Thursday, April 28, 2011

Famous Monsters of Filmland: Underground #1

As I'm talking about over on my illustration blog today, I did some work as both artist and writer for the new Famous Monsters of Filmland: Underground magazine, which was a real thrill!

Aside from creating the mag's logo, I wrote a capsule review and some movie "blurbs" for this debut issue's "Repressed Memories" feature. Here's my take on the 1983 film House of Long Shadows:

I also wrote eight blurbs--super-short, 100-words-or-less reviews of some other 80s horror flicks. Given the layout, it's easier to read them just as text, so here they are:

The Beast Within (1982) stars Ronny Cox and Bebe "Mrs. Captain Kirk" Besch as the MacClearys, a couple who get stranded on a back country road when their car breaks down. Mrs. MacCleary is attacked and raped by some sort of creature, and seventeen years later their son Michael starts showing the same murderous tendencies.

For a film with somewhat of a name cast, The Beast Within is surprisingly gory, almost gleefully so. Its pulpy fun, even if it doesn't feature anything you haven't seen before. Features one of the greatest coitus interruptus scenes in movie history. Woof! Woof!

Dario Argento's The Church starts with a group of knights who slaughter a village of "witches" and then build their castle on the site the bodies are buried. Bad idea! Centuries later, a group of tourists are attacked by the evil spirits of the villagers when a crypt's seal is broken.

Featuring some trademark gory set pieces (as well as a young Asia Argento), The Church isn't as stomach-churningly captivating as Argento's other classics (maybe because he didn't direct?), but its still a fun stew of religious balderdash, pretty women, and internal organs being reduced to a bloody pulp.

Dead and Buried, an underrated film from 1981, is set in the (thankfully) fictional town of Potter's Bluff, where a series of gruesome murders occur. The sheriff (James Farentino) investigates, but he's facing a stacked deck: not only does the local mortician take a grisly delight in all the new business, but most of the town itself seems to be in on it--possibly including his wife.

Despite a troubled post-production, the film casts an eerie spell, as we get drawn further into the nightmare that awaits Sheriff Gillis. The final few scenes in particular pack a nightmarish, unsettling punch.

I, Madman (1989) is a playfully offbeat mix of genres: thriller, horror, fantasy, with even a little stop-motion animation thrown in.

Mousy bookstore clerk Virginia (Near Dark's Jenny Wright) becomes obsessed with a series of cheap, lurid horror novels; written by a mysterious author. Eventually her real life starts copying some of the things she's reading about--like being stalked by a deformed killer. Is all this really happening, or is Virginia just wound a little too tight?

Stylishly shot and unselfconscious, I, Madman is an engrossing curio for those who enjoy genre film tropes being affectionately tweaked.

Michael Mann's The Keep (1983) is that rarest of film genres: the psychedelic Nazi ghost story.

Set in a spooky Romanian castle during WW II, inside of which a squad of SS soldiers take up residence. Soon after they are killed off by some sort of malevolent force now set free.

Featuring a notable cast (Ian McKellen, Scott Glenn, Jurgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne, who makes a scarily-good Nazi), The Keep doesn't always make a lot of sense--reportedly the studio cut Mann's original 3 hour-plus cut in half. But the film is never boring and at times visually compelling.

Pin (1988), uses the always-fertile world of ventriloquism to tell a story of sexual repression, arrested development, obsession, and, finally, madness.

Siblings Leon and Ursula grow up around a life-size plastic model named Pin, which their father (Terry O'Quinn) uses as a sort of surrogate parent. When he is killed, the seeds of madness take root in Leon, who comes to believe Pin is real.

Less a horror film than a psychological thriller,
Pin is a disturbing portrait of mental illness passed from one generation to the next, using some familiar horror trappings to make it a unique filmgoing experience.

1980's The Silent Scream (definitely not to be confused with the graphic anti-abortion video, Googlers beware) centers around a group of college students who take up residence in an old boarding house run by a Norman Bates-ish young man named Mason and his seldom-seen mother. Soon enough bodies start piling up, and detectives Cameron Mitchell(!) and Avery Schreiber(!!) have to figure out who and why.

Fairly low-key for a slasher film, The Silent Scream uses icon Barbara Steele in an effective way during the film's final third. Certainly no classic, but Steele's hypnotic stare is always worth your attention.

The Stuff (1985) is Larry Cohen's goofily po-faced satire of American consumerism, militarism, and advertising. Starring Michael Moriarty (the DeNiro to Cohen's Scorsese), the film is about a white goo that is discovered bubbling from the earth's core.

Before you can say market share, its being sold as a food stuff that quickly takes over the minds of those who eat it, leaving just a few people bravely trying to keep The Stuff from gobbling up the whole country.

Fast-paced and subtle as a brick, The Stuff is a fun tweak of the heavy-handed message genre films of the 1950s.

Writing these blurbs was so much fun I couldn't believe it. Once I settled into a rhythm--which was to write about triple what I needed, then hack away at it (to use horror movie parlance) until I got it under a hundred words--I just wrote as many as I could.

I had a list of movies to pick from (provided by my pal and editor April Snellings), and I just searched Netflix's Watch Instantly database, devouring and then reviewing every film available.

Being a long time monster/horror fan, I'm overjoyed to have my words (and art!) associated with the legendary FMOF franchise. I hope I get to do more work like this in the future...


Caffeinated Joe (Wings) said...

Wow, this is just great! A Rob Kelly logo (and more) on a magazine that has Michael Myers AND Jason Voorhees on the cover? Just... wow!

The Kid In The Front Row said...

You watch such different films to me, but I'm finding your blog interesting :)

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