In time for Halloween … an MST3K marathon!
It’s no secret I am a big fan of horror movies, horror novels … horror. I love it, and could discuss it in great length and detail. In fact, I have before, and that includes previously listing movies I think you should watch for Halloween. This time, I decided to do something different – namely, I’m moving my annual MST3K – another thing I unabashedly love – Turkey Day marathon to now. Let’s call this an MST3K Candy Day marathon, and make a new tradition, of terrible horror movies that MST3K has made fun of over the years.
Think there aren’t that many? Au contraire! MST3K covered quite a few horror movies in their time. All terrible in their own unique ways, and in several similar ones. You can find these all playing online, but it would be neat if you rent or bought them, either in digital format or on DVDs, where available. Let the marathon commence! (P.S.: I’m not including Manos: The Hands of Fate, because it’s so obvious. But by all means, include it in the marathon if you like. It’s a classic for a reason.)
Hobgoblins – Oh, the ‘80’s was, in many ways, the gold rush years of horror cinema. There were many greats from that era, and so many stalwart horror franchises were launched during those years I probably couldn’t list them all. But along with all this gold, there was so much crap. Even a couple of those beloved franchises were resolutely mediocre movies that somehow spawned something bigger than its component parts. Hobgoblins is very much a prototypical shitty ‘80’s horror film. A rip off of Gremlins and its rip off films – there were several – with a sort of Twilight Zone-ish “beware what you wish for” element thrown in, it is utter garbage, from first shot to last. The female characters are slut shamed and virgin shamed at the exact same time, the men are fucking boneheads ruled by their hormones – even the ostensible hero of the piece – and the hobgoblins, which look like a cross between Gremlins and rejected Muppets with the mange, are never the least bit scary. In fact, this thing is so predictable, rote, and threadbare, it could almost work as a satire of the genre if it had even a tiny bit of self-awareness. Which it doesn’t. It’s an MST3K favorite.
Touch of Satan – Remember what I said about the ‘80’s? The ‘70’s were a gold rush year for horror too, although most genres had a good time then. There are lots of great ‘70’s movies, as the seismic cultural shock of the ‘60’s, and free flowing cocaine, seemed to throw open the doors to a lot of risk taking. Also, following the success of The Exorcist, there was a spate of devil movies, and this is one of those. A slow moving, nonsensical film about a woman possessed by Satan and the shaggy haired doof that loves her, this movie is notable for mainly for very long pauses in the dialog. Like, interminably long. As if someone thought people talking slowly would increase the tension that was sadly absent from this entire production. As the guys do imply, this movie was indeed a touch of something that starts with s, but not Satan. Oh, and this is where the fish live is the line that almost redeemed this entire production.
The Bride of The Monster – No MST3K marathon would be complete without Ed Wood showing up somewhere, and here is his hilariously awful movie about a mad scientist living in a swamp, where he experiments on people, and has a pet octopus – mostly seen in stock footage, as the stolen prop Wood used didn’t work, as you can tell in its one brief cameo – and pet mute assistant. Absolutely nothing in this movie works – the writing is terrible, the acting is terrible, the editing is terrible, the directing is terrible, the props are terrible, and there is no continuity to speak of. In other words, it’s a pure delight. I actually think this movie is better than Plan 9 From Outer Space, and by better I mean worse. There’s so many horror tropes used here, and used so badly, it’s hard not to laugh at every one of them. A must see.
Night Of The Blood Beast– One of my top ten MST3K’s of all time, and the film representative of Roger Corman in this shit parade. This sci-fi shocker about an astronaut who falls back to Earth, impregnated and stalked by an alien menace, never stops being silly from the credits onward. Corman’s budget restraints are on full display here, from NASA being five people in an abandoned building of some sort, and the alien “monster” being a recycling of a costumed used in the previous Corman “epic” Teenage Caveman – and that’s all beside the fact that it looks like a burned and badly decopaged parrot mascot costume – this is top to bottom ridiculous. And great in a way that was never intended by anyone involved.
