Suggested Audio Candy:
Claudio Simonetti Demons
It is with somewhat heavy heart that I bring you the final part of our B-List breakdown. 52 movies, some good, some bad…all awesome!!! Here is Keeper’s final thirteen, the winter warmers so to speak. What better way to begin than with Bob Clark’s gloriously-titled and darkly comic 1973 zombie feature Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. Admittedly it takes its sweet time building up a head of steam and it isn’t until the closing act that things finally start to pick up. Corporate malnourishment aside, Clark’s film excels in its characterization and performances, while the rich black comedy that runs freely through its veins is more evident to a seasoned viewer than a young tyke, which Keeper was upon primary introduction. It’s an effectual 70’s play on morality and the lesson we can take from it is never, under any circumstances, to desecrate holy grounds. Most enterprising considering it was made in 1972, this was the first North American zombie movie to appear on the back of Night of The Living Dead and is still worthy of your time.
While on the subject of our decomposing friends, I cannot let another moment pass without making mention of Dan O’Bannon’s The Return of The Living Dead. In truth, it barely makes it onto this list at all and the reasoning behind is elementary. Every last one of y’all really should be more than familiar with this absolute zombie riot. O’Bannon had a hand in virtually every sci-fi worth its salt from the past thirty years prior to his untimely death in 2009 and, in a rare outing behind the lens, gave us one of the most iconic flicks of the entire epoch.
There is no way of pinpointing what made this film such an indisputable classic…it just was and is. However, there are some key components to our good time. Firstly…Linnea ‘Motherfucking’ Quigley!!! I was warned by my mother as I slipped into adolescence that too much of a certain something would make me blind. My 20-20 vision began to dissipate the first time I laid my peepers on Linnea and, here, she gifted us Trash. Feisty as a sack of quarreling squirrels, flame-haired and badass to the bones and back, she quite simply rocked our socks off and filled them too. Secondly, The Return of The Living Dead was a whisker away from spoof. Regardless of that, it actually never felt like a comedy for a picosecond. The dread of Romero’s classic templates hung right through the air of O’Bannon’s homage and he nailed it on all counts.
After a rather inane sequel/re-run Brian Yuzna weighed in with Return of The Living Dead III. Wow! Now this came as something of a bolt-from-the-blue and remained overlooked until far more recently when it became clear that it stands Goliath-like on its own terms. A beautifully understated love story masquerading as a zombie feature, this tragic tale of the lengths we are prepared to go for true love hit with the impact of a splitting maul, guided by immaculate turns from its two young leads. In addition, the grue was off-the-chart.
Yuzna knew by that point how to pull the rug from beneath his addressees and in 1989 he brought us Society. Hmmph! Where to start?..it’s messed up. Not just a little mentally unstable and able to be controlled with meds messed up, we’re talking fruity loops 3000 with smatterings of cuckoo. I shall attempt at giving this some perspective. You know the vivid mental images which flash around your head and you wonder whether they’re exclusive just to you? They aren’t. Society gives us some of the most grotesque visual imagery I have ever had the pleasure of sinking my retinas into. The word Debauchery should have a little image beside it in the dictionary, that being the shunting scene from the tail-end of Yuzna’s carnival of depravity.
If that wasn’t enough to make you never want to vacate your room again then Bob Balaban’s Parents arrived in the very same year to convince us into getting our homework done. Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt played the ghoulish guardians in question and they did so with relish. The feel of Balaban’s movie was precise, 1950s white-picket fence family, dimples and a dash of cannibalism. The sight of dad looking over those horn-rim spectacles as he carves the ‘bird’ at dinner still bothers me somewhat.
It’s time to pull out a couple of stinkers for evenings when excesses are planned. Claudio Fragasso’s Monster Dog and Mats Helge’s Blood Tracks shared certain parallels. Neither were particularly outstanding and both centered around pop groups shooting their new promo videos. Monster Dog supplied Alice Cooper with a rare leading role and, that alone, makes this compulsive viewing. Blood Tracks shared similarities with The Hills Have Eyes and was both shambolic and sleazy in equal measures. Strictly for the completionists, it just so happens that I’m one such nut and I love them both dearly.
Donald Cammell’s Demon Seed, on the other hand, is bona fide classic. Susan Harris’ (Julie Christie) charmed existence came to an abrupt end when her inventor husband Alex (Fritz Weaver) created a super-computer named Proteus which became obsessed with Susan and trapped her within her homestead. Cammell’s film explored the equations between automation and phallic power and did so in an ashyxiatingly insular urban fortress. In Christie’s Susan we had a suitably ballsy heroine to root for and with Robert Vaughn voicing the malignant AI we were in most capable hands. The resulting piece was queasily effective.
Staying with forgotten masterpieces for a moment, Bigas Luna’s Anguish made Demon Seed appear like an infant’s carousel. Mother (Zelda Rubenstein) telepathically conditioned her unhinged optometrist son John (Michael Lerner) into performing his spiteful surgery in a packed cinema, while another killer was also on the loose. What are the chances eh? Double-booked! Anyhoots, what made Luna’s film so utterly absorbing was that it was effectively two features in one, in a similar vein to Lamberto Bava’s magnificent Demons. Those of a weakened disposition and/or not at ease with close-up optical carnage should be advised to leave this well alone. The easily mesmerized will find themselves as totally transfixed as Keeper by its hypnotic flow.
Demons…Demons…Demons. Ah…Demons. Ooh…Demons. Mmm…Demons. I can but utter the solitary word and the salivation reconvenes. In case you haven’t fallen in, I’m a little partial to some Demons. Our love affair started the moment I saw that epochal VHS sleeve with its moody blue tones and has continued flourishing to this very day. There were few films quite as repellant, quite so utterly preposterous and quite so much fun as Bava’s tour de force and, while the follow-up was little more than a retread, that was fine and dandy too. Especially given the fact that Bobby Rhodes snuck in a second time. Talk about wrong place, wrong time…sheesh!
Michelle Soavi’s Stagefright took terror to the theater and did so with grandiose, it must be said. A glorious slasher by all accounts, this made a mockery of its rickety script by presenting with enough panache to make Jacobim Mugatu spew out his foamy latte. Gory as hell and camper than To Wong Foo, the thing that really helped Soavi’s flick to rise above the crud was the tense-as-you-like final fifteen which turned the screw with the intensity of the true Italian masters. If you love a good slasher and haven’t seen Stagefright, then I’d say there’s work afoot. You’ll thank Keeper in the long run.
Chuck Russell’s remake of 1958 monster movie The Blob proved hands down that protoplasm is not to be trifled with. Kevin Dillon may not have been Steve McQueen but the new kinetic Blob rolled with far greater purpose than its stop-motion forebear which was basically a gelatine katamari. I know…I know…1958. I get it. However, when you add Lyle Conway’s suitably schlocky effects and some grade-A grue, it becomes a more than justifiable endeavor.
To end our 52-strong list I return us to our sponsor The Stuff. The great Larry Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent and It’s Alive) took a wry sideswipe at consumerism and product placement but, more worryingly, brought us a piece of confectionary which I still crave to this day. I guess I should be thankful it doesn’t exist (to my knowledge) as it provoked the most frightful acid reflux in its guzzlers. I trust y’all have enjoyed our stroll through the annals of horror. I could have carried on but that’s another list for another year. For now, fill your bloody boots.
The Winter Collection
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
The Return of The Living Dead
The Return of The Living Dead 3
Plan your year of sin,
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014