Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veteran's Day!

This vet will be staying home, watching The Prowler.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Silent Night, Deadly Night - remake trailer

Murderous musing - Black Christmas

Black Christmas is my go-to movie for the holiday feel good hibbidy jibbidies and holy jollies.  I love Black Christmas, from the set design to the characters, to the 70’s fashion, to Barb talking about turtles screwing; it never fails to capture my attention and imagination.  It’s a shame that so many people forget about Bob Clark’s black holiday flick in favor of Christmas Story, but if I had my way it’d play 24 hours a day like how they play Christmas Story on cable around that most wonderful time of the year.  Black Christmas is up there in the higher echelons of slasherdom with the likes of Psycho and Halloween….trooth!  So pull up a warm seat next to the funeral pyre as we talk about Black Christmas for a bit.

Black Christmas is the anti-Christmas flick.  At its core it’s a film about communication deteriorating and relationships breaking down to the point of being irreparable.  Right from the beginning we get Barb talking to her mother on the phone and having a difficult time with it.  She asks the operator to clear up the signal, then when she can hear clearly she’s shocked and disappointed to learn her mother has canceled Christmas plans with her to spend it with her boyfriend.  Already we get the sense that this is not going to be a warm and cuddly family Christmas flick; immediately after we get the first phone call from “Billy”, the film’s main antagonist, who screams obscenities and gibberish at the woman of the sorority house, again calling attention to the idea of communication breaking down.  Throughout the movie the motif of mixed communication and unraveling relationships is revisited time and time again, most notably with the main protagonist Jess and her boyfriend Peter.  During the film they quibble back and forth about Jess’s decision to abort their unplanned pregnancy.  As they argue they drive each other further away from one another, to the point where Jess no longer trusts Peter and suspects him as the murderer of her sorority sisters late in the film.       

The crux of their argument, about whether or not Jess should get an abortion, represents a different and rather ironic motif to a film about Christmas.  If Christmas is the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus, then Black Christmas is an examination of the emotional and psychological fallout from the death of a child on Christmas.  Jess’s assertive decision to abort the baby without consulting her boyfriend Peter is something that unhinges him and deeply distresses him throughout the movie, leading him to act in a suspicious manner.  If the birth of Jesus brings families together, then the death of a baby during the Christmas holiday does the exact opposite, and pushes families apart to the point of not trusting each other, and even suspecting each other of murder.  Outside of the sorority house a little girl is found murdered in the snow, launching a massive man hunt for the killer.  We have another example of how a child’s death during the Christmas season disrupts the entire community, causing them to look into their own homes or neighbor’s homes for the killer.  The ironic bit here is that while the manhunt proceeds outside of the sorority, the real danger lurks inside with the girls. 

All of these aspects of the film, the deteriorating relationships, abortion during the holiday season, the death of a child, mass miscommunication; all stand in profane juxtaposition to the sanctity of Christmas.  After the first kill of the film there is a shot of the victim’s plastic smothered face that slowly dissolves to reveal a giant church, the background music is a choir singing Christmas tunes.  Later Christmas carolers sing to a house while a woman inside is stabbed to death with an ornament, setting graphic violence along the back drop of Christmas cheer.  Clearly underlining the movie is an attack on Christian iconography and the sanctity of the holiday of Christmas.

And we can’t get through any honest evaluation of Black Christmas without identifying the fact that most; if not all the victims in the film are sexually active, independent, assertive women who do things that displease their male counterparts.  The first victim’s father seems disappointed in her and how she has been spending her time in college, Barb earns his displeasure by being intoxicated, and Jess is the focus of Peter’s rage over the abortion issue.  Even the nerdy girl gets on her boyfriend’s bad side by agreeing to go on a ski trip with her friends instead of spending the winter break with him.  Based on these facts it could be surmised that one motif of Black Christmas is really male aggression towards female liberation.

In the end Black Christmas boils down to a claustrophobic tale of sorority sisters being stalked and taunted by an unseen killer.  Even without considering everything else in the story, the film works as a taut thriller and template maker for stalk and slash films for years to come.  “Billy” may not be as enigmatic of a slasher as Freddy or Jason, but for my dough the idea of Billy is much more terrifying than what Jason and Freddy have been lampooned to be through the years.  Billy still remains the seminal unknown killer, the crazy at the other end of the phone, the home intruder that is never discovered, the unseen horror in the attic, and that idea fills me with oodles of Black Christmas cheer.     

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Murderous musings about Maniac (1980)

Maniac is a gritty, surreal, and often disturbing plunge into the mind of a serial killer loose on the streets of NYC; a modernized Jack the Ripper holding the city in a grip of terror.  I’m sure if you roamed into Cropsy’s Crypt you at least have a passing familiarity with the film, so I was just going to muse over the movie in kind of a stream of conscious kind of way, as if we were discussing this like beer buddies while digging a fresh grave.  The crypt is rather informal like that.   

Frank Zito, the movies protagonist and maniac, wears a casual demeanor, a disguise for the formality of every day living, but underneath the fa├žade lays a hurt child perpetually suffering from the mental anguish of abuse at the hands of his mother.  Although Frank’s mother is deceased he still hears her voice and bears the mental issues associated with traumatic child abuse.  If we were to compare Norman Bates and Frank Zito, I’d say Frank was certainly the spiritual successor of Norman with more severe and apparent abuse issues living in a more urban setting.  Norman developed a loving attachment to his mother tempered by her strict authoritarian rule of the house hold, where as with Frank Zito I get the sense that his mother was more active in her role of abusing the boy during his youth, something that stiffened his natural mental progression into adulthood (reflected by the moments in the film where he is playing with a toy gun, or hugging a teddy bear).  Both Norman and Frank have a child like quality to them, where they act boyish, and are still under the specter wing of their respected mothers long after they’ve departed this world.  I feel like these similarities are something that goes beyond mere coincidence; as if the director of Maniac, William Lustig, wanted to bring the story of Psycho into a modern setting, with a more severe psychosis.  And of course both Norman and Frank owe some of their personality quirks to infamous mama’s boy Ed Gein.

