Tag Archives: Mandy

Fright Club: Hippies in Horror

Horror has a love/hate relationship with hippies. I suppose most of us do. And while some of the greatest films in the genre were made by Sixties freaks George Romero, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and the like, most of the time hippies’ onscreen representation got wrapped up in Manson hysteria.

5. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)

Full disclosure: George objects to including this film on the list. It’s not good.

But it’s not good in such a good way! Director Bob Clark (Black Christmas, A Christmas Story) and writer/co-star Alan Ormsby seem basically to be taking out their frustrations at being part of the theatrical community.

Ormsby’s Alan is a director, and he drags his troupe of hippie thespians to a lonely island once used to bury the criminally insane. He then insists—if they ever want to work with him again—that his merry band dig up a body and perform a ritual to bring him back to life.

It’s basically theater kids making fun of theater kids. Watching a group of actors being literally eaten alive by their audience is its own stoke of genius, even if the film itself is not.

4. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

In this Age of Aquarius riff on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire novel Carmilla, the unfortunately titled Let’s Scare Jessica to Death follows a somewhat delicate woman through what amounts to either a nervous breakdown or the seduction of a female vampire.

A married couple and their organic farmer friend move into an old, abandoned house on a New England island. They find a vagrant—long haired, pretty, can play an acoustic guitar, natch—and they ask her to stay. Why not?

Deliberately paced and boasting a genuine and sympathetic performance by lead Zohra Lampert, the film’s a slow burn, a hallucinogenic smalltown horror. The creepy townies, the spooky cemetery girl, and the moody cinematography blend with Lampert’s committed performance to make this one a dusty little gem.

3. I Drink Your Blood (1970)

David Durston’s grindhouse classic (in which no one drinks anyone’s blood, regardless of what this lying trailer tells you) marks that great divide in hippie horror: those made by and about hippies and those made by opportunists seizing upon a population’s terrified fascination with the Manson Family murders.

I Drink Your Blood is the latter. We open on a group of hippie Satan worshippers who turn out to be gang rapists. They descend on a little town almost empty of inhabitants—the menfolk all having moved to live and work in the nearby mining camp. That leaves just that scrappy family working in the bakery.

But once young, vindictive Pete injects the baker’s meat pies with rabid dog blood, them no goodnicks might learn some manners.

Actually, that’s the last thing they’ll do.

This is an extremely violent film, not very well made and certainly not well acted. It has a punch, though, and several scenes are provocative enough to warrant its inclusion on this list.

2. Mandy (2018)

A hallucinogenic fever dream of social, political and pop-culture subtexts layered with good old, blood-soaked revenge, Mandy throws enough visionary strangeness on the screen to dwarf even Nicolas Cage in full freakout mode.

Red (Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live a secluded, lazily contented life somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

That contentment is shattered by a radical religious sect under the spell of Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who takes a liking to Mandy when the group’s van (of course it’s a van!) passes her walking on a country road.

Horror of the late 60s and early 70s saw hippies terrorizing good, upright citizens, perpetrating cult-like nastiness. Thanks to Charles Manson, society at large saw the counterculture as an evil presence determined to befoul conventional, Christian wholesomeness.

With Mandy, it’s as if the 70s and 80s have collided, mixing and matching horror tropes and upending all conceivable suppositions. In this case, zealots consumed with only the entitlement of their white, male leader wreak havoc on good, quiet, earth-loving people. The Seventies gave us some amount of progress, civil justice and peace that the Eighties took back under the guise of decency.

1.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Hippie pals pile into a van and head to Texas to double check that Grammy and Gamps still rest in peace, what with these rumors of grave robbing. Along the way they talk astrology, smoke some weed, pick up a hitchhiker–it’s all in a day’s journey for a hippie.

That hitchhiker thing goes sideways. In fact, the whole trip feels like a bad idea by the time pretty Sally Hardesty and her friends make a second trip to the cemetery. Well, what’s left of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs3981DoINw

Fright Club: Best Horror Movies of 2018

Was 2018 the lamentable year in horror that some dumbasses suggest? No! There was a wild and impressive range in independent horror and blockbuster stuff, gore and comedy, psychological scares and slashers. It was a really fun year to look back on, as we do today to rank the best in horror the year had to offer. Join us, won’t you?

10. The Ritual

David Bruckner has entertained us with some of the best shorts in horror today, including work from V/H/S, Southbound, and one of our favorites, The Signal. Directing his feature debut in The Ritual, Bruckner takes what feels familiar, roots it in genuine human emotion, takes a wild left turn and delivers the scares.

Five friends decide to mourn a tragedy with a trip together into the woods. Grief is a tricky, personal, often ugly process and as they work through their feelings, their frustration quickly turns to fear as they lose themselves in a foreign forest where danger lurks.

