• The Horror (of Having Rented It, or Bought a Ticket)

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    For every brilliant horror film, there is an equal and opposite
    film, a mistake, an error, an aberration, an abomination. Here follows
    my short list of horror cinema’s most incalculably misconceived
    efforts. I do not include any of the usual attacks on Ed Wood because
    his delightfully campy inflections transcend the limits of his technique.
    Nor do I include films that are merely unconvincing because of their
    special effects as were many monster movies of an earlier time.
    These films bring a third O to BOO!

    “The
    Horror of Party Beach” (1964)

    Recoil
    in laughter from Del Tenney’s vision of the apocalypse in which
    sea monsters, zoned-out on radioactive waste, devour the surfers
    and their girlfriends.

    “Astro-Zombies”
    (1969)

    I
    cannot remember the director’s name. And it is just as well; for
    this humorless narrative drones endlessly on about a CIA plot to
    employ a zombie created by some Space Agency. There is an unhappy
    marriage, a gun-wielding girl in a bikini (not altogether disappointing),
    and some spies who remind me of Ping, Pang, and Pong from “Turandot.”

    “The
    Stepford Wives” (1975)

    I
    know we’re all supposed to love Bryan Forbes’s feminist parable
    of oppressed women living as brainless clones with evil men. But
    even William Goldman’s screenplay based on Ira Levin’s novel cannot
    save this film from the horror of its own political expediency.
    All the men associated with this film imagined it would help them
    seduce their “liberated” girlfriends. Oh, my apologies. I thought
    everyone knew this classic male strategy.

    “Ilsa,
    She Wolf of the SS” (1974)

    Director
    Don Edmonds should do the catering for Abraham Foxman’s birthday
    parties. I was forced by my coterie of LA leftists to watch this
    ridiculous portrait of Nazi savagery. A voice-over portentously
    reminds us that the film is based on the actual Ilsa Koch of Buchenwald.
    Sex and violence and more violence and yet more cannot retrieve
    from failure this laughable propaganda styled a horror film in which
    the horror is “real.” Nazis? Enough already. Give us a break. If
    I am told one more time how horrible the Germans were, I will send
    an army of Astro-Zombies into the nearest Museum of Tolerance.

    “The
    Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1978)

    Again,
    the director’s name escapes me. I only wish I could expunge from
    my memory this dreadful betrayal of the original. The plot goes
    something like this: Richard Burton flies on a giant locust from
    Georgetown to North Africa where James Earl Jones spits a globule
    of red evil at him. Linda Blair makes an appearance. Some doctors
    recommend therapy. Where are the Nazis when you need them?

    But
    here is the moment I’ve been waiting for:

    “Blair
    Witch 2: The Book of Shadows” (2000 and closing soon)

    Considering
    how fundamentally the first film changed American horror cinema,
    one might reasonably expect a clever and sensitive sequel. But this
    film is a disaster in every respect. Its attempt to be inclusive
    by replacing the first film’s realistic homogeneity with several
    “types” of characters fails as certainly as its conventional plot
    structure, its unimaginative photography, its plodding exposition,
    its annoying soundtrack (with a cover of the MASH theme by Marilyn
    Manson), its imprecise evocation of details from the first film,
    and its almost complete dereliction from the plot summaries listed
    for months on its own website. That this film was made at all is
    the only thing frightening about it. The market is already punishing
    the film-makers for this heinous assault on the intellects of loyal
    fans. I hope the BW2 cast and crew have a Happy Halloween because
    they are going to be forgotten by Christmas.

    November
    2, 2000

    Scott
    Wilkerson is curator of the Ward Library at the Mises
    Institute
    .

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