Not since high school algebra have I been as terribly confused as I was today while scrolling through Shudder’s horror library. How, in all my years of watching cheddar-flavored schlock, had I never heard of Microwave Massacre? Just this morning, I’d have been willing to bet my brother’s kid that this film would be enjoyable – and since I love my nephew to pieces, I’m quite glad that I didn’t.
Microwave Massacre fittingly begins with a glimpse at a fancy microwave oven and a deteriorated severed head, which, by my standards, is the peak of film openings. Unfortunately, when you reach the highest point of my fictional mountain, the only way left to go is down. A slow, methodical descent into Shitsville (The town at the bottom of the mountain, in case you didn’t know) is the respectable way to come down, but Microwave Massacre more-so slips on eagle shit and slams against every jagged rock until it reaches the surface below.
In layman’s terms, it’s really bad.
Immediately following the opening sequence, the camera follows a young woman around town, focusing primarily on her breasts and butt. This is painfully indicative of the woefully sexist film to come. The woman eventually arrives at a construction site and leans over to peek at the workers through a hole in a fence. At this point, a random man pinches her ass, pushes her boobs through the hole in the fence, and has sex with her.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like rape to me.
Strangely, Microwave Massacre plays this sexual encounter for comedy, with eccentric music accompanying the construction workers as they notice the breasts poking through the hole and rush over to find the woman that they’re attached to. When they reach the fence, the moaning woman removes her breasts from the hole and inexplicably hurries away. Can you see why I’m so goddamn baffled about this? If the woman was being raped, which we all agree that she was, why have her rush off so that she didn’t get caught having sex? Does this mean that she was willingly having sex with a stranger who grabbed her ass and made unsolicited advances? Your boy needs answers, and this film isn’t giving them to me.
All this in the first five minutes of the movie.
The primary focus of Microwave Massacre is Donald, a construction worker who has grown tired of his nagging wife and the diet she forces him to follow. Rather than separating from his partner in the more traditional sense, Donald’s constant misery drives him to bludgeon her to death with a pepper grinder and pop her in the microwave. The way she would have wanted to go, he says, staring directly into the camera.
Now with a hankering for human flesh, Donald cuts his wife into dozens of pieces, wraps her up in tinfoil, and places her in the garage freezer. The only part of her body that isn’t covered in foil is her head, which brings to mind The Voices, a far superior horror comedy starring Ryan Reynolds. In that film, Reynolds’ character also keeps the heads of his victims in a refrigerator. While I doubt that Microwave Massacre was any sort of influence on that vastly different film, the connection of that tiny detail seems almost prophetic since there’s a roll of Reynolds Wrap on top of Donald’s meat freezer. This is the type of thing I’ll make conspiracy videos about when I’m 35 and in desperate need of life direction. Not that I couldn’t use some now.
Free from his burden of a wife, Donald starts hanging out with his work buddies more often, feeding them sandwiches made from her corpse. When he grows tired of her meat, however, Donald begins inviting prostitutes over to his house, where he kills them, cuts ‘em up, and cooks them in the microwave – all the while making Rodney Dangerfield style quips while looking, you guessed it, directly into the camera. This occurs repetitively throughout the last 45 minutes of the film, and just when we think Donald has been backed into a corner and that the plot will finally shake things up for us, he uses a bread roll to snuff a woman out and evade trouble.
A goddamn bread roll.
Microwave Massacre is the equivalent to that one friend who thinks he’s hilarious, though he’s actually just obnoxious and abrasive. The attempts at humor are desperate and sad, and the element of horror is non-existent. It’s not the so-bad-it’s-good type of horror movie that the title suggests: it’s just bad.
Suppressed deep within the crevices of my mind are hellish memories of Paris Hilton on a farm. A brief sifting through internet garbage determined that these waking nightmares were pulled from a reality series called The Simple Life, which I have no recollection of ever watching. Now, this could very well be a symptom of life’s recurring stress finally frying my brain to the point of memory loss, but after watching Invasion of the Blood Farmers, I’ve deduced that the likely alternative is this:
Paris Hilton is a druid queen fueled by blood that farmers are secretly harvesting from unsuspecting victims all over the world, and I’m having psychic visions of her terrifying reign. Totally logical, right?
For this week’s installment of WTF Am I Watching, it was my pleasure to stream Ed Adlum’s low budget Invasion of the Blood Farmers on Shudder – emphasis on low budget. The production of this exploitation flick is so noticeably cheap that I half-expected the movie to end thirty minutes into the runtime with a title card describing what would’ve happened if the filmmakers didn’t run out of money. IMDb claims that the budget for Invasion of the Blood Farmers was $40,000, but if that’s true, I imagine it was paid for in pennies and IOUs.
The film takes place in rural New York, where otherworldly druids pose as farmers in order to harvest blood from civilians and resurrect their queen. You’d be hard-pressed to decipher that they’re druids throughout the first forty minutes of the movie, though, as they appear to be basic, straw hat-wearing farmer dudes with an insatiable bloodlust. Farmers drink dog blood all the time, don’t they? There’s no real difference here.
It’s not until we’re introduced to the leader of the druids, who talks like a twirly-mustached cartoon villain, when we find out exactly what the hell is going on – but even with the numerous scenes of this character standing in a singular spot and sprouting exposition like goddamn wildflowers, it’s hardly clear cut. It’s something to do with a magical key and finding a host for the blood, and the most heavily-featured druid farmer uses a cane that may or may not have some sort of mystical power… who the fuck knows. The point is that the plot of Invasion of the Blood Farmers is hardly the film’s strong suit.
