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Squonkamatic

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427 reviews in total 
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Side Show (1981) (TV)
5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Sort of Disturbing, Actually, 18 August 2008
6/10

First off, I hate circuses. I find them to be barbaric, cruel, stupid, and creepy. Trained animal acts are not entertaining unless you are some kind of troglodyte. Trapeze and high wire acts are for people who are secretly hoping to see the performer fall. And clowns? Forget it.

This is a pretty demented little movie using a circus as it's backdrop, though it is NOT a horror film by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually a sort of character study, with Lance Kerwin as the 16 year old grandson of a legendary puppeteer leaving home and joining the sideshow of a circus during what appears to be the late 1930s. The kid gets to meet the various freaks, geeks and ring performers and finds them to be people with very real feelings, shortcomings, frailties, hopes, dreams, and behavioral quirks.

He makes friends with the sideshow MC (Red Buttons, doing the best he can), earns the respect of the resident Lion Tamer (Anthony Franciosa, apparently convinced he was in an A list movie), develops a timid crush on the Trapeze Lady (Connie Stevens, who should be ashamed), even gets the resident midget couple's son & family to come visit and prove that they aren't ashamed to have sideshow midgets as parents, and so on.

My favorite was the Tattooed Lady, Paula Picasso, who doesn't hesitate to offer to take the young lad on a world tour across her body, which is about when I started realizing that something strange was going on here. Then we get the first of three examples of the sneering, evil manager of the circus using the "N" word to refer to the young puppeteer's African American roustabout pal. I quickly checked the IMDb and saw that the movie was actually made in 1978 but not shown publicly until 1981, which explained some of it. But for a potentially family oriented thriller the three instances sort of stopped the show cold, as it were.

Then there came the scene where Ms. Stevens connives to have the young puppeteer visit her in her sleeper car on the circus train, where she offers him alcohol. Then she disrobes (partially), pulls the young lad onto her bed, de-shirts him, and starts making kissy lips all over the poor guy's neck. And by golly if he doesn't screw her, though the film tastefully cuts to a commercial at the key moment.

Tastefully? Ask yourself this: If the focus of the movie had been a 16 year old GIRL puppeteer and an adult male performer had been the one to try and ply her with booze & bed her, would this have been approved of for network TV?? It represents a curious double standard about adolescent sexuality that comes to mind whenever I read about these pathetic school teachers having sex with the boys in their 8th grade reading class: When an underage guy has sex with an older woman, we say he got lucky, and refer to the woman as "easy". When an underage girl has sex with an older man, we call it statutory rape, and refer to the guy as a pedophile. Someone someday should try to explain the difference to me, though Lance Kerwin's adult life as a drug addict is somewhat easier to understand now.

Anyway, the producers decided that just having a quirky, offbeat movie about a young kid getting to know the performers in a sideshow wasn't going to cut the muster, so they add a couple of murders (one might have been a suicide, it's never explained), stage a lion attack, inject the racism & sex, and eventually have a fight to the death between the suspected murderer and one of the sideshow freaks that ends in tragedy. And at the end everything turns out to be just hunky dory, even though people have died and your kids were still probably crying hysterically at the sudden turn of events. This is one twisted, potentially disturbing little movie.

Or two: It seems like there were two ideas crossed here, a movie about humanizing the offbeat performers of a sideshow and another about a crazed murderer ingeniously slaughtering his way through the cast & crew of a traveling circus, along with a coming-of- age subplot thrown in for good measure. My question is, who in their right mind though this was a good idea? It's interesting and fairly well made -- I give it six out of ten just for being so weird, and it did hold my attention -- and like "The Simpson's" paints a believable portrait of a closed microcosm of humanity that is both removed and yet familiar to those of us who maybe consider ourselves outcasts within society. It is we who are the freaks, cackling and guffawing for $.50 cents a peek.

