Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wedlock and Roll!!!

At the end of this week my husband and I are celebrating four years of wedlock and roll. As it's Halloween we shall be marking this occasion by getting all zombied up and probably whiskied up too. Yup, marriage rocks. Speaking of marriage, our own Matthew Coniam got all wedded up last weekend, stop by and congratulate him.

As after four whole years I'm clearly an expert at this marriage lark, I feel I'm entitled to start handing out unsolicited advice. However, as marriage clearly does rock I can't see why any advice would be required, be in love, have fun, easy. So instead I will impart anniversary advice, and here it is:  traditional anniversary gifts relating to each particular year of marriage are stupid, change them. My husband and I have celebrated our leopard skin, tattoo, and PVC anniversaries and we feel it makes gift giving a much happier and more personal experience. By god I'm good at this. Right, now my wisdom has been well and truly imparted I'm off to anticipate our plutonium anniversary. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. C!!!!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Jinx's Choice for Halloween: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

As you’ve probably noticed Halloween is coming up (nowt gets by me, hell no). I had intended on posting a lot more in the lead up to the big day, but unfortunately I got somewhat distracted by stuff, and kittens, mainly kittens. However, a lot of other people have been flying the Halloween banner in fine style, (Mother Firefly, The Mike, Cynniegurl to name but a few) and doing a much better job of it than I would have, so I think we’re all winners there. Anyway, I did decide, between kitten wrangling, to contribute my own little bit to the Halloween madness so, without any more unnecessary rambling, I present to you my number one recommendation for a Halloween movie: Arsenic and Old Lace.

Arsenic and Old Lace is a deliriously brilliant black comedy directed by Frank Capra and starring a rubber limbed Cary Grant demonstrating a genuine knack for slapstick comedy. Though originally filmed in 1941, as it was running on Broadway at the time and continued to run with an impressive 1,444 performances, the movie was not released until much later in 1944 and is arguably one of the funniest films of its period, actually, I maintain it is one of the funniest film ever.

Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, drama critic, confirmed bachelor and author of anti-marriage literature. We join him as he is, surprisingly, about to get married. Mortimer has fallen in love with the preacher’s lovely daughter, Elaine Harper, and given the nature of his public reputation their impending nuptials have remained something of a closely guarded secret. However, before they can slink off for their Niagra Falls honeymoon there remains the small matter of informing their families of their recently wedded state and so they plan to make a brief stop in Brooklyn where, conveniently, Elaine’s preacher dad and Mortimer’s loving aunts live right next to each other their houses only separated by a cemetery.

Mortimer’s aunts, the Brewster sisters, are two sweet, kindly elderly ladies who live with their brother Teddy and as testament to their all round niceness they keep a room thoughtfully available for rent for any gentleman travellers who might be in need of a bed for the night. They are naturally thrilled at the news that their favourite nephew has finally settled down and married the lovely girl next door.

Unfortunately for the newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Brewster things are about to get complicated and more than a bit messy. First off, there’s the small matter of Uncle Teddy. Uncle Teddy thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, really, really thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and the neighbours have been complaining. There have been threats of Happydale Sanatorium. The situation has been terribly trying for the kindly and patient Brewster sisters, and it is now causing them to consider what would become of Teddy if they were no longer around.

Now, you may think that that would enough to deal with for one newlywed gentleman eager to get away on his honeymoon with his beautiful bride, but things are only destined to get worse for Mortimer when he accidentally stumbles upon a fresh corpse hidden in one of his aunts’ window seats. Initially, he suspects crazy Uncle Teddy until his aunts guilelessly explain that they are, in fact, responsible referring to it as ‘one of their charities’. It turns out that his lovely spinster aunts have been taking pity on the lonely old gentleman that come to take up the offer of their rented room and have been ending their perceived misery by bumping them off with homemade elderberry wine dosed with arsenic, strychnine and ‘just a pinch of cyanide’. This dubious endeavour, phrased charmingly as ‘a very bad habit’, has, it transpires, been going for a considerably long time and the aunts have amassed a sizeable graveyard in the basement, the bodies ceremoniously buried by Teddy under the impression that he is digging locks for the Panama Canal and burying yellow fever victims.

Naturally Mortimer is a bit taken aback by this revelation, not to mention beginning to become a tad concerned about what might be festering in the family gene pool. This suspicion is soon to be compounded when, in a further complicating turn of events, Mortimer’s criminally psychotic older brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) pitches up towing his accomplice, drunken plastic surgeon Dr. Herman Einstein (Peter Lorre) along with him.

