How are ‘Grizzly Adams’ and ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Related?

I’m probably one of the few writers who would even come up with an article including Grizzly Adams and Silent Night, Deadly Night in the same paragraph, but weird is weird and find Charles Sellier (sometimes called Charles Sellier, Jr.) weird. Or maybe weird is the wrong word, maybe he’s just a huckster.

Charles Sellier died in January of 2011 and was a footnote on the history of entertainment for a slew of cheap titles, but freethinkers and faith-based purveyors of entertainment should take note. What he did is still going on in family friendly films or “faith-based” films because, ultimately, this kind of entertainment comes down to exploitation for money. No one seems to think there is such a thing as “family friendly film exploitation” or even “Christian film exploitation,” but that is exactly what’s going on. It’s no different than blaxploitation or other exploitation films that cater to a certain crowd that will pay money regardless if what is produced is mediocre or outright crap. It’s the idea that “safe” is good and anything slapped with an “R” rating is unfit for a sanctified mind. The only major exception I can think of is the masterful exploitation by Mel Gibson and his Passion of The Christ because Christ beating is acceptable violence.

I’m not referring here to target marketing. All film companies figure out who their audience is. What I’m really referring to is cheap entertainment that producers know will be bought or viewed because of an audience that can be exploited. If the producers had an opportunity to produce a film based on a Shakespeare play resulting in a family-safe production of fine art and a rehashed film about a big, lovable dog that brings a struggling Christian family towards god, which one are they going to pick? The dog movie–it has more potential to make money.

Recently, on a whim, I picked up the first season of Grizzly Adams at the local Target store. It was an approved-of show in a prudish home when I was a kid and I watched it regularly on Sunday afternoon reruns. I can’t say I was a fan of the show, but it did have an appeal with the wilderness and the wild animals and the supposed freedom of living alone with a big bear. Now as an adult, watching Grizzly Adams is like watching a cartoon. It has some nostalgic appeal, but the storylines are awful–incredibly awful considering there was a real Grizzly Adams who was ten times more interesting than this wimpy, PETA version of the mountain man.

What kind of mountain man would stop a trapper from shooting a turkey for his dinner? That’s exactly what Grizzly Adams did when he first met Mad Jack and his mule Number Seven in an early episode. And then Adams offers his jerky as a trade off  to chowing down on juicy turkey (as if the killing of a turkey is worse than the killing of cows?). The whole show features a man-child who doesn’t seem to understand nature and yet mystically attracts the friendships of all kinds of critters like The Beastmaster (the 1982 Don Coscarelli fantasy film). It’s absurd and insulting to your intelligence.

The real Grizzly Adams did tame bears, he even used them as pack animals, but he also killed them and captured them for exhibition. He trapped, he hunted and he died from wrestling bears in the circus that exacerbated a previous bear wound to the head. This Grizzly Adams was not necessarily a bad guy for the time period he lived in (though now we would find some of his activities appalling) and he obviously had an understanding of how brutal nature can be. The Grizzly Adams in Sellier’s show is so watered down and weak and without historical value that you wonder why it was even called Grizzly Adams?

So how does all this lead to Silent Night, Deadly Night–the infamous 1984 Christmas horror movie that upset parents and critics alike? Charles Sellier produced and directed both. You might ask, big deal? Bob Clark did the same thing with Black Christmas (1974) and A Christmas Story (1973),  except, Grizzly Adams was just one of Sellier’s family offerings. He specialized in family films and Christian offerings. Mixed in were psychic phenomena and pseudoscience documentaries. It’s no wonder we have a confused public when it comes to religion and science. Here are just a couple of his family friendly productions for Christians:

1976 In Search of Noah’s Ark
1979 In Search of the Historic Jesus
1979 Greatest Heroes of The Bible
1993 Ancient Secrets of the Bible
1993 The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark
2004 The Evidence for Heaven
2004 George W. Bush: Faith in the White House
2006 Miracles in our Midst
2006 Apocalypse and the End Times
2007 The Case for Christ’s Ressurection

According to Wikipedia, Sellier considered himself to be an Evangelical Christian. Previously, he was raised Catholic and then converted to Mormonism until becoming born again. So why would an Evangelical Christian direct Silent Night, Deadly Night? A movie that starts out with a family road trip singing holiday tunes until they are accosted by a felon who proceeds to shoot the father, molest and stab the mother and then traumatize the young boy who is an eyewitness to it all? The kids grows up to fear Santa and Christmas until he is made the store Santa at his job and snaps. Then the killing really begins. It’s exactly the kind of movie you would expect during the popularity of Friday the 13th and other eighties slasher films. From Jesus Christ to an ax in the head!

The same year of  Silent Night, Deadly Night, Sellier released Snowballing. A brief look at the cover will tell you it was made in the tradition of Porky’s (1982) or Hot Dog… The Movie (1984). Snowballing is also a sexual reference whereby one woman sucks off a guy and spits the cum into another girl’s mouth (and no, I’m not making that up). Even if Sellier didn’t mean it in that manner, the term “balling” is pretty obvious from the cover art (to have sex).

I would contend the reason Sellier made these movies is he needed money. Much like he exploited the family genre and the supernatural genre, he decided to exploit the teenage genre of horror and sex comedies. Charles Sellier was nothing more than a schlockster (is that a word, hell, I’m going to use it anyways). I love schlock, but I don’t think most Christians know when they are seeing schlock: Noah’s Ark Schlock, Jesus Resurrection Schlock, End Times Schlock–any documentary or movie that promises to reveal evidence to confirm what you already have blind faith in.

