A look at the underrated 1981 snake vs. criminals thriller

There are many pleasures to be had watching British director Piers (BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW) Haggard’s 1981 snakes vs. crooks thriller VENOM, but none as palpable as seeing diminutive madman Klaus Kinski browbeat and dominate the barrel chested man-ape Oliver Reed. The fact that both of these storied, iconic and notoriously volatile thesps appear in the same film is enough to send lovers of cult cinema into a state of rapture, but to witness them cast as a pair of hot-headed thugs, in a sort of Lenny and George, OF MICE AND MEN dynamic, is the sweetest and strangest of icing on a scaly cake.

This surreal bit of casting propels VENOM into a higher tax-bracket of awesome but the movie surrounding their on-screen scrapping (reportedly, they hated each other even more off-screen) is pretty good too, though perhaps a bit more pedestrian than it should have been. Shame that. Because the maniacal novel on which the film is based on (by Alan Scholerfield) begs for a less-restrained approach, which is exactly what it would have received had VENOM’s original director, Tobe Hooper, stayed on board. Hooper bailed 10 days into the shoot, forcing producer Martin Bregman (DOG DAY AFTERNOON) to drag Haggard (who was working almost exclusively on small screen fare at the time) into the fold. Haggard’s more somber, tasteful approach de-fangs some of the eccentricities of the source and the original character concepts (Kinski’s look was originally a sort of Nazi-fetishist in black leather and jack boots) but also makes the movie both comfortably watchable and, surprisingly, endlessly re-watchable.

Continue reading “On VENOM”


Jose Larraz’s nerve-shredding psycho-thriller packs an unholy punch

Much has been written about director Jose Larraz’s SYMPTOMS and with good reason. For decades the picture has been shrouded in mystery, a title made by a much lauded genre filmmaker that, after a high profile premiere at the 1974 Cannes film festival, vanished into obscurity, virtually unseen since its UK television broadcasts in the early 1980s. And though it lacks the explicitly sexually exploitative frissons of Larraz’s most famous picture, that same year’s VAMPYRES, SYMPTOMS is a far more emotionally and psychologically upsetting experience. It’s a finely detailed character piece, a “crazy lady” psychodrama in line with so many other worthy films, most of which chased the success of Roman Polanksi’s REPULSION. Like that masterful film, Larraz forgoes convoluted narratives and focuses primarily on its central female point of entry. We’re loathe to call the central figure in SYMPTOMS a protagonist, but her mental make-up is complex enough that we cannot dismiss her as an antagonist either. She’s a broken, fragile thing; a woman whose mind has snapped for reasons left only somewhat explained and now, after the presumably severe damage has been done, she’s been rendered deadly and dangerous and feral, with no hope for healing.

And the rub is that we don’t want her to heal. Because watching the character unwind, violently, is such a mesmerizing, visceral and wholly cinematic experience.

SYMPTOMS casts the oddly beautiful Angela Pleasence (daughter of the late Donald Pleasence, seen with her pop in the prior year’s FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE) as Helen, an emotionally unstable girl who lives alone in the English countryside. As the film opens, Helen has invited her friend Ann (Lorna Heilbron, THE CREEPING FLESH), who is escaping a bad marriage, to stay with her. But Ann soon finds out that Helen is more than just shy and, after catching clues as to the deeper secrets the young woman is hiding, and meeting some of the strange people who creep around the peripheral of the home, she attempts to flee. Instead, she re-awakens Helen’s barely dormant madness and is promptly murdered for her efforts.

Helen than goes further off the rails. As is the norm with these sorts of pictures, her madness is tied to her repressed sexuality and we are treated to scenes of Helen masturbating and imagining lesbian encounters with a mysterious woman. As she gets more and more deranged, we learn more about her strange relationship with the grinning groundskeeper (Peter Vaughan, DIE! DIE! MY DARLING!, STRAW DOGS) and, when people come to call on the house, they don’t seem to leave. Meanwhile, darkness falls and the storm rages, both literal and otherwise…

It would be easy to credit SYMPTOMS’ power solely to Pleasence, who is so very, very good; her wide, spaced out eyes and fine-boned features conveying an aristocratic innocence when she is vulnerable, features that contort terrifyingly when Helen goes into full-blown psychotic attack mode. But this is Larraz’s show. He makes the house itself a character, prowling and propelling his camera through its narrow corridors, following his female monster, studying her quietly (he loves to remove music and just let sounds, like the rhythmic tick of the clock pendulum, serve as the aural glue) and lunging into a frenzy during those aforementioned murder scenes. Larraz specializes in juxtaposing moments of considered calm with bursts of grisly violence, something that also makes VAMPYRES such a memorable work. Here, he is in complete control, drawing his audience into an environment and keeping us there until the film’s final, haunting moments, a finale that I promise won’t be an easy one to shake. SYMPTOMS is unforgettable.