Adding to the family album, Jonathan is a psychotic murderer on the run from the police and looking for a place to dispose of his most recent corpse Mr. Spenalzo. To keep himself free from prison Jonathan has undergone extensive and repeated plastic surgery at the hands of the unhelpfully perpetually tipsy Dr. Einstein. As a result of the repeated surgeries, and his pet surgeon alcohol issues, Jonathan now resembles Boris Karloff, or, more specifically, Boris Karloff made up as Frankenstein’s monster, a comparison that becomes a recurrent gag as the movie progresses. (This was originally a self-referential joke as Karloff himself played Jonathan Brewster in the stage production and it was the original intention that he would reprise the role in the film, but he was too much of a draw to be able to leave the stage production for the filming period.)

When Jonathan discovers his aunts’ little secret, he reacts better (well, worse really, but better in the sense that it causes him considerably less anxiety) than Mortimer. He considers it to be nothing more than a perfect opportunity to dispose of Mr. Spenalzo amongst the aunts’ bodycount of gentleman callers Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha, however, take umbrage to this plan on the basis that their gentleman were nice, respectable men and they don’t want their eternal rest marred by the presence of common criminals. Sound reasonable. Jonathan cares not, however, and as he’s stumbled upon a rather nifty little set up ideal for the up and coming psychotic about town, all that there remains for him to do to claim it as his own is to dispose of Mortimer.

The comedy of Arsenic and Old Lace operates within the tried and tested parameters of classic farce. It presents us with a keenly played situational juggling act performed by a man struggling to stay in control of the increasingly crazy circumstances that are continually presenting themselves to him. Mortimer’s increasingly manic and fevered attempts to manage proceedings are hysterical, and let’s face it he’s got a lot of balls of crazy in the air; well meaning but murderous aunts, an impatient new wife whom he must placate and protect from the truth of his bonkers family, and then, for good measure, there’s also some incompetent cops and the impending arrival of a representative from Happydale Sanatorium eager to commit Teddy (whose probably the sanest of the lot). Not to mention, as his own severely tried wits begin to unravel, the dawning realisation that there’s probably more than a little heredity history of insanity in the Brewster family that he might need to contend with.

Arsenic and Old Lace is a perfectly paced farce; it’s hilariously funny and marvellously macabre and easily up there on my list of favourite films ever if I could ever commit myself to something so binding as a list of favourite films ever, my love is too wide and all encompassing for such a thing, I’m just a big, ole cinematic slut. If, God forbid, you haven’t seen Arsenic and Old Lace rush out and buy a copy now then snuggle up with someone you love on Halloween and watch the heck out of it. And love it. Please love it.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Horror of the 80s

Oh, the 80s, how I love you, with your shiny, shiny outfits and your big hair and your eyeshadow that, some might say, unnecessarily always matched the bulk of the colour in your shiny, shiny outfits. I wouldn’t say that, obviously, because I love you. I love your trash and your glitter. I love to watch you strutting about in your power suit and your naughty stilettos while a power ballad plays behind you. The only thing I don’t love about you is Thatcher, but that’s not your fault, you didn’t know what she was up to marching in your direction in her sensible shoes with her bouffant of evil clutching her handbag of lies and destruction. No, that wasn’t your fault. Mind you, 80s, I do still know all the words to the Wham! Rap, that is, kind of, a little bit, your fault. I get ridiculed a lot for that, it’s my only party piece for when I’ve had a few drinks and it strangely never elicits the kind of awe and wonder and undying respect you’d imagine it would. But never mind 80s, you rule, the world just wasn’t ready for camp white British boys rapping.

Sorry about that. What I was trying to say there was that I love the 80s. I did a significant amount of my growing up in the 80s and that minxy little decade and its various cultural influences, have, for better or for worse, been largely responsible for the well-rounded, well-balanced adult I pretend to be. Given this, it is probably unsurprising that I love, love, LOVE, 80s horror, and lately I have been indulging that love and so the House of Jinx has been staging its own little 80s film festival. As this little enterprise has been, and continues to be (the current obsession shows no signs of abating any time soon, I’m a child of the 80s, I’m prone to fads, what can I say?), so much fun, I thought I’d share a small portion of my recent viewing treats with all of you, because you’re gorgeous, even though some of you weren’t even born in the 80s ( you know who you are), but that’s ok because the 80s forgive you and love you anyway, the 80s are good like that.

Return to Horror High (1987)

In 1982 Crippen High School was the scene of a series of brutal murders. And the killer was never caught. Several years later a film crew pitches up at the school intent on making a trashy movie about the murders. But when members of the crew begin disappearing, it seems the killer has returned.

I must have seen Return to Horror High at least three times and still find myself unbelievably confused by quite a lot of it. I ultimately understand what happens I’m just not at any point terribly sure of how we got there. I’m fairly sure I’m not an idiot, I’m fairly sure it is just actually confusing. But, confusing or not, it’s a hell of a lot trashy, blood soaked fun for a Saturday night and we all know that trashy and blood soaked is the best kind of fun. Highlights include the most 80s, soft focus, music video sex scene ever and a lady cop who appears to find dismembered corpses incredibly arousing. Oh, and there’s a five minute cameo from a baby George Clooney, but I’m one of those odd women who don’t really care about that, I’ve nothing against the man, I’m sure he’s a lovely gent, I’m just not really fussed.

Saturday the 14th (1981)

A family inherit an old house that turns out to be infested with monsters and chaos and ‘hilarity’ ensue.

I’d completely forgotten about this horror ‘comedy’ until Matthew reminded me of it. Has to be seen to be believed. Really it does.

Slaughter High (1986)

Eight people are invited to attend their 10-year high school reunion at their now-dilapidated high school only to find that a former classmate, whom they disfigured ten years ago in a prank gone wrong, has returned to seek revenge.

By God I love this film! I don’t know if I love it so because it’s so 80s it hurts or because of British people affecting bad American accents or simply because Caroline Munro is a goddess, but I would quite happily roll around naked with it if the opportunity presented itself.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Bumbling medical supply warehouse workers Frank and Freddy accidentally release a noxious gas into the air while messing about in the basement. It soon becomes apparent that the vapours of this gas cause the dead to re-animate and soon Louisville, Kentucky is besieged by hungry zombies seeking their favourite food, brains.

I have to love The Return of the Living Dead even its only because I apparently subconsciously adopted Linnea Quigley’s character Trash as my style icon during my late teens and quite a lot of my twenties if I’m honest. (Feel obliged to point out that by that statement I don’t mean I wandered around starkers for a good ten years, this would be silly, especially given the British weather). But, even if that hadn’t been the case, and frankly I probably would have been included in a lot more family photos if it wasn’t, I still love The Return of the Living Dead because it’s just generally awesome. It’s deliciously 80s, terrifically funny, has some fantastic gore and is just plainly and simply all out, unabashed fun. It’s impossible to watch it without grinning constantly, it makes your face hurt but it’s worth it.

I've had so much fun this week, thanks, 80s, we must do this again. Soon.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Somebody Help Me (2007)

 Although I’m loath to admit it, I’m probably not as young and vital and ‘street’ as once I was. The very fact that I used ‘street’ there to exemplify the cutting edge of gritty, urban youth culture almost certainly proves that original point. With this in mind Somebody Help Me probably wasn’t targeted at me, a geeky thirty five year old from the North East of England whose idea of a good time is a nice cup of tea and a Miss Marple on TV. For the benefit of better understanding, and to fill in my own cultural blanks of things that happened post 1986, I have conducted some research:

Somebody Help Me is directed by Chris Stokes, Chris Stokes is a record producer, manager, and film director. He wrote and directed the 2004 dance-drama film You Got Served (???) and House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (slightly firmer ground here, I am aware of the work, and the hair, of Kid ‘n’ Play, though I had no idea House Party was a franchise. To make matters worse House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute is the only film of the franchise not to star Kid ‘n’ Play so I’m still no more culturally hip).

The movie’s two leads are Marques Barrett Houston and Omari Granberry. Marques Barrett Houston is an R&B singer, rapper, and actor and was a member of the R&B singing group Immature/IMx until 2002, he went solo in 2003. (I know what some of these words mean). Omari Granberry, better known as Omarion, is an R&B singer, actor, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and former lead singer of the boy band, B2K. He is currently a judge on America's Best Dance Crew. (I know what dance is).

Now, while I strongly believe the many assorted accomplishments of the cast and crew, listed above, to be valuable and impressive in the wider cultural sphere, these accomplishments, however, do not qualify them to make a credible horror film.

The thing about Somebody Help Me is that it could have pretty awesome. It makes an attempt to challenge the stupid stereotypes that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century film making, or indeed society. Our main protagonists happen to be black and this quite rightly isn’t treated as any kind of issue, but within the context of the horror genre it is addressed and our heroes and the white supporting cast are seen to challenge the assumptions of the horror viewer. Unfortunately it’s a half hearted attempt and this then leaves us in a cinematic no man’s land between the non issue of the these nice young people who happen to be black and this half formed challenge to horror genre expectations that doesn’t really go anywhere and that the film makers just seem to be coyly skirting round. So ultimately the viewer is left confused, we are not allowed to simply accept that protagonists happen to be black and get on and enjoy the film, but equally once the challenge is set and we’re aware of it we are not provoked enough to gain anything from the experience. Either way it’s a shame.

Anyway, on with the drama. After a confusing flashback to three years previous involving girls, dog cages and a crazy person, the action proper begins with two nice, young couples driving into the wilderness for weekend birthday celebration. Our two heroes, Brendan (Houston) and Darryl (Granberry) and their respective girlfriends are LA city types, they are headed to Darryl’s ‘Uncle Charlie’s’ cabin, but as LA city types they are a little apprehensive about the country adventure, however, by the time they arrive and everything seems deluxe cabiny fresh they happily resolve themselves to having a jolly good time. Although there is the small disconcerting of neighbouring creepy guy who seems intent on giving them a good staring at, but that’s probably perfectly fine.

Brendan and Darryl gallantly head off into town to stock up on the necessary party supplies, Battenberg cake and fizzy pop I can only assume, and there they run to the friendly local sheriff who spends a little time quizzing them on the nature of their visit. Here we learn two things; firstly that Darryl’s uncle is named Charles Bronson (honestly, he is) and secondly that sometimes young people staying in secluded horror movie locations are nice, friendly and polite and not just all about the drinking and the drugs and the sex. The sheriff seems taken with these nice young chaps and gives them his card for emergencies and reassures them that the neighbouring creepy guy is really quite harmless.

What happened next actually made me feel better about my whole lack youthful vitality and street cred. Back at the house our two couples are joined by three of the oddest, whitest couples in the world (seriously, one of them was dressed as an approximation of Velma from Scooby Doo and one had such chronic asthma she apparently can’t even blink without a demonstration) for the birthday bash. Now the gang are all assembled the dullest birthday party ever can finally kick off. If I was Brendan’s girlfriend and this was 21st birthday party I’d be praying for crazied up psycho killer to liven things up. Our hip young things blow up some balloons, listen to some surprisingly, given the pedigree of those concerned, bad pop music and drink some shots until Velma from Scooby Doo falls over a bit. On my 21st my friends and I woke up on the Albert Dock in Liverpool, 200 miles from where we started, because at some indistinct point in time the previous evening we’d thought it was good idea to commandeer the This Morning weather map and sail to Ireland using an AA road map as a guide. Now while this might not exactly be the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll it’s a damn sight better than balloons and pop. Well, kind of, I believe there was some singing of show tunes involved as well, but we’ll gloss over that. 

This Morning: A soul destroying late morning magazine show watched predominantly by students, the unemployed and bored housewives.

The This Morning Weather Map: 'Fred the Weatherman' would jump about on this in a variety of ‘hilarious’ jumpers in an ill-conceived attempt to make the weather more interesting and dynamic.

Me: Drunken idiot
When the evening eventually grinds to its tedious end some of the participants do make an attempt to rescue the monumental boredom of proceedings by making the sagacious decision to stumble out into the woods to have sex. I question the logic of this for two reasons: 1) they appear to be staying in a luxury cabin that probably has a ton of beds and 2) asthma lady doesn’t need woodland debris and vigorous exercise to add to her already apparently life threatening problems.

The rest of the revellers then head of to their respective beds for some nice wholesome sleep and the most exciting nocturnal action that goes on after that is Brendan having a nightmare about small child on a swing.

The next morning, after breakfasting and a mild asthma attack, the friends are alerted to the fact that the two adventurous young couples have failed to return. Now, it may look like things are heading towards some action now, but they’re not. What actually happens now is the six remaining couples wander aimlessly around in various configurations between the woods and the cabin, discuss why they can’t call the police like normal people and realise there is no phone signal in the woods. After much pointless meandering the final white couple also disappears.

Now that six people have gone missing our surviving four decide that now might be a good time to call the police and risk the unspecified wrath of mysterious Uncle Charles Bronson. So, once the friendly local sheriff is notified of goings on and once him and his deputy have had the necessary ominous conversation about whether this can possibly have anything to do with what happened three years ago to which the sheriff insists it can’t, no, and that had better not mentioned again, then we finally get to some action, well, not action exactly but more wandering around and harassing of the creepy neighbour.

