Strange Cinema, Witchcraft, Witches with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by knifefighter

THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Lords-of-Salem-horror-movies-25727552-1172-1772

I’ve been a fan of Rob Zombie’s for quite a long time now. First his music, then his movies when he started directing, beginning with HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES (2003), which I liked a lot, and then THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005), which I pretty much loved. Then he made his two movies in the HALLOWEEN franchise (2007 and 2009), and while they had some good moments, they were disappointments over all. So I’ve been really itching to see him back to making low budget films based on his own characters. The HALLOWEEN stuff just wasn’t a good fit.

His new movie, THE LORDS OF SALEM, is a step in the right direction.

Gone is the studio oppression. And a lower budget means Rob can stay true to his vision. So just what is his vision for LORDS OF SALEM? Well, I better add a disclaimer. Not everyone is going to dig this movie. But I had a lot of fun with it.

It begins in 1692 Salem, Mass. with the coven of Margaret Morgan (an almost unrecognizable Meg Foster, who was also in John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE, 1988, and a lot more movies and TV series). Margaret is a genuine Satan-worshipping, baby killing monster of a witch. No Mother-Earth loving Wiccan is she. When she cuts open a pregnant woman, in order to sacrifice her child to Satan, Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne (Andrew Prine, star of lots of cool 70s flicks like SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES, 1971) has her and her coven rounded up and executed for their crimes. But, of course, Margaret curses Hawthorne and his bloodline before she dies.

Skip to modern-day Salem, Mass., where the Reverend’s descendent, Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie), is a recovering drug addict and a DJ at a local radio station, along with Herman Jackson (Ken Foree, who you’ve got to remember from Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, 1978) and Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips, looking a lot like a stand-in for Rob Zombie, he was most recently in the above-average revenge movie FASTER, 2010). The three of them do a “morning zoo” type show during the late night hours, and things get weird when they get a visit from a death metal singer named Count Gorgann (Torsten Voges), who goes on a blasphemous rant about his philosophy of life. Things get even weirder when a mysterious vinyl record shows up for Heidi in an antique wooden box, addressed simply from “The Lords.” The music it plays has a very strange effect on Heidi and some of the women of Salem who hear it.

The-Lords-of-Salem-poster #2There’s also Heidi’s deceptively friendly landlady, Lacy (Judy Geeson, TO SIR WITH LOVE, 1967) and her “sisters” Sonny (Dee Wallace, whose resume includes such classic films as the original HILLS HAVE EYES, 1977, E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, 1982, CUJO, 1983, and more recently in Chris Sivertson’s adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s THE LOST, 2006) and Megan (Patricia Quinn, Magenta herself from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, 1975). These three ladies would fit in just fine in a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, if you know what I mean. They set Margaret Morgan’s curse into modern-day action.

The curse manifests itself in Room # 5 of the house where Heidi lives – an apartment long empty (and presumably un-rentable) that has now become some kind of portal into Hell, complete with a very strange-looking dwarf monster in a rubber suit at one point (the scenes with this dwarf demon are equally funny—because of the low-budget look of the monster —and weird, but actually work in a bizarre way). As Whitey slowly becomes aware of his true feelings for Heidi, he tries to save her. Also in heroic mode is Bruce Davison (WILLARD, 1971 and THE CRUCIBLE, 1996), as a writer and expert on historical witchcraft who is a guest on Heidi’s radio show, and figures out what is going on. But they’re up against some particularly formidable nasties.

There’s a scene towards the end that is pure Rob Zombie, a series of images that play out as a prolonged acid trip, and it’s stuff like this that makes THE LORDS OF SALEM so enjoyable. Yesterday, Michael Arruda and I reviewed the new Tom Cruise movie, OBLIVION, and opined that, despite the huge budget, the movie was kind of hollow because of a weak story, and a sanitized feel. THE LORDS OF SALEM is the exact opposite of something like OBLIVION. With a very low budget, Rob has to be more creative in putting his vision onscreen (thus that funny-looking demon) , and yet, because it is such a personal vision—and he has such a unique style—LORDS just seems more satisfying. Where OBLIVION is sterile and perfectly manicured, LORDS is dirty and depraved— coming at us warts-and-all—but that’s fine, because this is a horror movie after all.

