The Drop of Water

Man, when it comes to horror movies, the Italians really know how to do it. Sure they can bake a good Marsala and some say that their culture and wine are worth looking into but for me, I tip my hat to their wacky way of scaring the pants off me. Seriously, one time it took me an hour to find my pants after a three hour “My Ghost Story” feature on the Bio Channel. Anyway, Italian horror is well known for graphic gore and suggestive scenes but in a certain three-part movie, starring the late, great Boris Karloff, they go for a more psychological sting that leaves the viewer wanting to crawl behind the couch in the 1969 classic, Black Sabbath. Although this feature has three different stories, there is always the one that stands out and this cream of the crop is “Drop of Water.” Let me explain.

After the title screen we are met by the great face of horror, Boris Karloff, doing his Alfred Hitchcock style of hosting. The one thng I never knew about this guy until watching him speak close up is his “Ralphy from The Christmas Story” lisp. Interesting. So, Boris gives an absolute dynamite intro as if he is addressing you as an individual by saying such fantastically cheesy lines and warnings like “Vampires…Is that one of them sitting behind you now?” I love that. Wait…is there one behind me? Nope.

So after a fun few minutes we jump to the first of the series and the only one that I am reviewing today because it is the best and so are you. Ha! See what I did there? Let me introduce to you an amazing tale and an Italian Bada-Bing of scary, Drop Of Water.

The story begins with a single woman sitting in a small apartment which is strangely illuminated by different colored and ever-changing sign from a really cool oval window. This is pretty important because the whole movie is different shades of blues, reds and yellows that does give an uneasy feel much like other Italian horrors (Suspiria). She mills around from what appears to be an exhaustive day of work doing the usual: smoking and drinking. This “zen time of a blond Italian chick” is interrupted by a phone call and we see a slightly over-acting part and oddly dubbed-over voice but get the message that she is being put out by some sort of an emergency. Time to swig a shot and put out the ol’ sigerrta; duty calls.

We then jump scene to an old woman cleaning up broken pieces of something on the floor from what appears to be signs of a struggle. She is obviously very edgy with a constant look of worry. Looking around the room I can see why. Again, the colors in this film are amazing and every area is a different shade of red, purple, blue…anything that is unnatural. Soon there is a knock at the door and her look goes from one of worry to that of “well it’s about fucking time.” I thought it was Time Warner cable from that look.

Nope, not the cable company. It is the put-out woman from the apartment and here is when we find out that she is a nurse and one of her duties is to dress recently diseased, er, deceased people and get them ready for a funeral. But listening to the old caretaker, this is a special case and she is in a hurry to get the hell out of there. The nurse seems to be a little brash and not at all concerned with the old woman’s story about her former employer’s death. She warned the nurse not to touch anything or she would suffer a terrible curse and have the same face…fate as her. Did I mention the dead woman we are about to meet was a medium? Yeah, she was chatting with spirits before she was abruptly killed and made into a hideous thing. I think that holds some sort of merit. So, the nurse is in no mood for ghost stories or warnings from beyond. She wants to dress the corpse and go back to boozing and smoking. Then she looks at the task at hand.

Yup! That’s normal. Nothing wrong with that at all. I have to say if I pulled the curtain back and saw that thing staring back at me I would have just sat Indian-style and cried. (Is that okay to say? I feel like Indian-style is no longer a P.C. saying) Matter of fact, I believed the great Final Girl said the same thing. But no, the nurse just sort of gazed at this…thing with a look of, “Well, that is gross,” and didn’t even bat an eye.

I, myself, would have made a look similair to this:

The nurse looks away from the grotesque and huge evil-faced dead medium and spies something a bit more attractive. Her eyes go right to a huge sapphire ring that oddly has a fly that likes it too and is buzzing around, mostly on the ring itself. The warnings of the old caretaker go out the window and we all know that this dead chick isn’t going underground with that ring on. She leaves the room to get the burial dress and a few shots with the old woman and that’s when she learns more about the curse and the how dead took her. Having just seen that awful face of the dead medium, the nurse is still reluctant to think it is anything more than just a heart attack and scoffs at the caretaker’s warning of ghosts and evil and curses and Beiber and imminent death. The nurse just wants to get the task of changing the dead woman’s clothes over with, snag the ring and go home quickly. And truth be told, I would be the same way. Except I wouldn’t take the ring after witnessing all that. I am a better-safe-than-sorry sort of guy. I also believe in things that go bump in the night. And Sasquatch.

deleted lesbian kiss scene

While working to strip the dead medium’s clothes and dress her for the funeral the nurse is tormented by the ring and plots to take it but has to distract the caretaker to she asks for stockings and shoes while she works the ring off the rigor-mortised finger. That is when I noticed something even more unsettling. There are a fuck-load of creepy dolls all over the house. Take a look!

