Thursday, January 12, 2017

Terrible Tots!

Rug rats, ankle biters, backyard baboons, and a few other terms that now have a double meaning that could label me as culturally insensitive. But we know what I’m talking about: kids. Children. Those little money- and life-sucking poop factories the take up residence in your life or bewilder and horrify you from a distance. You can’t avoid them unless you live in a sealed bunker and never connect with the outside world again.


Still, I’d bet the little bastards would find a way into your bunker. Once that happens, it’s all over for you. Why? Because they are the picture of innocence masking beings of pure evil. You don’t believe me? Well, let me show my evidence.


Evil children have a long history in film. Most people should be familiar with the first major film that dealt with a child of pure and remorseless evil, The Bad Seed. Of course, since it was made during the era of the Hayes Office Motion Picture Production Code, the original ending from both the novel and the play had to be changed so that “crime does not pay”.


Then you have the original Village of the Damned in which an entire town’s female population find they are all pregnant and ultimately give birth to unearthly children who can kill with the power of their minds.


A more recent title would be The Good Son with Macaulay Culkin.


But this now clich├ęd idea has been explored many times in films. Many of the titles I’ll cover may be utterly new to you. Be warned. If you indulge in watching these films, don’t blame me for the chill that runs down your spine the next time you turn to find a child staring through you as if you don’t exist.

The Godsend (1980)
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Not to be confused with the Robert De Niro film with a similar title, The Godsend is the story of a happy family of six (Mom, Dad, and their four children) who decide to be friendly with a very pregnant woman they meet one day during one of their family outings. She repays their kindness by giving birth in their home and then skipping out without so much as a "Thank you", as well as leaving the newborn behind.

The loving parents decide to raise the sweet baby girl. Then their youngest dies while in a playpen with their little foundling, Bonnie. As time goes by, the other children begin dying by way of unusual accidents, and Bonnie becomes more and more possessive of the mother's love.

This is one of those films that would probably pass way under the radar for many modern horror film fans. It has little in the way of scares or blood. Instead, it plays upon parental fears concerning the mortality of their children. The story takes place over a number of years, but the evil nature of Bonnie proves to be a constant threat to the peace and stability of this lovingly family. In a particularly creepy scene, Bonnie finds a way to make sure the father becomes sterile to prevent more children in the family.

To be honest, the family should have realized something was wrong when the pregnant woman, played by Angela Pleasence, set off bad vibes in the household and overstayed her welcome. I guess some people have a higher tolerance for rudeness than I do.



Bloody Birthday (1981)
Directed by Ed Hunt


What could be better than one killer kid? Why, THREE of them, of course! And not just any three kids, but three born at roughly the same time in the same hospital during the same unusual alignment of planets.

They appear to be normal, but they see no harm in killing people, for fun or to hide their deadly after-school activities. Grown ups, other kids, and even their parents make for nice entries in their scrapbook of death. Yup, and these are the kids who will be caring for us when we get older. Comforting, isn't it?

Definitely worth taking a look since it got a decent release on Blu-Ray a couple of years ago. You even get to see Julie Brown, who did "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun", strip down and shake her perky bundles...while her sister collects quarters from the other kids so they can peek through a peephole at the sexy older sister. See? There is just no end to the evil of children.

Oh, and those of you who recognize Jose Ferrer's name in the cast list, don't get too excited. The man has basically two scenes in the entire film. He was just collecting a quick paycheck, or he owed someone a BIG favor.


The Children (1980)
Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
We've gone through 1 kid to three kids, so let's jump to a busload of killer kids. Okay, when you see the movie, you'll realize that the busload consists of roughly 8 kids, at most. Still, more bang for your buck.


The Children tells the story of two bored workers at a nuclear facility who just can't be bothered to complete the proper safety inspections when there's beer to be had at the local bar. Next thing you know, there's a weird yellow cloud floating around and the busload of kids drives through it. Lo and behold, the tykes suddenly have black fingernails and melt anyone they hug, and all the kids want hugs. Lots of them.


