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by Bill Gibron

13 Oct 2006

It is safe to say that, among the movies made in that defining cinematic decade of the ‘70s, The Other is one of the best—a near-flawless example of tone and storytelling melded with wonderfully effective material and meaning. In the hands of Academy Award nominee Robert Mulligan (responsible for To Kill a Mockingbird and Summer of ‘42, among many others) and adapted by actor-turned-writer Thomas Tyron from his own best-selling novel, this paranormal period piece about psychologically unsound twins takes elements of The Bad Seed and twists them into an amazing American Gothic. It utilizes the recognizable realities of an old-fashioned family in the middle of a picturesque, pastoral setting and then scans the surfaces for the ugly underneath.

Eventually, we start to see the horrors hiding behind the antique old-world gentility, Like all great genre efforts, The Other uses a familiar foundation—in this case, a child’s reaction to death and other domestic strife—to forge a significant supernatural pathway. Tyron wants us to see the unsettled state of youth and how it can easily, and eerily, turn over to the dark side. Through an expert maintenance of atmosphere and action, along with a directorial flair that never telegraphs the tricks or overemphasizes certain elements, we wind up with a significant motion picture masterpiece, a missing link in the growing maturation of the overall genre.

This is not a rock ‘em, sock ‘em shocker however, even without its delicious third act denouement. No, like the slowly decaying portrait of Dorian Gray, Mulligan and Tyron use the idyllic backdrop of the Perry estate—all Victorian flounce and spreading countryside—and slowly begin to peel back the paint. Soon, evil is uncloaked in the secrets being stored inside—all the dead bodies, all the shattered souls, all the unspoken horrors. One of the most successful elements of The Other is its perfectly paced storytelling. Mulligan never rushes his reveal, never hurries his delicate horrors. Instead, he moves us through this summer of suffering and has us in the palm of his knotty narrative right from the start.

We are intrigued by the presence of a mother pining away in her self-imposed exile, of the fruit cellar where father died, the grouchy neighbor hinting at the devilment contained inside the twins, and the odd symbiotic siblings who seem carved out of one complete identity. Setting each one of these inherently interesting pieces inside his jaded jigsaw, Mulligan makes us care about the characters and the circumstances first. Then, once he has us hooked, he is more than capable of turning the suspense screws. A literal reflection of the personal fears onscreen, The Other is so magnificently moody that future filmmakers should study it for lessons in how to create, and control, angst and dread.

That’s because, at its heart, The Other is a film that uses calm and ease to manage corruption and evil. Its story is a symbol of both sides of the human personality, in ways both obvious (the twins) and less iconic (the mother’s madness, Ada’s affection). While it does trade on substance that is both stereotypical (the bad-seed brother) and surreal (the “game” that the boys and Ada play), this masterful horror film never once loses its amazing, frightening focus. We feel the cold hand of destiny enveloping the Perrys in its vice-like (and filled) grip. We sense the damaging truths lying just beneath the frilly lace and country quaintness. Victims make themselves known from the moment we lay eyes on them—they pretend to see beneath the surface and must pay the ultimate price for doing so.

Yet the villainy here is varied—in the eyes of a child, the lost look of a fractured mother, the acquiescing affection of an elderly grandmother. Some or all play a part in the death surrounding The Other’s often ordinary elements. When we get to the telling twists—made a little less effective because of time and familiarity, not anything inherent in the movie—we feel somewhat vindicated for our suspicions. Then The Other takes another, more mean-spirited step and, suddenly, all bets are off. The final shot fulfills all the promise only hinted at during the rest of the film, and makes us reconsider everything that came before.

by Bill Gibron

12 Oct 2006

Though at first glance it may not appear to be true, it really is a celebration of foreign films this weekend on your favorite movie channel. Three of the four entries discussed in this installment of Viewer Discretion Advised come from people and places outside our own broad borders. Granted, two were made by Canadians and one is an Aussie export, but the outsider mentality is still strong in this interesting creative collection. As a matter of fact, when placed up against the sole bit of America motion picture making on the schedule, us Yankees look pretty pathetic. Between terse looks at the horrors of human hostility and the ways in which stardom breeds contempt and corruption, a dopey little actioner about genetic engineering doesn’t stand much of an aesthetic chance. Perhaps it’s proof that, when it comes to exploring the extremes of cinema, international contingents have a better handle on the difference between art and artifice. For those interested in what’s cooking on those preeminent pay stations for the week of 14 October, here are the choices:

HBOThe Island

One of 2005’s biggest debacles, here was a typical high concept action movie that didn’t really live up to expectations. Godfather of the gauche epic, Michael Bay, may have thought he could fool film fans with his high tech retread of Parts: The Clonus Horror, but by casting the frequently flat Ewen McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, this sterile sci-fi film was guaranteed never to quite take off. If you can get through the cheesy first hour, filled with way too much sloppy future shock speculation and Big Brother bullshit, you may actually enjoy yourself. Heck, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night than with a superficial serving of speculative silliness. Besides, no one knows action better than Bay. Sister station Cinemax has had this flawed, bloated pseudo-blockbuster plastered all over its channels for the last couple of months. Now its time for those only privy to Home Box Office to experience this serving of entertainment entropy.(Premieres Saturday 14 October, 8:00pm EST).

PopMatters Review

CinemaxA History of Violence

One of last years’ best films came from one of the industry’s most unusual cinematic sources – Canadian horror hero David Cronenberg. Who would have thought that the man behind such philosophical splatter fests as Rabid, Scanners and Videodrome would take some graphic novel source material and turn out a searing crime drama featuring fascinating performances by Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, William Hurt and Maria Bello. This is a movie that’s as brutal in its emotions as it is in its title bloodshed, with secrets revealed, true selves unmasked and homespun wholesomeness soiled and sullied. Though never as flashy or flamboyant as his work in films like The Fly, eXistenZ, or his adaptation of William Burroughs’ classic novel Naked Lunch, Cronenberg’s camera is still stellar, painting a near perfect portrait of the potential evil lurching inside the heart of Middle America. Not since David Lynch’s masterful Blue Velvet has small town life seemed so sinister. (Premieres Saturday 14 October, 10:00pm EST).

PopMatters Review

StarzWolf Creek

Heavily hyped upon its release to theaters, this Australian horror film never quite connected with audiences. Granted, it’s gritty low budget leanings may have turned off fright fans used to the gloss of the mainstream movie macabre, and the narrative does borrow liberally from other cruel classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Hostel. But with its “based on true events” tagline, and gratuitous influx of gore, what should have been a sleeper hit instead just calmly came and went. As part of Starz’s 24 hour terror marathon (starting on Friday 13 October with the channel’s documentary on the slasher film) the small screen may be the perfect place for this overlooked effort. In the comfort of your own home, the intense atmosphere of dismay and eventual unrelenting violence may seem less shocking. One thing’s for sure – the Down Under tourist boards can’t be happy about the impression this film offers.  (Premieres Saturday 14 October, 9:00pm EST).

PopMatters Review

ShowTOOWhere the Truth Lies

What if the break up between Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, history’s most famous and popular entertainment duo, was driven by elements other than ego? What if there was a nasty secret between the pair, a secret shrouded in murder, and a massive cover-up? This is part of the premise for Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of Rupert Holmes’ novel centering on the ominous reasons behind the split of a fictional comedy act. With Kevin Bacon assuming the Lewis role and Colin Firth essaying a real Rat Pack composite, the acting is excellent. Unfortunately, many found Egoyan’s tone at odds with the narrative’s more darkly comic elements. And some may still be put off by the film’s unrelenting reliance of sex to sell its sleaze and subtext (the movie was originally rated NC-17, before edits). Still, for a drama with a decidedly different bent, this is one of last year’s lost treasures. (Saturday 14 October, 10:00pm EST)

PopMatters Review

Seven Films, Seven Days

For October, the off title idea is simple – pick a different cable channel each and every day, and then find a film worth watching. While it sounds a little like an exercise in entertainment archeology, you’d be surprised at the broad range of potential motion picture repasts in the offing. Therefore, the third sequence of seven films featured this week includes:

14 October - Mystery Train
Jim Jarmusch’s triptych take on the King is both boldly original and oddly effecting. Besides, any film featuring Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is all right in SE&L’s book.
(Flix – 10PM EST)

15 October - Primer
Four friends develop a device which may or may not be some sort of time machine. The implications, or the lack thereof, become the basis for this fine low budget effort. 
(Movie Channel – 9:45PM EST)

16 October - Basic Instinct (Edited Version)
Another entertaining exercise in editing courtesy of those crackpots over at American Movie Classics. Only slightly better than the CGI bikini and bottoms of VH-1’s censored Showgirls.