Sellier got paid, Christians got ripped off. Those documentaries were filled with pseudoscience and unverified claims. At least with Silent Night, Deadly Night we were exploited with entertaining nudity and violence and laughable acting that put a smile on your face because you knew it was all fake and badly staged. Can Charles Sellier be considered an Evangelical Christian in good standing when he was willing to switch gears to horror and sex for convenience and money and then switch back to faith films afterwards? Seems like the kind of weak, hypocritical Christianity you see on TBN and Daystar. Producers of family friendly films are still schlocking. It’s all about the love of money and Christian pop culture plays right along.

SIDENOTE: It was actually hard to find a lot of good material on Charles Sellier and why he did make Silent Night, Deadly Night. One of the best resources on him is from the site Temple of Schlock. It has original articles from the controversy of when the film was released. For awhile, I thought Wikipedia had made a mistake including Silent Night, Deadly Night in Charles Sellier’s resume–there must be another Sellier?! But no, there’s an article on Temple of Schlock that confirms it is the same man who made Grizzly Adams. Technically, making Santa into a figure of fear is not anti-Christian so maybe that’s what Sellier was thinking. It’s still questionable to show the violence, blood and nudity though if you purport to be an Evangelical and the morals they espouse.

Article by Cartoonist Jeff Swenson

‘Red State’ Movie is an Appalling Mess

Red State, *Star

I wasn’t even going to bother reviewing Red State as Kevin Smith’s films always disappoint me (except for Clerks maybe), but after finally watching Red State this morning on Netflix I was just appalled. It is a fantasically bad movie mess. Is it a horror film? Is it a commentary on Fred Phelps? Is it a criticism of the ATF? Who the hell knows!

Kevin Smith went in so many directions you don’t who to follow as a character or if there’s even a plot. This is particularly disturbing since the material should be an easy target for horror–The Phelps Clan. Phelps, if you’ve had your head in the sand, runs and other sites where basically God hates everything and everyone except for the Phelps family. Pastor Fred Phelps is a cartoon, so ridiculous that most conservative Christians distance themselves from him. Not that these conservative groups don’t still condemn “fags,” but they don’t like the idea that God condemns other sinners or the way Phelps runs his public relations.

Generally speaking, American Christians don’t like the idea of a god that hates even as you find many instances of it in the Bible. Theologians often try to redefine the hate into justice or the mysterious ways of God or that we, the sinners, deserve what we get (as apparently punishment is for eternity for a limited number of sins). Or frankly, “American theology” ignores the Bible altogether and defines God by modern standards (The Bible is a book of myths or fables).

I’m always amused by both Christians (like Pat Robertson) who know that God is punishing us on 9/11 or some other disaster and then Christians who say they know for sure that God is not punishing us. How the hell do any of you know the mind of God? In the Old Testament God swallows up sinners with a great flood and an earthquake and other little calamities. If he exists, why wouldn’t he continue to do so now? Oh, because of Jesus in the New Testament (as if the Old Testament stuff never happened)? I’m not sure why Jesus would make a difference except to save your supposed soul? The honest answer for someone who believes in God is to say: “I don’t know.” Otherwise, it’s the same old shit of Americanized Christianity redefining God as the current morals and ethics of our society.

So how does Kevin Smith miss the mark so badly in Red State? First of all, why call it Red State? Republicans don’t endorse figures like Abin Cooper, the Fred Phelps knockoff character. Yes, a large percentage of Red State Americans are homophobic, against gay marriage, but they don’t want to kill and torture gay people. If anything, they want homosexuals to kill themselves after taking away any rights and calling them “unnatural” (as if natural is always a good thing). Abin Cooper is outside of America–he is truly “not of this world.” The title alone seems like a mistake unless the commentary tied into the anti-gay marriage crowd some way and how the belittling  of gays is a small part of the bigger horror.

Then what happened to the horror? And why would Abin Cooper’s middle-aged daughter be luring teenage boys into group sex in order to kill them? If the focus is on gay bigotry, why not have at least one of the boys be gay? Or at least a closet gay? I would have had the three boys captured for the sake of converting them to the church or maybe it was a scare tactic to get them on the straight and narrow road; then this closet gay is discovered and The Coopers decide he has to be killed. The rest of the film would be the horror surrounding our victim’s escape and whether or not his friends will turn on him or rescue him in an extreme situation. Instead we have The Coopers ready to execute three boys for wanting to have group sex with a female? I’m not saying that the Coopers wouldn’t condemn group sex, but what’s the point? If you’re going to target a representation of The Phelps Clan then keep on subject; make the horror about homosexuality and the reality of how the Bible instructs to kill gay people (How about a stoning scene? More horrific than shooting someone). Admittedly there is a long list of offenses in the “good” book for which to be executed for (see’s list on murder in the Bible), but it’s an hour and a half movie–you can’t terrorize every sin, pick one and stick with it.

I am guessing that Kevin Smith chose three straight boys so there would be a larger audience that might identify with these main characters, only they are hardly main characters at all. They get picked off at random, two of them killed by the ATF. A horror movie with the lead being a terrorized gay may not have garnered enough interest? I don’t know, I think it could have worked with a gay lead if it was smartly written.

