Sunday, October 17, 2021


 2018  ***1/2

It's 1986 for some reason, and a team of paranormal investigators are making a big name for themselves all over Scotland.  But they're liars! We see them "cleanse" a home to help a grieving widower and his little girl, making sure to let him know who to give the check to.

Black Widow's little sister Florence Pugh is the star of the show as the team psychic; she minces around the house and "feels" things.  But she's a liar too! And she doesn't even know it!  Right at the end of the scam job she sees something... off, and it's a standout scene because of what isn't there -- there's no keyboard mashing music cue.  ARE YOU LISTENING JAMES WAN

It's a great moment, and soon there's another vision that is quiet, out of the corner of the eye, and never spoken of.  Teen Black Widow is in a weird spot: she's too scared to pretend to see ghosts because she's actually seeing ghosts.  I'm already a fan of "we're scamming people into believing in the supernatural AH IT'S REAL" plots, and even more a fan of "Oh gosh no, my so-called 'powers' are all fake, ha ha ha AH IT'S REAL" plots.  

In the prologue of the graphic novel From Hell, two old, well-dressed duffers are walking on the English seaside, reminiscing.  It's revealed one of the old men got rich as an amazingly popular stage act in which he had fits and fell down and uttered garbled visions of the future.  This comes up because he's admitting to his friend that it was all a complete act -- he faked the whole thing and just said whatever random stuff occurred to him at the time.  "But," says the friend, "Everything you predicted, all of it -- it all came true."

So cool, right?  Or remember when Illeana Douglas hypnotizes Kevin Bacon at that party in (warning crap title) Stir of Echoes? Later he's all "hey man you unlocked psychic powers" and she's all "yeah I read half a book" or something.  Sometimes these accidental, home-grown brushes with The Beyond really work for me.  

Back in the movie I'm supposed to be talking about, the gang gets a gig out in the boondocks, and I don't really need to get into the plot further but a bad time is had by all.  Things aren't what they seem, yadda yadda, eek watch out, badda bing, we gotta get out of here, bomp ba domp ba doo. If I sound a little disappointed it's because those hints of originality at the beginning didn't really play out like I hoped.  

The unspooling story isn't flawed per se; it doesn't drag, and the cast does a great job of making you care about them, but some of you more experienced viewers might find this a bit paint-by-numbers.  I thought it was giving it a good honest try, like when Teen Widow's jerk older brother, who runs the scam and is in too deep with loan sharks to refuse work, keeps listening to motivational tapes on his Walkman.  You hate him but you like him.  

So to the connoisseurs, I recommend watching Malevolent just for these few standout touches.  It's exactly for this reason I gave it the half star over base average.  But in the larger scheme of things it lands squarely in the populous land of known as You'll Be Okay Throwing 90 Minutes At This But It Won't Change Your Life.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell


1974 ***

Anyone combing their streaming services for horror movies right now might notice there's a ton of cheap new content from 2020 and 2021, and I was already a little suspicious before the rude slap that was Come True.  So when Julie said she wanted to watch a horror flick with me and I was already scrolling down Hulu's A-Z of horror movies, this extremely 70s movie stood out just from its thumbnail.

I wasn't expecting much, but this turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  That despite this fact: if there's anything I'm suspicious of more than the recent wave of low-budget horror, it's movies that start out with one of these:

(Octopunk makes almost inaudible noise deep in his throat)

I'm on record as suggesting that Hammer films produced in any year in Hammer's long history tend to be very good at building mood and atmosphere, but what always happens is you suddenly realize the movie's ending in about fifteen minutes and nothing's really happened yet, and then things are hastily wrapped up chip chip cheerio and you're still hungry.

"So what are you telling me, Octopunk?" I hear you say, "have you found the mythical ...good Hammer horror movie!?!"

NO! No, I gleefully say, I have not.  This movie is a slow-moving procedural about how to stitch the good parts of a selected group of mental patients into a (giggle) Monster from Hell.  But you don't watch Bob Ross paint for the plot, right? And you don't mind watching 1974 R-rated fake brain surgery when your host is Peter Cushing as Doctor Victor Frankenstein. Cushing is exquisite in this role, the very essence of crisp British politesse, withering criticism, and a sociopathic dedication to mad science.  Here he is all pissed off because he was just caught in a lie. He's so incensed!

"You're from Dantooine? Well don't take this the wrong way but your loser planet 
wasn't good enough for me to blow up."

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  You can't have a buddy movie without a buddy, and in this case it's Dr. Simon Helder, a dedicated mad scientist wannabe who looks to the works of the late Baron Victor Frankenstein for inspiration, and pays a local drunk to dig up bodies for him.  He is quickly found out and sentenced to five years in the booby hatch for the crime of sorcery.  I really want to type that like I'm saying it boomingly loud.  For the crime of... SORCERY!

Here's the booby hatch in question.  If you're thinking "is that a model?" 
scope out the little crosses in the graveyard

Simon Helder is played by an actor I've never heard of, but he looks like he was pulled from any number of 70s sexploitation flicks.  Rowr.  Here's a closeup on his face as he's sentenced to live in a model for five years:

"I'm 70s sad"

After a stripped-to-the-waist-and-firehosed welcome, it turns out the late Dr. Frankenstein is not late at all, but has faked his death, re-emerged as Dr. Victor, physician of the asylum, and basically runs the place because he has dirt on the warden.  And now Simon can be his new best friend! What's that thing in movies when there's a record scratch, but it's actually a crappy situation suddenly reversing itself and becoming good?  Make that noise in your head.  

In what seems no time at all Simon uncovers Dr. Victor's secret room containing the super strong and extremely hairy inmate Simon was told died recently.  Dr. Victor is confronted with the truth of his mad science and is basically "what of it?" and drafts Simon as his enthusiastic assistant.  Then begins the procedural I describe above, as they transplant a genius brain into the big hairy dude and thus the MONSTER FROM HELL is born upon the world.

"Funny, I don't remember falling asleep in this Godmonster of Indian Flats costume."

That's Dave Prowse of Darth Vader fame in the monster costume there.  I read that it took him a mere 30 minutes to get through makeup and costume for this movie, which was a lot less than what he was used to.  And it shows! The best I can figure is they were going for what would happen if the Steve Austin Sasquatch had a baby with Calibos from Clash of the Titans.

They bonded over being exiled to the woods by a world that shuns and fears them

Per the formula things accelerate a bit at the end, but as the asylum already has a crowd of yelling people there isn't even the need for an angry mob to form.  The Monster from Hell is never that much of a threat, thanks to Dr. Victor being a total baller when it comes to wielding glass containers of knockout gas.

Look at that windup! Science!

Seriously though the Monster from Hell goes on two attempted rampages and both times the Doc puts the ether smack down hard.  The second time Cushing actually insisted on clambering up on a table so he could do the poison pounce himself.

Yes that's Grand Moff Tarkin climbing on Darth Vader's back.  Horrorthon gold, my homies

So like any number of baking shows or youTube videos, sometimes it's fun watching polite people working together with mutual admiration towards a common goal.  That's what Hammer is calling a horror movie here, and while you may disagree I feel it's more important to point out that it's a satisfying experience, and Hammer movies usually aren't.

Hammer made a whopping seven movies based on Dr. Frankenstein and his shenanigans, and Cushing played the Doc in six of them.  By the time we get to Monster from Hell, which turned out to be the last of them, Peter Cushing is just nailing everything about the role.  Watch him do it with company, so you don't fall asleep. Worth the time.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

The Mummy

(1932) ****1/2

The timing of the release of The Mummy could hardly have been better. The previous decade had witnessed the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and interest in Egyptology (which even now, in my mid-40s, I still can't believe is an actual word) was sky-high. It was two years before Hollywood really started cracking down on Hays Code violations, and it was late enough in the timeline of commercial filmmaking that the tech had gotten really good.
It was also the threshold moment when Boris Karloff became a colossal film star, just a year removed from his breakout role in Frankenstein. I spent much of the film imagining what it must have been like to be a child in the 30s, awestruck watching Imhotep's mighty frame projected onto the 40 foot screen at Grauman's Egyptian Theater. He towers over his co-stars both literally and figuratively, his eyes mesmerizing with phantom electricity, controlling the action with quiet menace even in scenes he's not present.
It's hard not to find a little distracting the rather canned romance forced into the movie. Co-star David Manners, who plays main protagonist Frank Whemple (and who also played Jonathan Harker in Dracula), sparkles with insubstantial white-savior energy, and watching him ladle himself all over damsel Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), one rather hopes that Imhotep gets the girl in the end. Mere days after meeting her, he's gushing, "I love you so," to the woman. Seriously, I'm as careful as they come about dropping L bombs on my girlfriends too soon. The idea of throwing it on the table before like date 3 is major eye-roll stuff.
I met you like an hour ago. The fuck out my face.