A look back on a mythical, misunderstood Michael Mann masterwork

When it comes to dark fantasy and horror filmmaking, I am and always will be a strong advocate for anti-realism, which is to say I prefer my terrors to exist in a dream state, free of the pretentious shackles of narrative logic, existing in a world that is but a hazy impression of the mundane one in which we live. I appreciate films that freely lapse into that sort of nightmare logic where nothing makes sense, nothing is absolute and anything can  – and usually does – happen.

This is also why I’ve always been a strong champion of Michael Mann’s evocative, absurd, flawed and occasionally transcendent 1983 cinematic adaptation of author F. Paul Wilson’s terrifying novel THE KEEP, a movie that was cut upon its release by a nervous studio, ignored by audiences, deplored by critics, rejected by its source scribe and generally forgotten. Though the ensuing years have seen it accumulate a quiet cult following, the movie is still, as of this writing, legitimately unavailable on domestic DVD or Blu-ray.

In the darkest days of WW2 a wayward band of SS troops, led by the sympathetic Captain Woermann (Jurgen Prochnow of DAS BOOT) find themselves snaking around Romania, specifically a remote, fog drenched village in the midst of a mountain pass. On the outskirts of this village sits a monolithic fortress, a “Keep”, a shrine of sorts that the locals insist houses an ancient evil, and one that the Nazis choose to set up their stronghold.

Against the conflicted Woermann’s wishes, the greedy Third Reich droogs begin secretly prying off the protective silver crosses that line the walls and, in an especially eerie sequence, unleash a pulsing, chasm dwelling, sentient white light that promptly separates one unlucky storm trooper’s noggin from his neck. As even more of the men begin to meet their strange, untimely demises, grim reinforcements in the form of the ultra sadistic Major Kaempffer (a chilling Gabriel Byrne) and his troupe roll into town, casually laying waste to the innocent villagers and enlisting an old, wheelchair bound Jewish professor named Dr. Theodore Cuza (the great Ian McKellen) to aid them in deciphering the cryptic, possibly Hebrew scrawl on the walls left after each kill.

As Cuza soon discovers, the Nazi scum have indeed unleashed absolute evil in the form of a slowly evolving, muscle necked demon named Molasar (Michael Carter), a force of darkness that was imprisoned inside the Keep centuries prior and with apparently very good reason. As the body count increases and a wave of madness and corruption oozes over the previously peaceful village, across the ocean a loner named Glaeken (Scott Glenn) is also drawn to the Keep, armed with a glowing staff, a chip the size of Gibraltar on his immortal shoulder, and a blind, instinctual drive to put the horrific Molasar back into his stony grave once and for all.

Continue reading “On THE KEEP”


Dario Argento’s manic magnum opus is a horror film like no other

When I was a kid, I got up early — as I always did, as I still do — to pour myself a bowl of whatever garbage cereal I was grooving on at the time, and settle in to watch whatever movie was playing on Canadian Pay-TV channel First Choice. It just so happened that the flick in question was something called CREEPERS. Now, when I was REALLY little, my dad told me he saw this movie about a parasite that looked like a cross between a penis and turd that crawled into people’s mouths and drove them insane. I became obsessed by the idea of this film and, when I saw the listing in the TV guide citing CREEPERS, my memory jolted and I thought this was the movie my pop had pimped on me. I was wrong. Naturally, the film he was referencing was David Cronenberg’s 1975 masterpiece SHIVERS. CREEPERS was something else entirely…

