So…SEVEN days until Halloween, not ten, as my previous post suggests. See, I tend to screw up the countdown every year so I thought I’d make something of it this time around. Today I have a “time travel” related horror movie for every day I’m “skipping” in the countdown so as to align with present reality (just pretend we were in an alternate universe or something).
SANDMAN is an extremely rare little horror movie that deserves a larger audience. Tragically, Eric Woster – writer, director and star – died shortly after filming had been completed (in the very house in which the film takes place). The independent project was edited and released to (an impossible to find) video, but it is of course hard to say whether the finished product matches Eric Woster’s vision. We can say, without a doubt, that he had vision! For a low budget, independent project, SANDMAN is remarkably effective. Some of the acting is not so good, but the script is smart and creative with all sorts of interesting characters and surreal touches. Even the cliched theme of “descent into madness” (not the only theme explored by the narrative…I’m not giving anything away) is portrayed in an original fashion (more a “death of affect” or “moral blindness” than yet another Jack Nicholson inspired psycho-trip). Also, and as this is wonderful (and strangely poignant) it deserves a comment, there is a talking, stop-motion animated GI Joe doll. Yes, a talking GI Joe doll. You have to love that! Stylistically, SANDMAN has some strangely abrupt transitions that may have been the result of Woster not having been involved in editing (or lack of reshoots). Strangely enough, I think this contributes rather than detracts from the quality of the movie.
SANDMAN only has two reviews on IMDB right now and one of them is from a friend of the filmmaker. Let’s make this a cult film. Check it out and, if you like it, write a review on IMDB. Maybe someday we can get a cleaned up, letterboxed copy of SANDMAN on DVD as some sort of fitting tribute to the director. Judging by this film, he had a lot of creativity and talent in him and would have likely gone on to great things. I’d love to see something wide screen and cleaned up and closer to what Eric Woster might have intended.
AMITYVILLE 1992: IT’S ABOUT TIME was one of many direct-to-video THE AMITYVILLE HORROR sequels that most didn’t watch or particularly want to see. It certainly has the same cheap production values and slightly hammy script as many of the others, but I think this one works and ultimately transcends the many trappings of early 90s direct to video releases. The effects by the respected KNB Group are excellent, to say the least, and I think the depiction of the family’s descent into dysfunction is all the more disturbing for being portrayed in an over the top manner without the subtlety earlier AMITYVILLE films might have been going for. In fact, I think this might be the best in the series after the first. There’s even some bearded beefcake toward the end that rivals Ryan Reynold’s contribution to the remake. Ketcham and kill ’em, y’all, Ketcham and kill ’em…
There’s not one upload of AMITYVILLE 1992 online that doesn’t suffer from those little digital cubes invading the screen. I suppose this is the “film decay” of our age, however, so we might as well get use to it. I assume that someday people will be applying filters to whatever new medium we have in order to give it that “bad Youtube video” look. I find the version I’ve posted watchable, in any case, and it is well worth the watch.
BURNED AT THE STAKE was one of the last films by the great genre director Bert I Gordon. Being the director of THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, FOOD OF THE GODS and many, many similar films, BURNED AT THE STAKE is certainly a departure from what he’s most known for. One IMDB reviewer describes it derisively as a “chick flick horror movie” aimed at teenage girls and, in a way, I think they’re right. I’d prefer my teenage daughter watching this over TWILIGHT, though, any day. The same reviewer goes on to say that perhaps “this is the key to understanding the film, which is more or less a young woman’s fantasy vision of a horror film world, replete with cobblestone streets, Gothic churches, cloistered old cemeteries, fetching costumes, and authority figures who are too caught up in their adult function roles to understand her inner turmoil.” Somehow this IMDB reviewer thinks they are criticizing the movie with this description. I think it’s a glowing compliment, don’t you? Anyway…lots of witchy East coast atmosphere, quality acting, some interesting ideas (but nothing too challenging) make BURNED AT THE STAKE a perfectly suitable Halloween trifle…
SANDMAN (you may need to adjust your screen to get the correct aspect ratio for this video…)
AMITYVILLE 1993: IT’S ABOUT TIME
BURNED AT THE STAKE