The Amusement Park, Red Christmas, Better Watch Out, and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Horror Bulletin Week 146
This week, we’ll be watching our usual line-up of four full-length films and a short film. We’ll watch four more horror films, including "The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears" from 2013, "The Amusement Park" from 1975, "Red Christmas" from 2017, and "Better Watch Out" from 2016.
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The Amusement Park (1975/2021)
• Directed by George Romero
• Written by Walton Cook
• Stars Lincoln Maazel, Harry Albacker, Phyllis Casterwiler
• Run Time: 53 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
Intended to be a public service announcement about elder abuse, George Romero got a little carried away. It makes a point in the first five minutes and then beats it to death for the next 42 minutes.
Lincoln Maazel, the actor, walks through town and discusses problems with the world. He complains about old age and the unfairness of it all. He lists many of the difficulties older people face. He introduces the film, which highlights many of these problems. He warns, “Remember as you watch the film: one day, you will be old.”
An old man dressed in dirty white clothes sits on a bench in a white room, covered in scrapes, cuts, and bruises; he’s had a rough day. Another, younger, healthier, man walks in and wants to talk to him (They’re both the same actor). The old man doesn’t want to talk; he doesn’t want to go outside. The younger man goes through a door into the amusement park. He notices hundreds of old people in wheelchairs, on canes, and just limping around.
The man gets in a line where old people are selling their antiques and possessions for peanuts. He gets on the roller coaster, which has age, income, health, and other requirements.
The next attraction, bumper cars, has an eye chart you have to pass; no, it’s a driver’s license test, and The Man watches another old guy be told he can’t drive. “Anyone over 65 years old should be made to ride the bus!” Shouts one guy who got hit in the bumper cars game. He tries to be friendly with some little kids and gets accused of being a degenerate. He starts seeing the Grim Reaper on some of the rides.
One attraction is marked “Senior Citizens Encouraged,” and the inside is basically a nursing home. He watches a pony ride labeled “affordable public transportation,” and he sees the couple that was in the traffic accident, now required to take public transportation because they couldn’t afford insurance.
He watches a young couple getting their fortunes told. They see themselves old and living in a slum without health care. The husband is dying, and she can’t get a doctor or even afford to make a phone call. The young man then punches our man out of anger at seeing his future.
With each attack, The Man gets more and more disoriented and confused. He then gets beat up by a gang of bikers. He sits on the ground, and no one will help him. Then he has to deal with the healthcare system. Before long, he’s covered in cuts and bruises, and he becomes the man we saw in the beginning.
An organization called the Lutheran Society hired George A. Romero to create a movie about elder abuse and the importance of showing respect to older people. When Romero presented the society with his surreal and frightening take on the subject, they were so shocked and horrified by what they saw that they hid the film and never showed it to anyone. It would be 45 years before the film would be seen again. (From IMDB)
Apparently, not much has changed in 45 years other than film quality has improved. There’s little to no real plot or dialogue, just The Man moving from one scenario to another, always getting the short end of the stick due to his age. It’s grainy and low-budget, one of Romero’s first films, which he refused to release.
It’s billed as “The scariest movie of all time,” and I guess what it shows probably is the scariest thing, since it’s real. On the other hand, it’s no fun to watch at all. The circus music is annoying, and after the first ten minutes, it’s fairly predictable. It’s not even an hour long, but it still manages to drag in the middle.
Yes, it has an important message. On the other hand, this is marketed as a horror film, not a public service message.
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
• Directed by Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
• Written by Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
• Stars Klaus Tange, Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 42 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
It’s visually outstanding, with every single shot being bright, dark, colorful, surreal, or otherwise visually stunning. It’s to say the least, a visual work of art. The gore shots and weird body horror images are well done, but the complete lack of a coherent story makes it hard to sit through to the end. It’s beautiful, but even that gets old after an hour or meandering, incoherent, pretentious pointlessness.
Dan Kristensen disembarks from his airplane. We see various black-and-white scenes of bondage and knife-play as the credits roll.
He arrives home to find his wife, Edwidge, isn’t there. He gets drunk and goes looking for her, getting locked out of his apartment. Someone lets him in and tells him to come to the 7th floor.
There’s a strange woman up there who is shrouded in darkness. She says that her husband Paul recently disappeared. We get a flashback to her and her husband having sex and hearing strange noises. Paul drills a hole into the room and disappears up there one night. She tells Dan the whole story and then orders him to leave.
Dan goes up to the roof, where he finds a naked woman standing on the ledge smoking. Her name is Barbara.
Dan wakes up. A detective comes to see him in the morning. He tells Dan a story about a case he was on. A woman puts on blue earrings, and her husband takes photos of her being undressed by a man. He follows her obsessively, and things get carried away.
Dan thinks someone is in the apartment with him, but cannot find them. The landlord comes by and tells Dan that he’s on thin ice. He finds an audio tape and a drawing with the number 7 on it. This leads him to apartment 7 in the building, where he has a number of colorful and painful experiences.
