Tuesday Terror: Student Bodies (1981)

studentbodiesA killer is terrorizing the sexually active students of Lamab High School. Toby, the last virgin in the land, is the only one concerned that fellow classmates are disappearing. Can she convince her friends of the danger and stay out of the clutches of the dude in goulashes?

Student Bodies (1981) is a horror parody; the grand daddy of films like Scary Movie. So, there’s traces of Carrie, Halloween, etc. Rather than a knife or an axe, ourkiller uses a garbage bag and whatever is near by (eggplant, eraser, whatever). The students and teachers all are quirky “types”. A couple of bits go on for too long but that’s the nature of these things. Everyone is a suspect – even Toby! – and the ending makes absolutely no sense. Then again, it’s not supposed to.

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Les Victims

Though the film is awash in horny, dead teens – there’s absolutely no gore, no sex and no nudity. You see flesh, but not the nsfw kind. At one point, a man’s cheese is exposed. So how did this movie get an R rating? This scene explains it all:

I like this flick.

Tip #1: Sexual repression causes swine flu.
Tip #2: Homosexuality is the up and coming thing.

Tuesday Terror: The Evil (1978)

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The Evil (1978) is a horror movie about a creepy house with a secret in the basement. A fellow (Richard Crenna) has bought a mansion that has been abandoned for several years; he plans to turn it into a rehab clinic. He invites a group of friends down to help get the place habitable.

Our hero ignores all of the signs that this is a very bad idea:
*the caretaker has disappeared.
*Native Americans avoided the land the house was built on
*neighbors think the house should be torn down
*there’s a stature with a cryptic warning about not letting “it” out
*the dog is acting funny
*parts of the ceiling falls on C.J.’s head when he is touring the property

The dude’s wife is seeing weird things but she’s a woman so…

Since the gang ignores the not-so-subtle hints to leave, the mansion says, “Screw it. I’m not letting you go.” The shutters close, the doors lock, the bodies start to drop—suddenly, everyone wants to go.

If you’ve watched a lot of TV in the 70s/80s/90s, you will visually recognize a lot of the actors here: Andrew Prine, Lynne Moody, Cassie Yates, etc.

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It’s not a great movie or a bad movie, it’s just okay. The ending is a bit of a letdown. If it’s on and you’ve never seen it before, give it a go.

TIP: Listen to your wife.

Tuesday Terror: A Small Dark Place

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A Small Dark Place by Martin Schenk (1997) is a horror novel that is broken into two parts. In part one, Sandra and Peter Wiley are on the brink of financial ruin. They have been struggling for years and have enemies dedicated to seeing them suffer and fail. Then, Sandra remembers an event from her youth—the riveting rescue of Baby Carlotta. The country fell in love with Baby Carlotta when she fell into a dry well. The rescue took several days, but she was pulled out of the hole alive and (thanks to donations from well wishers) one hundred thousand dollars richer.

Desperate for cash, Sandra and Peter decide to create their own Baby Carlotta moment by having their son Will fall into a similar type of hole. They set a “trap” for their boy and wait for him to cry out. Unfortunately, it is their daughter Andromeda—a child who is frightfully afraid of the dark—that falls in.

Part two is set in the present, roughly 1997. Andromeda is all grown up and coming back home. The rescue had various affects on people and the prospect of her return is just as exciting/anxiety producing. While the town is ready to have a parade and herald the return of their favorite daughter, Andromeda is ready to settle some old scores. She learned a lot in that small, dark place and she’s ready to show the world.

The book does a great job with the parents. You really do understand how they got to a point where exploiting a child like this seems like a viable option. At the same time, the decision isn’t an easy one. If they don’t do it, how far down in metaphorical darkness will the family fall? Could the family even survive? If they do it (and they do), how will that change the relationship dynamics? Can you really justify endangering a child for the greater good of the family?

At the same time, this is a horror novel. So, plenty of one dimensional characters abound but they don’t need to be fleshed out beyond their relationship with the Wiley family. It was a fun read for me, especially since I remember the real-life Baby Jessica incident.

If you were born in the mid 80s or later, you probably don’t know anything about Baby Jessica. On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure was playing in a backyard with other children when she fell down a dry well. It took rescuers two to three days to get her out. Thanks to round the clock cable news, the nation watched every step of the rescue.

There were images of her parents at the top of the hole talking to her, singing songs. Experts behind desks explained how the rescuers planned to drill a parallel tunnel so that an adult human can get down to her level set her free. There were interviews with neighbors, background pieces on the community—saving this little girl was an event.

To my memory, it was acknowledged as a freak accident. No one blamed the parents. There were no threats of taking the baby away. People sent prayers, cards and money – not death threats. This was pre-Internet, people with horrible thoughts didn’t have a venue to instantly and anonymously share their venom with the world.

Once Baby Jessica was pulled out of the hole, there were a few immediate follow up national stories to assure everyone that she was physically and mentally healthy. She met President Bush (the 1st one). Then, the news cycle moved on.

