Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Brain Damage (1988)

... aka: Brain Damage - La maledizione di Elmer (Brain Damage - The Curse of Elmer)
... aka: Elmer
... aka: Elmer le remue-méninges

Directed by:
Frank Henenlotter

Henenlotter's highly unusual debut feature BASKET CASE (1982), the ultra low-budget (35 thousand), bloody, sordid, blackly comic tale of separated Siamese twins out for revenge against the doctors who separated them and left the horribly disfigured one for dead, took a little while to catch on with audiences but it eventually won itself a loyal cult following thanks to midnight theater screenings and home video. It wouldn't be until six years later that we'd get the writer / director's sophomore effort. It turned out to be well worth the wait. Brain Damage is a real bright spot in late 80s horror and now stands out as one of the more memorable films from an era where routine, formulaic slasher flicks were ruling the box office. The copious bloodshed, ultra-seedy urban atmosphere and unusual, diminutive central monster have all been carried over from Henenlotter's previous success, only this time everything is fashioned to be a parable about substance abuse. Humor, horror and pathos all effectively blend here and, thanks to a higher budget of 600,000 dollars which afforded 35mm film stock, this has a more vivid, polished, colorful aesthetic than the grungy / gritty-looking 16mm Basket Case. Both films really have the perfect look for their subject matter and the amount of originality and character thankfully remains undiminished.



Brian ("Rick Herbst," who'd later start going by his real name, Rick Hearst, and win Emmy Awards for his work on the daytime soaps General Hospital and The Guiding Light) wakes up late one evening in a daze. Upon further inspection, he realizes he has blood all over his neck. After an excellent trip sequence with blue fluid filling up a room and a ceiling light turning into an eyeball, we learn what's responsible for Brian's sudden altered perception: a slimy, intelligent parasite named Aylmer. And if you think having a monkey on your back is hard, try having an Aylmer on the back of your neck. Not only is his hallucinogenic, euphoric secretion (injected directly into the brain via a needle-like tongue) highly addictive, but he's also a demanding little sucker who craves fresh human brains in exchange for highs.








Having spent his early years absorbing a steady diet of 42nd Street Grindhouse cinema, NYC native Henenlotter knows how to put together a good, gritty exploitation film but he also gives audiences a bit more to sink their teeth into here. Nearly all of the symptoms / signs of addiction are touched upon in clever ways, including Brian's rapidly deteriorating health, sealing himself off from the outside world, lying, sneaking out at all hours of the night, hanging out in junkyards, seedy hotels and clubs, unsuccessfully attempting to go cold turkey and becoming estranged from both his brother / roommate (Gordon MacDonald) and his patient girlfriend (Jennifer Lowry). Aylmer's former owners; Morris (Theo Barnes) and Martha (Lucille Saint-Peter), who are suffering from some very nasty withdrawal symptoms that include foaming at the mouth, physical deterioration and madness, desperately want the creature back.







Beverly Bonner (who has appeared in nearly all of the director's films) has a bit part as a neighbor, Vicki Darnell is a punk girl involved in one of the messiest fellatio scenes you'll see (granted you watch the unrated version), Joseph Gonzalez (who'd go on to play Zorro the Pimp in the director's Frankenhooker) is featured in a memorable shower room scene and Basket Case star Kevin Van Hentenryck has a hilarious subway cameo in his Duane Bradley persona. Aylmer's silver-tongued voice is charmingly provided by former Philly TV horror host John Zacherle, whose name had to be removed from the credits since this was a non-union picture. The new wave band The Swimming Pool Q's perform their song "Corruption" during a scene at the Hell Club and Zacherle even gets to sing himself; putting a memorable spin on the old song "Elmer's Tune."








Some have criticized the special effects (by Gabriel Bartalos and others) as borderline hokey, and perhaps they are, but in my eyes they're charming and well-executed considering the time and budget. There's even some brief stop motion animation thrown in. James M. Muro (Street Trash) was the Steadicam operator and the assistant director was Greg Lamberson (Slime City). Because of the success of his first two films, Shapiro-Glickenhaus financed three more films for the director: the aforementioned Frankenhooker and two Basket Case sequels; 1990's Basket Case 2 and 1991's Basket Case 3: The Progeny. It wouldn't be until a decade-and-a-half later that Henenlotter, who spent much of his down time running the invaluable Something Weird Video, would make another film: Bad Biology (2008). 



