Horror 365 Movie(s) 298: Thrift Store Thursday X

Here’s some more VHS glory I have of late wrested from a number of thrift stores. The Tolkien tape I picked up cuz it was there. I’m not actually much of a fan, but I do love me a documentary. Cruel Intentions is a must have. As is The Jayne Mansfield Story starring not just Loni Anderson but Arnold! More horrifying than horror I guess, but still…for 98¢ who could say no?

I don’t know anything about Address Unknown, but it’s in “ain’t even outta the plastic wrap” mint condition. The synopsis on the back states that Matt and Tarra each lost a parent on the same night “under unusual circumstances.” Their “tragic common bond leads to friendship and adventure after Matt turns in an old, sealed mailbag he discovered in an abandoned mine shaft—and receives one of the letters.”

I mean I’ve certainly watched dumber sounding things. I suffered the untold agonies of Bloodsucking Freaks, I’m Thinking Of Ending Things and Documenting The Witch Path. Plus it’s put out by Feature Films For Families with the tagline “Strengthening Traditional Values Through Entertainment.” Way to hawk that jeebusy propaganda. Who knows? Maybe it’s got some Thief In The Night shit goin’ on.

Horror 365 Movie 297: Documenting The Witch Path

It’s rare that I go well outta my way to mercilessly trash a movie. I’ve even been sent screeners of short indie films here and there with a request for a review, and the movie didn’t turn out to be all that hot. Even then I tried to be as kind as I possibly could and find something positive to comment on.

But every now and then, I stumble across stuff that raises the ol’ hackles and awakens my thirst for vengeance. Such is the case with Documenting The Witch Trail. And while I do drop the occasional spoiler here and there in a review, I try hard to give some fair warning.

In keeping with that, allow me to announce right up front that this is by far my most spoiler-heavy review to date. Yep, I’m releasing the felis domesticus from the burlap. Why? Cuz I wanna keep people from wasting their time on this lazy cheap trick of a “film.”

I get it. Already you might be thinking, “Well, if the director tricked you, isn’t that a good thing? Didn’t he accomplish his goal?” No. It wasn’t that there was a trick involved, and I fell for it. This was a lame, badly pulled off attempt at active, manipulative deception, sort of a cinematic version of gaslighting if you will. And even on that level, it fails.

So, the “director,” Carl Sundström, decides to do a documentary about Witch Lake, a place where many witches were were apparently executed in the name of the church. He and his crew discover that the lake they planned to investigate is a second Witch Lake. Guided hikes to the “real” one were shut down after only 4 tours. Anyone Sundström talks to from the township discourages the idea of visiting the real Witch Lake.

Naturally, he decides to go. One crew member quits, leaving Sundström and his friend/fellow documentarian, Robin Franzén. After slogging through 37 minutes of discussion and prep, they head for the site and immediately start making Blair Witch comparisons as Robin gets more and more unsettled the longer he’s near the lake.

When night falls, there are weird noises (including a church bell) and a flashing light across the lake that looks like it begins heading around the lake toward them. Oo-wee-oooooo. Very scary boys and girls (if my eyes roll back in my head any further I’ll be able to read my own mind).

Then the film cuts to a month before this moronic trip to Witch Lake. Turns out that the entire thing was an elaborate prank staged by Sundström and a handfulla cronies specifically to poke at people’s belief in witches, something he apparently feels are to this day just below the surface for most of us. It’s an interesting point, sure. Or it could have been were it not that Sundström cops such a condescending, self-righteous air of smug superiority.

Admittedly, this whole idea could have still been interesting idea even despite Sundström’s shit attitude if the ending weren’t telegraphed well in advance. Once the third member of the crew peels off from the project because it makes him uneasy, the red flags start going up. You just know something’s up.

I briefly considered describing this waste of time as The Blair Witch Project meets Jackass. Except the former at least attempted something quasi-new and different while the latter, whether I wanna admit it or not, makes me laugh. This 68-minute crap sundae has neither of those things going for it.

Basically it’s a massive steaming pile of predictable, ill conceived, badly executed gotcha filmmaking. If I’d paid to see this, I’d be even more seriously pissed of than I already am. The only thing that wasted my time even more viciously than that was I’m Thinking Of Ending Things. I’m even annoyed I’ve written this much about it.

So yeah, a real knee-slapper, this one. If you listen close, you can probably hear a distant trombone going “wah-wah-wah-waaahhh.”

SKULLS- negative 13
BODIES- 0
Streaming/Rent- who cares?

Horror 365 Movies 296: Top 10 Tuesday, Top 10 Horror-y Cartoons

Well, I said last week that I might make this a thing. A few sleepless nights and some White Russian deliberation later, and I’ve decided to do just that. Welcome, then, to my second Top 10 Tuesday. Anyone who’s made the mistake of reading my pointless ramblings here knows that I’m not only a horror guy. I also like noir, documentaries, and a good hat movie now and then. But I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I love animation.

