February272014
On this, the 28-and-7/8th anniversary of my last post, I declare that I will rise again sooOOooOOoon…

OoOOooOOoo…

On this, the 28-and-7/8th anniversary of my last post, I declare that I will rise again sooOOooOOoon…

OoOOooOOoo…

November222011
via kindertrauma

via kindertrauma

November22011
"I’m gonna kill him.  Right here.  This is where it’s gonna happen.  Beautiful."
THE FINAL TERROR (1983)
Actually, the DVD I have of this movie calls it Carnivore, not The Final Terror.  I had had a DVD copy of it under the title The Final Terror, but the picture quality was so bad that I bought the Carnivore version and did a side-by-side comparison of the images in screenshots to decide which version to keep, and Carnivore won (just barely…It still looks like shit).
Now for a startling Video Dead Confession: The Final Terror is one of my favorite movies in any genre…I’d say probably somewhere in my top 30 or 40.  If you watched it you’d probably assume that its artistry as a movie probably has little to do with my love for it, and you’d be right.  It’s cliched and predictable, incredibly darkly-lit (see above)…Yet it’s some of the best comfort food I can ask for.  See, the first time I watched The Final Terror was right after I’d quit a job that I had hated, and the elation of feeling free of that job stress is now permanently entwined with the feeling of watching the movie.  For whatever personal reasons, everyone has at least one piece of trash — be it a movie, book, song, whatever — that they can connect with on some unknowable level that might not make any sense on the surface to an outside observer, but it doesn’t matter…Maybe, like me, the first viewing/reading/listening happened when circumstances aligned the stars in such a way that it’s just clicked with them, and may stay clicked forever.
80s stalwarts Adrian Zmed, Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward and Mark Metcalf slum it up under the direction of Andrew Davis (later of Under Siege and The Fugitive fame) in this tale as old as the hills: A coed group of young forest rangers head out into the mountains to clear debris from a section of river and soon are stealthily attacked by a monstrous feral mute clothed in animal skins, with a face we never see.  How will they use their survival skills to outwit this beast, and just how is the killer connected to Eggar (Joe “Joey Pants” Pantoliano), the jittery shit fellow ranger whom they all hate?
For most of its 80+ minutes The Final Terror rides the fine line between wilderness survival film and slasher carefully, in the end finally committing to providing more Deliverance suspense than Friday the 13th scares.  A spooky campfire tale sets up the backstory of the killer in true slasher fashion, yet even with a large cast of horny twentysomethings the body count remains low to the very end…So it’s not much about the gore.
So what does it offer?  Decent acting all around from some future stars early in their careers, one or two stylishly done sequences, and a sweet arm-blade weapon that the killer uses.  And that’s kind of it.  I guess I recommend you watch it, but make sure that you’re not expecting too much and that you’re a little buzzed.  If those are inconvenient, then make sure you’ve just quit your crap job and are delighted.
Ah, also, to me the instrumental theme song is very slightly reminiscent of Weird Al Yankovic’s “Nature Trail to Hell”.  Maybe that’s the real reason why I’ve always loved it.

"I’m gonna kill him.  Right here.  This is where it’s gonna happen.  Beautiful."

THE FINAL TERROR (1983)

Actually, the DVD I have of this movie calls it Carnivore, not The Final Terror.  I had had a DVD copy of it under the title The Final Terror, but the picture quality was so bad that I bought the Carnivore version and did a side-by-side comparison of the images in screenshots to decide which version to keep, and Carnivore won (just barely…It still looks like shit).

Now for a startling Video Dead Confession: The Final Terror is one of my favorite movies in any genre…I’d say probably somewhere in my top 30 or 40.  If you watched it you’d probably assume that its artistry as a movie probably has little to do with my love for it, and you’d be right.  It’s cliched and predictable, incredibly darkly-lit (see above)…Yet it’s some of the best comfort food I can ask for.  See, the first time I watched The Final Terror was right after I’d quit a job that I had hated, and the elation of feeling free of that job stress is now permanently entwined with the feeling of watching the movie.  For whatever personal reasons, everyone has at least one piece of trash — be it a movie, book, song, whatever — that they can connect with on some unknowable level that might not make any sense on the surface to an outside observer, but it doesn’t matter…Maybe, like me, the first viewing/reading/listening happened when circumstances aligned the stars in such a way that it’s just clicked with them, and may stay clicked forever.

80s stalwarts Adrian Zmed, Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward and Mark Metcalf slum it up under the direction of Andrew Davis (later of Under Siege and The Fugitive fame) in this tale as old as the hills: A coed group of young forest rangers head out into the mountains to clear debris from a section of river and soon are stealthily attacked by a monstrous feral mute clothed in animal skins, with a face we never see.  How will they use their survival skills to outwit this beast, and just how is the killer connected to Eggar (Joe “Joey Pants” Pantoliano), the jittery shit fellow ranger whom they all hate?

For most of its 80+ minutes The Final Terror rides the fine line between wilderness survival film and slasher carefully, in the end finally committing to providing more Deliverance suspense than Friday the 13th scares.  A spooky campfire tale sets up the backstory of the killer in true slasher fashion, yet even with a large cast of horny twentysomethings the body count remains low to the very end…So it’s not much about the gore.

So what does it offer?  Decent acting all around from some future stars early in their careers, one or two stylishly done sequences, and a sweet arm-blade weapon that the killer uses.  And that’s kind of it.  I guess I recommend you watch it, but make sure that you’re not expecting too much and that you’re a little buzzed.  If those are inconvenient, then make sure you’ve just quit your crap job and are delighted.

Ah, also, to me the instrumental theme song is very slightly reminiscent of Weird Al Yankovic’s “Nature Trail to Hell”.  Maybe that’s the real reason why I’ve always loved it.

October162011
"Ho ho hey man, don’t fuck with the dead, it’s bad luck!" — The guy from Reading Rainbow
THE SUPERNATURALS (1986)
This movie was a sort of boring, despite featuring two actors from two different generations of Star Trek casts (thus threatening to disrupt the space-time continuum).  I need to be stepping up my game in the lead-up to Halloween and save lame movies like this for the off-season.
Back in the 1860-something, a band of Confederate soldiers are forced by their nasty Union captors (hm, interesting angle to take) to walk across a mine field, which makes them blow up real good one by one.  Cut to 120 years later…A U.S. Army battalion has entered the same forest on a training mission, eventually coming face-to-face with the zombie ghosts of the murdered Confederate soldiers.
In the face of a plot that sounds pretty great on paper — modern soldiers vs. Civil War zombies! — I really have to admire the movie’s steadfast refusal to hold my interest.  In the end it’s pretty much Dog Soldiers meets Two Thousand Maniacs, with the best qualities of neither.  Ordinarily this exact kind of thing can’t fail to float my boat, but the problem here is that it’s not terrible enough to be funny, nor is it good enough to be scary.  The second scariest thing that happens in this is LeVar Burton saying the word “fuck”.  Now ask me what the first scariest thing that happens in this is.  I’ll give you a hint: it’s Nichelle Nichols saying the word “fuck”.  This is the closest thing to a Star Trek porn parody that I ever want to see.
The bottom line: The Supernaturals was made about 20 years too early to have been a Syfy Original Movie, but other than not having a single CGI effect, you’d never know from watching it.

"Ho ho hey man, don’t fuck with the dead, it’s bad luck!" — The guy from Reading Rainbow

THE SUPERNATURALS (1986)

This movie was a sort of boring, despite featuring two actors from two different generations of Star Trek casts (thus threatening to disrupt the space-time continuum).  I need to be stepping up my game in the lead-up to Halloween and save lame movies like this for the off-season.

Back in the 1860-something, a band of Confederate soldiers are forced by their nasty Union captors (hm, interesting angle to take) to walk across a mine field, which makes them blow up real good one by one.  Cut to 120 years later…A U.S. Army battalion has entered the same forest on a training mission, eventually coming face-to-face with the zombie ghosts of the murdered Confederate soldiers.

