Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

(aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters and a lot of other titles)

(Spoilers ahead)

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I’ll be honest, I had two reasons to track down Cannibal Apocalypse. First up, with a title like that I was sure it would be quality exploitation trash – especially as it was one of the infamous Video Nasties. Secondly, I’ve got a major daddy crush on John Saxon. Ever since Nightmare on Elm Street he turned my head, then his brown-face ‘it’s OK it was the 80s’ portrayal of Rashid Ahmed in Dynasty sealed the deal. He’s a heaving hunk of man flesh.

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Cannibal Apocalypse delivered on both counts. Opening in the middle of the Vietnam War, where Captain Norman Hopper (Saxon) storms a POW camp to rescue a couple of soldiers, we’re not even five minutes into the battle when a Vietnamese lady is cannibalised by the POWs… tits first! And it’s not the only time a female character loses her boobs to the chomping of a hungry cannibal. In the middle of the carnage Norman manages to get himself bitten too, but survives the attack. He wakes sweating from a dream a year later, still traumatised by his time in Nam.

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Former POW cannibal Bukowski (John Morghen aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice of Cannibal Ferox fame) gets out of hospital and invites Norman out for a drink and a catch up. Bad timing, as Norman’s about to be seduced by jailbait neighbour Mary. A scene that can only be described as sleazetastic ensues, as Mary throws herself at Norman and… he bites her?

Yep, Norman got bit in ‘Nam, by Bukowski, and before long we find out that the bites are contagious. And if you survive a bite, you get carnivorous too! So having been stood up by Norman, Bukowski takes himself off to the local flea pit cinema where he watches a couple getting into some serious heavy petting in the next row. He decides to join in – only he takes it that step further by chowing down on the girl’s neck. All hell breaks loose from here on in…

The cannibal part of the title is more than justified, although when I saw the word ‘apocalypse’ I was thinking more Dawn of the Dead, end of the world type action. Instead we find Norman teaming up with the other cannibals and going on the run. In a strange twist we’re expected to sympathise with the cannibals and not the cops on their trail.

You can read as much or as little into this movie as you like. On the surface it’s a straight up hard-boiled video shop classic, with dodgy dubbing on almost everyone in the cast except Saxon, and some howlers in the script. Whilst Bukowski is holed up taking pot-shots at the cops, the police captain, hard-boiled in the old fashioned sense of the word, demands to know “Is he a subversive, a queer, a black, a commy, a muslim, what the hell is he?”

Cringes and laughs aside, part of me came away wondering if the whole thing wasn’t a metaphor for PTSD. We’re privy to the suffering of Norman and his bity comrades, but the psychological trauma they suffer is met with confusion, apathy and suspicion. They infect all they come into contact with, spreading madness and terror, the horrors they’ve encountered tainting those around them. They’re a lost cause, with no resources or understanding to address the suffering they’ve had all in the name of protecting and serving their country. Sounds familiar… Eerily in the final act, Norman dons his old army uniform and opts to put himself out of his misery so as not to drag out his suffering and that of his wife, Jane (Elizabeth Turner). In an added tragic twist Jane decides to die with her husband, and both hero and heroine go out in a suicide pact. But not to leave us totally depressed, a cheeky last bite comes when we realise jailbait Mary next door and her brother have succumbed to the spreading disease and have got their old aunt chopped up for later in the freezer.

So as an exploitation movie this stands up amongst the best. Director Antonio Margheriti also had a hand in Andy Warhol’s queertastic Frankenstein and Dracula outings. And for a macho blood and guts flick we get plenty of lingering shots on John Saxon in his boxer shorts and later in just a towel. We might actually see more of his tits than any of the ladies. As always he puts in a strong performance clothed or otherwise.

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So take from it what you will. A comment on the trauma of war and the devastating after effects on its cannon fodder, or a good old-fashioned beer-and-pizza cannibal flick? I’m happy to see it as both. But then I’m greedy. Now where did I put those entrails?

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As always, get me on twitter to vent if you disagree, or just kiss my ass if you love what I do! Either works for me! @jonnylarkin

JL

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VIOLATION OF THE BITCH (1978)

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Euro trash exploitation turns out to be a languid dreamscape oozing queer sensibilities!

Spoilers ahead…

Don’t roll your eyes at me. I know. That title! But in my defense… well there is no defense. A couple of years ago my husband who’s a very talented artist, made my portrait from a collage of VHS covers ranging from The Exorcist to Salon Kitty to… well, Violation of the Bitch. Neither of us had seen it, but a title that lurid and offensive just had to be included in the collage as a token of his love for me. Isn’t that sweet?