And while I'm on the subject of weird airspace violations, oh my god, EVERYBODY in this movie stands way too close to each other. I understand you gotta lean in close if you're telling someone a dirty secret, but the standard conversational stance in this movie is like 6 inches from the other guy. It's weird as fuck. And like, I don't care what kind of secret you got to tell me; if you're putting your hand on my lapel like this it better be because we're about to make out. Otherwise, you better be ready to swallow some of your own teeth.
Of course, these are all idle observations, none of which ruined the movie for me in any way. I approached The Mummy the way I approach any of these classic Universal pics: with nostalgia not just for the ancient story it's telling, but for an age of filmmaking in which the films and the performances were gigantic.

The Taking Of Deborah Logan

(2014) ****

Even if not a single supernatural thing took place in the movie The Taking Of Deborah Logan, it would remain a chilling look at the decline of a woman as her brain is slowly eaten by Alzheimer's. I'm reminded a little of the opening scenes in The Descent, in which we spend enough time getting to know our characters to identify with their pain as things start to go bad for them, and to be appalled along with them when things go from bad to grotesque.
The Taking Of Deborah Logan is presented in documentary form from beginning to end; the "original" footage (as opposed to graphics and newscast clippings) is shot by a PhD film crew live-reporting on the experiences of Deborah and her daughter Sarah. It's good enough as a movie; it'd be an astoundingly good documentary. The editing is very trim, so there's barely a wasted moment, and the videography provides us with a lot of savorable shots of our characters' face as things happen to them.
The two leads are excellent. Anne Ramsay (Sarah), I've been aware of since her small, but notable role in A League Of Their Own. She has a lovely face and a smile that shines through resting features that I would nonetheless describe as "hardened". Her face evokes a lifetime of challenging emotions. We see a lot of Jill Larson (Deborah) in torment, and her face does torment really well. And because of the Alzheimer's, we see her go through a torrent of emotions, often shifting rapidly within the space of a moment: politesse, confusion, fury, shame.
Things eventually do get very weird, and about that I'll say very little. In fact, all of my screenshots are from the first half of the movie. I will say that if I'm withholding that half-star extra that Crystal Math included in her review, it may merely be an example of what Stephen King described in Danse Macabre as an innate challenge in horror filmmaking: impressing the audience with the real scare. He wrote, "the protagonist [throws open the door], and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible', the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall.'" I will also say that I don't believe my "relief" is due to any weakness in the presentation of what happens or how we get there. The special effects include seamlessly some rather gross things, and the transition from unease, to anguish, to horror is seamless as well. This is a good and creepy movie.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Come True

2020 ** 1/2

Ugh.  I really thought I'd started out strong, that I was going to lead Horrorthon 2021 with a four-point-five star movie and this year's Hidden Gem! Nnnnnnope.  Come True is a perfect example of what happens when you're 100% prepared to tell 50% of a story.

So much of this movie is promising, in particular the stylized recurring dream images that are the focus of the story.  Eighteen-year-old Sarah is so estranged from her mother she lives like a homeless person, dipping into her house for supplies and then sleeping in the park. What's even more exhausting is that she suffers from recurring nightmares, in which she slowly moves forward through strange landscapes, always eventually coming to a menacing, shadowy figure. 

Then the camera smacks him in the head and Mel Brooks comes out to sing the theme song

The dream sequences are monochrome, creepy, and very beautiful. I welcomed each one.  The constant, steady forward motion made them seem like you were riding a Disneyland dark ride based on the videotape in The Ring.

