This super low budget (albeit shot on film) backyard-styled film is, in the words of my wife, "like looking at a dancing, naked fat girl: you don't wanna look but feel compelled to watch."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
FREAKY FARLEY deals with a town weirdo who tells the tale of how he went nuts to an asylum shrink. After losing his mother in a car accident at a young age, Farley's gestapo-father raises him alone, continually punishing him (by making him dig and re-fill a 4-foot hole in the back yard). Before you know it, Farley is in his 20's (or at least he looks somewhere in his late 20's---who knows), continually spying on slumber party girls in broad daylight (no one seems to notice) and spends his time floating around on an old tire in a secluded pond. His dad tries to set him up with jobs, but Farley resists, and when he meets his dream girl, all he can focus on is spending time with her and finding some bearded homeless guy who swiped his flotation tube.
While seeking to be a 70s/early 80s cult film, FREAKY FARLEY tries WAY too hard to be weird; during Farley's walks around town, an unnamed ninja stalks in the shadows, and the woods where he spends most of his time are full of Trogs, grass-covered swamp creatures who have been killing the residents of his town for decades (why they never come after him is not explained).
When Farley goes back to the cabin where his mother spent her final weekend, he learns the Trogs were actually responsible for her death, and when his dad confronts him for going to the cabin he was forbidden to visit, Farley snaps and goes on a killing spree with a jagged pumpkin-carving knife. He kills his old man, wastes the bearded bum, a jock, and eventually the girl next door who has had a crush on him since they were kids. He is also able to slaughter the Trogs with his bare hands in rage-attacks that resemble someone suffering from massive mental retardation.
FREAKY FARLEY is a horrendous film: the characters speak as if they're in a 50's sitcom, the FX are non-existent, nothing makes much sense . . . in other words, I loved every second of this celluloid abortion. You will, too, if you love bad (make that, REALLY bad) horror cinema.
My daughter still won't speak to me...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
James DeMonaco's directorial debut, STATEN ISLAND, follows the lives of three typical Staten Islanders; a mobster named Parmie Tarzo (played by Vincent D’Onofrio), a septic tank cleaner (Sully Haverson) played by Ethan Hawk, and a deaf mute deli owner (Jasper Sabiano) played by the scene-stealing Seymour Cassel. DeMonaco's over-lapping-style gives the film a Pulp Fiction-meets-Scorcese's After Hours feel, allowing him to reveal tidbits of info. at a masterful pace.
Parmie Tarzo is arguably the most unique gangster ever to grace the screen. After the Russian mob almost rubs him out, he contemplates suicide until a newspaper article inspires him to become an environmental activist (as quirky as this sounds, it works---the generous humor throughout the film is on a level all its own). The scenes of him high atop an elm tree protecting it from demolition are heartfelt and funny, especially when his voice begins to resemble Christopher Walken's.
Meanwhile, Sully is doing everything he can to make a better life for his future child, while Jasper spends his days slicing cold cuts (among other things) and his nights betting on the ponies at OTB. How these three characters come into each others lives is well executed, and Rosemary De Angelis is perfect as Tarzo's typical Staten Island mother.
DeMonaco's STATEN ISLAND is a portrait of three people trying to better themselves and the ones they love, even if their means of getting there may not be the best way to do so. Jasper appears in two priceless conclusions (one with a group of hitmen and the other a few years into the future with Sully's genetically-enhanced son), making for a satisying finale.
I have a gut feeling this is destined to be one of those films that holds up good to repeated viewings. A very impressive first effort.
(The film comes to DVD on 12/22 and is in limited theatrical release in NYC (and Staten Island) until Thanksgiving Day).
Thursday, November 12, 2009
FEEDING GROUND by Sarah Pinborough (2009 Leisure Books / 310 pp. / mmp)
It's been 3 years since Pinborough's BREEDING GROUND, a creepy-crawly thrill ride loaded with some of the more vicious over-sized arachnids ever to grace a horror tale.
