Horror 365 Movie(s) 327: Thrift Store Thursday XIV

The latest purchase made literally minutes ago for a whoppin’ $4.23 at Thrift Store USA. I only know the name from the receipt. The big sign on the side of the building just says “Thrift Store.” So lessee here…Darjeeling Limited. Yeah, not horror, but Wes Anderson is one of my very most favoritest non-horror directors, and I needed a copy of this. The Cell I just had to get because, as bad alotta folks seem to think it is, it’s got a couple of things going for it. One is that it’s just straight up unapologetically bonkers and two, even better, Vincent D’Onofrio also being straight up unapologetically bonkers. White Noise was there, and I was already gettin’ other stuff anyway. And finally, Black Sunday. No, not 1960 Mario Bava Barbara Steele iron mask nailed to the face Black Sunday. No this is 1977 John Frankenheimer Robert Shaw Bruce Dern blimp crashing into the Superbowl Black Sunday. I have never seen a copy of this anywhere, so I figured it was a professional obligation to pick it up.

Horror 365 Movie 326: The Witch Who Came In From The Sea

More bizarro 1970s goodness today as we have a look at the drug-fueled 1976 mindjob, The Witch Who Came In From The Sea. According to The Wikipedias, the title refers to Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus. I’m not sure why, other than a vague similarity between the the movie’s poster art and Venus on the halfshell.

 

I mean…I guess I see a resemblance?

Anyway, our setting is Venice Beach (Venice, Botticelli, Italy…clever) where our main character Molly works as a bartender at a low-rent seaside bar. The owner, the colorfully named Long John, is also her lover. The phrase “Molly is troubled is an understatement” is, well, itself an understatement. It’s like when the folks doing your colonoscopy say you might experience some discomfort.

Y’see, Molly (Millie Perkins who started as Anne Frank in 1959 at the age of 21) harbors (Heh, get it? The sea? Harbor?) severely contradictory feelings about her father. On one hand, she has these romanticized fantasies about him as a captain who was lost at see when she was little, and she tells these stories to her nephews.

She’s also convinced that her father “died for love” when in reality (spoilers) he died of a heart attack whilst molesting her. Molly, however, is pretty dissociative, so reality isn’t what you’d call one of her big ticket items. Add to this another minor complication which is that she blames herself for his death.

All of this could be a fine character study in itself, but no, put that check book away there’s more. Because of all this, Molly has become sexually repressed, and that repression starts to play itself out violently with some extreme reactions to various sexual encounters. She seduces men or lets them seduce her, then kills them. In other words, for all this talk about Venus, Molly is more like a siren luring men to their deaths.

Given that these men are dudebro-y scumbags, I’m on board with this (ooo, nautical reference #2). Her first set of victims is a couple of football players she ties up in what they think is gonna be some good ol’ bondage play. They would be wrong. She castrates then kills both of them, so I guess there is that whole Ouranos/Kronos/castration/birth of Venus thing goin’ on after all.

Later she hooks up with some has-been TV star, Billy Batt, at a party, ends up losing her shit and breaks both his wrists before he manages to toss her out of the room. This knocks her cold, and the other partygoers assume Billy was abusing her. Oops. When she wakes up, Molly recalls none of this.

Her final victim is Alexander, another dirtbag actor she met at the same party. He, it turns out, is steppin’ out on his girlfriend. Molly ends up slitting his throat then castrating him. So yeah, these model citizens don’t exactly add up to any net societal loss. Anyway, after this victim, she returns to Long John who wakes up to find her naked and covered in blood she claims is her own.

Did I mention drugs? There are drugs. And booze. And sex. You’d think that’d be more compelling, but it all turns out to just be strange as hell and surprisingly uninteresting or even titillating. Like Lynn in Pigs, Molly is prone to sporadic hallucinatory episodes regarding her father as well as images of her on a raft, at sea, sometimes surrounded by bodies.

But it’s the final scene that plops the WTF cherry atop this homicidal drug trip of a sundae. By now, the net has closed in on Molly, and the cops are on their way. Molly, however, has come clean to Long John (ironically she never tried to kill him some kinda twisted daddy issues thing I guess) and co-worker Doris. She’s essentially in the process of overdosing when her nephews show up. More major spoilers, so brace yourselves.

They snuggle up with Molly who apologizes because she wanted to take them hiking, but their mother wouldn’t allow it. She then announces, “I just hafta take a whole lotta pills today. And tomorrow everything will be alright.” What the hell?!? Oh but it’s not over, oh no. Doris grabs a bottle and pours a glass of full of who knows what? Could be water. Could be vodka.

Then we cut back to one of the nephews putting a pill in her mouth while the other one holds the glass up so she can drink. Mind you, these lads are barely teenagers, and probably not even that old. At this point thinking, “What the hell did I just see?” and reaching for the remote so’s I could rewind it a couple times and make sure. Then everyone stands around watching as she loses consciousness. Dang.

