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Carrie, Poltergeist, Maniac, and Beware! The Blob
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 189
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. This week, our oldie film is "Beware! The Blob" from 1972. We'll watch the original classics "Carrie" from 1976 and "Poltergeist" from 1982, as well as the remake of "Maniac" from 2012.
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Beware! The Blob (1972)
Directed by Larry Hagman
Written by Jack Woods, Anthony Harris, Richard Clair
Stars Robert Walker Jr, Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl
Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Apparently after the first movie they randomly dumped it in the arctic without marking the spot or telling anyone about it. So it’s back again. The movie’s a little dated. It’s more gruesome than the first movie, but it’s also a lot funnier too with quite a bit of dark humor. Overall a worthy sequel.
Credits roll over cute kittens playing in the grass.
We cut to a couple out camping… in their garage. His wife Mariane finds a Thermos in their freezer that says “Specimen, keep frozen.” She says the freezer is for food that they eat. Chester’s just fresh back from the arctic; it’s something his crew’s bulldozer found, and he wants to take it to the lab sometime. They leave the canister out on the counter and go off to do their own things. Mariane feeds the little cat in the kitchen. The baby blob oozes out of the canister and suddenly, the kitten is gone. Mariane goes outside looking for the cat, but the blob finds her instead.
Lisa, Leslie, and a group of girls plan a party; can they get Bobby to come? We watch a group of scouts getting a nature lesson from their scoutmaster, and they run into Lisa on the road. Chester is watching the original “The Blob” on TV. He gets up to tune the TV, and when he sits down, the blob has taken his chair, which goes badly for him. Lisa comes over to Chester’s house to pick up a gift and she sees him mostly covered in blob goo, but not quite dead yet. She screams and makes a run for it.
Lisa drives down the road to get Bobby, and the two go back to Chester’s house. The scoutmaster gets annoyed with his kids playing with annoying clacky-ball toys. Bobby and Lisa don’t find anything at the now-deserted Chester’s house. When they come out of the house, the sheriff is there because she was driving like a maniac.
Meanwhile, Randy, a guy who can’t sing, is wailing with his guitar in a storm drain. He and his girlfriend are super high. They’re busted by a couple of cops. One of them gets called away, but the blob eats the one who remains.
A hairdresser wants to charge a hippie $400 for a haircut. He’s a snarky, smartass hairdresser who insults his customer throughout the process. Neither of them see the blob coming up through the drain. The screaming ensues from both of them.
The police release Lisa and Bobby, but she’s really insistent about the thing she saw. The police didn’t find anything. One of the deputies arrests a naked man running down the street; the blob ate the man’s dog. Lisa and Bobby go home, forgetting that this is Bobby’s surprise party. She gets even more hysterical, but they all think she’s on drugs and ignore her carrying on.
The police start noticing a lot of missing persons calls this evening. Edward Fazio has trouble unloading his beer cans and swears vengeance against Bobby. Three hobos complain about hating hippies and get drunk. They hear something outside and argue about who’s gonna go outside and look to see what it is. That goes badly for all three of them.
Lisa notices the scout troop’s fire up on the hill; we see a bunch of empty sleeping bags. The blob oozes down and covers Bobby and Lisa’s entire truck. In the struggle, they kick their air conditioner up to high, but they don’t put it together when the blob backs off. It goes and eats a bunch of horses instead, so they get away. They pick up Leslie and go to the bowling office. Leslie sees that the blob has halfway eaten Joe the gorilla-suited party guest, and it ends up eating her as well.
Lisa and Bobby get to the bowling alley. They call for the sheriff, but end up getting thrown out. Turns out, the manager of the bowling alley is Edward Fazio, who hates them both. The blob eats a couple of bowling alley repairmen and the screaming starts, along with a stampede.
The phones start ringing off the hook at the sheriff’s office. Meanwhile, the blob is pigging out at the bowling office. Fazio believes Bobby and Lisa now, and he goes to hide with them. They get trapped in the ice skating ring that’s next to the bowling alley.
Bobby spills some ice on the blob and it retreats. They remember that they had the air conditioner on in the truck when it retreated there too. They think that if they turn on the ice skating rink, it’ll freeze the creature. Outside, the sheriff tells the deputy to get a bunch of gasoline, and they’ll burn the place down.
