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Monday, October 31, 2016

31 DAYS IF HORROR 2016-Day 31: MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967)

The Monster enjoys an electrical pick-me-up.

When Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) decides to retire and name a successor to his position of the world's monster elite, he announces a gala event on his remote island/laboratory and invites an all-star who's-who of baleful creatures of the night. Along with his infamous Monster and its mate (Phyllis Diller), the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Hunchback, the Mummy, the Werewolf, and of course Count Dracula all show up, some with their eyes greedily fixed upon the successorship. But Frankenstein throws an unintentional curveball by inviting his nebbishy pharmacist nephew, Felix Flanken, to the proceedings, with the lad firmly in mind as his replacement.

Felix Flanken and his uncle, Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff).

That does not sit well with the glitterati of monsterdom, especially not with Dracula and the Monster's mate, plus to say nothing of Dr. Frankenstein's impossibly gorgeous redheaded assistant, Francesca. The hapless Felix swiftly and utterly unknowingly finds himself the target of multiple half-assed assassination attempts, but an even greater threat looms in the form of a titanic uninvited guest who seeks to wreak vengeful havoc...

A grand monster rally.

Finding appropriate fare for the wee ones around Halloween can be a bitch, since much of the scary movie material about there would be considered wholly inappropriate by most parents. (But not by uncles of my stripe, let me tell you!) That's where the magic world of Rankin/Bass Productions comes to the rescue. Renowned and beloved for their now-classic annual holiday television specials, such as RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964), SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN (1970), THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS (1974, which features the fan-favorite "Heat Miser/Snow Miser" numbers), and the excellent L. Frank Baum adaptation, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (1985), the company crafted charming and fun stop-motion animated specials and features brought to life by skilled animators in Japan, and this theatrical feature film was always a favorite and must-watch offering whenever it aired on television during the youth of those of us who are now of a certain age.

The narrative is basically a case of "What if Mad Magazine made HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN?"— an aspect driven home by character designs courtesy of Mad stalwart Jack Davis — with no classic monster trope left untouched and lampooned, with Dracula pretty much stealing film with his snobbish, assholish treachery. He's a riot whenever he's onscreen, and his questionable alliances come back to bite him on his pallid ass.

Dracula and Francesca: Strange bedfellows?

It should also be noted that MAD MONSTER PARTY? features Francesca, the Doctor's buxom redheaded assistant, and if ever there were an animated puppet who gave little boys their first crush, she was it And there's more to her than there seems to be upon first glance...

Little Tibea and the Fibulas performing "It's the Mummy."

The film also features the signature musical scoring of Maury Laws, whose brass-heavy compositions are instantly recognizable to all who grew up on Rankin/Bass' output. MAD MONSTER PARTY? is replete with memorable theme tunes for its characters and a number of great songs, including the quasi-psychedelic "It's the Mummy" (to which the Mummy and the Monster's mate rock out) and the moody, evocative title song by Ethel Ennis. "The Monster Mash" is long overdue for dethroning from its lofty position as the go-to Halloween anthem, and I herewith nominate "Mad Monster Party?" to now bear the crown. Judge for yourself:

In shirt, the family simply cannot go wrong with MAD MONSTER PARTY? and no childhood of true "monster kids" is complete without it.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2016, FROM THE VAULT OF BUNCHENESS!!!

Poster from the original theatrical release. Art by the legendary Frank Frazetta.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

HALLOWEEN: SOME WORDS TO THE WISE

NOTE: This one's a few years old but nonetheless relevant. Enjoy!

In case some of you somehow failed to notice, Halloween is just twenty-four hours away, and on that most fun day of the year there are many things to enjoy, even if Halloween is in actuality "Satan's birthday" as postulated in the unintentionally hilarious Jack Chick tract "Boo!" (1991).

From the Jack Chick tract "Boo!" (1991): a chainsaw-wielding and pumpkin-masked Satan bursts in and demands a completely different kind of pussy than what's being offered.

But along with the freedom of expression allowed on the mighty 'Ween, there are some things we would all do well to remember. I don't want to get all lecturey here, but in order to make sure we all have a safe and fun Halloween, I'm willing to go there. Because I care.
  • Don't allow your single-digit-aged or tweener daughters to dress as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Bratz, or any of the other pop culture icons (or permutations thereof) that promote creepy and inappropriate visual sleazery among girls under the age of eighteen. Unless you want to get arrested for pimping a child prostitute, that is.
Oh, HELL no!!!
  • If you're going to escort your little ones on their trick-or-treating rounds, show some decorum ferfucksake and don't do it while drunk. There's plenty of time for the boozing at grownup parties; don't make bad memories that your kids can look back on as adults and see you, clear as day in a scarecrow costume, walking haphazardly door-to-door on the street where you live, "discreetly" sipping from a thermos full of Harvey Wallbangers. (Do people still make those?)
  • And while we're on the subject of Halloween drunkenness, DO NOT under any circumstances drive drunk. I have zero tolerance for this even on my best day, but on Halloween, a time for fun and creative expression and sharing of such with our loved ones and friends, I am especially hard-assed. This is a time you'll want to look back upon with fondness, so don't fuck things up by killing yourself or others. If you're too smashed to drive, admit it and call a cab. There's no shame in not being a dumbass/potential vehicular murderer; a hangover will eventually fade, but a serious injury or a life taken due to inebriated stupidity is a whole other ballgame. And let us not forget that sometimes there are situations worse than death that the innocent are forced to live with thanks to someone else's carelessness. If you don't have a strong constitution, DO NOT click here to see what I mean.
  • Steer clear of exotic Halloween-themed drinks concocted by creative bartenders and stick to the poisons you're familiar with. Many feature grotesque food-coloring that can dye your mouth and fuck up the makeup or costumed look that you worked so hard to achieve, and these drinks also can contain combinations of different hard liquors that should never be imbibed in mass quantities unless your goal for the evening it to become the anal/oral/vaginal pincushion of scruples-free predators out looking for an easy target. Reference the classic Mentors song "Sleep Bandits" for more on the dangers of this.
"The Brain Hemorrhage" or simply "The Brain," a visually splendid concoction of Peach Schnapps, Irish cream liqueur, and a drop of Grenadine. During my truly stupid days in the mid-1980's, one of these made me projectile vomit like Mr. Creosote.
  • Couples costumes always suck. Either the guy or the gal or both look like ass, so don't do it! Some examples of said suckness:






Not cute, not romantic. Simply appalling, especially that last one.
  • Carefully choose your location and specific context if intending to rock blackface, unless you're looking for an ass-kicking.
Sarah Silverman: one who hilariously got away with it.
  • Don't give out "gimmick" candy to the trick-or-treating kids. Candy manufactured to resemble bugs, eyeballs and assorted other gruesome seasonal items may look interesting, but they often taste like mildly-sweet PVC. The kids want recognizable brand name confections, those little bite-size candy bars and such, so stick with that stuff. And no candy apples, homemade stuff (unless you're giving it out to kids you know and whose parents know you and are cool with you doing it) or those crappy popcorn balls.
Visually appealing, virtually guaranteed to taste like plastic.
  • Don't give out candy corn or Peeps, for they are Satan's own dingleberries, retrieved from the actual Devil's ass-crack hairs. You know I'm right about this.
  • Wanna prove to kids how much you genuinely hate them? Give out wax lips. 
Hey, if you want the neighborhood children to look like pint-size Jocelyn Wildensteins, then by all means proceed, but also bear in mind that these insidious, disturbing, and utterly taste-free anti-treats can be put to very questionable use indeed...

