Norman J Warren Double Feature!
I thought hard about what movie I should post first this year. It had to be something that was both unexpectedly surreal and seductively watchable. Last year I kicked off with HOLLYWOOD MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE which, though one of my favorites among all the films I posted, was unlikely treasured by many friends (some of who claimed it was “barely a movie”).
Art is not for everyone.
In any case, this time I figured I’d go for something a bit more accessible while still honestly representing my obsessions.
British director Norma J Warren is highly regarded among cult film enthusiasts in Europe. In the mid 70s, Warren broke with the British horror tradition of using historical settings and pushed the boundaries of gore, nudity and nonsensical happenings way past the threshold of Hammer Studios much touted sleaziness. That said, his early films still have a literary, sophisticated quality. PREY (aka ALIEN PREY) had direct references to D.H. Lawrence in between the lesbian sex, alien flesh eating, and amazing psychedelic slow motion sequences. EVIL HERITAGE (aka SATAN’S SLAVE) which, elsewhere on the netz, has been likened to LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH in atmosphere and tone (that’s a good club to be in), certainly has a bittersweet, eery atmosphere and beautiful setting. However, what sells me on it is the hypnotic, steady pacing which is punctuated suddenly by moments of completely out-of-the-blue violence, awkwardly edited hallucination, and deliriously over the top Tennessee William’s style melodrama. This is the kind of movie to drink black tea with.
My favorite Warren film isn’t one of his well regarded 70s films. It’s a movie he did in the 80s called BLOODY NEW YEAR. When the European version of Anchor Bay released a Norman J Warren box set in 2005, they left this one out. To quote Warren, ““The script was very good, but I got tied up with a producer who was the wrong person for the project. The whole thing became a nightmare. It wasn’t a good experience at all. A lot of effort went into it, but it could have been a lot better. Everyone became disheartened towards the end.” The consensus among Warren fans is that this is his worst film, but I think comparisons with the early work has blinded folks to the goodies BLOODY NEW YEAR has to offer.
There are astounding moments of crazy “WTF” action in Warren’s “good” films, but BLOODY NEW YEAR is like a string of WTF in the shape of a roller coaster. I’m not sure they even stopped to think while filming it. There’s certainly no reason to stop and think while watching it. It simply rushes you through scenes of ever escalating weirdness while employing creative (sometimes shoddy) DIY special effects that look like they were conceived of the day before shooting (by a genius). It’s like Jean Cocteau mixed with British children’s sci-fi programming and an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. I first watched it on a day when I didn’t have the patience, it seemed, to finish anything and, when I started BLOODY NEW YEAR, I sat the remote down and happily rode it out to the end. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, one day we’ll all die. Enjoy!
EVIL HERITAGE (aka SATAN’S SLAVE):
BLOODY NEW YEAR: