Friday, August 30, 2013

Wanna Play a Game?

Okay.  Answer the following question in the comments section and my favorite response will get a You're Next mask and VHS copy of Freddy's Nightmares.   READY?

What's my favorite Renny Harlin movie to feature John Carter and Bucky Barnes as cheeseburger loving gay witches who like to swim and why is it so special? 

May the odds ever be in your favor.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

the TV set

"They look just like you and I, but inside - inside they're...different."

In the early 90s, nothing was better than hunkering down for Friday nights with Rhonda Shear (and sometimes Saturdays with Gilbert Gottfried).  Heaven is a double feature comprised of Can't Buy Me Love and The Howling: Part 4.  I remember the palpable thrill that can only be derived from being twelve years old and desperately trying to stay awake throughout both USA Up All Night movies.  Coming out of the MTV years, I think we all took for granted that TV wouldn't always be rock'n roll.

As long as there's been television, there's been cheap and easy late-night horror programming - the two go together like Kristin Chenoweth and twitter.  Whether staying Up All Night with Rhonda or hiking across town to the local video store and being lured by the siren song of a VHS box cover, one of the best elements of Pre-Blockbuster video culture was the element of discovery.

I miss being able to put my faith in late-night horror hosts and video store hipsters - the intimacy and trust implicit in that experience. Ticking through Netflix isn't the same.  Times have changed.  Even when Elvira came back to syndication a couple years ago, something was off.  Elvira still looks exactly the same as she did in 1987, but the revival of her late night shtick (using the same exact formula as it did in its original run) only demonstrated that we can't go back, we can only move forward.  

Here in LA, we're fortunate enough to have repertory theatres like Cinefamily and the New Beverly that drag out the classics week after week to expose a whole new generation to the joy of cinephilia. Nostalgia and kitsch are back in the hipster zeitgeist where they belong.  The good folks over at Shout Factory (the good people who brought us the Jem and Thirtysomething DVDs) were paying attention to this rash of sold-out horror screenings (each more obscure than the last) and Scream Factory was born.   A lot has been made of Scream Factory's recent slew of blu-ray restorations and the hype is well earned.   They're rapidly becoming the Criterion Collection of horror.  Now we can all can host our very own curated late-night movie marathons!

It’s thanks to Scream Factory that I discovered my favorite film of the summer, The Video Dead.

I know I can be a hard bitch, but once in a while a movie comes along that sweeps me off my feet and makes me feel like a giddy eleven year old sneaking downstairs late at night to watch scrambled pay-per-view in the living room with the volume turned all the way down. The Video Dead is such a film. 

With an electric synth score and prominently featuring many "actors" who wear high-waisted denim and appear to struggle with the English language, this movie has it all.  The Video Dead is about a brother and sister named Jeff and Susy who inherit an indestructible television that zombies come out of unless it’s covered in mirrors - aka: it's the stuff that pre-adolescent dreams are made of.

Last month, I was heading out to a party in Laguna and I couldn't decide which shoes to wear.  I've developed a weird habit of leaving yesterday’s shoes outside the front door – so I was trying on a couple pairs of dress shoes on my front porch when a platinum blonde barefoot girl charges at me.  Apparently I have a new neighbor.  Within three minutes, I was informed that she loves gay people and that I shouldn't get upset if I hear her yelling “Faggot” because she’s family and that her Facebook wall is full of rainbow flags.  Then she asked if I was a bottom and invited me to a party hosted by one of the Real Housewives of Miami.

Miami?  Really?  Anyone with a lick of common sense would know that I like The Real Housewives of New York.  Pay attention, please!  Stone-faced, I told her I liked her pedicure and pad-locked my door.  

This is basically what happens to my namesake protagonist in The Video Dead. 

Jeff doesn't like to wash or change his clothes.  He lives with his sister, Susy, who is a college freshman majoring in aerobics with a sensible minor in "Music Videos".  She just bought her first house.  An obnoxious blonde girl ingratiates herself to her new neighbors and the next thing you know, zombies are pouring out of the television.

This is why we must avoid talking to strangers (especially manic girls who think they're sexy)!

When the zombies start doing what zombies are wont to do, Jeff takes to the woods with a creepy old man and a chainsaw.

You know I love a movie where the boy takes on a Final Girl role and this is a good one - Jeff runs and falls and yelps and even gets tied up.  Watch out, Amy Steele, somebody's coming for your spot!

Shot on 16mm, The Video Dead was a movie made for the booming '80s home entertainment market – produced fast, cheap and locally and then gussied up with fantastic box art to spark a thousand adolescent imaginations for thirty years to come.  This is the pulp nonsense movie that those V/H/S movies wish they could be.

We're older than we ever intended to be, but thanks to Scream Factory, we can relive the majesty of Up All Night horror movie marathons in the comfort of our own living rooms without having to stay up all night or having the face the indignity of waiting in a line outside a sold-out screening with 100 fanboys in black t-shirts loudly talking at each other.  The future has its perks.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

All Hail!!!

