The Facility

Not so much trial by fire, as trial by drug trial by fire, seven volunteers look to line their pockets to the tune of a £2,000 (about $2,500 US) by taking some experimental meds, agreeing to live in some off-the-beaten trek facility with lacks all mod-cons, including internet and anything that could be used to summon help ASAP.

That’s a pretty great premise, and the results prove efficacious, bonus, it’ll end up in Lancet!

The staff at The Facility don’t prove to be much help at all, as after all, it’s a double-blind study wherein neither staff nor subject knows what drug is being administered, which adds a quick-and-easy layer of intrigue to the proceedings, even if the researchers’ biases aren’t particularly well hidden.

And the people potentially putting their lives on the line for the equivalent of a nice studio flat in a semi-decent area of London? There’s a Charlie Manson doppelganger whose saddle-face tells a tale of one pharma trial too many, but at least hasn’t suffered the fate of the Simpsons’ Mr McGreg, who has a “leg for an arm and an arm for a leg” with his dangerous occupation choice. He’s a seen-it-all vet of these types of things and scares the other assembled with a possibly apocryphal yarn about staff in other studies taking advantage of comatose participants.There’s a journalist who’s taken a placebo, who arouses suspicions of her colleagues, a mindless workout fiend who despite instructions to the contrary, can’t keep himself from sit ups/push-ups and others not given much of a backstory.

Still the tension builds nicely with mordant humour, nice lighting, and inspired practical effects on the cheap.

There’s no hissing zombies or frothing-at-the-mouth, a welcome body horror change of pace.

This reviewer saw this one following the exemplary French documentary, Unit of Difficult Patients: What Future for the Criminally Insane? but wouldn’t recommend that as a date-night double-bill.

*** (out of 5)

The Tingler

So tempting to “toy” (ahem) with the idea of including a racy joke about The Tingler, but in the interest of keeping this post Google-searchable, will impose restraint.

Vincent Price is Dr. Warren Chapin, a penitentiary coroner who is consumed with the study of fear. (If there was ever a movie that proved FDR’s dictum, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” this is it).

In one of Chapin’s examinations, the doc discovers a phenomenon that is not so much spine-tingling, as it is spine-shattering: a gaping spinal splinter appearing on X-ray of a man who’d been recently executed.

Why the state would waste finite resources on doing autopsies when the cause of death is clearly known is a question for another time, but hey.

Chapin posits that there’s a fear response so intense that when it’s sufficiently built up, it becomes fatal.

Chapin, a consumed, obsessive, unethical (and very frequent) violator of the Hippocratic Oath, fires a starter pistol at his estranged wife to generate the response, and then examines her while she’s passed out. His hypothesis: fear forms a solid spinal mass, which is dissipated through the tension release of a scream. It’s an insanely stupid, yet hilarious idea.

Soon, his friend and deaf mute wife (who are proprietors of a silent film house. Whoa, the jokes write themselves!) become involved in the shenanigans.

The Tingler is the brainchild of William Castle  (Macabre, The House on Haunted Hill, producer of Rosemary’s Baby). Castle, a hype man of the highest order (whose modern exemplars include site pal Lloyd Kaufman and John Waters), was known for taking out insurance policy for those who dropped dead from fright, and for jerry-rigging theater seats to generate a mild electrical current. The so-called Percepto buzzers were a bit of a bust, but still…you couldn’t help but get behind his go get ’em Barnum & Bailey hucksterism.

As for the film?  It’s hilariously absurd and fun. What a premise.

And a bonus…it was the first recorded use of LSD on celluloid.

*** (out of 5)

[Please check out our podcast discussion of The Tingler on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]