Day 12- 31 Days of Halloween- Mikey (1992)

Day 12- 31 Days of Halloween- Mikey (1992)

This entry into the taboo ‘killer kid’ horror sub-genre involves 9 year old Mikey. The first scene shows him slaughtering his entire adoptive family (yes, really) in one fell swoop. Whats more, hes videotaped the whole thing for his later entertainment. Mikey is found hiding in a closet by the police officers investigating who could have done this. After fobbing them off with a fake description of the perpetrator he is then placed up for adoption.

The majority of the film is centred around Mikey’s new life with his new family. He starts out by looking every bit the model angelic child but then red flags start to appear. Then the number of ‘accidents’ and casualties starts to grow.

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The power of this film is that it was filmed and feels like a TV movie. It adheres to this genre’s conventions but subverts it because of it’s controversial subject matter. This juxtaposition works amazingly well especially as the film pulls no punches when it comes to the truly sadistic and brutal deeds of it’s central character. The performance of Brian Bonsall is pitch perfect as the psychopathic child. It’s also great to see Ashley Laurence from Hellraiser fame make an appearance as Mikey’s concerned teacher.

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This film was actually made for the ‘straight to video’ market in the US but was then to be released theatrically in the UK. The film was submitted for a certificate to the BBFC and was awarded an 18 cert in November 1992. But then things took an unexpected turn. The abduction of toddler James Bulger by two other children dominated the news in February of the next year and the media was stating how horror films and specifically home videos must be the cause. A number of films that had been released were targetted with Childs Play 3 taking most of the blame. The Daily Mail (who else) noted how Mikey was a future release and involved a child killer. Surely this couldn’t be released now, could it, they opined.  Head of the BBFC, James Ferman then took the unprecedented step of taking back the 18 certificate that had been granted to Mikey and banning it outright. It’s hard to believe that this happened but it did. Mikey was resubmitted for a certificate in 1996 but was rejected. The film is still banned in the UK.

BUT, it’s on YouTube.

4 out of 5 stars

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Day 11- 31 Days of Halloween- Don’t Go In The House (1979)

Day 11- 31 Days of Halloween- Don’t Go In The House (1979)

Donny is a very damaged person. After an incident at work sees one of his colleagues set himself on fire, we see Danny freeze with terror at the incident. This is explained through flashbacks. We see that as a boy his mother used to punish him by burning his forearms.

When he returns home from work he finds that his domineering mother has actually passed away. We then see her throughout the film in different stages of decomposition.

Donny then constructs a flame-proof room in his house and lures women back there to strip them naked and set fire to them using a flamethrower whilst they are hung up.

As a study of mental decay this is closer to Maniac than Repulsion. Lurid, sleazy and generally unsettling, this shocker deserves it’s notorious reputation.

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The original title of the film was actually The Burning (the print I saw actually had this title card) but when the filmmakers found out that another film was being made using this name they quickly changed it.

The BBFC cut three whole minutes from this film for it’s cinema release and then banned it outright for video. Most of the cut material was from the first murder involving the florist Donny tricks into coming back to his house. And this sequence is VERY full-on! Theres shades of Ed Gein to Donny’s MO. But without Gein’s flair for interior decoration.

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Hows that for a double bill?! A pyromaniac and the silver spheres.

The first three victims he torches to death he then dresses in his dead mother’s clothes and places in armchairs. He rants to them as if they’re still alive which gives us a very darkly entertaining glimpse into his twisted psyche. He sometimes hears their voices.

As you can tell from the plot elements I’ve described above this certainly isn’t a film to put on in the middle of a family get together (unless you want them to leave of course). But if you love deranged, unhinged and off kilter horror then you’ll love this Check out the new Blu Ray release. The print is gorgeous.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 10- 31 Days of Halloween- The Burning (1981)

Day 10- 31 Days of Halloween- The Burning (1981)

Cropsey, a summer camp caretaker is burnt alive as an unfortunate consequence of a prank that goes horribly wrong. After five years he returns to the summer camp with vengeance in mind.

