Idle Hands

When both the slow stalking pace of Halloween and the deliberately studied atmospheric feel of Pumpkinhead failed to energize the crowd for Cavalcade Event 8 and frankly, I was getting worried. Fortunately, the crowd was willing to step once more into the breach… and I had just the picture.

Featuring Devon SawaSeth GreenVivica A. Fox, and Jessica Alba’s ass, Idle Hands tells the tale of Anton Tobias (Sawa)-a teenaged slacker who’s primary daily concern is how little can he do, and how stoned can he be while doing it. Life is good for Anton, especially since his parents haven’t been bugging him lately about silly things like going to school and what he plans to do after graduation. Of course, this is most likely because they’ve been killed and stashed away for the last few days.

In short order, we find out they’ve been murdered by his right hand while he was asleep. Apparently Anton is so lazy, the devil got into his right hand and did what the devil does-no, not masturbate-commit bloody murder and play mind games with the protagonist.

Meanwhile, Anton’s buddies Pnub (Elden Henson) and Mick (Green)-also fine upstanding citizens stoners-are doing much the same thing in their basement, though they've been clued-in to the fact that somebody’s been going around killing a bunch of people. They find out it’s their good buddy Anton (well, his hand) fairly soon, right around the time he stabs Mick in the face with a broken bottle and chops off Pnub’s head with a saw blade. But they don’t hold it against him when they come back as zombies (because heaven was, to quote “really far!”).

All this, and we haven’t  gotten to Vivica A. Fox’s throwaway role of the Druid chasing down the evil hand. I say “throwaway” because she’s only in the movie to say the best line in the picture, and walk off again. It’s barely more than a cameo. Oh, and did I mention Jessica Alba’s ass? I don’t usually go on about something like this, but the Director was obviously fond of it, because he essentially gave it star billing by carefully angling every shot she’s in to showcase it. Seriously, it should get its own credit in the picture.

This move is, simply put, brilliantly idiotic. It is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, save for our purposes, where it’s perfect. It moves quickly, doesn’t take itself seriously, is competently filmed (a rarity in our more recent selections), and has as many shots of Jessica Alba in cute little outfits as they could possibly fit. After getting such a slow start, this movie revamped Event 8 enough that we went for an unprecedented 4th feature: Evil Toons!

Bubba Ho-Tep

The idea had B-movie gold written all over it: Elvis Presley didn't die, but instead switched places with the best impersonator he could find so he could live out his days in peace. Only, the plan didn't go so well and now he's just another old man in a nursing home with a "growth on his pecker" and his only friend is a confused black man convinced he's John F. Kennedy. Then, of course, there's the 3,000-year-old mummy stalking the other residents, sucking their souls out their a.... You know, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's get back to the mad mental case that concocted this story, shall we?

Don Coscarelli, the writer-director-producer-freak behind the mind-bending multi-dimensional alien zombie picture, Phantasm, and all 3 sequels. He also did the campy-yet-creepy Beastmaster (those bird people gave me no small number of childhood nightmares with their digestive hugs). The man knows his way around a smaller budget and frequently crafts quirkily interesting movies, so when I hear that the was teaming with no less than the King of B-Movies, Bruce Campbell (Elvis, a role he was born to play), and veteran actor Ossie Davis (as J.F.K), I'm all kinds of eager to check it out. Besides, there's a mummy in a cowboy hat!

By the time I'd gotten around to seeing it for the first time, Bubba had already won a handful of awards in the independent and genre film circuits. Plus other critics had given their stamps of approval, so my anticipation only continued to grow. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but the end result wasn't it...well, not exactly. Where I expected an action packed campy romp, I got a very rich and interesting character piece, with a captivating performance by Mr. Campbell, and good chemistry with Mr. Davis.

Eventually a giant scarab and the titular mummy show up and get with the face-eating and soul-sucking, but by the time said evil finally makes an appearance and the film begins to ramp up, you can almost forget what type of movie you came to see. This is not to say it's a bad movie, far from it. It's much more skillfully put together than just about any others of similar ilk. But it is deliberately paced in its establishment of the characters before it deals with the monster. Which is part of the problem.

The film doesn't entirely know what it wants to be. Is it a character drama? Is it a silly yet sometimes scary horror movie? It's not that these can't co-exist in a movie, that's not the case at all. It's that these pieces at times feel as if they're being culled from various different movies that the filmakers wanted to shoot, and crammed into this one. It doesn't entirely work, but it's still a fun ride.

