Monday, December 5, 2016

Argento's "Three Mothers" Trilogy

“Suspiria” (1977), “Inferno” (1980), “Mother of Tears” (2007)
by Goat Scrote
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In director Dario Argento’s trilogy of horror films, the Three Mothers of Sorrow are powerful malefic witches who are greedy for wealth and power. They live in special homes designed for them many years ago by an alchemist, who didn’t realize their wicked natures until too late. Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs, lives in a dance academy in Freiburg, Germany. Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness, lives in an apartment building in New York City. Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears, lives in a mansion in Rome.

     The witches secretly rule the world from these hiding places but they are actually portrayed as quite petty and self-destructive. This begs the question, why haven't the witches used their long lives to amass material wealth and mundane political influence, instead of just going on occasional killing sprees?

  Argento’s film “Tenebre” (1982) is unrelated to the series despite the title. “Inferno” is the film which deals with Mater Tenebrarum. Exploitation director Luigi Cozzi made an unofficial sequel to the series in 1989 which has carried a number of titles, including “The Black Cat” and “Demons 6: De Profundis”. I’ve discussed it already elsewhere because it is also a fake sequel to the “Demons” series.

     If you're interested in where Argento got his inspiration for these movies, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the article for a brief discussion of the book "Suspiria de Profundis".

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Suspiria *****
     This horror film is legendary for very good reasons. The story is flawed but everything else more than makes up for it. It’s not hyperbole to call it fine art.

SIGHT *****
     One of the most visually stunning movies ever made. The composition and camera work are beautiful and inventive. The use of lush primary colors and geometric motifs makes for an incredible viewing experience. The movie has a look all its own which has been imitated many times but never duplicated (not even by Argento).

SOUND *****
     Also one of the great film soundtracks, composed by Claudio Simonetti and Goblin. The way sound and music are used in this movie is just as important as the visuals. The sound design has an otherworldy and menacing quality which builds unease throughout.
SCARES *****
     A tense nightmarish feeling, like a fever dream, pervades the whole movie. The death scenes, although there are only a few, are unpredictable and intense. They don’t always make sense — dreams are like that — but that doesn’t stop them from being scary.
STORY **
     The plot is murky and at best adequate, although one could argue that this actually contributes to the dreamlike quality of the film. The story is set primarily at a prestigious dance academy full of sinister characters in the Black Forest of Germany. Horrible events are underway and the school is at the center. A hidden coven of witches lashes out at anyone who threatens their veil of secrecy, leading to a string of bizarre "accidents" and murders around the city. The coven is led by the evil Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs.











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Inferno ***
     What sets “Inferno” apart from other Italian horror flicks is its visual flair. It’s not a very scary nor a particularly absorbing movie, unfortunately, but it's almost as gorgeous as its predecessor.

SIGHT *****
     “Inferno” is beautiful. Visually, it's a worthy successor to “Suspiria”. Striking colors, geometric patterns, and beautiful shot compositions create individual frames which could stand as artworks in their own right. It’s worth seeing it in the best quality you can manage because it’s all about the visuals.

SOUND ***
     The score is written by Keith Emerson. There are times when his music fits seamlessly, and other times it seems to go in its own direction and belong in an “Omen” film or a 70’s TV show. The clashing music sabotages several of the scary scenes in the latter half. Some of the characters are musicology students which offers a logical way to bring some effectively-used classical music into the soundtrack. The sound design lacks the nightmarish intensity which helped propel the first movie. Hard to rate because it is so all-over-the-place sound-wise.

SCARES ***

     It has a few very creepy scenes. The tense early scene of a woman swimming in a fancy apartment submerged underwater is particularly haunting and surreal. The few great moments like this are spaced too far apart. The scares are sometimes undermined by unintentional comedy, such as an attack by ill-tempered house cats, or a guy screaming “Rats are eating me!” as he dies. The disappointing special effects at the end seem to belong in a campy 60’s era Vincent Price film.