Bobby has to swing across over the blob on a rope to get to the control box for the ice rink. He hits the switch, and the blob freezes. The sheriff is just about to light the fire outside when Bobby, Lisa, and Fazio run out and tell him not to burn the building.
The TV news crew comes in to interview the sheriff, and they bring bright hot lights with them…
This is the only film Larry Hagman directed.
Many characters are playing with Kernockers, those annoying knocker-balls; those must have been the current fad when this was filmed.
It often seemed like a series of little segments that have been tacked together, but at least it looks like the actors mostly had fun making this. There are lots of familiar faces from 70s and 80s shows here, and it’s almost as much comedy as it is horror.
It’s pretty dated, after all it was fifty years ago, but it’s not so bad if you watch it with horror-comedy in mind and don’t take it too seriously.
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Stephen King, L:awrence D. Cohen
Stars Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Run Time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a pretty simple story, but a good one. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are perfectly cast as mother and daughter with powerhouse performances. The rest of the supporting cast is good too. The special effects look realistic. All in all, it still holds up as entertaining.
We see immediately that Carrie isn’t popular, nor is she good at sports. In the shower, she starts to bleed, and she doesn’t react well. She freaks out, screaming for help, and the other girls all laugh while throwing tampons at her. She’s hysterical, so the gym teacher, Ms. Collins, slaps her to calm her down. She screams, and the light in the shower explodes. Ms. Collins tells the principal, and they’re both surprised that her ultra-religious mother hadn’t explained the facts of life to Carrie. Carrie stares at the principal’s ashtray, and it shakes and rattles on the desk– until it jumps off all by itself.
Carrie’s mother Margaret goes to see Sue’s mother; she’s here to proselytize for her church. Margaret is pretty well known in the neighborhood for being an annoying religious zealot. The school calls her and tells her what happened, and she doesn’t react well either. Margaret tells Carrie, “You’re a woman now; a sinner,” and hits her with a Bible. Margaret goes on and on about how badly Carrie has sinned; Carrie says she hasn’t done anything. Carrie is locked in the closet with the creepiest Jesus statue ever.
At school the next day, Ms. Collins gives the other girls the riot act over what they did yesterday to Carrie. She threatens to ban them from the prom, but the office says it’s detention instead. With her. She makes their afternoon a lot tougher in detention. Chris revolts, and Collins suspends her prom privileges. Meanwhile, Carrie reads up on miracles and telekinesis.
Student Sue asks her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. Sue wants to give Carrie a morale boost plus she feels bad about the bullying that’s been going on. Tommy is reluctant but agrees, he’s basically a decent person too. Chris and her boyfriend Billy argue in his car; then they make up.
At school, Tommy asks Carrie to the prom. Carrie thinks it’s a trick, but Ms. Collins says he might be sincere, and she’d miss out on a good time. Then Collins asks Tommy and Sue why they did this. Sue says she’s trying to help, but Collins doesn’t quite buy it. Tommy goes to Carrie’s house and asks her again. She agrees, mostly just to get him to go away.
Billy and his friends go to the pig farm and kill a pig. Carrie tells her mother about the prom, and that starts a new fight. Carrie gets upset, and all the doors and windows close on their own. “You’ve got Satan’s power!” says Margaret. Back at school that night, Billy and Chris set up a bucket of blood above the stage.
The next day, everybody is talking about Tommy and Carrie and the prom; why would he ask_ her_? Chris hints that there’s something nefarious afoot, but she won’t spill the beans in front of Sue. There is conniving going on that will get Carrie elected queen of the Prom. We have a getting ready for the Prom montage as Carrie gets a dress and Tommy gets a tux. Margaret wants to burn Carrie’s dress. She suggests they do it together and pray for forgiveness. “They’re all gonna laugh at you,” cries Margaret. Carrie makes her shut up.
Tommy seems sincere; he’s a regular gentleman and really takes care of Carrie as they arrive at the dance. Everyone is nice to Carrie, which is a first. Many of them are faking it. Sue, who doesn’t have a date for the prom, so can’t go, leaves home to go out tonight. Ms. Collins talks with Carrie; she’s still concerned it’s some kind of trick, but there’s no real sign of trouble.
Carrie dances with Tommy. It’s her first time, and he shows her how. They kiss, and Tommy actually starts to like Carrie; he’s clearly not in on the prank that Chris and Billy have planned. They actually have a good time. Meanwhile, back at home, Margaret is going insane by herself.
