Thursday, December 31, 2009

Terror Train

I remember surfing the idiot box one night after my dad had fallen asleep on the couch and my mom had gone to bed. I’m guessing I was in fifth or sixth grade at the time. There’s no doubt I was looking for something to satiate my perpetual preteen lust for the opposite sex, when I came across a program with the title Women of Terror or Women in Horror, or something along those lines. From what I gathered, the show contained bits of scenes from scary movies featuring women in horrific situations; or maybe it was a show paying tribute to scream queens. I had only caught the last ten minutes or so of the program, so I don’t remember much about it, but I do recall the scene that was playing when I first switched to the channel it was on: My eyes were glued to the picture box containing this distressed woman being chased by an axe-wielding villain wearing a robe and a creepy mask. I had to turn down the volume as to not wake my dad, because there was so much screaming. The scene was nail biting. I couldn’t believe at the time that so much blood and torture was being shown on television, especially when the pursuer pulled out the lady’s earring, right before she jabbed a paper spike through his cheek. The segment was shortly over, along with the program, but the images had been burned in my impressionable mind and I often wondered about the movie from which that nightmare had been taken.

Fast forward to the year 2004 when the movie Terror Train (1980) was released on DVD. At that time I already owned a pretty big horror film collection and never thought twice about picking up new DVD releases of older movies that I had heard were classics. I had never seen the film so I was ecstatic when, to my surprise, the protagonist got her earring ripped out by a psycho in a creepy mask and a robe. That terrified cutie was Jamie Lee Curtis, and the scene wasn’t nearly as bloody or as scary as I had perceived as a child. No matter, I had finally found the film that had so frightened me as a boy while flipping through the boob tube looking for boobs.

Anyway, I’m reminiscing about this experience because tonight is New Year’s Eve, and the atrocities featured in Terror Train take place on New Year’s Eve. This is another one of those films I love to watch every year at this time. The movie is by no means a masterpiece, but it is entertaining enough, and getting trashed (not axed) with a bunch of friends in a train on New Year’s Eve sounds like a blast! I think I’ve just made my party plans for next year…minus the psycho killer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Looking for a Good Christmas Movie to Watch this Season?

Here are seven of the many Christmas horror films I tend to watch every December. Some are classics and some are just rotten.

Black Christmas (1974)
On Christmas day when the rest of the country is reminiscing through A Christmas Story (1983), horror fans will be observing Bob Clark’s other holiday masterpiece Black Christmas. A deranged killer has snuck into a sorority house and is discreetly picking off the sisters while making obscene phone calls to those still alive through the housemother’s private line. Black Christmas set a standard for horror films with its innovative execution of scenes through the killer’s perspective, original story, and still poignant ending. Nice humorous touches and involving performances keep the sometimes slow pace moving. Black Christmas is a truly terrifying experience, but watch out for the 2006 remake.

Gremlins (1984)
To creature lovers who were tykes growing up in the 1980’s, Gremlins will always be hailed as a Christmas classic! One need not be a horror fan to enjoy this highly entertaining, cautionary Yuletide tale about little green monsters running amok in the troubled town of Kingston Falls. Gremlins offers a fun balance of scares and laughs, silly at times, but never skimping on the elements that give the film the bit of terror to keep the horror hounds happy. The great puppetry and effects that are displayed before the days of CGI never seem to become outmoded, and the likable cast brings depth to the film. Gremlins is mandatory viewing for the Christmas season.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
“Are you scared? You should be; Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year.” If it’s not bad enough that little Billy’s crazy grandfather scared the shit out of him by telling him Santa likes to punish bad children, later that night Billy’s parents get murdered by a cutthroat dressed in a Santa suit. After growing up in a Catholic orphanage, Billy finds employment at a toy store where he is asked to play old fatty, which evokes his haunting past, causing him to go on the inevitable, murderous rampage. A favorite amongst sleaze enthusiasts, this slasher film was pulled from theaters due to protesting parents. Among the many reasons to check it out, one gets to see the salacious Linnea Quigley impaled by antlers.

You Better Watch Out, A.K.A Christmas Evil (1980)
Harry Stadling is an unbalanced but thoughtful social misfit who is obsessed with Christmas and the delusion of being Santa Claus. He spends his days collecting dolls and Christmas memorabilia, spying on children while keeping track of their deeds, and getting badgered by his associates at the toy factory until the big day when he can reward the nice and punish the naughty. This strange film has a sad but touching tone to it. Even though Harry punishes his hecklers via toy soldiers and Christmas tree toppers, it’s obvious that he genuinely cares for the children and believes he’s acting on the spirit of Christmas. A magical ending and a strong protagonist for whom the viewer can sympathize make this film worth checking out.

Inside (2007)
Those who like their holidays violent and cruel have a reason to celebrate, because there’s nothing holly or jolly about this ultra bloody French film other than the setting is the night before Christmas. For those who enjoy gallons of gore rather than eggnog, this desolate little treasure is a gift to behold. A young pregnant woman trapped in her home on Christmas Eve is being terrorized by a scissor wielding psycho with one objective: to rip out her victim’s fetus and mutilate anyone who gets in her way. Relentless to the senses and lacking depth, this film is definitely not for everyone, but those with a love for the genre will embrace its aesthetic harshness of punctured faces and blood tarnished floors.

Night Train Murders (1975)
One of Great Britain’s notorious “video nasties,” this Italian imitation of The Last House on the Left (1972) is a raunchy treat. Two college cuties returning home for the Holidays by train find themselves at the mercy of a couple of lowlife delinquents and a mysterious woman who instigates said delinquents to humiliate, beat, and rape the coeds. On Christmas morning the culprits inadvertently end up at the home of one of the girls to face the wrath of her father who, before he had found out about his daughter’s calamity, claimed to be a nonviolent person. It seems the filmmakers were attempting to comment on the growing rate of violence in society, but they’re not fooling anyone. Night Train Murders is absolute exploitation and will make for nasty X-mas viewing.

P2 (2007)
Tom is a lonely parking garage attendant obsessed with the busy and beautiful Angela who works in the building above him. On Christmas Eve he decides to show her just how deranged he is by trapping and forcing her to spend the rest of the night dining and getting to know him and his dog Bucky. P2 is a pretty routine thriller with nothing new to offer, but the cast plays it straight with good emotion, and there is plenty of gore and a few good scares. It’s hard to tell what Tom’s ultimate intentions are towards Angela, other than being a complete weirdo, but one can easily see he has no qualms about smashing cars and heads. The whole movie takes place in the parking garage and the building above, causing a bit of monotony, but it’s still worth a look.