Thursday, October 24, 2013

16 Days Until Halloween - Alien Zone/House of the Dead/Last Stop on 13th Street

Okay, so today's pick is a bad movie.

No, seriously, it is.  Not like the rest of my choices.

Oh really, Sean?  The rest are actually good?  Shall we discuss your preference for the remake of A Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Shut up.  I liked it, so deal with it.  Besides, today's pick is seriously bad.

I first saw this movie on television when I was a kid.  It might have been one of Svengoolie's Saturday Afternoon Horror shows, but I can't say for sure.

Side note: If you don't know who Svengoolie is, you are missing out.  He has been a Chicago icon since the 70's -- an old school horror host.  These characters used to be in ample supply, hosting late-night horror movies on local television all over the country.  But as cable and a zillion channels took over, these characters went the way of the dinosaur.

But Sven has persevered, and continues to be on the air in Chicago.

His most famous presentation was this:

Everyone I know watched Revenge of the Creature in 3-D!  We had our 3-D glasses from 7-11, and we sat in front of our televisions (at least, theses of us that had color TV.  Yes, kids -- when grandpa Sean was your age, we had black and white television.  And we liiiiiiked it!) and watched it all crawl out of the screen at us.

Okay, not really -- it didn't work all that well, and I can only remember the ocean fish seeming to swim around our basement.

But still...

Anyway, back to the film.  And the reason I'm simply calling it The Film is because I don't know what to call it.  IMDB says it's Alien Zone, but the DVD I have calls it Last Stop on 13th Street, and it's also been called House of the Dead.

When I saw it on television a thousand years ago, the film had a HUGE impact on me.  Honestly, I think it was my first introduction to the anthology film, a feature film made up of a series of small stories, ala Creepshow or Vault of Horror.

I love anthology movies.  I try and watch every one I come across.

The Film basically started with this guy seeing his mistress, and then heading back to his hotel in the rain.  But the cab driver drops him off on the wrong street, and he seeks shelter from the downpour in a doorway.

Then -- there's a hand on his shoulder!  He turns to see an older man, who tells him to come in out of the rain.

The building is actually a funeral home, and the gentleman is the mortician.

What follows is the mortician telling the stories of each of the bodies in these five caskets on display.

Oddly, this plot device appeared years later in 1995's Tales From The Hood.  I have no idea if anyone was consciously or unconsciously ripping the idea off from The Film, but that's really not important.

Of the four stories that are told, two of them stuck with me for years!

One was about a teacher who hated children (which made it an odd career choice for her, but it's just a movie).  She goes home, and finds the neighborhood oddly deserted.  As she goes about making dinner, taking a shower -- her radio keeps turning on and off.  She's in a state of terror, knowing that someone is in the house...

Eventually, a door opens -- and out come these kids, wearing Halloween masks.  But as she screams at them (remember, she hates kids), they pull off their masks to reveal monstrous faces with long, tusk-like teeth.

And the hordes of children descend upon her...

The other story I remember is the third one (the second and fourth apparently made no impression on my impressionable mind), about an uptight, judgmental, douchebag businessman who, while out on his lunch break, is accosted by a homeless man in a dirty and torn business suit.

When he runs into a building to get away from him, he finds that the building is empty, and he can't get out.

After falls down an elevator shaft, he experiences a series of tortures, the most striking of which is a wall of nails that slowly pushes in on him, threatening to impale him.  But the wall only tears his clothing and draws a bit of blood before retreating.

Hungry and thirsty (presumably after being trapped in this underground room for days, a small slot in the wall opens up...and a bottle of scotch rolls out.

He drinks, gets drunk and, apparently driven mad from the experience, a door suddenly opens out onto the street.

He staggers into the sunlight, filthy and stinking from booze, and goes to the nearest person for help...

...who happens to be another businessman who, tells him to get a job, and ducks into the exact same door the lead character of the story entered -- starting the cycle all over.

Again, this movie is really, really bad -- but fun.

After years and years of looking, I only found out what the movie was when Fangoria Magazine wrote a piece about it.  I remember reading it off the shelf and Barnes & Noble, seeing the article, recognizing the movie, and exclaiming "HOLY SHIT!" a tad too loudly.

It turns out the whole thing was filmed in Oklahoma of all places, and odd backdrop that gives it this cold Midwest-like light (it looks like it was primarily shot in autumn and winter).

It is not available for rental or download.  I bought a copy on Amazon -- and it's from one of those companies that burns a copy of the movie only when you order it.  The picture is fucking awful, so dark you can barely see things sometimes.

But I don't care.

I finally figured out what the movie was, and it's so's good!

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