Back in 1984, in Rogers Park, Chicago, there existed (and still exists today) a Jewish preschool on Touhy Avenue, the street where I currently live.

It happened that a woman was picking her four-year-old daughter from school, and as they were walking through the hall, a janitor tried to tickle the little girl, and the girl told him to leave her alone.

So the mom asks the girl about it later, and the girl alleged that the janitor had previously tickled her private parts.   The allegations were reported to the police, who then interviewed something like 80 kids at the school.  Some of the kids apparently reported that there were satanic rituals going on at the school.  Some kids claimed they had seen the teachers there kill a baby, cook it in a kettle, and then eat it.

Ultimately, there was an investigation, the janitor was charged with molestation and the school closed down for a while.  Eventually, the janitor was acquitted, and two-hundred-something charges against the school and various teachers were dropped, because of either lack of evidence or a bumbled investigation, depending on who you ask.

In case you were wondering because of the superficial similarities, A Nightmare on Elm Street was also released in 1984.

I discovered this today because we published an article about a couple in Texas who just had their 20-year-old convictions tossed in a similar satanic ritual abuse situation.

And that led me to an article one of my co-workers wrote back in 1987 about the Rogers Park case.

Here’s the most authoritative version I’ve been able to find in my brief research.  It appears from this that the judge in the case felt like there was a real possibility that sexual abuse had occurred, but because it had become this satanic cult witch hunt, the investigation had been compromised, and thus there was reasonable doubt, requiring the acquittal.

Interesting story, eh?

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31 new (to me) horror movies in 31 days. Here’s the last two, just in time.

Horns (2014)

Harry Potter can’t remember whether or not he killed what may well be the most beautiful girl in the world, and so he inexplicably grows horns that give him some kind of weird demonic powers. I liked this movie a lot; it’s the first film based on a Joe Hill book, and it’s well done, directed by Alexandre Aja. The story has a central metaphor that’s made concrete, and it’s an interesting approach and an original idea. I hope this movie does well, but I think a sequel would be a bad idea. Recommended.

october

The Houses October Built (2014)

A found-footage style movie about a group of five people who rent an RV and go on a tour of haunted houses the week of Halloween, culminating in a Halloween-night visit to the Blue Skeleton “extreme haunt”. This was a thinly veiled reference to the stuff like the Blackout haunts, which is a subject near and dear to my heart. I know people have strong feelings about found footage, but personally, I’m a fan of it and I think it worked here. Some people will strongly dislike the ending, but I thought it was just great. Honestly, I LOVED this movie, and it was the perfect one to end this project with.

Six more makes 29 out of 31. Piece of cake.

vampire_loversThe Vampire Lovers (1970)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Dang, I sure could go for a good old-fashioned vampire story with gothic castles and horse-drawn carriages and such, but I don’t want to watch another Dracula movie?”  Well, you’re in luck.  Especially if you like old-school female vampires and boobs.  Plus, Peter Cushing is in it.  11-year-old Ian would have LOVED it.


 

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

All the PA movies are the same exercise.  It’s a game of Where’s Waldo, with the movie expecting me to use my pattern recognition circuits to detect what’s moving that shouldn’t be.  Meh.  The use of the kinect sensor is pretty interesting and creepy.  As usual, nobody dies until the last 5 minutes, where 95% of the plot occurs.

 

DOUBLE FEATURE!

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Rule #1 of movie making: show, don’t tell.  The incessant voice-overs in this movie are killing me.  Also, the soundtrack is so goofy.  This movie can’t tell if it wants to be a slasher movie or smokey and the bandit.  I could really do with less stupid comic relief. And come on with the trombone scene.  Sheesh. This movie is interesting as a historical curiosity in the evolution of horror movies, being a prototype for stuff that would come later, notably Halloween and Friday the 13th, but it’s not a terribly good movie on it’s own merits.


town_sundown

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Brand new remake produced by Ryan Murphy, the guy that made Glee and American Horror Story.  A remake vastly superior to the original, and which actually contains the original within it itself in a fascinating way; this is a movie that is about itself.  Meta as all get out.  As a stand alone movie, it’s pretty decent.  But as a double feature with the original played first, it’s an outstanding combination.


