You hear the name Wes Craven and you think of horror movies or Friday the 13th or Freddy Krueger. I hear it and I go straight to Last House on the Left, one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.
I’m talking here about the original 1972 film. There was a remake in 2009 and it was scary too, but not like the original. The original movie is terrifying. It seriously still makes me nervous.
Last House on the Left is about a couple of 17 year old girls trying to go to a concert. The parents of one of the girls, Mari, aren’t really into it and they think her friend is a bad influence. Mari reassures them that she’s going to be careful and she’s 17 now: “I’m grown up… It’s my birthday” and blah, blah blah. After some convincing, her parents let her go into the city to see the band.
Once in the city on the way to the concert, the girls do the exact opposite of careful and go with some random dude, who seems nice, to an apartment to buy marijuana. Little does she know two out of the four people in the apartment are the escaped convicts they heard about on the radio on their way to the city.
It immediately gets weird in the apartment, so one of the girls tries to leave and puts up a fight. It doesn’t end well for her. The next morning they put both of the girls in the trunk and head for Canada but on the way, their car takes a dump and they get stuck on some road next to a house. Mari’s house. Her parents find out what the four have done to their daughter and her friend and create the craziest revenge plot ever. This is where the movie goes crazy. Her parents are so down for getting revenge on these people they almost become as crazy as the people that kidnapped their daughter.
This movie doesn’t need ghosts or goblins because the scariest things in the movie are the four people they met in the apartment. They’re so scary and violent and crazy it’s uncomfortable to watch. It’s so damn graphic. That’s what is so scary and unnerving about the whole movie. The whole time I kept thinking this is only a movie and this isn’t real, but in reality it’s all stuff that could really happen. That makes the movie even scarier to me because this could all totally happen to someone. This is the most terrifying horror movie I’ve ever watched in my life so far. If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t watch it before you plan on going out that night. It will make you paranoid.
The soundtrack for Last House on the Left was written by David Hess who plays Krug, the main villain. It was just re-released on Vinyl and CD. If you want one, you’d better get it quick because this soundtrack is most likely to go out of print soon.
Crazy Love documents one of the weirdest true love stories I’ve ever heard. A man went to drastic measures to make sure no one would have his girlfriend if he couldn’t be with her. The ending is so shocking you won’t see it coming.
It starts with an older woman talking about what ends up being a life-altering moment that put her in the hospital. It then cuts to a man, Burton Pugach, talking about the first time he ever saw Linda Riss, the “most beautiful girl in the world,” and knew he had to have her. It was September 1957 in New York. Riss was waiting for a friend at a bus stop and Pugach drove by and saw her. The producer of Death Over My Shoulder starring Keith Purcell, Pugach owned his own nightclub that was frequented by many stars such as The Demarco Sisters, Keith Purcell and Johnny Mathis. He was a lawyer, he had his own plane, and he bought a new powder blue Cadillac every year.
Pugach told her Riss he wanted her information because he wanted to put her in a movie, (awesome pick-up line). The next day he sent her so many flowers that they filled her apartment. They soon began dating on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. He would be at her work to take her out to lunch and when she was off, to take her out to dinner. It was a dream come true courtship for Riss since she was raised by a single mother and they didn’t have a lot of money.
When Burton and Linda walked into his club, The Showhouse, the band was on strict command to play “Linda,” the Buddy Clark & Ray Noble Orchestra’s song written by Jack Lawrence. She was being taken on plane rides, out to expensive dinners and shopping. Everything was perfect until it hit the rocks when Linda’s grandmother became suspicious of such a prosperous young man. She had her lawyer look for anything on Burton and her lawyer came back with devastating news: Burton Pugach was married.
Linda broke it off with Pugach, telling him to give her a ring when he gets a divorce. After a while she began dating Larry Schwartz, a man she met while on vacation with a friend in Florida. She wouldn’t take Pugach’s phone calls and would not see him. With his career being threatened and Linda was not taking him back, Pugach began drinking heavily. He would be in his office playing a ukelele, singing the song “Linda” to his pet iguana until one day at a work Christmas party he freaked out and was threatening to kill himself. He was committed to a psych ward.
A friend learned of his whereabouts and quickly had him released. That was the worst thing that could have happened for Pugach. He soon started stalking Linda, following her and calling her. Around this time, Larry Schwartz enters the Army. Pugach began calling Riss’s friends for advice on how to get her back and when they gave him none, he would tell them how he would do anything to get her back. He even told them that if he couldn’t have her no one would. Pugach hired people to follow her and torment her on her way home, including throwing rocks at her. He even admits to hiring people to beat her up; in his head it was going to make her come back to him.