For 83 minutes I sat hypnotized on that couch by what was one of the most delirious things I’ve ever seen, ever. I knew the name of its director, Dario Argento, from casual glances at older FANGORIA magazines and in a film reference book I had that had a still from his 1977 landmark style opera SUSPIRIA. This would mark the first Argento film I’d see. And to this day, I can’t shake it. Later, I would find out that CREEPERS was an edited U.S. version of his 1985 film PHENOMENA but, this being more than a decade before the dawn of DVD and companies like Anchor Bay tracking uncut, affordable and pristine prints of European titles for home video, I pretty much gave up the hope of ever seeing the full version. Eventually it did show up domestically via Anchor Bay as the full, 110-minute cut and that, of course, became the go-to version for every hardcore and newly-minted Argento nut. Admittedly, I prefer this version as it concentrates the film’s mayhem into a leaner framework, excising superfluous dialogue and some narrative flab. But that’s a matter of taste…

For those of you not in the know, PHENOMENA stars a very young Jennifer Connelly (fresh off her appearance in Sergio Leone’s thundering ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA) as Jennifer Corvino, the wealthy daughter of a hot American actor who arrives at an elite boarding school in the Swiss Alps. Things get complicated when Jennifer learns that a vicious killer is roaming the land, targeting and skewering women (and whose first victim is Argento’s daughter Fiore, who we see get tormented and decapitated in the unforgettable opening sequence). And then things get weird when Jennifer reveals that she has a telepathic ability to control insects, who she has an unnatural obsession with. She also has a problem with sleepwalking and, after a night sauntering through the woods (while Iron Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade” blasts over the soundtrack), she wakes up in time to see a fellow student massacred. She then becomes the target of the killer, while kindly Scottish entomologist Donald Pleasence and his pet chimp guide her towards using her connection to flies and maggots to track the murderer and save the day.

And that’s only scratching the surface of this deranged tale.

Continue reading “On PHENOMENA”


George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie masterpiece is still one of the most important horror movies ever made

George A. Romero‘s landmark 1968 nihilistic gore thriller NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD may have been at its core a primitive, probably accidentally political rip-off of Richard Matheson’s novella I AM LEGEND, but there’s no debating its raw power or how it changed the ways in which the world watches horror films. And it’s still a tough movie to handle, bleak and relentless, urgent and violent and prophetic. But it’s Romero’s full-blooded, full-color and near-operatic 1978 NOTLD companion film/sequel DAWN OF THE DEAD that truly built the blueprint for the modern zombie movie. DAWN is the one everyone copied, from the gory European clones and downmarket tail-riders, to the wave of ghoul-free end of the world survivalist shockers, to the name brand 2004 remake and the other millennial (and considerably faster moving) flesh eater epics like the 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER films, RESIDENT EVIL (the games and the movies) and yes, Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD comics and the long-running series that realized its stories.

DAWN OF THE DEAD is the gold standard of living dead cinema and it’s the first film that I was actually afraid to watch. I had this cousin who lived in Windsor, the border town to Detroit. Not sure what happened to him. His name was Jamie and he was 15 years older than I was and he loved KISS, Alice Cooper and horror movies. I thought he was the coolest person alive. I remember sitting in his car when I was 6 or 7 and listening to rock and roll and thrilling raptly to his tales of driving to Detroit to see this movie called DAWN OF THE DEAD, a movie that was so scary and bloody that Canadians weren’t allowed to see it (DAWN was banned in Ontario, Canada at the time). He told me about key scenes and how the audience screamed and howled and how he drove back the following week just to watch it again. Years later I saw a copy of DAWN at the first video store my family became members at, the Thorn EMI clamshell case with Scott Reiniger’s Roger “rising” in three headshot images. The movie looked cheap and eerie and came armed with a quote on the top of the box from Roger Ebert, praising the film as a “Savagely Satanic vision of America”. Oddly, a much younger Ebert was one of the critics loudly panning NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in 1968. A decade later, he finally saw the light.

I finally rented DAWN OF THE DEAD at a sleepover on my 11th birthday with 2 of my friends. We ate garbage and watched FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER first, which meant nothing to me (I found it mechanical and dull, like most American slasher films; I’ve since warmed to that subgenre somewhat) and then chased it with DAWN. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a Tom Savini double feature. But DAWN was the one that changed my life. From its first shot against that blood-red carpeted wall (a sign of the sanguinary splatter-thon that was to come), pulling back against Gaylen Ross’ Fran waking from a nightmare only to find that what was happening in reality was far worse, I was hooked. In those first five minutes as the crude credits appear and that metronomic Goblin bass-line drags us into the action, Romero captures a world spiraling out of control, very, very quickly. A Pittsburgh TV news studio is in chaos. Talking heads talk over each other in a volatile, unorganized fashion, the crew running around in a panic and many just running out, period. No other movie I’d seen literally jumped into Hell quite like DAWN does. Watching it today, it still has a power unequaled.

