Blood is running from my mouth to the top of my head and dripping up to the ceiling, where all the igloo furniture has somehow been attached. Weird. Hang on…
I’m hanging upside down. Blood is running from my mouth down to the top of my head and dripping down to the floor, where all the igloo furniture is in its rightful place.
My twin brother appears.
“How’s it hanging?” He says.
“Fine, fine.” I reply. “Any plans for today?”
“Oh, let’s see now… killing you and reclaiming my rightful inheritance?”
“Your rightful inheritance?”
“You really don’t remember? Right, listen carefully to this valuable piece of exposition because I’m going to at quite a pace and I don’t like repeating myself. Ready?”
“I can’t think of anything that will make me any more ready than this, so yes.”
“Okay. You and I are twin brothers. I’m Sean Berman and you’re Basil Berman. Daddy is Daddy Berman, founder of Berman Confectionaries and inventor of the Berman Permachoc, remember? Chocolate that doesn’t melt?”
“What’s the point of that?”
“Does there need to be a point? Was there a point in the telephone? The aeroplane? The stylophone? Anyway, it turned out that there was a point because the African and Indian sub-continent loved the stuff. People without fridges, you know?”
“Why didn’t they just buy normal chocolate and eat it before it melted?”
“Here’s why, Basil.” My brother said with a frown (sorry, a sinister smile) as he produced a cattle prod and zapped me between the legs.
“Ow, that smarts!”
“It’s a delayed reaction. Just wait a…”
“FRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARKK!!!!!” I responded.
“Right then, so if there are no more questions I’ll continue. No? Good. Anyway, poor Daddy died last week in a freak accident involving a vat of chocolate and a psychopathic serial killer son."
"Daddy died a rich man with a large will. A large will that leaves none of his money to his psychopathic serial killer son – me, and all of his money to his goody two shoes can’t-put-a-foot-wrong famous doctor son, Basil…”
“I’m a doctor?” I interrupted, forgetting myself in the excitement. “Of course! I always kneFRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARKK!!!!!”
“Don't interrupt... so to claim my rightful inheritance all I need to is kill you and steal your identity.”
“It’s not really your rightful inheritance in that case is it?” I thought, rather than spoke.
“You may speak.”
“But everyone thinks I’m you. Plus, I don't know if you realise this, but this place - the igloo, everything - is just a figment of my imagination.”
“You been having dreams about cops and doctors again Basil? This place is real alright. Does this feel real to you?”
“You see despite my many faults, Daddy still had a soft spot for me and pulled a few strings to arrange for my exile here in Igloo Land rather than a trip to Old Sparky. When you came to visit me in prison I borrowed your identity with the help of a cup of tea laced with LSD-25 and a large fist. It’s a pretty straightforward, easy to understand and not at all far-fetched story really.”
“But why bother coming back here? If everyone thinks you're me you could just claim the inheritance anyway? And the horror films? What do they all mean?”
“ Okay, number one, quit looking for plot-holes, and two, I like horror films. Horror, Sci-Fi, you name it, I'll watch any old shit. Have you ever seen The Deadly Mantis from 1957? It’ll be on in a minute.”
“Can you turn me the right way up to watch it? FRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARKK!!!!! I'll be fine like this."
Whilst whistling a jaunty yet unfamiliar tune as I shaved myself in the igloo mirror this morning, I couldn't help feeling a sense of foreboding, a sense that something just... wasn't quite right. I looked at my reflection peering out at me through the grubby glass and noticed a small cut on my upper lip. Carefully, I dabbed it with my handkerchief. My reflection didn't, and continued to whistle that unfamiliar tune. Then I realised why the tune was so unfamiliar and I had that sense of foreboding - I can't whistle!
I was given no opportunity to ponder this fact however, as my reflection stuck a fist out of the mirror and punched me square in the face, round about where my nose used to be. "Here's something that doesn't happen every day." I remember thinking to myself as I collapsed unconscious on the floor.
When I came to I was strapped to my bed with my assailant standing over me.
"Dammit, he's good looking!" I thought to myself as I asked him "Who the hell are you?"
"You really don't remember, Basil?" replied my attractive attacker. "What on earth have they done to you? I'm Sean Berman. Your twin brother."
This place gets more like a far-fetched pulp horror novel every day...
And... Basil? What kind of name is that?
"Hey, this TV actually works!" I heard my stunningly handsome twin say as I slipped back into sweet unconsciousness... THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932)
The Most Dangerous Game is the first ever celluloid example of one of my favourite horror sub-genres - humans hunting humans!
