Happy Festivus!

Boogeyman 2


Continuing to catch up on my straight-to-vid slasher films.

I don't know if this is the worst one yet, but it has to be a serious contender. It has a pretty good ending, but that's nothing unexpected or original, so the film's only real strength consists of exactly one good idea: the murderer does not actually kill many of his victims. They are mental patients who have been institutionalized for phobias, and the murderer uses their own fears to create situations which trick the victims into killing themselves.

Against that one strength, let us review the evidence of the film's many weaknesses:

(1) It starts with the dreaded "ten years earlier" prologue. Any horror film writer who uses this gimmick now, after God knows how many previous uses have exhausted it, should have his status as a writer permanently revoked in a ceremony like the opening of "Branded," where the screenwriter stands in front of his peers while his pencil is broken over the knee of the senior writer in attendance.

(2) It's bad enough that the prologue cliché exists at all but, as it always does, it reveals the identity of the insane murderer before the damned story even begins, even though that identity is the central mystery of the present-day story. Well, let's see ... a young brother and sister watch their parents slaughtered in the prologue. Obviously, they are both traumatized, and one of them must be the insane boogeyman/murderer when the story jumps forward to the present. If this were not true, the incident would have no bearing on the modern story. We can see that the sister is not the murderer. Meanwhile the brother mysteriously disappears to San Francisco, claiming to have a job interview one day after he is released from the booby hatch. Gee ... I wonder who the killer could be ...

(3) After showing us immediately who the killer must be, the script then offers a series of lame red herrings in which various false suspects act as creepy and demented as possible. (Until they are killed of course.)

(4) Here's my favorite plot element. After the murder ten years ago, the brother was institutionalized, while the sister continued to live in the outside world. On the first night that the brother is back, the sister has a really bad dream, and she decides that she needs to receive the same treatment in the same institution - for that matter in the same room - that did such a great job of curing her brother.

Let's review:

  • Ten years on her own, surviving quite nicely.
  • Plus one bad dream when the appearance of her brother causes her to re-experience her childhood trauma.
  • Equals institutionalization in a maximum security mental facility.

When she gets to said institution, she is escorted to her brother's old room, where the painting on the wall shows the two of them, as children, being scared out of their wits. It looks like it was painted by someone who had just read an H.P. Lovecraft story on acid. She finds nothing unusual about it. "Leave it up," she tells the compassionate shrink who thoughtfully left a grotesque, diabolical painting of a childhood trauma on the wall for a person being treated for the psychological repercussions of the very incident portrayed in the painting.

(5) The prime directive of grade-B horror movie characters is always in force. B Horror Prime states that if there is something that represents a danger to individuals and would be better faced by a group working together, the group must split up and each of them must walk down a separate spooky, unlit corridor. It's the law.

As the thrill-a-minute, pot-smokin' generation of today might say if they were characters in a bad 90s comedy, "Dude, this movie is bogus."

The IMDb score is bogus as well. It has been artificially inflated by ballot-stuffing. If you take out the 26 10s, the average score is 4.5, which is exactly what I would have guessed, and the most common score is "1."

Chrissy Griffith has two topless scenes, shown in these film clips. Neither really offers a look at her face and her breasts together (could be a double I guess, but who cares?), and neither is pleasant to watch.

  • In the first she looks at herself in the mirror, disgusted by her flab, then throws up. (She's thin as a rail. She's a mental patient, institutionalized for her fear of gaining weight.)
  • In the second, she has sex with another patient. This might be pleasant to watch if it were not intercut with a nasty murder in the next room. Michael Graziadei (his last name means "thank God") shows his butt in the second scene. Here are the film clips.



Gone Baby Gone


There is no nudity in this film, but I want to devote a bit of time to it because it is very much worth watching, and I don't get to recommend that many films with enthusiasm.

Gone Baby Gone, representing Ben Affleck's debut as a writer/director, is a complex and morally ambiguous police procedural adapted from Affleck's favorite book and located in the city where he grew up. He made a good choice to deal with material he reveres and to write about an environment he understands thoroughly, namely working class Boston.

