Adam Ginsberg, the man behind Out of My Head Radio, TwitchTwitch Productions, and the Macabre Faire Film Festival visits THE LAST KNOCK. But wait, there’s definitely more, because Adam’s also an actor and producer of horror cinema among other things. Do not miss this insightful look into one of horror’s most artistic gentlemen.
Well, after a couple of false starts, I finally got off to an auspicious beginning. Not the one I’d hoped for, but it turned out well just the same, sending me fast-forward into a more recent past (the 80s) where I stumbled first upon one of those throwing-caution-to-the-wind projects Troma Entertainment likes to toss out:
Monster in the Closet from 1986.
At first I was at a loss to figure out what possibly possessed Wiki to put this on a gays-in-horror list in the first place, unless it was a tribute to style: it was campy enough for eight movies, to be sure. And quite appropriately, Monster in the Closet had no intention of taking itself seriously, including a veteran cast that fits right in with the hyperbole. With the film’s relaxed pace, it looks like everyone had a blast making this goofball enterprise, practically cheering on writer/director Bob Dahlin as he co-opted one classic after another, from Superman to War of the Worlds (the 1953 version) to (yet again) Alien. No matter, though. It’s quite watchable, and is guaranteed to leave you chuckling.
The plot is terminally juicy and stalwart in the face of brazen clunkiness: An evil creature makes its lair in the clothes closets of its victims’ homes, snatching them at opportune moments. The dialog is extraordinary; pearls of unabashed cliché drop with unflinching regularity. Bespectacled Richard Clark, a cub reporter, played by handsome Donald Grant, wrangles his way into investigating the murders and teams up with Sheriff Ketchem (Claude Akins), who spits his chaw into any handy receptacle. Ketchem has already given the brushoff to biology professor and love interest Diane Bennett (Denise DuBarry). Eventually, the Eccentric Scientist Dr. Pennyworth (Henry Gibson) gets involved, determined to communicate with the creature, with Army General Turnbull (Donald Moffat) nipping at his heels, determined to destroy the menace. Several unsuccessful attempts are made to vanquish the beast, until—
What did you say? … What’s this have to do with gay people? I thought you’d never ask!
Turns out the Monster (Kevin Peter Hall), on closer inspection of its victims, gets the hots for Clark — who promptly goes unconscious — and carries him off to find the nearest closet where presumably they both can live in domestic bliss. Meanwhile, Diane’s 10-year-old son and Imperiled Tyke, “Professor” Bennett, figures out the only way to kill the creature is to destroy every closet in the kingdom — Sorry, in the country — and so they do…except one! And so, off trudges the Monster, carrying his oft-catatonic beau (he riles briefly from time to time) to the top of the Transamerica Building. In deference to those who want to screen this film for themselves, I won’t reveal the ending, but as in every tragic love story (which is pretty much what this film turned into plot-wise) suffice it to say that it’s bittersweet.
So, okay. Why did Wiki decide to put this on the “gay” list? According to the article, the decision was based on two assumptions, one pivotal and another incidental. First: Is the Monster male or female? Hard to say, because there’s a contradiction: It had the musculature of a male, but not the plumbing. Had I watched without being forewarned, I’m not sure I would have jumped to the same conclusion Wiki did. Second: The part was played by a male, presumably to make the beast larger and more intimidating – or… was it a sly statement on the part of the filmmakers? In the long run, no one really knows for sure.
Also, as part of the title, the now-iconic phrase, “In the closet,” could make a case for a gay theme. But not necessarily. Those three words represent only half a hint, and it depends largely on the prefix. For example, a “skeleton” in the closet is a generic phrase coined in the 19th Century, which refers to any secret that would damage the reputation or credibility of a person or persons — including homosexuality. Conversely, “coming out” of the closet doesn’t necessarily denote hiding or shame.
But there is one correlation that I believe deserves some mention. In 1986, the full horror of AIDS and its impact on society in general and the gay population in particular was in full swing. At this point many of the misconceptions and much of the panic surrounding AIDS was still going strong. A nasty fight still raged between NIH Director Dr. Robert Gallo with the original French researchers, vying for the prestigious claim of isolating HIV; attorney Geoffrey Bowers was suing the Philadelphia law firm who employed him, which later inspired the 1993 film, Philadelphia; and speaking of Philly, beautiful lesbian model and veteran druggie Gia dies of AIDS from an infected needle, followed by the eponymous film with then-newcomer Angelina Jolie in the title role.
Not that I believe the Monster in the Closet represents AIDS or those with the disease per se; instead, I interpret it as representing the fear engendered by it. And noteworthy is that the “Monster” killed indiscriminately, just as AIDS did (and does): the beautiful co-ed, the blind elderly man, the little girl, the cavalier authorities (cops, military) out to destroy it, and the scientist seeking to understand it.
In the end, the evidently invincible Monster was destroyed by preventing its retreat back into the closet — or put another way, the fear was eliminated by forcing it out into the open once and for all to be dealt with.
In terms of form, however, it’s still a low-brow, silly romp, and quite enjoyable on its own flaky terms. Or as my editor would say, “Check your brain at the door.” Just remember: pick your brain back up on your way out. Just sayin’.
David was born in Baltimore into a military family and moved across the United States throughout most of his childhood. He received a BA in Liberal Studies from Thomas Edison State College and has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. He has written critiques for prose and film for various publications while writing screenplays, four of which have placed in competitions, his last being the psychological thriller, “Little Girl Found,” a Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival. He has worked as a producer on three films with a fourth in the works, including his own short screenplay “Gambit.” Meanwhile he is finishing the first in a series of male-on-male vampire fiction entitled “Shared Blood,” due to be published early Summer 2015. You can follow him on Twitter: @deepfocusllc and on his website at: http://davidemcdonald.com
(Photo from Rely On Horror.)