Fortunately for my entertainment, the nonsensical story elements only add to the charm of a film that’s brimming with fantastically low quality. There isn’t one decent performance to be found in Invasion of the Blood Farmers, and while most people would mark that as a criticism, I found this aspect of the movie to be endlessly amusing. It’s painfully obvious that the actors struggled to memorize their lines, not because I’m personally questioning the confidence of their dialogue delivery, but because they actually pause mid-sentence, NUMEROUS TIMES, and search for the words in their mind. It’s a rare feat for one of the actors to get through a line without pausing or stuttering, and it’s honest-to-god delightful.
I know it sounds like I’m bullying a film that couldn’t afford the security to protect itself from jerks like me, but these especially poor quirks are the foundation for a retro exploitation flick that I thoroughly enjoyed. I like my movies how I like my beer: dirt cheap and questionable. Invasion of the Blood Farmers proudly checks both boxes, so it’s alright in *my book.
If we fight over everything else in life, I think we’d still unanimously agree that the sun sucks. You likely need no more evidence of this since you can’t walk outside without the skin melting from your flesh, but you can bet your ass that I’m going to give you more anyway.
On this week’s installment of WTF Am I Watching, we’re taking a look at Day of the Animals, the not-so-classic natural horror film from director William Girdler. This choice flick plays like a cautionary tale of terrors to come, as a depleted ozone layer leaves all life on Earth exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun- especially those living in high altitudes. In those particular areas, scientists discover that animals are becoming highly aggressive towards humans.
Now, I’m no scientist, therefore I cannot vouch for the legitimacy of this threat. However, since worst case scenarios seem to be the norm, I’m gonna go ahead and buy into it: The sun will turn animals against you.
Day of the Animals takes place somewhere in Northern California as Steve Buckner (Christopher George) accompanies a dozen hikers on a days-long trip up a mountain despite the warning from local law enforcement. Unbeknownst to them, the group is being stalked through the woods by mountain lions, bears, wolves and more- each of which are inexplicably at peace with each other, even with their hyper-aggression. I would assume that carnivorous creatures at peak monstrosity would be at each other’s throats, but again, I’m no scientist.
When the group stops to rest, they notice that the mountain has fallen silent and that the birds are exhibiting bizarre behavior. This is also the point when each individual in the group is introduced, among them Leslie Nielsen as Paul Jenson, an angry-type man with an insensitive and racist sense of humor. So a typical old white man, amirite?
That evening, Steve and the hikers come across a campsite that appears to be in use by another group, who are nowhere to be found. Worried about the campers, Steve decides that they should stick around for the night and wait for them to return. As the group sleeps, a woman is attacked by a pack of wolves while in her sleeping bag. The hikers manage to chase the wolves away before she’s killed, but she’s badly injured and needs medical assistance.
The following morning, the woman and her husband journey to a nearby ranger tower in search of help, but she’s attacked by vicious birds and knocked over a cliff to her death. Her husband manages to escape, and in doing so, finds a young girl who is presumably part of the missing group from the night before. As the film progresses, the two escape the mountain, but while searching for help, the newly widowed husband is ambushed by a mad dog AND rattlesnakes, resulting in his death. The child survives though, destined for life without parents or protectors while dealing with the constant trauma and paranoia from seeing several people she cared about be ferociously torn apart by animals. So that’s a silver lining, I suppose.
Elsewhere, Steve leads the group to a spot where food has been left for them, only to find that animals have raided the area and devoured all of their grub. Tensions begin to rise as Paul questions Steve’s leadership, ultimately resulting in the groups splitting up after they are attacked again. Paul takes his group up the mountain towards the ranger tower, and Steve leads the rest back down the mountain.
During a rainstorm, it’s revealed that Paul has lost his goddamn mind, and in an unexpected turn, believes himself to be the macho king of the mountain and attempts to rape one of the young women in his group. He’s briefly fought off by her boyfriend, but ends up driving a walking stick through his gut and murdering him. He then drags the woman away to rape her while the rest of the group watches helplessly, until a large grizzly bear intervenes. The group manages to escape and find safety, other than Paul, who, naturally, wrestles the bear until his throat is ripped out.
If you ever wanted to see a shirtless Leslie Nielsen fight a bear to the death, Day of the Animals is the movie for you.
As for Steve and the remaining four members of his group, they are attacked by a pack of especially aggressive German Shepherds (I didn’t count, but the glance-test deduced that there are at least nineteen of them). Two of the hikers are overcome by the dogs, and even Steve barely manages to escape with his life. He and the other two survivors drift downstream on a raft, eventually coming to a safe place as all the affected animals simply drop dead.
Lesson of the day:
The sun killed them, and it will kill you too. Stay indoors and monitor your goddamn pets.
Welcome to the inaugural article of my WTF Am I Watching series. Throughout this extended (barring my sudden death at 27 years old like some sort of coked out rockstar) collection of articles, I’ll be viewing bizarre horror films that most people have never even heard of and describing them to you in great detail. This week’s flick is Black Devil Doll From Hell, a mid-eighties blaxploitation horror film from writer/director Chester Turner.
Black Devil Doll From Hell begins with a nearly four-minute opening credit sequence in which several names appear against a fuzzy black background while a sampled beat of sinister funk (is that a genre?) plays on a repeated loop three or four times in full. In layman’s terms, it was long as fuck.
Once the credits finally wrap up, the viewer is met with a foreboding warning in regard to the terror they’re about to experience:
“We all have our personal horror stories to tell. May yours never be as devastating as Miss Helen Black’s.”
If I may backtrack for a moment… I watched Black Devil Doll From Hell on Shudder, and since I neglected to read the plot information, I had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into. Foolishly, I expected something more along the lines of Child’s Play, but, um, that’s not exactly the sort of devastation Helen Black would be faced with.
