Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013: Claustrobic Horror ~ Anxiety In Tight Quarters

Happy Halloween, all!  For our final post of the holiday month, Marie and I have chosen to spotlight films that are claustrophobic.  Movies that give us that horrible tense feeling of dread - of closed in places, of being locked in a building, of being stuck somewhere you can't get out of, or in a situation that gives you that extreme feeling of panic until you think you could just possibly lose what is left of your sanity.

Not a definitive list, mind you. Perhaps there is even room for a part two?

Can't you just feel the anxiety rising?  Aren't your palms starting to sweat just thinking about it? Let's dig in....

CUJO (1983)
I'm not sure anything could be more claustrophobic (or terrifying for that matter) than being stuck in a crappy Ford Pinto with a screaming child and a rabid St Bernard beating down your door. Dee Wallace should have had an Academy Award for her portrayal of Donna Trenton, a woman who, when dropping her faltering car off at a backyard mechanic's, comes in contact with a rabid house pet who just happens to be a two-hundred pound purebred with a raging case of rabies. Worse yet, she has her young son with her, making it all the more imperative to get the hell out of there. But the broken-down car, blazing hot sun, and a devastating case of rabies has something else in mind. Utterly harrowing! / CH


NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
A home is where you are supposed to feel safe. At the end of the day a roof, four walls, and a locked door are what you inevitably rely on for protection. Certainly, we assign responsibility to houses; you find yourself thinking, “Nothing could ever happen to me in my home!” In George A. Romero’s black and white classic, a group of people have all sought refuge from an increasing horde of zombies in a large house. However, feelings of sanctuary quickly diminish, as all attempts to barricade the doors and windows prove futile at the hands of the hungry horde. On top of that, tension is building between the refugees, making the air thicken with each knock and slap on the door. To make matters even worse, they weren’t ever safe in the house in the first place, for something is in there with them! / MR

BURIED (2010)
The ultimate in claustrophobia, Buried gives us the tale of Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American working in Iraq who is captured and wakes up buried alive in a coffin, with only a lighter and a cell phone. Even though he does reach the US State Dept, he is told there is a firm policy of not negotiating with terrorists, who have asked for a 5 million dollar ransom for Conroy's release.  In the course of the grueling 94 minute running time, we as an audience feel as helpless and terrified as Paul does, in particular when bombs explode nearby and his coffin begins to fill with sand. Right up to the shocking ending, Buried takes its audience on a suffocating thrill ride from which there is no conceivably good result. /CH


THE DESCENT (2005)
Let me get this through to you: I hate caves. The very notion of them gets my skin creeping. I think a lot of people share this fear, or can at least very easily understand it, and that is what really made The Descent a truly terrifying film. A multi-cultural group of thrill-seeking female friends gather to explore an uncharted American cave. What kind of idea of fun is this?! They delve deeper and deeper, scrabbling through the smallest of openings before they are trapped by falling rocks. It is then revealed that the leader of the group has tossed away the map in the spirit of true adventure. I think all audience members experienced the same two emotions on first viewing: piss yourself then wring her neck! What’s worse is lurking in the dripping darkness are grotesque cannibalistic humanoid monsters! The tight spaces aren’t the only thing that inspires claustrophobia in The Descent; it’s also the notion that there quite possibly is no way out. /MR


CUBE (1997)
Five people trapped in a cube-type room struggle to understand both why they were taken and how they know each other. Rather reminiscent of an early Saw, the cube itself has multiple confusing colored rooms and deadly traps in store for the guests, but the film differs in that it requires some serious thought and even some mathematical skills to try to escape. While not the gritty (and gory) film that Saw is, it still has a very claustrophobic, helpless feel to it. /CH



DEVIL (2010)
I'm sure we've all been in an elevator at one time or another when we've felt a little bump, a sudden jolt perhaps. But there are probably very few of us who have actually been stuck in an elevator for any length of time. In this film, a group of five strangers become trapped between floors together - but that's not even the worst of it.  The lights go out, and when they come on, one of the five is dead.  And it doesn't stop there. The title is relevant because there is an old notion that the devil watches sinners and after taking human form he proceeds to entrap them in closed spaces and have them off one another. An interesting theory, no? /CH


SAW (2004)
An unimaginable scenario: you wake up in an unfamiliar room with a stranger and a dead body. Your shackled there and an ominous voice tells you that they only means of escape is to kill the other person or saw through your own leg. Like I said, it’s a completely unrealistic situation, and one that you will (hopefully) never find yourself in. All the same, it is incredibly easy to conjure feelings of dread, panic, and hopelessness. This isn’t the only scene that inspires that gnawing feeling of being trapped in Saw; nearly every scenario the sinister serial killer Jigsaw places his victims in can give anyone that “closed-in” sensation, for all have them quite literally trapped until they can complete the macabre task within a time limit. James Wan’s Saw is an essential and intense example of claustrophobia and body horror. /MR


