Archive for July, 2011

Charles Band Spotlight (Part 3: Dolls)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by splatterpictures

I’ve heard complaints about Charles Band and Fullmoon about how a lot of his stuff has a heavy emphasis on killer dolls, puppets, toys or whatever. Charles Band has admitted himself he’s always had a fascination with that concept.

My personal opinion is that if something is done well, I don’t mind seeing it again and again. I can tell you this much when it comes to dolls.

When I was a kid, staying at my grandparents house they had this doll. It was about a meter tall and it always just sat on this stool facing out from the television. During the day, when the lights were on, it was just a doll to me, not freaky at all but at night, it was the scariest fucking thing I’d ever seen. Its doll-face was cracked and held together by bandages. Its hands were these tiny shriveled brown messes that looked like a mummified corpse. I swear to god, that thing would look at me sometimes. Just look straight at me. I always thought one day for sure it was going to come to life and kill me.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well because our third and final spotlight on mister band is going to be his movie, titled simply; Dolls.

Dolls was released in 1987 and was produced by Charles Band and his Empire Pictures company. Band had nothing to do with the directing however. That was done by Stuart Gordon (a horror legend in his own right) It was a precursor to the Puppetmaster franchise and interestingly enough, it’s a hell of a lot better.

The film starts off with a family taking some non-specific vacation in England. It seems the father David (Ian Patrick Williams) has divorced his wife and remarried Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordan). A fun fact is that both these actors would be in another film together, albeit in smaller roles in “The Re-animator”.

David has a daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine) Who has a big imagination and seems to piss off her father and step-mother to no end. The opening scene itself is equal parts hilarious and “what-the-fuck”. After their car gets stuck in the mud, they notice an eerie old mansion nearby. As if some kind of paint by numbers horror scenario they start to walk through the storm towards the house. For –no- reason whatsoever the step-mother turns to Judy and tells her to leave her teddy-bear in the car. When Judy tries to explain that the toy is her best friend, the mother just takes it out of the little girl’s hands and throws it in the bushes. What a bitch! The best part comes when for no reason the teddy is now a giant. It then attacks and kills Judy’s Father and step-mother. Judy says “Oh teddy what have you done now” And the bear, covered in blood just gives a shrug. I was dying of laughter. This whole sequence was just in Judy’s head however, it cuts back to reality and they enter the house where they are introduced to its owners.

An elderly couple live in the mansion are Gabriel and Hilary Hartwickle, (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason respectively) Rolfe would later be cast several times and Andre Tulon, in many of the Puppetmaster sequels. It seems Gabriel is a toy-maker who specializes in one of a kind dolls, their entire house is filled with them on every shelf. Most are the really creepy kind with the big cheeks and dead eyes.

Out of the absolute blue three more characters show up, two British punk rocker chicks (one of whom seems to be channeling early 80’s Madonna.) and a big guy named Ralph. As if totally expecting these new people to come, the Hartwickles invite everyone to stay the night. Of course it doesn’t take long for things to start to get creepy as guests start to vanish and nobody will believe young Judy that it’s the dolls.

This movie is part horror and part comedy. It’s not as goofy as Ghoulies but it also doesn’t take itself as seriously as Puppetmaster. The person who really steals the show is the guy who plays Ralph, (Stephen Lee) he’s a lovable nice-guy who never outgrew the heart of a child. He has a big of imagination, like Judy and while reluctant at first, he is quickly to believe Judy to help her investigate the Toys. Honestly his scenes where he interacts with Judy and the Dolls are the highlight of the film, he really seems to be channeling his Lou Costello in a lot of his lines. The whole time I was watching this I couldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of the comedy was similar to that of the old Abbot and Costello meet the Mummy/Dracula/ Frankenstein etc.. films.

The Dolls themselves are great. The combination of animatronics, stop motion and camera tricks really make those things effective. I think I have a natural leaning to be somewhat creeped out by dolls in the first-place but with all of the Charles Band productions I’ve watched, this was the first time where I was actually freaked out by the dolls. The death scenes are pretty brutal all things considered. A lot of the toys are just savage and attack in large packs.

Now, my biggest complaint about this movie is probably the ending. People who read my blog know that I hate to ruin endings or important plot points while talking about these movies. So, I really don’t want to say much other than, it was really hard to swallow. How the characters could simply buy the story that was fed to them by the elderly couple is just…well like I said it just made no sense.

That being said, I highly recommend this movie, in that if you are going to watch any of the three from my Charles Band Spotlight, watch Dolls. It’s the perfect mix of horror and comedy, plus it’s only an hour and seventeen minutes long, so you can’t really go wrong. It’s available on Netflix for those who have it.

Well that’s it for the Charles Band Spotlight. I hope you guys had fun reading about some of these productions. I said at the start of this that at splatterpictures, we love Charles Band, the reason why we do is because the guy has made his career out of horror.

So many other directors, actors and producers get their start out in the horror industry because they are fast, cheap, and profitable for the most part. People take risks on newcomers, when it isn’t a 100 million dollar franchise. So in that sense, a lot of people use horror as a stepping stone.

