Reason Number 378 Why Halloween Is the Happiest Time of the Year: It’s a lot easier for mad geniuses to convince bar owners to host their masked supercriminal- and horror-rock themed events. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that last night’s Halloween Freak-Out! party at Sweet and Vicious was the best possible reason for me to be going into the Tenebrous Day Job on under four hours of sleep with a pumpkin-liquer-and-Jameson-induced headache.

The centerpiece of the event was a screening of “the Diabolikal Super Kriminal,” a documentary that I’d been hoping to see ever since I caught wind of its existence over a year ago. Friends, this film is entirely relevant to your interests, provided your interests include “guys in skeleton outfits,” “scantily clad babes,” and “kickass anecdotes from Italian screen stars.” The words “labor of love” tend to be overused, but make no mistake–the minds behind this film are absolutely passionate about the subject matter. To wit: “Sadistik” was a photo-comic from the mid-1960s featuring a mysterious supervillain in the Fantomas/Diabolik mold, with amped-up sex and violence content that made the stories both notorious and wildly popular. The scenes in these photo-comics were portrayed by film actors and shot by photographers with cinema experience, and some of the cast and crew behind these books worked with such luminaries as Fellini and Visconti (as well as drawing paychecks appearing in various Italian genre films, naturally). As such, you’d better believe that these people are characters and that their stories throughout the film range from… ohh… awesome to even awesomer. The documentary is fast-paced with clever shot transitions that keep it from being a “talking head” snooze-fest. BONUS: it’s peppered with new footage of the King of Crime that blends beautifully with the vintage photos.

I’ll go ahead and stop raving now, because you should really be checking out the links I’ve posted above. Instead I’ll include the video for the film’s theme song, “Go Sadistik!” Behold its excellence here:

Let’s all take a moment to raise our pumpkin-flavored martinis and Oktoberfest beers to Mort Todd for his work in bringing Sadistik to the US. I know a hunk of my next paycheck is going towards photo-comics, and I will be so bold as to recommend a similar course of action for the rest of you. Fans of all things crime-tastic and mask-eriffic will thank me for this.

Seeds of Evil (aka "The Gardener") [1973]

One of the complexities of seeking out weird movies is that there are a lot of films–maybe a majority of weird movies, in fact–that are way more fun to read about than they are to actually… you know… view. “Seeds of Evil,” released on DVD by Subversive Cinema as “The Gardener,” is just such a peculiar little film. It’s really a pretty paltry feature, tracking a wealthy married woman’s obsession with a mysterious gardener (played by Paul Morrissey regular Joe Dallesandro). The flick comes off as sort of a “Night Gallery” episode stretched on a Torturer’s Rack of seemingly endless dialogue-over-cocktails scenes into a ninety-minute feature.

The story waffles between being an allegory of something I never quite understod, an updating of the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, and what I’d like to call a “Rappaccini’s Beefcake” story. Shirtless, leather-pantsed gardener Carl comes into housewife Ellen’s (Katharine Houghton) employ after the mysterious death of his last lady-boss. His green thumb turns her Costa Rican mansion into a paradise of colorful blooms, delighting Ellen and yet alarming and/or aggravating everyone else in her household (including her aloof, shaved-Burt-Reynolds-esque husband). Allusions to Greek myth are heavy-handed and frequent, including several explanations of the Persehpone myth. There are some scenes in which there could have been explorations of the sexual tension between Ellen and Carl, but the director pointedly backs off of this plotline.

This feature is padded to within an inch of its life, with long scenes of shirtless Carl tending the plants and an epic Carnivale sequence in which people dance and chat about nothing. I felt as though I was watching plants grow in real-time at some points during the film. There’s about thirty minutes of actual meat to work with here, and a reluctance to Go There that I’ve gotta object to on principle. To give you an idea of the pace with which this movie drags along, it takes forty-five minutes for anything Of Significance to happen, and said event occurs in the form of Ellen’s husband cutting his hand. Really.

Sure, there’s some Groovy workin’, but things never get as weird as a story about a supernatural plant-man ought to. There’s virtually no no violence until the final 10 minutes of the film and we only get a peek of male nudity (as can be expected from any film featuring Dallesandro). I found myself more interested in Ellen’s parade of bizarre fashions than in the story at most points. She dons a series of strange dresses, ranging from Little House on the Prairie Chic to a split-personality mumu to what realy looks like a rainbow windsock. This is not the kind of Groovy I seek to emulate, but it sure was diverting.

