Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Jared Rivet ""

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Jared Rivet

Jared Rivet is a screenwriter who has spent many years in Hollywood developing projects with people like Tobe Hooper, Daniel Farrands, Marcus Nispel, Steven C. Miller, Victor Garcia, Scott Glosserman and Scott Kosar. While still unproduced, he's always got something on the burner. Some of his current projects include SACRILEGE, an original horror screenplay to be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman; and BLOOD, a horror screenplay written with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (who are also executive producing). He spent two years working with Tobe Hooper on a remake of WHITE ZOMBIE that sadly never came to be and some folks might recognize him as “Clifford Blair,” the obnoxious true crime author in CRYSTAL LAKE MASSACRES REVISITED, the mockumentary featured on the 2009 special edition DVDs of FRIDAY THE 13TH PARTS 4 through 6. He is pictured above in the FRIDAY THE 13TH retrospective documentary HIS NAME WAS JASON.

SHIVERS aka THEY CAME FROM WITHIN (1975), dir. David Cronenberg
I am coincidentally writing this piece on the same day that the remake of this exact film has been announced. I have chosen to stop being shocked when news of a remake hits the trades, they all seem inevitable to me at this point and I have made peace with the idea that the original films remain unharmed in the process (the disclaimer should read: “No movies were harmed in the remaking of this film”). However, SHIVERS – David Cronenberg’s feature directorial debut - is an interesting choice in that I simply couldn’t imagine a 21st century production company choosing to tackle this kind of subject matter. The original movie is pure-David Cronenberg, unrefined, unadulterated, one might say that the film serves as an overall introduction to the man’s unique “body horror” oeuvre. The first leg on the journey to the New Flesh. One might also say that Cronenberg hasn’t made a better film since. Genetically engineered parasites are let loose in a then-state of the art condominium on an island outside of Montreal, looking both phallic and fecal as they wriggle and squirm in all of their low-tech glory. People who are infected by the parasite go mad with uncontrollable sexual desire, causing the parasites to spread through the complex as unwitting victims are sexually assaulted and thus become infected perpetrators themselves, perpetuating the cycle. The movie somehow manages to be disturbing, funny, horrifying, taboo-smashing and thought-provoking all at once. It’s an ingeniously perverse variation on the Romero NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD model, one which I highly doubt will be easy to sell to a modern audience. (Cult sex symbol/icons Barbara Steele and Lynn Lowery are amongst the unsuspecting denizens of Starliner Towers, the fancy, high-rise apartment complex in the film.)

DEATHDREAM aka DEAD OF NIGHT (1972), dir. Bob Clark
I feel like it’s pretty common knowledge that the director of A CHRISTMAS STORY, PORKY’S, TURK 182 and BABY GENUISES also directed the overlooked classic BLACK CHRISTMAS early in his career. But I don’t know how many people realize that Bob Clark started his career directing/producing a handful of really great, overlooked horror films. And DEATHDREAM really is a great one. The Brooks family dinner is interrupted by the news that son Andy, a soldier in Vietnam, has been killed in action. Mom refuses to accept the news and stays up all night, sitting in the dark in her rocking chair, quietly muttering to herself: “they lied…you’re alive…I can feel it…they lied…you’ll come back…you’ll come back…” And come back he does. But there’s something not quite right about Andy. He may be back, but is he “alive”? What is at first written off as undiagnosed PTSD is revealed to be something far more sinister and inexplicable as Andy continues to mentally and physically deteriorate, becoming more monstrous…and murderous. Andy’s condition and the carnage left in his wake are executed here by first-timer Tom Savini (working under screenwriter Alan Ormsby, doubling here as the film’s uncredited makeup effects artist). John Marley plays Andy’s indignant father, you might remember him finding a horse’s head in his bed in THE GODFATHER. But it’s Lynn Carlin as Andy’s heartbroken mother and Richard Backus as Andy who truly sell this dark, tragic, moody allegory of the unrelatable horrors our war veterans can sometimes bring home with them. (P.S. DEATHDREAM would make a great double-bill with George Romero’s MARTIN.)

HUSK (2011), dir. Brett Simmons
This is a more recent film, a surprising little gem from the folks at After Dark. Writer-director Brett Simmons managed to succeed where so many others have failed – he made a scarecrow movie that actually delivers the scary goods. An overgrown cornfield becomes a dizzying deathtrap as five young friends find themselves hunted by relentless scarecrows. Not only is there a twist to who and what the scarecrows are, but the rules as to how they function and what they want are deftly and consistently handled in a series of ghoulish sequences that left me grinning with devilish glee. Well shot and acted on what had to be a miniscule budget, with some terrific scares, worthwhile gore, atmosphere to burn and a brisk running time. I highly recommend HUSK, a great addition to anyone’s fall/Halloween viewing rotation.

THE BOOGENS (1981), dir. James L. Conway
I have no idea why they’re called “Boogens.” The word is uttered exactly one time (very late) in the movie and without explanation. What I do know is that somehow, during my childhood, the word became synonymous in my neighborhood for a specific kind of vicious little monster, the kind with tentacles that hid under the bed and grabbed your ankle when you tried to step out from under the covers. I remember being taunted by one neighborhood bully, “The Boogens are gonna git ya…the Boogens…THE BOOGENS!!!” (It didn’t help its chances in the schoolyard that the word itself is only one letter off from being “boogers.”) Ironically enough, I don’t think I saw the film itself until decades later. When I did see it, I was happy to discover that it’s actually a charming little treasure. One of the few hybrid “slasher-monster” movies of the era (other examples: HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, WITHOUT WARNING, THE BEING, THE DARK), THE BOOGENS has a lot of things going for it. First there is the surprisingly witty screenplay by David O’Malley, Thomas C. Chapman and Bob Hunt, featuring extremely likeable characters played by charming, talented actors. You actually care when these people (SPOILER ALERT) are chased around by a low-to-the-ground camera POV and then dragged to their screaming, bloody deaths. And I give it extra credit points for the unpredictable nature of just who lives and who dies. And talk about a wealth of production value: a very snowy Utah in the middle of winter here doubles for a Colorado mining town (the two male leads are members of a construction crew laboring to reopen a silver mine that’s been closed for 100 years). Between the picturesque, snow-covered exteriors and the gloomy, treacherous mine tunnels, HANGAR 18 director James L. Conway succeeds at getting the absolute most out of his ridiculously low $600,000 budget (!!). The Boogens themselves are wisely kept from full view until the fiery climax, looking like fang-mouthed, over-sized salamanders with Sleestak eyes and claw-lined tentacles. The movie finally got a Blu-ray and DVD release in 2012 and is readily available at the time of this writing. (Hardcore slasher fans will recognize actress Anne-Marie Martin (aka Eddie Benton) from PROM NIGHT and HALLOWEEN II, as well as Nathan “Where’s my cake?” Grantham himself, Jon Lormer from CREEPSHOW.)

SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER (2004), dir. Jeff Lieberman
This Halloween-set horror-comedy from SQUIRM and BLUE SUNSHINE director Jeff Lieberman is so gleefully subversive, so anti-PC, so hysterically mean-spirited and over the top, that your average viewer might not even be sure what the hell it is that they’re looking at. “Sick” is probably the best way to describe it – and thank God for that. This is one of those atypical, straight-to-video discoveries horror fans often hope for, but rarely get. It’s Halloween night and nine-year-old horror nerd Douglas gets to live out his ultimate fantasy when he happens upon a masked killer dressed like the Satan character in his favorite video game “Satan’s Little Helper.” The Gameboy-style video game is a blood-drenched kill-a-thon, wherein the signature character aids Satan in slaughtering innocent victims before sending them to hell. Little Douglas isn’t able to discern reality from fantasy, and he doesn’t really care: he’s having way too much fun helping “Satan” pick out his victims. Amanda Plummer and Katheryn Winnick play Douglas’ mother and older sister respectively, having no idea that little Douglas has a new, mute, homicidal playpal who is taking great pleasure in brutally murdering lots of people before turning their corpses into lovingly decorated, front yard Halloween displays. Pregnant women, blind people, old ladies with walkers, house pets – no one is safe (and they each have their video game-established point value). This movie can best be summed up by one line of dialogue from little Douglas, said to Satan while they casually shop the hardware aisle of a department store: “Is all that stuff to tape people up, kill them, and spill their guts out? Awesome!”

1 comment:

Dean Treadway said...

Great article! I especially like the inclusion of DEAD OF NIGHT, and the detailed look at the construction of each film. Excellent job.