So since then I’ve been trying to track it down, and strangely enough since I watched it last night I’ve discovered you can watch it on an array of porn sites across the sticky dirty internet. Thankfully I’d got hold of a copy before I had to watch it covered in pop-ups of Polish housewives flicking themselves off on their kitchen tables. Being the fevered shock-seeking bag of filth I am I sat down waiting to be appalled by a film that carried such a title, only to be pleasantly surprised.

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First up, its original title is ‘The Coming of Sin’ and whatever image that invokes for you is probably closer to the film you get than the filth ‘Violation…’ conjures up. The plot is simple. Rich white artist Lorna (Patricia Granada) takes in a simple (yet seductive) gypsy girl called Triana (Lidia Zuazo) whilst her employers are off on a business trip in the UK. Triana is plagued by frightening yet erotic nightmares in which a naked man rides around on a stallion splashing through water. To this viewer that would obviously be more of a wet dream than a nightmare but for some reason Triana is horrified and wakes in terror each time. Almost inexplicably Triana starts to make romantic overtures towards Lorna and thus begins a psycho-sexual drama, complicated further when the naked dream man turns up in the real world, named Chico, and things start to get messy…

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Director José Ramon Larraz, Barcelona-born auteur of high trash, was also a doctor of philosophy and fine artist. Not merely an old pervert churning out flesh flicks for the grubby 42nd Street crowd, he managed to score the official British Palme d’Or entry at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival with ‘Symptoms’. The same year his film Vampyres, a lurid tale of lesbian vampirism, was put out to the exploitation market and has since become revered as a cult classic.

‘The Coming of Sin’ was Larraz’s answer to the hugely successful Emmanuelle. Dreamy, languid and running over with arthouse erotic imagery, the film he made was not the film I expected. At one point Triana dreams she is trapped naked and bent double inside a Trojan Horse, with Chico coming up behind her on his stallion, ready to mount. Freud would have a field day, but most softcore porno fans would be left scratching their heads.

Coming at this film from a queer perspective its certainly rich with subversive storytelling. Chico – played by the stunning Rafael Machado – spends just as much, if not more, screen time naked than the female cast members. Astride a stallion splashing through water, green eyes shimmering in the sun, he’s a feast for the queer eye. Aside from that, the exploration of gender roles in this film proved intriguing. Lorna, when not swanning about the place in a fabulous tassled shawl, dons a pants suit and takes Triana out into the real world for an education. After a sashay around the local art gallery, she takes Triana to a flamenco club. Triana, dressed very much like the ‘lady’ of the two, flanks the masculine, suit-wearing Lorna as they watch the flamenco dance. And who should be up there onstage, one in the traditional male garb and the other in a more glamorous flamenco dress? Two ladies.

The men in this movie, for the first half at least, are sidelined, with the male and female roles being played out largely by women. But the threat is always there on the horizon. Chico is looming, balls out, atop his steed, ready to man up their world. Blurring the lines of dream and reality, Chico strides out into the real world and just as you’re thinking that this film might not actually live up to the gaudy ‘Violation’ title it was branded with… he tries to rape Triana.

He then turns up at Lorna’s front door, unfortunately – clothed -and rather than be turned away, shamed, chastised for his rapey ways, he’s invited in! Lorna treats him like her new dark-skinned savage toy, demoting Triana to the role of servant girl. “So what if he tried to rape you, go and make him a coffee!” Not actual dialogue, but not far from it. In fact she scolds Triana for not being so welcoming to her would-be rapist with the classic line, “The least you could do is thank him for returning your necklace!” Lost in translation on the dub? Sadly I doubt it.

After a quick talk on Salomé and John the Baptist – Lorna is determined to educate these lowly gyspsy types – a random three way ensues with Lorna tied to the bed and feasted upon by Chico and Triana at the same time.

But the nightmares continue for Triana – just what is she so scared of? Men? Sex? The film constantly keeps you questioning both the characters’ motives, and those of the director. It’s Spain, in the 70s, you’re not going to get the most forward-thinking, balanced view of sexuality by any means. But surprisingly, lesbianism in the first act isn’t seen as particularly subversive or perverse. Nobody questions it.

