Watch Out for the Killer Lamp!
Brian A Kennedy | October 31, 2007 at 12:21 pmby
1009 views | 15 Recommendations | 4 comments
1. Floor lamp (Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, 1989)
So far, The Amityville Horror has spawned a whopping eight sequels, remakes, and spin-offs, but surely none of them is as ridiculous as the cheapie Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, in which Satan stops possessing a house and starts possessing bad household decor. After scaring some particularly flinchy priests, an ugly brass lamp full of evil escapes the much-filmed Amityville and winds up in a California house occupied by recent widow Patty Duke, her three kids, and her mom, Jane Wyatt. (In the process, it gives Wyatt's sister tetanus, in a particularly low-key display of Satanic might.) Even though it has the power to flash ominously, cover itself with flies, somehow stuff the family bird into a toaster oven, and activate a chainsaw and a garbage disposal at inopportune moments, the lamp makes a phenomenally inert villain, and the film's constant attempts to make it frightening border on camp—particularly in the scene where it slowly edges across a room, sneaking up on the unsuspecting Duke. Eventually, after a pitched battle, Duke, Wyatt, and a priest beat the devil—by throwing the lamp out a window.
2. Demonically possessed bed (Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, 1977)
The title says it all, really. Made for $30,000 over a five-year period—and never officially released until it was dug up for DVD in the early '00s—George Berry's inexplicable surreal-camp-horror film recently earned a mention in Patton Oswalt's comedy album Werewolves & Lollipops, in which he suggested Rape Stove as a possible sequel. Aside from luring potential nappers and love-makers with the promise of red velvety comfort, the centuries-old "death bed" isn't terribly active, which explains why it's been starving for 10 years in a crumbling estate before amorous young people begin stopping by again. Here's how the devilish contraption works: Victims are disrobed, surrounded by a burbling yellow goo, and sucked into an acid-filled waterbed mattress that dissolves their flesh and bones. Then the bed makes itself, on the off chance that another orgy might develop within the next decade or so. Weirdest touch in a movie full of them: Though the victims are submerged in a kind of acid bath, the sound effect is of someone vigorously chomping on an apple. The bed also snores, leaving viewers to ponder the metaphysical paradox of a bed sleeping on itself.
3. Giant tree (The Guardian, 1990)
Here's a solid piece of advice: If you're dealing with an evil tree, stay out of the forest. Not unlike the menace in Death Bed, the tree in William Friedkin's The Guardian can't really go anywhere, so it mostly relies on sexy nanny Jenny Seagrove to bring it infant sacrifices as part of a tree-worshipping druidic ritual. (For holding up her end of the bargain, the frequently naked Seagrove gets fondled by twigs.) Still, Friedkin and company come up with increasingly ridiculous reasons for potential victims to flee straight into the forest, where they're beheaded by branches, impaled by roots, and swallowed up by a trunk that bleeds the blood of the innocent. Too bad this ancient menace lived to see the birth of its unstoppable modern adversary: The chainsaw.
4. Laundry folding machine (The Mangler, 1995)
The capitalist machine may be oiled by the blood of the workers, but that metaphor was never meant to play as literally as it does in The Mangler, a supremely goofy adaptation of a Stephen King short story. Even when working properly, the giant industrial laundry-folding machine at Blue Ribbon Laundry looks like it could take a non-union limb or two. But this one's demonically possessed, fueled by virgin's blood and kept in operation by a Mr. Burns/Dr. Strangelove-like figure (Robert Englund) who convinces safety inspectors to look the other way whenever the body of another sweatshop worker winds up neatly pressed. Like many of the adversaries on this list, the machine is heavy and completely inanimate, but it's surprisingly resourceful, like when it transfers its malevolent powers to an evil icebox. Then again, it needn't be so clever, not when people keep trying to get a closer look by crawling into its hungry maw.