STORY **
     The backstory of the Three Mothers is further fleshed out and continues to make hardly any sense. The two surviving witches both commit some murders in this film. The focus is on Mater Tenebrarum as she tries to preserve her New York hiding place. For all her supposed magical power she mostly uses knives to kill people. The unsatisfying ending hinges on the inability of the mighty witch to cope with a mundane household accident.





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The Mother of Tears ***
     “Mother” tries for an epic high-fantasy scope, with many characters demonstrating magical knowledge and abilities. The attempt to top the previous two movies hinges pretty much entirely on upping the gore, body count, and sexual perversity. Argento discards the more restrained and stylized approach which made the other two films stand out. "Mother of Tears" falls far short of the grand climax to the series which it was meant to be.

SIGHT ***
     It just looks like a pretty ordinary modern horror movie sprinkled with some truly awful CGI. The palette is mostly earth tones, with lots of black. Stylistically it is jarringly different from (and inferior to) the look and design of the first two movies.

SOUND ***
     Professional and competent, with some good work by Claudio Simonetti. Nothing too out of the ordinary here either, though. It just sounds like a typical scary movie. The loud nonstop shrill laughter of most of the witches sounds too much like a stereotypical caricature of witches cackling in a corny old cartoon. This makes it hard to keep a straight face during many moments which ought to have been full of tension.

SCARES **
     This movie is a little bit boring despite waves of gross-out gore and violence that sweep across the screen. It has the bloodiest and most sadistic kills of the series. That's super, but it doesn't make up for the lack of any real suspense or chills.

STORY **
     Mater Lachrymarum retrieves an artifact which greatly amplifies her power. She summons lesser witches from all over the world to join her, and the entire city of Rome descends into madness under their evil influence. The plot is the most coherent of the three (which isn't saying much), but unlike the first two it’s mostly a chase movie. The way they show the people of the city slowly turning into homicidal maniacs in the background of the main action is a nice touch. Mater Lachrymarum's defeat is a bit of an anticlimax, unfortunately.





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Argento's Source Material

      The characters of the Three Mothers of Sorrow originate from “Suspiria de Profundis” (“sighs from the depths”), a book of “prose poems” or imaginative essays written by Thomas de Quincey (favorite subject: drugs). It was first published in partial form in 1845 and remains very incomplete. Charles Baudelaire translated parts of the work into French and quoted it in his 1860 “Les paradis artificiels". (Translation “Artificial Paradises”. Topic: drugs.)

     The specific piece of de Quincey’s work which inspired Argento’s series of films is called “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow”. The Mothers were inspired by mythological triads such as the Fates and the Furies. For de Quincey, they were personifications of the trials and burdens which had shaped his life. Levana was a Roman goddess related to childbirth and is a fourth, distinct figure in the essay. It's quite a good piece of writing, considered a literary masterpiece in fact, and it’s only a handful of pages long. You could read it. It’s worth the time.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Deadly Dogs vol. 3

Deadly Dogs 3
by Goat Scrote

     Another offering for rabid fans of killer dog movies...




Cujo (1983)

Mainly a ripoff of: The book "Cujo" by Stephen King.

The Dog(s):  Just about everyone has heard of Cujo, right? Karl Lewis Miller was the animal trainer for Daddy, the main dog who portrayed Cujo. Daddy developed a case of bloat and died during production. Trainer Miller also worked on "The Pack" (1977).

     Summary: Directed by Lewis "Alligator" Teague. A loveable Saint Bernard contracts rabies, becomes a ferocious, slobbering killer, and holds captive Donna (Dee Wallace Stone) and kindergarten-age Tad (Danny Pintauro) in their disabled Ford Pinto. Those cars really are deathtraps! This premise seems pretty limited as the basis for an entire horror movie but it does have some grisly moments of terror. Cujo's mental and physical degeneration is horrifying to watch.
     Best Scene: Cujo’s first leap at the window of the car always makes me jump, and when he uses his body as a battering ram it's pretty intense, but the scariest moment for me is when Cujo sneaks up behind Donna and actually manages to get into the car. Oooooh shit!