This was Turner’s directorial debut, and it shows from the very moment we see something other than words on the screen. I didn’t do my research on the particular subject, but the film appears to be shot on a standard 80’s home video recorder. The picture looks like something you’d find on a VHS tape in the dusty cabinet under your grandparent’s bulky box television. The opening scene is set in a church, and you’d be hard-pressed to believe that any of the characters are played by real actors. I 100% think that Turner filmed an actual church congregation, save for Shirley L. Jones, the lead actress, with a home video recorder, and turned it into the first scene of a movie. Some of the pew-sitting church members even glance directly into the camera! It’s quite charming.
What we learn from this opening church scene and the walk home that follows, however, is that Helen Black is as devout as Christians come. She follows the ten commandments to the letter, tries to bring sinners to the lord, and shuns any negative influence. She’s a virgin, and as she confesses to a friend over the phone, she intends to remain that way until she is married. At the time it was spoken, I really thought the bit about her virginity was just a throwaway line. I had no idea that the entire plot of this insane film was hinging on her sex life.
Not long after convincing her phone friend to attend church with her next Sunday, Ms. Helen Black visits some sort of thrift shop, where she becomes instantly fascinated by the antique doll of a black man. She asks the owner of the store for a price, and the owner is surprisingly straight-up with her about the doll’s supernatural abilities. In a bit of terribly acted exposition, the owner explains that the doll possesses the power to grant the deepest desires of the heart, and that every time someone purchases it, the doll eventually finds its way back to her shop.
Ms. Black laughs, sets the doll down, and begins to walk away while shaking her head at the silly story she’d just been told. However, when she reaches the doorway, she decides to buy the doll regardless of its supernatural power because either (A) she really doesn’t believe fables other than the bible, or (B) she DOES believe the story, and since she’s not the virgin Mary, God isn’t providing the D that her heart most desires.
That’s right, it’s quickly revealed after she purchases the doll that, despite what she’s preached throughout the thirty minutes of the movie so far, what she wants more than anything in the world is to get laid. Ms. Black keeps her innocent charade up while speaking with the doll upon returning home. She sets the doll on the toilet, begins to undress for a shower, and declares that the doll’s eyes are the only ones who will see her naked until she’s married.
While Helen bathes, the doll opens its eyes and looks around the bathroom, observing that his new owner is in the shower. He exhales an unexplained white mist, causing the shower curtain to slowly open by itself. Under the doll’s influence, Ms. Black experiences visions of herself and the doll having dirty, nipple-lickin’ sex, and she begins to touch herself without realizing exactly what she’s doing. When she eventually catches herself, she laments the dirty thoughts and pulls the shower curtain closed without so much as a thought as to why it opened by itself. Because that happens.
That night, Helen wakes from disturbing sex dreams to find the doll watching her. She removes the doll from the room, but it’s watching her yet again when she awakens the following morning. Inexplicably confused by the doll seeming to possess a supernatural power in which she’d already been warned about, Ms. Black ties the doll up inside of a closeted box before leaving the house for a few hours. To her surprise, the doll is still tied up when she returns home, so she decides to shower in peace.
As I mentioned before, I really expected Black Devil Doll From Hell to be something similar to Child’s Play. I was fully prepared to see a doll cussing, killing, and placing its soul in the bodies of small white children. What I didn’t plan on, however, was for this ridiculously cheap-looking puppet to attack Helen Black, knock her unconscious long enough to tie her to a bed, and rape her against her will while calling her “bitch” about a hundred times and degrading her very existence.
Also unplanned was the fact that Black Devil Doll From Hell becomes what is essentially softcore pornography. The doll has a tongue, and it uses it in more ways than one. Most unexpected, though, is that Ms. Black not only enjoyed her sexual experience, but complimented the doll’s sexual prowess and begged it not to stop. Talk about good girls gone wild.
After the moderately graphic seven minutes of doll on human sex (!!!), the doll vanishes, having fulfilled Helen’s deepest desire. Throughout the rest of the film, though, she grows increasingly lustful, but the missing doll has the only wood she craves. It’s wild, y’all.
Black Devil Doll From Hell is the type of horror movie that’s so bad, you’ll never be able to unsee it. Every aspect of the film is horribly executed, from the direction, editing and performances, to the in-your-face misogyny. I can’t at all recommend it, but I hope like hell that you watch it anyway.
Horror takes many shapes and assumes various forms in order to affect us. Be it monsters, killers, or simple catastrophes, horror is there to incarnate both our deepest fears and our darkest sense of humor. By far, the Slasher Genre is my favorite kind of horror to watch, and there are hundreds to choose from out there. So much so that too many of them go overlooked and remain underrated. For that reason I, Manic Exorcism, gladly pull back the tattered veil to shed some sinister light upon these underrated slasher killers.
Uncle Sam (1996)
Yes, the patriotic spirit swept the nation this past week as droves of hard-working men and women piled into cars and made their ways to picnics, barbeques, beaches or to visit friends and loved ones. Bold rockets lit up the night sky and people sat back from Coast to Coast to celebrate how Colonials kicked a whole lot of ass back before any of us were ever born. So why not commemorate that victory with a shitty little slasher film a lot of people have never heard of?!
Uncle Sam is a movie that – and if – anyone has actually heard of it, they’ve never really seen it. Now, and thanks to Shudder, you can spend an evening with this star-spangled serial killer and remember freedom as the blood flows out of wounds before your eyes.
The movie is guilty fun. Let’s face it though, Slashers are not known for their acting. We know what to expect here: boobs, blood and fantastic kills. That’s the basic formula, and Uncle Sam is not above that expectation. It does have all three of those tropes here, so seasoned horror fans won’t be disappointed.
