Kanopy is a streaming service that gives patrons of participating public libraries or colleges free access to a boatload of films. To see if your library or educational institution offers Kanopy, click here. (If your local public library does participate — you will need a library card…but you already have that, right?)
They offer a wide range of film – documentaries, instructional, drama, comedy, horror movies…etc. I recently received access to Kanopy thanks to the New York Public Library; there are 80 movies on my watchlist. Here’s just a few:
This isn’t Netflix; your local library does set limits. I can only watch 10 movies a month. But these are great films. Okay, maybe not the vampire motorcycle one… 😉
It’s England – in the time of ye old horse and carriage – and something is attacking young men who venture out into the woods at night. Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing), the detective assigned to the case, is frustrated by his lack of progress and begins spinning unlikely theories. For example, could the killer be a giant eagle? The police officially go with the bird angle to put off the public while concentrating their efforts on finding a human villan. The truth is stranger than anything Quennell can imagine.
If you go to imdb or wikipedia, it will tell you upfront what/who the culprit is. It’s probably not possible to look this movie up without being spoiled in some way. I think the film is more enjoyable if the absurdity of what’s going on creeps up on you. (Anyone who pays attention will know who the problem lies with within the first 15 minutes; however, even knowing this doesn’t eradicate the wtf-ness of the creature reveal.)
Usually, a horror/mystery movie wraps up with a professor or policeman who connects all of the dots for the bewildered viewer. That doesn’t happen here. After the final credits roll, there are so many unanswered questions. How did this happen? Why would anyone do this? What does any of this have to do with Africa? .
Anywho some observations:
*”Raise the gas” – that’s interesting way to say it. Wait, did someone slip a fart joke in here?
*How do these men have daughters, but there no mention of wives or mothers. Were these kids hatched?
*The men wear suits to go fishing; no wonder they are so uptight.
*Peter Cushing is more offended by dust than death.
Tip: Don’t go necking in the woods if there’s a killer lurking about.
So, like, there’s this kid – Clare – who has a really horrible life. She gets bullied all the time by the popular clique at school and her dad is like a junk man who crawls through others people garbage. And, OMG, he does it outside of her school! That’s so embarrassing. Clare is an artist – just like her mother was. That kinda scares her because she doesn’t want to follow in her mother footsteps into an early grave.
One day, Clare’s dad finds this weird oriental music box in the garbage and decides to give it to her as a gift. Clare takes Chinese and paid enough attention in class to understand most of what’s written on the box. However, she can’t figure out that fine print… Whatevs! The mean girls are being mean on social media and Clare wishes that her main antagonist would just rot. And she does! That unexplained death that occurs later can’t be related to the wish can it? Can it?
I had fun at Wish Upon. It is not and never pretended to be a gory, bloody thrill ride. The goriest thing about the movie is the poster. Clare is a kid – so it’s a given that she’s going to make some bad decisions. I’m just happy that most teens in current movies are smart enough not to hang out in cemeteries.
Also, the movie hinted a teeny bit at some ideas that I wish (ha!) they had explored fully. What if the box isn’t granting wishes, but transporting Clare to another part of the multiverse where the life she wants already exists? Or, what if, as the box is passed from person to person in a community it creates it’s own ground-hog day type of scenario? What if people are dying and un-dying over and over again depending on who gets the box or what they wish for?
Okay, I may be putting more thought into the movie than the folks who created it.
Anywho, here are some of my thoughts during the movie:
*Wait! Is that the heart-throb from Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer playing somebody’s uncool, dumpster diving dad? I’m getting old. 😦
*The cast has some color in it. Now, I’m going to be nervous for these characters. (crosses fingers whenever they appear on screen.)
*The fine print is written in ancient Chinese? In essence, it’s an ancient Chinese secret? (groan)
*Clare, you can’t beat this by yourself. You need a priest. Or a monk. Kid, find an adult!
*That song played over the end credits is catchy.
Tip #1: Read the fine print first.
Tip #2: If you are going to put your soul in jeopardy, might as well wish big!
A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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…
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.
Tip: Watch out for the paperboy.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?