Here it is Halloween again and time for a challenge. Last year here at EXPLOITATION NATION I made an attempt to watch a horror movie every night for a week leading up to the evening of Halloween. It was great fun and a nice way to catch up on my viewing. But now I'm upping the stakes, brothers and sisters. It is September 29th and I want to make a bigger commitment this year. So I am challenging myself to more. this time I am undertaking the EXPLOITATION NATION HALLOWEEN HORROR CHALLENGE and plan to watch a horror film every night until Halloween. That is one night for the entire MONTH. To make it even more difficult I will only watch horror movies I have NOT SEEN BEFORE!!! God knows I have enough of the damn things in my collection alone to keep me busy for years to come, so this is not that difficult really. Finding the time to actually watch them will be the bigger challenge. Will I alienate friends and loved ones? Push myself past the brink of sanity? Become a blob of undulating jello on the couch who forgets all the important things in life? We shall see, but I think it will remind me of why I loved these things in the first place. And it will also serve to jump start this blog that has been on life support for a while in the process.
I invite you, dear readers of this blog (that I have neglected for far too long), to get in on the challenge and watch movies, too. Make sure to post comments on what you have watched, as well! It could be a load of fun. Just remember the rules: they have to be HORROR movies and ones you have NOT seen before. So I started this evening with a crazy ass bit of hokum that I've heard about for years, but had never actually laid eyes upon, called WINTERBEAST.
D. Christopher Thies
Winterbeast Entertainment Group
Extremely cheap, shot on super 8mm low budget labor of love from the 80's that has found new life on the DVD format. Originally released on the Tempe label on VHS in the 90's this one achieved a small amount of cult status before falling into little seen status. What sets it apart is that it takes the old school approach of using stop motion monsters instead of the (then) very popular gore/ slasher style of horror. In the mountains of some unnamed state, several forest rangers have gone missing in the area surrounding Wild Goose Lodge, which is also happens to be on the land of a former Indian Burial ground. Seems that a lot of people have disappeared over the years in the area. Turns out that a whole small army of stop motion monsters are grabbing up people and eating them up at any chance they get. There is a giant wood monster that looks like a broom, another that is a totem pole monster with multiple arms, a giant chicken monster ( I freakin kid you not!) and finally the Winterbeast himself, which is a man in full demon make up, shot to look like a giant - well, a guy shot to look about seven feet tall actually - all of whom have been unleashed by the owner of the lodge, a cackling old gay man who is like a low rent Malcom Macdowell (Charlie Perkins)from local Dinner theater. In one scene the movie stumbles ass backwards into something truly terrifying as this dude puts on a clown mask, starts up a ancient kids record of nursery rhymes and starts dancing around a room full of corpses. It's genuinely startling and creepy as hell, and really, really gets under your skin. Where the rest of the movie is just a silly, fun, monster mash, this is the stuff nightmares are made of.
The movie is bad, but in such a beautiful way that you cannot help but to fall in love with it. From the very first scene of a stop motion monster killing some locals in a cabin (with one of the victims fingering his own innards for no good reason at all), and then another guy out in the woods giving birth to a demon-headed snake monster (neither of which incident seem to be related), you know you are in for some whacked out no budget adventures in insanity. Then the dialogue starts and you realize that things are on another plane altogether. To call the acting wooden is an insult to Formica, but yet it fits the mood of the piece in a funky way. The dialogue is intensely overwritten, with people often repeating things they have just said as if to fill time until the next person could remember what to say. The comic relief character seems to be in a homosexual panic for most of the movie as he cites DELIVERANCE on more than one occasion, and make tons of gay comments at every turn. He also never, ever, at any point in the movie takes off his sunglasses, no matter what time of day or night the scene may be.
Yet, the movie has charm to spare. Watching this, I was transported back to a time when no budget movies were shot on FILM, and sought to be more than smarmy references to movies that came before them. There is nothing in this movie that is relying on the fact that you have seen dozens of other horror film for you to "get the jokes" or just throwing tons of blood and tits on screen to hide the fact that there is nothing going on worth watching. There may be a painful lack of budget here, or arguably a lack of talent (though I don't really want to go as far as to say that), but there is a strong urge to entertain present. Every single frame of WINTERBEAST seeks your approval and strives to win you over. This is not a film that is slapping you in the face to prove to you how clever and smarter than you it is. This is the shaggy, stray dog that wants to make you happy, not the pissy and whinny wolf in a sheep's clothing that just wants to win your favor long enough to move on to better things like many of today's indie horror offerings often are. So embrace the WINTERBEAST, it will put a smile on your face.
And the only really scary moment of the film, Sheldon's "dance"