Archives for posts with tag: haunted house

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWELVE

Ouija

Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard (1986) remains for this reviewer the definitive horror treatment of the Ouija board phenomenon; but those wanting more in the same vein could do worse than last year’s Ouija, especially considering that Ouija board movies have never constituted a particularly robust or prolific genre. There is nothing very original in Ouija, but that is not necessarily bad. The first elegant hour or so of this spooker conforms to teen horror expectations well enough and is comfortably suspenseful in its attention to the conventions, with star Olivia Cooke and her friends finding themselves visited by an unknown force after attempting to contact recently deceased pal Shelley Hennig through the titular spirit-conjuring game.

The last half hour suffers from too much onscreen revelation, with CGI frights taking the place of the great unseen – the bane of far too many Hollywood horrors in this age of digital effects – but the relative strength of the first portion still makes Ouija marginally recommendable for less-than-demanding admirers of the genre. Cooke looks good and is tolerable in the lead, but cute and creepy character actress Lin Shaye, who also energized a memorable scene in the same year’s The Signal, is more worthy of mention for a puny but pivotal role as an insane asylum patient with some inside information.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ouija is:

3. Insensitive! The idea that evil can and ought to be destroyed in a furnace may offend Chosen viewers of delicate sensibilities.

2. Multiculturalist. Bianca Santos plays the token Latina friend. Black mourners at blonde bimbo Hennig’s wake demonstrate that she was a decent person. Nona (Vivis Colombetti), meanwhile, puts in a good word for supernatural Mexican folk wisdom.

1. Ambiguously anti-family. Hennig’s house is haunted by the spirits of a little girl (Sierra Heuermann) and the spiritualist mother (Claudia Katz) who tortured her by stitching her mouth shut. It turns out the little girl was even more monstrous than her mother, who apparently was justified in performing this highly irregular surgery, while the mother’s other daughter, played by Shaye, is also a devilish lunatic. The biggest mystery about this family, which lived in the house in the forties and fifties, is why there was no father in the home. Was he a casualty of the war or did he abandon his wife and children? Is the mother’s frightful grotesquerie a commentary on the plague of single motherhood, or on the uncaring men who abuse them? The meaning of Ouija’s portrayal of the family hinges to a large extent on these unanswered questions; but Ouija with no uncertainty seeks to cast doubt on the idea of the perfect atomic age family as glimpsed in the vision of Norman Rockwell and various television sitcoms. This is a pathological past, in comparison with which the multicultural and erotically permissive present is normal and salutary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Ghost Tour

Ghost Tour (2015) ***

Writer-director Erik Bloomquist, whose two-reeler The Cobblestone Corridor icareviews covered earlier this year, returns with the eight-minute short Ghost Tour. Set in 1973, the story concerns milquetoast tour guide Richard Sawyer (William Bloomfield) and his final night of duties at the reputedly haunted and soon-to-be-closed museum at the Clemens School for Boys, where decades ago thirty students and teachers mysteriously perished. Sawyer, who only believes himself to be “haunted by memories, not by ghosts”, encounters evidence to the contrary on this particular evening, when three of his guests refuse to leave the premises after the tour. Tied into this event and the subsequent revelation is Richard’s brother William (William Youmans), the curator of the museum.

At only eight minutes, Ghost Tour is in a hurry to get through a lot of exposition, which rather cramps the viewing experience, forcing the audience to try to establish sympathy and interest in a character with whom next to no time has been spent, so that Ghost Tour would benefit from feature-expansion to allow for the deliberateness of pace becoming such material. This viewer was also left desiring something more in the way of a motivation for the heinous crime the docent discovers. With some elaboration, perhaps double the length, one might imagine this yarn serving as one of the segments in an old Amicus portmanteau film. Ghost Tour‘s look is nice and stately, Bloomquist having found an ideal location in the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. More an indication of potentials than a finished whole, the short is nonetheless a lesson in editorial concision. Three stars.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Scarehouse_poster

Sorority sisters, haunted houses, and nights of revenge are all typical slasher movie elements; but Killer Party this is decidedly not. A Canadian blast of cold gore porn, The Scarehouse is a story of two competing horrors: the tortures inflicted by its vindictive protagonists, on the one hand, and the vapid “21st century party monster” mentality of their bevy of victims on the other. As to which is more appalling, that is for each viewer to decide. Co-ed sadists Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) are out of prison and out for vengeance after taking the rap for a sorority prank that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter. Determined to torment their fellow sisters, the pair has designed a haunted house attraction to mask the actual torture laboratory within.