But after that urgent opening, it was the parallel tale, that of Ken Foree’s Peter and Reiniger’s Roger, two S.W.A.T officers who are called-in to infiltrate a low-rent apartment complex filled with superstitious tenants who have refused to give up their dead, that kicked my head in, as it did so many unprepared viewers. Savini’s squibs and exploding heads, his grey/blue-faced ghouls appearing out of every corner, stiff and wide-eyed and casually lunging at anything warm; dead husbands embracing living wives and eating them alive. And Peter and Roger stepping away from the madness momentarily as they plot ditching their duties and running for their lives. The one-legged Priest who urges them to “stop the killing”, lest the living dead conquer the world (“The people they kill…get up and kill!”, to quote the TV pundit at the beginning of the picture). And the basement where the “kept” and starved ghouls have now begun cannibalizing themselves. It was all too much. It was death and horror overload. There was no comfort. Nothing safe to hold on to. I was lost in DAWN OF THE DEAD. I was at Romero’s mercy.

And I still get lost in it. It still has its way with me, every time.

Continue reading “On DAWN OF THE DEAD”

Memoir: The Island of Nicolas Cage

A true tale of the strangest (and best) celebrity encounter I’ve ever had

When I look back on my days as editor-in-chief of the mighty FANGORIA, I’m overwhelmed with anecdotes; true tales of mad adventures on the fringes of movie culture. Very often, those adventures took me from the fringe into the mainstream, or maybe sometimes it was the mainstream coming out to visit me. Very often we met in the middle.

In the case of my connection to the inimitable Nicolas Cage, we collided in the Bahamas over a slimy snail penis.

Buckle in, reader. This yarn’s a doozy.

Now, I was always a Nicolas Cage fan, an obsessive before it was cool to be one. The first time my mom and I saw PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, when the world – my mom included – was clicking its tongues and saying how Cage’s oddball mannerisms and nasally voice ruined the picture, I was like, no way. Cage is what MADE the picture. Sure, Francis Coppola’s sweet romantic fantasy shines because of its central vibrant Kathleen Turner performance, but you REMEMBER it because of Cage mangling THE BEATLES’ “She Loves You” (“she loves you, ooooh ooooh ooooh…).  You remember his lazy-lidded stare, his wounded hound dog face and his sudden bursts of manic, spastic, over-boiled-cauldron dramatics. Soon after that, we saw RAISING ARIZONA and we loved that too, but here, the universe the Coen Brothers create around Cage is just as wild, if not wilder, so he sorta blends into it. It feels organic. No, it was in films like PEGGY SUE, MOONSTRUCK, FIREBIRDS and IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU that Cage really stuck to me, movies where his alien charisma is injected into the natural world, turning a “normal” entertainment into a sort of divine mutation.

Later, I lived for the “showcase” Cage movies, those signature slabs of cinema that were sort of built AROUND his talents. Like David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART or, perhaps most astonishingly, Robert Bierman’s VAMPIRE’S KISS, perhaps the ultimate Nic Cage joint. Cage was and remains my favorite living performer and as a horror fan, I always felt like he was channelling some sort of expressionist, silent-shocker stylization into his work. Later on, he would come right out and say that he was doing just that, that even his single-handed lovelorn baker in MOONSTRUCK was a riff on the frantically gesturing mad scientist in Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.

My first encounter with Nic came after a screening of Werner Herzog’s brilliant BAD LIEUTENTANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS at the Toronto International Film Festival. I stumbled into a small press scrum at some fancy hotel and while other critics were asking him about NATIONAL TREASURE and CON AIR, I stood up and asked him about VAMPIRE’S KISS. He lit up. I asked him to say my favorite line, “Am I getting THROUGH to you, ALVA?!”. He did. I recorded that. Email me if you want to hear it.

Later, we connected to discuss Alex Proyas’ ludicrously underrated sci-fi chiller KNOWING for a Toronto Star feature I was writing and then, a bit later, when Disney released their bonkers THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE movie, I locked him down on the phone for a chat. I had recently taken over FANGORIA and had developed a friendship with his equally brilliant brother, the filmmaker Christopher Coppola. Christopher was then writing for me in fact and he and I would spend many hours on the phone discussing our love of horror movies and transgressive, experimental film. I told Nic about this and, at the time, he and his brother were having some family issues and weren’t speaking. But when he found out I was the “FANGORIA guy” and that his big bro was scribbling for us, he went crazy, wanting to talk about FANGORIA and how much the two of them loved it in the ‘80s and how important it was to them.

