Coffin Corner: Primal Streaming
Welcome to The Coffin Corner! Every week, Ian West will be delving into some of the best and latest Blu-ray releases, as well as focusing on the brilliant labels that keep the home video market alive and well!
I know I usually write about Blu-ray releases, but after a five month hiatus I decided to rejoin Amazon Prime and Shudder and pillage their libraries.They reinvigorated my love for Jean Rollin, I saw a highly recommended blind spot, I revisited some favorites, and then I ended the week on the highest of highs with my new favorite Argento film (sorry Suspiria, you’ve reigned supreme on the top of my list for a long time). First off, this isn’t a list of new films being added to these platforms, these are straight recommendations that some of us have already seen, passed over, missed completely, or have lined up for reevaluation. However you look at it, all of these were not planned watches as I hit the play button on my remote, hence the title, “Primal Streaming”. There’s some fun stuff for everyone, and when in doubt just push play!
Stagefright: Aquarius (1987)
Watch via Amazon Prime
While rehearsing a new musical, a group of actors get locked in the theater by their director. The only problem is there’s an escaped lunatic killer locked in with them, donning an owl mask and brutally picking off the trapped actors one by one.
At a time when the greats of Italian horror were starting to become more erratic with their material, enter Michele Soavi. First with the 1985 documentary Dario Argento's World of Horror, followed by 1987s Stagefright: Aquarius, 1989s The Church, 1991s The Sect, and finally, his masterpiece (and to me the official end of the classic Italian horror era that was pioneered by Bava, Argento, Martino, Lenzi and Fulci): 1994s Cemetery Man. I love all of them, but Stagefright: Aquarius was my introduction to Soavi’s ability to create beautiful bloodshed and nail biting suspense. There's a scene near the end that puts on a tension clinic as Soavi delivers one of the definitive entries in the Italian horror genre. A must watch, even if it's just for the opening scene of an man in an owl mask dancing ballet, which is pretty damn amazing.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Watched via Amazon Prime
The Slumber Party Massacre follows a high school senior whose parents leave for the weekend. She gathers her friends for a slumber party, not knowing that a psycho nutjob murderer who uses a power drill escaped from the madhouse and is on the prowl.
Directed by Amy Holden Jones and written by writer/activist/feminist Rita Mae Brown (as a parody of the genre, but filmed as a straight horror flick), The Slumber Party Massacre is a very clever film, filled with intentional tongue in cheek humor, great kills, and a creepy killer who needs no mask. When I first started branching out from the super well-known slasher franchises of that era, that’s where I discovered movies like My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, The Burning and The Slumber Party Massacre. For me, this is easily one of the best movies with "massacre" in the title, and I really wish Amy Holden Jones had made more pictures in the genre.
Watched via Shudder
This thriller of the time travel variety opens with Hector and a pair of binoculars as he spies on a woman undressing in the woods near his property. As he curiously investigates, he finds her unconscious and is attacked by a man whose head is swathed in bandages. Panic sets in and an Hector, while on the run, discovers a scientific facility where he encounters a scientist who persuades him to hide in a time machine. Traveling back in time just a few hours, he observes himself, and the game begins.
Going into Timecrimes blind, I was hyped because I thought there would be an insane synth soundtrack and cool time travel; instead it was kinda the Invisible Man movie we all deserve (even if only in outfit and science factor) as director Nacho Vigalondo utilizes a tiny budget, scarce cast, very few locations, and one big idea to create a tense romp with dire consequences. For ten years friends have recommended this to me saying I’d love it. Well, they were absolutely right. I loved it.
The Night of the Hunted (1980)
Watched via Shudder
The Night of the Hunted starts Brigitte Lahaie, who suffers from severe amnesia, running in great distress as she seems to be escaping from someone or somewhere, as she’s found by a young man and eventually taken to a facility filled with other severe amnesia patients, but something about them seems a little off.
At this point, the film takes on a Rabid/Shivers vibe through an arthouse lense, only creepier and more hypnotic, with simple yet effective music that was so eerie I felt like I was in a hazy dream where bad things would happen to me. In case you forgot who directed this—and
in typical Rollin fashion—patients at the local amnesia home for wayward sex fiends begin to fuck and kill each other, sometimes in unison, as their memories slowly deteriorate and they become mindless living dead. The Night of the Hunted is a slow, hypnotic arthouse jam into weirdness from an often overlooked genre master and I love it!
Death Spa (1988)
Watched via Amazon Prime
Michael, whose wife has recently killed herself, is the owner of a gym that runs on a ridiculous computer system akin to something you’d think Jurassic Park would be ran by, complete with a hi-tech control room and tough, uncrackable security passwords such as “Catherine”. Michael's wife possesses said computer system and begins using the club's exercise machines, pool diving board, dumbbells, juice bar blender, and other equipment to murder the club's members. This film is absurd, filled with late 80s excess on a low budget and it’s one hell of a fun time!
Mad props to the out of place basement, which is a dingy, dimly lit hallway with an Elm Street-style boiler room feel meets crumbling garbage ghetto aesthetic that surprisingly just works! The sleazebag slob policeman made my skin crawl and his death was well worth it, as was the blender scene leading up to it! I’m glad I watched this, I had the same fun vibes with this that I did revisiting Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II last year. I know the obvious double feature pairing would be Killer Workout, but I’m more about curating double bills that just click together regardless of plot location, and supernatural duo of Death Spa/Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is one I’ll be doing in the near future!
Watched via Amazon Prime
The tenants and visitors of a supernatural hotel of death and doom are tormented by deadly spirits by way of decapitation, being clawed to death by cats, death by fire, and attacks from a knife wielding maniac.
Overshadowed by Suspiria on the left and Tenebrae on the right, Inferno is an absurd masterpiece of visual perfection. Argento’s descent into supernatural insanity is everything I could want from a film that changes main characters every 20 minutes and tosses narrative out the window while taking the the time to straddle my mind with eye popping colors in every single damn shot. I’ve often said that one day Inferno will be my favorite Argento film. Well, that day has come.
For a movie that supposedly makes no sense, every single shot is perfectly planned to the last detail by an artist who meticulously paints every brush stroked sequence with intense beauty. With Inferno, we’re treated to a cornucopia of lecherous madness, perversely displayed in a grandiose tapestry of supernatural perfection. Masterpiece, (not so) plain and simple. Don’t ever fuck with witches—ever.