Horror 365 Movie 238: Liquid Sky

In reviewing The Special a few days ago, I mentioned Liquid Sky kind of in passing, and that got me thinking, “Wow, it’s been a freakin’ minute since I’ve thought about that one.” And that struck me as odd because who doesn’t love some good ol’ onscreen sex, specifically the weird, cursed, Lovecraftian, cosmic horror kind?

So yeah, here we are. Towering hair, neon colors, the neon club scene, Bowie-esque neon androgyny, gender fluidity before gender fluidity was gender fluidity, those dulcet synthy tones of the Fairlight CMI. Did I mention neon? Must be the early 80s.

Time for a brief digression. I’ve mentioned how, as a winsom, impressionable lad growing up in the cultural mecca that is Pittsburgh, we had The Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater over in Oakland, a mere stone’s throw from Pitt, and they ran a truly amazing film series, the appropriately named Pittsburgh Film Repertoire. Every Friday and Saturday night (and possibly Sunday? my recomemberer doesn’t work as well as my forgetter) they’d show The. Greatest. Movies. Ever.

Seriously they had all the stuff weirdos like me weren’t gonna find over to the local multiplex. No, this is where we went for the classics, the midnight movies, the cults, the arthouse fare, even some animation festival stuff (this, for example, is where I first saw Anna & Bella, Ape, and Lupo The Butcher). This is also where I first saw Psycho on a big screen. So of course this was the only place I was gonna see Liquid Sky.

The Film Repertoire screened Liquid Sky soon after it was released. At the time, I assumed it was a mid-to-late 70s flick. To be fair, I wasn’t that far off, but still. I think it was the heroin. No, I don’t mean I was shooting heroin. I mean that heroin was a prominent part of the plot, and I’d always associated heroin use with the 70s. What did I know? My knowledge of all things drug-related was still in its infancy.

Okay…how best to sum this up? My favorite androgynous New Wave alien sex drug movie? Yeah, that might be a little niche. The list of androgynous New Wave alien sex drug movies ain’t lengthy. My personal list of such movies, including this one, would add up somewhere to the tune of, well, 1. The point is it’s on the list. Here’s why.

First, who doesn’t love an alien invasion? These aliens like our endorphins, specifically the ones released during a heroin high. Well that’s new. Not so new is the motivation of Margaret, the female lead played by Anne Carlisle. When Margaret is raped, the aliens coincidentally choose that moment to imbue her with the ability to kill people by having sex with them.

Sorry. Did I skip a step and lose you? Lemme back up. It turns out that the aliens have discovered something; the endorphins released during orgasm are the same ones released from heroin use. Well that’s new. Margaret never has orgasms, so she becomes the method by which the aliens, uh, “harvest” the endorphins they crave.

This allows Margaret to start some lethal revenge sex in that anyone in that anyone who she brings to climax ends up vaporizated. Kind of a New Wave neon Ms .45 or I Spit On Your Grave. Still, this isn’t your average female vengeance exploitation flick.

I dug up a 1983 New York Times review by Vincent Canby who called it “a celebration of virtually every antisocial attitude one can think of.” I don’t think it was a compliment. Hey wasn’t there some guy a while back calling them “the failing New York Times?” Yet here they still are. Whatever happened to that fuckwit, whoever he was? Anyways, I do love when the things someone sees as negative are the very things that attract me to a movie.

I mean come on. 1983. Naturally I myself was trying to be “a celebration of virtually every antisocial attitude one can think of.” Lots of sneering, jeering, leering, and something to do with drugs that rhymes with those 3. Okay Anne Carlisle’s hair may look a little Flock Of Seagulls. Or Mike Score’s hair looked a little Liquid Sky. Not sure about the timeline.

Carlisle pulls off her roles well playing both female and male models–coked, broke Margaret and her broke, coked frenemy Jimmy. As Jimmy, Anne Carlisle is pretty damn convincing. When I first saw Liquid Sky, I thought Margaret and Jimmy were related, not the same person.

The illusion is a much more convincing one, I hate to admit, than Jean Arless (actually Joan Marshall) was as Emily and Warren in Homicidal. Carlisle will also show up a few years later in Desperately Seeking Susan and as the Gwendoline, the drag queen in Crocodile Dundee.

I even love the promo art in which Carlisle looks like a character out of Golgo 13: The Professional or Fist Of The North Star. Oh, and if Margaret’s drug dealer girlfriend Adrian (Paula Sheppard) looks vaguely familiar, it could be because she appeared about 6 years before as Alice in the creepy but ickified Alice, Sweet Alice.

   SKULLS- 12
   BODIES- 7 onscreen
   Stream- Shudder

Horror 365 Movie 237: Full Moon Friday, Ooga Booga

If you’re familiar with John Waters, you know the name Edith Massey. In This Filthy World, Waters talks about her thrift store, Edith’s Shopping Bag and how she’d wrap up random crap and basically make a “grab bag.” For a quarter, you could take something from the grab bag, but it may very well end up being trash–like a used up lighter or a cap from a pill bottle.