In fact Triana was left in the care of Lorna by her previous employers because she bewitched the wife and the husband got jealous. Before and after Chico comes on the scene Lorna is fully in control of her sexuality. She likes women. She likes men. Even when Chico gets aggressive, flips her over in bed and takes her from behind you’re left questioning whether she orchestrated that too. Nothing is simple or straight forward. For a softcore slow paced exploiter it does get your brain ticking over.

Thrown into the melting pot of sin and soft focus we get a hint at the supernatural. Triana’s fear of Chico is explained when she visits a local witch, who re-affirms what Triana has been told before. It’s in her palm, in her destiny, that if she has sexual relations with a man, then someone will die.

Inevitably it happens, with the sexually liberated Lorna falling at the barrels of Triana’s shotgun, blasted to death by the jealous gypsy girl, who then helps Chico bury the body before they ride off on horseback together having helped themselves to her fabulous jewellery collection.

“She was taking advantage of the two of us,” Chico reasons. “They’re all pigs!”

So in the end Lorna must be punished. But for what? For her sexual freedom, or for being the rich white woman who sees the local gypsies as subjects, play-things to dress, educate and manipulate?

Whichever way you look at it, ‘The Coming of Sin’ delivers on its promises. You want nudity? Check. You want dreamy, arty imagery? Check. It’s an exploitation movie from 70s Spain so I’m assuming you want dodgy dubbing? Check check check. In fact Triana appears to have been dubbed by a drunk cockney sparrow.

Type either of its titles into a search engine and you’ll find it. The version I watched, 84 minutes long, comes with cuts unfortunately, one of them being a slightly more explicit rape scene. You’ll fork out about £90 for a dodgy cut DVD on Amazon so I do recommend you seek it out online.

As always you can give me your feedback on twitter @jonnylarkin What did you think of the movie? Do you agree with my take on it? We’ll be sticking with the Spanish theme in a future podcast, looking at the video nasty ‘The Cannibal Man’, so be sure to listen out for that. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for naked swarthy men on horseback, sauntering through the tall grass…

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JL

500 Days of Buffy Summers

When talking horror, often the big screen gets all the Glitz, Guts and Glory (holes)… but there’s another slightly smaller screen that can sometimes shine just as bright as Rihanna’s forehead. Television can be absolutely terrifying but if you turn off Piers Morgan there might be a great new horror show for you to sink your teeth into. Horror on TV continues to grow and grow with largely mixed results in quality. But when all is sliced and diced I just can’t help but think “why am I not re-watching Buffy right now?”

OK I realise I sound like I’m about to go on a “back in my day” rant here but…. back in my day we were spoilt by the best horror television show, like ever. I think of Buffy as my first introduction into what horror really is when you scratch the surface. It taught me how the horrors of life and film can in reality just be manifestations of our own fears, worries and doubts. If you feel like your mother is trying to live out her lost youth through you, then what’s to say she isn’t a witch trying to pull a Freaky Friday switch on you. If you feel like no one in school even realises or cares that you exist then maybe you literally will become invisible. If you do finally sleep with that caring loving boyfriend of yours and he suddenly becomes cruel and nasty then what’s to say he isn’t a 300 year old blood sucking vampire intent on killing you and destroying the world.

I could talk for days about the complexities of the characters, the wittiness of the dialogue, the sheer amount of pop culture references, the sense of female empowerment and the fact that Willow and Tara are in my opinion the most realistic portrayal of a gay couple on screen ever. But alas I digress…. it’s time to get back to the pointy end of the stake. What are the big shows of right now doing right and more importantly what are they doing wrong? The library is open.

So first up let’s talk American Horror Story. The acting is superb, the dialogue is witty and the women are fabulous. I am actually a fan, however it’s never good when your promos are better than the actual show. I appreciate that they want to let all of their talented ensemble cast shine but when you try and tell me 57 convoluted storylines in 12 short episodes it becomes hard work to even give a shit about most of the resolutions – which are all squished into the last two episodes anyway.

Then can we discuss that after a genius rendition of ‘The Name Game’ in AHS Asylum, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck thought they were back on the set of Glee. Suddenly this becomes a running theme and we get the fabulous Stevie Nicks appearing in Coven not once but twice just to shoe-horn in two of her greatest hits. We get Jessica Lange’s best David Bowie impression in every bloody episode of Freak Show and then finally we get Hotel, which as Jon Larkin has said previously on the podcast, is just an elongated Lady Gaga music video.

