Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sleepaway Camp


Sleepaway Camp
Directed by:  Robert Hiltzik
USA, 1983
Horror, 88min

Oh they don’t make them like this any more... or do they? Well actually yes, they do and nothing much has happened since this infamous last minute shock, shocker hit the horror scene, and no. Not really, because this movie has a hidden agenda and an important commentary that is just as important today as it was back when this movie was released… a commentary on sexuality!

Basic recap goes like this: A family are out on the lake boating at what obviously is some kind of generic summer camp for kids. Some of the older kids, most likely counsellors are water-skiing, when the decent chap at the wheel during a weak moment gives in to the seductive chick who want’s to give the boat a spin. Guess what happens next, yeah, she takes the wheel and the boat runs out of control speeding right at the family of two kids and father who just happened to over turn their boat. The disaster is a fact; the father floats by lifeless, as does a bloody mangled child’s life vest.  This is the set up for Sleepaway Camp which takes it stomping safely down secure conventional path.
Years later two cousins, Angela [Felissa Rose] and Ricky [Jonathan Tiersten], are sent to camp Arawak by their insanely, over the top acted, Aunt Martha [Desiree Gould]. Ricky is cool and suave as he’s looking forward to spending summer with last years flame, Judy [Karen Fields], but seen as a year has passed she’s matured past him and laughs at his feeble attempts to get his fingers sticky. Angela is silent, shy and almost reclusive which within seconds rubs Judy and cabin counsellor Meg [Katherine Kamhi] the wrong way, making it their mission to make Angela’s summer as miserable as possible!
So with all that set up, let's get to the kills. I was somewhat surprised at the low death toll of this film, but at the same time, at least the first few kills where pretty decent when it comes to the effects department. Creepy paedophile camp chef Artie [Owen Hughes] tries to whip his dick out in front of Angela and ends up being shoved into a pot of boiling water. Oh, who can the killer be? Effect wise the blistering creep is rather effective and still looks cool… Make it last as the effects get shoddier and shoddier as the film goes – apart from a great water snake and a deadhead scene, and the suggestive shadow play of the killer shoving a hot hair curler up a female victims privates, which probably is a more effective way to pull off the effect as it would never stayed in the movie if it had been done with dodgy looking prosthetics. True to formula, every time someone offends, taunts or harasses Angela, that same person snuffs it in a freak accident! Oh, who can the killer be? Which is what we keep asking (or do we?) all the way up to the shocking reveal at the last moment of the film!
There’s a small subplot concerning the elderly camp manager Mel [Mike Kellin] and young counsellor Meg – which ends in another rather creepy paedophile outing. But this subplot leads to some serious child bashing and force-feeding a red herring onto the audience. Mel is convinced that Ricky is responsible for the killings, and the killings directly tie into what at first seems to be a stupid reaction to the camp murders – as in none, the ambulance leaves with “another corpse” and the campers just go back to life as normal – what we have here is the threat of going out of business, and some whacko killing off campers and staff is really bad business for a summer camp!
All in all, Sleepaway Camp is a fun and campy little piece of slasher fluff. Considering the time it was made and released, it checks all the right boxes as far as convention goes. But perhaps first and foremost Sleepaway Camp is most know for it’s shock ending! With the ending spoiled over and over again in so many various forums – it’s genre folklore and the “surprise” at the end is obviously something that everyone exposes as soon as the name Sleepaway Camp is mentioned… you would think that there’s all there is to it.

But wait! I can’t really understand why I’ve never EVER heard/or read about the gay love scene in Sleepaway Camp! Yes, if there’s one thing that makes this film stand out it has to be the two male lovers! This is where I move into spoilerville as I need to break certain things to explain this correctly.
So from now on, people shouldn’t looking at this film as the slasher with the transsexual killer, they should actually be looking at it as an important part of gay themed horror cinema!  One could choose to read it as Pro-Gay as it actually has two male men enjoying the company of each other, and the anti-hero character is transsexual! Exiting and provocative, right?