Our favorite Ali Larter co-star, Wentworth Miller, just dragged Mother Russia and I LOVE IT!  I've posted the link to his letter below where he CCs not only GLAAD, but his agent at ICM.  Stunts!

You know I live for anyone who rocks a bucket hat in public.  Considering the fact that Wentworth wrote Stoker for Nicole Kidman and Mathew Goode, not to mention his star-turn in those Mariah Carey videos... I think we have a new crush!!!

Congratulations, everyone.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

summer loving

"She's a real carpenter's dream - flat as a board and needs a screw!"

Did everyone see that business about  The Lonely Doll book in Famke Jansen's bedroom last week?  Of course you did.  I'm still not over it.   I just love when news stories exist in a frequency that only gays can hear.  Between this and Bryan Singer's refusal to take her calls for a Jean Grey reprieve on top of having to appear in that unmentionable Netflix show, Famke is having a rough year. Poor thing.  If you see her on the street, be sure to smile warmly (but avoid making eye contact).

There's a movie Famke should watch to get through this difficult time; one of my favorite comfort movies that, much like The Lonely Doll and the early mid-90s work of Meryl Streep, operates on a frequency that only gays can hear. 
Yes, dolls, the day has come.
I'm ready to talk about Sleepaway Camp.

In 1996, I was picked by my high school to attend "Boys State."  To date, this was the closest I've ever come to camping. While other young gays would have been titillated by the idea of living in an abandoned dormitory in the middle of the woods with a hundred other teenage boys, this was not a golden moment for little Jeffrey.

Luckily, years of horror movie consumption taught me the importance of keeping a low profile and hiding my candy. Equipped with an Epipen, my Original Broadway Cast recording of Rent (on cassette) and a pound bag of Twizzlers, I was prepared.   
I spent the days writing in my journal and working on my highlights under the country sun.  Setting my alarm to shower at 3:15am when the other boys were still asleep, I made it through the week unscathed.  I wish I could tell you more about this lost week in the woods, but that was the period when I insisted on writing my diaries entries in French.  Your guess is as good as mine. The Boys State experience would have had a completely different ending had I been fortunate enough to attend Sleepaway Camp.

"What are you, queer or somethin'?"

Thirty years before we were all free to be you and me, Camp Arawak was a progressive camp for LGBT teenagers nestled away in upstate New York.   Imagine a camp where midriff tops and short shorts are mandatory! The boys at Camp Arawak spent their days playing ball, frolicking in the lake, exploring each other's bodies, sharing their fashion and exposing their pre-pubescent nuttage to hostile lesbians.  Boys will be boys! If only we had one of these in Boston - maybe I wouldn't still be so averse to the idea of communal showers. 

"Wait 'til I get my hands on you."

Mind you, there's a big difference between being aloof and being negative.  While I may not have spoken to anyone, I still had a fabulous time at the Lord of the Flies retreat for upwardly mobile teens.  But not everyone's so easy to please. I don't have to re-watch Boys in the Band to remember that every party has its pooper - that one Messy Mary whose insecurities and sexual repression invariably manifests itself in homicidal behavior.  
In the case of Sleepaway Camp, this bad egg was a preoperative trans girl named Angela.

You see, Angela had been carrying around a world of emotional distress because she lost one of her gay dads and her twin sister in a boating accident when she was a toddler. 
After the accident, Angela's surviving gay dad couldn't cope so he left her to be raised by his sister who suffers from borderline personality disorder.  An American tragedy. As a result, it takes a lot for Angela to open up to people. She was definitely not the camping type. 
Wanting nothing to do with summer, she nonetheless tagged along with her gay cousin to the Sleepaway Camp where the other campers went out of their way to include Angela, to make her feel comfortable and popular.  Well, everyone except the lesbians, but girls will be girls.

1983 was a completely different time for gay parents of trans children.  This was before Unique was getting all the good songs on Glee and teaching middle-America about gender politics. The staff of the GLBT camp didn't have a lot of experience in dealing with preoperative trans kids and a few mistakes were made.  Long story short, that summer didn't end well for some of the more privileged children and there's no longer any such camp in New York or elsewhere.

Much like William Friedken's Cruising, I can't decide if Sleepaway Camp is regressive or years ahead of its time.  But who cares? I’m messy, you knew this. This movie has it all... Fake mustaches.  Bare torsos. Children violently cussing at each other. A closing credits love theme!!  

Stay in and watch it - save yourself the agony of underarm staph infections and bear attacks.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

it's the time of the season

Hey, dolls
I know it's still summer, but I'm ready for Halloween.  While y'all have been out seeing The Conjuring, I've been spending my weeks on ebay, diligently searching for the perfect primitives and day-glo beistles to transform my dinky, Santa Monica one bedroom into my very own Haunted Mansion.