But not a fun Cavalcade ride. For a group of people gathered around the screen, drinks in hand, deliberate pacing leads to distraction and boredom. While I love the movie for all its beautiful weirdness and loving care given to its characters, It isn't the best kick-off to a Cavalcade event we've ever had. If you do screen it, make sure it's not the opener. It's better served as a second or third movie, when the crowd is more relaxed.

Hmm. All that, and I never did get back to from where the Mummy sucks the souls...


"They're heeeere."

Two words that were never able to be used together again without thinking about television static, a creepy little blond girl, and just how disturbing the suburbs really are. After the memorably creepy opening scene where little Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) sits waaaay to close to the TV and has an interactive viewing experience that predates the Nintendo Entertainment System by 3 years, the movie abruptly shifts to a montage sequence of a bright, sunshine-filled subdivision, where the children and the antelope play. Ok, no antelope, but in 15 years there will be a Caribou Coffee on every block. All of these shots of quaint perfection serve to provide a backdrop and counterpoint to the events that follow.

The film continues innocently enough after that, at least for a while as the supernatural phenomena continues to escalate. Furniture stacks itself on tables, or occasionally slides around rooms, to the bewildered enjoyment of the family (Craig T. NelsonJoBeth WilliamsDominique Dunn, and Oliver Robbins). However, things soon start to take a dark turn when glasses explode and trees start getting inappropriately handsy. Soon enough, the experts are called in, Carol Anne gets sucked into the closet, and a creepy little southern medium (Zelda Rubinstein) channeling Tammy Faye Baker starts speaking fallacies like "This house is clean" and screaming "Don't go into the light!"- things that would soon become part of the pop-culture mainstream of the 80's. Plus there's a couple of nifty scenes involving goopy tennis balls and a rope, and the black dude doesn't get killed, thus signifying the real progressive progress promised by the shift from 70's Sci-Fi/Horror.

Produced and Co-Written by the freshly-popular Steven Spielberg, the movie is full of the trademarks that would go on to define his films. The suburban setting, the interplay of day-to-day comedy with supernatural elements, the camera work, and the technical proficiency with the special effects all would be seen again in things like E.T. Extra TerrestrialJurassic Park, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. He gets first mention primarily because of the storm of controversy about who actually directed the picture, Spielberg or the credited Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw MassacreLifeforce).  Reports are sketchy about it, from all parties involved, though Hooper has always maintained his was the final word on the set. Which is strange, because even his supporters don't go that far. As already stated, there's a lot of Spielberg in this picture, and not nearly as much Hooper, when comparing their bodies of work. Wether that is the myth of fingerprints or signs of a versitle director, I'll leave up to you. You know why?

Because it doesn't freakin' matter! The movie is awesomely weird and fun to watch, considering that it the plot doesn't really have any sense of internal logic, so you're left with entertaining characters in odd situations with special effects that are (for the most part) still eye-catching to this day. Something that's perfect for an audience like the Cavalcade. As a matter of fact, the only problem our audience had was with the fact that this was the third film in our event that was a big loud blockbuster type of Ghost movie, leading to movie fatigue. It would have been a better balance for us to have had at least one of our movies be a quieter b-movie type, to keep from getting hammered by the pictures. But make no bones about it, when selecting films for an event, Poltergeist is a solid choice.

Frighteners, The

As the omnipresent eye of the audience hovers above the dark mansion in the woods, a storm is brewing-both outside and within. passing through an attic window, the camera drops down past the rats, and through the hole in the floor as screams rush up out of the speakers. Eventually our view settles on a woman rushing through a house as the carpet and the walls themselves reach out to take hold of her. Suddenly,  an elderly woman appears in her bedroom door wielding a long-barreled shotgun and, while backlit by a clash of lightning, blasts the possessed floor covering right between the indistinct eye-sockets, causing the spirit housed within to rush out towards the us, blanketing our eye in darkness, as the ghostly titles materialize into view. Here we are again, ladies and gentlesirs, rollicking through another night with another typical Peter Jackson film family.

While working on the script for Heavenly Creatures (which if you haven't seen it, stop reading this and go do so now-- --we'll wait), Jackson and partner Fran Walsh met with Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit), and pitched the idea of a con-man using ghosts to swindle customers. The original idea was to have it be a segment directed by Zemeckis in a Tales from the Crypt movie, but after reading the first draft and seeing an early preview of Heavenly Creatures , he felt that it would be better if the Kiwi headed up the project.  The result is a movie that at times is damn scary, at others cartoonish, and as a whole-pretty good.

