Monday, October 21, 2019

no pressure...

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

fall into it

"People being bullied and hurt isn't funny.  You'd probably spend your whole life giggling at other people's hurt."

So I watched a Russian torrent of the Steve Bannon Joker movie because I didn't want to support the Steve Bannon Joker movie because the endeavor of remaking King of Comedy without Sandra Bernhard is a fruitless one at best.   The only thing that makes King of Comedy King of Comedy is Sandra's agency.  Without a strong woman at the center and the edges, you end up with a Steve Bannon biopic.  Who wants that?   Spoiler: it's incels.

This whole debacle bums me out because I love movies that look like money, and the Steve Bannon Joker movie looks expensive!  It's got amazing costumes, a great performance from River Phoenix's brother and a New York City backdrop that actually looks like New York City, but it ultimately has nothing to say because it's a movie made for incels and not a movie commenting on the incel's role in society.

The Urban Dictionary defines incel as "involuntary celibate," a person (usually male) who has a horrible personality and treats women like sexual objects and thinks his lack of a sex life comes from being "ugly" when it's really just his blatant sexism and terrible attitude. 

From Psycho to Fade to Black (and even Texas Chainsaw), horror has had its fair share of incels - but one Canadian movie (filmed in Wisconsin) manages to rise above the faggoty fold.  Almost forty years before Joker, we had a superior film about the clown prince of crime.  The Pit.

"I can't see anything, it's just a big hole."

The Pit is a movie about a tweenage boy named Jamie who gets bullied by an entire town so he starts to act out by sexually harassing his babysitter and eventually throwing his oppressors in a pit where they get eaten by monsters.

I get it.  Middle School is the worst.  We all do weird shit when we're figuring out your hormones.  I once made my neighbors parents watch my rented copy of The Doors because there was a sex scene in it.  A college friend of mine used to rub herself on the swing-set for hours at a time.  We're all just animals at the end of the day.

The Pit has fun with its subject.  It's never saying "look at this - aren't we twisted - never-mind you don't even get it!" like the Joker movie does.  Even at his most unhinged and unwell, Jamie's villainy is relatable.  He's 13.  Life sucks when you're 13.  This behavior (killing your enemies, whining about being misunderstood to potential sex partners, blaming your fucked up childhood on your inability to adapt to hardship) spewing out of a 44 year old man is less charming. 

The team making The Pit understood that this story is a parable.  Jamie's inability to integrate speaks to a broken society.  Turn on the news and you'll see an America that's judgmental and ugly at its core.  Maybe people deserve to get shoved in a pit full of tra-la-logs.  

There's so much to love about The Pit.  For starters, it's set in Autumn.  For seconds, we get to see Jamie goes through puberty on camera as the movie progresses.  From it's deranged score and side characters who are obsessed with aerobics and never miss an opportunity to use the best coded-homophobic slang, it's a gift for this or any season.

Friday, October 11, 2019

everything old is new again

I love Elvira.  I don't understand why we can't stream her early, Channel 9 broadcast stuff.  I remember sneaking up late with my face pressed to the TV, the volume all the way down as not to get caught.  There was a movie about Satanic doctors played by very stuffy Brits.  Terrifying.

I also don't understand why Shudder doesn't compliment their Joe-Bob marathons with Elvira counter-programming, but that's a discussion for another day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

return to camp blood

"Doesn't it bother you that he's a fag?"

Queer Horror is a genre.  There are podcasts about it and books about it and Shudder has a curated queer section and Fangoria even did an ugly gay pride shirt this summer.  Eight-four years after Bride of Frankenstein, fags are having a moment.

This wasn't the case when I started this blog ten years ago, but I was hardly a pioneer.

They say you always remember your first and for me, as a twenty-something struggling at a day job and desperate for community, my first exposure to the musty caverns of queer horror came from 

It's thanks to Brian Jeurgens at CampBlood that I learned about a lot of movies - foremost among them, Night Warning - aka: Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker - a movie so queer that it defies language.  This was a film so gay that I had to buy a VHS copy on ebay because it was otherwise out of print.

"Keep your queer hands off me!"

Night Warning is about a sad boy named Jimmy McNichol (brother to Kristy McNichol and best friend to Kim Richards who is the sister of Kyle Richards from Halloween and the “fuck all of you” gif I like).  As a toddler, Jimmy’s parents die in a horrific car crash and he’s left to be raised by character actress Susan Tyrell.

Actresses need a lot of attention, so it’s tough to be Jimmy McNichol.  At school, he's got Julia Duffy constantly trying to get in his pants.  Then he comes home and Susan is crawling into bed with him, licking milk off his chest and purring like a cat in his ear every morning.  This unhealthy co-dependent single-parent-only-child dynamic is only exacerbated by the fact that he’s on the precipice of going off to college.  Susan is getting more and more manic as the college offers start coming through.

One night, with a few minutes to herself before Jimmy gets home from school, feeling stressed and lonely, Susan murders the TV repairman for refusing to have sex with her because he’s gay.

Normally, a middle-aged character actress continually trying to have sex with her nephew and murdering a gay repair man would be enough to classify a movie as “queer,” but there’s absolutely nothing normal about Night Warning.

"Do you know that homosexuals are very very sick?"

You see, there’s a police detective in town whose defining characteristic is his violent contempt for gay people.  It turns out the TV repairman refused Susan's advances because he was married to Jimmy's basketball coach.  

"The victim was a fag.  The coach was a fag. And the kid is a fag."

The bigot detective is sure that Jimmy murdered the TV Repairman because he was having a secret affair with him behind his coach’s back and proceeds to call them both "faggot" all over town.  LOTS of homophobia ensues.

I had a good friend who was caught hooking up with a married guy in a public restroom when he was in high school and he got harassed by the police for weeks.  It was too horrible.  They'd call his parent’s house at all hours of the night.  Even twenty years later, he would start to shake at the thought.  That's pretty much what happens to poor sad Jimmy. 

To get much deeper into the bonkers plot of Night Warning would spoil the surprises of truly deranged film but know that every twist and turn is secondary to the fact that Susan Tyrell gives THE camp performance of all time. 

Susan woke up one day, saw Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and decided that Bette Davis played it way too naturalistically – she could do better.  And thank god she did!  Her character in Night Warning is scarier than Freddy - she's more horrific than Michael Myers – she's more manic than Leatherface. In John Water's new book, he says Susan Tyrell was the most difficult actress he ever worked with and, to me, that's weak.  Because of her performance, this movie is gay horror gold.  So what if you have to have an EMT on set because she's blackout drunk and keeps giving your leading man a black eye?  Film lasts forever!  She deserved an Oscar.

I salute you, Brian.  Thank you for CampBlood.  
It's not easy being a trail-blazer.  Just ask Susan Tyrell!