But I don't know. Here is a film destined to spend the rest of eternity as a video rental era oddity slowly oxidizing on the few thousands of VHS tapes that were pressed back when Trans World Entertainment got desperate enough to release it. "Star Trek" fans might want to seek it out for an appearance by "The Doomsday Machine"'s Commodore Matt Decker, William Windom, who has the exact same nervous breakdown scene as he did when Captain Kirk asked him what happened to his ship.

The film was also directed by William Conrad of "Jake & The Fat Man" fame, and produced by Sid and Marty Kroft (yes, the H.R. Puffnstuff guys) so there is definitely some sort of bizarre, doped out 1970s cult appeal here waiting to be re-discovered. Though just whom would be re-discovering it I haven't a clue, since it's all in such incredibly poor taste that you just sort of have to marvel at it, and wonder what the hell they could possibly have been thinking.

6/10: John Waters, eat your heart out.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Bizarre And Imaginative, 15 August 2008
8/10

This is another one of those Turkish made Superhero/Supervillain ultra low budget knockoff quickies to recently find their way onto DVD due to an indie company called Onar Films, who do a marvelous job of resurrecting the universally tattered & unkempt surviving elements with an English subtitles track that is sometimes hilarious all on it's own. In the spirit of the jaw- droppingly outrageous KILINK ISTANBUL'DA, DEMIR PENCE concerns itself with two masked adversaries -- one fighting for justice, the other a nefarious criminal -- who do battle with the fate of Turkey & the entire world at stake.

This one is perhaps a bit more brutal than most, with less emphasis on the comic book zaniness of KILINK and more on gunfights, fistfights, people being tied up & menaced, and - - interestingly -- nightclub routines and belly dancing. The main claim to fame for this one is that it brings in the legendary Fantamos, based on the French graphic pulp novel hero of the same name. He even has a big menacing goon henchman with an iron claw for a hand that may or may not have anticipated the James Bond "Jaws" character (his indestructibility is one of the film's running jokes). And like "Batman" and his Batgirl, our hero Demir rides around in a leather costume on a motorbike with their capes flapping in the wind behind them.

The story is nearly incomprehensible, which is why I am not mentioning much of it, and instead the visceral pleasure of the movie's individual moments is where the payoff lies: Bizarre fight sequences, frantic chase scenes, diabolical dramatics and derring-do galore abound, though the body count in this one is somewhat high. But it's fast paced, amusingly staged in a manner that might otherwise be thought of as inept, and filled with moments of absolute kitsch -- like the band of goons working for Fantomas who all run around with a giant F on their black turtlenecks. In any event it's involving, very cult-appeal oriented fun with just a hint of S&M kink and a marvelous villain in the scheming Fantomas.

8/10: Packs ten times the imagination & wit of the current BATMAN film, and I mean that.

Vietnam Era US Navy Propaganda Film, 24 July 2008

This is a relatively short (20 minute) propaganda film produced by the US Navy depicting small boat river action by the Navy in Vietnam, narrated by Raymond Burr, who went on location to shoot certain establishing scenes. Some of the footage was indeed actually filmed during combat, including the apparent destruction of a sampan boat hauling explosives. Interesting counterpoint to APOCALYPSE NOW in that the PBR crews here are performing the same sort of activities that the fictional crew in that movie were supposedly used to doing.

It is propaganda, however, meant to paint the war in a positive light and boost morale at home by depicting our heroic soldiers doing what they did best, including bringing aid & comfort to the friendly indigenous peoples. I find these short Defense Department films fascinating and this one along with many others can be found on a four disc box set called "Vietnam: America's Conflict" that costs about $10 dollars. Worth every nickel I think, because it gives you the flipside to the the traditional coin on how Vietnam War documentaries usually are presented. It's doublethink and twisted for sure but exceedingly well made, history buffs will do themselves a favor by taking a look.