However, I don't think that the title is particularly apt when you consider that:
A) Humans aren't as dangerous as leopards or tigers really, are they? Oh, I know that humans have greater intelligence and have done more damage to the planet than any other living creature, but If I was walking through the jungle with a hunting rifle I'd rather come face-to-face with, say, Billy Ray Cyrus than a pissed off panther. But that's probably just me...
B) Is hunting humans really 'The Most Dangerous Game'? What about Snakes & Ladders with real snakes and rickety ladders that have random rungs missing? What about Hungry Hippos with real Hippos? I'm sure there are many other examples.
But I digress. We're in a small passenger ship traversing through dangerous waters as we meet our hero Bob Rainsford, a hunter by trade. One of Bob's chums engages him in a philosophical discussion along the lines of, "Who is the real savage, man who hunts for pleasure or the beast who hunts for necessity? What would you do if the roles were reversed?"
Bob laughs this off with a "Ha, that'll never happen to me! Never happen! Why, what possible set of circumstances could ever..." CRASH!!!! "What was that noise?"
It was the ship crashing. It sinks.
Bob and the captain are the only survivors!
A shark eats the captain.
Bob is the only survivor!
Somehow he manages to swim ashore unharmed. After wandering around for a bit he spots civilisation in the shape of a large, forbidding looking mansion.
The door creaks open and Bob steps inside. A hairy, scary man appears from behind the door. Bob tries to engage him in polite conversation but gets blanked, much to his annoyance. It never seems to register with Bob that this guy might not actually speak English, so thank goodness for the appearance of Count Zaroff to explain that Bob is speaking to Ivan who not only can't speak English but can't speak, being as he is that classic horror film staple, a mute man-servant.
Ivan is actually played by the African-American actor Noble Johnson - making this the earliest known example of a black actor play a Caucasian character.
Count Zaroff cuts a fine figure, I must say. Perfectly groomed facial hair, elegantly tailored suit and with a cigarette holder held just so.
He's foppish and he's fey and has impeccable manners, as he cordially welcomes Bob to his humble abode and has Ivan show him to a room, explaining that he has other guests who have also been shipwrecked. It would appear that Bob has had a stroke of luck finding the mansion. Count Zaroff seems like a really nice guy.
He's quite insane, of course.
Bob freshens himself up (luckily this was the 1930s, in the days before people got traumatised by being in disasters and getting chased by sharks) and meets his fellow shipwreckees; an annoying drunk called Martin Towbridge and his distinctly unannoying sister Eve Towbridge, played by the stunning Fay Wray.
Naturally, Bob makes a beeline for Eve.
Eve seems somewhat unhappy with the situation, and we see Bob surreptitiously sniff his armpit. But it turns out that it's Count Zaroff that is worrying Eve. "Two of our party have gone missing! They were last seen entering Count Zaroff's trophy room!"
"Hic! I'm going with Count Zaroff to his trophy room!" shouts her drunken brother, cheerily.
"Stop bothering me Martin, I'm trying to explain to Bob about people going missing!" she replies.
Anyway, Martin is never seen again. Bob and Eve search for him later that night, and creep into the trophy room. It's full of heads. Human heads!
"Something's not quite right here..." thinks Bob, but he has no time to piece the clues together as Zaroff and Ivan burst in and tie Bob and Eve up.
Zaroff helpfully explains the situation which we knew anyway - Zaroff likes hunting humans. But he recognises Bob as a fellow hunter and asks him if he'd like to join him in his horrifying human hunting hobby. Bob says no, one thing leads to another and before you know it Bob and Eve are running for their lives through the jungle (which you'll recognise as being the same jungle used in King Kong. You may also have recognised the screams of the shipwrecked sailors being the same as the screams of the equally unlucky sailors shaken off a log by Kong).
I almost forgot the rules - If Bob and Eve last until dawn, they're free to go. And Bob's been given a knife. That's all.
"Oh I'm slowing you up I shouldn't have came!" shouts Eve as they come to the edge of a cliff. You can see that Bob is thinking that she's right and he'd have been better off without her, but being a gentleman he keeps quiet about it.
Bob sets a couple of clever traps but Zaroff equally cleverly evades them, the clever count!
He's right behind Bob and Eve now and sets his dogs on Bob! Bob manages to fight one off, but here comes another one! And it's a big bitch!
