August 10, 2020

THE BARGE PEOPLE: Something Fishy's Going On

THE BARGE PEOPLE (DVD Review)
2018 / 83 mn
From RLJE FILMS

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀


I don’t know whether or not touring England’s rural canals on a rented barge is actually a thing, but we’ll play along. While it doesn’t really seem like a good time even without murderous cannibals, it’s at-least an interesting setting for a horror film.


Unfortunately, any originality in The Barge People ends there. The rest is a drab rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in which four dull twenty-somethings embark on a weekend boat trip, only to run afoul of the locals. Their first unfortunate encounter is with a scuzzy couple with serious anger issues who later attack them on their own boat. But that’s nothing compared to the arrival of slimy, fish-faced mutants whose diet happens to consist of dull twenty-somethings.


While originality isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a good horror film, The Barge People stumbles right out of the gate by introducing people who’re almost impossible to care about, including the standard-issue, self-centered douchebag with a sweater tied around his neck and a phone glued to his ear (meaning, of course, he’s a dead man walking). That character is painted in broad strokes, as is the angry couple they clash with, but the rest have even less personality.


Good with tartar sauce.
The film largely depends on tired tropes and the stupidity of its characters to move the plot along. Unlike Tobe Hooper’s perennial classic, this one substitutes gore for shocks and suspense. But even the death scenes are repetitive and dull, mostly notably during the initial attack, which seems to go on forever and mostly consists of mutants nuzzling their victims’ necks as blood sprays everywhere. While the mutants’ fish-head make-up is impressive for the budget, I think seasoned gorehounds will be largely disappointed.

Things culminate, of course, with a final girl being stalked through the dark woods, along with a predictable plot revelation that cynically fulfills the promise of the movie’s tag-line, “No one escapes.” Unique setting notwithstanding, The Barge People brings nothing to the table we haven’t seen before in countless other movies since 1974.


KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEH...LIKE SHARING THE BED WITH THE DOG.

August 9, 2020

The Canon of CANNON FILMS

THE CANNON FILM GUIDE VOLUME 1: 1980-1984 (Book Review)

By Austin Trunick (2020/528pp)

FROM BEARMANOR MEDIA

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸


You gotta admire author Austin Trunnick's dedication to his subject. This is only the first of three volumes dedicated to the history and output of a single independent studio. Considering Cannon Films' tenure as a viable entity was only 14 years, the fact this book runs over 500 pages should be a good indication of what awaits the reader.

But Cannon wasn't just any independent studio. The brainchild of Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus, the brand remains beloved worldwide by fans of made-to-order movie cheese. As American-International Pictures was to the 50s & 60s, Cannon Films was to the 80s, cranking out hundreds of bandwagon-jumping, budget-conscious, just-add-Bronson titles, as well as some fleeting stabs at respectability with the occasional “prestige” project.


After laying the groundwork with colorful bios and professional histories of Golan & Globus - leading to their purchase of the struggling Cannon Group - Volume 1 covers the first five years. Each subsequent chapter is dedicated to a single film, from initial inspiration through box office performance. Trunnick includes a staggering amount of detail in-between: anecdotes, plot synopses, production issues, criticism and, most entertainingly, behind-the-scenes turmoil and various clashes between some directors' artistic visions and Golan-Globus' general lack of one. That being said, the most interesting chapters are about some of the studio's most notorious trainwrecks, such as Sahara, Bolero and The Apple.


But fear not, readers...while Volume 1 doesn't include every Cannon film, the kitschy cult classics we most-associate with the studio are here in abundance (and just as lovingly discussed)...a plethora of ninjas, swordsmen, horny teens, hapless virgins, slashers, urban vigilantes, breakdancers and, of course, more Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris than the surgeon general recommends. Also included is one of the last creative gasps of John Cassavetes (Love Streams), a union of four horror legends (House of Long Shadows) and an attempt at corralling Robert Mitchum long enough to crank out some Oscar bait (That Championship Season).


The stamp of quantity.

