Well it’s finally 2005, and I know millions of people across the globe have already made their New Year’s resolutions. Most have vowed to stop smoking or cursing or drinking or eating fatty foods. Some have made a pact with themselves to join a fitness club to “get into shape,” or to overcome their fear of flying, or to try to be civil to their in-laws; but I have a different take on this New Year’s resolution phenomenon. I recognize that all of the above are pieces of our personalities – good, bad or otherwise. We have harbored and perhaps even nurtured these abstractions for many years over. To think that we can turn these very human properties on or off like a light switch is a pipe dream.
Now, I’m no stranger to the norm, I’ve tried to exercise more, and by January 21st (insert applicable year) I’m finished. I’ve attempted giving up fast-food cheeseburgers, potato chips and frozen pizzas, but alas I have found myself giving in time and time again. A failed New Year’s resolution is simply an admission of weak will power. I have no interest in beating myself up this year over such insipid and largely inconsequential behavior. Nope, 2005 will be different and I will overcome temptation, as I have made a vow that I know I can keep. I have promised myself that in the year 2005 I will not view one single solitary horror film starring Ernest Borgnine.
To be fair, Mr. Borgnine only has 3 honest-to-god horror films in his vast oeuvre, but that is irrelevant. I am hellbent on success. Besides, it can’t be that bad for me. I mean, think of how much easier on my eyes it will be without that block-headed mug with those obscenely bushy eyebrows staring back at me from across the living room. Also, don’t forget to take into account the aural abuse that is rendered from Ernest’s grating and stilted New England accent that has been filtered through years of heavy smoking and Lego-looking gaped teeth. This is a win/win situation folks, and by god next January I am gonna emerge triumphant!
First on my list to ignore is the 1971 Daniel Mann directed “Willard.” Yep, the rat movie. Our man Ernest plays Al Martin, the boss of Willard, and he wants Willard out of the company. In fact, it seems as though everyone would rather Willard leave and they unmercifully taunt him day in and day out just to let him know it. Despite all of this, Willard wants to stay on as it is the business that his father started, but of course Martin sees otherwise. Willard seeks solace with his mother, an aging Elsa Lanchester (“The Bride Of Frankenstein”) and his pet rats, Ben and Socrates. Boss man Martin kills one of the rodents, tripping Willard’s rampage switch, and a murdering spree ensues. All those who’ve mocked Willard feel the wrath of the rat. I actually kinda like this movie, and while Ernest delivers a bang-up performance as the relentlessly conniving boss, the rats are even better.
Second is the 1981 Wes Craven shocker “Deadly Blessing.” I must admit that I’m a sucker for Wes Craven. If that dude smears his name on an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” then I’m tuning in. So, this one will be a might difficult to steer clear of, but I’m bound and determined to do so. In this Craven piece, Ernest was chosen to play Isaiah Schmidt, an overzealous and radical religious leader of an Amish community. The story goes that Martha, an outsider to the backwoods community, marries one of Ernest’s flock and is immediately deemed an incubus. Of course she isn’t an incubus, but these folks are fanatical and will stop at nothing to avenge their good names with the Lord. Soon murders are happening left and right. Tarantulas are tossed on women, poisonous snakes are slithering through occupied bathtubs and runaway tractors squash their victims beneath their wheels. Mr. Borgnine does fairly well here and while I’ll find “Deadly Blessing” hard to stay away from in the coming months, the next entry is even more problematic.
Last and most tempting is the 1975 Robert Fuest train wreck “The Devil’s Rain.” My boy Ernest gets top billing in this celluloid potboiler and for good reason – he gets to play the devil! An ancient Book of the Dead type of thing is stolen and Ernest as a Satanist is damned and determined to get it back. He takes revenge on the decedents of the thieves and turns a small Midwestern town inside out. From time to time Ernest will transform into a goat-like demon creature that actually looks pretty cool. However, it’s no big mystery that the make-up artist’s job was made all the more easy by their subject’s god-given facial peculiarities. I have to ask though, who in god’s green hell thought that Eddie Albert, William Shatner, John Travolta, Tom Skerritt and Ernest Borgnine would make for a good horror film? Apparently, someone down the line recognized the folly of this abysmal casting call and employed the true High Priest of Satan himself, Anton LeVey, to turn in a bit role that would hopefully lend a smidgeon of back-handed validity to this cinematic hullabaloo.
“The Devil’s Rain,” in my opinion, is to Ernest Borgnine what “Deliverance” is to Ned Beatty. I will never shake the image of poor ol’ naked Ned lying across that log in his filthy skivvies with a toothless hill-jack about to invade his private property. Nor will I ever rid my mind of the scenes of Ernest Borgnine in that goofy goat get-up. Some may find it novel that “Star Trek’s” Borg, Seven of Nine, was named after our man of the hour. New Year’s resolution or not, I won’t be watching any “Star Trek,” either.
Writer Christopher Curry has spent 29 years relentlessly trolling the underbelly of Horror, Sci-Fi and Exploitation cinema. He was first hooked by a made-for-TV zombie picture entitled “The Dead Don’t Die” and his recollections of Reggie Nalder have yet to peacefully leave his psyche. There is seemingly no benchmark of quality for Curry as he will watch and write about any damned thing. Curry is not only a long-time contributor to MK Magazine but also the author of A Taste Of Blood: The Films Of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Presently Curry is hard at work on a book chronicling the films and career of Ted V. Mikels.