by John Bikowski
illustration by Bob Buttman
Greetings, once again! Out of some immoral obligation too twisted to explain, I went to see Friday the 13th Part 9: Jason Goes to Hell on opening night. Apart from presenting a veritable smorgasbord of homages ranging from The Evil Dead to Nightmare on Elm Street, the film offered no redeeming qualities to the discerning horror fanatic. I could almost hear the snickering executives that run the gamut trying to scare us with ’90s pyrotechnics; but they can’t hide the fact that most of the ideas have been done before. And better, too. The closing shot, however, must be seen to be believed.
So what’s going on?!? Has the terror-filled American horror movie become a thing of the past? It seems so. Luckily, the Coroner is here to offer a bit of hope and a chance for you to expand your film horizons to far away lands. For years, American splatter aficionados have ignored imported horror films because of indifferent dubbing, annoying subtitles, or simply no means of acquiring the tapes. Recently, the horror film market has widened with several treasures spilling out into your local video outlet (as well as a resurgence in dependable mail order facilities). Just a few quick highlights for your viewing pleasure…
1) House on the Edge of the Park: Besides sporting one of the best video boxes to date, the film itself benefits from an excellent cast. A sadistic car mechanic and his goofball sidekick crash a yuppy party and turn the tables on their hosts. Originally, they were the butt of the jokes, but now they’re kickin’ butt and the jokes on the yuppy-scum. Social commentary aside, it’s definitely an entertaining sick flick. Directed by Ruggerio Deodato, the human that brought us the infamous (and banned in most civilized societies) Cannibal Holocaust.
2) The Killer: This film outdoes the explosiveness of a Japanese version of Die Hard and The Godfather combined. The story concerns a professional assassin being chased by a super cop. There are many humorous elements as well as moments of beautiful, transcendental violence. Directed by John Woo, whose new film with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Hard Target, is also action packed to say the least!
3) Suspiria: From the “Italian Hitchcock” Dario Argento comes this artsy film about an American girl attending a famous German dance school. The school is a cover up for a coven of Witches. School policy is to savagely murder (in well filmed and delicious detail) anyone suspecting something amiss. The opening double murder is a hyper-violent classic piece of cinema history. Entire rooms are bathed in red, blue, or green, and the haunting music takes on a central role. The soundtrack screams, “Wwwwiittchhhhh!” and your skin crawls in response. While this may be too bizarre for the average movie-goer, in the right mood this is a masterpiece in a class by itself.
4) Demons: Produced by Dario Argento, this film contains all the ferociousness of The Evil Dead. When a selected audience is gathered in an old movie theater to see the premier of a horror film about Nostradomas’ predictions on demon annihilation, events within the theater begin to parallel those on the screen. We are treated to tooth-popping transformations and mucho limbs-a-tearing. The soundtrack rocks with the likes of Mötley Crüe, Billy Idol, Accept, Scorpions, Saxon, and more… (Hey, it beats that damn glam horror sham mislabeled Shocker!)
And the search for The Ultimate Zombie Film continues!
1) Return of the Living Dead: You knew it was coming, didn’t you? This film is finally a splatter/comedy that works. An odd mish mash of friends hang out in the graveyard waiting for their friend Freddy to get out of work. Unfortunately, some tanked up zombies thaw out and run rampant. When one of the “living” carcasses is incinerated, the remnants rain down on the graveyard and call up the minions of the dead. That’s when the party begins. With a great punk rock soundtrack, lovably sadistic humans (much less the zombies), and the infamous battle call, “Brraaaiinns!”, how can you miss? Highlights include the half melted brain sucker in the basement, a legless zombie “running” after a victim, and the shenanigans of society’s misfits when faced with something even more repulsive than themselves.
2) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie: An English version of a zombie slaughterathon that adds some new twists to the myths. This time they can revive other corpses by smearing blood on their eyelids. Also, these undead retained their memories; they can use tools and weapons. It’s like teaching woodland creatures how to use our guns. Highlights include a receptionist who is debreasted and disemboweled at the same time (Good teamwork!) and the autopsy ghoul, incised from groin to neck, that still walks around killing. He/she/it wears only a small bandage on its privates and another on its noggin. Another effective film in which the lead character is slain. (Yeah!)
3) Zombie: The great Lucio Fulci is at it again. He proves that Italian zombies are a helluva lot more scary than homegrown. This film takes place on a strange voodoo cursed island. The “locals” look as if they have dried oatmeal on their faces and they move slower than dirt, but they are scary. And God help you if they get their hands on you. Several scenes will definitely stick with you: an underwater corpse chows on a shark, a woman gets a 10 inch splinter in her eye, and a cop has his throat bitten out by a fat slobbering monster. This movie is supposedly a rip off of Romero’s Dead films, but anyone can see the atmosphere and the style are entirely different.
Other interesting zombie films not included in this ballot are: Dawn of the Mummy, The Video Dead, Revenge of the Dead, Dead and Buried, The Dead Pit, and Fear No Evil.