  • Don't rock Nazi gear. This one's still quite understandably a touchy outfit and there are even Jews who take umbrage with fellow-Semite Mel Brooks for the brilliant "Springtime for Hitler" number in THE PRODUCERS (1968) so it's best not to go there, even when taking the piss out of the filthy Hun. Seriously, if a member of Britain's royal family couldn't get away with it, do you think you've got a chance?
Way to go, genius!
  • Ladies, fairy tale characters or the Disney-style princess thing is great for pre-pubescent girls but kinda creepy on grownup chicks with tasty curves. Thus, as grownup wimmern folk, please do your level best to corrupt the wholesome angle of the classic princess. Make Sleeping Beauty look like a ready-to-rock, tarted-up porn whore! Turn the fairy princess into a burnt-out, hungover skank!
Little girls everywhere wept: my old buddy POWER GIRL artist Amanda Conner as the "Fairy Fuckin' Princess."

And if it were legal, wouldn't it be great to go out as Topless Tinkerbell? Just puttin' it out there...
  • Last and definitely not least, if at all possible, make sure to have sex with your significant other while still adorned with as much of your costumes as is conducive to such acts. Perhaps not in costumes as straight to point as this,
but instead imagine the twisted scenarios that could be enacted between a spear-brandishing Brunhilde the Valkyrie and the re-animated, smiling corpse of John F. Kennedy! That's just the first thing that popped into my head while writing this, so who knows what you can get up to in real life, dear reader? I'm going stag this year, so please rock the costumed Osh-Osh on my behalf.

So keep all of this in mind and have a bitchin' Aitch-Ween!!!

Just in case you didn't know.

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 30: JAWS AT 40

NOTE: This piece originally ran back in June of 2015 but I felt the need to break it out for those who missed it.

There are some movies that are sheer perfection when seen properly projected, and JAWS is one of them. Arguably the first true summer blockbuster, as we have come to understand the form, the film has been re-released for limited screenings during this, its fortieth anniversary, so I hauled myself to the temple of the flickering image to take in an all-too-rare revival of a horror masterpiece.

Seeing it on the big screen (at the Union Square multiplex in Manhattan) for the first time in 40 years transported me right back to being a few days shy of turning 10 and my embracing of it as my favorite movie for a couple of years. In my early years I had my career goal set on being a marine biologist with a concentration on shark studies and I dragged my parents to every shark-related activity that I could gain access to, so seeing JAWS was an inevitability. Though rated PG, the film's poster featured the ominous tacked-on caveat, "MAY BE TOO INTENSE FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN," which only guaranteed the attendance of this budding gorehound, so considering that and the fact that it all boiled down to a story about a huge goddamned shark merrily munching its way through summer season beachgoers (and a hapless dog), you had a recipe for perfect entertainment. (And as long as we're keeping it real, whatever would transpire onscreen couldn't be any more intense or emotionally scarring than the daily witnessing of my parents' marriage rocketing down the bowl.) And when I finally did see JAWS, I fucking loved it. It was a perfect "man versus force of nature" yarn, sort of an ancient seaman's legend writ for the late-20th century, and it's that primal simplicity of the narrative, coupled with some stunning sequences of suspense and stellar characterization, that so resonates. 

It was great to see JAWS again with an audience and when the lights went down, it was like settling in as a skilled elder storyteller wove a yarn to scare and enthrall kids while also instilling in them the strong and basic lesson of taking what lurks in the depths seriously. There were some audience members who were clearly veterans from the first go-round but the majority of attendees were thirty or younger, most of whom had seen the movie numerous times on cable or DVD, and the few who who had never seen it before were easy to spot, thanks to their sudden vocalizations of shock in all the places that scared the motherfucking shit out of us back in the summer of 1975.

The horror from the deep revealed.

For the record, my favorite moment is still the part where Brody chums the water and meets the shark — sea monster, really — face-to-face, after which he backs into the Orca's interior, his face a frozen, stunned mask of horror as he matter-of-factly states, "You're going to need a bigger boat..." Also of note, you could have heard an amoeba fart during Quint's chilling recounting of his experience following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, so all-consuming was the silence in the auditorium. The moment when Quint describes reaching over to wake up his friend, only to have the man tip over to reveal that he had been devoured from below the waist by one of perhaps a thousand tiger sharks... *SHUDDER*

Quint (Robert Shaw) makes with one of the most riveting and horrifying speeches in the annals of cinema.

Seriously, if it's playing anywhere near you, hie your ass to the theater and pay your respects as a true cinephile by seeing JAWS again as it was intended. I'll never watch it again unless it's projected and you can bet your ass I'll be there for the 50th anniversary.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 29: ARE GODZILLA MOVIES HORROR FILMS?

In 1954, a dread horror arose from the deep.

Godzilla, king of the monsters. The implacable radioactive leviathan who leaves naught but death and destruction in his wake. That's a description that runs at odds with the goofy/silly image the name conjures up for most casual observers. To most, Godzilla is the epitome of "fakey" special effects and zipper-up-the-back monster suits, and, to be fair, that assessment is not necessarily inaccurate, depending on which of the character's 29 films one sees. Series entries like GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER (1966), GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969, in which Godzilla does not even attempt revenge),  the infamous GODZILLA VS GIGAN (1972, in which Godzilla and his pal Anguirus talk), and GODZILLA VS MEGALON (1973) largely eclipse the better, more serious-minded and lavish entries in the perception of the general public. But if one goes back to the 1954 GOJIRA, which was later dubbed and released in the U.S. as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, one encounters a film that could not be further away from its descendants if it tried.

