Monday, May 28, 2012

Flowers In The Attic

It seems that I talk about a lot of films based on books doesn't it? Besides being a fan of cinema, I am also a fan of the written word and I have a collection of books that rivals my DVD collection. Now today's movie I saw before I even read the book it was based on and when I finally read the novel Flowers In The Attic, I became a V.C. Andrews fan on the spot. If you don't know by now, V.C. Andrews died shortly before the movie of her very first novel was released and every book from 1986 onwards has been written by a ghost writer because the estate of Virginia Cleo Andrews is a veritable gold mine. Now the plot of Flowers In The Attic  the movie differs greatly from the original novel (and how!) but right now let's discuss the basic plot.

What Is The Plot?
The Dollanganger Family are a blue-eyed, blonde, healthy All-American family with teenage son Christopher named after his father, teenage Cathy who wants to be a ballerina, and twins Cory and Carrie who are adorable and they all love their father and mother, Corrine, unconditionally. Tragedy strikes when their father is suddenly killed in a car accident and the family finds themselves penniless so Corrine reaches out to her long estranged parents who are very wealthy and her mother agrees to let the five of them come to Foxworth Hall in Virginia on the condition that the children are never to be seen by her husband Malcolm who is dying.

The children are shown to a room beneath the attic by their very cold and overly religious grandmother Olivia who states that she will never show the children kindness or love but will provide them food and shelter and access to the attic to entertain themselves while their mother must try to win back the love and respect of her father. What could their mother have done that was so horrible for her children to be treated this way?  Now Cathy, Chris, Cory and Carrie are going to pay for the sins their mother committed: shut in from the outside world and forced to suffer under their physically and emotionally abusive grandmother as their mother tries to be written back into her dying father's will. Will the children be able to survive their desperate and tragic circumstances or will their innocence wither away like flowers in the attic? 

Now for those of you who have seen the film and/or read the novel of Flowers In The Attic, I know there is a lot I have left out of the plot but for those who have never seen or read Flowers In The Attic, I would be spoiling so much of it for you! One major difference in plot is the fact that Flowers In The Attic as a novel is just the first in a series of five books so the story continues in written form over quite a long span and the movie has no such open ending. There are rumors that a script for the second novel in the series Petals On The Wind was written but never became green-lit and I have feeling that because of the ending the film had might have prevented that.

Another thing about the plot is if you have ever read a V.C. Andrews novel she has the theme of consensual incest in almost all of her books and since the element of a brother and sister committing this might have given the film a different rating and of course moral guardians of the 80s probably frowned on this being even more heinous than many of the slashers of the era I have talked about. Today a film based around Flowers In The Attic that contains the theme of brother-sister incest and goes by the book (pun intended) to leave it open for the many sequel novels would probably fare better but only time will tell.

Back to the film, the acting in the film at times can seem over the top but taken that the film is a very dramatic take on Gothic horror, it seems fitting in a way. I love Louise Fletcher as the Grandmother she gives a very good interpretation of the character bringing about that cold and heartless exterior on the screen. Victoria Tennant plays Corrine the mother and I never knew that she was a British actress! I could never detect the accent but her portrayal of Corrine to me is absolutely perfect! She has the features of a gorgeous woman who can appear cold when needed and when she smiles and laughs it's hard to resist her charm and she does have some slight resemblance to on-screen daughter Kristy Swanson.

Of course you know that I love Kristy Swanson as I already praised her in my Deadly Friend post (quick fact: Wes Craven who directed Deadly Friend wrote a script for Flowers In The Attic that was rejected by producers for being too gory and violent.) Kristy Swanson gets to do some serious acting here as Cathy and she does very well handling her character. Cathy is much younger in the novel as Swanson was about seventeen maybe eighteen at the time of filming and I think the choice in her being older works and not just because the element of incest might have been present in an earlier script but if a younger actress had been cast I think the maturity of some of Cathy's statements might have been lost if the perfect actress had not been found.

Jeb Stuart Adams who plays Chris does a good job at acting as well. He was in his late 20's when he appeared in this film so he was much older than Chris in the novel but again because of an earlier script an age-up of his character might have been necessary but again maturity makes the role what it is. Of course the age of the twins is perfect and Lindsay Parker and Ben Ganger who play Carrie and Cory respectively are great in a role that requires so much drama for such young actors to handle and they are adorable before the plot of the film takes it very dark turn but even after that they still provide a small glimmer of hope for the viewer in their innocence.

