Pathos/Obsession – A Taste for Fear (1988)

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A late 80s hidden gem, Pathos, or its American title Obsession – A Taste For Fear comes off like a soft porn take on The Eyes of Laura Mars, doped up on Quaaludes and Campari…

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A late entry in the cannon of Italian sleaze with more than a stab at giallo, Piccio Raffainini’s only credited filmic outing stars Virginia Hey, who will be familiar to fans of Mad Max 2, Farscape and, believe it or not, Prisoner Cell Block H. She plays Diane, an upmarket fashion photographer working in Rome. Bisexual, oozing an icy coolness to match her sharp cheekbones and wicked tongue, she’s shacked up with her lesbian lover Valerie (Gioia Scola) who shows more than a hint of jealousy when Diane’s eye wanders…

Her shoot is suddenly plagued by grisly fetishistic murders, gialloesque insofar as the killer brandishes a blade in black gloves and takes great delight in the torture of scantily clad ladies.  Diane finds herself plunged into a murder mystery that takes her deep underground into the nightlife of Rome, whilst dealing with a jealous lesbian lover and a burgeoning romance with the investigating officer…

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Bizarrely the film is also set in the future, with hints of this coming from Hey’s choice of car – some bizarre hovering hybrid that zooms through the streets of Rome at night – not to mention guns that shoot some sort of laser zapper… Without those clues you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the coked-up brainchild of an 80s New York clubkid in the making. Shoulder-pads, afros and makeup that would make a drag queen gag abound in this uber-stylish little curiosity.

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Queer viewers can revel in the neon-lit fashions, the icy cool bitchiness of most its female cast, the labyrinthine gay club ‘Agony and Ecstasy’ and the surprise appearance of the fabulous Grace Jones track ‘Private Life’. Man candy comes in the form of Dario Parisini, giving us 80s George Michael facial stubble with more than a whiff of ‘assume the position’ porno cop realness.

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High on lesbianism that puts the tit in titillation, low on any semblance of plot with more time spent on the fashions, the interiors and the naked ladies, this VHS treasure can be found in its entirety on YouTube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3K3OJW2ecM

Revel in the blurry pan and scan quality and pretend you’re watching a dodgy third generation copy late at night after one too many Babychams. Surprisingly this piece of Eurotrash looks so good in bad quality I’d actually pay for a HD upgrade should that ever come about. Stranger things have happened. 88 Films I’m looking at you!

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Cheers to the fabulous Rachael Nisbet for alerting me to this neon wonder. Her amazing indepth review can be found here:

http://hypnoticcrescendos.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/obsession-taste-for-fear-1988.html

JL

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Five Desperate Women!

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OK so there is no exclamation point in the original title of this TV movie from 1971, but surely it deserves one? Growing up a queer teenager with a love for glossy American soaps like Dynasty and Melrose Place, there were two words that would set my little gay heart alight at the mere hint of them. Aaron Spelling. So confronted with the possibility of a proto-slasher TV movie produced by the very man himself – and starring Stefanie Powers to boot – you could colour me very excited.

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Having struck up a Twitter friendship with the fabulous Amanda Reyes and invested in her amazing book, ‘Are You In The House Alone: A TV Movie Compendium’, my trawl through American TV movies with a campy horror edge had to begin with this gem. The premise is simple – five female friends head out to a remote island for their college reunion. Only an escaped lunatic is on the loose and looks set to pick them off one by one. So far, so slasher. But remember this is 1971, and apart from Bay of Blood (Mario Bava), slasher movies as we know them were still in their infancy. This, coupled with the fact that a TV movie couldn’t get away with showing explicit gore, nudity or a particularly high body count, meant that ‘Five Desperate Women’ would be low on the kills and the blood.

But what it’s high on is the camp! The cast of five women consists of Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart), Joan Hackett, Jill Sommars, Denise Nicholas and the fabulously named Anjanette Comer. In that lineup you get a Southern belle drunkard, an effortlessly stylish lady of colour, a sardonic cynic, and a mentally unstable pathological liar. You can’t go wrong. Particularly when these ladies dress to impress in the best that early 70s beach-wear has to offer. Think Biba-60s it-girl by way of middle class housewife chic and you’re halfway there. In fact here’s some devastating imagery to better explain!

Our ladies are taken to the island by captain Meeker (Bradford Dillman), a shifty drifter type who’s immediately set up as the would-be killer. But once they get to the island and meet the more heroic and affable handyman Wylie – played by Robert Conrad – it becomes obvious to us hardened horror hounds that the more placid, respectable male eye candy is the one to watch. Eagle-eyed queer viewers like myself will also have one extra advantage on their side when sniffing out the bad guy. In the prologue we see the escaped convict bump off an unsuspecting man on a beach, but to keep the villain’s identity a secret we only ever see him from the waist down. To put it mildly, Captain Meeker’s posterior doesn’t match up to the killer’s, so we know the minute we see Wylie’s peachy behind that he must be the psycho!

