Play Ball! : The Last Exorcism

banana bread and jesus!
Daniel Stamm's The Last Exorcism might be one of those films that people pick sides over.  Some will proclaim it phenomenal, other will decry it a major letdown.   I am going to stand somewhere left of center and say, I really enjoyed it, warts and all.

Once again we are subjected to another pseudo - documentary.  Like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield and The Last Broadcast, The Last Exorcism is presented as documentary film about a preacher who has recently admitted his holy rolling ways are nothing more than show biz antics - he hires a small film crew to follow him about to show just how much of a fake he really is.  Surprisingly, the first forty five minutes of this film put me in mind of an actual documentary from the early 70's called Marjoe (a film about a fire and brimstone preacher who decided to come clean about the way that old time religion is nothing more than a money making ploy and one that preys on the simple minded or uneducated).

Cotton Marcus (played with charismatic flair by Patrick Fabian) may be a huckster, but deep down, he seems like a decent fellow (even as he points out that once he starts preaching, he could give people the recipe for banana bread and they would not even notice). He has a loving wife and a son with a hearing problems and a speech impediment (interestingly, his wife and son seem to be in on the whole scam as well). For the purpose of the documentary, he decides to take on the case of a young woman whose father claims that she is possessed by a demon.

Soon Marcus and company are on their way to a backwater in rural Louisiana ...now, pay attention during this part of the film; a couple of hints as to what is really happening are given during the interviews with some of the locals.
the power of cash compels me!
Once reverend Marcus meets the Sweetzer clan, it seems clear that any of the daughter's odd behaviors can probably be attributed to a few dozen non-mystical factors. Ashely Bell is a revelation as the possibly possessed, Nell, she plays her part as a naive victim of circumstance (as well as possibly a dark family secret) with such finesse that frankly, it's sort of heartbreaking watching her character suffer.  Is she ill?  Has she been sexually assaulted?  Is she the victim of some sort of hysteria or depression?

Reverend Marcus holds an exorcism that he has rigged with all kinds of cheap special effects, and then proclaims Nell cured of her affliction...soon he packs his loaded crucifix away along with the cash he has was payed and is on his way...and that's when things start getting interesting.

After a somnambulistic  Nell shows up at the Reverend's motel, he realizes that he might be in over his head - furthermore, he and one of the film crew, are starting to deduce that something might be wrong with Nell's father as well.  One of the things I really appreciated was that no matter what kind of creepy things occurred to, or around, Nell, most of them could be explained away.  She never levitates, nor does she climb the walls (no matter what certain movie posters may infer)...that said, it's hard to watch her bending over backwards and speaking in a mature woman's voice and think that something wicked this way had not come.
i'm a little tea pot
As the film progresses, one may be hard pressed to believe that Nell is the victim of nothing more than a bunch of crazy adults and their beliefs.  Even Marcus tries to convince her father that she needs psychiatric help. Nonetheless this is a horror film, so that's the route we take.

Now about that ending.  Nope, I am not going to give it away - but I know a lot of people hated it.  Frankly, as hokey as it seemed, I sort of enjoyed it.  To me it was a terrifically tacky curve ball thrown at the viewer, and you could either choose to catch that ball and run with it, or toss it back and stomp your feet and go home.  I say, Play Ball!


Die! Hollywood Die! : The Last of Shelia

Listen up , y'all, this is how you make a great murder mystery movie:
  •  Get into a time machine and bring yourself back to 1973.
  • Make sure that your script was penned by two prolific  and talented homosexuals like, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and Mr. Broadway Musical (Stephen Sondheim).
  • Sprinkle your cast with all sorts of interesting types - Raquel Welch (no talent but big boobs and a nice body), James Mason (for some legitimacy), Dyan Cannon (because no actress was ever more endearing in spite of herself, than the loony Ms. Cannon), James Coburn (because his mouth is both horrifying and mesmerizing ) and Richard Benjamin (because no one can wear pants that tight, or sport a mustache that intense unless his name was Freddy Mercury).
  • Make your story a terrifically twisted cat and mouse head game that features a bunch of self involved Hollywood types.
  • Set most of the action on a small luxury liner in the Mediterranean.
Shelia, (note the large "S" piece of jewelry for identification purposes)

 When gossip columnist, Shelia is killed by a hit and run driver on the streets of Bel Air, her grieving husband waits for a year to pass and then gathers several of his friends together on the anniversary of his wife's death for a fun filled week of "games" on his yacht, also named, "Shelia".    Turns out that hubby Clinton (Coburn) is a sadistic bastard who plan's on revealing who actually killed his wife - but wait - before the games even begin, one of the guests is almost killed, and then, the person we are led to believe is the prime suspect is murdered ... and that's when the real fun begins. 

