INVASION OF THE HOME SNATCHERS
Good Furniture Gone Bad on Screen
I live in unheimlich fear. Why? You may ask, does Dorothy’s mawkish utterance ‘There’s no place like home,’ taste like sour pop-scorn in my mouth. Well, I curse those Freudian filmmakers doing everything in their medium might to transform domestic things into menacing thingamabobs. Yet, while I curse, I realize like a reel-addict I seek it out. The following films have a common denominator they take a familiar household item, throw it in a bowl with a dash of terror, a slice of menace, a cup full of fear and chuck it in a blender to become one hell of a disturbed domestic. These are good inanimate things gone bad.
THE CEILING FAN
Pay no attention to the man under the fan
David Lynch, ringmaster of cirque de circles and wizard of warping my opinion on people called Bob, transformed the kitsch Americana ceiling fan into an omen of familial evil. Twin Peaks, is where a devoted fan, doing it’s domestic duty, goes under the Lynchian knife and returns in menacing drag; hypnotically spinning away as a harbinger of evil. My seedy motel tour of the States led me face to face with the ole ceiling fan and every night I would look under its pirouetting silhouette for signs of him. It was like searching for the pot-of-gold under a rainbow, but instead of sparkly, shiny stuff it was Bob donning a helter skelter smile.
Helter Skelter: A term used by Charles Manson (taken from the Beatles song by the same name) to describe his vision of an apocalyptic race war.
THE COFFEE POT
Some Like It Hot
Postwar Americans were creatures of comfort and commodity, like little beavers they built domestic dams out of habit and new toys. There was nothing–absolutely nothing-half so reassuring for the working man than a steaming cup of jamoke delivered from drip-o-lator to mug to housewife hand to table, stage left of bacon and eggs–the chain of nuclear being. Fritz Lang’s film noir, The Big Heat nuked the nuclear, scorched the domicile serene, when he employed the services of a coffee pot to WAKE UP those slumbering suburbanites of the postwar period. Do fear the coffee pot, for it carries the festering, moldering soul of a bestial film noir.
Cup of Jamoke: Otherwise known as cup of coffee or it’s shortened version Cup of Joe. Jamoke being a marriage between Java and Mocha.
Mother will Show[h]er
I was but a mere nymphet perched on my mothers lap while she flipped through the pages of an ancient film text, she paused on a picture of Hitch in ‘the shower,’ said but three words, ‘THAT SHOWER SCENE’ and quickly flipped the page. Why, I pondered, did a rather rotund man in a shower spark such horror; oh the tiny titillating terrors that played inside my Crown Cinema. I was at the tender age of 12 when a psychotic reaper wrapped in a floral flock and wielding a kitchen knife transformed that get clean space to a blood-splattered resting place in Psycho. Determined not to be bait for Bates, I stayed away from that chamber of death until Mother said I was starting to rot.
Epilogue: I cannot find that book or the film still I remember, believe me I have scoured google images and dusty books. It was a high angle shot of a shower on set, you could just see Hitchcock peering out above the curtain. I believe there was also a clapperboard. Actually, I’m not even sure this film still exists; perhaps I just invented it, oh, how time fiddles with nostalgia.
Night of the Mowing Down Dead
Peter Jackson takes the lawnmower, a fetish of Kiwi dads alike to dismember the dead alive in his film Brain Dead. You must remember the peaceful humdrum of Dad pushing the lawnmower on a Saturday morning; for him it was the bliss of domesticating the unruly quarter acre dream; for you it was the syrupy sound of no school, Teen Titans, and the pinky promise of frivolous freedom. Well, the King of Splat-stick splattered that serenity and now that humdrum is a siren warning me my neighborhood is swarming with a gang of George A. Romero reincarnate.
Quarter-Acre Dream: The Antipodean Dream, our version of the American Dream. The plot of land that meant freedom, prosperity and endless BBQ’S.
Video Killed The, [Joan of Arcadia] Star
Ah, The Ring, the film of the high school sleepover. I can’t quite put my finger on why this film still gives me the heebie-jeebies, perhaps it is the ‘Russian Doll’ circumstance of first seeing it–I was at a sleepover, it begins with a sleepover; people die from a girl coming out a t.v. and we were watching it on a t.v. Parents around the world must have been hollering from the hills, “Let the joyous news be spread the wicked TV will soon be dead.” TVs weren’t our after-school friends anymore, they were scary portals for raging vagina vengeance. The TV that sat on my desk met an early grave; it was joined in death by flared jeans, flawless skin and all our VCR’s.
Heebie Jeebies: Idiom, meaning anxiety inspired by place or person. Coined by Billy Debeck in the New York American, 1923 in his Barney Google cartoon.