UGH! See?

Really? In the drawers too?

So, with the caretaker distracted, the nurse manages to pry the ring off the finger of the dead woman but when it comes loose she loses it on the floor and searches frantically to find it. This is when we, the audience, can tell that this nurse has just sealed her fate. And also a good jump scare. I can’t imagine being in the theater in 1969 watching this when the options for a Friday night feature was this or Beach Blanket Bingo. Anyway, while on the floor this happens:

Hmmm...where did that ring go to?

Shit! Pants! Shit in my pants!

Yeah, the supposed dead woman’s arm falls on the nurses head causing everyone to shriek. The nurse jumps, spilling a glass of water that causes an echoing drip onto a metal pan. This is an ominous sign of things to come. The nurse finds the ring, stuffs it down her shirt and composes herself right before the old woman comes in with the last required items. She sees the noticeable change in the nurse’s demeanor and asks what she saw. Of course the nurse denies anything unusual but her stride definitely quickens and the two are now in a hurry to leave. She puts the shoes on the corpse and does the terrible task of touching that face to close the medium’s eyes. But when the nurse turns around one more time before they both leave she is greeted with this:

Hello. I am terribly terrifying. How are you?

Could be doing better thanks

Seeing how the dead woman’s eyes refuse to shut is a sign to leave and they both hurry out the door. What could possibly happen now? The medium died in a weird way while communicating with the dead, there are maniacal dolls everywhere, the caretaker warned of a curse, THE FUCKING FACE OF THE DEAD WOMAN, the fly that refuses to leave the ring, and the eyes will not shut so I am not a betting man but I will go with the nurse having a rough night. That’s just me.

The next scene we are back at the nurse’s ever-color-changing apartment (Shocker.). She is sitting at the table smoking and drinking and gazing at her recently acquired ring after, what most would say, an odd night. But soon things start to happen and it becomes apparent that perhaps taking this ring wasn’t the greatest idea this nurse has ever had. It starts with that darn fly landing on her finger and she freaks out as if an African blue hornet was in the house. After her flailing around eveything goes quiet except a constant drip of water. In a heighten sense of paranoia the nurse cautiously and slowly searches out the drip and stops it only to hear another from an adjacent room. Strange? Absolutely.

Happy thoughts. Wish I had a TV.

But soon the drips turn more menacing and slowly sounds of shallow wailing and scary noises begin. Is she going insane? Has the curse come to claim her too? Does she know that she left the teapot on the stove? All these questions are racing through not only her mind but ours too. The tension builds to a roaring climax and just when you think it couldn’t get anymore more intense she wakes up and it’s all a dream.

Just kidding. No, she opens up the door to her room and finds this:

7 Minute Abs

Horrified at the sight that her old friend dropped into visit her, she freaks out, runs, trips over the carpet and lands hard. I would have done the same. Well, no, I would have done what Final Girl said and “squat in a corner and cried.” This scene is the worst part for me because it has everything that could make for a perfect nightmare. Not only is the dead woman back but she is really not quite dead. She slowly sits up defining what my definition of scary is. Maybe it isn’t to some but it is to me.

So, the nurse composes herself, so to speak, and goes back to the kitchen now that the dead woman is in her room, cries from beyond fill the apartment, the lights mysteriously turned off. But it turns out that her friend also has the ability to appear in her rocking chair holding a cat. A cat that doesn’t mind being pet by a dead woman apparently.

For my next trick, I will magically put Indian food in your underwear!

The old woman disappears in front of the nurses eyes leaving a rocking chair rocking solo. At this point I think I would give the ring back but the nurse is too frantic to think of such simplicities and meets the pestering spirit…ghost…demon…thing one last time and she begs for mercy. The dead woman floats towards her and raises her arms slowly causing the nurse to involuntarily bring her own hands to her throat. In a move right out of the playbook to Full Metal Jacket, she chokes herself. To death.

Well, the next day the police and forensic investigators are there piecing together a plausible explanation for why the nurse is dead and choking herself. The landlord is there explaining that this isn’t the first time she has found a dead tenant and she went by the book on reporting it right away. As the investigator tries to pry her hands away from her thoat he states that the look on her face is that of one being scared to death. He also notices the ring missing and her finger is bruised in such a way it looks as if had been torn off. The landlord’s eyes open wide as we soon see that she was tempted the same way the nurse was and took the ring. Uh Oh…

Ring? What's a ring?

