Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book Review: CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE #84: YOU ARE A MONSTER (1988, Edward Packard)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Pages: 116.
Endings: 13.
Illustrations: Judith Mitchell.

A lot of works of art think that they're special merely because they address the audience directly. They like to call it "breaking the fourth wall." Well, I got a little something here that breaks the- are you ready for this?...– breaks the fifth wall.

'How does it do that?,' you ask. Well, I'll tell you– instead of just watching or reading or listening to the work of art, you ARE the work of art. It's YOUR story, and you'd better hang on for dear life, cause things are liable to get real freaky, real fast. It's called Choose Your Own Adventure- maybe you've heard of it already. You're the star of the story- you make the decisions- you are personally responsible for your successes, failures, and gory, gory deaths!

Anyway, this title is not one of my absolute favorite Choose Your Own Adventure titles, but it still felt appropriate. In a month devoted to enjoying monster movies, I thought I'd turn the tables a little bit. Spin the telescope around. Scrutinize you a little bit. See how you like being the monster for a change. Everybody running from you and screaming at you and laughing at your expense. It doesn't feel very good, does it? I guess that's the point of this book. It's probably the best 'You are a Monster' style book since Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS.

Written by Edward Packard (creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure series and author of some its most popular titles, including THE CAVE OF TIME, INSIDE UFO 54-40, HYPERSPACE, and THE WORST DAY OF YOUR LIFE), YOU ARE A MONSTER is a pretty standard example of the YOU ARE A... subgenre that emerged within the larger Choose Your Own Adventure franchise (i.e., YOU ARE A... GENIUS, SHARK, SUPERSTAR, etc., etc.). The problem here, though, is that there is just too much linear story, and not enough choices. And to cover this up, there's a shit-ton of needless page-flipping. It gives you the illusion you're reading a Choose Your Own Adventure novel when you've flipped pages like sixteen times but haven't yet made a choice.

Regardless, I'm not here today to indulge in literary criticism. I'll save that for HYPERSPACE and HOUSE OF DANGER. No, today, I'm here to show you stuff like this:

Don't worry, it makes sense in context– post monstrous transformation, you shack up with some nonjudgmental blue bloods and play soccer on their estate with their friendly German Shepherds.

Anyway, the plot is this– you're kidnapped from school by the fiendish Dr. Nair, who wants kiddies for his evil experiments. He injects you with gorilla/bear serums, and
"you slap at the bathroom door. It flies off the hinges. The mirror shatters. You roar in agony and rage. There is no doubt what's happened: You are no longer the person you were–– YOU ARE A MONSTER!!!"


This scene is also depicted on the front cover of the book, but note that the monster on the front cover bears little resemblance to the monster which you are on the book's pages. If you go a certain route, once you escape, you're captured by the cops. You have to relearn how to speak because your vocal chords have been stretched, but once you do, you carefully explain everything that happened, and the feds still won't let you out of jail:

'What about my civil rights?,' you say. 'You have no right to keep me locked up!' The police commissioner shakes his head. 'The fact is, you have no civil rights,' he says brusquely. 'They only apply to people–– and you're not a person anymore-- you're a monster!'

Wow, this book's dolin' out some harsh truths– I sure hope no kids on the cusp mistook this for a puberty metaphor.

Allow me to entreat you to a few random moments:

'ARRRRAGH!' Now you're mad. You kick the bear's shins with such force, the animal bellows in pain. ... You have not only been accepted by the bears as one of them, but you've been acknowledged as their leader! '


You're not a monster,' the chief tells you as he reaches up to pat your shaggy shoulder. 'You're a hero!'
'ARRRRAGH! I mean, thanks,' you say humbly. You know you'll always have some problems as long as you remain a monster. But at least now you have proven that you are not a threat to society. THE END


[a phone conversation]
'Well then, please hurry home-- and we'll talk about it.'
'Just one last thing I want to tell you before I get there, Mom.'
'What's that, darling?'
'I've become a monster.'


Meyerstraum is the biggest crime boss in the Caribbean--maybe the world!


There's multiple scenarios where you get shot, and many where you adapt to being a monster (book deals, circus, etc.), but one of the most whacked-out is when a failed operation turns you into a little monkey (with possibly a monkey's mental faculties?).

'I'm glad to see you looking so healthy, and, in your own way, normal,' says Mrs. Vandergraft. 'Yes, you do look fine-- and so agile,' her husband adds with a smile. 'Chh, chh, cheeeeeek,' you respond. But when Dr. Firenze looks at you, his face is grave. 'Now I'm afraid you only have two choices left,' he says. 'The jungle–– or the zoo.' THE END

So wait, why are those your only two choices? Couldn't a family take care of you?
It's interesting that after the operation, Packard allows you no more insight into (your) monkey's mind- are you a vegetable now that can only say 'chh, chh, cheeeeek?,' or is it like before, when you possess your own mind and a monster's body? Existential stuff, there, Mr. Packard.