It's nice to see that thing that killed Tasha Yar getting work

Sarah joins a sleep study, and somewhere in the Hulu info blurb it says "what are they really studying?" or "she's part of a terrible discovery" or whatever, but at this point I don't feel like describing the plot because there is simply no candy in this piƱata. The script is good and the cinematography is great and the performances are spot on.  And they totally had me all the way through to this big, unexpected mid-movie crescendo involving some side characters. It's all stroby! and jump cuts! and then right then, in the eye of the storm, here comes the reveal! And there's... no reveal. The lights go out, nothing is explained, none of the characters return to the film again.  Psyche, gotcha, thank you for playing.

This movie comes so not-recommended I'm going to go ahead and spoil the main story below, but if you want to hang on to your ignorance you can stop here.  Short story is, this is a bummer of a misfire. 

This trailer does a decent job capturing the mood of the movie before it started to suck.  I'll start my spoilers below.

Well maybe you weren't going to read my spoilers but you figured the trailer did it for you.  Either way welcome to the grown-up table.

Now strap this thing to your head

So Sarah goes veering off for various misadventures with this Harry Potter-lookin' dude who's on the research team, and she keeps having weird visions of the shadow guy and it's cool.  But this ends with her sleepwalking out of the hospital and refusing to wake up.  Harry Potter follows her and gets his Hermione to show up with some gear so they can watch what she's dreaming.  

I mentioned they could do that, right? No? Pretty sure I did

Anyway after I watch this poor woman stomp around outside in her slippers for ten minutes of screen time, feeling like I'm watching the plot literally wandering away, the scene finally turns into something like a climax, aaand... it gets a little silly but I'm still hanging on, aaand...

And she wakes up, and she's in Harry Potter's apartment, and she's just gouged his eyes out -- and I'm there, hoping, hoping they'll tie it together -- and she goes into the bathroom, and her phone beeps, and you see it's an incoming image, and she puts it down for a sec -- I'm on pins and needles! Can they do it? 

And suddenly in the mirror she realizes she has VAMPIRE TEETH and then we see the phone message and it's a text saying YOU'VE BEEN IN A COMA FOR 20 YEARS and goddamn it goddamn it goddamn it IT WAS ALL A DREAM.  All of it.  Whole movie.  

Slap in the face!

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch

(1982) ****
I'm not sure what made everyone in the 80s decide that this wasn't a good movie. Whatever criticism one might have of Season Of The Witch, it's undeniably got a vibe. It feels chilly and autumnal like its two predecessors. There's something new here though: loneliness. The latter half of the movie takes place in Santa Mira -- Loleta, CA in real life, not even big enough to warrant being called a "town". It's a "census designated place" on the California coast hundreds of miles from Sacramento and from Portland. The sense of isolation comes out in the establishing shots. Also, the Santa Mira streets are almost completely empty, the townspeople regarding with suspicion the new car driving around town. The John Carpenter synth plays an 80s dirge in the background. Santa Mira feels like a sad, ageless silence has set into its bones. It's a moment where good location scouting, good cinematography, and good scripting really come together.
I also don't have any particular problem with the cast, though male lead Tom Atkins has always been one of those actors that I grew up thinking was my parent's idea of an important actor, like Woody Allen, but whose significance was lost on me as a child. I am old enough now to know that I wasn't missing the magic. He's not bad in this at all; he's just kind of "a guy". It's not his fault. He's fine. On the other hand, Dan O'Herlihy (the chairman of OCP in Robocop) is stern, sly, and scary, and almost all of the best lines in the script come from him. On his way out the door in one scene, he promises cryptically that tomorrow will be a special day. "Being a medical man, you should find it interesting".
There's three minor tragedies that stem from the fact that this is the third movie in the Halloween franchise. The first is that John Carpenter really didn't want to write a sequel to the first film, and wound up, in his words, "with a lot of beer, sitting in front of a typewriter saying 'What the fuck am I doing? I don't know.'" The result was Halloween II, a sequel none of the Carpenter crew was enthusiastic about, and the critical response at the time reflected this. The second is that the confusing switch in narrative from the Michael Myers storyline opened this sequel up to a lot more scorn than it fairly deserved.
The third, and I think most frustrating of the three, is that the poor critical response to Season Of The Witch wrecked any opportunity for the Carpenter crew to do what they actually wanted, which was to create an anthology franchise. The problem with Season Of The Witch isn't that it came out third, but that Halloween II came out at all. I can imagine an alternate universe in which this was the second movie, and the Carpenters are just that much more invested in it, making a movie that's just enough better than this to make it stick, spawning a franchise that tells a completely different story with every film. If nothing else, Carpenter himself might have stuck around to make more Halloween movies. None of the movies between this and 2018 feature the Carpenters in any way, and it shows.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Color Out Of Space