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Like any good TV movie, Five Desperate Women is efficient in its pacing. It only has one hour ten minutes (if you take out the ad breaks) to get the job done so there is no messing around. But there’s still time for some great character development as we see dippy Dorian (Hackett) become overly attached to a stray dog and go off at the deep end in glorious camp fashion when it meets a grisly end. Spoiler – she’s also the killer’s first female victim, meeting her maker in a surprisingly scary strangling scene.

Meanwhile the other ladies turn to booze and histrionics to cope with the realisation they’re stuck on an island with a crazy person. The only way off is their boat, which of course explodes before they can reach it. So faced with spending the night here they actually do all the right things – namely they lock both men out of the house and hunker down to wait for daylight and tomorrow’s supply boat. This gives us time for some juicy dialogue between surprisingly well drawn and brilliantly acted (except for a dodgy Southern accent) characters.

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So whilst we don’t get a Michael Myers style stalk and slash massacre we do get all of the camp fun vintage TV boxes ticked. One inexplicable moment, which can only have come from a misguided attempt to eek out the tension, shows Mary Grace (Sommars) being strangled by Wylie whilst the three remaining women simply stand there and throw rocks! After almost a minute of head-scratching they do finally leap to their friend’s rescue and club the villain to death. But what the hell took them so long? Were they so whacked out on Dorian’s valium and vodka that they couldn’t bring themselves to bare their claws?

A minor quibble. Five Desperate Women is a fabulous way to pass an hour or so and well worth the watch for fans of big hair, big female voices and a nice build of tension and drama. See it here in all its VHS glory:

Thank you Amanda Reyes for bringing this gem to my attention. Grab her book here:

JL

 

Let me get a BABALEWK: The Rise, Justification for and Inevitable Fall of our Latest LGBT ICON

Just in case your wifi has been down for the last few weeks (I know that’s scary even to type) The Babadook is now the biggest LGBT icon since Dorothy dropped a house on a witch just to steal her shoes. Don’t believe me? Well check out tumblr – we aren’t even friends of Dorothy anymore! #girlbye

The Screaming Queenz blinked and missed the origins of this one and we were all left wondering what the baba-fuck? How did we miss the queerness of a film we have all praised? Silly me thought it was discussion on mental health, postnatal depression, grief and suppression of feelings all cleverly hidden behind a classic boogeyman story. Alas I was wrong, it was just a story about a monster coming out as gay, well it is 2017 now so I suppose #LoveWins.


It took a few days of bewilderment before I found out why the Babadook was now gay but it’s filled me with great joy that it was all down to simple mistagging of genre on Netflix that we homosexuals were not going to let die for at least the rest of Pride season.


It’s genuinely amazes me how quick people grabbed this idea and ran with it. They took one of the scariest films of recent years and made it into to a camp classic in a few days with nothing but a few feather boas, gay flags, an abundance of RuPaul’s Drag Race Memes… oh and a douche…

But now the glitter has settled I’m left with a few questions:

Q1. Does the Babadook actually have any right to be a gay icon?

So to be a gay icon you should have talent, a signature look, a general camp fun attitude and fight for the rights of LGBT people.

When it comes to talent I’d say he would need to be in a lot more than one film. Madonna for example has done 23, though thinking about it they have all been rather critically lame when compared to Babadook’s 98% on rotten tomatoes critical acclaim, so 1 point to Babadook.

Then I’ve seen multiple memes that have shown the Babadook can both twerk and vogue the house down boots YASSSS BABA!!!!

So talent he has in Ba-Babundance but what about a look?

Well I don’t mean to be shady because the Babadooks early 2000s smoky eye is shady enough, but Detox did the whole Black and white make up look first at the season 5 Drag Race reunion. You can’t argue that his look is instantly iconic though… he even got his face on the cover of Gay Times!

Ok then what about his camp queer attitude. I’m drawing the line here. There is no way his behaviour can be considered CAMP. He made a Mum kill her dog and didn’t even fix her dodgy hair for her. Oh wait… a quick flick through tumblr and twitter has proved me wrong.


Ok can’t argue with facts.

But wait…

“He doesn’t do anything actually positive for gay community?” I exclaim.

“Neither does Caitlin Jenner or any of the Kardashians” I hear you reply.

“Exactly, that’s why they’re not gay icons” I rebuke.

So that’s it – he fell at the last hurdle. Nice try Baba. Oh wait…


I’ll allow it then, he’s a Gay Icon and certainly a better gay role model than Sam Smith.