But probably my favorite ending is when the FBI (!) arranges for you to go to France, where you're going to be paid twenty million francs to star in an arthouse remake of Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

In all, this is far from being the best Choose Your Own Adventure. There is some ridiculous shit happening here, to be sure, but there's nothing like in THE TRUMPET OF TERROR where you have to decide whether to remove your own eye or like in HYPERSPACE where you meet Edward Packard himself and discuss the literary process or like in THE HORROR OF HIGH RIDGE where you're entreated to ghastly, graphic scalpings. Anyway, I guess there's an anti-eugenics–– well, maybe just anti-science in general- message wafting around in there somewhere, and I guess we can all get on board with that. In fact, anti-science has been a recurring theme this Halloween countdown from Chuck Norris in SILENT RAGE to THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES to GEEK MAGGOT BINGO, so, to quote Gary Busey, I'll ask you to hold that in your heart.

Anyway, there were about 10 billion movies and books and beverages and songs that I didn't quite get around to this Halloween countdown, and while I'll save many for later, expect a lot to spill over into November, including TERRORVISION, THE LEOPARD MAN, HELLRAISER 2, and HUNTER'S BLOOD. As far as I'm concerned, it's still Halloween until Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)
9. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988, Ken Russell)
8. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)
7. THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)
6. MOTHER OF TEARS (2008, Dario Argento)
5. THE CHANGELING (1980, Peter Medak)
4. FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group): PART 1
3. FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group): PART 2
2. THEY LIVE (1988, John Carpenter)
1.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE #84: YOU ARE A MONSTER (1988, Edward Packard)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Film Review: THEY LIVE (1988, John Carpenter)

Stars: 6 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN, WALKER-TEXAS RANGER), Keith David (THE THING, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, MR. ROGERS), George "Buck" Flower (BACK TO THE FUTURE II, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, MUNCHIE), Peter Jason (PRINCE OF DARKNESS, DEADWOOD), Meg Foster (STEPFATHER II, LEVIATHAN), Raymond St. Jacques (RAWHIDE, FALCON CREST, THE PAWNBROKER), Sy Richardson (REPO MAN, MYSTERY TRAIN). Shot by Gary B. Kibbe (Carpenter's perennial cinematographer and camera op on MELVIN & HOWARD, CONVOY, STAR 80, & SIXTEEN CANDLES).
Tag-line: "Who are they? And what do they want?"
Best one-liner: "You look like your face fell in the cheese dip back in 1957!"

"It figures it'd be somethin' like this." THEY LIVE is not just some 80's sci-fi/action/horror vehicle with mullets and shotguns– it's a powerful, humanist statement on the world that we live in (or should I say, the world that we sleep through). From the very outset, you can see the handiwork of a master filmmaker: the cryptic underground mantra "THEY LIVE" melts away from main title into some inconspicuous graffiti and the camera tracks past a freight train to reveal a lone man, our hero, emerging from this industrial wasteland.

It's 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, and while he's no Olivier, his reactions throughout the film to the increasingly mind-numbing realities have an earnest, incredulous, down home realism to them. He EARNS every bit of the artistic capital it takes to pull of lines like "I don't like this ONNNE bit!" or "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum!"

By the time Piper receives his sunglasses-induced epiphany about our ruling class, I believe that- no joke- this is one of the most important films ever made.


To those who say it's heavy-handed, I ask, have you ever been laid off on your 19th week, so your  boss doesn't have to owe you unemployment? Have you worked alongside men and women who've thrown away thirty-five years or more of their lives, ground themselves down into nothing because they had no other choice, while trust funders live high and fast off the fat of mommy and daddy and the blood of the poor? If only we lived in the world of THEY LIVE; then the unmasking of these people for what they really are could be as simple as destroying a satellite dish or slipping on some rockin' shades.

Carpenter's bold, dystopian vision has about zero deviation from the horrorshow we're all living out here. There's entertainment here, to be sure, but this film has the moxie of a sturdy whack to the guts.

The notorious 6 minute fistfight (between Piper and the electrifying, hot tempered Keith David) is basically a hyper-stylized rehashing of Paul Schrader's BLUE COLLAR, illustrating our inability to connect with one another on the most basic of issues.

And Keith David and Roddy Piper pulled no punches- literally- in this scene, unless said punch involved a face or genitalia:

When the truth is fleetingly broadcast over the airwaves, even the surly homeless man (George "Buck" Flower) razzes the speaker- anyone going against the grain of the media's status quo is intrinsically labeled "disruptive." The System in place is immaculate in its ability to keep people unfocused, fingers perpetually clenched around the wrong throats, and in this day and age, I'm not sure the System can ever be broken. In times like these, levelheadedness can be dangerous- we’ve got to get mad. Every time I see THEY LIVE- I'm going on maybe a dozen viewings now- it never fails to fire me up, and for that I am thankful.