Soon after that, word got ‘round that Nic was making another GHOST RIDER movie. I liked the first one. Didn’t love it. But I liked it and though Cage was fantastic in it, especially his improvised additions to the Blaze character, like his fondness for jellybeans and monkey-centric television shows. And as a kid, I LOVED the comics and they were certainly part of my entry point into horror and dark fantasy culture. Since my mission was to almost always write every single FANGORIA cover story myself and make it PERSONAL, I thought, why not use this GHOST RIDER sequel as my hook to do a career retrospective cover story on the power and brilliance of Nicolas Cage? So I reached out to Sony, they reached out to Nic. Within a day, Nic fired back and said not only would he do this cover story interview…but he wanted to do it at his house. Live. In person.

Continue reading “Memoir: The Island of Nicolas Cage”


A look at the obscure and surreal 1962 Freudian thriller

There’s a song by Trent Reznor’s electro-outfit NINE INCH NAILS, the B-side to the single “Sin”; it’s a grinding cover version of the classic QUEEN song “Get Down Make Love”, that opens with one of the most memorable film samples in industrial music history.

It goes like this:

“How old were you when you first let a man make love to you?

Next, who was he?

Next, how did you feel at the time?

Next, how did you feel afterward?

What did you feel, what did you think, were you pleased, frightened, ecstatic, disgusted?

What did he say, what words did you speak, that’s what I want to know, now, tell me, now, now, all of it, now, yes! Yes!

For years, no one I knew had a clue as to the origins of that sample.

I certainly hadn’t the foggiest.

Eventually, I forgot about both the sample and the song.

That is until a few years ago, when I found a copy of the 1962 film THE CABINET OF CALIGARI in a discount bin at a used record store.

That’s right, the 1962 film THE CABINET OF CALIGARI. Note the absence of the word “Doctor”.

I had no idea this film existed.

Taking it home excitedly and excitedly researching it, I learned much of its origins and, while watching and grooving on it, I was floored when, in the middle, the film’s titular antagonist leans into his victim and barks out that very same NIN sample.

So there it is. Mystery solved. But there’s much, much more to THE CABINET OF CALIGARI than a simple pop music sound bite.

The film was directed by TV vet Roger Kay and produced by THE LAST MAN ON EARTH’s Robert Lippert, an adaptation of an untitled Robert Bloch (author of the book on which PSYCHO was based) screenplay that was written in the wake of PSYCHO’s success. Lippert had acquired the rights to the original, groundbreaking 1920 German expressionist silent film by Robert Wiene, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and, because of this, Lippert saddled that screenplay with the CALIGARI title, much to Bloch’s dismay.

Continue reading “On THE CABINET OF CALIGARI”

On Rod Serling and THE TWILIGHT ZONE

A look at nine of Serling’s most personal episodes from his signature television series

If you’re a serious fan of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (and I most certainly am), it’s vital to not only remember Rod Serling’s classic, influential dark fantasy television series and each key episode’s unforgettable and forever-discussed third act twist, but to muse on Serling’s morality and humanity, the likes of which propelled almost every aspect of the show.

Serling was, in effect, dark fantasy television’s premiere auteur and THE TWILIGHT ZONE was first and foremost a vehicle for Serling to deliver provocative parables. He was writer with something urgent to say, someone who deeply cared about the plight of his fellow man. After earning awards and accolades for his pioneering dramatic teleplays in TV’s formative years, Serling’s attempts at deeper comment on subjects ranging from war atrocity to America’s blatant racism were met with censorship. The answer to this nervous sponsor-induced silencing and word-butchering was indeed THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which Serling saw as a way to tell the tales he wanted to tell but cloak them in sugar-coated fantasy pills.

And while some of TZ’s greatest episodes are beloved for their overt horror and science fiction sheen and exploitable elements, several of the series’ finest installments were portals directly into Serling’s soul; haunting stories about loss, alienation, death, regret and a yearning for simpler times.

Here then, are 9 of TZ and Serling’s most haunting, personal episodes.