Finally, Molly either imagines or hallucinates that she is floating out to sea, alone, on a raft, which I guess is supposed to call back to all the Birth Of Venus imagery one last time. Yay symbolism. In the end, I guess Molly sums up the whole movie best when she tells her nephews, “Everybody’s a little crazy sometimes.” So, on that day you find yourself in want of a little nautical, mythological, arthouse-level psychosis, here ya go.


SKULLS- 10
BODIES- 4 onscreen
Streaming- Arrow, Tubi
Rent- Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube

Horror 365 Movie(s) 325: Top 10 Tuesday, Top 10 Directors I’ll Watch Automatically

Everybody’s got their favorite directors, but most if not all of the cinemaniacs among us can point to a few and say “I’d watch anything they put out, no questions asked.” My own list of such directors is surprisingly thin. For one thing, many of my favorite directors, giants like Hitchcock, William Castle, Tobe Hooper, and Ed Wood have gone to that great studio in the sky.

Still, I was able to drum up a number of directors whose movies I’ll watch just because they directed them. Sadly, I chose to leave off non-horror directors like Tarantino, the Coen brothers, and Wes Anderson (though I hasten to add that I can’t wait for The French Dispatch to hit next week). That being said, here are my Top 10 Directors I’ll Watch Automatically.

#10 Lloyd Kaufman

Ah yes, the Mel Brooks of Z-movie horror and a showman every bit the caliber of William Castle. The first time I laid eyes on The Toxic Avenger, I was hooked for good on The Aroma From Troma

#9 M. Night Shyamalan

I’m expecting some grief for this one. He’s batting about .500 (at least that’s the view from up here in the cheap seats). But when he hits, man it’s good. Sure, for every Sixth Sense or Split, there’s a Happening or The Village. But I’m also a fan of some of his more unfairly panned stuff like Signs. Hell, I even kinda like Lady In The Water.

#8 Takashi Miike

Say what you want about Miike, but the man is prolific. He’s also not limited to horror. Regardless, I’ll watch anything the guy shoots. Funny story, back when I worked at the late great Naro Video, a woman came in and asked my co-worker, another big horror fan, what he would recommend for someone just getting started with horror. Me, I’d have gone with something along the lines of Roger Corman/Vincent Price, maybe even some William Castle. But no, my man went straight for Audition. It’s a bold choice, but definitely not where I’d have started. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever seeing her again.

#7 Jordan Peele

This guy made me a fan right outta the box with Get Out which I saw several times during its initial run, and several more once it hit home media. His follow-up made his inclusion here pretty much a no-brainer. Get it? Brain? Get Out? Anyone?

#6 Ben Wheatley

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Wheatley is the 21st Century’s answer to Ken Russell. He’s not tied exclusively to horror, but when he does do horror, it can be a trippy, phantasmagorical ride along the lines of Kill List and A Field In England. And damn, it’s gutsy taking on Hitchcock, but I can’t wait to give his remake of Rebecca a shot.

#5 David Cronenberg

No way I could put together a list like this without the undisputed master of body horror. From the drippy gooeyness of The Fly to the much subtler implied abnormalities of Dead Ringers, Cronenberg is a genius when it comes to getting us to squirm in our seats. But this isn’t his only note. A History Of Violence and A Dangerous Method trade the physical for the psychological.

#4 Jen and Sylvia Soska

Also no way I was gonna talk about Cronenberg and leave The Twisted Twins off this list. I was, ahem, hooked the second I sat down and watched American Mary, and jumped immediately from there to Dead Hooker In A Trunk. I may have even been first in line when their remake of Rabid opened down the block at Naro Cinema. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again Croneneberg’s Shivers is dying for a remake, and I’d love nothing better than to see these two sink their teeth into it.

#3 Guillermo del Toro

Here’s another director who’s as versatile as he is watchable. His take on horror is unique in terms of how human and vulnerable he can make his “monsters” and how inhuman and monstrous he can make the same movie’s people.  Aside from the superfun kaiju-osity of Pacific Rim, I have yet to see a monster in a Del Toro movie that I didn’t side with at least a little.

#2 Ari Aster

Like Jordan Peele, Aster had me from the opening minutes of Hereditary, and I saw Midsommar at least 4 times in the theater. The misdirected focus on Charlie in Hereditary led to one of the greatest WTF!? moments of all time, and Midsommar just gets creepier every time I see it. There’s a fair bit or rumor-milling about his next project, including talk of Joaquin Phoenix. Whatever it is, I’m here for it.

Honorable Mentions

Pedro Almodóvar, Dario Argento, Charles Band, Mike Flanagan, William Friedkin, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna

#1 David Lynch

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive, he’d be #1. Since he’s not, there’s nobody else I can possibly put here other than David Lynch. What puts him here is how deeply troubling and disturbing his horror can be despite (or maybe even because of) the fact that you generally don’t see a helluva lot of monsters, possessions, or even the paranormal. Sometimes combining body horror, noirish human awfulness, and straight up weirdness, what sets Lynch apart is just how far he can push human behavior to truly bizarro extremes while managing to make his characters remain believably human.

And that’s the Top 10 for this week. How about you? What directors will you run to the second their movie drops without so much as a flicker of doubt? Tell us below in the Comments.