Trunnick writes with a lot of affection for his subject while still acknowledging the dubious quality of a majority of the studio's output (though his gushing praise for The Last American Virgin is inexplicable). Each chapter is loaded of enough trivia and facts to placate even those who think they know everything about a particular film. While there are occasional factual errors (Bronson was not the villain in Once Upon a Time in the West), the exhaustive amount of research that went into the book is impressive. My only complaint might be that the plot synopses for each film are waaaay too long. If you've already seen a particular film, you can easily skip several pages without missing much. On the other hand, Trunnick is also sparing readers the torment of actually having to sit through some of these movies.


The book ends just as Cannon Films is beginning to hit its stride, meaning Volume II will obviously feature the glory years, when the studio not-only dominated video shelves, but briefly gave the majors a run for their money. If those years are covered with the same insane attention to detail, it'll be another keeper. In the meantime, The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1 is essential reading, not just for those who still revere these films, but anyone interested in a truly epic rags-to-riches story.


KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEE-OW! LIKE TAUNTING A MOUSE TO DEATH

The Challenge of VALLEY OF THE GODS

VALLEY OF THE GODS (Blu-ray Review) 

Starring Josh Hartnett, Berenice Marlowe, John Malkovich, Keir Dullea, John Rhyes-Davies, Jamie Ray Newman, Joseph Runningfox, Steven Skyler. Directed by Lech Majewski. (2019/127 min)

FROM WELL GO USA


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼


The film opens with a contemplative Josh Hartnett driving down a lonely desert highway and ends with a giant toddler stomping through a major city. In between...well, good luck, kids!


To call Valley of the Gods ambiguous is an understatement. I was nearly an hour into it before being able to (sort of) piece together the relationships between the four main characters. The film switches from one to the next then back again with little in the way of transition. Throw in a non-linear storyline, sparse dialogue, flashbacks and plenty of isolated shots which are obviously intended to be thematically symbolic and you've got one helluva perplexing picture.


Speaking of theme, I'm still not 100% sure what it is and can't shake the feeling director that Lech Majewski would not-only be amused by this, but even a bit contemptuous of anyone who didn't “get it.” In fact, he openly mocks all forms of mainstream entertainment a key scene where disillusioned writer John Ecas (Josh Hartnett) bitterly laments all the absurdity in the world. If we, as viewers, are more confused than enlightened, we have failed the challenge and are therefore also part of the absurdity.


Elsewhere, John Malkovich adds another maladjusted character to his resume with Wes Tauros, the world's richest man who has exiled himself in a Xanadu—like castle overlooking the city. Yet for all his wealth, money cannot provide the one thing he desires most: to have his dead wife and daughter back. Though not for a lack of trying, like when he enlists the service of Karen Kitson (Berenice Marlohe), who agrees to be made-over to resemble Tauros' wife because he promised to get her back the son she lost in a custody battle. Still none of this explains why Tauros imprisons all his guests – including Karen - in the basement.


Tauros also plans to mine uranium from the Valley of the Gods, a desert

region inhabited by Native-Americans who are not happy about it, especially hard-drinking, hot-headed tribal cop Grey Horse (Steven Skyler). In one of the film's more blatant metaphors, he has sex with the desert itself, which in-turn gives birth to a child too heavy for anyone to lift on their own (and presumably the same toddler who goes full-Godzilla during the climax).

 

John Malkovich...Sith Lord.
These characters and scenarios are tenuously linked through Ecas, who's invited to interview Tauros and also pops up in the desert valley, apparently to purge himself of his previous miserable life (which includes forgetting the wife who dumped him). Interspersed throughout the “plot” are a plethora of sequences – often devoid of exposition – which are supposed to convey some thematic significance. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we simply feel stupid...sorta like watching an episode of Jeopardy.

But that's not to say Valley of the Gods isn't often interesting. Taken as a whole, the film frustrates more than it entertains. But as a series of individual vignettes, the frequent use of striking visuals, morose characters and imaginative use of CGI create a tone similar to dark poetry, where the language is sometimes more important than the message. We may not always know what to think, but we're certain how the imagery makes us feel.