-Sean Gill

P.S. The soundtrack (by Carpenter himself and long-time collaborator Alan Howarth) is fantastic. It's got proletarian twang, oppressive martial undertones, and it's always goddamned catchy. Carpenter sure knows how to lay out an impressively simplistic soundtrack (see also: ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK).

P.P.S. I also think that you can generally judge the quality of a movie based on how many people in the cast possess genuine nicknames- the sort of nicknames that you always say their entire name, nickname included, like Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Here, we got "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and George "Buck" Flower, both titans of the genre.

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)
9. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988, Ken Russell)
8. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)
7. THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)
6. MOTHER OF TEARS (2008, Dario Argento)
5. THE CHANGELING (1980, Peter Medak)
4. FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group): PART 1
3. FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group): PART 2
2. THEY LIVE (1988, John Carpenter)
1.
...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Music Review: FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS– PART 2



Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 34 minutes.
Best line: "WATCH IT NOW, WATCH IT, WATCH IT!!! HERE HE COME, HERE HE COME! YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT, YOU GOT IT!! WATCH IT NOW!!"

I hope everyone's ready to dive headlong into Part 2 of Freddy's magnum opus. Part 1 is HERE if you missed it.

Look at 'im. Look at Freddy. That shit-eating grin. He knows he's created an indelible work of art. No modesty here. And on the back- is he aping Michael Jackson or Fred Astaire?

I guess it doesn't matter. Anyway, we've got four songs to go:

6. Obsession

This one's a little funky, got a little twang to it. It's got a backbeat reminiscent of the start-up screen of some terrible NES game. But it's also got a crestfallen grace to it. "Ob-sess-sion..." whispers a reverb-heavy female voice. "Nowhere to run..." retorts Freddy.

"Something evil came to me/I don't just howwww or why-yiy.../You're the thing I just can't face/the dark secret I can't hiiiide/ You've come in my dreams/ Nothing is what it seeeeeeems/And as I walk along the streets/ I hear other footsteps fall [drum machine break to approximate footsteps]/
Sometimes I swear I feel your breath down by my neck/ Innn the hallll/ I look, nothing's there/ But I feel you I swearrrrrr/ These obsessions that you have with me/ Is growing every day/ These obsessions that you have with me/ I just can't get away/ Nowhere to runnnn /
[Freddy] NOWHERE TO RUN"


This song is kind of long-winded. I guess it's about Freddy, cause it's on the Freddy album. In a way it seems a thematic rip of Laura Branigan's "Self Control," but it definitely conjures imagery of a perfume commercial...hmmmm. I see that Calvin Klein unveiled 'Obsession' for women in 1985 and men in 1986, so it was certainly in the public consciousness. Maybe Freddy always wanted to be in a B&W artsy Calvin Klein commercial and thought this song might be a vehicle for such a cross-over. If only...

"Every time I turn around/ You're right behind me everyplace/ [snazzy drum break designed to keep you from forming the thought that 'everyplace' was used awkwardly]/Ridin' in my car/ I'm lookin' in the mirror I see your face/ I'm getting SCAAAAAARED/ What you want isn't FAIR"

Whoa-whoa- what? Is Freddy blackmailing her? I'm slightly confused by their relationship.

There's some Freddy cackles, a wicked guitar solo with a little whammy action, and we're back–

"Sometimes in the night I see you in the streetlight standing there/ If you can't have me no one will; you just laugh at meee instead/ [Freddy chuckles]/ I lock my door/ I can't escape any moooooooore/

Well, I guess it sounds more like a stalker situation, but the subtext seems to be that Freddy is her ex...?

This obsession that you have with me/ Is growing everyyyyy-day/ This obsession that you have with me/ I just can't get awayyyy/Nowhere to runnnnnn....


Then this chorus is repeated until the song fades out- and it feels like one of the longest fades ever- probably a fifty second fade. But that's just the way Freddy (rocks n') rolls.

7. Wooly Bully

Speaking of serious Rock n' Roll, this might be the most energetic ditty on the album. It's a cover of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs 1965 smash, "Wooly Bully." Now a lot of people seem to think ill of its inclusion, but it really does make sense. Freddy wears a lot of sweaters. Sweaters are made of wool. Freddy is wooly.

Freddy is also an (implied) child molester. Child molesters are definitely something a touch more heinous than just 'bullies,' but then again, not every child molester gets their own novelty album or a pinball machine made in their own likeness.


Click on the photo for a larger view.