This is the slasher movie that helped form Miramax Films and gave a young Harvey Weinstein a career as a film producer.

The movie was actually written before the film Friday the 13th even though most people think it was the other way round.

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The Burning doesn’t just take place on a summer camp. We get to see the hospital where Cropsey (described by an orderly as looking like a ‘Big Mac overdone!’) is being treated and later his release. I love the following scene where he ventures to the seedier part of town and picks up a prostitute. She doesn’t see the full extent of his injuries until they’re in a cheap motel room (Cropsey wisely turns out the lights) and his face is briefly illuminated by lightning. On seeing his disfigured visage she screams to which he proceeds to stab her in the stomach with a pair of scissors whilst forcing her body through a window.

Cropsey’s garb on leaving the hospital is a classic Giallo look. He may have a rotten face now but looks to have gained key sartorial knowledge whilst he’s been in hospital. I’m wondering if this look was entirely coincidental or if the film’s makers were paying attention to the Gialli flooding 42nd Street and Drive-Ins at the time.

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The action then takes place in the familiar locale of the camp and woods that surround it. Theres performances by Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter who appear in early film roles.

But theres one crew addition who would make sure that this film wouldn’t just be a generic and mediocre slasher flick- Tom Savini. And what an astounding job he does. Garden shears (Cropsey’s weapon of choice) have never been used so innovatively or with such murderous intent. The raft scene is almost balletic and beautiful to watch in it’s brutality.

The Burning also features a Final Guy rather than a Final Girl and his character is VERY problematic! Alfred has been seen early on in the film spying on one of the young women as she showers. When caught and asked why he was there he says that he ‘only wanted to scare her.’ But this is disproved later on the film as we see him covertly perving on a couple of other characters who are making out and then follows Glazer as he goes back into the woods after retrieving matches to start a campfire with to enjoy with Sally who hes just done the deed with. It’s then that Alfred sees Glazer get murdered by Cropsey. This all leads to the film’s finale.

This film was so gruesome that it was cut by the BBFC for it’s cinema release. When it came to the film coming out on video, Thorn EMI accidentally sent the uncut version to video shops and had to recall all copies. Video shop owners decided to keep the uncut tapes instead! The film was then banned outright.

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The Burning is a treat to behold. Great cinematography and directorial touches (check out Glazer’s death and the killer’s/shear’s point of view shot) and a great music score by none other than prog rock’s very own Grand Wizard Rick Wakeman (apparently on his ’81 tour he was playing tracks from The Burning soundtrack. Whilst possibly wearing a cape). The teen characters are quite likeable too which is a real rarity for the slasher genre.

Who knew- a slasher/summer camp film that was once banned but is now viewable and revered nowadays. The BBFC/DPP must be outraged.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 9- 31 Days of Halloween- Play Misty For Me (1971)

Day 9- 31 Days of Halloween- Play Misty For Me (1971)

Jazz DJ Dave Garvin (Clint Eastwood) sleeps with a woman he seemingly randomly meets in a nightclub. But unfortunately for him she turns out to be a psychopath who is textbook Cluster B and as we would say in Yorkshire a ‘wrong un’.

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This film is cracking. It’s a stunning and, with hindsight, very realistic depiction of obsessional ‘love’ and stalking.

This film was a risk for Clint Eastwood and co. Not only was he depicting himself and in turn his movie image as vulnerable and a victim but also he was handing the reins over to Jessica Walters and her show-stealing performance as the unhinged Evelyn. And boy, what a performance it is! She is just as psychotic and disturbed as Andrew Robinson in Clint’s other film Dirty Harry.

This was also Clint’s first film as director and it showcases his brilliance behind the camera as well as in front of  it.