In that respect, Valley of the Gods sort-of works. At over two hours, it's way too long for its own good, but there's enough demented imagination on display for more adventurous viewers see it through to the end. Those expecting to be rewarded by any kind of explanatory payoff should probably stay far away, or risk failing the challenge.


EXTRA KIBBLES

THE MAKING OF VALLEY OF THE GODS” - 17 minute doc featuring interviews with the director and primary cast.

TRAILER

KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

August 6, 2020

THE WRETCHED...Isn't

THE WRETCHED (Blu-ray Review)

Starring John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley. Directed by The Pierce Brothers. (2020/96 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The Wretched has the distinction of being the first movie since Avatar to hold the #1 position at the box office for six straight weekends. Granted, it was one of the only new movies given some kind of theatrical release during the pandemic, so it's sort of like winning the Daytona 500 because all the other drivers totaled their cars. Still, history puts it in the win column.

Not that we’re keeping score, since box office performance has nothing to do with whether or not a movie is any good. While The Wretched definitely isn’t wretched, it’s another one of those horror movies destined to find its audience at home, where expectations are decidedly lower.

The plot is similar to Fright Night, only without the laughs, but writer-directors The Pierce Brothers don’t appear interested in tickling your funny bone. Being that many of the victims are little kids, that’s probably a wise decision. This one has delinquent teen Ben (John-Paul Howard) moving in with his divorced dad (Jamison Jones) for the summer, only to discover the hot neighbor lady, Abby (Zarah Mahler), has been inhabited by a ravenous witch that chows-down on children. Worse yet, the witch has the ability to erase her victims’ existence from everyone’s memory. Naturally, no one believes Ben, least of all Dad, who has little reason to trust him in the first place. But Ben’s eventually able to convince snarky new friend Mallory (Piper Curda) that something ain’t right with the neighbors. 

Oh, deer.
The film meanders at first, mainly in a futile effort to establish Ben as a character we care much about, such as a pointless subplot where he’s repeatedly picked-on by some locals. However, the witch herself is an interesting creation, effectively realized through performances and (mostly) practical effects. The film gets a lot more interesting once she starts wreaking havoc. 

With the exception of a late plot revelation, everything ends predictably, with the standard-issue, ominous final shot that might wow those who’ve never seen a horror movie. For everyone else, the film walks a familiar path that’s still enjoyable with a competent guide. As such, The Wretched may not have been worth risking your health to catch at a drive-in this summer, but it’s certainly a decent couch potato pick.

EXTRA KIBBLES

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By The Pierce Brothers; 2) By composer Devin Burrows

KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

August 5, 2020

COMA: Malice in Wonderland

COMA (Blu-ray Review)
Starring Rinal Mukhametov, Lyubov Aksyonova, Anton Pampushnyy, Konstantin Lavronenko, Polina Kuzminskaya, Vilen Babichev, Milos Bikovic. Directed by Nikita Argunov. (2019/111 min).

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

If nothing else, Coma is probably the most visually-arresting science-fiction movie I've seen since Inception. There's hardly a single frame that wouldn't make a totally bitchin' prog-rock album cover. Yeah, the CGI is obvious, but a hell of a lot of imagination went into creating this world.

This Russian film has a pretty cool concept, too, though it definitely owes a tip-of-the-hat to The Matrix. The titular world is a place which exists outside of reality, a bizarre composite of memories from people while comatose, induced or otherwise. After suffering a violent car crash, a struggling architect “wakes up” here and is pursued by a nearly shapeless black mass. He's rescued by a couple of heavily-armed fighters and taken to a dilapidated factory where a small rag-tag group have been hiding out. We later learn the shapeless, nearly-invincible creatures are called Reapers, their existence being one of the more interesting aspects of this world.

When Google Maps glitches.
The people have no clear memory of the past or how they arrived here, including their names. Since most who arrive develop unique abilities – generally related to a skill they possessed in the real world – characters are given nicknames. For example, “Tank” (Vilen Babichev) is a dedicated fighter, while “Astronomer” (Milos Bikovic) is good with maps and numbers. Then there's “Phantom” (Anton Pampushnyy), the resident badass with a special talent for being a sociopathic douchebag. However, I'm still not sure why the obligatory love-interest (Lyubov Aksyonova) is named “Fly,” since she doesn't.

