What I wanted to do for my first ever write-up for this newfangled Avocado website was to do a write-up for TCM Underground’s sleazy, exploitative double features they air late every Saturday night. This Saturday night, however, my girlfriend and I were at FilmBar in Phoenix, AZ for “FilmBar’s Scream-All-Night Slumber Party,” from 10pm to 7am. After that, I was horrored out. I did, however, watch the first TCM Underground movie yesterday, and I’ll watch the other one tonight. Mostly, though, I slept yesterday. I ate burritos and I slept.
So, instead of the TCM Underground review, I’m going to review everything I Saturday night and Sunday morning at the slumber party.
Suspiria (1977) – I’ve seen Suspiria a million times. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a nightmare captured on film–and I know that term has been used to death, but in this case it’s absolutely true. The logic of the film, like leaping out of a window and into a mysterious pit that’s filled to the brim with razor wire, seems to make sense in the context of Suspiria because it’s like staggering through a brightly-colored fever dream. God, I wish I could remember who said it, but someone once described Suspiria as a horror film imagined by someone who’d never actually seen a horror film. And that analogy is just about perfect. It’s a macabre story where anything is possible.
The version that I saw was the crazy remaster courtesy of Synapse Films that has been painstakingly restored over the course of three years. I’m not an expert in film restoration by any means, but what I can tell you is that I’ve seen Suspiria enough times to know that this version is insane. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Final Judgment: Loved it.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) – I’ve always had a soft spot for slasher movies. They’re just horror movies boiled down to their purest essence. You have a guy, you have the victims, and you watch it play out. The plots are always relatively same-ish, the setting sometimes changes (or sometimes not, seeing how many of the goddamned things take place at a camp), but the results are always the same.
Slumber Party Massacre II is a self-aware parody that has it both ways: It’s a spoof of the genre and also a loving entry into it. It’s as silly as it is effective. It’s never scary, but it wrings some genuine tension out of the silly plot and has enough time to have several 80s-tastic musical interludes. This is the perfect movie to watch at a Halloween party in the background while getting drunk.
Final Judgment: Really liked it.
Abby (1974) – The story behind Abby is that it was, for many years, out of circulation and just about impossible to see, because of a lawsuit from Warner Bros. that pulled it out of theaters. Warner Bros.’ claim is that it ripped off The Exorcist. Does it? Sure. Yeah. It totally does. Abby is also known at “The Black Exorcist” in that it’s the same general plot of The Exorcist updated for an African-American audience in mind, with a predominantly Black cast and crew. But, it’s certainly more than that. It’s effective in its own right. It’s a well-made horror movie that’s about the destruction of the soul, without a heavy reliance on blood, gore or cheap, overdone special effects. It made enough money at the box office that when Warner Bros. brought suit, Abby‘s filmmakers didn’t fight it, they just let it kind of go away.
It is, however, a product of the early 70s and lets some real unintentional humor slip through. There’s some tonal whiplash going on with some decent horror and some “what the fuck”-level bad acting that pops up every now and then.
Final Judgment: Liked it.
Stage Fright (1987) – A troupe of actors putting on a play are being stalked and killed by a guy wearing a giant owl mask. “So, this movie should have been called Birdman?” That joke fell flat, guys. The embarrassing part is that I was really proud of myself for finding some basic plot similarities and a punny title related to an Oscar-winning film.
Stage Fright is a classic Italian giallo. I… I don’t know. I’ve seen maybe a couple dozen giallos in my day and while I love some (The House that Screamed is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever had watching a movie), mostly I’m just like, “Whelp, that sure was a movie.” I appreciate them for being a classier, proto-version of the slasher (basically, a slasher is the ending result when you strip the pretense and plot out of a giallo), but they’re just not my favorite. Stage Fright is about as good as the genre can get, with a scary killer, a cool mask, and a very photogenic setting, but I have to admit I slept through like 75% of this. It was late, guys!
Final Judgment: Owl mask.
Society (1989) – This was the last movie of the evening, starting at around 5:00 a.m. and I was so freaking tired. I went outside for a smoke and saw some girl (not related to the film festival, just a passerby) vomiting her brains out and that sort of upset my already-souring stomach (I was pretty drunk, having had a cocktail where all the vodka settled to the bottom).
I tried real, real hard to stay awake for this one. The basic plot is that of a young man who begins to suspect that his family is not who, or what, they seem. The closer he gets to the truth, the more bizarre things that begin to happen.
Turns out, the elite echelon of “society” (hence, the title) is made up of monstrous, deformed, humanoid creatures. I made it pretty far into this, but succumbed to exhaustion and woke up just in time to see the final showdown of the film coming to an end. My girlfriend looked angry at the movie. All she would tell me is, “There sure was a lot of anal fisting at the end.”
Brian Yuzna directed it, which… that same year, he and Stuart Gordon, both of the Re-Animator movies, produced the kid-friendly Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. 1989 was a weird year, man.
Final Judgment: Anal fisting?
When the event was finally over, they had cereal and donuts waiting for us. I came home, passed out for four hours and then watched mostly-pleasant things all day long. I fell asleep watching I Love Lucy that night.