If someone (usually a kid) complained, she’d shake her finger at them and say, “Can’t be lucky every daaay!” You might be thinking, “To be sure, that is indeed an amusing bon mot old sport, but what exactly the fuck does it have to do with Full Moon Friday?”

Well to paraphrase Penn Jillette, “True in the thrift store, true in life.” Consider Ooga Booga one of those pill bottle caps from Miss Edie. I mean it’s Full Moon–you’re gonna expect a few things goin’ in: boobs, sex jokes, general bad taste, sick humor, less than Oscar-worthy acting.

But I, benevolent overlord of Castle Blogferatu, even I was woefully unprepared for the wince-inducing discomfort Ooga Booga would unleash. The festivities begin with the taping of a some fifth-rate children’s show, the main feature being Hambo The Clown– a guy in overalls, an orange and yellow wig, and a pig nose.

His co-host is Peggy Suey (get it? Hambo? pigs?) whose cleavage and high-heeled boots fairly well scream children’s entertainment of the Big Comfy Couch stripe. Anyway, Hambo is late because he’s drunk. Again. After he barfs on set, he gets fired.

Not to worry, Hambo has a plan: market some dolls he’s created, specifically some racist, sexist, homophobic dolls. I didn’t even wanna look up images for this movie while I was in public lest someone see them on my computer and get the wrong idea. Seriously these things are so vile and cringeworthy that I’m not gonna describe them much less post stills of them. See for yourself.

Hambo reveals this, uh, brilliant scheme to one of his only two friends, Devin, a young black man who has just passed his med school exams and is on his way to becoming a doctor. As a gift for his long-time support, Hambo gives Devin a prototype of one of his figures, an African warrior doll complete with a spear, loincloth, bone in his nose, and a joint in his mouth. Sigh, yes, it’s every bit as unfortunate as it sounds.

Still, Devin accepts this odd gift along with Hambo’s promise that when he makes it big with this, he’ll repay Devin’s loyalty. Sadly, our lad’s bright medical future is soon cut short by a corrupt, racist cop named, of course, White, ho ho. I can just hear the pitch meeting: “Subtlety? Oh nay nay, we don’t do that here.”

Anyhow, with the combination of blood and a short circuit from a drink machine, Devin’s soul gets transferred into the doll. Somehow I just can’t shake the feeling that I’ve run across that somewhere before. Oh well. From there hilarity ensues. I suppose the big irony here is that this super-racist figurine becomes the dispenser of justice against the bad guys, all of whom are white dudes.

Something else you can count on with Full Moon–some surprisingly effective (for their budget) special and practical effects. The electrical soul transfer looks fine as does the puppet work. Even the, I assume, CGI used for the doll’s eyes is nicely done (the eye gouging gore a bit less so).

Incidentally, Ooga Booga is itself a spinoff from Doll Graveyard, a Puppet Master-like movie in which our vengeful warrior doll first appeared mainly as an homage to the Zuni fetish doll from Trilogy Of Terror. Speaking of…let’s talk a bit about Karen Black.

I’m not sure how Charles Band got a hold of her, but sweet long-haired jeebers I’m glad he did. First off, her character’s name is Mrs. Allardyce. You no doubt recall that Mrs. Allardyce is the old woman Karen Black is supposed to be caring for in the criminally forgotten about Burnt Offerings.

It’s for anyone who’s seen Trilogy Of Terror, however, that Karen Black becomes the best part of the movie as she gnaws her way through her every scene she’s in, and nowhere more so than her very own set piece–another attack by another warrior doll. He even manages a little jab at E.T.

Band even recreates Trilogy’s final knife scene where Karen Black is crouched down, baring her pointy teeth, repeatedly sticking the point of a large knife into the floor as she waits for her mother to show up.

*Chef’s kiss* Mwah!

   SKULLS- Sadly, the most I can go with is 3. Bloody vengeance is fine–I’m quite fond–but it’s still deeply troubling when a white director throws racial stereotypes around even if one of them becomes a means of meting out said vengeance. Hell even the movie’s title raises concerns
   BODIES- 9 onscreen
   Stream- Full Moon Channel, Tubi
   Rent- Apple TV, Prime

Horror 365 Movie(s) 236: Thrift Store Thursday I

Yes hello and welcome to Thrift Store Thursday. This is the day where I take a break from “the big posts” and share some stuff I’ve picked up at some point during the week. Sometimes I manage to get to an actual thrift store on an actual Thursday. Not always.

Today’s haul for instance was neither obtained on a Thursday nor from a true “thrift store.” Irregardless (yes, I did that on purpose–I know it ain’t a word), Thursday is when the post goes up. All about the alliteratin’ & all.

Anyway, these are from Book Exchange in Norfolk. I love this place. You take them used books, CDs, DVDs, etc. They give you store credit you can use on whatever you want. DVDs are 3 for $12.

What often surprises me is the stuff I don’t have. I mean, how could I not have The Stand or Metropolis already? Oh, and the one on the bottom might be tough to read. It’s the Criterion edition of Time Bandits. Not exactly horror, not exactly not. I picked up I’ll Bury You Tomorrow specifically because I’ve never heard of it. That should be fun.

Come back tomorrow for Full Moon Friday!