Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Dark Ride (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…


DVD cover for Dark Ride (2006)Dark Ride
(2006) by #CraigSinger

w/#JamieLynnSigler #PatrickRenna

Six friends on a road trip to New Orleans stop at a closed amusement park funhouse unaware that the former resident psychopath (who murdered two girls there back in the 1980s) has coincidentally just escaped from a mental institution and returned to his old stomping grounds.

“The Last Ride You’ll Ever Take…”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

Dark Ride (2006) is part of the After Dark HorrorFest “8 Films To Die For” series. I tried to see all of them when they first came out. Some I purchased in order to do so. I found the films to be a bit of a mixed bag back in the day. Some were great, but others were… forgettable. Dark Ride was somewhere in between, and I think I kept it because I have a soft spot for horror set at carnivals. Fifteen years later, it’s still sitting on my shelf – but should it be?

So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

It becomes clear, pretty fast, that Dark Ride is a pastiche of older, better horror films. It’s practically an unauthorized remake of Tobe Hooper’s “Hey let’s spend the night in…” The Funhouse (1981). It has a healthy dose of Halloween (1978), as it features a psychopath who murdered in the past escaping from a mental institution and returning to the scene of his crime. It also includes a “picking up a strange hitchhiker” subplot that almost seems to mirror the famous sequence in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

The hitchhiker in Dark Ride is a hot blonde neo-hippie type – and she makes a crazy speech while riding in the van which seems to unsettle some of the main characters. It’s played more for humour, here – and the whole scene seems ridiculous as one of the main characters fantasizes about picking a hot female hitchhiker right before it happens. And, as luck would have it, this hot hitchhiker actually wants to have sex with the very guy who fantasized about it. 

The escape of the psychopath seems totally unrelated to the events of the movie. It’s not like Michael Myers biding his time until Halloween, or Mrs Voorhees returning to Camp Crystal Lake when they are about to re-open it. This killer simply escapes on this night because a couple of asshole orderlies decide to taunt him with some raw meat. He’s a vegetarian, you see.

It’s just bad luck that a van full of typical slasher victims decides to “spend the night” in this old, abandoned “dark ride” to “save money on the motel room.” And where are they coming from anyway? They’re on their way to New Orleans, and they leave during daylight hours. It’s pitch dark when they get to the amusement park in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Not to mention that we’ve had a long montage sequence implying hours of driving. The film was shot in Los Angeles, so I guess that explains everything.

So what’s the verdict?

Dark Ride (2006) is Trash. Yes, it’s beautifully shot, and has some absolutely wonderful creepy atmosphere. An old abandoned dark ride (or funhouse) does seem like a perfect locale for a horror film. And I suppose it has some decent slasher kills, and some gore. But the script is so bad, and everything that happens is so unbelievable, that it makes the whole experience seem pointless. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the familiar moments just made me want to watch the far superior movies that this one seems to be paying homage to (or ripping off). 

The Funhouse (1981) may not be the greatest of the golden age slasher films, but I’d watch it any day over Dark Ride. Guess which one is staying in my collection…

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Maniac (1963)

As an avid movie renter, first on Beta then later on VHS, I noticed that there were three films called “Maniac” available to me. The one that I’d heard of and read about, and was super excited to see, was of course Maniac (1980). This was one of the holy grails of the slasher genre, with groundbreaking, eye-popping special make up effects by Tom Savini. The other two movies were Maniac (1934) and Maniac (1963). When I was a kid, these two Maniacs looked old – I mean, really old. They were black and white for crap’s sake! There was no possible way that they were going to feature groundbreaking, eye-popping special make up effects (I.e. gore). I made it a mission to make sure I didn’t accidentally rent one of them.

VHS of Maniac (1963)VHS of Maniac (1934)VHS of Maniac (1980)

 

Fast forward a few years and I realized that Maniac (1963) was a Hammer movie. This made it somewhat more interesting, although it somehow didn’t look as exciting as any of the Dracula or Frankenstein movies. And it was still in black and white.

Don’t get me wrong. I had loved old black and white monster movies since I was a kid. My dad had also introduced me to movies like The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942) when I was young, so I had an appreciation for all kinds of black and white films. Not to mention the fact that our first TV was black and white so everything I watched for the first few years was black and white.

Still, when it came to paying money to rent movies – horror movies, in particular – I wanted to see something that I couldn’t see on TV. Something a little more extreme, or R-rated. And I believed that any movie called Maniac should be in blood red colour.

So, I didn’t rent Maniac (1963) until much, much later. And I think my first impression was that it was one of a handful of Hammer films that came out in the wake of Psycho (1960), trying to emulate that black and white, low budget, psychological horror-thriller style. It wasn’t as good as Psycho, and it wasn’t as good as Scream of Fear (1961), another Hammer film in that style which I had seen years earlier. So, I think I more or less dismissed it and went back to watching my VHS copy of Maniac (1980).

Watching Maniac (1963) again now, for the first time in more than twenty years, I can honestly say that I didn’t remember anything about it. I found myself doubting that I had ever watched it before – but I know that I did. I guess this is just another sign of old age creeping up on me. I’ve noticed that a lot of the movies that I only watched once back in the 1990s or early 2000s are completely new to me now. Movies that I watched more than once, I tend to remember. And movies I saw in the 1970s and 80s are far more likely to remain burned into my brain – even if I only saw them once.

I suppose this phenomenon could party be due to the sheer volume of movies that I watch now, which is a trend that started back in the ’90s. I watch at least one movie a day. Some days I watch two or three. Back in the ’80s I probably only saw one or two movies a week.

This could be the old man in me talking, but I also feel that the average level of quality was much higher in the movies that I was watching back in the ’70s and ’80s. So many of them are now certified classics – or #NotQuiteClassics as the case might be. I can’t imagine that very many of the recent movies I watch (and by recent I mean anything made in the past 20 years or so), will be remembered with the same reverence as Halloween (1978), Dawn of the Dead (1978), or even Maniac (1980).

I’m not saying that there aren’t great movies being made today (or within the past 20 years). There are, of course. But there are just so many MORE movies in general, and sometimes the truly great ones get lost among all of the mediocrity. It will be interesting to see which current films get remembered and talked about in thirty or forty years (not that I will be around to find out).

So what does this have to do with Maniac (1963)? Well, it’s an older movie (that was already older when I first came across it) that doesn’t get talked about very much. When people think of Hammer Horror, or Hammer movies in general, I don’t think this is one of the top ten movies that pops into their minds. It’s part of a sub-genre, or sub-category of Hammer films, that includes movies like Scream of Fear (1961), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964) and maybe Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960). Maniac (1963) is probably the weakest of all of these movies. However…

Watching it again after all these years, I found that quite enjoyed it. Maniac (1963) has enough of the good qualities that make movies like Scream of Fear great, to make it a pretty decent little noirish psychological thriller. It’s a slow burn, for sure, spending a lot of time building up characters and relationships. It’s almost more of a drama in the first half, so hardcore horror fans will need a bit of patience as they wait for the payoff. And that payoff likely won’t be big enough for those, like 12 year old me, who might be looking for some blood red gore.

But if you like black and white suspense thrillers, with likeable characters and a growing sense of creepy dread, you might just find Maniac (1963) to be a pleasant addition to your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. While not the best example of its kind, it’s somewhat forgotten #NotQuiteClassicCinema that’s worthy of rediscovery.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) by Larry G. Brown

w/ #TomBasham #JohnAshton #MargaretAvery

A children’s television show host named Mr Rabbey stalks and murders abusive parents.

“Nobody can escape him… Nobody!”

#Horror
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

I’ve had this one in my collection for many years, and it’s a in a cheapjack VHS box that looks a lot like the picture above. Family Tyme Home Video the company is called. Family time? This movie hardly conjures up images of Mommy and Daddy gathering the kids around the TV set on a Sunday afternoon. On the other hand, Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) is about a children’s performer, so maybe that’s where Family Tyme got the idea to release it. What’s really odd to me is that I don’t think the movie has ever been given a proper re-release on DVD on Blu-ray. I certainly have never come across it – and it seems like it would be a perfect candidate for one of the better niche companies that release special editions of weird, cult horror movies.

I’m not sure if Psychopath ever developed much of a cult following, but it really should have. The story, about a children’s entertainer murdering abusive parents, is about as close to brilliant to any cult horror plot that I’ve ever heard. And just to add to the mystique, Joe Spinnell – who gave one of the greatest performances as a psychopath in horror movie history in Maniac (1980) – attempted to remake Psychopath as Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie (1986). I’m not sure how official a remake it was, but the original movie features a children’s performer named Mr. Rabbey, and Joe called his character Mr. Robbie – coincidence? I think not. 

Honestly, Psychopath is nowhere near as good a movie as Maniac. Still, it’s fairly entertaining for what it is – and what it is is a PG rated early ’70s portrait of a weirdo going over the edge. It’s light on gore, violence, and nudity, but it’s a pretty twisted story that manages to deliver a few unintended laughs as well as some seriously creepy moments. The fact that it’s a little hard to come by on home video also adds to it’s understated appeal.

So what’s the verdict?

I would have to say that Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) is a mild #Terror. Hardly the best of its kind, but an acceptable way to spend eighty some odd minutes once every fifteen or twenty years. I will be hanging onto my VHS tape in the hopes that I might live that long.