After debuting at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival in France in January 1988 (under the title Elmer le remue-méninges = "Elmer Brainstorming"), this played a limited theatrical run in the U.S. in April, mostly around New York and New Jersey. The initial R-rated video distributed by Paramount was trimmed by about two minutes (mostly scenes involving brains and brain-eating), but the film was releases on home video overseas uncut. The 1999 DVD release from Synapse restored all of the previously missing footage and comes with an entertaining and informative commentary track.

★★★1/2

The 2015 Orloks - 1961 Results

Started many moons ago by Prof-Hieronymos-Grost, the Orloks were a yearly poll on the IMDb horror boards where users submitted Top 5 lists of their favorite horror movies for each year. All of the results were then tabulated to come up with a definitive list of the year's most-liked genre offerings. Alas, when the good Professor decided to depart the boards years ago, the awards went with him... that is until now. IMDb-er seth_yeah - taking on responsibilities as both host and calculator - has decided to bring back this long-standing tradition in 2015, and now the awards will have a permanent place right here on this blog. Scoring is rather simple and done on a weighted system where first choice receives 5 points, second choice 4 points, etc., with a +1 bonus then awarded to the #1 selection on each list. IMDb release years are being used, but it is left up to voters to determine what they may or may not consider horror (which may be in conflict with IMDb's genre labeling system). If you'd like to participate, head on over to the IMDb HORROR BOARDS to vote! So without any further ado, the results...

_________________________________________________________________________________

1961
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. The Innocents
UKUSA / 63 points / Jack Clayton
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Pit and the Pendulum
USA / 52 points / Roger Corman
* * * * * * * * * *
3. The Curse of the Werewolf
UK / 28 points / Terence Fisher
* * * * * * * * * *
4. Taste of Fear (Scream of Fear)
UK / 22 points / Seth Holt
* * * * * * * * * *
5. Mr. Sardonicus
USA / 18 points / William Castle

_________________________________________________________________________________

Making the Top 10:

6. Homicidal / USA / 17 points / William Castle
7. Matka Joanna od aniolów (Mother Joan of the Angels) / Poland / 15 points / Jerzy Kawalerowicz
8. Night Tide / USA / 14 points / Curtis Harrington
9. Ercole al centro della Terra (Hercules in the Haunted World) / Italy / 7 points / Mario Bava
10. Gorgo / UK / 6 points / Eugène Lourié

_________________________________________________________________________________

Others receiving votes:

- Beast of Yucca Flats, The / USA / Coleman Francis
- Day the Earth Caught Fire, The / UK / Val Guest
- Devil's Hand, The / USA / William J. Hole Jr.
- Devil's Partner / USA / Charles R. Rondeau
- Doctor Blood's Coffin / UK / Sidney J. Furie
- El mundo de los vampiros (The World of the Vampires) / Mexico / Alfonso Corona Blake
- Kaidan Oiwa no borei (Ghost of Oiwa) / Japan / Tai Katô
- Konga / UK, USA / John Lemont
- L'assassino (The Ladykiller of Rome) / France, Italy / Elio Petri
- Lycanthropus (Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory) / Austria, Italy / Paolo Heusch
- Mask, The (Eyes of Hell) / Canada / Julian Roffman
- Mosura (Mothra) / Japan / Ishirô Honda
- Muñecos infernales (The Curse of the Doll People) / Mexico / Benito Alazraki
- Shadow of the Cat, The / UK / John Gilling
- Snake Woman, The / UK / Sidney J. Furie
- Tulipunainen kyyhkynen (The Scarlet Dove) / Finland / Matti Kassila

_________________________________________________________________________________

Links here will be connected when the time comes.

<  Back to 1960                          Continue to 1962 >

The 2015 Orloks - 2005 Results

Started many moons ago by Prof-Hieronymos-Grost, the Orloks were a yearly poll on the IMDb horror boards where users submitted Top 5 lists of their favorite horror movies for each year. All of the results were then tabulated to come up with a definitive list of the year's most-liked genre offerings. Alas, when the good Professor decided to depart the boards years ago, the awards went with him... that is until now. IMDb-er seth_yeah - taking on responsibilities as both host and calculator - has decided to bring back this long-standing tradition in 2015, and now the awards will have a permanent place right here on this blog. Scoring is rather simple and done on a weighted system where first choice receives 5 points, second choice 4 points, etc., with a +1 bonus then awarded to the #1 selection on each list. IMDb release years are being used, but it is left up to voters to determine what they may or may not consider horror (which may be in conflict with IMDb's genre labeling system). If you'd like to participate, head on over to the IMDb HORROR BOARDS to vote! So without any further ado, the results...