I digress. But I think we can all agree that Freddy is, in fact, a wooly bully of sorts, but w–

"UNO, DOS, ONE, TWO, TRES, CUATRO! WATCH IT NOW, WATCH IT, WATCH IT!!! HERE HE COME, HERE HE COME! YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT, YOU GOT IT!! WATCH IT NOW!!"Holy shit- I just shot Coke II outta my nose, and all over my brand new Lisa Frank trapper keeper. I have to say I was ill-prepared for A. Freddy shouting so loudly, and B. Freddy shouting so loudly with a Spanish accent.

There are some solid session musicians on this track. The sax player from "In the Midnight Hour" is back, and he's so rockin', that he prompts Freddy to scream "WATCH IT NOW!" about eleven thousand times. If you crank up it up, too, you'll hear the moaning souls of Freddy's victims in the background- I kid you not.

8. Down in the Boiler Room

Now this selection is extraordinarily groovy with a rather infectious bass line. The word leaping to the tip of my tongue is 'pizzazz.' Reminds of a little track called "Flamethrower" by the J. Geils Band (off their seminal album, FREEZE FRAME).

Freddy sets the tone by ominously growling "Down in the boiler room.... heheheheheheheheh." Stacey joins in:

"You know it's scary/ You know it's dark/You oughta know- be afraid to go- listen to your heaaarrt/ Afraid to stop/ and afraid to go/ He's waiting for youuuu/ Downnnn in the boiler room..."

"Your mamma told you/ Monsters were pretend/ No one will hold you-out all alone/ can this be the enddddd?/ Don't try to stop- but do you dare to start?/ He's waiting for youuuu/Downnnnn in the boiler room....in the boiler room...."

This one's a tad bland compared to some of the others. Freddy is pretty bushed by this point and he's not gonna blow his artistic load on the next-to-last song on the album. Boiler rooms, dreams, Freddy, being scared- these are familiar themes for Mr. Krueger, and he can phone this one in like the best of 'em. And that funky bass line goes a long way to making this listenable.

Freddy: "In the boiler room, I'll be waiting soon! You know it's scary.... you know it's dark..."[fade out]

9. Elm Street Dreams

How do you end this album, Freddy? A big show-stopper like those hotshot producers wanted you to? No. No way. Is the status quo something over which Freddy feels even a scrap of indebtedness to? Hell, no. Well, how 'bout somethin' from the heart? How 'bout a little somethin' called "Elm Street Dreams?"

The intro is evocative. Vibes. Drum machine. Synthesized bells. That weird electronic keyboard that sounds like kittens mewing. It's dark...it's reassuring. Almost hopeful. But sad, too. This is Freddy pouring his heart out- letting you know what it's like to be him. He doesn't have to tell you how he feels- he lets you feel how he feels.

By now, you're over a minute in and you're probably wondering where the vocals are. Guess what- there aren't any. Freddy wanted an instrumental that could showcase his soulful bass playing, and the centerpiece here is a wondrous solo that really runs the gamut of emotion- fear, loss, nostalgia, regret...

And it begins: you can see Freddy playing the bass- eyes closed, shuddering and swaying to his own exquisite reverberations. He's got some serious chops, too. He's been practicing this one for a while. After about a minute of pure, musical bliss, Freddy needs a breather. He grabs a glass of water. Let's the mewing keyboardist and dude playing the bells take over. Somebody shoots him the thumbs up and he returns it. He has to replace a string or two, on account of the razor glove, and just then the rest of the band builds to a beautiful crescendo... Oh shit- get to the mic, Freddy! Leave us with a final benediction! The drummer winds the song down with a schweet break and Freddy breathlessly runs to the mic. Once he's at the mic, though, he's the consummate showman. He's supercool.

"Be seeing you....in your dreamsshss....haaaaaa haaach!
"



And it's a wrap. That's how it's done. Be seeing you around too, Fred.


-Sean Gill

STAGE BLOOD IS NEVER ENOUGH Final Performance! *SOLD OUT*


Only one performance remains (tonight @ 9:30 PM): while it is sold out, you can still make reservations for the wait list. Details are available HERE. Reservations are available HERE.

PinkRayGun interviews STAGE BLOOD IS NEVER ENOUGH's Rachel Klein (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of an interview series with Rachel Klein, director and choreographer of my plays GO-GO KILLERS!, AENIGMA, OUR PRISON, and several of the pieces in my new show, STAGE BLOOD IS NEVER ENOUGH. They talk about punk, Go-Go gals, Abel Ferrara, and yours truly. The second part of Teresa Jusino's piece can be found HERE. Pink RayGun calls STAGE BLOOD IS NEVER ENOUGH “perfect Halloween fun.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Music Review: FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group): PART 1




Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 34 minutes.
Best line: "AHHHHHHHHH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA"

Well, folks, I decided to switch things up a little for this installment, and it's been a while since I did a bona fide music review. Chances are, you've already heard of this- hell, you might have even heard it- but I feel as if you didn't truly appreciate it, didn't 'get it.' If you did, you'd be listening to it right now instead of reading this. So, for those who are familiar- let's take a pensive journey in musical appreciation. For the newcomers, others have discussed it at X-EntertainmentThe Manchester Morgue, and Way Out Junk, and it's easily found for download and is listenable on YouTube, so prepare yourself for the best album Stacey Q never made.

Now, for starters, we all realize that Freddy underwent a kind of downward (or upward, depending on your vantage point) spiral, from diminutive, terrifying, burn victim child murderer to laughy, jokey, one-liner machine. We've all seen the the yo-yos, the trading cards, the board games, etc., etc., and I suppose it was only a matter of time before a pop album emerged, but interestingly enough, the release date of this album falls between installments 3 and 4– long before Freddy became a parody of a parody of a parody. Also of note is that Stacey Q's breakthrough album BETTER THAN HEAVEN (featuring such hits as "Two of Hearts and "Insecurity," sung in character as the psychiatrist Dr. Q)

was released in the latter half of 1986, and she didn't release her next until HARD MACHINE in 1988. What was she doing in 1987, exactly? It is my contention that FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS does not feature a Stacey Q rip-off artist, but quite possibly clandestine (contract-breaking) vocals by an incognito Ms. Q herself. But, I digress. Let's look at the blow by blow:

Track 1: "Do the Freddy"

A reimagining of "Do the Freddie" by the English mod group, Freddie and the Dreamers. (Yeah, I just saw you smugly arch your eyebrow and purse your lips when you saw that the original band name featured the word 'dreamers.') It is not, in fact, a remake of "Let's do the Freddie" by Chubby Checker, which was an attempt to profit from Freddie and the Dreamers' faddish success, unlike this, which is an attempt to artistically reimagine an existing work for a different age.

In case you didn't know what you were getting into, right off the bat we have Robert Englund scream: "I'M FREDDY- AND THIS IS FOR YOU!!! HAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!" which is immediately followed by some reverb-heavy 80's drums. Hang on tight, everyone- we're only four seconds into the album.

Then we got Stacey Q and her back-up singers telling us to

"Pick your feet up/ swing your arms up, too/Move your head both ways/ Like you see him do/ Well, jump three feet to the swinging beat/ of the Freddy"

I can't quite say that I remember Freddy moving in that exact manner in the films. I guess I remember him jumping a lot, through mirrors and glass and such, but I can't recall if it was precisely three feet, or if it was even done to the swinging beat of the Freddy. Guess I'll have to watch all the movies again. But, for the time being, I'm willing to give Stacey Q the benefit of the doubt. By the way, she's not in full-on Q mode in this first track. Probably she thought her contract enforcers would never listen past the first track of the Freddy Album. She really starts to crank up the Q-ish sex kitten by around Track 6. More on that later.

Anyway, Englund starts to mix up the AHAHAHAHAHAHAs (that occasionally interrupt the song) which straight out AHHHHHHHHHHHHs. Freddy is just straight-up howling (in pain?). We're only on Track 1, and it somehow sounds as if he is either having a large splinter extracted from his eye, or he's about to bust a nut– now, each represents a terrifying prospect, and I'm not sure we're yet in a mindset to properly consider them. With a few final extraneous howls, the song fades out and into...

2. Dance... or Else!

Freddy lays out the rules right away in this song. In fact, there's only one rule, and that rule is simple: DANCE...or else!!

"This here's the kind of party you don't need to show I.D./If you're a guest of Freddy's you can come right in for free/ the atmosphere is charged with party electricity/ there's just one rule applies/ but it's one you better keeeeeeeeep!"

And he's not kidding- Dance or else is the only rule at Club Freddy. There's nobody checking I.D., no drink minimum, no waitlist, hell, there's not even a rule against pissing on the toilet seats or leaving lewd graffiti behind on the bathroom walls, as long as you keep on dancing as you do it.

Freddy's laugh in this song is more of a guffaw than a cackle or a howl, as was the case in Track 1. He's in control, and he knows it. And there's no reason for him to be perturbed- from his all-seeing, omniscient vantage point he can watch the dancers down below, adhering to Freddy's Rule–– yep, they're dancing all right.

"You gotta daaaaaaaaaaaance- DANCE OR ELSE! /Remember marathons? you had to dance until you drop/ on Freddy's special dance floor the excitement never stops/ I'll give you one suggestion, it's a secret you can keep/ If you want to stay alive, you'll think twice before you sleeeeeep"

Now, this song goes on for four minutes and twenty-nine seconds, which may strike you as a tad excessive, but we haven's even gotten to the nearly six minute "Don't Sleep" or the instrumental track, "Elm Street Dreams." Well, I got some news for ya– Freddy is calling the shots, and he's not listening to some stuffy hit machine producer who usually cranks out two and three minute-long puff pieces.