(2019) ****
[Sung to the tune of Eyes Without A Face by Billy Idol]

In the Arkham Woods
Deep in private land
The Gardner family home

Lavinia, Benny, Jack
Nathan and Theresa
Who's short a boob

Then one quiet night
The 'rents about to bang
An object falls

(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
Pink malignant race
The color out of space (space, space, space...)
Hydro-expert, Ward
In his Miskatonic shirt
Senses something wrong

Sounds beneath the shack
Of the squatter in the woods
Who's played by Tommy Chong

(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
Pink malignant race
The color out of space (space, space, space...)

[Hard rock riff]
The meteor zapped by lightning bolts
News crew story shows a smoky hole
Theresa chops off two of her fingers
Dactylectomy cool

Benny wanders off, forgets to bring the alpacs in
'Vinia bloody dishes, now's she's in the john yakkin'
Barfin it out, ohhhhh
The fruit in the garden tastes of rotten mutation
The wifi sucks, Theresa losing her patience
Now the parents fighting, and Lavinia gets scared, so

Wiccan prayers
Wiccan prayers
Wiccan prayers

[psychedelic guitar solo]
Alpaca mass of heads
Like Carpenter's The Thing
It's fuckin gross

Jack and mother fuse
Into a beast with spider legs
You wish you'd never seen

The landscape grows
Into something that it knows

(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
(Couleur de l'espace)
Color out of space
Pink malignant race
Color out of space
The light behind your face
The color out of space (space, space, space...)
The water here is cursed

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Blob

(1958) ***

Okay, let's just get this out of the way right off the hop.

So like, we're not taking ourselves *too* too seriously here. This theme song is a frikkin fishbowl-party unto itself, and allows us to take whatever doesn't work in the film that follows in stride -- little things like how distractingly old Steve McQueen is for a high school student. Or how there's a 30 minute lull in the middle of the movie that could have been shortened to a 15 minute lull. Or how much talktalktalking there is, and how not that great any of the dialogue is. None of these are criticisms that anyone writing about the movie when it came out in 1958 was unprepared to write.

Another universal critique of the film, even at the time, is that the effects are bad. Funny thing is, my eyes so seasoned by years of watching VFX get more and more sophisticated, I don't have any more objection to the VFX in The Blob than I would to even the best of what was being done in other movies of the era. All of that stuff looks fake to modern eyes. I don't bother parsing different levels of shittiness when it comes to pre-artisan VFX work, so it's actually easier for me to embrace the goop on the screen for what it's *trying* to look like.
To tell the truth, I kinda feel that way about the acting and the dialogue too. I just expect, going into a 50's popcorn flick, that it's going to be kinda shitty somehow, so I found nothing about The Blob disappointing. And by the time I got through the opening credits, I was already feeling like a swinging, space-age sex machine -- so who cares?
In defense of the writing, there is one aspect that could have been a total downer and *wasn't*, and that bears recognition. For the better part of the movie, Steve McQueen's character (conveniently named "Steve") is the only character to have seen the blob in action; and if the script had been primarily about nobody believing him, this would have gotten real tedious. But that's not what happens. "Steve" is able to recruit, with almost no fuss, a bunch of his goofy classmates to help spread the word, and even the one stick-in-the-mud cop that's complaining about the antics of all these hooligan kids -- even he falls completely in line with the rest of the go-team when he realizes the kids aren't kidding. Takes a while for us to get there, but we get there.

I also want to make special mention of something I read in IMDb trivia that had never dawned on me before.
So it's red because of crushed-people blood?? That's fucking gross. I LOVE IT!!!

Which brings me to the most important point. The color in this movie is delicious. The reds and blues pop like crazy on the print and it makes the whole movie, whatever else may be wrong with it, look stupendously good. So check your high expectations at the door, get high and make some popcorn. The Blob is nothing but good, clean, stupid fun; and it only takes 50 minutes or so of nothing happening to get there.