Q2. Is it possible to actually take a queer reading from the Babadook film?

In case you don’t know, a queer reading is when you look at a film, book, TV series or any form of art really and draw from it an LGBT subtext. It doesn’t have to be overly fact based – it’s more about a queer interpretation of the subject than “this is 100% what this artist meant to say”. Sometimes the queer subtext is on purpose but often it’s by accident or completely fan made. So can you Queer Read the Babadook?

As I stated before the film deals a lot with motherhood and mental health issues which I praised the film for when it came out. That doesn’t mean there isn’t also a gay reading there too.

I theorise that the son in the Babadook might be a homosexual character. The mother tries to deny that her son is different to her sister and the school. She repeatedly asks him why he can’t just be normal. This coupled with the lacking of a male role model and his only friend being his mother suggests a potential queerness.

Perhaps then the Babadook is the manifestation of the child trying to suppress his homosexuality for his mother. He’s so scared of being his true self he literally creates a “closet monster” that, if it gets out, will hurt his family.

The mother is traumatised by the events but with love of her son being stronger than anything she learns to slowly accept him. The Babadook is released from the closet but at least for now is kept deep down in the basement unbeknownst to anyone but the mother and son. Though they now willingly visit the subject together when the time is right.

Am I reaching…. of course I fucking am but I’m 5ft 2 I reach for everything! It’s still probably better argued than most queer readings.

Q3. Is the Babadook the first LGBT horror Icon?

Short answer NO!!!

This has been my only problem with the Babadook phenomenon. He is not the first and he’s won’t be the last Gay Horror Icon so why is everyone acting like he is?

The 2nd nightmare on elm street showed us Freddy obviously swings both ways as he seduces the male protagonist Jesse and tries to “get inside of his body”.

Jeepers Creepers’ villain is also not very shy about his need to hunt down a bus of semi naked jocks (and neither am I).

Then we have Elvira who’s camp as tits – literally.  We have transgender characters in Seed of Chucky and Sleepaway Camp, which also incidentally has gay daddies and jocks in crop tops.

There is queerness in Bride of Frankenstein, Daughters of Darkness, every Giallo film ever and the screaming Queenz personally recommend Cursed (2004) 😂

There is also that one girl Gremlin who even had a Rupaul review before the Babadook…

Q4. is the babadook here to SLAY?

So my final question is about how long this will all last. I can say after writing this I’m over it. Officially. The internet and gays are fickle – I give this til the end of pride season to be overused and discarded with a brief revival due in every gay club on the 31st October.

However the film itself is here to stay. It came out in 2014 to much praise from critics and the public. This new exposure will do nothing but further promote the film and it will deservedly grow as a fantastic example of a horror film with a deeper meaning than most.

So I say embrace the lunacy and watch a great scary film. Be prepared to be BABASHOOK!!!!

Hear our podcast on the Babadook here:

Argento and Goblin

Welcome back! As we continue to look at some the great horror collaborations we turn our attention to Dario Argento and his frequent and hugely successful work with the Italian Prog-Rock band Goblin – and two of the cult films that came out of this relationship.

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Dario Argento came to prominence in the early 70’s, his debut film being 1970’s “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.” This would be followed in 1971 by “Cat O’ nine Tails” and finishing up the trilogy with 1972’s “Four Flies on Grey Velvet”, these films are now known as Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”. Interestingly, Argento collaborated with another legendary composer for these films, who may pop up again at some point….For today though we are talking about Argento’s relationship with Goblin.

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Inspired by UK Prog-Rock bands like “Yes”, “King Crimson” and “Emerson, Lake and Palmer” Goblin were formed in the early 70’s by the two main band members, Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante. Performing initially under the name “Oliver” and then working for a while as “Cherry Five” the familiar Goblin name didn’t come into being until they were asked by Argento to help create the score for 1975’s “Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)”.

For a full insight into our thoughts on Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) we have an episode all about it so feel free to check that out!

The short version for the purpose of the article is as follows; English music teacher Marc Daly (David Hemmings) currently living in Rome, witnesses the murder of neighbour (and pyschic) Helga Ullman. Marc intervenes in an attempt to save her but is unfortunately too late.

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Marc finds himself dragged into the case when he is attacked in his own home soon after. Marc remembers seeing a mysterious painting on the wall that vanishes after the murder, thinking this could be a clue to the identity of the murderer he begins investigating. Joining Marc on his quest to find the murderer is reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) and her broken car.

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What follows is a visual masterpiece, the imagery on display in Profondo Rosso is easily some of the best in the entire Giallo genre and is well worth investigating for yourself. A beautiful mix of the modern and the classic, the timeless backdrop of Rome with modern touches throughout.

