Martyrs

Episode one of twenty in my “Horror Rewatch!” series. Gore and blood are the hallmark of horror films. In this case, they are definitely present. In fact, this film fits nicely into the category of films that has been emerging in past decades called “body horror.” In truth, it’s one of the best. A movie that visits pain or disfigurement on its characters and makes you think, “I hope that never happens to me,” qualifies as body horror. You can feel, in a sense, what is happening to the protagonist as if it were happening to you.

Yes, we definitely can categorize this as body horror. Through a good part of the beginning in fact, I began to think it was just that but I was so mistaken. There are “people vs. the establishment” themes going on here. There is an empathetic look at suffering, especially of women. There is a supernatural aspect that for me was never really “fleshed out” but certainly got me thinking. I have a word to the wise if you haven’t yet seen this film and plan to: Go in knowing there is a story but let all your expectations fall away. This film attacks victimization and vengeance in an all new way I can guarantee exists nowhere else in horror.

Something should be said about this original film: it’s following remake is nothing like it and should only be seen after the original. Read only non spoiler reviews and the IMDb summary before seeing it. Body horror fans and standard horror fans must see this film, it is glorious.

Cashback

Finally laid the horror genre down in favor of a drama. That’s my direction here on the podcast for a while. But here we are in the grocery store where time stops and a young man undresses women. Sound like your cup of tea? Good stuff! It’s a but more than that and I think this film is great. Have a listen as I talk about the artistically done “Cashback.” 1/2 no spoilers then spoilers after a warning is given.

What I’ve Been Watching: Tideland, Long Shot, Damien: Omen II, Red Dragon

Tideland was an amazing film that may not appeal to every horror fan. It’s more like a Wizard of Oz than a Damien: Omen II. I hope you enjoy my reflections on these 4 films I watched last week. Stay tuned for more to come, Lord willing. If you enjoy these shows, could you do me a big favor? Head over to Apple Podcasts and leave me a positive review from your phone or PC. Thanks in advance.

The Others

Creepy wood carvings open the mood during the credits. Creepy victorian house 1945. Nicole Kidman is screaming in bed. Nightmare perhaps? The servants come to the door. Hey are old and one is young but mute. She is very demanding as their boss. She seems to be a mean parent as well. She urges them to not let the children thump away on the piano as it sets off her “migraine.” Each door in the house is part of an elaborate system of locks and keys. She might have Munchausen’s disease. She keeps the kids hidden and believes they have a deadly sensitivity to light.

The servant that stopped by were actually previous servants in the house. They were hoping to be taken in as servants. Gothic houses in fog with a chimney sweep. The kids are talking about denying Christ if they were ever in danger of death as a result of believing. Kidman’s character hears a young child crying. The daughter tells her a crying boy named Victor was there.

When more odd events occur at the house, Grace begins to fear there are unknown “others” present. Anne claims to have seen a group of people in the house several times: a man, woman, an old woman and a child called Victor, who have claimed that “the house is theirs”. After Grace hears footsteps and unknown voices, she orders the house to be searched. Grace finds a 19th-century so-called “book of the dead”, which is a photo album of mourning portraitphotos of deceased family members, with some missing pages. Grace asks Mills about when she last worked in the house. Mills says that many were evacuated due to an outbreak of tuberculosis.

The jump scares are subtle yet effective. Old houses remind us of our mortality. So do ghosts. So far, cgi is not needed. Less is more.

At night, Grace witnesses a piano playing itself and becomes convinced that the house may be haunted. Convinced that something unholy is in the house, Grace runs outside in search of the local priest to bless the house. Before leaving, Grace instructs Tuttle to check a small nearby cemetery to see if there was a family buried there who had a little boy named Victor. Tuttle covers the gravestones with fallen autumn leaves, under the orders of Mills, who comments that Grace thinks the house is haunted. Outside, Grace discovers her husband Charles, who she thought had been killed in the war. Charles greets his children after a long absence, but is distant during the short time he spends at the house. Later, Grace has a vision of an elderly woman and attacks her. Grace discovers that she has actually attacked Anne, who retreats to her father. Anne tells Nicholas that Grace went mad in the same way that she did “that day”. Nicholas denies recollection of such, and says he must leave for the front, even though Grace claims that the war is over. The two embrace and lie motionless together in bed.

The next morning, Charles is gone and the children are screaming as all the curtains have disappeared. Grace accuses the servants of removing the curtains and banishes them. That night, the children sneak outside and discover the servants’ graves from years past. Simultaneously, Grace finds a photograph of the corpses of her servants, who have been dead for 50 years. The servants appear and try to speak to the children, who retreat. They hide upstairs in the bedroom, where they are discovered by the elderly woman. Mills tells Grace to go upstairs and talk to the intruders. Grace discovers that the old woman is in fact a medium in a séance with Victor’s parents, who discovers via automatic writing that Grace smothered the children to death with a pillow in a fit of rage before committing suicide.

