Friday, October 7, 2011

Worth Mentioning - Weirdo Cinema

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, we recommend you pig out at a slumber party as Cody's trip through Lauren Schneider's filmography reaches a temporary conclusion and Jay talks about the Sidewalk Horror Scramble.


My introduction to Lauren Schneider was the horror movie Creature, so it's fitting that my journey through her filmography ends (for now) with another movie that gets categorized as horror. Red White & Blue's horror status may be debatable for some, but it does certainly feature some horrific things. I even had a nightmare as a result of watching this movie.

Schneider's Creature co-star Amanda Fuller takes the lead as Erica, a damaged young woman who has sex with every man she meets who's willing. The movie begins with her random bar hook-up with musician Franki turning into a spontaneous foursome. At another hook-up that follows soon after, Erica lays out her rules: she doesn't stay over, she doesn't fall in love, and she doesn't have sex with the same guy twice... And when she goes home, she showers and scrubs hard with soap.

Erica meets Nate (Noah Taylor), a damaged person himself, a war veteran who is nice to her despite her initial rudeness. The first time she starts a conversation with him, he tells her about his childhood spent torturing animals. Nate has an intense interest in Erica and soon they're friends, close enough that Erica won't have sex with him.

Musician Franki (Marc Senter) is trying to get his life together while coping with the fact that his mother has cancer. It's in Franki's story that Lauren Schneider appears, in a very small role as an ex-girlfriend who he's re-connecting with. And by the way, the people who keep reaching the Creature article with searches for "Lauren Schneider nude" have another movie to check out.

Franki gets some devastating news, and that's when the horror begins. It starts with dialogue, sentiments and ideas, the concept of consequences, and escalates to physical violence. Terrible things have been done and terrible things happen.

This is a great movie, full of fantastic performances, well written and directed by Simon Rumley and nicely cut together by editor Rob Hall. I recommend checking it out without reading any more about it or watching/listening to interviews. Go into it with no idea what to expect.

This run of Lauren Schneider Watch has definitely gone out on a high note. I look forward to checking out more of her work as it comes. Keep casting her!


Ethel is a troubled young woman. She's been spending time in a mental institution, receiving rounds of medication and electro-shock therapy. But against the doctor's better judgment, she's just been released into the care of her grandmother.

Ethel is also morbidly obese and a compulsive overeater. She starts the day with a pound of bacon, seven eggs and most of a loaf of bread, and the many meals that follow are similarly super-sized. Her grandmother can't afford to pay for all the food that Ethel consumes, so she has to lock up the cabinets and keep the key... Ethel doesn't take this well, accusing her elder of trying to starve her to death, and finds herself with a new compulsion - to murder.

Things snowball downhill for Ethel from there, with her sister arriving to stay at the house as well and a detective (played by character actor George "Buck" Flower) snooping around. What can she do with the bodies that she keeps piling up? How can she pay for her food?

This is a very enjoyable film, made by writer/director Nick Philips on an extremely low budget. The bodies Ethel keeps in the upstairs bedroom are a good example of independent ingenuity - the effect of their decomposing flesh was accomplished by just putting an avocado facial mask on the actors and peeling it a bit, but it's still appropriately disgusting.

Priscilla Alden does a fine job as the food-mad Ethel. She and Philips re-teamed over a decade later to make a sequel, which is almost entirely made up of stock footage from this film. They also did another two-part series called Death Nurse in the late '80s, which wasn't connected to the Criminally Insane movies at all but still used their footage.

Criminally Insane is best known by its amazing alternate title, Crazy Fat Ethel.

"An imperative chunk of 1970s weirdo cinema. You simply don't see this brand of mastery on a modern day menu." - Scott Gabbey, Ultra Violent Magazine (sticker on the Nick Philips DVD set that includes Satan's Black Wedding, Criminally Insane and its sequel)


Gothic organ music that would be more fitting to shots of Transylvanian castles plays over images of a suburban California neighborhood. A paperboy rides past the home where teenage Trish lives and tosses a newspaper onto the front lawn. The headline: MASS MURDERER OF 5 RUSS THORN ESCAPES.

Trish's parents are going out of town for the weekend and she has plans for a slumber party. She invites her closest friends and considers inviting new girl/good girl Valerie, but her friends object and Valerie overhears.

So while Trish and pals (and a couple party-crashing boyfriends) have fun next door, Valerie is stuck hanging out with her younger sister, and they're all being stalked by Russ Thorn, whose weapon of choice is a large drill.

It's very simple and yes, an obvious copy of Halloween, but - while my true affection is reserved for part 2 - The Slumber Party Massacre is a good way to get a fun '80s slasher fix.

It's notable for the fact that it was both directed and written by women, Amy Holden Jones and feminist activist Rita Mae Brown respectively. Brown says that she wrote the script as a parody of slashers and it was filmed more straight than she intended. That may be true, but a lot of goofiness still comes through. My favorite moment is when a pizza delivery boy is killed at the slumber party's front door but one of the girls still chows down on the pizza because eating is comforting to her. "I feel better already."

Jay's mentions:


A couple weekends ago, I participated in the first ever Sidewalk Horror Scramble. I mentioned this in last week's mention, and I'm back this time to talk about a few of the short films that were entered in the competition. The screenings and awards ceremony took place last night at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham. My film didn't win any awards, but I thought it got a pretty decent audience reaction and considering I wasn't happy with the submitted version at all, I'm pretty content with how it went.

One film in particular really impressed me, as I love a good horror/comedy (ours was definitely in this vein) and that film is Carey Rayburn's One of Us, which featured a hilarious performance from actor Sonny Backus as a country man who runs over a woman with his pickup truck only to find that she's not exactly a woman at all. The film took home the main prize for being voted as the overall top short, and I really expected it to pick up the Audience Choice Award too as the audience reaction was great. The other award winning film, Bait, was the most polished as far as cinematography and also featured the best use of gore.

Another solid entry came from T.J. Burks with his entry, Acts of Consequence. It's more of a dramatic horror and was the best of its kind out of the ten films in competition.  Acts was runner-up for best short and also runner-up for best use of inspirational item. The film is up on YouTube so I am linking it here for everyone to view:

Acts of Consequence - Sidewalk Horror Scramble - TJ Burks 

And here is a trailer featuring clips from the rest of the lot. Clips from my short, The Third Saturday in October, are the ones in black and white.


  1. You guys are my people. Great post, great choice of films to view. I've heard of Crazy Fat Ethel via the podcast Outside the Cinema. (You should check it's in Itunes like everything else). I've never heard of Red White and Blue, but I'll look for it.

    Fine work, guys. I know it's draining to post as frequently as you do. I'll come back as often as I can.

  2. Thanks for the comment and encouragement, we appreciate the support.

    I enjoy podcasts like Crazy Fat Ethel enjoys food, so I'll definitely give Outside the Cinema a listen.

    - Cody

  3. I never really like Red, White and Blue, but Criminally Insane is Da Bomb of cheese drive-in schlock! What a great find it was for me!