Then, literally, after no real horror with the three boys being tied up and a gay man saran-wrapped on a cross and shot (Hmm, obvious symbolism there. As if a religious zealot would tie his victim to a cross.) we get the ATF coming in who are more scary than The Coopers. They are there to kill everyone to make sure the government looks good and hide any possible screw-ups on behalf of an anxious sheriff who fired the first shot outside the compound and ended up killing one of the hostages.  Oh, and yeah, that sheriff is a closet gay and is shot in the standoff too because he is such a coward (at least that’s the feeling I got).

In the end, The Coopers are tricked by environmentally sound pot growers into thinking the trumpets had sounded the lord’s return. And lastly we have a weird conversation between a disciplinary panel and John Goodman’s ATF character Special Agent Keenan. Some stupid story about his pet dogs that is supposed to enlighten us on the human condition.

I’m sorry, what a wasted opportunity to actually enlighten us or scare us. The Coopers represent The Phelps and The Phelps are representative of a dying type of Christianity in America where bigotry was in your face and hellfire breathed by the adherents.  The bigotry of Christianity against supposed sinners is wrapped up in Christian love and bumpersticker slogans that say Jesus is Peace (even though he comes bringing a sword) and God is Love (yet there are passages that say God hates specific people or groups of people and love is shown by drowning all of humanity except Noah and his family). The new Christianity is not as honest as the old Christianity. The confusion may lie in picking and choosing the bits from the Bible that fit with a personal philosophy of love. The problem is the Bible is full of passages that contradict and confuse  the reader if read as a whole.

Horror has regularly used religious zealots to terrorize us. Red State had that opportunity and failed. The only bright spot in the movie is Michael Parks’ performance as Abin Cooper. What a shame he didn’t have a decent script or directorial insight.

‘Pontypool,’ Movie Review

Pontypool - *** Stars

My new favorite film is Pontypool from 2008. Fans of horror I’m sure are already familiar with it and I had heard about this film quite some time ago and put it at the end of my long and growing Netflix Que. Well, Pontypool suddenly became available for watching instantly over Wi-Fi so I sat down on this Saturday afternoon and was drawn into a horror mystery. It’s a film that I’m still thinking about a couple of hours after because what I’m trying to figure out is, “Is it possible?”

Maybe not, but the premise is very intriguing and for some people who are only amused by straightforward zombie films or series like The Walking Dead it may upset them–it is not a zombie film even though it has the feel of a zombie film. The explanation for the virus is strange, almost ridiculous and yet the brain is a computer and can’t computers crash?

The premise is very simple and very effective. Stephen McHattie plays Grant Mazzy who apparently was a former shock jock who was fired and is now broadcasting in the small town of Pontypool in Ontario, Canada. He’s rather bored by the local news of school closures and cold weather and longs for news he can use to snare more listeners. He gets it in the form of a riot said to be happening in town but only bits and pieces of information flow in and lack of confirmation only makes him, his producer and a station assistant more confused as to what the hell is actually going on. When the station assistant starts acting odd Mazzy turns scared even while in his soundbooth he is one of the safest places he could be.


The virus or viral transmission of the brain disorder is an infected word or several infected words. Author Tony Burgess doesn’t tell us exactly what words except they are likely to be terms of endearment. He calls the persons who are infected with “infected” words “conversationalists.” The conclusion is also that it’s not the sound of the words, but the understanding of a the words and the language involved has to be English. For example, someone says “sweetheart” to you, you understand the meaning of the word which trips something in your brain to where you start repeating yourself. Eventually, you cannot think correctly and the only way you think you can fix your condition is to, as posted on Wiki, “…chew through the mouth of another person.”

This is a thinking person’s horror film. While the idea may be complete nonsense like Dr. Seuss writing a zombie flick, it still sticks with you. You want to dismiss it but I keep thinking of all the psychiatric disorders there are. Can one person, in an isolated event, infect another person? In jest, we could say husbands and wives make each other crazy, but what if you were isolated with a psychotic on an island? Would their behavior eventually drive you mad similar to if you were infected? How powerful is behavior and speech in comparison to actual diseases transmitted by saliva, blood and other bodily fluids?

If it is all nonsense and irrational, I believe the author still tapped into something very haunting as a commentary on the human condition. Making the ability to communicate a source of infection is a horrific idea.

SIDENOTE: Some viewers have compared Pontypool (2008) to Dead Air (2009) directed by Corbin Bernsen. The only comparison is the radio booth location. Dead Air is a zombie film. Pontypool is not. Pontypool is an abstract horror film (the best description I could think of) because it doesn’t follow any zombie rules and is about language infection. If you’re looking for a good B-movie horror film I personally still like Dead Air, mainly because of the performance of Bill Moseley at the microphone. Stephen McHattie as Mazzy is very good in Pontypool as well. Now I know for a fact that more scenes were planned for Dead Air and critics dismissed it, but the claustrophobia of being in a radio booth and not being able to visually see zombies attacking the city is one that spurs the imagination. It’s not a complete film, in my opinion, but worth watching as a horror experiment.

The radio booth scenario has been done before. I recall listening to Cape Cod Mystery Theater about a crazed killer calling in over and over until he shows up at the radio station. The concept is to dispense with special effects and let your imagination sit in the dark until you come up with the horrifying visuals on your own. I wonder if we will see the concept done again with podcasting? Unless it has been done?  Feel free to comment with more info.