17 October -The Misfits
Clark Cable. Marilyn Monroe. Eli Wallach. Montgomery Clift. Arthur Miller. John Huston. Enough said.
(Encore Westerns – 8PM EST)

18 October - The Magnificent Ambersons
If you failed to catch this flawed Orson Welles masterwork when it was part of a day long celebration of star Joseph Cotton, now’s the time to take a look.
(Turner Classic Movies – 8PM EST)

19 October - Dune
David Lynch takes on one of sci fi’s most beloved novels, and delivers his own unique take of speculative fiction. Not to be missed.
(Movie Plex – 8:45PM EST)

20 October -Deep Blue Sea
Want proof that Samuel L. Jackson can elevate even the lamest cinematic premise. Along with LL. Cool J, our man Sam saves this ‘Smart Sharks in an Underwater Laboratory” lunacy.
(TNT – 11PM EST)

by Bill Gibron

11 Oct 2006

As part of a month long celebration of all things scary, SE&L will use its regular Monday/Thursday commentary pieces as a platform to discuss a few of horror’s most influential and important filmmakers. This time around, the considerable career drop off of one-time horror maestro John Carpenter.

While he’s not the most historically important horror meister to fall from genre grace in recent years (that title belongs to Tobe Hooper) John Carpenter is still considered by many cinematic scholars as the best example of hit or miss moviemaking that macabre has to offer. After a sensational start with Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13, his homage to Hitchcock, a sensational slice and dicer entitled Halloween, put him at the forefront of the fright flick community. So successful was his reinvention of the slasher film (which would later go on to dominate the latter part of the ‘70s and most of the ‘80s) that his next films were anticipated as heavily as a rock star’s next album. But when those titles finally arrived, they appeared to betray Carpenter’s considered creative start.

The Fog (1980) was the first indication that something was wrong with the newly named Post-Modern Master of Suspense. After a TV thriller entitled Someone’s Watching Me! (a starring vehicle for the director’s then significant other, actress Adrienne Barbeau) and the equally evocative Elvis biopic (featuring the filmmaker’s first collaboration with Kurt Russell) a New England ghost story that tried to mix folklore, atmosphere and gory killings just didn’t come together as a solid cinematic whole. While certain moments shined, other aspects felt silly and superficial. This concept of incompleteness continued with the director’s next two films – the action epic Escape from New York and the October 31st revist Halloween II. Though only a producer and writer on the Michael Myers misstep, it was an example of the sort of sequel that almost destroys the source material from which it was derived. With New York, the ideas were more engaging than the execution, with some of Carpenter’s more novel inventions lost inside some sloppy speculative fictionalizing.

With 1982’s The Thing, Carpenter seemed reinvigorated and ready to pile on the blood bathing. This seminal scare fest, complete with some of the ‘80s best geek show effects, proved that the fear facets of the director’s dynamic were still in place. Even after a string of genre-defying efforts – the killer car coming of age flick Christine, the intergalactic romance of Starman, the chop suey surrealism of Big Trouble in Little China – it appeared the faltering of a few years back was mostly over with. Unfortunately, the studios didn’t see it that way. Looking at the basic box office returns for his last few films (and not their noticeable artistic merits) Carpenter was set adrift. He would have to get independent financing to film his last legitimate masterpiece, 1987’s Prince of Darkness off the ground, before then slipping into a kind of befuddled b-movie bog.

Like The Fog before, They Live (1988) marked the second, and sadly, final fall from grace for the filmmaker. As a political commentary, Carpenter struck a chord that was wickedly witty and scathingly satiric. Unfortunately, he saw fit to place the perfectly pedestrian wrestler turned actor Rowdy Roddy Piper in the lead. Instead of finding a legitimate actor to imbue his alien invasion narrative with the proper combination of brains and brawn, he let the acting amateur attempt to carry the entire film on his matt flattened shoulders. It didn’t work. Soon, Carpenter was slipping further. While the effects were sensational, Memoirs of an Invisible Man was another incredible stumble. Another failed performer – in this case, a no longer ready for ANY time Chevy Chase – destroyed the quasi-clever take on the classic unseen fiend film.