If you want to learn more about Baby Jessica, many stories about her are archived here: Baby Jessica Rescue Page

Tuesday Terror: Harvester (game)

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You wake up in a small town with no memory of who you are or how you got there. Everyone knows you though! The neighbors are too friendly – especially the school principal who would love to get you alone for some “quality time”. Your parents are loving if not a little eccentric. To talk to your dad, you’ll have to break into the bedroom where mom keeps him tied down…

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Everyone is looking forward to you taking that leap into manhood by joining the lodge. How far would you go to join the brotherhood? Not interested in signing up? You don’t really have a choice.

This game is broken into two parts. During the 1st half, you are meeting your neighbors and fulling small quests/favors. The goal is to learn what the heck is going on and securing an invitation to lodge membership. The 2nd half starts when you get into the lodge and are faced with other challenges. A shotgun is handy here.

This is one of my favorite horror games. The small town was fully of quirky people; I enjoyed uncovering new levels of weirdness. However, it is also pretty graphic in it’s depiction of violence – we’re talking rated R. There is blood everywhere and scenes that most people would find genuinely disturbing.

You can buy it at gog.com or Steam. It was made for windows 3.1 (I believe) so the controls are ancient. It’s still fun. And shooting up the lodge is a great way to wind down after a tough commute.

Tip: Watch out for the paperboy.

Tuesday Terror: The Legacy (1978)

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When I was a kid, I had a daydream that one day someone would show up with a letter declaring that I was the long lost relative of an insanely rich person who lived overseas. It would be the start of a great adventure that would end in me swimming through gold a la Scrooge McDuck.

Lucky for me, that did not happen. Horror movies prove that being called off to foreign lands to claim your rightful inheritance can be deadly.

In the Legacy, Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) is an architect hired to work on a castle/mansion in the countryside. When she arrives with boyfriend Pete (Sam Elliot) in tow, she discovers there is no job—just a weekend gathering of some of the wealthiest people in the world. Her would-be boss is on the brink of death.Those gathered are waiting to see which one of them will inherit his vast fortune.

When the assembled start to die off under strange circumstances, one has to wonder if there is a killer among them or if a supernatural hand is pulling the strings.

This is a fun movie. All of the prospective heirs have committed evil acts in the past. What’s (another) murder or two if it means coming into the ultimate fortune? Maggie and Pete are the only innocent guests in the batch but innocence is no protection against fate.

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Pete is a very interesting character. He wants to take care of and protect Maggie; the “we need to get out of here” instinct kicks in pretty quickly. Yet, he can’t make a great escape happen. He’s worried but manly. Circumstances that would scare others don’t bother Maggie too much.

The staff of the castle isn’t put off by the deaths at all. They’ve seen the process so many times before…

Tips:
1) Be careful when you make a deal. The devil is in the details.
2) When you inherit something, you get the history/horror/baggage that comes along with it.

Tuesday Terror: Death Bed – The Bed That Eats

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The Death Bed is about a demon possessed bed that kills people in dramatic, long drawn-out fashion. This is such a bad movie. I watched in disbelief. When you think the movie has hit rock bottom, lo and behold, there is another layer of schlock.

I imagine that it was a fun concept on paper that the filmmaker didn’t have the coins to pull off. And the story is just…

There are so many other angles the writer could have explored. For example: Laying all night in a nest of evil, what would that do to a person’s mind? But no, our bed has to physically demolish people with bad effects.

If you are looking for a so bad it’s good experience, this isn’t it. In the words of Queen Bey, don’t hurt yourself. You need a nap? Watch this snippet.

Tip: Set your alarm before watching.

Tuesday Terror: The Guardian (1990)

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A yuppie couple hires Camilla to look after their newborn. Little do they know, their new nanny is a Druid who kidnaps babies to fuse/sacrifice them to a special tree (the kids become wood carvings). There are wolves…and a killer tree. Yeah.

Unlike other family centered horror movies, it’s the father who knows something is wrong almost immediately. He’s having weird dreams, etc. However, he doesn’t act until evidence puts itself squarely in his ear. Though she is skeptical when first confronted by the truth, it doesn’t take long for mom to get on board.

There are also some nice horror moments (killer tree! wolves!) leading up to the “we have to get our kid away from her” scene. Just when you think the movie is going to whimper out with a weak ending, it turns into a weird 4-way battle royal for the soul of the child.

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This movie has an interesting class element that doesn’t really get fully explored. Because our villain is a nanny, her victims are the sons of upper middle class to rich folks who can afford her. I believe she is only after male children. There is something about the affluence of the parents that make those kids “the best” to offer-up.

You know what else is missing? The police. The tree is full of baby carvings; our nanny has been at this for a few years. It’s really hard to believe that a rash of newborns snatched from a well-to-do neighborhood doesn’t have a special police task force dedicated to solving the mystery.

It would be interesting to see this movie remade. Then again, the updated version would probably have Camilla (Cami, for short) be a teen eco-witch who has uncovered a ritual that, through time, would literally let her become one with nature. Nevermind.
Though a tinge slow in spots, It’s enjoyable overall.

