Goon Review: Cat in the Brain (1990)

Lucio Fulci left his mark in 1979 with Zombie, a film that many quickly dismissed as a Dawn of the Dead rip-off, but they would be wrong. It’s a cash-in, duh. Dawn of the Dead hit the scene hard and made an impact in the horror world. The imitators came out by the truck load and everyone wanted some of that sweet zombie cash, kinda like how it is today. Anyway, Fulci, although never fully getting the respect that he demanded, still made a name for himself that would sit along the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Having already done a few giallo and sexploitation films himself, he decided to venture further down this gory path in horror films and made other greats like City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery and what some consider his magnum opus The Beyond. Being labeled “The Godfather of Gore” (a nickname he shared with Herschell Gordon Lewis), he was targeted by critics as being sadistic. Crews often said he was unfair toward the women and his films were looked at by normal crows (you know, non horror fans) as being cruel and mean and that only a sick mind could create such a thing. What’s a director to do?

Take all the negative things people have ever said about you and make it into a joke. A dark, but hilarious joke. And it may be a joke that not everyone will get and that’s ok. For those of us that do, we get a good chuckle and it’s like we’re patting the director on the back and saying, “I feel ya.” For him, he gets to crook a little smile for his accomplishment. Those who ridiculed him and misjudged him are the butt of the joke without knowing it. Perhaps I am over analyzing what most look at as strange, gory horror film with comedic elements thrown in for good measure. But there are plenty of elements in Cat in the Brain that could be over analyzed. We won’t go into them all, but it may be a much deeper film in disguise. Could that mean we are the sickos, so desensitized to the violence that we don’t notice? See, there I go again.

The film literally opens with a cat in a brain. Fulci’s brain to be exact, as he’s typing away at his typewriter, coming up with gory demises for characters, because as we all know this is the only thing horror directors think about. Oh, that’s right… Fucli not only wrote and directed this piece, but he stars in it as well! The film then cuts to a scene from one of his other films, Touch of Death (another great dark comedy horror film) wherein a man is cannibalizing a woman. Fulci seems to be thinking about this while shooting his new film and continues to think about it even more when he tries to order at a restaraunt. The thought of consuming steak tartare repulses him and he leaves. His appetite now gone, he heads home only to be continuously haunted by visions of violence. His neighbor cutting wood with a chainsaw soon becomes blood soaked and coming after Fulci, as the director takes an axe to red paint cans. Is our good director losing it his mind?

Have no fear, Dr. Egon Shwarz is here! Having recently attacked a female journalist, tearing off her clothes and nearly sodomizing her because of a scene he recently filmed for a nazisploitation film, Fulci checks in to the local shrink to get to the bottom of it. However, Dr. Shwarz has plans of his own. With Fulci in a hypnotic state, the doctor tells Fulci that all of the violence he sees in his head he will believe not only that it’s real, but that he is also committing it. Geez, what a dick! And all because he is having marital problems and hates women! Hey, wait a sec… could this be a parody of how people are seeing Fulci? Perhaps. Either way, the plot has gone into full gear and the madness is about to begin. With Fulci not being the patsy, Dr. Schwarz manages to take a number of victims while wearing crazy eyes and the creepiest grin you will ever see. A decapitated hooker is found near the set on a night that Fulci walked home, but that’s not the only case. More and more bodies turn up near the set and Fulci begins to vividly hallucinate more frequently and much more extreme. Is he really losing his mind and committing the murders or is it the doctor? Well, it’s not so much of a mystery as it is a joke.

So, is all the footage from his other films part of the joke, because the Italians were notorious for reusing footage from other movies to pad out run time and save money? Well, you make that decision. The film also includes a lot of aforementioned gore and some nudity that may seem like it was inserted pointlessly, like when Fulci is staring out his window and he seems a woman in leggings topless and feeling herself. Along with the murders of women, Fulci was possibly taking jabs at everyone calling him misogynistic. You know, I’ve been going on about Fulci in the lead role and have yet to comment on how good his performance really is. Of course, the English dubbing is, well, it’s what you expect from Italian horror films. Let’s leave it at that.