That said, this movie has some of the worst acting I’ve seen since Twilight. We don’t expect anything of Hugh Jackman’s caliber here, but mother of piss is the acting terrible in this one.
So the movie is about a mean bastard of a guy named Sam Harper (David Fralick). A fucker so god-awful nasty that his fellow soldiers see him to the grave with a little ‘friendly fire.’ Back home though his now-widowed wife (Anne Tremko) is not really phased, and if anything is glad to be rid of his sadistic abuse. However, his obnoxious little nephew (Christopher Ogden) hero worships the man and can’t wait until he’s old enough to enlist himself and follow in Sam’s footsteps.
So Sam is brought back to life once a group of local morons burns a flag over his open grave, and well, this soldier ain’t staying dead for that kind of shit. His reanimated corpse comes back to inflict revenge on anyone he deems to be unpatriotic or disrespectful to the Nation. He finds some peeping-Tom dressed in an Uncle Sam costume, and after poking the perv’s eyes out (and spouting off one-liners that would make Freddy cringe, things like, “Hope you got an eyeful?” as he digs his fingers into both eye sockets) and then walks about on the 4th of July as our happy killer Uncle Sam.
It’s a fun gimmicky movie, another holiday-centered horror flick, and honestly, that’s a category all on its own, and one the slasher genre loves to infiltrate. I felt this movie missed some golden opportunities. Like I wish there had been some hilarious Star-Spangled type of deaths. I wanted Uncle Sam to walk around shoving fistfuls of bottle rockets up people’s butts and seeing them burst from the inside out like gooey fireworks. We do get a flagpole death though.
I can’t say this is anywhere near one of my favorite slasher characters/films, but it does have a goofy charm to it. If NECA ever released an Uncle Sam figure I’d be tempted to buy the damn thing. I mean I do collect horror icons, I’m even getting my own custom-made Madman figure! Whoop whoop!
I know the holiday has come and gone already, but the movie is still a perfect choice if you’re looking for a good summer screamer to enjoy.
So yes, without any doubt Sam is worth our attention. We stand and salute you, Sir. We thank you for your service to the history of horror and may you remain obscure no longer.
It seems these days the world is coming up Jeff Goldblum. That sexy salt and pepper sumbitch is everywhere and I don’t see a single person complaining. But Mr. Goldblum isn’t new to the party. He didn’t share himself with the world starting from Jurrasic Park. No…there is a movie before that in particular when I was first introduced to him before he was Dr. Ian Malcolm. I’m talking about Transylvania 6-5000 (1985).
This movie is a goddamn gem. It was written and directed by Rudy De Luca. It stars Jeff Goldblum as Jack Harrison and Ed Begley Jr. as Gil Turner. Both men star as tabloid journalists looking for a story to save their jobs. When a video is found showing a possible Frankenstein’s monster attacking tourists in Transylvania, their editor sends them on a trip to find the monster or find themselves a new gig. Stakes are high and the duo head to Transylvania to find the evidence.
Immediately Jack gets a love interest in the form of Elizabeth (Teresa Ganzel) in all of her big eyed, high pitched glory. Gil is the bumbling dope of the two and immediately embarrasses them. At their hotel owned by Mayor Lepescu (Jeffrey Jones), they are greeted by the strangest butler, Fejos (Michael Richards) and over their visit meet a ragtag group of hilarious classic monster movie rip offs like Odette (Geena Davis) a “vampire,” Radu (John Byner) and his wife Lupi (Carol Kane) the hump-backed servants, a wolfman (Donald Gibb) and Dr. Malavaqua (Joseph Bologna) the mad scientist.
There’s a scene where Gil gets backed into a lake where he is knee deep in water. Out of the murky water rises a hand that immediately grabs his business casually dressed Begley dick. The reaction is perfection and is hands down one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
I have seen Transylvania 6-5000 at least a dozen times and it never gets old. Geena Davis is hilarious, Jeff Goldblum does his Goldblum thing, and Begley Jr. is a hot mess in the best sense of the word. See this movie…you’ll thank me for it.
As we head into the official 30th anniversary of the Chiodo Bros.’ cult-clown-classic, the prestigious restoration of retro beloved titles Arrow Video has released a beautifully restored version of the film that made us question that cotton candy you acquired at the county circus and fair. Chock full of all-new special features including a never-before-seen 24-minute interview with all three Chiodo brothers that offers a glimpse into the filmmaker’s wild-imaginary world and the origin of their passions leading up to Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
With a brand new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative opening with the Trans World Entertainment logo (BONUS), the differences in color and quality here are top-notch when compared to previous releases of the film. Perhaps the most predominant aspect of this brand-new visual look of the movie is the magnificent detail of the clown faces and suits you get to see now. So if you ever need a photo-still for those DIY Killer Klown Halloween costumes, this is the version you want as every last indent of each clown’s mug is seen as clear as Gordon Ramsay’s polished silverware.
Among the retrospective interview with the creators of killer popcorn kernels, the special features included with the 30th-anniversary disc are worth every damn penny you spend on this ultimate release of the cult-horror. A never-before-seen look at the auditioning process of the “klowns” is included with instructing the candidates in full-costume how to walk and move like a creepy as hell, vengeful alien clown, as seen below in a screen-shot I took from the excerpt.
I literally can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence. Jesus and JoJos, I love my job.
The circus of special features is only beginning as we move unto a new 11-minute interview with the original members of The Dickies, a tour of the Chiodos studios, and all-new interviews with stars Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder along with important members of the production cast. In Behind the Screams, we get a retro VHS style look at the behind the scenes action of the movie and we also, of course, have the beloved deleted scenes and a decent amount of bloopers from the movie. Because with a movie as silly and fun as Killer Klowns, you have to know there’s some gems from that cutting-room floor.