Dishonorable Mention:  A major change to the end of the story robs it of its most painful, gut-punching twist. The revision was made with Stephen King’s approval, but I say screw happy endings.

Recommendation: At its best moments it's really scary, and the depiction of ordinary people under extreme stress is pretty realistic. On the other hand, the non-stop shrill screaming gets on my nerves after a while. If you like killer dog flicks at all you pretty much have to see Cujo. The movie is one of the most intense examples of the sub-genre. It’s also the most accessible pop culture reference when speaking with mundanes. Cujo isn’t just a killer dog, he is the killer dog.




Zoltan... Hound of Dracula (1978, aka Dracula’s Dog)



Mainly a ripoff of: The Hammer films Dracula sequels.

The Dog(s): Once an ordinary dog, Zoltan was bitten by a vampire bat long ago and became an immortal bloodsucking slave of Count Dracula.


Summary: Some Soviets crack open the crypt where Dracula’s dog rests and stupidly pull the stake out. Bad move. Zoltan runs around feeding on other dogs to create a pack of vampiric canines, along with Dracula's vampire servant (Reggie Nalder). The dog feeds from the jugular exactly like Dracula, and the dogs monster makeup is actually pretty good. With such a ludicrous premise you might expect them to go full comedy on this one, but they play it seriously and that ends up being part of the charm of the film.




Best Scene: Zoltan and his vampire pack come after Michael Pataki and Jose Ferrer while they are hiding out in a shack in classic "Night of the Living Dead" fashion.

Dishonorable Mention: Zoltan trips and falls to his death cartoon style after being confronted by a hairy chest and a cross necklace. Uncool. The way the ending unfolds is really unsatisfying.

Recommendation: Kind of dull, but possibly worth a watch for killer dog or vampire genre fans with a high cheese tolerance.




The Pack (2015)


Mainly a ripoff of: Every other trapped-in-a-house-by-monsters movie ever made. Totally unrelated to the 1977 film with the same title, however.

The Dog(s): A pack of large, intelligent, black-furred canines start out eating sheep but soon discover that humans are the most delicious prey of all.


Summary: An Australian family becomes trapped on their isolated sheep farm by vicious killer dogs. They must defend themselves with their wits and whatever tools come to hand. It becomes a bidirectional game of cat and mouse (so to speak) as the pack stalks the family and the family stalks the pack right back. Mom brings up the fact that dogs and even wolves simply don’t act like this under any circumstances known to humankind. This is a big plot hole in most killer-animal movies but the writers sidestep the issue. “Yes this is unrealistic and no we’re not going to explain it, so relax your puckering sphincter, Mr. Scrote, and deal with it.”

Best Scene: A police officer arrives in response to an emergency call from the farm and gets blindsided by the pack, who literally dog-pile on him and then drag away his corpse. The family sees the dogs stalking the unsuspecting officer but they can only watch helplessly when the pack moves in for the kill.


Dishonorable Mention: The writers contrive for all the gun ammunition to be scattered around the grounds of the farm in unlikely places. There are exactly two more rifle bullets in every cache the family finds, doled out like ammo power-ups in a survival-horror video game. This makes little sense from within the context of the movie but on a meta level it’s clearly done so the writers can avoid having Dad resolve everything pretty quickly with his gun.

Recommendation: Genre fans will want to see it for the well-done, realistic-looking dog attacks, although overall it doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the pack. (Ha ha, see what I did there?) It's well-executed with very good cinematography, and I never noticed any obvious CGI or puppetry. It has scares, suspense, and a sprinkling of gore, but it’s also basically a retread of things we've seen before. Even so, "The Pack" was more entertaining than most killer dog movies.




















Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Keep My Grave Open




Keep My Grave Open Directed By SF Brownrigg, starring Camilla Carr (1974). 