‘Don’t Torture a Duckling’ Movie Review

Don't Torture a Duckling, *** Stars

Don’t Torture a Duckling is a hidden gem within Italian Horror films of the seventies. Fans of horror will already know the name Lucio Fulci for gore films like Zombi 2 (that’s how they spell zombie, with an “i” only) and City of the Living Dead though Don’t Torture a Duckling may not be on their favorites list. It is a murder mystery filled with speculations of magic and a small town psychopath.


SPOILER ALERT! Before you read further you may want to watch the film first. The English dubbing is reasonably good, though I had a little trouble following all of the character motives in the first part of the film. The latter half starts to tie together all the loose ends so the story makes sense. I can guarantee that most freethinking horror fans will like the film and it has some relevance to the last couple of years even though it was made in the seventies.


The plot is simple enough. Small town, suspicious locals, a supposed witch, a priest, a woman of questionable morals and a trio of three boys who are killed one by one. What makes the film unique, as far as my tastes, is the condemnation of the character Magiara. Magiara is brought in by the police for questioning of the child murders and she confesses. Only she claims she killed them by using voodoo dolls or magic and doesn’t seem to be aware they were strangled or hit over the head. The police decide she’s a bit crazy but innocent. The local townspeople think she is guilty and has indeed killed the boys with magic. So much so that in in one horrific scene a group of  local men surround her and beat her with chains and other objects until she crawls up near a modern freeway and dies by the side of the road as drivers ignore her. Fulci uses gore to full effect when she’s beaten. Even though it’s fiction, you may wince and then wonder how anyone could do such a terrible act–but then they truly believed she was a killer using magic.

Now the townspeople have blood on their hands, and yet, they don’t really seem to care and director Lucio Fulci doesn’t make them pay for their crime. They simply realize they were wrong when another boy is killed and Magiara is already dead so she couldn’t have done it. As the writer, I would have been tempted to burn the town down, but then this storyline is more realistic. How many people have suffered due to small town superstition and the town goes on like nothing bad ever happened?

The director then misleads us into thinking it was the “town harlot,” Patrizia who may be the murderer; a woman who likes to wear modern clothes and has escaped to the area because of drug charges. In one of the early scenes, a soon to be victim named Michele, a boy who couldn’t be older than maybe 12 or 13 is asked by his housekeeper mother to bring up some juice to Patrizia. Patrizia is found wearing only a smile and shows no shame in making the boy come to her so that he can see her naked. She even teases him about having sex with her. For a boy that age, hopped up on hormones, I’m sure he would not mind (something he would tell his friends) even as you can see how uncomfortable and unsure of himself he is. For adults watching the scene, we’re a bit creeped out. Which is why I initially thought she might be the killer.

So who is Fulci’s killer? A man who wants to save the boys from sexual sin–a priest! The final scene has Father Don Alberto trying to throw his mentally challenged sister off a cliff because she may have seen him murder one of the boys. He is stopped by the investigating journalist and Patrizia. In the end, it wasn’t a witch who was the killer, it was a representative of the church–a church who historically burned witches. The locals should have suspected their own religious leader.

According to Wiki, the film was not widely released in Europe due to the killer being a Roman Catholic priest and even though there was an English dub available the film wasn’t released in the United States until Anchor Bay Entertainment put it out on DVD in 1999. That’s too bad that we had to wait all this time for an Italian Horror treat. With all of the recent priests scandals of child rape, it only makes sense for a priest to be discovered as a child murderer. In this instance, it could hardly be chalked up to Catholic stereotyping as the scandal is widespread and nauseating.

‘Highway to Hell’ Movie Review

Highway to Hell, *** Stars for cheeze

Here’s a lost gem discovered by numerous other Netflix viewers called Highway to Hell (1992). The premise is simple: A couple by the name of Charlie Sykes (Chad Lowe) and Rachel Clark (Kristy Swanson) are eloping to Las Vegas and decide to take a backroad. Unfortunately, they meet up with “Hell Cop” who carries away the bride-to-be since she is a virgin (warning to virgins, you’re a target for vampires, Satan, dragons and various demons. Best to go get laid). Our poor hero Charlie must backtrack to a rundown gas station to get information out of an old geezer who also had his bride stolen. He offers the young man a special car, a special gun and directions on how to find the Highway to Hell, which ends up being a portal that opens up while driving.

Charlie makes it through the portal and into a dry, hot desert filled with lost souls doing everyday monotonous work. There’s a diner from hell where you can’t get any service from the waitress (been there), a construction crew made up of Andy Warhol clones who makes cement out of human bodies, casinos filled with desperate historical villains and ultimately Hell City which is similar in scope to Oz but with Satan instead of a boasting wizard.

The entire film is low-budget cheeze, but it’s good cheeze. There are numerous jokes if you’re fast enough to catch them and several guest appearances by well known (though not necessarily A-list) actors. Ben Stiller and his family play characters like a greasy chef, a diner patron who can’t get a refill, and Attila the Hun. Hitler also appears played by the thoroughly obnoxious Gilbert Gottfried.