There are parts of this movie that reminded me of Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968, an inevitable comparison), and some of the flashbacks from the 1600s had a slightly BLACK SUNDAY (1960) feel to them; there’s also a bit of the insanity from something like Andzej Zulawksi’s 1981 film, POSSESSION (that crazy dwarf demon) and the films of Alejandro Jodorowksy. The acting is mostly right on, especially Sheri Moon Zombie, who is becoming quite an effective leading lady for this kind of thing. There are some scenes that have her doing very bizarre things, but she’s a trooper, and you truly care about her character (frankly, I wanted an even deeper look at her life before the curse kicks in). I found myself wishing that more directors would use her in their movies (although Mr. Zombie has been giving her some plum roles over the years, it’s not just because she’s his wife –  she has actually done a good job with them).

I would have had liked to see more of Ken Foree’s character (we only get a taste of what he can do as an actor here), and Jeff Daniel Phillips and Bruce Davison are good as the forces of good (I’m actually a big fan of Davison, and have been since the original WILLARD, and was happy to see him here, as well as the great Andrew Prine in what is, unfortunately, little more than a cameo). And the witches—well, they’re just terrific here, and probably the main reason to see the movie (aside from Sheri).

There’s also a very strong 70s feel to the movie, starting with the opening credits-on, which should come as no surprise to fans of his films. Zombie has been strongly influenced by the horror films of the 1970s, which is just fine with me. I consider the 70s to be one of the two main golden ages of cinema, the other being the 1930s. And, like some of the witch films from the 70s, there are some clichés of the genre here, but there’s also enough originality to keep things fresh.

THE LORDS OF SALEM is in limited release right now (only one theater in my area was showing it, so it’s not going to be easy for some people to find), but it deserves a wider audience. Also, before the movie was released, a book came out by Rob Zombie (with B.K. Evenson), which is a novelization of the film. Or rather, it is based on the first version of the script, before budgetary constraints forced Zombie to change a lot to save money. Reading the novel, which is presumably what he originally intended to do on film, it’s fun to compare this to what actually got made. I’m about 100 pages into the book, and already there are some interesting changes between his original concept and the finished film.

The novel version of THE LORDS OF SALEM is also available now.

The novel version of THE LORDS OF SALEM is also available now.

Since the HALLOWEEN films, I have been eager to see Rob Zombie go back to his roots and give us something that was truly his own. He really should try to avoid directing remakes of other people’s films. His style is just too idiosyncratic to be used to present other people’s ideas. Like a Jodorowsky or a David Lynch, his best work is that which originates with him.

As I said before, a lot of people might not enjoy this movie as much as I did. The attempts at characterization might be a little slow for some people, and Zombie’s style during the weird stuff might be too bizarre for them. But for me, everything kind of clicked, and I was really pulled into this film. I loved the feel of it, the strong sense of atmosphere, and the imagery here. I do not think it is Rob Zombie’s best work (that remains THE DEVIL’S REJECTS), but after two steps back, this is a big step forward toward getting him back on track in making the kinds of movies only he can make, and I hope he gives us many more films in the future.

Welcome back, Rob. I give this one three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE LORDS OF SALEM ~three and a half knives.

Suburban Grindhouse Memories – Double Feature of MOTHER’S DAY (1980) and NIGHTMARE (1981)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Bad Situations, Disturbing Cinema, Gore!, Grindhouse Goodies, Indie Horror, Intense Movies, Killers, Murder!, Nick Cato Reviews, Nightmares, Slasher Movies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES:
“If You Survive the Day, Will You Survive the Night?”
By Nick Cato

Sometime in 1983 (despite racking my brain, I can’t recall if it was March or October), a double feature hit the NY/NJ area that turned out to be one of the most brutal experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater. Someone had decided to re-release 1980’s MOTHER’S DAY and 1981’s NIGHTMARE (a.k.a. NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) on the same bill, and this young gorehound couldn’t have been happier as I had missed each one upon their initial release. I couldn’t find the actual newspaper ad, so I attempted to recreate one (see above), only a tag line placed above the twin posters said “If You Survive the Day, Will You Survive the Night?” And by the time the second feature ended, I saw that a few people almost didn’t!

MOTHER’S DAY ran a wicked late night TV ad campaign when released in 1980; horror fans thirsted at its promises of Drano and electric knife attacks (YouTube it if you don’t believe me) and in my case, my parents had said “Who the hell do they make these movies for?” I silently said “ME!!!” Needless to say, I was psyched when I entered the (now defunct) Fox Twin Cinema and the first feature began to unreel.

