I ended up watching this because a friend recommended it after I surprisingly enjoyed Color Out Of Space (2019). The 2010’s brought us a huge uptick in seriously quality Lovecraftian horror, many of which made it on to my ‘All Time Top Horror‘ list.
This movie is pretty bad, but for what it is, it’s actually quite good. And I don’t mean ‘so bad it’s good,’ I mean actually good. And I’m not grading on a curve here. Don’t misunderstand me, there is so much about this movie that is jut flat out bad that it should fit into the category of good-bad movies. In fact, I struggle to place it anywhere else. It’s a bit of a paradox, a movie being both good and bad while not technically being good-bad.
Back in my review of Mandy, (2018) I complained that I didn’t get the ultimate Nick Cage experience I was promised. I was told it would be full force, category 5, Nicolas Cage. I was expecting Cage to deliver the ham of godly proportions. The reason this was so important to me, is that it was litmus test for this movie, Color Out of Space (2019).
It’s weird that I ended up watching this movie right after the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (Elm Str). They have a lot of odd similarities. I think the person who wrote this movie, might have been trying to come up with a new adaption on the Elm Str. concept, and just phoned it in. I mean, a child murderer, with supernatural powers, uses them within a very strict mythos, to murder the children of the people who killed him.
There was nothing really wrong with this remake. Actually, it was pretty damn good. Sure, there was tons of unnecessary CGI, yeah it wasn’t Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger, YES the original A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 (Elm Street) was better, but this was good, damn good.
If it wasn’t for the internet, this would’ve become just another cult classic… I guess that sorta means it still is a cult classic, but this movie could have faded into obscurity if it was released only a couple years earlier in the late 90s. Meaning, they kinda lucked out riding the crest of the internet age. Right at the start of it all, a time when you could still go viral but right before going viral had lost all meaning.
This just wasn’t as much fun as the original. Now, I’m not saying the original was good, I actually thought it was kind of boring considering the concept they had to work with. The difference between the original and the remake can be spelled out by tone and pacing. So far as tone goes, the original mixed a level of absurdity with the violence. Yeah, there were rampaging lunatics, but some of them were fun rampaging lunatics. It gave you the idea that the virus might cause you to be violent but in random and even wacky ways. We’re not talking comedy levels here, just enough to note the difference.
I’m required by Horror Critic Law to like this movie…
It’s like a right of god damn passage for a horror critic to review this movie, and since the remake, I knew at some point I’d have to bite the bullet and get it over with. I’d seen it a long damn time ago and remembered it fondly. Though, I never did understand how Suspiria became a critics choice for seriously every fucking critic in the horror industry. Don’t get me wrong, its good. Damn good. And for 1977, WAY the fuck ahead of it’s time.
Where do I even begin? What an absolutely stunning movie! Everything from the dance choreography to the setting, to the story. There was only a solitary moment that was out of place and I’m really pulling hairs to be critical of even that!
I should have hated “Ghost Music,” the first story in the Engines of Ruin collection by Lucas Mangum. I wanted to.
It brought back so many conflicting memories from my childhood/teenage years.
I grew up surrounded by people that were very similar to the main character and his friends. It was the 80s—and it seemed that those “super-cool” social misfits had it all—music, friends, adventures, passion. I was just a regular, boring, nerdy misfit—nothing cool about me. And, as much as I loved the subculture scenes that surrounded goth and punk, of which I became part of myself in the early 90s, my first experiences with it were also ugly and frightening. I was both drawn to it and in love with the scene, and I hated it at the same time.
But once I got past that faintly nauseating, skin-crawling, too-many-memories-coming-at-you-at-once feeling I had when I started reading this story, I experienced something else.
I felt a new sort of darkness take over, replacing this muddled mess of blackness I’m existing in right now.
I felt clean. Centered. In control, even though I could still feel that skin-crawling, nauseous sensation nibbling at the edges of my mind.
I realized (remembered, actually) that’s what’s so valuable about horror.
There’s tons written about how horror can bring you face to face with the things that most terrify you, but it’s what becomes written psychologically through real-life horrors that’s most terrifying. The things that aren’t even that scary on the surface stay with you, for years.
Even into middle age, sometimes without you even knowing they are there.
And, when I read this story, it reminded me of the way that horror can became healing. It quieted those complicated memories from my love/hate relationship with the subculture scenes of the 80s and 90s. I felt closure. Ironically, even Mangum incorporates closure into one of his stories, later on.
And the story “Ghost Music,” perhaps also oddly enough, provided a sort of redemption. A release from my past, just like the main character was released from his, in a manner of speaking.
I’m glad that “Ghost Music” came first—then I could read the rest of the stories with delight and even laughter, as I usually do with horror.
I laughed my way through “Hell and Back”—such a darkly comic romp.
And “Our Lady of the Sea?” It might as well be subtitled “The life of every writer”—especially when our worlds on paper become so immersive and emotionally demanding, and it’s hard to face the real world. Unfortunately, I was thrown out of the story a little by the type of animal used for the purported sacrifice. It didn’t seem to fit who they were sacrificing it to, or why, given that the animal chosen seems to be symbol of Christianity, and this church is something else entirely. Also, the whole story talks about how it’s winter, and blizzarding, and, although I’m not a farmer or rancher, it doesn’t make sense from that perspective, either. Generally, baby animals are born in the spring. Or so I thought.
But then there was the story “Worlds Colliding” to draw me back into the book. I’m not even going to give away any spoilers on this one…it’s just awesome. Even more delightful was the twist at the end of “Worm Magic.” That one I read more than once, just for the ending.
A couple of times, his female characters crossed over into something too stereotypical and cliché for my tastes, like in “The World Asunder” and “A Killing Back Home,” but I thought it was interesting to have the character of Percy appear in the story “A Killing Back Home,” as a child who is mentioned as being somewhere on the autism spectrum.
But I had Fern to make up for some of the too-typical women characters—Fern, in “Waters of Ruin”; whom I’ll liken to a modern, all-grown-up version of that other notable Fern I also loved in the classic Charlotte’s Web. Fern who breaks down doors to save the one she loves.
It was a lingering, and perfect, finish to the Engines of Ruin collection.
I’m looking forward to reading more from Lucas Mangum, and his demons he’s shared with his readers (the ones he refers to in his closing essay, “The Last Easy Rider.”)