Monday, October 23, 2023

Tonight At the Gates of Hell, Jessica

From Dan O'Bannon's classic Return of the Living Dead. SSQ is a band I know nothing about but damned if this song doesn't fit its scene in the movie like a glove. Or lack thereof. Interesting note, singer Stacey Q. is the artist behind the 1986 hit single "Two of Hearts," which was in heavy rotation on popular radio when I was ten years old and subsequently floats to the surface of my brain a couple times a month (at least) ever since. That's the power of radio, ladies and gentlemen.

31 Days of Halloween:

John D. Hancock's 1971 Let's Scare Jessica to Death is a film I've been meaning to watch for years, and I finally got around to it yesterday afternoon. Here's a trailer for the remastered version Scream Factory put out a few years ago:

I didn't love this film the way some of my Letterbxd compatriots do, however, it's a fairly strong entry into the "urban flight" subgenre of the late 60s/early 70s. It's interesting to note that what I'm referring to as "urban flight" really prefigures the 70s error of Folk Horror. This was a direct reaction to a major societal shift in America at that time, where white people who lived in urban areas did what many white people do and overreacted to the influx of minority populations, fleeing "Back to nature" in more rural areas of the country. In the vernacular of the day, this was often referred to as "White Flight," or perhaps more generously, Urban Flight. There's an absolutely killer article by Devin Faraci about this disguised as an analysis of Michael Winner's 1974 film Death Wish in the back of Brubaker and Phillips's Kill or Be Killed, issue number one. Unfortunately, the extras in Brubaker/Phillips's monthlies generally do not get included in the collected editions, so if you're interested, you'd have to hunt this down in a back-issue bin. 

Perhaps as fitting dessert for being racist little shits, 70s Folk Horror often (but not always) arises from transplanting said fleeing urbanites to a rural setting that ultimately has something evil to hide. The evil almost always ties into some kind of Pagan or Naturalism, so I'm not really sure what the message is there other than "be afraid of everything." That said,  this formula worked for a while. More prevalent in novels that were then sometimes adapted to film, the best example of this Urban Flight/Folk Horror that I know of is Tom Tryon's Harvest Home, published in 1973 and was adapted into a 1973 tv miniseries in 1978. I have not yet felt the urge to track down the adaptation, seeing as I felt the novel was so good, to see it reworked for television felt... cheap to me. I might be wrong; maybe it's a banger. But I doubt it.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death definitely uses this same idea, however, I enjoyed the fact that this film is considerably more ambiguous about its rules and even sets up a correlation to a classic monster I did not see coming. Some of the narrative inner monologue we hear grows a bit tiresome, even if there is a question of its veracity, but I'm nitpicking here. The two things about this one I loved the most were A) Orville Stoeber's score, which predates Carl Zittrer's similar score for Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things by ten months and had to have been an influence on it. Children Shouldn't Play's score is one of my all-time favorite scores, so it should be no surprise to hear that the music was what finally roped me into watching this one. B) Speaking of influencing other films I love, Jessica also predates Gary Sherman's Dead and Buried by a decade, and there is no doubt Sherman drew from Jessica in the creation of his Seaside Horror classic. 

Alright, enough of the impromptu history lesson; here's the current tally for my 31 Days of Halloween:

1) When Evil Lurks/VHS 85/Adam Chaplin
2) Tales From the Crypt Ssn 1, Ep 6 "Collection Complete"
3) VHS
4) All You Need is Death
5) Slashers (2001)
6) The Beyond/Phenomena
7) The Convent
8) Evil Dead 2
9) The Autopsy of Jane Doe
10) Totally Killer
11) Ritual (Joko Anwar)/The Final Terror/Grave Robbers
12) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (w/Joe Bob)
13) Never Hike Alone/Never Hike in the Snow/Never Hike Alone 2
14) Puppetman
15) Creepshow Season 4 Episode 1
16) Return of the Living Dead
17) Don't Look Now
18) When Evil Lurks
19) Barbarian
20) Demons 2/All Hallows Eve
21) May
22) Let's Scare Jessica To Death


Puppet Combo/Torture Star's Night at the Gates of Hell hit Switch a few months back, and other than the initial release, I don't think I've posted anything else because I haven't had a lot of time to play the game. Last night, I dug in for about two hours and really immersed myself in it. Verdict?

This might be my favorite of the 80s Horror-themed games these folks have released so far (nothing's coming close to No One Lives Under the Lighthouse).

The game goes all-in on 80s Horror tropes by even including nudity! I mean, that was not something I'd ever expected to see in a game, but topless women are indeed one of the major ingredients in 80s Horror, so hats off for taking it that far (while it's possible that, since before buying a Switch in 2022 I had not played a video game since the original Nintendo, I am just being naive and nudity filtered into the gaming experience a long time ago, but I doubt it). Also, the violence and gore are cranked to ten, which makes sense - the creators have stated this game is a love letter to the films of Lucio Fulci and Bruno Mattei, so again, to fully expand on the quantifiable criteria of those films, you can't really half-ass the gore. And as usual with Puppet Combo/Torture Star, the sound is exquisite and a major part of the scares in this one. Like Nun Massacre, Night at the Gates of Hell conjures an anxiety that I haven't felt in Horror since I was a kid watching many of the films I love for the first time.


Rein - Reincarnated
Frankie and the Witch Fingers - Data Doom
Twin Temple - God is Dead
Huey Lewis and the News - Sports
Orville Peck - Bronco
Billy Joel - The Stranger
Tear for Fears - Songs From the Big Chair
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - Lawless OST


I'm going to Missi's Raven Deck for a single card this morning; just want a big picture at the moment:

Trump XIV is Art in the Crowley/Harris deck, and that's generally how I think of it. However, here I'd have to say the message is clear and has way more to do with the actual act of "Tempering," as in expectations. After a wonderful but exhausting weekend with my sister, her husband and my parents in town looking for houses, I think we're all caught up in the panic of moving on short notice (they have to be out by November 15th) and not seeing things for how they actually are. My parents especially need to temper their expectations of how this is going to change their lives, but also, I also think the rest of us have to work with them on that while adjusting our own sense of how this is going to go. I have no doubt they will find 'the right' house, however, it's going to take more time than they currently have. This means accepting the idea of putting their things in storage and having them move in with us for a bit, so they can actually see houses here without having to drive down for the weekend and then leave again. 

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