No rating: Propaganda cannot be judged artistically, though it can be thought of as kitsch.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Dig That Crazy Cast, 7 July 2008
4/10

Dig the crazy "once in a lifetime cast" populating this obnoxious late 80s supernatural teen horror opus: Allen Garfield (THE CONVERSATION, BUSTING), Elliot Gould (M*A*S*H*, BUSTING), Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, Michael J. Pollard (DIRTY LITTLE BILLY, "Star Trek"), Shannon Tweed, Henry Gibson, and 90s porn sensation Teri Wiegel? To hell with the movie! the casting work alone makes watching this crap almost worthwhile.

Which is as lousy of a teen horror movie as they come, though I have to admit it does have a couple of interesting things to offer. Allen Garfield plays a history teacher at a high school for 20 year olds who just happens to be a practicing satanist. With the help of his apparently retarded brother Michael J. Pollard, Garfield has been leading a double life murdering hookers for Satan when he isn't giving his pretty boy students a hard time for being late to class.

The pretty boy is played by Derek Rydall who fellow aficionados of 80s teen horror will recognize (or, not) as the freak at the center of ERIC'S REVENGE: PHANTOM OF THE MALL, which also had a somewhat bizarre, once in a blue moon cast (Paulie Shore, Morgan Fairchild, Brinke Stevens, and Ken DAWN OF THE DEAD Foree). Rydell is a stunt performer turned would be leading hunk and now a writer ("The Power Rangers") which is helpful because he got to do all of his own stuntwork, though I am not sure if Allen Garfield was that spry.

Back to the movie, Rydell's pretty boy hunk Billy is blessed with a hot mom, a hot gal-pal best friend, and a new hot blond neighbor who is apparently a hooker turning tricks right in her own home. She also doesn't mind if young Billy watches her at work through her windows, gives him cans of beer and flashes her cleavage at him whenever she gets a chance. What a place! In fact everybody in this movie is either gorgeous, well dressed, comfortably rich or all of the above. Even Elliot Gould as the burnt out washed up cop who used to be Billy's dad's partner back when he was on the force. His place has Japanese wicker furniture, a polished hardwood floor and yet he still mopes around in a funny hat just like in BUSTING looking all burnt out & washed up, which Elliot Gould is of course very good at.

Where was I. Oh yes, the neighbor finds herself being murdered for a satanic ritual while Billy watches, he decides to climb up onto her roof to get some pictures to better remember the moment by, and realizes his history teacher is really a disciple of Lucifer. The film then becomes a "Nobody believes me!" game where Billy tries to convince Shaft that his history teacher murdered the hot blond next door.

You'd think someone might listen to the kid -- he even has pictures, mind you -- but no, he and his spunky cute girlfriend have to play Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boy to try and get evidence nailing the guy and end up being chased by Michael J. Pollard in D-Day's Deathmobile from ANIMAL HOUSE. Their solution to get away? THROW A WATERMELON THROUGH THE FRONT WINDSHIELD, which isn't as surprising as the realization that people grow watermelons in Los Angeles in random urban lots.

Meanwhile (there are a LOT of meanwhiles in this movie) Michael J. Pollard also has porn starlet Teri Wiegel chained up down in their basement, and she gets to display her naked breasts for the camera before being slaughtered as a ritual prize for Satan. Yet amazingly this is done in a manner that is surprisingly un-sleazy, which is about the only thing I would fault the movie for: It's not sleazy enough, and ultimately too stupid to actually take seriously.

And yet it has a certain something: Allen Garfield is one of cinema's great overlooked villain actors, his crazed bugging expert gave me nightmares after seeing THE CONVERSATION for about the hundredth time, and what's funny is that the movie actually has no problem with his high school teacher being a satanic pervert. It's just like belonging to the Rotary Club or something, and the weird part is that nobody seems to care even when it should be pretty obvious that the guy has some major judgment issues as he plays bizarre, legally problematic head games with his students. While wearing a pink tie. Right.

You'd think somebody would have said something to the school board about him, but there's a sort of white-bread suburbanite conspiracy going on in the movie's fictional community where everybody does their best to fit in, not rock the boat, and just shrug it off as one of those things. Which is what might work best about the film: Any community that has hookers wandering the streets, satanists butchering them and hot blonds moving in next door who don't mind being ogled by their horny neighbors can't be all that boring of a place to live, I guess.

4/10

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Slow, Anemic, Uninvolving, 3 July 2008
4/10

Kind of a disappointment here from the otherwise interesting Peter Collinson, who's 1974 sleaze-0-rama OPEN SEASON is one of the truly great overlooked cult movies from the 1970s. He even brings along the late John Phillip Law from that movie but chooses to lock him up in the basement during the majority of the film's big shebang sequence, giving him little more to do than pry open a door and take a shower. His role could have been played by anyone.

The movie is a remake of a highly regarded Noir thriller of the same name that better judgment suggests one investigate instead -- I was in this for John Phillip Law, so my disappointment is more on seeing his usually bizarre talents go so wasted. The story revolves around a fetching young woman played by Jaqueline Bisset who goes mute in the face of danger owing to a boringly typical childhood drama. There's a family matriarch who sleeps with a .38 under her pillow, a duplicitous doctor played by Christopher Plummer who may be the key to a series of murders of likewise handicapped but fetching young women, a scruffy amoral police detective who couldn't be more ineffective if he was trying to be, and a bunch of unlikeable types sitting around waiting for a rich elderly to die off so they can claim their piece of the pie.

In other words this is a Scooby-Doo type plot with a couple of murders thrown in to beef it up. The most effective element of the film is the sprawling, ornate mansion that the movie is mostly set within, which does become effectively creepy once the power goes out during an electrical storm with a killer prowling the grounds. Director Collinson composes some interesting shots looking out from under the furniture that sort of reminds one of hiding under stuff as a kid when frightened. There is an intriguing use of color and some imaginative camera angles, but those elements aren't what we watch stuff like this for.

As a made for TV movie (CBS) from the 1970s it's not bad, with a first rate cast, some interesting supporting players, a decent disappearing corpse sequence and a respectably staged lightning storm, but what of it? The movie apparently enjoyed a theatrical release overseas, mostly due to the strength of the names in the cast, and is a comparatively rare film not having found a re-release on DVD just yet, and probably never will. The problem is coming up with elements to recommend it for and other than another obscure, nutty, somewhat sinister John Phillip Law supporting role I can't come up with much. Jaqueline Bisset looks marvelous as usual and the unseen hero saving the day at the end was a pleasant surprise. As a whole however it's just not a very involving or absorbing story, well staged for the budget involved, but then again so is your basic trip to the bus station on YouTube.

So here's another "I don't know ..." kind of movie. If low budget made for TV horror is your bag this should definitely find it's way onto your schedule at some point and used VHS copies are relatively inexpensive & not difficult to acquire (just search for the title on Amazon: it's there in spite of what the IMDb's link box says). With a bag of popcorn on a rainy otherwise boring night it would probably come in handy, and for John Phillip Law devotees you should probably grab a copy now before they all fall to pieces.

4/10

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Boring, Cheaply Made, Uneventful Canadian "Omen" Clone, 27 June 2008
3/10

Kind of hard to be nice to this one. I watched it twice, trying to find something positive to say other than parts of it are unintentionally hilarious. But with low budget, ineptly made Canadian tax shelter horror that's sort of par for the course. If only the movie wasn't so boring and derivative, right down to the scene where the young mom is soaking in the bathtub and finds herself covered with leeches. Saw that one coming a mile away.

There are a couple of eye opening aspects about the movie however, the most remarkable being the somewhat creative use of profanity and personal insults used not only in the presence of the young moppet at the center of the story, but by her as well. I've heard drunken Marines on leave argue over who's turn it is to pay for the next round who would blush at some of the things that were written to come out of her mouth. And they do, spoken with a relish that is somewhat disturbing: Did they explain to the young actress what the words meant? She can't be more than 11.

