Saturday, October 29, 2016

nothing's shocking

BLUE SUNSHINE (1978;d:Jeff Lieberman)

There are a couple of scenes in BLUE SUNSHINE that are so riveting, so terrifying, that it is difficult to ignore their disparity with the rest of the movie.  This is in no way intended as an appraisal of the film’s inconsistency, but rather an attempt to draw attention to a pair of sensational moments herein.

What BLUE SUNSHINE has going for it is one brilliant concept for a horror movie.  In the seventies, no one knew for sure what the long-term, lingering effects of psychedelic experimentation might be, and there had long been a sense that revelers in LSD were more or less trampling in God's domain.  And isn’t that the crux of so many horror classics past?

Just moments in, we find ourselves visitors to a party that seems to be winding down.  There are about 10 or so guests left, one of whom has taken to flapping his arms and screeching loudly like a testy pterodactyl.  When he crashes into other guests and winds up on the floor, still flapping away, it's easy to assume he's added a bit of extra lemon to his spritzer, orpossiblydrugs are afoot.

A young Brion James (BLADE RUNNER) learns to fly.
The rest of the guests seem mostly unaffected by this strange outburst, as the drug culture has become commonplace in modern-day Los Angelesa recurring theme throughout BLUE SUNSHINE.  When the host of the party decides to serenade his guests, though, the first such “moment” mentioned earlier begins to transpire.

Billy Crystal's brother, Richard, plays Frannie Scott, a self-styled crooner on the verge of a meltdown.

Breaking out a bit too self-assured, finger-snapping rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Just In Time”, Frannie Scott (Richard Crystal) seems to project nothing untowardbeyond his ominous trampling of one of The Chairman’s gemsuntil he plants a forceful, inappropriate wet one on the lips of a guest’s startled date.  Her boyfriend, in turn, grabs his presumptuous host by the hair, which comes off in his hand, leaving the room in stunned silence as the newly-bald Frannie, wild-eyed and (thankfully) at a loss for words, bolts from his own living room and into the night.

Well, what was that all about?  

"Let’s go look for him."  

As the group sets out in pursuit of their increasingly odd host, a trio of young lovelies wait back at the house, just in case he shows up .

There's a knock at the door...maybe it's Frannie?

It is Frannie, and he's picking up one of the girls and carrying her, screaming in terror, over to the fireplace...

And I thought the bird guy was wacko.

Oh no!  What the hell is Frannie doing?!  And just like that, he's shoved this hysterical young woman into the blazing fireplace.

As confusion gives way to the soul-piercing shrieks of agony and horror, her friends rush over to help.  Frannie, however, is intent on watching the young woman burn, and blocks her frantic attempts at escape, even as her friends violently attempt to pry him away.

Once he's certain the young lady in the fireplace is dead, he turns to the others.

And just minutes into the film, we've experienced something totally unexpected and extremely disturbing.  The premise of BLUE SUNSHINE is simple enough.  A group of former students of Stanford University are beginning to experience some unsettling side-effects from a particular strain of LSD they’d taken 10 years back.  They begin to lose their hair, which is accompanied by terrible headaches, ultimately leading to a total psychotic break, resulting in the kind of violence we’ve already witnessed.

The story arc follows the plight of one of the partygoers from earlier, Jerry Zipkin (Zalman King), who is falsely accused of the multiple murders in the house after pushing the crazed Franny in front of an oncoming truck.  While on the run, he and his girlfriend try to prove his innocence while also digging deeper into the Stanford/LSD connection.  I won’t delve into that much further because the movie does lose a bit of steam up until the other horrifying moment mentioned earlier, about an hour in.

While seeking out other former students in the area, Jerry comes across a woman watching her neighbor's noisy children, and he notices she's wearing a wig just before she asks him to leave.

"Don't you know it's impolite to stare?!"

Wendy Flemming (Ann Cooper), experiencing one doozy of a headache

After showing Jerry the door, Wendy Flemming—who happens to be the ex-wife of the student who'd sold the bad acid we come to know as Blue Sunshine—begins popping pills for her migraine.

In the next room, her neighbor's ill-mannered children begin jumping on the furniture and shouting incessantly for ice cream. 

And so Wendy pops some more pills...

And as her wig slides off, a scene from a nightmare begins to unfold.

When the Andrea Yates case first made headlines, the scene which follows came to mind.
Along with many other horror films, I first saw BLUE SUNSHINE on either Creature Feature or Thriller Double Feature, on Saturday afternoon UHF (metro Detroit), at a very young age.  It made quite an impression, to say the least.

As much as I might like to forget, these are images that have been indelibly stamped into my memory, for all time—and that is the measure of a good horror movie.  

And, alas, that's a wrap for October...sleep tight.  Oh, and happy Halloween!