PLEASE NOTE: The movies reviewed in From Here to Obscurity have either never been given an official VHS or DVD release, have been released on VHS but are long out of print and very hard to find, or are readily available in some form but have generally gone unnoticed by most of the general public.
Little known fact: werewolves hate hippies.
Strange, isn’t it? You’d think werewolves and hippies would get along seeing as how they have much in common with one another. Werewolves and hippies both tend to be excessively hairy. They both love the outdoors and being in tune with nature. They both put little value into fine grooming. They both have a tendency to wake up the next morning not completely sure what happened the previous evening, albeit for entirely different reasons. Both are prone to having mind-altering experiences, though again, for vastly different reasons. You’d think werewolves and hippies could peacefully co-exist, but that is simply not the case. Hippies tend to be pacifist vegetarians that are all about peace and love and werewolves are ravenous carnivores prone to hunting and mutilating victims. That’s pretty much a deal breaker right there. And have you ever seen a werewolf movie with hippies in it where the werewolf didn’t target the hippies at some point? I’m hard pressed to think of a single pro-hippie werewolf movie myself. No doubt about it – werewolves hate hippies.
One of the most notable entries in the ongoing war between lycanthropes and flower children is a made-for-TV obscurity from 1974 called The Werewolf of Woodstock. Produced by Dick Clark of all people, the telefilm premiered on the ABC television network back in 1974 as part of a short-lived late night Friday program called “ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment,” a weekly rotation of comedy specials, celebrity roasts, Playboy mansion parties, and monumentally schlocky made-for-TV movies such as this. No sane person will ever confuse The Werewolf of Woodstock for quality filmmaking. The film is so incredibly cheap looking, poorly directed, and abysmally written that it’s practically mind-blowing to know that this was not only produced by one of three major television networks of the time but that said network was still willing to broadcast it after seeing the finished product. I do believe that was the first and last time it was ever broadcast so I have no clue where prints of the film have come from. Thank goodness somebody salvaged it from bottomless pit of cinematic obscurity.
As bad as the movie is, and believe me when I tell it’s quite bad, it’s still impossible to deny the film’s historical value. You heard me correctly; I said historical value and I’m not kidding either. Over the course of The Werewolf of Woodstock’s 70-minute running time you will see the first werewolf movie ever shot on video (it has the picture quality of an early 70s soap opera), you will hear the single loopiest explanation that has ever been given for a man to transform into a werewolf, you will see the inspiration for Donkey Kong years before the video game was ever conceived, and most importantly, you will bare witness to filmdom’s first ever werewolf carjacking. The Werewolf of Woodstock’s a howler all right.
1969: In the days following the now legendary Woodstock concert, an angry old man named Bert (Tige Andrews, best known for playing the Captain on “The Mod Squad”) sits in front of his TV watching a news report about the monumental rock concert that was held just a few miles from his home. Bert hates hippies. I mean Bert really, really, really hates hippies. Bert especially hates that those “miserable freaks” had the nerve to come into his backyard to put on their little freakfest. His hippie hate having finally reached the point of meltdown, Bert drives out to the darkened field and attempts to rip the remnants of the Woodstock stage down with his bare hands. The only thing Bert actually succeeds in doing is getting electrocuted.
Instead of winding up in the Intensive Care Unit like any other person would after receiving a gazillion volts of electricity, Bert’s doctor simply prescribes bed rest at home, his hands and face bandaged up like a mummy wrapped by 8-year olds, while his wife plays doting nursemaid. Keep in mind that this is despite the electrocution being so severe that the family doctor couldn’t even believe Bert survived it.
But Bert has bigger problems than just getting well for his electrocution has cursed him with lycanthropy. Now every night when there’s a thunderstorm, poor Bert transforms into a werewolf, rips off his bandages, changes clothes, and runs amok killing animals, hippies, cops, and pipe-smoking town doctors that prescribe bed rest as treatment for massive electrocution before returning home where he changes back into his original clothes, rebandages himself, climbs back into bed, turns back into a human, and either pretends not to know what happened to himself the night before or just prefers not to talk about it. No expense was spared on the werewolf effects because there was no expense to begin with. We’re talking about a guy in flannel clothes wearing a cheap drug store werewolf mask and rubber werewolf hands. The whole movie has the production values of a school play.
