House on the Edge of the Park a/k/a House of the Park on the Edge

Stop shooting me!

David Hess’ range goes from zero to sixty in an eye blink. He does menace the screen with a bug-eye presence, but his danger is all torso and rage. He is a perfect fit for the home invasion/hostage flicks, but as his career attests, does not make the transition into the cartoony action pictures of the late 80s and into the 90s. He is all curly hair and open shirt thug of the fading glory days of a Times Square street hustle.

Perfect for this ridiculous movie. Opening with the stupidest rape/murder ever – a slow car chase crawls to a stop when Hess whips his car in front of the victim’s, then plops into the passenger seat next to the little woman driving. Improbable, silly, and stupid. Yet it is the motive for the rest of the movie, I guess. Though really?

Giovanni Radice hams it up as the mentally slow sidekick of the psychopath Hess. He really jams up the awkward in a fantastic dance sequence, that is both charmingly, socially sadistic. The rich kid party goers are unsympathetic, snobbish, and pained in their attempts to tease out the beast that lurks under the surface of Hess’ Alex.  For you see the whole party is a set up to murder Alex.  By inciting him, having him terrorize them, the party’s host can enact revenge for the rape/murder of his sister. Got that? Yeah, it does not make any sense, considering what these idiots allow to happen in the meantime.

The movie has a weird disconnect as to where the terror and horror is located. The women are painted in highly unfavorable hues. First as temptresses who need to be taken by force. In this regard, the movie is horribly misogynistic.  Alex basically tries to get his lackey to rape a woman, but he can’t go through with it. Then Alex threatens people with the razor, pees on a guy in a pool, makes girls kiss, slices up a young girl after cutting away her clothes.  Funny Games, this isn’t.

Very silly little movie, really.

The Road

the Boy and his Papa's corpse on the beach

I am not sure where to begin to talk about THE ROAD.  I mean the audacity of attempting to re-imagine a Fellini?!

I liked the book a whole lot, its not as good as a Blood Meridian, but it is a tense and powerful novel. But what I love about McCarthy rests, almost entirely, in his ability to push to the edges of the narrative the gruesome reality of his brutal stories. What possibilities exist, do so at the loose frays on the edges of scenes and characters. McCarthy’s skill is in focusing the horror on the most mundane elements. The scene where father and son enact the house invasion, only to find the human cattle in the cellar will always stick with me, not for its brutal silliness, but for the abject horror that the father drops his zippo somewhere down there. The potential narrative arc of that lighter is devastating.

But the movie, by its very nature as a visual medium, needs to illustrate with a crisp and unflinching exactitude. As a result, the images are static. The ambiguity and desperation is only as effective as the faces, actions, or grime that can be shown. Add to that, the necessity of back story melodrama in the expanded role of the mother, and what results is a less morally elusive narrative. Instead what we are treated to is a sad mash up of science fiction conventions – shades of Road Warrior, survival porn, and the rich history of washed-out blues and grays of bleak dystopian films – and the power is stripped of its emotion, in its place is manipulation.

Everything that makes the novel good, ultimately failed the movie.

Avoid.

City of the Living Dead a/k/a The Gates of Hell a/k/a Fear in the City of the Living Dead

crying blood effect is super creepy

This is so good. It has everything that a schlock horror movie should have! There are extreme death, disgusting situations, murder and madness, and a whole town rapt with hijinx!

The story is structured like a Stephen King novel – meaning that a group of ordinary people are introduced as templates for the oncoming evil. How that evil plops down into their pathetic everyday lives is meant to fill pages upon pages in the King novels and drive home the emotional impact of the terror. But in this movie it just gives an excuse for more actors to mutter silly dialogue and met horrible ends. Wait. That sounds a lot like a King novel too!

Take for instance the woman, Mary, who dies at the seance. She is the motor of the action. Or at least, the movie’s flimsy attempt to explain the silliness. Plus she sets up the graveyard scene, in which two lazy gravediggers leave her coffin half buried, so that the crusty cigar chomping  newspaper man, can rescue her with the pick axe. Mary screams as the axe drives through her coffin, stopping inches from her eye, teeth, and cheek. Terrible way to get rescued.

There is Bob, played with amazing physicality by Giovanni Radice, a creep who has a blow-up sex doll girlfriend, even though all the hotties in town seek him out to party. He gets a garage drill to his temple. Why? Because he is blamed for the murder of the make out kids in the car. The one who was bleeding from her eyes and then barfed up her whole intestines.

