FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 13, 2007

Amicus Week: Day 2

I'm sure I've said it at some point in the course of things here at FG, but I'll say it again so you finally get it through your thick skull: oftentimes when watching a film, it behooves you to put yourself in the mind set of the era in which the film was made. In other words, if a film was made in 1973, expect it to have pacing and effects from the early 1970s; I mean, doy, it's not going to be all jump cuts and music video stylings and computer graphics and the Macarena, like you kids of today are used to. This approach isn't going to guarantee you'll enjoy said movie, and sometimes boring is just plain boring no matter what. A sucky film is a sucky film, whether you watch it through appropriate-era-colored glasses or not, I realize that. Listen, what I'm saying is, you simply might be more apt to enjoy the film if you're not all smug and cynical and like "OMG that looks soooo faaaaake LOL!!1!" all the time.

And why do you have to be so smug and cynical and like "OMG that looks soooo faaaaake LOL!!1!" all the time, anyway? Hmm? Who do you think you're impressing by acting like that? You're not impressing me, that's for sure...nope, not with that attitude. Nor with that excuse for a sweater.

ANYWAY. I feel as if there's a point to all this, as if maybe it has some relevance to the Amicus film with one of the best titles ever, And Now the Screaming Starts!...hmm, what could it be? Ah yes. ANTSS!, as all the cool kids call it, was produced in 1973, and your enjoyment of it may, in fact, be in direct proportion to whether or not you can put on a pair of 1973-colored glasses, which may or may not look like this:

I myself am fully capable of it, and as such I enjoyed ANTSS! very much.

Does any of that make any sense at all? I'm a bit high on Diet Dr Pepper at the moment, so this all feels a little bit automatic blogging, if you know what I mean.

Yes, Diet Dr Pepper. I've told you that I live on the razor's edge of danger and intrigue. It's not my fault if you can't keep up.

ANYWAY PART 2. In the wondrous and faraway year known as "1795", Charles and Catherine Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy and Stephanie Beacham, yes, she of Dynasty and The Colbys) have just been married and are about to embark on a new life together at Fengriffen Manor. As Charles gives his new bride a tour and yaps on about his ancestors, Catherine is strangely drawn to a portrait of Henry Fengriffen, Charles's grandfather. The "dun dun dunnnnnn" music lets us know that there's something ominous about this portrait.

The music was right, for out of this ominous painting thrusts a disembodied hand! Egah! The hand disappears and Catherine chalks the vision up to...I don't know, a case of the vapors or something. But as she and Charles head off to The Bedroom Fengriffen, there's a certain someone following them...

As she lies waiting for her husband and the consummatin', Catherine is assaulted in The Bed Fengriffen! The disembodied hand clamps over her mouth and, faster than you can say The Entity, she's raped by an unseen force. Of course, no one believes her- pfft. These women and their...women-issues!

Things get worse for Catherine as the disembodied hand keeps making appearances everywhere- only now, he's got a friend: the visage of an eyeless woodsman with a bloody stump of an arm! arm in need of a hand, a hand in need of an arm...could they be related? In the year known as 1795, anything is possible, my friends!

This eyeless dude bears a strong resemblance to Silas (Geoffrey Whitehead), a *gasp* weirdo woodsman who lives on the Fengriffen property. What the eff is going on here? Is Catherine going crazy? What's up with the stumpy dude and the invisible rapist? Catherine sets out to solve the mystery with a little help from the Fengriffen solicitor and the Fengriffen maid...unfortunately, anyone who endeavors to help the young bride ends up D-E-A-D. Are they all accidents, or is that disembodied hand getting up to some nefarious doings around Fengriffen Manor?

Charles is completely convinced that Catherine is going crazy. The family doctor (Patrick Magee) is unable to diagnose anything beyond "Uh, dude, she's totes preggers", so the big kahuna is called in, namely one Dr Pope (a bewigged Peter Cushing), a psychiatrist who puts no stock in this supernatural mumbo-jumbo.

And yes, Catherine is pregnant. But whose child is it? Is it a Fengriffen, or is it...something otherworldly? You'll be happy to know that ANTSS! addresses all the tough, philosophical questions that have plagued mankind since the beginning of time...questions such as "Are invisible sperm viable?"

Eventually we learn the answers to that question (and many more!) as the mystery unravels and the sad, sordid history of the Fengriffens and the Woodsies (as I like to call them) is revealed. Frankly, it's all a little depressing. All is not total darkness, however, as there's a scene of corpse desecration that kind of needs to be seen to be believed.

Yes, levity via corpse desecration. Oh, what a world!

And Now the Screaming Starts! is part of that super-cheap Amicus Collection 3-pack recently released by Dark Sky Films, and the movie has really gotten the deluxe treatment with two commentaries (a rarity with these older films), one featuring Stephanie Beacham and director Roy Ward Baker, the other featuring Ian Ogilvy.

I have to give a shout out to the costumes (courtesy of Betty Adamson) and the production design (courtesy of Amicus regular Tony Curtis)- though Hammer certainly cornered the market on period British horror, the set and...uh, people dressing in ANTSS! are fabulous, lush, and flawless. Ruffles and bosoms galore!

Though it's not terribly scary (and I fear that'd be the case whether it's 1973 or 2007, whether you're wearing any kind of glasses or not), And Now the Screaming Starts! is terribly fun in that period British horror kind of way. It's not nearly as stuffy as its Hammer cousins are, and it's got a disembodied hand crawling around, for crying out loud. And oh honey, that title...they had me at the title. But then, I'm easy- especially when I'm drunk on Diet Dr Pepper!


CRwM said...

I dig this flick so much that I named my own blog after it.

For the curious, the trailer to ANTSS can be found on YouTube:

Anonymous said...

...I'll have you know this sweater was a gift...

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I loved Stephanie in "Sister Kate", which had a young Jason Priestly as one of the orphans in her care.

And LOL at Sir Elton. XD Not sure if those are 1973 glasses, but they are Dame Edna glasses for sure.

Anonymous said...

quick note - the end of tales from the crypt goes as follows - the people have already done all those evil acts, and it's killed them, and they are in hell and about to be punished. that's why he said he was telling them their past.

Anonymous said...

"The Bed Fengriffen." You make me laugh, Stacie.

Jeff Allard said...

I really dig ANTSS - some might scoff at some aspects of it but I give it lots of credit for being truly downbeat. You can see the end coming a mile away but what's impressive is that the filmmakers leave their characters with such a bitter pill to swallow. And that flashback scene with Herbert Lom is just plain wrong! Good stuff!

serial catowner said...

I so need some DDP...'cuz I was totally wondering why there were no ants in a movie called ANTSS.

Unknown said...

the youtube trailer link that was posted earlier was taken down due to "copyright claim." Omg, get over yourselves, its free marketing! Wtf!#@#@

Anyway, heres a new link that will probably also get removed, eventually:

GypsyBlue said...

DUDE!! Dr. Westphalen gets raped?? (sorry I was a seaQuest nerd and that's who stephanie beacham is to