Sporadically between the inept search party action there are glimpses of the plight of the missing friends. Apparently a deranged plastic surgeon has kidnapped them and locked them in dog cages and is performing some fairly bloodless and prosaic unnecessary surgery on them. This is all well and good, but my main concern here is that we have a dog cage not dissimilar to those of our psychopath and our pretty but dim daschund Lou Lou can get herself out of it with minimal fuss and much tail wagging. But apparently the three captive couples aren’t as bright as our somewhat mentally challenged daschund Lou Lou and they remain cramped up and screaming some weird guy’s shed. My second slightly lesser concern is if you are a deranged cosmetic surgeon you’d think that if you then went to lengths of kidnapping unwilling clients to perform your ghastly surgeries on that you would at least invest some of the skills you presumably posses into something more impressive and imaginative rather than just lopping an odd ear off, pulling a few teeth and fingernails and a quick scalping. Now I’m no fan of torture flicks but all I’m saying is: if you’re going to put that much effort into a convoluted backstory (and some considerable effort is put in, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks and everything) it should at least tally with the presented results.

Bright young things trapped in crazy killer cage

Lou Lou: Cute but dim escape artist
Unsurprisingly it is not long before Brendan and Darryl manage to lose their girlfriends to the lackluster nutcase. They are then left no other option than to engage in a little more wandering about in the dark and some amateur detective work.

On the off chance that you still want to see this movie I will refrain from divulging any more of the plot. However, before I stop talking there are a few notable moments that I simply can’t let slide:

1) Darryl Gets Gassed: Our hero Darryl receives an unexpected spray to the face from an inexplicably booby trapped telephone and then falls over. I had to spin this back because I missed it the first time. The first time all I saw was Darryl pull a sickened ‘something smells funky’ face and say the there was no dial tone. I just put this down to an unusual acting style, but on closer examination it did transpire that he had indeed been on the receiving end of pooft to the face from the mouthpiece of the phone. A man who merrily snatches young people from anyoldwhere and scoops out their eyes had taken the time to set a fairly elaborate booby trap on his damn house phone.

2) The Exciting Adventures of Brendan and Small Blonde Child: Left on his own after all his friends have all thoughtlessly gotten themselves locked up by an insane person, Brendan teams up a mysterious small blonde girl (you may recall her from Brendan’s earlier dream: she likes swings and singing in a sinister fashion) to continue his investigations. The best thing about this little union is that on meeting said small blonde child Brendan apparently sagely decides that the shotgun he had found previously in an abandoned police car is superfluous to his current being stalked by a murderous psychopath situation and a small blonde instead offers adequate protection.

3) Most Incompetent Serial Killer Ever: Crazy surgeon can’t find three whole people hiding behind a couch in his own bloody house.

4) Whathisface Who?: Despite living in a apparently small town where, judging by their interest in strangers and new arrivals, everyone presumably knows everyone the locals still manage to miss that a national news worthy on the run serial killer is living down the road. He’s got his medical certificates with his name on them on the wall for God’s sake!

Somebody Help Me could have been so much better than it was. The two male leads were very likeable and gave competent performances especially considering what they were working with. It could have easily been a clever even humourous comment on outdated conventions with regard to race within the horror genre, but instead it simply teased us with this concept then got distracted by something shiny. I would hazard a guess that what ultimately killed Somebody Help Me was that it was born from commercialism and not from a genuine love of the genre. I’ll happily watch and defend all manner of ‘bad’ movies, but only if I can see the heart in them, if I can tell that somebody loved that baby so much and loved the genre that cradled it then they have my heart too. Unfortunately here I think a list was drawn up of ‘what the kids are into these days’ and this was the result. As far as it being a horror film concerned it’s subgenre confused and shambolic. It meanders through slasher, torture porn and even nonsensically rubs up against the supernatural without ever really committing to any of them. Somebody Help Me is a horrifically laboured, soulless piece of film making, and to top it all off I spent an hour and half waiting for Charles Bronson to show up and he didn’t.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Pills, Thrills and Interviews

I've been super sick this week and so my abject apologies for not being around to appreciate all the great posts that you've all been sharing. I promise to catch up with all I've missed next week so expect a series of belated comments from me in the near future.

In better news on the Jinx front, whilst I was in the midst of my disease induced delirium I discovered that the gorgeous Joe Monster had posted an interview we did a little while ago which was super cool and cheered me up no end. I had the pleasure of having a Demented Dialogue with Joe in which he asked me some seriously awesome and hilarious questions and I tried my very best to do them justice with my responses. If you would like to read Joe's genius questions and my silly ramblings in response to them please find them here. Be warned that you may learn more about me than anyone really needs to know. Don't hold that against Joe though, he's the best and the cutest, coolest prince of all things creepy and you should read From Beyond Depraved avidly and tell him how awesome he is.

I'm off for a Lemsip (with whiskey, purely for medicinal purposes) now, but I promise to be back very soon (no, that isn't a threat).


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