As for the newly-appointed “Architect,” he learns to conjure bridges, walls and buildings through mere thought, a skill which group leader Yan (Konstantin Lavronenko) plans to utilize by having him build an island utopia free from the reach of Reapers. However, Coma has a few great narrative surprises up its sleeve, which I'd wager to say most won't expect.

"That burrito not agreeing with ya?"
Though the story and characters are interesting enough to maintain interest, the real stars of the film are the eye-popping special effects and production design. Coma is constructed from imagery stored in people's subconscious. Like a lot of fragmented memories, everything we see is only partially complete...most buildings, roads, vehicles and animals look as though large bites have been taken out of them. Not only that, nothing appears to be bound by the rigid rules of reality, meaning one can look straight up and see skyscrapers, or jump from a ledge and horizontally land in a section created from a different memory, or stand next to a submerged submarine without drowning.

It's as if Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher and Roger Dean had teamed-up to create a massive mural, so the visuals alone make Coma worth checking out. But the concept and story – however derivative – are also pretty engaging, meaning fans of such brain-benders as The Matrix and Inception should get a kick out of it.

EXTRA KIBBLES

4 PROMOTIONAL FEATURETTES – Running just under two minutes each.

TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

August 4, 2020

ADVENTURES IN THE BUDGET BIN: Buttcracks & MAGA Hats

Reported by Mr. Biscuits🐈

We all know Walmart continues to be an insidious threat to local retailers everywhere (absorbing & replacing them like The Thing) and I'd generally rather shit glass than shop at one. But after a recent visit when I discovered it even carries a selection of sex toys (you can read about that HERE), I must grudgingly concede Walmart is probably doing more to address shoppers' daily needs than most box stores.

This guy's daily needs consist of Ding Dongs, coffee and cheap movies. I'm also sad to say that in my neck of the woods, the local Walmart has a better disc selection than anyone else. Video stores are extinct around here, and unless Disney and Game of Thrones are all you care about, the only thing Best Buy is good for is duping you into getting a new phone plan. But Walmart is not-only cheaper, it still stocks the shelves with more than just blockbusters you impulsively grab while shopping at Safeway. And if you time it right, its Blu-ray budget bin is loaded. So whenever the wife chooses to brave Walmart, so do I, negotiating through the butt-cracks, MAGA hats & pajama bottoms to dig for buried treasure.

I caught Walmart on a good day this time, quickly snapping-up Shout Factory's Scream Queen Double Feature ($6.96) containing The Fog and The Howling. While I know Halloween is widely considered John Carpenter's best horror film, I always thought The Fog was more atmospheric, with his most unappreciated music score. Though I've never been much of a werewolf fan, The Howling benefits from director Joe Dante's humorous touches and the transformation scenes are just as effective as those in An American Werewolf in London (which continues to be phenomenally overpraised).

Further digging turned up the Unforgiven/The Outlaw Josey Wales Double Feature ($6.96). I hadn't seen Unforgiven since it won the Oscar for Best Picture 30 years ago and forgot how good it is. My oldest daughter, Natalie, loves westerns, but she has fickle tastes (actually disliking The Wild Bunch!). Even though she's grown a bit disillusioned over Clint Eastwood's politics, she really enjoyed Unforgiven...perhaps because it's fun to buy into the theory that Will Munny represents the Man with No Name after he's been put-to-pasture. While I'm not as enamored with The Outlaw Josey Wales as some Eastwood fans, it has its moments, though I'll never understand why Clint was so twitterpated with Sondra Locke.

I also found Shout Factory's version of Escape from New York ($12.96 $6.96). I'm pretty sure it was thrown into the budget bin by mistake (or left there by a shopper who changed their mind), since it rang up at thirteen bucks. But after arguing where I found it, the young clerk casually shrugged and re-rang it at the budget bin price. While such an attitude probably won't earn him the title of Employee of the Month, I appreciated his indifference to doing an actual price-check. Since it's among my lifelong favorites, Escape from New York is now one of the few movies I've purchased in every known format.