After Bert begins wreaking havoc and the only witness claims to have only been able to identify the killer as having long hair, the local police put the blame on this lousy hippie rock band (including a very young Andrew Stevens) that have shown up to record a demo album on the site of the world famous concert with hopes of tricking record execs into thinking they actually performed at it. As much as WereBert may hate hippies, he still can’t resist the allure of a wavy gravy hippie chick in the form of band-aid Becky, who he abducts and takes to an old abandoned mill. Since she’s all about harmony and has a soft spot for furry creatures, Becky takes pity on the wolfman, so much so that she doesn’t even bother trying to escape from the mill even after he returns home. Three separate occasions she chooses not to leave, instead preferring to just take a nap in the hay and await the beast man’s return the next day.
Investigating the strange goings-on of the past few days are the crotchety old police captain and two cops visiting from Los Angeles that have been in town surveying the Woodstock festival in case something of that magnitude is ever held in Southern California. They are detective Moody Silver (Michael Parks, who actually had a real career going at the time so I don’t what the hell he was thinking when he took this role) and police psychologist Candy Byron. Much of the movie has the trio sitting around the one-room police station set discussing just how strange these mysterious slayings that appears to be the work of a large animal are. Apparently, they aren’t used to having crime in these parts seeing as how the captain has a kitchenette set up in there so that he can teach Moody how to make his famous five-alarm chili while discussing the facts of the case.
It’s here that the very blonde psychologist Candy Byron tosses out a crackpot hypothesis as to what is going on. She begins by reciting some scientific mumbo jumbo about study done where high yet non-lethal doses of electricity caused excess hair growth in lab rats and then states that she believes this is what has happened to Bert, and every time there’s a thunderstorm as there has been every night since Bert’s accident (although it never actually seems to rain), poor Bert grows this excess hair and reverts to a primal state. Never mind the fact that this wouldn’t explain his also growing a snout, fangs, and claws too; the others quickly accept the possibility that this ludicrous theory sounds just plausible enough to explain what has been happening the past few nights. And keep in mind that this preposterous theory was the very first hypothesis she came up with. Strange animalistic murders… Old man electrocuted… Thunderstorms… Why there must be one of those electric werewolves on the prowl!
So how does one stop an electric werewolf? Why you just overload its senses with loud noises, preferably a combination of deafening hippie rock music and blaring police sirens. The police get the hippie rock band to set up on the Woodstock stage and crank their amps up full blast while they disguise their vehicles in the field with plans to lure WereBert out and subdue him through sensory overload. It almost works too, but he manages to get away, snatches Becky again, and goes running off into the wood. With the police in pursuit, WereBert soon comes across a guy standing next to his dune buggy, bitchslaps the dude, and performs cinema’s very first werewolf carjacking. It’s a thing of beauty I tell you with the werewolf even defiantly shaking his fist at the coppers upon driving off.
Oh, and did I mention that all this is taking place in broad daylight with not a single cloud in the sky and yet Bert is in full wolfman mode? By this point there’s no longer any reason to ask why about anything.
The slow speed chase ends up with WereBert dragging his hippie hotty hostage to a nearby power plant. With nowhere to go but up, it is here that we will witness the birth of Donkey Kong. Armed with only his “Where’s Waldo?” beanie cap, Michael Parks makes like Super Mario running up flights of metal stairs to rescue the girl from the hairy beast that has begun tossing empty barrels at the cops down below just like a certain video game gorilla. Did the folks at Midway see this movie and use it as the inspiration for the classic video game? Well, probably not.
Just when you think you think there isn’t anything the film can possibly do to top that, Parks and the werewolf square off for some freestyle girder hopping atop the power plant. Down below, the police captain, the same one that had spoke of capturing Bert alive just minutes earlier because he felt it wasn’t Bert’s fault that this happened to him and he desperately needed medical treatment for his monstrous condition, receives the silver bullet he ordered and promptly guns down Bert with a high powered rifle; an impossible shot for which he not only had no line of sight but the bullet would have had to either travel through several layers of steel or made more than one 90 degree angle in order to hit its target. A mannequin in a werewolf mask plummets to its slow motion death and the closing credits roll over the image of the lifeless werewolf’s face slowly reverting back to human form. The end. Bless you, Dick Clark.
The Werewolf of Woodstock will never be confused with a good movie, not by a long shot, not in your wildest dreams; but if you have any affection for cinema “so bad it’s good” then this is a very hard-to-find movie that’s well worth seeking out just to marvel at the knowledge that something this bad was actually a network television production long before anyone even conceived of the idea for the Sci-fi Channel. Forget the werewolf, the only thing that will be howling are the viewers. And with that, let me leave you with this:
Even a man who is pure of heart
And says his prayers by night
Can become a wolf when the acid rock blares
And the lightning flashes are bright.
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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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