However I believe that Frank’s psychosis slightly differs from Norman’s in some discrete ways.  The biggest difference between Frank and Norman, from what I can ascertain from Maniac, is that Frank wants to own women and possess them so they can never leave him.  Norman merely wanted to be as close to his mother as possible, or rather, become so enraptured with the thought of his mother that her spirit possesses him.  Frank and Norman both suffer separation anxiety, they have a fear of people leaving them, but in Norman’s case it is much more fixated on his mother.  When he kills it is because he perceives his mother to be jealous of the would-be victim; thus the murder is an act of removing temptation from Norman.  However with Frank he never lets his mother’s personality possess him in the way Norman lets his mother’s persona possess him.  She’s always nipping at the fringes of his conscious mind, where he can have conversations with himself as if it were his mother speaking directly to him, but Frank never switches roles between mother and son and so forth.   Frank clearly knows his mother is dead (as demonstrated by him inviting a date to her grave to pay respects), where Norman doesn’t seem to be aware of his own mother’s passing.  This also explains why Norman does not feel alone in his hotel, because he believes he always has the company of his mother.  Frank’s life however is dominated by loneliness.  To combat these feelings of solitude Frank seeks to possess and surround himself with beautiful women, as if to fill the void in his life left by his mother’s passing.  And because his mother was so domineering and oppressive he wishes to seek out women that he can dominate and control; thus fabricating the illusion that his mannequins are in fact real women and the scalps that he extracts from his victims carries their spirits, endowing his plastic people with the personality of the recently deceased.  In this way he also reduces women to being mere objects, like dolls. 

Unlike Norman, Frank often uses his victims to redirect the anger and hatred he felt for his biological mother.  Frank has a love/hate relationship with his mother, where he seems to have loved and cherished her memory but hated her gender and loathed her profession as a hooker.  Norman seemed to fear women as being evil, but Frank outright hates all women and would like to see them possessed or utterly destroyed.  Frank’s approach to women is much more volatile than Norman’s in this regard.
I also believe Frank viewed killing as more of an art form.  Norman was instantly ashamed of his act of murder, covering it up as quickly as possible, carefully cleaning the shower immediately after that famous scene.  Some of that regret exists with Frank, where he bemoans his inability to control his murderous impulse, as if he was burdened with this horrible task of which he has no escape from, but Frank also relishes the “art” he makes out of his victims.  He seems to hate that his impulse is to kill, often apologizing to his victims moments after life has left them, but is proud of his gallery of the macabre in his cramped NYC apartment, which seems to be his only source of joy in the film outside of dating the photographer.  His appreciation and attitude towards art gives me the sense that Frank views himself as a climbing socialite and struggling artist.  Later in Maniac when he begins to fall in with the artsy fartsy crowd I can’t help but amuse myself with the irony of this serial killer talking about his approach to art to people who have no clue about the real “art” Frank is creating, but it’s obvious that he takes himself very seriously in this respect. 

The best moments in the movie for me aren’t the head explosions or graphic violence, it’s whenever Frank is dealing with normal people or portraying himself as a n art connoisseur interested with high fashion and hip pop culture.  The irony cuts deep to the bone and its fun seeing Frank acting all smooth, and even a bit goofy, when we know he’s absolutely out of his banana tree.  

The ending of the movie is oft criticized for the way the police detectives simply leave the apartment with Frank’s body laying in a bloody heap on his bed, but I think it’s another hallucinatory illusion of Frank, much like the mannequins that come alive to extract revenge on him.  I believe the entire end sequence is Frank shedding whatever sanity he had left, an act resulting in his surreal fantasy and cold reality colliding together and coalescing to the point that neither is distinguishable from the other for Frank or the viewer.  The end is nonsensical, but it was meant to be as loony as Frank’s own outlook on the nature of reality, so people shouldn’t read much into why the detectives would walk out on Frank without checking his pulse or anything and just scratch it up to one more chance for a jump scare.       


New Maniac trailer/poster

The new Aja produced Maniac flick actually looks slick, sick, and disturbing to the hilt, which is of course what we like here at the crypt of the neverending body count.  I enjoyed P2 and found it sufficiently suspenseful and engaging, this looks like the director really stepped up his game from there for the new Maniac.  I love the old one; certainly one of the most insane and disturbing movies ever committed to celluloid , and this new one looks like it's going for that same gusto. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Black Christmas - from Fright-Rags

Fright-Rags has pretty much dominated my t-shirt selection for the better part of a few years now, leaving my wallet cobwebbed, cold, and lifeless, and I couldn't thank them more.  Check out their new Black X-Mas shirt, one of the best artistic representations of the immortal Black Christmas I've ever oggled.  I hope someone has one of these under the tree for me this Santa slay day:

Fright-Rags Black Christmas tease 


And in unrelated news I hope everyone had or is having a scary Hallow's Eve!  With the crypt move complete I am happy to say that this year should see another release of Cropsy's Crypt fanzine with all new articles and shitty art by yours truly.  Hopefully I can stuff enough slasher goodness into this next jam to sate all your annual ghoulish desires.  Until next time...stay scared!