THE MIST (2007)
Hey, at least they are trapped in a grocery store, right?  When members of a small town in Maine are besieged by unknown predators, the tight quarters of a local business tests the resolve - and the morals - of everyone inside.  Something, no- lots of somethings, hover outside the walls of the market and will do anything to get inside, leaving the group nearly helpless against the wrath of said interlopers. They start fighting amongst themselves, and it becomes more of a battle against each other instead of the menacing creatures preying on them from the outside. With as bleak an ending in horror as I've ever seen, this is one film that boils your nerves from the inside out. /CH

THE LAST WINTER (2006)
Very much like The Thing in theory and freezing locale, a group of environmentalists in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are working at a drilling base, far from civilization. When one of the team is found dead out in the snow, the team blames sour gas, but in fact it may be something much more sinister. The extreme Arctic tundra seems like it would be a wide open canvas and difficult to be smothered in, but the feeling of hopelessness and pure fear put the entire team on edge, and that claustrophobic feeling of dread eases its way into the camp. Snow is almost always stifling, and in this case even more so with the alienation of the extreme location. /CH

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011)
A group of filmmakers are shooting a paranormal reality TV show called “Grave Encounters”, in which they explore allegedly haunted buildings. This found-footage style film puts us in the perspective of those filmmakers as they are filming an episode in an abandoned Canadian mental hospital. For dramatic effect they lock themselves inside the spooky old building after nightfall and begin to explore. They are surprised to find that not only is the place actually haunted, it seems to have its own form of intelligence. The building begins playing tricks on them, changing its layout, creating dead ends and making doors disappear. The pitch-black asylum, which once seemed almost labyrinthine, has suddenly become very small and close. Panic rises in the steadily depleting survivors as they come to term with the idea that they may be trapped there… forever./MR


MISERY (1990)
Number One fans aside, Misery is one claustrophobic bitch of a film. We all know the story: Paul Sheldon wrecks his car and is miraculously saved by one Annie Wilkes, a beastly woman that takes him back to her humble abode in the middle of nowhere and nurses him back to health. Only thing is, she has designs on keeping him there forever.  Trapped by his injuries in a small upstairs bedroom, Annie forces him to write a novel bringing back the heroine he killed off in his last book. She locks him in with a typewriter and little else and her moods change as quickly as the chapters fly by.  A godawful predicament to be in, and a seriously panic-inducing dread hovers over the entire film. /CH


PANIC ROOM (2002)
Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart play a mother and daughter whose new home is invaded by burglars, causing them to hide inside the panic room of the brownstone. The previous owner had installed it and hid a fortune in a safe - inside the panic room. An action-packed thriller from the word go, it has a terribly claustrophobic feel to it because of them being stuck in that godforsaken room for so long. Add to that the feeling of intrusion and invasion and you've got a tense, taut film that rivals anything of its kind./CH

THE SHINING (1980)
Surely you are all familiar with Stanley Kubrick’s classic tale of harrowing isolation. The Torrance family, headed by Jack (Jack Nicholson) are employed to stay at the sprawling Overlook Hotel during it’s closing of the winter season. The reason it closes is because it is set high up in the mountains and it is nearly impossible to access after a heavy snow. Unfortunately for the Torrances’ it is a deadly place to be stuck, as evil supernatural forces make themselves known in various forms. The already tightly wound Jack develops cabin fever, and is manipulated by the spirits to chase his family around the seemingly empty hotel with an axe. With no way of contacting the outside world, and fewer and fewer places to hide, the tension and terror is as suffocating as the piling snow. /MR


REPULSION (1965)
Carol (Catherine Deneuve) is a naturally nervous person. She lives in a London apartment with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), who spends most of her free time banging her married boyfriend. Carol’s fear and revulsion of men grows with each interaction, and even materialized into disturbing nightmares where a man breaks into her home and molests her. Rather than leave the damned apartment or seek help, Carol locks herself inside of it and descends further and further into madness. What makes this film all the more harrowing is that Carol almost compels her own torment, trapping herself in the apartment while one monster after another attempts to claw its way in. / MR


ALIEN (1979)
Yes it's true: in space, no one can hear you scream.  One of my all-time favorite films is a sure pick here. Alien is just as suffocating example of horror as I can possibly think of.  Many sci-fi films depict a group of adventurers/astronauts/etc. having some kind of horrible accident or space monster making their lives miserable, but no film before and certainly no film after is able to capture the unbelievable dread of being helpless in space like Alien. While it would seem like space is a vast frontier and it would be impossible to feel closed in, when you are on a spaceship that has been invaded by an alien creature and there's no where left to run, you can only feel a choking sensation of horror and panic.  This, my friends, is the essence of Alien.  Be afraid. /CH

[.REC] (2007)
Television reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman (Pablo Rosso) are following the local fire department on their night shift. They film them answering a call about an old woman trapped in her apartment. However, when they breakdown the door they find her in a deranged state, and she lunges forward and bites one of the fireman. A violent infection spreads quickly through the building, and everyone inside is forced to be quarantined. Angela demands that they keep rolling throughout the entire ordeal, not knowing the hell they are about to endure. What in essence is more horrifying than the zombies in REC is the notion of being locked up in a building of strangers, and basically being told that you must wait there until everyone dies! / MR


THE THING (1982)
The Thing is one of my favorite movies, and can be used as a great example for a number of things, and claustrophobic is certainly one of them. A group of researchers stationed in Antarctica are in for a night of survival when an alien life form begins to wreak havoc. A very tense and creepy film, it isn’t hard to feel what the characters are feeling—trapped by the small area they are given, surrounded by impenetrable tundra. Survival is little more than a game of hide and seek until someone can step up and destroy that which wants to consume them. /MR


THE VANISHING (1988)
A film of profoundly good standards, The Vanishing stands as one of my favorite thrillers of all time, but it is just one part of the film that lands it on this list.  I would never give the most important plot points away, so I don't have much to say here except: SEE THIS FILM.  It will stick in your head forever, I'm warning you.
Oh, and forget the American remake, not worth a bit of your time. /CH


DAS BOOT (1981)
I'm well aware that Das Boot is not a horror movie. But this German war film is not only one of the most impressive films ever made, but one of the most frightening examples of claustrophobia, ever.  The crew of a German submarine during WWII endures some of the most brutal conditions known to man - horrific storms, enemy attacks, food rationing, cramped quarters, no light for weeks on end... it is a never ending case of cabin fever and a terrifying look at how many soldiers - from both sides - dealt with war-time conditions and a slowly deteriorating outlook on war and life itself.  Altogether depressing and yet oh-so brilliant.
Note: The horror film Below (2002) also explores claustrophobic horror on a WWII-era submarine, but throws in a ghostly angle that makes it a must-see. It's not well known but is truly creepy and worth a look!/CH

*So that's all we have for you at the moment, but there are a bunch of films running through my head that fit this bill as well - so be prepared, part two is imminent.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween 2013: Kinky Sex And Horror: Part Two

On this day before the big holiday, Marie and I are coming at you with another round of what we all love best: kinky sex and horror.  In combination, of course.  If you missed the first part of the fun, you can go HERE and check it out.  If you're already caught up, then away we go!

Let's start out with a David Lynch classic. Seems appropriate...

BLUE VELVET (1986)
Dennis Hopper delivers another bizarre and compelling performance in David Lynch’s 1986 film. He costars as Frank, a creep who has kidnapped Dorothy’s (Isabella Rossellini) husband and child and now subjects her to his very weird idea of sex. Let’s just say it involves a blue velvet robe and Frank breathing heavily through a gas mask while wielding a pair of scissors. It is an extremely intense scene, one that has you writhing the whole painstaking time, but in a good way. /MR


BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)
When Brian (Rick Hearst) allows himself to be a willing host to a brain-eating parasite named Aylmer that looks perhaps unsurprisingly like a diseased penis, all bets are off.  Director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case) balances humor and gore quite well here, as the parasite has Brian searching endlessly for victims that he can suck the brains out of.  The most amusing bit has Brian and a sleazy slut in an alley getting their groove on....until blowing your brains out takes on a whole new meaning. Aylmer shoots and scores! You've got to see this one to believe it, kids./CH

JACOB'S LADDER (1990)
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) has been going through a tough time as of late. After returning from the Vietnam War, there is no line drawn between nightmares and reality. His life is one grotesque hallucination after another. While all of Jacob’s visions are terrifying, one of the more memorable moments is when he finds himself on the dance floor of a party with his wife, who he turns to see dancing with some creature that’s somewhere between a dinosaur and an insect. A long stinger then impales his wife, coming out through her mouth. The whole thing is weirdly sexual, and a difficult visual to get out of your mind. /MR


