Tag: linda blair

Milestones 3. Pratt, Blair and my continued romance with the Slasher

by on Jan.31, 2012, under Milestones

This chapter is one of oddity, for the singular reason of friendship. As I’m sure many of you have experienced as you have lived your lives, friends come and fiends go. But where do they come from and why? One such friend of mine was a young guy by the name of Pratt. (here, referred to by his chosen surname and not by socially issued, insult. Also, as it was the first year of secondary school, everyone surrendered their first name as recognition of progression and maturity). 

I don’t remember where this guy came from and why we became finds. I already had more friends than I needed, but Pratt was a new addition. He was in our new school, same age and year, but not in the same class. (myself being in the higher academic regions, with Pratt in what was usually referred to as The Beach Ball class) He had a totally different upbringing than I was used to. He had a father on the rigs which he saw very seldom. A very friendly mother who had fostered a whole house of kids. Crazy really, but honourable. I remember seeing one of the bedrooms on he top floor, like a military dorm. I digress.

So this was back in 81. We had video breaking all sorts of boundaries in society and technology. The rental shop was the new way to view films, and as such, all sorts of Euro crap was rebranded, renamed, rebadged and released for our consumption. I must add, all without the approval of Jim Ferman et al at the BBFC. One of Pratt’s foster brothers was an early adoptee of this new tech and spent his days in front of the TV watching poor quality films. This particular day, it was roasting hot, sun beaming, classic childhood summertime, I remember being drawn towards the living room, the TV and he Horror which Pratt’s brother had rented. It was an American teen slasher. (but remember, this was the dawn of the slasher in relative terms. The gloves were off for dominance amongst the Jason’s and Michael’s)

Hell Night. …. Thats right… Hell Night. It’s not on anyone’s radar. It’s not recognised. It’s not credited. It’s basically been forgotten with a lot of the other trash of the day. But for me, it’s buried deep inside my mind. It was hot, sunny,  think Chopper’s and hot pants, melting Tarmac, epidemic of flying ants too. (summers are not like this any more) In Pratt’s living room, the curtains were drawn, the huge sofa occupied by the extended foster family of maybe 12ish kids, all under the respectable viewing age, and the movie was creepy as hell.

The film is of simple premise. College kids wanting acceptance into their Delta Zeta Omega residence need to spend the night in a spooky old house, historically, one that a family was massacred in a few years earlier. Unbeknown to the teens, one family member remains. ‘Seth’ is a towering beast of a man. Strong, monstrous looking and demented in the brain. He stalks the kids, keeps them locked inside and plays the game of cat n mouse, picking them off one by one. This is a tried and tested formula, even back in ’81, but Hell Night still deserves a bit more than being forgotten. It’s a damn sight better than most, even some which spawned a whole host of sequels. It’s director Tom DeSimone was an old veteran of cheap film, and had a whole host of semi erotic glitzy sleaze boxed up for people’s renting pleasure. Hell Night was his dabbling into the horror genre and what an entry was made. The film has a real unease about it. Tension, wariness, and something which other slashers steer away from which is ‘common sense’. Here the victims kind of stick together rather than splitting up, exploring the house, looking in the basement. It’s this realism of character which makes this film stand out and allows Seth to grow into a real threat of a villain. He’s everywhere, strong, physical, fast, vicious, dominating, silent with a damaged brain. Do we have some clues here? Frankenstein once again anyone?

I was ten years old watching this. Terrified the living daylight out of me. I can still remember walking home in the sunlight, traumatised, mind in darkness. This was a true milestone for me, one which I often recall. I remember mentioning this film to various people a few years later when my love for horror really began to bloom, only to find it was dismissed as American trash. By that time, my palate was maturing to the finer euro delights and as such, I often dismissed our US offerings. Shallow was I to turn my back on this one.

Although it has been said that Linda Blair was the selling point of this film, it’s a financiers trick. The film has a lot to offer. I’m also very surprised this little gem hasn’t been pinpointed as a Hollywood remake. It has dollars written all over it.

As for Pratt, for some reason once again unknown, we went our separate ways at the end of that summer…. and he was never seen again. 

