Horror 365, Movie(ish) 146: 5 Books That Should Be Horror Movies Part II

For those of you not initiated into the depths of my nerdistry, I’m spending a good deal of time this weekend playing Dungeons & Dragons, so I’m trying to squeeze in some blogging when I can. Gotta maintain the streak. I reasoned, therefore, that a couple of lists might be in order. They’re quick, pretty easy to put together, and kinda fun. So let’s start with another list of books that should be movies.

#5 City- Clifford D. Simak

The earth has been abandoned by humankind at large leaving behind robots, dogs, occasional wandering mutant geniuses, and industrially organized ants. It’s really a series of linked short stories which would make a great anthology. Specifically, the ant story would be good. One of the mutant geniuses figures out how to keep ants from forgetting their progress every winter allowing them to continue building without losing progress. Let that sink in a second. There’s also the story of a scientist and his dog discovering the transformative properties of Jupiter. My director pick: Pretty much anyone who has directed an episode of Black Mirror

#4 The Visitors- Clifford D. Simak

Another Simak novel, this one a bit darker. The Visitors come to earth in large, black, oblong boxes the size of skyscrapers. It’s impossible for humans to communicate with them in any significant manner. Eventually it’s discovered that the beings inside these vehicles are highly developed, cellulose-based life forms. They consume trees and replicate the same things humans have. The end of the novel is left up to interpretation, but the implication seems to be that The Visitors will soon enough replicate everything on Earth. Literally. Everything. Again, let that sink in a second. My director pick: Neill Blomkamp

#3 The Chronicles Of Amber- Roger Zelazny

Hear me out fantasy fans. There’s a ton of horror to mine outta this epic 10-book series. Shadow worlds that can be manipulated at will by the inhabitants of Amber, murderous demons, torture–kinda like The Princess Bride meets Game Of Thrones. The hero of the first 5 books is the fairly standard fantasy swashbuckler type. Family intrigue has left him with amnesia and stranded in our world (in reality one of the many Shadows cast by Amber). He slowly regains his memory, and so begins his quest for his family position and, of course, revenge. Lots of swordplay=lots of potential for blood, and that’s always fun. My director pick: as much as it pains me to say it, Peter Jackson

#2 Lisey’s Story- Stephen King

I had this book sitting around for a while before I read it about a year ago. I had my doubts when I started, but it grabbed a pretty good hold of me and wouldn’t let go. Lisey is the widow of author Scott Landon, and she’s in the painfully slow-going process of packing up Scott’s office. Hounding her is a professor anxious for Scott’s unpublished manuscripts. He’s so desperate that he accidentally sets ex-con Zack McCool on her trail. That idea is tense enough and could read like any really good psychological thriller, but this is Stephen King. There’s also a supernatural layer involving an alternate reality Scott was able to travel to in times of need. I guess I’m cheating a little since this is already a miniseries slated for June with Julianne Moore, but I’d still like to see it as a movie. My director pick: Sophia Takal

#1 Demons By Daylight- Ramsey Campbell

Speaking of Stephen King, he likes Ramsey Campbell and this book quite a bit, at least according to Danse Macabre I think. Demons By Daylight predates King’s Night Shift by 5 years. It’s a solid short story collection that would serve as a great anthology movie along the lines of Tales From The Crypt, Torture Garden, Vault Of Horror, The Illustrated Man, or Cat’s Eye. Like the title suggests, many of the stories are set in the garish light of day and involve fairly mundane objects and activities. Highlights include “The Enchanted Fruit,” in which a man happens upon a tree that bears fruit he’s never seen, and eats some. The results are catastrophic–so simple, but so terrifying. “Made In Goatswood” involves garden gnomes (already creepy) and takes on a distinct Lovecraftian tone. My director pick: Richard Stanley

And there you have it. What books do you think should be brought to the screen? Let me know in the Comments.