In fact wondering about certain statistical aspects regarding the movie are more interesting than discussing the movie itself. Currently the film is going around in a moth eaten 82 minute print on bargain bin DVDs that shouldn't cost more than a nickel. I've managed to see the complete 88 minute version and it didn't improve matters much. There's one great howler of a scene where an old lady gets pitched out of a window, but I guess because of the presence of a young lady on the set the producers shied away from the nudity & gore that one would expect from a cheapo R rated Canadian tax shelter horror movie. There's a creepy old doll, an elderly family friend who is apparently welcome to drink as much booze as he can stomach while watching the young tyke, plus a drowning sequence for the young lass that looks a bit too hazardous for it's own good. Little Randi Allen must have grown up to be one twisted lady.

What we are left with is a puzzling little film that tries to be mega-spooky but doesn't have the balls to be more than an oddity. Stranger still the film has developed sort of a cult following that is difficult to explain, unless they are all film students who are marveling at how to make a movie for less than your average Mastercard debit spending limit. Many seem to be referring to it as an EXORCIST clone, I am more reminded of THE OMEN with a touch of AUDREY ROSE mixed in for good measure.

Is there anything to recommend it? Sure, if ultra low budget regional horror is your cup of tea. It's strange seeing a young actress being asked to do some of the things that are seen/heard on-camera, and the expected Freudian undertones are all over this cookie. And I guess if you are writing a chapter about Evil Child horror movies you shouldn't leave this one out.

4/10

3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Needless, Unenjoyable And Unnecessary Remake, 15 June 2008
3/10

I have not seen this movie in ages but figured I'd comment on it anyway, mostly because the memory of disliking it so intently is burned into my memory cells. The original THE GETAWAY was no prize to begin with but at least had the distinctions of being 1) A Sam Peckinpah movie, 2) Featured Steve McQueen, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens, 3) Was a relatively painless way to blow away an hour and a half of time.

By comparison, the 1994 version comes across as little more than a vanity piece for the then red hot Alec Baldwin and his soon to be divorced wife, Kim Basinger. McQueen and his then wife Allie McBride also split up soon after their version of the film was made and one can sort of picture the Baldwins at their marriage councilor arguing over who's stupid idea it was to make this movie.

Let's just get it said and out of the way -- Alec Baldwin never was and never will be anything close to the Cooler King, and one of the reasons why this remake annoyed me so much is the perceived arrogance on Baldwin's part to presume to challenge our memory of Steve McQueen in the lead role. Like someone else points out, Peckinpah's 1972 vision of the film was a satire piece meant to sort of parody the action/adventure heist genre. By contrast Baldwin, Bassinger & company seem to be trying to evoke a more serious tone, with only Michael Madsen's and James Woods' slimy unprincipled villain characters coming off as real people.

The movie is also decidedly mean spirited and unlikeable at a fundamental level that is difficult to put into words. One viewing was more than enough, not just because it didn't have anything new to offer but because of how artlessly it was made. Peckinpah's movie was actually a stylish little entertainment that had an upbeat mood, where this version is a slog that takes too long to amount to little or nothing. There's no artistic urgency to it's existence and some of the more uncomfortable scenes are so uncomfortable that they make the film difficult to enjoy.

So I don't know, this was probably one of the films that helped to initiate the wave of pointless, artistically vapid big budget remakes propped up around a then name brand actor/actress, which in itself isn't a really good thing. I'd always rather see a filmmaker at least try to come up with a new idea for a movie & fall flat with something original. This movie just made me want to pull my eyebrows out, and it's revealing that over the ensuing 15 years since it's release Mr. Baldwin has become widely renowned as one of the biggest jerks in Hollywood. Thank god for "Team America" for putting him in his place.