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Argento originally hired Italian pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini to write the score for Profondo Rosso, but after hearing his intended score Argento was apparently very dissatisfied. The idea then became to have Gaslini composing the music and having it performed by prog-rock band. Legend has it that Argento was hoping to approach Pink Floyd to perform the score, not to diminish Goblin’s contribution at all, but what a collaboration that might have been!

As an alternative to the likes of ELP, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, one of Argento’s producers suggested an Italian band going by the name of “Cherry Five” and very quickly they stepped in to perform the score that Gaslini wrote. As the relationship between Gaslini and Argento broke down, Cherry Five got their chance to compose the remainder of the score, reportedly Claudio Simonetti finished it off in just one night!

The rest, as they say, is history.

The band Cherry Five changed their name to become the Goblin we all know and love.

The soudtrack LP was a huge hit for the newly born Goblin.

This was the start of a successful career for Goblin who would go on to create many soundtracks for Italian cinema over the next few years, including Joe D’amato’s “Beyond the Darkness”, Luigi Cozzi’s Alien rip-off “Contamination” as well as the international version of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”.

Here they are looking extra cool on Italian TV!

This brings us nicely to the second of the Argento / Goblin collaborations we’re going to look at, 1977’s “Suspiria”.

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There is a full episode where we discuss our thoughts on “Suspiria” and “Inferno”, we don’t really talk about “Mother of Tears” because it’s not really very good, there are maybe one or two moments we enjoyed. “Extendable rape poles” and heads crushed in sliding toilet doors aside, we were mostly disappointed. Hear our talk on “Suspiria” here:

The short version though, to get you warmed up for listening to our episode, is as follows:

Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion, an American ballet student travelling to Germany to study at the apparently prestigious Dance Academy in Freiburg. She arrives on a stormy night and despite being enrolled there nobody will open the door for her. It’s during this storm that Suzy sees another student Pat, fleeing the school in terror and running off into the night.

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What follows is certainly one of the most unique horror films ever made.

From this first scene onwards you know you are watching something special. Pat, who we just saw escape from the school, heads off to seek refuge with a friend. Whilst Pat is hiding out she is attacked by an unseen force leading to probably one of the most famous kills in all Italian Cinema.

Suzy returns to the school the next day to begin her ballet lessons and meets up with the rest of the students at the school. During her very first training session Suzy begins to feel unwell and faints.

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Suzy is prescribed a glass of red wine a day by the local doctor to help her with her fainting, not too bad! The mysterious events continue on day one as hundreds of maggots begin raining down on the students as they try to sleep.

The weird occurrences continue and this brings us to one of my favourite scenes in the film as we follow Daniel, the blind pianist from the Freiburg School, taking a walk with his guide dog when he suddenly feels himself pursued by a sinister force.

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Suspiria is said to be one of the last films ever made using the Technicolor process, this helps give the films it’s characteristic vivid and vibrant look. The use of colour is Suspiria is absolutely one of it’s strengths for me.

The other significant thing that Suspiria features is obviously the soundtrack provided by Goblin. You can see them here (kind of) performing the Suspiria intro on some sort of Italian ‘Tops of the Pops’ type show.

 

Unlike Deep Red where Goblin are mostly performing the score that somebody else composed, during the creation of Suspiria they now had full creative control, giving them free reign to push the boundaries and let their Prog-Rock sound emerge fully.

As you can see and hear from the video, the instruments used for this score are much more diverse than were used for the Profondo Rosso score, with the main theme of Suspiria including what looks like a Bouzouki and a Tabla (if anybody knows what these instruments are for sure then please let me know).

 

 

There would also be more collaborations with Argento, officially with the release of 1985’s “Phenomena” and kind of unofficially with “Tenebrae”, with the soundtrack being credited to Simonetti, Morante and Pignatelli. You can check out our episode about Tenebrae here:

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Goblin continue to perform live to this day in one form or another, I couldn’t name all the different various line-ups though. Regardless of the line-up changes over the years, Goblin have a huge cult following, they tour fairly regularly and can usually be found performing a live soundtrack accompaniment to Suspiria or Deep Red.

They can be seen early 2018 in Holland if Death Metal is your thing. Admittedly, they do seem a little out of place at a festival with the likes of Carcass, Devourment and Nunslaughter (and a couple I can’t make out) but that just goes to show how wide their influence reaches.

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Hope you enjoyed this brief intro to some of the collaborations between Argento and Goblin, there are plenty of great blogs out there if you interested in learning more and lots of great people to follow on Twitter. Hopefully a few more collaboration blogs will appear soon and also maybe a look at some of the influences of horror literature and horror cinema on music in a more general sense.

P.S. If you say that Suspiria is a giallo there’s a chance somebody might come and get you 😀

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JB

Let me know what you thought of this piece on twitter! https://twitter.com/cthulhu502