Don't get too hopped up. While you get to see a few people get roasted, the movie spends most of its time following around people who are where the kids ain't. Our main characters are the sheriff, some guy whose car keeps breaking down and his pregnant wife, the annoying deputy, and a chatty old lady who runs the local store. In fact, you see way too little of the kids, even as they lay siege to the house of the guy with the crappy car.


The film does include one killing that you don't really expect, lots of hands being lopped off, and a twist that you could have probably guessed less than ten minutes into the movie. Oh, and look for Gail Garnett as the pregnant wife. She had a hit song back in 1964 called "We'll Sing in the Sunshine". This movie is a far cry from winning a Grammy.



Demon Witch Child (1975) (aka The Possessed)
Directed by Amando de Ossorio  
Yes, the director of the classic (depending on with whom you speak) Blind Dead films brings us a rather peculiar rip off of The Exorcist. The leader of a band of Gypsies defiles a Catholic church to steal items for the sacrifice of a baby her group has kidnapped. When the cops catch up to her, she commits suicide during an interrogation. Her followers help transport the old hag's evil soul into the body of the police commissioner's young daughter.


What follows is a bit of a laugh fest, but it does have a very dark opinion of religion and contains a couple of scenes of violence that may leave the audience cringing due to the nature of the acts, not because of the bloodiness. You get the typical scenes of possession with the young girl speaking in the old hag's voice, floating in the air, being tossed around in her bed by unseen forces, a plushy attack, and a nice bit of upside-down wall crawling that would make Spiderman envious.


One of the interesting elements surrounding this movie is the fact that seems to be somewhat openly critical of religion. This being a Spanish film and coming out just as Generalissimo Francisco Franco, president and dictator who ruled Spain for nearly 40 years, was loosening his stranglehold on his country. With the old regime coming to an end, films from Spain began including more nudity and social commentary. This political situation may explain the hostility towards religion, which, in the past, had been a State-mandated obligation.


Politics aside, probably the creepiest thing about this whole movie is the young girl's eyes. They are set so far apart that you almost expect them to move independently of each other, like a lizard's eyes.

The Pit (1981)
Directed by Lew Lehman

Poor little Jamie. He's always being picked on. All of his neighbors think he's crazy. Mom and Dad can't understand why all the women they hire to watch after Jamie tend to leave their employment quickly. After all, Jamie isn't THAT weird, unless you consider having a teddy bear that encourages acts of an anti-social nature and sexual stalking of the town librarian to be weird.

Yes, it's Jamie and Teddy against the world, until the beautiful new babysitter arrives. Both Teddy and Jamie love her, and Jamie even wants to share with her his most prized secret: He knows of a pit where some sub-human creatures live, and he is concerned that they are getting sick because they have nothing to eat.

In-between attempts to express his love/lust for the new babysitter, Jamie tries to feed his furry friends in the pit. He tries buying and stealing meat to take to the creatures, but soon realizes those plans won't work in the long term. What's a troubled young lad to do? Why, Teddy has a great idea: Lure the people who make his life miserable out to the pit and feed THEM to the critters.

The film is a hoot to watch. Jamie is a little creep, yet you somehow end up sympathizing with him most of the time. His adventures in the neighborhood and navigating the rocky path of young love result in many awkward situations that are balanced out some genuinely perverted behavior as well as a rather humorous montage of his leading various people to become pet food.

I will admit that his interest in his babysitter, played by a stunningly attractive Jeannie Elias, is understandable. However, his aggressive sexual fascination with the town librarian does tend to make you less inclined to take Jamie's side. And then we have Teddy, his teddy bear, and its rather dark influence on a boy who is clearly having issues. Is Teddy all in Jamie's head, or does it possess some power of its own? No matter how you slice it, Jamie is not a kid you want to get too close to.


A rather misleading poster for the film

  
Devil Times Five (1974)
Directed by Sean Macgregor & David Sheldon

Our final stop this posting is essentially The Last House on the Left with kids. If none of the others have convinced you that kids can be pure evil, this one should.

We have three adult couples who drive up to a snow-bound remote location for a weekend of both relaxation and business while a rather nice, but simple-minded, workman does all the basic chores for them. Next, we see a horrific accident in which a van goes off the road and rolls down a hill. From the wreckage crawl 5 young children who then set off to find shelter. I think you can guess where they end up.