Even if you have one, two, or 6 copies of this movie already, THIS is the one you’ll definitely need in your collection. On that note, I’d like to personally thank Arrow Video for sending me a copy to review for this site, as it obviously didn’t disappoint. You can pick yours up by heading straight to Arrow’s website by clicking here.
“The Dual Substance of Christ… has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. … In order to mount to the Cross, the summit of sacrifice, and to God, the summit of immateriality, Christ passed through all the stages which the man who struggles passes through. That is why his suffering is so familiar to us.”
– Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ
In honor of the current holiday, I thought I’d take a moment of reflection for one of the most emotionally charged films in my entire library – The Last Temptation of Christ. Filmed by Hollywood’s legendary Martin Scorsese, this movie dared to take on one of the most violently hated novels of our modern era. Based on the imperial book written by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ tells us the beauty of the Gospel through an entirely new and never-to-be-repeated manner. For that reason, I feel this movie has earned a tremendous cult attraction among thousands while also offending devout practitioners of the evangelical Christian persuasion.
Rest assured, I may be a theologian, but this will not be a religious discussion. You have no worries of me evangelizing to you through this. I merely want to praise the daring work of a magnificent film, one that manages to stir the souls of believers and nonbelievers alike. Which, if we’re being honest, is one hell of an accomplishment.
Daring. Bold. Controversial.
These all three manage to describe this film’s immense merits.
Beautiful. Heart-rendering. Tragic.
These are also the great weights of the movie’s glory.
Solemn. Celebratory. Triumphant!
This journey of the Christ instills in the viewer a mighty swell of victory once we reach that final heart-pounding moment. It is a victory summed up with a humble smile and three sacred words.
“It is accomplished.”
Words which echo across Time and have marked their place in History as deeply spiritual landmarks for millions of souls.
The movie accomplishes its goal in a steady and determined march, and that’s what this movie really does feel like – a march, a defying-all-the-costs parade of Christ and twelve other individuals who would have their names etched upon the pillars of mankind’s religious history. This was ultimately a death march though, and no matter how many of them might try, there would be absolutely no wavering from that looming imminent finale. The march began with one single individual who inspires others, and they soon join and follow him. The march leads them to Jerusalem where, for a time, the following grows and becomes a multitude. But all too soon it dwindles to just four – the Christ and his three Apostles – in Gethsemane, and , ultimately, becomes only one – the very same one who started the movement three years previously, who will find himself beaten, abandoned, and alone to face death as he is lifted up, stapled between Heaven and Earth, the essential totem of Grace, a sacrifice for those he loves.
This is only some of the heart of Scorsese’s gripping masterpiece of love, death, and ultimately unyielding life.
In The Beginning
On the Criterion Collection’s release of the film, Scorsese admits he always wanted to make a big-time biblical epic about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Originally, Scorsese says he was heavily influenced by the larger-than-life works of Cecil B. DeMille. With movies like The Ten Commandments in mind, Scorsese dreamed of matching that level of grandeur someday.
Scorsese also says he wanted it to be a black and white film, something that (I can only speculate now) would have looked like a Gustave Dore work of art come vividly to life. Undoubtedly that would have been breathtaking, but, admittedly, there already was a black and white Jesus epic out there – King of Kings, which is another Criterion Collection release.
Scorsese’s original vision for his future Passion work was later redefined upon seeing Pier Paolo Pasolini’s critically acclaimed The Gospel of St. Matthew. Yup, that means Pasolini, the director of Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, indirectly influenced what we now have as The Last Temptation of Christ. The work of one fervent visionary sparked the inspiration of another and maybe there was something in the air, but people were just damn creative back then.
Scorsese changed his epic into a powerfully humble character study and focused that study on the Son of God. He didn’t have his core story until Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Damien, The Entity) gave him a copy of Kazantzakis’ mystical novel and told him he needed to film this story, and (kindly) demanded to play Mary Magdalen, a role she fills dramatically.
The movie was a go. Paramount greenlit the work, but then the Moral Majority of America got wind of the project and threw a fit. The studio feared some very ugly protests and on Thanksgiving Day, 1983, Scorsese was told his Jesus movie was canceled. The film wasn’t even out the door and its protesters were already screaming blasphemy. Scorsese had to cut the budget back if he wanted his passion-project to see the light of day. Universal would later pick up the rights and the movie was a go once again. But people still fought it tooth and nail.
The Great Controversy
So was the controversy of the film justified? Honestly, the subject matter of the movie has always been a subject of controversy – Jesus. In the Gospel record itself, the Son of God is tremendously controversial. In Jesus, we have a Prophet who claims to be Incarnate God and vows to bridge the gulf between humanity’s soul and the divine by using only three nails and two pieces of wood. It is an outrageous claim, one only the God-Man could fulfill. Jesus does just that. Society didn’t know what to make of Him. And, if we’re being real, society still doesn’t.
There is a definite idea of who the Messiah needs to be, and if that idea doesn’t match people’s preconceived expectations there is going to be an uproar. And an ugly one at that.
So is the film justifiably controversial?
When you have a Jesus film that opens with Jesus building a cross for another man to be crucified, yeah that is going to ruffles some feathers. Well, Jesus was a carpenter after all, and seeing him build a cross that will hang a man guilty of sedition is somehow amazing. This movie presents us with a Christ who is just doing his job. Before he was called Messiah he was just a regular guy making a living. Therein lies the key genius of this movie.