The 1954 GOJIRA, especially in its unaltered Japanese version, is straight-uphorror of the first order, a rumination on nuclear warfare crafted by the only people in history to endure such a scorching nightmare firsthand. Shot in moody black & white, the first Godzilla film presents its titular beast as a radiation-scarred behemoth with no rhyme or reason to its attacks. Godzilla simply is, and what it is is death and destruction given flesh as a force of nature. No punches are pulled when depicting the doom and misery that it brings, as cities are leveled and burned and human life is snuffed out as easily as one would step on an ant. We see buildings collapse on innocent families, emergency wards full to capacity with broken and irradiated victims, and the whole endeavor fairly screams of utter hopelessness and despair. The filmmakers at Toho Studios very successfully communicated the terror of the atomic bomb in no uncertain terms, and anyone who comes away from experiencing the first Godzilla film as anything other than a bleak descent into a science and warfare-spawned hell was obviously not paying attention. All of the subsequent Godzilla movies, wildly varying in quality as they do, are fun matinee and weekend afternoon TV fodder, but the original is a textbook example of a horror movie directly expressing the well-founded fears of the society that created it.

I strongly recommend GOJIRA to those who have not yet seen it, if for no reason other than to experience one of the bleakest films ever made and definitely the darkest effort in the annals of giant monster cinema. A feel-good movie it absolutely ain't.

Poster from the original Japanese theatrical release.

Friday, October 28, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 28: DOCTOR WHO "PYRAMIDS OF MARS" (1975)

"I am Sutekh the Destroyer. Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness. I find that good."

1911: Professor Marcus Scarman (Bernard Archard) unearths the tomb of the ancient Egyptian god Sutekh the Destroyer (aka Set), which dooms him to servitude as the evil god's undead slave. Eons ago, the Egyptian gods, led by Osiris himself, waged war against Sutekh and imprisoned him on Mars, hopefully forever, in order to prevent him from wiping out all life in the universe. But now Sutekh has found a possible way out of his imprisonment and employs Scarman and a number of robot mummies to facilitate that goal, and it looks like nothing can prevent the dark deity from unleashing a swath of destruction across the whole of creation. Nothing, that is, until the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) interrupt their aimless galavanting through space and time and enter the fray. The pair of intrepid time-traveling adventurers swiftly realize that they have to intervene, lest all be lost, which they see firsthand by jumping to 1980 and finding the Earth a devastated wasteland due to their not getting involved. But how does even someone as formidable as our favorite Time Lord defeat the last of the Osirans, a being of vast cosmic power whose sole purpose is to destroy all life everywhere?

 The Doctor investigates.

PYRAMIDS OF MARS nearly always turns up on lists and polls citing the all-time classic DOCTOR WHO stories, and deservedly so. It's a triumph of solid writing and acting overcoming all-too-obvious budgetary limitations (too put it very kindly), and it evokes the best of the often mishandled Egyptian curse/mummy sub-genre of horror. In many ways, especially when remembering that classic DOCTOR WHO was a straight-up children's program, albeit one that unabashedly brought legitimate scares, this story is the perfect entry level mummy yarn for kids. So what if the mummies are actually robots? They still shamble about and murder people, so they're doing their designated genre trope job.

A horrible way to die: Having one's neck crushed between the pronounced chest ridges of powerful robot mummies.

The atmosphere of England in the early 1900's is perfectly evoked, as is the then-exotic flavor of recently rediscovered ancient Egyptian artifacts and culture. Speaking of which, Sutekh is one of the series' all-time greatest villains, if not the all-time greatest, in that he is a genuine cosmic entity of incalculable power whom it took and entire pantheon of gods to initially imprison, and his threat should he get loose again is on a downright Lovecraftian scale. In fact, Sutekh would have been right at home in one of H.P. Lovecraft's pulp tales of eldritch entities that drive mere mortals to states of gibbering insanity. Portrayed with unforgettable resonance and utter evil arrogance by Gabriel Woolf, Sutekh is hands down my favorite antagonist for the Doctor and I would love to see him brought back in the rebooted series (though considering how this story wraps up, that's pretty fucking unlikely).

Sutekh unmasked.

This story also allows the regulars to shine. Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor is in fine form, even behaving in ways that remind us that first and foremost he is an alien and a pragmatists, especially when forced to deal with something as universally horrific as Sutekh, so his lapses into seemingly cold-hearted handling of matters makes perfect sense. Sarah Jane, who was seldom a damsel in distress type, is given a lot to do here and comes through like the stalwart assistant that she is legendary for being. Once the seriousness of the situation is made apparent, she's right there at  the Doctor's side, showing a surfeit of pluck and good old British take charge no nonsense ass-kickery, especially when wielding an elephant gun.

 Sarah takes care of business.

I've been a DOCTOR WHO fan since the show first hit the States in 1978, and I tuned in every week for the serialized half-hour installments with great eagerness, thanks to stories of the level of quality displayed in PYRAMIDS OF MARS. Old school WHO always treated its audience with intelligence, an attitude that's forever commendable in children's entertainment, and if I'd seen this story when I was in the single digits, I would have felt that I'd stumbled upon something very special indeed. That said, there's one caveat about this story and old school WHO in general that I should offer for the uninitiated. Pre-reboot DOCTOR WHO was a series marked by its impoverished budget and consequent dodgy special effects and sets, much of which is laughable to modern sensibilities, but that's easily overlooked if one just lets oneself go with the stories and remember that they are a product of decades ago and told with a more decompressed style of storytelling. I much prefer DOCTOR WHO in its serialized form, which allowed more time for richer characterization and the fleshing-out of stories, as opposed to the rushed done-in-one (or two) format of the current iteration. Anyway, PYRAMIDS OF MARS is a classic for several good reasons and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 27: TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010)

Our heroes: Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine).

I can't speak for you, but I fucking love "hicksploitation" movies, flicks about ordinary suburbanites running afoul of homicidal rednecks, hillbillies, and other assorted white trash stereotypes. The textbook example of the form would be DELIVERANCE (1972), with TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964), SHANTY TRAMP (1967), POOR PRETTY EDDIE (1975), SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981), and EDEN LAKE (2008) also serving as prime examples, and there are a ton more to delve into. That said, it was only a matter of time before somebody made a film that lampooned the sub-genre, so I'm glad to say that TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL is about as good of a parody of this department as one could hope for.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a pair of hillbillies straight out of reruns of HEE-HAW, and they are about as lovable as humanly possible. The pair take a vacation at a remote fixer-upper cabin deep in the Appalachians, with the intent of restoring the place and enjoying hours of serene fishing, but their deep woods idyll is flushed straight down the shitter when they meet a group of college frat boys and their girlfriends at the local general store. Shy and awkward Dale is smitten by pretty blonde psychology major Allison (Katrina Bowden) but his tongue-tied attempt at talking with her is mis-interpreted as a creepy advance, so the frat gang gets it into their heads that our sweet rednecks are a couple of DELIVERANCE-style potential murderers/arse-rapists.