HELLRAISER (1987)
Frank and Julia were already in a wild, forbidden relationship with apparently lots of kinky sex when Frank disappeared for a spell.  He messed around with an enigmatic puzzle box and bit off more than he could chew with the sadomasochistic Cenobites. When Julia and her current husband Larry (Frank's brother) move into the family home, Frank's remains are unintentionally (at first) reanimated by some spilled blood.  Julia discovers Frank in an upstairs bedroom and though he is in various states of reanimation, it doesn't stop her from wanting him back, kinky sex and all.  Hellraiser is a highly sexual film, combining pain and pleasure for the ultimate high./CH


THE SHINING (1980)
I’d like to make light of two scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s film. The first is probably obvious if you’ve seen the movie. The seen where Jack (Jack Nicholson) goes in to room 237 and finds a beautiful naked woman climbing out of the bathtub to embrace him. Things are getting steamy when Jack glances a look in the mirror to find that the woman in his arms is now elderly and in an advanced state of decomposure. The second is just a fleeting moment when the Overlook has unleashed all its ghosts on the Torrance family. Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is fleeing from her axe-wielding husband when she rushes past a hotel room where the door is ajar. Inside there’s a man in a dog suit giving some guy a blowjob. Pretty weird stuff, Kubrick…/MR


TEETH (2007)
Teenager Dawn belongs to an abstinence group and wears a purity ring. When she finally meets a boy she likes and he takes things too far one night, she bites off his penis with her vagina.  Yes, that's what I said.  After a heavy bout of Googling, Dawn realizes she has vagina dentata, a condition in which the vagina contains teeth.  Needless to say, Dawn begins using her bizarre malady to exact revenge on the too-eager boys and men in her life.  American Horror Story: Coven also boasts a story line this season on a young girl with the same condition. She too, becomes vengeful in her sexual endeavors./CH



THE ABC'S OF DEATH (2012)
While The ABC’s of Death is an anthology film that consists of 26 different segments (one for each letter of the alphabet), I am focusing on one in particular. It’s called “L is for Libido" and is directed by Timo Tjahjhanto. The concept is that a man finds himself strapped to a chair in a strange room; within the room are masked onlookers, another man strapped in a chair beside him, and a stage before them. The two men are part of some sick form of entertainment where they must watch various scenes sexuality and masturbate to them. Whoever gets off first lives another round. What’s even more fucked up is that the scenes that are intended for arousal become more and controversial with each round, eventually becoming downright disturbing. /MR

ANGEL HEART (1987)
Never one to back down from a sex scene, Mickey Rourke gives it his all in this chilling voodoo thriller. Not only does a man die of suffocation from having his own penis cut off and shoved down his throat, but Roarke's character Harry Angel has an utterly WILD sex scene with (Cosby girl) Lisa Bonet. It is probably some of the craziest, most realistic sex on film that you're likely to see in a film not rated X.  It was said that the bloody, graphic scene had to be trimmed for the R-rating and also that it was not simulated - that the two stars did indeed have sex during the scene. As an owner of the unrated version of the film, I'd have to agree with that thought. If not, those are some world class film editors and choreographers./CH



SPLICE (2009)
Clive (Adrien Body) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are a husband and wife team of genetic engineers who are on the brink of something incredible. They are creating a life from using spliced DNA from various animals in hopes to make a medical breakthrough. However, they just can’t get it right, so Elsa decides to add some of her own DNA to the mix; and thus Dren is born. Dren is a rapidly developing humanoid creature that is one part sympathetic and five parts unsettling. When Elsa insists that they raise her like a daughter, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a conventional family. However, what is completely uncalled for is one of the weirdest and more morally challenged sex scenes I’ve ever seen. /MR


CAT PEOPLE (1982)
So have we talked about incest yet? Maybe a little, you say?  Well here's a little more. Or a lot more, really.
In this remake of the vastly different original film, Irena Gallier (Nastassja Kinski) reconnects with her brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell) and discovers the hidden truth about her family heritage: they are a family of werecats - and her parents were brother and sister. Confused, Irena begins a relationship with Oliver (John Heard), conveniently a zookeeper. She pushes him away, knowing that if she consummates the relationship she will turn into a leopard. Eventually though, Oliver knows what he wants and ties Irena down to the bed and has his way with her. A very erotic film from start to finish, Cat People earns a spot on this list with very little effort. /CH


RE-ANIMATOR (1985)
Stuart Gordon’s classic campy adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story concerns Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who is fascinated with the idea of bringing the dead back to life through scientific means. His roommate, Dan (Bruce Abbott), and his girlfriend, Megan (Barbara Crampton), are concerned about the nature of West’s experiments; but not quite as concerned as their anatomy professor, Dr. Hill (David Gale). When Dr. Hill tries to put a stop to West, West ends up decapitating him and using him in an experiment. It works, and Dr. Hill takes the opportunity to act on his desire for Megan, strapping her down naked to a table, his body carrying his severed head in its hands… Now that’s what I call good head!/MR


*Editor's note:  There are still a slew of kinky films that we haven't touched upon as of yet, which can only mean one thing....Part Three.  Watch for it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween 2013: Sleep Terrors ~ Whatever You Do....Don't Fall Asleep!