The remaining few minutes of the film are pretty damn exciting and full of incident. Perhaps I'm being over-cautious in not wishing to give away spoilers for a film that's over 80-years old, but look, it's only an hour long. You should really watch it. And because it's Public Domain I can post a link to the full version here (I think) for your viewing pleasure. So here it is. Enjoy:
Much excitement was had over the weekend when, on a rare trip from Igloo-Land, I went for a rather nice meal in a country pub. I opted for Pork Belly on stir-fried Cabbage, topped with Mustard Mash and washed down with a light and fruity Beaujolais. It was fantastic, it really was:
PS I almost forgot, the pub in question was The Black Swan in Effingham, Surrey, a key landmark in horror film history as it was the interior of The Slaughtered Lamb pub which Jack and David had the misfortune to stumble into in, of course, An American Werewolf in London.
It's now almost unrecognisable unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately come to think of it) and there were no weird goings-on to be reported. Although at one point, I could have sworn my Guinness magically refilled itself...
Also rather aptly, the nearby hotel I stayed in was called The Talbot Inn.
Here's some professionally taken photographs:
A shot of the bar itself
The door where Jack and David walked in (and out) and sat down to the left of. It's no longer a functioning entrance (or exit) to the pub, so go round the back.
Excuse me but what's that star on the... oh, it's gone...
“Enjoy your exile, murderer!” shouted the pilot and co-pilot in unison as they threw me out the plane. “Don’t I get a parachute?” I replied, not unreasonably I thought. But it was too late, and I was already plummeting to the icy wastes below...
Luckily I landed on some soft snow and some talking penguins sheltered and fed me. Until I realised I was hallucinating, and they left on a magic carpet.
And so I found myself wandering. Lost, half-mad and half-dead, all hope gone. Then I saw the igloo. Something uncanny about it, I remember thinking. Maybe it was the supernatural glow that seemed to emanate deep from within it. Maybe it was the sense of destiny that I felt as I stumbled towards it. Maybe it was the large wooden sign saying ‘Igloo of the Uncanny’ nailed above the door…
It was warm inside. The old man said nothing as he handed me a hot drink. I gulped it down greedily and fell into a deep sleep. Such strange dreams… glaring hospital lights... blue pills and bibles... and when I awoke the old man had gone. But when my eyes fell upon his dirty old shaving mirror, I saw his face staring back at me.
I slowly open my eyes to glaring light that makes me wince.
Two people I don't recognise are seated on either side of my bed. On the left, a young skinny guy with a white coat and a name badge. The guy on the right isn't young or skinny (he's old and chubby) and is looking at me - glaring really - with pure hate. There's so much hate in his eyes that I almost want to laugh.
"Piece of shit." he says almost inaudibly, as if to himself. "I'm Doctor Mark Howard, Sean." Says the white coat on the left. "Sean?" I say, "I'm not Sean..."
"Oh well you got nothin' to worry about then, eh Seany?" says the chubby guy, with a cruel smile that shows too many teeth. "Where's Doctor Carlyle?" I ask.
Doctor Howard (If he is who he says he is) ignores this question and asks, "Do you know what year it is?" "Sure..." I say. But I need a moment to think. "It's... 1920."
"And can I ask you how you reached that conclusion?"
"Well... I met Doctor Carlyle in 1912, spent 6 years training under him in college... then I must have been in the igloo for a year or so? Which would make it 1920. Or 1920-ish, look is this is some kind of joke?"
This too gets ignored by Doctor Howard. "Let's just talk about the films. These horror films that you watch in the igloo."
"Well, they come up on a TV. In the corner..." I can feel myself getting tired now. I don't want to speak to Doctor Howard any more. I'm starting to feel that it might not be a good idea.
"Okay. It's 1920, and you're watching these films. Let me just name a few just to make sure we're on the same wavelength, right? So we've got... let's see now..." he looks down at a clipboard resting on his knee, "Piranha. Horror Express. Duel. Black Christmas. It's Alive. Twins of Evil... and quite a few more. These ARE some of the films that you've seen right?"
"So let's just think about this for a second... because all these films are from the 70's. The 1970s. Which means that your story of watching TV in this igloo, and it being the 1920's simply does not make any sense. You do see that now don't you? I mean, colour TV wasn't even invented until the 1940's..." "Okay. I mean, I suppose so. I just never thought..."
"And the less said about the force-field the better... listen to me very carefully now, I need to be sure that you understand exactly what I'm saying. Your name is Sean Berman and you are a patient - my patient - here in Boston Memorial Hospital."
"It is March 2010. You've been in a coma for six months. And it appears you've spent this time constructing an elaborate... well, perhaps not quite elaborate, perhaps more of a lazily, ill thought out... fantasy of being an igloo-keeper in a place called, believe it or not, Igloo-Land."
