Sunday, October 26, 2008

Psycho Cinema -- The World's Greatest Sinner

Thank you TCM for showing Timothy Carey's The World's Greatest Sinner on Friday, October 24th: I've been hearing about it for years and I can now report that it more than lives up to its reputation.

To put not too fine a point on it, WGS is bughouse crazy, and I mean that in the best possible way. From Carey's deranged performance as an insurance salesman turned rockabilly idol turned presidential candidate to Frank Zappa's music. Yes, the Frank "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" Zappa, three years before his debbut album

Carey had a solid career as a character actor -- directors like Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes loved him. He was Method to the nth degree, had a knack for getting himself fired for acting like a freak and regularly made Dennis Hopper look like a model of restraint and modest decorum.

WGS, released (if that's the word) in 1962, was Carey's intensely personal statement about religion, politics and rock 'n' roll, and while I can't say it's good in any conventional sense of the word, it's astonishing. Carey plays Clarence Hilliard, a happily married father of two with a suburban house, a horse, a dog and a cheerful Mexican gardener named Alonzo.

In the throes of a midlife crisis, Hilliard quits his job selling insurance, renames himself God and starts spreading his own religion -- whose core tenet is that there is no God but man -- through rockabilly concerts.

And it just gets nuttier.

WGS's ultra-low budget is apparent, but Carey's performance as a pop messiah is mesmerizing, albeit in a road wreck kind of way. And he's on to something, no two ways about it: Today it's a given that politics, entertainment and shadowy special-interest groups are hopelessly intertwined, but WGS was made at the height of the Kennedy Camelot era. Whatever it's limitations, Carey's film was seriously ahead of its time.

I recommend seeing it on a double bill with Peter Watkins' equally cynical and more technically polished Privilege (1967), which New Yorker Films just put out on DVD a couple of months ago.

Plus ca change, as the French like to say.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Get 'em while they're hot: Saw V and Passengers reviews

Saw V is more of the same: If you like the Saw thing, step right up.

And then there's stealth release Passengers, starring up-and-comer Anne Hathaway: It slunk into theaters like a mongrel dog, and there's a reason.

Both reviews are here.

Vampires the right way

Let the Right One In is the best vampire movie I've seen in ages! My review is here.

Check back later for Saw V -- there were no screenings, so I'm off to catch it in a theater.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Goodbye, Rudy Ray Moore...

The first time I saw Rudy Ray Moore was in the blaxploitation horror film Petey Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son-in-Law (1977), and all I can say is, I had never seen anything like it or him in my life.

Moore, who died on October 19th at the age of 81, was hilarious, profane, outrageous, offensive and a genuine original. His movies were cheap, broad and hugely influential; Snoop Dogg has declared that he wouldn't exist without Moore. He certainly would have made Bones, his 2001 homage to Petey Wheatstraw, Abby, Sugar Hill (and her Zombie Hitmen) at al.

Others can say more about Moore than I ever could, and here's a good place to start.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Must See Animation -- Azur and Asmar

Azur and Asmar, a fairy tale set in an Arabian Knights-style North Africa, is one mind-bogglingly beautiful animated film -- I can't recommend it highly enough!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Zombie Dog Alert!

From the DVD back-cover copy for Finding Rin Tin Tin:

"Shot in 2007, Rin Tin Tin is ready and reporting for duty."

Hell, I'd see that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quarantine and [REC] are live...

...and you can see them here.

Sorry for the delay!

Hi, guys....

Sorry I've been MIA for the last several days.

I've been having some technical difficulties -- you know, new site growing pains -- but I promise I'll be back on Wednesday with new content and maybe even a sneak preview of some things I'm lining up.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Halloween Horror Movie Run Up... Quarentine vs [REC]

Once upon a time, the couple of weeks around Halloween always delivered a feast of horror pictures.

Then the genre went into a slump -- the bust portion of a regular boom-and-bust cycle -- and die hard fans like me had to pick our way through mountains of direct-to-video/DVD junk in hopes of finding a gem or two.

That's not to say that everything that opened in theaters was top of the line: Far from it. But the experience of seeing a scary movie in the dark with a bunch of psyched up horror fans made up for a lot of mediocrity.

This year, however, is looking good: The animated omnibus film Fear(s) of the Dark on October 22, Saw V and the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In on the 24th, The Haunting of Molly Hartley and the couples-on-the-run thriller Splinter on the 31st.

And it all kicks off this weekend, October 10, with Quarentine, the US remake of Spanish filmmakers Jaume (Darkness) Balaguero and Paco Plaza's 2007 [REC].

[REC] is a lean mean little movie, an uncompromising cross between Diary of the Dead and The Blair Witch Project. I'll be seeing Quarentine tomorrow, and I'll post reviews of both films.

I plan to go all out for Halloween!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm in the middle of writing an article for the December issue of Film Comment about DVD companies specializing in horror, exploitation, sexploitation, Euro-sleaze and the like -- the good stuff. And all can say is bless them all -- I put in a lot of years prowling Times Square (back when it was really Times Square, not some sad Disney-fied shadow of its former self), but companies like Blue Underground and Something Weird Video have unearthered hundreds of films I would never otherwise have seen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hammer is Alive and Well....

This is the best news I've heard in ages: According to Variety, UK horror film pioneer Hammer Films is actually back in business.

I know this may not mean much to the younger generation of horror buffs, but when I was growing up, Hammer was the alpha and the omega of all things Dracula and Frankenstein and Quatermass… I saw their early films on TV and their later ones, like The Creeping Flesh (1973), in theaters. Hammer introduced me to cruelly sexy vampires and demonically possessed vampire slayers. Hammer made me a fan of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Oliver Reed and too many others to count. Hammer sent me scurrying to libraries and used bookstores for novels by Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, J.S. Le Fanu , Josephine Tey (via Paranoiac, a shamefully uncredited adaptation of her haunting psychological thriller Brat Farrar), Guy Endore, Dennis Wheatley and others.

Hammer had its ups and downs, but it helped shape my ideas about horror movies. The first serious book about horror movies I bought as a teenager was David Pirie's A Heritage of Horror: The British Gothic Cinema 1946-1972, and much of its appeal was how much it had to say about Hammer (and yes, I've already ponied up for his A New Heritage of Horror because really, how could I not?).

Make no mistake: I'm not a pie-eyed optimist about the new Hammer.

But it warms my heart that such a storied named has, like Dracula, risen from the grave.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Miss FlickChick is Up and Running

Hi, all!

Though I've left TVGuide, I'm still here!

Please send me your movie questions and visit for my take on all things movies, especially horror, exploitation and obscuriana!