On WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?

A look at the shattering 1976 Spanish horror film

I first watched the 1984 Stephen King-penned horror film CHILDREN OF THE CORN with my parents on cable when I was 10 and even at that relatively easy-to-please age, its punch-pulling pedigree was obvious. Here was a film with a shocking enough opening sequence (I especially winced at the bit where the creepy kids pushed the beefy chap’s knuckles into the blender) and with a pair of solid enough lead actors in Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton and propelled by the grim concept of small town kids locked on murdering everyone over 18. But the film was utterly undone by juxtaposing the eeriness of the killer tots with an inner look at their religion and societal structure and was totally torpedoed by an FX heavy ending complete with a silly corn-creeping demon.

It’s understandable that CHILDREN OF THE CORN shrugged and sunk its inherent horror deep into the weeds because, well, that’s kinda what American horror movies did in the 1980s. This is not to necessarily dismiss 80’s American horror films outright, because I generally like them for what they are – lighter in tone, conventional, accessible and slick. But a movie about kids killing their parents and all adults within their sight-line needs to cut deeper to the bone. It needs to have the courage of its convictions. King’s own original short story played with suggestion and shadow to unnerve effectively. The film adaptation aimed to wrap the terror up with a tidy bow to please the multiplex set. The result is a picture that is neither fish nor fowl.

Continue reading “On WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?”

On THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE

A look at Vincente Aranda’s hallucinatory lesbian vampire film

In the late 1960s, as the old guard died off and a new wave of filmmakers slowly, surely seeped into Hollywood – and Hollyweird – American audiences became hungrier for more daring sorts of entertainment. Political and social upheaval was swelling, the 6 O’clock news dragged dying soldiers from the front lines in Vietnam into people’s living rooms, films like Bonnie and Clyde and Midnight Cowboy brought more explicit content into the mainstream and hardcore porn was championed by beloved prime time staples like Ed McMahon and Sammie Davis Jr. It was fertile ground for cinematic expression and with the vibrant, experimental films from Europe being suddenly embraced by this new American pack of creators, sexually aware, violent  and earthy movies made for adults became industry standard. And with American distributors acting on this sudden liberal surge, European genre filmmakers began really pushing boundaries. Look at the work of Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, the sexier side of Hammer Horror, Alain Robbe-Grillet , Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and others, all taking advantage of their homegrown movies being marketed around the world and all of them introducing more potent taboo-breaking imagery into their lurid narratives.

Continue reading “On THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE”

On TANGO OF PERVERSION

A look at what might be the crown jewel of “Greeksploitation”

For serious cinephiles, there is nothing more joyous than the act of discovery, to stumble upon something secret, or to be exposed to a previously unknown strain of filmmaking that life has long denied you.

And with the swell of high-quality home video over the past 20 years, it’s been a virtual renaissance for people like us. To unearth pictures we’d only read about and, in many cases had no idea even existed. And then to see them is such lovely shape…

For this writer, so in love with the bizarre, stylish and exotic, discovering the existence of “Greeksploitation” was a virtual revelation. I have long been a huge fan of the less-loved British-Greek horror film starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence called Land of the Minotaur (aka The Devil’s Men). That film (an ambient doom-horror movie with a pulsing Brian Eno score) was directed by Kostas Karagiannis under the name Costa Carayiannis and, though a glance at his credits reveal dozens of pictures, almost all of them were made exclusively for the Greek market. The thought of taking time to track down some of these pictures never even crossed my skull. Life is brief, after all…

Continue reading “On TANGO OF PERVERSION”