If you haven’t seen it, MOTHER’S DAY is not exactly a pleasant film, despite its few instances of dark humor and the three entertaining antagonists (two murdering/rapist sons and their slightly unbalanced mother).  The plot is pure exploitation: Three girlfriends go for a weekend get-away camping trip and become victims to the crazed clan. After the two sons (named Ike and Addley) kidnap the girls by making their sleeping bags escape-proof , they dump them in the back yard of their isolated two-story home and proceed to rape them under the moonlight…as their spooky-looking, elderly Mother cheers them on and takes pictures. The audience, which was made up of mostly high school-aged patrons, remained silent throughout this uncomfortable sequence. To this day I list this as one of the top ten most disturbing scenes of all time, mainly due to the mother’s gleeful facial expressions during such a horrific attack.

The film does build some fine tension; after being raped and severely beaten (one of the girls is even killed), the two survivors plan their revenge, and this is where MOTHER’S DAY becomes more than a standard rape/revenge film: it turns into a slasher/revenge hybrid and features the aforementioned scenes of Drano being poured down one brother’s throat, a TV being smashed over another brother’s head, a plugged-in electric carving knife put to good use, plus an antenna shoved into one brother’s throat, and more mayhem than you can shake an amputated arm at. AND…just when our ladies think they’re safe (SPOILER ALERT!), a mutated sibling of the brothers named Queenie hops over some hedges to extract her own revenge in a genuine shock ending.

Brothers Ike and Addley are ready for total mayhem in MOTHER’S DAY (1980).

There’s a lot of goofs in this one (even during the infamous opening decapitation scene, where blood splashes across a woman’s face even before her boyfriend’s head is hacked into!), but its flaws still don’t hurt its overall intensity factor. MOTHER’S DAY is one of the most brutal R-rated horror films I’ve ever seen, evidenced by the audiences’ complete silence throughout the film.

Next up was 1981’s NIGHTMARE (known more commonly as NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN), a film I remembered seeing TV commercials for, but never paying it much mind. By the time it was over, I had become a head-over-heels fan, and have written extensively about it over the years on top of showing it to countless people on both VHS and DVD. And the odd thing is, NIGHTMARE is a standard, by-the-numbers, “psycho released too early from a mental institution” film, complete with bad acting and a couple of tedious stretches. But for some reason, it WORKS in ways few other slasher films do.

George Tatum is released from an institution after being placed on experimental medication (which is barely explained in the film). He travels from somewhere north of New York down to Florida to murder his family, wasting innocent bystanders along the way. Unlike most films of its kind, NIGHTMARE’s graphic gore sequences are actually scary and hard to watch, especially the infamous double-homicide finale where George flashes back to the time when, as a child, he murdered his dad and his mistress with an axe…a scene that’s shown in quick hints throughout the film, making it nearly impossible to handle once it’s finally shown in full. It was the first time I actually SWEATED watching a horror film, and afterwards, I saw about six people standing outside the theatre, leaning against the wall, actually collecting themselves over the insane images they had just seen. How many FRIDAY THE 13th or HALLOWEEN sequels ever did that to someone?

You better hope George Tatum isn’t calling YOU! From 1981’s NIGHTMARE!

This grueling double feature was unique from all of my other grindhouse experiences due to the fact both films kept the crowd in submission: both were serious doses of hardcore horror that—at the time—no one was expecting, other than those who had seen them a couple years earlier. My friends and I agreed we felt like someone had punched us in the face for the past three hours, and with a very few exceptions, we had not gone through a single or double feature quite this barbaric since.

Both of these films hold up well today, although they may not be as intense to hardcore horror fans in light of some of the ultra-graphic splatter films that have come after them. But it’s not just the gore FX that made MOTHER’S DAY and NIGHTMARE so gruesome and horrific: each film was a rebellious work of no-holds-barred anarchy that’s seldom seen in the theater today, in any genre. They’re films today’s multiplex crowds just won’t get to behold.

(MOTHER’S DAY will be released on blu-ray in a deluxe edition in September, 2012, and NIGHTMARE finally came to DVD the summer of 2011 and quickly sold out. Today it can be found on the second hand market for as high as $99.00).

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Mama just loves her boys! From MOTHER’S DAY (1980)

December MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer # 5

Posted in 2010, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Nightmares with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by knifefighter

THE MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – DECEMBER 2010
(This month’s question comes courtesy of Dan Keohane)

DECEMBER QUESTION:

Has any horror film actually given you nightmares?  Name the movie, and if you remember any of the dream, describe the nightmare.

Which is scarier, the film or the dream?

AND NOW OUR FINAL ANSWER FROM MICHAEL ARRUDA:

I can’t say that any horror film has actually given me a nightmare, at least not as an adult, anyway.

The closest experience for me would be when I watched THE EXORCIST (1973) for the first time.  I watched it alone, late at night, uncut on HBO, when I was in high school.  When the movie ended, around 1:00 am, and it was time for me to go to bed, I couldn’t get the image of Linda Blair’s hideous face out of my head.  In fact, as I lay in bed, every time I closed my eyes, I saw her face.  Hell, even when I had my eyes open I saw her face— choose any dark corner in the room, and I’d see her there staring at me with that scarred face, demonic eyes, and thick rolling tongue.

Needless to say, it took me forever to fall asleep that night.

It was a very disturbing and scary experience for me, so much so that I still remember it clearly to this day.

That was the closest I ever came to actually having a movie give me a nightmare.

Some runners up include HALLOWEEN (1978), which I saw at the movies when I was 15, (somehow I eluded the Rated R police).  After this one, I couldn’t get the movie’s music out of my head the rest of the night, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I saw JAWS (1975) at the movies when I was 11, and needless to say I was traumatized for the rest of the summer and was afraid to go swimming.

Interestingly enough, none of the horror movies I’ve seen as an adult have come close to giving me nightmares.  Yet, I remember lots of instances as a child when movies bothered me.  I suppose this is more a reflection of the fact that it’s easier to be frightened as a child than it is as an adult, rather than that today’s movies aren’t as scary.  I think they are.  They just don’t bother me as much, because as an adult I recognize that a movie is a movie.  It isn’t real.

For the record, the king of scares in my childhood was— and this comes as a surprise to me— Lon Chaney, Jr.!  His Wolf Man and Kharis the Mummy (afraid of Kharis?  This seems laughable now, but back when I was a kid it was no laughing matter!) frightened the heck out of me when I was a kid.  Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster didn’t, Lugosi’s Dracula didn’t, Lee’s Dracula didn’t, and Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein didn’t.  Lon Chaney Jr. did.

Many a night when I was a kid I couldn’t fall asleep, because I was afraid that Kharis would creep into my bedroom and strangle me with his huge bandaged hand.  I also used to picture the Wolf Man leaping around outside my window, darting in and out of the moonlight, and if I ever found myself walking outside at night, I’d fear the Wolf Man would be lurking in some dark corner waiting to leap out at me and rip my throat out.

So, no nightmares for me, but lots of sleepless nights, disturbing images, and uncontrollable fears.

Thanks, Lon, for the memories!

Happy sleeping everyone!

~Michael Arruda

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December’s MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer # 4

Posted in 2010, LL Soares Reviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Nightmares with tags , , , on December 21, 2010 by knifefighter

THE MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – DECEMBER 2010
(This month’s question comes courtesy of Dan Keohane)

DECEMBER QUESTION:

Has any horror film actually given you nightmares?  Name the movie, and if you remember any of the dream, describe the nightmare.

Which is scarier, the film or the dream?

ANSWER # 4 – L.L. SOARES:

I remember when I was a kid, I watched horror movies constantly. Where some of my friends weren’t allowed to watch these kinds of movies because they were prone to nightmares (the friggin wimps!), I ate this stuff up and never had nightmares. I guess I felt a kind of kinship with monsters and horror characters. My nightmares were always about more real life stuff.

But I remember one rare movie that caused me to have nightmares as a kid. This didn’t happen very often, and I can’t explain to you why this particular movie got to me. But it was Byron Haskin’s WAR OF THE WORLDS from 1953, starring Gene Barry as Dr. Clayton Forrester (yes, the same name as the character from Mystery Science Theater 3000!). The one produced by the legendary George Pal.

Something about those death rays that turned people to ash especially bothered me. Looking back on the movie now, it’s almost laughable. I certainly saw other movies that were scarier. But when you’re a kid, strange things get under your skin.

As for which was scarier – the nightmares are always scarier than the movies. Nothing is scarier than your own imagination.

~L.L. Soares

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December’s MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer # 3

Posted in 2010, Jason Harris Interviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Nightmares with tags , , , , on December 10, 2010 by knifefighter

THE MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – DECEMBER 2010
(This month’s question comes courtesy of Dan Keohane)

DECEMBER QUESTION:

Has any horror film actually given you nightmares?  Name the movie, and if you remember any of the dream, describe the nightmare.

Which is scarier, the film or the dream?

ANSWER # 3 – JASON HARRIS:

I have never seen a horror movie that has truly frightened me.

I have seen THE EXORCIST (1973), CHILD’S PLAY (1988) and many more. Nothing has scared me. I have always wanted to see something that would have me waking up in the middle of the night screaming and drenched in a cold sweat.

I did have a dream about THE BLOB after reading a review of the 1988 remake back when it was in the theater. In the dream, I am upstairs in the back bedroom of the house. The blob is outside the house below the window. It slowly extends itself. It looks like it has eaten a number of people, but they are only covered by the ooze and not being dissolved by it. It slowly becomes level with the window and starts looking in. At this point, I am cowering underneath the window. That is all I remember from the dream.

The other scary dream I had when I was younger was when I was stung by a wasp before going to bed. I dreamed about bees the whole night. It’s not fun dreaming about bees attacking people and myself throughout the night. The lesson I learned from this experience is never to air out a sleeping bag, then help your dad put it away.  I’ve seen THE SWARM (1978), and that didn’t cause me any bad dreams.

~Jason Harris

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December’s MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer # 2

Posted in 2010, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Nightmares with tags , , , on December 9, 2010 by knifefighter

THE MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – DECEMBER 2010
(This month’s question comes courtesy of Dan Keohane)

DECEMBER QUESTION:

Has any horror film actually given you nightmares?  Name the movie, and if you remember any of the dream, describe the nightmare.

Which is scarier, the film or the dream?

ANSWER # 2 – COLLEEN WANGLUND:

My favorite horror movie of all time is George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and it has given me nightmares every time I’ve watched it since I first saw it.  It scares the crap out of me.

I’ve had pretty much the same nightmare every time.  The location may change but I’m always running or hiding from zombies.  Sometimes I’m out in the street, sometimes I’m inside a house but the zombies just keep coming.  They are the slow shambling kind but they JUST KEEP COMING!!

In most of the nightmares the zombies are people I know….my parents, brothers, sister, friends, and my children.  No matter where I go they’re there.  The first time I watched NIGHT I had nightmares every night for two weeks.  I still have them although not as long.  And I still wake up in a cold sweat.   One night I woke up so scared I fell out of the bed tangled up in the blankets.

The nightmares are definitely scarier than the movie because they feel so real at the time and because the zombies are my loved ones.  I’ll keep watching it though.  I mean, it’s just a movie, right?  I think it’s this fear that makes me love zombies so much.

~Colleen Wanglund

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December’s MONSTROUS QUESTION – Answer # 1

Posted in 2010, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Monstrous Question of the Month, Nightmares with tags , , , on December 8, 2010 by knifefighter

THE MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – DECEMBER 2010
(This month’s question comes courtesy of Dan Keohane)

DECEMBER QUESTION:

Has any horror film actually given you nightmares?  Name the movie, and if you remember any of the dream, describe the nightmare.

Which is scarier, the film or the dream?

Thanks, Dan!

And leading off first with his answer is none other than, DAN KEOHANE:

OK, for me, the biggest nightmare-inducer has to be ALIENS (1986). This non-stop sequel to ALIEN (1979) was just so good and so intense that for years (and even now, 24 years later), I’d have the occasional nightmare of being somewhere – usually an office building, or a town, never a spaceship though — infested with these monstrous buggers. I hardly ever see them in the dreams, only suffer from the terrible knowledge that they’re close, and getting closer. I invariably wake up freaked-out.

When summer approaches and I begin to have my usual Back-To-Necon dreams (Necon is a writers conference), now and then the Aliens invade that haven of dreamland, and poor Craig Gardner invariably gets eaten… Still, Cameron’s film is far scarier.

As a kid, two specific bits of media-fear induced the strongest nightmares. First, the TV commercial for the movie MAGIC (1978). I’d actually forgotten this bit of memory until I read somewhere on Facebook recently how someone else used to be terrorized by the image of the creepy ventriloquist doll, staring out of the television, coming to get me. Ah!!!! Friggin scary for a kid (OK, I was fifteen, but easily frightened). The nightmare was vague, just doll-monster-thing staring at me, talking… man, I hate ventriloquist dolls almost as much as clowns.

One last morsel is the OUTER LIMITS episode with William Shatner (No, not what you’re thinking – THAT one was Twilight Zone) called “Cold Hands, Warm Heart” (1964) – in which he plays an astronaut returned from a Venus expedition who suffers nightmares about encountering an alien outside his space ship. That Venusian creature with its waving arms and big head was SCARY!!! I would have so many friggin’ nightmares about that thing. In the dreams I’d close my eyes and could still see it. Crap… I’m still scared of that thing. In this case, the dream was far scarier.

~Dan Keohane

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