Tuesday, 10 May 2011
You know, being a Monster Kid born in the 1960's, the fact that I have a Kinder Trauma involving The Exorcist might not be so unusual. I was 9 at the time the movie was released, and the fact is however, that I consider my initial Exorcist experience a life-changing tale akin to losing my virginity.
As far back as I can remember, I'd loved monsters, and my earliest movie memories all involve a horror movie trauma of one form or another: forcing my folks to leave my very first movie screening - Tom Thumb – because I was convinced the giant’s feet were going to crush me; having to sit up on the back of our sofa during a solo TV viewing of The Deadly Mantis because I was certain an oversized mantis (though smaller than the one featured in the flick I was watching) would grab my leg from its hiding place under the sofa. I went through the era-typical stages of burgeoning horror fandom too: Aurora model kits (up to and including the infamous Aurora Horror Scenes), Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, The Monster Times, Universal classics, etc. But nothing had prepared me for the sights and sounds of The Exorcist.
I can’t remember where I first heard about this movie, but it must have been via press stories about the effect it was having on audiences. This was no normal horror movie; people were fainting, throwing up, calling clergy and mental health professionals after seeing it. In those days, pre-Star Wars, it took a while for movies to make their way around the country, and by the time The Exorcist hit my small town, I’d read the Exorcist parodies in Mad, Cracked and Crazy magazines, I’d somehow managed to get my hands on the novel (which I didn’t read until years later) as well as William Peter Blatty on The Exorcist from Novel to Screen, complete with a nerve-wracking centre spread of movie stills. I had the issue of Famous Monsters with its garish Exorcist cover story. I clipped and collected articles and ads for the movie. I somehow ended up with a knock-off album of “contemporary” movie themes on the Pickwick label that included Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, all NOT performed by the original artists. I tell you all this to give you an idea of the Exorcist frenzy that was building within me. Somehow, it needed release.
Finally, The Exorcist showed up at my local theatre. I begged my father to take me, but being sane, he refused. Instead, he went to a matinee screening of the movie by himself. As my mother and I picked him up at the theatre afterwards, I asked him how it was. Clearly, my father had just sat through something completely different. And NO WAY was he going to take me. The frenzy continued to build.
Three years later, The Exorcist showed up at the drive-in, playing a double bill with John Wayne’s Cahill. After much begging, unbelievably, my father finally agreed to take me!
Despite my eagerness for the main event to get started, we had to make it through the Oater first. Whatever Cahill is about, I can’t tell you; I’m sure the Duke must’ve cleaned up some mess or other in some little two-horse town, but I can’t recall.
The prologue in Iraq was unnerving. I wasn’t sure what some of it was about, but the images and sounds were making me uneasy. Back in the USA, we meet Chris MacNeil, an actress; her director; her staff; her daughter Regan; a troubled priest. I did okay despite the ominous feeling the movie was giving me, until Regan takes a leak on the carpet during her mom’s cocktail party. Oh-oh. The Frankenstein Monster never did that. A little while later, little Reagan, who is just a hair older than me, is suffering from a banging bed, a swelling throat, eyeballs rolling back into her head, and she’s making lewd suggestions to her doctors. By this time, I’m starting to realize that this movie is over my head. In other words: NOT INTENDED FOR CHILDREN. Though I couldn’t formulate the thought in these words, this was my introduction to adult horror, and it was blowing my mind! What was happening on-screen was literally beyond my comprehension. What I did know, however, was that there was a very good chance that I was never going to sleep again, even if we left AT THIS VERY MOMENT! Despite that, I had to make an attempt to save what was left of my sanity. I found my voice and asked my father if we could please go? He asked me if I was sure I wanted to leave. Yes. I was.
My dad starts the car, and we begin to drive away. As we turn from the screen and down the lane that will take us out of this evil place, my father says, “Look at the screen.” Knowing I shouldn’t, but unable to NOT do it, I turn just as this happens:
I was hooked/deflowered/twisted for all time. I can pinpoint the very moment.
Years later, The Exorcist remains one of my favourite movies. Whatever that first half-viewing may have contributed to my development, devolution, or psyche scarring, I’m not absolutely sure. What I do know is that The Exorcist popped my adult horror cherry, and for that, it will always hold a special place in my little black heart. I just wish it would call now and then.
