AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT Volume One
Carnivals, crazies and castration
released OUT NOW! 1973/ 1976 | 18 | Blu- ray/ DVD ( dual format)
Directors Christopher Speeth, Robert
Allen Schnitzer, Matt Cimber
Cast Janine Carazo, Millie Perkins,
Jerome Dempsey, Sharon Farrell
Arrow Video’s latest project showcases obscure, independent US horror. Volume one collects three offbeat, ambitious but flawed efforts which collectively have more in common with Federico Fellini than Freddy Krueger.
In the ham- fisted but woozily dream- like Malatesta’s Carnival Of Blood, the new owners of an amusement park must fend off cannibalistic ghouls. Featuring rollercoaster decapitation, a glass- eyed killer caretaker and Hervé “Nick Nack” Villechaize, it’s John Waters making Spider Baby, as dreamt by Agent Cooper. The plot’s paper- thin and the editing’s rotten, but the production design is quite something. In the secret world under the carnival there’s real lo- fi, bad- trip ingenuity on display – like a VW Beetle turned into a reptilian head using plastic cups and orange bubble- wrap.
Also centred on a carnival, The Premonition sees a woman suffer visions when her adopted daughter is kidnapped by her insane birth mother. Serious- minded, it’s drenched in lens flare, with a discordant piano score. The script was originally a non- genre piece, and it feels like that: the visions aren’t that creepy or interesting. Banal rather than uncanny, it’s no Don’t Look Now. Highlight: B- movie icon Richard Lynch doing some random interpretative dance in a car park.
There’s no broom- riding crone in The Witch Who Came From The Sea, just a female serial killer warped by childhood sexual abuse. Star Millie Perkins burns a hole in the screen with her crazy, but still engages your empathy. With its razorblade castrations, dialogue that’d make a docker blush, and unsettling incest flashbacks, it’s undeniably powerful… but you couldn’t exactly call it enjoyable.
Extras Malatesta has detailed film historian commentary; frank, fascinating interviews with the director, writer and art directors ( 36 minutes); and three minutes of cut cannibalistic feasting. The Premonition gets commentary by director Robert Allen Schnitzer, a new Making Of, and old interviews with Richard Lynch and Schnitzer – who’s a tad pretentious, declaring that cinema should, “elevate the human spirit”. More interesting is evidence of his student radical days: anti- Vietnam War TV ads, and a short ( one of three) documenting a 1969 university occupation. Witch’s echoey audio track reunites the director, star and DoP; all three contribute to a new Making Of ( 23 minutes), bolstered by the Making Of ( 36 minutes) and director interview from a 2014 US release. Be aware: the print, though the best available, is in noticeably poor condition. Ian Berriman
The screams of the ghouls in Malatesta’s Carnival Of Blood were made by slowing down the sound of squeaky dog toys.
Thursdays at the launderette were always interesting.