LADY FRANKENSTEIN (1971)

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Lady Frankenstein delivers everything you could possibly want from a b Frankenstein flick. Bad makeup effects, corny period costumes, gothic sets, gratuitous nudity . . . this phenomena oozes through the wonderfully grainy 35mm patina.

Directed by Mel Welles (who played Mr. Mushnick in the original Little Shop of Horrors), Lady Frankenstein is a radically different Frankenstein movie. Just when you think you’ve seen what it’s throwing at you, it veers sharply off course.

Dr. Frankenstein, played by a presumable hard-up-for-cash Joseph Cotten (The Third ManShadow of a Doubt), is, you guessed it, experimenting with the reanimation of dead tissue. With the help of Dr. Charles Marshall, played by Paul Muller (you may remember him as the doctor in Vampyros Lesbos), Frankenstein brings a dead body back to life, creating a dangerous monster.

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No surprise there, but things turn to uncharted narrative territory, as the monster kills Dr. Frankenstein seconds after its reanimation. Meanwhile, Frankenstein’s daughter Tania has come to visit her father. Tania, played by beautiful b-movie babe Rosalba Neri, has a morbid fascination with death, and she is as determined as her father to make her mark on the world of dubious medical experimentation. The apple never falls far from the tree, does it?
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While the monster her father created roams around wreaking havoc (most its violent outbursts are directed toward fornicating couples), she decides she’s in love with Dr. Charles Marshall. Well, not quite. She’s in love with his mind, but not his body. She’s in love with the body of a man named Thomas, but not his mind. Thomas is developmentally disabled. Tania convinces Dr. Charles to let her put his brain in Thomas’s body. She is, indeed, so seductive a seductress she can convince a man to kill for her and have his brain transplanted to the dead body he is responsible for. Now, that’s seduction.
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Can Lady Frankenstein realize her strange and lustful desires, or will the angry mob of villagers, outraged by the deaths her father’s monster has caused, stop her dead in her tracks?

You can see, plot wise, Lady Frankenstein ain’t your everyday Frankenstein story. It also distinguishes itself in other ways, with other details. In this Frankenstein story, the monster gets his face singed by the lightning, leaving him to look like a deformed Dom DeLuise. In this Frankenstein story, the monster is so powerful that all he has to do is hug someone, and blood spills from their mouth and they die instantaneously. In this Frankenstein story, the monster runs around in striped, mod rocker pants.

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Lady Frankenstein is recommended to everyone who likes movies with clumsy, jarring cuts—people who enjoy a little charming sloppiness (the overdubbed dialogue has its moments, like when Rosalba Neri is talking, but her mouth isn’t moving). It’s recommended to those who like their Frankenstein flicks a little erotic (eat your heart out Andy Warhol) and for them to have a trippy, would-be avant garde musical score. Do you like movies where the fake blood looks like Ketchup, sometimes cocktail sauce? You better not miss this one.

Overall, Lady Frankenstein is pure, messy b-movie accidental greatness. And the best part . . . it’s public domain. Watch it right here!
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DONATE TO THE HYBRID MOMENTS KICKSTARTER

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Coming this fall is Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits from Weirdpunk Books. It will include a short story I wrote entitled “Prison Food.” Please, if you can, chip in to its Kickstarter, to receive some truly awesome swag. 25 days to go and we’re almost halfway to the goal. The book will be a kaleidoscope of awesome horror and bizarro punk rock insanity.

Thanks, everybody!

So Stoked, Stay Tuned for Weirdpunk Books’ HYBRID MOMENTS: A LITERARY TRIBUTE TO THE MISFITS

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Back in 8th grade I bought the Walk Among Us CD by the Misfits. It remains my favorite punk rock album to this day. So I’m delighted–so fucking felicitous–that my short story, “Prison Food,” based off the final track of said album, “Braineaters,” will be featured in the upcoming anthology, Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits, to be published by Weirdpunk Books. This kickass anthology will be coming out in the fall.