Monday, 9 May 2011
Code Red DVD is a terrific boutique label that has released a number of hard-to-see genre flicks over the last few years. In an era when small labels are closing left, right and centre, challenged by downloading both legal and illegal, it’s nice to see CR holding on, despite premature notice that they would be closing sometime during the summer of 2011.
The label has also become one of the more controversial DVD houses in the marketplace due to a number of issues that include limited (often contentious) communication with the buying public, changing (sometimes vanishing) release dates, and hard to find ordering information. However, Code Red continues to bring the goods; the controversial 80’s slasher flick “Nightmares” directed by Romano Scavolini is due to street on July 28.
What follows are my 10 favourite Code Red DVD releases so far, in order. Bring on “Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker” and "Savage Streets"!
MESSIAH OF EVIL
Director: Willard Huyck; 1973; CR #: 18
CR Description: One of great, rarely seen horror movies of the 70s finally gets a proper DVD release!!!!!!!!! 100 years ago, a demonic priest from Hell passed through a seaside town, carrying a blood-crazed contagion that reduced all the good citizens to mindless, cannibal zombies. Following a frenzied, flesh-eating orgy, the dark priest walked straight into the sea, promising to return a century later to lead a new zombie apocalypse. This time around, the vile contagion precedes him. As spaced-out followers gather on the beach, awaiting their master's return, the town is already in the grip of a carnivorous epidemic of madness. When innocent young Arletty comes to town searching for her missing father, she realizes too late that the demon priest of the "blood moon" is coming for her. Starring Mariana Hill, Elisha Cook Jr., Joy Bang, Royal Dano; Directed by Willard Huyck.
Director: Peter Carter; 1977; CR# 24
CR Description: Mitzi (Lawrence Dane, SCANNERS, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) invites a fellow doctor, Harry (Award winning Hal Halbrook, INTO THE WILD, CAPRICORN ONE), and three other doctors to go on a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness. They thought they were alone, but someone is watching them. A Harmless trip turns into a nightmare and murder as the psychopath plays a deadly psychological game of survival. Robin Gammell (LIPSTICK) co-stars. Special Make-up by Carl Fullerton (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 & 3). Un-cut and uncensored, from the producer's vault elements!
Director: Raphael Nussbaum; 1974; CR # 23; OOP
CR Description: Sultry teen vixen Bonnie (cult beauty Candice Rialson) had no idea what was in store for her when she ditched her brother and took to the road, looking for cheap thrills wherever she could find them. Violent petty criminal Pat drags her into a kinky hold-up and lesbian artist Geraldine takes Bonnie under her wing as her personal muse, but the young runaway continues to crave adventure, leading her down a twisted path to a psychosexual encounter with Vincent, a collector of beautiful objects who wants to add her to his permanent collection... Co-starring Joan Blackman (Macon County Line) and Ed Bishop (UFO) in his wildest screen role, you've never seen anything like Pets! Play with them, fondle them, but beware... Pets bite!
Director: Thom Eberhardt; 1983; CR #: 007
Terror stalks the sole survivor of a plane crash in this gripping, innovative horror story by Thom (Night of the Comet) Eberhardt. Television producer Denise Watson (Anita Skinner, winner of a Golden Globe for Girlfriends) is ready to resume her life after surviving a plane crash, until she starts to see strangers, threatening and malevolent, watching her every move. Plagued by night fears, and a series of terrifying near-miss accidents, she seeks help from her neighbor Kristy (Robin Davidson), and her psychiatrist, Dr. Richardson (Kurt Johnson). But is she really losing her mind? Or is she under attack by emissaries of death, intent on repossessing her extra lease of life?
LOVE ME DEADLY
Director: Jacques Lacerte; 1973; CR #: 006
CR Description: Lindsay (Mary Wilcox) has an unusual fascination with the dead. She often finds herself at funerals for people she doesn't even know. Once the mourners have cleared out, she's drawn to the corpse by an unspeakable sexual curiosity. It appears that this obsession with the recently deceased has been brewing within Lindsay for quite some time and might have something to do with her late father. She makes an attempt at a normal relationship with Lyle Waggoner ("Wonder Woman", "The Carol Burnett Show"), but is also lured into a corpse -loving cult by a creepy undertaker. Equal parts sick soap opera and exploitation shocker, LOVE ME DEADLY still has the power to disturb and disgust 25 years after its original release.