5. Whipped cream, (The Stuff, 1985)
The B-movie king of great ideas and so-so execution, writer-director Larry Cohen came up with a doozy of a premise for his satirical horror movie The Stuff, but the satire was only half-realized, and he seemed to forget about the horror part altogether. Found bubbling up from a snow bank like delicious, delicious oil, "The Stuff" is a whipped-cream-like substance that becomes a taste sensation, a low-calorie, ready-to-eat option for families across America. The one minor caveat? It eats people alive from the inside, turning its hosts into dead-eyed zombies. In concept, Cohen has come up with an ingenious dig at capitalism: the consumer being consumed by consumables. But he has a harder time turning tubs of whipped cream into the Stuff of nightmares.
6. Killer baboon (Shakma, 1990)
In theory, a killer baboon driven mad by experimental injections—administered by callous professor Roddy McDowall, no less—sounds like a wicked cool beastie. In practice, said baboon most often takes the form of a limp, furry doll, which its "victims" jerk about while pretending to be mauled. Shakma's few shots of a live baboon going apeshit look suitably unhinged, though more in a comic way than a scary way. As for the cast—a motley collection of TV teens and dimming "stars of the future"—they make better baboon fodder than they do likeable heroes. Absurd or not, it's easier to root for an inanimate fur-suit than for Christopher Atkins.
7. The Fouke Monster (The Legend Of Boggy Creek, 1972)
Director Charles B. Pierce takes an unusual approach to the horror genre with Boggy Creek, structuring the film like a documentary, full of grainy nature footage and "interviews" with people who survived encounters with the legendary woodland ape-man that some know as Sasquatch, some as Bigfoot, and some—well, the people from Fouke, AR anyway—know as The Fouke Monster. The Legend Of Boggy Creek is sleepily episodic, and about as intense as a bloodless G-rated monster movie can be, which means that most of the scares consist of people almost seeing The Fouke Monster before making a pretty wide escape. Whew! That was… not that close, really.
8. Goblin army (Troll 2, 1990)
There's a good reason there's a documentary in the works about the making of Troll 2 titled Best Worst Movie. This Italian production—originally called Goblin, which more accurately describes its bad guys—follows an American family trying to escape a legion of mythical creatures who turn humans into plants, then eat them. Atrocious acting aside, Troll 2's goblins are extra-ridiculous because of their costumes, which resemble potato sacks topped with Halloween masks. Frankly, they're nowhere near as scary as the ghostly grandpa who advises young hero Michael Stephenson to piss all over the family's dinner so they won't undergo "the change." Next to an old man with a pee fetish, a bunch of little people dressed in Dollar Store leftovers barely raises a shriek.
9. Killers from space (Killers From Space, 1954)
A trio of space aliens reveals to a nuclear scientist their plans to use America's atomic technology to grow giant mutated animals, destroy all humans, and colonize the Earth. And they'd be a lot easier to take seriously if they didn't make this threat while wearing heavy, hooded black tunics and flashing their ping-pong-ball eyes. If you crossbred Marty Feldman with a Muppet, you'd just about equal the level of menace of the killers from space. (Fun fact: This movie was directed by Billy Wilder's brother. See if you can spot the telltale Wilder sophistication.)
10. Semi-mobile puppets (Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare, 1987)
Canadian metal star Jon Mikl Thor scripted and stars in this low-budget, claustrophobic, batshit-insane film about a Canadian metal star who's actually an archangel called The Intercessor. He's itching to fight Satan himself, but for some reason, the Father Of Lies chooses to manifest in the form of disturbingly phallic, one-eyed puppets before showing his true form: a really big, slightly less phallic two-eyed puppet. Or half of one, anyway. The climactic fight scene displays virtually every inch of Thor's body, but only the barely mobile upper half (and feet) of His Satanic Majesty. Hey, even Beelzebub has to make budget.
11. Homicidal vending machine (Maximum Overdrive, 1986)
In 1976's Silent Movie, Mel Brooks and company hold off bad guys using vending-machine soda as hand grenades. But what if the machine turned evil? That's precisely what happens in this awful Stephen King adaptation, directed by King himself. Under the influence of either a comet tail or alien invaders, all machines suddenly turn homicidal—even a lowly soda machine. It tries to take out an entire Little League team by launching cans from its dispenser. One, naturally, nails a guy in the crotch. All that's missing is someone quipping, "I told you soda was bad for you!"
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