Written by Jason White.
I have a fond memory of watching the first Jeepers Creepers. It was back in the days when I smoked legally questionable herbs quite frequently. I was pretty high on said herbs when I sat down with a couple of friends to watch this one on my very first DVD player. Yes, it was that long ago.
Anyway, one of the friends I watched the film with was upset that the monster [SPOILER] wasn’t some deranged serial killer. And yet, it was because the monster was an honest to god monster instead of a human that had me. That scene where Justin Long prowls around the Creeper’s lair, with the dying dude wrapped up in a burlap sack and the walls with all the bodies of past victims (disturbingly preserved and stitched together) attached like some unholy cathedral wall painting is a scene that had my full attention. What the fuck is going on? was the question that spun around in my frightened, herb altered mind. (more…)
Written by Michael Schutz-Ryan
Dogtooth is not a horror movie, but its twisted themes and dark storyline certainly warrant a mention here. The 2009 Greek film (and 2011 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film) tells the tale of the sheltered lives of three siblings, whose names are never revealed. A son and his two sisters are held captive by their parents, probably to safeguard them from the evils of the world, but we are never explicitly told their reasons. The absence of the question, “Why?” illustrates the foreign film sensibility that sets Dogtooth a step above the thrillers Hollywood pumps out. The movie knows that the “why” doesn’t matter when the “what” is so compelling.
The film opens with a tape-recorded vocabulary lesson, redefining words indicative of a world beyond the family’s back yard. “Sea” is a leather chair with wooden arms. “Motorway” is a very strong wind. Their routine is comprised of tests and challenges to earn rewards—mostly the honor of choosing the night’s entertainment. One of the most popular choices is videos—simply home movies of the family. The siblings come up with their own twisted games, too. The youngest delights in games of “endurance,” to see who can stand pain the longest.
Dad—the only one to leave the “compound”—brings home a woman, a co-worker, to fulfill his son’s maturing sexual needs. This is followed by a cheery group pose with the woman because the family doesn’t “have one with Christina yet.” Just how long has this been going on? Unsatisfied with the robotic sex, Christina begins to trade petty possessions for cunnilingus with the elder sister. Who then persuades her younger sister to lick her, and a recurring black comedy ensues as the girl takes to licking the elbows, ears, shoulders of her family members. It is one of these trades with Christina that open the elder girl’s mind to the great big world.
Wondering yet how the parents explain the airplanes flying overhead? Or what they say about the discovery of a cat in the garden—a creature the siblings have never seen nor heard of? Let’s just say that they are a deviously ingenious couple.
The film shows us this bizarre family right at their tipping point. The maturing children are beginning to doubt, to question. It is, of course, the son’s sexual awareness that brings in the outsider, and is therefore the catalyst for the final catastrophe. But it is the elder daughter’s plight that we most connect with. She has grown impatient and longs to know what lies beyond the property-enclosing fence.
Revealed with a sort of clinical detachment, the film doesn’t judge these people or events. It presents its own stark reality and allows us to laugh or cringe however a particular scene strikes us. Dogtooth is truly unique, dark, and disturbing, told with the abject realism only found in foreign and indie films. It may not be horror, but anyone interested in the more subtle terrors of the human mind will find much to like with this one.
Four Dweller Heads!
Written by Michael Schutz-Ryan.
When I say “extreme horror,” I’m talking about all those bloody and disturbing movies from Hostel to Flowers of the Flesh and Blood, with all the vile bits of August Underground in between. Tom Six’s sequel to his original The Human Centipede definitely has enough blood and viscera to hold its own against any gore-fest you can think of. But it also features a strong story and a fully realized anti-hero that propels this movie far beyond most extreme horror.
Within the first ten minutes, we are introduced to Tom Six’s artistic elements that elevate this movie. His choice of black and white is a bold statement. It makes the film stark, both ugly and beautiful. And when the blood starts running, the gore is monochromatic black. It’s a bit more palatable that way, though I am sure it is not for the audience’s benefit. It is more a reflection of the unaffected view our protagonist Martin takes of his violence. And the colors remind us not to judge these characters, but rather to see them and their choices as all the shades of grey imaginable.
Martin is an odd, repulsive character that David Lynch himself would be terrified to run into. He’s a crowbar-wielding, goggle-eyed, asthmatic, sweaty, fat, undoubtedly ugly parking ramp attendant. And he never speaks in the film, expressing himself with escalating grunts and piggish squeals. He makes me wonder what the casting call asked for!
The third element that strikes the audience is that in this world, The Human Centipede actually exists as a film by Tom Six. Martin is obsessed with the movie, watching and re-watching on the laptop he takes to work. And at home, he assembles a scrapbook dedicated to the film. The affection he shows for this book is the only loving moments in the entire movie.