When Larry Schwartz comes back from the Army, he and Riss begin dating again, which makes her feel safe from Pugach. Larry proposes to Linda and she accepts. Pugach goes crazy. One night he waits for Schwartz & Riss, near Riss’s doorway, with a gun. He was there to shoot Larry. He couldn’t go through with it. Burton knew what he wanted but couldn’t do himself so he hired Al Newark. So Al Newark hired three guys who did something so terrible it was all over the news for months.
Look for this movie at Streetlight records. It should be filed in Special Interest/Documentaries or in Cult.
This movie is supposed to take place in Los Angeles. There are two buff chicks walking around in a hotel. They find the room they’re looking for and some dude that has been partying pretty hard lets them in after they say they’re “working girls” sent by Uncle A, his business partner. He lets them in and almost immediately gets a little friendly with Ginger, played by Eva Destruction, better known as Alexis Arquette. He then realizes she’s a drag queen and not only is she a drag queen she’s an assassin. As soon as Ginger gets the job done, her accomplice, Coco, orders up mango daiquiris from room service and they get to the heavy party favors.
Coco and Ginger are roommates and share an apartment in Chinatown. Coco is a serious collector of Lovely Linda dolls. They are “handmade, limited, collectors items,” as Coco puts it. It then cuts to some unorganized mafia-type dudes talking about the guy the two girls killed. One of those dudes named Bobby takes credit for the hit. Turns out, Bobby works for Uncle A and had been killing dudes for him. Bobby is dating Ginger and has her doing all of his jobs for him, while Uncle A thinks Bobby is killing these guys.
Since Coco and Ginger live together, Bobby comes to their apartment and does nothing but complain about how they killed the guy and how it’s too much for him to deal with. Coco and Bobby do not get along at all. They start arguing and Bobby gets mad and decides to leave, but before he does, he tells them what time their next job is going to be and where. As soon as he’s gone, Coco and Ginger do some crazy blue liquid drug.
On a night of partying and killing, they wander into a house with a small, handmade sign that reads, “Psychic Mooji, Experience Moonjia.” The psychic named Moonji is played by Russ Meyers’ favorite, Haji. She tells the duo of their fortune, death, tiny little shoes and more death. The rest of this movie is filled with wild assassinations, nuns, pimps, drugs, booze, a gunfight on roller skates and Lovely Linda.
Excision (2012) is one of the funniest and at the same time craziest horror movies I’ve seen this year. It’s about a middle class suburban family with two teenage daughters. The younger daughter, Grace, played by Ariel Winter from Modern Family, has cystic fibrosis. The older daughter, Pauline, played by AnnaLynne McCord from the new 90210, is the high school outcast. The husband, Bob, played by Roger Bart from Hostel 2, is constantly being nagged by his wife, Phyllis, the overbearing mother, played by Traci Lords. The movie starts with two girls staring at each other. One is bleeding profusely and the other is just sitting across from her and doesn’t seem worried about it. It then cuts to a young girl in her room. Everything seems normal until you see she is on some crazy-looking breathing apparatus. It then cuts to the parents’ room. Bob just woke up and he is already being chewed out by his wife Phyllis.
Traci Lords is a total B-word in this movie and I love it. As Phyllis, she takes Pauline from school to her “psychiatrist” who is actually a church reverend, played by “The Pope Of Trash” himself, John Waters. Pauline has frequent delusions of being a surgical genius and creepy dreams of necrophilia as she plans the loss of her virginity to the popular boy in school. These delusions become more frequent as her younger sister’s health slowly declines.
I don’t want to go too far into describing the movie because it will ruin the ending. What I can tell you is that this movie is not a remake, and that is awesome right there. It also has Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin, Malcom Mcowell (A Clockwork Orange), Jeremy Sumpter (Sasquatch Gang…[hilarious!]) and Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) co-starring in this film. The whole movie is so weird and funny and blood is everywhere. Oh, and did I mention Traci Lords and John Waters are in it? Just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss that amazing combo!
by Mat Weir
Like any good book store employee, Virginia loves to read and, of course, horror is her favorite genre. Currently she’s been stuck on author Malcolm Brand, a two-book no-name with a knack for “making Stephen King read like Mother Goose.” When his second book, I, Madman–a novel about a mad doctor who cuts off his facial features to impress a woman then kills people to collect their body parts so he can sew them back onto his face–mysteriously shows up on her doorstep, Virginia dives into it. She soon discovers odd similarities between her life and the book, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. But when the people around her begin to show up without their body parts, she begins to question her own sanity. Afterall, it’s only a book, right?
***SLAP ME ON A TRICKED OUT HONDA ‘CAUSE I’M A SPOILER***
When you’ve seen as many B-rate, campy horror flicks as me, you know you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes within the same film, as is the case with I, Madman. I like to stay on the positive when I can, so let’s start with the good.
This movie does have a certain charm to it. By 1989, director Tibor Takács–who would later bring us a slew of cheese-covered TV movies like 2007’s Mega Snake who’s tag line is “It’s big, it’s bad and it bites!”–already had four films under his belt and knew what he was doing. He uses shadows, comic book-style colors and an array of angled shots in classic horror style.
As for the plot itself, the concept is great but it gets banged up in the delivery. I’ll talk more on that in a minute. Where the plot does win is with the twists. When the book starts becoming real, my friend, Missy (another connoisseur and aficionado of campy, horrific fun) and I thought Virginia was going to turn up schizophrenic and the murderer herself. Thankfully, we were happily surprised. Not to mention the actual madman. My childlike sensibility lights up at the idea of a love-lost lunatic mutilating himself for the woman he loves, just to steal other people’s body parts and sew them back on so she will think he’s hot. He’s like the Phantom of the Opera only not emo and with a scalpel-wielding spine.
But that’s not to say that the plot doesn’t have some major problems. As anyone who knows this genre will tell you, over-analyzing these types of movies will end up ruining them. However, it is also the movie’s responsibility not to treat its audience like a bunch of idiots watching a B-flick (oh, the irony). Yes, I could talk about the inconsistencies like towards the end when Virginia clearly leaves the store’s security gate open, only to be trapped by it, (locked of course) when running from the killer, only minutes later. Yet, my main problem is that Virginia seems to either be at, or know of in advance, the murders that are taking place but never once is a suspect. She’s not even questioned or considered. Instead, the cops just treat her like a harmless kook while they scratch their heads trying to figure out who is behind the murders.
Then there is problem of the movie’s identity. I hate movies that don’t know what they want to be. I, Madman starts off a fantasy horror film, then disguises itself as a not-so-gory slasher flick, only to transform once more into fantasy horror cinema. I hate this. If you’re going to put all of your time, effort and money into something, know what you want. This isn’t to say combining genres is a bad thing and I don’t think I need to name any examples. What pisses me off is when we find out the killer actually is flesh and blood, leading the audience to think we’re dealing with the real world. Then, BAM! Out comes the weird demon-werewolf character in the LAST SCENE. REALLY?!?!? REALLY!?!?!? That’s just as big of a “fuck you, you’re a bunch of idiots that just wasted your time” to the audience as making the whole thing a dream. Writers! Drop the easy exits in your stories. They’re not cute, don’t take them. You can take I, Madman, for a spin in the ol’ DVD player once, maybe twice, but do it with close friends who are interesting or at least drunk. This is definitely a movie you can zone in and out of attention to.
by Mat Weir
Lance has problems. Besides feeling trapped in a rut as owner of the local grease diner, The Wonderama Stop & Shop, his girlfriend’s bad-boy husband is starting to suspect something. Loretta and Lance dream of the day they can kill Howard but don’t know how they can pull it off. That is, until one night Lance sees the neighborhood freak family (and I do mean freak) kidnap a random truck driver for their torturous experiments. Armed with blackmail, Lance figures he can get the Stackpoole family to do whatever he wants. But Head of the Family is a cheesey cult flick from good ol’ Land of the 90’s and Lance soon finds out he might have another thing coming.
***NOT SURE HOW I CAN SPOIL THIS MOVIE, BUT HERE IT IS***
First off, I never even heard of this movie until the beginning of the year when my friend and ex-coworker, Wes, recommended it. I believe his quote was something along the lines of, “Here, you’re a dirtbag that’s into crappy movies, you’ll love this.” Well, alright then. But for those of you not in the know, we at Streetlight are slaves for the next hunt and I sat on it until now. After my first viewing all I have to say is: Good call, Wes. Good call.
I loved this movie and why the hell not? From the opening credits the audience is introduced to the next 82 minutes in an honest way; a shot of a creepy Psycho-like house, uber-cheesey (I’m talking like scalding, Taco Bell lava cheese) music, and three of the Stackpooles leaving the building. Throughout the film there are boobs, blood, intentionally horrible scenes with bad lines (Lance: “Naw baby, you make all them other girls, like on TV and stuff, look like a bunch of ugly old sows.” Loretta: “You mean it?” Lance: “Sure as shit, baby.”), gross-out factors (get to that in a minute), one or two plot twists and more boobs. Some of my favorite scenes take place in the Stackpoole dungeon where they keep their patients. Only, most of their “patients” are really just animatronic dummies straight out of Walt Disney’s nightmares. This movie knows it’s a B-rated campfest and it brings the marshmallows.
However, the main attraction in Head of the Family is the Stackpooles. There’s Otis, a Thor-like strongman with the brains of Steinbeck’s Lenny; Wheeler, a scrawny guy with heightened senses and eyeballs that bulge out of his skull; Ernestina, a perfect-by-porn-standards blonde; and Myron, a wrinkled, giant head with a baby’s body (“I’m the head of the family” he chimes at the beginning. Name- dropping dialogue, another trademark of campy goodness). They are all psychically linked (naturally), with big-brained Myron calling the shots. His costume/special effects bring the gross-out factor with simple things like a scene where he is slurping soup or another where he is sticking his extra-long, extra-slimy tongue out. Since he has an extraordinary IQ, he of course is filled with amazing one-liners and tons of horrible puns. If you expect a certain standard of quality from your cinema then you’re horribly boring and should stop reading this blog now. Just kidding…kind of. But it brings up a good point about taste. The only time “bad taste” lives up to it’s name is when eating. Head of the Family is for those of us who can laugh at freaks, rednecks, horrible movies and ultimately, ourselves.
This is the second in a series about film star Erica Gavin. Read part one here.
Be sure to check out Erica Gavin’s Halloween Special tonight at 9pm PST! She’ll be livestreaming, answering questions, announcing the winner of a fan art contest, sharing her favorite music and more.
Filming Vixen took 4 ½ weeks and was shot in Miranda just below the Oregon border. Erica Gavin received $350 a week and all actors and actresses and crew lived on site. Vixen was the first American film to receive an ‘X’ rating. To this day it’s still banned in parts of Ohio. Despite all the negative feedback from uptight squares, censorship boards and feminists, Vixen earned 6 million dollars and was made for $76,000. The film played in Chicago for 43 weeks, in Aurora, Illinois for 54 weeks and an amazing 57 weeks in Elgin, Illinois at a Drive-in, which is where Roger Ebert wrote his review for the Chicago Sun Times. That same review, read by Russ Meyer, led him to choosing Ebert to write the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a film after Vixen.
After shooting Vixen, Erica Gavin and George Costello, Russ’ right-hand man, began a relationship that lasted about two years into late 1969- or early 1970. George was Russ’ assistant on all of his films before his relationship with Erica, but after Russ Learned of their relationship, George and Russ never worked together again. After Vixen was released, Gavin’s agent, like a lot of people, thought she was actually like her character Vixen. Erica soon fired him and hired Stuart Lancaster, a frequent character in Russ Meyer movies, and George Costello to act as her managers. In 1969 she started at the Meredith Theatre with Joanne Meredith’s experimental troupe. She even had a class with Diane Linkletter who was Art Linkletter’s daughter.
On August 9th and 10th, 1969, the Manson Murders shook Hollywood. This was a very shocking and sad time for those involved and for the general public. Erica Gavin has a very strange connection with these events. Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary who were victims on the second night of the murders lived in Silverlake, Erica’s old neighborhood. She even went to school with their daughter Susan. One day she receives a call from Bebe, a friend and former co-worker from Losers, telling her that Jay Sebring, the famous hairdresser, was one of the victims of the Manson Murders. As if that isn’t spooky enough, she began dating Paul J. Fitzgerald, an attorney to the Manson defense case. Paul J. Fitzgerald was at one time appointed to defend Charles Manson, but on December 11th he was switched to Patricia Diane ‘Katie’ Krenwinkel. She was one of three followers accused of the murders. Paul was later forced to give up the case due to conflict of interests. He continued to help and represent Patricia Krenwinkle for free.
Paul and Erica would would regularly visit the Manson girls and they even let them crash at their home a couple of times. On March 29, 1971 Patricia was convicted and sentenced to death which was automatically changed to life in prison, which is where she is today and will not be available for parole until 2018. Patricia’s conviction devastated Paul, all of his time and work for free turned into nothing.
Beyond the Valley of the Doll filming started when all the trial stuff was going down. Russ wanted Erica for the role of Casey Anderson, the bisexual daughter of a senator who is the bassist of an all girl rock trio, but when Russ finally met with Erica he was immediately upset with how much weight she had lost since Vixen so Meyer gave the role of Casey Anderson to Cynthia Myers, the 1968 Playboy centerfold. Erica was given the part of Roxanne the lesbian fashion designer who falls in love with Casey Anderson. (Erica Gavin developed an eating disorder after seeing herself on screen. I don’t want to go into it too much. It is not because I’m disregarding it as a disease. There are a couple of other things about her that I will not bring up or go into. It’s not because I don’t care it’s because I don’t want to, but you can find out about everything I don’t mention on her website or in the Glamour Girls issue.)
After watching Beyond the Valley of the Dolls on dvd with actor commentary there apparently was more footage of Casey and Roxanne getting to know each other. In the DVD and Laserdisc version of the movie it’s still the same small scenes of them together before the famous Casey and Roxanne Lovescene. Erica actually developed feelings for her co-star Cynthia Myers. Not until the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls DVD extras did they tell each other their mutual feelings for each other. Even after the movie released and they were hanging out and spending time together they never brought anything up or said anything. So everything you see in those scenes is really not exaggerated. They were both down to do those scenes except for the part where there about 50 or so crew members watching.
Despite their on-screen love affair that was cut short, Erica and Cynthia remained friends. So after Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Erica went to Europe with her good friend Bebe, former co-work from Losers and Bebe’s fiance Elmer Valentine. Elmer Valentine was Jay Sebring’s best friend and owner of The Roxy and The Rainbow. The plan was to take a seven week trip to travel to Europe. Plans changed when the trio were in Copenhagen watching the great Arthur Lee & Love perform and Bebe took off with a photographer friend. When Elmer learned of Bebe’s whereabouts, needless to say the engagement was off and he headed back to America. Erica on the other hand stayed and ended up hanging out with Arthur Lee & Love for three days. She used to see them play at Bido Lito’s a super small hole in the wall club on a cul de sac called Cosmo’s Alley in Hollywood. She partied with Arthur Lee and shared some intimate moments with him. That alone is one of the greatest things ever. For me, that’s right up there with Elvis.
Soon Bebe contacted Erica and told her she was in Copenhagen and staying with a friend. That friend Bebe was staying with was Dennis, the “good friend” who set up Erica’s former husband Bob Gavin. WEIRD. She and Bebe ended up living with Dennis for a month. One day around Dennis’ birthday someone sent him a toy with 80 tabs of Purple Rain (Purple Acid). Needless to say they partied. Hard. Spending so much time in Amsterdam, Erica got used to having hash or LSD on her and it not be a problem. But going through U.S customs proved to be a problem. She was arrested for going through U.S customs with four tabs of acid and a gram of hash in her pocket. She was soon transferred to state jurisdiction instead of being held by the feds.
Elmer Valentine learned of her being in jail and he called a lawyer and had her bailed out. When the case was finally brought before a judge the officer who strip searched her never showed up. So with no proof and testimony from the officer the case was thrown out and Erica was acquitted of any charges against her.
In 1973 came The Godmonster of Indian Flats, a movie I bought for one reason and it was because Erica Gavin is in it. It’s about a small Nevada town that gets attacked by an 80 foot killer sheep. Stuart Lancaster, another Russ Meyer actor and Erica’s former manager, is also in it. Erica is only in the beginning of the movie for about 10 minutes and has one line “Where are we going?”. The movie is super cheesed and weird but is still totally worth watching.
In 1974 Roger Corman asked Johnathan Demme, who was working for him as a producer and co-writer, to write and direct a movie. At the time, women in prison films were a hit and in my opinion he made one of the best ones ever. Erica was contacted by Johnathan and was asked to play Jacqueline Wilson, the leading role. Johnathan was a huge fan of Erica’s and knew she was perfect for the part. She didn’t even have to read for the part. Jacqueline Wilson is charged with drug possession and accessory to murder and since she won’t tell the names of her accomplices, is sent to women’s prison. Her co-stars in this movie are Roberta Collins who is no stranger to the women in prison films, Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith, she’s the chick that won’t stop laughing in Up In Smoke when Stacy Keach raids Cheech’s cousin Strawberry’s house. Juanita Brown who was in Foxy Brown and Willie Dynamite and last but not least, British horror film icon Barbara Steele who plays the terribly strict warden. This women in prison film is unlike most women in prison film is very pro-women.
Johnathan Demme went on to direct great movies like Silence Of The Lambs and Philadelphia.
1974 through early-1975 Erica began working at the Roxy and the Rainbow for owner and old friend Elmer Valentine. This is where she met Lenny Kaye. Lenny Kaye was the guitarist for the Patti Smith Band and the creator of the Nuggets collections. A huge Erica Gavin fan, Lenny Kaye found out she worked at the Roxy and went in to meet her. They soon became friends and one night he invited her to his hotel room at the Tropicana. This is where she me Patti Smith and the rest of the band and went on tour with them. Erica loves Patti and says, “She’s a true artist, she’s strong and she’s crazy.” Patti showed her how insanity could work for her and not against her. Erica still stays in contact with Lenny Kaye and he contacts her when he’s in town. The last time Erica saw Patti was about 3 years after Patti’s husband passed away.
After Patti had performed, she was out behind the club waiting at the sidewalk for a cab and they talked for a while. In 1976 Erica had a girlfriend whose brother worked for Aerosmith, so she was on tour again. Erica describes her touring with Patti and Aerosmith as the happiest and most free she has ever felt. Around this time she did and interview with Danny Peary for the fall issue of Velvet Trap. In this interview she made some comments comparing Russ Meyer to Johnathan Demme. These comments were seen by readers as offensive. Erica said that Russ Meyer was a director’s director, he did everything very technical and was great. Which makes sense. He was the editor, producer, writer and him previously being in the army he knew what he wanted and was very direct and straightforward about how he wanted it. She wasn’t saying Russ was less of a director than Johnathan. DONE.
After all the tours and movies she began working at Fred Segal on Melrose and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Erica Gavin story as told by Cherene.
by Mat Weir
Ask any horror movie nerds worth their weight in government patented popcorn butter about their favorite horror flick and you’re going to have an eclectic list. That’s one of the things we love about horror: it’s a genre-bending genre unto its own; the axe-wielding tranny of movie types. While this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone reading the Streetlight blog (and if it does, really brah? really?), if you don’t believe me, just look at the Alien series (Sci-Fi/Horror), Silence of the Lambs (Thriller/Horror) and even Black Swan (weird- ass-Aronofsky-tom-foolery). For my second installment of the 10 Day of Helloween Horror, I will submit, for your approval (always wanted to say that), one of the best in genre-bending horror, as well as one of my personal favorite movies of all-time, Cube.
Five strangers –-Quentin, Worth, Leaven, Rennes, and Holloway– separately wake-up inside a giant, metal cube. Their clothes have been taken and replaced with jumpsuits signifying only their last name. Each side of the room, (ceiling and floor included), has a door leading into a new room, identical to the last; but only one room is “clean.” The other rooms have been rigged with elaborate booby-traps that make you wonder if the Saw guy was watching Cube for tips. An idiot savant by the name of Kazan is soon discovered in another room and the group begins to realize each person holds a unique key to their freedom.
****SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200!!!****
What is there not to love about this film? Cube has it all: great acting, sharp dialogue, grotesque deaths. Plus a ruthless, psycho-analytic dissection of modern society needed to make any horror film complete. So bear with me and I’ll try to keep this short and simple. First, let’s start with the obvious horror-film defining elements: fear and gruesome deaths.
From the opening scene, the viewer is thrust into a room that is cold, sterile and isolated, leaving you with that uneasy pit in the bottom of your stomach. Within minutes the first death occurs as razor wire rips through the character on screen. The character stops with a gasp and blood begins to trickle down his body in a grid pattern. He takes a step forward and crumbles to tiny cubed pieces. If that isn’t enough to make the evil twin inside you squeal with fun, then you just don’t know how to party.
Another factor that makes this movie better than pictures of your newborn baby is the number system the cube operates by. Early on in the movie, the character of Leaven (a 20-something college student with a knack for numbers and the sarcastic personality of every jaded post-teen ala Daria) discovers each doorway has a set of numbers and the room with prime numbers is the safe one. As a nerd, I find this to be a cool tool to throw into the mix. Don’t know your math? Bam! You just got sliced and diced.
But the reason why Cube has been on my top 5 list ever since I first saw it, has to be the fact that it is an exercise in existentialism. It is a psycho-philosophical breakdown of society on a micro–and macro–cosmic level. The script itself is basically a sci-fi/psycho-horror version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s one-room play, No Exit (in fact, Cube only used one set with different lighting to trick the viewer). Sartre’s famous closing line, “Hell is—other people!” is the main theme in this nightmarish movie.
At the beginning of the film, Rennes ominously warns the others in Grecian-style foreshadowing, “You’ve gotta save yourselves from yourselves.” The characters soon realize what he meant as fatigue, stress and starvation set in, stripping away their social masks and revealing their more “pure” state. For example, Quentin, the leader/hero cop who takes charge, quickly deteriorates. As time passes, he deteriorates into a rage-filled monster, angry at being trapped, angry at his wife for taking the kid and leaving him, angry at the world. He quickly snaps and the group realizes they have a predator in their midst.
On this note, it has also occurred to me that each character can represent a basic human psyche (Worth represents cynicism, Leaven: logic, Holloway: compassion, Quentin: anger, Rennes: ration, Kazan: childlike innocence) and the cube itself can represent the human mind. In this light, the film turns in on itself and becomes the struggle of one person’s conflicting emotions, or possibly even a schizophrenic episode. While this may be my own interpretation, the macro-cosmic societal analysis is much less subtle.
A little over halfway through the film, it is revealed that Worth knows more about their prison. In this pivotal scene (and a superb one for acting and dialogue), Quentin is chewing out Worth for his cynicism, saying they will never find an exit with dead weight like Worth hanging around. With that, Worth snaps, shouting, “There is no way out of here!” and the realization drops upon every character’s face. Worth admits that he was hired to draw plans for the outer shell of the cube. “Who hired you?” Quentin asks. “I didn’t ask, I didn’t even leave my office,” he responds. “I talked to some guys on the phone, other guys like me; specialists working on small details. Nobody knew what it was, nobody cared.”
“That’s how they stay in,” chimes in the conspiracy-liberal Holloway in her breakdown moment. “You keep everyone separated so the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. The brain never comes out in the open…It’s all the same machine, right? Pentagon, multi-national corporations, the police! You do one little job, you build a widget in Saskatoon, and the next thing you know it’s two miles under the desert, the essential component of a death machine. (It’s here that actress really let’s go) I WAS RIGHT! All along, my whole life I KNEW IT! I told you, Quentin! Nobody is going to call ME paranoid again!” With a giant sigh she looks around the quiet room, four other faces staring at her. And with a shit-eating grin, with the smile of someone who has just played a massive joke, Worth softly but firmly explains. “Holloway, you don’t get it. This may be hard for you to understand, but there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan. Can you grasp that? Big Brother is not watching you.” BAM!!!! And the hammer of Truth pounds into you without mercy. Life is just one giant coincidence under the guise that someone is steering the ship.
Worth dives further into the existential breakdown of human society (at this point it is imperative that the author copy & pastes the dialogue. Not only is it easier, but it’s damn good writing and really you should be thankful. I have also added my own twist in the paranthesis):
QUENTIN: Somebody had to say yes to this thing. (thing = life/human society)
WORTH: What thing? Only we know what it is.
QUENTIN: We have no idea, what it is.
WORTH: We know more than anybody else. I mean somebody might have known sometime, before they got fired or voted out or sold it. But if this place ever had a purpose, then it got mis-communicated or lost in the shuffle. This is an accident, a forgotten perpetual, public works project. Do you think anybody wants to ask questions? All they want is a clear conscience and a fat paycheck. I mean, I leaned on my shovel for months. This was a great job!
QUENTIN: Why put people in it?
WORTH: Because it’s here. You have to use it or admit it’s pointless.
QUENTIN: But it is pointless!
WORTH: Quentin… That’s my point.
HOLLOWAY: What have we come to? It’s so much worse than I thought.
WORTH: Not really, just more pathetic.
QUENTIN: You make me sick, Worth!
WORTH: I make me sick too. We´re both part of the system. I drew a box – you walk a beat. It’s like you said Quentin is: Keep your head down, keep it simple, just look at what’s in front of you! I mean nobody wants to see the big picture. Life’s too complicated. I mean, let’s face it. The reason we’re here is it’s out of control.
[Quentin turns around.]
HOLLOWAY: Is that how we’re ruining the world?
LEAVEN: Daah! Have you been on glue all of your life. I felt guilty for ruining the world since I was like… seven. God! If you need someone to blame, throw a rock.
And in that beautifully crafted scene, the great nut of Existentialism has been cracked and my inner-cynical-nerd laughs with delight. Life is a joke and it’s on us. We think that there must be some great answer, some higher purpose, some deeper meaning for our presence on this planet, but the truth of the matter is, the entire thing is out of our control. We try to gain whatever control we think we have by giving life a higher purpose, but that just perpetuates our own confinement, whether it’s intellectual, spiritual or other. Life is a giant prison, filled with traps that we think must have some greater meaning. But in reality we’re all just running around, constantly turning on the people we are supposed to be cooperating with, as we try to find a way out.
The first time I saw Erica Gavin was in the opening scenes of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. She is later introduced as Roxanne in one of Zman’s far out parties. She ends up getting together with one of the main characters, Casey Anderson, the bisexual daughter of a senator who is in an all-girl rock group. Anderson is played by Cynthia Myers who was Playboy’s 1968 December centerfold and was voted number 10 playmate of the Century.
I found out Gavin starred in a previous Russ Meyer film that was the first U.S film to ever receive an X rating and I knew I had to see it. From then on I wanted to know everything and anything there was to know about her. I watched everything with her in it, with and without the commentaries, and read Russ Meyer books and Gavin’s website. The most helpful of all was the number 16 issue of Glamour Girls. Erica did an interview with Steve Sullivan that came out in Spring of 2002 which is almost an encyclopedia of her. I’ll start with who brought this person into this world.
Fred Graff was born in New York and studied at the New Theatre school in Manhattan. He began working with the Actors Lab in Hollywood and was soon signed to Columbia Pictures. He was in 12 films through 1944-51. He later met Madeleine Rosenthal, an actress who later became his wife. On July 22, 1947 in Los Angeles, Donna Graff, who would later on be known as Erica Gavin, was born. In 1948 Fred Graff, like many other actors who were outspoken about their political views, was blacklisted and his acting career ended abruptly.
At some point, Donna, a.k.a Erica, stole her mother’s car and drove to Sunset Boulevard, which was blocks away from her home, and hit a parked car in front of a cop. In 1964, she moved out after graduating and was living with her boyfriend. While hanging out on Sunset Boulevard, she took part in unofficial Ken Kesey acid tests. There is no sure way of proving it was one of Ken Kesey’s acid tests, but all the details provided bear every trademark of the famous tests.
Through 1964-65 she began living with new boyfriend, Bob Gavin, who was a painter. Bob came in contact with an old friend named Dennis who wanted to set him up with his dealers to buy a large amount of hash. Bob left the next morning on his bicycle to meet his dealers. Leaving his car at home he appeared to be home, or so the police thought. They raided the house. With Donna a.k.a Erica Gavin the only person home, the cops came busting in and going through everything. It turns out Dennis set Bob up to dodge his own arrest by the feds.
Bob’s attorney advised Donna to marry Bob so she wouldn’t have to testify against him. She took his last name Gavin. Bob was actually being charged with tax evasion, not drugs. He was convicted and sentenced to 7 years in prison. In 1966, with her new husband in jail and no job, she took to working for an agency called Models A Go-Go that sent girls to topless clubs. Being underage at the time, she needed a fake ID to start so she used her mother’s best-friend’s daughter’s name Erica and used her new married name Gavin. With that fake ID was born one of my favorite actresses.
Gavin began working at The Body Shop on Sunset, the only club she worked at that is still operating today. [I called but no one answered.] She also worked at The Phone Booth on Santa Monica and La Cienega and Losers on South Santa Monica. While working at Losers she met Bebe Louie, a dancer of Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese descent. Bebe introduced her to Jay Sebring who would later date Cynthia Myers and Lynn Carey who were both in Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. In 1964, Jay Sebring saw Bruce Lee in an international karate championship and gave a film demo to a producer which led to Lee getting his first screen test. Bebe began dating Jay after he and Sharon Tate broke up. Bebe and Jay invited Erica to an evening out with Jay’s best friend, Elmer Valentine, the owner of the Roxy and the Rainbow, and Steve McQueen. Erica says that by the end of the night Bebe and Jay had taken it to the bedroom and she turned down Steve McQueen’s sexual advances.
While working at Losers in 1966 Gavin met Russ Meyer greats Haji and Tura Satana who, according to Gavin, “took her under their wings.” They had both worked with Russ and mentioned to Erica that she should meet him. She had other things on her mind such as the divorce she wanted from Bob Gavin. With him out on bail, they both decided that an annulment was best for both of them. In 1967 you could move to Nevada and get a quickie divorce with a six month residency.
Gavin continued to work at Losers until 1968. While there, she took part in a movie called Erika’s Hot Summer. It’s basically her running around on a beach and making out with the lead on the beach and forest. Her voice is dubbed by another actress. That’s pretty much her part. You can see most of Erica’s part in the film on YouTube, but it’s put to the MC Chris song Nrrrd Grrrl. Erika’s Hot Summer was not released until after Vixen and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
On May 16th, while waiting at the dentist’s office, Erica saw a casting ad in an issue of Variety. The casting ad read, “Russ Meyer’s Vixen! The Female Fox.” She responded to the ad, remembering what Haji and Tura had previously said about Meyer. She did a reading with Russ’ right-hand man and assistant George Costello. Soon after her reading with Costello, she received a phone call from Russ Meyer to let her know she got the part. Vixen’s filming started 2 weeks later in Miranda just below the Oregon border.
This is the first installation of Erica Gavin’s story as told by Cherene. Stay tuned for for future installments.
So, last night I watched Cabin In The Woods, and godDAMN am I pleased with myself for choosing to do so! First off, I must state that I am in no way a scholar of the horror genre, but I do very much love it, and I have explored it relatively extensively. As a result of this, I was pretty confident I knew what would take place in the film within the first 20 minutes. It starts off like a delightfully-formulaic horror movie: a somewhat confusing, seemingly-unrelated (and funny, in a quirky way) opening scene involving two men in a lab (?) instantly grabs the interest of the viewer. That scene ends abruptly and the movie begins to introduce us to the perfect cast of horror characters: the jock, the hot girl, the brain, the stoner/fool and the virgin, all played by sexy actors in their mid-20s! However, each time the film cuts back to the alternate (and confusingly related) plot-line involving the two men in the lab, it becomes more and more clear how convoluted the plot really is. A good (read: professional) reviewer might set up the plot a little more for you, but come on, it’s called Cabin In The Woods. Do I really need to tell you where the teenagers end up? No. Although I sorta did. Hmmm…
Anyway, one of the things I loved most about this film was how long it took for all the facts about what was happening to become clear. Literally, it took forever. I was actually a little frustrated about how confused I was (which has pretty much never happened to me while watching a horror film), but when the story resolves itself the payoff is HUGE! So satisfying! Cabin In The Woods starts out like Scream, and ends up like a funny, witty, deliciously twisted horror version of Inception (not in terms of storyline, more in terms of general complexity).
So what I’m saying is, take my word for it and watch this movie. It’s funny, suspenseful, has some great scary parts, and has a truly interesting, different, and engrossing plot. You WILL NOT be disappointed. On the real, my lady has a degree in film from UCSD and hates lots of movies, but she loved this one, and we actually almost watched it a second time when it ended.