Frat boy douchebags and their willing females.

Unfortunately, the frat shitheads set up camp near Tucker and Dale's cabin and while out doing some nighttime skinny-dipping while T&D fish and swill Pabst Blue Ribbons nearby, Allison falls off of a rock, knocking herself out, and our heroes come to her rescue, putting her into their boat and rowing her back to their cabin. This is witnessed by the frat assholes, who instantly assume that the hillbillies have kidnapped Allison for all manner of nefarious degradations before her inevitable murder, so the frat bros and their girls, led by the ultra-assholish and clearly psychotic Chad (Jesse Moss), decide to wage a half-assed guerrilla war against the totally innocent and well-intentioned Tucker and Dale.

The lovely Allison (Katrina Bowden).

While holed up and recuperating from her injuries in the cabin, Allison gets to know Dale and finds him to be a sweet and charming teddy bear of a man, and in no time the seeds of romance are planted.    Unfortunately, Allison's frat pals make all the wrong assumptions and attempt to take out Tucker and Dale in ways that violently and gorily backfire on them. In other words, it's like a misunderstanding-fueled French farce gene-spliced with Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol.

A poorly-timed tackle ends in nasty results.

TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL would have been fun if it had merely been a standard comedy, but its knowing ribbing of its genre and its willingness to be outrageously, hilariously gory elevates it above most humor/horror fusions. Horror comedy is a notoriously hard flavor to get just right, as is evidenced by how relatively few good ones there are — ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), GHOSTBUSTERS (1984), and DEADALIVE (1992), to name some must-see examples — and this film absolutely nails it.

The unintentional chainsaw chase that made me laugh out loud and was the deciding moment that made me love this movie. Seriously, I actually said out loud, "That's it. I fucking love this movie!!!"

Bottom line: Trust Yer Bunche and check this one out, especially if you're well-versed in the lore of hicksploitation. You will not be disappointed.

Poster from the theatrical release.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 26: BIG TITS ZOMBIE (2011)

"Idiot. I've always hated you. Now I'll step on your face. With a shoe full of dog shit."
-Goth stripper Maria, once she's learned how to control the undead and decides to get revenge upon her former colleagues for no adequately explained reason.

Based on the manga series KYONYU DRAGON, this flick is another in the ongoing wave of intentionally over-the-top satirical horror/exploitation flicks to make their way to the Japanese screen, and among that lot it's rather a minor entry.

WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

Given an admittedly great/stupid title for its Western release, the film relates the adventures of five down-on-their-luck dancers who toil at a rinky-dink strip joint in a desolate town in the middle of nowhere. There's the recently-returned-from-Mexico sombreroed/western-themed main heroine Lena Jodo (played by adult film star "Aoi Sola," whose nom de porn translates as "Blue Sky"), morose ex-con Ginko, Goth girl Maria, Neneh, an aging dancer who reads tarot cards and is close to retiring to Tokyo to run a noodle shop, and money-hungry Vietnamese chick Darna, who's working to support her impoverished brothers and sisters, and during the film's first half hour we get to know them and see them get continually screwed over by their shady boss.

Our heroines: (L-R) ex-con Ginko, Goth girl Maria (with the unnatural red hair), cowgirl Lena, soon-to-be-retired Neneh, and money-grubbing Darna (kneeling in front).

They're all fun and interesting to varying degrees, but one does not approach a film entitled BIG TITS ZOMBIE in search of a look into the crapsack lives of exploited strippers, so just as the film passes the half hour mark, the girls discover their dressing room houses a concealed door that leads into the basement of the abandoned house across the street, a place where the previous owner mysteriously committed suicide. Upon entering the basement, the girls find the dead man's creepy inner sanctum filled with arcane artifacts and an impressive collection of rare occult books, identified as such by the Goth chick (natch), who grabs an authentic copy of the Book of the Dead and of course reads aloud from it. The results are not immediate but when the spell takes effect, all hell literally breaks loose and in no time the nation is overrun by the undead from many periods of history, all of whom have escaped from the conveniently-located Well of Souls in the basement. From there it's a cavalcade of re-animated and aggressive sushi, the requisite zombie cannibalism, weaponized wasabi paste, an interesting attempted variant on the old tentacle-rape standby, beheadings, disembowelings, two of our heroines taking on a horde of zombies while wielding a samurai sword and a chainsaw and eventually ending up topless as their twins are rendered a deep shade of red as they are showered by geysers of arterial spray, and the unforgettable sight of the geisha-costumed and newly-zombified Neheh's pussy mutating into something resembling a lamprey's maw that spews fire with range and dispersal equivalent to that of a standard military flamethrower (by far the film's highlight).

Lena takes on all comers with her handy McCullough.

Ginko and Lena, mere moments before their twins are reddened by copious arterial spray.

All of this madness is achieved in a short running time of seventy-three minutes, so it never really gets boring (though the first half hour is definitely slow going), but with a title like BIG TITS ZOMBIE, the film contains far less nudity than one would rightly expect, and the two pairs of dairies on display — specifically Lena's and Ginko's — range from about Japanese-standard proportions to around a C-cup, so we're talking appealing, but not "big" like the title promises. (Well, not by U.S. standards, anyway.) And while the gore is plentiful when it comes, it's definitely a comparatively short blast and the movie is over well before the viewer expects it to be, so there's a profound sense of getting ripped off.

I've certainly seen far worse zombie films, but I've also seen far better in both the serious vein and the zom-com variety, so this flick is only recommended for zombie completists, those who are looking for a short diversion with gore 'n' (brief) tits, and desperate adolescent boys. However, the flamethrower pussy has to be seen to be disbelieved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 25: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE UNRATED (2010)

NOTE: This is an oldie from the archive but I figured the remake deserved as much attention as the original, so...

When it was announced there would be a remake of the Mier Zarchi's infamous 1978 rape/revenge grindhouse classic — which, for better or worse, it definitely qualifies as — the first thing to come to my mind was "Why?!!?" There was little that could be done to top the original in terms of depicting the very personal horrors of a backwoods gang rape and the vengeance it spurs other than to shoot it with a decent budget, quality camerawork/cinematography, and better performances from the cast, so what was the point? I know that practically every film under the sun has been remade or is in the works for such treatment, but again I ask, why remake a film that's a veritable Chernobyl of negative energy? The only ready answer that I had before seeing it was that the filmmaker's sought to cash in on the name recognition of the original, but there's considerably more going on here than I initially assumed. I wrote on the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE a few years back and I ask you to go here to read it. And before we proceed any further, be advised: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

Southern anti-hospitality at its very worst.