Flowers In The Attic the film may not be as successful as its namesake novel but it has a charm all its own and is full of drama and suspense. Hard as it may be to choose a form but in the end I'd recommend reading the novel just so you can read its sequel novels which extend the story far better than the film. If you happen to be a person who isn't much into reading then the film is just as good to enjoy. If you enjoy both reading and watching movies then I would read the novel after viewing the film because the movie will be a good starting point to introduce you to the novel which will make you a diehard V.C. Andrews fan if you aren't one already. Speaking of which, any book written before 1986 would be a great starting point for you to discover just how great an author she truly was. If Gothic horror and mysteries full of hidden secrets are something you enjoy you won't be disappointed in the least.

Next Blog: A 90s flick that will leave you well a little crushed - The Crush

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Burning

If there was ever a theme that occurs in most horror slasher flicks it is the killer in the woods. To take the beauty of nature and turn it into something frightening and sadistic is very easy and Friday The 13th may have done it first and the best but The Burning to me does it far better. Never heard of The Burning you say? It's okay not many have but because I browse the horror section of Best Buy trolling for forgotten horror gems during Halloween you are about to learn why I love this film more than Friday The 13th but first things first...

What's The Plot?
The caretaker at Camp Blackfoot known as Cropsy is an alcoholic, cruel and sadistic man despised by everyone at camp and few campers decided to show him what it is like to be scared by pulling a harmless prank. Setting a skull on fire and placing it by his bed, Cropsy wakes up and so scared he knocks it over and ends up setting himself on fire to be burned beyond recognition. Five years later, procedures and skin grafts have failed to leave Cropsy disfigured that he has to wear gloves, glasses, a hat and a long coat; his rage is now burning for revenge.

At Camp Stonewater, a group of campers and their counselors are going to be the victims of Cropsy's desire for revenge. Camp outcast and nerd Alfred (Brian Backer) is the first and only one to notice Cropsy lurking with his scarred, burnt face and of course no one believes him but soon camp counselor Todd's tale of Cropsy before the three day canoe trip starts to put the other campers on edge and soon, people start to disappear. Todd (Brian Matthews) may not know it but his little campfire tale is going to come back to haunt him and only Alfred knows that Cropsy is out there in the woods killing his fellow campers but can he convince everyone else in time before Cropsy's killing spree of revenge burns out of control?

Again unlike most movie bloggers, I don't like to tell you the whole plot because I hope I can encourage you to go out and rent or buy the films I talk about to view them for yourself because I feel the film in question is good enough for you to watch or at least up to you discovering your own opinion. As I have stated, "the killer in the woods" genre has been done before by Friday The 13th as the most popular but The Burning has elements in it that make me enjoy it far much more.

What Else Can I Say?
Tom Savini is the master of horror film special effects and the infamous "raft scene" is a true pinnacle of his art and the DVD version I have is uncut to display every gore soaked minute. The acting of the campers and their counselors looks real and natural and you may notice some familiar faces. Jason Alexander from Seinfeld and Holly Hunter appear in small roles, comedic actor Fisher Stevens from the Short Circuit films has a role as a camper who is just so adorable you know he will meet a grisly end and Alfred is played by Brian Backer or as I will always know him Mark "Rat" Ratner from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which he made after this film.

Seeing actors that I recognize make me relate and sympathize more to their characters but Brain Matthews as Todd is also a good actor and a real hottie as well! Most attractive men don't survive in horror films or they are the obnoxious jerks you want to get murdered but Matthews isn't one of them (oops did I give away a spoiler?)

Aside from acting, the score is also brilliant! All of the original music in the film is provided to us by Rick Wakeman, keyboardist of the band Yes. Now if you have never heard of the band Yes, I think you need to go out and try to find a greatest hits of CD by them or at least try to find a copy of the music soundtrack on eBay somewhere as well. There is additional scoring not done by Wakeman but you won't be able to tell the difference because you will be so engrossed in the film but if that music in the background doesn't give you chills it's not doing its job to add suspense and it does!

If you like Friday The 13th, you are sure to enjoy The Burning and even if you didn't like Friday The 13th, you will still love The Burning in my opinion. As far as a slasher, this film is an underrated if not undiscovered classic. The Burning has gore and sex to spare for you horror film fans out there and I am sure you will enjoy every minute of it once you get your hands on it!

Next Blog: Gothic Horror Fiction makes for a great 80s flick - Flowers In The Attic

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Howling

It seems that 1981 was the year of the werewolf in cinema. I already talked about An American Werewolf In London and mentioned that in the same year both Wolfen and The Howling were released. These later two films were based on novels written by Whitley Striber and Gary Brandner respectively and of the two, I have only seen The Howling but have read neither novel. Even though The Howling has about a dozen sequels and even a reboot the original is the only film I own and I consider it a stand alone film and treat the sequels as if they do not even exist. The film plot and the plot of Brandner's novel differ greatly so I will only be talking about the film plot so...

What Is The Plot?
Los Angeles newswoman Karen White is being stalked by a serial killer named Eddie Quist. She works with the police to end his murder spree by meeting Eddie at a porno theater face to face. While there, Karen sees something so horrifying that once it is all done, Eddie is dead and Karen can not remember anything. Subconscious memories of that night begin to haunt Karen's dreams and make her freeze on air when she tries to recount the story. Therapist Dr. George Waggner suggests that Karen and her husband Bill Neill journey down the coast to his retreat called The Colony to help Karen relax and try to regain her memories.

The countryside doesn't really help Karen feel any better even though most of the people are very nice because her nightmares are keeping her and Bill from becoming intimate. The couple grows distant and soon the cattle surrounding the retreat are being killed and frantic howls are filling the air as the local sex addict Marsha begins throwing her advances on Bill. When her husband is soon attacked and bitten by what appears to be a wolf, Karen calls her friends Terri and Chris to come down to The Colony. Only Terri goes but on their own, she and Chris discover frightening secrets about the people surrounding Karen and when Eddie Quist's body disappears from the morgue, Chris fears the worst.

Will Chris be able to get to The Colony and help Karen and Terri in time? Can Karen truly remember what happened with Eddie that fateful night and can she and Bill be a loving couple once again? A howling in the air is growing louder and it is bringing a terrible creature even worse than Karen could ever imagine...

Of course you know that The Howling involves werewolves and you also know if you have read my past blog postings that I never tell too much of the plot for those of you who have never seen the films I discuss. As always I think you should view the movie for yourself to see for yourself just how good the movie is and The Howling is no exception.

What Can I Tell You?
The Howling is a clever straight forward approach to the werewolf horror genre with subtle in jokes to wolves and horror films of yesterday, has a great cast and the effects by Rob Bottin regarding transformation scenes is amazing for the early 1980's! Dee Wallace Stone steals the movie as main character Karen White because she is relate-able and down to earth in dealing with the stress. She is still regarded as a horror scream queen thanks to also appearing in Cujo but she doesn't rely on skimpy clothing and breast baring to get the job done and is as classy as Janet Leigh in Psycho and even to Jamie Lee Curtis in her early horror film roles. Her husband Christopher Stone plays Bill in the film and even though they were not married here they have great chemistry even when the relationship between their characters starts to come apart.

Dennis Dugan who plays Karen's friend Chris Halloran may have a small but important role here but he has gone on to be a director with many films and television shows under his belt including tons of Adam Sandler comedies. Elisabeth Brooks plays the insatiable Marsha and is beautiful and stunning in her evil way and Patrick Macnee is a sophisticated Dr. Waggner with charm reminiscent of John Steed from The Avengers which Macnee played back in the 1960s. John Carradine, famous character actor and father of the great deceased David Carradine, also appears as one of the Colony's eccentric residents in a stand out performance.

In regards to horror, The Howling depends on only a little gore to bring the horror across because the story's atmosphere and score provide the real horror thanks to good old-fashioned suspense and effects that involve none of today's overused CGI. The acting is done wonderfully and the end may have provided sequel fodder but is easy to keep The Howling as a film of its own merit and not the beginning of unneeded B-movie fodder. If you want a good werewolf film where simplicity is key, The Howling is one film you must see.

The Howling 1981 Trailer (SPOILERS!)

Next Blog: An almost forgotten classic 80s slasher - The Burning

Friday, May 4, 2012

Deadly Friend

In my post of Jerry Maguire, I said that Cameron Crowe was one of three of my favorite directors and the only one who was not a horror director. The second director I can now mention to you is Wes Craven, a modern horror genius! Wes Craven created Freddy Kruger and brought the Scream Franchise to us as well but he has many horror films you may or may not have heard of...some good and bad. The movie I am going to talk about today is what most horror fans consider bad so if it is bad then call it one of my guilty pleasures...Deadly Friend.

She can't live without you...

Again, another film based of a novel that is not widely known. The novel Friend by Diana Henstell differs greatly from the script fashioned and the movie went through a lot of executive meddling to get an 80s style "R" rating but I think the movie is okay good horror fun in an understated sci-fi way with more drama, less effects and a kind of touching story.