Christ was like one of us. He felt fear and then proved his strength by facing fear. In this movie, he didn’t want to be Christ, but he couldn’t deny being the Son of the living God. It’s a horror story in a way. Think of it: what if you woke up one day and learned God was your father? You were meant to be the Savior of all mankind, but in order to do that, you had to die as a sacrifice. Oh! And you couldn’t just die, but you had to be crucified, the most horrific and painful death invented out of man’s most heinous imaginations.
That’s scary! That’s the story behind Last Temptation. A Jesus who is God become Man. God, Eternal Almighty Jehovah, the I AM, become flesh, beautifully and wonderfully human. One of us, just like we are told in St. John 1:14. This film explores the sacred (and often overlooked) humanity of the Savior.
As a man, all he wants is to live a happy life. Marry the woman he loves, drink with friends and laugh in a good company. He wants to build a home and raise a family. He wants to kiss his grandchildren on the head and close his eyes in death knowing he has led a full life – just like a man. That is his greatest Temptation. The amazing drama of the Christ is the fact he is BOTH Man and God, so as a man he wants to live with those he loves, but as God, he must die to redeem their eternal souls.
That is the heart of this movie. It is real and raw human emotions springing from the Gospel record. I stress this is not the Gospel, and the filmmakers make that known from the opening title. But this is a celebration of the Gospel’s triumph.
I say that because I grew up in a home that discouraged me from seeing this movie. My parents were missionaries over in Russia, and so I grew up in a very religious home. We did watch religious-based films, but Last Temptation was on the forbidden list. This and The Omen were the top no, nos. Well, shit if those two films weren’t the very ones I had to see though!
I was expecting to see a gross depiction of my Savior, something that would mock up the Christian faith and damage any one’s personal belief upon viewing it. My first reaction though was admiration for how tenderly they depict Jesus. Willem Dafoe steps into the Messiah’s shoes (sandals) and presents us with a very real and very likable Christ. He doesn’t feel far away and distant, but all too real. Someone you could approach without fear of being denied. Before seeing this film, Dafoe isn’t a top choice I’d think of for such a role, but now I can’t imagine anyone else playing this pivotal part.
I can’t neglect to mention the other roles mastered in this film. As I said, Dafoe is wonderful for his part, but he is joined by some other titanic performances. Harvey Keitel joins us as Judas Iscariot, the man who will be forever marked as the Traitor of Christ. Unlike any other Jesus movie though, Judas is very close to his Rabbi. At times it feels as if he alone gets what Jesus’ mission has to be. The others are ready to take over all of Jerusalem and (eventually) overthrow their Roman conquerors. Judas, on the other hand, is listening and asking questions.
One of the most powerful moments from the movie transpires between both Jesus and Judas. Jesus knows his fate is at hand, that he must be crucified. He takes Judas aside and tells Judas that he has to be the one who turns the Son of Man over to the soldiers. Judas weeps when he realizes his role in this eternal epic is to ‘betray’ his Master.
In a minor role (but incredibly impactful) David Bowie becomes our Pilate. His interaction with Dafoe’s Jesus was filmed in one day but you’d never know any different. “You’re more dangerous than the Zealots, do you know that?” he asks the condemned Christ with an air of cynicism in his gestures. The confrontation is short but it somehow lingers in our memory. It’s also a scene that then leads us into one of the most emotionally charged Passion scenes depicted on film. Peter Gabriel’s score, something that elevates this movie a hundredfold, simply outdoes itself during this entire painful process. When Jesus is shouldering his cross you’ll feel as though the weight of the whole world is on his shoulders.
Have a listen for yourself.
Finally, the movie is a work of art come to life. Scorsese admits that he used lighting to try and accentuate the visuals as best they could to harken back to some of the finest art of the Reni séance Age.
The movie is a masterpiece. It’s a Jesus story unlike any you’ll ever see. Sure, we all feel as if we know the saga of the Messiah, but this film does offer us a story angle we’ve never been introduced to yet. We see the heart of God through the humanity of Christ Jesus. This movie may not be the Gospel account, but it does manage to present us a lot of that self-same heart. Personally, this and Gibson’s own controversial film Passion of the Christ are two common staples to watch each Easter. Both movies offer my inspiration something unique, disturbing, and remarkable.
If you’ve not seen this movie (or if it’s been a while) let yourself taste a little bit of spiritual inspiration and give this one a watch. This has been Manic Exorcism. Have a Happy Easter, a Great Passover, and I’ll be catching you all soon enough. Try not to eat too many tasty chocolate bunnies. That’ll make you sluggish and too easy to hunt, and where’s the fun in that?
Welcome back my little nasties! Just can’t get enough of the dearly departed, now could you? Well, that’s perfectly alright with me. I love the dead too, don’t you know? Oh and what a maggoty treat have I in store for you this time around!
Today we’ll be delving even further into the dripping depths of this rancid crypt of living death. The worm dieth not here as we expound upon the very threshold of Hell’s widening maul. The lights are dim and Death is restless as we take a look back at two extraordinary horror masters and the connection between both of their nightmarish visions. The original infection that began in the mind of George Romero spread across the globe to mutate in the fetid imagination of Lucio Fulci, and zombie mania became unstoppable thanks to both men’s fiendish contributions.
In The Beginning, There was NIGHT
The late George Romero managed to do something few creative minds in the field of horror ever have the good fortune to accomplish. He invented a new monster, a monster that tore away taboos and desecrated the sanctity of the restful grave. Without explanation, the dead rose from the cold soil and stalked friends, lovers, and family without prejudice. We, the unfortunate living, were prey for a fresh new nightmare, a nightmare that took the globe by storm and essentially gave way to an entire sub-genre. That same sub-genre persists to this day with no sign of hesitation in sight.
