Chillerama

ChilleramaA doddering projectionist declares “nobody cares for magic anymore” in Chillerama, this paean to the movie drive-in, a phenomenon which debuted in 1933 for 25 cents a car in Camden New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia.

It’s a film meant to conjure up the magic of the experience, which to horror fans meant the 70s, chronicled with reverence and brio by our pal Scott Drebit in his column over at Daily Dead, “Drive-In Dust Offs.”

For those of us who revere horror cinema, it’s more about the era than the experience, as truth be told, that’s always been lousy — the headlights on the screen, the horns, the interminable wait to get out, the long walks to pee…

Chillerama is a horror anthology that’s both based on and a celebration of the happenings at a drive-in movie theater. The drive-in audience and staff provide the connective tissue/wraparound, divided into four disparate featurettes -some more magical than others – with occasionally inspired bits of grotesquerie.

In ‘Wadzilla,’ “spermapramine” is given to a nebbish with an extremely low sperm count. But that’s misleading. Turns out he’s got a large one indeed, and that’s giving him groin pain.

It’s expelled on a hot date and grows to very large proportions and obscene results ensue. There’s an inspired bit of lunacy involving the Statue of Liberty in this 50s monster movie throwback with a twist (a “twisted nut-sack,” says the nebbish’s buddy to explain his friend being doubled over in pain). It’s audacious and pretty unforgettable.

ChilleramaBut Chillerama may have climaxed there.

‘I Was a Teenage Wearbear’ mixes homoerotic wrestling with leather bears and butt bites, all in musical form. There’s a greaser (accompanied by his two, finger-snapping henchmen) attempting to woo a wrestler who has ambiguous sexuality. The music’s very Eddie Fuller and Eddie Cochrane.

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein features the Fuhrer killing the Frank family and cobbling together a creature out of spare parts, which then exacts its revenge. As an attempt to lighten the subject matter, Hitler speaks gibberish while the rest of the cast speaks German, but The Great Dictator this isn’t. The monster (famed Jason actor Kane Hodder) wears a tallit prayer shawl, and the less said about this segment overall, the better. Horrendous.

Chillerama_2Finally, the drive-in audience that’s subjected to all this transforms into mindless zombies (a la the Lamberto Bava cult-classic, Demons) because of goo that’s mistakenly added to popcorn.

This transitions into Deathication, which comes with a caveat, inspired by William Castle, that those with a weak constitution might not be able to handle all the flying shit.

And it delivers on its promise.

The highs aren’t high enough to commend Chillerama.

**1/2 (out of 5)

The Tower

the_tower_movieLensed partly at the MacDonald Block (an Ontario Government building in Toronto), a co-production of Hamilton’s CHCH-TV and with provincial trillium logos aplenty, the only way The Tower could be more Canadian was if it condescended to Americans and referenced the ’72 Summit Series.

It’s fitting that this was filmed on Ontario government property as The Tower is a film about failed green energy technology.

The edifice in question is completely energy self-sufficient and is the headquarters of the mysterious Sandawn Corporation.

In order to conserve, or how mobster Tony Soprano would put it in New Jersey-ese, “con-soive,” the tower draws heat energy* from wherever it can find it.

So far, so good.

However, when there’s a system malfunction, the device sets its sights on human beings — and with wonderful, if cheesy results — where people disintegrate and disappear into the low budget ether. (This is made-for-TV Canadiana from 1985.)

This will resonate with anyone who’s ever blown a fuse. It’s a darn great conceit.

The first sign of trouble is when one of the building’s secretaries is availing herself of the state-of-the-art tower’s corporate swimming pool. She’s zapped trying to change the Jacuzzi settings.

Mr. Sandawn, the graying CEO, is a serial philanderer and the subject of a kidnapping plot by a male/female criminal mastermind duo, there if only to add to the body count and offer an excuse to get people into the structure off-hours. Ditto for the security guard Jerry, his girlfriend, a couple of frustrated ad men working late, and Sandawn’s suspicious missus. It actually works in the film’s favor that this building is mostly abandoned, as hundreds of salary-men rushing to the exists would’ve undermined the frights.

the_tower_movie_canadian

Anyway, when one of the ad men is burned in the leg and has to be hustled down a stairwell to escape, the building’s survivors are compelled to try and figure out a way to de-activate the tower’s killer BTU-sucking energy system, dubbed “LOLA.”

In our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons, we have a section called “Deadly Machinery,” which is the closest thematic category to this cheapie oddball we could find. Even though that chapter’s devoted to killer laundry presses, trucks, curling irons and propeller and other such conveniences, The Tower would have fit right in.

In horror films, particularly the nature-run-amok genre, events are set in motion by evil corporations. Here, it’s corporate social responsibility gone horribly wrong.

The tower is highly original, fun Saturday afternoon sci fi fare.

*** (out of 5)

[*Editor’s note: Writer/director Jim Makichuk tells us that the story was inspired by a building in Calgary that actually did draw heat from its occupants]