Stay tuned for more details!

YET AGAIN, I FAILED THE OCTOBER CHALLENGE

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I don’t know what it takes to watch 31 horror movies during October, because I can’t do it. I tried last year. I tried years before that.

The October Challenge, which, I believe, originated on the Internet Movie Database’s Horror message boards, asks that you watch 31 horror movies in October. 16 must be first time views and the other 15 you will have seen before.

Here’s what I (pathetically) managed:

*=first time view

  1. The Birds (1963)

I feel safe declaring THE BIRDS to be Hitch’s most out there movie. Legions of birds are turning against humans. Why? No one knows. But my favorite scene is the one where everyone in the coast town’s bar and grill has their own explanation. Absolutely classic.

2. Tales From the Crypt (1972)*

Fantastic British horror anthology film based on the E.C. comics. It’s hard to pick a favorite segment, but the one with Patrick Magee, playing a blind man who leads an uprising against his home-for-the-blind overseer, is the most memorable. Ralph Richardson is wonderfully sinister as the Crypt Keeper. And this film’s twist ending is one of the best ever.

3. Arachnophobia (1990)

A good, creepy, and warm-hearted popcorn movie for all the nostalgic children of the ’90s.

4. 13 Ghosts (1960)*

Another gimmick fest from William Castle in which a family moves in to a creepy old house. The previous owner of the said house collected ghosts as a hobby. Really corny and unbelievable, as the family is so utterly nonplussed by the ghosts. “Golly gee, our house sure is haunted.” Worth it, maybe, for Margaret “Wicked Witch of the West” Hamilton’s performance.

5. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

This one is considered by many to be the best Jason movie. I probably agree. It’s all here in spades: the formula, the terrible dialogue, the gore, the gratuitous nudity. And Corey Feldman takes down Jason in an unforgettable manner.

6. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

So much for The Final Chapter being final. This one tries to break the formula by placing the hatchet fodder–I mean, characters–around a mental asylum. (Hey, kind of like the 3rd Nightmare on Elm Street flick.) The sad thing: this is by far the most formulaic of any of the sequels. Yawn.

7. Warlock (1989)*

Really dumb movie. But, I guess, really entertaining, too. It’s sort of like THE TERMINATOR, but the bad guy comes from the past and not the future and is, well, a warlock and not a cyborg.

8. The Mummy’s Hand (1940)*

A slightly less intelligent sequel to the 1932 original with a lot more archetypal monster movie content. You’ll inevitably shake your head at the casual racism of the day in a few scenes. Tom Tyler makes a great Kharis mummy–maybe even a better one than Lon Chaney Jr.

9. The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)*

Kharis is back, this time played by Lon Chaney. Not the best Mummy movie by any means.

10. Night of the Creeps (1986)

Right up there among the best cheesy horror-comedies of the ’80s. It’s hard not to love this one. Tom Atkins kicks so much ass as a grizzled police detective. “Zombies, exploding heads, creepy crawlies . . . and a date for the formal. This is classic, Spanky.”

11. Madhouse (1974)*

A decent Vincent Price vehicle in which Price plays Paul Toombes, a method actor and horror star who starts to take his roles a little too seriously.

12. 10 to Midnight (1983)*

This is one of the most unintentionally hilarious Golan-Globus-produced Cannon films of the ’80s. It’s a hybrid action/slasher film starring Charles Bronson. Bronson is on the case trying to catch a serial killer who doesn’t wear a mask–he doesn’t wear anything at all, in fact. He’s a birthday suit killer. And Bronson has to crank the DIRTY HARRY formula way up to stop him.

13. Manhunter (1986)

This wonderfully atmospheric adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel, RED DRAGON is, I think, Michael Mann’s finest hour. Its use of noir-like visuals are amazing, and it has perhaps the definitive ’80s horror synth soundtrack. Tom Noonan (ROBOCOP 2, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) is terrifying as the Red Dragon serial killer. You’ll never hear Iron Butterfly’s “In a Gadda da Vida” in the same way again.