It was definitely all downhill from there. Aside from the made for cable TV macabre of Body Bags, Carpenter helmed no less than five full blown failures over the last 15 years. In the Mouth of Madness was an attempt to recapture some of his Prince of Darkness pride, but it ended up being so confusing that it turned off audiences. His remake of the seminal ‘60s British horror film Village of the Damned also had its moments, but never really came together in any of the ways the original did. Escape from L.A., Vampires, and Ghosts of Mars were all good ideas (Snake Plissken returns, James Woods as a cynical beast buster, and spectral possession on an interplanetary level, respectively) but none made a major splash with fright fans. With the exception of two installments of Showtime’s weak Masters of Horror series, Carpenter hasn’t been behind the lens of a major motion picture in the last five years. 

With such a rollercoaster ride in popularity, as well as with his lax presence within the horror realm, one has to ask why Carpenter has fallen victim to such a seemingly fickle fear fanbase. Granted, his newest movies are much more anticipated than those of Tobe Hooper, or even someone still viable like Wes Craven. In addition, his resume reads rather well, with the now considered classics The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness vying for space between cult favorites like Escape from New York. But there must be more to the lack of respect his recent efforts have received, as well as his continuing creative downward spiral than Internet arrogance and the rabid reconsideration of his canon.

Truth be told, Carpenter’s problems begin internally. He is one of the few horror directors who must also be completely hands-on in most of his movie’s production aspects. He usually composes the scores, and always takes part in the screenplay. This may be his artistic Achilles Heel. Worrying over the musical backing for a particular scene or how a character or situation will develop over the course of a film may end up spreading his aesthetic too thin, especially when you consider he must then direct the material he’s been busy overseeing. Even his heralded predecessor Hitchcock only handled one aspect of a movie’s making – the mise-en-scene. No one is complaining about his hyphenated happenstance in efforts like Halloween or Prince of Darkness. But it seems strange that grand concepts like They Live can come across so limp onscreen.

Another possible problem stems from something called the Entertainment Extremes. Carpenter’s good movies are so good, and his bad films are so horrible, that his status becomes a clear case of what the aficionados remember best. Such a lasting impression can definitely stain an overall reputation, and when viewed in this light, Carpenter’s successes are seen as several decades old. His latest run of films have all underperformed both creatively and commercially, so that when someone does consider the director, they tend to view his better days as far behind him. As the horror history books continue to be rewritten, Carpenter becomes more and more of a founding father and less of a current component of modern macabre.

It doesn’t look like things will be getting better anytime soon. The 58 year old is next scheduled to take on a project called Psychopath, which is supposedly based on a video game (strike one) and purports to be another in a long line of lame serial killer/FBI profiler films (strike two). With the messageboards already a buzz that this is a bad move for a favored filmmaker, and a Rob Zombie helmed revisit of Halloween in the works (an indirect strike three) we may be looking at the last vestiges of a once vital movie magician. No one is writing Carpenter off completely – his oeuvre is too overpacked with potential to toss it aside forever – but it does look like a once prominent personality is falling further and further down the horror hierarchy. Here’s hoping he recovers before reaching rock bottom. After all, Tobe Hooper has the utter has-been angle covered quite well.

by Farisa Khalid

10 Oct 2006

From the User’s Guide to Indian Films Intro

The movies described in the User’s Guide are the hit list of Indian cinema. They’re not only the best films of all time, but they give you the best glimpse of what Indians enjoy, their sense of tragedy and comedy, their aspirations, their regrets. In short, it’s a visual chronicle of Indian society in the last 50 years. Enjoy.

Fire (1996)/ Earth (1998)/ Water (2005)
Color, Hindi
dir: Deepa Mehta
Inspired by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs Trilogy, Deepa Mehta set out to make three films that would provide an unsparing look into the hypocrisies of Indian society.  Fire and Water concerned such thematically controversial topics as lesbianism and abuse of both the lower castes and women that they are still banned in India. Mehta forces contemporary India to explore they ways in which it justifies oppression and inequality, all in the name of religion. Narratively, Fire tells the story of a young woman trapped in a loveless arranged marriage who finds an emotionally and physically fulfilling relationship with her elder sister-in-law. Earth takes us to Lahore just before the traumatic 1947 partition of India and Pakistan and shows us the chaos of people being uprooted and displaced, and how generations of friendships forged between Hindus and Muslims, overnight, transform into murderous hatred as the city erupts in communal riots. Water, the final film in the series, casts light on the struggle of poor Hindu widows abandoned by their families to live a life of celibacy in overcrowded ashrams. All three films demystify the sacred values that Indians hold family, love, homeland, and identity. They give us a glimpse of all the insidious compromises and sins we are willing to commit in the name of duty and faith.