Not a horror film by any means, The Last of Shelia is a well made, well thought out thriller that has enough twists and turns in it to merit its own street map.  Also, the dialouge is so witty and so clever, that the film begs several viewings  to take it all in (movie fans will love the constant film references, they are never ending).

So get thee to Netflix and try this one on for size - And let me know if you figured "who done it" before the film's ending, because I sure didn't !
Richard Benjamin and co-stars


    Oedipus Wrecked: Mother

    Director, Joon-ho Bong's Mother is a  palate cleanser for those of us drawn to darker cinematic fare.  What starts as a somewhat comedic affair, soon becomes an engrossing mystery in the tradition  of Alfred Hitchcock full of twists, turns, red herrings and MacGuffins.  However, just when you think you've got it all figured out, Mother turns tail and trots out some honestly blood curdling , psycho-sexual, mind blowing moments - it's like David Lynch showed up at the last minute and said, "Here let's do this", and the next thing you know somebody is sticking acupuncture needles in their leg and dancing on a bus.

    Bin Won plays Yoon Do-joon, a simple minded, seemingly, innocent young man who lives under the watchful eye of his doting, middle aged mother, Hye-ja Kim.  One day, a local school girl is found dead, and Yoon Do-joon is accused of her murder.  Corrupt attorney's and shady police are of no help, so Mother puts on her Nancy Drew cap and begins sleuthing in order to clear her beloved son's name.

    Hye-ja Kim is a revelation as the titular character.  For most of the film, she looks world weary and grim, but possessed of such great resolve that she can instantly morph into a subservient character, a crazed advocate, a bit of a flirt, and, when she needs to, a cold blooded killer.   Where, oh where was this woman's Academy Award nomination for best actress in a foreign film?

    Do yourself a favor and skip the zombie-of-the-week-crap-fest, and spend some time watching Mother.  This is not a horror film, it is not a slasher film, it is not hyper kinetic, nor is it a gore fest, and it's certainly not sexy; but it is one of the best mystery films you will probably see this year.
    "M" is for the many things she gave me...


    Why Bill Compton, What a Sweet Bum You Have...

    The latest issue of Rolling Stone features the three main actors of HBO's True Blood, nekid and bloody!

    Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard (Sookie, Bill and Eric for those in the know), appear sprayed in blood and not much else on the cover of RS hitting newsstands today (August 17th, 2010).

    Of special interest to yours truly, is Mr. Moyer's arse - damn, that's a fine tuckus if you ask me!

    My only complaint?  Why couldn't Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) been the meat in this bloody, fleshy sandwich?

     Until such a time, this should hold you over...
    ...oh, and one more thing.  The Rolling Stone cover read's "They're Hot, They're Sexy, They're Undead";  a witty riff on the cover RS published back in the early 80's during the Jim Morrison fascination.



    Probably one of the most horrifying moments in the documentary, Cropsey, comes about halfway through the film when the viewer sees snippets from Geraldo Rivera's televised expose on The Willowbrook School (an institution that housed developmentally disabled children) from back in the early 70's ;  these grainy, washed out images of mentally and physically impaired youngsters writhing about either in their underwear or naked on bare floors, are heart breaking as well as chilling  (for the record, I have worked with developmentally disabled people and their families  for the past 24 years ).  If nothing else, the images point out our inherent inhumanity to those we view as weak, unneeded and undesirable.  They point out that we are pretty lousy at caring for our own - that we would all rather  look the other way, than take responsibility ; or worse yet, lend a hand and do our part for the least of our brothers.  Odd that I should come away from a documentary about a serial killer feeling ashamed of  the human race, but that's exactly how Cropsey made me feel.

    Co-directors, Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman certainly have opened up a can of worms with their multidirectional approach of film making; what starts as an exploration of an urban legend (one that seems to have inspired almost every slasher film ever made in the late 70's through the 80's - a crazed killer seeking revenge on those who have wronged him, or possibly a family member), soon becomes a bleak tale of missing children, questionable police work, mob mentality, and, possibly, a Satanic cult. 