Also, speaking from my position as a living human on a rapidly warming Planet Earth in the year 2020, the answer to the last question "Steve" poses at the end of the movie is a resounding, "yeah. about that..."

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Three Cases Of Murder

(1955) ***1/2
The film is, as you can tell from the title, an anthology of three horror/thriller shorts. Each short has a different director. Considering the subject matter, and the cool camera work, the film feels very much like you sat down to watch three straight episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Orson Welles, featured as the titular Lord Mountdrago in the third story is by far the biggest name in the cast. Mountdrago is the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who is gradually driven insane by nightmares, the target of a hex by a fellow politician after Mountdrago humiliates his colleague in front of Parliament. This chapter was nominally directed by George More O'Farrell (a guy who has More O'Names than you do), though it will come as a surprise to nobody who is familiar with the career of Orson Welles that after three days of making suggestions, Orson muscled his way into essentially directing the rest of the shoot. It's hardly a loss - the camera work and pace are great, and the story is an excellent vehicle for Orson's acting. He infuses Mountdrago's waking moments with great arrogance. To Mountdrago's dreams, Orson's acting has all the panache and daring of a circus clown.
But with Orson appearing in only the third story, the film thrives largely on the performance(s) of Alan Badel, who appears in all three. The variety of characters he portrays demonstrates strong dramatic range. He brings a manic Mad Hatter energy (I thought of that adjective probably because of the silly hat he's wearing for much of the story, but it fits) to the role of an inhabitant of a painting come-to-life. He plays a secondary, and more conventional role in story 2 - a helpful bartender. His performance as the vengeful member of Parliament haunting Lord Mountdrago's dreams is a neat hybrid of the two.
I'm not sure what about this film warrants a spot in Criterion. It's a few years after Orson Welles's highest profile work (Citizen Kane, The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai, and The Third Man were all released in the 40s) and, limited as my knowledge of British film may be, none of the names of anyone other than Orson Welles were familiar to me. All the same, I said earlier on that the film reminded me of a collection of Twilight Zone eps, and it's worth pointing out that Three Cases Of Murder preceded Twilight Zone by four years. It's possible that the film was an influence on Rod Serling's directorial style. All three stories are competently directed and acted, and on the whole it's a fun ride.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Happy birthday, Johnny Sweatpants!

HBDJSP! When you take your whacks at life, may your aim be as true as whomever was wielding this axe on this cake. [SLURCH]

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Brood

1979  ***

I grabbed this early David Cronenberg movie off of HBOMax's list of horror flicks because it stars Oliver Reed here, who delighted me to no end in The Shuttered Room. He did not disappoint! But instead of a thuggish towny he brings a menacing, smarter-than-you arrogance as Dr. Hal Raglan, a "brilliant" pioneer with a cutting-edge psychological treatment of his own invention.  Psychoplasmics!

So important they stuck some vinyl stickers on a rented bus!

Psychoplasmics looks like experimental theater in which Oliver Reed role-plays as various persons in the patient's life -- sometimes being really mean! -- and the patient's mental breakthroughs manifest as gross make-up effects, because they're externalizing their emotions I guess? I'm going out a limb and saying this premise is not terribly well developed.  I think this might just be a problem with early Cronenberg, because I had to watch Videodrome at least three times before I figured out that "new flesh" nonsense.

Anyway, plot plot plot.  Our hero is Frank, an adorable 70s everydad who is locked in a nasty custody fight with his estranged wife, Nola. He looked familiar and I think that's because he's in Porky's, I'm pretty sure as the older brother who's a cop? I only dug so far.

"And then I'll say 'Faulty hood ornament!' Blam! Heh heh heh... I'm sorry what were we talking about?"

Nola has been under treatment at the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics for a while, and demands their daughter Candice visit her there on the weekends.

She's clearly cutting her hair with her heat vision, but nobody talks about it.

The action starts rolling when Frank brings Candice home from a visit and she has bruises on her back. In a completely bullshit scene, his cartoonish lawyer tells him that's not enough to deny Nola next weekend's visit (maybe that's not bullshit in Canada in 1979 but I'd like to think bruises = child protective services = ALL the red flags in reality).  Frank decides to dig deeper, meanwhile Nola's theatrical therapy sessions with Dr. Raglan gain intensity, and the subjects of the sessions start getting hammer-murdered by a deformed child in a snowsuit. First is Nola's mom, who does a ridiculous slow pan of her noisily trashed kitchen before she gets pounced.