AHS prides itself on it’s reset refresh format from series to series. But as I’ve just highlighted above, so many of the same beats and themes have become repeated that for a show that tries to stay fresh it can fast become a little stale. Then when the inevitable ‘all- the-series-are-actually-linked-in-the-same-universe’ reveal came along it felt more like a kick in the teeth than something new and exciting to add.

The Walking Dead… if there was an award ceremony for generating overhype this show would take all the trophies. Hands up, I was sucked into the first series too. it does have some redeeming characters namely Carol, Michone and Daryl. I’ll even admit it has the best practical effects I’ve ever seen on tv. So now I’ve got the niceties out of the way let’s begin…

A Walking Dead season is typically 16 episodes in length but there are only four worth watching. The first, the two either side of the mid season break and the finale. The rest of the episodes are packed with more filler than The Best Of Nickelback (yes this album actually exists). It’s rather impressive how they have tricked the general public into watching that many episode where absolutely nothing happens and still have them return with the promise of a disappointing outcome to the latest overused cliff hanger. I’m starting to wonder if it’s all a big social experiment to see if The Walking Dead can transform the audience into The Watching Dead. Real people zombified by the banality of the show.

Alas this isn’t it’s only problem. I almost wish it was because there are much bigger flaws. Take for example its central character. Is Rick still good or has the harsh world turned him evil? That is the big question people debate about the show. Well It’s come to my attention that the he’s not switching between the two as he struggles with the concept and ramifications of good vs evil in a post apocalyptic world. No I believe it’s more the writers can’t make up their mind and just get him to behave in whatever way best suits the plot at that particular point even if it makes no sense to his character’s development. Oh and the most universally hated kid in the world is still alive in a show famous for killing all of its characters. They even shot him in the eye only to have him come back every week tempting me to claw out my own eyes… only stopping for the fact I’d be more like him.

And breathe…..

Ok so now I’ve ripped apart the two biggest shows is there actually anything worth watching and if so what?

Well I gave up on Supernatural after the brothers both died for the seventh time and it was apparent they were now solely writing the show for girls who write gay incestuous fan fiction.

I did thoroughly love Hannibal, and was very upset when it got cancelled. The show was beautiful but sometimes it did feel like it was having a self-congratulating jerk-off to its own stylistic approach.

You could watch the OA – it’s the defination of a Marmite show. It blends together sci fi, horror, fantasy in a modern setting and comes out with something rather unique and certainly worthy of a watch.

The Scream TV series was surprisingly good. Yes I’m biased about this as a massive Scream fan but I had no hope for it stretching out into a series and they actually managed it.

The other Screaming Queenz have been giving rave reviews of the Exorcist TV series but my controversial views on the original film have put me off this so far.

Jon Larkin is massive fan of Teen Wolf but as he refers to it as Teen Wank I believe his views are not entirely pure.

Perhaps my view has become more cynical as I’ve become more accustomed to horror. Perhaps I’m viewing Buffy through rose-tinted glasses. Perhaps Buffy really was just that good it’s spoilt me for life. Regardless of the answers I’m happy that If all else fails then I can head back to Sunnydale and dance with the hottest slayers in town…

Please send any hate for me slagging off your favourite tv show to @hste99 on Twitter. 😂😘

SM

Screaming Queenz 2: Martin’s Revenge

Welcome to Series 2 of Screaming Queenz. Listen to our new episode on ‘Neon Demon’ and you’ll be surprised to find that bitch Martin Fenerty has stolen my slot and is hosting the show! I plan to claw my way back, maybe take him from behind with a straight razor and gut him like a little gay fish.

I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t dirty my blade on him. We decided that for our second series we’d change it up. You’ll be hearing a whole lot more from Martin, Jon and Stephen as we go along.

Why did I decide to break the show up into series’ (or seasons you might want to say – that’s fine if you’re American) you might ask? No reason in particular, other than it being an excuse to find some new soundbites for the opening music and give us a reset button moment. A way to start again, go bigger and better. When I was a kid one of the queer nerdy things I used to love was waiting to see the new opening credits on a new series of Melrose Place, or Buffy, or The X Files (which never happened, well not until I stopped watching it and they brought in replacements). So this was my way of creating my own version of that. God I’m pathetic. And I love it.

Keen-eared listeners will spot familiar soundbites in there. Some not so familiar. You can think of the opening credits as a mission statement, an action plan, a promise, or maybe a threat, of things to come in the new run of shows. We’ve barely scratched the tip of the queer horror iceberg in series 1. So much still to cover.