    In a nutshell: in 1987 a developmentally disabled, 13 year old girl named Jennifer Schweiger goes missing and soon her entire community on Staten Island assists the authorities in looking for her.  Soon it is reported that Schweiger was last seen in the company of a man named Andre Rand, a middle aged drifter and former employee of The Willowbrook School.  Before long, Rand is suspected of other disappearances from the area - all of them mentally disabled children, some who have been missing since the early 70's.  Forget the lack of any real evidence, or any credible witnesses, the public needed a monster to blame, and they got one in the silent, brooding Rand.  That he was photographed drooling as he was led out of the police station certainly did not help his case...
    ...after serving several years for the kidnapping (but not murder)  of Schweiger, Rand was accused and tried in the kidnapping of Holly Ann Hughes, another  child, who had gone missing 20 years earlier.   Dubbed the Hannibal Lechter of Staten Island by the press, once again, it appeared that Rand  would be done in by circumstantial evidence and the testimony of witnesses who seemed dubious choices at best.

    Oddly, at this point, Rand looked less the drooling monster, and more of a slim, silent college professor in appearance. 

    It does not help that the film makers advance all sort of odd theories, even hinting that Rand merely kidnapped the children and gave them to a Satanic Cult who had been holding black masses at the now abandoned state school.   And what about the "witnesses" interviewed for the film?  One hot mess of a woman says that she was friends with several of the missing children, even though she gets their names wrong - and then makes a ridiculous claim that she "saw" Rand take one of the children, she knew it was him, even though he was wearing a mask. 

    Don't get me wrong, it's hard to defend Andre Rand, the man is clearly a creep, but did he kidnap and kill these children?  I am not so sure  - at least after watching Cropsey, I was not totally convinced. 

    The filmmakers try and get an interview with Rand, but they ultimately fail.  And that's where the movie stumbles.  Had we heard from this guy's mouth an admission or a denial, it would have made things easier on the viewer...as it stands, everything seems circumstantial at best. And all we are left with is an angry community out for blood, grieving families aching for closure, and the horrific idea that a handful of  disabled  children could only be conspicuous in their death, as opposed to the hundreds who suffered out of sight, and out of mind at The Willowbrook School for decades.


    F13 Marathon 5: FRESH SLABS OF MEAT: Hunky Victims (2)

    Victim: Jeff (unknown last name)
    Film: Friday the 13th Part 2
    Hunk Factor: Baby face, nice arms, wears shorts, fond of his cap, shaggy hair.

    Dispatched by: Six foot spear driven into his back while he is screwing his girlfriend.
    Played by: Bill Randolph

    Jeff and his gal - together forever (note the exposed butt)

    F13 Marathon 4: Grande Dame Guignol: Friday the 13th

    Name: Pamela Voorhees. Retired camp cook.

    Location: Camp Crystal Lake, New Jersey.

    Modus Operandi: Deranged grieving mother who, at first seems like a caring person, but, in actuality blames the world for the death of her only son, Jason. Handy with a bow and arrow, axe, spears, knives, can throw a punch better than Muhammad Ali. Seemingly as strong as an ox. Possibly schizophrenic. Definitely psychotic. More than likely a victim of Jocasta complex. Fond of cable knit sweaters. Will sometimes speak in her dead son's voice, "Kill 'er mommy! Kill 'er!!!" Possible member of the moral majority.

    Camp Factor: Mrs. Voorhees is a force of feminist nature; built like a linebacker while busily chewing up the scenery like a drunken drag queen doing Judy Garland at Wigstock. Done in by one of the best beheadings ever seen on the silver screen!

    Played By: 50's B. Movie Queen and T.V. celebrity, Betsy Palmer.

    mama gets beheaded

    F13 Marathon 3: A Bulge, A Blue Speedo, A Bloody Death: Kevin Bacon at Camp Crystal Lake

    Before he was Footloose, prior to his name becoming synonymous with Six Degrees of..., years before the adulation began in earnest; Kevin Bacon was just another young struggling actor trying to get noticed.

    It was while he was appearing on the soap, The Guiding Light, that Bacon took a part in a low budget horror film being filmed in north/western New Jersey - that film, of course, was Friday the 13th, and Bacon would go on to play Jack Burell a doomed camp counselor.

    While the young thespian did not have much to do in this movie prior to his gruesome death scene, viewers were treated to his lean frame poured in to a pair of impossibly tight speedos that left little to the imagination. As a matter of fact, I believe that Bacon's basket was the second most eye-popping moment in Friday the 13th (the first of course being Mrs. Voorhees' decapitation at film's end).