But, wait. It turns out that the van was from a mental institution, and all five of the children are deeply disturbed sociopaths. Some time later, we see a sixth survivor of the wreck, a mental health worker, who tries to track the kids down before any trouble arises. Unfortunately, he is the first to feel the wrath of the savage little tykes.

The film was originally meant to be titled Peopletoys, which is fitting as kids are prone to break their toys when they play too rough, and these kids are rough with the adults. Hangings, immolation, hatchet attacks, and beatings are just some of the games the kids like to play. The attacks are mostly sudden and cold-blooded. After a killing, the little bastards act like it's a snow day and enjoy themselves pretty much like any other children.

As added attractions, you get a catfight between two very lovely ladies, bunnies, poor attempts at humor, piranhas, and a young Leif Garrett in drag (he makes a rather pretty girl, to be honest). Ultimately, you are left with a very dark, brutal, and bleak film that takes a little bit to get rolling, but once it does, it doesn't ease up. These kids are truly evil.

Some quick trivia: Leif Garrett, who plays David, and Dawn Lyn, who plays Moe, are related as they have the same mother, Carolyn Steller, who happens to play the role of Lovely, one of the adults who face the terror of the tykes. Not many kids are paid to terrorize their parent; it usually happens for free.

Ahh, aren't they just the cutest little mass murders you've met?
To be fair, I have only scratched the surface of films dealing with creepy, evil kids. But this will support my theory that kids are not the kind of people you want to turn your back on. Since I do tend to enjoy movies with evil children, I don't think it is out of the question to return to this topic again in the future. Heck, I could easily do three or more postings on this topic.

Until next time, remember to keep your eyes on any kids. If they form a group and start heading in your direction, for heaven's sake, RUN!!!
 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Momma's Boys and Daddy's Girls -- Grindhouse-style!

The all-time winner when it comes to dysfunctional children in cinema would have to be Norman Bates. The main character in the classic and iconic Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, displays all types of poor coping skills and an inclination to act out which results in hurt feelings and dead people. A poster child for the "This is why I don't want children!" crowd, you might say.

What could have brought poor Norman Bates to such a lowly state? Why, his obsession with his dear, sweet mother, of course! Something about a mother figure that has been messing with boys and their minds since before the days of Oedipus.

Well, Norman isn't the only person who is obsessed with one parent or the other. You have them working beside you. They ride the same bus as you. Sadly, you may have dated/married one of these adult children types. We tend to refer to them by the school ground slurs of momma's boys and daddy's girls as that tends to be the general distribution. Boys willing to do anything to please Mommy, and girls who idolize their Daddy to distorted lengths.

As we aren't on a first-name basis with every human on the planet nor are we intending to do an exhaustive dissertation on dysfunctional children in cinema, let's limit ourselves to a few odd films that may not readily pop up in conversations about momma's boys like the Friday the 13th films. Hopefully these selections will bring greater understanding to you while you puzzle over why your significant other keeps telling you that you aren't half the man/woman that Dad/Mom was.

The Baby 
(1973)
Directed by Ted Post





The Baby is possibly one of the most twisted and under-appreciated films from the 70s sleazy cinema. 

Anjanette Comer plays Ann Gentry who shows up at the home of Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman) stating that she is the new social worker assigned to Mrs. Wadworth's child simply called Baby. The special situation with Baby is that he is a full-grown man who has never "grown up". Baby is played by David Mooney (using the name of "David Manzy").

We find that Baby had been kept in an infantile state by his mother, with the help of her two daughters, Germaine (Marianna Hill) and Alba (Susanne Zenor aka Suzanne Zenor), as well as psychological/emotional torture and a cattle prod. Ann fights for Baby's freedom from torture.

Ruth Roman is a great actress, and she looks like she could win a bar brawl without smearing her lipstick. Having this woman running my life would reduce me to tears and messing in my pants, so Baby is just doing what comes natural. Still, he is a pawn in a strange game being played in this film, and his dear mother is fully in charge of the hometown team.

But why is Ann so obsessed with this family and...The Baby?

Sins of Rachel
(1972)
Directed by Richard Fontaine   



Directed by a man who had previously directed gay-oriented shorts and the film I Am Curious Gay, Sins of Rachel is an odd grab-bag of a film. You have a murder mystery. You have something like a love story. You have another sub-textual theme along the lines of Brokeback Mountain, just without the mountain, cowboys, and bankable star power. You have a sort of coming-of-age story. 

Ooh, and let's not forget lots and lots of ugly clothes and bad acting.

Rachel Waring (Ann Noble) dies right around the beginning of the film. The rest of the film is flashbacks and lots of inept police work. We find that Rachel is rather routinely disliked in her California community. She bedded many men and not all of them were single. Her craving for men extends to her own son, who she attempts to seduce.

Of course, the son, Jimmy (played by Bruce Campbell, but not that Bruce Campbell), is a prime suspect, but can he deal with incest, the death of his mother, AND his growing attraction to his good buddy who always has a place for Jimmy to sleep over?

Yes, they seem to be saying that Rachel's emasculating presence and trashy sexual behavior may have prompted Jimmy to be gay. Just wait until you find out all the answers in this tempest in a tiny tea cup.

Schoolgirls In Chains (aka Girls In Chains, Abducted, Come Play With Us, Let's Play Dead)
(1973)
Directed by Don Jones



You can't go wrong with a title like this. That is, if you're looking for sleazy films about boys still wrapped up in Mom's apron strings and the girls they invite over for play time.

Frank (Gary Kent) and Johnny (John Stoglin) are brothers of the same mother. Johnny likes playing games, and Frank is there to watch out for and help his not-all-there brother. He's so helpful that he picks up playmates for his brother. He even makes sure the playmates stay locked up in the basement, and he patiently tracks down the ones Johnny misplaced or allowed to run away.

Johnny likes to play doctor with his new friends. Oh, there are other games, but playing doctor is the best because the patients have to take their shirts off. All the patients are young women, but it's okay because Momma says so. Just don't break them.

Yup, this one is sleazy and creepy. The highlight of the film is the great flashback scene of Frank attempting to introduce his fiance to dear Mother. You'll laugh: you'll cringe; you'll be glad you didn't grow up in that house.

This one borrows a few tricks from Psycho with a slight sprinkling of Last House On The Left. Yup, sons only a mother could love. Often.

Baby Rosemary
(1976)
Directed by John Hayes (as Howard Perkins)



Just to make it clear, Baby Rosemary is a porn title. 70s porn. Like that excuses everything. Actually, it kinda does. 70s porn films were full of hairy people and hairy crotches, but unlike a lot of recent porn, stuff from the 70s actually tried to have a story. Rosemary has a story full of weirdness and violence and a little girl trying to please her father. 

Remember that description for later. 

Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe) has a steady boyfriend that she allows enough sexual contact to get him going, but then she turns the emotional and sexual ice water on him. She is wanting to live a life that would make her daddy proud of his little princess.

The bulk of the rest of the film is a toss up whether it really happens or if it is a deranged dream. Rosemary ends up in a three-way relationship in which she is raped and beaten. She naturally finds this to be the perfect thing for her. Pleasure and pain in equal measures allow her to enjoy sex and then be punished for enjoying it. I think.

The whole shooting match ends up with an orgy during the funeral for Rosemary's father, and Rosemary plays the cookie all the boys are aiming for in a circle jerk.

Yeah, I don't get it either, but at least it wasn't the same boring pattern of suck-lick-bang this way-bang that way-money shot that we have these days.

Now I sound like I watch a lot of porn. I don't. 90% of porn is boring. At least with the 70s porn films, I have plenty of opportunities to go get snacks while not missing any of the story.

Dream No Evil (aka Now I Lay Me Down To Die, The Faith Healer)
(1970)
Directed by John Hayes



If you are thinking the director of this film sounds familiar, you are correct. John Hayes also directed Baby Rosemary under a pseudonym. He even decided to borrow the basis of this film to create Baby Rosemary.

Remember I told you to remember the description of Baby Rosemary? Insert it here.

Grace McDonald (Brooke Mills) is an orphan who swears her daddy is gonna come for her. One day, Grace is adopted by a kindly lady. We then leap ahead 10 years or so.