And that is how we end the story. Now that I have described one of the more fun and disturbing stories I have seen I can’t help but noticing some similarities between this movie and the later-made Japanese film Rigu. I know that is a jump but look, it has the same basic plot of a cursed item that is passed from person to person and there isn’t really a way to repent. And not to mention the fact that they both have RINGS! Well, who knows? I have never heard the link between the two and as far as I know the director and writer for The Ring made no reference to getting inspiration from this film so perhaps I just make the link myself. Regardless, this is a fun story and the visuals will make a 12 year old go to therapy. I love the cinematography more than I love watching someone breaking their hip in a Jazzersize class (because I really love that). Above all, Boris Karloff and an Italian trio of terror will go down as next to Godliness and for that I say thank you for reading this and if you want to watch this masterpiece of horror, check it out on Youtube. It’s there.

OH! Expect a full article on the Myer’s House at the end on September. I talked with the owner and he is a super cool guy and invited me back around mid September. Just a follow up.

The Video Rental That Made Me Weird

I remember a time when a trip to the video rental store was a Friday night must that determined what I would be up to for that night and possibly Saturday night too. The whole process took almost an hour to decide what two hours I would sacrifice my youth on because in a store with nearly ten thousand movies, there was a high probability that you could end up with a doozie. That probably explains why Iron Eagle was rented close to two hundred times.  And Muppets Take Manhattan. And National Geographic documentary on Sharks. Anyway, I had a very particular genre of movies that didn’t leave much room for anything new and looking back, my parents must have really dreaded Friday nights in the living room. Who can possibly take that many volumes of Gallagher stand-up without going a little mad? But all that changed one fateful night in 1991 when I slipped the surly bonds of Blockbuster’s normal selection to touch the face of horror and forever alter my Friday nights…and sleeping habits. This video was True Hollywood Ghost Stories and it terrified me. And perhaps it took hold psychologically because even today in my Youtube search, when I found this on a whim, because everything is on Youtube, I had this overwhelming need to look behind me.

I am not sure why I rented this particular video. My idea of a scary movie back then was Harry and the Henderson’s so it’s a wonder how this ended up in the family VCR. Looking at the cheesy late-eighties graphics, there isn’t much to be too disturbed about but that is where this film takes a turn for the unsettling and really takes on the same creepiness as the popular show, Unsolved Mysteries, with that amazing Robert Stack voice. The cool part about this film is it has a documentary feel to it and it is composed mostly of clips of old to recent horror movies. The kicker, and reason it made my blood run cold, was how it explained the supposed real ghost cases that the movies were based on and behind the scene disturbances while making them. Now imagine, if you will, a young boy who had never seen a horror movie, getting all the scariest scenes grouped together and then learning about how they may be true. Yeah. There was a spike in the utility bill that month from the hall light being left on at night.

Meet the host, John Carradine. He wastes little time in the introduction to shift from zero to one hundred when he begins with how the film, and the scariest thing I have ever seen, The Exorcist  not only had evil happenings on the set but was based on a real event. I had never even heard of this movie until I rented Real Hollywood Ghost Stories so when I first laid eyes on that grotesque appearance and raspy voice of the possessed Regan, I think I just sat on the floor and cried. I’m not kidding, I was a little pussy as a youth. During little league baseball I once dove for cover from a pitch that ended up being a strike. So, seeing the most terrifying movie ever made and learning how it was true all in the time span of ten minutes, I shorted out. And this video rental only got worse from there.

The beginning of The Exorcist part was the author, William Peter Blatty and he described what his inspiration for writing the book that later became a movie many believed actually had the devil imprinted in the film itself. He said he witnessed a phone picking up off the receiver itself and come down onto the table. I am the believer that chairs, dishes, phones, shoes, anything that doesn’t live and moves on their own is so much scarier than a creature jumping out at you. So as a very impressionable kid hearing this account had me captivated. Especially when it was followed by this face:

Even as I type this I hate looking at that picture. It had such a profound effect on my as a child and it was many years later that I finally summoned the courage to rent it during a high school sleep over. But this introduction to The Exorcist  was enough for me at the time. Especially learning it was all based on true events, people died working on the film, it caused audiences to go crazy and not to mention the fact that I was looking at something beyond my comprehension to what I deemed scary. It’s like growing up training ponies and then someone puts you on a bull at a rodeo. I could have used a gradual transition to horror.