Grace realizes that the “others” are the family that has just moved in, and that she, her children and servants are the spirits. Following the display of spiritualistic activity, Victor’s family is convinced to vacate the house and leave it in the occupancy of the six ghosts.


Angel Heart (1987)

Robert DeNiro comes on screen very quickly. His fingernails are sharpened like demonic claws. There is another religious theme that shows itself right away, the “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel. This draws us in to this mysterious horror film. As of 4/26/2019 Angel Heart was streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The rest of this review contains spoilers.

Mickey Rourke’s character is a private investigator. He’s been retained by DeNiro’s character, “Mr. Cypher” to find Johnny Favorite. He has to determine whether he is alive or dead. Sounds easy enough? I think it’s clear at the get go Cypher is not of this world. I originally suspected he was the devil. It was pretty neat to see Kathleen Wilholte as the records clerk. I recalled seeing her as Luke’s sister on Gilmore Girls.

Rourke’s character “Harry Angel” interrogates a poor of addicted doctor in his own home. You can see right away Rourke is used to dealing in unorthodox methods. After getting some info on Johnny Liebling (Favorite) , he locks the old man in his room. He is a quite brutal interrogator. Upon returning, he sees the old man has committed suicide. He was an addict but it seems somehow implausible that he would do it. Angel tries to get out of the job and Cypher lures him in with $5000. He was previously making $120 a day. Although he is spooked and possibly a murder suspect, Angel reaffirms himself to the case.

He discovers Johnny Favorite is some kind of deceiver. He’s had facial reconstructive surgery and paid off a doctor to claim he is still in the hospital when he is out and doing things. Just what he is doing we don’t know at this point. Continuing the journey, Angel meets up with his informant girlfriend. She strips naked while talking to him and they make love. This is all despite his almost hallucinatory visions he starts having about wheels and fans and shady places. Rourke looks so cool in this film. It’s a gumshoe film noir.

He proceeds down to Coney Island and has a conversation with a woman who once knew Johnny Favorite. He finds out there was some witchcraft associated with the guy. A lady from the carnival was introducing him to it. His character just gets more and more mysterious from that point.

Angel tracks down a fortune telling woman played by Charlotte Rampling and rings her doorbell. The New York buildings and antique interiors are beautiful. They serve to entrance you. There is a supernatural vibe throughout. All the familiar faces here are very young. After all, it is from 1987. She tells Angel Johnny is dead and seems offended. She kicks him out. He wants his palm read but she says, “I don’t think you’d like what I see.”

He goes into a Cajun Voodoo shop and asks about a woman named Evangeline Proudfoot. He rents a car to venture out to see her. She is dead but her daughter is played by Lisa Bonet, most will remember her as one of the daughters on the Cosby Show. She looks great soaking wet, t-shirt and all. Soon she’s in a scene writing to a drumbeat naked pouring chicken blood on her chest. Times have changed I guess, especially if you think about how Cosby is in jail for feeding ruffees to women and raping them.

To make a long plot shorter, we end up finding out that Angel was being paid by the devil himself (DeNiro) to investigate and reveal his own misdeeds. The end of the film is a revelation to Angel that he is indeed Johnny and he’s been living in someone else’s memories. I don’t really get the very end of the film. It’s spooky and creepy but doesn’t make a lot of sense. That babies yellow eyes? WTF. This is an incredible film from 1987. Over and out.

The Curse of La Llorona & The Disappearance of Alice Creed

There’s something to be said about both of them so I’m including them in this episode. One is an attempt to cash in on a timeless Mexican legend. The other is a crime horror thriller that chronicles the abduction for ransom of a female character played by the always beautiful Gemma Arterton.


Show notes

The Curse of La Llorona (2019) and The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) are two films I saw last week. These films are not related in any way other than the fact that I recently watched them. I’m presenting these as previews so there won’t be spoilers.

The Curse of La Llorona seemed to appear as a movie out of nothing. There were a few trailers in the past few months but for me, a person who knows the legend very well, it seemed as if it would take a year or more of trailers to introduce such a earthquake of culture. I recall the year of trailers we got for Disney’s “Coco.” That film brought the world the “Day of the Dead” tradition from Mexico and South America. I got riled up with excitement watching Coco trailers with the bone mariachis and merch I’ve seen down in Los Angeles sold on the streets next to the churros and taco stands. Fun stuff. Eerie stuff.