It should be noted that Paw Paw Romero was well aware that zombies had already appeared in cinema. However, those zombies were worlds apart from what we now know them as. Growing up, Romero saw movies involving Haitian zombies, men or women, unfortunately, who have fallen victim to some very dark voodoo magic. They were will-less slaves lumbering about with wide-eyed abandon to serve their master’s beck and call.
Did Romero intend to reinvent these helpless creatures? Aw hell no, and he would be the first to correct us should we argue any differently. George Romero did not set out to create a zombie movie, but rather he wanted to create a whole new kind of monster – ghouls! Being the learned man that he was, Paw Paw Romero was quite aware that ghouls in folklore were known to haunt mist-shrouded graveyards and feed their sensational gluttony among the dead. It was his genius to bend the rules (just a little bit) to his own liking and make the ghouls of his movie be the actual dead freshly risen from the graves and set about with an insatiable craving for warm human flesh.
With that idea in mind Night of the Living Dead was made and a new genre was begotten. Romero’s ghouls were an instant hit as audiences screamed their lungs out and watched under a veil of tears as the victims on screen desperately fought a hopeless battle for their very lives, with increasing fever to just survive the dire night of merciless carnage.
Audiences embraced Romero’s monsters, but with one condition. By and large, people accepted them as zombies and not as ghouls. Ask most people today and even still they’ll say it’s a zombie movie. I’ve never really heard Romero had any qualms with that either. His vision was a success and he did accomplish creating a new type of nightmare to scare us shitless.
With the insistence of fellow horror genius – Dario Argento (Suspiria,Deep Red) – Romero was invited to Italy where he would sit down and lay the groundwork for what many (even still to this day) consider the greatest horror movie of all time – Dawnof the Dead. For many fans, Dawn of the Dead became their favorite scary movie, and for good reason. The movie includes a little bit of everything for anyone.
Night Gave Way to DAWN Something Darker Still
Relentless, cruel and still good-natured, this was Romero’s answer to his original vision of dread. The movie would be in color this time around meaning all the blood would be quite noticeable. It would also feature the ingenious work of special FX legend, Tom Savini who has spent a lifetime exploring ways to show us death in the most visually violent ways as possible.
Romero welcomed us all to the Apocalypse!
From the very opening scene, Romero impresses upon the audience a world that has lost all control. We are introduced to the Apocalypse from a news broadcasting room livid with very real human reactions. The movie wastes no time and drops the viewer into this world where you now must follow a band of characters who are ill-prepared to deal with the world’s ending at the hands of the zombie plague.
This isn’t something anyone can prepare for, and it certainly proved to be something no audience at the time was prepared to handle. Savini’s gruesome work splashed across the big screen like foul art, a thing no one wanted to see but nobody could look away. It was a violent array of popping headshots, flesh-eating, and ghoulish fun.
Romero struck gold and genre fans couldn’t get enough of the simple formula he used.
This formula is repeated even still. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or Resident Evil you have George Romero and his Dawn of the Dead to thank for that. Once again, the man reinvented himself and the monster he brought to life.
The Italian Echo of Living Death
When Dawn of the Dead was released overseas, in Italy the movie was simply titled Zombi. The film had a definite impact on one particular viewer – Lucio Fulci.
It’s been said that the screenplay for (what would become) Zombi 2 was written before Romero’s classic DotD was released. What is fact though is Lucio’s movie served as the unofficial sequel to Dawn, or Zombi, and hence the name Zombi 2.
Fulci’s contribution is brilliant. This is not some half-assed movie either, something quickly cooked upped to cash in on an internationally acclaimed hit. This movie has heart, a swollen, blackened heart beating with putrescent awe and terrible beauty.
A few years ago Shriek Show was kind enough to releases an incredible 25th-anniversary edition of Lucio’s cult classic. This is the edition you’ll want to pick up if you’ve not seen the movie, love zombies, and have even the smallest bit of interest right now. To be honest this is my all-time favorite zombie film. Yup, even though I love Paw Paw Romero, Zombi 2 is my favorite out of all the great many zombie flicks to choose from. When asked why I always refer to one simple reason – this movie has everything I’d expect out of a zombie film. Lots of gore is a given, as well as actual visuals of the dead themselves rising from their graves. And these are rotting zombies too, so foul you can almost smell their ripe decay. Not to mention we get some pretty ladies running for their lives and heroes who don’t really stand a chance. This movie is chilling of its own accord and the slow pace build up is powerfully executed.
The one scene that stands out most to me – and if you know this movie you’ll probably already be guessing which one, but you’d be surprised to find you’re wrong – is what I call the’ zombie picnic’ scene (not the shark scene, although it’s also amazing). It’s just a scene featuring some zombies seated around a freshly dead victim. Her body is in oozing pieces. Blood is pooling everywhere and the living dead help themselves to the meaty morsels of her organs and muscles. Like I said it’s a great (and chilling) scene. One that takes a moment, hits pause on the action and just focuses on why we are afraid of zombies. We fear them because they feed off of us. Your spouse, your children, your best friend, should they die, will come back with a need to feed off of you. Or you, should you go first, will ultimately eat your own loved ones. That is the terror of zombies, that inescapable march to the grave, and not even the grave is safe anymore thanks to them. Weirdly it’s sometimes overlooked in so many other zombie movies.
The Series (?)
Now, wait, if we take this seriously, that would make Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 1. Sooo would that mean Night of the Living Dead is Zombi the Prequel? It’s kinda fun to let that be true. To imagine these movies are all connected. (And Disney tries to act like Marvel was first to do a shared universe)
There were follow up movies after Zombi 2 made its mark. We might get into those at a later time, but that’s going to be it for now. I hope you enjoyed our little visit with these flesh eating monstrosities. As always be sure to keep checking in to get all those warm thrills or eerie chills, all right here at Nightmare Nostalgia! I’m Manic Exorcism, and I bid you all farewell for now. Go while you still can, dearies. Hehehe.