The film works for a number of reasons, but its greatest triumph is in making the woods scary again. That environment has become such a profound cliché in horror that it is almost impossible to make it feel fresh, but there is an authenticity to the performances, the interaction among the characters, and the frustration and fear that grounds the horror. And then there is horror—intriguing, startling, genuinely frightening horror. Yay!

9. Unsane

Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy—brittle, unlikeable and amazing) is living your worst nightmare. After moving 400 miles to escape her stalker, she begins seeing him everywhere. She visits an insurance-approved therapist in a nearby clinic and quickly finds herself being held involuntarily for 24 hours.

After punching an orderly she mistakes for her stalker, that 24 hours turns into one week. And now she’s convinced that the new orderly George is, in fact, her stalker David (Joshua Leonard—cloying, terrifying perfection).

After laying bare some terrifying facts about our privatized mental health industry, Steven Soderbergh structures this critique with a somewhat traditional is-she-or-isn’t-she-crazy storyline. Anyone who watches much horror will recognize that uneasy line: you may be here against your will, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be here.

And the seasoned director of misdirection knows how to toy with that notion, how to employ Sawyer’s very real damage, touch on her raw nerve of struggling to remain in control of her own life only to have another’s will forced upon her.

He relies on familiar tropes to say something relevant and in doing so creates a tidy, satisfying thriller.

8. Mom and Dad

I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it.

It’s a joke, of course, an idle threat. Right?

Maybe so, but deep down, it does speak to the unspeakable tumult of emotions and desires that come with parenting. Wisely, a humorous tumult is exactly the approach writer/director Brian Taylor brings to his horror comedy Mom and Dad.

Why do you want to see it? Because of the unhinged Nicolas Cage. Not just any Nic Cage—the kind who can convincingly sing the Hokey Pokey while demolishing furniture with a sledge hammer.

7. Overlord

Perhaps you don’t know this, but Nazi zombies have a horror genre unto themselves: Shock Waves, Zombie Lake, Dead Snow, Dead Snow 2, Blood Creek. Well, there’s a new Nazi Zombie Sheriff in town, and he is effing glorious.

Overlord drops us into enemy territory on D-Day. One rag tag group of American soldiers needs to disable the radio tower the Nazis have set up on top of a rural French church, disabling Nazi communications and allowing our guys to land safely.

What’s on the church tower is not so much the problem. It’s what’s in the basement.

A satisfying Good V Evil film that benefits from layers, Overlord reminds us repeatedly that it is possible to retain your humanity, even in the face of inhuman evil.

Plus, Nazi zombies, which is never not awesome!

6. Revenge

The rape-revenge film is a tough one to pull off. Even in the cases where the victim rips bloody vengeance through the bodies of her betrayers, the films are too often titillating. Almost exclusively written and directed by men for a primarily male audience, the comeuppance angle can be so bent by the male gaze that the film feels more like an additional violation.

Well, friends, writer/director Coralie Fargeat changes all that with Revenge, a breathless, visually fascinating, bloody-as-hell vengeance flick that repays the viewer for her endurance. (His, too.)

Fargeat’s grasp of male entitlement and the elements of a rape culture are as sharp as her instincts for visual storytelling. Wildly off-kilter close-ups sandwich gorgeous vistas to create a dreamlike frame for the utterly brutal mess of a film unfolding.

Symbol-heavy but never pretentious or preachy, the film follows a traditional path—she is betrayed, she is underestimated, she repays her assailants for their toxic masculinity. But between Fargeat’s wild aesthetic, four very solid performances, and thoughtful yet visceral storytelling, the film feels break-neck, terrifying and entirely satisfying.

5. Halloween

David Gordon Green’s direct sequel is, above all things, a mash note to the original. Visual odes continually call back to Carpenter, often in ways that allude to an intriguing about-face the film is leading to.

Kills—more numerous and grisly than the first go round—are often handled offscreen, just the wet thud or slice of the deed to enlighten us until the corpse gets a quick showcase. The result is a jumpy, fun, “don’t go in there!” experience reminiscent of the best of the genre.

The film takes it up a notch in its final reel, as tables turn, panic rooms open and cop heads become Jack-o-lanterns. The result is a respectful, fun and creepy experience meant to be shared with a crowd.

4. A Quiet Place

Damn. John Krasinski. That big, tall guy, kind of doughy-faced? Married to Emily Blunt? Dude can direct the shit out of a horror movie.

Krasinski plays the patriarch of a close-knit family trying to survive the post-alien-invasion apocalypse by staying really, really quiet. The beasts use sound to hunt, but the family is prepared. The cast, anchored by Krasinski’s on-and-off-screen wife Emily Blunt is amazing. That you may expect.

What you may not expect is Krasinski’s masterful direction: where and when the camera lingers or cuts away, how often and how much he shows the monsters, when he decides the silence will generate the most dread and when he chooses to let Marco Beltrami’s ominous score do that work for him.

It’s smart in the way it’s written, sly in its direction and spot-on in its ability to pile on the mayhem in the final reel without feeling gimmicky or silly.

