Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 28 - Your favorite horror film that no one's ever heard of.

I discovered this twisted little gem while I was working at Hollywood video. I was in the process of working my way through dubbing the entire horror section when I came across this one and fell in love with it. I never saw it at any other video store. Whenever I asked anyone if they’d seen Private Parts, they always thought I was talking about that terrible Howard Stern movie. Either that or they did the Beavis and Butthead laugh. Anyway, I resigned myself to the fact that I was the only person on earth who had heard of, much less appreciated, this flick. Imagine my surprise a few years back when I was doing my customary Wal-Mart 5 dollar DVD bin rummage, and this turned up. It’s since gone out of print again, but this bizarre psycho-sexual thriller is well worth tracking down.

This is the kind of movie that could only have come out of the 70’s. I can think of no other time in American cinema history that a flick like this would have been released by a major studio. It was the feature directing debut of Paul Bartell. He was better known as an actor, but directed Death Race 2000, Lust in the Dust, and Eating Raul. Our main heroine is a young, na├»ve girl named Cheryl. Cheryl and her friend Judy have run away together. After getting caught spying on Judy and her boyfriend getting it on, Cheryl moves out and takes Judy’s wallet with her. She finds her way to The King Edward Hotel, a residence hotel run by Cheryl’s Aunt Martha. The hotel is populated by a group of weirdoes, sleazeballs, and nutcases, which I’ll get into in a moment. Cheryl can’t resist snooping around the hotel and develops an interest in a couple of the residents. This does not bode well at all for Cheryl.

The best thing about this movie is the cast of oddballs. They are a bunch of interesting characters, and they’re all played very well. Quite a cast was assembled here. First we have Cheryl. Ayn Ruymen strikes a delicate balance between innocent and seductive. The actress was 25 at the time of shooting, but with the way she portrays fascination and curiosity, you think she’s much younger. As a matter of fact, I thought she really was as young as she plays here until she did a nude scene, so I knew she had to be at least 18. Aunt Martha, played by Lucille Benson (Halloween 2), is excellent. Her delivery reminds me a bit of Zelda Rubenstein. We think she’s just a crotchety old matron until she starts talking more and we realize that she’s just as nutty as the rest of them. George is a photographer with a thing for water filled blow up dolls, and that’s not his biggest quirk by a long shot. Loony old Ms. Quigley thinks Cheryl is someone named Alice. Mr. Lovejoy is a raging alcoholic with a penchant for opera singing. Laurie Main is excellent as Reverend Moon, who is jovial enough, but creepy as hell. I’m not 100% sure on this one, but after doing a little research I think he might have been the first gay priest character in a major motion picture. The hotel itself is a character. It’s so seedy yet stately that it adds to the proceedings immeasurably.

This film is more of a character study and a slow burn descent into weirdness than a straight ahead horror flick. There are a couple of gory scenes, but they almost feel tacked on. For the first part of the film, we’re just watching Cheryl enter into this wonderland of insanity. We know this isn’t going to end well for her, and we’re just watching her uncover more and more secrets as we wonder which one of the loonies she will finally run afoul of. Then again, it could be Judy or her boyfriend, who come looking for her, who does Cheryl in. Later, when Cheryl zeroes in on one character, it’s almost agonizing watching the two on a collision course. The final 10 minutes of the movie, containing two major twists, will have you staring slack jawed at the screen until the end of the credits.

One thing I don’t talk about a lot on this blog is technical specifications. I’m not a stickler for high def or audio tracks or any of that stuff. I love my VHS. I can’t stand blu-ray actually. That being said, the transfer on this DVD looks incredible! The color scheme is very deliberate in this movie, almost Argento-like in some parts. The use of darkness in the framing is also. The clarity and depth of the blacks and colors on this DVD are truly impressive for a small release DVD. I can tell by my old VHS copy that MGM really put a lot into the remastering process. Kudos.

Normally, in a situation like this, I would put a trailer for the film in the post. I implore you, however, not to watch the trailer before you watch the film. I’ve said before that these days trailers contain way too many spoilers, but apparently that’s been a problem since the 70’s. The trailer will ruin the whole movie for you. Trust me, this one’s too good to ruin. For that matter, don’t read the back of the DVD. What the hell is wrong with these people giving it all away before hand? I don’t get it. What I do get is this movie, and I hope you get it too, because it deserves a much bigger audience. Oh, by the way, for you fellow VHS collectors, it was also released under the name Blood Relations. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.


SgtStumpy said...

I'll have to check this one out just because of the blood water transparent blowup doll.

cash said...

As soon as you said Blood Relations the bells went off. I remember seeing the cover for this. Some woman with a crown of something on her head with a drip of blood coming down. To be honest, I'm not sure if I watched this or not. I'm pretty sure it had Sam Elliot in it. But I might be wrong about that. And I'm not IMDBing right now. Another oldie I tried to watch cause everyone said it was good was Possession with Sam Neil but by the 20 min mark I was so bored, I had to turn it off. I also have to watch Don't Look Now with Donald Sutherland. Apparently thats not to be missed either.

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