If it weren’t for the ending, Christians might be able to view this movie as a humorous allegory.  The reason Hell is “hell” is because of many of the same things we find to be hell on earth: bad service, self-absorbed and annoying people, heavy traffic, and unreasonable cops. I have to note the scene about the heavy traffic: I suspect the reason the traffic is all VW Bugs is because they are Nazi cars. If you don’t already know, it was Hitler who ordered the VW Bug to be designed during World War 2.

There’s enough going on in this B-movie to entertain you for a cheap thrill on a week night and many of the jokes will put a smile on your face. I can’t say there’s much more to it than that, but I do like seeing what people think Hell might look like if it were real.

‘Pray’ Movie Review, Pray You Don’t Have To See It

I really wanted to like this film when I put it in my que to watch, not that I would necessarily agree with it, but I’m always for the low-budget filmmaker attempting to finish what is an insurmountable task. What I expected was a campy “wholesome” Christian horror movie. What I got was a boring film with an ending that calls into question every act of murder and rape ever done. I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier at a film. The sin of Pray (2008) is both its message to teenage girls and its squandering of a decent cast and location shots.

I feel I must confess that I am guilty of falling in love with “extra material” when I’ve done flash animation in the past or even comics that included unnecessary dialogue or even articles that should be edited and cut down. Pray is certainly guilty of falling in love with “extra material.” Pray should have been a 22 minute Tales from the Darkside like episode with a surprise ending. Unfortunately, the director or producer or whoever called the shots, fell in love with the footage and it lingers on pointless scenes of school, the mall, hotel rooms, inside homes, etc, ad nauseam.

And that’s a real shame because they could have had a nice short film even if I did find the end message offensive. The only way for them to have a long film is to actually scare us with the killer/rapist suspect and the irony is that the filmmakers of Pray were “afraid” to scare us–because that involves real terror and not the Disneyland version of terror in this “safe” film. “Safe” as in it is a horror film that gets the Dove Family-Approved Award. Why the hell does a horror film need that, even if it is Christian? Can’t Christians have a horror film that doesn’t have to be watched by the entire family?

Here’s a good point to make when choosing an actress for a family safe Dove approved film: don’t inspire lustful thoughts amongst young preteen and teen boys–don’t choose a lead actress with big breasts and have her hurriedly run so that everything bounces.

I actually warmed up to Audrey Battah, the lead in question, who plays Madison Preston, a typical teenage girl who happens to be a Christian. Despite the low-budget, she did her best to act realistically and create a sweetness about her character. I don’t mean to demean her about her breasts as I have no problems with them or to be honest any variety of body shape, but what exactly is family safe? I guarantee you her bodily presence is sin-inspiring for the vunerable male adolescence which is the target audience.


So let’s get down to the ending, since all this film has is glimpses of the attacker and lots of unnecessary talking and footage. At the end, Madison is left to fend for herself in a mall after hours trying to find an exit. She is stalked by the attacker, prays to God to save her and hits him over the head with a brick. Finally an exit is found, the attacker regains consciousness and Madison is chased out into the parking lot. She gets into her car, the car won’t start and she prays something to the extent of, “Jesus, start my car.” The car magically starts, she speeds away in a panic until the car gives out at a nearby gas station. Something is wrong with the car. The gas station attendant checks it out and finds that Madison’s car has no engine. Gee, how could she have driven away from the attacker? Must have been a miracle.

Even more offensive to our freethinking sensibilities is that the movie states it was inspired by a true event. True, my ass. I call bullshit.

First of all, Madison–where’s your cellphone? You have everything but a cellphone, you typical teen shopper? How come you didn’t ask the gas station attendant to call the police immediately, you airhead? Instead you tell a stranger to fix your car because you got away from a rapist. Most smart teen girls would have asked for a phone or the police, unless they were just plain featherheads.

Let’s keep going.  How come God’s miracle is only strong enough to get Madison to the nearest gas station and not all the way home to her parents?  They could have towed the car from there. Instead, God puts her in a situation with a dark gas station with another creepy individual–the gas station attendant.

How come God didn’t open the car door for her as she’s running for her life and had to fumble with her keys (oh, I forgot, you have to pray first because God’s too stupid or too arrogant to be proactive)? How come God helps Madison escape but allows this attacker to persist so that he can stalk other women that same night? Whoops, do they again have to pray? Is God so apathetic?

When the victim in the beginning of the film, a Christian mom (because we can see her Christian T-shirt) is taken/raped (who knows?), are we to assume she forgot to pray for help? Later on in the film, we see a missing flyer for her so apparently she’s dead. Prayer doesn’t seem to work all the time or maybe God just didn’t like this woman.

How come God doesn’t strike this attacker dead? How is it that God does all these pointless little things instead of doing what is logical and obvious?

Oh and, how are we to give credit to Madison’s first prayer for God to save her when she saved herself by using a brick?

This film is just a huge assault on our dignity and our intelligence and on female survival from rapists. And guess what, there’s 2 more sequels.

Per ChristianCinema’s quoting of Dove comments on Pray, “…so this could be used as an educational movie to show teens the importance of praying; and that sometimes, God will be the only one you have to talk to, and God wants you to ask Him for help.” Bullshit! I would not teach my daughter to be a victim by relying on some unverifiable being and it is aggravating to see this proposed. Teenage girls should be taught to be smart and courageous in the face of danger. Especially in the face of rapists–you get out your keys, nail them in the eye, kick them in the balls, and run like hell until you can call the police. You do not waste your time praying to God. When you are alone, you have to rely on “you.”

