Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Haunted Cinema

"Nothing could be more mysterious or forbidding to the uninitiated than an old movie palace laid waste by years or even decades of neglect at the hands of absentee landlords and mercenary owners determined to suck every last dime out of a joint and then torch it for the insurance money. And once a theatre slipped into the twilight of exhibiting XXX hardcore porn, it rarely slipped out again. In most cases nothing was ever upgraded, and even the most basic repairs were a rarity. Broken chairs were left where they collapsed, burned-out light bulbs were never replaced, and even the life-blood of the enterprise, the movie projectors, turned into rat's nests of filth, while up in the restrooms a witches' brew of slime bubbled away in plugged-up toilets. This attitude of radical laissez faire imbued these environments with a certain frozen-in-time ambiance as the architectural remnants of Depression-era grandeur slowly sank into appalling decay and unimaginable things took place in the darkness."

-From Jack Stevenson's brilliant article on the decline of movie theaters:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bloodbath in the House of Knives (2009)

Regional horror films are the sort of thing every film gnostic lives for. Well do I remember the days of noting strange titles on drive-in marquees and wondering about their origin. Everyone of us used to know at least somebody who caught The Night Daniel Died on a one-week run or discovered the original Night of the Living Dead at the bottom third of week-end bill. And once in a great while we too might have found something special at 2:30AM on a local TV station. Because having access to this sort of experience is what made you cool among other film geeks.
So I was delighted that Mr. Ted Moehring would elect to send me a DVD-R (in an illustrated clam shell, no less!) of his gallo, Bloodbath in the House of Knives. Made in the isolated town of Boyertown, PA ( and surrounding environs), Bloodbath is a neat little film that shows how people with limited means can still create something to hold the attention. Using a cast of unknowns, it manages to capture the spirit of Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Suspiria.
The plot is complex: a nightclub hypnotist puts a man in a trance. Suddenly, the trancee goes on a rampage, killing a member of the audience before he is felled by a bullet from an unknown shooter. Meanwhile a sinister figure in black and wearing a theater mask is randomly killing people in the town where the movie takes place. And a woman named Ivy keeps getting threatening phone messages from a stalker. Are the killings related? And when is the intrepid police detective going to put it all together?
And there are a number of effect-laden murders, none accomplished with CGI or growth hormones. At least one is quite scary.
Lloyd Kaufman does an excellent job of playing himself. As a matter of fact, I can't think of anyone else who could do such a good job playing Lloyd Kaufman. The only problem is Lloyd Kaufman is supposed to be playing a sleazy lawyer in this movie.
A few other complaints would be the lack of exterior shots. Some local color might have been nice. At least I was able to see the town across from where I live for a few minutes in The Lovely Bones. But I don't recall any news of Mr. Moehring shutting down Boyertown traffic to film Bloodbath.
Good use of lighting, color, and a surprise ending. I hope we'll be seeing more of Ted Moehring.