Then Freddy recites a poem in the third person:

"Running steps work best at night/Remember Freddy's always right/Scared? Or do you think you've got the cure?/ Check out Freddy's manicure!"

I like the way he rhymes 'cure' with 'manicure.' Only you can get away with that kind of shit, Freddy. Then one of the gals re-recites the poem. She can't quite pull off the double-rhyme, but before it truly sinks in, there's a rockin' guitar solo. Then the song kinda drags itself out for another 2 minutes. I think Freddy is fully aware of this, so he inserts a lot of reverb, echo-effects, and repetition, leaving you with an even hazier recollection of events. Did that song really go on for nearly five minutes? Nahhh.
Annnd fade out. Whew. Okay, you can stop dancing...for now.

3. In the Midnight Hour

Next up, we have another Freddy cover, this time of Wilson Pickett's 1965 hit "In the Midnight Hour." Freddy joins the pantheon of great musical artists to cover this song, along with The Doors, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, Johnny Thunders, Roxy Music, and Echo & the Bunnymen. Freddy's version, not surprisingly, is the best of these, even outdoing the original.

This one's pretty much a straight-up cover, down to the growlin' sax and the Hammond organ interludes, with a few startling interjections by Freddy.

"JUST YOU AND ME!!! JUST YOU AND I!!! HEYYY!! BRING IT DOWN NOWWW!"

Freddy's gettin' pretty worked up, and the studio back-up singers are really getting into it. I can only imagine in the recording studio the high-fives that occurred just after they wrapped. "Really soulful, ladies, nice work!"

4. Don't Sleep

Just when you thought you couldn't possibly have any more fun, Freddy switches things up on you with a mournful ballad he likes to call "Don't Sleep." Reminiscent of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," and in all the best ways, Stacey Q really ratchets up the emotion on this track. I, for one, was almost in tears. I'm serious, she really lays it all out there.

It begins with an ominous warning from Freddy–

"Don't sleep....don't dream..."

a warning which is repeated by some new, ethereal, male back-up singers. Then Stacey:

"Oooooh, you know he's comin' out, tonight/ Yeah-eh-eh-yuhhh/ He's comin' after you- ton-night/there's no escape/so hear what I say-eh-eh-eyyyyyy/ ....If you wanna stay aliiiiiiiiiive– Don't Sleep"

And on that last "Don't sleep," Freddy joins in, harmoniously, on the word "sleep" to emphasize the seriousness of the situation and give it a little more weight, more Freddy/Stacey pathos. This could have been one of the great all-time duets, had there been a video. Kinda like that one with Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat. I like that one a lot. Anyway, we get that soulful, echoey guitar solo at the one-minute mark, just to let you know that this song is going to go on for a long time: there will be multiple solo breaks.

"Ooooh, you wanted somethin' new, tonight/ Ohhhh-oh-oh-ohhh/ What are you tryin' to do, tonight?/ If this is some game/ I just don't wanna play/ If you wanna stay alive...DON'T SLEEEEEEEEEP"

Wait a second, Stacey, is this song still about Freddy? Is there some stuff happening in your life that you would like to talk about? I'm getting worried over here. This isn't just some game to me, either. I care. Then, Boom- another soulful, echoey guitar solo. Get used to those.

"Oooooh/ You know he's comin' out toniiiiight/ Oh, no-oh-ohhh/ He's comin' after you, toniiiiiight/ You try to escape/ But he will have his wayyyyy/ And if you wanna stay alive, don't sleeeeeeep"The rest of the song is sort of free-form guitar solo/spoken word. Freddy interrupts the reverie with a fiendish chortle, and we're on our way to:

5. All I Have to Do Is Dream

"I see you...in your dreams!!!" Cue slappy bass riff. We are back on the road to morbid exuberance with this one. Man, that last track did a number on me, so give me a second. Whewww. Alright.

Now this is another cover- this one of "All I Have to Do is Dream," made famous by The Everly Brothers back in 1958. Freddy likes himself some Oldies, I can tell you that. I don't really remember synths, reverb-heavy drums, and slap bass in the original recording, but it's been a while since I heard it.

Freddy's got delicious comebacks in this one.

Girls: "All I have to do is dre-eee-eee-am. Dream, dream, dream..."

Freddy: "AWWWWWWW, DID YOU MISS FREDDY??? Just remember, all you have to do is DREAM– HAAAAAHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!"

There's some awesome spoken-word interaction, too–

Girls: "Gee whiz"Freddy: "AWWWWW!"

Freddy is all smartass, all the time in this one, even mocking the way the singers enunciate, near the end. Damn! It's good to have you back Freddy.

All that woeful melancholy in Track 4 kinda had me down in the dumps.

Now, this concludes part one of FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS, but tomorrow I'll delve into some of the most memorable songs on the album. Here's what we have to go:

6. Obsession
7. Wooly Bully
8. Down in the Boiler Room
9. Elm Street Dreams


-Sean Gill

Edit: Continued HERE.