The next story was of a real haunting of a house in Hollywood owned by an affluent couple, the Sommer’s and it was so bad they ended up selling and becoming a world-wide media spectacle after their story was published in Life magazine. Even the photographer was a skeptic couldn’t explain why or how his film kept having shadowy figured in motion from frame to frame. I loved the story but of course, as a kid I took it all very seriously and every bump was a ghost and every settling noise was a poltergeist. This didn’t help much, especially when they tied in the story of Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hopper’s, Poltergeist, and how much like The Exorcist, people died from this film and the set even burned down. Great. I don’t think this would have been quite as impacting if it didn’t have detailed accounts from Life magazine and NBC reporters that witness all these events. Even though I was an impressionable kid, I knew the difference between loons and credible people. Especially the next “true” Hollywood account about a woman who was assaulted by what was to be believed to be an entity. Hence the title The Entity.

This didn’t go over well either because learning how the local university recorded and documented this story and it became a constant in the world of parapsychology, even studied at the prestigious Duke University, I did not like learning about rape-ghosts. Nope. It’s as if this video kept trying to out-do itself! Each movie and real case scenario was a segway to the next bone-chilling tale. Like how The Entity was a great shift to the world renown Amittyville Horror. And of course, I got a taste of it by only seeing the most frightening scenes.

Much like the Poltergeist scene, a rocking chair doing what it does best by itself is about as scary to me as it gets. Especially when a kid is interacting with it and when an adult comes interrupts everything goes quiet. That is until the adult goes tot the window only to be met with glowing eyes and pig grunts. From then on I did my best not to look outside at night which proved to be tough because I had an atrium in the center of my bedroom.

Well, this fateful video rental kept up the creeps and went into the legends of Hollywood and their ghostly encounters like Houdini and the original Superman who committed suicide. It’s odd that both the original and the motion picture Superman was named Reeves. Is that a well-known fact? Maybe it is. Anyway, the scares peter down a bit but it is still a pretty good watch, even for today’s standard.  They leave the viewer with a really cheesy music montage of a pretty corny song and truth be told, it’s absolutely perfect. It even manages to leave you with the warning not to take for granted you are ever alone in the dark. I took that warning to heart and kept the lights on almost through middle school.

You can watch the whole series on YouTube and I’ll start you off with the first part. Enjoy this as much as I still do. Sometimes it’s nice to look back and still get the same impression from when you were so very impressionable. Sleep tight!

Epic Tales From When TV…

…was everything an adolescent boy could hope for.

Starting out this year’s season of all things macabre, I figured I will write a review or a recap, if you will, of three shows that I distinctly remember getting a case of the heebs over. (heebs- feeling the need to shower after witnessing an event that did not make one physically dirty) I used to love staying up past the surgeon general’s recommended bedtime and filling those late hours with nonsensical television until either there was a disapproving knock at the bedroom door from what I am sure was tattling flicker of luminescence leaking under the said door or Rhonda Sheer’s bubbly personality of USA’s “Up All Night” was replaced by a commercial for a turkey-jerky dehydrator. But of all the nonsensical TV that gave me an allergy to books, there are a couple shows that still manages to stick with me, especially as we creep towards  September and October. Let us take a look at a few, shall we?

Tales From the Crypt was a staple of my teen years and while most of the shows were a HBO platform for many actors to get their feet wet directing without any real reprisals from a critic committee because let’s face it, horror isn’t a critic’s forte, it did produce some of the best casted and fun TV still today and every so often this show would hit a home run in the creep department.

The episode “The New Arrival” starring David Warner and Zelda Rubenstein was a really dark, claustrophobic, disturbing and down right pee-pants oppressing story that left you wanting nothing more than to never chew grape gum or trust anyone shorter than 4 feet.*pours coffee on the floor out of respect for the late Zelda*

David Warner plays a corrupt and arrogant child psychologist that preys on over protective mothers who spoil children with behavioral issues only to boost his failing radio channel.  So in his plan to save his ratings he decides to air a live session at a fan’s house who calls his station. Little does he know that it is Zelda Rubenstein calling him with a case that is most likely not in any text-book or case study he has read before.

When he gets to the house of the caller to begin his radio show he sees how controlling Zelda is and the problematic child is running a terror through the house and is very illusive. Right from the beginning the audience can feel that something is far from routine about this behavioral case. From the screams of the child to the walls caked in grape bubble gum, this reeks of “get the hell out of the house”.  And then we meet the kid.