The most affecting and personal of Serling’s first season efforts, this one stars Gig Young as a middle aged man who inexplicably wanders back in time into his home town, 30 years earlier. There, he meets his parents and the youthful incarnation of himself. Melancholy, profound and expressionist in its presentation, this is Serling weeping for the sweet days of his childhood long lost and then ultimately, making peace with and embracing the present. Gorgeous Bernard Herrmann score too…

THE LONELY (Season One)

Jack Warden stars as James Corry, as an unjustly convicted man in the near future, imprisoned alone on a desolate planet. While he sweats away his days and battles back his own endless loneliness, an empathetic supply ship captain stopping by on his quarterly run, drops off a crate containing a fully realized android female to keep him company. Initially, Corry balks at this mockery of femininity but, when the robot proves itself sentient and sensitive, he falls deeply in love with “her”. A moody, dreamy, poetic episode about the penal system and the illusion of love, armed with a sad, unforgettable finale.

Continue reading “On Rod Serling and THE TWILIGHT ZONE”


Remembering Philip Kaufman’s superior 1978 remake of a science fiction classic

In 1978, I was 4 years old. I had plenty of comic books and one particular, well-worn and generally mistreated issue of BATMAN, issue #309 to be specific, in which Bats battled a brute named Blockbuster at Christmas time, had, on its back page, a reproduction of the theatrical poster for a new movie called INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

Here’s the cover and the poster in question:

As you can see, that original poster is black, sepia-brown and white with gentle red traces on the title font and depicts four running silhouettes trying to outdistance their own shadows and though I did not understand the image per se, it was abstract enough to disturb and obsess me for many, many months to follow.

And, save for the cover, I remember nothing of the comic itself.

Flash forward to 1979.

A local television channel, Toronto’s CITY-TV, began running ads for their network premier of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, to be aired that very Friday night, the same Friday night my parents were going out to see APOCALYPSE NOW at the theatre. They were aware of my jittery desire to see BODY SNATCHERS and gave my babysitting aunt explicit instructions not to let me do so, to ensure that I was in bed and as far away from a television set as possible when the picture unspooled.

Well, she did a fair job of seeing that mission through but, much to my delight, she managed to also fall asleep by 9pm. Total pass out on the sofa. Lights out. It was at this point I sneaked into the living room, flipped on the television and channel advanced just in time to see what would be an instantly life altering sequence. In it, a wet, writhing man lay on the ground, covered in gossamer webs, his exact double hovering above with a hoe in his grip. The upright, curly-headed and considerably more sentient version of the man then raised his arms above his head and brought that otherwise innocuous garden tool squarely down upon his twitching twin, caving in its head and spilling out thick, bloody discharge while other humanoids convulsed and heaved in the peripheral parts of the frame.



A closer look at Donald Cammell’s psychedelic Sci-Fi horror masterpiece

There’s a look, a tone and visual texture to science fiction films from the early to mid 1970’s; a sanitized glimpse of a future that, seen today, exists only as a perversion of the past. The blinking light boards, silly tubes that lead nowhere, whitewashed walls, turtleneck wearing intellectuals, the list goes on. Think of the great glossy glimpses into ersatz tomorrows of that era – THX 1183, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, SOYLENT GREEN, LOGAN’S RUN, CLONUS – and you’ll see what I mean. But outside of the curiously antiseptic funkiness of their art direction, 1970’s sci-fi was also incredibly thoughtful and bold, criticizing politics, people and modern technology with a somber humorlessness and nightmarish immediacy that suited the material beautifully.
Then Star Wars came along and fucked it all up.

But the very same year that George Lucas and his company of Goodwill-garbed action figures were saving Hollywood’s waning box office takes by demolishing sophisticated cinema, wobble-psyched British filmmaker Donald Cammell was unleashing his own mind-bending glimpse at a far grimmer future. A loose adaptation of a very early and only so-so same named Dean R. Koontz pulp thriller, Cammell’s seminal (and I mean that literally) 1977 technology run amok masterwork DEMON SEED has never gotten its dues as a serious piece of sci-fi / horror cinema. Don’t get me wrong, the film has its fans, but, I mean, I’ve never seen anyone prancing about with a picture of an electrode wearing Julie Christie on a T-shirt or anything. But if you follow me down into prophetic disco-era cyberspace for the next few paragraphs, you may just find yourself wanting one.

Continue reading “On DEMON SEED”