The basic story is the same as the original: Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler), a writer from The Big City, rents a place in the backwoods — apparently Upstate New York in the original, Louisiana this time around — runs afoul of some incredibly vile lowlifes, gets agonizingly gang raped by said lowlifes, survives her ordeal and unleashes gruesome vengeance against her assailants. This time, however, the quality of the filmmaking is very far removed from the rather Paleolithic (though well-intentioned) results displayed in the 1978 version. The remake is quite obviously the work of real cinematic craftsmen and displays a level of polish and style totally absent in Zarchi’s dire classic, which makes the shattering events depicted in it more agreeable to sit through. (While any depiction of gang rape is going to be hard to sit through simply by default, the original’s bargain basement qualities imbued it with an unwashed and squalid look and tone that at times felt to me like some scabrous hobo was forcibly shoving his dirtiest, most callused finger straight down my throat.) The visual style is somehow lush in presenting the stark isolation of the story’s Louisiana backwoods setting, and the desolation helps to plant the viewer firmly into its lonely reality.

And speaking of reality, there were several elements in the original that would not have allowed for willing suspension of disbelief in the 2000’s, and they are addressed quite deftly. We currently live in an age of cheap and very conveniently portable mass communication technology, which simply did not exist back in 1978, so our heroine would be equipped with a cell phone that would allow her to call for help. Or rather that would be the case if she were not seen accidentally dropping her cell phone into her cottage’s toilet early in the film. Also, if a crime of the kind that Jennifer endures and survives after being pretty much presumed dead (despite the considerable efforts of her filthy assailants) occurred in this manner, today there would be any number of ways for law enforcement officers to bring Jennifer’s violators to justice (if justice could truly be provided by our justice system in the wake of the severity of the acts perpetrated), with DNA evidence matching immediately springing to mind. Thus it was necessary to add a fifth rapist to the scenario, namely the unspeakable Sheriff Storch (played with horrifically creepy gusto by Welsh actor Andrew Howard).

Andrew Howard as the vile Sheriff Storch.

Storch is the only police officer shown, and the area he allegedly polices is so remote that perhaps only one lawman is all it really requires. Too bad that despite him being seen to be a loving husband and father when not on duty, he’s worse than any criminal he’s likely to encounter because of his association with the pack of rapists, guys it’s made clear that he’s been friends with since they were kids, and his ability to inflict such grievous harm on an outsider reveals a sadistic sociopath who is allowed to wield lethal power by law. And by virtue of his training in the enforcement of said law, he knows all about how to cover up all trace of the crimes he and his pals commit, which makes him vital to them getting away with all of it.

And while we’re discussing rapist scum, it should be noted that the gang of redneck louts who plot the violation and (failed) murder of Jennifer includes a woman-hating Alpha male leader, a fairly nondescript follower, an overweight wielder of a video camera who fancies himself a budding cinematographer and voyeuristically captures the entire gang rape on tape, and a mentally handicapped repairman, whose virginal status is used by the Alpha male leader as an excuse to rape the city gal outsider. These guys are given a lot more in the way of developed personality than the louts found in the 1978 version, and that makes them that much more interesting and vile. The fiends in the original have little you can say about them as individuals other than that they are personification of the worst of male urges, in essence interchangeable ambulatory penises that utter dialogue. In the remake’s case we are afforded peeks into the quirks of the men as individuals and by allowing us to get to know what they’re like, an aspect that grants them an understandable (though totally evil and loathsome) humanity, it is that knowing of them as something other than largely undefined cardboard cutouts that makes us hate them all the more. Especially Sheriff Storch, whose vicious misogyny and behavior are fascinatingly contrasted against what we see of his home life. He’s a self-proclaimed god-fearing churchgoer with a loving wife who’s about eight months pregnant and looks for all the world like a fertility goddess transplanted to the early twenty-first century, and he’s also got a sweet daughter of maybe nine years old whom he clearly dotes upon. The man is a completely different person as a husband and father, and is presumably likewise as a citizen and lawman, but when in a position to commit a great evil in support of his friends and joining in on their animalistic “fun,” he’s revealed as a law-breaking predator who preys upon the weak and isolated. If Jennifer went missing in his podunk little town, it’s apparent that her disappearance would be noted by few, and the only locals who knew she was there are the sheriff, the gang of rapists, and the sweet old guy who rents her the cottage (the great Tracy Walter), so doing whatever the hell he and his buddies want to with Jennifer is as simple as pie to get away with, especially since disposing of her body would only require chucking her used and abused corpse into the alligator-infested river. Jennifer’s is the worst imaginable position to be in, and these filthy bastards know it and take full advantage of it, giving vent to their pent-up hatred of women and taking a joyous glee in doing so.

But, as was the case in the original, Jennifer does not take her assault like the whimpering victim the rapists anticipated, and when she throws herself off a bridge and into the aforementioned alligator-infested river rather than be outright blasted to kingdom come by the sheriff’s pump-action shotgun, she survives, holes up in a deserted shack for a month and lives on whatever she can catch (including rats) while she uses her writer’s imagination to plot appropriately poetic vengeance that would have done the writers of the classic E.C. horror comics proud. This time around the script wisely does away with the idea of a woman who was so brutally abused luring her attackers to their doom by fucking them. It's not just her body that's been raped by these scum; Jennifer's basic humanity has been utterly taken from her, and as a result she is reborn as what is for all intents and purposes a monster. It’s a tragic rebirth as a fury every bit as savage and implacable as the variety found in classical Greek mythology. Each and every one of the rapists gets his in a very big way and, according to the director and producer’s commentary, their just desserts were so nasty that some of the audiences were so outraged by the severity of the retribution that they stated they began to feel sorry for the rapists. That was not the case with me as a viewer because of my simple belief in the mantra of “If you abuse with the Johnson, you lose the Johnson,” or some other form or punishment involving some form of medieval justice, and I found what they received to be gruesomely satisfying in every way.

So the bottom line on what at first seemed an unnecessary remake of a cruel ‘70’s exploitationer teeming with ultra-sadistic and seemingly pointless misogyny is that the 2010 I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is one very nasty and visceral motherfucker that I’m extremely shocked to have enjoyed. Yes, I enjoyed it, but then again I’m a fan of what I call “the cinema of vengeance,” and there are few examples in the genre as strong as this in every aspect. It’s easily the best of the current remake/re-imagining wave, and I highly recommend it to any and all who have the stones to handle it. And whatever you do, make sure to watch it with the director’s commentary after seeing it for the first time. Very interesting stuff.