3/10

World War III (1982) (TV)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Way Above Average Cold War Era Fantasy, 14 June 2008
9/10

Great made for TV miniseries from NBC. I vividly recall this movie from when I was in maybe the 10th grade and being absolutely riveted by it's superbly plotted story about a group of National Guard soldiers trying to fend off a Russian invasion of Alaska with about 10 bullets per man. It still holds up, and is one of the best made for network TV action thrillers from that now bygone era.

Some of the studio sets depicting the frozen wastes are a little cheezy -- you get Roger Ebert's Captain Video Effect of the same fake rocks arranged in different formations a few too many times -- but there is an impending sense of urgency to the proceedings, which are staged in a surprisingly sober manner. The movie is also a lot more violent than one might expect, with nearly R rated gunshot wounds that are a lot more bloody than one might see on television today. Kudos also to the production team in getting together an integrated cast for the American troops that doesn't seem like gratuitous politically correct meddling.

Once you get down to it though this was another one of those Hollywood Cold War era doomsday fantasies that inevitably has a character announcing that "war is over forever" before being blown away by a crooked plant in their own platoon, which then sets the movie's inevitable global annihilation climax phase into motion. Rock Hudson is very sympathetic as a President who cannot stop the avalanche of doom once it gets started, with Brian Keith well cast as his Russian counterpart who is literally just a figurehead leader of a military oriented Soviet bureaucracy who look upon nuclear war as a justifiable risk.

Made at the height of US/Russian cold war tension (remember the Korean air liner jet incident?), this miniseries along with Nicholas Meyer's THE DAY AFTER and Edward Zwick's mesmerizing SPECIAL BULLETIN helped to define the decade for many of us who were growing up at the time, helping to convince me at any rate that a global apocalypse was unavoidable. I still am amazed that we made it out of that era without a nuclear war.

There is sadly a real-life tragedy that hangs like a pall over the film, and perhaps makes its sobriety all the more telling: Original director Boris Sagal, a competent and talented filmmaker who's talents had graced such made for TV favorites as Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY and the brilliant ode to D.B. Cooper, DELIVER US FROM EVIL, and the Charlton Heston favorite THE OMEGA MAN, was killed in a bizarre accident involving a helicopter during early 2nd unit location filming in Oregon. His death and the unwholesome accident that claimed the life of Vic Morrow & two Vietnamese-American child actors on the set of Steven Spielberg's THE TWILIGHT ZONE movie would lead to changes in how helicopters -- inherently dangerous contraptions -- would be used in major Hollywood productions.

I recommend anyone who perhaps wants to get a feel for the mindset of the early 1980s to seek this movie out and take a look. It's too bad that NBC has not managed to find time to issue it or SPECIAL BULLETIN on a DVD because there really are lessons to be learned here. Not so much about how to fight a skirmish in Alaska so much as how to make a really really good movie that maintains interest for a relatively long period of time (3 hours) with what was really a modest TV movie budget: $8 million, at the time, with some big names in the cast (David Soul, Cathy Lee Crosby, Brian Keith, Katherine Helmond, Robert Prosky, and of course the late Rock Hudson). Definitely more meaningful than it had to be, and deserving of a modern day audience.

9/10

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Good Low Budget TV Thriller, 11 June 2008
7/10

VERY worth while 74 minute diversion here, a strikingly offbeat, Neo Noir ultra low budget made for TV movie (CBS) with John Forsythe cast brilliantly against type as a philandering doctor who finds himself engaged in a cat & mouse battle of wits against the husband of his mistress. Barbara Bain from "Space: 1999" plays the woman, Richard Kiley is the husband, Wendell Burton is the junkie set up as the fall guy, Joseph Campanella is the hard-nosed police detective who seems troubled by certain loose ends, and Reta Shaw steals the show as the doctor's nurse, who is perhaps a bit too observant and inquisitive to have stayed on with this particular doctor as long as is implied.