Hello, my sweet gargoyles and ghouls. It’s your dearly demented friend, Manic Exorcism, asking you to join me on a lovely cemetery stroll where the departed, well, they just aren’t content to rest peacefully. So grab a shovel – or a boomstick, should you prefer – as we unearth the unconsecrated bowels of these crypts and look at this underrated gem – Cemetery Man. Or also known as Della Morte Dell Amore.
The Zombie Genre
Once upon a time zombie films were few to be found. Cemetery Man, much like its festering brothers and sisters of the genre, was a definite rarity. That might seem shocking to our modern audiences today – who have been nursed on The Walking Dead, Resident Evil games, and countless tons of independent flesh eating atrocities – but zombie movies used to be hard to find.
Crazy, I know, right? Today we have too many of them. It’s an over saturation really, as if we’re overrun by hordes of living-dead films. Each one shambling over one another and inseparable in their rotten likenesses. A drooling mess of celluloid brainless insatiable cravings, each of them clawing at us, demanding our numb attention and refusing to let us escape. A true epidemic and apocalypse. It is a wasteland of lost creativity.
Wow! Almost sounds like I hate zombie movies. I don’t, but admittedly I’m not a fan of the current state of them. They’re all too similar. Similar in tone, in style and even in their characters. Honestly I think that zombies were way scarier when they were rare.
The Cemetery Man
Cemetery Man came out during a golden age when film makers dared to take risks and tackled well-established tropes we were familiar with, but added some much-appreciated originality to a subject matter that otherwise would have been left rotting beneath the earth. There were some creative minds that brilliantly brushed away the layers of mold and breathed putrid life into those bones.
The problem I have with modern zombie incarnations is if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Stop me if this sounds familiar: a band of miss-matched survivors must face the undead legions across a dystopian landscape. Throw in some romantic drama and BOOM you have your zombie flick. CG blood effects will complete the mendacity and your indie zombie movie will get lost in the stinking tide of an over-used gimmick. 28 Days Later was part of the zombie renaissance and it’s formula has been recycled to death with few contributions adding any freshness to the field. But hey, I guess we can praise Zombeavers for its uniqueness. At least it was different!
(That’s not to say I don’t have my modern favorites. Shaun of the Dead is to be praised. So is Planet Terror. However, both of those movies were clear throw backs to that golden age of risky film making I already mentioned.)
On the contrary, films like Creepshow, Braindead,Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps (they’re zombies, right?) and of course today’s subject, Cemetery Man all offered audiences something new, fresh, and (believe it or not) entirely unseen before. Who can forget the mean old bastard who rises from his wormy grave still demanding his father’s day cake? Or who else got hot around the color as our pre-pubescent eyes watched Trash bare it all and dance in a grave yard? (We love you Linnea Quigley!) We also got to see (whether we wanted to or not) zombies have sex on a dining table and later give birth to a zombie baby who goes on to run amok across a playground. Holy shit! These movies were awesome!
They became instant cult classics and are still highly adored to this very day. There is no replacing them. Their fandom swells with every new generation and will never lose steam as more audiences are introduced to their ingenuity and creativity.
They weren’t about any catastrophic dystopian society. They were about everyday people having a really bad, bad day. And we genuinely felt a connection with the characters.
Aside from practical effects do you know what each of these beloved movies have in common? They don’t take themselves too seriously. They made horror fun. They’re fun but not stupid, I must stress that. They are serious movies with some hard-core punk flare. They made us squirm, squeal and scream for more! That’s something gravely lacking in the majority of today’s zomb-zomb endeavors. Their tones are too serious for their own good or they try to be funny and just mock it up. (I guess there was a time when talent was a thing.)
If you’re a fan of any of these aforementioned punk-rock flicks then I can assure you that Cemetery Man is one you’ll want to see. The plot centers around our hero who is tasked with killing the freshly buried who rise from their graves. That’s it. What makes this movie remarkable are the scenes and visuals. The filmmakers had a great eye and at moments it feels like grotesque art come to life.
Honestly this movie is more beautiful than any zombie movie has any right to be. It’s hypnotic and at times you won’t be able to look away. The project was purely a work of inspiration.
The movie is also subtly deceptive. Sure, on the surface you’ll think it’s about a guy who shoots the living dead in the head. But then the film begins to explore intense subjects such as love and all of its treachery and the mysteries of Death itself. It becomes a gradual existential odyssey between the living and the dead.
Our cemetery man is played by Rupert Everett, a surprising role for him but very well done! He is assisted by a mentally challenged fellah, Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro), who is the perfect cross between Curly from the Three Stooges and Uncle Fester. Gnaghi is just too much fun. At one moment he crushes hard on the mayor’s daughter and throws up all over her as a sign of affection. There’s another great scene where he’s sitting down in front of the TV and happily eating some chocolate ice cream all the while his partner is busily fighting off a sudden invasion of the living dead. Gnaghi remains entirely oblivious the whole time.
Just like Return of the Living Dead this movie is damn cool. I mean what other movie will give you a zombie biker bursting out of his grave on his mother-fucking motorcycle? That and the Grim Reaper makes one Hell of an appearance that you won’t soon forget.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one and upon a re-watch, I now have a brand new favorite. I really hope that someday Arrow Video will give us a proper Blu-ray release of this sadly underrated cult classic.
This has been Manic Exorcism thanking you for joining me on another macabre journey into the heart of darkness. Be sure to keep checking in here at Nightmare Nostalgia for all those lovely chills and thrills. I’ll catch you all later, my lovelies. And next time you won’t get away so easily. Heheheh