Monday, October 24, 2016

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2016-Day 24: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978)

In the history of cinema there has been a handful of films that have drawn a firestorm of controversy over the purportedly offensive subject matter that the filmmakers chose to present to an unsuspecting audience, among them classics such as THE BIRTH OF A NATION, FREAKS, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, BABY DOLL, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE WARRIORS and BLUE VELVET. Yet none of these works has been critically vilified as the most hateful film ever made, an opinion leveled by many critics, both professional and armchair, as Mier Zarchi’s 1978 rape/revenge story DAY OF THE WOMAN, or as it has been much better known since its re-release in 1980, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.

I first heard of the film back in the spring of 1980 on an installment of Gene Siskel (the bald one) and Roger Ebert’s (the fat one) “Sneak Previews” during their days as public television mainstays, theirs being one of the few movie review programs at the time (and the only one worth a damn). What was interesting about their review of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was that they took their entire half hour running time that week to pan the flick with unprecedented venom; this was not just a review, it was an outright crucifixion that saw both well-respected critics ranting like madmen about how the film had not one shred of artistic quality, encouraged the audience to identify with the rapists, eroticized the act of rape and portrayed the film’s heroine as a helpless toy whose sole purpose was to be humiliated and degraded for the enjoyment of the sick audience at which the piece was allegedly aimed.

I usually kept my ear to the ground for offensive films at the time — hell, I still do — and a movie like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE would have played at the nearby and notorious grindhouse Norwalk Cinema, but there had never been a trace of it. In fact, if not for the SNEAK PREVIEWS witch hunt most of the general public would never have heard of the film, and as any idiot can tell you, if you don’t want people to see something, just gloss over it quickly and let it die a silent, lonely death. But when the two most high profile critics in the country take up a whole episode of their show to denounce just one movie, that’s going to raise eyebrows and spark curiosity. And, consequently, box office. In the following two years I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE did decent business in theaters, but it really hit the big time when the VCR boom happened and people could now watch whatever twisted shit they chose to corrupt themselves with, all in the privacy of their own living rooms. And what better way to watch a film that allegedly celebrated the time-honored, old school entertainment that is gang rape? In fact, during the first few years of its release on VHS the flick was a perennial best seller, never leaving the top 50 charts until the late-1980’s, despite being banned outright in several countries. So, just what is this toxic chunk of cinema anyway?

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is about as simple as a story can be: a young woman from the Big City heads out to the Sticks and catches the unwanted attention of four local louts. The louts hunt her in a secluded part of the forest, take turns beating and raping her, and mistakenly leave her for dead. She survives, gets her shit together and exacts well-deserved, lethal revenge. The End.

Sure, that sounds simple, but what was it about this film that has affected so many on such a primal, visceral level? I’ll analyze the plot in detail a bit later, but for my own part I can say that I have a real problem with rape, harm to children and harm to animals being depicted as entertainment, and the reviews of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE certainly made it seem like it was created solely for the purpose of giving a vile audience what amounted to some sort of sick rape pornography. I like my sex and violence to stay mutually exclusive, thank you very much, so I went into seeing the film with an already loaded viewpoint.

I first rented the movie sometime in the late 1980’s along with what was considered to be the other “classic” of the genre, Wes Craven’s 1972 “homage” to Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING (1959), the infamous LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. My buddies — a mixed crowd of males and females — and I stocked up on booze, joints and snacks, and ran LAST HOUSE first since it was the senior of the two works, and let me tell you, it was a profoundly disturbing experience since pretty much the latter half of the movie was shot in and around our hometown of Westport, Connecticut, and my friends and I could have hopped into a car and driven to the locations in question within minutes. The horror of seeing the two lovely young hippie chicks unspeakably violated, tortured and murdered by a carload of prison escapees and mental defectives in familiar locations, along with the savage vengeance enacted by the parents of one of them, plunged the viewing room into a deep funk, and we debated running the second film on our double-bill. But we were the hardest of Westport’s fans of evil and offensive films and, to paraphrase Super-Chicken, “we knew the job was dangerous when we took it,” so with a sense of ominous foreboding we proceeded as planned.

We knew of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE’S notorious status from the get-go, but nothing had prepared us for the onslaught that we witnessed. The film looked painfully amateurish, the performances seemed wooden at best, and the much-condemned and admittedly ultra-sadistic rape scene felt like it went on for at least half of the film’s running time, with a camera that seemed to linger too long on the ugliness it captured, almost in the same way that one cannot look away from the grisliest of car accidents.

My friends and I were stone-cold stunned; this roomful of wiseasses made not one wisecrack during the proceedings and the one thing that was said by way of comment came from the crew’s resident ladies’ man, Samurai House-Pup, who postulated, “Jesus…Can you imagine trying to get it into a dry, unwilling female? For fuck’s sake, man!” The three girls in the room nodded in shocked agreement and even when the film’s heroine achieved her revenge, not one of us felt any form of relief since she had now descended to the rock-bottom level of her assailants. A profound sadness filled us all.

Now, I understood the knee-jerk reaction felt by Siskel and Ebert and many other commentators, although I felt that their reactions were a bit much considering how many other films had dealt with similar material in equally harsh ways (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE leading a very vicious pack, the latter even containing hardcore penetration shots during one of the rapes, a segment that could only have been gotten away with in the film’s native Sweden) but there was something about the film that would not let go of me and I just couldn’t suss out exactly what it was…

After my first viewing, I saw I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE twice more during the next decade, and began to figure out a few of the things that intrigued me about the film:
  1. The first thing I noticed after recovering from my initial state of shell shock was that the film has no musical score, a stylistic choice which only ups the tension by giving the viewer no cues as to where the action may go, and also stranding the viewer firmly within the film’s own bleak reality.
  2. The desolate location of Kent, Connecticut is pretty much a dead zone, a no-man’s-land in which anything can happen due to its isolation. Having actually been to Kent and felt its ambiance of “you can turn your neighbors into chili here, and no one would ever know,” it was the most perfectly unsettling place to film such a story. It’s funny how horror filmmakers tend to gravitate to Connecticut; LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, and several of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise were shot there since many of the backwater areas look like the staging ground for many an urban legend featuring teenagers and crazed serial murderers.
  3. The justifiably infamous four-against-one rape sequence does not actually go on for nearly an hour; it just feels that way, The actual running time is still excruciating though, since it clocks in at a staggering twenty-five minutes and fourteen seconds of nigh-unbearable cruelty.
Recently the DVD online ordering service I use, Deep Discount DVD.com, had a massive sale, and I finally decided to order the Millennium edition of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE just so I could hear writer/director Mier Zarchi’s commentary track, a lecture that I imagined would be either a feature length litany of apology and “what the fuck was I thinking,” or an equally long spouting of pretentious excuses for making what is the basest form of exploitation. What I got both shocked and surprised me, so much so that I have completely reevaluated my stance on the film and will now defend it in a court of law as an important, if flawed, work of art.