Sleep is one of the things that many of us take for granted. Life can be a real bitch when you can't fall asleep. But in horror, sometimes falling asleep can be one of the very worst things you can do.  God help you if you fall into a coma or are a sleepwalker - those are even worse than settling in for a long winter's nap...

Marie starts us off with the most glaringly obvious entry here, then I take you on a tour of films you shouldn't expect to sleep well after seeing.


NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Perhaps the most obvious example of a sleep-themed horror movie, I have included it mostly for my emotion connection to it. If you don't know, please make note that I am a HUUUUUGEE Nightmare on Elm Street fan. Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) was a real creep in life; a child murderer who wore a glove of four steel claws on his hand as his weapon. After the local parents on Elm Street burned him alive, Freddy just wasn't done terrorizing the youths. In death he has the ability to invade peoples' nightmares, and any harm he does to you while you're asleep actually affects you in waking life. So when you die in your dreams, you die for real! The answer to this predicament seems simple, right? Don't go to sleep. But a human can only stay awake for a few days before they go into a coma, making every conscious moment full of dread./MR


BAD DREAMS (1988)
 When Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin of Dream Warriors fame, ironically, because this is such a paltry rip-off) nearly dies in a gruesome fire started by the leader of a cult she was unfortunate enough to be a part of, she wakes up after 13 years in a coma to find herself smack dab in the 80's, institutionalized, and being pursued (haunted) by the very same crazed - and very dead - cult leader.  While the film doesn't have much to actually do with bad dreams, it does feature a deep sleep that it is actually scarier to wake from. 


SLEEP TIGHT (2011)
A wonderfully creepy and downright disturbing film, this thriller brought to us by Jaume Balagueró [.REC] tells the tale of Cesar (Luis Tosar), a man who as a concierge at an upscale apartment building, knows the residents inside and out. He's got an unseen mean streak though, and spends his days making the tenants completely dispirited and miserable. But he's got a soft spot for Clara (Marta Etura), and by that I mean he sneaks into her apartment before she gets home, hides under her bed, waits for her to fall asleep, then knocks her out with chloroform and crawls into bed with her. Not surprisingly, you'll be checking under your bed before you lie down to sleep after watching this one.

PHENOMENA (1985)
When student Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) sleepwalks and witnesses a murder, it sets off a chain of events in which a bizarre connection she has with insects has the headmistress thinking she is evil.  She demands medical testing regarding her sleepwalking habits and declares her mentally ill, trying to force her into an asylum. But Jennifer escapes her clutches and befriends an entomologist who instead claims she has a gift, and the two use this psychic talent to try to discover the murderer.  Sleepwalking is unusually beneficial in this film, but is still unpredictable and at times, chilling. 


ADDICTED (2002)
This excellent South Korean thriller has Dae-jun (Lee Byung-hun, I Saw the Devil) and his brother, Ho-jun (Lee Eol) suffering a terrible tragedy at the same time but during different activities. Dae-jun is a race car driver and wrecks his car at the same time Ho-jun is also in a car accident rushing to get to Dae-jun's race. The two end up in comas, in the same hospital, on life support. Dae-Jun eventually comes to and is taken home to recuperate by his brother's wife, Eun-soo (Lee Mi-yeon). Soon she starts noticing strange similarities - Dae-jun is acting exactly like her husband is - so bizarre are the occurrences that the brothers' doctor finally comes to the assumption that the spirit of Ho-jun has entered Dae-jun, possessing him.  Those South Koreans really know how to confuse and entertain us.

ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)
When you're in a horror film, there's no doubt bad things are going to happen.  However, in Roman Polanski's masterpiece, young Rosemary (Mia Farrow) gets more than she bargains for when she closes her eyes: she is raped by a demon in front of her husband and their eccentric neighbors. Was it all a dream? Apparently not, as she then becomes pregnant...and her hubby explains that he had sex with her while she was unconscious so they could conceive a child.  Grounds for divorce as far as I'm concerned.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the neighbors turn out to be Satanists and her child is the spawn of the devil.  Now if it really were only a dream...