I finally left the house today and took myself to see what all this hype is about.  So?...  It's okay.  I guess I can't really complain about a movie with a third act comprised of witches, evil birds, a haunted house, an exorcism and a demonic toy.  There were some great tracking shots.  Vera Farmiga was flawless (obviously).  Joe Bishara's score is one of his best yet.   It's still a weird moment though, The Conjuring.

After about an hour, the movie starts to lag.  When I woke up, I found myself thinking about my childhood in New England.  My mom and I lived in a house from the 1600s that was haunted for a minute.  Call me crazy, but I swear paintings would find themselves stacked in corners when we were asleep or out at the mall.  Doors would open and close.  There would be drastic drops in temperature - all the good haunted house tropes - until one day when Momma started crying and explained to the water damage spot on the ceiling how we were just trying to make the house nice.  They stopped bothering us after that.  We had some good times.

I really liked Insidious because it functioned as a contemporary remake of Poltergeist, adapting its scenario and characters to fit in today's climate. Insidious showed us something we hadn't seen in the original - specifically, what was on the other side of the flood-lights and wind machine in Carol Anne's closet.  Chronicle did the same thing for Carrie (sorry, Kim Peirce [I'm not sorry]).

By those standards, The Conjuring doesn't quite pass the test as an Amityville Horror reboot.  There is some fantastic business with the Annabelle doll and Patrick Wilson's closet full of demonic antiques.  But these moments are somewhat diminished by others when James Wan decided to color inside the lines (generic haunted house business, Lily Taylor pretending to be Margot Kidder).  Is The Conjuring worth seeing?  Sure. Why not?  We should always try to support original content, no matter how derivative.  Are there better movies?  Definitely.  Now, if you'll please excuse me... I have some important business to attend to.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

hail satan!

"I used to break out when I was twelve.  Doctor said it was homosexual panic."

I got real caught up in my apartment this morning - aimlessly wandering from room to room with my coffee cup, absently touching surfaces.   The outside world was just too much.  Luckily, we appear to be in the midst of one of those free Cinemax preview weekends and I am clearly blessed because John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness is on.  Blessed be!

I've probably watched this movie seven or eight times over the years and I have absolutely no clue what it's about.  None.  To my understanding, a group of scientists (or maybe they're students) in high-waisted pants and terrible haircuts lock themselves up in a vacant school building someplace (or maybe it's a church).  Donald Pleasence from Halloween invites the old man from Big Trouble in Little China to help him with something having to do with outer space and the devil and a big vat of interstellar Ooze.  Prince of Darkness posits that Jesus Christ was from outer space (or was is devil from outer space? or is it the Son of the devil?) and that homeless people are all blood-thirsty monsters from hell.  There may even be an eclipse at some point (solar or lunar, who knows).

I do know that there are a bunch of bugs everywhere and there are state of the art 1987 computers and lots of Catholic imagery (always good for a fright) and the movie has a solid John Carpenter synth score throughout.  Donald Pleasence delivers many monologues.  People get demonically possessed by water damage leaking through the ceiling.  Alice Cooper even shows up at one point.  Regardless of plot, Prince of Darkness is one of the greatest Background Movies of all time.  It should come as no surprise that I love any movie whose central protagonist looks like he came out of a 1985 gay porn.

Thank you, Cinemax.  While I am grateful to see Prince of Darkness presented in glorious High Definition, I still have no intention of ordering your services.  I have HBO.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

bake a casserole and chill some white wine...

It looks like Heaven gained another angel today.  Pour some on the floor for Karen Black - she's landing the plane herself!!  In all seriousness, Karen was a true gem who added legitimacy to dozens of schlocky horror films in a career that spanned six decades.

I think we should all spend some time this weekend paying her the tribute she deserves. 

We can start by watching  Trilogy of Terror - in which she plays not one, but FOUR roles - then Tobe Hooper's underrated Invaders from Mars remake in which she battles Stan Winston monsters and Louise Fletcher - then Burnt Offerings, the feature debut from Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis that features Karen living with a belligerently drunk Oliver Reed and Ms. Bette Davis in a haunted house - then we'll watch Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses - I even have a V/H/S copy of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean where she plays a Transexual who used to be Mark Patton... I could go on and on.  When we get tired of watching TV, we can play all her songs from the Nashville soundtrack. We may have to clear an entire week.  You guys can stay on the couch.  

Karen was an artist.  Versatile and prolific.  

Rest in Peace, doll.

come back to the five and dime...

“David would just blame me any time it came up alluding to something along the lines of, ‘Well, he’s a big old fag and he chose to play the part in a big old fag way.’”
-Mark Patton

There's a pretty major cover story on everyone's favorite Cher-adjacent gay horror icon, Nightmare on Elm Street 2's Mark Patton, over at HIV+ Magazine.  I didn't know that was a thing before today, but it's well worth a read nonetheless.

This is class-act behavior on the part of Mark to use his niche celebrity to try and break down some stigmas and discuss Hollywood's perpetual discomfort with the gays.

Congratulations, Mark.  Your grapefruit basket is in the mail!