After two years and a few months of avoiding the coronavirus, I was taken ill and therefore held temporarily hostage by the Omicron variant. For all the fools out there claiming this is a hoax (which disrespects the memory of my fallen family members and friends), I can confirm this virus is real and he’s a ruthless mofo. After attending my daughter’s dance recital, I collapsed on the couch and proceeded to dissolve into a quivering mass of heat and pain. The following morning’s PCR test revealed what I began to suspect after a sleepless night hacking and sweating. The Rona had kicked me down. Anti-vaxxers, anti maskers, and other fools, be damned. To entertain myself during my isolation, I decided to host the Isolation Hot Mess Horror Film festival. (This doesn’t mean I want to host this event annually!) The films were mostly throwbacks to my traumatic childhood watching way too many scary movies.
Abby: The 1974 all-black possession film was new to me.(Thank you mom and dad because this was the most “adult” of my film fest selection.) It stars the recently deceased Carol Speed as sweetie pie marriage counselor/pastor’s wife/church choir soloist Abby. Abby is happily married to Emmett(Terry Carter), the son of Dr. Bishop Garret Williams(William Marshall). Abby’s father in law heads to Nigeria to find artifacts related to the orishas and finds a strange box honoring Eshu. When he opens the box, the games begin back in Louisville. Abby goes from kind and warm to profane and physically violent. In one famous scene, Abby psychologically eviscerates her mother’s friend, Mrs. Wiggins,who sadly becomes the first of Abby’s many victims. There are a few genuinely creepy scenes despite the low budget effects. There are also some hilarious moments; I warn you that a COVID cough and cackling don’t mix. (ouch!) Mix in a funky soundtrack and cool costumes on the gorgeous extras. The exorcism scene alone is a must-see if you’re a horror fan, a 70s stan, or, as is my case, both. Due to the movie’s legal troubles after Warner Brothers sued for its similarities to The Exorcist(the similarities are few and far between IMHO), the film is not available for streaming or purchase so search the interwebs for a copy.
The Food of the Gods: The 1976 sci-fi monster movie may be the root of my rat-phobia. Mr. and Mrs. Skinner(legendary actress and director Ida Lupino) find a river of white goo bubbling from a rock on their farm and believe it is manna or, as they call it, food of the gods. They feed it to their chickens which causes the flock to grow into giants. Other critters get into the food and wreak havoc. Pro football player Morgan(Marjoe Gortner) has to rally the surviving humans to battle giant wasps, grubs, and my least favorite, rats. The old-school effects, including rubber monster costumes, may be cheesy but still unnerving at times. Available on Amazon Prime but also free on Plex(sadly not ad-free).
Devil Dog, The Hound of Hell: The 1978 TV movie had always intrigued me when I was young but I can’t remember seeing it. It opens with a group of Satanists shelling out $5000 for a prize winning German Shepherd to breed. We are then introduced to Mike and Betty Barry(Richard Crenna and Yvette Mimieux), a typical upper middle class white couple in the burbs. Disguised as a fruit vendor, one of the devil worshippers gives one of the pups to the Barry siblings, Bonnie and Charlie (played by Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann of Return to Witch Mountain fame). Almost immediately, Lucky leaves a trail of victims, starting with the Latinx maid who called it from the get-go and even a police detective(Ken Kercheval aka Cliff Barnes on Dallas). The kids get sassy. Mama gets sexy. Mike gets a physical since he wonders if he is losing his mind. He heads to Ecuador where an Andean shaman(played by non-Native Canadian actor Victor Jory) provides some wisdom on defeating the demonic pooch. The effects are not great but the acting is passable. Available on Tubi(not ad-free but less interruptions than on Plex).
The Empire of the Ants: Produced by the same studio as The Food of the Gods, the 1977 movie takes us to the Florida Everglades where perennial scheming diva Joan Collins is peddling undeveloped swamp land to a group of marks. She has no idea the island is home to mutated ants. The ants have eaten radioactive waste and are intent on eating humans. The ants pick off the unsuspecting group one by one. The survivors make it back to town but there’s something odd about the local police and the town sugar factory. More rubber monster props and old school film editing and frankly laughable acting. Available on Plex.
Bonus selections as my family joined me for the last two movies:
Songbird: This 2020 disaster movie features Archie from Riverdale(K.J. Apa) and Descendants’ Evie(Sofia Carson) as socially distant lovers Nico and Sara. The couple face mortal challenges during the COVID-23 pandemic including evading the “sanitation” department bent on sending everyone to the ginormous Q-Camps. Available on Hulu
Attack of the Jurassic Shark: My daughter hand-picked this 2012 Canadian stinker about a Megalodon released into a freshwater lake during oil drilling. A group of college students face off with a group of dumb art thieves and with the horribly rendered CGI shark. Is it possible that my 70s campy classics have better effects and were much more entertaining? Absolutely! Available on Tubi.
Is it any wonder I developed a passion for horror movies and horror fiction? The 70s were a great time for horror; even the campy B-movie kind best the 21st century offerings. While COVID is no fun and isolation can drag, some laughs and the occasional jump scare are good for the healing process.