Hispanic culture is focused on family and often spritual and frightening tales. (expand)

I had heard through the years of the ceremony where the living relatives place the cooked dishes on the graves of their deceased loved ones. I was told many times of the aroma, so delicious at midnight. After all the advertising and teasers, Coco pulled it off! We now have a cinematic time capsule that will always display this tradition, this folklore, this legend “The Day of the Dead.” El Dia de los Muertos. I can’t accuse Disney of seeking a cash grab from all the hispanic Americans across the landscape because the product is beautiful. It is something inspired, it’s not a racket or a marketing scam. I’ll say it again, Coco is beautiful. But as you might expect by my intro, I’m not as impressed with “The Curse of La Llorona.” In my 18 years of teaching, I’ve taught any English Learners. Specifically, I’ve taught students who speak Spanish as their first language. I’ve seen many kids write at Halloween about this legend and it’s come up in class on various topics but mostly in culture and folklore aspects of social studies. Students have revealed a genuine respect and fear of this legend.

Ghost story I heard once closing up a Pizza Hut.

Before I ever taught and as a Pizza Hut shift manager, the night cook shared with me the legend. He told me with frightened eyes about how he had seen a bright light speed past his family in the cemetery at midnight. He was sure it was the ghost of La Llorona. As it turns out, that one story I recall from my early 20’s would have made a better movie than this new film. Every show is currently sold out at my local theater. That’s how it was when I went as well. But at the end, no one clapped. Let’s have a quick look at why, in my humble opinion.

Here’s a nonspoiler summary this film: “Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm.”

The director is Michael Chaves who has only up to now directed shorts. He also is the director of the Conjuring 3 which will come out in 2020. Whatever happened to waiting to see how a director does on a new concept before granting him a modern classic sequel like the Conjuring 3? I have to wonder what James Wan is thinking there. As you may know, James Wan did Saw, Insidious, and the Conjuring series. He’s become a giant in the horror world. Insidious is still one of my favorite horror films:

Expand why Insidious works,

But for me, this film doesn’t work. The only two holding this wobbly table up are Linda Cardellini (known as Velma on Scooby Doo) Raymond Cruz (Tuco on Breaking Bad). Cardellini gives a flat performance, not even showing the love for her children which seemingly would be an easy thing to show in the La Llorona universe. I blame the writing more than her.

Recommend or no? Why or why not? I think everyone who has known the legend should expect more from this film. It could have been a direct telling of the legend. I give it a 4/10.

Ok, enough of Mexican legend gone bad horror … Let’s move on to a female abduction crime thriller that gets a lot right!

The “Disappearance of Alice Creed” is a British film starring Gemma Atherton. She plays the pretty young daughter of a millionaire and she is kidnapped and held for ransom. The crime part of it is interesting.

Director is J Blakeson. He’s known for the 5th wave which I found slow and boring. He also directed “The Descent Part 2” which I found refreshingly good in spite of being a sequel to a horror film I really like.

Gemma Atherton has done a lot through the years and continues to. You might recall her from “The Girl With All the Gifts” or “Hansel and Gretel” the horror film.

The two men who abduct her are played by Eddie Marsan & Martin Compston. They are at times abominable and at others buffoons. Either way, they mean business and will stop at nothing to extract the ransom for Atherton’s character. I enjoyed the interplay between all three. There were times when she was alone with each one and the dialog makes it very interesting to see who is playing who. The cat and mouse game goes traditional ways but there may be a turn or two for fans of the genre to be surprised at. People may say I liked it for the nudity as well but I will always deny it!

This is a much better film than the other. If you like crime thrillers that show psychological battles, it may be for you. It’s def for me: I gave it 8/10.

Operation Razorteeth

When flesh-eating piranhas are accidentally released into a summer resort’s rivers, the guests become their next meal. Listen to my review and commentary.

Jugface and The Beach Bum

These are two oddities that I really like! Listen to me tell you why!

Pet Sematary (2019)

I have observed modern horror includes both remakes of past hits as well as re imaginings. These span from “Friday the 13th” to “The Fly” and beyond. Here we have a remake with a slight re imagining element. Pet Sematary revitalizes the beloved 80’s film by Stephen King and respectively repackages it into a film that is more artful, more creepy, and more thought provoking than the original.

Black Rock, Lords of Chaos, & Five Feet Apart

A “What I’ve Been Watching” episode. No spoilers. The first film I want to preview for you is called “Black Rock.” It’s an action revenge horror film and its action is quite extreme. There are three childhood friends who decide to set aside personal issues, they are women by the way, to reunite for a girls’ weekend on a remote island off the coast of Maine. The other two films I cover in this episode are “Lords of Chaos” and “Five Feet Apart.”