_________________________________________________________________________________

2005
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. The Descent
UK / 80 points / Neil Marshall
* * * * * * * * * *
2. (tie) The Devil's Rejects
USA / 39 points / Rob Zombie
* * * * * * * * * *
2. (tie) Wolf Creek
Australia / 39 points / Greg McLean
* * * * * * * * * *
3. Noroi (Noroi: The Curse)
Japan / 27 points / Kôji Shiraishi
* * * * * * * * * *
4. Land of the Dead
Canada, FranceUSA / 25 points / George A. Romero
* * * * * * * * * *
5. The Call of Cthulhu
USA / 21 points / Andrew Leman

_________________________________________________________________________________

Making the Top 10:

6. Hostel / Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Slovakia, USA / 19 points / Eli Roth
7. Rinne (Reincarnation) / Japan / 17 points / Takashi Shimizu
8. Masters of Horror: "Cigarette Burns" / CanadaUSA [TV] / 15 points / John Carpenter
9. (tie) Exorcism of Emily Rose, The / USA / 14 points / Scott Derrickson
9. (tie) Feast / USA / 14 points / John Gulager
10. (tie) Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The / UK, USA [animated feature] / 10 points / Steve Box, Nick Park
10. (tie) Masters of Horror: "Homecoming" / Canada, USA / [TV] / 10 points / Joe Dante

_________________________________________________________________________________

Others receiving votes:

- Antikörper (Antibodies) / Germany / Christian Alvart
- À travers la forêt (Through the Forest) / France / Jean-Paul Civeyrac
- Beneath Still Waters / Spain, UK / Brian Yuzna
- Boy Eats Girl / Ireland, UK / Stephen Bradley
- Bunhongsin (The Red Shoes) / South Korea / Yong-gyun Kim
- Cave, The / Germany, Romania, USA / Bruce Hunt
- Chaos / USA / David DeFalco
- Chello hongmijoo ilga salinsagan (Cello) / South Korea / Woo-cheol Lee
- Chinjeolhan geumjassi (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance / South Korea / Chan-wook Park
- Creepies 2 / USA / Jeff Leroy
- Dark Water / USA / Walter Salles
- Dom zly (The Dark House) / Poland / Wojciech Smarzowski
- Evil Aliens / UK / Jake West
- Grizzly Man / USA [documentary] / Werner Herzog
- Hard Candy / USA / David Slade
- Haze / Japan / Shin'ya Tsukamoto
- Headspace / USA / Andrew van den Houten
- House of Wax / Australia, USA / Jaume Collet-Serra
- Isolation / Ireland, UK, USA / Billy O'Brien
- Jacket, The / Germany, USA / John Maybury
- Kimyô na sâkasu (Strange Circus) / Japan / Shion Sono
- Maid, The / Singapore / Kelvin Tong
- Masters of Horror: "Dreams in the Witch House" / Canada, USA [TV] / Stuart Gordon
- Masters of Horror: "Jenifer" / Canada, USA [TV] / Dario Argento
- Meatball Machine / Japan / Yudai Yamaguchi, Jun'ichi Yamamoto
- Naboer (Next Door) / Denmark, Norway, Sweden / Pål Sletaune
- Noriko no shokutaku (Noriko's Dinner Table) / Japan / Shion Sono
- Películas para no dormir: Cuento de navidad (Films to Keep You Awake: The Christmas Tale) / Spain [TV] / Paco Plaza
- Ranpo jigoku (Rampo Noir) / Japan / Akio Jissôji, Atsushi Kaneko, Hisayasu Satô, Suguru Takeuchi
- Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical / Canada, Germany, USA / Andy Fickman
- Reeker / USA / Dave Payne
- Rofuto (Loft) / Japan, South Korea / Kiyoshi Kurosawa
- Roost, The / USA / Ti West
- Saigo no bansan (The Last Supper) / Hong Kong, Japan / Osamu Fukutani
- Santa's Slay / Canada, USA / David Steiman
- Saw II / Canada, USA / Darren Lynn Bousman
- Sílení (Lunacy) / Czech Republic, Slovakia / Jan Svankmajer
- Skeleton Key, The / Germany, USA / Iain Softley
- Stink of Flesh, The / USA / Scott Phillips
- White Noise / Canada, UK, USA / Geoffrey Sax
- Zoo / Japan / Masaki Adachi, Hiroshi Ando, Ryu Kaneda, Komiya Masatetsu, Junpei Mizusaki

_________________________________________________________________________________

Links here will be connected when the time comes.

< Back to 2004                    Continue to 2006 >

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