Focusing on the previously mentioned psychic con-man Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), his merry band of spooks (played by Chi McbrideJim Fyfe, and John Astin), and their run-in with the supernatural serial bully known as "The Reaper". Along the way, Bannister tussles with an "eccentric" FBI agent brilliantly played by Jeffrey Combs (Bride of the ReanimatorThe 4400), finds love with a widow (Trini Alvarado), and shares a few tender moments with his kooky neighbors (Dee WallaceR. Lee Emry).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Somebody needs to get Peter Jackson to write a family sit-com.

On to the movie itself: The special effects, AMAZING ten years ago,  are still intriguing, but dated (Funny: 80's movies, with their practical muppetry, strobe lights, and hand-drawn animated lightning, ended up aging much better than the early CG powerhouses like Stargate). Of special note is The Reaper and his WICKED scythe. Why they didn't make a holiday toy out of that, I'll never know. Imagine, kids running around with a big, sharp implement of grim decapitating destruction. Laughs for the whole family!

The story has an internal logic, but is basically there to move you from plot point to plot point.  A word about the director's cut: While it makes more sense than the theatrical, it also seriously drags in parts, especially early-on, when they're setting up the relationship between Bannister and friends.   So while this film is completely recommended for the Cavalcade, grab the shorter theatrical cut to keep things moving along.


It's an opening that practically everybody who grew up or went to the movies in the 80's remembers: The camera drifts along the stacks of a huge, dark library. Ahead a librarian is butting books away, blithely unaware that they are quietly rearranging themselves behind her back. The creepy synthesizer plays out it's haunting note as we get closer and closer to the woman as she finally starts to realize something's amiss. She turns to the camera, the screen flares in a bright flash and she screams as her hair is blown back. Cue the  world-famous theme by Ray Parker Jr.

It's been a long-time coming, but the Cavalcade finally got around to Ghosts, choosing this theme to close out the "Year of the Creature Feature". And to be totally frank, there was absolutely NO way we were going to not screen this movie. It was written by and stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and features fantastic turns by Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts.  One also cannot discount the memorable role played by Sigourney Weaver in her second Cavalcade appearance (first being Aliens), the only actor to do that so far aside from Casper Van Dien. Auspicious company indeed.

The film is an origin story of sorts, focusing on the discovery of the spirits and the founding of the titular capture and removal service. Some of the best scenes of the film involve the early use of the equipment, which hasn't really been field-tested. But as Murray's Peter Venkman states with more than a little fear-induced sarcasm:

"Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back."

Fortunately the tests prove successful, as does the business model. Eventually the group garners the unwelcome attention of two hostile forces: The E.P.A. and an ancient Sumerian god of destruction named Gozer. Both reak havok on the lives of our heroes, and are responsible for untold millions in damages and loss of life.  But only one is responsible for one of the most memorable moments in film history:

The 50-foot tall Stay-Pufft Marshmallow man stomping through New York City, raining down sugary destruction.

Thereby, Gozer wins on cool points.

This leads us to the special effects, which were beyond amazing in their day, are finally starting to show their age.  They are by no means "bad", mind you, still managing to surpass a healthy chunk of the low-budget fare of today.  I'd actually be interested in a "special edition" that cleaned them up ala the one or two good parts of the Star Wars re-releases (hint hint).  The proton blasts, ghosts, goblins, zombie cabbies, and afore-mentioned confectionary monsters-all look good... or as good as such things can look, being dead and/or demonic hell-beasts.

There's so much more to say about this movie! But rather than wax poetic about it for another umpteen paragrahs, I'll close this with a clear recommendation for any Cavalcade event.  It's a fantastic ride, hilariously funny with some genuine chills here and there, and your audience will thank you for it.

Eight Legged Freaks

Ever since Bud Abbot and Lou Costello first bumped into a reanimated corpse in the imaginatively titled Bud Abott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the genres of Comedy and Horror have been inextricably linked. Sure there were others before that made the mix, and comic relief was a staple in the classic horror movies of the 20's and 30's, but no film was ever so able to both scare an audience and make them laugh at the same time as that one, and it's success spawned two sequels, numerous television sketches, and in my opinion, heavily influenced Scooby Doo, but that's another discussion.

Filmmakers have been chasing this particular dragon ever since, with varying degrees of success. For every American Werewolf in London, there is a House II: The Second Story; for every Tremors, an American Werewolf in Paris. The sad truth is that there have been so many bad comedy/horror hybrids that the good ones frequently go unnoticed by audiences. Slither is one example, Eight Legged Freaks is another.