In this sequel that's as good as its predecessor, much of the action centers around a dread-locked gangsta named Blane who, with his childhood buddy Charlie Nash, are using the spider-apocalypse as a means to build their own empire in the London underground. Another group of survivors (school kids and their teacher) hang back in the shadows, waiting for a clear break away from the spiders AND the drug-dealing, prostitute-leasing gang.
In BREEDING GROUND, women were being used as incubators for the spider's offsprings; toward the end of the novel, men began to suffer a similar (although way more gruesome) fate. For some reason, Pinborough doesn't explore this in FEEDING GROUND and instead focuses on the female metamorphosises But, she gives the story a wickedly fun cult-film quality by having Blane keep his former ho's-turned-spiders high on crack, hence leading to his ability to control them. As silly as that may sound, it actually works, and makes Blane (with his crack-crazed mutant spiders by his side) one of the coolest antagonists I've come across over the past few years.
The claustrophobic climax in the London tubeway adds much to the creepiness factor, and there's plenty of room left for a third segment (although I hear the author is heading into a more mainstream thriller series, so I won't hold my breath). For now, FEEDING GROUND offers a lot of good old-fashioned "monster movie" fun.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
College sophomore Samantha needs money for her new apartment. She finds an ad for a babysitting job posted near her old dorm. Her friend gives her a ride out to a large, isolated house, where they're greeted by Mr. Ulman (played by Tom Noonan, looking semi-Phantasm-ish) and eventually his wife (the legendary Mary Woronov). Despite being lied to (they really need someone to watch over their aging mother), Sam takes the job anyway ("$400 for 4 hours work!") and all hell breaks loose during her first night on the job (which also happens to take place during a lunar eclipse).
Set in the 1980s, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL not only looks and feels like an unreleased late 70s/early 80s horror film (right down to the font and style of the opening credits), but plays out like one, too. While not much happens for the first 45 minutes, the second half builds some solid chills. Picture a cross between HORROR HOTEL, THE DEVIL'S RAIN and ROSEMARY'S BABY and you basically know what you're in for. Star Jocelin Donahue looks UNCANNILY like Jessica Harper in SUSPIRIA (especially one long shot of her looking out the window) and there's a cameo by THE HOWLING's Dee Wallace. Despite a lot of continuity problems and some unbelievable situations (especially a tied-up Samantha getting loose as her captors look on and do nothing), fans of occult horror will dig this---just give it some time to get started and check half your brain at the door.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
BLUE CANOE by T.M. Wright (2009 PS Publishing / 191 pp. / hc)
Sub-titled "A Memoir of the Newly Non-Corporeal," Wright's latest offering of mind-bending, surreal horror follows the musings of a man named Happy Farmer as he attempts to recall his past from the confines of a nursing home (or is it a psychiatric ward . . . or even his grave?). In-between glimpses of his history, Happy shares his experiences of traveling across the lake (located right outside his window) in a blue canoe, and what he discovers in a little village on the other side.
Much time is spent recalling a woman named Epistobel; Happy swears she was real, then wonders if she had ever existed. He eventually remembers much about her funeral. He also spends much time dealing with a young woman who brings him meals, and contemplating a dog that continually runs back and forth across his doorway. Later in the story, Happy begins to recall the story of a missing young girl, Lily Hand, adding another dimension to his (already) manic viewpoint.
BLUE CANOE is a trippy, head-scratching excursion into a life that's either on the verge of Alzheimers, afraid of what waits on the other side, or is somehow penning this memoir FROM the other side (and it may eventually come to light that Wright is telling this from all three sides---only time will tell). Wright's writing is as sharp and witty as ever, this time sprinkled with more humor than usual. Few writers can make you truly care for their characters; Wright's ability to create characters who may or may not be real, who may or may not be ghosts, and STILL have the reader believe in them is an amazing accomplishment on its own. But placed in a story this deep and challenging, its pure genius. I read this in two sittings and didn't want it to end. Highly recommended.