The lighting and atmosphere of the film should satisfy devotees of the genre, and genuinely homicidal psychos should also be entertained. The lead performances, particularly Booth’s, are strong; but The Scarehouse, like other torture-oriented horrors, suffers from lack of likable characters. The backstory explaining the night’s motivation is never sufficient emotional justification for the shocking degree of onscreen brutality, and serves only to ensure that even the screaming victims of the atrocities garner little audience sympathy. Occasionally humorous, The Scarehouse is more often disturbing, and this reviewer would much prefer to have seen a movie about these two characters not killing people.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Scarehouse is:

4. Homosexuality-ambivalent. From the perspective that there is no such thing as bad publicity, The Scarehouse is pro-gay for featuring homoerotic flirtation between young women; but the portrayal of the lesbian lead as a psychopath is hardly flattering.

3. Anti-Christian. Jesus freak Jaqueline (Katherine Barrell) stands for the film’s contempt for “fire and brimstone shit”. Other irreverence takes the form of the sadists’ appropriation of crucifixion symbolism: Corey has a cross tattoo on her back, while Elaina at the end can be seen wearing a crucifix.

2. Anti-drug. “You might want to stick to water.” Drinking, along with a rufie, results in the accidental death that sets the plot in motion, and drunks are also more susceptible to the torture porn treatment. One of the songs on the soundtrack also refers to alcohol poisoning.

1. Anti-feminist. Whatever The Scarehouse’s intentions, it shows something of a divided mind with regard to its array of targets. Elaina and Corey advertise no overt ideological motivation for their murder spree, but do demonstrate a distaste for traditionalism as it takes on grotesque, hypocritical forms. Jaqueline’s Christian good girl moral code is a lie, so she must be punished. Similarly, Katrina (Emily Alatalo), for “Frankensteining” herself in an exaggerated devotion to a male chauvinist’s hourglass figure ideal, must answer for her betrayal of her sorority oath to embrace woman’s “inner beauty”.

Corey and Elaina, if they are supposed to be radical feminist progressives, discredit their cause with their violent antics. The moon phases pictured on Corey’s tank top may mark her as merely a walking, talking, rampaging case of PMS. “Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian?” she wonders aloud, to which Elaina replies that “there is some truth in it”, the implication perhaps being that the political agenda of Corey and her type is motivated more by sexual frustrations than by reason or fairness. Elaina blunders through the sorts of clueless academic abstractions that cause social experimenters’ projects to fail. “You know I only have textbook theory,” she frets. “I built this place on a lot of theory, and this is a test run, so give me a frickin’ break on a few minor flaws.”

The fact that horny, drunken fraternity men appear as the gullible victims and not the perpetrators of murder and sex crimes undercuts the popular misandrist myth of an ubiquitous “rape culture” on college campuses. Women’s degradation and endangerment appears as their own doing in The Scarehouse. The sisters only degrade themselves by calling each other “cunt” and “bitch”. As women’s femininity has been eroded, their pedestal toppled by political empowerment, they no longer enjoy their previous freedom from violence and sexual mutilation at the movies. (“I am going to punch her in the box,” Corey threatens.) Just as a man can be kicked in the crotch with the utmost casualness, as has been the case for decades, “liberated” (i.e., dehumanized) women are now more apt to see their breasts removed or their eyelids ripped off on the big screen. A satirical indication of the degeneration wrought by the sexual revolution comes when the sight of the bloody and ravaged Katrina makes one character wonder if this is a “sex party”.

AHauntedHouse

To make a comedy that will satisfy its target black audience, experience shows that it helps immensely for certain crucial elements to be firmly in place. Does A Haunted House fulfill these requirements? Serious students of cinema art are encouraged to consult the following checklist of quality standards, not only in judging the movie under consideration, but in all future encounters with the African-American comedy form.