Having been depicted in the media for nearly three decades as the Great Satan of cinema for masterminding such an incendiary flick, Mier Zarchi opted to avoid commenting on his film since so much has been said on it and for all intents and purposes he has been pilloried right along with it, but he came out of seclusion for the special edition, and thank the gods that he did. Zarchi’s commentary reveals much of the process of crafting an extreme independent film, but his reasons for making this filmic holocaust are not only completely valid, they are downright fucking heartbreaking.

As previously stated, the 1970’s saw the rise in popularity of rape/revenge flicks, a genre spearheaded by the success of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, DELIVERANCE (which in many was the direct ancestor to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) and DEATH WISH, and along with it came a certain factor of titillation connected to such content; a titillation that doesn’t address the sheer degrading horror and inhumanity of the act of rape. Zarchi may be the only filmmaker whose vision on this rather touchy subject is informed by firsthand knowledge of the shattering aftermath of rape thanks to a 1974 situation in Queens in which he, his daughter and a friend stumbled upon a naked woman who had been raped and sadistically beaten by two rat bastard motherfuckers who not only robbed her of her basic humanity and broke her jaw, but also intended to slash her throat when they were through having their “fun.” What saved her life was her telling her assailants that since they had knocked off her glasses she couldn’t see them and therefore identification was impossible.

Zarchi and his friend threw a coat around the woman, dropped off his daughter at home and then made the mistake of taking the woman to the police only to witness her further violation by an indifferent cop who showed her no compassion and clearly wanted to get her processed into the system and out of his hair as soon as possible. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, when Zarchi dropped off his daughter at home, the eight-year-old girl asked her mother, “Mommy, what’s rape?” Can you imagine having to explain that one, especially after the kid witnessed a naked, abused woman with a broken jaw staggering out of the bushes? Jesus H. Christ

The years went by and Zarchi understandably couldn’t get that scene out of his head, and when the opportunity presented itself he wrote and directed DAY OF THE WOMAN as a no-holds-barred, anti-entertainment depiction of rape whose very simplicity allows the story to say one hell of a lot despite its near total lack of dialogue. And with that, here’s the in-depth plot analysis section!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!!! THE ENTIRE PLOT IS DIVULGED IN GRAPHIC DETAIL, SO TURN BACK WHILE YOU CAN. ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE!!!

Very much wearing its post-liberation-movement sentiment on its sleeve, the narrative introduces us to Manhattanite Jennifer Hills (the unimaginably brave Camille Keaton, great-niece of early cinema legend Buster Keaton), who heads to an unspecified upstate location in the middle of nowhere for a summer of relaxation and creative inspiration in a charming rented house by a placid river (in this case played by an unbilled Housatonic).

Upon arriving in town she pulls into the local gas station and meets Johnny (Eron Tabor, enacting one of the foulest villains in moviedom), the obvious alpha wolf to omegas Andy (Gunter Kleeman), Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Matthew (Richard Pace), a retarded man-child who the rest treat like a feeble-minded pet. Matthew develops a crush on Jennifer, and when his “friends” learn about it they start to formulate a plan that will serve as the catalyst for this whole horrible mess: they decide to help Matthew lose his virginity by any means necessary.

When Jennifer gets to her rental house — in which a previous occupant left behind a fully loaded pistol in a drawer where one would expect to find Gideon’s bible — the location is clearly a tonic for the urbanite and, overwhelmed by the beauty of her surroundings, Jennifer takes an innocent nude swim that is the antithesis of the so-called “male gaze” since Zarchi only gives us the briefest glimpse of her nudity and immediately pulls back to a vantage point from across the river, thereby eliminating the ogle factor and respecting the character’s privacy. Or is the positioning of the camera an indication that Jennifer is being watched by eyes filled with bad intent?

The next day, Jennifer orders groceries from the local market and Matthew turns out to be the delivery boy. The two cheerily banter back and forth as he asks her a series of childlike questions and determines that she comes from New York City (which he eerily describes as “an evil place”), that she is a writer who has been published in “women’s magazines” and that she doesn’t have a boyfriend at the moment, although even the dim-witted Matthew can gather that she is no stranger to the pleasures of the flesh. She even playfully tells him that she’ll be his girlfriend for the summer; absolutely not a great idea in a film of this nature…

Matthew: Unwitting catalyst to one woman's worst nightmare.

That night, the boys go fishing and engage in a round table discussion of everything that all men need to know about women and these Rhodes scholars clearly know it all, including a dead-serious rumination on whether or not women have to take shits just like men do. And after many a spent Pabst Blue Ribbon their determination to get Matthew laid approaches the boiling point…

NOTE: as of this point the narrative is told almost entirely from the protagonist’s point of view, a fact that cannot possibly be overstressed.

For the next few days Jennifer paddles about the river, becoming one with Nature, working on her (painfully poorly-written) novel and hanging out in a hammock while wearing a very fetching string bikini. At that point, two of the boys wreck the tranquility by zooming about and doing donuts on the river in an annoyingly noisy outboard boat; the intent of this action is not merely to be obnoxious, but is instead a blatant act of scoping the place out to see just how vulnerable Jennifer is. That night, she hears whoops and howls from the surrounding woods that are obviously not made by animals, yet she is not intimidated in the least and defiantly strolls outside to see what’s up. Finding nothing, she retires for the night.

The very next morning the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and Jennifer goes sunbathing in the middle of the river, bikinied and secure in the bosom of the natural world, in every way a longhaired Diana reveling in her wilderness. After a long, tranquil establishing shot, the silence of her solitary idyll is disrupted by that fucking outboard motor and the arrival of Andy and Stanley, both of whom hoot and holler like stereotypical wild Injuns on a drunken rampage. The boys latch on to the canoe’s tether rope and drag an indignant Jennifer behind them, an unwilling captive who attempts to fend them off with repeated swings of her paddle and a barrage of foul language.

At this point, if we include the stalking/kidnapping, the rape of Jennifer begins in earnest as the boys haul her canoe to the riverside and try to pull her ashore. At no point during this exchange does our heroine back down, quite the opposite in fact, as she hurls blow after blow at her assailants, making as much pejorative noise as possible. She breaks away and runs barefoot through the woods, pursued by the two shrieking Neanderthals and when she reaches a clearing we almost think that she can get away. And then she literally runs right into the engineer-hatted Johnny. He repeatedly knocks her to the ground as she fights the bastards off as best she can, but it’s a case of four booze-fueled assholes against a willowy, ninety-eight pounds-soaking-wet city gal in a bikini, so you do the unfortunate math.