Ironically, my wife didn't find what she needed on this visit. Actually, neither did I, but since when has need factored into movie collecting? But I didn't want her to think the trip was a total waste, so we popped into 7-Eleven on the way home for Big Gulps and lottery tickets, where I found the Death Race/Death Race 2 Double Feature ($3.99). Neither film was robbed during awards season, but Jason Statham is always good for a few shits & giggles, even if they're sometimes unintentional.

August 3, 2020

THE SIN OF NORA MORAN and the Melancholy Dream

THE SIN OF NORA MORAN (Blu-ray Review)
Starring Zita Johann, Alan Dinehart, Paul Cavanagh, John Miljan, Claire Du Brey. Directed by Phil Goldstine. (1933/65 min)

Review by Mr. Paws 😺

Ever have one of those vivid dreams which aren't quite nightmares, but still extraordinarily miserable? You're in some kind of ominous predicament, but despite knowing exactly how to get out of it, escape seems impossible. Part of you might even be aware you're dreaming, yet can't force yourself awake. And when you finally do, it briefly feels like the dream followed you into the real world.

The Sin of Nora Moran plays like one of those dreams.

The original poster art by Antonio Vargas – gracing the cover of this disc – is arguably better remembered than the film itself. Though comparatively-obscure, this 1933 Poverty Row curiosity is unlike any movie I've ever seen from that era. Had I seen it back in my younger days of chemically-enhanced weekends, I might have been a little freaked out.

Zita Johann plays the titular character, a young lady whose life has so-far really sucked. Orphaned at a young age, Nora is eventually adopted by a loving couple, who die in a car crash when she's a teenager. Though she has dreams of becoming a Broadway dancer, she ends up working with a traveling circus, where she is raped by her boss, Paulino (John Miljan). Returning to New York, Nora meets gubernatorial candidate Dick Crawford (Paul Crawford), with whom she has an affair. Fearing a scandal, Dick's District Attorney and brother-in-law John Grant (Alan Dinehart) convinces them to end the affair. After Paulino later turns up dead in her apartment, Nora is convicted and sentenced to die for the crime, hastened by Grant as the prosecutor.

"Shit, there goes my security deposit."
While the film sounds like a melodramatic soap opera, rest-assured it doesn't unfold like one. It begins with Nora on death row on the eve of her execution, but the story is presented in flashback as told by Grant, who ironically helped Nora stash the body. Sometimes events unfold as they might have happened, other times they appear to be dreams or hallucinations, and neither Nora nor the viewer are always aware of the difference. Of course, Nora didn't murder Paulino, but even though she can easily clear her name, she refuses to, for reasons which gradually reveal themselves.

Running just over an hour, this surreal journey sometimes has the look of an atmospheric horror film with several haunting, dreamlike sequences. But it's ultimately a tragedy-laden character study of a woman convinced of her own insignificance compared to those she has the misfortune to care about. The inevitability of its conclusion casts a deeply melancholy shadow over the entire film.

Though relentlessly downbeat, The Sin of Nora Moran is creatively ambitious, narratively challenging and visually impressive. Unusual for American cinema of the era, it's almost like an experimental film, yet still manages to be emotionally affecting. All-in-all, a nifty little gem worth discovering for adventurous viewers, and nicely restored for Blu-ray.

EXTRA KIBBLES

"THE MYSTERIOUS LIFE OF ZITA JOHANN” - A 17-minute featurette by historian-director Daniel Griffith, who not-only oversaw the restoration, but knew Johann personally and even coaxed her out of retirement to appear in his own movie, Raiders of the Living Dead.

SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET – Featuring promotional material, vintage news articles and a new essay by Daniel Griffith (see above).

KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

August 2, 2020

Blu-ray Giveaway: VALLEY OF THE GODS

FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE
is giving away a DVD copy of VALLEY OF THE GODS, courtesy of WELL GO USA.
Available on Blu-ray 8/11
Starring Josh Hartnett, Bérénice Marlohe and John Malkovich, VALLEY OF THE GODS contrasts abundance and poverty through three separate storylines, featuring a middle-class writer (Hartnett), an eccentric trillionaire (Malkovich), and a struggling Navajo community. Post-divorce, copywriter John Ecas undertakes the biography of the richest man on earth, who is dead-set on mining sacred lands for uranium. When modern advance runs afoul of long-dormant guardians from ancient legend, even the most unimaginable wealth may soon meet its match.

TO ENTER: Simply drop us a message at freekittensmovieguide@gmail.com.
CONTEST ENDS 8/12.


July 31, 2020

MIDSOMMAR and the Peen Scene

MIDSOMMAR (2019)

Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, Will Poulter. Directed by Ari Aster. (148 min)

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀


Did you know Walmart sells vibrators?

Not that I'm in the market for one, but I spotted them in the Health & Wellness section while shopping with the wife one day. Quite a selection, too...the Satisfier Pro 2, the CalExotics 5-Speed Butterfly Kiss, the multi-speed Power Swirl and that family favorite, the Vibroman 3-Piece Couples Sex Kit. Real ammo may not be available at Walmart anymore, but it still has all your vibrating bullet needs (in assorted colors, no less).

They were locked in a display case along with condoms, lubricants and various other playtime products, which pretty-much guarantees Walmart will never be my destination for date-night enhancement. Personally, I'd be embarrassed as fuck seeking-out a pimple-face teenager in a blue smock so they could unlock the case and grab me a 4-Speed Jack Rabbit.

But maybe that's just me. As much as I love sex in all its shapes and forms – with the kids and occasional back scratches to prove it – I've always been irrationally self-conscious declaring it publicly. How irrational? As a teenager, I was more devastated that Mom found a dog-eared Penthouse magazine stashed in my sock drawer than the half-empty Jack Daniels bottle laying next to it.

Even as a responsible adult, I've always been uncomfortable buying condoms, sexy underwear or dirty Valentine's Day cards, for no other reason than I'd be sharing part of my private life with the stranger behind the counter.

Would you buy a dildo from this man?
That carnal discomfort extends to my viewing habits. Not that they include porn, but I frequently review DVDs for various studios and PR groups, some of which have featured scenes of uninhibited fornicating. The sex scenes themselves don't bother me. I'm neither aroused nor offended by them, but mortified my wife or kids might waltz into the room at the precise moment some sweat-drenched couple are reaching the apex of their athletic tryst. “What the hell are you watching, you pervert?”

Explicit sex scenes are inconsequential to a movie's plot 90% of the time, as is graphic violence. But I get it...that stuff is merely frosting on the cake and I'll admit there are many horror films I enjoy because they are gratuitously bloody. Conversely, I've never seen one that was substantially better because of its boob count. Perhaps that's because recreational sex is a regular part of human existence, while someone's head being ripped open by a reverse bear trap decidedly isn't, therefore more interesting...from an escapism point of view, anyway.

Wow, reading that last sentence back to myself, I'm realizing how fucking creepy it sounds.

My youngest daughter, Lucy, is also a big horror fan, largely because of me. Ever since introducing her to the original Poltergeist years ago, I've shared a lot of great classic horror films with her. However, there are some I haven't and probably never will...not because of their violence, but the copious amounts of sex tossed-in for  mallrats who are hopefully too young to experience it for themselves. Because of my own hang-ups, I'm more comfortable with Lucy watching people getting disemboweled by zombies than horny hotties going at it between killings.

At first, it was because of her age, when she was still too young to wrap her head around the concept of sex. One night when she was nine or ten, Lucy spotted a couple of raccoons fucking on the roof of our shed. Ever the coward, I reassured her they were just wrestling. Needless to say, it was my wife who was eventually elected to give both of our girls “The Talk.”

