Um . . . on second thought, maybe you should skip this one.
Archive for December, 2010
Not to be confused with the 132 other horror films bearing the same name, CAMPFIRE TALES is an enjoyable tongue-in-cheek anthology film from directors William Cooke and Paul Talbot. The 1991 release features four stories, as well as a wraparound, in the classic EC Comics tradition as a mysterious stranger (Gunnar Hansen) spins yarns for a group of bored teenagers; though they’re predictable tales of karmic comeuppance, each story sets itself apart with a different style and are fun on their own. It’s a movie worth checking out, but for today we’re going to highlight the film’s third segment, “The Fright Before Xmas.”
The story concerns a greedy young man who kills his mother at Christmas, pushing her down the stairs to collect his inheritance. Then he babysits his brother’s kids (because he’s really a stand-up guy like that), who tell him the tale of Satan Claws, who punishes the wicked on Christmas Eve. Where the story goes from there isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s a fun ride with some charmingly crude stop-motion effects and decent performances.
The Wolfman himself does a cover of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s tune. From 1964.
I’m surprised there aren’t more rape-revenge movies set during Christmas. You’d think this particular subgenre–responsible for some of the most odious, disturbing, or reprehensible films ever produced–would use the festive season to contrast themes of violation, humiliation, and vengeance. Of course, most pictures of this stripe don’t need yuletide accoutrements to heighten the debilitating effect of extended scenes of rape or retaliatory castrations, but since when did explotation filmmakers pass up a chance to be shocking?
Fortunately (if that’s the word), Aldo Lado’s 1975 film THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS doesn’t shy away from the concept. An Italian knock-off of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, the movie centers around two young women vacationing through Europe for the holidays; their trip turns ugly when they encounter a pair of goons and a mysterious (and unexpectedly sadistic) woman, who subject them to myriad torments and humiliations before killing them. And just as in Wes Craven’s shocker, the killers meet the parents of one of the girls, who dole out the appropriate revenge–though Lado adds a couple of unusual twists, which both sets it apart from other rape-revenge pics and makes it even more disturbing.
THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS is a grim, unpleasant movie, its extended sequences of violation made all the more poignant by Ennio Morricone’s mournful score. Yet despite some of its plot contrivances it’s still an effective film that doesn’t pull any punches. Somber and difficult to enjoy even as grindhouse-style entertainment, it’s still less depressing than the 12-hour A CHRISTMAS STORY marathons that make up the usual holiday programming.
Haven’t had a chance to see this 2010 Finnish production from director Jalmari Helander, but the trailer (coupled with the positive buzz surrounding the film) has my curiosity piqued. Taking the killer-Santa concept far beyond the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT slasher formula, the story chronicles a corporate excavating team that unearths a long-dormant Santa (the punishing-the-bad variety, not the warm-n’-fuzzy soda mascot) with gruesome results.
Though I’ve heard the terms “disturbing” and “gory” bandied about in reviews, it’s the comparison to the films of Joe Dante–or at least one–that gives me high hopes. The world needs a lot more serious killer-Santa pics.
The syndicated anthology show MONSTERS doesn’t seem to get the same love as its more popular companion TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, but it put out at least as many memorable episodes. One of them is the Christmas-themed “Glim-Glim,” written by renowned author F. Paul Wilson.
Survivors of an undetermined plague seek refuge in an abandoned library while upstairs an alien observer–which, thanks to MONSTERS’ limited budget, resembles a slightly-upgraded version of IT CONQUERED THE WORLD’s cucumber-creature–takes notes on the human race. It seems the otherworldly visitor may hold the key to saving humanity, if he can just get through to one of the survivors’ young daughter (Jenna von Oy, just a few years removed from her DARKSIDE Christmas episode “Seasons of Belief”).
Once it unburdens itself from its cumbersome exposition, Wilson’s teleplay delivers an intelligent and somber drama, eschewing the cheesy thrills MONSTERS usually offers. (Yet it doesn’t shy away from the visceral, featuring a surprisingly gruesome severed head.) The story’s downbeat resolution often gets it dubbed “the saddest episode ever,” and it is a poignant one, using its holiday theme to make its impact that much greater.