It’s time to vote for the Prom King and Queen. Tommy talks Carrie into voting for themselves. Chris has some friends swap out the real ballots with fakes so Carrie and Tommy win.
The happy couple comes up on stage. Carrie is embarrassed, but also incredibly happy about it. Carrie stands under the bucket of pig’s blood that Chris and Billy set up before. Everyone claps for the King and Queen. Sue sneaks in because she wants to see how things are going. She notices the cord running up to the bucket. Sue, who genuinely was trying to help Carrie by getting Tommy to take Carrie to the prom in the first place, tries to stop things, but she gets hauled out and kicked out. Chris pulls the cord, pouring the blood all over Carrie. Then Chris and Billy run for it.
Carrie is shocked. Tommy is shocked. The entire audience is shocked. Then some of the mean girls start laughing. Many people join in laughing. The bucket falls and knocks Tommy right out or possibly kills him. All Carrie hears is her mother saying, “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”
Carrie gets a funny look in her eyes, and all the doors shut and lock. The fire hose sprays the audience and everyone tries to get out of the building. People are electrocuted. Ms. Collins is cut in half. The auditorium catches fire. Carrie leaves the flaming building, locking the door behind her. Chris and Billy try to run over Carrie but she makes the car crash, killing them both.
Carrie goes home. Margaret has lit hundreds of candles. Carrie cautiously goes up to her room. Carrie cries and takes a bath to wash the pig blood off. She tells Margaret that they did laugh at her, but Margaret doesn’t say anything. Margaret finally tells Carrie about her greatest sin– getting pregnant for her.
Margaret stabs Carrie in the back and throws her down the stairs. Carrie uses her powers to fill up Margaret with knives like a pincushion. Then Carrie pulls the house down on top of them both. It literally sinks into the ground.
The next morning, Sue wakes up in her bed. She’s the only one who survived the Prom. Some time later, she goes to visit the pit where Carrie’s house used to be. An arm reaches up from the grave and grabs her. And she wakes up screaming. Apparently, Sue isn’t quite over it all yet…
I’d forgotten what a simple plot this had. Carrie gets asked to the prom, she goes, and bad things happen. There’s Carrie’s story and the “prank” side plot, but not much else. It’s really fast-moving and doesn’t have much filler.
Carrie’s telekinesis is there from the start, but it’s not really the focus of any part of the story– until the end. The real monsters here are the other girls and Carrie’s mother. Still, a lot of innocent people end up dying, such as Ms. Collins and Tommy.
Now, if only more YouTube pranksters would run into people like Carrie, the Internet would be a better place. Don’t prank people when you don’t know what their super-powers might be!
Short Film: Smile (2022)
Directed by Joanna Tsanis
Written by Joanna Tsanis
Stars Ashley Laurence, Tyler Williams
Run Time: 6:06
Anna’s mother leaves a desperate sounding voicemail. She just wants to hear from Anna. Anna does hear things in the house, but then she takes her medications. She goes looking for the sound, but there’s nothing there. She sees something in the dark, but when she turns the light on, it’s just a photo. She gets more depressed when she sees the happy photo, so she decides to go to bed. That cheers her right up!
Is that a happy Cenobite from Hellraiser? It could be. The makeup and monster effects are really good here, but the story is a little unclear. What’s up with her sister and mother, and who is that monster? Still, it’s good!
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Stars JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
Run Time: 1 Hour, 54 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a big-budget horror movie that doesn’t get enough credit. It builds up nice and slow, letting us get to know the family and root for them before the bad things happen. The cast is great - even the kids, the story is really good, and the special effects still hold up. If you’ve never seen this, you really should.
We watch the TV station signing off with the National Anthem as credits roll, followed by static. As the dog roams through the house, we see Steve, Diane, Dana, Robbie, and Carole Anne Freeling, all asleep in their beds. Carola Anne, the little girl, wakes up and goes downstairs, attracted to the flickering on the TV. She talks to whoever’s in there. Everyone wakes up and watches; there’s no one on the TV, but Carol Anne is having a conversation with them.
The next day, we get a view of the housing project they all live in, hundreds of brand-new homes. Diane notices the pet bird, Tweety, has died. She and Carol Anne bury the bird in the backyard. Meanwhile, Robbie climbs the creepy old tree in the backyard. He is kind of afraid of the tree, especially at night in the rain. He also doesn’t like the creepy clown toy in his bedroom. Steve mentions that he works for the company that built the neighborhood.