There are the guys in the bar. The three of them are used to illustrate how the unleashed horror effects the locals. First they don’t believe anything. The the now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t corpses attack and gut munch all of them right up.

There is Gerry and Sandra. Who’s relationship is strange. Are they doctor and patient? Are they lovers? Friends? Who cares. Gerry is the ultimate hero of the movie. And Sandra gets her head squished. Which brings me to a very strange point in the zombie canon. Fulci has decided that these undead, risen corpses, preferred method of consumption is a hand to the back of the skull, as the zombies fingers rip and crush open the skull, brain bits oozing and glooping as the victim is scalped. Great special effect, but very strange.

keep yer mouth shut!

Probably the best scene in the entire mess is the maggot storm. Four characters are attacked by a flurry of maggots for three to five minutes of screen time. The windows burst open and a huge wind fan blows chunks of foam or popcorn at the actors, as close-ups of patches of maggots squirm and burrow into the actor’s faces. When the scene ends, the room’s floor is, literally, carpeted in maggots. Its the most impressively disgusting thing in the movie by far. And that includes the wormy dead baby and the hanged priest’s zombie corpse speared to show his muddy, sloppy entrails.

While the story makes no sense. There are so many plot holes that to even start to mention them would take hours and probably give me a headache. It is one of the better zombie/ghost/gorefests out there, simply for its take no prisoners attitude and glee. Go see it.

BLOODSTAINED SHADOW a/k/a Solamente nero

Great hair cut.

Let’s just get this out of the way, the priest did it. With his steely blue eyes and Grand Moff Tarkin smirk, he gives himself away the first time he saunters on screen, thanks to Craig Hill’s stiff performance.

Well, he at least did some of it. There are multiple murderers, a whole complicated black mail plot for motive. Based around the machinations of a scheming medium who uses her seances to uncover the small village sins for her own gain.

This is a slow moving romantic mystery giallo, as Stefano and Sandra fall in love, they are compelled to try to get to the bottom of the murders.

Why? Because Stefano is plagued with neurological damage from a repressed memory of watching his brother strangle a school girl so many years ago. And Sandra’s mother is one of the victims. Or something.

Still this flick manages to sneak in some real freaky degenerates – the queer piano teacher who is molesting the little lord fauntleroys of the village, the electroshock damaged manboy kept in the attic of the abortionist’s house, not to mention the murderous priest who stuffs an old lady into the fireplace face first!

There is a great boat chase scene, where the good doctor is escaping  his attacker by hanging on to the side of a passing boat, only to be run down by the killer’s own speeding boat.

And the scene where the buff Christ on the Cross jumps from the wall to attack the priest in a failed attempt to silence him. Seriously that was one heck of a statue.

The only other notable thing about this, otherwise, unremarkable giallo is that Lino Capolicchio looks strikingly similar to Mark E. Smith of THE FALL. It was distracting.

Lino
MES

Black Belly of the Tarantula a/k/a La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero

only two spiders died in the making of this movie.

What the heck happened in this one? Not only is the main character a police inspector, but the movie is highly sympathetic to him! Which, to me, removes a lot of the noirish sleaze as well as lifting the veil of strange perversion. The movie is just another example of a ‘police procedural,” albeit, with a giallo twist to the killer’s method and motive.

At first, I thought this was going to be a precursor to SE7EN – in that the killer seemed likely to be targeting ladies who embodied aspects of the seven sins. Plus the whole lovey dovey Inspector and his new doting wife, sweet and caring never fares well in these cat and mouse environments. But that whole story line just disintegrates into a complicated red herring blackmail plot.

The blackmail plot based around the comings and goings on at some high class spa – which includes a gay waiter who briefly tries to add some humor  as he drops cigarettes into the same bubble pool that ends the Edgwie Fenech sex comedy Giovannona: Long-Thigh. The spa, incidentally, figures into the murders by providing the tormented killer, who is revealed in the opening credits, really.

There is some nonsense about a framed husband on the lam who is quickly dispatched, sadly not in a bathtub, that send the movie reeling over to the real plot. The gore is minimal and the acupuncture needles, while a nice touch, should be the clincher at the end – BUT there has to be a happy ending for the conflicted hero cop and his lovely wife.

The fetish animal of the title is handled in the drug smuggling sub-subplot. There is an entomologist who is smuggling cocaine in with the deadly black tarantulas. And the audience is treated to some nature documentary footage of a wasp or bee or something like that fighting the spider. Cool.

Not the best giallo for some obvious reasons – namely competent police work.

THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS

Pleasure to stab at you!