14. Starry Eyes (2014)*

The slow burn with a throwback synth soundtrack is turning into a sub genre unto itself, but STARRY EYES, though very much following this trend, is an excellent victim film about the Los Angeles struggling actor scenario going horribly awry. Just when you think there won’t be any gore in this one, it gets piled on heavy.

15. Vampires (1996)

VAMPIRES is John Carpenter’s last totally kick ass movie, filled with gritty action, gore, and dumb one-liners.

16. Housebound (2014)*

This horror comedy from New Zealand follows a young woman on the wrong side of the law who is sentenced to house arrest at her mother’s home, which happens to be filled with baleful secrets. This movie crosses genres quite well, and is chock full of twists and turns.

17. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Craven’s most meta horror movie.

18. Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1980)*

One of those made-for-TV-beyond-the-grave-vengeance flicks.

19. Zombie (1979)

This is, without a doubt, my favorite Lucio Fulci movie, maybe even my favorite zombie movie: melodramatic, corny, eye-poppingly gory, and apocalyptic.

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HONEYMOON (2014)

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HONEYMOON starts out and it’s almost disgusting how in love with each other Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are. As the title would suggest, it’s their honeymoon. They’re newlyweds. They have no shortage of sex to have, of inside jokes and loving horseplay to make. They’re off to Bea’s family’s lakeside cabin to celebrate their new married lives together. At first, as they mosey around half-naked, cook pancakes, swim in the lake, etc., it seems like they’re enjoying pure connubial glory.

A David Cronenberg-esque downward spiral would have to ruin that, wouldn’t it?

Oh, yes.

There’s a white flash in the middle of the night. Some dark force seems to stalk the woods. There’s a childhood friend of Bea’s they run into who’s definitely, definitely not behaving normally. Neither is his girlfriend. Bea’s not known to sleepwalk, either. Well, she’s sleepwalking now. She’s wandering off deep into the woods, too.

When she starts forgetting who she is, when Paul catches her writing down mnemonic notes on her basic identity, it becomes clear: something is up. The slime on a variety of her possessions is strange, too.

Things escalate and escalate to some revolting body horror and Bea finding an eventual “new home” in the heart of the woods.

Like Ti West at his best in THE INNKEEPERS, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and THE SACRAMENT, HONEYMOON is an exercise in the building of tension. Nothing bad happens for so long . . . then . . . blecch. A sense of danger is created out of the initial glaring lack of danger.

So, yes. You have the slow burn approach, which is becoming en vogue again (IT FOLLOWS). This approach works very well for HONEYMOON. Maybe the revelation of the danger at hand isn’t as shocking in this one as it is in the aforementioned West titles, but things still get damn creepy. Your jaw hangs open through the final act. Mine did, anyway. It’s a hell of a climax.

Did I mention it does wonders with its minimal budget? This couldn’t have appropriated funds in accordance with ambitions better.

But what’s great, chiefly, about HONEYMOON is how convincing Bea and Paul’s relationship is. They’re both quite eccentric and fun, and it’s tragic how, as Bea is slipping, part of her still—instinctually—wants to keep things normal, and so does Paul, as he tries to wrap his mind around what’s happening to his wife. They’re so trenchantly committed to each other throughout the film, which makes this a horror love tragedy: a unique take on the genre. The Autumnal vibe the cinematography gives off is excellent, too, as is the claustrophobic musical score and the grotesque—but sparing—makeup fx. (I mentioned David Cronenberg earlier, didn’t I?)

Overall, HONEYMOON is worth seeing for its fantastic sense of realism, its brilliant intimate performances, and the tragedy it injects into the genre. The directorial debut of Leigh Janiak, I can’t wait to see what else she has in store. This movie, for the most part, scared me shitless.