Ever wonder about the nuances behind the colors and composition of horror movie posters? If not, THE LAST KNOCK will fill you in, as we also focus on iconic posters such as THE EXORCIST, JAWS, and ALIEN – and much more, of course.
Nathan Ballingrud, an exceptional horror writer, tells us about his latest work, “The Visible Filth” and other stories. We also look at horror in general, from literature to film, and also discuss the merits of writing.
Director, writer, and star, Erik C. Bloomquist brings us The Cobblestone Corner, a Neo-Noir thriller with snappy dialogue, strong characters, and a solid premise that one could easily find on any college campus: the destruction of a professor’s career thanks to questionable means. But we’re not on a college campus. We’re at the Alfred Pierce Preparatory School where posh kids live up to tradition by being stalwart and smarmy, as they flip imaginary bitcoins to decide if they should go to Princeton or Harvard.
Right from the beginning, however, we know something’s different about this story. After all, we’re with high school kids who are certainly in an adult situation, and handling the world as if they’ve had years of experience under their belts. Even the school’s newspaper, run by the unyielding Allan Archer (Bloomquist), tackles the periodical as if it were The New York Times. You want to find out about the next school bake sale or whose birthday is coming up? Forget it. The Pierce Gazette is about hard news: baseball team steroid controversy, the all-girl fight club, and more.
Sure, I was on my high school paper, and as Feature Editor when I wrote a piece about a crack in the gym wall (almost twenty feet long, mind you), it was cut to avoid issues with the administration. But when Archer begins his narration about how he’s “different”, he’s informing the audience that this whole tale is different. Think of Bloomquist as bridging the gap between Rian Johnson’s Brick and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. We’re definitely in an alternative and cooler universe for certain.
In The Cobblestone Corner, as in Brick, the teens talk like they’re thirty, and their mature nature is frightening. It’s as if they started mixing mommy’s cocktails at age nine when they had their first cigars. Bloomquist takes it one step further by having the characters deliver banter from the forties. The great thing? It all works. Thanks to excellent characters, and a consistency in how they collectively carry themselves, suspension of belief about age and capability is not only acceptable, it’s warranted as well as welcomed. Forget about tears and whining, these kids most likely handle stress with Xanax and single malt scotch.
Besides Archer, we have Logan Underwood (Alec Richards), the first year student with a lot to learn about writing hard-hitting news. Johnny Baker (Adam Weppler), the kid who could probably run a prison because he can get his hands on anything, shines as that guy in the know. Nicholas Tucci plays the patient yet stern teacher/advisor to Archer, and he works hard to make certain his Editor-in-Chief knows his place, even though Archer maintains a little smartass smile along with every quip. And Elizabeth Merriweather (Madeleine Dauer), the femme fatale who knows she’s gorgeous and could manipulate most anyone to do anything – but can she get Archer to do her bidding and investigate a respected instructor’s sudden demise? Sure, there are others of Peirce’s finest with goals and desires, and this creates a great soup of characters that keeps the story rolling at a high rate of speed and the dialogue razor sharp.
Cinematographer Mike Magilnik kept the camera moving, and he brings the viewer some great angles, even in talking head scenes that would normally sink larger productions. The great thing, especially with the Neo-Noir element, is that he didn’t rely on dark scenes and long shadows. Yes, they were present on occasion, but just like Bloomquist’s dialogue, we weren’t hit with classic Noir tropes at every turn. Otherwise, with a little more money and a hairstylist, The Cobblestone Corner could easily have been a period piece.
As editor, Bloomquist knew when to keep scenes crisp and fast like Sam Peckinpaugh, and when to let them roll on a little longer to create atmosphere and intrigue. This helped maintain a steady beat that also matched the rhythm of the dialogue. Therefore, the last item to work in concert with the other elements is Gyom Amphoux’s score – and like a diligent gumshoe on the case, he always hit the right notes at the right time.
So what happened to the professor who may have been forced out of a job? You’ll have to wait and watch The Cobblestone Corner for yourself. Most important, any producer can see that this short would make for an excellent and offbeat television series (on cable without restrictions, please), or, with a few more additions, one awesome feature film. The only misgivings to be addressed: it was hard to tell if the lovely Madeleine Dauer was trying to play it sultry or coy near film’s end, and it would be great to see Archer in some sort of danger. And as for those who might complain about little to no character arc for our journalist hero, well, that’s Noir, baby. The reason Archer can take on the mystery is because of who he is. It’s Archer’s personality, his character, that leads us to story’s end.
Now, why did I write about a film that isn’t a horror? Because, if you recall from Bloomquist’s THE LAST KNOCK interview from February 2014 (http://bit.ly/1EqMK9b), he has his mind set on his horror, Founder’s Day. Like all filmmakers, he needs funding to make that happen, and it’s hoped that The Cobblestone Corner will prove to be an excellent calling card – and it should definitely open doors as well as wallets. To find out more about The Cobblestone Corner, visit http://www.erikbloomquist.com/, and to learn more about Erik C. Bloomquist, check out his IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4620395/.
4.5 out of 5 stars
(Photo: The Cobblestone Corner Facebook Page)
Scores and soundtracks can make or break any film, but in horror, musical placement is paramount to capture mood and atmosphere, and to set tone and elaborate on theme. Find out some of the best and worst horror cinema has to offer, and what filmmakers can do to make their horror films even better through music.
THE BABADOOK has been celebrated because it has lived up to the horror hype. Why? Billy and Jonny will let you know, and review this dramatic horror phenomenon.