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall
My childhood interceded with the golden age of urban legends, especially those regarding mirrors. Bloody Mary, The Candyman and the Queen from Snow White were all there to nullify my naughty narcissism. For a while, mirrors did indeed terrify me, I was sure that if I looked at one I was going to say Bloody Mary, so I used to rock up to school (having avoided the mirror) with a variety of mismatched bobbles and scrunchies in my hair; wait it was the 90s so $2 shop confetti hair was deemed fashionable. There was a film released on the cusp of the 90s, called Mirror, Mirror, a teen film in which a new girl, donned in 80s punk afterbirth, is bullied at a new school; but finds vengeance through a raging spirit trapped in a mirror. You were not a true 90s kid until you suffered from ULMF (Urban legend Mirror Fear).
The Bloody Mary Myth, retold by yours truly for a new generation: At the ripe age of teenager, whilst staring at your Iphone reflection because lets face chat it, you are very special, you are the Selfie Queen, “but we’ll never be royals.” You say Mary, Mary a few times, Mary will pop up on your skype screen; except this isn’t your friend Mary, who takes the selfies with her fluffy cat. This is a different Mary, a witch, yes but not an old fashioned malevolent without reason witch, this is a witch created by Ryan Murphy with feelings and an awesome wardrobe. She says wait ‘let me take a selfie.’
Lions, Tigers and Beds, Oh My!
Deathbed, meaning the final resting place before somebody bites the dust is redressed as quite literally a bed that kills. Cult film Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is the definition of bad taste or perhaps I should rephrase as bed taste. The film is a tour de course, with the demon-possessed bed devouring innocent travelers for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Bad low-budget films are kind of my pop-porn, I devour their shoddy everything. I have to confess that my first sleep post-film made me a smidgen weary, I did give my bed a once over for teeth but then I remembered how deliciously tasteless Deathbed was.
Nightcap: Deathbed, was the death of George Barry’s film career, he also claims he forgot he made it. I always say never trust someone with two first names, it is the 8th deadly sin.
THE KITCHEN SINK
New Zealand national cinema has been dubbed ‘cinema of the unease,’–reels with an antipodean gothic taint. Alison Maclean’s short film Kitchen Sink renders the domestic narrative uncanny when a creature returns from the terra nullius space of the kitchen sink. Your kitchen sink is a place to wash away the unwanted, things go downward and they shouldn’t return; that, my friends, is the natural order. Kitchen Sink takes these boundaries as putty to mould into a gut wrenching tactile trauma. Unfortunately, I find my hair caught down sinks all the time, and face the tough decision, do I pull the hair out now and give birth to a beastman or wash it down, where it could become a creature of the black subdued.
Terra Nullius: Law meaning ‘Land belonging to no one,’has been used to dispossess indigenous peoples in both Australia and New Zealand.
Return of the Flushed
Like Deathbed, Ghoulie’s is hardly serious about its demons from the domestic deep but sometimes the jocular haha can be relatively creepy. As a child I had a slight fear of the toilet, it was another unknown to add to the universe of infantile unknowns. It’s not like your parents explained the ebb and flow of the toilet system, they were primarily vested in rewarding you with gold stars for actually sitting on the big people potty. I didn’t like the drafty space beneath me, or the big whooshing sound or the fact your number 1’s and 2’s were sucked to a stinky somewhere. Ghoulie’s a series produced during the 80s-90s, is about Labyrinth-esque creatures coming through the toilet and such visceral abhorrence takes me right back to those primal shudders associated with the loo.
Top 5 B Grade Creature Features
1. The Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954
2. Tarantula, 1955
3. Godzilla, 1954
4. The Wolfman, 1941
5. Mothra, 1961
Dial M For Murder
On screen, babysitting has been pocket money for the single, white female; it was kind of encouraged as a glimpse into the inevitable world of child rearing. When a Stranger Calls, (that is the 1979 original), about a young babysitter whose babysat are murdered by a Seaman who relishes the odd threatening buzz, preys and plays on the vulnerability of female alone and the adolescent kingdom of prank calls (In a land before phone tracking). Oh, how I fondly remember the salad day squeals that followed a successful prank call and the terrific terror from being on the receiving end. After watching When a Stranger Calls, I was rather recluse in the babysitting scene and prank phone calls were just terror minus the terrific.
Salad Day: Coined in Shakepeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, “…My salad days,/When I was green in judgment, cold in blood.” It is also the title of Mac Demarco’s sophomore album.
So, there we go, I am haunted by domestic jetsam gone bad, the only cure a medicinal dosing of The Brave Little Toaster.