Does Pray really think that all the victims of Bundy or the BTK killer didn’t try praying to God to save them? What a poke in the eye to every victim of assault that has not been rescued by a divine being. Better to buy a can of mace than watch this movie.

‘Slimed’ Movie Review, Atheist B-Movie Absurdity

What a perfect day for a B-movie matinee. I got my hands on a copy of Slimed from one of the directors and I am willing to comment on any movie with an atheist character, no matter what the results might be. Especially when they openly promote the film as featuring an “Atheist Park Ranger.”  After all, this is Freethunk–we’re obsessed with atheist characters in films.

Be forewarned that this is B-movie absurdity at its highest, thus my rating of 3 stars–for absurdity. Movies like this are destined to fail–UNLESS! They have good character actors, and by no-god, Slimed did their casting right. This is literally an hour long, live-action cartoon because the characterization is zany, silly and revels in nonsense. Hearken back to early Monty Python and you might get an idea of what I’m talking about. This style of humor may either annoy you or twist your funny bone until it snaps. Fortunately, for the producers of Slimed, I love this kind of nutty lunacy–it may also have to do with tweaking the noses of highbrow, freethinking intellectuals (not that I’m anti-intellectual, but even a stodgy philosopher should come down off his pedestal and watch a Three Stooges short occasionally).

Slimed, *** For Absurdity

Speaking of Three Stooges, in Slimed we are immediately introduced to Rock Rockerson played by Jordan Lee; forest ranger and hardened atheist, he is the Moe of atheists, ready to slap, smack or threaten with an oversized revolver in order to make his point. You guessed it, not a role model for atheists but rather a parody. I know this upsets atheists looking for dignity in TV and film, however, it has to be recognized that among the “herd of cats” there are atheists you just want kick up the ass. So full of themselves, antagonistic, think everyone is stupid but them and can’t take a joke. In addition to parodying Christians, who have taken cheap shots left and right, atheists need to be poked fun of  for the sake of showing that we have a sense of humor about ourselves. I was absolutely pleased when South Park did it and I have no problems with a B-movie depiction where everyone and everything is a gag. Slimed is vaudeville with special effects.

Which brings us to the Bible salesman representing Christianity named PePe but pronounced “Pee Pee” by our atheist hero. For Christians afraid that this film takes unfair advantage of Bible thumper stereotypes I would have to say the atheist character is far more lambasted than PePe. Played by Dustin Triplett, he is the Laurel of Laurel & Hardy, who talks and–ugh–sings to a cat.

I was also impressed with Jessica Borusky’s performance as Sally, don’t want to leave her out. She had better expressions than Chrissy’s dumb looks on Three’s Company from the seventies. When you write a script that is essentially Looney Tunes without animators you have to match it with the facial expressions. These actors went all out. Holding back or being shy about jumping into the character is what kills B-movies and reminds you that you’re looking at someone’s idea of a movie rather than the movie itself. You could take both Jordan Lee and Dustin Triplett and cast them as cartoon voices for any show on Cartoon Network.

What’s the plot? Who cares! Every moment is positioned to give the directors a chance to play with dialogue, scenery and weird sight gags. The basic premise, if I must reduce it to that, is that someone is dumping a slime called “Cleano” in Rock Rockerson’s park. He only discovers it after being threatened by the IRS and is looking to make some quick cash. As Christians always have schemes to create wealth, either by praying or tricking gullible people, PePe proposes building an attraction out on the nature preserve to suck in more patronage. Of course PePe is hidng his real plans for the park. Even more insidious, though, is whoever is behind the creation of the Cleano slime.

It was fortunate that I did get a DVD copy because, for a low budget, the special effects worked nicely on my flat, widescreen TV. Especially the exploding kids–don’t worry, it’s done in such a way that you’re going to laugh. Fact is, Slimed is appropriate for kids to watch. I may have to do a doublecheck on that, but I don’t remember any swearing or supposed vulgarity–just over the top violence and if your kids have watched Itch and Scratchy on The Simpsons it’s nothing worse than that. …Hmm, the more I think about it, the more this could be a family film (honestly, I’m not sure kids have to be protected from foul language anyways, but I know some freethinkers have concerns about it). I think kids would get a kick out of Slimed and if you’re worried about the character depiction of the atheist than it’s time to have a sitdown and explain what parody is.

An hour well spent. I may have to wash my brain out with a more lofty film, but like I said, sometimes you need to watch a Stooge short to lighten up and this certainly qualifies.  If you want to get your hands on a copy you can visit the official site. Credit should also be given to directors Eric Manche and Jeff Nitzberg for coming up with this nonsense (they also make appearances in their film, who wouldn’t?).

Have Yourself a Merry Little Anti-Christmas

I’ve touched briefly here and there with the opinion that if nonreligious freethinkers want to celebrate the holidays, even absconding with the title of “Christmas,” that they should just damn well do it. Christians stole from Pagans, atheists can steal from both Pagans and Atheists if they want to make the holiday mythology their own. However, I realize there are freethinkers out there who say we should avoid Christmas altogether in order to not recognize an oppressive religion. A noble suggestion, but not realistic in my opinion. Protesting modern Christmas is like protesting Disneyland. You’re not making a statement against the Christ child, you’re making a statement against fun, whether you want to or not.