Hey wait a sec---YouTube is broken, stop showing shitty home movies from the 70's or a very backwoods episode of The Incredible Hulk starring a soiled chubby hobo!
Thanks to horrorfanbaby on Youtube, who painstakingly uploaded his rare collection from the SF Brownrigg archives we have the pleasure to finally see this VHS tape rescued from the bottom of a Jack-N-The Box dumpster. I hate Brownrigg, I've mentioned this a bunch of times and why any of his shit is featured in the catalog or held in any kind of regard is beyond my comprehension, but what do I know? All I'm saying is, don't encourage him by putting these out on Blu-ray, they should remain in the same landfill as the E.T. Atari videogames and never to be unearthed. His son Tony is even around carrying on the legacy with a sequel to Don't Look in the Basement. That film as lame as it was is a bazillion times more entertaining than Grave. There's just so many missed opportunities for something, anything interesting to happen. The crackly washed out film quality looks like it was smothered in country gravy and giblets--getting hungry yet?
Get ready to weep for the homeless because that paunchy bum gets his head cracked open lickity split. According to the always reliable Oak Drive In (http://theoakdrivein.blogspot.com/2014/08/keep-my-grave-open-1976.html), Brownrigg worked for Larry Buchanan and honed his terrible skills in his editing suite. To me neither of them can hold a candle to the schlock master piece maker Joy N. Houck, who else likes that director but me anyway?

Oh man, that elephant is leaving his footprints all over that butter!

The terrible Waltons style psychedelic rock permeates the soundtrack. I can already tell I'm gonna hate this movie but I'm punishing myself because Grindhouse Releasing is putting it out (and they only buy top notch quality right?) and it's of course in the DR catalog so it must be documented.
A redhead who looks exactly like Kiki Dee and wears a French's mustard yellow blouse is the main character. She gets crazy headaches, meaning she might be a schizo and is pissed that her psychiatrist is bugging her.
(stop whistling Twisted Nerve, it's everybodies ringtone thanks to Tarantino)!


More country bumpkins show up, actually they seem more like nondescript shitty actors. The mop topped redhead talks to herself or yells very loudly , there's something wrong with her and with me for watching further!

She calls out to a mysterious Kevin, we don't know if he left her or he was murdered but we later find out. I almost can't believe it, but Pigs was actually more action packed than this shit. This film is an exercise in tolerance almost on a Warhol level of surreality or I can sit through this trash and still find some entertainment value. Speaking of Skunkape told me he just sat through Trash Humpers, which I'm betting was more exciting than Keep My Grave Open. Is it good, no it's fucking horrible! Why am I bothering, I don't have a rational response! 

CINEMATIC NYQUIL, NO COFFEE ON THE PLANET WILL KEEP YOU AWAKE!

I JUST SAW THE DAILIES, RETCHHHH



Sunday, November 20, 2016

SHAMELESS PROMOTION ALERT: Support Liquid Cheese



Let me take this long overdue time to promote one of the best print zines currently out there by sometime contributor and all around genius writer, creator and fascinating dude Dave Kosanke for mentioning TOG in the pages of his wonderful magazine Liquid Cheese. I've been hooked lately on that mag and bought a couple of issues and so should you! Here's the link http://liquidcheesefanzine.storenvy.com/products/18075248-liquid-cheese-42. In practically every issue there's artwork by Rick Melton one of the most insanely talented artists working today. My favorite aspect is the dirt on Cinema Wasteland, because I've never been to any horror convention or comic con for that matter and wonder what goes on there, who's cool, who's a dick whatever goes down is discussed and it's always a laugh riot! Kosanke was also featured in the legendary Xerox Ferox book (which everyone should own a copy of). He also has a vintage porn zine called T.O.S.S. that's brilliant and you can just tell he genuinely cares and loves this shit as much as we do.
Melton's Blood Sucking Freaks artwork almost makes it look dignified!

Black Friday is coming up and you know you don't want to get trampled to death Wal-Mart/ Pete Townsend style, it's better to live another day to fight against fascism! We all love you Dave and print is still king, because facts and research will always outweigh blogs and making up bullshit weekly world news style! That is all for this commercial. BUY OR DIE!
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