The Blood Waters of Doctor Z– Back to the ‘70’s again, for this truly baffling horror movie about a mad scientist – of course – who wants to turn humanity into a race of fish people, I guess? To be honest, no one thought about this plot very much. It’s mainly an excuse to show women in bikinis and underwear, being attacked by this guy in a slightly less busy version of the alien parrot costume as seen in Night of the Blood Beast crossed with a little Creature From the Black Lagoon. It isn’t very good. It does have a surprisingly jaunty folk tune as its theme song, and one of those baffling ‘70’s film endings that’s open for interpretation. Was it a big fuck you to the audience, or did they run out of money? Also, there’s weird racial politics in this one, that just brings home how shitty things were in the ‘70’s, and now. One of the overlook gems of MST3K’s Sci-Fi Channel years.
The Giant Spider Invasion– Roughly in the same era as Touch of Satan comes this gem from somewhere around Wisconsin, and another one of my all time MST3K top ten favorites. The ‘70’s had this killer animal movies – thanks, Jaws – and I’m sure none are quite as delightfully awful as this one, about otherworldly spiders who land on Earth and start killing people, eventually morphing into a VW Beetle with somewhat animatronic spider legs on it. With a handful of Z list actors and other, more greasy amateurs, this is the nadir of all those killer animal movies, and may have helped trigger their demise. So thanks for that GSI.
The Screaming Skull– In the ‘50’s and early ‘60’s, gimmicks were often employed to sell movies, and more often than not, the gimmicks turned out to be better than the stuff on the screen. This is one of those. A turgid horror melodrama about an unstable woman seemingly haunted by her shifty new husband’s late wife, I feel like this is another overlooked gem of the Sci-Fi era. The riffing is great, and they have to kill a lot of time, as there is exactly five minutes of very predictable story drawn out to eighty minutes. Miscalculated on every possible level, there is a whole lot of nothing in this movie, so if you want to consider this optional go ahead. But for some reason I love it. Some misbegotten horror movies are my jam, and this is one of those.
Parts: T he Clonus Horror– Back to the ‘70’s for this bizarre little film that came to prominence when it seems Michael Bay ripped it off for his flop The Island. A story about a secret clone farm for the wealthy and powerful to use as emergency organ banks, there was possibly a germ of a decent idea in here, but it’s completely lost by bad writing, meandering plotting, and sub par directing and acting. It seemed to want to become a trenchant political movie too, but it misfired there as well. Just a mess, but well riffed. And probably still better than Michael Bay’s iteration. (I don’t know – I’ve never seen it. I try and avoid Bay films.)
The Incredible Melting Man – Let’s stay in the ‘70’s for this wonderful piece of trash, which concerns an astronaut being exposed to cosmic radiation, who comes back a hideous melting monster who goes around killing people for no apparent reason. Also, for no obvious reason, a civilian doctor is tasked in hunting him down and recovering him. If you’re like me, you’ll learn many things from this film, such as the fact that someone thought “Hotchka!” Was a word, everybody dressed terribly in the ‘70’s, and whatever you do, don’t yell “I’m Doctor Ted Nelson!” at a cop. I do like this one, as it’s ridiculous, and weirdly gory for no good reason.
Werewolf – Let’s wrap up this marathon with one of my all time favorites. A colossal misfire of a picture about a writer who gets turned into a werewolf by an evil archaeologist (?), this is a classic MST3K for several reasons, not the least of which is the many ways werewolf is mispronounced throughout this picture. (I personally like whurwoof, although varevulf has its merits.) My absolute favorite is Yuri, the evil archaeologist with a Russian/Spanish accent – oh, you’ll hear him speak, and have no idea what accent he’s going for – whose hair changes color seemingly from scene to scene. I mean, this thing is such a disaster on so many levels it’s a minor masterpiece of shit. I also honestly believe the brief scene of a transformed werewolf driving is the most absurd thing ever committed to celluloid. It’s amazing. You must own this.