The first most cooelest Halloween mix for kids EVER …
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week
Wake Wood (2011)
While a quick glance at the plot synopsis might remind one of Pet Sematary, Wake Wood, has more in common with Don’t Look Now and the (original … obviously) Wicker Man. A surprisingly violent opening, in which a young couples’ little girl is mauled to death by a dog (!), sets the stage for what you’d expect to be far more heavy-handed and brutal a movie than what actually follows.
The guilt-plagued veterinarian father and his ceaselessly grieving wife move away from the scene of their gruesome loss to a waaaaay out-of-the-way rural community where the townsfolk seem to live a simple, pleasant life despite that suspiciously wicker-man look in their eyes.
While they try to blend with their new surroundings, Mom hears it suggested that someone in this quaint little village can bring the recently dead temporarily back to life. It’s supposed to create an opportunity for families and loved-ones to savor a few more days — 3 to be exact – and say one last proper good-bye. It truly does “take a village” to keep a secret this big and when the grieving mother actually gets an eyeful of evidence that this is more than a local legend, she becomes hell-bent on getting her daughter back, despite possible consequences. (Dun-dun-duuuuuhn!)
To their credit the suspicious villagers may actually have some sort of magical and wonderful gift that would be better fodder for fantasy than horror if not for the dumbass out-of-towners who bust in and break what I’m guessing are ancient rules. It appears that in most cases, their bring-em-back-alive parties go off without a hitch. The whole town gathers to watch a once dead person emerge from a recently dead person (– which could have been shot better, as it happens.) There’s no Pet Sematary-esque “soured ground,” or sinister motives behind the townies who perform the ritual. As long as you follow the rules (Dun-dun-duuuuuhn!), you get a loved one back for a bittersweet three-day reunion. But there ARE rules and that’s when the killer kid part of the story kicks in. So desperate to see their daughter, the parents lie about how long she’s been dead and buried because, evidently, if it’s beyond a few weeks, this is NOT a ritual you want performed. For several reasons.
At first, their bright-eyed little Lazarus is exactly as they remember her; restored to her pre-mauling state and as cute and precocious as ever. It’s all pancake breakfasts, picnics and playtime. But as you may have guessed, bringing your child back to life might make pesky ol’ “rules” seem more than a little cruel.
When it’s time to lead their little darling back to the grave, the parents resist, hoping to leave town with her. Also a mistake, because the longer little Alice stays out of the ground, the more devious and sadistically driven she seems to become.
Wake Wood is not wholly satisfying for many reasons, the first of which being that it’s not all that scary. There are some palpable moments of tension and suspense but a fairly conventional final act keep WW from being a great new Hammer studios classic rather than just a better-than-average horror movie.
However, there is a lot to admire in Wake Wood. I especially enjoyed that the townspeople are not evil as you’d expect – just secretive. Also some early scenes of a drugstore encounter with a confused resurrected teen girl make for a subtly chilly way to introduce your movie’s premise. Overall though, Wake Wood doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the name Hammer and its own first half. It’s worth your time if you’re a horror fan but don’t expect to be wowed. It’s an easy watch, but also derivative and surprisingly forgettable.
The performances are all top-notch, but the characters are underdeveloped. Eva Birthistle (who’s dealt with fucked-up kids once before in 2008’s The Children) almost sells the crazy in a way you can at least pity if not completely understand. You sympathize with their loss and attempt to relate to their desire to raise dead Alice, but have to consider that they must be a little bonkers. Would your average parent agree to a ritual that involves digging up their daughter’s decomposed body so strangers can perform a very goopy, ethically confused resurrection ritual — of questionable origin — on their single offspring’s fresh-from-the-crypt corpse? I have a cat. I have no idea.
**1/2 (out of four)
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week
“Thank Heaven, For Killer Girls” Hall of Fame Inductees … Part II
Angela of Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Angela has a secret.
And if no one has spoiled you yet, you won’t see it coming. That’s what’s great about it. You don’t see it coming because it is incredibly random and one of the greatest what the hell just happened moments in movie history. BUT THEN…after some serious consideration of the plot (because I do that sort of thing), it all makes complete sense and in many ways is a beautifully constructed story; something worthy of…well, maybe just V.C. Andrews, but still. Also, in some ways it represents everything that is ugly about being a child in the 80s. Most of being a child in the 80s was amazing, but sadly we did wear those tube sock.
Angela is cute, withdrawn, shy, aloof and somehow manages to single-handedly turn blank-yet-calculated staring into an art form.
I was already digging Sleepaway Camp, long before its WTF finale, but WHATTA FINALE. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Angela with such amazing … i-don’t-know-what. (-and I refuse to acknowledge the existence of any terrible sequels in which anyone else would try.) Angela is in a category all by herself. A mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in tube socks and 80s camp wear. Angela – you are the reason showing Sleepaway Camp to friends is so much fun. (*Props to my friend Scrappy, who introduced me to SW embarrassingly late into my adult life.)
The Little Girl in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
Dear Little girl in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III:
I don’t remember much about you, but I do remember you, and outside of remembering you and that Ken Forree is also in the movie, I don’t remember much about TCM III. So I guess that says something about you. I’ve heard the unrated director’s cut of this is worth a spin and that could mean you have some really great killer kid moments. Maybe not. But you’re a member of the Sawyer clan and you’re badass enough sit on Leatherface’s lap …
… and that’s close enough.
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week
“Thank Heaven, For Killer Girls” Hall of Fame Inductees … Part I
I don’t really have the time management skills it takes to commit to doing a blog a day for 31 days. And I don’t know why I pretend I am. A busy work week, a weekend visit from the parents and a morning-crippling happy hour were not on the agenda. Life happens and our commitment to something that has no inherent value in and of its self; an endeavor based solely on the misguided notion that people should pause, take time out of their busy day and listen to what I have to say about really important things; things that matter, such as what movies about killer kids would be fun to write about … well, it gets pushed aside. But that’s just an excuse and, hey – that’s blogging, right?
So, there’s that.
But there’s also the fact that I ran out of killer-kid movies I wanted to tell “you” about. I didn’t want to write about the obvious movies like Children of the Corn (which is terrible, by the way), The Omen, Pet Semetary, The Bad Seed, etc. (And if I was going to write about The Exorcist at all, I’d be more interested in blathering on about its bizarre family of sequels and prequels, and none of those qualify as killer kid movies. Nor does the original really, when you consider that mayhem was compliments of thedevilhimself.
For these reasons, instead of a review of another killer kids movie, we can wrap up this half-assedly executed “theme week” with a list of my favorite little girls that kill; (And we’ll spread it across two posts so that it counts twice.) they’re the girls that aren’t necessarily at a movie’s center but leave an impression. Here are two of my four favorites in no particular order:
Little girl zombies are especially effective because they represent the worst that a zombie plague has to offer: sweet children turning into flesh-eating monsters that will stop at nothing to rip you apart even as you try to protect them. In this category two little girls really stand out. Karen is THE face of Night of the Living Dead, her image is iconic and her big scene … quite simply: unforgettable. Not only have we worried for this young girl; bitten in a movie that came out before anyone was really sure what it meant to be bitten — but we’ve also observed her heartbreaking deterioration. “I hurt,” she says. It’s a great line (and it’s what Kyra Schon wrote on the photo she autographed for me at Cinema Wasteland in Cleveland.), and all the more poignant because, well shit…she’s just a little girl. We hurt too, Karen. We hurt too.
And then – boom! – flesh eater. Not only the kind that would eat her own mother, but the kind that hacks Mom up with a garden spade — something that zombies don’t even normally do! — BEFORE eating her guts.
Mom is so frozen in fear, shocked that her sweet Karen would turn on her in this way, that she can’t even find it within her to do something so simply practical as … maybe get out of the way? -as her daughter moves toward her, ever so slowly? -with a spade in hands raised high enough above her head that intent to kill is obvious? You might also want to direct your attention to the fact that she chewed her dad’s entire arm off! Do you know how long that would take with pre-adolescent teeth? This little girl doesn’t do anything half-way.
Anyway, that’s the power of Karen.
Vivian ( Hannah Lochner) from Dawn of the Dead (2004)
She may not have the place in history secured by Karen, but she’s special to me. Not in a “Curly-Sue like-a-daughter-I-never-had” kind of way. But she represents a moment in a movie where you immediately become very glad that you are watching it.
Introduced in a quick establishing scene at the top of the movie, Vivian is literally the girl next door, innocently showing how she can skate backwards now! Moments later she becomes our first real indicator that some time between Sara Polly bedtime shower fuck and dawn, the world went APESHIT!
Why is the little neighborhood girl sneaking around our house in the early hours? Why won’t she answer me? What happened to her-? Oh my God, her face! Oh my God! She ripping my neck out with her teeth, and pouncing around like a rabid pre-teen panther! ARRRGGGGGGurrrgle …
Tah-dah! Welcome to Dawn of the Dead! Get ready for some crazy shit!
Killer Kids Week will resume tomorrow, but a 12 hour work day has left this blogger a little worse for the wear. So instead…Enjoy SATANIC AUDIO FROM THE BLOG LAGOON ARCHIVES!
What we have here are two remarkably strange 70s LPs ripped to mp3; both of which are devilishly insane. The first one is “The Rite of Exorcism” and I can only guess that it was conceived of during the satanic obsession sparked by The Exorcist over three decades ago. Disappointingly, there’s a serious shortage of instructional incantation how-tos here. It’s essentially a story record, but the story supposedly utilizes the actual Catholic rites one would recite during an exorcism. So, grab a pen and paper and listen closely I guess. If you need credibility the good Rev. Patrick J. Berkery, Ph.D’s name is all over it. Whoever that is.