Edwige Fenech is in mortal danger, again! More importantly her wardrobe will not survive. This time she is on the run from a freeky deeky sex cult. One lead by a dork named Adam who believes that orgies are the only way to make a marriage work, that, and, stalking. I guess. I mean that whole plot line is meant to contextualize the titular symbol and add some much needed “suspense.” It does not work too well.

The red herrings are standard fare for these giallo things – an exotic main girl who is knocked off fairly early thus setting up the framing engine that moves the plot along. In this case, a black poof ball who happens upon a stabbed call girl in an elevator, works as a man wrestler when she is not nude modeling for a twisted little gay Woody Allen.  Her eventual murder, again with the bathtub, casts initial blame on the main boy, this time George Hilton, again.  Hilton spends the rest of the movie making himself look more and more guilty.

The next red herring consists of a host of suspicious creepers who spend a lot of screen time grabbing corners and gripping edges of pillars or walls before flipping out switch blades or sneaking fingers into gloves. These men are always lurking, lurking in the daylight shadows, watching the various girls walk into fancy buildings or trot across busy streets in miniskirts, all the tight outfits bouncing and jiggling.

Finally, there is a litany of popular psycho-sexual deviance tacked on as motivation for the killer. Of course, everyone in these movies is twisted by some sexual hang up or attraction, lesbians fare the worst, I am sad to note. While male homosexuals provide a flowering comic relief, foiling the police with sashaying and lisping double entendres. Unfortunately, this flick wallows in the sludge of sleazy moralism as the final motive.

George Hilton, the good looking ladies’ man hero of so many of these movies, plays the money-grubbing landlord who falls for the wrong dame, with a bewildered confidence. First, he has to deal with her “sadist” switch blade flinging husband, then allegations of murder, then his new gal’s mortally roommate’s bloody grasp, which finally sends him on the lam. He, also, suffers from blood phobia. Why? Well, in flashback it is revealed that he was in a horrid car crash where is dead father’s bloody corpse dripped blood on his tiny child  face until he was rescued. Now do you get it? That is just brilliant.

Poor Edwige Fenech. First, she doesn’t like orgies. Then she doesn’t like modeling. Then she moves into a condo next to super-creepy, unfriendly neighbors AND is plagued by a serial killer! No one believes that she is menaced, man-handled, and  nearly murdered. Then her new boyfriend is accused by the police as a serial killer. Next she is lured into a junkyard and a basement all under the pretense of reuniting with her beloved. Oh, to be a thoroughly modern Millie!

The police, in this one, are surprisingly well drawn and get a lot of screen time. Giampiero Albertini plays  Commissioner Enci as a man who’s hemorrhoids can be felt through the screen. His grouchiness is offset by the hijinx of his his assistant Redi, who is more adept at finding rare stamps at crime scenes than clues. But they are on the case and actually manage to solve it. Which is rare for these giallos, where the falsely accused main boy has to clear himself through a labyrinth of dead ends and near misses. Albertini conveys real glee in proposing any number of suspicions and theories pointing out guilt and culpability.

Three quotes are worth noting too –

“I don’t like orgies, I get motion sick.”

“Just wait until I try and make it with you, you’d be surprised at what a bastard I can be.”

“Who wouldn’t?! Every man wants to make it with a black girl.”

SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS

Chewing gum at their parent's funeral

What starts out with a promise of blood-gushing fun, quickly becomes an almost unwatchable mess. The opening, stylish burgerlery interrupted by brain bits smashing, cracked skull whacking, eyeball bashing, and cheek ripped mayhem set a high gore standard which makes the rest of the film’s effects look even worse!

Evil children, the blonde idiot orphans, offer some promise of giggling, mocking revenge while their murdered parent’s ghosts offer more promise of gory haunting mischief, and the mystery of the guilty murderer are all bundled up with silly-string.

The children are right to mock the adults, who are harmless idiots, trying to drive the ghosts away – namely the pratfalls of Sausage and the cryptic mumbo jumbo of The Man in Black. The ghosts are bic lighter flames superimposed on the screen and glowing driveway rocks (I guess) returned for the sole purpose of protecting and loving their “babies.” As for the handyman culprit is run over by a truck after the flick kills considerable time in a full flashback to the opening scene, only this time instead of a mask the handyman is kinda pulled off, maybe.

The horror is nonexistent, the sweetness totally sour, and the humorless slapstick falls flat. The creepiest part of the movie is the terrible dubbing. Most notably, the children who’s dialogue is completely out of sync and the gum popping, sighs, and laughter are all very disturbing, nauseating even.