There are several scenes in this film that are genuinely terrifying. Check out Evelyn’s attack on Dave’s cleaning lady. It’s actually painful to watch. Also look for Evelyn’s cameo at the end of the scene of Dave and his girlfriend as they decide to rekindle their relationship.

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I also love how Eastwood’s films were politically incorrect decades before political correctness was even a thing. This film depicts a woman as the predator and aggressor when maybe nowadays it would be seen as unacceptable and going against prevailing media politics to depict a woman as possessing such qualities. Evelyn is depicted as a woman scorned and shown to be so much deadlier and calculating than her male counterpart.

5 out of 5 stars

Day 8- 31 Days of Halloween- Night Train Murders (1975)

Day 8- 31 Days of Halloween- Night Train Murders (1975)

Or Last House on the Left On A Train.

Two young teenagers cross paths (or tracks) with a trio who degradate and sexually humiliate them. One of them is accidentally killed, the other jumps from the train to escape her captors. The trio then find themselves at the home of one of the teenagers. Revenge ensues.

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Stylish direction and cinematography prevail in this film whilst the 70’s Euro vibe is captured very well indeed. Just like Last House this film is VERY extreme!

In fact this film was banned by the BBFC when submitted for cinema screenings in 1975. The video was placed on the Video Nasties list in 1983 but was then acquitted the year after and promptly removed from the DPP list.

3/5 out of 5 stars

Day 7- 31 Days of Halloween- Island of Death (1976)

Day 7- 31 Days of Halloween- Island of Death (1976)

You know those films that are so predictable that they have you saying ‘I knew that was going to happen’? Island of Death is the exact opposite of those kind of movies.

A British couple arrive on the island of Mykonos with only one thing in mind- seducing the locals then dispatching of them whilst one of the pair takes pictures of the whole event.

This film feels like the film Lesley was making in the brilliant Alan Bennett ‘Talking Heads’ monologue so memorably recited by Julie Walters.

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The inhabitants are like characters from John Waters and Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey films. If this isn’t enough of a recommendation then I don’t know what is. Some scenes have been sped up also. The spirit of Benny Hill lives on.

The Greek locale is gorgeous and acts as a great backdrop for the film’s pervy goings on.

Sleazy, sordid and very entertaining. This is one of the best (and most bizarre) films on the Video Nasties list.

Look up ‘Island of Death Full Movie’ on YouTube and luxuriate in it’s slapstick depravity.

4/5 out of 5 stars

Day 6- 31 Days of Halloween- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Day 6- 31 Days of Halloween- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

The ancient practice of witchcraft in Swinging 60’s New York.

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into the gothic apartment building known as The Bramford. Guy is an actor who doesn’t seem to be getting the big breaks he deserves. That is until he meets the eccentric couple Minnie and Roman next door and then suddenly his luck changes. Could this change in his fortunes be coincidence or is there more than meets the eye?

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Everything about this film is perfect.

On watching this masterpiece again I really tuned into the themes of gaslighting, narcissism and coercive control that occur between the characters who have something to hide from poor Rosemary. Check out the subtle exchange of glances that are swapped between Guy, Minnie and Roman after the Castavets are told that Rosemary is pregnant.

The film is also about abuse and the need for the victim of that abuse to speak her truth and have her voice heard. The scene of her telling what she believes to be the truth to Charles Grodin’s Dr Hill is both liberating but then ultimately heartbreaking.

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Watch out for Polanski’s direction and marvel at how deft, innovative and revolutionary it is. The scene where Minnie is sat on Rosemary’s bed just out of view still makes me crane my neck to look around the door frame to see her more clearly. Now thats genius.

The film builds to one of the most unsettling climaxes in film history. And then the scene after that is is even more disconcerting.

Ruth Gordon’s performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen in any movie. The perfect alignment of perfect writing with an actress who was born to play the part.

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Look out for the cameo by William Castle.

I cannot recommend this film enough. If you haven’t seen it you’re in for a treat. If you have seen it then watch it again. You’re still in for a treat.

5 out of 5 stars