Where does one even begin to state the things wrong here? Ok, I am not going to go through the entire episode because I’ll post the climactic part below and it would seem redundant for you to watch what I just wrote about so I will just express my feelings.

This episode touched on a few nightmare nerves of mine. The fact that all the creepy shit happens during the afternoon is a big one.  Some people have a certain witching hour and mine was always 4 o’clock. I think it is the way the sun is dimming or the fact that 90% of all horror movies happen at night so when bad stuff happens when Judge Judy is on TV, I just don’t feel right about it. The wallpaper in the house also made me itch. The house had a very dark feeling about it and the wallpaper from the 1940’s didn’t help.

I know those two creeps aren’t creepy to most others but that is what I hung on to. Call me weird but…okay, call me weird. Please watch this. You will see why this episode stands out the most.

Tales From the Darkside was an amazing show that was pretty corny in retrospect but an absolute humdinger when it came to adolescent entertainment of the 1980’s. When I think about Saturday nights as a nine-year-old the theme to Tales From the Darkside is usually the anthem. Back then these 20 minute stories would cause me to sink deep in the covers, never wanting to peer out the window for fear there would be another set of peepers peering back. I lucked out watching this show in an era when kids would be scared over something that makes five-year-olds today laugh.

Of the hundreds of tales, I think the early episode called “Case of the Stubborns” was not just my favorite but also the most unsettling. Along with an amazing cast like a very young Christian Slater, Eddie Backren, Bill McCutcheon and Barbera Eda-Young, this famous story is about an old man who is too set in his ways to realize he died. When every one begs and pleads for him to come to terms with his own mortality he merely scoffs at their insensate nagging all the while….decomposing. It really is awesome.

After Slater’s character seeks advice from the neighborhood witch he returns home to try once more to lay his already deceased grandfather to rest. Only with a sneeze that blew off Grandpa Titus’s nose did he finally realize that perhaps, he was actually dead.

There are so many reasons to love this episode and while I wish it was an original story from the show, it is not. I remember reading “A Case of the Stubborns” as a child growing up in the south. It’s just nice to know Hollywood didn’t muck it up. I will say, the first scene when Grandpa Titus walks down stairs, I would have put my breakfast down my pants because it was going to end up there anyway.

Who wants to be disturbed? I do! I do! Well, for the final segment of the first real kick off of the 10 week count down, I present to you a gift; these three Tim Currys. In another Tales From the Crypt episode, “Death of Some Salesman”, Tim plays all but one role and is even given an Emmy for his performance.

Ed Bagely Jr plays a corrupt traveling salesman who preys on naive customers thinking they are buying what really is an imaginary cemetery plot. He does pretty well too until he happens upon the home of Ma, Pa and Winona Bracket, all played by the infamous Tim Curry. He thinks he knows who they are but he has no idea what they do. They collect salesmen. (As a sales person myself, this speaks to me more now that in it did back in the day)

I love this episode for so many reasons I can’t even narrow it down to just three. All I know is that Tim Curry manages to do what he does best and that is make you squirm. Especially the god-awful sex scene between Winona-Tim and Ed Bagely. Man, that must have been an awkward shoot! Enjoy this magnificent clip!

There was a shorter clip of just the weird sex scene that I was going to post but the guy who made it was videotaping it from his TV with severe asthma. A tad distracting.

Well I hope you enjoyed these three classics in B Television. Whether you can identify with them or not they really are fun. And if you are going to destroy your vision, waste your life or rot your brain, shouldn’t it be a little fun?

Way Too Early, I Know

But Matt over at X-Entertainment.com has kicked things in gear early too. I have changed a few things on the ol’ website that I am sure you will notice. Do not be alarmed! I am merely doing this because at over at Zog’s, Mandey’s bar, we are creating an epic Zogtober Fest 2011 that will start around mid September. Seeing how time flies like a bird high on speed that flew through a chemical fire, I need to start on the website so that it is ready to capture the pure macabre of the season without too much effort on my part because lately, we all know how much time I devote to all things awesome. Not very much. Here is a quick snap shot at the webpage that will be a true Halloween miracle.

So, be prepared to be disturbed. We have some good things in store if you like this kind of thing.

Coming Right Back…

With some awesome news. Currently I am battling what appears to be chicken pox although I have had the immunization for it twice in my military career. I don’t know what it is but it is super annoying and I’m itching myself into a frenzy. Halp! So I’ll be right back.

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