Archive for the Occult Category

Meals for Monsters Feeds THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2013, Bad Acting, Evil Spirits, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Bad, Meals for Monsters, Occult, Reanimated Corpses, Zombies with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)
Movie Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

The Laughing Dead 1989 online

There are horror movie fans who can appreciate a good scare, a well-crafted look at the darkness of the human soul, perfectly paced suspense. This one is not for those fans. No, this time I present a Meals for Monsters for those of us who love garbage. Yes, you, with the TROLL 2 T-shirt, the well-worn VHS of WEASELS RIP MY FLESH, the ones who have every line of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE memorized. For those of you eagerly searching, hoping that there might be one movie left out there even worse than the ones you’ve seen before. Whatever the worst one is that you’ve seen, here is one to top them all: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989).

A priest leads a group to explore some Aztec ruins. The cast of characters include some obnoxious New Agers, an obnoxious runaway, a couple of obnoxious frat-boy-style tourists, and an obnoxious former nun kicked out when she gave birth to a now-obnoxious teenager. Oh, and that teenager is the secret love-child of said priest in question. Luckily, the former nun kept the parentage quiet so, while she was defrocked and defamed, he happily got to keep his post (something which embittered her to no end). Did I mention the priest was no prize either? They get to the ruins and come to find that an evil doctor is trying to bring the evil Death God to life, and in the process, raises a bunch of the dead. Cue battle for the fate of humanity.

How painful is this to watch? Let me count the ways: poor performances, poor dialogue, poor pacing. Not a single character is remotely likeable, so there’s no one to root for. And by the time they’re killed off, you’ve got such a ‘blah’ feeling about the movie as a whole, it’s hard to bring yourself to cheer. What makes it even more painful is that the director should have known how to make a halfway decent fright flick. THE LAUGHING DEAD was directed by horror writer and one-time Horror Writers Association president S.P. Somtow. So it’s not like this was directed by a sixteen year old who’d never crafted a story before. And the majority of actors aren’t professional…actors, that is. They’re writers, which makes for some interesting trivia (Tim Powers, Bruce Barlow, Gregory Frost, Wendy Webb, Ed Bryant and Forrest J. Ackerman all show their faces), but let’s face it: unless you’ve seen them around or at conventions, you’ll have no idea who’s who, especially the ones in zombie attire. Playing “spot the writer” isn’t as much fun when you wouldn’t recognize them in front of you.

There are a few things you can do when encountering a movie this painfully bad. You could block it from memory and pretend you never witnessed it. You could dedicate a small portion of your life warning others to stay as far away as possible. Or you can have a party with your other bad film fan friends and share your pain. And what better way than throwing an Endurance Party? You all gather around to watch the flick, and each person who groans, curses at the screen, or runs screaming from the room is eliminated. The last person holding in their pain wins.

Alcohol would definitely help make THE LAUGHING DEAD more enjoyable to watch. But, during an Endurance Party, that is the last thing you want to do. But what if your friends refuse to watch without some adult beverage refreshment? I recommend the Faketail. They’ll think they’re getting a good, strong drink, but they’ll be left sober enough to experience every painful frame:

THE FAKETAIL

drink

Ingredients:
Cherry Juice
Apple Juice
Gin

Directions:

Pour one part cherry juice and one part apple juice. Gently float one tablespoon of gin on top of the drink. The drink will smell like an alcoholic beverage, and for the first few sips, taste like one.

*****

I pondered making an authentic Aztec meal. After all, the movie is based on the Aztecs, right? Plantains were a staple in ancient Aztec cultures. Then I started thinking about how well-researched and historically correct the Aztec references are in THE LAUGHING DEAD, and adjusted my recipe to the movie’s level of authenticity. I present to you:

MEAT BANANA SPLITS (aka Stuffed Baked Plantains)
(Serves 3, adjust the recipe depending on how many people are in attendance.)

dinner

Ingredients:
3 green plantains
3 tbsps. Butter
1 ½ pounds various meats (I used 1/2lb taco meat, 1/2lb chicken sausage and 1/2lb pulled pork)
Salsa
Cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a slit in each plantain, through the peel, about halfway through. Stuff 1 tablespoon butter into each slit. Bake for an hour, or until the plantains soften.

Peel the plantains. Half the plantains lengthwise, using the slit as a guide. Arrange on a plate with three scoops of meat. Place the cheese directly onto the meat and top with salsa. Add a vegetable or salad for a side if you feel the need to make it a somewhat rounded meal. Otherwise, enjoy!