Previously available on DVD, Grindhouse Releasing has released it on Blu-ray for the really sick horror fans out there. The first thing I noticed is that the film has a somewhat softness to it and to be honest, I didn’t notice a big – or any – difference in video quality from the DVD. Not to turn you off from this release seeing as it has plenty to offer. The slip cover is cool and glows in the dark and the Blu-ray case itself is reversible. There are plenty of other features too, like in depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey (star of Touch of Death), the Italian theatrical trailer and best of all, in traditional Grindhouse Releasing fashion, a bonus CD soundtrack!
Your unfamiliar horror fans or average movie goers could argue that the film is part glorified clip show, using bits and pieces from some of his other works, Touch of Death and Ghosts of Sodom and the rest is typical misogyny from a sick and twisted old man, filled with nothing but grotesque violence toward women. They would be right, in their own sense, but I think they would be wrong. I would argue that it’s a clever, possibly misunderstood man satirizing himself for the sake of good humor and having a blast doing so. Either way you look at it, it’s a fun experiment and I think the humor and parody work where they are supposed to while the gore isn’t too extreme as his previous films, it is pretty over the top and possibly played for laughs. Cat in the Brain, also called Nightmare Concert, is a fun little experiment from Doctor Fulci that I would say won’t be entertaining to your average horror fan, but those of you looking for something a little more twisted, check this out.

Goon Review: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

(Thanks soooooo much to Mr. Andrew Peters for this eXXXcellently epic review…I FREAKING LOVE THESE MOVIES!!!!! 🙂 xoxoxo)

Slasher movies sure are sexist, aren’t they? They feature nothing but big breasted women being eviscerated in a sanguinary fashion, foul language and nudity that exposes all of a woman’s most private and salacious parts, only to titillate and indulge the audience in a confused mixture of sex and violence. And that’s why we love them! Of course, a lot of critics – or should I say crotchety old men who have nothing better to do than complain about horror movies because they aren’t Citizen Kane – hate them and chastise them for their content. By the ‘80s, filmmakers were starting to jab at the critics, even make parodies of their films to make them critic proof.

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Slumber Party Massacre’s biggest known secret is that it was written by Rita Mae Brown, a feminist activist, who was taking jabs at the genre (and possibly the critics) and originally the film was supposed to be a straight up spoof of slasher films, but director Amy Jones decided a more serious approach would give it more of an impact. However, the film itself isn’t a feminist film, as it is loaded with female nudity and girls dreaming about boys, but I think it was used as a jab at the male audience who are there for just the T & A. In fact, one may say the film is being rather gratuitous about the female nudity as at times it has an Animal House feel to it, like when boys are spying on the girls changing in the living room or some sort of Carrie spoof as the camera literally focuses and rests on close ups of girl’s breasts and asses as they exchange macho dialogue about sports, thus trying to create the ultimate male fantasy. In a way, they are making fun of us males as they are giving us what we want, seeing as how heavy handed it is, but it’s one of the many charms that make the film work.

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Another thing you may not notice at first is the role reversal of the genders. For example, the girls in the film have jobs that would be considered in a male field, like the telephone repair woman. Another girl oogles at men in a porno mag, something you’ve seen the guys do in numerous films. The film even opens up with the cast of girls playing basketball. Well, technically it opens with a shot of one of the main characters getting dressed and ready for school, but you know what I mean. Not saying that women can’t, but you typically see the fellas doing this, but instead they are seen on the sides cheering the girls on. Seems like a total role reversal. Anyway, some of the girls are jealous of new girl Valerie’s sick shooty-hoops skills and decide to snub her by not inviting her to Trish’s party. Of course, the guys may not hear this dialogue as it’s basically just noise during a shower room scene with lingering shots of boobs and butts. But the girls feel bad for Valerie, being the new girl and all and invite her anyway, which she declines after hearing some rather hurtful insults. To counteract this teen drama is serial killer Russ Thorn (played by Michael Villella, seriously nice guy) has escaped from a mental institution and got himself a drill (something that will be used as a phallic symbol throughout the film) from a telephone repair woman as well as her van. Either this guy wants to start his own business or stalk some teens.