Charles Band, just makes horror, dumb, cheap and ridiculous horror. For that mister Band I thank you!

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Charles Band Spotlight (Part 2: Ghoulies)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by splatterpictures

Welcome back to our look at Charles Band productions. Last time we checked out his most famous works, which was the Puppet Master franchise. Next up we have a film that I actually had no idea his name was even on. This time we’re hitting up Ghoulies.

When I’m talking about iconic box art, I think a lot of people can remember Ghoulies. In fact I remember this movie kind of came back for me when I was trying to remember the name of it. My friend and I were standing there trying with all out might to remember what the name of the movie with “the little monsters coming out of the toilet on the cover”

I definitely remember this movie from when I was a kid in the video store. I just wish that the box art wasn’t the best thing about this it. Before we go into the movie, let’s talk about that cover. So we have a Ghoulie coming out of a toilet? I always wondered what that was supposed to imply. The story goes that, they just sent the image to the studio as a joke, but it tested so well that they actually filmed a scene in the movie with it after the fact. Oddly though, in the picture that Ghoulie is wearing a t-shirt and suspenders. He’s actually naked in the movie so…yeah weird.

Ghoulies was released by MGM on good old fashioned analog in 1985. It was supposed to be directed by Charles Band himself but that “honour” went to Luca Bercovici.Band kept the producing credit by way of Empire Pictures, which he was a part of before Full Moon. It achieved moderate success on the home video front. It’s a horror-comedy and for a movie that came out before Puppet Master, it really showcased Bands “leanings” I guess you could say. He always seems to have, the idea of a big mansion with a bunch of hapless people in it. Add a bunch of little guys that are adorable while being deadly and you have the basic premise.

I really wish I could give you a real idea about what goes on in this movie, but it’s so absolutely all over the place it’s kinda hard. The entire movie jumps from scene to scene and situation to situation. Even with all of the strange decisions about editing, it’s not a complex plot by any means.

Basically Jonathan and his girlfriend Rebecca move into a big old mansion that belonged to Jonathan’s parents. The idea is that they’ll fix up the house while going to college. It doesn’t take long until Jonathan discovers old books about black magic and satanic rituals. He becomes compelled to perform these rituals by some unknown dark force.

They throw a party and for some reason decide that a good time killer would be holding a summoning of some kind. Like that would honestly be suggested at a party with a bunch of college kids. “Hey guys, who wants to summon demons?” They didn’t strike me as the D&D crowd. They do the ritual but nothing happens right away; of course though they managed to summon one of the Ghoulies that looks like a rat on steroids.

Jonathan starts to act stranger and stranger, the scene where Rebecca finds out he has been moonlighting as a Satanist is hilarious. Picture this guy in the basement in a fancy robe with a fucking trident that looks like it was made by a high school theatre class. He’s there just screaming his lungs out and boom, his girlfriend walks in with a well placed “What are you doing?” He just stands there looking totally shocked like she just caught him jerking off to some messed up porn. Worse! She caught you roleplaying!

The acting in this movie is cheesy as all hell. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen but it’s pretty bad. Dialogue is so stiff and completely random. Attempts at humour are pretty awkward. It’s even worse when they are trying to be dramatic. One scene, Rebecca is trying to run away from Jonathan who is pretty far gone at this point, she falls down the stairs and while she is falling she screams “Why Jonathan why!?” Needless to say the parts that are supposed to be serious will get the best laughs.

I know what you’re thinking, this post is half over and you haven’t said anything about the “Ghoulies” yet. You know what this movie is actually about? Well welcome to my world. The Ghoulies don’t actually show up to do anything until about halfway.

The Ghoulies seem to be summoned to do the bidding of whoever is calling them. In that way they’re loyal to Jonathan. They look ridiculous, even by 80’s creature standards. They’re clearly just fancy hand puppets, sprayed with water to make them look slimy or something. Some scenes are decent with them, but most of the time all I kept thinking of was how they are like Jim Henson’s nightmare.

Oh I forgot, the Ghoulies aren’t the only things that get summoned, there is also two midget servants named Gizzel and Greedigut. They seem to be just more powerful servants, who have knowledge of magic.

The mysterious dark force drives Jonathan to perform one big ritual, and it all becomes clear who was really pulling his strings and who truly commands the Ghoulies.

The “deaths” if you could call them that, all come at the very end and in quick succession of eachother. I put deaths in quotations because…fuck it I’m spoiling something. For some reason, they all are alive again at the end of the movie. They get chewed up and attacked by the Ghoulies and other things. Then they all writher and snake their way to the basement like zombies; then at the very end they all run out of the house together, no injuries whatsoever. I seriously don’t get it.

When I was young this movie was great, but I think that it really is an example about how some things just don’t age well as you get older. The special effects are bad, the creatures are pretty bad and whatever plot there is, isn’t exactly inspired. Even by horror movie standards. That being said, Ghoulies spawned a bunch of sequels and pretty good cult following. I should point out that this movie is fucking Shakespeare compares to Ghoulies III: Ghoulies go to College.