Or you could read it as a criticism against homosexuality! First off, the death of Angela’s father John [Dan Tursi]: he dies in the opening scene, the unfortunate victim of that tragic accident (which only happened because of sexual tension between the boy and girl!) where a boat smashes into the man and his two children. Make note that the man who shouts lines of dialogue from the beach may seem a random dude, but he returns later to tie it all together!
The subplot concerning Angela’s love interest – hormone fuelled Paul [Christopher Collet] who will do everything he can to get in her pants – or Judy’s, Hell, raging hormones wait for nobody  - may seem to be nothing but budding and fumbled teenage love leading up to the climax, but it goes deeper and it ties into the surreal shock ending in more than one way. The very first time that Paul manages to get Angela down on the beach and starts to unbutton her blouse to get to second base leads to a very surreal flashback! In this flashback Angela and her brother are seen standing in the doorway of a bedroom giggling at something that they find odd. Now you could easily have cut to a mom and dad kissing and the scene would have made perfect sense… but instead we get a scene of Angela’s father John in bed with the dude from the beach, daddy’s lover! So if we look at the traumatizing death of John, it’s blatantly obvious that this scarred Angela in such a way that she knows that homosexual love is punished by death! Her father was killed; for the sake of the argument let us say by the hand of God, due to his homosexuality. Angela has been forced to live life as a little girl, all due to the weird and wacky aunt wanting to have a little girl! So in some way you have to look at the killings in Sleepaway Camp in two different ways, one being the vengeance killings – Angela murders her oppressors as a metaphorical revenge on Aunt Martha. The final murder, perhaps the most uncalled for and horrendous of them all, is committed because Paul reveals Angela’s secret, and with the budding feelings for Paul returned, the punishment is served, all though unfortunately for Paul, it’s he who is punished for the unbeknownst homosexuality, (or the risk of homosexual activity), not Angela.
But this also opens an opportunity to read the film as pro-gay, where the oppressed and repressed homosexuality finally gets a chance to take its revenge on the “normal” society. Where Angela has been forced into an alternative sexuality, she now no longer has a sexual identity – if we can talk about a teenage transgender person in those terms – and for that she finally get’s to release all that confusion, frustration and anger, taking it out on the Male person who trigger’s all that repressed rage and emotion! In other words, don't oppress sexuality, hetro or homo, because even if you are a God it will come back to kill you! 

Most likely Robert Hiltzik had none of this in mind at all when he scripted Sleepaway Camp, but it’s food for thought and as I’m from now on going to refer to Sleepaway Camp as the Gay Dad film first and the one with the transsexual killer second, because that’s the way the importance of those two scenes should be sorted not in any other way. From now on, Sleepaway Camp goes from generic slasher to important gender role thought-provoker, intentional or not.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Human Centipod Episode 2

Time for The Human Centipod Ep2, where Fred and I ramble on about the Crystal Lake Memories documentary, Fred's cabin fever, and James Wan films. We also talk to our special guest Johanna Holmin, who is responsible for the spanking new MONSTERS OF FILM festival which opens this weekend!

Dig it!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Human Centipod!


Pop the pod! Yes it's finally happened, Fred [ExNinja] and I have talked for what seems like eons about sitting down and talking about movies and taping it. So that's precisely what we've done now and the time is perfect to unleash THE HUMAN CENTIPOD, a 100% genre geek podcast. We're looking at publishing once a month, and just let it take us where ever it takes us.

This first time around we decided to talk about a movie that we both feel is a classic in all the right ways, Sean C. Cunningham's Friday the 13th. So get ready for 22 minutes of geek love for the horror genre.

Listen below or go to our SoundCloud page here.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian Sound Studio
Directed by: Peter Strickland
UK, 2012
Thriller, 92min


Ok, quick fix on this movie… Well it’s set in the seventies and about a typical stiff upper lipped British bloke, Gilderoy [Toby Jones], who travels to Italy to work with the sound design on director Santini’s [Antonio Mancino] new historically correct inquisition film The Equestrian Vortex – that’s exploitation horror to you and me and Gilderoy. 


Somewhere between the letters from mom, and being nauseated by the on-screen, off-screen atrocities Toby seemingly falls for Silvia [Fatma Mohamed] - whom producer Francesco Coraggio [Cosimo Fusco] warns Gilderoy has “poison in her tits”. The emotional detour leads him to becoming lost in his own imagination where the line between film and fiction is erased… 
Let’s be honest, Berberian Sound Studio is a tricky movie to grasp in one sitting, and there’s really no right or wrong analysis of this film, as everyone is going to read it their own way. This is one of those films that will split audiences in two halves. The ones who are angered because flips in and out of diegetic and non-diegetic audio, has a really trippy narrative and does all that it possibly can to mess with the audiences head, and the ones that simply take it for what it is – a curious thriller flipping in and out of diegetic and non-diegetic audio, has a really trippy narrative and does all that it can to mess with the audiences head. 

Oh! And Suzy Kendall get’s a credit as special guest screamer!

