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CORRUPTION 
Image: Movie Poster from 1968 declaring this, "is a super shock film!," the image of Sue Lloyd's face screaming is used.
Movie Poster from 1968

Between Les Yeux Sans Visage and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die there is Corruption. Not chronologically of course; Les Yeux came out in 1960 and the brain hit the screen two years later while Corruption premiered on the tail end of the sixties. Corruption is an English exploitation film following in the footsteps of the previously mentioned films. Starring Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Kate O’Mara, and Noel Trevarthen. Writing credits to Donald and Derek Ford, and directed by Robert Hartford-Davis; all of whom stayed in the vein of exploitation and low budget films.

History Lesson

In the 1920 as the Theatre Grotesque jumped over to celluloid and a new form of horror began in the European art cinema subgenre. Experimental. Surreal. Unusual. Taboo. The terror was not the monster or the ghoul but the man, or the illness be that physical or mental. Franju’s classic Les Yeux is a tale about guilt and obsession. Genessier having the tools and knowledge, in theory at least, to fix his daughters disfigurement that he caused. We identify with Genessier. In his shoes, with his talents, under that pressure, we all know a part of us would at least toy with the idea of doing anything in the name of someone we love. It’s a touching and personal story, which is why it was so easy to rip it off.

The other film I mentioned, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, similar set up except make it a fiancée instead of a daughter and her face is the only thing that isn’t destroyed, this though meant to be serious comes off significantly more comical. Americans and their lack of subtly, there needs to be a big bad monster in the basement or else it’s not a real horror show, and the talking head is just hilarious. If Les Yeux is art and The Brain is schlock then what is Corruption?

Set Up

CORRUPTION 1968
Image: Peter Cushing and Sue Lloyd dancing looking lovingly into each others eyes at Lynn's photographers party, just before the accident disfiguring Lynn's face
Peter Cushing and Sue Lloyd dancing: Scene before Lynn’s accident

It’s Frankenstein, it’s Jurassic Park, it’s the battle of Could V. Should. The morality of our choices and the lengths we’ll go to see our visons realized. Our Hammer Horror Alumn Peter Cushing, who you might know from Screamqueen’s review of Asylum. Peter is in the role of John Rowan, a brilliant surgeon light-year ahead of his peers like Steve Harris, played by Noel Trevarthen. Sue Lloyd is cast as Johns soon-to-retire-model-fiancée Lynn.

Lynn invites John to a party being held by her photographer. It’s funny, only Peter Cushing could look like a narc at a party where everyone else is in their mid-forties playing some one in their twenties. Either due to his jealousy or his sense of modesty John starts a fight with the cameraman resulting in a floodlamp falling on the Lynn’s face. His love is disfigured and she falls into a deep depression.

John in classic Cushing Frankenstein fashion falls into an obsessive binge of medical esoterica, quoting tricks of the ancients, like you do. The doctor steals a pituitary gland from the morgue. An injection here, a laser blast there, bippady-boppady-boo face reclaimed.

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After a few days the scar returns, otherwise there wouldn’t be conflict. Much like to decision on what in my fridge I shoe eat the answer is obvious, fresher is better. In a montage ripped directly from the The Brain the good doctor takes to the streets to find a fresher sample. After the murder and Lynn is looking better and the two head to the country to hide out the heat. As times arrow marches ever onward they realized that no mater what they do, it will just be a temporary fix but that isn’t good enough for the future Mrs. Rowan.

Another body found headless on a train and surgeon-detective Steve is on to them. John wants to call it quits as it become obvious that Lynn is more infatuated with her own image than him. Lynn to ensure that she gets what she wants sells her fiancée out to some hoodlums to ensure he will continue, and through psychotic shenanigans and lasers everyone dies.  

The Good

The music score is phenomenal, Bill McGuffie has excellent taste. The camera work during the party or the kills are great at conveying the sense of panic and disorientation the character feel. I enjoyed the costume destines miss that 60’s chic look. Though things seem to jump out of nowhere the plot is relatively solid for the most part, even the more absurd instances have an explanatory follow up.

The Bad

As good as the editing can be during the disorienting scenes, the rest of the film is quite jarring. Terrible pacing. There is no metric denoting the passage of time; I often found myself wondering if it was the same day, week or month, What? Steve and Lynn’s sister are getting married? How long have they known each other? We don’t have any idea how long the operations effects last, long enough to give false hope and short enough to need a steady supply of bodies. The first half of the film is a slog to get through. The first fifteen minutes had me questioning my watch and the ending comes out of nowhere and hits like a bullet train.