There were things that could have been done to salvage the film that weren’t. The potential for dream imagery was vast, but all of the Heavy Weirdness is backloaded into the last ten minutes of film. It’s unclear whether things actually happened or whether Ellen’s obsession guided her to terrible deeds. And not the “good unclear”–just the vexingly cop-out kinda unclear. The plot could have–and probably should have–brimmed with sex. In addition to the obvious Ellen/Carl chemistry that wasn’t, there was a TOTALLY uncapitalized-upon potential lesbian subtext between Ellen and her pal Helena, a saucy widow played by Rita Gam.

The Subersive Cinema DVD is painstakingly put together, complete with a making-of featurette and producer Chalmer G. Kirkbride Jr.’s 1980 Master’s thesis on the distribution of the film. First-and-only-time director Jim Kay clearly had trouble balancing his inspirations with his need to… you know… turn a profit. The 30 minute documentary on the film, featuring interviews with the director and the two leads, is more of an apology than an insight–everything that coulda been done right, but wasn’t, is hashed over in what becomes excruciating detail. To me, the entire production can be summed up in Dallesandro’s actually-kinda-priceless anecdote: “He [Kay] wanted to see me do something I wouldn’t fail at… I don’t know if he believed that I could do a script. His attitude was, if it was real simple, I could get away with it. I don’t think I had very much dialogue in the film. Especially when I was a tree.”
Bask in the Flickr gallery of stills from “Seeds of Evil” on Flickr (there’s A Little Something For The Ladies on there today–you’re welcome, girls).

Killing Car [1993]

Jean Rollin’s “Killing Car” is an oddity without being a gem. I picked up this fairly recent Redemption disc at the Mondo Kim’s moving* sale, arching an eyebrow at the cover quotes. If one reads between the lines, said cover quotes can pretty much be distilled down to “It’s a Rollin film and it’s not… you know… unwatchable.” It’s entirely likely that I’m a Rollin Apologist (I dug “Bacchanales Sexuelles,” for example), but I must confess that “Killing Car” just didn’t do much of anything for me.

To summarize the plot–a mysterious, nearly-mute woman is committing a series of murders of various seedy and dishonest characters all of whom are somehow linked to an Edsel. Dear readers–it does not bode well for a film when most of my thoughts were concerned with whether or not that was, in fact, an Edsel (prompting a film-pause and a Google search) and why a director as concerned with his visual vocabulary as Rollin selected the Edsel as the central image of the film. A giant American car, frequently the butt of jokes, that was made for 3 years over thirty years before the movie was made? The symbolism–it’s somehow both rich and entirely uncompelling, when placed against the director’s other familiar tropes.
This is a movie that is so slight in its plot (it’s essentially ninety minutes of stalk-and-shoot scenes) that it would seem to be a frame on which to hang weird setpieces and strange imagery, particularly in the hands of a surrealist director. Early inklings of heavy weirdness (the young victim who stops to take notes to include in her memoir as she is pursued by the gun-toting madwoman, a hammer-weilding hooker, and a deserted carnival) are never capitalized upon, and the lack of supernatural elements can truly be felt throughout the film.

The film isn’t all bad, and as a completist regarding this particular director**, I did find things to enjoy. Foremost among them was lead actress Tiki Tsang who, with her feline good looks and general air of silent, sinister craziness, is a strong candidate for Mrs. Tenebrous. There are several shots of Ms. Tsang sitting atop her houseboat in a flowing gown while looking thoughtful that make the actress look positively ethereal. Once again, Rollin proves himself a master of capturing the beauty of women on film.

I’m also a sucker for covertly-captured shots of New York City, and this movie’s got them. There’s a short interlude in Times Square that looks seedy and actually-kinda-marvelous. IT even includes some frames that were clearly captured through the window of a taxi while the camera sat on the cinematographer’s lap! I love this kind of shamelessly rough-around-the-edges filmmaking–I think it really gives a low-budget film texture.
Classic Rollin themes are present, if in limited quantity. I smiled to see the killer emerging from a grandfather clock garbed in black velvet vampiric style only to go on to menace another character with a scythe. Sadly, Ms. Tseng is no Brigitte Lahaie, and this was very much not “Fascination.” Still–it’s nice for this fan to see the familiar tropes on-screen. The film’s overarching theme is tragic romance, which Rollin handles expertly*** and–I’ll confess–I think the ending does a lot to redeem the movie as a whole. OH! In case you were concerned with such matters–yes, dearlings, there are lesbians in this movie.

While the film certainly doesn’t have the same sort of material to work with as Rollin’s supernatural and erotic films, there are artistic shot compositions sprinkled less-than-liberally throughout. In a sequence where the murderess chases her victims through a series of piers on the Seine, there are several thoughtful moments that employ disarmingly simple visuals–a red raincoat, a series of marble slabs arranged in a row, a off-kilter view of a woman’s retreating form.

It’s hard for me to recommend this film–in fact, I won’t recommend this film. The only elements the work contains that are at all remarkable can be seen to greater effect elsewhere in Rollin’s body of work. Still–if I had to kill ninety minutes of my life on something only-semi-entertaining, I’m certainly glad said something contained as many lovely ladies as this film did.

*Tis true–the St. Mark’s shop is closing and the store is moving down to First Ave. Sans-rentals. :*(
**OK, semi-completist. No one better mention “Zombie Lake” lest he risk a sound and unsexy thrashing.
***I stand by my conviction that one must be made entirely of stone to not be moved by the finale of “Living Dead Girl.”

Raw Force [1982]

With a title like “Raw Force,” this movie could have been about anything–a gritty cop drama, a kickboxing revenge story, a rapey half-mans-half-monkeys melodrama, or perhaps a women in prison film. The possibilities are kinda endless, making the title all the more alluring since this film came into my home sans-cover as part of the 20-movie “Grindhouse Experience” DVD collection. Imagine my delight to discover that “Raw Force” is a US/Philippines co-production of “Counter Destroyer”-level madness. Now, if I’d seen the poster shown here, I might be a bit disappointed. I mean, yeah, all that stuff is in it, but… still. That poster sets the bar kinda fucking high, don’t you think?
I know there’s a lot of debate over the value of the label “So Bad It’s Good” but–dear friends–this movie earns that distinction. Generally speaking, movies made with the intention of being low-budget action- or horror-comedies fall flat, but this is just so ineptly-yet-lovingly crafted that I just couldn’t hate it. Its humorous moments were so surreal in nature as to border on art, and the increasingly insane plot clipped along at a pleasantly brisk pace.
On tonight’s very special episode of “The A Team…”
I imagine the suspense is killing you by now, isn’t it? You’re dying to know exactly what “Raw Force” is about, aren’t you? Sit down, take a deep breath, and I’ll clue you in.

“Raw Force” is characterized by its use of subtle historical allusions

“Raw Force” is about a Hitler-moustached jade smuggler (accompanied by his be-mulleted pot-smoking sidekick, who we know is a hippie because he says “maaaan” a lot) who is kidnapping and human-trafficking Filipina prostitutes to an island inhabited by cannibal monks who have the power to raise the corpses of the dead kung-fu outcasts who are buried there. When a low-budget cruise-ship full of Eighties Stereotypes (captained by Cameron “Never Say No To A Paycheck” Mitchell) sets its course for this island, the smugglers stage a whimsically-attired pirate raid on the ship to halt their progress. There are survivors of this vicious-yet-ludicrous attack that include the SWAT team member named Cookie (no, really) and four karate masters who find themselves stranded on the monks’ island where a final showdown (or several, really) takes place.

It’s eighty minutes of unadulterated insanity, seasoned with giant killer piranhas, a murderous Mafia wife, naked chicks galore, a Nazi pirate in heart-print boxer shorts, and more poorly-dubbed maniacal laughter than you could possibly hope for. By the time the zombie ninjas showed up, I was wearing a quite-possibly-alarming grin. Even the inexplicable birthday-party-cum-orgy (for a character who otherwise has no role in the film) comedy montage made me beam at its brazen stupidry. An entire cake gets dropped on a woman, prompting her to run up to one of the protagonists’ rooms to shower and–aber naturlisch–get it on! A chubby balding man breaks ice with his head! Another man inexplicably talks about how nude modeling is the Devil’s work, and this never comes up in the film again! HELP–IT’S ALL TOO AWESOME!!!!