*****

After enduring the entirety of THE LAUGHING DEAD, a reward is definitely in order. I leave it to you whether or not the ‘drop-outs’ at your party deserve cake. Not just any cake, but…

BLEEDING CAKE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 box lemon cake mix (plus ingredients as directed on the box)
1 jar cherry jam
1 package unflavored gelatin
1 tub vanilla frosting

Directions:

Bake the cake in a 13” x 9” pan, as directed on the package. Cool in pan for an hour. Meanwhile, melt the jam down over medium heat. When it just begins to bubble, dissolve the gelatin package into the jam. Heat and stir until completely dissolved.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake of varying deepness. Spread the melted jam over the top of the cake, making sure to fill the holes. Refrigerate for an hour or until set. Spread the frosting over the cake until you can no longer see the jam layer. Can be made up to two days in advance.

I’m not normally one to advocate putting your friends through pain. But, as many other bad flick fans can attest, there’s a certain thrill at finding one that’s even worse than any you’d ever experienced. And that is one thing I can give THE LAUGHING DEAD, and one thing that makes me sad. I think I might have truly found the worst of the worst, and it’s going to be a long haul trying to top this one. And, in a sick, masochistic way, I look forward to the challenge.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013)

Posted in 2013, Demonic Possession, Devil Movies, Exorcism Movies, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Occult, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by knifefighter

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

lastexorcism2

Before sitting down to review this one, I went back and read my Cinema Knife Fight review (with Nick Cato) of the first LAST EXORCISM movie from 2010, and it refreshed a lot of the back story for me. Back then, I gave the first movie three knives, and it was based mostly on the performance of Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus. The movie started out like a documentary of Marcus and his vocation as a preacher and exorcist. The way Fabian played him was likeable and charismatic, and I really enjoyed the movie until the final scene. The funny thing is, looking back at it now, I really don’t mind the ending at all, and it’s grown on me.

Which brings us to this new movie, THE LAST EXORCISM PART II. Based on the trailer, I thought this was just another cynical attempt to cash in on a movie that did pretty well at the box office (and cost a small amount to make) by producing a quickie sequel. But I have to admit, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

In the second film, Cotton Marcus is nowhere to be seen, since he pretty much met his doom at the end of the first movie. This time around, the focus is on Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), who was also a standout in the first film. She was the girl Marcus went to exorcize, and she was convincing as a poor, lost innocent undergoing a terrifying ordeal at the “hands” of a demon.

Things begin not long after the events of the first film. As PART II opens, a couple find Nell (again played by Bell) in their house late at night (she gets into bed with the husband and even scratches him, when the wife gets up to go to the bathroom). The scene where they track her down to the kitchen, huddled up on a counter and looking deranged, is actually quite effective. She ends up in a mental hospital, and it’s explained that her family died during the night that ended the first film, when her father’s house caught on fire. She is scared, confused and clearly traumatized by what she has gone through. We also see that everyone is treating her as the victim of a cult, which makes sense, but it doesn’t address the fact that she was truly possessed by a demon in the first film. Something the medical community would avoid.

Not long after being admitted to the hospital, Nell is determined to be pretty harmless to herself and to others, and is released to a halfway house in New Orleans. The place is overseen by Frank Merle (Muse Watson), and Nell makes some new friends, including her roommate Gwen (Julia Garner), who at times seems to have a cruel streak, along with Daphne (Erica Michelle) and Mo (Sharice Angelle Williams). Nell gets a job as a maid at a motel, and even finds herself attracted to a boy who works at the motel, named Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). She’s a little strange, but the others seem to accept her, and Nell starts to slowly adapt to a fairly normal life, which is amazing, considering the events of the first film.

But, as we know going into the theater, a normal life is not really in the cards for Nell. The demon that possessed her in the first film, Abalom, soon makes its presence known, and makes it clear it wants her back. The weirdness happens slowly, with the odd passerby on the street saying something cryptic to her. A street performer (who pretends to be a statue in the park) following her during some festivities. When she goes into a church for refuge, even there a preacher seems to have a link to Abalom and tells her it is useless to resist, as strange figures appear in the church’s windows. Nell flees in a panic.

There are also times when her father, Louis (Louis Herthum, who also played the role in the first film) appears to speak to her. Once, late at night, she sees him sitting in the chair across from her bed, and he tells her he is trying to protect her. Is he real or just a figment of her tortured imagination? Other strange things happen when she’s asleep, like the fact that one of her hands often caresses her when she’s unconscious, as if it no longer belongs to her, and she levitates and twists into painful-looking shapes, without ever being aware of it.

One particularly uncomfortable moment involves the other girls finding a video on Youtube of her being exorcized by Reverend Marcus in the first film. She is twisting violently into unnatural shapes, and speaking in voices, and the other girls are both fascinated and scared by what they see. Nell comes into the room, and when she finds out what they’re watching, she screams at them to shut it off.

