Wednesday, November 01, 2017

SHORT FEATURE: NOVEMBER 1ST

Well, this short just about sums up what it's like for monster kids everywhere after Halloween has ended.


Fortunately for us religious minded folk the Holiday season isn't quite over. Here's hoping everyone had a great All Saints Day and will have a meaningful All Souls Day tomorrow commemorating the lives of the faithful departed.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

Monday, October 30, 2017

HOLY HORRORS FOR HALLOWEEN FILM FESTIVAL: BLOOD FREAK

Long time readers know how Holy Horrors For Halloween works. Every year (almost) right before All Hallows Eve, I recommend a religious themed genre movie or two that doesn’t rely on exorcism and/or miserable priests on the verge of losing their faith to drive the story. Past entries in this series have included The Wicker Man, Bless The Child, The Believers, Brimstone & Treacle, This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse, The Devil Rides Out and Jug Face. That’s a pretty good list, but there’s one problem with it. It’s a pretty good list; there’s no truly awful movie on it. Well, we’re going to fix that little oversight right this minute.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Blood Freak.

Blood Freak

“A biker comes upon a girl with a flat tire and offers her a ride home. He winds up at a drug party with the girl's sister, then follows her to a turkey farm owned by her father, a mad scientist. The father turns the biker into a giant turkey monster who goes after drug dealers.” ~ The Movie DB

“This has been a story based partly on fact, and partly on probability. But the horrors that occur in the minds of those who allow the indiscriminate use of the human body as a mixing bowl of drugs and chemicals are as real as the real horror.”

“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 , NABRE

While we avoid politics like the plague here at the B-Movie Catechism, that doesn’t mean we’re unaware of what goes on outside our theater walls. That includes the current kerfuffle over the opioid crisis spreading throughout these United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.” Things have gotten so bad that even puppies aren’t safe anymore.

With the situation now officially declared a national public health emergency, we will no doubt be hearing a lot more about the opioid crisis in the months to follow. You know, when it comes to raising public awareness about the dangers of drug abuse, filmmakers have always been quick to exploit join the cause. In her book Hooked: Drug War Films in Britain, Canada, and the United States, Susan C. Boyd writes…

“Drug prohibition emerged at the same time as the discovery of film, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and their histories intersect in significant ways… Cautionary and temperance stories about weak-willed people, drug-scare tales, and later addiction-as-disease narratives became familiar plot lines that movie viewers have come to recognize.”

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Hollywood’s anti-drug efforts have ranged from the sensational (1894’s Chinese Opium Den) to the infamous (1936’s Reefer Madness) to the “Please, God, I promise I’ll never do drugs, just don’t ever make me watch that again!” (2000’s Requiem for a Dream). Out of all of them, though, no other anti-drug film has scaled the peaks of insanity as high as Blood Freak, the movie Something Weird Video gleefully advertises as "The World's Only Turkey-Monster-Anti-Drug-Pro-Jesus-Gore Film!"

Where to start? With the directors, I suppose, because that’s where the movie does. Brad F. Grinter was an active nudist, occasional actor, and not-so prolific director of Z-grade movies. Based on the evidence, nudity was probably his strongest talent out of the three. Along with his dubious directorial and scripting efforts on Blood Freak, Grinter plays the mustachioed narrator who introduces the film while sitting at a desk wearing a velour shirt and taking long drags on a cigarette. Think of him as kind of a cross between Plan 9’s Criswell and a background extra from Boogie Nights.

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After rambling on a while about how change is the only constant, the narrator introduces us to burly biker Herschel, played by Grinter’s co-director and co-screenwriter, Steve Hawkes. Upon arriving from Europe, Hawkes first pursued his dream of becoming the next Johnny Weissmuller by playing a Tarzan knockoff in a series of Spanish language films. It was supposedly during the last of those productions that Hawkes received burns over 90% of his body. Deciding to channel some of that experience into a screenplay, he connected with Grinter and the rest is history. Well, somebody’s idea of history anyway.

We see Herschel stop to help stranded motorist Angel who, true to her name, offers to take the homeless Vietnam veteran to her father’s turkey farm where he can have a meal and maybe get some work. On the way, the extremely religious Angel explains to Herschel that she never uses drugs because it would defile the temple that is her body. She also points out that adultery is sticks and stones. No, I’m not sure what that means either.