Johnny tears the bikini from Jennifer like he was skinning an animal — this was, after all, a human foxhunt — but she still ain’t having it, so each of the scumbags grab a limb and pin her spread-eagled to the ground. Johnny then urges Matthew to come and get her since “we got her for you,” but Matthew is too nervous and can’t perform (there is apparently some small part of him that knows that this is wrong), so in a moment of “well, what the hell, we might as well since we’ve got her here,” Johnny disrobes and mounts poor Jennifer, thrusting and grunting like the greasy pig that he is. When it is over, all of the men are stunned into silence by what they have done and they release Jennifer, who stumbles away whimpering into the forest.

Bloodied and dirty, Jennifer staggers like a zombie through a disturbingly phallic forest-scape for what seems like a silent eternity, and then she hears the eerie keening of a nearby harmonica. She turns to see Andy perched upon a boulder and she quickly surveys the area for a possible escape route, but there is none to be had. She is surrounded by the four (sub) human vermin and they once again haul her into position for violation, only this time they place her face-down over the boulder, thereby making it simple for Andy to sodomize her while having what appears to be an epileptic seizure. The scream let out by Jennifer at this point will stay with you until the day you die. Trust me on that one.

Andy soon finishes and the boys leave the ravished Jennifer to roll off the rock and bounce off a tree. Before rolling off the boulder Jennifer remains immobile for quite some time, and the viewer even begins to wonder if she’s dead, but Jennifer is made out of far sterner stuff and she manages to wobble to her feet and make an unsteady beeline to the rental house. As she enters the front yard, she collapses and begins to shake and sob uncontrollably, eventually crawling up the steps and donning the robe pegged next to the door. Soon she is inside and making her way to the telephone, but when she begins to dial, a leather boot kicks the phone away from her and we realize, to our horror, that the bastards are inside the house and they are not done with their “hijinx.”

Pushed beyond all limits of physical and mental endurance, Jennifer still ain’t having it and manages to not only fight back, but she also motherfucking clobbers Stanley in the skull with a small table before being once more subdued and damned near knocked out, which allows the now-emboldened Matthew to climb atop her and attempt to get it up. As his friends cheer him on, the horny retard still can’t get the job done, so he is unceremoniously pulled off of Jennifer as Stanley sits on her chest while taking a long pull from a whiskey bottle. She seizes the opportunity to plead for her life, telling her assailants that she is badly hurt and to please not rape her anymore because she just couldn’t take it, even offering to use her mouth if that will do. Stanley contemplates that for a moment…before forcefully lodging the whiskey bottle up her tortured vagina and forcing his sorry excuse for a member into her bloody mouth. He then jumps off of her and begins to viciously kick and beat her in a display so off-putting that it even outrages Johnny and the rest, all of whom haul him off of Jennifer. They then leave her on the floor and order the slow-witted Matthew to take a buck knife and do her in once and for all. The redneck assholes step outside and leave Matthew to murder our girl but he chickens out, rubs her blood onto the knife figuring she’ll just die anyway. I mean, nobody could possibly live through such abuse, right? So the mental defective goes outside and tells his friends that he’s offed their plaything and they all leave, happy as a tree full of birds.

Needless to say, Jennifer survives all of that unspeakable horseshit and the viewer once more suffers along with her as she cowers, shivers and sobs, back against the wall in a corner, eventually gaining the strength to recuperate. Gone is the wood nymph who is innocently comfortable with her sexuality; that goddess has been replaced by a hardcore spirit of righteous, black-clad retribution, and from now on all bets are off.

The most affecting part of this segment is when Jennifer drives past a cemetery and the viewer looks at the tombstones as rather obvious symbolism, but that idea gets blown out of the water when she turns off the road and pulls up to a church. She walks in with a noticeable intensity, kneels before the altar and quietly says, “Forgive me.” She stands up, crosses herself and walks out. If the Judeo-Christian God is in any way as just as he claims to be — that “vengeance is mine” bullshit notwithstanding — as of now Jennifer is pretty much granted a free pass when it comes to turning those ratfuckers into mulch.

In short order, Jennifer lures each of the violators to horrible deaths: Matthew is granted his fondest wish but is hanged at the moment of his first orgasm, Johnny has his ween removed in a scene guaranteed to make every male in the audience clutch his stuff and scream like a four-year-old,

and the remaining two animals are dispatched on the lake with an axe and their own outboard motor. Once they are all dead, Jennifer guns the engine, the boat now symbolically representing a motorized phallus of death, and sets off upriver to an uncertain fate, a slight half-smile playing on her lips.

Now does that in any way sound like a film that glorifies rape, makes the viewer side with the violators, or portrays the woman as a socket that just sits there helplessly and takes it? I emphatically think not and I honestly wonder whether Siskel and Ebert saw the same movie I did, since if they really had they would have made all of the same observations that I just shared with you. And what’s doubly galling about Ebert's review is that he has gone on record stating that LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is one of his favorite “guilty pleasures.” Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since the guy actually recommended the execrable COP AND A HALF.

Not enough can be said about the sparse but powerful cast: Camille Keaton is simply amazing as Jennifer, giving a completely believable performance that required total nudity for a large chunk of the picture, to say nothing of being on the receiving end of the pretend rapes. It’s an incredibly brave and rough role to essay and it makes me sick that both Jodie Foster and Hilary Swank were lavished with massive critical kudos and Oscars for following in the footsteps of a trail blazed by the far-lesser-known Keaton.

And I don’t know how in hell the guys in the film could work up the moxie to even pretend to do any of the shit that their characters pull in the movie; all four are great for what they have to do, but Eron Tabor’s Johnny and Anthony Nichols’ Stanley are so heinously evil that you want to jump into the frame and kick them to death with an iron boot. Richard Pace’s turn as Matthew gets across the child struggling with the basest of male urges and you almost feel sorry for Matthew when he gets killed because you have to ask yourself just how responsible he was, what with being slow and all that. Sadly, a film of this nature turned out to be pretty much a surefire career-killer and most of the actors never worked again.

So there you have the skinny on one of the most controversial films ever made and while I cannot recommend it to the casual viewer for obvious reasons, I urge you not to listen to the virulent screeds against it that choke the internet. At the barbecue joint whose kitchen I used to run, I discussed I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE with a very sweet lady who came in every now and then, and because I was reading a book on the making of the FRIDAY THE 13TH SERIES, she brought up Zarchi’s film as her favorite horror movie and expressed a wish that if ever she could come to the defense of any one misunderstood flick, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE would be the one that she would champion.

Amen to that, sister. Amen.