Written and Directed by Elroy Elkayem, the story is straight 50's drive-in: A small cargo of Toxic Waste finds its way into a lake near the small town of Prosperity, Arizona (a town which, in typical movie fashion, fails utterly at living up to its name).  In short order, the local insect life ingests the water and are themselves ingested by the spider collection of the local kook (an uncredited Tom Noonan), who soon grow larger, escape and ingest their owner and the local fauna,  then make their way into town. By the time they get there, the babies are the size of, and able to go ten rounds with, a cat (which one of them does in one of the best scenes of the movie). Before long, they're the size of a car, with the queen mother towering over them at a grand 20 feet in height.

Kari WuhrerDavid Arquette, and a youngish Scarlett Johansson do a great job of filling the classic roles of the Small Town Sherrif, Prodigal Hero, and Rebellious Teenager while the script has  plays with the old stereotypes and turns them on their ear. Case-in-point: The wise professor/scientist role in this film is filled by a young boy (Scott Terra). All of this is played with energy and just the right touch of camp.

The best characters in the movie, however, are the spiders themselves. While realistically detailed in their Computer Models, they chatter with each other in odd little noises, react, and perform cartoonish pratfalls. The fact they do this while still managing to be deadly, and frequently creepy adversaries-is a testament to the Director's skill. The invaders in Mars Attacks! wish they were as memorable. Credit must go to the producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who manged to bring the special effects prowess and experience from Independance Day and Godzilla to a movie that's a hell of a lot more fun and better than either those movies ever were.

So is this recommended fof a Cavalcade? Absolutely! It's a wild, fun little ride that is perfectly suited for a Drive-In. Check your brain at the door and enjoy the entertainment.

An American Werewolf In London

You ever wake up after a night out on the town and not remember everything that happened, including how you got to wherever you woke up? There was once a time when I was 17 and woke up in my best friend's front yard, with my Dad sitting in a minivan parked on the street, yelling at me. It could have been worse though, my friend was throwing up in his neighbor's bushes at the time, wishing he was dead. But still, I suppose we got off easy.

There's a point in An American Werewolf in London where our hero David Kessler (David Naughton) wakes up naked in a zoo... in a habitat, with no idea of how he got there.  Considering the circumstances, he handles the situation with aplomb, running from tree-to-tree, until he can find suitable "cover". His ability to remain calm in this situation is rather easy to understand: He think's he's lost his mind. To be fair, it's been a hard couple of days, and this isn't the first time he's woken up in a strange place. This all follows the scene where wakes up in a hospital and finds out his best friend (Griffin Dunne) was killed by a lunatic while he survived with some cuts and scratches ...A fact his friend doesn't really hold against him when he shows shortly after, looking like "a meatloaf". But while his friend is rather nonplussed about being a decomposing undead meatsack messenger, he still wishes David would do everybody a favor and kill himself before he turns into a monster.

To say that this is a quirky film is a gross understatement. Directed by John Landis, who was just coming off of The Blues Brothers, and had previously done Animal House, and The Kentucky Fried Movie, this film is filled with comedic moments that make the gory ones all the more shocking and unexpected. Make no bones about it: this is a horror movie, and a good one at that. But part of the reason it works is that the comedy is handled so deftly by the Director, script, and all the principles. There's a thin line between scaring people and making them laugh. The Cavalcade is built around the idea of watching movies that often have one happen where the other was intended by the filmmakers. There are Nazi Werewolves in this movie, and it works. That's saying something right there.

That said, this film is far from perfect. To start, the ending just doesn't work. It's every bit as rushed and anticlimactic as a teenage boy's first time, and when it's over, you're just kind of staring at the screen going "that's it?"

The middle section of the movie drags in certain sections as it jumps from point to point. Though that didn't bother, as several of the scenes felt like they were lifted from 30's horror classics, like The Wolf Man, with which most of the characters in this movie are familiar. By the time you get to the first transformation sequence, a full hour into the movie, it comes at just the moment the audience is starting to get antsy. Even now, more than 25 years since it's release, that scene is still very effective at making the audience go "wow!"

This film comes highly recommended for a screening, but make it the second or third show, as you'll want the crowd settled in and prepared. You know, considering that this is supposed to be a Cavalcade of Schlock, we've been lucky to have 28 Days Later, and this film in successive events, no?

Return of the Living Dead

By the time the synth-rock laced theme kicks in under the opening credits ten-minutes into the movie, you've already had 10 puns, 5 "hip" punk teenagers (with 1 clean-cut "girl next door" thrown in for good measure), bare breasts, 3 references to Night of the Living Dead , 2 pratfalls, and an animatronic dead guy shoved in a canister who can convert gooey flesh into zombie making gas.

*Sniff* that's right ladies. That smell isn't rotting corpses, it's the 80's!