Horror 365, Movie 145: Death Bed–The Bed That Eats

I believe I’ve indicated recently that I’ve kind of gone back to the original idea for this project: drawing movie titles out of a box and writing about them. That’s how Blood Rage popped up yesterday in fact. And what happened to rear its sleepy ol’ head today? Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. This is not to be confused with Deathbed from 2002 produced by Stuart Gordon and directed by Danny Draver.

No no this is the 1977 movie written and directed by George Barry (interesting IMDB sidenote, Barry also wrote the 2002 version which is listed as “based on” the 1977 original). At first I considered this a black comedy (which I maintain it kinda is), but really it’s more like a horror parody and a fairly clever one.

As events unfold, bits and pieces of the bed’s activities are commented on or recalled by the artist Aubrey Beardsley (voiced by Patrick Spence and portrayed by a somewhat Beardsley-looking Dave March). Beardsley takes to the bed whilst dying of consumption and in the process draws the bed itself. The bed then resurrects him and imprisons him behind that very drawing, possibly out of some strange desire, as Beardsley suggests, for “company.”

Make no mistake, there’s plenty of dark comedy to be had here. The funniest example has to be when the bed eats a girl who makes it sick. The next shot is a bottle of Pepto Bismol sinking into the bed’s, uh, digestive system I guess you’d call it.

Sure it’s a cheap sight gag, and there’s a number of ’em, but man this one cracks me slap up. It also sets up the bed’s origin story which comes in a nearly 15-minute recounting of the bed’s history as Beardsley tries to discover what made the bed sick.

Well he figures it out, but I’m gonna try real hard not to spoil a second of this movie for those who haven’t seen it. Seriously, treat yourself. For a little added fun, check out Patton Oswalt’s bit about the movie. Sadly, he mistakenly refers to is as Death Bed: The Bed That East People, but the bit is still funny. Frank Moraes over at Psychotronic Review thought Oswalt’s shtick was “pathetic.” I think he missed Oswalt’s point and possibly Barry’s at the same time.

Moraes suggests Death Bed “establishes itself as a comedy from the very beginning. The bed eats an apple and then returns the apple to the top of the bed with the core intact.” Again, one of numerous sight gags, but hardly enough to establish the movie “as a comedy from the very beginning.” Like I said before, it’s a parody. What’s the difference? Comedy goes for laughs and humor. Parody makes fun of a specific thing, form, or content, in this case the Cursed Object.

The Cursed Object concept has been around for a hot minute. The first thing that comes to mind for me is W.W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw” first published in 1902. I’m sure that’s not the earliest example by a long shot, but it has been adapted in some for or another time and time again.

Death Bed takes this conceit and endows the object with a low level of sentience as well. It knows what’s going on and is able to communicate with Beardsley (in his narrated flashback he to some degree explains this). The bed also has reactions to and consequences from some of its choices.

There’s an extent to which Barry parodies the grindhouse exploitation flicks of the 70s as well. The bed’s feeding habits take on a sloppy, oozy, borderline splattery nature for example. In stark contrast, the results of one character’s attempt to save another from the bed is not only not gross at all, it’s so transparent and laughable it had to be a conscious decision. Ultimately, don’t let the negative reviews dissuade you. Check this one out some night, then toddle off to bed.

Sleep tight. Don’t let anything bite.

BODIES- 11 onscreen
10 offscreen (give or take 1 or 2 during an orgy beneath some sheets. Oh and a headline from the past claiming “Thousands Disappear”)
Streaming on Full Moon (Prime channel), Prime, Tubi, YouTube

Horror 365, Movie 144: Blood Rage

There’s precious little we love more here at Castle Blogferatu than a big ol’ steaming hot mess of a movie–plot holes, production woes, tension on set, unruly talent, raging egos–Yes. Please. And high up in the rarefied air of The Holy Mountain Of Awfulness, scattered about the inner confines of the summit temple, rests The Horde Of The Movie Dragon where, with enough courage and luck, one might uncover the finest of the dragon’s treasures, gems like Blood Rage.