Stay tuned, we’re gonna take a look at one More Charles Band Production before we close the toy box on this one.

Thanks for Reading!

Charles Band Spotlight (Part 1: Puppet Master)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2011 by splatterpictures

One of the weirdest concepts I’ve always tried to wrestle with in horror is just how some things can kill other things. It seems to boggle my mind every time I hear about another strange horror movie where the killer is something totally fucking random. Take the recent movie “Rubber” for example.

When I was a kid I was definitely more forgiving on bizarre concepts, giant brains attacking people; or a videogame gone crazy. I’ve said before that there was just something about movies that came out of the 1980’s. It seems equal parts indifference and marketing genius. I get a lot of joy out of showing some of these movies to people. I know full well they are going to roll their eyes and say “you’ve got to be kidding me” Sometimes I wish I was. Sure as someone who bares a striking resemblance to an adult I would love to be part of the camp that just scoffs at these sorts of movies and moves on, but we all know that isn’t the case.

There are a lot of different kinds of horror; one of those is the just plain old “What the fuck” The kind of horror that really isn’t scary and it’s hard to imagine it was ever intended to be. I usually just assume that it all started with good intentions but the money just wasn’t there, maybe they ran out of time, or the actors they got just were terrible. They end up with a finished product that becomes art in how terrible it is.

Thankfully we had Charles Band and Full Moon productions. Charles Band is a director, writer and producer of Full Moon productions; he had some success in the 80’s with many horror movies, which are just off the wall. Honestly when I was young looking at all the crazy horror movies in a video story, I had no idea the ones that kept standing out to me involved Charles Band in some way. Here at splatterpictures, we love horror, we love all kinds of horror and we love Charles Band. It’s time to shed a little light on three of his films, first up! Puppet Master.

Puppet Master hit the shelves in 1989, and was the first film that launched Full Moon Productions. I say “hit shelves” because it never made it to the theatre. Puppet Master is a prime example about a lot of the things that Charles Band likes about horror like the Killer Doll concept. He already had some success with the movie “Dolls” and I guess he wanted to keep moving forward with that idea.

So, the big question is. What is the movie even about? Well basically there is this old man “The Puppet Master” named Andrea Tulon (William Hickey), he fled Europe during world war two with his creations but was followed by German spies to learn his secret technique of bringing his puppets to life so they could use them as some kind of weapon in the war.

How does he bring the puppets to life? It’s not totally explained, but it’s some kind of Egyptian magic.

Tulon hides the puppet in this room at the Bodega Bay Inn that he’s staying at and kills himself. Cut to the “present day” in this case the present day is 1989 and a bunch of people arrive to attend the funeral of a college of theirs named Neil Gallagher. Now the Inn has been abandoned for years and the puppets have remained there seemingly undetected. It doesn’t take long for shit to go down and we realize that it was no accident that they all came to the very Inn where the puppets have been in hiding.

Now I have to mention some of the weirdest concepts that this movie tries to get across. For starters all of the guests that arrive have psychic powers of some kind. Each one of them can use their powers at different times. One woman actually needs to be aroused for hers to work. I’m not kidding, you basically have to have sex with her or grab her boob for her visions to come through. It leads to a death that still makes me squeamish after her lover is tied to a bed.

All of the characters are pretty bland, but the real draw is of course the puppets. Each one of these guys has their own abilities and part to play in the movie. You have Blade who is totally badass, He has a knife and a hook for a hand, Jester; whose head spins around but he doesn’t actually have a weapon. Pinhead; he seems to have some kind of super strength. Tunnler; His head is a friggin drill and lastly and most disgustingly we have Leech Woman who spits out giant fucking leeches. Seriously where do the leeches come from? How are they still alive? Does she have to go to the store to get more leeches after she runs out?

The funniest thing about this movie is how the humans are all taken out by some of these guys. The puppets are all about two feet tall at best. Somehow everybody gets knocked down to the floor and once you’re on the ground the puppets can pretty much end you. They can’t ever seem to get away, or even stand up after the puppets nail em. Watching the movie is ridiculous only because you wonder why nobody just frigging stomps these things into pieces.

I will say that for such a weird concept, the film does try to take a serious tone and it works to a point. The deaths are good with a decent amount of gore to them. The final death is particularly gruesome where the puppets all gang up on one guy. Also, if murdering dolls aren’t enough it has a good amount of nudity too.

Last thing I’ll mention is the musical score; it has a killer theme that I absolutely loved. It sets the creepy tone of the horror movie while also playing with the childish concept of a puppet in the first place.

Puppet Master gained a massive cult following and spawned eight sequels and even a crossover with another franchise. In my opinion they got progressively worse. The most recent ones are not really what I would consider horror anymore (I don’t even think they would qualify as R rated).

I highly recommend anyone interested to check out this movie but you might want to leave your brain at the door.