When the TV signs off that night, Carol Anne goes to the screen again and talks to the static. This time, smoky hands come out of the TV and explore the room. Then the room shakes like an earthquake, waking everyone up. “They’re here,” states Carol Anne. The next morning, they notice spoons are bent and other strange things. The dog starts acting up, and the chairs in the kitchen have a life of their own. When Steve gets home, Diane and Carol Anne have a whole little “ghost demonstration” for him. She’s been playing with the ghosts all day.
That night, a storm rolls in. The tree reaches through the window and pulls Robbie outside. A light comes on in the closet, beckoning Carol Anne inside. Eventually, she gets sucked right in and vanishes. They hear her calling through the static on the TV.
Soon, at the nearby university, Steve explains the problem to Dr. Lesh, a paranormal expert. He takes her and her two assistants to see Carol Anne’s room. They are quickly convinced. Quickly. Lesh thinks that it might be a poltergeist instead of a standard haunting. Carol Anne calls and says there’s someone there with her. One of the assistants gets bitten by something large. Dr. Lesh explains about Heaven and “going into the light” and some people that resist going into the light. A light comes on upstairs, and a very visible ghost comes down the stairs into the living room. When they play back the video recording, they see dozens of ghosts there.
The next morning, Robbie goes to stay with grandma. Dr. Lesh says she’ll bring help when she comes back. Steve’s boss, Mr. Teague, wonders why Steve hasn’t been at work. Teague shows Steve the next phase of the development; he offers him a house to be built on the hill and a partnership in Phase Five. There’s a big cemetery up there, but they’re going to relocate it, just like they did with the older developments. Steve’s house is located on what used to be a cemetery.
Dr. Lesh invites Zelda, a small medium, to sense what’s in the house. She explains that Carol Anne is distracting a bunch of spirits that can’t find the real light. Carol Anne must help them to cross over. Also, there’s something terrible in there with her that will try to stop her.
Zelda tells Diane to call Carol Anne and tell her to go into the light. They go into Carol Anne’s room, and the closet is full of flashing lights. Zelda throws a tennis ball into the closet and it comes out through a portal in the living room ceiling. They throw a rope through the portals; Diane ties herself to the rope and goes through the portal.
Zelda tells the spirits to go into the light, and Steve doesn’t want Carol Anne to go, so he pulls on the rope. He gets a facefull of demonic entity for his trouble. On the other end, Diane and Carol Anne fall through the ceiling; they are back. “This house is clean,” declares Zelda.
Next morning, they’re packing up and moving out. Steve’s going to the office to resign, and the rest of the family gets ready for the night. Diane takes a bath while the kids go to bed– in their bedrooms in the haunted house. Robbie tries to cover the stupid clown toy with his jacket, but it falls off. After a few minutes, the clown is gone. Where is it? Under the bed! It attacks Robbie and pulls him under the bed as Carol Anne watches. In her own room, Diane gets rolled up the walls and across the ceiling as Carol Anne’s closet door opens again. Once again, the closet starts sucking things in.
Diane runs for help but falls into the under-construction swimming pool. Corpses and a casket float to the surface. There are bodies down there! Back inside, the closet has become a full-scale portal to Hell, still trying to suck in the children. She manages to pull them out just in time.
Steve and Teague arrive outside and watch the electrical disturbances. They both get to experience a bunch of corpses as well. Steve curses Teague for just moving the headstones; he left the bodies there! Everyone piles into the car and drives away. The whole neighborhood goes batshit as they drive away. Then the house implodes as Teague watches.
Steve, Diane, and the kids go to stay at the Holiday Inn. They put the TV outside the room.
Why would they spend any time at all in the house after getting Carol Anne back? Let the movers pack their stuff up. No, they decided to stay the next day into the evening. The kids are even in pajamas!
I saw this several times when it first came out in the theaters. It’s still one of the best haunted house movies ever. The fact that it was a big-budget Spielberg movie is probably one of the reasons it doesn’t get the credit it deserves as a horror film.
I think part of the reason this is so good is that we get lots of time with the family before the weirdness starts, and then it builds up slowly, but consistently to a very tense climax. Everything gets explained in the end, and it all more or less makes sense. There’s plenty of silly humor early on, but it all gets very serious once the story gets going. Oh, the special effects are top-notch and still hold up nearly forty years later.
Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Written by Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, Joe Spinell
Stars Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, America Olivo
Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
We often scoff at remakes. They are so often unnecessary and not as good as the original. This one is an exception, with great performances and the same grittiness that the original from 1980 had. This version gives a little more point of view from Frank, giving us even more of an idea of the madness that he struggles with and commands his life.
Judy leaves a party and has to pass a bunch of men catcalling her. Someone who breathes heavily is following her in his car; he knows her name and where she lives.
Judy gets home and finds that the lights are out on her floor - we saw that’s not a coincidence. She gets to her apartment, and he kills her before she even has a chance to scream. Then he scalps her. Credits Roll.
Frank emails a woman on an Internet dating site. He sends her a picture of himself; he looks like a mix of Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter, and she agrees to meet him at a restaurant. Frank imagines everyone in the place is staring at him, has an anxiety attack, and he runs into the restroom and takes some pills.
She invites him up to her apartment for a drink, and they undress each other. He then strangles her. He talks to himself, saying he hates himself, but then he scalps her. Afterward, he goes into the bathroom and pukes his dinner up.
He goes home and talks to the mannequins in his room. He has a surprise. He puts the scalp on the mannequin, then he staples it onto “her.” He gets angry, and we see why he has bloody knuckles and bruised hands.
The next morning, he meets a woman photographer who wants to take pictures of his mannequins. He invites her in to see “his work,” which turns out to be a showroom and other rooms full of mannequins with more in various stages of completion. He’s restored most of them, selling and renting them as a business. She wants to rent some of them for her photo shoot; her name is Anna.
The day after that, Frank goes out in the car, cruising for more victims. He ends up in a dance school and hides in the closet as Jessica, one of the dancers, gets dressed after performing. He follows her into the subway and onto a train. When they get off the train, he chases her through the empty subway station. She runs into a gated parking lot, but he finds her and traps her in there. Then he does his thing.
Anna takes pictures as Frank works on restoring a mannequin. She still wants to use them in her show. He likes her because she respects the mannequins. Frank has a migraine or something and runs off to take a nasal spray to help.
Frank sees that the police are looking for links between all the murders. We see that Frank has serious mommy and woman issues. The next night, Frank and Anna go to see “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” but all Frank can see are his hallucinations. Afterward, Anna mentions that she has a boyfriend. Frank is in the friendzone.
It’s the night of Anna’s big show, and Frank attends. He sees Anna making out with her boyfriend, and Frank follows the boyfriend into the restroom. He had been assuming Frank was gay. One woman says the mannequins are creepy junk; Frank follows her home when she leaves. This, of course, is not her best night.
Anna calls Frank on the phone; her agent was murdered last night. We see the agent’s scalp and robe on the mannequin in the corner of the bedroom. Frank talks to all his mannequins, even the little boy version of himself. He goes over to Anna’s place to console her and meets Martin, her neighbor. Anne mentions that she and her boyfriend broke up. Frank accidentally lets it slip that he knows where the agent lived, which tips her off that he may be more involved in the murder than she thought.
Yeah, she knows. She grabs a knife, but she fights back. Martin comes to the door, but Frank is the one who opens it. With Martin dead, he breaks down the door to face Anna. He knocks her out and takes her home with him.
When he opens the door of his van, she stabs him with the pointy end of a mannequin’s hand. He chases her for half a mile down the street; it’s lucky for him that no one seems to live in L.A. He’s bleeding badly by the time he catches up to Anna, who is nearly killed in a car accident. He then scalps her like the others.
Later, he puts a wedding ring on the mannequin that has Anna’s hair. How romantic! The other mannequins in his shop get jealous and gang up to kill him. They tear him apart.
Eventually the police come in and find that Frank has stabbed himself.
We watched the original “Manic (1980)” a few months back, and we liked it a lot. It was so gritty, dirty, and atmospheric that you almost needed a shower after watching it. As with that film, this one has a lot of shots from Frank’s point of view. Actually, we mostly only see Frank in reflections and mirrors. We hear a lot of breathing and grunting from inside Frank’s head. It’s the same character and basically the same situations as in the 1980 version, just everything is updated for the modern age; it’s a great remake.
I don’t normally notice soundtracks too much, but this one had a lot of memorable bits and stands out. Kevin mentioned about halfway through that he was liking it as well.
Overall, this was surprisingly good.
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