In the same zip file, the other side to that coin: “The Satanic Mass!” — and this one is exactly as advertised. A Satanic … priest (?) … tells you all you need to know about why Christianity is so passe. Better yet he does it in a nasally, decidedly ineffective voice that’s tainted with some regional accent I can’t quite place. (Touches of Boston in there? New England? Who cares!) And it’s all set to music that ranges from what you’d expect to wildly inappropriate chirpy springtime melodies. Outside of that, and the most excellent album cover this side of Danzig, there’s not much I can tell you about this album either. Where it came from, who recorded, when, why?…all mysteries to me.
To give credit where it’s due — by which I mean taking no credit for myself — I did not rip these albums nor do I remember their original download sources. I pick up lots of weird shit from lots of weird places, but I knew these two albums just had to be zipped up and handed over for Halloween. Maybe YOU can pass up two twistedly bizarre devil-themed records, but I sure can’t. So, here you go folks. Download them and have a party. Raise Satan with one album and exorcise him the hell out of there with the next.
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week
Devil Times Five (aka People Toys aka The Horrible House on the Hill) (1974)
The preview for The Devil Times Five popped up on the third volume of the 42nd Street Forever grindhouse trailer compilation and immediately became something I knew I’d need to see eventually. (I mean, look at that killer poster art! With less than three months until Christmas, I don’t mind telling loved ones: I would be moved to tears if I had that logo on a t-shirt. Just sayin’.)
When a small bus of psychotic kids being transferred to a new facility (we think — the movie keeps us in the dark for quite awhile without really rewarding our patience) the five survivors escape into the snowy woods where they find refuge in an alpine vacation house where some dark twisted episode of Love American Style seems to be playing out. From then on out it’s The Bad News Bears meets The Shining as our twisted tots begin to off the adults that have taken them in. Why? So they’re not returned to what must be some sort of pre-teen Cuckoo’s Nest — even though the adults, including a decidedly slim Sorrell (Boss Hogg!) Booke (below) couldn’t seem less interested or concerned about the accident that landed the kids there in the first place. (There’s no talk of looking for other survivors. They simply take the belligerent brats at their word.)
There’s a military-obsessed black kid, a solemn-faced pyromaniac girl, a twelve year-old Leif Garrett who inexplicably dons a wig and drag from time to time, Garrett’s cute, freckled real-life kid sister, Dawn Lyn, and a creepy girl (a dead-ringer for a young Tilda Swinson, I might add) who may or may not be a teen and may or may not be a nun. (We never get a full explanation.)
Within the first half hour we’re treated to some bizarre scenes of the adults behaving strangely: A slutty woman cruelly seduces a retarded guy, there’s a cat fight, and lots of senseless bickering that doesn’t establish anything very plot-worthy. Things liven up a little when the DTFs start spilling blood, but even then we’re subjected to murky cinematography and slow-mo padding that does little to contribute to what’s already terrible pacing. The whole production seems rather slap-dash and it’s obvious where first takes are being used despite bungled line readings and awkward staging. But still — it IS Boss Hogg and it IS Leif Garrett in drag (saying things like “Look what you’ve done to my beautiful face!”).
Adults (who don’t really seem to put up much of a fight) are burned alive; attacked with hatchets, spears and hammers; drown in a bathtub full of piranha; hobbled by bear traps; and slain with inexplicably complicated rigged-up death traps. Whether intentionally funny or not, the soundtrack is inappropriately light and comedic considering the events before us.
For the most part the children are portrayed as either precoscious or downright satanic, but never anything in between. One wonders how filmmakers explained to the parents of the stars that their kids would be shown … well, dragging a naked dead woman through the snow. The film’s sick final scene, in which the dead adults are assembled for “play time” (see the alternate title: People Toys), is the best. Fans of sicko 70s schlock won’t be disappointed, but there are absolutely no genuine scares and I can’t help but feel like there are some great opportunities missed here. But STILL — I did mention Boss Hogg and Leif Garrett — right?
Code Red’s DVD includes some great trailers, commentary with two of the child stars and a poster gallery. The DVD is labeled as The Devil Times Five but the print included uses The Horrible House on the Hill title card. (An alternate opening title sequence is also included in the extras.) Some of the marketing materials rip off Last House on the Left‘s oft-cribbed “it’s only a movie” tag line by modifying it to say: “IF YOU GET TOO SCARED, TRY TELLING YOURSELF: IT CAN’T HAPPEN TO ME … IT CAN’T HAPPEN TO ME … ”
**1/2(out of four)