Affleck's brother Casey and Michelle Monaghan play private detectives named Patrick and Angie, people who can sometimes accomplish what the police cannot because they only take work in the neighborhood where they grew up, and they stay out of the way of high-profile investigations. They have some connection to just about everyone in their bailiwick, and many people will tell them things that they will not tell the police.

Despite their lightweight experience, Patrick and Angie they are enlisted to supplement the police investigation of a missing three-year-old. They don't even want the case, but they manage to surprise the experienced police detectives by providing some valuable assistance almost immediately, and they are reeled in.

The film has an unusual and intricate structure. After about an hour, the case ends ... unhappily ... and the detective makes the usual voice-over summation of how the girl was just another forgotten person in a forgotten world and so forth. It seems to be the end of story, it feels like the end of the movie, and if you are not watching the time you will be edging toward the theater exit.

But the film refuses to end. Patrick gets involved in another case peripheral to the first one. Another child is missing, and one of Patrick's informants leads him to a place where he sees some of the suspects from the investigation of the missing girl. Patrick dutifully informs the police officers he worked with on the little girl's case, and between them they bring down the baddies, not without considerable cost. One of the cops is killed, and Patrick shoots an unarmed defenseless child molester in the back of the head, something he regrets, but is widely praised for.

"Why is this film still running," you may think?

A very good reason.

As Patrick and the surviving cop get drunk and discuss what transpired when they took down the baddies, the cop lets something slip in his drunken meanderings. It's not something earth-shattering, but it convinces Patrick to re-open his closed investigation of the little girl's case because it bothers him that the apparently upright and compassionate cop had told him a significant lie about something in the case. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that the detectives did not succeed quite as well as they thought, and it dawns on them that they may have been pushed into the case in part because they were lightweights, not in spite of it. As Patrick digs deeper and deeper, he finds more and more lies, and discovers that he was really nowhere near as smart as he thought he was. Patrick and Michelle finally solve the case for real and the film ends again at the 90 minute mark.

And then, just as you expect the credits to start rolling, it starts again.

What the hell?

There is one more big surprise. Very, very big.

That intriguing plot structure alone is enough to make Gone Baby Gone an absorbing movie, but it's not what elevates it to the level of art. That comes at the end when the two detectives argue over what to do about everything they have found. They are both good people. It is clearly established that they are the sympathetic characters and in love with one another. Yet they are diametrically opposed about how to deal with the evidence they have uncovered. Each believes that his/her position is morally correct, and there is no room for compromise. In the end Patrick makes the decision his way. Not only does it come at great personal cost, but he will go to his grave uncertain whether it was right.

And there the movie finally ends. All the veils are finally removed, but having all the information does not mean we are automatically able to distinguish right from wrong, because our world is a complicated place.

This is the kind of thoughtful movie that was popular three decades ago, the kind which intends to drive the audience from from the theater to a coffee shop where they argue passionately about whether the "hero" did the right things at various times, especially at the end.

The writing is outstanding in many ways, but it has one glaring weakness. There is really no point to the character of Angie. She is supposed to be Patrick's coworker and girlfriend, but the script really strips away the former and portrays her as a tag-along girlfriend who is omitted from many key scenes and spends others hiding behind Patrick while he points a gun at someone. She could easily be written out of the script completely, or could be turned into a girlfriend with a completely different job, and nobody would notice her absence. If, like me, you watch the film without having read the books about these characters, you'll be wondering why she's in the film in the first place. I guess the reason must be "because she was in the book," but that's not a sufficient reason. If the character in the book is a real asset to the story, that value was not captured in the movie.

There's good news and bad news about the character's insignificance. The bad news is that the character and the actress are not used as well as they could be. The good news is that the flaw is unimportant to the film's merit for the same reason it is a flaw: simply because she is insignificant. If she were miswritten into a major character, it might affect the film, but she's not even necessary and therefore not able to detract from the film in any major way. So I'm willing to set that aside as a matter of significant interest only to those who have read the book(s). Apart from the mystifyingly unnecessary character, the film is outstanding. What makes it so effective is that the plot structure is interesting enough to involve viewers who would normally avoid this kind of serious hand-wringing drama that is downbeat from stem to stern; while the characterization, atmosphere, and moral ambivalence are intriguing enough to involve viewers who would normally avoid standard detective thrillers and police procedurals. It held me glued to my chair, intensely involved for the entire two hours, and not without a moist eye here and there.

It's good enough to be considered for major awards although the only recognition awarded so far is the widespread acclamation of Amy Ryan as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the mother of the missing girl. If there were an award for "best new director," Affleck would just about have a lock on it.




  • * Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

  • * White asterisk: expanded format.

  • * Blue asterisk: not mine.

  • No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.








Alle Kätzchen naschen gern


"All Kittens Like to Gnaw" is a German sex farce, most notable for an early nude performance from Edwige Fenech. It has been referred to as The Blonde and the Black Pussycat, although I can find no evidence that it has ever been exhibited under that title.

Two nobles are arguing over ownership of a castle. They have painted a line down the center, each occupying half of the castle. Two sisters, Angela Ott and Barbara Capell, both virgins, arrive to work as maids. Both nobles are anxious to bed them. They make a wager that the first to deflower his maid will win the castle. Into that mix, Edwige Fenech arrives to marry one of them. They are too busy to notice her, but fortunately a handsome visitor is all too happy to entertain her -  and the two maids as well.

It's a rather weak Euro sex farce. The laughs are too few, and it's too dialogue-heavy for a film in German with no subtitles. On the other  hand it does have good, rare nudity from Fenech, so many will want to see it for that reason alone.


Alle Kätzchen naschen gern

It is only available from RLDVDs.com on a region-free PAL

Edwige Fenech does full frontal and rear. Angela Ott, Barbara Capell, and Christine Schuberth show breasts and buns, and five unknowns show buns.


Edwige Fenech


Angela Ott


Barbara Capell


Christine Schuberth


Various Unknowns










Sharon Stone double feature day:

Basic Instinct


Today the Time Machine goes back to 1992 for Sharon Stone's beaver shot in her unforgettable leg crossing scene from Basic Instinct.


The Muse


Then we skip ahead a few years for Sharon's behind in The Muse.







Notes and collages

The Puppet Masters

Julie Warner


Ms. Warner co-stars in this fast paced sci-fi thriller about an alien invasion of earth. Nicely done.






"The Hunger"

Season Two. Episode: "DREAM SENTINEL"

An erotic dancer (Alice Poon) is haunted by a ghost (Eric Roberts) who wants to possess her.

Alice Poon













The Heartbreak Kid

Trust the Farrelly Brothers to come up with a romantic comedy that's not always romantic, not always a comedy, features a main male character that's a flaming dipship, is very mean-spirited towards the two main female characters, and has an ending that in the last thirty seconds contains a twisty shocker you'd never expect from a romantic comedy. 2007's The Heartbreak Kid, based loosely on a 1972 movie of the same name, contains all that.

Eddie is a successful forty-year-old bachelor who owns a sporting-goods store. After attending the wedding of an ex-fiancé and contemplating his own still-single status, he meets Lila (Malin Akernam), a beautiful young environmental researcher, and falls in love. Six weeks later, knowing very little about each other, they marry.

As they start their honeymoon in Mexico, Eddie discovers a few things about his new wife that he didn't know. She is immature and has a volatile personality, is a violent sex fiend in bed, owes a huge amount of money to drug dealers due to a coke habit that she once had, has no income because her job is volunteer, and is just this side of totally crazy.

To make matters worse, while Lila is recovering from a serious sun burn caused by her total stupidity in refusing to wear sun block, Eddie meets Miranda, a beautiful but common-sense lacrosse coach who is part of a family group vacationing at the same resort he is staying at. He immediately falls in love again, and then must figure out how to dump his new wife and woo Miranda without turning her off with the fact that he is newly married.

There are plenty of laughs, not to mention all the other non-typical elements packed into this comedy, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Malin Akerman Kayla Kleevage

 (and a Festivus special: Costanza's father)