I look at Doctor Howard's face. It's not unkind. Like he's almost sympathising. "Sean, this er, this gentleman beside me is Detective Stark Bellows of the Boston Police Department. When you're feeling better he'll be asking you some questions, but only under my supervision and only when you're quite, quite well, okay." "What questions? What for?" I ask Dr Howard.
"Allow me to answer this one Doc." Says the Detective, sounding like a man used to getting his own way.
He leans forward, looks me directly in the eyes and lowers his voice to a mean growl, "Because I want to see you die, asshole. I want to see you fry on the chair, okay? I want to see your brain melt and your eyeballs pop. You can cry all you want to, to doctor bleeding heart here, or you can confess everything to the local neighbourhood priest, telling them all about the terrible upbringing you had and how daddy used to beat mommy until mommy killed daddy... but let me assure you that you are going to pay for what you did. And it will be soon, and I will be there enjoying every all-too-brief minute of your agonising death."
He looks as if he's going to continue for a second, but just turns to Doctor Howard and says, "Now if you'll excuse me doc, I must go and let some interested parties know that our friend Sean Berman is fit and healthy and back with us again. Don't leave town will you Seany, huh?" he finishes with a final glance in my direction. The same cruel smile as before showing the same teeth.
Doctor Armstrong speaks as soon as the Detective has left the room. "I'm sorry you had to go through all that Sean, but Detective Bellows seems to have been given certain ah... privileges that I'm none too happy with. Old friends with the Mayor you know. Probably brothers in some secret cult I shouldn't imagine..."
"He really does hate me, doesn't he? What did I ever do to him?"
"Well, you have had several run-ins with him in the past..."
"Well, with his wife..."
"I had an affair with his wife?"
"Ah, not quite, no..."
"Thank God for that."
"...you killed her..."
"...and his two young children. Tortured them beforehand by all accounts..."
"And you also killed his partner, a Detective Greenly..."
"I did all this? Me?"
"Oh absolutely. Then you kidnapped the Lieutenant himself, tortured him for 12 days and castrated him. Somehow he escaped. Shot you twice, once in the back and once in the head. It's a miracle you survived actually."
"I still don't see..."
"Enough small-talk, Ben, there's not much time. Lieutenant Bellows is at this very moment making his way to City Hall to speak to his friend the Mayor, who will overturn a State Collateral Review which postponed your Death Sentence due to you being in a permanent vegetative state. As soon as he does this he'll set the wheels of justice in motion and as long as you're conscious and fit to plead, your execution will go ahead. This could happen as early as tomorrow."
"Did I really do all those things you just said, Doc? I thought I was dreaming about being a psychopath, a madman... "
"If you were dreaming about such things, then those dreams were based very much in reality. Have you ever heard of The Tennessee Torturer? The Ramsgate Ripper? The Sidwell Strangler? The Manhattan Mincer?"
"No, can't say I have..."
"The Sadistic Surgeon of South Swindon? The Butcher of Boston? They're all YOU, Ben. All nicknames that the press have given to your various killing sprees through the years. Apart from the last one, when you really were just a butcher... oh, and The Cop Castrator, I almost forgot that one.I wouldn't mention in front of Detective Bellows If I were you."
"So what you're saying is... maybe Detective Bellows has a point?"
"Well, he did have until you chopped it off..."
"No, I mean maybe... was that meant to be a joke? I mean maybe... maybe it's time for me to face up to whatever I've done. If I'm guilty of all these horrible things then maybe I should admit to everything and get it over with..."
"Perhaps. Or perhaps there is another way. You won't remember this Ben but we go back, you and I. We were best buddies as kids. Let' see, you were 6 and fearless, I was 5 but small for my age. You saved me from drowning once. We'd built a raft and took it out on the Charles River one summer's day... I lost my balance and fell in... couldn't swim of course, and just when I was beginning to lose hope you dragged me out. You used every bit of strength in your 6-year old arms to haul me out and save my life. And now I can repay the favour. It's not much, but..."
It's a little blue pill. He hands it to me.
"It's called an Aput Nootropic..."
"An Aput Nootropic..."
"Shit name for a drug."
"Well, I didn't make it up Ben. It's a cognitive enhancer..."
"Look, let's not get hung up on names, okay? It's just a very clever way of protecting you and your brain. All you need to do is swallow it, and within a matter of minutes your coma will be re-triggered. Your memory will revert to its previous state within that coma, and you will return to the fantasy land you created. You'll go back to the very first day in Igloo-Land. You can spend another 6 months or so there, until the Mayor gets replaced or the Lieutenant has that coronary he's been heading for... 6 months, 6 years, who knows? It beats the Electric Chair though, surely..."