STAGE BLOOD IS NEVER ENOUGH's Rachel Klein to appear on 'The Matt Fried Hour' Tonight!

Tonight, director/choreographer Rachel Klein (who directed my GO-GO KILLERS!, AENIGMA, OUR PRISON, and segments of STAGE BLOOD) will appear on The Matt Fried hour to promote STAGE BLOOD IS NEVER ENOUGH's final performance this Thursday (*which as of yesterday was sold out, but we fully expect many on the wait list to obtain entrance*),

Details here.

"In the comic tradition of Conan O'Brien and Stephen Colbert, Matt Fried welcome to the stage downtown celebrities, performers, young comic talent, and indie musical guests that define the scene of downtown NYC. October's show will feature comedian Carl Arnheiter (Inside Joke), indie theatre director, Rachel Klein (All Kinds of Shifty Villains, Go-Go Killers!) and downtown rock band, The Rhodes.

THE MATT FRIED HOUR is every third Wednesday of the month at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st and Avenue A) at 9pm. Tickets ($5) are available by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or online at www.horseTRADE.info"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Film Review: THE CHANGELING (1980, Peter Medak)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 107 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Written by William Gray (PROM NIGHT– WHUTTTTT?!). Starring George C. Scott (PATTON, FIRESTARTER, PETULIA), Trish Van Devere (THE LANDLORD, MOVIE MOVIE), Melvyn Douglas (two-time Oscar winner, HUD, BILLY BUDD, NINOTCHKA, THE OLD DARK HOUSE), Jean Marsh (the evil Queen in WILLOW, FRENZY, CLEOPATRA).

Tag-line: "..an experience beyond total fear."
Best one-liner: "That house is not fit to live in. No one's been able to live in it. It doesn't want people."

For the uninitiated, it must be said that the less you know about THE CHANGELING, the better, so I'll avoid revealing anything about the plot. Somehow the median point between Nicolas Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW and the turn-of-the-century ghost stories of M.R. James, THE CHANGELING is a sheer force of atmospheric dread. Director Peter Medak is a master of effectively using space, foreboding architecture, and ornate interior design– as well as the roaming camera which captures them.

In THE RULING CLASS (1972), he nearly turned the expansive Gurney estate into a character- an object of desire for some, and a turgid reminder of a centuries-old oligarchy to others. While it was not a 'horror' film in the purest sense, I feel as if Medak learned much back then, and merely had to subtly tweak his techniques in order to create a seriously sinister mood.

The score, by Rick Wilkins, is hauntingly evocative, consisting of ever-flowing, swirling piano, surging and eddying like sudden rushes of air or a gentle, ghostly breaths. The cast is phenomenal: George C. Scott's stoic melancholy, Melvyn Douglas' tortured countenance, and Trish Van Devere's harried energy go a long way toward establishing the atmosphere.

THE CHANGELING belongs to the genre which I call 'melancholy horror,' consisting of films like CASTLE FREAK or DEAD & BURIED. It's almost as if a shroud lies draped upon the film- a defeated sigh, a pensive look, a sense of loss. But make no mistake, this film is SCARY. Medak portrays the supernatural in a manner that, for me, is unmatched: to feel the otherworldly as an ominous presence that lingers just outside the frame- Kubrick does it in THE SHINING, Alan Parker does it in ANGEL HEART, Lynch does it in TWIN PEAKS, and Medak does it here.

He doesn't have to rely on cheap 'sudden loud noise' scares, he builds a genuine sense of foreboding from the ground up, and takes the material very seriously. Without this film, there would be no RINGU (or, consequently, THE RING), THE OTHERS, or even THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. It's one of the great ghost stories, unsullied by time, and as long as we fear the unknown, this film will continue to resonate. Five stars.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)
9. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988, Ken Russell)
8. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)
7. THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)
6. MOTHER OF TEARS (2008, Dario Argento)
5. THE CHANGELING (1980, Peter Medak)
4.
...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Film Review: MOTHER OF TEARS (2008, Dario Argento)

Stars: 4.8 of 5.
Running Time: 102 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Asia Argento, Udo Kier, Dario Nicolodi (back in an Argento film for the first time since their breakup during 1987's OPERA), Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (the seamstress in OPERA, the birthday honoree in DEMONS 2), Jun Ichikawa. Music by Claudio Simonetti.
Tag-line: "What you see does not exist. What you cannot see is truth."
Best one-liner: "Who wants to eat the girl?"

MYTH: Dario Argento has never made a completely coherent film.
FACT: He has, it just doesn't happen to be this one.

Udo Kier angrily demands a coherent script.

MYTH: Dario Argento has never been able to resist gratuitously showing his daughter Asia naked.
FACT: He has. Back when she was 11, in DEMONS 2. But, then again, he didn't direct that one, he wrote and produced.