by Bill Gibron

9 Oct 2006

It’s a veritable smorgasbord of selections this week at the local brick and mortar. As Halloween quickly approaches – at least in the eyes of shopping malls, department stores and TV networks – and the season of fear fires up, the scary movie reissues are still riding roughshod over the product produced within the last year. If you look hard, however, you’ll find one of the summer’s more perplexing productions – a comedy which lifts many of its more meaningful elements from Frank Capra instead of the lead actor’s typical Three Stooges style. Even more confusing, this past blockbuster season saw an American master with a set of razor sharp satires and intelligent experiments to his name deliver a light little homespun confection that many found so sweet that it was almost dramatically disheartening. Still, with the pagan demonology dense and the old slasher cinema reinstating its importance to the genre, a fan can literally gorge themselves on anthologies, limited editions and collector’s sets of long beloved cinematic splatter. So grab your already gutted wallet and wander into a favored retailer for the selections available on 10 October, such as:

Starting off high concept and only rarely venturing into the low brow, Click represents a kind of career stepping-stone for the superstar Sandler. Getting to the point, age wise, when his goofy fratboy foolishness stops looking hilarious and begins feeling pathetic, this family farce tried mightily to move in directions the comic never before considered. Some found its third act lapse into Frank Capra-esque schmaltz awkward and poorly realized, while others argued that it worked well within the complicated narrative the actor was attempting. Indeed, Click is more than just a remote control gimmick – it’s every man’s middle aged crisis come to life, complete with the ability to live through it all in just a few fast forwarding moments. Sure, the ending is a tad pat, and most of the ancillary cast is wasted in ways that only add to the overall uneven feel of the film, but with Kate Beckinsale actually providing the heart that’s missing from most of the story, we are more than willing to forgive, forget and enjoy.

PopMatters Review

The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology*
Though it contains such sloppy sequel missteps as The Exorcist II: The Heretic and both Renny Harlin and Paul Schrader’s unnecessary prequels, there are still three good reasons to consider picking up this sell-through priced package - the original film, its equally compelling DVD redux, and the underrated third installment helmed by author William Peter Blatty himself. As an exercise in horror, The Exorcist stands as one of those true genre rarities – a narrative that plays successfully in both the realistic and supernatural realms. As an everyday tale of a mother’s fear over losing her daughter to the unknown forces of maturity, the drama is dense and detailed. As a religious based diatribe on how evil lurks deep within the heart of even the most innocent child, it’s a true terror knockout. No other director before or since had William Freidkin’s talent for taking the fantastic and framing it within the ordinary. Blatty’s return to the more normalized nature of wickedness was welcome, but for sheer shock value, stick with the original – and the included digital re-edit featuring the infamous ‘spider walk’ scene.

The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition
Just a week after revisiting the confirmed classic The Little Mermaid, Disney drags out this uneven effort from 1981 – when the studio was sinking in a 2-D animation quagmire – and tries to give it the masterpiece polish of its other films. Thankfully, no amount of added content can correct the problems inherent in this syrupy, saccharine story. Without giving away much, let’s just say that these natural enemies who become pals in childhood are forced to face each other later on when the naiveté of youth no longer allows them the ability to be free of judgment or instinctual response. Though the novelty of seeing – or in this case, hearing – Kurt Russell return to his House of Mouse roots might be draw enough for some, the badly rendered animation and depressing core concepts might lead a few wee ones to whine about the lack of wholesome fun usually associated with a work from Uncle Walt. Many still view this feature as a fine effort from a mostly new guard of young Disney staffers, yet it seems stiff and dull compared to the masterful films that were a mere five years or so away.

Hail Mary*
Considered by critics to be Jean-Luc Godard’s last great film – or biggest blasphemous abomination, depending on whom you survey – this reworking of the birth of Jesus and his equally holy mother is definitely different. With the mad scientist of the French New Wave firmly in control of his cinema subverting mannerisms – odd cuts, sequences of stilted surreality, parallel plotting – and a post-modern appeal that updates the Bible to the back streets of Paris, what should be significantly sacrilegious manages to capture the concepts of faith and belief better than any preachers sermon or authentic ‘Gospel’ recreation. Many will be surprised at how funny and uniquely human it all is while others will marvel at how the master of motion picture deconstruction actually makes his massive experimentalism work. Once baby Jesus is born and starts acting like a miniature messiah however, all bets are off. Still, for the purely hypnotic visual trance that Godard can apparently fashion in his sleep, this is one of his most arresting and engaging efforts.


A Prairie Home Companion *
It doesn’t seem like the most promising combination – the king of deadpan communal comedy, Garrison Keillor and the master of multi-character narratives, Robert Atlman, collaborating on a film version of the radio icon’s famous show. But by all accounts, the 81 year old auteur has delivered another of his stunning studies of human frailty supported by Keillor’s simple, homespun humor. Using a moc-doc sort of format (the film follows the fictional final show for Prairie‘s cast and creator) and interlocking stories that seem to slowly merge into a standard Altman interpersonal infinite, what could have been harsh and critical becomes soft and whimsical, especially in the hands of a true cinematic artist. Thanks to bravura turns by Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones and Keillor himself, this behind the scenes look at the individuals who come together to deliver a weekly radio repast is, perhaps, not one of Altman’s confirmed masterworks, but it does prove far more potent than most of the mediocre movies that came out this year.

PopMatters Review

Style Wars & Style Wars Revisited*
Many love the music and the cultural lifestyle, but few are probably aware of the connection between rap, hip hop, break dancing and graffiti. The art of tagging, or marking one’s territory with paints and symbols as a warning to others, is as old as ‘50s greaser gangs. But thanks to the ‘70s malaise that drowned New York in a sea of underprivileged and lost youngsters, the notion of vandalizing the subway cars late at night, mostly with brightly colored and artistically designed derivations of one’s name, became a symbol of status in a reality brazenly bereft of same. This concept of citywide acknowledgement and respect soon became a substitute for violence and brutality, with kids using their spray can skills instead of their fists to settle scores. As this amazing documentary (now reissued with a new film revisiting the scene) shows, once music caught up with the whole graffiti underground, it wasn’t long before scratchin’, dancin’ and rappin’ became the new tools of trade for those looking to escape their situation. Today it’s all so commercialized and compromised. Want to see the reality of a revolution before it was corrupted by corporations? This is the place to start.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2: Two Disc Gruesome Edition*
You think Michael Bay took a beating when he announced his remake of the seminal ‘70s scarefest, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? You should have heard the howls when original Chain Saw creator Tobe Hooper announced that he was about to direct a sequel to his power tool classic. And even worse, he intended it to be a social satire. The collective groans from the horror hopeful were almost as loud as Leatherface’s favorite limb cutter. Surprise, surprise, Chain Saw II was a regular revolting hoot, a movie mixing Tom Savini’s vivisection F/X with Dennis Hopper’s mad Method acting turn as a vindictive relative of the original film’s victims. There was even a crackerjack comic performance by Sawyer cook Jim Siedow. Though heavily edited to earn the necessary “R” rating mandated by Cannon heads Golan and Globus, this rip roaring Tejas two-step was still a nasty, novel take on the entire Saw mythos. Some find it sloppy and uneven. Others argue for its place right alongside its far more serious sister film. Thanks to a brand new special edition DVD release from MGM, now’s the time to settle this bet between the divided devotees once and for all.

And Now for Something Completely Different

In a weekly addition to Who’s Minding the Store, SE&L will feature an off title disc worth checking out. For 10 October:

Santa Claws
John A. Russo, one of the collaborators/masterminds behind Night of the Living Dead (along with George Romero), has long tried to destroy his reputation by creating a series of incredibly bad b-movies (Voodoo Dawn, Midnight) and starting a surreal series featuring schlock actresses in various states of undress (many going under the Scream Queen moniker – Scream Queen Swimsuit Sensations, Scream Queen’s Naked Christmas). So should we expect anything better from this sophomorically titled treat trading on the taboo topic of a nasty Noel? Even with the amazing Debbie Rochon in the lead, and a certifiable whack job dressing up like Kris Kringle to thrash his victims with a handy dandy claw, this still could be an example of bottom feeder bait and switch. You know – sounds good on paper and in summary, but barely works as a narrative once the celluloid starts to unfold? Anyway, SE&L will just side with the lovely Canadian cult actress at the center and avoid Russo all together. With his money mad hands all over the Dead DVD in which new footage was inserted to pad out the masterpiece’s marketability, he deserves to be ignored.

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