Throughout The Human Centipede 2, we are given glimpses and mentions of Martin’s past. His father sexually abused him and landed in jail. Martin’s mother blames him for her husband’s imprisonment and tries to murder her son. And Martin’s psychiatrist is handsy, confiding with a friend that he’d like to fuck Martin, whom he calls “that retarded boy.” These horrendous offenses enlighten Martin’s psychopathy but do not even attempt to excuse it. This film succeeds by neither empathizing nor sympathizing, but rather presenting a blunt portrayal of events.
All these offenses have converged and led Martin to his one ambition: to create his own human centipede. Gone is the static, medically-accurate procedure we saw in the original. There are no tidy sedative injections—Martin simply cracks his victims over the head with the aforementioned crowbar to stun them into submission. And just as would happen in real life, his efforts at centipede construction go horribly wrong. Cutting into a prisoner’s buttcheek produces an overwhelming gush of blood. Martin has no sutures or training, so madly staples his captives in the ass-to-mouth position. And Martin is most interested in the single digestive tract creation, force-feeding the head (Ashlynn Yennie of the original, playing herself) and when unsatisfied with his centipede’s bowel movement progress, injects laxative into the human segments.
The Human Centipede 2 is the most brutal, intense film I’ve ever seen. The gore comes about organically and doesn’t feel rushed or superfluous. It may not have the verisimilitude of Cannibal Holocaust or Grotesque, but its depravity is unrelenting. Once it gets going it never lets up. But most of all, I found it to be a solid film that ranks right up there with Martyrs with its originality, story, and characters.
Four Dweller Heads!
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Welcome to episode 30! This week Jason and Michael sit down to discuss the Kevin Smith movie Tusk.
Music that makes an appearance:
Torquemada 71 by Electric Wizard. It appears on their album Wictchcult Today. Both the song and album are available on iTunes and Amazon and any decent record store.
As a kid and also a teenager, it was typical of me to “fall head over heals” over one of the female members of my peer group, whenever I had a peer group. If I didn’t have a group of friends, I’d fall for the prettiest, in my eyes anyway, girl who sat closest to me in class. Or one I saw most often in the cafeteria. I was an odd child, completely sold by television and Hollywood on the idea of love and all the great things it seemed to promise.
It wasn’t until I had my heart torn from my chest and stomped on (I’d like to add here that there was no real fault in the person who did the tearing–I blame stupid, cheesy movies for that), that I realized the realities of love and loss. Looking back, however, I did fall for some of the most interesting girls. My favourite was a young woman in high school who had a bright red mohawk and wore knee-high Doc Martins. She kicked serious ass and took no shit.
I digress. This post isn’t supposed to be about my stupid, pathetic childhood. No, this is about Night of the Creeps from 1986. This one was written and directed by Fred Dekker, and stars Tom Atkins (who is awesomely funny in parts of this), Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, and Jill Witlow. And, if you watch this one closely, you can see just how pathetic I probably was as a teen.
The story involves two college friends, Chris and J. C., as they try to make friends and, more importantly, get laid. After a brief black and white prologue, which is pretty cool in its fifties popcorn horror movie style, the story opens like an eighties party movie as Chris and JC are at a frat party, where they don’t belong, and Chris falls in love when he sees the very pretty Cynthia from a distance.
He is hypnotized by her beauty. And during the course of the next hour he does nothing but lament his desire for her to dump her asshole boyfriend and be with him.
Oh, and there are alien brain parasites that crawl around the campus throughout the movie. They look and behave like slugs might on meth. Every once in a while, one of these slugs will force its way down the throat of an unsuspecting college kid. As it is a brain parasite, it kills its victim and then controls their body. The “zombie” like creatures then stumble around until the time is right and their heads explode, unleashing a new batch of alien brain parasites into the world.
What this movie has working for it is the comedy. Night of the Creeps does not take itself seriously, and so the audience probably shouldn’t either. The gore is top notch when those heads pop open, and Tom Atkins, who plays an alcoholic cop investigating a murder (his main suspects are Chris and JC, of course), has moments that made me laugh pretty hard.
Overall, I found myself checking my cellphone a lot on this one. Maybe that’s because I’d cringe every time Chris moaned over Cynthia. There is one part where JC tells Chris off and puts him in his place. I had to say bravo, JC. Bravo! My inner child wept pathetically, but adult me was proud.
3 out of 4 Dweller Heads.
Found is a 2012 horror film directed by Scott Schirmer and co-written by Schirmer and Todd Rigney (based on his novel). I was deeply affected by this film and just may be ruined from ever enjoying another movie.
The plot of the film is deliciously simple: a young boy discovers that his older brother is a serial killer and must then battle his inner demons to determine if he is headed down that same path. It is beautifully shot with vibrant colors and clever camera angles to reflect a twelve-year-old’s imagination.
