Translate This Page!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) Horror Vampire

Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) - Christina Ferrare probably known as a Max Factor spokesperson a former fashion model she has worked in TV and fashion. Later she might be seen for her working as a frequent guest on the Oprah cable TV network cooking and sharing recipes.In this early work which she has many credits on IMDB; she stars as Mary a vampire traveling through Mexico struggling to find love and success while still meeting her need for blood. It is a strange tale where she has managed for many years to survive on her own as a painter of some notoriety while at the same time leaving a trail of bodies drained of blood. The turning point for Mary is when she meets Ben (David Young) a charming hitchhiker who is easy to fall for. Now she must balance the desire for blood with the counter desire to not eat her lover. After the first scene of there meeting the film gives us the goods on Mary, we see her turning her flirting charms on a man she has picked up in a bar.  She drugs the victim with a dose of something she keeps in a locket around her neck. She stealth-fully slips it into his drink and waits for it to takes effect. Then with a pin knife she keeps her hair up with she deftly punctures his jugular and drinks her fill.
  Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma does some interesting stuff with a story by Don Henderson, Malcolm Marmorstein and Don Rico even though there is not a lot in it. The story is pretty basic, we join the main character after she has established her life as some what successful artist, who uses already has a method of killing and drinking that has worked for her. There could be another story here that would also be interesting enough for a movie. I thought of the film "Let the Right One In", where the vampire creature was an 11 year old looking creature. She had to deal with the logistics her underdeveloped body created for her. I kept thinking that the more interesting time of Mary's life must have been her tween to teen years for Mary when her father had first left. Did she always need to drink blood and if so did her Father supply her? How did she cope when he was gone? When her Dad realized he could not stay was it because she was still not infected with this form of vampirism and his desire to drink was too great to stay around his still normal daughter? What was it like to develop the need? How did she survive in those early years before becoming a beautiful woman? Unfortunately this is not that story but instead the story of when she was almost found out.
  More though and this was indeed interesting it is a look into a time in Mary's life when she chose to love knowing that the cost would put her at risk. When she meets Ben and they become lovers the "seduce and kill" method she had been using to feed becomes much more difficult. Its just hard to explain to your partner that you need to leave alone for several hours every week or so. Also it changed her mobility and she was more stationary in the time of the film, shrinking the hunting grounds and making the similar deaths of the victims more noticeable to the police. So this could be the story of how love doomed Mary, but it is even more than that. At around this time Mary is stalked by a masked man in a green Mustang who kills and feeds in a similar was. This only makes the trail for the police more obvious and creates a climax that can be guessed. Ferrare does a very good job capturing the internal struggle as her life pattern sort of falls apart. She is in anguish over the desire to feed but not wanting to lose her love to that need. Young is a bit cardboard as the man in her life but has his own issues as they stay together.
  The police on Inspector Cosgrove (Arthur Hansel) of the FBI on loan to the Mexican Lieutenant Pons (Enrique Lucero) are smart enough to see that Ben has been around the locations of most of the murders. In an act of amazing sexism they never connect Mary in the same way but focus on the American drifter as their main suspect. He was on the beach when a fisherman died. He was in the town where the female hitchhiker was killed and where someone killed the morgue worker. He was at an art exhibit of Mary's work when Greta (Helena Rojo) was killed and drained of blood. Still Mary is not the focus but instead her boyfriend. Speaking of Greta, it was such a heartfelt death in this film porttrayed with excellent warmth by the two actresses. She for years longed for love with Mary and sent Ben out from the party to buy tequila in order to get Mary alone. Mary upset that Ben vanished thought he might have abandoned her and in her dismay is comforted by Greta. As Greta expresses her love for Mary with a kiss Mary for the first time gives into desire and feeds from someone she knows. It really is so well done by Ferrare and Rojo and a crucial turning point in the film.
 This connection is something even the dumbest of police can't miss, but unfortunately for Ben they are blind to the idea a woman could be the killer.  When the police decide to tail Ben the third act unfolds rather quickly. Mary also under that surveillance needs to feed but is hard pressed to find a time when she can. She is oh so tempted as Ben sleeps next to her but instead attempts to sneak out. All kinds of crazy happens from here on out as Ben chases after Mary and masked killer is hot on her heels, with that the cops are also chasing. Up into the hills of Mexico where the masked killer is revealed and some of the story behind Mary's condition is heard. In the end though this can not truly be anything but a tragedy. I won't spoil it since it is a more rare vampire story and many of you might want to see it. It is not the greatest of films but I say worth recommending for its unque take on the genre.
Odds and ends
 - Mary's art was painted by Rosa Rosenberg
 - The director went on after this film to make a couple other films I know, the incredibly screamy and strange "Alucarda" and "The Mansion of Madness"
 - One of the victims actress Susana Kamini plays a main character in Alucarda.
 - The masked killer ends up being one of the greatest character actors in history John Carridine, he really is a bit player in that we only see his face in the last sequence and thus I suspect he was hired for his name.
  - The copy I have of the film comes with both a 3D and normal version of the film. Neither of the versions are widescreen and the 3D version was too dark to enjoy.
 - Although in the scenes where she connects with other actors, Ferrare's portrayal is solid there are other times where she has to be the cold killer. In some ways this makes sense. She is a predator when she needs to feed but still wants to have another connected life when the desire is not so great. Still in the last act the way she seems almost helpless as she is chased by the masked killer seems really out of place.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Satan Claus (1996) Horror Killer Santa

Satan Claus (1996) - Straight to video and with good reason for this poorly done meaningless kill fest from the 90s. Listen, I try to give every film I write about the benefit of the doubt. I figure someone wrote, organized and made the film and that takes effort. You just don't wake up and make a film you have to work at it. I just wish the makers of this film had tried a bit harder. Mostly I wish they had hired someone to do lighting; someone who appreciated that the audience will need to see the picture to enjoy it. I know a lot of transfers to DVD loose some of their brightness but it is damn near impossible to see things filmed at night in this movie and it almost all set in the night.
Its a story of a serial killer dressed as Santa Claus who is decorating his Christmas tree with the body parts of  the victims. All the while calling and taunting the police who sit around in the dark waiting for calls instead of actually doing anything. It sort of like the set of Barney Miller, where people come in and there are conversations and then they leave again, but the cops never do much just talk and talk. Except in this film the conversation is not funny and poorly delivered for the most part. I think what the writer Simonetta Mastarda was going for was something like this: " A cop driven to the edge by a maniacal killer struggles through his personal grief to avenge the murder of his wife before more victims pile up." Its not what was delivered but at least there is some basic plot beyond the laughing killer Santa.
  The film starts with a woman doing some sort of ceremony to Satan. I say woman because the only thing you can see in the shot is just the smallest bit of outline on her arms as she waves them around, other wise being fully robed it would be difficult to know. Director Massimiliano Cerchi masks the voice so it sounds like a man. From there we get right into the killing. A woman is walking home at night and a bit nervous looking around as she goes. Santa (Robert Cummings) come up fast and talks to her, she is nervous but answers his pleasantries with confusion. He pulls out an hatchet and chops her head off, off screen. A neighbor screams, then we hear Santa singing Jingle Bells as he leaving. The next scene we get introduced to the three cops who sit in their dark office, Captain Ardison (Barie Snider), Lt. Lisa Red (Daisy Vel) and Sgt. Todd miller (John Romanelli), the victim we learn is Ardison's wife and this starts the game of cat and mouse where the cops almost never leave the room and the killer runs amok on the streets to kill at least three more people.
The subplot concerns the second victim and tangentially connected characters. Steve (Robert Hector) is a nice guy who works doing charity work and lives with Maman (Lauretta Ali) a (possibly Haitian) woman who is psychic and feels something bad brewing. Steve while collecting money for charity sees the girl he has a crush on Sandra Logan (Jodie Rafty) and her boyfriend right before, off and away from him the boyfriend is killed by Santa. Running to the noise he comforts Sandra becomes a witness.Steve also happens to be good friends with Lisa so it ties him in more.
  There is more plot to this but at its heart it is Santa calling the Capt. and harassing him and then promising to kill again. With each kill the killer puts some more body parts onto a Christmas tree and upping the ante when not getting enough attention from the police. The big twist is out of no where and I guess that is really all you should watch this film for. There is really no predicting it and in the end it all feels about nothing. One of the strange things about this film is that to establish the police station they have this shot of two police cars on the street. Not strange in itself, establishing shots are common in movies, what is strange is that every time we are going to have a scene in the station we get that same shot. They must show it seven times in the film. The acting is very amateurish with the possible exception of Rafty who seemed to be trying. Still she and most everyone else in this film only have this as a credit on IMDB. Now I won't be recommending this film, in fact I had some thin places in my notes and thought I should take a second look for the details but could not bring myself to actually watch this again. So if you choose to see it, don't blame me.

Friday, December 20, 2013

House of Bones (2010) - Horror TV Movie

House of Bones (2010)  - Television movies and network shows have gotten good at those draw you in opening sequences, I see it a lot on shows like Supernatural where the horror opening is really scary and compelling. House of bones has such an opening with a young boy showing a couple older kids his Father's prized Babe Ruth signed baseball. The callous boys decide they want to hit the ball and unfortunately it goes all the way across the street into the yard of a spooky old house. The younger boy knowing his behind is at stake is forced to conquer his fear and go and retrieve the ball. The music is spot on as the tension grows near the old house. Not only is it old large and scary but already has a reputation as a haunted place. Close up of toys abandoned in the yard, then the reaction of the frightened boy when he sees the ball flush against the front door. He musters his resolve and moves slowly towards his prize but as he nears the front door opens with a creak and the ball rolls just a body's length into the foyer. The kid spooked tuns to leave but suddenly is again facing the ball. He tries to turn and leave again but again finds himself further onto the porch. Now stretching into the house he reaches the ball always cautious to keep his feet outside the threshold. Success and the stands and turns to leave. Then a force lifts him up and pulls him into the dark of the house, leaving only the marks of his dirty fingers on the door frame where he tried in vain to grab hold. It's a less then original opening but was well executed and there was hope that this TV movie would be something a bit better than most.
Unfortunately the rest of the film falls into used up tropes and cliches that have been around for years. The energy of the opening is quickly forgotten as the film builds the character who will later be the victims of the house. Quentin French (Corin Nemic) is the host of a haunted sites cable show that is currently hitting the skids, arrogant about its popularity he is none too pleased that from now on he will have to go on location for a more reality based exploration of ghostly mansions. Going on ahead of him are his crew, lead investigator and fx man Greg (Marcus Lyle Brown) cinematographer Simon (Collin Galyean) helper Bub (Kyle Russell Clements), Producer Tom (Ricky Wayne) and recently hired psychic Heather (Charisma Carpenter) add in young Realtor Sara (Stephanie Honore) and we have the primary players for the film. The early scenes with Quentin getting demoted and the crew setting up at the haunted house are mundane for the most part but little quirky happenings pop up just in time for cuts that obviously were meant to be used to go to commercial.
  I think the biggest problem with this film is the fact that the house, its history is the main character. What this means for the viewer is when shit starts going down and poor Bub is lost pulled into the walls of the house there is a giant need to tell us what the story of the house is and who all the previous owners were. This expository talk is always from the one cast member who has done the research explaining it to the others and in most cases is just tedious to listen to. Movies are about showing not telling and killing the pacing of a film almost always happens when you have to tell the story. Then of course is the inexplicable necessities of having a psychic to confirm the house is evil, and numerous deaths before the smart survivors come up with a one line solution to save themselves. It is not that this film is not mildly entertaining but damn the explanation of what the house is and how to deal with it are so simple and unquestioned by anyone in the place that the viewer is left thinking they are all a bunch of dopes.
  The twist ending is less than satisfying but there are some decent things about the film also. The music fits really well and the acting is quite passable. A bit television geared but hey this is a made for TV movie so its what you get. In the end I was more disappointed than entertained and probably will not revisit this one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hidden in the Woods (2013) - Horror Abuse Exploitation

Hidden in the Woods (2012) - "En las Afueras de la Ciudad" starts with a horrific scene of domestic violence where the jealous husband is abusing his wife. He is dunking her head in a sink full of water trying to force her to tell him the name of her lover. Whether she actually has a lover or not is answered later in the twist of the film, now instead we see him find his two small daughters in the woods and tell them that their mother has gone to heaven. A horrible person this man and the story clearly wants you to see him fully as the monster he is.  It is a horrifying scene of the cruelty man happens to exhibit on a daily basis but most of us are not exposed to. An opening like this could set up a film showing the courage of the human spirit rising above the pain and abuse to find a life worth living. It could be the significant moment in the lives of the two girls as they are dealt a horrible hand in life. The moment that sets their story in motion to see how much the spirit can overcome adversity. There is in this film the misogyny and a basic horrific treatment  that could be explored but is just used as a prop for the story.
 The story jumps to when the oldest girl is the maybe twelve years old. If setting the table to have us pull for the girls director Patricio Valladares is giving them a lot  to overcome. Still living with the drunkard father the girls live a primitive life in the forest. Their father, a drug holder, (he hides the drugs for a big time dealer), a drunk we are subject to him raping his younger daughter and then a horrific scene as he and the older sister deliver the child, a deformed damaged infant that we see they raise but keep locked up in a shed. Treating it like an animal as time goes by with the implication that the younger girl continues to be the victim of rape as the years go on.  Another jump in years and the daughters now young women, fight with the father as he again tries to rape her again. Now close to adulthood they are still not strong enough to stop him but they do give him pause. The older sister Ana runs off screaming for help that she will never find. Instead the two girls are locked with the freak in the shed to wait for the punishment that is sure to come later.
  At about this time the police show up for a noise complaint and things begin to escalate as the girls yell for help.  This is where you would expect there to be a turn in the story, maybe developing how the girls taken from the arrested father will fight through their PTSD to become advocates for the abused? No not in this grim tale. While one officer helps the girls the other is attacked by the father. The second officer shoots him but he gets to her before being taken down. A gruesome chainsawing is what they get for trying to do their jobs. It certainly is an incident that will change the lives of the children forever. Wounded the Father calls his drug dealer boss to help him, he will get money so he can hide out for a while to heal. The drug dealer wants access to the drugs and the man keeps them hidden so that they can not be stolen. This arrangement really gives the man a way to get help instead of being cut loose. Unfortunately for him help is not coming and no one shows to the bus terminal to help him. Meanwhile the children have escaped into the woods and are hiding there. Alone they are afraid to go back and instead are forced to take up residence in the house where their mother was killed. It is now old and falling apart abandoned in the woods.  They do not know that the father is being arrested at the bus station. They have no way to know that this decision instead of being the safe thing to do will create an even greater spiral of misery.
  This sets up the drug dealers wanting to find the girls thinking that they may know where he hides the drugs. Really though this is a horrific film, the film itself is exploitative but the subject matter is dreadful. The pain and abuse of the main characters is so hard to watch and the film is unrelenting in dishing new traumas on these three innocent characters. The story by the director with help from screenwriter Andrea Cavaletto never looks to make these characters more than the victims they are in the first scenes of the film. In fact like many exploitation films from the past all that happens is more and more shit is piled on them with the bleak realization that there will be no happy ending. So is the point that we are forced to sit through the long spiral down when there is no character development and there is no glimmer of hope? We become the abused by having to sit through the horror inflicted on these characters? Is Valladares making a statement about the viewers willingness to suffer with a character when there is no hope of redemption? Interviews I have read with the director lead this reviewer to believe that is not the case. Valladares seemed more interested in the movie making and less interested in saying anything with his film. So is it art or exploitation? I lean strict exploitation. It is somewhat disappointing to here the director speak about the film. Probably somewhere in the later history if Valladares becomes a name I am sure like Writer/director Meir Zarchi and "I spit on you Grave" writers will reevaluate it giving it more meaning than it will deserve. Those involved will also white wash this exploitative mean spirited film and talk about how it forces the audience to experience what the character does and is somehow therefore a positive message. That bearing witness is somehow a value when really the initiative behind making the film is to make a few bucks. Bearing witness to real life injustice has value giving money a film so the creator can grow his personal career and fortune is another.  Bullshit. This film does not even have the revenge featured in that more notorious piece of trash. Instead Ana (Siboney Lo) the oldest sister spirals into a prostitute who blows men to earn enough money to keep her and her siblings fed. The second act is a cruel respite from the violence but not the harsh realities of these characters.
  The acting is pretty bad in the film and in those same interviews I learned it was because most of those involved were amateurs. The dialog full of swearing and the over use of "faggot" is hard to listen to over the wailing of victims. When Uncle Costello (Francois Soto) sends his men into the forest to find the three survivors it creates a third act full of continued violence and abuse, more rape more murder. Sure we learn who the girls Mother was sleeping with and why the father chose the second daughter to rape repeatedly but without a story arc of any chance at anything positive these revelations are hollow script tricks. Adding in the strange cannibalism piece only exploits the film industry and viewers looking for the bizarre. In the end even the dream of a happy ending is washed away in blood and the viewer is left hollow. This is really not a recommended film  and soon will hopefully be forgotten.