"You know, I've just had a strange thought, Doc. What if YOU'RE the fantasy and the Igloo-Land is real? What if I've slipped and fell down a crevasse, knocked myself out and I'm in a coma now?"
Doctor Howard thinks about this for a moment then gives me a strange half-smile.
"It's possible I suppose, Ben. But if I am your fantasy, then I'm probably not the best person to ask whether I'm a fantasy or not, am I? You're going to have to decide for yourself. You have the pill, it's up to you. I'll say good night now. Press your buzzer if you need anything."
The little blue pill. I place it gently on the bedside table next to a book. It's a Bible. A Bible with a bookmark. I pick it up and open it at the marked page. There's an underlined passage, Job 37: 9-10. I start reading it, but find myself unable to keep my eyes open. God I'm tired...
If you’ve seen Pontypool – and you really must – then you’ll be in love with Lisa Houle and her beautifully judged, multi-layered performance which manages to be incredibly moving yet bloody funny at the same time.
And you’ll probably be in love with her as a person too. Which I hope co-star Stephen McHattie is, because he’s married to her. Here's a pic from their wedding day album:
Incredibly she’s hardly acted on-screen if those reliable people at IMDB are to be trusted:
# "Pontypool" .... Sydney Briar (2008) # "Emily of New Moon" .... Eve Kinch / ... (7 episodes, 1998-2000) # "Due South" .... Madeline Carnes (1 episode, 1996) # "Seinfeld" .... Cheryl (1 episode, 1993) # "Scene of the Crime" (1991) TV series (various episodes)
Of course, it may be that she doesn’t particularly want to act and has other things going on in her life, which is fine. Except it’s not because it affects me. Let’s see Lori in lot’s more films from now on - McHattie, do some house-sitting!
There doesn't seem to be much love around for Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (US title 'Dracula's Dog'). It's always held fond memories for me though, and I remember being genuinely spooked by it as youngster.
I like Zoltan. Okay, so he’s a horrifying hellish hound and a vicious bugger, but he is obedient, faithful and a bit of a cutie.
I can’t help but feel if he attacked me all I’d need to do was give his chin a stroke and we’d be best friends forever.
Not the ideal way to think about the main villain when settling down to watch a horror film you might think. But Zoltan isn’t the scariest dude in this film. Here's Reggie Nalder as the diabolical Veidt Smith:
Here's a quick shot of Reggie without any make-up:
Veidt Smith then, is Dracula's recently resurrected henchman who, with the help of his beloved Zoltan, goes off in search of his dead master's descendant; family man Michael Drake, happily residing in the good old US of A and about to set off on his yearly camping trip with his sickeningly nice wife and kids. He's also bringing along Samson and Annie, his two cute dogs, and their little puppies. Something's going to happen to the puppies, isn't it?
Yes. One mysteriously drowns. Then that night, the family is attacked by Zoltan and a couple of his newly vamped-up canine accomplices. Shaken and upset, the family decide to head off home the next day.
Until up drives the wonderful Jose Ferrer...
... playing Inspector Branco, the Van Helsing-like character who has followed Schmidt all the way from Romania and has a plan to stop him! He explains everything to Michael Drake and quickly wins his trust.
"You leave in the caravan with the kids love, I'm going to stay in a fisherman's hut for the rest of the weekend with this old guy who I've just met." Michael explains to his strangely understanding wife, who packs up and drives off with the kids, never to reappear. This is unfair - I don’t think you should be allowed to just leave and head off home half way through a horror film. How disappointing would 'The Hills Have Eyes' or 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' have been if the potential victims were allowed to say "Sod this, I'm going home. This place is beginning to annoy me"...?
Anyway, the Inspector's plan is for Michael to be 'bait', and for the two of them to hole up in a nearby fisherman's hut and await the attack. The rest of the plan is unclear...in fact, I’m going to stop even referring to it as a ‘plan’ because it patently wasn’t. Making someone ‘bait’ to lure attackers is only PART of a plan. The bit that happens when the attackers attack is the OTHER part - most would say the most important part.
But when the Zoltan and co. attack that night what does the Inspector do? Basically just shrugs his shoulders and gives Michael a look that says ‘sorry, I didn’t actually expect them to attack.' Thanks Inspector, thanks a lot. So the pair simply wait in the shack, huddling together while the three dogs try and make their way in. Eventually Zoltan comes crashing through the roof and lands on top of the planless pair, knocking them both unconscious.
Zoltan couldn’t have aimed better if he’d tried, although they did make it a bit easy for him, huddled together in the dead centre of the shack like that.
