Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, where we chat about film. What have you seen lately?
Today’s bonus prompt: What is your favorite comedy horror film?
There are a lot of great ones out there: Cabin In The Woods, Evil Dead 2, They Live, and Bride of Chucky, to name a few. There’s a whole section on Wikipedia with movies that go back a hundred years (1920’s Haunted Spooks, starring Harold Lloyd, being its first one). This list is flagged with “needs additional citations for verification” and with good cause. Someone out there decided that Casper is comedy horror and I do not like that one bit.
Comedy horror is full of cult favorites, many of which I could easily write 1,000 words about. I could talk about Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (and I have) or Gremlins 2: The New Batch (which in my narrow view of things I don’t really consider comedy horror). But like a total hipster who’s about to be turned into an artwork by Dick Miller, I’m going to talk about one that you probably haven’t even heard of.
This week, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Roger Corman horror movie, A Bucket of Blood. In it, a bus boy for a beatnik club named Walter (Dick Miller) has aspirations toward being a star artist. He has zero talent, though.
One day, he’s looking for his neighbor’s cat, who has gotten stuck in the wall. He stabs a knife in the wall to try to get it out. Well, totally by accident, he stumbles upon a nifty technique that gains him a reputation as a great figure sculptor: kill people and cover them in clay.
His debut artwork, “Dead Cat”, is a hit. And so is its follow-up… “Murdered Man.” They’re so deep about their message regarding the preciousness of life, say the art critics.
Walter’s beatnik pals have far out tastes and attitudes, which only encourage Walter’s ambitions. The bohemian facade begins to unravel but by bit, though. His boss suspects what’s happening early on, but hesitated to call the cops because the art brings in too much money. Walter becomes disillusioned by a poet who eschews money and possessions in verse but is impressed by how much people are bidding. Valued opinions about lofty concepts about art turn out to be barely formed constructions of drug-addled minds.
Vulture writer Charles Bramesco considers this film one of the crucial milestones in the field of horror comedy:
A Bucket of Blood represents the rare example of a horror-comedy finding its humor in the realm of satire rather than a bloody reinterpretation of slapstick comedy (stabstick?). Corman gets laughs by lampooning the pretensions of an art scene that had just begun to wrap its mouths around the word hipster, and then in killing them, he does precisely what we’ve all imagined doing to the café-line gasbags bloviating about what is or is not True Art.
I think the funniest joke of all is the title. It’s a completely mercenary one designed to get teens to check it out. There is not that much blood in the movie. There isn’t even a bucket. (The closest is a saucepan that Walter puts under a dripping corpse to keep it from making a mess.) The movie poster is the same way… a series of cartoons that imply the audience is going to be sick from all that blood. (Or perhaps in for side-splitting humor?)
The greatest joke this movie pulled is that it tricked horror fans into watching a movie about art.
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