THE CELL (2000)
I'm not sure messing around in the minds of coma patients is what I would call good medicine, but that's exactly what we have in the unusual film, The Cell.  Jennifer Lopez stars as Catherine Deane, a psychologist that is using a virtual reality device to try and help patients when she is convinced to enter the mind of a serial killer who has lapsed into a coma.  Naturally this does not bode well and it takes all her skill and finesse to wander around in the killer's mind and try to locate his latest victim. She becomes stuck in the dreams of the killer's altered state and it becomes a race against time to save both the victim and herself.  With bizarre imagery and even stranger plot points, The Cell is a beautiful work of art, besides being a valid thriller.


FLATLINERS (1990)
While not directly about sleep, this eerie film transports its characters into a realm that is between life and death, making it a valid entry here.  Five medical students take it upon themselves to put each other into a state of near-death in order to experience what it is like - is there a bright light? A tunnel? Are our loved ones there?  Well something is there, and in their experiments they discover something is quite possibly returning with them when they are shocked back to life. Flatlining, as they call it, causes hallucinations of the most horrifying kind and forces the students to own up to horrible things they have done in their past. With an all star cast including Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland, this is a mostly-forgotten creepy flick from the early nineties that deserves another look. 

DARKNESS FALLS (2003)
The tooth fairy has never really seemed like a frightening concept, but nothing is safe in horror. In the town of Darkness Falls, there is a legend of Matilda, an elderly woman who always gave out gifts when the children in town lost a tooth.  Unfortunately, after she is burned and disfigured in a fire, she develops an extreme aversion to light and always wears a creepy porcelain mask, causing the adults in town to distrust her.  They blame her when some kids go missing and she ends up dying of a broken heart, not before cursing the town to fear darkness. It's hard to imagine an entire film revolving around the fear of going to sleep when you lose a tooth, but here it is folks.


STIR OF ECHOES (1999)
Another excellent film starring Kevin Bacon, this film based on the story by Richard Matheson pits Tom Witzky (Bacon) against his own mind when his sister-in-law hypnotizes him at a party. When he awakens, something has changed and Tom starts having hallucinatory episodes in which he seems to be getting clues to the case of a missing neighborhood girl.  Obsession is not a strong enough word for Tom's mindset, as he tries to solve the case by putting together the fragmented pieces his mind shows him.  Hypnotism is a state of heightened awareness in which the hypnotized person appears asleep, but most certainly is not.  Perhaps one of the worst "types" of sleep, as you never know what your mind will bring back with you.


AWAKE (2007)
I can't imagine anything more horrifying than being put under anesthesia for surgery and not going under - having to live through the pain of having a scalpel cut you again and again while you lie on an operating table, seemingly in a surgical state. Anesthesia awareness is a medical term used when someone is not given an adequate amount of anesthetic for a surgical procedure and can feel what is going on, and it is the topic in the film Awake, starring Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba.  Unfortunately for Clay (Christensen), he experiences this rare event during heart surgery and uncovers a devious plan formulated by his doctor and fiance to have the surgery fail to collect insurance money.  Awake was not well-received at the theater but it doesn't make the thought of actually being awake during surgery any less appalling.


DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
This absolute gem from 1945 is one of the best anthology films in horror.  Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a country estate for a party and soon has an uncanny feeling that he knows everyone at the party and has actually even been having recurring dreams about each of them. The party-goers attempt to write off the man as having had a bit too much of the sauce, but when Walter seems able to predict events yet to come, the group breaks out with several stories of their own, all linked to the supernatural.  The stories are all of top-notch caliber, in particular the one involving the ventriloquist dummy (isn't that always the case, damn dolls!), and there is a twist ending that ties it all together in a nice neat bow at the end.  The question remains: is Walter dreaming, or is he just living a nightmare? (I'm still hoping for a Criterion DVD release on this one!)


SHADOW PEOPLE (2013)
Supposedly based on a true phenomenon, Shadow People is about a radio personality that delves into the idea that there is a presence lurking in the shadows - waiting for us to fall asleep so that they can attack. Apparently these victims wake up unable to talk or move, almost in a catatonic state.  Charlie Crowe (Dallas Roberts, The Walking Dead) gives a decent performance of a man obsessed, he cannot stop until he convinces everyone that the shadow people are real.  In the real world, shadow people are blamed as perpetrators of SUNDS (Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome), a phenomenon that is soaked in superstition and disbelief.  While it's hard to write off the nighttime death of a relatively healthy person, it's also hard to imagine that there is a preternatural reason for the event. 

IN DREAMS (1999)
After the murder of her young daughter, Claire Cooper (Annette Bening) begins to have terrifying dreams in which she sees visions of the serial killer responsible for the death of her daughter planning the murders of other children.  Thought to be completely off her rocker, she is committed to an asylum but manages to escape so that she can attempt to foil the deadly plans of the killer (convincingly played by pre-rehab Robert Downey Jr.). Her premonitions are actually one of the most believable things in this mediocre film, though, as there are way too many preposterous turn of events here to make it enjoyable. 


INSIDIOUS (2011)
Even though it goes off the rails a bit in the last act, Insidious is a hair-raising entry here if only for the dread-filled first half.  The Lambert family moves into to a  new home and at first, all seems fine. Until one day parents Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) find their son unable to wake in the morning. Young Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is in a coma for no apparent reason. Turns out he is astral projecting into the "further" and unless his equally as gifted dad can go and retrieve him from the strange limbo he's in, the ghostly souls of the dead will keep Dalton there eternally.  Insidious: Chapter 2 hit theaters this fall and takes us further...into the further.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS

  No discussion of sleep in film would be complete without a shout-out to Dream Warriors. Though we've already mentioned the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, this third installment is a franchise favorite and one of the best Freddy films. Kristin Parker (Patricia Arquette) is admitted to a mental ward after she dreams of Freddy slashing her wrists and when she wakes it looks like she was trying to commit suicide. In the hospital she meets several kindred sleepless souls, all plagued by Freddy in their dreams.  She also is comforted by Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp reprising her role) who is now a dream therapist and tries to help the group defeat Freddy. Some of the best dream sequences are in this film, especially when the others in the group experiment with group dreaming and hypnosis. Dream Warriors is really an exceptional installment in the NOES series, and can really stand on its own if necessary. 



INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
In what is probably the most frightening of all sleep terror films, this highly regarded remake of the 1956 original makes sleep the deadliest activities due to an alien life form replicating you when you are asleep. Health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), his colleague Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), and their two friends Jack and Nancy Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright) have discovered that the people around them are all starting to lack personalities and have become secretive and detached from the activities of daily living.  They soon learn that aliens have arrived in the form of a flower, and that the pods are the host in which people are duplicated to become passive, complacent, unemotional members of society, hence allowing the aliens to take over without any fight or complications. As Veronica Cartwright's character so fiercely warns: "They get you when you sleep!"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween 2013: Disc Jockeys In Horror ~ Spinning The Wrong Tune Can Be Deadly!

Here’s a list Christine and I cooked up, the disc jockeys of terror! Everyone on this list has filled the rare but charming role as a DJ or radio personality in a horror film. It’s a pretty neat occupation, but how will it help you in the throes of supernatural mayhem? How many of our beloved spin doctors made it out alive?


 HEIDI HAWTHORNE— THE LORDS OF SALEM (2012) 

Dread-locked, tattoo-covered bohemian Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is one third of an independent rock radio station in Salem, Massachusetts. A recovering junkie, her record collection and her friends are what get her through the tough times. Unfortunately for her, things are about to get a whole lot worse, for her blood is cursed. The weirdness begins with a mysterious record demo packaged in a crude wooden box. To: Heidi. From: The Lords. The team decides to feature the cryptic gift on their radio segment “Smash or Trash”, where they play a demo and let the listeners phone in and give their opinions on it. It’s then that it becomes clear this is no ordinary record; while to the male audience it sounds like some creepy ritualistic crap, it sends the women of Salem into a haunting trance, and sends Heidi off to bed with some very disturbing dreams. This is no mere earworm, it is only the first sign of the ancient wrath that is in store for Salem./MR


FRAN AMBROSE-- PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING (1990)

When radio talk show host Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder) asks for callers to tell their story on her show about matricide, she gets the mother of all guests when Norman Bates calls in.  Using the name "Ed", Norman gives his first-hand account of all the reasons he had to commit such an unholy crime.  We get flashbacks to Norman's childhood that probably explain much of his deranged behavior throughout his life.
It doesn't take too long before Fran realizes that "Ed" is the infamous Norman Bates, and that he has perhaps come unhinged again and has serious doubts about his own situation at home: his wife is pregnant with their first child and Norman has decided perhaps it isn't wise to keep his family line going.  Will Fran be able to talk Norman down in time?/CH


SASHA THOMAS— URBAN LEGEND (1998) 

Sasha (Tara Reid) is a fiery blonde who hosts a risqué talk radio show. The topic of conversation is usually that of a carnal matter, where audience members may call in with their blush-worthy questions and scenarios (a couple locked in a sex position, for example) and Sasha will oblige them with her advice. She is friends with Natalie (Alicia Witt), who is the center of all the murderous mayhem that is going on around campus (a hooded killer slaying college students using the story lines of popular urban legends). However, Sasha feels an eerie connection with the first murder, because apparently the girl who was killed was listening to her radio show the night of her death. I’m not sure which was more uncomfortable for the killer hiding in the backseat, listening to Sasha’s radio show or enduring his victim’s horrendous singing!/MR




NUKE-- TRICK OR TREAT (1986)

With little more than a cameo here, Gene Simmons nonetheless makes an indelible impression as rock-n-roll DJ Nuke.  When Eddie Weinbauer's (Marc Price) favorite metal star Sammi Curr dies in a mysterious fire, he is devastated and looks to the local rock station to appease his loss.  Disc jockey Nuke soothes his broken heart by giving him a copy of Curr's final record (which has not even been formally released yet): Songs in the Key of Death, which apparently when played backward, ends up being Curr speaking from beyond the grave.  Mostly silly, Trick or Treat is one of those classic campy 80's films that is near and dear to many fans' hearts, and Gene Simmons role as Nuke is certainly part of its charm./CH


STRETCH— THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) 

Vanita Brock (Caroline Williams), or Stretch, is the daisy-duke toting DJ of a country radio station with a voice like salted caramel. Her steady night job takes a sinister turn when she receives a prank phone call from two boys speeding drunkenly down a country lane (so sad I wasn’t alive to witness the golden era of the car phone). While at first she begs them to get off line to make way for other callers, she is then forced to listen to them be terrorized and murdered by those delightful rednecks we have come to know as the Sawyer family. Stretch knows that Leatherface (Bill Johnson) was behind the murder (the growling of a chainsaw is a dead give-away) and she then uses her radio station to try and gain the help of vigilante ex-Marshall (Dennis Hopper). How does she do this? By playing the recording of the murder every hour on the hour. Now that’s morbid, Stretch./MR


CHARLIE CROWE-- SHADOW PEOPLE (2013)

In the latest film to feature a radio personality, Shadow People has Charlie Crow (Dallas Roberts of The Walking Dead fame) hosting a call-in show in which people ramble on about their problems and Charlie makes fun of them tries to help them out with words of wisdom.  One day, a man calls up claiming that the Shadow People are stalking him with intent to take him. When said caller ends up dead, Charlie's radio show blows up in popularity and at the same time has Charlie curious about the Shadow People and their possible role in SUNDS (Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome). Supposedly based on a true story, the film does have its creepy moments, and certainly SUNDS is one of life's most curious medical mysteries - but whether or not Shadow People have anything to do with it remains to be seen./CH



GRANT MAZZY— PONTYPOOL (2008) 

The always delightful Stephen McHattie is spot-on in his portrayal of grumbling, grizzled Canadian DJ Grant Mazzy. While Mazzy used to flood the airwaves with obscenities, he has since—reluctantly—had to tone it down. What was expected to be another dull night at work becomes increasingly bizarre when their field reporter informs them first of a riot outside the office of a Dr. Mendez (Hrant Alianak), then of a strange virus that is causing people to repeat a word or phrase over and over again until they die violently either at the hands of others, or themselves. As a mob closes around the dinky radio station in the small Ontario town of Pontypool, Dr. Mendez arrives, hoping to get his theory about the virus on the radio. His theory is this: that the English language is infected, and specific words are triggers which turn people into babbling zombies. The responsibility then falls on small-town DJ Mazzy to save the town./MR



STEVIE WAYNE— THE FOG (1980) 

Adrienne Barbeau stars as Stevie Wayne, the local DJ of the California town of Antonio Bay, who broadcasts her radio show from a defunct lighthouse. One morning before she goes in to work, Wayne’s son, Andy (Ty Mitchell), gives her a piece of driftwood that reads “DANE”. She decides to take it to work with her, and sets aside while she does her show. However, when the driftwood suddenly starts leaking, the water drains into her tape playing, causing her broadcast to short out and is replaced by a foreboding message of revenge that swears “six must die.” Everything goes back to normal, but not for long. As the town is enveloped in a thick, luminescent fog, Stevie must use her vantage point from the lighthouse and her reign on the airwaves to try and save the town from supernatural doom!/MR

 
DAVE GARVER--  PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

Nothing worse than having a one-night stand with someone who turns out to be a raging psychotic bitch. Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) is a disc jockey spinning records at a California radio station who ends up with a (Stephen King's) Misery-esque Number 1 Fan in one Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter).  She follows him to a local bar she hears that he haunts and proceeds to coerce him into having sex with her. The shit hits the fan afterwards when she starts stalking him and - in a very similar pre-Fatal Attraction stunt, tries to kill herself in his home for attention. Even a stint in an asylum can't keep Evelyn from relentlessly pursuing Dave and requesting, just one last time, that he play 'Misty' for her. /CH