Found is, first and foremost, a study of our protagonist. Twelve-year-old Marty (delicately, intelligently played by young Gavin Brown) is a sensitive, nearly friendless boy, obsessed with horror movies. Actual time and care is spent developing his character. I usually despise voiceovers, but Marty’s intimate conversations with the audience suck us right into his stream of consciousness. Though I haven’t read it, I suspect the novel is the major influence in these lines. The effect is that the audience becomes Marty’s only true friend.
As we are now allied with Marty, the subplot of bullying nails the frustration and cloying loneliness of being the outcast. When Marty’s only on-screen friend forsakes him, we feel the heartbreak. The rationalization of the betrayal is as stark as reality. All the elements click in this scene where Marty takes a slight cue from his brother and dishes out a bit of revenge. And here—just as later when he unleashes on bully Trevor—we rejoice in Marty’s cruelty.
An entire paper could be written on the Headless video Marty finds in brother Steve’s room and watches with his friend. (This movie-within-a-movie was later expanded into its own film by Arthur Cullipher, Todd Rigney, and Shane Beasley, who all worked on Found. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns2U6gXbMFU) This slasher movie is an exercise in envelope-pushing depravity. Not only has it clearly inspired Steve’s murders, but we are strongly led to believe (I think) that it is the video-taped trophy of an actual killer. As sick and twisted as Headless is (and it really is), the genius of it lies in its filming. Scott Schirmer could have called for Gaspar Noé-style ultra realism, but instead went in a direction of slightly more fantastic imagery—which matches the very texture of our movie. Don’t get me wrong, the level of brutality is stunning and doesn’t exactly look fake, but such things as jump cuts and obvious editing clue us into the direction that it is perhaps indie horror gone mad.
The major theme in Found is burgeoning sadism. Marty’s young mind clearly roils in confusion: he’s teased and beat up at school—should he fight back? Is his love of horror movies an early indication that he will end up a killer like his brother? The only thing he never debates is whether to expose his brother. In Marty’s world, that is unthinkable. But is it to protect his idolized sibling, or to disguise his curiosity? And this all begs the question, does “found” refer to Marty finding the heads in the bag, or finding himself?
Found blew me away. This film resonated with me unlike any other I have seen. Perhaps that is because it connected with my personal experiences with surprising precision. In many ways I was Marty. I, too, grew up as the shy, sensitive, picked-on kid, also obsessed with horror movies I was way too young to be watching. And the Indiana landscape of this movie was an easy substitute for my own small-town Wisconsin home. Or perhaps it is because this is a genius film, presenting an unfiltered, unapologetic view of a young boy facing very adult situations. With a button ending that perfectly caps this empathetic thrill ride. I cannot recommend this film enough.
Anyone listening to the Darkness Dwells podcast should know by now that I’ve taken on a co-host. His name is Michael Schutz-Ryan, and he is the writer of the novel Blood Vengeance. I chose Michael because of a few different conversations we had about horror movies, especially the day he messaged me over Facebook to see if I had seen the movie Tusk or not. I have seen it, so we discussed what we both felt were strengths and weaknesses of the movie, which somehow led to our discussing a mutual love for Rob Zombie films.
As he’s been on the show before, I knew we could talk without any real barriers. In short, we get along just smashing!
My plans for the blog, however, do not end with Michael, though. I want to grow the Darkness Dwells blog into a small network of writers where we review horror movies and books and, more importantly, become a massive news source for horror literature, including reviews, release dates on novels, interviews, and whatever else our imaginations can conjure. This will create a need for a website makeover sometime in the future, but hey, this blog is now a year old. It took me this long to find Michael, so let’s take it one step at a time. Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.
As for the podcast, I think Michael and I will do just fine as we discuss the macabre on the big screen of moving pictures.
What it comes down to is that I’ve had big plans for the blog, which includes the podcast, from day one. I want to share my love of horror literature and movies with the world. I also would like to create a place online where people can go to get the latest on horror literature news.
This will probably take some time, so if you’re getting excited I suggest you have a beverage and take a deep breath. Patience will be of virtue here.
So, please welcome Michael aboard as the first team member of Darkness Dwells. He’s an awesome writer and a great dude to talk with. And thanks,
Michael, for your enthusiasm and input. It will be fun, I’m sure.
How does one go about describing a movie like Tourist Trap, never mind reviewing it? This movie is like another example of David Lynch chewing on some peyote and then waxing poetic about slasher films (see what I did there, with waxing?). Now, I’ve seen my fair share of fucked up movies, I do love horror movies after all, the stranger the better, but 1979’s Tourist Trap takes the cake.
Or, at least, it comes comes close.
Tourist Trap is directed by David Schmoeller. You might recognize the name from movies such as Puppetmaster, Netherworld, and Crawlspace. While those movies have their place in horror cinema history, again, Tourist Trap takes the cake.
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Join us for this discussion and also the news and some great tunes.
Music is available on iTunes and Amazon and any good record store.
The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie
Satan’s Child by Danzig