What's The Plot?
Teen Paul Conway is a science genius, a college student even though he should only be a sophomore in high school. He and his mother Jeannie move to a new town so Paul can attend classes in neurology at the local university and along with the Conways for the trip is B.B. an artificial intelligence robot built by Paul. This makes them stand out in many good and many bad ways about the neighborhood as it brings about human friends to Paul and makes a few enemies. Local paperboy Tom is fascinated by Paul's genius built robot B.B. and Paul becomes fascinated by good girl next door, Samantha Pringle. Sam however lives with her widower, abusive, alcoholic father and the neighbor across the street, Elvira Parker, is a gun totting old hag who lets no one on her property.

Paul, Samantha, Tom and B.B. are an inseparable group of friends until on Halloween night, Tom urges Paul to use B.B.'s intelligence to bust the lock on Elvira's gate so that Sam can go up and ring her doorbell which no kid in the neighborhood has ever done. The prank goes horribly wrong when it sets off an alarm which brings Old Lady Parker outside to her porch where she shoots B.B. and destroys Paul's autonomic friend. Things only get worse when Thanksgiving arrives and Sam joins the Conways for dinner without her father's knowledge. She returns home and is attacked by her father who ends up pushing her down the stairs, giving her brain damage that leaves Sam close to dead.

Paul's feelings for Samantha bring him down a road of no return to his sanity and he plans to take the only remnant from B.B. to bring Samantha back to life: the robot's A.I. brain chip. With a reluctant Tom's help, the two young men steal Sam's body from the hospital and Paul implants the chip activated by remote control in Sam's dead brain. The chip activated, Sam now becomes part human and part science as she walks around with a blank stare, robotic gait and the pale flesh of a dead girl. Now a combination of B.B. and Sam, their personalities mesh into one cohesive thought: to avenge those who have harmed them. Paul may be a genius but is he smart enough to keep his friend a secret from the world and stop her deadly revenge?

I could give away more plot than described but again I think Deadly Friend needs to be viewed. Now as I've said a lot of people think this film is below Wes Craven's genius but I love it! There is one great horror movie kill involving a basketball that I think every horror fan should view and even though I am kind of turned off by the ending, Deadly Friend is one of those movies I enjoy viewing over and over again. Like April Fools' Day, I caught this movie in one of those early morning time slots when they play obscure movie titles and fell in love with its simple horror story. Being an 80s child, I am use to the cheesy factor and have become immune to it to discover the gem of a film within.

Some people are just better off dead...

Matthew Laborteaux is great for Paul as he is cute and for a genius character, he is still naive. He has a lot of raw teenage emotion to instill in Paul even though Matthew was twenty when he made this movie and it shows that screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin kept a few aspects of the younger Paul from the original source material. Anne Ramsay was the go to actress to play a crotchety, ugly woman in the 80s and she is perfect as Elvira Parker with her grating voice and twisted up face and you can tell by the smirk her character gives that maybe she enjoyed playing mean old lady characters. Charles Fleischer needs a mention for being the voice of B.B. and giving the character life three years before he brought Roger Rabbit to  adults and children everywhere and you wouldn't believe actually  how horrifying that voice can be after you see this movie! Then of course, there is Kristy Swanson.

I'll admit that I love Kristy Swanson and a younger me wanted to be her after I saw her in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She's most popularly remembered as playing Cathy in Flowers In The Attic but she has roles in a lot of films that people hate such as the cinema Buffy film, the sequel to Mannequin and of course, Deadly Friend. I mention these films because I love them of course and own them proudly with no guilt and no shame to admit I am a Kristy fangirl! I mean she made me love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and made me become a fan of V.C. Andrews because of these roles so I can't say anything bad about her. Okay back from the Kristy worship wagon to her role as Samantha Pringle, which I enjoy immensely. She may just take up the film doing a bad robot/zombie impersonation but earlier in the film you can't help but enjoy her cute girl next door. You want Paul to save her and have a happy ending for her after living with her father's abuse but of course, horror movies don't happen that way.

Direction wise, I don't think Wes Craven did a bad job with this film I'm thinking it was all that executive meddling that makes this a piece of 80s cinema most horror fans want to forget. There isn't a lot of gore compared to the horror of today but there is enough to make you a tad bit queasy but the underlying plot has drama and there is some comedy if unintentional. Taste is a matter of opinion and only when you can view Deadly Friend for yourself will you have your own opinion.

Next Blog: The werewolves are back with an 80s classic...The Howling

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

It's been awhile since I talked about a musical film in one of my blogs so I thought I would talk about a musical that is close to my heart as I saw it when I was 12 in my very open household. Yes, I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show at a very young age and I loved it and still love it to this day! I hope to some day go to a late-night performance showing of the film and participate but more of why later. First things first...