I cannot recommend strongly enough that you watch both the original movie and the “remake” as a double feature. That’s a five-star horror movie experience right there.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this case, and watching them together really lends a completely different dimension to both films.

 

Candy Stripers (2006)

I don’t know, something about an alien invasion-of-the-body-snatchers thing and a hospital filled with hot nurses and the world’s oldest high school basketball team.  All the actors look like someone else in disguise. There’s cheerleaders getting naked.  It stars not one, but two Playboy playmates, so let’s just face it — if you’re watching it, you’re not watching it for the plot or anything.  It’s for the boobs.


 

Room 33 (2009)

A wandering roller derby team breaks down near an abandoned insane asylum that’s covered with crazy grafitti which says things like, “I eat dead babies for breakfast”.  The one black guy in the horror movie knows he’s the one black guy in the horror movie. He is also clearly the smartest guy in the horror movie.  Punches above its weight, but not by much.

 

Big Bad Wolf (2006)

Here’s how the pitch meeting for this movie went: “Hey guys, I’ve got a great idea.  A bunch of teens in a cabin in the woods meets a werewolf, but he’s like a wisecracking werewolf.  The kids love that, like Freddy Kruger always cracked wise. Oh, and the werewolf is the kid’s stepdad, because, c’mon, teenage boys hate their stepdads.”  And then someone wrote them a check for $500,000 and voila. This movie happened. The motorcycle girl is the only interesting character in this movie.  I guess that’s something.

Twenty three so far!  What’s funny is that this is pretty much my normal pace.

killer_mermaidKiller Mermaid (aka Nymph) (2014)

You can always spot the girl from the USA, she’s the one with the american flag on her ass. An abandoned submarine base, AND an abandoned Nazi prison island in sight of one another?  The europeans have all the good stuff.  Of course, there has to be the “you’re doomed! you’re all doomed!” guy.  Nobody ever listens to that guy.  This movie was better than I expected.  Mermaids make a good creature, and there’s a weird female power thing going on, since the siren song mind control only works on men.  Worth watching.

 

Unrest (2006)

So the story is about medical students dissecting a questionable corpse.  I don’t know why, but this process seems to take days and days. There is some extremely questionable epistemology going on in this film.. Ok. This movie was totally stupid, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

 

Chemical Peel (2014)

Brand new on VOD Oct. 14th.  An obnoxious bridezilla and her insipid friends get caught in the woods amid a toxic aerosol chemical spill. Hilarity ensues. There are a few really compelling scenes in this film, but it is hobbled by unconvincing performances and some questionable scripting. I thought it was going to punk out on me at the end, but the final scene redeemed it. Enjoyable.

 

Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter (2012)

Manic pixie dream girl Elfie Hopkins and Harry Potter discover their new neighbors are cannibals, ala Fright Night.  Takes a little while to get going, but the last act is fun. Pretty British.

 

one_missed_callOne Missed Call (2003)

The Takashi Miike original in Japanese with English subs. Quite good J-horror that echoes themes pioneered by Ringu and Ju-On. A good introduction to j-horror from the 90s-00s,for those who may not be so familiar. Takashi Miike rarely disappoints. Also, I downloaded the creepy music box ringtone for my phone, which is nice.

I’m up to 17 so far.

MV5BMTk0OTM4NDEzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTQ3Njc0MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Sublime (2009)

Somehow, without trying, I acquired two copies of this movie in my DVD collection. Hospital horror. Guy checks in for a routine colonoscopy, and never checks out. Thanks, Obamacare death panels. I see what these guys were going for, and it’s not a bad idea, but there were some issues with pacing and execution that I can’t see past. There are whole subplots that are just silly dead ends, characters that only exist as metaphors, and like the whole second act is sort of this “it was a dream the entire time” thing. That being said, certainly watchable, but not brilliant.

 

Maniacts (2001)

Oh, shit, it’s in 4×3 format. Old school. It’s like Natural Born Killers meets One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, rendered in the style of Repo Man. Not entirely devoid of good ideas, but not enough to warrant watching. Only barely qualifies as a horror movie, actually.

 

Carrie (2013)

The remake. Pretty darn good. I was suspicious of a remake, because the one with Sissy Spacek is just so iconic. But the beauty of the thing here is that you know what’s going to happen, and you see all the expectations of the characters, and it lends it a different kind of tragedy, a kind of subtext of inevitability. Julianne Moore was very good in her role as the super-religious mother. Recommended.

 

MV5BNzkwNDkyNTUxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODY1NTE3Nw@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

I’ve tried to watch this movie unsuccessfully twice; I guess third time’s the charm. Kiev seems so nice in 2012; I bet it’s not so friendly a tourist spot these days. Seems like a fellow gets a whole lot of adventure for his dollars in eastern Europe. I’m looking at you, Hostel and A Serbian Film. This movie is somewhere on the continuum between Scooby Doo visits Silent Hillski, and the Russian Hills Have Eyes. Is that racist? The ending is solid.

 

Art of the Devil (2004)

Thai, with English subs. Hell hath something something woman scorned. Probate law is a whole lot different in Thailand, what with all the black magic and such. They take their death curses very seriously, it appears. A decent, but not amazing, film.

I’m up to twelve so far. Almost halfway there.

Vanishing on 7th Street (2010)
Anakin Skywalker keeps running out of flashlight batteries. Croatoan. The ending was good.

The Dead (2010)
Hey, have you been reading about how the Ebola dead are resurrecting in West Africa? So this is pretty much like what it would look like if Ebola was a zombie virus. It’s set in west Africa, Sierra Leone. The zombies operate on Romero rules. Slow, cannibals, dead, stopped by a shot to the head.
The characters are capable, and don’t do anything overtly stupid. Its nice to see a zombie movie that isn’t set in the white middle-class suburbs of the United States, though the effect is ruined by making the main protagonist a white American man. This isn’t a great movie, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not unwatchable. Apparently there’s a sequel set in India.

 

Killer Story (2007)
Well, it’s got Joe Estevez in it. He’s like a poor man’s Gary Busey. “You’ll be a female Gene Hackman.” A character actually said that line in this movie. As a compliment. To a woman. ಠ_ಠ
I wish there was something to recommend here, but there just isn’t. The plot is asinine and transparently confessional, since both stories in this anthology are about men who are complete failures. The filmmakers apparently had never heard of “continuity” or “color correction” and they don’t have any friends in bands, judging from the atrocious casio synth score. Utterly inept on every level. This is the movie you can make if you have $10k, and you give $5k of it and a bottle of tequila to Joe Estevez for an afternoon of work.  Just terrible.

 

Final Draft (2007)
Dawson’s Creek stars in this movie as a writer who’s trying to write a story about a killer clown. I felt sympathetic to Dawson’s Creek actually; as a person who dabbles with creative writing now and again, the idea of locking yourself in a room until you finish the thing you’re working on is a familiar sentiment, one I can identify with. The story here is one of those sort of meta things. The guy is writing the screenplay and seemingly living it at the same time. The sound on the DVD release was mixed really low, sadly, but other than that, it was reasonably good.

 

MV5BMTY1NzYzNTU5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc2ODQ5MQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_Splinter (2008)
Best line of dialog: “It’s ok. We’re cutting your arm off.”
This is a creature feature in the best sense, and oh my, what a creature! Reminds me of that fungus that infects ants, and makes them crawl to a high spot in the tree branches, where the fungus eats through the ant body, and then releases its spores onto the forest floor, to infect more ants. It had lots of echos of The Thing and Alien Raiders. Good and scary, with a fair amount of disturbingly realistic gore. One plot complaint: it would have been easier to make an ice suit than to lower homeboy’s body temperature. Simple is the best solution. Some of the action scenes got a little shaky-cam, but I can live with that. Totally solid movie.