Tip: If you are calling a woman’s name and she is ignoring you take the hint. Definitely don’t intrude on her tree time.

Stray thought: What if Camilla had been the nanny for Rosemary’s baby?

Tuesday Terror: Tintorera (1977)

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A killer tiger shark chomps on tourists and playboys off the coast of a Mexican island. Sounds like a run-of-the-mill Jaws rip off, right? Tintorera has something I didn’t expect—lots of (soft core) nudity.

You don’t see the sex, but there are plenty of “next morning” shots of naked bodies (ass cheeks up!) stretched out. Somehow, these folks will go skinny dipping at the drop of a hat, yet the sun has tanned everything but their bottoms.

Between the first and 2nd shark attacks, the movie transforms itself into an interesting love story. A business man, vacationing on a huge yacht, becomes friends with a buff playboy when the woman they had been “dating” seems to ditch both of them. Together, they meet and seduce other ladies – until they find a special woman that suggests the three of them form a triad. Then, there’s a lovely montage of their joyful threesome (outside of the bedroom).

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Andrés García / Susan George / Hugo Stiglitz

Eventually, the Tintorera gets jealous that he’s getting so little screen time and shows up to break up their happy home.

Once this becomes a full out “kill the shark” movie, the fire dies out of it. The actors were having great fun partying on the beach and running around the yacht in the buff. When it’s time to hunt the killer shark, dude sounds like he’s looking into the dead lights.

This is a romance/free-love tale forced into a lackluster shark attack film. I liked it though.

Tip: Don’t take the love(s) of your life shark hunting for kicks.

WILTW: Grim Fairy Tales Can Come True

(Warning: mutilation/murder of children)

Oh, Granny, your teeth are tremendous in size!
“Oh, Granny, your teeth are tremendous in size!’/’They’re to eat you!’ — and he ate her!”

Growing up, my mother would tell me a gruesome story. When she was a teenager, it was discovered that the son of one of the neighbors killed children. He put the bodies in the woods but he kept their private parts in jars hidden in the basement.

On one hand, because my mom was telling this story, it had a little bit of weight to it. I don’t remember how old I was when she first told me, but I processed it like a fairy tale. And don’t forget – fairy tales themselves are gruesome, full evil step mothers and witches who eat children.

What was true in my elementary school mind was that the school janitor was a witch who lived in the woods. All of my classmates knew someone who knew someone who had found her house deep in the woods and been chased away.

Plus, I saw this woman with my own eyes and knew that she had long stringy hair like the witch in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Did I ever hear her cackle? No. Did she ever try to snatch me up in the hallway? No. But I stayed arms length away from her anyway.

The witch story had to be true because everybody knew.

My mother is the only one who remembered the killer across the street. My grandparents didn’t know anything about it. My friends hadn’t heard the story from their parents. If you are quiet and pretend to be concentrating on something else, you can overhear a lot of “grown folks business.” I never heard other adults mention it at all.

Also, the story was lean on specifics – neither the killer nor the victims had names. So, I thought my mother was mistaken.

Over the years, when I saw a horror or sci-fi movie that had ominous jars with flesh/limbs in the background of a scene, I remembered the story. When the Internet came along, I tried looking up the case but with few facts I always came up empty.

Everything changed with the Serial podcast. I listened to the first season interested in the mystery like everyone else. I could envision the Baltimore City and Baltimore County locations. In one episode, a guest mentioned a website that listed all of the bodies found in Leakin Park over the years.

It was easy to find. Near the beginning where the names and ages of children. The page also mentioned the name of the murderer. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so scared. Could this be the story fragmented in my mom’s memory?

With the additional info, I found an article from the Washington African American about the capture of the killer – an 18-year-old unemployed janitor. The front page story delved into the gruesome details of case. It included his address. This was the killer across the street.

Going further, I looked him up on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website to figure out the outcome of the trial. He was found criminally insane and locked away in a state mental facility. Every once in a while he tries to get released…

I’ve known about this for a while and tried to write about it a couple of times, but I just couldn’t. I don’t want to forget or try to bury it away, but it feels “wrong” to just throw out the names of children I don’t know. Could they have siblings—parents even—that are still alive? Whatever terror I felt about learning the truth behind the urban legend is nothing compared to the hell and horror they experienced firsthand.

Also, since this killer is alive, I don’t want him or anyone connected with him to see his name mentioned anywhere in the universe. But you can the read the article here.

Reviews: The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

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Available at Amazon | Kobo

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

From Omnivore Bibliosaur:

Sexy, suspenseful, and full of surprises, The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales features an array of previously published short stories starring women of color. Tawanna Sullivan serves up a sampler platter of genres: erotica, horror, suspense, thriller, fantasy, and romance. This slender volume is the perfect companion for any spare moment or a leisurely morning.

-read the full review

From Black Lesbian Literary Collective

Overall, I enjoyed this collection, and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a short, fun, Black lesbian read. Sullivan is good, and while the erotica is probably her best work, I’d love to see her do more with speculative fiction and horror.

-read the full review

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