GIRLS IN CHAINS
Director: Donald M. Jones; 1973; Code Red # NA; OOP
CR Description: They were abducted and violated... but the worst was yet to come! In a remote country house, a malevolent form of sleaze and terror is being bred. A crazy mother encourages her two sons - raving lunatic Frank (Gary Kent) and his not-all-there brother Johnny (John Stoglin) - to kidnap young women and chain them up in the basement. The girls are treated like animals and then subjected to games that grow increasingly sinister and depraved. When the brothers tire of their playthings, the girls must be replaced. This lost exploitation classic is every bit as morally corrupt as you've heard. Directed by Don Jones (The Forest) and shot by cinematographer Ron Garcia (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), Girls In Chains is an entertaining slice of early '70s sleaze guaranteed to delight and disturb. Originally known as Schoolgirls In Chains, Exploitation Digital, in association with Code Red DVD, is proud to bring Girls In Chains to DVD for the first time ever!
Director: Giulio Paradisi; 1979; CR # 025
CR Description: Katy Collins (Paige Conner, Little Darlings) is no ordinary 8 year-old girl. Indeed, she is unique, carrying within her the power of Sateen, an inter-spacial force of immense magnitude. Katy's primary mission on earth is to carry these genes forward, a task accomplished by convincing her mother, Barbara (Joanne Nail, Switchblade Sisters) to bear a similarly endowed male child with whom Katy would eventually mate. Opposing this scheme is The Visitor (John Huston - Academy Award winner, Chinatown, The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon), a sage of galactic stature who has come to this world not to kill Katy, but to end her "confusion". Find out what happens in this unforgettable, supernatural suspense thriller from the maker of the box office hit Beyond The Door.
Director: Danny Steinmann; 1980; CR # 11
CR Description: A television reporter (Barbara Bach) and her two friends head to Solvang, California to cover a Danish festival. When there is a mix-up at the hotel and they are left without hotel rooms, the girls accept the invitation of a friendly museum owner to board at his large farmhouse, because the rest of the motels in and around town are sold out. But unknown to the women, something is living in the basement of the house. Their stay soon becomes a horrific nightmare when, one by one, they encounter the 'unseen'.
DEVIL TIMES FIVE
Director: Sean MacGregor; 1974; CR # 004; OOP
CR Description: Five extremely disturbed, sociopathic children escape from their psychiatric transport and are taken in unwittingly by a group of adult villagers on winter vacation.
BEYOND THE DOOR
Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis; 1975; CR # 015
CR Description: Jessica, wife of a record producer and mother of two foul-mouthed children, is pregnant but senses something strange about the baby brought on by the reappearance in her life of an old lover, Dmitri (Richard Johnson) - whose life the devil has promised to extend if he makes sure Jessica delivers her devil spawn.
Director: William Fruet; 1983; CR #: 016
A suspenseful thriller in the tradition of DELIVERANCE and WRONG TURN, directed by cult director William Fruet (DEATH WEEKEND, KILLER PARTY, SPASMS), written by John Beaird (MY BLOODY VALENTINE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) and photographed by award winning cinematographer Mark Irwin (SCANNERS, VIDEODROME, THE BLOB, THE FLY, SCREAM)! An innocent camping weekend turns into terror and murder for four young university students! Henry Chatwell (Henry Silva - OCEANS 11, SHARKEY'S MACHINE, CHAINED HEAT) tortures, stalks and kills his wife's lover, all witnessed by the students. Unable to contact the sheriff, the students return to their campsite where they are taken captive by Chatwell. Chatwell's verdict is that the students must die! Realizing he has gone too far, two villagers release the students who are one by one recaptured, expect for Roger (Nicholas Campbell - THE DEAD ZONE, TV’s DaVINCI'S INQUEST). Chatwell goes after Roger with an axe and the fight is on. When you are trapped like an animal...it's kill or be killed!