In the face of a plot that sounds pretty great on paper — modern soldiers vs. Civil War zombies! — I really have to admire the movie’s steadfast refusal to hold my interest.  In the end it’s pretty much Dog Soldiers meets Two Thousand Maniacs, with the best qualities of neither.  Ordinarily this exact kind of thing can’t fail to float my boat, but the problem here is that it’s not terrible enough to be funny, nor is it good enough to be scary.  The second scariest thing that happens in this is LeVar Burton saying the word “fuck”.  Now ask me what the first scariest thing that happens in this is.  I’ll give you a hint: it’s Nichelle Nichols saying the word “fuck”.  This is the closest thing to a Star Trek porn parody that I ever want to see.

The bottom line: The Supernaturals was made about 20 years too early to have been a Syfy Original Movie, but other than not having a single CGI effect, you’d never know from watching it.

October62011

Round-Up: 10/2 through 10/5

It just occurred to me that, through no conscious effort other than a desire to match my entertainment choices with the cozy chilliness that’s been happening with the weather here lately, I’ve watched a scary movie every night this week so far. As you’ll see, the choices in movies that I’ve made have varied widely, but you’ve got to go where the autumn breeze carries you.

Sunday: WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000)

Robert Zemeckis apes Alfred Hitchcock with a supernatural thriller about a woman struggling to learn the nature of the haunting in her big lakeside house. In the early days, Zemeckis seemed to have good, tight relationships with storytelling and the performances of his actors. But — in my observation — starting in the mid-90s or so (around the time of Death Becomes Her) he shifted his focus toward the more technical aspects of filmmaking…Special effects and bravura camera setups (and often some combination of those two) became the main reason for his going to work every day, and it became harder and harder to connect with his movies as an audience member apart from the occasional “Cool shot!” moment. What Lies Beneath has story contrivances aplenty — the entire first half is a red herring, amounting to nothing — and some goofy characters moments, it wears its Hitchcock influence on the front of its t-shirt in a spooky glow-in-the-dark drippy font, but simply as an exercise in generating a mood of suspense in a big house and producing jump scares, it works. And knowing that it was filmed quickly during a break from the production of Cast Away, I can forgive it a lot of film school indulgences (basically, it only exists because Zemeckis wanted to keep the Cast Away crew working while Tom Hanks grew a beard and lost 400 pounds).

Monday: THE CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)

This is a small-scale B-movie that makes the most of some indoor sets and a smoke machine to create an effectively eerie mood of dread for a story about a tiny Massachussetts town secretly populated by witches. When a comely blonde college student visits the town to research its history…I won’t spoil anything, except to say that there are some plot elements that are very reminiscent of Psycho. Interestingly, Psycho had been released only two months prior to this being released, so it’s actually more likely a remarkable coincidence than a rip-off. If for no other reason, you should watch this one to hear Christopher Lee speak with an American accent.

Tuesday: HUNTER’S BLOOD (1986)

A turd sandwich on Deliverance bread, flatly directed and boring. Some late 30-something dudebros and their dads drive into the woods to do some hunting, where they fall afoul of a bunch of antagonistic hicks and have to fight for their lives. Among the hunters: jOEY tRAVOLTA (I hit caps lock there by accident, but it seems appropriate so I’m leaving it), Clu Gulager; among the hicks: Bruce “father of Crispin” Glover, Mickey “King of the Hicks” Jones, Billy Drago, Charles Cyphers. As you can see, the hunters didn’t stand a chance…Which is why it’s so unrealistic that they end up winning in the end spoiler alert. In summary: I can’t remember the last time I saw Charles Cyphers in a movie that wasn’t directed by John Carpenter. And this was really, REALLY not directed by John Carpenter.

Wednesday: THIRST (1979)

A weird Ozploitation movie about modern vampires who kidnap a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory in order to initiate her into their coven. The interesting thing is that the vampires have a “dairy” (looks like a weird health spa facility) where “blood cows” (humans they’ve kidnapped) are held alive and regularly bled for the vampires’ needs, which is a pretty good idea and when the vampire plague begins signaling the End Days of Mankind’s Rule of the Earth, I’m totally going to suggest it. But back to the fictional world of this movie…It starts of pretty good, like a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and The Prisoner with vampires, as the vampires hold the main character at the “dairy” and try to convince her to join them. But there’s only so many times you can fool me with a hallucination that turns out to be another attempt to trick her into drinking blood, so by the time the finale rolled around I was kind of yawning. All in all, a worthy addition to a vampire movie collection if you happen to be building one, but I probably won’t be watching it again any time soon.

