Saturday, October 8, 2016

a midnight stroll over hallowed ground


In one of the darker, danker recesses of the now-distant past, there lies a small island whose only occupants can’t decide on which side of eternity they belong.

And here comes a pseudo-groovy theatre troupe, rowing in boats, grotesquely posturing and deriding their grim whereabouts.  A cemetery is no place to play.  Death will not be mocked.

And so we witness Alan (Alan Ormsby), their leader—a  slithery, loathsome, imperious fiend bent on defiling everything sacred—gleefully ham it up while conducting a mock-séance to raise the dead.  Give a man a warlock’s robe and it goes straight to his head every time.

Alan Ormsby, Esq.

But be ever-careful what you wish for, dear boy.  Alas, Alan is so obnoxious he even manages to offend the people buried in the ground, who have little to no business taking offense to anything.

The cemetery is rumored to be stocked to the gills with perverts, maniacs and murderers, so Alan’s randy assemblage of actor-y ne’er-do-wells will feel right at home. 

Anya Ormsby, one of the wonderful weirdos of CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS
Despite the myriad limitations of making a movie on a microscopic budget, director Bob Clark (PORKY'S, A CHRISTMAS STORY) manages to eke quite a considerable amount of eldritch atmosphere out of a naturally foggy setting and creepy, hypnotic score.

“It takes an artist to deal with the devil, not an insurance man with delusions of grandeur!” - Val (Valerie Mamches)
And though it takes many mouthfuls of stilted dialogue and operatic delivery to rile the pasty residents of this chilly, lonesome isle, I won't further excoriate this masterpiece of no-budget horror humdingery with details of its inherent short-comings...let us skip ahead to the part that gave me nightmares when I saw this on TV at the age of 5 or 6.

And so our beleaguered band of talky, maladroit misfits head to a cabin next to the cemetery to pontificate the meaning of life—or to at least figure out what the hell Alan is talking about.

"Look, we may not be poets, but we still have a right to know what's going on here."

And what, pray tell, is this business, Alan?  Simulated nuptials with a corpse?!  Are there no limits to your depravity?

But as stale banter gives way to the perverse ceremony, the final affront, the real party begins...

And portending certain doom, these corpses aren't just ravenous, automated instinct—they're mad as hell.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

till death do us part

THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975; d: Bryan Forbes)

There is a place not too far down the road, up around the next bend a ways--a town called Stepford.  While some have swore it the perfect place to start a family, a fine area in which to settle down, we should all know better by now. 

Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) knew one thing--she hadn’t wanted to leave her big, dirty city in the first place.  New York had been many things to her.  Her home, her subject, her refuge…her muse.  In New York City, things had just begun to fall into place for Joanna, despite all the trappings and inevitable soul-stifling a husband and two young children will provide.  And she was still just beginning to find herself, as so many women of late seem to be doing. 

"Daddy, I just saw a man carrying a naked lady."  "That's why we're moving to Stepford."

But then her husband, Walter (Peter Masterson), had told her he wanted to move to the country.  And before she’d even had a chance to mull it over, he’d told her about a house in a place called Stepford.  And before she knew it, they were packing their things and leaving the city that had seemed to hold so much promise for the fledgling young photographer.

Walter-"Ever make it in front of a log fire?"  Joanna-"Not with you."

Perhaps Walter had known it would be difficult to pull her away, and so he’d resorted to a bit of underhandedness, rushing things through, telling her it was a done deal before she could say no.  Perhaps he was trying to make her more mother by removing the artist from her subject.  But what lie ahead in Stepford was something neither Joanna nor Walter had bargained for.

While it’s clear Walter was trying to change Joanna, trying to subdue her independent streak, he seemed to be anything but a bad man.  But once he’d attended his first meeting of the Stepford Men’s Association, he’d arrived at a fateful impasse--forced to lay his cards on the table.  And those cards, facing up now, reveal more than anyone could have guessed.

And so it went that Joanna awoke late that night, alone in their bed, momentarily startled.  And when she found Walter sitting next to the fireplace with a drink in his hand, so late, she was startled once more.  What’s wrong with him tonight?  Why is he so upset? 

He’s clearly distressed—no, devastated, it seems—but no, nothing wrong, honey.  The meeting went well.  He’s decided to join the Stepford Men's Association, after all.  No, everything’s okay.  It’s just that...well.  It’s been a long night.  It isn’t easy being a father and husband, especially nowadays.  

"And you know I love you, don't you?  Don't you?"  

And she knows something terrible has happened.  But what?  What could be so awful?  He's drunk, but he isn't letting on...Why?

He has a secret.  Something has completely rattled her husband, and he seems almost ready to come clean, or at least say that he wants to chuck it all and move back to New York.

 But what?  Well, he's drunk and tired and maybe he'll sleep on it and have something more to say in the morning.  Or perhaps he's just been working too hard at the firm.  Either way, we're all moved in now, so best make the most of it.