 

Update on the October Horror Movie Challenge. I banked a few extras over the weekend. At this rate, I’ll finish up all 31 with a week to spare!

The Midnight Game (2014)

Sort of a bloody mary, candyman urban legend kind of story. It’s based on one of these creepypasta things, like slenderman. Felt very contemporary, of the present. It even contained some handy search terms in the end credits. (I looked, and it leads you to some of the creepypasta stuff about the rules of the midnight game, etc.) Cleverer than I expected. It’s solid, and I expect it’ll probably get a sequel one day. A perfectly serviceable new release.

 

Torment (2013)

Hey, did you like The Strangers, but you left the film thinking to yourself, you know what that movie needed? A ridiculous explanation about why the whole thing was happening, rather than just, “You were home.”
Then you’ll love Torment. A home-invasion sort of thing, like The Strangers, Funny Games, etc, but not as tense or scary. Unneeded exposition requires me to remove a star because it was dumb.

 

The Snowtown Murders (2011)

The story of John Bunting, Australian serial killer.
I probably would have liked this movie better if I was Australian. I couldn’t figure out why anyone did anything in this movie, nor could I discern how the characters were related to one another. It just seemed like a bunch of disconnected stuff that happened. Meh.

 

skinliveinThe Skin I Live In (2011)

A film by Pedro Almodovar, Spanish, with English subs. Stars Antonio Banderas. An absolutely original film that invoked themes of gender, madness, identity, and revenge. Conceptually fascinating, and well made. The soundtrack really stood out to me, as well as all kinds of hidden flourishes and nuance that elevated this beyond genre into the realm of Good Art. Strongly recommended.

 

The Scribbler (2014)

Girl with multiple personality disorder moves into the world’s worst halfway house, where she modifies her electroshock-at-home unit to give her magic karate powers. Lots of style, little substance. Sort of reminded me of Sucker Punch, but not nearly as imaginative. 2.5 stars, and that’s mostly because the chicks were cute.

Ok, so I’m trying the October Horror Challenge — watching 31 horror movies in October.

The caveat being they have to be ones you haven’t seen before. So far, I’ve watched two.

Oct. 1 – Man From Deep River [AKA Sacrifice! AKA Deep River Savages] (1972).

Billing itself as the “first cannibal movie”, it’s more like “How to be a dick to everybody in Thailand”. There are actually cannibals in this movie, for like 5 minutes, but you’d barely notice if you weren’t watching for it. Many animals were in fact harmed during the making of this movie. It’s also extremely sexist, racist, and fairly offensive all around. The story is basically The Last Samurai or Dances with Wolves, but not nearly as interesting. Skip this one, and check out Umberto Lenzi’s later cannibal flick, Cannibal Ferox (1981) instead.

 

sorority2

Oct. 2 – Sorority House Massacre II (1990).

This movie is exactly what you’d expected from the title. Late-80s straight to video sleaze horror. Its even in 4×3 format, so you can pretend you’re watching vhs. Five semi-cute sorority girls buy a haunted sorority house and fix it up. Almost every line of dialog in this flick is some kind of innuendo. The girls spend most of the movie either naked, changing clothes, or in lingerie. Not very scary, not very gory, lots of nudity. A tounge-in-cheek B-movie that doesn’t aspire to much more than that.

 

What should I watch this weekend?

“Since the Ebola outbreak in Nimba County, this is the first incident of dead victims resurrecting.”

I should think so.

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Two Ebola patients, who died of the virus in separate communities in Nimba County have reportedly resurrected in the county. The victims, both females, believed to be in their 60s and 40s respectively, died of the Ebola virus recently in Hope Village Community and the Catholic Community in Ganta, Ni…

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