Some of the people around her aren’t what they seem to be, but not all of them are in league with the devil. A woman named Cecile (Tarra Riggs) has made it her mission to save Nell from the forces that want her, and she sets up a meeting with some like-minded friends. Can they save her from the forces of darkness? Well, you’ll have to see THE LAST EXORCISM PART II to find out.

LastExorcism2

Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that not everyone is going to like this movie. First off, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen. It’s almost more of a character study than a horror movie, as we watch Nell slowly adapt to her new life and become a part of normal society, something she was never allowed to do when she lived on her father’s farm. We want her to find happiness with her new friends and with Chris. But we know it’s only a matter of time before the satanic being that once shared her skin comes back. The movie is not fast-paced. It takes its time, and there are long gaps between scares. And anyone looking for a roller coaster ride isn’t going to find it here.

Strangely, I didn’t mind the pacing or the lack of scares at all. Nell is so interesting that I really wanted to see more of her life. I found her struggle for normalcy to be touching, and believable. And even if it comes off more as a drama at times, I didn’t see that as a bad thing. Ashley Bell gives a terrific performance here as a girl who has endured great horrors and struggles to transcend them. It’s really a showcase for her as an actress (just like the first LAST EXORCISM film was a showcase for actor Patrick Fabian) and in that sense, I enjoyed it. I also thought her looks worked very well in defining her character. She has an odd face that sometimes looks almost like an old woman’s and other times seems rather pretty. This odd quality gives physical presence to the confusion and turmoil going on inside her. I was really impressed with Bell, and thought she did a great job as the lead in this film. In fact, watching PART II, I actually found myself wanting to spend more time with this character, and I would actually look forward to a PART III if the same filmmakers were involved.

One thing I didn’t like was that, in trying to present things almost as a drama, the filmmakers felt the need to pop in some “false scares” to keep the audience awake. Stuff like dogs suddenly barking loudly in the dark, or images in Nell’s mind (visions or dreams) suddenly popping up on screen and screaming. I thought these things were unnecessary, but I’m sure that the people involved thought it was a legitimate choice, since the movie is pretty quiet for the most part, and it was their way of reminding us this is a horror movie, even if it is an unusual one. And not all audience members would be as patient without a few jolts added here and there. For the most part, LAST EXORCISM PART II is actually a good example of “quiet horror,” which means it’s not  really inhibited by its normally dreadful PG-13 rating.

Also, the ending this time around was a little predictable, and almost had a CARRIE feel to it, but it still worked for me. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see similarities between Nell’s story and Carrie White’s.

I also thought it was interesting that PART II is filmed in a much different way than the first one. The first film was presented as a fake documentary, focused mostly on Reverend Marcus, and it worked very well in that way. You would think PART II would adopt the same gimmick, but it doesn’t. I thought it would hurt this movie to be filmed in a more traditional, straightforward way, but it actually works pretty well here. To film it as another “found footage” film would defy logic (who would be filming this fragile girl struggling to stay sane?) and the gimmick would get in the way of the storytelling in this one. So it was a good decision to leave the gimmicks behind in PART II.

By the end of the film, it is quite clear that this is a horror movie. But leading up to there, it could almost be the story of a girl dealing with mental illness, trying to get better after painful events. As I watched it, it made me think of how very different the original THE EXORCIST (1973) is from its first sequel, the quieter and more thoughtful EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977). Both THE HERETIC and LAST EXORCISM PART II took risks by not being rehashes of the films that came before them, and I find that much more refreshing than seeing the same thing all over again.

LastExorcism_1Sht_Wall_FM1Aside from Bell and Herthum, this new movie has a completely different team involved. Daniel Stamm, who directed the first film, has now been now replaced by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Damien Chazelle. Gass-Donnelly’s previous work consists of several short films and two other features, THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY (2007) and SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS (2010), which also sound like small, quirky films, and I might just seek them out.

Eli Roth is one of the producers of this film (he also produced the first one), and I still think his name is associated with product that is a little more interesting than the standard fare.

Most fans of horror films probably won’t like this film, and will wonder what I see in it. But the truth is, the fact that this movie is so different from the first one, and takes risks that would alienate some theater-goers, endears itself to me all the more. I’m a fan of movies that take chances and confound expectations. And in that sense, THE LAST EXORICSM PART II is a success. I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE LAST EXORCISM PART II ~three knives.

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for March 2013

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Adult Fairy Tales, Body Horror, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, Demons, Exorcism Movies, Fantasy, GIANTS!, Occult with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
MARCH 2013
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  The magical land of Oz, outside the Emerald City to be exact.  Munchkins are dancing and singing, good witches are flying about singing cheerful songs, and MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES stroll down the yellow brick road.)