Arriving at the farm, Herschel is introduced to some of the farmhands, who offer him a job, and to Angel’s much less religious sister Ann, who offers him herself. Herschel fends off the determined girl for a day or two, but after being browbeaten into taking a puff from a drug-laced joint, he gives in to Ann’s oft-sampled charms. Don’t look too unkindly on Herschel, though. The narrator assures us it would take much LESS of a man than Herschel to resist a woman like Ann. No, I’m not sure what that means either.

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Herschel also gives in to the suspect scientists employed by the farm and agrees to act as a guinea pig for their chemically enhanced turkey meat. Unfortunately, Herschel has informed no one that he has secretly been taking illegally obtained prescription medications to help deal with burns he received during the war. These opioids, when mixed with Ann’s drugs and the altered poultry, have a horrendous effect on Herschel’s physiology. After blackingout, our hero awakens to discover he now has the head of a giant turkey and an insatiable thirst for the blood of drug addicts.

Much of the rest of the movie is spent watching the turkey-fied Herschel stumble through dimly lit night scenes, gobbling at the moon until he happens upon some hapless redneck druggies and drains them dry. He also takes time to gruesomely avenge Ann’s near-rape after a friend trades her to a pusher for some drugs. Fed up with all the bloodshed, some of the other farm workers track Herschel down and serve him up for Thanksgiving dinner.

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At which point Herschel awakens for real. It seems the whole turkey-head thing has been a hallucination caused by the dreadful drug cocktail circulating in his system. Shocked to his senses, Herschel calls on Angel to help him pray for the strength to overcome his addictions. His story ends with he and Ann heading off to the beach together to start a drug-free happily ever after. As for the narrator, he appears one final time to explain how Herschel’s story has been a warning against abusing one’s body with chemicals. He then succumbs to a coughing fit because he’s smoked at least two packs over the course of the film. The end.

It sounds like parody, but everything onscreen oozes sincerity. You see, by 1972, the year of Blood Freak’s release, the loose conglomeration of evangelical hippies and charismatic Christians known as the Jesus movement was at its peak. Jesus people were making feel good versions of the Son of God hits on both Broadway and the pop charts. It was only natural that those with access to film equipment would get around to making their own low budget exploitation films with an honest to goodness religious component. As for the drug angle, while not everyone in the Jesus movement was quick to forego their use, many did. Given Hawkes’ real life experiences, which were slightly altered and given to Herschel as a backstory, it’s not too hard to imagine he was all-in with the film’s anti-drug stance. Everything points to Blood Freak being an honest attempt by religious minded filmmakers to get people to just say no.

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And why shouldn’t it be? As the Catechism notes, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.” The statistics stated at this start of this article prove the Church right on this. As such, it’s only common sense to oppose drug use. As for those already hooked using prayer as part of their efforts to kick the habit, that turns out to be a good idea as well.

An article at World Religion News notes…

“There have been several studies showing the effectiveness of faith-based recovery. Teen Challenge, a Christian drug treatment program, has been proven in two separate studies to be more effective than its secular counterparts. A study of injection drug users had one-third of them credit religious practices in avoiding both use and risky practices that could lead to infection. Another study found people who attended faith-based programs were more optimistic about their chance for success. Interestingly, faith-based programs can sometimes also be more effective even when the patients are non-religious (but not anti-religion).”

So, yeah, it actually seems like Blood Freak was on to something. Drugs actually are bad for you and religion really can help you stop using them. As for the whole using drugs giving you a giant turkey head thing, though, I’m afraid I’ve got no facts to back that one up.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

TINSELTOWN TESTAMENTS

GENESIS 2:18

Douay-Rheims Version: “And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.”

Revised Standard Version: “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

New American Bible: “The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.”

Bride of Frankenstein: “Alone… bad. Friend… good. Friend… good!!!"

Friend Good

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SHORT FEATURE: FRANK ZAPPA - CHEEPNIS

Ah, the joys of free association. While reviewing the new theatrical version of IT for Aleteia, I couldn't help but recall all those other ITs which have appeared in movies over the decades. Naturally, I had to write about them over at SCENES. That led to a discussion of It Conquered the World, which just so happened to be a favorite of fellow B-movie aficionado Frank Zappa. Knowing that, what else could I do but share this video a fan put together for the rock icon's ode to all things low budget. Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing and listening pleasure, we present Cheepnis...