I still want to give support though to the idea of “Anti-Christmas” as it could be made to be just as much fun as Christmas itself. Imagine if you could find a way to celebrate the holidays by turning everything on it’s head. Instead of acknowledging the Virgin birth, you hand out gift-wrapped condoms to educate potential teenage mothers who don’t have the luxury of making up stories about being impregnated by God. Instead of traditional carols, you rewrite the lyrics with an apologetical backlash. Instead of Santa, you set up a neighborhood alert to watch for fat home intruders.

Maybe that’s too ambitious. If you’re like me, I enjoy settling down in my warm recliner to watch Christmas horror movies. Oddly enough, they put me in a festive mood. Here are three favorites to put on your naughty list:

Black Christmas (1974) – I can only recommend the classic original. I’ve been putting off watching the remake from 2006 because this is not a film that should have been remade. There’s something about Black Christmas that for me has become a movie-watching tradition. I  watch it every year in December and every year I listen closer to the obscene phone calls to try and understand more about the killer on the other end. The holiday horror picture was made by Bob Clark who made another famous holiday film, A Christmas Story (1983).

The story is simple: An unknown man climbs into the attic of a sorority house and lives there, all the while dragging up occasional victims. The sorority girls themselves are not cliche bimbos waiting to be victims like we’ve seen in other low budget movies of the same type. They come off as very realistic, full of personal problems and conflicts, especially the main character of Jess Bradford played by Olivia Hussey who finds out she is pregnant and decides to get an abortion, much to the dismay of her boyfriend who becomes a suspect. Another actress you might recognize is an early Margot Kidder who plays Barb, a drinking, swearing woman who likes to shock friends and strangers. There’s also a wonderfully amusing house mother who is an alcholic and all around “up yours” kind of gal. Fact is, it appears that most of the men in this movie are kind of uptight, except for the Lt. Kenneth Fuller played by John Saxon (remember him from Nightmare on Elm St.?) who is part of a laughing scene that is a precursor to the hysterical scene in Porkys (also by Bob Clark).

SPOILER ALERT: What bothers viewers about Black Christmas is the ambiguous ending. We think the killer is caught but discover that he’s still in the attic while Jess Bradford sleeps below him, trying to rest from her trauma with a supposed killer. This is admittedly what I love about the picture and you do have to realize this was 1974. There have been countless slasher films after it. Black Christmas has been referred to as one of the first of its kind and therefore should not be critiqued according to what came after it.

If you listen to the obscene phone calls you do get a story within a story of a killer who did something bad with Agnes or did something bad to Agnes. The suggestion seems to be incest, but it is not quite clear. I know the remake makes it obvious, but I like the imagination that original stirs up. I will watch the remake as I have put in my Que, but still…I’m not sure I want to know all the answers.

Christmas Evil (1980) – is an unusual Christmas horror film that is a favorite of director John Waters. You might call it a parody but it never ventures too far from reality, which is where a lot of the black humor is derived.

Again, sex is involved in the trauma of a boy named Harry as he sees Santa  molest his mother. Of course, he’s seeing his dad dressed up in the red suit, but at the time he doesn’t understand it.  Jumping to Harry’s adulthood, we find him working at a grimy toy factory and obsessed with Santa–actually being Santa. He humorously spies on the neighbor kids noting down their activities as naughty and nice.

Poor Harry, because of his personality deficiencies, is taken advantage of by his fellow co-workers and after several depressing incidents that continue to shatter his ethical framework, he loses it and takes on the Santa persona fulltime. He steals a bagful of toys and drives away in his van looking to do Santa deeds. Unfortunately, the deeds lead to murder because he can’t tolerate other people crossing the line when it comes to his beliefs. Even as blood ensues, he does bring joy to hospitalized children by delivering presents.

It’s a very dark film and destroys the illusions we put up during Christmas that everything is magical and God and Santa are with us. The most hilarious moment is when Harry tries to go down a chimney and realizes it is not physically possible. You feel bad for him and yet you laugh at his misery. If only he could take a step back from his worldview and see how ridiculous he is behaving. It’s not that everyone else is right in their behavior, but you can’t fix the world by acting like Santa Claus. He’s a myth for a reason, much like Jesus.

Santa’s Slay (2005) – This holiday horror film was added to my list of seasonal favorites just this week. Unlike the other two films, which I consider to be natural horror, this is a supernatural parody. If you can’t stand Santa you may laugh your ass off at the idea that Santa is actually an anagram for Satan. He’s Satan’s son and the only reason he’s been giving out gifts to good girls and boys  for the last 1000 years or so is that he lost a bet to an angel when they, of all things, did a curling match.

Evil Santa is played by Bill Goldberg, the wrestler, and he is perfectly awesome as a terror to all on the festive season. The film begins by him coming down a chimney to rip the holy hell out of a Christmas dinner. You’ll recognize some famous faces in the scene and the violence is so over the top that it’s meant to be funny. This is a horror humor.

The film continues like an eighties kids’ film of small town adventure–boy meets girl, boy finds out ancient secret, boy must end the reign of terror and save the day. That boy is Nicholas Yuleson played by Douglas Smith who also stars in the Mormon soap opera Big Love. Robert Culp plays his grandfather who knows that Santa is no good and has been planning for his return to evil. As Santa tears apart the town riding on his “Hell-deer” which is some sort of bull, the ultimate showdown occurs with another curling match.