Character motivation is my biggest gripe, specifically that of Lynn. At the start she makes it clear that she doesn’t care about modeling, stating that she was going to retire once married because she found someone that truly loves her. Then the accident happens and her image becomes her only focus; she becomes vapid and narcissistic, trading lives for looks. Steve seems only to show up for exposition or to be superman. John is little more than a whipped Frankenstein wannabee with a laser, Val (Lynn’s sister) has such little agency I genuinely forgot her name for the most part of this review.  

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CORRUPTION 1968
Image: Alternate Poster with Tagline stating this "is not a woman's picture," containing the image of Peter Cushing collapsed on the floor dead and Sue Lloyd on the nearby bed.
Alternate Poster with Tagline stating this “is not a woman’s picture,”

The Ugly- my opinion

Apropos considering the plot of the film. Corruption is a short film but it feels like a marathon. The effects aren’t terrible but not astounding. Flat characters which is odd considering the power house that is Peter Cushing.  This is not a good film. It’s not a so bad it’s good film either. It’s dry, convoluted, and insulting.

Typically, when I watch an old movie I suspend modern sensitivities and try to frame it in the cultural minds set of the period, but the depiction of women in this film is detestable; vain, fragile, single minded shrew that use men to do there bidding. The marketing too was grotesque, and not in the macabre way, ‘Corruption is not a woman’s picture!… Therefore: no woman will be admitted alone to see this super-shock film!’ alone or not, if you respect yourself and your time forget admittance all together. 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Cursed Neighborhood

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Episode five of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was one of the best kind of horror stories. It is a dark, eerie tale of a mean house that is determined to destroy anyone who dares reside within it.

The story

Our story begins in 1682. A group of colonists are attempting to take over land that is very much not theirs. When the colonists are killed, they vow to curse the land.

Fast forward to modern times, and the land in question is a little suburban neighborhood. Carlette Norwood moves in with her husband, mother, and daughters. The house seems like a dream come true. Until, of course, their beautiful dream home becomes a nightmare. The curse of the colonists wrapped itself around the neck of each family member, turning them into people that they didn’t recognize. People who don’t exactly like each other.

What worked

While I wouldn’t say that the acting in this episode is flawless, it was several steps above what we’ve seen so far. Every actor seemed to understand their role and reacted in realistic ways. I was especially impressed by the young woman playing Angelique. She had the good sense to not overplay the role, giving each scene exactly the right amount of energy.

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Of course, there was one actress who way overplayed every scene. But rather than being terrible, it was terrific. And that was Chloe Zeitounian, who played the neighbor Stacy. Stacy the neighbor was creepy as shit. After an unnamed neighbor dies by suicide, Stacy shows up at Carlette’s house with a bottle of champagne, sipping coffee with a big old smile. Well, okay it probably wasn’t coffee.

Stacy was a fantastic character, and I hope there was a crazy neighbor just like her. I bet her house was haunted as hell, but she just decided that her ghost was like a stray dog that everyone else thinks is dangerous. She probably put a bejeweled collar on the colonist ghost and renamed him Kori spelled with an I on purpose.

Finally, I want to talk about the theme of ancestral curse and ancestral protections that this episode discussed.

Charles County was cursed by the colonists who took the land that rightfully belonged to the indigenous tribes. They took what their ancestors had given them, and left a curse in their wake.

At the end of the episode, Carlette talks about being protected by her ancestors. Ancestors that survived horrible things most of us can’t imagine. I am sure that their strength blessed Carlette, and helped her to save Angelique.

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What didn’t work

While this episode was certainly better than most of the season, it wasn’t perfect. The thing that most stood out to me as being frankly unneeded was the inclusion of maggots attacking Brian.

Paul A Maynard in Suburban Screams.

In multiple scenes, during which Carlette is narrating, Brian has maggots coming out of open wounds. Never once does Carlette mention a maggot issue.

It feels like there is a clear reason why the creators did this. This story doesn’t have a lot of blood, gore, or jump scares. And a core goal of horror content is to cause a reaction.

Stephen King has a great quote about this goal. “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

The inclusion of maggots in this story admits that someone involved didn’t think the story was terrorizing or horrifying enough. But it was. The story was freaky all on its own without the inclusion of our wriggling friends.

Is it true?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but aside from the completely unnecessary maggots infesting Brian, I think this episode is the most honest and accurate one so far.

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The thing about hauntings is that they’re seldom what we see in the movies. Haunted houses don’t have glass vases flying off shelves and wallpaper peeling to reveal 666 painted in blood over arcane symbols. Haunted houses dig into the minds of those who live there, causing bad luck and bad vibes. And that’s exactly what happened here. There are no massive explosions. No spirits throwing people downstairs or demonic dogs chasing children from the attic. This house dug into the hearts and minds of a loving family, ripping them apart.