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Psycho, for instance, the ultimate in repressed sexuality brought to startling life in bloody monochrome. The cross-dressing Norman declaring that “a boy’s best friend is his mother”. Bless him. We all know where he’s coming from. Even the queens who’ve lost their mother, through fate or through design, find a best friend in a patriarch. It could be Cher cooing you to sleep through a vocoder. It could be Auntie Mame cuddling you close as she gives you your first sip of a dirty Martini. Or, indeed, it could be the malicious bitch you just poisoned, skinned and stepped into to create a better, more glamorous version of Mummy. We need to talk about Norman. And we will. Once that psychiatrist gets through explaining the ins and outs of this weird little perversion he calls transsexualism. Of course we don’t think it’s perverted. Or maybe we do and that’s why we identify with it so much? We all go a little pervy sometimes.

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Speaking of pervy, just how many jockstrap references did Victor Salva squeeze un-lubed into his Jeepers Creepers movies? I mean seriously, a serial killing demon who likes to sniff the soiled underwear of teenage guys before ingesting their vital organs to make himself whole again? Anyone would think this stuff was written by a letchy old dirtbag. Oh. Wait. Either way we’re covering Jeepers Creepers 1 and 2 at some point down the line and we will leave no stone unturned in the debate that rages now in the horror community. Is watching these movies – and the imminent sequel – immoral in the wake of the scandal that surrounds their creator? Or should art be judged on its own merits and not those of the dirty old man behind the curtain? Which leads nicely to a love of mine I want to explore in the coming year.

Childhood horror the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Dorothy returned to Oz. When little Fairuza Balk – before she tore up the screen as uber-bitch-in-charge Nancy in The Craft – was strapped to a table about to be pumped full of electro shock therapy, the target audience cowered. The parents complained. The popcorn was ditched and eyes were shielded. But little horror-loving queens like me sat up and took notice. The promise of horror from Wizard of Oz’s Miss Gulch never quite delivered. I wanted her to track down Toto and make a little hot dog too. Anyone else? Just me? Okay I’ll take that. But what did you love as a child? What horrors crept out of that screen and thrilled you when all your friends were crying in the corner? And what went too far? That episode of ‘Hammer House of Horror’ with the hitch-hiker doppelganger and the long black fingernail STILL haunts me to this day. As does the phone-call to babysitter Jill asking if she’s checked the children in ‘When a Stranger Calls’. But it didn’t land me in therapy. It landed me in bed with my aunt and uncle terrified of the shadows but wanting more!

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If you’re reading this then I want you to send me your favourite childhood horror – whether it thrilled you or terrified you I want to know. So tweet me at @jonnylarkin, or email screamingqueenz@gmail.com. Or just comment below.

There’s a fabulous line in the new opening montage. “Ursula Andress belongs with the transvestites, not the perverts!” It is, of course, an excerpt from the giallo ‘Bird with the Crystal Plumage.’ Giallo is something we all discovered quite recently at Screaming Queenz. We dipped our toe last year and our downloads went through the roof. Since then we’ve covered more gialli and the new series will be no different. In fact we’ll be covering so much Italian crime horror that we thought it only fitting to include the afore-mentioned snippet in our theme song. Not only did we find a subgenre oozing style and slightly misogynistic charm, we found a wading pool overflowing with campness and complex, sometimes problematic queer chops.

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For the uninitiated a giallo is an Italian pulp thriller with heavy gothic horror overtones. Mainly from the 60s and 70s and then petering out in the 80s, and hailing from Catholic, macho Italy, it’s no surprise these films are laden with women being sliced and diced and often falling into the category of victim, pervert or predator. Nothing scares a macho 70s heterosexual male more than a woman he can’t fuck, a woman he can’t save, or a woman who wants to bump him off!  But scratch the surface and there’s a much more complicated narrative to explore. To write these works of art off as cheap sleazy exercises in bigotry and misogyny would be lazy. And also a travesty if you like your horror camp, kitsch and genuinely shocking. You’d be missing out on so many treats – and one of the few subgenres of horror to feature gay men and women – and trans characters – in prominent roles. Admittedly the roles range from vacuous to offensive but there are gems to behold. And we’re here to pick them out just for you.

So we hope you’ll stick with us into our second series. I don’t want to give too much away at this point but we’ve got surprises planned, although we won’t be messing with the formula too much. If it ain’t broke, don’t cut the fucker up. But as ever want your feedback. Email, tweet, whatever. Get mad.

We all go a little mad sometimes…

(JL)