3. Mandy

Writer/director Panos Cosmatos’s hallucinogenic fever dream of social, political and pop-culture subtexts layered with good old, blood-soaked revenge, Mandy throws enough visionary strangeness on the screen to dwarf even Nicolas Cage in full freakout mode.

Like Cosmatos’s 2010 debut Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy is both formally daring and wildly borrowed. While Black Rainbow, also set in 1983, shines with the antiseptic aesthetic of Cronenberg or Kubrick, Mandy feels more like something snatched from a Dio album cover.

Cosmatos blends ingredients from decades-spanning indie horror into a stew that tastes like nothing else.

Surrender to it.

2. Suspiria

Luca Guadagnino continues to be a master film craftsman. Much as he draped Call Me by Your Name in waves of dreamy romance, here he establishes a consistent mood of nightmarish goth. Macabre visions dart in and out like a video that will kill you in 7 days while sudden, extreme zooms, precise sound design and a vivid score from Thom Yorke help cement the homage to another era.

But even when this new Suspiria—a “cover version” of Dario Argento’s 1974 gaillo classic—is tipping its hat, Guadagnino leaves no doubt he is making his own confident statement. The color scheme is intentionally muted, and you’ll find no men in this dance troupe, serving immediate notice that superficialities are not the endgame here.

1. Hereditary

Grief and guilt color every somber, shadowy frame of writer/director Ari Aster’s unbelievably assured feature film debut, Hereditary.

With just a handful of mannerisms, one melodic clucking noise, and a few seemingly throwaway lines, Aster and his magnificent cast quickly establish what will become nuanced, layered human characters, all of them scarred and battered by family.

Art and life imitate each other to macabre degrees while family members strain to behave in the manner that feels human, seems connected, or might be normal. What is said and what stays hidden, what’s festering in the attic and in the unspoken tensions within the family, it’s all part of a horrific atmosphere meticulously crafted to unnerve you.

Aster takes advantage of a remarkably committed cast to explore family dysfunction of the most insidious type. Whether his supernatural twisting and turning amount to metaphor or fact hardly matters with performances this unnerving and visual storytelling this hypnotic.





I Don’t Want to Go Out—Week of October 30

Look at all these movies! What do you want, cartoons? Drama? Indie rom com? Horror? Unhinged Nic Cage? You know you want unhinged Nic Cage, and lucky for you, he’s here! We’ll shed some insight on what else is worth a look.

Click the film title to read the full review.

Mandy (DVD)

Searching

The Dark

The Spy Who Dumped Me

Juliet, Naked

The Darkest Minds

Slender Man

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies





Surrender Mandy

Mandy

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

A hallucinogenic fever dream of social, political and pop-culture subtexts layered with good old, blood-soaked revenge, Mandy throws enough visionary strangeness on the screen to dwarf even Nicolas Cage in full freakout mode.

Opening with bits of a Ronald Reagan speech about traditional values and a knock-knock joke about Erik Estrada, director/co-writer Panos Cosmatos drops us in 1983 as Red (Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live a secluded, lazily contented life somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

That contentment is shattered by a radical religious sect under the spell of Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who takes a liking to Mandy when the group’s van (of course it’s a van!) passes her walking on a country road.

Jeremiah’s followers return to abduct Mandy but only leave Red for dead, a move they won’t live long to regret.

Like Cosmatos’s 2010 debut Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy is both formally daring and wildly borrowed. While Black Rainbow, also set in 1983, shines with the antiseptic aesthetic of Cronenberg or Kubrick, Mandy feels more like something snatched from a Dio album cover.

Cosmatos blends ingredients from decades-spanning indie horror into a stew that tastes like nothing else.

Horror of the late 60s and early 70s saw hippies terrorizing good, upright citizens, perpetrating cult-like nastiness. Thanks to Charles Manson, society at large saw the counterculture as an evil presence determined to befoul conventional, Christian wholesomeness.

With Mandy, it’s as if the 70s and 80s have collided, mixing and matching horror tropes and upending all conceivable suppositions. In this case, zealots consumed with only the entitlement of their white, male leader wreak havoc on good, quiet, earth-loving people. The Seventies gave us some amount of progress, civil justice and peace that the Eighties took back under the guise of decency.

The fact that Red wears a 44 on his tee shirt and calls one baddie a “snowflake” shouldn’t be disregarded as coincidence.

But that’s not what you want to know. You want to know this: How bloody is it? And how insane is Nic Cage?

It’s plenty bloody (sometimes comically so), and though Cage is methodically unhinged, what Cosmatos is dealing makes Nic seem damn near understated.

Neither area disappoints, although the dreamlike pace leading up to the violence and the vividly Heavy Metal-esque visuals – including some animation and end credit shot- exacerbates the feeling that you, and quite possibly the characters, are only hallucinating all of this lunacy.

Mandy offers a commitment to vision above all.

Surrender to it.