Santa’s Slay features numerous Christmas jokes and the horrific violence is on par with Three Stooges slapstick. It is moronic and breezy fare but some of the scenes really caused me to gasp such as spearing a man dressed as Santa on a flagpole with the American flag–pretty blasphemous. Goldberg,  who plays evil Santa, is Jewish, of course, as well as many other actors in the film. Maybe this is their revenge for having to put up with Christianity for so long.

So there you have it! Three Anti-Christmas movies to enjoy while you sip some eggnog. Like I’ve been saying, make the holiday season your own. Feel free to post comments about your own favorite Xmas movies that are not so pro-Xmas.

Alice, Sweet Alice Movie Review

Alice, Sweet Alice - **1/2 Stars

Looking for a Halloween religious scare? Try a viewing of the early slasher classic Alice, Sweet Alice. It’s not a straightforward horror film and the director throws you in several directions until the killer is revealed–even then you’re still wondering what just happened. The killings are above par for the time period and gruesome enough to make you wince.

While an imperfect film, some of the moments in church make for a decent scare. This film starred a very young Brooke Shields as Karen, the younger of two daughters who receives a crucifix that ultimately may have led to her being strangled and burned before her first communion. Poor Alice, her older sister, is blamed for the killing because whoever did it was wearing a translucent mask and a very obvious yellow raincoat–the same one Alice likes to wear. The audience is pretty sure this sister is guilty due to her troublesome behavior.

I don’t want to give too much away but suffice to say, religious zealotry plays a large role and if you were raised Catholic the film may bring back some nostalgic or possibly horrific moments from your childhood. It’s worth a view even though I’m giving it 2 and 1/2 stars. I was entertained by the cast and the odd character of Alice (a disturbing child) as my wife and I both kept trying to figure out what the killer’s motives were.

The original film was released in 1976 as Communion, then in 1978 renamed as Alice, Sweet Alice because as usual the distributors were afraid of a public backlash if the film appeared to be about religious horror. Then the film was released one more time in 1981 because Brooke Shields became a big star and they titled it Holy Terror.

SIDENOTE: The reason I like the film is that it feels like there was a bigger story that we were given small clues to. In a way, I think the film is incomplete and had enough vision to be a classic. Unfortunately, it falls short as many early slasher films did. Still they are amusing.

SIDENOTE 2: Alice, Sweet Alice looks like it will be remade per a post on Remakes always make me nervous because while the original leaves a lot to be desired, the new idea of remakes is often to add a loud rock sound track and do nothing better than what we might see as the TV movie of the week on the Sy-Fy Channel.

‘Trick Or Treat,’ a Reminder of Eighties Fear of Heavy Metal

You may have seen this DVD cover on the cheap rack during Halloween time and wondered what it was. If you grew up in the eighties and like campy horror that doubles as a satire, then Trick Or Treat is for you. If features Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne on this particular version of the movie cover, but the main star of the movie is Marc Price–who?! Marc Price was “Skippy” the nerd from the sitcom series Family Ties. If you check out his Wiki page you can see he is not exactly a celebrated actor–which is nothing against him since Hollywood is brutal and I probably relate more to him because of it. Trick Or Treat is his one big film, and admittedly a bad one at that.

But it is a “good” bad film. It draws on the conservative Christian scare of the mid-eighties–HEAVY METAL! Parents were concerned their kids were turning into satanists, atheists, and witches because of bands like Kiss and Wasp to harder stuff like Slayer and Metallica. When you go back and listen to much of the lyrics you have to laugh at the hype. Much of the rock put out for mass teen consumption was like a comicbook script being put to music. And yet, as corny as metal bands could be, they were subversive and welcomed as a fresh of breath air against Reaganism and the Moral Majority.

Trick Or Treatactually starts out really strong with a tale of an outsider, a teen heavily bullied by preppy jocks. The scene where Marc Price’s character Eddie Weinbauer is dragged out of the boys locker room and left naked in front the girls playing in the gym is fairly heart wrenching. Especially when a cold-hearted girl takes a Polaroid of him cowering to mark the moment.

Unfortunately, the film spirals down into a ridiculous story of  a rock idol coming back from the dead wanting to kill everyone, which we can’t take seriously. Your viewing of this movie will be for campy satirical purposes only. Highlights are backmasking on a record telling Eddie how to get vengeance on his teen torturers, a bully’s date who is molested by the villainous Sammi Curr while listening to his music (as he apparently can turn into a demon) and Ozzy playing an evangelist, mocking the people who were out to get him at the time.

It’s easy to forget the past when Christians were so damned silly and easily offended. And it is hard not to be amused at the devil and obviously juvenile lyrics celebrating the devil. Christians still believe in the devil but you’ll notice that they try to redefine him as something we can accept–like he is disguised as the Pope or he influences us with an oppressing spirit or he is simply a metaphor. The devil’s literalness is fading despite apocalyptic Christians trying to revive his evil presence.

I’d put Trick Or Treat on your Halloween movie list. You can let your kids watch it too if they don’t laugh too much at the hair metal heroes depicted in the film. Sammi Curr, who turns evil, is a stereotype of every metal star that was played on MTV in the mid-eighties. I still listen to hair metal on occasion for nostalgic purposes and I have to admit I love hearing the lyrics sticking it to the preachers and stuffy conservatives. There’s better music out there of course but we all need to feed our past child sometimes.