That's one your mother knows, kid.
Anyway, Lucy is now 16 with discriminate tastes in horror. She's no fan of jump scares or slasher movies because most of them are pretty brainless. Like her old man, she likes the slow burners which methodically build dread and linger in your mind long after the end-credits. Still, there are some I won't share with her, even though she's since-learned where babies come from. In fact, Lucy makes more juvenile dick jokes than anyone else in the family. But sorry, Mr. Goldblum, your post-coital performance in The Fly is a little too enthusiastic for me to be comfortable watching it with my daughter.

So that one's out, as are Videodrome, Hostel, An American Werewolf in London, Phantasm, Rosemary's Baby and a batch of other classics which take a time-out to explore the joy of sex.

But sometimes I'm caught off-guard, like when we're both watching something for the first time. Lucy and I really enjoyed Hereditary, a deliberately-paced, atmospheric piece of supernatural horror directed by Ari Aster (his first feature film). While critically acclaimed, it sparked countless love-it-or-loathe-it debates among horror lovers, but we were impressed enough with its tone and originality to look forward to Aster's next move...

...which turned out to be Midsommar, a whacked-out, drug-fueled, epic-length slab of folk horror with an aesthetic similar to The Wicker Man. In this one, a group of American college students visit a Swedish commune, the Hårga, to research and participate in a festival that's held every 90 years. But the Hårga turn out to be a dangerous cult that not-only consumes a variety of hallucinogens on a regular basis, they conduct bizarre rituals, some highly sexual, others shockingly brutal.

For example, there's a harrowing moment when two elderly members who have just turned 72 - the maximum age allowed in the Hårga – happily leap from a cliff and splatter onto the rocks below. One actually survives the jump, so the others gather around to finish the job with a hammer. The scene is disturbingly graphic and lengthy. I've seen a lot of nasty death scenes over the years, but this one was absolutely ass-puckering, an assessment Lucy agreed with.

Another successful Trump rally.
Still, I was more comfortable with that scene than a later one when a male protagonist is drugged and coerced into ritualistic sex with a teenage cult member. As he rambles toward the temple with his dong hanging out, Lucy jokingly cried out, “Peeeen!” (she's still 12 years old in some ways, just like Dad). Then he goes in and commences burying-the-sausage, surrounded by a dozen naked cultists who howl and dance as they watch.

"Cover your eyes for a sec, Lucy,” I said with an nervous laugh. Equally put-off by naughty bits in-action, she happily complied. Though I thought the scene would be over quickly – as they usually are in horror movies - it went on and on for what felt like ten minutes. Lucy occasionally peeked up prematurely, catching a horrifying eyeful. But ironically, because of the ritualistic nature of the cult, this particular sex scene is actually essential to the plot, if only to emphasize the non-sensual purpose of the act. It might also be the most intentionally unerotic sex scene of all time.

Still, what the hell is wrong with me? Bodies exploding like watermelons - not-to-mention a poor bastard stuff into a bear carcass before being burned alive - are perfectly fine, but prolonged procreation makes me uneasy with Lucy in the room? I mean, it ain't like I'm sharing porn with my kids. But again, maybe it's because sex is part of reality and horror violence generally isn't. The unreasonably self-conscious part of me was also mortified at the idea that Lucy was suddenly reminded she's here because her own parents did the nasty (minus the naked dancers, of course). "You 'n Mom are perverts, Dad."

At any rate, Midsommar is another dark, disturbing slow-burner from Ari Aster, all the more impressive when you consider it never relies on the usual horror tropes. No jump-scares, sudden cats, teenagers behaving stupidly, indestructible killers or supernatural entities. Hell, a majority of it even takes place in the beautiful spring sunshine. Bold, bleak and bizarre, Lucy and I ultimately enjoyed it (though a lot of spoon-fed horror fans did not).

And the movie's frankness didn't make Lucy explode or anything. In fact, she reverted to her 12-year-old self when telling her older sister, Natalie, about it, snickering like Beavis & Butthead over the plethora of pee-pees. Natalie later watched it online with her friends and they shared a lot of hearty laughs over that same sex scene. Ultimately, I think my kids might less uptight about that stuff than I am, at least around people their own age.