MYTH: Dario Argento has never been able to resist gratuitously torturing his daughter Asia.


Asia in a skull and maggot pit, in homage to his own PHENOMENA (1985).

FACT: Actually, that is a pretty accurate statement.

MYTH: Argento's films have gotten less gory over time.

Dario preps one of his buddies.


Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni gets wrapped in her own entrails or something.


A witch hoochie (Jun Ichikawa) is about to be messed up real bad.

FACT: This is a common belief among people who have just seen 2004's THE CARD PLAYER or 2005's DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? Those of us who have seen the uncut JENIFER, PELTS, and MOTHER OF TEARS realize that Argento is undergoing probably not only the goriest stage of his career, but perhaps of all film history.

MYTH: This movie has a lame ending.

FACT: Only if you think Asia Argento destroying a witch by disrobing her with a giant spear is lame. Which, if you do, you probably shouldn't be watching Argento movies anyway.

MYTH: There's no way you could make a good drinking game out of this movie.
FACT: Try a drink every time they whisper 'Motttthhherrr.' If that's not enough, do one for every time you see an evil monkey or a member of the international army of witch hoochies.


MYTH: This film does not make for a good double feature with anything.

FACT: Try it with Mr. T's BE SOMEBODY OR BE SOMEBODY'S FOOL, specifically the "Treat Your Mother Right" rap, which seriously would have made amazing closing credits music.

Not that there's anything wrong with Daemonia's heavy metal effort, "(SHE'S OUR) MUTHAH OF TEARS!"

MYTH: This movie dishonors the reputation and visuals of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO.
FACT: You will be laughing too hard to care.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)
9. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988, Ken Russell)
8. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)
7. THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)
6. MOTHER OF TEARS (2008, Dario Argento)
5.
...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Film Review: THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jack Hedley (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY), Almanta Suska (THE GRAVY TRAIN, HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA), Howard Ross (WARRIORS OF THE YEAR 2072, THE BATTLE OF RIVER NERETVA), Andrea Occhipinti (BOLERO, THE SEA INSIDE). Produced by Fabrizio de Angelis (director of THUNDER 2 & 3, producer of 1990: BRONX WARRIORS, THE NEW BARBARIANS, ZOMBI 2, and THE BEYOND).
Tag-line: "New York City: It's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to die there!"
Best one-liner: "Fred, have you flipped out, or are you trying to give me an ulcer? A smart-ass coroner comes out with a little verbal diarrhea, and you immediately go around declaring there's a maniac loose in the city!" –"Yeah, so what do you want me to say? A boy scout's been widdling on girls with his knife?"

Okay, Lucio, just saw the flick and I must say I have a couple notes. No, I loved it! No, I didn't think it was too sleazy!

#1. Well, maybe it was a LITTLE too sleazy. The the lip-curling trench coat woman masturbating to a sex show is one thing;



light bondage set to jazzy, sax-heavy disco is another; a crack pipe in the shape of a dick is another thing entirely;

and the five-minute gratuitous 'toe-in-the-vag' sequence is perhaps a BIT much.

Are you serious? Five minutes?

But you know what, Lucio, if I were you, I wouldn't tone it down for the world!

#2. "It's about that maniac who's been slicing up young women, isn't it?" "How did you guess that?" "I eat oodles of carrots."


#3. I like the way New Yorkers end conversations with "Ciao!" It's picking up on little details like this that really capture a city.


#4. "QUAAACK! QUA-QUA-QUAAACK!" You can read about this beforehand. You can KNOW that the killer talks and quacks like a Donald Duck combined with a really sad sack Mickey Mouse. He's even got the skeezy "Disco Duck" laugh, too. You can know ALL of this in advance, yet NOTHING can prepare you for the quacking. NOTHING.

Here is an audio only clip of the killer making a taunting phone call to the police station. Prepare yourself.


#5. "You disappoint me, duck!" Yeah. That, too.

#6. I love that it takes until the ripper kills the head cop's PROSTITUTE for him to be like "Now it's FOR REAL."


#7. The reveal of the killer, the motive, and the denouement. It's all done with such senseless, ludicrous enthusiasm that it simultaneously celebrates the classic Italian disinterest in standards AND makes Dario Argento look like Eugene O'Neill. Bravo!

#8. I really like that you end it on a freeze frame, then have a few seconds more of cityscape footage, and then end it on another freeze frame. Kinda like a one-two punch of freeze framery, and a perfect finish to a movie experience that feels similar to someone trying to stab you with a razor, finger your butthole, and whisper creepy nothings in your ear at the same time. I guess we're on the same page, Lucio, but could you please stop licking my ear?

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)
9. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988, Ken Russell)
8. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)
7. THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982, Lucio Fulci)
6.
...