Friday, January 29, 2016

033. Hunk and 034. The Witches Mountain

Jump to The Witches Mountain (1972)

033. Hunk (1987)
Director: Lawrence Bassoff
Writer: Lawrence Bassoff
From: Cult Cinema

Bradley, a down-on-his-luck computer programmer, is offered the chance to be exactly the kind of man he's always wanted to be, only the price will be helping the Devil in his evil works throughout history.

One of the first lines of dialogue in this movie is, “'Hunk.' Call me 'Hunk' for now.” I texted Faraday Rage, “I'm not going to make it. I'm already dead. Already dead and this is Hell.”

The movie very quickly surprised me, though. The initial framing device is Hunk Golden (typing that makes me want to die) going to psychologist Dr. Susan “Sunny” Graves to tell her that he used to be Bradley Brinkman. He has until midnight on Labor Day to reverse the change or Bradley and Hunk will both be doomed. The doctor doesn't believe him, so he tells her his story.

Flashback to Bradley's story, a computer programmer who needs the next big idea or he's going to be fired. After typing, “I'd sell my soul for a moneymaking program,” a demon possesses it a la Evilspeak and produces “The Yuppie Program,” an instructional guide on how to be a yuppie. It sells 50,000 copies in its first week and is a huge success.

Based on that success, Bradley's boss gives him the summer off to rent a beach house and observe the yuppies in their natural habitat while working on the next great program. He meets Chachka, the local “eccentric personality,” and she introduces him around to the cartoonishly mean-spirited yuppie stereotypes.

And this is what the movie gets right. These characters are all cartoons—not big, over-the-top, screaming annoyances, just campy send-ups of these stereotypes. I knew, as soon as Chachka took Bradley to the beach to meet them that they'd be exactly these characters and the film almost feels like it's poking fun at me for assuming that, like the joke is imagining characters like this at all.

There is a nice goofy tone that the movie generally maintains. Everything is done with a winking sense of camp so it stays silly but never devolves into stupid. It even manages to land a few good jokes, like when Bradley is offered the deal to sell his soul.

Bradley is trying to fit in, can't, and the demon O'Brien shows up—a beautiful woman that Bradley is nuts over. She offers him the chance to become Hunk on a “sell your soul for the summer trial offer.” Hell, it turns out, is a giant 80's corporation, The Devil Himself, Inc. run by Dr. D. It's a cheap gag, but works because the movie gets the tone right as it does for almost everything.

Bradley wakes up as Hunk, enjoys the fruits of being a beefcake, and then meets Dr. D, played by James Coco who decided this needed to be a campy devil, and he was right. Dr. D explains to Hunk that, rather than spending eternity in torment, he'll be the devil's right-hand man working with him to spread evil throughout time. Now aware of his fate, Hunk panics and seeks out Dr. Sunny, catching us up to the start of the movie and getting us to the worst element.

What I've described is just the first fifty minutes of the film and there's no reason for Hunk to visit the psychologist. The deal is if, at midnight on Labor Day, he wants to go back to his old life, he can. Otherwise, he's Hunk forever, including in Hell working for Satan. There's nothing to explain why he goes to the shrink to sort this out or why she needs to be in the picture at all. There's a twist that makes it essential to the plot, but it feels like that twist was thought up before its place in the movie was.

The second half falls apart plot-wise. Chachka isn't there anymore even though she's a nice presence up to that point. She's a character, but not “quirky” in the way insufferable comic relief characters are. On the other hand, we get a lot of campy Satan in her place which is a definite plus. It feels like the first half of the movie is all the clever gags the writer/director was able to come up with and the second half was an attempt to make it all tie together. The majority of the pleasure, then, lies in the first half.

Also, despite being about Hunk banging lots of ladies, there's no nudity—lots of beefcake, though. If this movie's in the closet, the door is wide open. The camera focuses on men's bodies and, despite Hunk hooking up with countless women, it's the men that are being objectified. And it doesn't even invoke a “gay panic” response of metaphorically shouting “no homo!” There's a scene where a waitress brings Hunk three bottles of champagne, two sent by women, the third sent by a man, and Hunk's reaction is just embarrassment at all the attention. The movie acknowledges that it's kind of gay and doesn't have any of the homophobia you'd expect from 1987.

This is a cute, campy flick, great for a rainy afternoon or a girls' night. It's not so good that I'd encourage you to hunt it down however you can, but it's a fun little slice of 80's. This is what I wanted the other comedies I've watched so far to be—something simple that settles on its tone and sticks to it. This does that and adds a campy, catty Satan to the mix. Delicious.

034. The Witches Mountain aka El Monte De Las Brujas (1972)
Director: Raúl Artigot
Writers: Raúl Artigot, Juan Cortés, Félix Fernández, José Truchado
From: Chilling

A photojournalist on assignment in an isolated mountain region meets a young writer. Together, the explore a mountain that turns out to be haunted by witches.

There's very little to say about this movie because very little happens. There's an opening sequence where a woman, Carla, finds a dead cat in her bed, is castigated by a small girl, and then sets the girl on fire. None of this comes up again.

After the titles, we meet Mario, the photojournalist, who's in the midst of breaking up with his Carla. He calls his boss to cancel his vacation just so he can get away from her. He gets an assignment in the Pyrenees where he meets Delia, a writer. They travel together into the mountains where the plot follows its inevitable course.

The movie has a nice atmosphere and tone, but I say that thinking of it in terms of raw material. This isn't really a movie to watch so much as a sequence of film to be cut up and reused in other projects, a music video or something along the lines of Ninja the Mission Force. Unfortunately, this movie is copyright, maybe back under copyright, due to GATT. If you're a fan of witch movies, maybe this will float your boat—there are a few elements that feel like they were lifted by Lars Von Trier for Antichrist—otherwise, give it a pass.

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