"No threat to my life on THAT cabinet, moving on..."

"Curses! That red snowsuit blended perfectly with my 70s wallpaper!"

I thought I knew where this movie was coming from when it threw a curveball and the mutant kid just up and dies mid-attempted murder.

"Attack ships on fire... ACK"

There's an autopsy and a story in the newspaper and everything.  The cops write it off as a deformed kid who's been hidden by his mother all his life out of shame.  "Wouldn't be the first time this happened." WHA

Meanwhile Laser Bangs's kindergarten teacher makes the mistake of answering Frank's phone when Nora calls, and the next day she gets a visit from a couple of ugly kids who really like the cute little wooden kindergarten hammers, but not for banging in cute little wooden pegs. For hammer murder.

It's the snowsuits.  They blend in anywhere.

Poor Frank! He's outside telling another parent about his dead in-laws who were hammer-murdered and a little kid runs out saying the teacher is right now being hammer-murdered and when he checks it out Candice is gone.  We see the bad kids taking her back to the institute, something I want to put a pin in for now.

Canada is what you make if you have a lot left over after making New Hampshire

I had a good time with this movie but it barely rated the three stars, there's a fair amount of padding and the premise, as I mentioned, is pretty thin.  However the actors involved have abilities and bring their A game to a small, well-meaning story, so three stars it is.  However however, I don't have much of a problem blowing most of the ending for you now, because, well, it's not that great and really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, for reasons I am delighted to go into.  So I guess if you really want to keep this surprise, don't let your gaze wander beneath this photo of Nola, played by 70s TV mainstay Samantha Eggar (she was on Love Boat AND Fantasy Island!)

And here she is looking like her crazy treatment is going REALLY WELL I must say.

The endgame begins when Raglan empties all the sick folks from the institute and one of them runs to Frank and mentions the "disturbed kids in the work shed that you're wife's taking care of," and when Frank arrives at the Institute Raglan confronts him with a gun.  But suddenly his whole "you can't see your wife because she's at a critical stage in her treatment" crap is gone and instead he's extremely scared of the monster children that live on his property, explains that it was them who hurt Candice because Nola got upset about something, and they're the reason he has the gun.  Now he's a good guy and he's all "go in there and keep your wife calm so I can extract your daughter from the room full of mutants."

So Frank goes in and the two of them chew a little scenery and then the big reveal is that Nola's skin lesions grow into HUGE GROSS EXTERNAL WOMBS out of which she pulls her mutant babies and licks them clean.  So gross!  

"You have NO idea how hard it was to find this frock, what with there being no internet yet."

Before you start asking questions I need to mention part two of the reveal, which is that while we've seen a total of three monster kiddos, Nola has pumped out something like... a dozen? They're all partying upstairs in bunkbeds and PJs like it's Meatballs or something.

"That was the best summer of my life!"

As effectively gross and Cronenberg-y as the reveal is, the things I can't help but extrapolate make absolutely no sense.  I thought Nola's powers were manifesting these homunculi on the spot, through some sort of psychic hoodoo.  But no, they're very much flesh and blood, and they're also monster children who can't take the bus, so they have to fucking WALK all the way from the woods to downtown Toronto, and BACK.  Remember the pin I put in up there, them walking along the road in the snow? Can you imagine maintaining murderous rage for three hours trudging through that? It really robbed the premise of its mystique. 

The other problem is trying to figure out Raglan's motivation for letting the situation get that far.  I mean how much more do you need to validate your pet theory than the fact you've created a new form of life -- through therapy no less -- after you've done it once? Or two or three times?  Why didn't he tell anybody until he had an attic full of murderous monster kids? How did this never occur to him while he was out buying all those PJs and snowsuits?  I guess you can be a genius shrink but still be bad at math, like for instance bringing a six-shot revolver into a room with a dozen lethal targets.

What would you, the reader at home, do? Think about it won't you?


 2018  ***1/2 It's 1986 for some reason, and a team of paranormal investigators are making a big name for themselves all over Scotland. ...