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Seeing as how it’s more likely that a new business will fail, stalking teens it is! Lucky for him, unlucky for the girls, Trish’s aforementioned party goes underway without any parental supervision. Well, except for a Hawaiian shirt wearing neighbor who is trying to kill slugs in his yard with a meat cleaver. Hey, it’s the only way to REAAAAALLLY get them. The party really starts to get off the hook when the girls read horoscopes or make drinks. I bet Valerie feels really dumb for not deciding to go over. Instead, she is going to sit around with her little sister and watch horror movies. That is, when her pervy little sister is nose – or balls – deep into porno mags. Valerie happens to live right across the street from Trish, so they often overhear or see something from time to time. Even the boys decide to crash the party, but Russ crashes it even harder when the pizza delivery boy shows up with his eyes drilled out of his head! Now the murder and chaos ensues as the movie starts to live up to its name. Throats are slashed, people are drilled… mostly that last thing. People are just drilled and it’s intended to be taken out of context. Hell, there’s a shot of Russ standing over one of the girls with the drill between his legs. The girls are being killed off and their only hope is the girl they were picking on, Valerie, to randomly come over and check on them. Which happens, but the climax in the pool scene is bloody party of its own.

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Taking the whole feminist angle or spoof bit out of it, Slumber Party Massacre is a pretty paint by numbers slasher, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. Hey, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, amirite? I hear so many people complain about this movie, that they don’t like it because it’s dull and does nothing new with the slasher genre. I can’t argue with that or tell them that they are wrong, because it’s true. It’s very predictable, sometimes the pacing can drag out and there are too many false jump scares. You know, like when a character is walking and they walk right into someone who just grabs them for no reason other than to present the character with a false jumpscare? There are so many of those moments in this film, you may as well start a drinking game. But perhaps that was also intended to be one of the spoofs.

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Shout Factory released the trilogy (yes, there are three… more if you count the Sorority House Massacre sequels) on DVD some time ago, but decided to release the first film on Blu-ray under Scream Factory with a brand new HD transfer of the original camera negative and I have to tell you that it looks pretty damn good. Not a whole lot better than the DVD, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s clean, sharp and colorful and it’s just like I picture it must have looked at the drive-ins back in the day. There’s also a ‘making of’ featurette entitled Sleepless Nights as well as an audio commentary with director Amy Holden and stars Michael Vallela and Debra DeLiso. I seriously recommend listening to that one.
I really enjoy the movie and I find myself watching it time and time again. I think it’s paced pretty decently and the mono sound is so relaxing to me, I use to put this on and fall asleep to it. Not that it bored me, I just found it comforting. There is plenty to love about Slumber Party Massacre, but it’s nothing new or unique and I’m okay with that. I will always love a good ol’ fashioned gorefest with a crazy killer and plenty of cute girls that look for any excuse to get naked. (“Ditto!!” -D.P.) The film stays true to the slasher movie formula, which as I have said before that some will find boring, but others won’t mind as this film has some interesting kills with plenty of blood, good performances (especially by Michael Villela, who puts in an extra creepy performance), more sleaze and nudity than most can handle and it’s actually kinda funny once you see all of the jabs the writer and director were taking at the genre, seeing as it’s not heavy handed. It’s rather subtle and that really works for the film on two levels; both as a spoof and as a serious slasher.

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Ho-stess’s PS– Couldn’t post this without adding this adorable pic of Mr. Goon-y Goon and Michael Villella!! #Studs 🙂

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