    Bacon's bulge (that is so much fun to type! try saying it out loud !) is on display a few more times in the film especially when Kevin is wearing a form-fitting pair of jeans earlier in the festivities. But of course, it is most noted during the swimming scene.

    But a nice basket does not a Final Boy make, no sir, and it seems that our chubby sporting pal comes to a nasty end when after making love to his girlfriend, Jack Burell is dispatched in one of the more ingenious offings a slasher film has ever portrayed: While lying back in post coital bliss, our hero is smoking a joint and smiling smugly when suddenly a drop of something hits his forehead. It is a small speck of blood and faster than you can say, "Kill him , mommy kill him!" a hand comes out from under the cot our boy is laying in and clamps down on his forehead while an arrow comes up under the mattress and through his neck leaving poor Jack gagging on his own fluids. ... say what you will, but special effects wiz, Tom Savini outdid himself with that stunt!

    I've often wondered why the filmmakers never cashed in on Bacon's protruding manhood -- maybe one of the sequels could have featured the vengeful ghost of Jack Burell - Friday the 13th Part 11 - Jason vs Jack's Bulge.

    F13 Marathon 2: The 12 Other People You'll Meet at Camp Crystal Lake.

    And now let us pause to recall those from the original Friday the 13th ... no, not Alice, or little Jason, or even Steve Christy, and certainly not, Mrs. Voorhees.

    Instead, let us have a look at The 12 Other People You'll Meet at Camp Crystal Lake.

    First: The dewy eyed lass strumming her guitar while singing, Michael Row the Boat Ashore ... a sort of low budget Karen Allen ... ah that smile, that peaches-and-cream complexion. What could cause this perky little pixie of a gal to be smiling so beatifically?

    Second: Of course, her smile is meant for the young man sitting directly across from her, the fey looking guy with the same color hair as her own ... ah what beautiful children we might have, she thinks ...but look closer, it seems that blond boy is being eyed up by that other guy, the one with the marshmallow skewered suggestively on a stick next to him. I'm pretty sure that earlier in the evening, the boys were playing "hide the salami", be that as it may, blond boy and blond girl are going to hook up, and you know it's going to end rather nastily.

    Third & Fourth: Whoa!

    And you thought Mrs. Voorhees and her son were creepy. Check out these two!

    The woman behind the counter of the coffee shop in Blairstown that Annie stops in while trying to get directions to Crystal Lake (she's the broad complaining about how many times she'd seen a certain episode of Kojack when we first see her). The scary guy behind her might be the cook or maybe the handyman . He looks like he might have some sort of genetic defect. I'm sure he went to special ed classes with Jason Voorhees back in the day.

    Fifth: She might be the Anna Wintour of Blairstown, the woman reading the paper at the counter, the broad with the wild cat's eye glasses and the fashionable polyester blend striped dress.

    What's more important, is that she is the first person to utter the line, "Camp Blood" as in, "Camp blood?" When asking Annie if that's where she's going. Clearly, she's up on the world news and local legends. Annie would have done well to listen to her despite her goofy glasses, missy is on to something!

    Sixth: And then of course, there is Enos.

    The guy who drives the oil truck, the one who agrees to drive Annie some of the way to Camp Crystal Lake.

    Of course, Enos is something of a ladies man; when he walks Annie out to his truck he asks, "Are all the gals gonna be as good looking as you up at the camp?"

    And then of course, he's all hands as he helps the plucky cook-to-be on to his rig ... I mean check out those paws and how he cops a feel of Annie's butt as she is climbing in.

    Still, Enos does try to talk our gal from going to camp ... if only she'd listened.

    Seventh: Crazy Ralph.

    A veritable One Man Greek Chorus, who tries to warn Annie and anyone else who will listen that if they go to Crystal Lake, "You're doomed!"

    Like the movie poster said, They Were Warned.

    Eighth: And then there's Sandy, the waitress!

    Played by the Edith Massey-like, Sally Anne Golden, Sandy is the sassy, brassy, bronze haired waitress at the Blairstown Diner who flirts with Steve Christy that rainy Friday the 13th night.

    Oh if Steve had only taken Sandy up on her offer and taken the old broad out for a night on the town, things might have turned out better for him.

    Ninth: That ineffective cop.

    He didn't find any boy in the lake.

    Tenth: That moronic motorcycle cop.

    "Columbian gold, man ... grass, hash, the weed!"