What's The Plot?
Narrated by a man simply called The Criminologist, we begin with Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), attending a wedding of high school friends and themselves becoming engaged through song. Heading to go and see their high school science teacher Dr. Everett Scott (in his class is where Brad fell for Janet) the couple get a flat tire and go looking for a phone and run across the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a "mad" scientist.

A group of strange people are there for a convention held by Frank who makes his entrance in a glittering cape, heavy eye make-up, blood red lipstick, a corset, fishnets and very high, chunky platforms. This sweet transvestite has discovered the secret to life and unveils his creation: a very muscled, mute, half-brained blond man named Rocky Horror.

When the convention ends, Brad and Janet are shown to separate rooms and soon become seduced by Frank's charm which puts these normally clean-cut "virgins" into a tailspin of debauchery and decadence. Meanwhile, Frank's handyman Riff-Raff (Richard O'Brien) and his sister/lover Magenta (Patricia Quinn), the castle domestic, take it upon themselves to torture Rocky in defiance of Frank's extreme taste for pleasure and soon Rocky happens upon Janet.

Distraught when she finds out that Brad has tasted forbidden fruit with Frank, Janet seduces a very innocent Rocky and they are discovered inadvertently when another guest arrives to the party: Dr. Scott! He is looking for his nephew Eddie (Meat Loaf) who was a lover of Frank's groupie Columbia (Little Nell Campbell) and the other half of his brain was used to make Rocky but he had been killed by Frank earlier that night. A strange night is about to get even more strange with dinner and a show no one is ever going to forget. Can Brad and Janet go back to what they once knew or have the discovered an experience that will change them for better or worse?

If you have never seen Rocky Horror and want to I didn't want to ruin the pleasure of this movie for you with a lot of plot info. To experience Rocky Horror by second hand account really isn't much fun and as I said I want to have the actual audience participation experience one day. That said, let's look at a few details of Rocky Horror that I can tell you about that have nothing to do with plot.

The music of Rocky Horror is an enjoyable romp because before it hit the screen it hit the West end stage of London as an actual musical. Richard O'Brien wrote the music and lyrics for all the songs and each one will get you singing and dancing especially "The Time Wrap" because it has instructions to do the dance in the song! They played this song at my Senior Prom and only a few of us could do the dance and I'm proud to say we were mostly the outcasts and black sheep of high school popularity. If you saw the Rocky Horror episode of Glee even though I don't watch it you know the songs and how good they truly are and maybe that's why you are checking out this blog post of mine.

Moving on to acting most of the cast was from the original stage production including Tim Curry who made his motion picture debut to an American audience. I have to admit that I have always been a Tim Curry fangirl even before I saw Rocky Horror and seeing him in fishnets is something great to see. Tim Curry has always been a debonair and charming actor with singing talent, voice over work and stage roles galore and though he use to be reluctant to talk about this role he now views it as a rite of passage for the viewer's who see it. So in other words, Tim Curry has popped a lot of cherries for Rocky Horror fans. Meat Loaf has a great one-scene wonder performance as Eddie and it is almost a celluloid version of a show stopper that comes after a lot of drama and science fiction before we are whip lashed back into black comedy and drama again.

Barry Bostwick is great as nerdy, innocent Brad and he's not that bad to look at either in fishnets I might add and I can't see anyone else as Brad but Bostwick in 1975 and even today. Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn and Little Nell Campbell have also become icons for me in their own performance of their characters and I don't think I can ever view anyone else in those roles but the day I go to a midnight, audience participation showing and see someone else play these characters I might change my mind. I always put these three characters in a collective grouping because if you watch the movie, they interact with each other a lot.

 Of course I can't go without mentioning Susan Sarandon as Janet because I believe at the time she was perfect for naive and pure Janet and she is the character I can relate to the most. Susan Sarandon has always been a great actress and her portrayal of Janet is why I want to go to a midnight showing so I can go as Janet in costume as most people do!

You are not meant to take Rocky Horror seriously it is all in good old-fashioned campy fun with music, dancing, a movie that the black sheep outsider can like with no regrets and it can bring out the wild and untamed thing in anyone. Rose-tint glasses are required to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show as well as a sense of humor so if you don't think you can handle that then maybe this is not the movie for you but if you have a wild side to you then this movie will be an enjoyment that is oh so sweet...I promise.

Next Blog: A look at some 80s horror from Wes Craven but not what you think - Deadly Friend