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The Exorcist

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Daily Review

Tubular Bells. That’s what this one is all about. Many films have catchy theme tunes, but this one is about as haunting as it gets. Mike Oldfield’s perfectly crafted score echoes through the film as we witness the possession of a young girl by an obscene spirit. The mother is at the end of her tether as any parent would be in this situation. The score is not only the sound of the movie, but the theme of their lives, we see a breakup of a household, a cry of help to medical science and finally religion, which seems to run the course of the film. But is it religion that saves Regan and takes the spirit or pure dedication on behalf of a guilt ridden man?

Let me break down the plot. A young girl, Regan (Linda Blair) becomes antisocial to the point of her actress mother Christine (Ellen Burstyn) having to seek medical help. Agitating the problem, uncovers a deeper problem, possession by the devil. Meanwhile, a local priest Father Karras (Jason Miller) is at conflict over his demented mother, haunted by the loss and the incarceration which leads to her death. His Father questions his son’s choice of career, hinting with a better vocation, his mother wouldn’t be in this situation. An instant question of faith. Karras is asked into the lives of Christine to help with Regan. I should have also mentioned the devil hunter, Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), a priest dedicated to the art of exorcism.

The film is beautifully shot, very sterile and documentary for the most part with a cold wintry feel, low on colour, which allows the actors to truly take centre stage. This film is about people, interaction, emotion and loss. Christine is a single parent, wealthy, but lonely with only her daughter, Regan as any form of real company. Regan is without father desperate for attention. Father Karras is battling with his faith over the loss of his mother. He’s determined he’s made the correct vocation although still blames himself for his family’s hardship. The relationship between Karras and Christine is reflective in sex, wealth but reversal in the mother sibling role. It’s this connection which gives us the final conclusion, making a choice for a mother.

Dick Smith creates amazing effects here. A veteran in the art and here does a sterling job. I love Regan’s neck swelling up, but the full possessed Regan is very hard to beat. As far as scares goes, this one allows a slow build up through it’s clinical style to allow a sudden killer shock. Christine walking along the corridor towards Regan’s room is one of the first big hitting moments, opening the door to see the bed bouncing all over the place.

It’s been said that Director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty had a difference of interests and artistic differences with the finished result of this film but it’s hard to fault and seems about as perfect a movie as could have been made. This is a big film, clever, deep, questioning and thinking at all times. It’s a great film with a very difficult subject matter; child possessions are always tricky through walking the balance of decency and believability. This was back in ’73 and as terrifying today as it was back then. Many have tried to recreate and nearly all fail. This is the original possession masterpiece.

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Summer of Fear

by on Apr.24, 2010, under Daily Review

A lesser seen early Wes Craven number shows all the creative style and essence which is signature to Craven’s movies. On a first look, this is a situation drama, made for TV. Solid filming with great strong characters and a story which works well for the mainstream and a low budget. This is the very beginning of Craven’s rational mainstream encounter, embracing a new audience in an attempt to win over the studios, gain higher budgets and calm his brutal reputation as the master of horror after his initial ‘Last House’ and Hills Have Eyes’. Following these two films is no easy challenge and it’s easy to see why this film would be dismissed as it could be seen as selling out.

Rachel (Linda Blair) is a young privileged teenager, whose nose is put out of place by her beautiful cousin, Julie (Lee Purcell), coming to stay. She soon suspects her cousin is in cahoots with the devil, dabbling with the occult.

Is his the moment of Craven’s enlightening of a bigger audience? Again, we have all the signs of the masterpiece he is aiming for, although restrained here with budget and rating. Linda Blair is the master stroke here; with real screen presence she ignites the screen with charisma and charm and a brilliant natural ability. The role Blair takes is the usual Craven focus, being girl next door type seen over and over in his films. Scream, Elm Street, Blessing. Even his other films show strong female leads, Friend, Hills, Last House etc, but here, Blair leads the way for the role of Sidney and Nancy in later films.

Apart from this strong historic documentation, what else does Summer of Fear have to offer? Blair is outstanding with hair which is mesmerising, but acting ability which really has been wasted since. She’s so natural and that’s the films winning point. The plot is interesting and the pace works well with the subject. Purcell is great in the role of the cousin and when she does turn into super witch, she’s amazing, but the rest of the cast are an obvious TV collective which Craven inspires into a better than average performance. There are some beautiful scenes, and camera shots which express Craven’s ability and show an eagerness to capture an emotion and create a film far more ambitious that production allows.

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