Is it a coincidence that Rey King’s only screen credit is “Raw Force?” I sense this still was captured right before or after some Inappropriate Touching.

The dialogue in this film makes it a comedy hall of mirrors–it’s not funny in the way the filmmakers intended it to be funny, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t slack-jawed in amazed glee through much of the flick. A man bragging about his nimbleness and then knocking over a dinner table where people are eating spaghetti should not be funny, and yet… seeing this scene enacted with bold-faced ineptitude by a man with a perm and a weasely moustache was–dare I say it–wonderful. The following exchange shouldn’t be funny, but totally was:

Karate Guy: “What did he want?”
Cameron Mitchell Captain Guy: “I’m not sure, but it wasn’t my body!”

“I’m having a CRAPGASM!”

To say every line is uttered with a straight face would be to imply that this was an intentional acting choice, and I certainly don’t want to suggest this. I suspect every line was uttered with a straight face because it was being spoken by someone who’d never been in front of a camera before and was paralyzed by fear, or perhaps in the grips of a powerful drug.

Yes, “Raw Force,” I will be here for your continuation. I’m waiting. It’s been over twenty-five years–the world needs you now more than ever.

Bask in the glow of “Raw Force” on Flickr.

Waxwork [1988] and Waxwork II [1992]

I my dotage, I think I’m becoming a bit of a softie, perhaps even a sentimentalist. Ordinarily, I’d approach movies I enjoyed when I was a young teenager with a sense of trepidation. Such was not the case when I was flipping through the films available on FEARnet On Demand (bless you, dark deity, and your bounty of digital cable excellence) and discovered both “Waxwork” AND “Waxwork II: Lost In Time” available for free viewing.

I watched these movies on VHS at a pivotal moment in my development–post-“Pet Semetery”-related trauma and pre-“Suspiria.” For those of you unfamiliar with the “Waxwork” movies, they’re post-“Evil Dead” horror-comedies in which stereotypical late-eighties teenagers get sucked into various horror scenes through supernatural means, leaving only the virgin and the wrongly-done-to-but-decent man alive. The first film is a pretty straightforward “body count” picture in which aforementioned teens set out to thwart the diabolical plans of an evil wax museum owner. The second film is entirely more wacky (I’ve mentioned the inner cringe that occurs whenever I hear a slide-whistle or El Kabong sound effect accompanying an action scene) and–frankly–made me a little ashamed on behalf of Almost-Fourteen-Year-Old Me. As frightening as this is to confess, I’ve actually gotten more sophisticated over time.

There’s a lot to love about the first “Waxwork” movie. Let’s note some discussion points:

  • Evil midget doorman at the museum (TRUE FACT: said little person actor also donned the ALF suit in that relic of cocaine-induced Eighties television)
  • Miles O’Keeffe (yes, the dude who played the Conan-inspired character Ator in a series of crappy-yet-AWESOME Italo-barbarian flicks) as Count Dracula. Seriously–whose idea was that? I either want to shake that person’s hand or ensure they get the proper medication.
  • Watching David Warner stifle the giggles as he plays the scenery-chewing villain is worth the price of admission.
  • A werewolf rips a dude in half. I feel like my Scottish ancestry, what with that whole inclination towards “hewing in twain,” entitles me to my love of death-by-bisection in films. Because I love you and want you to be happy, here is that very scene, for your enjoyment:

  • This film is also notable for employing a rather piratical version of the Marquis de Sade as one of the key baddies. Innocent as I was at the time (use your imagination, smartasses), I found this scene to be Of Particular Interest. Fancy outfits, outrageous boots, fussy accents, kink–it was entree into a new world of cinematic excellence! Admit it, you’re curious:

“Waxwork II: Lost In Time” is… rather another matter altogether, and I feel kind of terrible for pitching it to my movie-viewing companion as “having a really neat Frankenstein scene in it.” I should amend my spiel to go something like “Warning: This movie has head-explodey in it for a minute, but is otherwise filled with slapstick comedy that is guaranteed to make you wince and also has a rapped theme song.” Yes, friends–the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had blazed a brave path through the pop culture landscape, leaving it littered with references to pizza and video games. While “Waxwork II” could’ve achieved “Street Fighter”*-level so-far-past-bad-it’s-excellent-ness, it… didn’t. Instead, I kept wishing I was watching “Army of Darkness.” Adding a small role played by Bruce Campbell did not help this state of affairs, and structuring the film to recreate scenes from other, better movies just hammered more nails into the coffin. However, the head-explodey was still pretty neat, so I’ll include that here and save you the rest of the ninety-five-plus minutes of movie-watching. Bonus points for the fact that Older Me recognizes the dude from Spandau Ballet playing Baron Frankenstein!

The film’s Finishing Move comes in the form of the end-credits theme song, the crappiness of which I can only hint at by including the trailer below. The previously noted Ninja Turtles influence can be felt here, making this movie an inheritor not of the Hammer Films legacy, but rather of the MC Hammer legacy. The refrain is even now haunting my waking moments:

Stuck in time

Like a bug in a jar

No matter where you go,

There you are.

Pray for me, internet friends. I may descend into gibbering madness at any moment. Let this be a lesson to anyone who dares traipse the path of nostalgia–you may come back humming a rap with lyrics about bugs in jars.

*Seriously. Watch “Street Fighter” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. I fucking dare you to come away from that unchanged if you watch it past the scene in which the Sumo wrestler is tortured by the giant Russian guy.

Dr. Jekyll and His Women [1981]

“Dr. Jekyll and His Women” is Walerian Borowczyk’s sexed-up interpretation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella. Amping up the story’s existing criticism of Victorian morality to ELEVEN, Borowczyk creates an explicit nightmare world where sublimated passions destroy anything and anyone unfortunate enough to get in their path.

Udo Kier stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll and is supported by a fabulous cast of genre veterans that includes Howard Vernon (who played Dr. Orlof along with approximately a million other fantastic roles), Marina Pierro (who was so plush and lovely in Borowczyk’s “Behind Convent Walls”), and Gérard Zalcberg (already beloved of the Empire as mute henchman Gordon in “Faceless”).

Admittedly, not a lot of screen time is devoted to the stuffiness of Victorian morality–in fact, the film opens with the darkly-lit murder-by-bludgeoning of a prepubescent girl. Borowczyk rightly assumes that the audience will be familiar with all the tropes of the era and doesn’t waste much time establishing that these folks are a bunched-up, disapproving lot. The propriety of the society is indicated largely through costuming. Restrictive corsets, huge hoop skirts, formal uniforms and carefully constructed hairstyles provide a thin veneer over inherently damaged characters. The General is a lecher, his daughter is revealed to be a lustful slut, Dr. Lanyon (Howard Vernon) is angling as much for personal gain as for supremacy of his theories, and Mother Jekyll is crippled. There is also a Reverend who is far less interested in matters of the spirit than in having his book published. In fact, the only characters who appear to have natural desires are Jekyll and his fiancee Fanny (Marina Pierro), whose sexual desire for one another is repeatedly interrupted by the guests at their engagement party.

The film’s structure is similar to that of Borowczyk’s infamous erotic mindfuck “The Beast” (yes, the one where the woman has sex with the bear-monster)–it’s established that all the characters are screwed up, there’s an escalating outburst of sexual violence, and ultimately a tragic ending underscoring themes of destruction and dissolution.

Similarly to “The Beast,” “Dr. Jekyll and His Women” gets off to a rather slow start (a parade of party guests greeting one another and talking over dinner goes on for quite some time prior to any Hott Hyde-Related Action). This languorous pacing is necessary to the director’s style. Borowczyk’s triumph is his literal camerawork combined with an erotic soft focus, used to emphasize the over-the-top subject matter. His cinematography doesn’t feel showy, favoring a static point of view that can feel unflinching when something particularly graphic is within the camera’s gaze. Shot compositions often have a painterly feel to them, making it no surprise to learn that the director was an award-winning visual artist prior to entering the arena of film.

The particulars of the movie deviate from Stevenson’s novella significantly. The time-line of the story is shortened to one night–the evening of Jekyll’s engagement to Fanny Osbourne–and the sexual content is put front and center. Mr. Hyde is an equal-opportunity rapist, whose genitals are oversized and, apparently, pointed. Eek. Zalcberg puts in a bravura performance, reptilian and monstrous while still elegant in his evening wear. His madness is simultaneously manic and icy, making him a perfect pairing with the Force For Teutonic Awesome that is Udo Kier.