Why? Well you see several of Forsythe's patients have died. Rather suddenly. It can all be explained very simply, but this is one of those clever scripts where nothing is quite as simple as it seems. And at a mere 74 minutes it's not much of an imposition on anyone's schedule. Sure, it was made for commercial TV in 1971 so there isn't anything *too* distasteful on camera. Viewers who predicate their enjoyment movies based on people's heads exploding might be a tad disappointed, but if you PAY ATTENTION you will be rewarded. And a repeat viewing might answer some questions about passages of dialog that slipped by on the first time through.

Definitely worth having, and a respectable enough little movie to maybe watch with mom on a rainy evening when she needs some company. Can't say that about too many murder movies.

7/10

The Corpse (1971)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Under Appreciated British Shocker, 11 June 2008
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've always enjoyed this film, better known under the export title CRUCIBLE OF HORROR than the more descriptive British release title THE CORPSE. Nearly every Gothic horror fan over the age of 30 will remember seeing it on a local late nite creature feature at some point, where it would play along such related fare as CONQUEROR WORM or IT! with the rampaging Golem, though it's more of a psychological drama rather than a full-blown horror outing. But while it may seem slow there isn't a wasted or unnecessary scene in the whole film, which is essentially an update on DIABOLIQUE with a dysfunctional British family dynamic instead of a boarding school.

CRUCIBLE centers on priceless British character actor Michael Gough as the tyrannical, sadistic patriarch of a staid British family. He's the kind of guy who unwinds after a long day by putting on a shirt & a tie to work on the gardening for a bit, then psychologically tortures his long suffering wife and daughter over a thoroughly unappetizing looking dinner. Then maybe a glass of sherry and take the riding crop to the daughter for no good reason. The guy is stuffy, uptight, demented, weird, and heartless, which is all we need to know about him, and Gough does a magnificent job of making us hate his guts.

His son Rupert plays along with the old man, seeming to get a kick out of the mental abuse hurled at his sibling & mum, and in my opinion is the most twisted character in the drama. He works at the insurance firm with his father and likewise relaxes around the house in his tweeds, the two men driven spare by things like a random Kleenex on the night table or the family guns in slight disarray. Their off-hours consist of an endless pursuit of wrongdoings by the women of the house, who in due course get sick of it and plot a murder.

One interesting aspect of the movie that I don't see others raise is the question of who is more evil: The domineering, abusive, sociopathic men of the house, or the women who grind up a bottle of sleeping pills, blend them in with a bottle of cognac and force it down someone's gullet with the aid of a huge funnel? The movie then picks up a bit of steam when the (apparently) dead body first disappears and then begins turning up in odd, inconvenient places at just the wrong moment, say when the nosy neighbor turns up with his bloodhound wondering where the old man has been. A great deal of time is spent with the two women fretting out the night, wondering what will happen next, raising the interesting question of just who is playing whom here, and is there some supernatural force at play or are they just inept killers?

What works with the film is an almost unbearable sense of claustrophobia, comprehensive creepiness and dread, as well as Gough's delightfully nasty performance as the emotionless father. What doesn't work is one of the standard complaints about British horror from the period in which it was made: There are no real fireworks in terms of violence, gore or sexuality. Instead the film's perversity is suggested by a serious of flashbacks & dream sequences that seem to imply a forced incestuous relationship and spousal abuse, all of which is brimming under the surface while never really being elaborated upon. The audience's own polymorphously perverse nature is projected onto the film by such grimace inducing scenes as a father feeling his daughter's bicycle seat to see if it's still warm (ewww!) and a mother regarding her son with quiet resignation after witnessing him slapping around his sister.

And while it isn't very shocking the final climactic scene is one of the strangest sequences in the subgenre of British horror, raising more questions than it answers -- was anybody really murdered at all? If not then why did a particular character go through so much bother to creep everybody out? Was there some sort of a plot in works even before the ladies hatched their murder scheme? And was that a calculated part of this greater plan? The film succeeds by not answering any of these questions and closing on a great Hitchcokian downbeat that would have been undone by having somebody explain what may or may not have happened. Hitchcock would have approved.

5/10


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