Before long, he’s running around the apartment, naked, hiding from himself. From there it starts getting weird…
I kinda started tuning out after the black-and-white slideshow woman was attacked by an animated man that crawled out of her hatbox and forced a pill down her throat.
It’s quite often hard to follow, and it’s not a language/subtitle issue. The film is meant to be surreal and just plain weird. About an hour in, I started comparing it in my mind to “Eraserhead” of all things, another film full of shot after shot of surreal, yet pointless nonsense.
Short Film: JOLLY (2020)
• Directed by Todd Spence
• Written by Zak White, Todd Spence
• Stars Zak White, Todd Spence
• Run Time: 4:06
• Watch it:
A man is asleep on the couch. He hears a voice and wakes up. It’s a little talking Santa Clause toy. It says “I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” He groans. Then the head starts getting creepy…
When the toys start talking about unwrapping your skull, it’s time to pay attention. This is really good. It’s short, well-films, gets straight to the point, and is very weird.
Better Watch Out (2016)
• Directed by Chris Peckover
• Written by Zack Kahn, Chris Peckover
• Stars Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
It’s a home invasion story with lots of twists and surprises. The too-smart twelve-year-old is hard to believe, but if you can get past that, it’s pretty entertaining, simply because it doesn’t go where you expect.
Luke has a crush on his babysitter, Ashley. His parents are... Weird. Ashley is moving to Pittsburgh in a few days. Luke’s friend Garrett is in the bathroom stealing medications. Ashley is terrified of spiders, but Luke catches it and releases it outside.
The parents leave, and Ashley and Luke turn on a horror movie, which is expressly against the rules. The pizza delivery guy arrives, but they didn’t order anything. Still, they take the pizza.
Ashley gets freaked out by the horror movie and a phone call with no one talking. The doors won’t stay shut. Garrett shows up again, but then there’s a window breaking upstairs. They find a brick with a message on it “U Leave U Die.” The phones all suddenly stop working. Ashley’s car tires have been slashed.
Garrett runs off, but it looks like something got him outside. There’s the usual stuff with home intruders, hiding, and chasing. Luke finds his parents’ gun, but it all turns out to be fake. It’s Garrett roaming around the house in a mask with a shotgun. These kids are weird.
Ashley says she’s calling his parents, so Luke knocks her down the stairs instead. Ashley wakes up duct-taped to a chair. He tells Ashley that if she screams, he’s going to shoot her. He pulls out some mystery vial of drugs and makes her drink it.
Ashley’s boyfriend Ricky comes to the door. He pushes his way in and searches the house for her. Luke whacks him with a baseball bat— twice. They mop up the blood and evidence. Ricky ends up in a chair next to Ashley. Turns out Luke texted Ricky and invited him. He wanted him there. He also calls Jeremy, her old boyfriend and invites him over as well.
Luke re-enacts the paint can scene from Home Alone with Ricky. Ashley gets out and runs to find some carolers, but Luke hits her first with a brick. Luke keeps saying he has a plan to get away with all this, but he hasn’t even tried to clean the paint that splattered everywhere.
Ex-boyfriend Jeremy shows up and trips over something suspiciously pointy located below a window in the backyard. Luke intercepts him and has him write an “apology” note to Ashley. Then he hangs Jeremy from a tree. He’s arranged it to look like Jeremy went crazy and did all this.
Ashley talks Garrett into releasing her, but instead, Luke shoots him. Ashley refuses to talk to Luke any more, so he stabs her. He then goes around the house and puts Jeremy’s fingerprints on everything and otherwise cleaning up anything that would indicate he was the killer.
The parents come home, and the screaming starts. Soon, the police arrive. There’s a shout from downstairs, “This one’s still alive!” It’s Ashley, who gives Luke the finger as she’s loaded into the ambulance…
The trailer had me expecting a more violent version of “Home Alone.” The beginning had me thinking it was a ripoff of “The Babysitter (2017).”
I don’t think the people who wrote this film ever met a real twelve year old. Drugs, guns, drinking, and of course, kidnapping, aren’t something suburban twelve-year-olds know much about. If Luke and Garrett had been 17 this would have made so much more sense, but then it would have been a lot creepier to have a babysitter at that age. Levi Miller does well playing a little psychopath, but I just couldn’t get past how knowledgeable he was about everything at his age.
If you can manage to get past the ridiculous impossibility of it all, it’s fun to watch to see if he’ll get away with it.
Red Christmas (2017)
• Directed by Craig Anderson
• Written by Craig Anderson
• Stars Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, David Collins, Sarah Bishop, Sam Campbell
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 22 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
Cletus the Fetus was aborted twenty years ago. Now he wants revenge on the family that thought he was dead. He stalks them down one by one, and proves that he’s still smarter than these idiots.
We start out with news footage related to abortion protesters. As this continues, we see a man carry a suitcase into a clinic. There’s an explosion. As the confusion continues, a man pulls a living fetus out of the trash bucket and walks off… Credits roll.
Twenty years later, Diane makes breakfast for her huge family of adopted kids who are all coming home for Christmas. There’s the kid with Downs Syndrome, the religious couple, the sex fiend artists, and Joe, Diane’s pothead brother. Diane is selling her house, and she gives Suzy a big check.
A man in the woods sees a strange figure in a black robe approaching. The robed man says his name is Cletus, and he’s looking for his mother. The man punches Cletus and then pees on him, but Cletus makes him pay.
Ginny gets angry that Diane is selling the house; she’s selling the family home. The doorbell rings, and it’s Cletus. He hands her an envelope labeled “Mother.” She invites him inside, still dressed like the Grim Reaper. It’s a very awkward Christmas party. He explains that the cloak “Keeps my skin on.” They give him a gift; a jar of peanuts. They can’t have them in the house anyway, as Hope is allergic.
Cletus reads his letter. Cletus’ father has recently died, and he was the abortion bomber twenty years ago. Cletus says he is Diane’s aborted fetus who didn’t die. Diane freaks out and tells him to leave. Joe literally throws him out the door onto the sidewalk. Suzy puts two and two together and comes to the conclusion that Cletus was Diane’s claimed “miscarriage” from twenty years ago. Cletus limps through the woods yelling “Mama!” And getting very, very angry.
The family has their Christmas party. Hope goes outside to smoke and finds the jar of peanuts out there. Cletus then cuts her in half with an ax. The rest of the family soon finds her pieces along with the jar of peanuts, so they know who did it. Joe calls the police, and then the lights go off.
The women all go and hide upstairs while the men search. Scott soon gets the ax. They all run outside and lock themselves in the shed, which is perfectly safe. Then they all decide someone needs to go back into the house and get the car keys. Joe goes back, but he has his gun with him. He gets the keys, goes to the car, and finds Cletus in the back seat and dies.
Ginny’s baby is coming, and that ratchets up the tension and the screaming. Diane admits that the baby was going to have Down’s Syndrome, so she aborted the baby. Diane finds a necklace she lost at that time, and it's been left by Cletus. She admits Cletus is her real son.
They spot Cletus climbing up the lattice outside, so Diane decides to go outside by herself and pull down the lattice. The sheriff arrives, and he barely makes it out of his car before dying.
Cletus confronts Diane, and they talk. She probably could defuse the situation, but Peter shoots at Cletus, driving him off again. Diane spots the sheriff’s gun on the ground and points it at Cletus. She empties it on him, but he doesn’t die.
Peter is a priest, and he convinces Cletus to pray on his knees with him. Meanwhile, Jerry gets the shotgun and Peter reaches for a knife. He stabs Cletus, but Cletus finds a way to kill him anyway.
Jerry freaks out at hearing Diane wanted to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome like he has. He goes downstairs and faces Cletus, giving him his Santa Claus hat. This lack of hat confuses Diane, who shoots Jerry.
Upstairs, Suzy and Ginny continue to scream incessantly as the delivery proceeds.
Diane runs out and sees Cletus with his bandages off. He’s Jason Voorhees-level special-looking. They talk some more, and fight some more, and then talk some more, and she passes out.
Cletus grabs a knife and goes upstairs for Ginny and the baby. Ginny hides in a really obvious place, and he gets her as well. Diane comes in with a boat anchor, kills Cletus and herself. No one is left alive but the baby. Since this is Australia, it’ll probably be eaten by dingoes by the morning…
Cletus the Fetus? Really?
For someone who can barely walk, Cletus is agile enough to climb walls, run up stairs, and sneak up on just about everyone. Plus he seems to have inhuman strength and toughness.
I imagine the director had some kind of message going on here, anti-abortion, or maybe pro-abortion, I’m not quite sure, as the story kinda works both way.
These people deserved to die; no one should be this stupid. They were safe together in the bedroom or the shed several times, but always found some stupid reason to split up or go back outside. This is a common trope in horror films, but it’s really obviously gratuitous here. They had already called the police, and they would have arrived eventually if they had simply waited.
The deaths are all pretty good, especially the death by blender scene, although the umbrella thing is fun too. I’m not quite sure what happened in the end with Diane, Cletus, and the boat anchor, that was very poorly done. If you can look past the character’s ongoing stupidity, it’s— no, it’s just dumb. Let’s leave it at that.
And that’s our show. Thanks for joining us. Stop in during the week at our website, HorrorMovieGuys.com for news and horror updates, to comment on this podcast, or to contact us.
Get ready for next week, where we’ll be watching some more classics. We’ll watch four more horror films, including "The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears" from 2013, "The Amusement Park" from 1975, "Red Christmas" from 2017, and "Better Watch Out" from 2016.
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