1. Stupid honkies? Check.

2. Honkies with insatiable lust for blacks? Check.

3. Industrial-strength-funk toilet humor? Triple check.

4. Jewish names credited as producers? Check and double check.

Clearly, in renting or (preferably) purchasing the remarkable Michael Tiddes joint/cinematic celebration A Haunted House, the viewer has in hand what promises to be remembered as a timeless classic to rank alongside The Ladies Man and (yes, even) Who’s Your Caddy?.

The flimsy pretense of a plot concerns the haunting of live-in lovers Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) and serves to set in motion an unremitting cavalcade of hit-and-miss sight gags and surplus dirty jokes. In its defense, A Haunted House does contain a few genuinely amusing cheap laughs at flatulence, bad breath, body hair, the sight of Marlon Wayans sweatily humping multiple stuffed animals, shitting on his own carpet, and so forth, but the film is only recommended to non-whites or the most contemptible and unsalvageable of white ethnomasochists.

3 stars for the full, screeching, monkey-like intensity of Marlon Wayans’s physiological investment in his part, and Cedric the Entertainer’s earthy turn in a disappointingly small supporting role as a ghetto priest. ICA’s advice: for a funnier, less disgusting movie about spooked blacks bugging their eyes out and acting like utter buffoons, see Mantan Moreland in Lucky Ghost instead.

Lucky Ghost

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Haunted House is:

10. Pro-life. “But good thing that clinic was closed,” Kisha’s mother (Robin Thede) says, remembering how she almost aborted her daughter. “Hoo, God is good.”

9. Sexist! Kisha once made a deal with the Devil for a pair of designer shoes.

8. Pro-gay. The ghost has anal sex with Malcolm, and psychic Chip (Nick Swardson) slobbers over the chocolate comic stud and gropes him in every scene in which the two appear together. Kisha experimented with lesbianism in college.

7. Pro-drug. Malcolm and Kisha get high with the ghost (see also no. 4).

6. Anti-gun. Malcolm promises Kisha that no harm will come to her “unless a nigger got a gun – and then you on your own.”

5. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Each couple in the film illustrates the new, childless norm of the West. Dan (David Koechner) becomes hysterical as he remembers how he caught his wife having sex with a mail carrier.

4. Anti-Christian. Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer) keeps weed in his Bible and cocaine in his crucifix. While possessed, Kisha masturbates with a cross.

3. Racist!/anti-immigration. Mexican housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte) is irascible and duplicitous, pretending not to know English when in actuality she speaks it fluently. Kisha, displaying the typical touchiness and quickness to anger of the entitled American negro, suspects Rosa of seducing Malcolm and boils over with rage when Rosa uses the word “negra” (black), with Kisha mistaking it for “nigger”. Further tarnishing the reputation of Hispanics are the revelations that Rosa is running a cocaine ring out of Malcolm’s house and that she is also a murderess and nymphomaniac who has sex on the kitchen table while her employers are away. (Contrarily, if the intention is to portray Mexican women as sexy, sexually available, and proficient in English, then A Haunted House could be interpreted as favoring immigration – at least from the male standpoint – which, considering that one of the screenwriters is named Alvarez, is arguably more probable.)

2. Anti-white. The Caucasians in A Haunted House are awkward, neurotic apes obsessed with stereotypes of blacks. Chip, for instance, assumes that Malcolm plays basketball, while Dan the Security Man (David Koechner) has hardly set foot on the property before he starts blabbing about fried chicken, ribs, hot wings, cornbread, and watermelon. For some reason, he also begs Malcolm for permission to use the word “nigger”. “You can call me a cracker .  . . Let me say it.” Dan’s partner Bob (Dov Zakheim lookalike Dave Sheridan) is brain-damaged, illiterate, and, like Dan, a racist. When the pair first meets Malcolm, Dan asks if the owner is home. “You’re talkin’ to him,” Malcolm answers. “Yeah, right,” Bob objects, clearly disinclined to believe that a black man could be the legitimate owner of such a nice suburban home.