One thing is totally worth it, though, and that would the last scene of the movie. The children realize that their parent’s are contained in glowing rocks on the driveway, so they stick them in their pockets as they attempt to make a hasty getaway from the grownups.  Then the Man In Black grabs the rock out of the girl’s oshgoshmigosh overalls and his wax hand melts. The kids laugh and the movie ends.

That.

That is a great ending.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie a.k.a Fin De Semana Para Los Muertos/The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue/Don’t Open the Window

LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE is a great movie by any standards, but t is an especially strong entry in the undead-eating-human-flesh canon.

The government is testing sonic radiation as pest control in the sleepy English countryside. While it is amazing effecting at killing farm devouring insects, it also turns ants and new born babies super-aggressive. Oh and reanimates the recently dead. Not only do these sleeping corpses come back with awesome strength, crazy red eyes, a hunger for flesh blood, but they are also imbued with the really stupid ability to rise the dead by anointing other corpses with the spilled blood of their victims.

Or something.

That part is kinda dumb, I guess. Its a weak plot device to add “the contagion” element to the story, though it adds nothing to the urgency the heroes feel in trying to stop the three corpse horde. Really, the flesh munching and indestructibliness of the creatures should have been enough reason to race their cars around the country roads and yell into the fog! (As an aside, the only thing that stops these zombies is fire, which explodes them into a self-contained ball of flame, that leaves a charred corpse for the police to wonder over with stern frowns).

Lovelock plays the capitalist hippy-dip to the hilt. At times riffing like a prototype Johnny Rotten, while looking, uncannily, like a young Richard Branson, arrogance included. He is very mean to Cristina Galbo, who bears the brunt of the abuse with a very worried look most of the movie. Her bad red dyed hair does little to save her in the end.

Arthur Kennedy is a terrifically horrible cop who is more concerned with the social decay around him – and later revenge – to actually do any policing. His comeuppance felt tacked on and not at all satisfying.

First he is disgusted by the junkie wife of the murdered husband. Then he is disgusted by the long hair and faggot clothes of the London tourists, just passing through. He roughs up Lovelock in a truly hilarious exchange. He mocks and berates his underlings and assures that the glory will fall only on his example of moral certitude.

PLUS. Kennedy utters this sound bite – used by Pleasant Valley Children and Electric Wizard – that when I heard it made me jump up with excitement. It was like discovering a whole box of unopened, original Star Wars 1978  figures.

In short, this picture zips right along. The plodding elements have been kept moving – the set-up is impressive, the main characters are convinced fairly quickly, the trapped in the house siege is brief, the infected character’s transformation, the payout ending are all masterfully introduced and resolved in a straight and reasoned linear narrative.  Plus there is a drug addict, a baby punching nurses, flesh ripping and gut munching, an axe to the head, and a turtleneck sweater egghead who delivers a rant about satanism!

So, heck yes, watch this one!

What Have You Done To Solange?

Nasty, mean-spirited misogynist roller coaster of a movie. What sets out as a complicated witness movie, takes a sudden turn into the traditional realm of the fantastic psycho-sexual that ultimately dismisses and explains the murderer’s motive and method.

Fabio Testi, decked out in his best eurotrash-yacht-rock-tweedy-beard-and-greasy-jesus-hair, is a total creep. First making on a young student of his, teasing and berating her into making it with him. Which leads to one of my favorite quotes of the movie “I want to as much as you want me to, Enrico, I really do.” But floating along the banks of the Thames in a rickety boat is not the ideal place to surrender your virginity, I suppose. Especially, considering mid-kiss, one witnesses a brutal knife in the vagina murder!

The picture then turns on the “should we tell and expose our love” cat-and-mouse between the Inspector Barth (who is easy to confuse with Professor Bascombe) and Enrico. When the truth is out, Galbo has a well done drowning scene that careens the movie into a whole new direction! I really feel her loss for the rest of the movie.

Shifting gears quickly, Enrico’s German wife forgives his transgression when she finds out her creepy husband did not have sex with that young student! Really, who knew Germans were so quick and easy with their forgiveness?

The “chase the murderer plot” is silly and, frankly, feels a bit conservative. I mean really, the sex parties and the drugs subplot, added to the giddy bicycle ride to the farmhouse abortionist does not hold up as shocking. And the abortion that leads to madness is a bit of a stretch. This is the sort of cautionary tale that could have been written by the church! The confessionals! The contrapasso! The nudity of the victims! Revenge! Revenge!