In his book You Are What You See: Watching Movies Through a Christian Lens, author Scott Nehring suggests that "we make a statement with the films we choose to see, and those films eventually express themselves in our daily lives." If that's true, what does it say about folks like me and Frank Zappa who have a deep and abiding love for cheap monster movies and the like.

Well, obviously, I can't speak for Frank and neither can he now, so his reasons will have to remain a mystery. As for myself, there is no one answer. Part of it is the simple fun, escapism, and novelty to be found in these types of films. I mean, did you watch the video? There's a clip in there featuring a giant monkey swinging a dinosaur around by the tail. That's fun, escapist, and novel all rolled into one.

There's nothing inherently evil in any of those things, although they can end up that way if not taken in moderation. Continuous novelty seeking, for instance, might indicate someone is a dopamine or adrenaline junkie, and we wouldn't want that. Rest assured, I know when it's time to stop having fun, turn the channel, and wallow in the misery of the nightly news for a while. And vice versa.

But it's more than just the entertainment aspects. Like many other religious persons, I try to filter everything through a spiritual lens. Or as the Jesuits might put it, I do my best to find God in everything. And yes, that even goes for movies with giant monkeys swinging dinosaurs around by the tail. You'd be surprised how much God can be discovered in films like that. Often buried really, really deep, sure, but still there. And surprisingly, that makes them all the more fun, escapist, and novel. As evidence, I offer ten years of this blog.

And that's enough navel gazing for one night. Let's get back to the movies shall we? See you next time.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

THE B-LIST: THE 5 WORST JOBS IN SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIES

As more than one comedian has put it, Labor Day is that time of year we get to celebrate having a job by not working all day. However, the official website of  U.S. Department of Labor would prefer we take a more somber approach to the holiday. It reminds us that Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

In that spirit, we here at The B-Movie Catechism would like to take the time to celebrate those laborers who take care of the most thankless tasks imaginable, those who have the worst jobs in Sci-Fi/Horror movies.

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1. LAB ASSISTANT

It doesn’t matter whether you’re working for Victor Frankenstein, Herbert West, or any other of the countless mad scientists out there, the job of lab assistant in sci-fi/horror movies just plain sucks. It’s not just the usual tedious tasks like prepping experiments, recording data, and cleaning up the  equipment afterwards. It’s more all of the grave robbing, kidnapping, and dealing with a boss who daily intrudes on God’s domain that makes the job such a chore. At best, you’ll end up dead. At worst, you’ll find yourself strapped to a table and turned into some hideous human/cobra hybrid with an intense aversion to mongooses (not mongeese, we looked it up). If you can find a way to skip such an internship, we highly recommend it.

dune

2. PERSONAL CARE ASSISTANT TO BARON HARKONNEN

Vladimir Harkonnen was bad enough in Frank Herbert’s written works, what with being a pedophile/rapist who regularly drank blood straight from his servants’ hearts. So wretched was he that the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserits cursed the creep with a degenerative disease making him so fat (how fat was he?) that he has to use anti-gravity suspensors just to move his butt around. If you’ve ever watched a single episode of My 600-lb Life, then you know what that means. Somebody has to give this guy a bath every day. If it was just the weight, that might be okay. That’s just one of the challenges of caring for the morbidly obese. But in David Lynch’s movie version of Dune, Harkonnen’s corpulent condition is also accompanied by huge, festering boils all over his body. Nobody wants the job of rubbing a damp sponge all over that, especially not when there’s a better than average chance of getting buggered in the process.

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3. TOKYO DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION WORKER

Fandom being what it is, there have been numerous online debates as to whether or not Godzilla poops. The general consensus seems to be that since the Big G ingests nothing but radiation, there would be no physical waste to worry about. Rodan, on the other hand, you just know that guy has to leave droppings everywhere. And then there’s Hedorah, the Smog Monster. He’s basically half-excrement to begin with. So, when the fighting is all done, somebody has to clean all that doody up, right? Well, a little investigation reveals that in New York, it is actually the Sanitation Department’s job to clean up anything the City’s mounted police force leaves behind. As such, it seems reasonable to expect their Japanese counterparts would to have to do the same for any beasts, large or small, roaming their streets. They probably have to use bigger shovels though.

chud

4. NYC SEWAGE TREATMENT WORKER

As the New York Times so succinctly points out, the job of Sewage Treatment Worker is tough, unpleasant, and just plain dirty. It goes without saying, however, that modern metropolises couldn’t function without the public service provided by these dedicated men and women. And it’s not just dealing with filthy working conditions and the occasional vermin that make sewer workers the unsung heroes of the Big Apple. If the movies are to be believed, they also have to put up with giant alligators, flesh-eating blobs, human-mimicking mutant cockroaches, Jason Voorhies, and C.H.U.Ds. Whatever you do, don’t forget about the C.H.U.Ds.

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5. PRIEST

In the real world, a recent study published the University of Chicago showed that if you want to have a job where you are the happiest and most satisfied, then you need to join the clergy. One of the authors of the study noted, “The most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others and creative pursuits.” That pretty much describes being a priest, which got a whopping 89% satisfaction rate on the survey. It’s a little different in the movies, though. In the celluloid universe, anytime some half-ass sorcerer, self-centered Cenobite, dime-store devil worshiper, or demon de jour shows up and wants to make a name for themselves, they head straight for the nearest Catholic Church and try to take out the local pastor. You know, a priest’s schedule is packed enough as it is. Add in having to stop what they’re doing every fifteen minutes to ward off the hordes of Hell, and it just gets unbearable.

And there you have it, the worst jobs to have in Sci-Fi/Horror movies. There’s no doubt more, so be sure to drop a note in the comments letting us know what you think should be added to the list. Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

NOW SHOWING AT A BLOG NEAR YOU

Now Showing Marquee 3

I was about to complain that I’m still knee deep in the work-year from Hell, but since I’m the one who spent all that time praying for a way to keep paying my bills, I don’t think I can honestly say the bad place is to blame for my crushing work load. Ah well, at least I’ve managed to find time to squeeze in a few reviews for Aleteia, including ones for Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes. I also revamped one of my old articles about Horrifying Masks from the Movies for SCENES. Around here, though, pickings have been slim. Fortunately, there are some other sites out there talking about movies and religion to compensate for my lack of content.

To start with, there’s Bradford Walker’s article at SuperversiveSF in which he reflects fondly on The Last Starfighter. Sure, the movie may be a bit of old school 80s cheese chock full of video gamer wish fulfillment, but according to Mr. Walker, it’s also a praiseworthy tale about the necessity of accepting responsibility. Grig would be pleased.

Not quite as positive is Matthew Walther’s take on the HBO series, Game of Thrones. Writing for The Week, Walther puts forth the argument that the show is nothing more than “ultra-violent wizard porn” that’s ultimately bad for your mortal soul. I’ll have to take his word for it as (GASP!) I’ve actually never seen a single episode.

I also somehow missed the 2015 insect horror flick, Bite, a low budget gore fest with overtones of Cronenberg’s The Fly. However, my curiosity is raised by Thomas M. Sipos’ post at The Hollywood Investigator in which he assures me (and everyone else) that Bite is a surprisingly conservative Christian allegory on the dangers of fornication. Guess I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

Speaking of bugs, Philip Kosloski has a short piece up at Aleteia in which he ponders the role of spiders in Christian art and whether or not the hideous venom-filled things deserve their reputation as sinister creatures?

While you’re at Aleteia, you might also want to check out Matthew Becklo’s review of A Ghost Story, the new film in which Casey Affleck dies and comes back as a spirit who wanders around wearing a sheet with eyeholes in it. Apparently it’s thoughtful and touching and not at all as stupid as it sounds.

More somber sounding is John Macias’ musings on Logan at Crisis Magazine. Now that the film is out on home video, it might be a good time to take in his thoughts on the film and its themes of Technocracy and the Abolition of Man.

And finally, in honor of of the release of the aforementioned War for the Planet of the Apes, here’s a picture of some nuns feeding a monkey. Everybody likes monkeys.

20/04/1966