Zoltan's about to vamp up Drake but would you believe it - here comes dawn! And so the devilish dobermann is forced to beat a hasty retreat.
For some strange reason it appears not to have dawned (no pun intended) on the Inspector or Michael that the dogs have anything to do with Veidt Smith. The fact that there were 'two coffins' though is beginning to register with the Inspector but bloody hell it's not difficult is it?
The Inspector's next 'plan' is to head back to the original camping ground. "I have a feeling that something will happen there." He says, which once again, isn't a plan in my book. Nevertheless, Michael agrees, and the two head back.
Not long left to the film now, which Veidt Smith underlines by reminding Zoltan that they "cannot survive without a master another night". This leads to a rather rushed and unsatisfying ending and it's over all too soon - an extra ten or fifteen minutes running time and another plot twist could have made all the difference. What about 'turns out that the wife and kids didn’t manage to escape but have been kidnapped by Smith, who has them holed up in a nearby abandoned spooky old house?'. That would have worked for me. “I don’t remember this abandoned spooky old house being here before.” Michael could say to the Inspector as they enter for an exciting final showdown.
But no, all that happens is that the Inspector finds Smith and after a quick fight, gives him a good staking. In the meantime Zoltan and his doggy disciples attack Michael, who takes refuge in the Inspector's car. But damn! It's a convertible, so the roof has to shut before he's safe. The fact that it's the slowest closing roof that I've ever seen in a car really racks up the tension. Maybe they could have made it even slower and added ten minutes to the film that way.
Michael notices his beloved dog Samson rushing to rescue him and lets him into the car. Big mistake, as Samson's eyes glow a hellish vampiric glow and he attacks!
All this is happening as the inspector and a couple of friendly hunters reappear. Much dog-fighting and dog-staking ensues. Michael kills Zoltan by flashing at him (with his crucifix). Zoltan backs off and falls over a cliff that appears from nowhere behind him. He lands on a fence spike. Game over.
It's the end to another successful night's dog killing, and everyone laughs, slaps each other's backs, packs up and heads off home. We just have time for the camera to pan slowly across the ground... to eventually reach Michael's lost pup, alone in the middle of the forest... with fangs and glowing eyes!
Same old routine today, no doubt. Same cold, same ice, same snow…
Same surgery lights buzzing noisily. Same wires sticking out of my head and chest, connected to a shiny yet strangely antiquated looking machine with numerous dials and flashing buttons… hang on, this isn’t part of the usual igloo routine?
A familiar looking face appeared. “Morning, Carlisle.” It said.
Memories. So far away. Memories surfacing slowly and hazily, as if through a sheet of Arctic ice…
“Dr. Bertorelli?” I heard myself ask. And yes, I remembered. Dr. Bertorelli was my tutor. More of a father figure actually because my own father was… and I am… was… am… Edmund Carlisle! That’s my name! Edmund Carlisle, Medical Student in the Royal College of Surgery, Pall Mall! Yes, it’s all coming back to me…
“Good lad, ” Dr. Bertorelli replied “still got control of all your faculties, eh? I suppose you’re curious about how you got here?”
“I dreamt of an igloo,” I started “and of falling down a long flight…”
“No dream, lad. No dream.” Interjected Dr. Bertorelli. “Let me start at the very beginning. You came to me in the Summer of 1912, remember? Keen as mustard, you were. Eager to learn. And my instincts about you were for the most part correct, as you became one of my best students. Quite brilliant, with a mind as razor sharp as your scalpel. What a disappointment when I discovered that some of your ah, extra-curricular activities involved…”
“Why am I here, doctor?”
“Buggery, ma boy! Buggery most horrid! Bestiality to boot. More arson than you could shake a match at. Rape. Murder. More Buggery. And the drugs! Lithium, Opium, Laudanum, Cocaine, Hashish... oh, and all manner of strange and outlandish concoctions... you and that equally no good friend of yours Henry Jekyll (despite him having every guarantee of an honourable and distinguished future) constantly trying to outdo each other in your potion-making...”
“I prefer the term cocktails, actually Doctor. But...”
“Hush, Edmund!" Said Dr. Bertorelli. "Look at the time! I’ve conversed for far too long already. You need to rest and I need to partake of lunch - it’s twenty past the hour and Mrs. Braithwaite is very particular about punctuality. But not for you ma boy, not yet! You’ve got a 24-inch rod stuck in your spine and an even longer tube up your old chap, so no moving from your bed today! I’ll try and return for a chin wag later, what? If you get bored, we’ve got your old TV in the corner. I’ll switch it on for you now if you want…” COMING SOON: ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA (1978)
Today brought a stark reminder that this place can be truly treacherous. Got carried away with excitement, I did, by a rare successful spell of herring fishing at one of my favourite ice holes - blissfully unaware that the weather had turned until an icy blast hit my gonads and I discovered that my visibility was less than 6 foot in front of me.
