Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sticky Boxes Xmas Edition by Jules Brudek

Sticky Boxes: XMAS EDITION By Jules Brudek

A column about cult and horror movies ONLY available on VHS
 I named the column “Sticky Boxes” because that's what I touched everyday working at a video store in the nineties. 

Sweaty handed customers returned their rental tapes encased in gooey grime. Habitually, I would check them back in, wipe them off and re-stock. Humorous note: The bigger the babe's boobs on the cover art, the stickier the VHS box upon return. Each week, I will review a forgotten cult or horror video never released on DVD or Blu-ray.

I will review two from 1972. Please enjoy tonight’s “Christmas” Sticky Boxes:

 Home for the Holidays (1972) 
November 28th, 1972 ABC “Movie of the Week” Starring Sally Field, Julie Harris & Jessica Walter Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Produced by Aaron Spelling
Available on VHS from Starmaker Entertainment
Never officially released on DVD or Blu-ray

"Shut the door. That woman has ears that can hear sunshine.“ 

If Clue, the board game, was played with four unstable sisters and an anti-social stepmother you’d be half way to describing the soap opera Christmas horror movie, Home for the Holidays. Not to be confused with the dramedy, Home for the Holidays (1995), starring Holly Hunter, this film won’t make you projectile vomit your egg nog into your VCR.

It begins, when Alex Morgan, the eldest and codependent daughter of a dying millionaire, summons her three estranged sisters to their father's estate on Christmas Eve. Their father, Benjiman Morgan, Oscar award winning character actor, Walter Brennan, has a special message for his four daughters. From his bed, he tells them to kill his impassive second wife, played by Julie Harris, because she is slowly poisoning him to death. The bedside meeting is adjourned and the four sisters deliberate in hysteria.

A campy hoot that John Waters would die to revamp!

The guileless, youngest daughter, Christine Morgan, played by Sally Field, fights to restore balance by keeping her sisters from considering murder. But then, people start dying and Christine must stay alive to discover the real identity of the killer. As the bodies pile up, Christine takes to the woods and comes within inches of being killed by a mysterious rain slicker-clad stalker. Is it really her unassuming stepmother? Is there any truth behind her father’s accusation? What can Sally Field do in a “Movie of the Week?” Why didn’t anyone eat their scrumptious looking Christmas dinner? To find out all the juicy answers and to see why this film deserves a reboot from a director that could truly milk those disingenuous sentimental moments for comic gold, please get a copy of Home for the Holidays on VHS or watch it now on youtube.

If you think Friday the 13th (1980) was the first horror film to use a maniacal woman murderer in a yellow rain slicker hunting down young adults in the woods? Try again. Eight years before Friday the 13th (1980) and To All a Good Night (1980), ABC's “Movie of the Week,” Home for the Holidays, began the slasher tradition of women brutalizing their victims in the woods with complete abandon. Sadly, this made for TV movie has little blood shed to offer however, the clashing personalities, corny 70s dialogue and the audacious twists will make up for it!

I give this movie and its VHS presentation: Four sticky gloops out of five.

 Dead of Night: The Exorcism (1972) 
 AKA Night Of the Exorcist
TV Movie for BBC2 Starring Anna Cropper and Edward Petherbridge Directed by Don Taylor
Available on PAL VHS from Cougar Video
Also available on Region 2 DVD (UK) 

“It takes twenty minutes for a hanged man to die.” 

Here’s a cruel idea: Put on a seemingly harmless TV Movie and scare your unwitting family to death during the holidays.

Here’s how. This glum, British, made for TV Movie, haunts me to this day. Rarely, does a horror film resonate so deeply that it scares me into better behavior. And that is exactly how it got under this jaded horror fan’s skin. Ultimately, all good Christmas movies should put the fear of God in you. Right? Hmmm. Hopefully, I can explain.

Deceptively scary as hell! 

The story begins almost like a one act play or chamber piece. A sparse one room set, four friends and a Christmas dinner about to begin. A year ago, a wife, Rachel, played by Anna Cropper and her wealthy husband, Edmund, played by Edward Petherbridge, purchased an abandoned cottage in the countryside with plans for renovating it. Now, a year has passed and the cottage is refurbished with all the updated goodies a vacation home needs. Later, they invite another swanky couple to share in a relaxing Christmas holiday vacation. (Brits say, “Holiday,” Yanks say, “Vacation,” so I put the two together. Voilà) 

After being lured into a false sense of simplicity, the film changes tone. Suddenly, while both couples ready dinner, meanwhile, sport debating politics and philosophy, the power goes out. As the dinner transitions from slightly eerie to macabre, each person experiences a different sensory disturbance. Rachel is affected first. Sitting down at the piano, she begins playing a strange tune unknown to her. Edmund tastes blood in his otherwise normal wine glass. At first, the other couple thinks they are being pranked with a sadistic joke, then, they too, experience some of their own frights.

The film culminates with Rachel’s body being possessed by the spirit of a woman who starved to death many years ago in the same cottage. The woman uses Rachel to communicate her plans to avenge those who wronged her and her family. She seeks justice for her husband’s wrongful execution which led her family to starvation. Without food or the means to make money, she watched her children die helplessly while the wealthy families responsible for her husband’s death enjoyed a festive and abundant Christmas. Her unbearable wails continue: “Whilst my husband laid dead and my children were crying for food, I thought this can never be forgiven. No circumstance, no degree of self interest, not even ignorance could excuse this feasting and dancing whilst on the same planet, in the same village, people are starving!” 

As the film hunches somberly to its finale, another shocking horror is revealed. The ending is worth the wait! Watch for yourself and you will understand why it penetrated my soul.

Merry Christmas United Kingdom! I guess us Americans never had the guts to make Christmas “bloody” devastating!

 I give this movie and its VHS presentation: Four sticky gloops out of five.

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