Written and Directed by Alien -scribe Dan O'Bannon , the film takes a much lighter tone with the material than the bleak seriousness found in the Romero picture, which I keep referencing because of the odd relationship Return has with the 1968 classic.

John Russo , who wrote the novel from which the film takes its inspiration, as well as the first draft of the screenplay, also was a co-screenwriter on Night of the Living Dead. As a matter of fact, Day of the Dead, the second Romero-helmed sequel was slated to come out at the same time as Return, a fact that didn't sit too well with Romero at all. After some legal wrangling, Russo retained the right to use the "Living Dead"name, while giving up the right to reference the original in his marketing.

O'Bannon however, wanted to differentiate himself from Romero's series in a more distinct way: By making it an outright comedy, all the while poking fun at its relationship to the original. Everybody in the movie has seen Night of the Living Dead, and use it as their basis for fighting back the ever increasing numbers of flesh-munchers. Something that doesn't serve them too well, I'm afraid.

These zombies are all together more formidable than than the slow-moving consumer corpses from Night and Dawn of the Dead. When a zombie fails to die (again) from a pick-axe being embedded in its skull, one of the characters exclaims "Well, it worked in the movie!"

As a matter of fact, this movie illustrates some of the first instances of the running zombie. But even better, we have the naked dancing zombie chick. Beeing an 80's teen movie, there is the obligatory scene when the punk rock girl does a naked dance number in the middle of the graveyard for no real reason... only to be mauled to death and spend the next hour walking around naked and eating people with a mouth that would make a porn star jealous.

This film is pure genius for the simple fact that it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is: utterly (if you'll forgive the expression) brain-dead. Add to that the jammin' 80's rock soundtrack that is peppered with songs like "Eyes Without A Face" by a band called The Flesh Eaters, you know you're in for a good time.

Braindead (A.K.A. Dead-Alive)

Let's start this review off with two words that are perfectly suited to letting you know what kind of movie this is. No, I'm not going to use gory or funny, though those words also apply beautifully. No, the words I'm going to use are Rat Monkey. That's right: Rat. Monkey.

In 28 Days Later, the rage-virus comes from human beings "coming in contact with a chimpanzee" (read: being beaten like they owed him money) in a lab. Here, all the bloodletting stems from the afore-mentioned Rat Monkey. This leads us to our first lesson of the day: Simians = Bad Juju.

I first ran into Peter Jackson's Dead Alive in 1995, when I stumbled across it while I was working at the video store. I had just seen this oddly captivating movie called Heavenly Creatures a few weeks before, and lo, there was another movie from the same guy, and a horror movie no less. I might as well check it out. Man, was I ever unprepared for what I saw.

The film establishes its tone right away. Opening on the island of Sumarta, where the Rat Monkey makes its home. The dangers of the creature are made readily apparent when an explorer returns from an expidition with a bite mark on his right hand, which is quickly amputated by his guides. Then his left arm, as that had another mark. Finally, they notice scratches on his forehead... This whole sequence had the feel of a Warner Brother's cartoon hopped up on PCP.

Which, frankly, describes the rest of the movie pretty well.

The bulk of the movie takes place in Wellington, New Zealand, where the dangerous Rat Monkey was sent for exhibition in a zoo. Now, I fear that up until this point, I may have portrayed this film as a greusome excursion down Goryville Lane. But it's at this point in the story that the film's true heart reveals itself. The fact that it is, indeed, a romantic family comedy.

Our hero, Lionel Cosgrove, lives at home with his overbearing mother, who rules over him with a cast-iron fist in order to keep him close to "mummy". Much to her consternation, Lionel falls in love with a girl in town named Paquita Maria Sanchez. Enter into this formula tale of true love... The Sumartan RAT MONKEY, who takes a nibble of dear ol' "mum", and puts a bit of a spin on the rest of the picture.

Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Mom expresses her displeasure... by eating girl's dog. Later mom eats others. Then the others eat still more others. A zombie baby shows up for some crazy hijinks, and everything is resolved with gardening equipment. Wholesome family entertainment. Seriously, there's a sitcom in here somewhere.

A word to the wise: This move is filled to the brim with pus, ooze, ick, splatterifica, disembowelemnts, decapitations, meat smoothie blending, ass-kicking for the lord, vicera, dismemberments, parliaments (ok, I may have made that one up), and all sorts of gorific stuff. While it's so completely over the top to move into screwball territory, it may bother some.

But if it does, they shouldn't be watching a zombie marathon at all anyway, so you can just ask them to get sick in the appropriate porcelin recepticle.