August82011
"We haven’t had visitors for a long time.  I’m sure the lady will be very pleased…"
HAUSU (HOUSE) (1977)
"Hey, let’s drop acid and watch House!”  NO.  You don’t want to do that…You DO NOT want to do that.  Nobuhiko Ôbayashi already did all of the the drugs in the world before directing House in order for you to watch it stone-sober and still feel the whole time like tiny little spiders are scuttling around on your medulla oblongata.  Even before the “weird” stuff starts to happen in the movie plot-wise, we’re on a trip full of optically-enhanced skies, sub-Monkees editing and transition effects, hippie-dippy pop songs, and stop motion slapstick.  And then a piano eats someone.
I watched House last night sleepily right after having a big plate of ribs, then I fell asleep very soon after it ended.  When I woke up this morning, I honestly wasn’t sure whether some of the things in the movie had really happened or if I’d imagined them.  Also of note, I watched the movie on a DVD from Netflix…At one point the picture sputtered and then froze, and for a good five seconds I assumed that it was part of the movie.  It wasn’t; there must have been some fingerprints on the disc, I had to stop it and start again at beginning of the following chapter to get it going past the part where it froze.  But the movie is consistently psychedelic enough that I really didn’t know at first.
A description of the plot cannot do justice to the experience of watching the film, but here goes nothin’: A schoolgirl invites six of her giggliest friends to her ailing aunt’s country house for their summer vacation.  Unfortunately the house is haunted by the witchy undead aunt (and her wicked cat familiar), who needs to eat schoolgirl flesh in order to survive as some kind of demonic something-or-other.  Who the fuck even knows.  All I do know is that watching the movie is like having a nightmare about a Fanta commercial directed by the barely competent lovechild of Mario Bava and Sam Raimi.  And then a piano eats someone.
Once when I was little and I had a fever, I had a really stressful dream in which the Sweeney Sisters from Saturday Night Live stalked me around a shopping center near my house, chased me into my favorite book store and started singing at me, which very nearly drove me insane.  There is something to be said about the illogical terror of a fever dream as it’s happening, no matter how random and silly the events may seem later in the light of day.  The problem I had with House is that, while the events of the film were clearly either directly inspired by or were designed to emulate absurd dreams, I could never get a grip on whether I was supposed to laugh or be scared.
Which…maybe was the point, and who am I to call the movie deficient because of that?  You make a strong argument there, I can’t disagree.  I just felt a disconnect with the tone that I wasn’t expecting.  It’s probably supposed to be a horror-comedy, but for me it wasn’t totally successful under either category.
However, as an undefined work of warped originality, it’s hard to beat.  In what other film can horrific dismemberments follow Benny Hill antics follow some uncomfortably voyeuristic schoolgirl nudity…And then a piano eats someone!

"We haven’t had visitors for a long time.  I’m sure the lady will be very pleased…"

HAUSU (HOUSE) (1977)

"Hey, let’s drop acid and watch House!”  NO.  You don’t want to do that…You DO NOT want to do that.  Nobuhiko Ôbayashi already did all of the the drugs in the world before directing House in order for you to watch it stone-sober and still feel the whole time like tiny little spiders are scuttling around on your medulla oblongata.  Even before the “weird” stuff starts to happen in the movie plot-wise, we’re on a trip full of optically-enhanced skies, sub-Monkees editing and transition effects, hippie-dippy pop songs, and stop motion slapstick.  And then a piano eats someone.

I watched House last night sleepily right after having a big plate of ribs, then I fell asleep very soon after it ended.  When I woke up this morning, I honestly wasn’t sure whether some of the things in the movie had really happened or if I’d imagined them.  Also of note, I watched the movie on a DVD from Netflix…At one point the picture sputtered and then froze, and for a good five seconds I assumed that it was part of the movie.  It wasn’t; there must have been some fingerprints on the disc, I had to stop it and start again at beginning of the following chapter to get it going past the part where it froze.  But the movie is consistently psychedelic enough that I really didn’t know at first.

A description of the plot cannot do justice to the experience of watching the film, but here goes nothin’: A schoolgirl invites six of her giggliest friends to her ailing aunt’s country house for their summer vacation.  Unfortunately the house is haunted by the witchy undead aunt (and her wicked cat familiar), who needs to eat schoolgirl flesh in order to survive as some kind of demonic something-or-other.  Who the fuck even knows.  All I do know is that watching the movie is like having a nightmare about a Fanta commercial directed by the barely competent lovechild of Mario Bava and Sam Raimi.  And then a piano eats someone.

Once when I was little and I had a fever, I had a really stressful dream in which the Sweeney Sisters from Saturday Night Live stalked me around a shopping center near my house, chased me into my favorite book store and started singing at me, which very nearly drove me insane.  There is something to be said about the illogical terror of a fever dream as it’s happening, no matter how random and silly the events may seem later in the light of day.  The problem I had with House is that, while the events of the film were clearly either directly inspired by or were designed to emulate absurd dreams, I could never get a grip on whether I was supposed to laugh or be scared.

Which…maybe was the point, and who am I to call the movie deficient because of that?  You make a strong argument there, I can’t disagree.  I just felt a disconnect with the tone that I wasn’t expecting.  It’s probably supposed to be a horror-comedy, but for me it wasn’t totally successful under either category.

However, as an undefined work of warped originality, it’s hard to beat.  In what other film can horrific dismemberments follow Benny Hill antics follow some uncomfortably voyeuristic schoolgirl nudity…And then a piano eats someone!

July22011

doctornecessiter:

Jerry Goldsmith - “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”

A suite of the score to the final segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie.  George Miller’s remake of the classic TV episode is one of my favorite visceral thrillers, and in my opinion nearly single-handedly keeps the movie as a whole from being a bit of a washout.  Vicky and I watched the original “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” last night (in HD on Netflix Streaming, FYI), and while I respect it heavily for the premise and the subtlety of the “is he insane, or is there really something out there?” aspect, I have a really hard time getting past how irredeemably shitty the monster’s suit and stunts are.  Couldn’t they have obscured it in the darkness and rain a little?

The last thing anyone would call the movie-version of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is subtle, especially compared to the original — it’s like Metallica covering Dave Brubeck — but at least they shot the creature so you couldn’t really see any details on it until the end…And what you did end up seeing was actually kind of cool.  Also not subtle: John Lithgow’s nutso performance, but it suits the frenetic nature of the whole show perfectly.  And topping the cake is Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which is more or less a Bernard Herrmann homage with the Devil possessing the string section.

Also included here is the finale with the Twilight Zone theme and Rod Serling closing narration (the track following the suite) since they bleed together on the album anyway.

June232011
"When I was a little girl, I didn’t think there was anything that I liked better than ice cream.  Now I’m a big girl…And I’ve decided that there’s something I like better.  Much better.  It’s called The Stuff.  And believe me…Enough is never enough!"
THE STUFF (1985)
Here’s a list of all of the things that I remember about The Stuff from my childhood:
1. The VHS cover.
My parents weren’t keen on letting my brother and me see these kinds of movies when we were little.  Anything rated R was off limits — though they were pretty cool and it wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule; I recall them letting us watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles because they’d already seen it, and they knew that the only thing that made it R-rated was one scene where the F-bomb is dropped about 20 times in a row, which they knew we could handle.  Still, I never even asked to be allowed to watch R-rated movies from the horror section of the video store, because I just assumed that over the top blood, boobs and violence were the last things my folks would want me to see.
But that’s what made perusing the horror section of the video store so fascinating in those days.  In the mid-to-late 80s, being old enough to rent any movie that I wanted without parental supervision was such a distant prospect that experiencing these kinds of movies through their cover art became a pursuit of appreciation totally separate from the act of actually watching the movies.  The fact that these little mini-artworks had corresponding movies that I wouldn’t be seeing added to their allure.  And I’m not sure if it’s a rosy personal nostalgia, but it seems to me that movie poster art of my childhood era spanning much of the 80s and early 90s (particularly of the action-adventure, sci-fi  and horror genres) is worth making a big deal over, even if I hadn’t been at such an impressionable age at the time.
Apart from the cover art itself, my other strong memory of The Stuff was a conversation I had at school in the mid-80s with my friend Jim about said cover art.  Everything we knew about the plot of the movie we picked up from the image of a few people melting together in front of an open refrigerator and the tagline: “Are you eating it or is it eating you?”  Jim and I discussed it as though that was all we needed to know, because in our naivete, that was all there could be to it.  “It’s like, you eat it, then you throw it up and then it melts you until you’re dead!”
It wasn’t until 4 or 5 years ago when The Stuff had come out on DVD and I was able to rent it from Netflix that I found out that Jim and I were only partially correct in our assumptions of what the movie is about.  It’s actually a satire about the evils of commercial marketing and how greedy corporations can take advantage of the public, but at the same time it’s also about people’s faces caving in and their jaws elongating and living white STUFF leaping from their faces to attack standers-by!
At the center of the story is corporate spy-for-hire Mo Rutherford, played with ridiculous faux-Southern flair by Michael Moriarty.  Mo is hired by a food company to steal the secret formula for their rival’s most popular product: The Stuff, America’s favorite dessert (“Enough is never enough of THE STUFF!”).  What we already know is that The Stuff is some kind of living organic creature that was discovered when it bubbled up from the ground in front of a hungry old miner who immediately tasted it (?!) and realized that it was delicious.  The problem is that The Stuff is highly addictive and has a tendency to make you scream and convulse before it shoots out of every hole in your damn head.  Mo teams up with a pretty ad exec, a kid who lost his whole family to Stuff addiction, and Famous Amos (known in the this movie as Chocolate Chip Charlie, but who are they fooling) to warn the public and stop the rampaging Stuff.
Apart from the delightfully comedic B-movie performances of Moriarty along with Garrett Morris and Paul Sorvino (both appearing too briefly in the film, as Chocolate Chip Charlie and a militant general respectively), and some squishy makeup effects, the movie overall is sort of forgettable.  Which isn’t to say it isn’t fun while it lasts, in spite of the over-bluntness of the message.  Writer/director Larry (It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, God Told Me To) Cohen going all 80s-gore-horror on you can’t be a totally bad thing.
I wonder if Jim’s seen it yet.  I should give him a call…It’s only been about 25 years.
Two closing notes…First, all aboard the Trivia Train: it occurred to me watching The Stuff this week that it was a pre-union of Michael Moriarty and Paul Sorvino, who would go on to be two of the earliest cast members of network TV and later also basic cable staple Law & Order!  Now I want to see Sam Waterston and [zombie] Jerry Orbach team up in a movie like this.
Second, I saw the movie the other night at a packed screening sponsored by the Washington Psychotronic Film Society.  They’re currently seeking a new venue for their weekly movie showings…Starting in July the Warehouse Theater space inside The Passenger that they’ve been using is being taken over by other events all the way through August.  If anyone reading this in the D.C. metro area knows of an appropriate new venue that they could use, please email them at washpsychotronic@yahoo.com and let them know.  Thanks, dreamsicles!

"When I was a little girl, I didn’t think there was anything that I liked better than ice cream.  Now I’m a big girl…And I’ve decided that there’s something I like better.  Much better.  It’s called The Stuff.  And believe me…Enough is never enough!"

THE STUFF (1985)

Here’s a list of all of the things that I remember about The Stuff from my childhood:

1. The VHS cover.

My parents weren’t keen on letting my brother and me see these kinds of movies when we were little.  Anything rated R was off limits — though they were pretty cool and it wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule; I recall them letting us watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles because they’d already seen it, and they knew that the only thing that made it R-rated was one scene where the F-bomb is dropped about 20 times in a row, which they knew we could handle.  Still, I never even asked to be allowed to watch R-rated movies from the horror section of the video store, because I just assumed that over the top blood, boobs and violence were the last things my folks would want me to see.

But that’s what made perusing the horror section of the video store so fascinating in those days.  In the mid-to-late 80s, being old enough to rent any movie that I wanted without parental supervision was such a distant prospect that experiencing these kinds of movies through their cover art became a pursuit of appreciation totally separate from the act of actually watching the movies.  The fact that these little mini-artworks had corresponding movies that I wouldn’t be seeing added to their allure.  And I’m not sure if it’s a rosy personal nostalgia, but it seems to me that movie poster art of my childhood era spanning much of the 80s and early 90s (particularly of the action-adventure, sci-fi  and horror genres) is worth making a big deal over, even if I hadn’t been at such an impressionable age at the time.

Apart from the cover art itself, my other strong memory of The Stuff was a conversation I had at school in the mid-80s with my friend Jim about said cover art.  Everything we knew about the plot of the movie we picked up from the image of a few people melting together in front of an open refrigerator and the tagline: “Are you eating it or is it eating you?”  Jim and I discussed it as though that was all we needed to know, because in our naivete, that was all there could be to it.  “It’s like, you eat it, then you throw it up and then it melts you until you’re dead!”

It wasn’t until 4 or 5 years ago when The Stuff had come out on DVD and I was able to rent it from Netflix that I found out that Jim and I were only partially correct in our assumptions of what the movie is about.  It’s actually a satire about the evils of commercial marketing and how greedy corporations can take advantage of the public, but at the same time it’s also about people’s faces caving in and their jaws elongating and living white STUFF leaping from their faces to attack standers-by!

At the center of the story is corporate spy-for-hire Mo Rutherford, played with ridiculous faux-Southern flair by Michael Moriarty.  Mo is hired by a food company to steal the secret formula for their rival’s most popular product: The Stuff, America’s favorite dessert (“Enough is never enough of THE STUFF!”).  What we already know is that The Stuff is some kind of living organic creature that was discovered when it bubbled up from the ground in front of a hungry old miner who immediately tasted it (?!) and realized that it was delicious.  The problem is that The Stuff is highly addictive and has a tendency to make you scream and convulse before it shoots out of every hole in your damn head.  Mo teams up with a pretty ad exec, a kid who lost his whole family to Stuff addiction, and Famous Amos (known in the this movie as Chocolate Chip Charlie, but who are they fooling) to warn the public and stop the rampaging Stuff.

Apart from the delightfully comedic B-movie performances of Moriarty along with Garrett Morris and Paul Sorvino (both appearing too briefly in the film, as Chocolate Chip Charlie and a militant general respectively), and some squishy makeup effects, the movie overall is sort of forgettable.  Which isn’t to say it isn’t fun while it lasts, in spite of the over-bluntness of the message.  Writer/director Larry (It’s AliveQ: The Winged SerpentGod Told Me To) Cohen going all 80s-gore-horror on you can’t be a totally bad thing.

I wonder if Jim’s seen it yet.  I should give him a call…It’s only been about 25 years.

Two closing notes…First, all aboard the Trivia Train: it occurred to me watching The Stuff this week that it was a pre-union of Michael Moriarty and Paul Sorvino, who would go on to be two of the earliest cast members of network TV and later also basic cable staple Law & Order!  Now I want to see Sam Waterston and [zombie] Jerry Orbach team up in a movie like this.

Second, I saw the movie the other night at a packed screening sponsored by the Washington Psychotronic Film Society.  They’re currently seeking a new venue for their weekly movie showings…Starting in July the Warehouse Theater space inside The Passenger that they’ve been using is being taken over by other events all the way through August.  If anyone reading this in the D.C. metro area knows of an appropriate new venue that they could use, please email them at washpsychotronic@yahoo.com and let them know.  Thanks, dreamsicles!

11AM

RETURNING

It’s been about 11 years since I updated this, but trust that more content is currently in the works. I’ve found that lately I haven’t been watching very many of the kinds of movies I like to write about for VIDEO DEAD…but I definitely feel a new kick coming up, so if you’re still following then get ready…

November82010

The house from 1971’s ‘Let’s Scare Jessica To Death’

In the film…

…And on Google Street View.

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