How I managed to get back to the igloo, god or The Devil only knows, but it was only after many hours of fruitless searching and stumbling into crevasses that I saw the neon flashing sign saying 'Igloo of the Uncanny - 100 yards on the left!' that I knew I was safe.
In the warmth and light of the igloo, I took stock of my faculties and noticed that my left snow shoe had gone missing. This discovery led me to take to my bed for 3 days, howling and screaming in anguish and misery. If you think that was an over-reaction let me explain - my foot was inside that snow shoe, and is also missing. This place really is beginning to annoy me.
The Orphan (2009)
I’ve read some really good reviews of this film (they were delivered to me anonymously down the igloo chimney one night). I can’t quite agree with them though. The Orphans is a very average, very cliché-ridden horror thriller. Compared with all the other really bad modern horror films that are around, I guess that makes it a good horror film hence the favourable reviews. I think.
Put it this way, you can probably guess the plot from the title. And if you haven’t guessed the plot from the title, within 2 minutes of watching the film, when you discover the mother is a recovering alcoholic, you’ve got all the information you need.
The Omen (45%) + The Shining (15%) + The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (40%) = The Orphan
Kate Coleman, played by Vera Farmiga who has a face that really annoys me...
... is a recovering alcoholic and grieving mom who adopts an orphan from an orphanage (it’s the best place to find orphans apparently) run by nuns who obviously have no interest in paperwork or background checks.
Horror Hints #45 – Never adopt a child from a nun.
Oh, but she’s a lovely child! Bright, intelligent and courteous! A delight!
Hang on, I forgot a bit – it turns out that the orphan (they call her Esther rather than ‘the orphan’ in the film, which I think makes sense) can be a right little madam at times.
A right little madam that uses hammers, guns, knives and whatever else she can get her strangely aged looking hands on to murder, maim and cause general mayhem.
Horror Hints #36 – Never become a recovering alcoholic. When someone tries to kill you, nobody will believe you.
All this murderous behaviour means that Lee Remick, sorry, Kate Coleman soon grows to hate and fear Esther. But because she’s a recovering alcoholic nobody believes her. When she speaks about her fears with her husband and psychiatrist they basically just laugh, pull faces and mimic someone swigging from a bottle behind her back.
Thank god then that a bit of internet research by Kate (she Googled 'horror film plot evil children') uncovers a phone number for an Estonian mental hospital...
... resulting in a phone conversation with a nice Estonian with a beard who reveals an okay-ish plot twist along with the information that Esther is a psycho killer. To be fair, the film from this point on does get quite exciting in an obvious sort of way, as Kate rushes back to the family home in a bid to save her husband and daughter from the malevolent mock-minor.
Horror Hints #34 – If you manage to knock out a psycho killer with a gun, take the gun and shoot them in the head. Just to make sure.
And that’s it. Go in with low expectations and you might just find that The Orphan is worth it. And to end on a positive note, the performance by young Isabelle Fuhrman is very, very good. Oh, I almost forgot one...
Horror Hints #82 – If you have children, don’t live in a house right next to an icy lake.
Actually, that probably is genuinely good advice. Take it from me, ice can be dangerous... (hops off into the sunset)
You know, here in the Igloo I have gradually grown to have a genuine love of horror films. And I know how easy it is to mock bad examples of the genre. It’s not big and it’s not clever so from now on, I'm refusing to do it.
Anyway, here’s some selected quotes from other people who have watched The Wicker Man:
1. “The minute your hero comes to the rescue dressed as a bear, you should know something has gone horribly awry."
2. “I found the fictional island of Summerisle quite similar to certain parts of North Norfolk, particularly that every thing you ask is received with a blank expression.”
3. “Nicholas cage is just so funny! He should do more comedy!”
4. “He punched 3 females, so what? It was required for the scene. Get over it.”
For some reason this one is my favourite, because a) it’s not trying to be funny and b) the image it manages to create:
5. “After the cinema, my boyfriend was so mad he couldn’t speak about it”
Where did all the time go? How long has it been since I last spoke? Am I nearer to finding a way out of here? Will I ever be able to find an answer? Do these films hold a clue? Why can't I stop asking questions? And who am I asking, anyway?