L.L SOARES:  Being here brings back so many memories.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Like the day you met your cousins, the flying monkeys?

LS: That was a special day.  Teaching them how to be scary, and how to beat tin men over the head with clubs.  Ah, memories!  But I was actually talking about watching THE WIZARD OF OZ as a kid. Back in the days before videotape, it only played once on TV every year, and was a really big deal.

MA:  I’ve never liked THE WIZARD OF OZ.

LS:  What?  Was it too scary for you?

MA: I used to find it depressing.  I enjoyed Hammer Films much better.

GOOD WITCH:  Welcome, Cinema Knife Fighters!  Are you here to review OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL?

LS:  Not yet.  We’re here today for our MARCH COMING ATTRACTIONS column.

MA:  That column where we announce which movies we’ll be reviewing in the coming month, and we’re here in Oz, because OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is probably the month’s biggest movie.

LS:  But it doesn’t open until March 8, and so we have some other films to discuss first.

GOOD WITCH:  Carry on.

MA:  First up in March, we’ll be bringing you reviews of two movies.  I’ll be reviewing JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013), and L.L. will be reviewing THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 (2013).  Both these films open on March 1.

While no fan of the recent rage of fantasy fairy tale movies aimed at adults, films like HANSEL & GRETEL:  WITCH HUNTERS (2013) and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012), based on the trailers, I don’t think JACK THE GIANT SLAYER looks half bad.

LS: I think you’ve been eating too many magic beans!

jack_cacador_de_gigantes_15

MA:  It looks like it might be taken seriously enough to be a successful movie.  I know the CGI effects in the previews look pretty good, and the giants look formidable.  Sure, it’ll probably be stupid, but I’m hoping it might have an edge to it, something along the lines of the movies Terry Gilliam used to make.

LS: You said the CGI effects look good and the giants look formidable? I’m not sure we saw the same trailer. The giants I saw looked pretty damn hokey. Incredibly fake-looking giants don’t tempt me to see this movie much.

MA: Nicholas Hoult is playing Jack, and we just saw Hoult in WARM BODIES (2013).  As much as I didn’t really like that movie, Hoult wasn’t bad in it, so hopefully he’ll be decent as Jack.

LS: Another reason I’m glad I’m not seeing it.

MA: The cast also includes Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, and Ian McShane, so there’s some pretty good talent involved here.

It’s directed by Bryan Singer, who directed X-MEN (2000) and X2 (2003) and SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006), a film you liked more than I did, but again, there’s talent involved in this movie, so it just might be good.

LS:  I like Singer, but nothing about the trailers for this one makes me want to see it. Then again, the trailer for THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 looks like it could be awful, too. This movie really didn’t need a sequel, but the reason why the first movie was so good was because the lead guy, the exorcist Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), made the story compelling. It looks like he’s not even in this second movie. So I don’t have high hopes for it. It just looks like the usual exorcism shenanigans.

I doubt either one of us will see something great, but at least we’ll get two solo reviews out of it.

LASTEXORCISM2_QUADsm

MA:  Yeah, THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 looks like one of those movies that has no business being made.  Now, I liked the first movie a lot, but, like you said, the main reason for liking that one was the main character, the preacher Cotton Marcus, but this second movie isn’t about him, it’s about the young girl from the first movie, Nell (Ashley Bell) and her story just isn’t as interesting.

Plus the trailer for this one makes it look really silly.

LS:  On March 8 it’s the big release of the month, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.

oz-the-great-and-powerful

MA:  I have to admit, this one looks really good, but I can’t say I’m overly excited about it, since I’ve never been a fan of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  But it is Sam Raimi at the helm, and I do liked James Franco a lot, and Mila Kunis is nice to look at, so I probably will end up liking this one.

LS: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like THE WIZARD OF OZ before. You’re an odd gent.

MA: Really?  I know a lot of people who aren’t fans of THE WIZARD OF OZ. I can’t speak for them, but for me, when it was on TV each year when I was a kid, I used to watch it and like it, but eventually found myself sick of the story, especially the final scene where Dorothy’s relatives chuckle at her story about Oz, obviously dismissing her tale as a figment of her imagination.

LS:  What did you want them to do?  Believe her?  Tell me, is it possible this scene bothered you because when you were a child, people didn’t believe your stories?

MA:  Vampires are real and living in my basement!  (suddenly composing himself).  Sorry.  No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Anyway, on March 15 we’ll be reviewing the new thriller THE CALL (2013), starring Halle Berry as a 911 operator who becomes entangled with a serial killer.  Now, if you’ve seen the trailer for this one, you’ve probably seen the entire movie.  It’s pretty extensive, and I feel like I’ve seen the film already, so I’m really not that excited about it.

It also stars Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine herself.

call-logo_thumb[2]

LS:  Oh boy! Maybe she’ll sing! But seriously, I am not looking forward to this one at all. It looks pretty awful, and you’re right, the trailer makes you feel like you already saw the movie. So why bother?

LS:  On March 22, we’ll be bringing you a DVD review of CELL COUNT.  This one is part of our up-and-coming filmmaker series, where we review new movies by directors who are trying to make a name for themselves. I hope it’s good.

MA:  I don’t know much about CELL COUNT, but I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Cell-Count-2012-Todd-Freeman-movie-3

We finish the month with two reviews on the same weekend yet again.  I’ll be reviewing G.I. JOE:  RETALIATION (2013), and L.L. will be reviewing THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012).  Something tells me you’re getting the better end of this deal!

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION I’m sure will be absolutely stupid.  G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF THE COBRA, which I saw in 2009, was not only one of the worst movies I saw that year, but one of the worst movies I’ve seen period!  Ever!

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Yet, somehow, this one’s got a decent cast— actually more than decent— with the likes of Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Ray Stevenson, RZA, Arnold Vosloo, Byung-hun Lee from I SAW THE DEVIL (2010), and Jonathan Pryce.  So, who knows?  It might be good after all!

Plus, the screenplay was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the same guys who wrote ZOMBIELAND (2009).

LS:  Yeah, I can’t stand G.I. JOE movies, so I’m glad I’ll be missing this one.

MA:  I just don’t get why we even have G.I. JOE movies.  When I hear “G.I. Joe” I think of the popular toy action figure from years back, but is it even still around today?  I’m sure it is, but is it popular?  I don’t get it.

LS:  THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is a mystery starring Ryan Gosling, and it involves some kind of heist, based on the trailer. I’m eager to see this one.

MA:  Yeah, it features Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, two of my favorite actors, so I’d say this one sounds like a winner.

movie_11028_poster

And that wraps things up for our MARCH COMING ATTRACTIONS column.  We’ll see you next week with reviews of JACK THE GIANT SLAYER and THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2.

GOOD WITCH:  Remember to give OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL a positive review.

MA:  That depends on whether we like it or not, because if we don’t like it, then we can’t in good faith—.

(GOOD WITCH zaps MA with her wand and turns him into a frog.)

LS:  Wow. You’ll have to show me how to do that!  But what’s the idea of turning Michael into a frog?  I thought you were a good witch?

GOOD WITCH:  I am.  When it comes to casting magical spells, I’m good!

LS: I’d ask you to change him back, but that would be so unlike me.  Okay, folks, we’ll see you next weekend!  Don’t worry.  Michael will be back to his normal self in time to review JACK THE GIANT SLAYER.   I know this for a fact, because there’s no way I’m going to see it!

FROG:  Rib-bit!  Rib-bit!

—END—

Scoring Horror Presents: An Interview with JOSEPH BISHARA

Posted in 2013, 70s Horror, Aliens, Barry Dejasu Columns, Compelling Cinema, Demons, Evil Spirits, Indie Horror, Music for Film, Occult, Outer Space, Paranormal, Scoring Horror, Soundtracks with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2013 by knifefighter

Scoring Horror Presents:
AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH BISHARA
By Barry Lee Dejasu

There’s a sound for everything, including fear.  Not everyone can hear those sounds, but for musical composers such as Joseph Bishara, it’s the very realm of inspiration.

Joseph Bishara

Joseph Bishara

A veteran of genre films since the late 1990s, Mr. Bishara’s work includes the scores to The Gravedancers (2006), the Night of the Demons remake (2009), and Darren Lynn Bousman’s 11-11-11 (2011).  He also served as producer on the soundtrack to REPO! The Genetic Opera (2008).

Mr. Bishara also made a bit of a splash in the horror scene with 2010’s Insidious, a tale of creeping menace from director James Wan (Saw, 2004 and Dead Silence, 2007).  With appropriately eerie musical touches, Mr. Bishara’s presence was heard—but he also took on another responsibility, namely acting, on-screen, as a scarlet-faced demon lurking in the shadows.

InsidiousUKPoster

Something unique for you amongst other composers is that you’ve appeared on-screen in the very movie you were scoring.  How did that come about?

Basically, James just asked me to do it one day, hanging out on a friend’s film set.  For some reason, he seemed to think it’d be a good thing.  It was a good experience.  It definitely was a fun thing to do.

Joseph Bishara as the INSIDIOUS demon.

Joseph Bishara as the INSIDIOUS demon.

Will you be involved in the recently-announced sequel to Insidous?

Yes, I’ll be involved.

What do you think was the most influential film upon your work?

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) was an early influence on me; I first saw it on Super 8 film; I was probably eight years old.  That really stuck in my head, that imagery always really got to me.  The visual and sonic and whatever (other) creative stuff bleeds together into something that can affect things musically.

What was your first instance of noticing sound and music in movies?

Hmm.  I don’t know if I can recall the first, but I can definitely think of some early instances where my mind was pretty blown.  Some of the first sounds that really compelled me were the early synth sounds; Tangerine Dream, that kind of stuff.  I remember seeing Liquid Sky (1982), and thinking that one really stood out as like, “Holy shit, this is different, this is…wow.”  (laughs)  It’s this kind of off-beat little… New-York-alien-drugs-synth-heroin movie.  It’s worth a look (if you haven’t seen it).  Some really interesting synth work in that.  It’s a really unique electronic sound.

LiquidSkyPosterWould you say there’s a sort of “signature” to your sound?

It’s probably more audible to others than myself; I don’t really think about it too much.  It’s more of a feeling-response for these kinds of things.  It’s not really a… I’m sure something comes up that someone else might be able to point to; you could probably tell that better than I could.

What are some older/classic movie scores you’re into, or were influenced by?

I love the Howard Shore score to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983); I think it’s fantastic, I love that, and Scanners (1981).  I loved that whole wave of Cronenberg films.  It’s just such a rich collaboration.

When you’re watching a movie that you’re working on, how does the score come to you?

I think I’m fortunate enough to get started on projects pretty early.  I’m usually thinking about projects from just talking about it or at script stage; it’s been pretty cool to work that way.  It can start anywhere.  Instrumentation is what seems to come to me first.  It can come off of anything in there; even a frequency range or a pitch; maybe it’s a way of the light that everything’ll grow out of.  The first exposure to the material you’ll get these splinters that stick (and) they grow into tumors, I guess, or something (laughs).

In a film like Insidious, so much silence is used to help set the mood or create tension.  How much input do you have about using silence?

That does come up, and I voice my opinion there with James; but we’re on the same page when it comes to being okay with a lot of quiet.  I like extreme dynamics; it sounds right to me.  I kind of like hearing things that are barely there.  It’s the kind of thing that the tendency is when something is quiet, (someone will want) to turn it up—but it’s like, “No-no-no, it’s quiet like that for a reason.”  It’s the finding attention to these little things that— It’s part of the palette, I guess, having the full range from barely-there to extremely loud.

This year also sees the release of Dark Skies, from director Scott Stewart (Priest, 2011 & Legion, 2009).  When you were watching the early cuts of Dark Skies, which musical/thematic approach did you have in mind, and what did you wind up creating? 

From the script, one overall idea that stood out was that of a stripping away of familiar context.  It became a fast process of getting into the energies and finding it, taking in the concepts and talking with Scott.  He was looking for a motivic, rather than thematic, approach, and that informed the composition process.

Unrecognizable sets of sounds comprise the palette, along with crystal bowls and an ensemble of viola, cello, and bassoon.

DarkSkiesPosterAnd how about with The Conjuring?

For whatever reason, I was hearing a brass clustering pretty early in response to the stuff.  Somehow, I just really wanted to hear this really quiet shimmering flutter-tongue brass effect.  For some reason, that’s what I was hearing; it started with that, and kind of grew from that.  It won’t be until (this) summer, but it’ll be out there soon.

Patrick Wilson, Vera Farminga, Lili Taylor, & Ron Livingston in THE CONJURING.

Patrick Wilson, Vera Farminga, Lili Taylor, & Ron Livingston in THE CONJURING.

What are some other projects in the works for you?

(I’ll be) starting up Chapter 2 of The Devil’s Carnival (2012).  I’m not scoring, but I produce the music.  I did REPO! The Genetic Opera, and The Devil’s Carnival, so now there’s the second part of that.  I’m starting that very shortly here, so that’s going to probably (take up) the next little while.

What are some movies you’ve enjoyed recently?
Off the top of my head… There’s the Maniac remake (2012), A Serbian Film (2010), and Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012).

With any number of movies in various stages of production, if you had dibs on them all, which ones would you “jump at” the most?  For instance, there’s the new Star Wars movie…

I probably wouldn’t be a very good choice for that.  (laughs) I would make time for anything Lars von Trier was involved with, same for Gaspar Noé.  The Funhouse (1981) is a film I’ve always enjoyed, (and so) if a remake happens, I would be interested to see where it goes.

Would you use any unusual instruments or other approaches, if you had free range to do whatever you wanted, musically?

Probably.   I don’t think about it (in terms of) unusual instruments; there’s nothing really unusual in there to me, it’s just kind of whatever it is.  That said, I do enjoy experimenting with things, in finding the sounds that things make, whether (it’s their) intended purpose or not, or even with some more experimental art instruments.  There are some pretty radical electronics engineers out there with pretty neat art instruments that generate some pretty neat sounds.

If you had full freedom to do so, what are some already-existing movies you would want to newly score?
Wow, um…  Hmm.  That’s such an exercise to even think about.  As far as what I would bring to something, it would more be purely for enjoyment, I would think. It would be (less of) a creative thing, it would be more for fun.

I’ve been drawn to making a Cabinet of Dr. Caligari score; that wouldn’t really be replacing a score, since it was silent.  That was something I always wanted to do one day.

Nosferatu (1922), that would be cool. Any of the striking-visual stuff, just because that’s fun stuff. Santa Sangre (1989) definitely. How could you look at something like that and not have something to throw out (musically)? Häxan (1922) I could get into. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) definitely.

What music is out there now, be it popular or underground, that you enjoy (and may or may not influence your work)?

I like constantly listening to new stuff.  It really kind of comes and goes in waves.  It can be an electronic wave, which’ll go into a black metal wave, which’ll go into…some other weird genre metal stuff wave, and then back into ambient, and there’ll be a lot of variety.  These days, there’s a band called Crossover, they do some pretty cool stuff.  This guy Daniel Knox, a singer-songwriter, amazing.  I did just pick up this thing recently called Botanist; it’s basically black metal with a hammered dulcimer; pretty interesting sound.

What is it about horror, and genre films in general, that you’re so drawn to?

I don’t know if I can really answer that.  It’s just kind of…  It’s where I’m drawn, it’s what feels right.  It holds my interest.  I’m generally drawn to darker material.  It’s what I like.  I’ve always enjoyed horror and more extreme cinemas; that’s just what I like to watch.  That’s kind of the world I like to live in.

Mr. Bishara was very much into his INSIDIOUS character during the interview.

Mr. Bishara was very much into his INSIDIOUS character during the interview.

Dark Skies opens February 22nd.

The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter Two open this summer.

And to learn more about Joseph Bishara, go to his site.

Interview © Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Presents: DARK INTRUDER (1965)

Posted in 1960s Horror, 2012, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Demons, Lost Films, Monsters, Occult, Period Pieces, Plot Twists, TV Pilots with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

DARK INTRUDER (1965)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!

Halloween is almost upon us, kiddies, and tonight I have a real treat for you . . . a nearly unknown little horror gem that truly deserves a wider audience.  This is the kind of discovery monster movie fans search the backs of the video store bargain bins for, the kind of film you hear people speak of in hushed, awed ones, even though hardly anyone has actually seen the thing.  Tonight, we unveil DARK INTRUDER!

DARK INTRUDER was originally filmed as the series premiere of a never produced TV show called THE BLACK CLOAK, produced by Shamley Productions, Hitchcock’s television company, which also produced THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR and THRILLER.  When the show was deemed too scary and violent for mid-sixties television, NBC sold it to Universal, who sold it to drive-in theaters as the second feature on a double bill that also included William Castle’s I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965).  It showed up from time to time on late night TV through the 1970s, and it received a token, blink-and-you’d-miss-it release on VHS, but it has never (officially) been released on DVD.  Sadly, relegated to the deep discount bins and random showings in the middle of the night on weird cable networks, DARK INTRUDER has become a forgotten classic that was creepy and disturbing in the 1960s, and it remains so today.

In 19th century San Francisco, a murderer stalks a woman through fog-enshrouded streets.  The killer limps and remains obscured in shadows until he creeps up on his victim and tears her to shreds while she screams in the night.  At the foot of the body, a small grotesque statue is left like an offering, and the slobbering, snorting hump-backed monster gimps into the night as the police arrive.

Leslie Nielsen (yes, that Leslie Nielsen, of AIRPLANE, 1980 and FORBIDDEN PLANET, 1956) plays hung-over playboy Brett Kingsford, who dabbles in the occult, calls the elder gods of H.P. Lovecraft by their first names, and employs a dwarf manservant named Nikoli (well played by Charles Bolander).  Brett is off to see the police, who have called him in to help investigate the murder, the fourth in a long string of awful murders where statues were left by the bodies, but he is interrupted by Evelyn Lang (Judi Meredith of QUEEN OF BLOOD, 1966 and THE NIGHT WALKER, 1964) the shrill, chatty fiancé of his best friend, Robert Vandenburg, played by Peter Mark Richman (star of multiple TV series like SANTA BARBARA and BEVERLY HILLS, 90210).  Brett says, “Evelyn, there is this much to say of you – you don’t just enter a room, you invade it!”  She proceeds to tell him how her fiancé Robert is acting strangely, as if there was something bothering him beyond typical wedding jitters.  Brett informs her he will also look into this behavior.

At the police station, Brett confers with the police about the killings, which resemble animal attacks, and he identifies the statues as replications of a Sumerian demon god.  In each statue found at a victim’s feet, the demon in the little figurines emerges from the back of a man, budding out farther with each crime.  It’s as if with each killing, the demon is freeing itself from its host a little bit more.  Plus, there seem to be connections between the various four victims.

Outside the station, Brett discovers Robert walking in a daze, almost hypnotized.  He tells Brett he will meet with him later at his antique shop.  Brett stops by an ancient Asian man’s curiosity shop, where a Confucius-like shopkeeper shows him a parasite demon and says it could be related to the Sumerian figurines.

At seven that evening, at Robert’s shop, Robert is nowhere to be seen, but a cloaked creature with clawed hands and a bad case of asthma attacks him, destroying most of the shop before being driven away by a silver-tipped cane.  A few minutes later, Robert arrives and whisks Brett away to his family doctor, Dr. Burdett played by Vaughn Taylor (PSYCHO, 1960, IN COLD BLOOD, 1967 and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, 1958).  While he patches up Brett, he shows him a photograph in which two of the four victims are shown, including a nurse, the latest victim.  The picture was taken on an expedition to Bagdad, and the nurse was the last to return to America, bringing with her a sickly little boy Robert has vague memories of seeing when he was a child.

Robert keeps falling into a fugue state, sleep-walking, while the dwarf servant follows him.  He claims that he feels as though he was being pushed out of his own mind by some terrifying power.  Something is trying to force him out of his own body, some dark entity.  Brett plays the fool, acts the playboy, but he grows increasingly worried for his friend.

Leslie Nielsen as playboy Brett Kingsford, who dabbles in the occult, the hero of DARK INTRUDER,

Robert is visiting a psychic, Professor Malaki, who tells him that Robert has a terrible scar on his back, and Robert admits that when he was born in Bagdad (!), he had a small lump removed from his back by Dr. Burdett.  This Professor Malaki is played by Werner Klemperer, Colonel Klink from HOGAN’S HEROES!  The German actor’s accent must have been too much, however, as he is dubbed by Norman Loyd (SPELLBOUND, 1945 and LIMELIGHT, 1952).  After the men leave, Prof. Malaki reveals his hands, complete with long, sharp talons.

Meanwhile, the creature kills Dr. Burdett in his office.  Brett dons a drunken sailor’s disguise and searches the doc’s place, discovering all the files from Robert’s date of birth are missing.

Everything points toward the beautiful Evelyn being the next victim of the monster’s wrath, so the police surround her house on her wedding night to catch the killer.  The fog enshrouds the place, Robert’s fugue state grows ever more virulent, and something in a cloak stalks the gardens waiting for the couple to emerge.

Is Robert the monster, committing the murders while under some hypnotic spell?  What of the gargoyle-like statues?  What of the deformed boy brought to the states by the nurse?  Will Evelyn and Robert survive their marriage night?

The solution to the puzzle is truly grotesque, and I am not surprised that NBC refused to air this supernatural tale.  In fact, I would be very surprised if Frank Henenlotter didn’t see this little wonder before writing and directing his grindhouse masterpiece BASKET CASE (1982).

The DARK INTRUDER is gonna get you!

DARK INTRUDER is full of atmosphere, just as the streets are full of smoke and fog and gas light.  The finale in an impressionistic graveyard is especially impressive.  It was directed by Harvey Hart, who also helmed the TV mini-series EAST OF EDEN (1982) and the great, underrated THE PYX (1973) which starred the wonderful Karen Black in another disturbing supernatural mystery.  The literate script is by Barre’ Lyndon, who also penned THE LODGER (1944) and WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953).  The pacing is almost too fast, speeding along like an episode of THRILLER on crystal meth.  Even the make-up on the creature is quite hideous, demonic and yet somewhat human.

And, yes, Leslie Nielsen is quite good as Brett Kingsford.  He’s funny and charming and handsome, but there’s always this dark side to him, as though you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alleyway.  The interplay between Brett and his intelligent dwarf servant is witty and amusing, and their chemistry is quite good.  This would have made a terrific series in the vein of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.  What a missed opportunity.

Missed opportunity or not, DARK INTRUDER is a creepy Halloween horror treat, a smart monster movie with several unpredictable twists and turns and a hideous creature at its epicenter.

There is a rumor that Universal is planning on putting out a DVD of this spooky thriller next year.  Let’s pray to any Sumerian god that this is true!

I give DARK INTRUDER three and a half dwarf servants out of four.

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

Rockin’!