That said, this week is Top 10 Horror-y Cartoons. For this list, I’ve tried to focus on shorts, so there’s no anime, no Scooby, etc. Some of these are straight up horror. A lot of them have horrific implications. And some are just plain fuckin’ sick and/or weird. For fairly obvious reasons, just like I’ll never discuss Jeepers Creepers, I won’t be talking about Ren & Stimpy either, even if it breaks my heart a little. But Kricfalusi, like Salva, is a child predator, so fuck ’em both.

#10 Steamboat Willy

This isn’t horror-y in terms of content, but in terms of visuals. All these black and white cartoons. All these old Disney shorts from the late 20s into the 30s (as well as Leon Schlesinger’s Bosko and Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop) are unnerving for reasons I can’t put my finger on much less articulate. Joe Dante does a great job tapping into this unease in his “It’s A Good Life” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

#9 Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)

One of my most cherished memories of the 80s was Night Flight on USA Network. Night Flight had everything: music videos, B-movies, animation, documentaries, all kindsa stuff. This is where I first saw Atomic Cafe and several of the shorts on this list, including this here one here. If you’ve never seen it, I won’t give it away other than to say it’s just a sick little sight gag.

#8 Face Like A Frog (1987)

This is another short I first saw on Night Flight. For a long time, I thought it was called “Don’t Go In The Basement.” It’s got some horror overtones, but it’s not so much a horror short as much as it’s just weird as fuck to watch. Something about it just makes me really uneasy, and I have no rational explanation for it. Oh, and the song was done by Danny Elfman.

#7 The Cat Came Back (1988)

I don’t remember where I first saw this, so I could be wrong, but I think it was in a theater which means it was probably at the Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater to catch something showing as part of their film series. I’ve mentioned this place a few times, and it’s another venue through which I came across lots of less-than-mainstream animation. This one is from those zany folks at the National Film Board Of Canada. It’s based on an 1893 song of the same name about a guy trying to get rid of a cat that keeps showing up in his house.

#6 Maxi Cat (1971-1973)

This was from a Croatian animation studio called Zagreb. I first saw this on PBS on yet another offbeat animation outlet, the International Festival Of Animation hosted by Jean Marsh. Maxi Cat was a cat who’d come across some random object or situation which always took an unexpected turn. The resulting humor was often on a Far Side sort of level, sometimes becoming truly gross. My favorite is the one where Maxi Cat eats a plate of pasta that’s all one noodle. When he gets to the end, the last bit breaks off and crawls away. Blech.

#5 Porky In Wackyland (1938), Dough For The Do-Do (1949)

There are two versions of this, 1938  black and white by Bob Clampett and a 1949 color remake by Friz Freleng. They’re more or less the same with Porky going to find the last do-do. Both of them are surreal and trippy, but Freleng kicks it up a notch in terms of the backgrounds which include Dali references and border on creepy.

#4 The Fly (1968)

This is another Zagreb short that I probably saw either on International Festival Of Animation or at Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater. It’s from the perspective of a fly buzzing around and making its way from the woods, across a yard, and into a house. It runs about 9 minutes and is a mesmerizing thing to watch right up to its chilling end.

#3 Ape (1992)

I don’t know where I first saw this. It’s by Julie Zammarchi and based on a Russell Edson prose poem. If you’re not familiar with Edson, all I can tell you is his stuff is an acquired taste. He’s a master of the frame shift, and folks I’ve suggested his stuff to have so far loved it or hated it, no middle ground. The premise is a husband complaining about his wife preparing ape for dinner again, but that’s only the least of it.

#2 Jac Mac & Rad Boy Go! (1985)

Here’s yet another one I first saw on Night Flight. Jac Mac and Rad Boy are a couple waste-oids on their way to a party. On their way, they have to stop for beer. After that, they can’t get to the party fast enough. This is Wesley Archer’s college film, waaayyy before King Of The Hill, Bob’s Burgers, and Rick And Morty. I also gotta believe there’s some kind of connection between him and the sort of stuff you see in, say, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. It’s twisted, has a sicko ending, and for some reason, at least partly the sound design I think, it was kinda disturbing the first time I saw it, and still is.

#1 Lupo The Butcher (1987)

As is often the case, it was tough to decide between #1 and #2. I finally came down on the side of Lupo The Butcher. It’s another Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater entry, and it’s about as sick as humor gets. Lupo was created by Dan Antonucci, and watching it, you can see exactly where Ed, Edd, N Eddy came from. Lupo is a foul-mouthed, short-tempered butcher who inadvertently cuts off his left thumb with a cleaver. Oopsies. From there, more stuff starts falling off on its own. The whole thing is a graphic, bloody mess and funny as hell in a Monty Python Black Knight kinda way. Oh, and the shot where he tries to prop his own severed head up with his tongue? Yeah we’ll see that again in Spawn.

Alrighty, there’s the list. There’s some bizarro shit on here, so if you haven’t seen these, they’re all pretty easy to find on the YouTubes. What’d I miss? What’s your favorite twisted animation? Let me know in the Comments.