Where to begin? How about 38 seconds in, where the opening credits list the movie as Slasher rather than Blood Rage, a minor oversight that I’m sure bodes well as an indicator of what’s in store. There’s also the question of which version of the movie one is in fact watching. There’s the “real” cut which has a considerable amount of gore, but there’s also the Nightmare At Shadow Woods cut (which was also released on cable) that edits out troubling amounts of blood n’ guts. Apparently Arrow Video issued a 3-disc special edition Blu-ray with both versions which is for sure gonna be on this year’s christmas list to Satan Santa.

Our story concerns the age-old but nonetheless tried and true evil twin scenario, and boy does the bloodletting take off right outta the gate (he said whilst waving a Spoilers sign). Pre-teens Todd and Terry are at the drive-in with their mom Maddy (Louise Lasser) and her stud muffin. While the lads are asleep in the back, Ma and dudester start to lip-lockin’ and such. Questionable but hey.

Well, as you can imagine, Terry and Todd wake up, so they sneak outta the car and go wandering around. Todd finds a hatchet in the back of a pick-up and grabs it. Terry, who inexplicably now has the hatchet, happens upon a young couple he-n’ & she-n’ in a car. When the guy spots him, Terry whacks him to death. The girl escapes and runs away naked and screaming. Terry hands Todd the hatchet, smears blood on Todd’s cheek, and yells for his mom. And that, boils and ghouls, concludes our first 6 minutes.

Todd of course gets institutionalized, and we jump ahead 10 years to Mom arriving at the, uh, facility to have a chat with Todd’s doctor. Todd, it seems, has come out of his catatonic state and started piecing (heh) together what actually happened at the drive-in (as revealed by nearly 3-minute voice-over that displays all the subtlety of a chimp throwing poo).

By 16 minutes, Todd has escaped and we’re off to the proverbial races. But put that checkbook away there’s more! See, mother dear announces over the currently underway Thanksgiving dinner that she and her fella, Brad, are getting married. This sets Terry off on a killing spree which includes a good deal of people not being able to tell one twin from the other despite their different shirts and radically unlike hair styles.

As killers go, it’s worth nothing the Oedipal nature of Terry’s first two murders. See, he and Todd leave the car after Terry sees his mom with her date and says “back at it again.” Clearly he doesn’t like his mother being with men. He then kills a guy who’s in the middle of having sex. I believe they call that transference, class. The second murder is Brad who has become the new father figure. It’s a Freudian field day. It’s interesting as well that Terry cuts off Brad’s hand then cleaves his head. Familiar? Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte? Anyone?

Also if Terry/Todd looks familiar, it’s because Mark Soper was in The World According To Garp a year before Blood Rage was shot. He was the one having an affair with Garp’s wife until she accidentally bit his penis off. That’s right. Accidentally. Go watch the movie. Anyway, the acting in his brief Garp appearances was perfectly fine. Not so in Blood Rage. Ever see one of those guys who takes a chainsaw and carves, like, a bear from a big hunka tree? That bear isn’t as wooden as Soper.

Speaking of wood, there should also be a special Oscar for Most Splinters Removed From Teeth After Gnawing On The Scenery. Hands down, 1987 woulda been Louise Lasser. Good lord n’ butter that woman got lotsa roughage outta this role, not the least of which is a long, excruciating heart-to-heart with a telephone operator. I gotta go back to Agnes Moorehead and Bette Davis in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte for set-chewin’ of such grandeur and majesty.

Along with all these glorious flaws is the classic leave-ya-hangin’ ending that I won’t divulge but which you might be able to sort out on your own either without seeing the movie at all or definitely before you get to the big finish. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Blu-ray to order from Arrow Video.

BODIES- 11 onscreen
Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, free on Prime and Tubi