Let me put it this way, Berberian Sound Studio is fucking brilliant and mandatory viewing for fans of Eurohorror and Giallo. No it’s not a horror film, it’s more of a mental mind trip in with elements of Brian DePalma’s Blow Up, Coppola’s The Conversation, Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Michael Armstrong’s Mark of the Devil… and it’s also a movie about what you didn’t see. NO, this isn’t a Giallo homage, NO, this isn’t a Eurohorror homage, this is something quite different and indeed.
To sum it up, Berberian Sound Studio is like being really drunk and trapped in that scene of the sound engineers in Luigi Cozzi’s “Dario Argento – Master of Horror” creating sound effects and magic that we all associate with classic Italian genre fare. That’s where this movie takes place and if you do like those kind of movies, you will get a kick out of this mind expanding piece of cinema. 

Here’s that scene from Luigi Cozzi’s Dario Argento: Master of Horror which partially captures the essence of Berbian Sound Studio!




And here's the UK trailer:

Soon to be released by NjutaFilms on DVD and also screening at the MONSTERS OF FILM festival 26-29 September.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

WEEKEND OF HORRORS



So I’m celebrating Friday the 13th in the best possible way, creating cool poses with my Jason Vorhees action figures, confirming the order of my handmade AHC, Jason hockey mask and trying to decide which of the twelve movies I'm gonna spin, when I realize just how much I’m looking forward to the WEEKEND OF HORRORS!

Right now there’s less than two more months until the WEEKEND OF HORRORS, Europe’s largest Horror Convention opens it's doors to what looks to become a convention weekend of epic proportions. After several years in Bottrop, the convention is moving out to larger, bigger, better location – The TUBINENHALLE in OBERHAUSEN. Sounds pretty damned cool and judging from the few images that have been released, it’s looking fantastic.

This year marks the third time I take the extended weekend into horror geek heaven, and this time is special, because this time it becomes tradition instead of an occurrence. This is the third year running that Fred [HERE], Joachim [HERE] and I pack our bags, bring along that extra empty large case for all the purchases, and fly out for one hell off a weekend in Germany. A horror Geekend quite unlike any other!

Any convention worth it’s name houses a grand selection of guests [CHECK THEM HERE!]. WEEKEND OF HORRORS has more guests than anyone else in Europe, and definitely some of the best horror and genre names! This year visitors can rub shoulders with legends such as Malcolm McDowell, Sid Haig, Danny Glover, Camille Keaton, Debbie Rochon, Micheal Biehn, C Thomas Howell, Andrew Bryniasrski, Meg Foster, Danny Hicks and many more. Personally I’m looking forward to Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille and the original cast of The Blair Witch Project: Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams and Heather Donahue!  As I am writing this, they just announced Haruo Nakajima – That’s the ORIGINAL “Man in Suit”, the actor who brought GODZILLA to life! I know who I’ll be taking photographs with!

Films not only are there loads of retailers there - but each year there are screenings during the Convention too – often with cast or crew in attendance! A few years back Alex Chandon was there with INBRED, last year the restored NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT was shown with castmembers Doug Bradley, Hugh Ross, Simon Bamford, Nicholas Vince (and Barbie Wilde as there was a Hellraiser reunion going on too)  in attendance along with Russel Cherrington, responsible for the reconstruction of Clive Barkers original vision. This time around there’s a screening of CURSE OF CHUCKY, Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM, Andreas Bethman’s new flick Help me I’m Dead and Joel Caetano’s ENCOSTO announced so far! [The program, so far, can be found here]

With the new facilities comes the possibility of bigger nightly events… such as concerts! This year a bunch bands will be performing during the weekend, all included in the price of entrance! (Read more about them in the program)

But what I’m looking forward to the most is spending hours rummaging through case after case of films, buying way to much junk, and wrapping up the evenings by meeting up with friends that we’ve learned to know through the years. Filmmakers, sellers, distributors, great people that make the event such a fucking awesome three days of horror madness. As you clearly can see, the WEEKEND OF HORRORS is the No1 horror event for any fan of the genre. I hope to meet you there!


Monday, September 09, 2013

Volume 10.

Ten. That's how many Mixtapes I've churned out in the last two years. Kinda fun and neat that I get to share shit I mess around with late at night. Stuff made to play through as I sit writing. Right now I could sit for about thirteen hours and listen to sweet sounds of stuff I dig. So can you.

Here's VOLUME TEN!


As they disappear from internet holding places I won't be replacing the links. But feel free to ask me for them and I'll set you up!

Cheers
J.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Conjuring


The Conjuring
Directed by: James Wan
Horror, 112 min
USA, 2013

James Wan is the king of mainstream horror! That is FACT! Gone are the days of the independent sleazy exploitations flicks that I grew up with. Films today try too hard, and if they are sleazy they always end up being pornographic, if they are horrific they usually tend to go over the top and settle up for a hand of god bogus fix in the last act, if they are violent, they more than often tend to be brutally nihilistic and dark and end with a funny ironic tune as the credits roll. Nothing is naïve and inventive anymore… it’s all preprogramed and calculated and formulated… at least in the mainstream.

But, James Wan get’s in there and does his thing. Yes, the films may be considered mainstream and feel somewhat predictable, but Wan goes his own way, reinvents his shock tactics and keeps delivering, and I’m surprisingly excited way above expectation when watching his stuff. That’s just the way it is. Rack them up, SAW, Dead Silence, Insidious and now The Conjuring. Blam, Blam, Blam, three damned effective horror shows that have left an impression. (Even if Insidious had a somewhat dud ending, but I’m holding out for the sequel to see if they bring it all round full circle) All of them films that gave you precisely what you wanted. Heart stopping scares; freak out moments and an entertaining story told in a somewhat new fashion. There’s a reason James Wan’s films spawn imitators, cash-ins and multiple sequels. They are highly efficient pieces of horror cinema that will make you choke on your popcorn, and then go back for more.

The Conjuring bases its tale upon the real life characters of Ed and Lorrain Warren (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson). Now if you don’t know of them, they where American investigators of the paranormal and their biggest claim to fame were investigating the Amityville Horror case. The Conjuring tells the story of the foregoing case; one where the Perron family are up against a sinister entity that only the Warrens can save them from. As you see, The Conjuring is basically classic haunted house/possession turf. All done with the ever-deceptive, slight of hand, smoke and mirrors trickery of shock meister James Wan.


The way the story moves is traditional storytelling 101. First off, establish the threat through a smart initial attack. In its short form, the opening shares the story of haunted Raggedy Annabelle, a dolly inhabiting an evil spirit. Now this is a cunning way to establish the force of antagonism, as it introduces us to the fact that ghosts exist and at the same time the story is told to the Warrens, hence introducing them. The world famous demonologists, paranormal researchers, and exorcists, Ed and Lorain Warren. With all this established, key the titles, run the old “True story” card and get things started.

The wraparounds, as in the opening story of Raggedy Annabelle and the final lines of dialogue referring to the Amityville case, give credibility to the tale of the Perron’s. The two cases are “actual” cases and therefore there’s no reason to doubt the main narrative either. If you are anything like me, you’ll do some research straight away when hearing that “the conjuring is based on true events”. The first two cases you’ll come up with are Amityville and Raggedy Annabelle… a smart way to convince sceptics that the story was a real one.

The Perron family (with Lili Taylor making a great return to genre as mother Carolyn Perron) move into their new house, or rather mansion, and the moment their youngest daughter April finds a musical box hidden away in a tree we are miles ahead of the story - because that’s partially what that opening scene and the information that the “Doll was a vessel for a demon” dialouge was all about!

The hauntings start that same night as family dog Sadie is snuffed by unseen forces. Slowly, slowly the tension builds –rooms are cold, funky smells are experienced, hidden basements are disclosed and a cute childish game of clap and seek is used to give some serious scares. Wan begins to manipulate the audience into vulnerable territory as he sets us up for scare after scare! Reintroducing the Warren’s into the piece, their everyday life and profession as demonologists is intercut with the events in the Perron house. Eventually the Perron family is left with no other alternative than to contact the church about the strange events in their house, which in turn leads to the Warrens and how they come face to face with the case so haunting and disturbing that they have it secret until now…
But what really fucks you up with The Conjuring is that Wan sets you up for the shock moments all according to the book of convention, but never guarantees that he’ll deliver on that tension! Yes, it may sound flakey, but it’s terrifyingly effective and I shit you not when I say that a good damned half of the scares and wind-ups in The Conjuring are all your own doing. Wan only moves his camera, dollies in, set's you up and builds an expectation. Now and again he’s got something up his sleeve to scare you stiff, others he’s going to make you get all wound up just because he can! Less is more, and The Conjuring is creepy as hell!

The Conjuring builds an amazing tension, delivers some really great scares and once again confirms that James Wan is a fear-monger to rely on! Opens on Cinema screams everywhere on Friday the 6th!