1. Pro-miscegenation (i.e., pro-AIDS). Not only are whites in A Haunted House as dumb as dung; they are also racially suicidal and bent on miscegenation at the cost of every dignity. Sickening prostitutes Alanna Ubach and Andrew Daly play the protagonists’ white friends Jenny and Steve, swingers who constantly try to get Malcolm and Kisha to swap partners. Hoping to entice them, Jenny flashes her breasts and snaps her teeth like an alligator, while enthusiastic cuckold Steve proposes to “double-stuff the Oreo a little bit, huh? Dirty up the white snow . . . black poles, white holes . . .” Finally, the couple settles instead for a “Mandingo party” or black-on-white gangbang with Malcolm’s primitive cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) and other subhumans assembled to do the job. This scene, which graphically visualizes a bare-bottomed ogre in the process of turd-rodding ecstatically grinning Jenny, is easily the most depressing thing this battle-hardened reviewer has witnessed in some time.

To see that Universal Studios, a brand once known for genre classics like Frankenstein and Jaws, has sunk to distributing biohazardous sludge like this is to realize how close to death this civilization really is. Ubach’s IMDb profile claims that this indeterminate slimewad is “Half Mexican and half Puerto Rican”, but she is no doubt supposed to be portraying a representative Caucasian human female. In any case, this person deserves the scorn of white moviegoers everywhere, who would be entirely justified in boycotting any future productions in which she, Daly, or other perpetrators of this hideous scene participate. Of all of the values, ideals, or lifestyles that Hollywood might spend its time, vast resources, and influence promoting – bravery, devotion, tradition, forbearance, intellect, or self-reliance – screenwriters Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez and their backers instead expect audiences to be entertained by the sight of a white woman rapturous in self-immolation and racial death as congoids line up to use her twat for a toilet. Aesthetic considerations aside, one might think that a basic human concern for the public’s health would prevent these lowlifes from promoting promiscuous sex with blacks, one of the most frequent sources of AIDS. But sex hygiene is so boring and unprogressive, right?

Witchtrap

Witchtrap (1989) ****  Writer-director Kevin Tenney’s follow-up of sorts to his 1986 masterpiece Witchboard, this 1989 effort is, as a disclaimer on the back of the VHS box warns, nonetheless “not a sequel to WITCHBOARD.”  However, like its predecessor, it does concern the depredations of an evil spirit lingering in the world of the living and is concerned, as is Witchboard, with the existence or not of God and of the supernatural.  Similar plotwise to Puppet Master 2Witchtrap is the story of a team of paranormal investigators who move into a reputedly haunted house with high-tech equipment which, they hope, will document the spooky phenomena and help rid the place of its unsavory vibes.  Unfortunately, where Witchboard succeeds through fine-tuned tension, controlled atmosphere, and an air of pervading menace, Witchtrap is totally hokey and more liable to elicit laughs than to tingle spines; but the corniness and questionable acting do at least make Witchtrap a consistently enjoyable watch and an instant inductee into the glorious 80s camp classics pantheon of horror.

Kevin Tenney’s screenplay is full of fun, by turns quick with crude and hilarious one-liners and headscratchingly odd dialogue and events.  James Quinn, returning from Witchboard, has Witchtrap‘s best role as the sarcastic, wisecracking private dick brought in to provide reluctant security for the team of paranormal investigators.  Among the latter are Rob Zapple, who turns in a serviceably nerdy wimp performance as a medium, playing possession to zany and over-the-top perfection; two interesting-looking but frankly terrible actresses, Judy Tatum and Kathleen Bailey (who played a police detective to similarly underwhelming effect in the same year’s horror comedy Night Visitor); and – appearing long enough to please her fans and get undressed – Linnea Quigley, who so enlivened Tenney’s other masterpiece Night of the Demons.  Hal Havins, another Night of the Demons alumnus, contributes funny overweight villainy as the haunted house’s caretaker, and Tenney himself, in what is easily Witchtrap‘s worst, most deadpan performance, plays the owner who hopes to turn the place into a profitable bed and breakfast.  Not a very scary movie, but guaranteed to entertain the chintzy synth horror set.   4 out of 5 stars on the funk scale.

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