The movie is full to overflowing with symbolism. Fanny’s dowry is a previously unknown painting by Vermeer, which is destroyed with great significance later in the film. An object of refinement and grace, obliterated by the forces of lust. It’s almost as if this might be symbolic of something… There is a young ballerina, later to be horribly violated by Hyde, who is eroticized early on. Shots of her spinning skirt reveal her legs and stocking-tops–dressed in a white outfit reminiscent of a bridal gown, she is another symbol of innocence ravished. We haven’t even touched on the foreshadowing galore: there is a gift of poisoned arrows; Fanny has a nightmare vision of a woman being stabbed; Jekyll collects weapons. Wow–is it getting all Hawthorne up in here, or is it just me?

Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde is accomplished with a bath full of blood-like liquid that occasions much thrashing about (Kitty Le Claw take note–there is Almost Udo Ass in this sequence). Fanny watches Jekyll emerge from the bath as Hyde and, rather than expressing horror, she seems fascinated, if somewhat worried on behalf of her fiancee. By the time Hyde’s rampage is reaching its frenetic heights, it comes as little surprise that Fanny winds up dunking herself in the krazee waters to join her increasingly Hyde-ed out hubby-to-be.

A big Tenebrous Thank You goes out to Brian Horrorwitz, King of the Trash Palace, for providing the Empire with this disc. Don’t delay, friends–hie thee to his site and check out the amazing bounty of offbeat movie goodness available there for your delectation!

The Blood Spattered Bride [1972]

“The Blood Spattered Bride” is a tough film to sum up. A very loose adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic of lesbonic vampirism “Carmilla,” it’s the mean-spirited cousin of a Jean Rollin film, a less explicitly erotic movie than José Ramón Larraz’s “Vampyres,” and a cruel, Freudian amplification of the themes explored in Hammer’s adaptation of the same source material, “the Vampire Lovers.” It’s a frequently beautiful film that depicts an unflinchingly nihilistic vision sex and sexuality that borders on outright misogyny.

The story chugs off to what I initially perceived to be a slow start. There’s almost an hour of film dedicated to the first days of Susan’s marriage to her unnamed husband. The virginal bride approaches her wedding night with dread, her vivid nightmares of rape foreshadowing things to come. At first liberated by her husband’s sexual appetite, it becomes clear that she has a growing fear and revulsion towards him. His behavior escalates from that of an eager groom to downright rapeyness as it seems he won’t allow Susan a moment’s peace.
It becomes apparent that there’s a family history of such behavior when the husband reveals that Mircalla Karstein, one of his ancestresses, murdered her husband on their wedding night because he asked for “unspeakable” sex acts. It’s this murderous taint on the females of the family that has led the husband to hide all portraits of females in the basement. Issues? This gent’s got a subscription. In fact, there are only four female characters in the film: Susan, the grandmotherly housekeeper, the housekeeper’s twelve-year-old daughter, and a mysterious stranger.
Enter said mysterious stranger in the form of Carmilla (I see what they did there), a mysterious woman that the husband unearths on a trip to the beach. You read that correctly–things just took a turn for the fantastique, friends! Carmilla’s arrival signals the turn of the movie from symbolic to downright surreal, making all that exposition oh-so-worthwhile. The sexual tension between the two female leads is evident from the get-go–there’s a wonderful scene where the husband prattles on about his various hobbies and collections while Susan and Carmilla exchange Significant Looks and cheek caresses. LADIES! Get a room. No–really. Get a room. And bring a camera. We like that kind of stuff in the Empire, trust me.

The mostly-off-screen erotic entanglement of the women is far more convincing (let alone compelling!) than Susan’s relationship with her husband. It’s left a bit vague whether her attraction to Carmilla is purely supernatural, or whether it’s as a result of preexisting sublimated lesbian desires. Susan’s odd behavior has been firmly established prior to Carmilla’s arrival, signaling that her seeming hypnotism by Carmilla is as likely a result of her established “hysteria” as that of any sort of supernatural intervention.
Images of inversion abound, even providing an underpinning to the film’s violent setpieces. Carmilla wears her rings on the inside of her fingers, a quirk that will come to characterize her thralls as well. She wears a snorkel in the sand when the husband discovers her. The ultimate act of inversion is that of a woman stabbing–penetrating–a man, which occurs in a startlingly graphic and unexpected dream sequence mid-way through the plot.
It’s hard to talk about this film without mentioning its ending, which I won’t reveal here. Suffice to say, it’s violent, shocking and borders on hateful. To be a woman in the universe of this film is to court death–to be tainted and dangerous. The thorough nastiness of the film’s finale was surprising to me, and while my initial reaction was unpleasant, I’ve got to commend any movie that Goes There and carries through its themes with a take-no-prisoners attitude.

I’ve heard other reviewers posit that both genders come off rather poorly in this film, and perhaps my own gender colors my perspective, but I’ve got to tell you guys–I was 100% rooting for the lesbians. Sure, they might be man-haters, but if the dudes would just leave them the fuck alone rather than talking about them acting “like cats in heat” and being “perverts,” maybe everybody could coexist. I mean, it might be a rather tenuous, sometimes stabby coexistence, but still. I know I don’t want to live in a world without lesbian vampires, do you?

The House of Shock [Haunted House]

I spent my birthday weekend participating in my own form of relief effort for New Orleans. Baron XIII and I pumped a not-insignificant amount of Tenebrous Cash into the coffers of New Orleans’ booze, boobs, and black magic industries. If I may be so bold, I’d recommend that all of you do that when you get a chance. It’s a wonderful city full of fantastic people and plenty of exciting stuff to do into the wee hours of the morning and beyond. I love you, New Orleans. Really I do.

One of the attractions that the Baron and I had set our hearts on attending was the annual haunted house extravaganza that is the House of Shock. I’d heard of House of Shock many years ago when a pal was volunteering there and his tales of a supercharged, Sataneriffic spook show were enough to convince me that there was a pentagram-shaped hole in my heart that could only be filled by experiencing this firsthand.

I can state with utmost conviction that the House of Shock is the BEST haunted house I’ve ever been to. This year’s setup revolves around Lord Belial’s ascension to power as “President of the World” and the rooms within the House include a cemetery, a creepy swamp, a sewer, and a truly outrageous Black Mass. The effectiveness of House of Shock lies in three factors:

1) The House employs what feels like half the population of Louisiana–there are at least a hundred actors present
2) The makeup effects are the best I’ve ever seen in a haunted attraction
3) The actors can touch you

Now, as an Ice Person and a Yankee, this last factor really shocked me! The entire student body of the local high school seemed to be present (the Baron and I felt like the oldest people in line) and were abuzz telling one another about how one could be grabbed in the dark. I wrote this off as bullcrap, but–lo and behold–about two minutes from the door, somebody was pawing at my boots. Yikes! It was only down the terror-hill from there, as I was pawed, shoved, screamed at and thoroughly horrified for the next twenty-or-so minutes. It was an incredibly intense experience that managed to be fun at the same time. There’s not a lot of classic monster themes on display–this is mostly New School horror inspired by 80s slasher films and flicks like “Saw” and “Hostel,” neither of which are in my Cinematic Greatest Hits, but both of which manage to inspire kickass haunted attractions. Expect lots of blood, loud screaming, and gruesome sights inside the House, along with classic carnival effects like the spinning tunnel and blackout rooms.

If you find yourself in the New Orleans environs this Halloween season, I can’t recommend a trip to the House of Shock enough! They’re open on weekends starting at 7pm and running till midnight. I can imagine this place is going to get packed later in the season, as the (extremely, awesomely nice and thoroughly wonderful) police officer who was working security duty was telling us that there are live performances and all kinds of goodies planned.

TRUE FACT: 100% of House of Shock employees surveyed agree that the Tenebrous Hair smells good. Yes, they get That Close. Eeep.

BONUS POINTS: They sell food at the House, including a dish called Satan’s Hot Sausage. I offer this fact to you sans-comment.

Happy Birthday to Me

A lot of important things have happened on October Fifths in History. Of utmost importance to me is the Tenebrous Birthday–namely, the Thirtieth Tenebrous Birthday which is taking place today. I will assume that you are celebrating my birthday today instead of any of these less-awesome events:

Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do while celebrating my birthday, OK?