Mad Prof. Mike's Headbanger Movie Reviews

1993/1995 by Mike Marano

Hey, Hobbit Heads. Mad Prof. Mike here. About two years ago I sent this piece in to MAD MAGAZINE. They didn't want to buy it. In fact, they gave me a form rejection. I thought I'd run it up the Hobbit flagpole. Heh, heh, heh. Eat your heart out, Alfred E. Neuman.

INTRO: Well, it had to happen sooner or later! Those tofu-chomping goody-two-shoes are sticking their noses into all our fun and guilty pleasures. Pretty soon, the campus thought police will be invading our local drive-ins and telling us what we can and can't see. So here's our...

MAD Look at Politically Correct Horror Movies

by Mad Prof. Mike

PANEL 1:
CAPTION ABOVE: "It's wrong and terribly Euro-centric to use the word CANNIBAL. Instead, we should call these people THE ANTHROPOPHAGICALLY INCLINED!"
IMAGE: A berserk, wild-eyed, bloody-mouthed, HANNIBAL LECTER whapping the crap out of Charles Napier in the portable cell used in Silence of the Lambs. Lecter says: "Don't you understand that I'M the victim in this relationship? That I wouldn't be this way if society didn't limit my personal DIETETIC FREEDOMS?"

PANEL 2:
CAPTION ABOVE: "And who are we to judge what is a MUTATION and what isn't? Individuals exposed to the A-bomb should be referred to as THE RADIO-ACTIVELY ENHANCED."
IMAGE: GODZILLA rampaging through downtown Tokyo, surrounded by flames and exploding missiles, and walking toward high voltage wires. In the extreme foreground, a Japanese military commander and an enlisted man are about to throw a breaker switch, but a skinny, bearded guy in a Greenpeace T-shirt is stopping them, shouting: "DON'T YOU DARE!!! Godzilla is a protected species. It's bad enough what your government's done about whaling, but THIS..."
A horribly bloated and blank-eyed RAYMOND BURR looks on, silently.

PANEL 3:
CAPTION ABOVE: "SERIAL KILLER is a phrase that is hurtful and that violates personal boundaries. More properly, PERSONS OF SEQUENTIAL AGGRESSION should be used..."
IMAGE: JASON bursting though the wooden door of a cabin, wielding a bloody machete. A "Humbolt Honey" girl with scraggly long hair, in a skirt and wearing Birkenstocks with thick wool socks says: "I really envy your ability to express your negative feelings so freely!"

PANEL 4:
CAPTION ABOVE: "To use the word ZOMBIE is to appropriate the beliefs of certain Indigenous Persons. We should use DIFFERENTLY ANIMATED instead."
IMAGE: A horde of hungry, George Romero-type Ghouls (the old EC Crypt Keeper among them!) closing in on two guys in a barricaded room. One guy, sort of "normal" looking, is screaming as the rotting hands close upon him, but the other guy, a caricature of a Dead Head, is saying nonchalantly: "Look, dude! If we have an excess of Life, we're like, OBLIGED to share it with others less fortunate than us!"

PANEL 5:
CAPTION ABOVE:"WEREWOLF perpetuates negative stereotypes of wildlife. LYCANTHROPICALLY INCLINED is much more appropriate."
IMAGE: A bunch of John Bly-type 'wild men' prancing about a fire in the woods, beating drums. A huge, powerful-looking Werewolf, like in
The Howling, is leaping from the bush, sinking its claws into one of them. A particularly out of shape and ugly wild man in a grass skirt says encouragingly: "Yes, Carl! Yes! Release the ANIMAL inside you!"

PANEL 6:
CAPTION ABOVE: "To refer to something as THE ALIEN simply reeks of xenophobia! Certainly, we can refer to these remarkable creatures as THE CO-DEPENDANTLY GESTATED instead."
IMAGE: SIGOURNEY WEAVER doing her backward dive into the blast furnace, as in the end of ALIEN 3, the Queen Chest Burster exploding from her sternum. Two of the bald space cons look on enviously; one says to the other: "It's really beautiful that Ripley's gotten in touch with her INNER-CHILD!"

Boy.... It sure is rare that one gets to see a horror movie that makes no bones about being a horror movie. Right now, we've got a bumber crop of TWO out-of-the-closet horror movies-- TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT and John Carpenter's IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. Go figure.

Now I got to tell ya, for a hardcore horror-head like me, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is the most fun you can have in a movie theater with out a raincoat over your lap. There are in-jokes and nudges in the ribs galore-- from a character named Dr. Saperstein, after Mia Farrow's OB-GYN in ROSEMARY'S BABY, to visual quotes from THE OMEN, AMADEUS, SUSPIRIA and a BIIIIG tip-of-the-hat to Nigel Kneale's QUATERMASS AND THE PIT and the entire corpus of H.P. Lovecraft's work.

So here's the deal. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is about wise guy investigator Sam Neil looking for missing horror novelist, Jurgen Prochnow, whose books are boring a hole in the fabric of reality. There's Cthuloid monsters and Yog-Sothothery everywhere, and lots of folks running around with bloody axes. Sort of like Christmas with my family. I had a warm, fuzzy, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE kind of feeling watching this flick.

But for all this, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS didn't deliver all that it should have. Don't get me wrong. It's a good movie. It's just not as great as it should have been, or could have been. It's sort of like Carpenter studied really hard, but choked on the final exam. I mean, let's face it. How can you totally respect a horror flick that has Charelton Heston in it, but doesn't have Heston saying "Ohhhhh, my Gaaaaahd"?

For all it's faults, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is WAY ahead of most crud out there that masquerades as horror, despite a somewhat predictable, but funny, ending.

On our Headbanger scale of 1-4, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESSgets three solid headbangs.

Donald Pleasence died this month in the South of France at the age of 75. Now, let me ask you something. Can you possibly name all, or even HALF, of the movies you've seen with Donald Pleasence? I defy you to pick up Michael Weldon's THE PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM or John Stanley's CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE and see if you can flip 20 pages without coming across at least one of his movies. The man has been in everything.

Sure. Not all his horror movies are great. But the simple fact that Pleasence was in them makes them worth seeing. The man had an incredibly rare gift-- he could be really creepy and really charming at the same time. Even in MANIA, where he played a dispicable grave-robber, he was kind of likeable. My favorite Pleasence roles are the ones where he plays priests, like in LAND OF THE MINOTAUR, EYE OF THE DEVIL, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Even when he's a supposed force of Good and Light, he gives you the heebie-geebies.

Flip through Pleasance's body of film work. Just look at all the cool titles. Who wouldn't want to see a movie called CIRCUS OF HORRORS? Or TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS? Who could resist JAGUAR LIVES, starring Pleasence, Christopher Lee, Barbara Bach and Woody Strode? Or what about THE MUTATIONS, also known as THE FREAKMAKER, where Pleasence played a mad geneticist monster maker with future Doctor Who, TOM BAKER as his assistant? That one was directed by Michael Powell's cinematographer, Jack Cardiff!

The grand gentlemen of horror are slipping away from us. Vincent Price. Peter Cushing. Now Donald Pleasence. Only Christopher Lee remains. No one can really fill these shoes.

Maybe no one should try. Maybe the era of gentlemanly horror movies is behind us.

Too bad.

Later.

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