    Eleventh and Twelfth
    : The doctor at the hospital who does not say anything and the nurse who gives Alice a shot in her ass ... I mean, hasn't that poor girl gone through enough? She had to give her the sedative injection in her butt?

    13 13 13 13

    F13 Marathon 1: 13 Fresh Slabs of Meat: The Dead Hunks of Crystal Lake

    OK, alright, today is the day that Michael Bay and company release their reboot of Friday the 13th on an unsuspecting world ... blah, blah, blah it's going to make a gazillion dollars and that's that (oh and sex-on-a-stick, Jared Padalecki will be in it, so there's that).

    Call me a purist, I liked the old Fridays, in fact I loved the first two films ... you know when it was Mrs. Voorhees knocking off kids, and then her hillbilly sack-head son doing the same (though of course, it begs the question, if Jason was actually alive, why in the hell did his own mother think he was dead??) But I digress.

    Presented for your Friday the 13th reading and ogling pleasure, let's take a look at some of the more hunky victims who fell a foul of Mrs. V or her son ...First up is the tight-blue-Speedo-wearing, Jack (played by Kevin Bacon). Jack was a lanky, leggy lad who loved his weed, his girlfriend and showing off his package in the a fore mentioned Speedo's. Of course Jack's use of illicit drugs and his canoodling led to his demise via an arrow in the neck from under his bed thanks to the resourceful Pamela Voorhees.
    Next up is my personal fave: Jeff (Bill Randolph), the hunky, shaggy haired, cocky bastard who was fond of wearing paper boy delivery hats, and wife-beater shirts (to show off his arms) ... he met his end via a spear that impaled both he and his girlfriend whilst they are having it off in Friday the 13th II.

    Look it's Andy, Randy Andy from Friday the 13th-3D. Played by Jeffery Rodgers, Andy had the hair, the pout and the body that led me to believe he was actually on loan from Falcon Studios. Boy Howdy, but this kid was one athletic camp counselor ... of course it did him no good as he was sliced in half via a machete while walking on his hands.Hey Dougie! Wait a second, looks a lot like Matthew Star. Played by pretty-boy, Peter Barton, hunky Doug met his end when Jason, no doubt sick of Doug constantly checking his look in the mirror, crushed his noggin with his bare hands in Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter. Splat, what an exit! Cort! Dude! Played by John Travolta's nephew, Tom Fridely, Cort was your quintessential 80's party-boy. With his skin tight torn jeans, his to-die-for-eyes and his love of sex, our pretty boy was doomed from the get go. When he died from a hunting knife to the head, Cort discovered, posthumously, that Jason Lives! Poor pretty Ben (who in my humble opinion had the finest bum of any actor in any of the Friday films), played by Craig Thomas met his doom in Friday the 13th - The New Blood (aka Carrie meets Jason) in much the same manner that Doug met his; his head was crushed by Jason's hands. Oh well, we'll always have memories of his sweet bubble butt to soothe us. Remember Julius? The tough mother-fucker who challenged Jason to some mano a mano fist-a-cuffs on a rooftop in downtown Vancouver Manhattan. Played by V.C. Dupree, Julius was a pugilist with a mean right hook, but it was no match for Jason, who ends up knocking Julius head off in Jason Takes ManhattanOfficer Randy, the curly topped cutie played by Kipp Marcus, not only is possessed by the soul of Jason Voorhees, he later ends up being done in by a machete through the neck for his troubles in Jason Goes to Hell.Yes, he's rather androgynous looking, but Jim (Todd Shaffer) was a randy lad who met his end via a spear gun in Jason Takes Manhattan, I've always had a soft spot for this stoner dude, he deserved better. Oh Teddy you're so fine, you blow my mind, hey Teddy ... Played by Lawrence Monsoon, Teddy was my kind of punk. Foul mouthed, tough as nails and probably easily had for a six pack of beer and a nickel bag. Teddy died one of the more cinematic deaths in the series; he's standing in front of a movie screen that is showing silent films and is knifed from behind the screen in The Final Chapter.OK, this is Stoney (played by Yani Gellman), he was in Jason X, and I don't remember how he died, but ain't he purdy????Don't mess with Bill (Harry Crosby), he might have been the son of a famous crooner, but Bill was handy with a knife in the original Friday (remember when he chopped up that snake?) he also knew how to fix a funky generator ... alas, he was no match for Mrs. Voorhees archery skills.
    And last but not least, this guy. I am not sure which Friday he was in, but he looks like some guy I used to date, so he's here.