But good news! I have the answer! for the last month and a half, the lack of films has given me the chance to take stock of my situation. I have been making incredibly detailed notes of my life before and after entering the igloo. Of my friends and family, work colleagues and enemies. My thoughts, my dreams, my hopes, my killing sprees, all lovingly recorded. And lo! There is a pattern! And within that pattern lies the reason I am here! And within that reason lies a way out! Let me just gather my notes to explain to you... let me just sit down beside the fire and grab my notes...beside the fire. The roaring fire. The roaring paper-fuelled fire...
THE BEGINNING OF THE END (1957)
The Beginning of the End is a terrible yet great 50's big-bug flick, and comes courtesy of legendary sci-fi director Bert I. Gordon, aka 'Mr Big', 'Big Bug Bert', 'The Notorious B.I.G', 'The Bugman', 'Mr.Big Bug', 'The Biggster' or 'Bert' to name but a few of his aliases.
With a name like Mr. Big, I always imagined that Bert I. Gordon would be... a big guy. A huge, cigar chomping figure, when in fact it turns out that he was in fact young, slim and nothing at all like the picture below. However - I do like the idea of someone searching for a picture of Bert I. Gordon and cutting and pasting this one without reading the review so...
Bert I. Gordon, yesterday.
Bert I. Gordon (AKA Monsieur Grande) didn't make movies that were (or are) considered 'good'. But he did know how to make a profit - by giving the drive-in going public what they want. And if the public want big bug and monster movies, then hell, he'd give them one! Using the scariest insect possible! In other words, the scariest insect that hadn't been previously used in a big bug or monster movie.
Which, in this case, ruled out ants (see 'Them') dammit! Scorpions are scary but I'm almost certain that 'The Black Scorpion' featured one... same goes for spiders, wasps, flies, even... hmmm, we seem to be running out of ideas... unless... grasshoppers! They can be pretty frightening! And so we come to the beginning of The Beginning of The End, where we meet the fabulous Peggy Castle playing Audrey Ames, a stunningly attractive yet feisty reporter whose seen a lot of action. No, not that sort of action - I mean military action. World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuwait, Northern Ireland, Iraq and all sorts of Black Ops shit. Here, she's on the trail of a story that centres around the small town of Ludlow. Because sometime during the night the town of Ludlow was completely demolished, and the town's population of 150 people vanished into thin air! And a town of 150 people can't just vanish into thin air!!
She soon teams up with Ed Wainwright, an Entomologist working in a nearby Agricultural Experimental Station. Ed is experimenting - or perhaps 'messing about' would be more accurate - with radioactive plant food to make them larger and cure world hunger etc. etc. Unfortunately Ed's lack of adherence to stringent Health & Safety guidelines which, to be fair to him, probably hadn't been invented in 1957, has led to some grasshoppers breaking in and eating the radioactive foodstuffs, becoming gigantic and going on a rampage.
Peggy, Ed, and Ed's deaf mute assistant (who became a deaf mute after some sort of radiation accident at the station. Probably Ed's fault) head off on the trail of the giant grasshopers. Ed's deaf-mute assistant soon meets a grisly end at the hands of a giant grasshopper. Ed's fault again, if you ask me.
"The time will come when the beasts will inherit the earth."
Peggy and Ed go to Army HQ to grass up the grasshoppers. "Giant grasshoppers! Pah!" says the Colonel but decides to take 10 men to investigate anyway. The grasshoppers attack, the Colonel shouts "Giant grasshoppers! Run!", and beats a hasty retreat as his men get stomped left right and centre despite firing about 1000 rounds of ammunition each... Ed's fault again? It's not for me to say.
Another Army attack proves disastrous, and it quickly becomes obvious that if humanity is to survive a better plan is needed "We may be witnessing the beginning of an era that'll mean the complete annihilation of man. "
"Annihilation. The Beginning of the End."
Sci-Fi stalwart Morris Ankrum shows up as General Hanson, whose solution to save Chicago is to blow it up with a nuclear bomb. It sounds like a fine plan, but he gives Ed and his team of scientists a few hours to create another, less 'atomic bomby' solution to the giant grasshopper crisis.
Just in the nick of time Ed comes up with a plan. Something to do with using sound to lure the grasshoppers into the ocean and blow them up. At last he redeems himself, and he and Audrey fall into each other's arms and live happily after, ending The Beginning of the End...
I wish the same could be said for Peggie Castle herself, but it seems like she found living in this world more trouble than it was worth. She retired from acting in 1962, succumbed to alcoholism and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1973 at the way too young age of 45. Here's looking at you kid: