Friday, October 4, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Late Night Spookshows

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.

October has begun, and with it Cody's annual horror watching spree.


It's Halloween and Rynn Jacobs is celebrating her 13th birthday. She's got a cake decorated with candles, but there's no one there to celebrate with her. No one singing "Happy Birthday", no presents, no parents. She's home alone.

When someone knocks on the front door, she grabs a pack of cigarettes, lights one off a birthday candle, and starts puffing on it not to smoke, but just to fill the room with the smell. When the visitor enters, that smell is used as proof that her father is home with her, but has now locked himself away in his study to work on his poetry, his profession.

Rynn's living situation and dishonesty may be strange, but the behavior of her visitor is even stranger. He's Frank Hallet, a man of around 30, who's out trick-or-treating with his stepsons but has left them about five minutes behind him, going ahead under the pretense of checking things out to make sure there are no "real goblins"/"dirty old men" in the neighborhood. But it's clear that Frank himself is a dirty old man, and he's only here to perv on Rynn. He asks her a lot of questions about her personal life, making sure that no adults will interrupt them, he takes on a child-like and overly friendly demeanor, he looks her over with eyes that shine with inappropriate and impure intentions, he gets a little too touchy with her, building up to giving her a smack on her bottom... and when she doesn't take kindly to that, he very nervously plays it off as a traditional birthday spanking and gets out of there.

Days pass as Rynn goes on with her solitary life. She does the banking, she has groceries delivered, she doesn't go to school. She's obviously hiding some dark secrets, there's a reason she covers up the entrance to the cellar and doesn't want anyone to go in there, but as curious as the viewer is as to what's going on, at the same time we're on her side. We don't want the other characters who show up and snoop around to figure her out - those characters being a kindly police officer and Mrs. Hallet, Frank's pushy, headstrong mother who also happens to be the landlady who recently leased this house to Rynn's father for a three year period. Mrs. Hallet takes an instant dislike to Rynn's attitude, and her prying becomes a huge threat to Rynn, as her son Frank's sick attraction to little girls continues to be. Everybody in town knows Frank's a pervert, but his mother is too influential for him to get in serious trouble for it.

As suspicions build and tensions rise, the story begins to tally up a bodycount. Luckily, Rynn doesn't have to go it entirely alone, as she finds a friend, confidant, and love interest in the form of a boy named Mario, a teenage magician who drops GD-bombs in attempt to sound more adult and is willing to go along with whatever Rynn wants.

Jodie Foster, who turned 13 herself during filming, does fine work in the role of Rynn, both coming off as the child she is and at the same time beyond her years, fully capable of surviving on her own.

Martin Sheen makes a strong impression as the deeply despicable Frank Hallet, who's not only a sex offender but also has a moment that will make animal lovers cringe. Alexis Smith is suitably irritating as Mrs. Hallet. Mort Shuman, who was half of the songwriting duo that came up with such classics as "This Magic Moment", "Viva Las Vegas", "A Teenager in Love", and "Save the Last Dance for Me", is quite good as police officer Miglioriti. Scott Jacoby, older brother to actors Robert and Billy Jacoby, who I know from the films Just One of the Guys and Tremors, is very likeable in the role of Rynn's lackey/lover Mario the Magician.

Yes, lover. For a very questionable moment, Jodie Foster's 20-year-old sister Connie steps in as a body double, as she did during certain moments in the same year's Taxi Driver, and we see a nude Rynn climb into bed with Mario. Connie Foster's rear end and breasts are on display as Rynn disrobes, crosses the bedroom, and gets into the bed... And I really think it was a misstep by director Nicolas Gessner, something that should not have been included in the film. The double may be 20, but we do not need to see the character like that. The villain of the piece is a pervert who would love to see that sight, so isn't the camera on the same level as the lecherous Frank in that moment?

Despite that odd and disturbing decision, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a very good movie, a solid and intriguing mystery/thriller that kept me engaged throughout. Though most of the action takes place inside Rynn's house, so the film sort of feels like a stage play for much of its running time, there are some really beautiful exterior shots captured in Knowlton, Quebec during a snowy, rainy November and December, which makes this movie perfect viewing for this time of year.


Kelly Taylor (Briana Evigan of the Sorority Row and Mother's Day remakes) may have the worst luck in the world. Her mother recently passed away, essentially leaving her autistic little brother Tom in her care because their scummy stepfather Johnny (Garret Dillahunt of the Last House on the Left remake) can't be bothered. Caring for her brother is taking a toll on her personal life, her schooling, and her finances - and she just discovered that she doesn't have the money to enroll Tom in a special needs school because Johnny has wiped out the bank account.

Johnny is turning the Gulf Coast property around their home into a Safari Ranch, and his latest acquisition - purchased from a man played by a cameoing Meat Loaf - is a tiger he names Lucifer. Johnny wanted the scariest tiger possible to put on his ranch, and Lucifer fits the bill. He's so malicious and violent, Meat Loaf's character goes so far as to say he's evil. Perfect.

When Johnny leaves home to spend a night out on the town as a Category 3 hurricane blows in, Kelly's bad luck reaches a whole new level - circumstances cause Lucifer to leave his cage and gain entry the home in which Kelly and Tom have recently gone to bed. Lucifer hasn't had anything to eat for two weeks, Meat Loaf says starving a tiger is the way to show it who's boss. Now loose in the hurricane-battered house, which has been completely boarded up to protect it from the storm, Lucifer sets out to make a meal of the two people trapped inside the home with him.

What ensues is a great survival thriller, as Kelly does her best to find a way for her and her brother to survive the night.

You'll know whether this one is for you as soon as you hear the basic premise: a brother and sister trapped in a house with a tiger during a hurricane. Are you in or out? Me, I was immediately totally in, very intrigued by this unique but wonderfully simple set-up. Watching the movie, I was glad to find that it delivered for me in every way I was hoping it would.

The film moves along at a good pace and the encounters with the tiger are thrilling, though at times marred by the use of some dodgy computer FX. It's bolstered further by the fact that our heroine Kelly, well played by Evigan, although made more vulnerable by the fact that she's pitted against the tiger while wearing nothing but her bed clothes of a tanktop and very short shorts, is a smart, responsible, capable woman with a complex inner life.

I found Burning Bright to be a very entertaining, well made movie. Definitely the best "trapped in a house with a tiger during a hurricane" movie there is.


Director John E. Hudgens and writer Sandy Clark put together this documentary on the horror host, those quirky and kooky folks who have entertained generations with their presentations of television airings of horror and sci-fi flicks, primarily of the public domain sort.

The concept of the horror host was born in the 1950s, when TV stations in the U.S. started getting the rights to show horror and B-movies. In some cases, stations wanted to have comedic-slanted host wraparounds for the horror movies just to blunt the impact the scares might have on '50s audiences, in other cases the movies were so bad that a host was necessary just to improve the viewing experience. The concept caught on and soon there were horror hosts all over the country. Though the television landscape has substantially changed over the decades and the horror host has largely faded away, there are still many out there who are keeping the idea alive in the internet age.

Packed with interviews conducted with horror hosts of the past and today, American Scary covers the birth and history of the concept and also takes specific focus on several hosts - Vampira of Los Angeles (who had a role in Plan 9 from Outer Space), Roland/Zacherley of Philadelphia and New York, Marvin and Svengoolie of Chicago, Crematia Mortem of Kansas, Stella of Philadelphia, the legendary Elvira, Pittsburgh's Chilly Billy (who appeared in Night of the Living Dead), San Francisco's Bob Wilkins and John Stanley, and some of the many horror hosts we've had and have in Ohio: Ghoulardi, The Ghoul, Son of Ghoul, and the movie hosts I loved watching as a kid, Big Chuck and Lil' John.

The concept of horror hosts is awesome to me, I enjoy watching their schtick, often much more than the public domain cheapies that they're usually showing. As such, I really appreciated how this documentary was presented as a loving thank you to the hosts who have gone before and those who are carrying on the tradition now.

I'm glad there are still horror hosts out there, and we here at Life Between Frames try to support them when we can. A couple years ago, Jay even got his movie Feast of the Vampires featured as an episode of Count Gore de Vol's online Creature Feature show.


The White Rose Community Television public access system based out of York, Pennsylvania programs a ten hour block of various horror host shows, running from around 10pm to around 8am, every Friday night into Saturday morning. Among the horror host shows included in their rotation are The Late Dr. Lady Show, Midnite Mausoleum, Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers, Monster Madhouse, Saturday Fright Special, and The Bone Jangler, among others. Since WRCT also streams their programming live on the internet, I often check their website at on Friday nights to see what's on.

This past Friday, I caught an episode of The Dungeon of Dr. Dreck in which Dr. Dreck and his sidekick Moaner the Zombie Cheerleader hosted a showing of the 1957 Bert I. Gordon-directed creature feature Beginning of the End.

The first to fall victim to the film's creatures are a teenage couple, caught unawares while necking on a Lover's Lane. The discovery of their smashed vehicle and strewn possessions leads authorities to a more frightening finding: the nearby town of Ludlow, Illinois has been completely decimated, no trace of its approximately 150 residents left behind.

Famed newspaper reporter Audrey Aimes, who's so highfalutin that she has a car phone in 1957, just happens to be in the area as the U.S. military blocks off what used to be Ludlow and begins to conduct an investigation. Following her own suspicions leads Audrey to an "experimental station" in the area that belongs to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she meets a scientist named Ed Wainwright who, along with his assistant Frank Johnson, has been dosing fruits with radiation, causing them to grow to giant sizes, presumably in attempt to find an answer to world hunger. (The same reasoning the scientist in Tarantula had for making giant animals.) Problem is, the radiated fruit can't be eaten, accidents happen all the time in this place (one such accident has left Frank a deaf mute), and insects and slugs keep getting into the greenhouse.

The station's insect problem turns out to be much bigger than Wainwright ever would've imagined, as we find out when the perpetrators of all the death and destruction in this area make their first appearance onscreen 27 minutes in: the creatures laying waste to the land are locust grasshoppers that Wainwright's radiation has inadvertently caused to grow to sizes of eight feet tall and over. A swarm of hundreds of giant locusts, each with the strength of ten men.

With military forces proving ineffective against the big bugs, it's left up to Wainwright and Audrey to find a way to eradicate the plague of locusts as they advance across the Illinois countryside, wiping out town after town on their way toward the city of Chicago.

Beginning of the End isn't widely well regarded, although its '50s B-movie charms and visibility on horror host shows and Mystery Science Theater 3000 have also earned it a cult following. I find it to be quite enjoyable. Sure, it's not a great movie - the writing is clunky and at times ridiculous, the first half is slow and overly talky, the low budget giant bug effects aren't very convincing and are at times laughable. A big battle scene is achieved through projecting giant locusts into military stock footage. The climactic assault on Chicago is shown by having bugs crawl on pictures of buildings, which is a clever idea but evokes chuckles when you see a bug's leg go off the side of a building and continue climbing on the sky or one goes sliding down the clearly flat surface. But all the badness, sloppiness, and silliness adds to its entertainment value for me and overall I think it's a fun little movie that was executed by Bert I. Gordon (Mr. BIG, as he's affectionately known) with some admirable ingenuity.

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