Grace has a boyfriend who is studying to become a doctor. She works with his brother, a traveling faith healer (Michael Pataki), in a fire and brimstone sermon that ends with Grace falling into Hell from a 30 ft tower! When her boyfriend drives out to meet them, Grace can't be troubled to spend any time with him as she has a lead on where her daddy might be.

Again, we end up in a film that could be real or could be fantasy. Instead of sex, we get a few nasty killings as people attempt to violate Grace's long-held virginity and/or come between her and her loving daddy.

Gee, can you tell that most of these daddy's girl movies are written by men?

Toys Are Not For Children (aka Virgin Dolls)
(1972)
Directed by Stanley H. Brassloff 



This film is one of those that you see the ending coming not too far into the whole affair, yet, when you get there, you are still floored by what happens. I love a movie that kicks you in the teeth just when you think it's done with you.

Jamie Godard is a grown child. Throughout her real childhood, she listened to her parents attack each other and shout and scream. Her father would leave for weeks, but he always sent her toys to show his love. Her mother would rant about Jamie's father and how he loved his whores and that all men were worthless.

Content with snuggling her toys in inappropriate ways to feel her father's love, the grown-child Jamie works at a toy store where she meets and decides to marry a young co-worker. You guessed it; the relationship tanks due to Jamie's weirdness and zero sex output.

Jamie takes off with a customer who becomes Jamie's friend. The lady is also a call girl. Next thing you know, Jamie is turning tricks and loves it because all her clients treat her like her daddy, giving her gifts and expressing their love for her.

If you don't feel dirty at this point, you'll want to use a wire brush and Lava soap after the ending. Just--wow.

The Witch Who Came From The Sea
(1973)
Directed by Matt Cimber



In our last visit into the world of Daddy's Girls, we go one step darker and one step seedier, if that's possible, in the tale of a father's love that still sends boat-sinking ripples into the lives of two sisters.

Molly (Millie Perkins) lives with her sister and her two nephews. When she isn't working at a local bar, she is fascinated by TV and spends the rest of her time telling grand stories of her father, a great sailor who was lost at sea.

Molly's father loved her very much. He enjoyed playing games like hiding stark naked in the hall closet just so he could surprise little Molly. Then there were those games he liked to play with her under her bedsheets at night.

Molly drinks too much and keeps losing blocks of time. Men she has lusted after begin showing up dead and castrated. And she keeps having these bad memories of Daddy that can't be true because he was always so sweet and loved her so much....

Where did I leave that wire brush?

Blood Song (aka Dream Slayer)
(1984)
Directed by Alan J. Levi



We all remember Frankie Avalon, right? Him and Annette Funicello in all those Beach movies? Showing my age? Okay.

Just trust me, Frankie Avalon was a teen heartthrob back in the early 60s. Spit polished and squeaky clean. He has been married to the same woman since 1963, and they have 8 children.

It's only natural that he would take on the role of a daddy-obsessed psycho who hurts people when he gets cranky. He gets cranky a lot, especially when they get tired of hearing him play the only song he knows on his wooden flute. His daddy gave him that flute and taught him that song. Sadly, he didn't have time to teach him another song because he shot his wife, her lover, and then himself, all in front of poor, young Paul Foley.

Now Paul (Frankie Avalon) has forcibly checked himself out of the psycho ward and is cutting a path towards a young girl (Donna Wilkes)who can see through Paul's eyes when he kills because she received his blood when she was crippled in a accident caused her drunken father. Daddy issues all over the place.

Compared to other films in this posting, Blood Song is almost quaint. Not too sleazy, but you do get a nice shot of young Paul, with a face splattered with Daddy's brains and blood, playing that damned flute because he doesn't know what else to do. Still, it is a nice twist to see the son obsessed with a father who seemed to have actually been a decent person. Well, if you don't count shooting his wife and her lover.



There you go. A few slices of the exploitation pie to keep you off the streets while you ingest them. Be quiet, though. Baby is sleeping.

Remember, if you know a momma's boy or a daddy's girl, don't follow them into a basement, don't let them play with sharp objects, and never, ever, ask them to stop playing that same tune for the 200th time.