So yes, I do think this episode is likely true.

The further we get into Suburban Screams, the more I enjoy it. This episode was eerie, upsetting, and riveting. I hope that Carlette and her daughters are healing from this horrific journey. And I’m thankful to them for sharing their story. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Happy Father’s Day Herman Munster!

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Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel
Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel

Today for Father’s Day I want to celebrate one the best dads in horror ever: Herman Munster! Herman Munster of television celebrity is a perfect example of a good father in a genre awash in epically horrible parents. He is fun to be around, cares deeply about family, and has a huge heart. He is essentially the naive and loving Frankenstein’s monster despite his horrific appearance, and is aptly employed at a funeral home.

Herman is lovable, hardworking, and always ready with the physical humor dad jokes, even if he is too naive to catch on to his role in the punchlines all the time. He is devoted to his wife Lily Dracula and son Eddie and will do whatever he can to protect them. His generosity extends beyond just his own, with the family taking in his niece Marilyn (who is painfully normal by comparison to the Munsters), and father-in-law Grandpa.

Portrayed by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster is kind of the epitome of the good father in horror. Sure, he’s a brute, and can be a little dim sometimes, but he’s really just a big teddy bear at heart, and always ready for a good laugh. And apparently Herman Munster was even nominated by his son Eddie for Father of the Year in Season 2, Episode 25, so it all comes around full circle. If the show highlight doesn’t load, you can find it here.

And to celebrate more great Hollywood celebrities, here’s a poem for Ed Wood and an homage to Theda Bara

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Suburban Screams, The Bunny Man

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Someone is stalking the children of Fairfax, Virginia. He comes bearing an axe. He comes from the forest. He comes in the night.

He comes dressed as a bunny.

The story

In the 1970s, the sleepy town of Fairfax Virginia was menaced by a man dressed as a rabbit. He stalked kids and teens with an axe while they were playing in the woods, or ‘parking’. Children were cautioned to not play outside after dark. Parents were terrified. The whole community was rocked by the horrific killer who, well, didn’t kill anybody. And who might have been a whole bunch of people inspired by a truly sad tale?

Still from Suburban Screams The Bunny Man.

The story begins a hundred years earlier. A man whose name is lost to time is accused of stealing a cow. For this crime, he’s sentenced to death because things were a lot tougher back then. The man escaped but swore vengeance on the town. A few days later several children were found hanging from a bridge underpass, butchered and hung as though they were slaughtered rabbits.

What worked

The biggest thing to love about this episode, the one thing that sets it apart from the rest of the season, was the presence of Historian Cindy Burke. Finally, we have an actual professional talking about one of these stories. Yes, there are still first-hand accounts. But that is how these sorts of stories work best. We have the emotional retelling of evocative survivors. But we also have a professional who is emotionally separated from the situation backing up these stories with historical knowledge.

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This wouldn’t have mattered as much in any other setting. But Suburban Screams has been clear from the start that it wants to be seen as a documentary. This is supposed to be real. And if you’re going to claim that your ghost story is real, bring receipts. As many as you can.

If we’d seen more historians, detectives, and police reports through this series, it probably wouldn’t have the bad rating it does on IMDB.

What didn’t work

Well, it might still have had a bad rating. Because the acting in this episode was, for lack of a stronger word, terrible.

I don’t know if it was the directing, the casting, or just a weak talent budget. But not a single person except for the man playing the Bunny Man could act in any of these dramatic reenactment scenes.

The worst offender was probably the child playing Ed’s childhood friend. This character was way overacted. It’s as though the child had seen a parody of how little boys behave, and was told to act like that. As this was a little boy, he was likely a bit embarrassed.

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And I know, I’m trash-talking a child actor. I’m trash-talking all of the children actors in this episode. But children can act. There are lots of examples of kids doing great acting jobs. Stranger Things is an obvious example. Violent Night is another. The kid can act. These kids couldn’t act.

Is it true?

Unlike most of the other episodes in this series, The Bunny Man is a story I’ve heard before. It is a legitimate urban legend that blossomed from a few firsthand accounts of madmen doing scary things dressed as rabbits in Fairfax County, West Virginia. These events probably inspired others to do stupid things like dress up like a rabbit and run around with an ax. Much like the people who decided to dress up like clowns and scare the hell out of people across the country in 2016.

So, yes, the Bunny Man is very much real. He’s real in the hearts and minds of pranksters and West Virginia frat boys. And he is based on some very real, very upsetting, actual events.

I honestly wish the whole season of Suburban Screams had been exactly like this. Filled with facts, first-hand accounts, and proof of scary events. This was everything I wanted in a supernatural/true crime story. So if you’re giving the rest of the season a pass, I would suggest watching this episode.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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